A question about indulgences and twitter

A non-catholic friend recently asked me about this article:

Vatican: Get time off in purgatory by following Pope on Twitter he wanted to know if it was real or if it was “fake news.”  Many times when the Catholic faith is discussed in the public sphere, the truth of the teaching or the intent of the action is lost due to ignorance, or misunderstanding, or bias.  I believe the article he sent me is a mixture of ignorance and misunderstanding.  I am not going to get into the details and (well-established) theology of indulgences but it is suffice to say the following:

  • We believe that even though we are forgiven our sins through confession, our souls still are not perfect to enter into Heaven.  (That is reason why we believe in purgatory, that it is a location that perfects our souls, through the healing of the fires of the Holy Spirit, so that our perfected souls devoid of all sins and attachments may enter into Heaven.)
  • Sanctification of our souls comes from the grace of God and through our cooperation with him in his plan to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.
  • Through our cooperation with him in that plan, through our actions of prayer, pilgrimage, and other apostolic works, our souls are sanctified and perfected some here on Earth. This cuts down the time we have to spend in purgatory.

One of those indulgences is given for attending a pilgrimage and in this case World Youth Day (WYD), which is an event that occurs every 3-4 years.  Hundreds of Thousands of young adults come together to pray and worship our God for a week.  The Pope and the Bishops of the world come together with the people and as I have been told is a life changing moment that brings many into conversion.

However, the trips are expensive and accommodations are expensive.  For our Diocese it cost appox $4,000 to attend the last WYD in Poland.  The Pope, who is a big defender of the poor, wanted to extend the WYD indulgence to those that couldn’t afford the trip.  So he stated that all those that fully participated in the pilgrimage through social media (Facebook, Twitter, and the WYD website) could also receive the indulgence.  It wasn’t for simply following him on Twitter.  The person would have to actively set aside time throughout each of the days of WYD to participate as if he was in Poland.  Some parishes held events at the church, streaming the talks of lay evangelists, the sermons of the bishops, and the Masses of the Pope.  Those fully participating spent 8-10 hours a day in prayer and fellowship with fellow Catholics.

So the indulgence was for those that fully took on the spirit of a pilgrim spending their days in prayer and worship.  Not for those that simply followed the Pope and read a couple of tweets.

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Jesus Wept: A Reflection on the 5th Sunday of Lent

Jesus Wept: A Reflection on the 5th Sunday of Lent

John 11:35…Jesus Wept…it is one of the verses that when I was your age I had to memorize.  Our Sunday School teacher would randomly test us on chapter and verse and we would have to know it.

Jesus wept…

It is also one of the verses that has always stuck with me.

Jesus Wept…

It’s the shortest verse in the bible but there is so much power behind it.  It always moved me when our Pastor would preach on it.  But it was just recently that I saw a new insight into.  A couple years ago, Fr O’Brien was preaching on this reading.  He had one line that has always stuck with me…” Jesus Wept not because his friend Lazarus died, but because all humankind has to die.”  Jesus wept because there was evil in this world and because of it we would have to experience death.

Jesus wept…

I know many of you were too young or maybe not even alive to remember when 9/11 occurred but I was in my second year at West Point, getting ready for my American Government class when the first tower got hit and in class when they went down.  I wept.  I wept not because I knew those people dying, but because it was just such an evil act.

Jesus wept…too

Last year, 49 people were killed at Pulse.  They died because a man allowed evil to grow in his heart and control him.

Jesus wept…too

I have had friends die in the Global War of Terrorism that has been going on now for 16 years. I wept.

Jesus wept…too

You see Jesus wept alongside me and each one of us when evil occurs because conflict, strife, ugliness, murder, war, and death are not from him.  They are the absence of him in the lives of mankind.  When we gossip, when we bad mouth someone, when we do harm to others, when we lose a friend, when we lose a family member, Jesus weeps with us.  Because we are not experiencing the world as God intended it for us.  We are experiencing a distorted and ugly version of what he made for us.

In DC there is one of the most beautiful churches that you could ever worship in.  It the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Every time that I go there I am drawn to one of the 90 chapels that is located there.  The one I always going to first and spending the most time in prayer and reflection is the Shrine of the Queen of Peace.  In that image, we get a foretaste of what God truly wants for us.  He wants us to feel that same safe love and peace that we felt when we were young and held by our mothers.  But he wants even more than that.  He wants us to feel the perfection of that feeling in Heaven.

But until we get to Heaven we are called to bring that peace into this world.  We are called to be the peacemakers of this world.  To do what we can to bring beauty and love into an imperfect world by first knowing our savior Jesus Christ and second spreading that love to the rest of the world.  Let us pray in song that we can do that.

Be more then the Law: A reflection on the 6th Sunday of OT

Be more then the Law: A reflection on the 6th Sunday of OT

Who has been angry with their brother before?

Who has called a friend or someone in class an idiot?

Who has called someone a fool?

Jesus is telling us that all these things are just as bad as breaking the 5th commandment…Thou shall not kill.

I won’t ask you to raise your hand on this one but how many of you have ever had impure thoughts about someone?  Watched a movie or video clip that was pornographic?  Read a book or a magazine that was overly sexual?

Jesus tells us that that those things are just as bad as breaking the 6th commandment…thou shall not commit adultery.  He even goes so far (and his extremely exaggerating) in saying that it would be better for us to pluck out our eye to think lustful thoughts about someone.

If even tells us that we shouldn’t have to take oaths because our Yes should always mean yes and our noes should always mean no.  Meaning that we are truthful all the time, so much so that we don’t even need to take an oath for someone to believe us.

But how many of you have lied today.  How many of you have cheated this semester?  How many of you have told your parents you would do something, knowing that you had no intention of doing it?

You see we are called to do more than just follow the letter of the law, the literal meaning of the law.  The scribes and Pharisees did that.  They would only do EXACTLY what the Law said they had to do, and if they wanted to do something they would try to bend the rules so that they could do it.  The scribes and Pharisees were more concerned about looking like they were doing the right thing, then actually finding out why they were called to do the right thing.  This lead to them sinning while still following the Law.

The would insult one another, they would gossip about one another, they would hold impure thoughts about other men’s wives, they would lie unless they were under oath, because these things were not directly forbidden by the Law.

You see what Jesus was trying to show us here is that little things add up to big things.  If we insult someone enough times, then we start seeing them as less human then us.  It becomes easier for us to commit violence against them.  It is a common tactic used to divide people, to group up people, to make them separate then us, so that we don’t see their humanity.  We call them “Ivan,” a name for the Russians we used in the Army, “Charlie,” a name for the Viet Cong we fought during the Vietnam War, or how about “illegals,” “refugee,” “Muslim,” “Gay,” “Snowflake,” “Liberal,” “Nazi,” “Fascist,” and many others.  All used to make a person different from us so that we can think lesser of them

My challenge to you this week is to prevent yourself from committing those small sins that end up leading to the big ones.  To stop gossiping, to stop the name calling, to try to control your impure thoughts, and to stop treating others like you would be treated.  This week live with Love and Hope as your primary motivator and not fear or hate.

Sacrifice: A reflection on the 2nd Sunday of OT

Sacrifice: A reflection on the 2nd Sunday of OT

I want you all to close your eyes (well just squint them cause you can’t read if they are closed).  I want you to use your imagination to try to build the scene.  First imagine yourself by the River Jordan.  You are there with plenty of other people. Some are older but there are plenty of young people there.  Imagine a very thin but strong looking man standing by the waters of the Jordan.  That is John the Baptist and you have been following him for months now listening to his preaching.  You have been baptized with him, washed ritually cleaned.  You respect him highly and think that he will help you find the answers to life that you have been looking for.  Why am I here…what is my purpose…how do I become a better person.

Now let me read the passage from this Sunday’s readings:

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. (The same words we hear at the Mass now. As he says that you smell a combination of a slaughterhouse and a BBQ Resturant, and you know that is the smell of the sacrifices happening at the Temple of Israel.)
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

What would you do if that was what you saw?  What would you think of Jesus? How would your life change from that moment?

In our modern times, we think of Lambs as what?  (Weak, Mild, Soft, etc…)  But for those that lived that scene they would have remembered the smell of the sacrifice and would have known that a lamb was used to sacrifice to God.  To bring us closer to God.

Sacrifice is something that is not fully understood in our current world. We have a society that teaches to look out for oneself before looking out for anyone else.  It is those that have the most money, the nicest cars, and the biggest houses that are held to high esteem.  We live in a society that thinks if we try hard enough we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and overcome anything, even sin.

Yet the Hebrews know that we do nothing on our own.  That everything we get is a gift from God.  That all the food, cattle, and money we have is given by God in our care.  They would sacrifice the first fruits and the first born of their cattle to God, not because he needed it, but because it reminded them of where these items came from.  That they wanted to return to God some of what was given to them as a sign of thanksgiving.

In the same way, they knew that their sin destroyed the relationship they had with God.  They would offer their best to God as a sign of repentance, of reparations, of justice, of wanting to be fix the relationship with God.  Those things didn’t benefit God at all but they did benefit those that gave.  It was a physical sign of what could not be seen, the repentance they held in their heart.

So why does John call Jesus the Lamb of God?  Because Jesus comes as the final sacrifice for all our sins.  That through his sacrifice man will finally be able to be in full communion with God.  He provides the perfect sacrifice to finally deal with the sins of humanity, so that they can truly have a full and total relationship with God.

To this day we continue to make present that sacrifice Jesus made through the Mass.  Through the Mass we offer up our prayers and wants to come into communion with God and with Jesus.  To fix our relationship with God.

As Christians we are called to be like Christ, to be little Christs.  It is why we are asked to be sacrificial in our nature.  That we are asked to do things like giving of our free time on our days off to help feed the poor, like this Friday as we cook the soups. It is why you the teens come together to hold the Senior Prom.  It becomes a sacrifice of our time and talent to provide a night for the seniors of our parish and to help those of us here that can’t afford to go on the Summer Retreat.  It is why we sacrifice our time now here at Joy and Devotion so that we can become closer to God.

It is why we come to Mass every Sunday, God doesn’t need us at the Mass but through the Mass and through our worship we share with God and give thanks to God for all he has done for us.  So, as you go through this week try living as a lamb and sacrifice for God.

Make America Great Again! A reflection on the Election and the 33rd Sunday of OT.

Make America Great Again! A reflection on the Election and the 33rd Sunday of OT.

Thank you to The Holy Spirit, Archbishop Jose Gomez, Stephen Colbert, and all those that said you are afraid for our country both before the election and after for the inspiration to write this. It isn’t great but…

Last night I stayed up until about 2 am before I just couldn’t fight going to sleep.  The night started off as a slight interest in how much Trump would lose by and turned into a roller coaster of Trump is going to win.  In the end, I just gave up on trying to watch.  You see I know one thing the entire time…no matter who won, Jesus Christ is still King!

What an interesting road we have been on since the beginning of the year and now we start the new journey of our 45th President.  One that half the country didn’t vote for.  The election was filled with fear, terror, rumors, and allegations from both sides.  We know that over half of each party is in true fear of the other party.  Think about that for a second.  To be truly afraid of a fellow American because of their beliefs.  Someone that you go to school with, work with, or even go to Church with.

Jesus speaks about fear in this week’s gospels.  He tells us that when we hear of wars and tumults, when we hear of nation raising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, not to be terrified because he will be with us in the end.  You see one of the things that we know from both history, what God & Jesus has told us, and what Archbishop Jose Gomez of Houston reminded us on is that “politicians come and go; nations rise and fall; empires fade away – what remains and what continues is the Church that Jesus established on the rock of St. Peter.”

No matter who won last night, we are called to follow Jesus Christ as children of God and missionary disciples.  To be faithful to Christ and to build God’s Kingdom here on earth.

 

Why is it that we should look to God on how to build our society?  Just like with any creation it takes on the aspects of the person that built it.  If I was to sit here and attempt to make a sculpture it would turn out horrible, because I am a flawed artist.  No instead you should look to a great artist with much less flaws then me to make a sculpture.  It is the same with society…we can look to these flaw rulers to make our society but in the end, we will still have a flawed society.  With our flawed rulers, we start forgetting who the human person is.  We listen to the flawed ruler rather than God and we start seeing others as not our brothers and sisters in Christ but we label them Democrat, Republican, Muslim, illegal immigrant, and pit ourselves against one another.  With our flawed rulers, we marginalize those that are different.  We make enemies of those that disagree with us.  But, we may find rulers that have the least number of flaws and they led us towards a better society, that does less horrible things, but in the end they are still not perfect rulers and cannot make a perfect society. In the end we should look to that perfect ruler, Jesus Christ, to build our society.

Instead if we want to make America Great again, we need young men and women like yourselves who are committed to serving God and living their faith in every aspect of their lives.  We need youth like 15-year-old, St. Jose Sanchez del Rio who till his dying breath shouted “Viva Christo Rey” during the Mexican Revolution and inspired others not to hide their faith but proudly declare their love for Jesus. We need youth like 24-year-old, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassatti who turned away from the things the world and his society said were important, money and power, to help the poor and feed the hungry all while lifting them up in prayer to God, till his death of polio.  Like 10 and 11-year-old Bl. Francisco, Jacinto, and Lucia who brought the message of Our Lady of Fatima to the world, helping to bring many to Jesus during the tumults of the First World War.

Our new President wants to Make America Great Again. However, it will never be great if we relay on his vision and those of other men. As Archbishop Gomez said, “Our country and our world will be renewed – not by politics, but by saints.” Saints who know that Jesus Christ is King. Saints who love their fellow man no matter what. Saints who want to bring about the Kingdom of God. “And that means you and that means me. If we want a greater America, we need to become, by the grace of God, greater saints.”

 

An open letter to the Knights of Columbus

An open letter to the Knights of Columbus

I would like to request my withdrawal from the Knights of Columbus.   I am currently a member of Council ####.  My member number is #########.  You claim to wish to attract young new members but then do not provide any reason for them to attend.  I asked this of my council leadership before, “Why should I take time away from my wife and baby every two weeks to attend those meetings?”

The council claims to have over 150 members and yet outside of the officers only about 5 attend the meetings.  So, it isn’t for the fellowship.

During the meetings, there has been nothing but bickering and one up man ship displayed by the men there.  So, it isn’t to learn how to be charitable to my brothers.

When I have attended the meetings, I have seen nothing but discussions of bringing back Bingo, since Bingo was shut down due to poor money control policies, and how we have written another check to another charity.  Like many in my generation we care very little about writing checks.  I don’t need a fraternity to write a check, I can and do write them on my own.  So, it isn’t to learn true service to my community.

Outside of a prayer at the beginning of and end of the meetings, there is no talk of how better ourselves spiritually.  So, it isn’t to learn how to grow closer to God.

The last bastion of hope I had of being a Knight came from working on a Parish staff as the Director of Faith Formation.  I thought the Knights would relish the opportunity to partner with the parish to help bring about the Kingdom of God.  Instead the council had no intentions more than continuing business as normal and was hostile to any change the Parish Pastor suggested.  To the point of a campaign of misinformation against the pastor and multiple unfounded complaints sent to the Bishop.  So, it wasn’t to be the strong right arm of our Parish.

So again, I ask…” Why should I go to a meeting? Why should I remain a Knight?”

My generation wants to do true service for our community and for the Lord.  We want to become better men.  We want to be better disciples.  Never once have I gone to a Knights meeting that afterwards I felt a better man for attending.  Instead, I regretted taking time away from my pregnant wife, my family, my friends, and the Church.  The Supreme organization may have an amazing vision and does great things but somewhere along the way this Council has lost that vision and their way. I will look to do service and improve as a man through one of the local secular organizations, Rotary International.

Please consider this my resignation from this organization.

When PEACE shows up justice reigns!

When PEACE shows up justice reigns!

In this Year of Mercy, we are reminded of the Corporal Works of Mercy, that command us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, help those imprisoned, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, and bury the dead.  Each of these items are about doing true justice to our brothers and sisters, by restoring the human dignity due to them.  We are each called to individually do those things “for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, (Matthew 25:40)”, there are times however when we cannot do what is necessary on our own to bring about true mercy and justice to our brothers.  In those times, it is important that we come together with other Catholics, Christians, and community leaders to help solve the difficult social issues that plague our communitypeace 9

The Polk Ecumenical Council for Empowerment (PEACE) is one organization that allows us to come together to solve the issues of our local community.  PEACE works diligently alongside community leaders to ensure Polk County continues to bring justice and mercy to the needs of its citizens.  On October 24th, 20 local Churches bringing over 300 people, gathered together at St Joseph Catholic Church for the Community Action Problems Assembly of PEACE.  The purpose of the assembly was to discuss the issues that PEACE will attempt to tackle this year.  St Matthew had 5 parishioners in attendance at the event.

With Florida House and Senate Candidates in attendance members of PEACE shared the background on three issues that affect our local community, the importance of reducing youth arrests in our county, increase availability of affordable mental health treatments, and increasing availability of affordable health care treatment.  20161024_195308After each report a network member give personal testimonies of how these issues personally affected them.  A member of St Joseph’s shared how children of friends and family members have been arrested for minor offenses like a school yard fight when they were young and could not get employment they studied for because of having an arrest record.  A husband and wife from St David’s Episcopal in Lakeland shared how the lack of affordable mental health treatment in Polk County has led to hardship for the both and been a strain on their marriage.  Finally, a single mother from First Missionary Baptism Church in Winter Haven shared the struggles she has had in the past to get proper and affordable health care for not only herself but for her children.

Following the testimonies Richard Monteverde was elected Recording Sectary of the organization and the night ended with the GNAT (Great Network-member All the Time) award being presented. Getting its name from the plague of Gnats that drove Pharaoh to do justice for the enslaved Hebrews, the award is presented to Network Members who attended all four of the annual meetings, brought 3 or members to the Nehemiah Action, and donated at least $200 to continue to the mission of PEACE.  This year Rem Brown, Richard Monteverde, and 29 other Network Members were recognized as GNATS.

If you are interested in assisting to bring justice to our community by being a network member, please contact Richard Monteverde at 863-324-3040.  Commitments are minimal, network members are asked to attend 4 meetings a year, invite 3 people to the Nehemiah Action, and donate to help maintain the PEACE organization. Opportunities are available to serve on issue research committees that interview local community leaders that are experts in the current years PEACE issues.