Monthly Archives: October 2012

Lessons I’ve Learned While Discerning the Priesthood

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by Daniel Quintero, former Media Ministry Assistant

Finding one’s path in life is never an easy task. But there is a difference between being patient and open to God’s call and stalling when you think He is calling you. 

Discernment is an active process, not a spectator sport. As much as I have hoped for God to send me a message in a dream or to put words in the sky detailing exactly what I am to do in life, I am very grateful for the search He has allowed me to take.

For a great many years, I had put the calling of being a priest in the back of my head. I would say I was open to it, but I never actively searched it as truly viable option. There were moments when I would stall and just not think about it out of fear. But more and more, that call grew louder.

It grew due in large part to the organization I work for (The Pilgrim Center of Hope.) Being able to learn about New Evangelization and having the opportunity to pray with my co-workers fostered a deeper spiritual community that guided me to discernment. I also learned how to be internally silent in prayer so that I could hear the voice of God.

Thus, I have come to a point where I can find peace in the thought of entering the seminary and continuing in deeper discernment.

God calls all of us to be saints. The goal of all our lives is to know, love and serve Him. Thus, we endeavor through the wilderness of this existence striving to find where we can best live out our purpose. In light of this, we know that God is always there; guiding us by the people close to us and by the graces we receive. He wants us to find our vocation. For it will be in that vocation where our supreme happiness will reign.

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What Are We Supposed to DO During the Year of Faith? Pope Benedict XVI’s Road Map.

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If you haven’t already heard, Pope Benedict XVI has announced a Year of Faith for all Catholics, which began October 11 and runs through November 24, 2013. If you have heard, you’ve probably guessed that we’re supposed to grow stronger in our faith this year…but, how?

Our Holy Father didn’t just say, “Year of Faith. Tag…you’re it!” and expect us to go our own way. As a good pastor, he wrote us a letter called The Door of Faith (Porta Fidei). In this letter, he gives us a road map for this special Year.

Here are the basics:

REDISCOVER. Our Holy Father says this Year is a time to rediscover the journey of faith, “rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves” on the Scriptures (as they are given to us by the Church) and on the Eucharist, “rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith,” rediscover God’s love “day by day,” and “rediscover and study the content of the faith.”

Since that’s a lot to swallow, he breaks it all down further into bite-sized chunks.

1. BE RENEWED. We’re called to renew commitment to our Catholic faith, but true renewal only comes by God’s grace. Our transformation and turning towards God is supernatural! We can’t do it on our own; we have to cooperate with God. The Pope reminds us: “To the extent that he freely cooperates [with grace], man’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed” (6). So, we need God’s grace! How do we receive it? As Catholics, we especially receive grace through the sacraments. “Without the liturgy and the sacraments, the profession of faith would lack efficacy because it would lack the grace which supports Christian witness” (11). How will you commit to receiving Confession and Holy Communion more often this Year?

St. Augustine

2. REFLECT. Even when we receive the sacraments, we need to be open to receiving the graces. Are you keeping up walls that have become obstacles to God? This Year, our Holy Father calls us to “reflect on the act of faith” (9). He reminds us that we cannot have any certainty in our lives unless we abandon ourselves into God’s hands (7). We need to reflect: How am I clinging to my wants, fears, and habits? Why am I not trusting God with everything? How can I begin to shed the obstacles that are keeping God out of every area of my life?

3. REPEAT & RECALL. When we allow God in, He can give us the supernatural gift of faith. But we need to cultivate this gift by repeating and recalling the Creed. The Holy Father point us to words by St. Augustine—the former sinner extraordinaire—who tells us that reciting the Creed in church isn’t enough. “In your minds and hearts you must keep it ever present, you must repeat it in your beds, recall it in the public squares and not forget it during meals: even when your body is asleep, you must watch over it with your hearts” (9). And Pope Benedict reminds us, “A Christian may never think of belief as a private act” (10). You might start by discovering ALL that our Church teaches, even one paragraph of the Catechism at a time. Perhaps find a letter by a pope on a subject you find interesting. Then, commit to repeating and recalling our Faith in every area of your life.

4. RETRACE. We learn how to constantly “repeat and recall” our faith from the lives of faithful people who’ve gone before us. The Pope says retracing our Faith’s history “will be of decisive importance in this Year” (13). We can do this in a variety of ways. Here are just a few examples:

  • Sign up for a Scripture study about the Old Testament or the Early Church.
  • Read the lives of the saints – buy a book, check out some from your local library, or search online.
  • Attend a presentation on Church history – ask your parish or diocese for ideas.
  • Participate in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land or other holy site – we’re organizing several.

5. RECOGNIZE. Inspired by these models of faith, we are called to “recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love” (14). This means giving ourselves in service to others. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that the Scriptures say, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2), and that Jesus asks us to care for him through “the least” among us (Matthew 25). How will you commit to recognize and serve Christ in others this Year?

6. RELATIONSHIP. Our Holy Father ends with two more pointers. First, that “this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ the Lord increasingly firm” (15). Interestingly, he writes in this section about the suffering and joyful experiences in our lives. As with anyone, our relationship with Jesus strengthens when we share our joys and our sufferings with Him—and when He’s the cause of our joy and suffering! When you truly live your Faith, you’ll “have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith…is tested by fire” (1 Peter) like gold. So, how will you commit to share your joys and sufferings with Jesus? You might schedule regular prayer time, keep a journal, practice Lectio Divina, drop into a Eucharistic Adoration chapel, or even place a picture of Jesus in a special place at home or work.

7. RECONCILIATION. Finally, every time we fail to do all of the above, God offers us mercy. Pope Benedict reminds us that the Church is “the visible community of (God’s) mercy” (15). We cannot be the Body of Christ all by ourselves; we are each members who are part of the whole Body (1 Corinthians 12)! This Year of Faith, accept God’s gift of mercy by going to Confession frequently, The Sacrament of Reconciliation. Then, commit to being an active member of your local parish—one who offers the peace and forgiveness of Jesus to everyone.

What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end. (Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei 15)

Why do Catholics need a “New Evangelization”?

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On October 11, 2012 Catholics began The Year of Faith with an emphasis on the “New Evangelization.” This was also the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (a.k.a. “Vatican II”), which was primarily an effort to facilitate greater involvement of the laity in the life of the Church.

The mission of the Church is not only to bring men the message and the grace of Christ but also to permeate and improve the whole range of the temporal. The laity, carrying out this mission of the Church, exercise their apostolate therefore in the world as well as in the Church, in the temporal order as well as the spiritual. These orders are distinct; they are nevertheless so closely linked that God’s plan is, in Christ, to take the whole world up again and make it a new creation, in an initial way here on earth, in full realization at the end of time. The layman, at one and the same time a believer and a citizen of the world, has only a single conscience, a Christian conscience; it is by that he must be guided continually in both domains. (Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, 772)

Demonstration for the legalization of abortion. Haarlem, The Netherlands, 1981.

A Pope’s Prophecy Fulfilled

About the same time as the Second Vatican Council, there was a general rebellion by many against any recognized authority; civil and religious. This coincided with the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. It was at that time when Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) and predicted that if society would accept artificial birth control as a desirable way to eliminate pregnancy, there would be severe consequences. He said artificial birth control seeks to eliminate the possibility of procreation from sexual union; reducing it to an experience of pleasure only. He said the result would be an increase in abortions, divorce, and rape, violence against women, pornography and homosexuality. His predictions have come true.

First of all, adultery and fornication became acceptable and then unfaithfulness in marriage, which has led to a high divorce rate. And presently, there is an all-out effort by many in the entertainment industry, media, educational system and politicians to accept homosexuality as a legitimate alternative lifestyle.

The family has been decimated. In this country, more than half of marriages end in divorce and only one-third of children will live with both biological parents. Even children who live with both parents often have little quality time with them because both parents work. Psychologists tell us that if children do not bond with their parents in their formative years, they will likely develop psychological problems, some very serious. Children need to bond with both their mother and their father. The number-one reason why young girls find themselves in troubling situations is because they never bonded with their father. God has a great plan for families, but He must be part of the plan. When a husband and wife pray together, pray with their children and spend quality time with them, the children have a much better chance of doing well in school and in life.

Are We Free, or Enslaved?

More than two hundred years ago Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

Because of the moral decline in this country we find that the government is becoming our “master” and our religious freedoms are being taken away. Many who call themselves Christian do not recognize the danger of the direction in which we are headed.

This is why we need a “New Evangelization.” To be evangelized is to become a new creation in Christ so that we can “…know, love and serve God in this life and be happy with Him for all eternity.” It is in a faithful relationship with God that we reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity. When we are evangelized, we will have a desire to form a truly Christian conscience that will be our guide in all matters—secular and spiritual. Only then will we be able to fulfill our task of “making this world a new creation.”

The promises that Jesus gives us in Holy Scripture are true, but we, for our part, must undergo conversion and surrender our lives to Christ. It is in the plan of God that every person goes through this process, so that we can live in His love and mercy.

Living Our Beliefs – and What Happens When We Don’t

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If you had a message of great importance that you wanted the whole world to know about, who would you choose to deliver it? In the Mass readings this Sunday, we saw that God’s ways are not our ways. God can choose whoever He wants to accomplish the things He wishes to accomplish, as we see in the first reading. Moses complained to God that the mission of guiding His Chosen People has become too great of a burden for him. So, God shares the spirit that He had given to Moses with 70 others, even those who were not in the prescribed place. Though this confused Joshua, Moses was given the wisdom to recognize that this was the work of God. The spirit of God is more important than the instrument He chooses.

Bernadette Soubirous in 1863

A more current example is Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, France. This thirteen-year-old girl, who lived in poverty with her family, was of poor health and had difficulty in school. When we were in Lourdes a few years ago, a bishop celebrating Mass near the Grotto said, “If you wanted to give a message to the whole world who would you choose; someone of great importance from a large city? Our Lord chose Bernadette from Lourdes. Through the ages God has chosen people of little significance to be His instruments. His ways our not our ways.” There are some who still reject the Blessed Mother as a messenger of God in spite of the miracles connected to her apparitions. They think that the works of God are confined to their own understanding. Sometimes we also can be like that.

We see something similar in Sunday’s Gospel. John, the apostle closest to Jesus, has just tried to stop someone from driving out demons in Jesus’ name because that person was apparently not a follower of Jesus. Jesus chastises John and tells him, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” What is important is why and how things are done. If they are done out of love of God and neighbor, we should be cautious about rendering judgment. It is not always obvious why people do certain things unless they are clearly good or clearly evil.

Our focus must be on why we do what we do. God has revealed His plan to us through the Scriptures and the Church: We know that through baptism we become children of God and receive the gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We know that we can encounter Christ in a deep and personal way through the Sacraments of the Church, the sources of the grace we need to live close to God in prayer and to discover His plan for us. We know that God wants us to be holy and has made it possible for us to be holy if we are faithful to what He has revealed to us, and this faithfulness will help us reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity.

We can be certain that this plan is true because it has been discovered and lived by saints through the ages who have been heroic witnesses of the love of God. There are consequences for us when we do not live this plan. Jesus said that if we live for our self, we will lose our life; and not only our life because we will give scandal to others. We must remove everything that is an obstacle to salvation.

There is no one on this earth more blessed than Catholics because God has given us every possible means to live a life close to Him. We have His Divine Word, the Scriptures; we have His Church to guide us and strengthen us with the Sacraments. We have the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints to intercede for us. We especially have the Holy Eucharist in which Jesus gives us himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity because he loves us that much. Why would the whole world not want to Catholic and have what we have? Could it be because we have scandalized the world by not living what we have received; by following the ways of the world instead of the Gospel? How can we expect others to believe what has been handed on to us by the Apostles and there successors if we are not witnesses of what we profess?

About thirty years ago, someone asked me why I was Catholic. I was glad to be Catholic and knew I would never want to be anything but a Catholic. I went to Mass every Sunday and to confession occasionally, but I realized at that time I never really gave much thought to the importance of my faith. Actually, I hadn’t learned anything about my faith since graduating from a Catholic high school. At that moment, I knew I wasn’t really sure of what I believed. As I pondered that for a few days I realized I had let the importance of my faith fade. I had become a ‘One-Hour-A-Week’ Catholic; my decisions were not influenced by my faith at all. Thank God for the wake up call. It was not long after that, that I bought my first Bible and joined a prayer group with my wife. We began to pray together and study our faith, and a new joy came into our lives. I guess you could say that was the beginning of the rest of our life together and opened up new possibilities and now our important decisions are based on our relationship with God and we have great hope.

When we profess our creed together, let us reflect on the words we say, and ask the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts with gratitude for being recipients of Almighty God’s great plan of salvation and the intimacy He offers us in His Church. Let us pray then for the grace to be witnesses of what we believe.

This blog was originally preached by Deacon Tom Fox as his homily for 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B) at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas.