Saturday, November 7, 2015

I'm Glad You're Here!

Welcome to your Online Catholic Adventure:  a religious education class designed to explore Catholic resources available to you 24/7/365 on the web. 

For tonight's lesson, you are joined by more than 100 St. Lawrence students. May God bless you and the Holy Spirit give life to your adventure. 

There are four blog posts to study. Each provides links to Catholic articles, resources, or videos on one of the four pillars of the Catholic Catechism. Spend most of your time on the links that are meaningful or interesting to you. 

As you study, think about how to make one online Catholic resource part of your faith journey now. Be creative and ask God for help through prayer. Some ideas include: bookmark a web address to your favorites; share a Scripture verse or Catholic link with a friend; call someone in class to talk about a Catholic article; write down three resources that you want to visit again; print out a prayer that you hang by your bedside and will say every night; or change your screen saver to your favorite saint's photograph. 

When done, post a comment under one blog post to share what action you took to make one online Catholic resource part of your faith journey. Briefly, in two or three sentences, describe 1) what Catholic resource you chose, 2) what action you took or plan to take with the resource, and 3) how you think that resource will help you more closely follow Jesus, build a relationship with God, evangelize by sharing Jesus with others, engage in service or prayer, or deepen your faith knowledge. 

Pray before you begin:  "Lord, direct my actions by your holy inspirations." Our Father. Sign of Cross.

As you explore, stay focused on Catholic resources. Enjoy the adventure with Christ. And get out your personal GPS (God Positioning System), for, "Every person carries in his heart the blueprint of the one he loves," according to Archbishop Fulton Sheen, from Illinois, who recently had a miracle approved by the Vatican.

Let the adventure begin! 

Listen to the Heart of Christ

Have you ever heard the phrase "heart of Christ?" It can refer to Sacred Scripture. Before Christ suffered and died for us, Scripture was unclear. Not even Jesus' chosen disciples understood what God was revealing to them. After Jesus' Passion and Resurrection, Christ's heart was made known to us, and the unity of God's plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, was communicated with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  

Now it is our turn to listen to the Heart of Christ (Sacred Scripture) for the Holy Spirit.

1st Pillar of the Catechism:  What Catholics Believe

1.  Read Scripture. Go to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops site: Click on the Bible tab. Then, click on Today's Reading and this Sunday's readings will appear. Use the calendar to find Daily Scripture for every day of the year.

2.  Reflect on Scripture. Go to the November 8, 2015, Today's Reading page. Click on the Reflections - Video link found on the left side of the page. Find the 2015-11-08 Reflection by scrolling down and looking at the November column. Click on the 11-08 reflection and watch the video clip. 

3. Spend some time exploring the Bible. You may want to better Understand the Bible, look at a particular Book of the Bible, or find help with a particular Scripture Verse.

"To read Sacred Scripture means to turn to Christ for advice," St. Francis of Assisi. 2 Tim 3:16-17, "All scripture was inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work."   

Final Thoughts

As we close this section of study, consider one of the most asked questions: How do I read Sacred Scripture? 

  • First, when reading the Word of God, prayerfully listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to you. For example, when Scripture touches your soul with thoughts like "wow" or "that means a lot to me right now," recognize that this is the voice of the Holy Spirit talking with you. Pause for God to soak into your soul. You may even want to start a Bible journal to write down what God is saying to you on a certain day.  
  • As Catholics, we are also attentive to the whole, unified Scripture. And we read Scripture within the living Tradition of the whole Church

What does this mean? "The Bible, a collection of Sacred Scripture, is like a long letter written by God to each one of us. For this reason, we must interpret the whole message with a view to its heart and mystery: Jesus Christ, of whom the whole Bible speaks, even the Old Testament. Therefore, we need to read Scripture with the God's whole plan in mind. We cannot pick out details while paying no attention to the unity of God's message. Finally, the Church draws her life and strength from Sacred Scripture. The living memorial of God's Word is carried in the Church's Tradition. Besides the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, there is nothing that the Church honors more reverently than Christ's presence in Sacred Scripture. This is why at Holy Mass we receive the Gospel standing, because in the human words, we hear God himself speak to us," (YouCat). 

There is so much to learn about Scripture. I pray you never stop reading God's Word. And if you ever wonder, "How did Sacred Scripture come about in the first place?" Or, "What was the Catholic Church's role in creating the Bible?" Here's an article about how the Bible came from the Catholic Church and how the Bible was put together: Scripture Proves the Church.

References:  CCC 111-114, YouCat 16, 19

Faith Opportunity:  Need to buy a Catholic Bible?

Live the Mass

"Long before the New Testament books were written - before any churches were built, before the first disciple died as a martyr for the faith - the Mass was the center of life for the Church. St. Luke sums it up in the Acts of the Apostles: "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers"" (Acts 2:42) (Hahn, pg. 36).

Thousands of years later, we celebrate the Mass everyday. But do we live the Mass?

2nd Pillar of the Catechism:  How Catholics Worship

1.  Review what happens at Mass. Go to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's web site at: In the Search box located in the upper right corner of the home page, type in "C4 Mass videos." Click on the C4 - What Happens at Mass? and watch the video by Bishop Hying. This is where you can watch short clips on many questions of the faith and sacraments. You can even search C4 Confirmation videos.

2. Reflect on why and where we worship. Watch the C4 - Why Go to Church? video by Bishop Hying. Also, find out the mission and Mass times of our parish by visiting the St. Lawrence web site, and then, scan our bulletin. Click on the Weekly Bulletin tab. Then, click on the Current Week tab to read today's bulletin. How are the Confirmation candidates of St. Lawrence living the Mass? See page three for their project mission.

3. Spend some time exploring the Mass. Click on the Our Faith tab on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's web site. You may want to look at our Liturgical Calendar or Holy Days, investigate the Items used at Mass, or the Sacraments.

"The Church is heavenly, and is nothing else than heaven," St. John Chrysostom.

Final Thoughts

As we close this area of study, consider the question many people ask: why go to Mass? 

  • First, do you have it all figured out? Does your life make perfect sense? Or, are you struggling to make sense of your life? "The homily during Mass is meant to help us make sense of our lives. It is through the homily - the reflection offered by the priest following the Gospel - that we reinterpret our lives in light of the Scripture readings. And because we, the people of God, have a responsibility to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ when we leave the church, homilies exist to help us. A successful homily is measured on its real impact on people when they leave church and return to their homes and schools. Even though the homily is one of the few times at Mass when the words and gestures have not been predetermined, it can transform our lives. In the history of the Church, a single homily could bring countless numbers to repentance, stop rioting, and most importantly, change hearts. And this is what we should expect from a homily at Mass: transformation" (Fr. Grassi, J.Poprocki, pgs. 49-51). His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan recently talked about the invitation that Christ gives us. Will you accept His invitation and come to Mass to be transformed? Listen to his homily: To Whom Shall We Go?  
  • "Church history is full of living homilies: Thomas Kempis, St. Francis of Assisi, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and many others who walked the streets smiling, sharing alms, embracing the lonely, and serving others, making it possible for people to consider an alternate vision of reality" (Fr. Grassi, J.Poprocki, pgs. 55-56). Who is a living homily for you? Are you a living homily for others? To start your work as a living homily imitating Christ, you must first receive Christ. Then, you can live the Mass by using your life as an example of an alternative to despair, hatred, dishonesty, gossip, and selfishness. Explore Thomas Kempis' book, The Imitation of Christ. Choose one link in Book Four: The Invitation to the Holy Communion.

With our communities being so diverse, it is the living homily, centered on the truths of Scripture and Tradition of the Church, that will speak to people. I pray you grow to love the Mass, learn to give yourself in unity with Christ on the cross during Mass, and join with Jesus in being a living homily of love to the world every day after Mass. 

As you expand your knowledge of the Mass, you may question: "When did the Church begin?" Or, "Did Christ want us to go to Church?" To find out when the Church began and how Christ brought together people in community, watch Bishop Hying's video:  Jesus is Everywhere, Why Church.

References: Signs of Life by Catholic Scholar, Dr. Scott Hahn, and Living the Mass by Fr. Dominic Grassi and Joe Paprocki.

Faith Opportunity:  Want to find a Mass time?

Be a Living Flame of Love

"The highest degree of perfection one can reach in this life is the transformation of God. With time and practice, love can become more intensified. Think of a campfire. Although the fire has transformed the wood and united it with itself, the fire continues to grow hotter and burn. The wood becomes more inflamed, even to the point of flaring up and shooting out flames. The soul too can reach this inflamed degree, so inwardly transformed in the fire of love that it is not only united to the fire but also producing a living flame," (St. John of the Cross, pg. 293).
If you want to be a Saint, love, serve and pray.

3rd Pillar of the Catechism:  Living Morally like Christ

1. Read the Ten Commandments. Go to the Vatican's archives. Click on English under the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Scroll down to Section Two: The Ten Commandments. Identify each of the Ten Commandments. Click on the commandment links you want to learn more about. These archives are where you can find more information on all four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 

2. Reflect on the Saints. In the monthly calendar, click on November 8 and listen to the audio for Saint of the Day. (Blessed John Duns Scotus beautifully defended the Immaculate Conception of Mary whose Feast Day we will celebrate on Tuesday, December 8, the beginning of Pope Francis' declared Year of Mercy.) Go back to the calendar and click on November 25 and read about the St. Catherine who is the patron saint of students.      

3. Spend some time exploring virtue and the lives of holy people. You may want to find the Saint of the Day for your birthday, look up what Saints or Virtue mean with a Catholic Dictionary, or listen to a conversation about what it means to be a strong Catholic today between Mike Sweeney, First Baseman of the Kansas City Royals World Series Baseball Champions and His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan.

"Saints are people who are aflame with the Holy Spirit; they keep God's fire burning in the Church," (CCC 2683-2684). Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks, "Star of the Native People and Bright Light for all! We thank God for your heroic courage, constant perseverance and deep love of the Cross. Pray for us that our love for Christ may deepen. And may we imitate you in following God's Will even when difficulties arise. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen."

Final Thoughts

As we close this section of study, consider the question: how is faith relevant to my daily life?
  • First, look at your habits. Are they good? Are the choices you are making showing love for God? Or, are they showing love for yourself? I was reading the latest thoughts of a favorite blogger of mine. She discussed: 1) "The importance of effectiveness versus love in winning hearts. Regarding effectiveness, think about how much good the Gates' have done with their charitable giving - immoral causes aside. How many lives they must have saved with immunizations and clean drinking water. How the world is grateful for their philanthropy. But then, there is Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. The world is not only grateful to her, but also, deeply, deeply in love with her. Not because of how many lives she saved, which is relatively few compared to the Gates' record, but because of how many people she loved. Because of the size of her heart. Because she was willing to accompany people in their misery, not only with financial support, but with her bare hands. With her very self,") (MNC, CNA). This is the kind of love that St. John of the Cross spoke of - the love that wins hearts and transforms us to God who is love. So often we ask, "How is this relevant to me now?" Maybe instead, we should ask, "How are my habits relevant to my eternal life? Am I settling for being effective? Or, am I living example of love, winning hearts with love?
  • Secondly, to bring our faith alive, we must serve the poor. When is the last time you thought of your brother or sister or friend as the poorest of the poor? Think about what you did the last time they came to you with a problem or a question, most likely when you were trying to study, watch television, or just relax or sleep? Were you kind and willing to listen? Sometimes the poorest of the poor are no further than the next bedroom over in our own home. To be a living flame of love and apply faith to our daily life, we must be like Christ, especially when we are disgusted with our siblings or friends. "Instead of trying to accomplish anything through spiritual feelings, put your hands to hard work and practice virtue," St. Teresa of Avila (Bangley).  
Becoming a Saint takes practice and hard work and it doesn't happen overnight. I pray that you are always up for the challenge when the poorest of the poor knocks on your door and that your habits reflect a living flame of love. 

As you grow in your desire to be one with God, you may want to read an encyclical, a letter from the Pope. Pope Francis' first encyclical of his papacy is entitled Laudato Si, on care for our common home. It can be found on the Holy See's web site under the Encyclicals tab. At the end, the Holy Father has this powerful prayer, "Holy Spirit, by your light, you guide this world towards the Father's love." May the Holy Spirit be our light!

References:  John of the Cross Selected Writings by the Discalced Carmelite Friars, A Little Daily Wisdom through the year with Saint Teresa of Avila by Bernard Bangley, Mama Needs Coffee on Catholic News Agency.

Faith Opportunity:  Want to serve the poor?

Bend Your Knees Today

Saint John Paul II recommended Saint Michael the Archangel prayer to be used as a prayer for the Church, when he said, "May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we are told about in the Letter to the Ephesians, 'Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power' (Ephesians 6:10). 

Let us get down on our knees and pray: Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host - by the Divine Power of God - cast into hell, satan and all the other evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

4th Pillar of the Catechism:  How Catholics Pray

1. Pray November prayers. Go to the Apostleship of Prayer web site: Click on the Pray tab. Then, choose 2015 Intentions. Scroll down to pray the November prayer intentions. This is where you can find the Pope's intentions for every month of the year. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for the Pope's visit to the U.S., "Lord, we thank you for giving us the opportunity to host Pope Francis, Successor of St. Peter and Vicar of Christ, in our own country. May his Visit unite Americans in love for their neighbors and draw us all closer to Christ and His Church. Please keep the Holy Father safe during his travels, we ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen."

2. Reflect on the need for prayer. Watch a Youtube video by the Apostleship of Prayer. Scroll down and click on the The Need for Prayer clip. Also, reflect on where the Church needs our prayers, especially on for Vocation Week that ended yesterday and the Year of Consecrated Life.

3. Spend time exploring Catholic prayers. 
  • You may want to pray a Family Prayer. Go to EWTN, a Catholic network: Click on the Faith tab. Scroll down. On the right, watch the video clip on Family Prayer
  • To find many different Catholic prayers, rollover the Faith tab on the EWTN site. Then, rollover Devotions. Next, click on Prayers
  • In light of All Souls Day, on November 1, you may want to pray for a loved one. In the Apostleship of Prayer web site, under Prayer and Daily Reflections, click on Daily Video. Watch the For the Deceased or Hands of God videos by Father James Kubicki. 
  • For today's prayer, you may want to pray the Prayer of the Day. Or, you may want to scroll all the way down the page and Pick a Prayer based on need or interest.

"If you are seeking God but do not know how to begin,  learn to pray and make the effort to pray everyday," Bl. Teresa of Calcutta. "To know the will of God, three things are required: prayer, waiting, taking counsel," according to St. John Bosco. 

Final Thoughts

As we conclude the final area of study, consider this question:  when do I pray? 
  • The Holy Bible says in 1 Th 5:17, "Pray without ceasing." From the earliest times Christians have prayed at least in the morning, at meals, and in the evening. When you get up in tomorrow morning, give the day to God, asking for His blessing and for Him to be there in all your school work and activities. Thank him, especially at lunch. At the end of the day, place everything in His hands, ask Him for forgiveness, and pray for peace for yourself and others. A great day of prayer is full of signals of life that reach out to God (YouCat).
  • Anyone who truly seeks God will send Him signals for company and friendship. In fact, St. Gregory said, "One should remember God more frequently than one breathes. Conversely, someone who does not pray regularly will soon not pray at all. "I therefore invite you every day to seek the Lord, who wants nothing more than for you to be truly happy. If you do not know how to pray, ask him to teach you," Pope Emeritus Benedict.

There are so many prayers in the Catholic faith. As you grow in your prayer life, you may wonder about why you don't feel anything or you may be reluctant to pray. Prayer is vitally important. Trust in God and remember, "Prayer is turning the heart toward God. When a person prays, he enters into a living relationship with God." Even St. Therese of Lisieux for a long time could not sense God's love at all. Shortly before her death, her sister found her with her hands clasped together. When asked what she was doing, St. Therese said, "I'm praying." When questioned about what she was praying, she replied, "I do not say anything to him. I love him," (YouCat). 

I pray you continue to use the Catholic sites we explored tonight to expand your prayer life and relationship with God. And I hope that before you go to bed tonight, you will bend your knees, praise God for His blessings, and say your prayers. God bless you!

References:  YouCat

Faith Opportunity: Pray at the Perpetual Adoration Chapel in Elm Grove at St. Mary's Visitation Parish, where someone has been present in the chapel, 24 hours a day, with the Blessed Sacrament for the past 30 years. While in the chapel, you may want to pray the Holy Rosary.