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.


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.

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.

Christians Stand up!

Got one of those chain e-mails today.  Didn’t know they still existed but I decided reply to it.



            My high school allowed me to pray during school hours.  It couldn’t affect my classes and I couldn’t disturb any other students.  I am sure that if a group of Catholics High Schoolers together and told their school that they wanted to start praying the Liturgy of the Hours together (after some explanation of the importance to our faith) I am sure most schools would accommodate.  I am also sure that anyone on our staff or any church volunteer could go to the school (after being cleared by the school) and arrange prayer meetings before, during lunch, and after school.


In 1952 President Truman established one day a year as a “National Day of Prayer.”
In 1988 President Reagan Designated the first Thursday in May of each year as The National Day of Prayer.


In June 2007 (then) Presidential Candidate Barack Obama Declared that the USA “Was no longer a Christian nation”.


            The actual quote is:

Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.
I am sure you will agree with that. I am also pretty sure the US is not a Christian Nation.  When we have the evil of abortion, the high levels of poverty, the levels of hatred and fear spread throughout the nation and the constant warmongering going on throughout all levels of our government, I don’t think we can call that Christian.


In May 2009 President Obama dismissed our 21st annual National Day of Prayer ceremony at  the White House under the ruse of “not wanting to offend anyone”.


            There is no prescribed ceremony for the National Day of Prayer.  No president before George W. Bush held one.  George W Bush did so out of a personal preference.  Every year of Obama’s presidency has had the official proclamation made by him. As a matter of fact President Obama fought and won against a Federal Court that ruled that the day was unconstitutional.

Sept. 25, 2009, a Muslim Prayer Day was held on the west front of the U.S. Capitol Building, the site where U.S. Presidents have been inaugurated since 1981. There were over 50,000 Muslims In D.C. that day President Obama dismissed our National Day of Prayer and now it is okay for an event at our capitol for Islamists??  I for one was offended.


            Again this was a privately organized event held on Public Ground that anyone can use.  We do a similar thing once a year with the March for Life, that offends many.


Now President Obama is encouraging schools to teach the Quran for extra credit, while at the same time, they cannot even talk about the Bible, God, pray, or salute the American Flag.


            There are currently six states that allow a High School Bible Elective (for extra credit) in their schools… http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2012-01-24/bible-class-high-school/52770440/1 .

The direction this country is headed should strike fear in the heart of every Christian.


Yep I totally agree but not for any of the reasons stated above.



Feed the Hungry

Feed the Hungry

On December 8th, the Church began the Year of Mercy.  In the Pope’s letter to the Church, Misericordiae Vultus, he reminds us to “rediscover [the] corporal works of mercy”.  So that we may “reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty.”  Today we continue the weekly series on Mercy by looking at the corporal work of mercy: feeding the hungry

“What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

In the United States we are sometimes lulled into the belief that everyone is able to go to bed with a full stomach.  However, the USDA reports that about 13.8% of the population in Florida experiences food insecurity, meaning that they do not know where their next meal is coming from.  It is important for us to remember always that some do not have their full human dignity due to not being able to eat.

We are beings of both flesh and spirit.  To truly have our dignity we must be complete both body and spirit.  To lack in one of those two is not to be fullness of what God intended for us. Each of the corporal works of mercy attempt to correct a deficiency in a person’s body.  Through the works a person is able to be made whole physically.  In feeding the hungry a person is able to receive the nutrition that is necessary to live in the world.  The importance of being able to eat is shown in the Lord’s Prayer where we ask God to “, give us this day our daily bread.”  In God’s Mercy when the people of Israel wandered the desert for 40 years, he gave them “bread of heaven,” as a sign of his mercy.  To be without bread, without food, is to have something lacking in our lives.  We are not truly whole without it.

feeding-of-the-5000-by-julius-schnorr-von-carolsfeld1Those of us that eat of the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, should take the graces that we receive from it to be channels of God’s mercy.  We should remind ourselves as we eat our meals that we are blessed to have a meal to fill our stomachs and pray for those that do not their daily bread.”  What is even more shocking is that 30-40% of the food supply in the United States is wasted, more than 20lbs of food per person in the US is thrown away.  Pope Francis reminds us that “waste of food is theft of the poor.” As we gather together for our family meals we can attempt to ensure none of our food is wasted.

In addition to prayer we should perform works.  Here in Lakeland we are fortunate enough to be able to volunteer at Talbot House.  There we can cook for the hungry and help serve the food.  Allow us to see the face of the hungry and to get to know the stories of those that go without food.  In addition, we can continue to bring our food to the Parish Food Pantry that feeds many families every week.  We can also make monetary donations to Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities so that they may feed the poor not only locally but worldwide. Finally, we as Catholics can band together to encourage our governments to prevent widespread hunger in the world in the first place. In this way we can ensure that our prayers for less hunger in this world are not dead because of our works.

The Corporal Works of Mercy

The Corporal Works of Mercy

On December 8th, the Church will begin the Year of Mercy.  In the Pope’s letter to the Church, Misericordiae Vultus, he reminds us that Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy and through Jesus Christ Mercy is living and visible in Jesus.  Today we continue the weekly series on Mercy by looking at the corporal works of mercy.

“Find us ready, Lord, not standing still.  Find us working and loving and doing your will.  Find us ready, Lord, faithful in love, building the kingdom that’s here and above, building the kingdom of mercy and love.” – Find Us Ready, Tom Booth, OCP Publications

This past Sunday Marisa and I changed things up a little bit.  We went to the six o’clock mass rather than our normal 10 am Mass.  That is where we heard the song above, Find Us Ready, and it fits so nicely with this week theme.  Previously we discussed how we can receive mercy, how we can get spiritually be feed through the sacraments and scripture to understand and receive mercy.  Now, it is important for us to take that mercy we have learned about and share it with others.

During this time of Advent we are preparing for the coming of the Lord, both his first coming represented by Christmas and his second coming.  Tom Booth’s song reminds us what we are called to do, we need to build the kingdom of mercy and love.  Jesus tells us how we can do that very thing.

Christ separating the Goat from the Sheep in a Mosaic at Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Italy.

In his parable of The Sheep and the Goats, found in Matthew 25:31-46, we are introduced to the corporal works of mercy.  In the parable we find out that we are called to 1) feed the hungry, 2) give drink to the thirsty, 3) clothe the naked, 4) shelter the homeless, 5) visit those in prison, 6) comfort the sick, and 7) bury the dead (this one is found in the Book of Tobit). The importance of these corporal works is indescribable.

The best I can do in describing the importance of these works is to share my personal experience with the works. The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world.  It is through the Church that many are able to be fed, clothed, sheltered, and given medical care.  There are countless numbers of people throughout the world that are shown mercy and the love of Christ through the actions of Catholics.  In a world torn by original sin, manifested in war, terrorism, and malice the corporal works of mercy brings a light of hope, love, and mercy to the world.

The corporal works of mercy have greatly affected me personally. Not to go into too much detail in this article I can tell you that through the works I have grown to see my fellow man in a more merciful way.  In seeing the hardships of this world and walking with those people experiencing those hardships I have grown in mercy in my day to day life.  In addition I have grown spiritually, in that I understand the blessings God has provided me and mercy he has shown me.


Bl. Mother Teresa

During this Year of Mercy I suggest that you find ways that you can incorporate the Works of Mercy in your daily lives.  Gather your family or your ministry together and discuss how you as a family/group can work to build the kingdom of mercy, through the corporal works of mercy. I would also suggest taking some time to learn about Blessed Mother Theresa. She is a great example of someone that worked to build the kingdom. In the coming weeks I will discuss each work of mercy on its own and in more detail.  Next week we will discuss Feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty.


The featured image is of Frans II Francken: The Seven Works of Mercy.