Month: March 2016

Mother Angelica, Founder of EWTN, Dies on Easter Sunday

Mother Angelica & Saint John Paul

Mother Angelica & Saint John Paul

Chapel

The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament

Mother Angelica

Mother Angelica

The internet is filled with stories about the death of Mother Angelica on Easter Sunday.  Google The Catholic News Service, or just google her name to find out information about her.  One fact is that her own mother followed her into religious life.

At the liturgy’s close on Friday, at 11:00,  Mother Angelica will be laid to rest in the Shrine’s crypt, above the body of Sister Mary David – her own mother.

The crypt where Mother Angelica will be buried

The crypt where Mother Angelica will be buried

The Octave of Easter is an 8 Day Feast–“Frozen Time”

 

 easter banner image

Easter is more than one day–it’s like a period of frozen time, followed by an entire season of the Church year that begins with the Easter Octave.  The gospel readings during this time include some of the most beautiful passages of scripture from the time after Jesus’ resurrection and his first encounters with his friends and disciples.  These readings remind us of the importance of his resurrection and the power of his ministry here on earth.  Jesus appeared to these friends that they might continue to share the Good News in word and deed with everyone they would meet.

It is one of two periods of Solemnity with an Octave Feast, the other being Christmas and its  time after.   It truly is a way of prolonging the joy of Easter, treating every day of the Octave like a little Sunday.  You’ll  notice the paschal candle, a central symbol  of divine light,  is lit at every liturgy throughout Easter Time.

And, of course, the priest’s chasuble has gone from mainly purple, a symbol of penance, sacrifice and preparation,  to white, a symbol of rejoicing and purity.

Enjoy this period of “frozen time”.  Happy Easter!

 

 

The Prayer of Pope Francis after the Via Crucis in Rome Today

We are so blessed, Beloved God, for the gift of your son you have give to us!

Pope Francis: 

Pope Francis after the Via Crucis on Good Friday

Pope Francis after the Via Crucis on Good Friday

 O Cross of Christ!

O Cross of Christ, symbol of divine love and of human injustice, icon of the supreme sacrifice for love and of boundless selfishness even unto madness, instrument of death and the way of resurrection, sign of obedience and emblem of betrayal, the gallows of persecution and the banner of victory.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you raised up in our sisters and brothers killed, burned alive, throats slit and decapitated by barbarous blades amid cowardly silence.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the faces of children, of women and people, worn out and fearful, who flee from war and violence and who often only find death and many Pilates who wash their hands.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in those filled with knowledge and not with the spirit, scholars of death and not of life, who instead of teaching mercy and life, threaten with punishment and death, and who condemn the just.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in unfaithful ministers who, instead of stripping themselves of their own vain ambitions, divest even the innocent of their dignity.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the hardened hearts of those who easily judge others, with hearts ready to condemn even to the point of stoning, without ever recognizing their own sins and faults.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in expressions of fundamentalism and in terrorist acts committed by followers of some religions which profane the name of God and which use the holy name to justify their unprecedented violence.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in those who wish to remove you from public places and exclude you from public life, in the name of a pagan laicism or that equality you yourself taught us.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the powerful and in arms dealers who feed the cauldron of war with the innocent blood of our brothers and sisters.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in traitors who, for thirty pieces of silver, would consign anyone to death.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in thieves and corrupt officials who, instead of safeguarding the common good and morals, sell themselves in the despicable market-place of immorality.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the foolish who build warehouses to store up treasures that perish, leaving Lazarus to die of hunger at their doorsteps.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the destroyers of our “common home”, who by their selfishness ruin the future of coming generations.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the elderly who have been abandoned by their families, in the disabled and in children starving and cast-off by our egotistical and hypocritical society.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas which have become insatiable cemeteries, reflections of our indifferent and anesthetized conscience.
O Cross of Christ, image of love without end and way of the Resurrection, today too we see you in noble and upright persons who do good without seeking praise or admiration from others.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in ministers who are faithful and humble, who illuminate the darkness of our lives like candles that burn freely in order to brighten the lives of the least among us.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the faces of consecrated women and men – good Samaritans – who have left everything to bind up, in evangelical silence, the wounds of poverty and injustice.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the merciful who have found in mercy the greatest expression of justice and faith.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in simple men and women who live their faith joyfully day in and day out, in filial observance of your commandments.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the contrite, who in the depths of the misery of their sins, are able to cry out: Lord, remember me in your kingdom!
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the blessed and the saints who know how to cross the dark night of faith without ever losing trust in you and without claiming to understand your mysterious silence.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in families that live their vocation of married life in fidelity and fruitfulness.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in volunteers who generously assist those in need and the downtrodden.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in those persecuted for their faith who, amid their suffering, continue to offer an authentic witness to Jesus and the Gospel.
O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in those who dream, those with the heart of a child, who work to make the world a better place, ever more human and just.
In you, Holy Cross, we see God who loves even to the end, and we see the hatred of those who want to dominate, that hatred which blinds the minds and hearts of those who prefer darkness to light.
O Cross of Christ, Arc of Noah that saved humanity from the flood of sin, save us from evil and from the Evil One. O Throne of David and seal of the divine and eternal Covenant, awaken us from the seduction of vanity! O cry of love, inspire in us a desire for God, for goodness and for light.
O Cross of Christ, teach us that the rising of the sun is more powerful than the darkness of night. O Cross of Christ, teach us that the apparent victory of evil vanishes before the empty tomb and before the certainty of the Resurrection and the love of God which nothing can defeat, obscure or weaken.
Amen!

 

 

An Announcement from Father Rich

kevin pilon

I am sad to announce that our long-term youth minister, Kevin Pilon, has submitted his resignation. Kevin has been here at St. John’s almost as long as I have been as he was hired about a year after I arrived. That in and of itself is a pretty big deal as the average “life span” of a youth minister is 2-4 years.

Kevin has done a great job with our program. He has really brought it to life and I know that ours is looked on as a model for many parishes in our diocese. That credit all goes to Kevin and the volunteer base he has organized over the years.

Just the other day I had a conversation with a parishioner from a neighboring parish and the person told me they were discerning about joining St. John’s. After inquiring as to the reasons this person said, “Don’t take it personally, Father, it’s not because of you; it’s because of Kevin.”

It was a little humble pie, but it is a clear indicator as to Kevin’s qualities as a youth minister.  

Kevin will continue to be a member of the parish and will help finish out this school year, but will no longer be an official employee as of later this month.

I wish him all the best in his new endeavors.  —Father Rich

  Kevin 3

Kevin

 

Thank you, Terri Jones for this beautiful video.

 

 

 

 

A Message from Fr. Rich about Holy Week

Relic of the True Cross of Christ belonging to Pope Clement XI

Relic of the True Cross of Christ belonging to Pope Clement XI

Reiquary of the True Cross

Reliquary of the True Cross

Reiquary of the True Cross of Christ

Reliquary of the True Cross of Christ

Holy Week: If You Skip It, You’re truly Missing Out

 For a long time I referred to Easter Monday (the day after Easter) as my favorite day of the whole year.  When asked why, my tongue-in-cheek answer was always, “Because it is the farthest away from Holy Week.”

At the risk of sound scandalous I used to say that all the time because I was so stressed by the Holy Week schedule.  The Catholic liturgy for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil is a very different animal from all the other liturgies of the year, and for a long time I really had to re-learn what the heck I was doing for these important days of commemoration.

Now that I have several years under my belt, I have gotten to the point where I really get into Holy Week and the Triduum celebrations.  They really are the most beautiful thing the Catholic Church does in its liturgy, and if you don’t normally make it a habit to go to your parish for these days, you are truly missing out.

Holy Week has been known by other names throughout history.  It has been called “Major Week,” “Greater Week,” “Passion Week,” “Paschal Week,” “Authentic Week” and also “Painful Week.”  All of them are accurate titles, but “Holy Week” captures them all.

As can be figured by the name, it is the holiest time of the year for all Christians, and for the Catholic Church the three days of the Triduum (which literally means “three days”) act as one single liturgy.

This is why at the end of the Holy Thursday Mass there is no final blessing and dismissal and why Good Friday is technically not a Mass but a threefold liturgy of the Word, Adoration of the Cross and Eucharist, again with no dismissal.

And then of course the supreme day and liturgy is the Easter Vigil, taking place after dark, the day on which new members are added to the church by baptism and confirmations.

Interestingly the early church believed that the second coming of Christ would happen on the evening of the Easter Vigil, and who knows?  It could still happen.

One of the “apologetics”-type questions I have been asked over the years has to do with the three days Christ was in the tomb.

The questioner will ask, “How do we figure it to be three days when we commemorate his death on Friday and then on Saturday night we celebrate his resurrection?  It seems more like 30 hours than it does three days.”

Liturgically speaking, the Catholic Church has adopted the ancient Jewish concept of the day.  According to the Jewish concept, a day does not start at midnight, it starts at sundown.  This is why since the second Vatican Council we have had vigil Masses on Saturday evenings that count for the Sunday Mass.  Ask any old-timers and they will tell you there was no such thing as a Saturday evening Mass when they were growing up.

So going back to the three days Christ spent in the tomb, he was buried on Good Friday soon after he died, he remained in the tomb Saturday, and after sundown on Saturday it was officially Sunday, the first day of the week.  This accounts for the three days and for why the Easter Vigil starts late, to make time for the third day and allow for the darkness, which is washed away by the light of the Paschal Candle and individual candles that we each hold during this most solemn celebration.

Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday, which is March 20 this year.  I always try to cajole my own parishioners to go to as many of the Holy Week liturgies as is possible.  And here I do the same for you, the reader.

As I mentioned above, if you don’t traditionally make it a habit of taking advantage of Holy Week, you really do not know what you are missing.  Easter has so much greater meaning for us personally when we do Holy Week right.

Go to your parish and enter into these beautiful celebrations that have no parallel.  I do not think you will regret it.

About the Relic of the True Cross Featured:
Many of you are probably aware that Father has hosted two seasons of an EWTN special, The Papacy, A Living History: The Papal Artifacts’ Collection of Father Richard Kunst.  The commentary included here is a transcript of one of the episodes and offers information on one of the most beautiful artifacts in his Collection, the one featured here.  Earlier this week, Father did a Monday morning class on relics and their importance in Catholic life.  That transcript is also included in The Latest News (“Monday Morning Bible Study with Father Rich”)

fatherIn this series on the papacy we’ve talked a lot about spirituality and the Eucharist and about these Popes always focusing back to the Eucharist, but you know what Imean, the spirituality of the Popes, just like the rest of us, will take different forms. And some Popes have been really engrossed in things, such as relics. And this artifact is a relic of the True Cross of Christ owned by Pope Clement XI. He was Pope from 1700-1721, just to give you an idea of the time we are referring to.

Of course there are a lot of spurious relics of the True Cross out there. But I’m totally convinced that St. Helena brought back the original true cross. The mother of Constantine traveled to the Holy Land and found the True Cross, and she brought it back to Rome. However, over time, a lot of people have produced fake relics of the cross and pawned them off as real.

The best bet we have of authenticating this one, as a relic of the true cross, is that it was actually owned by the Pope, and he actually prayed with it.

And so what we have here is a relic of the true cross. It’s in a silver case, a very nice silver case. On one side it says, in Latin, “Lignum S. S. Crucis”, meaning it is a portion of the True Cross.

On the other side it has an image of the Pope’s coat of arms, and the date, 1703. And then when you open it up, there is a beautiful crystal cross that is sewn together with gold threading and small slivers of the cross are on the inside.

It’s just a beautiful item. And the fact that it was owned by one of the Holy Fathers makes it quite unique as well.

The fact is that this relic is so sacred and important to our spirituality and to who we are as Christians. It makes me not want to leave it in a box somewhere, so I have often used it for catechesis.

I keep this close to myself to use for my own prayer life. It’s a way of having that connection to Christ crucified. Obviously, but also, it’s another way of being connected to a pope who was also praying with it.

So it’s a very unique piece that I personally used in my own spirituality, and it is one of these humbling things to have one of these.

If there’s a relic of the True Cross that’s authentic, then this one is with the highest level of certitude, because the Pope owned it. It’s a very beautiful item and very precious.

The Vatican is the organization that has the care of the true cross that came from St. Helen, mother of Constantine, in the 4th century. So the Vatican always had a portion of the true cross.

The fact that this was owned by the Pope with the reliquary in his own personal possession lends credence to the authenticity of this item. — Father Rich

 

A Second Message from Father Rich about Holy Week

crucifix altar servers

I know the Holy Week Liturgy schedule is already in the bulletin, but I do want to stress the importance of this week and hope to convince many of you to take advantage of what the Church has to offer during this holiest of all weeks.

Everything kicks off with the Chrism Mass at Holy Rosary on Monday at 5:30 pm. This is the Mass where most all of the priests in the diocese will be  to help bless the holy oils used in the sacraments during the year. It is a rare occasion to see all the priests and the bishop together.

Holy Thursday is the Mass of the Last Supper when there will be the re-enacting of the washing of the feet and the solemn procession of the Eucharist at the conclusion of the evening.

Good Friday is the most solemn of all days. The liturgy includes the reading of the Passion, the Veneration of the Cross and Communion.

The single most important liturgy of the entire year, of course, is the Easter Vigil. This is the Mass in which we welcome the new members entering into the church, and we here at St. John’s have two people who will be getting confirmed that evening: Layna Winkler and Kerri Martin.

 

Chrism Mass – 5:30 on Monday, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary

Holy Thursday – 7:00 pm

Good Friday – 1:00 pm

Easter Vigil – 8:00 pm

Easter Sunday – 7:30 am & 10:30 at St. John’s and 9:00 at St. Joseph’s

 

Monday Morning Bible Study with Father Rich

Reliquary Containing First and Second Class Relics of St. Jean Vianney

Reliquary Containing First and Second Class Relics of St. Jean Vianney

The Veneration of Relics

As was mentioned in an initial message on this Latest News feature of our web site,  we are so fortunate to have the classes on scripture and apologetics Father Rich makes available to us, both in real time and on this website.  Monday mornings at 9:00, a lively Bible study class convenes.  The format includes  instructions followed by a question and answer period.  

Today, Father departed from his usual presentation on the scriptures and chose the subject of The Veneration of Relics in the Catholic Church.  After the presentation there was an opportunity to view a portion  of the many  relics that are part of his personal collection.  “God made us physical, tangible beings, so it is the physical, tangible world that very often speaks to us in a most eloquent way,”  Father said.  

And that would explain his spiritual attachment to  and reason for the veneration of  relics of our saints.

Although   the classes are over for this  year, you still have an opportunity on Wednesday evening to attend the last of the Apologetics classes that meet right after the 6:15 p.m. Stations of the Cross.  Those classes are also a lively, fun and educational opportunity to learn more about our faith.  

Please consider availing yourself of the opportunities to learn what is presented in each of these great classes.  We will keep you updated when they are offered again in September or October.

The Veneration of Relics in the Catholic Church
father

One of my favorite things in the world to do is travel to Rome.  My passion for church and papal history makes Rome my proverbial candy store.

Anyone who has spent time in that beautiful city can attest to the beauty of the churches, but in the tours I have led to the Eternal City, I have found varying reactions to the relics on display in their sanctuaries.  It seems that most of the churches have some sort of major relic on display, anything from the crib of Christ to the chains that held Peter in prison, to literally walls of saints’ body parts right before your eyes.  To some this might seem macabre; to the church it is the age-old practice of venerating relics.

All cultures treat their dead with respect.  For Christians, who believe that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, it only follows that great respect should be given to those who most clearly lived out the Gospels, those who most clearly lived in imitation of Christ.

Catholicism has rightly been referred to as the religion of “smells and bells,” which to my way of thinking is completely appropriate.  God made us physical, tangible beings, so it is the physical, tangible world that very often speaks to us in a most eloquent way.  Our religion is full of physical symbols, not the least important being that of relics. 

There are three types of relics, three traditional classes.  A first-class relic is the body of a saint or a part of a saint’s body.  It could be a piece of bone, flesh or even a lock of hair.  A second-class relic is an item that the saint wore or used in his or her lifetime.  A third-class relic is a piece of cloth that was touched to the body of a saint.  Very often you will see a second- or third-class relic in a holy card or in a medal pendant, while first-class relics are rightly more difficult to obtain and will need documentation to be considered authentic or used for public veneration.

Relics are not magical, nor are they tools of superstition.  If they are used as such, they are quite literally being abused.  Relics are only worth the faith they provoke.  If someone wears a small piece of cloth of a saint in a pendant for good luck, then the relic is of no use or of value.  If, on the other hand, a relic inspires the faith, then it is of great value and has served its purpose.

It may surprise you that venerating relics and the potential power of relics is also scriptural.  In the Second Book of Kings, we see how the bones of the prophet Elisha bought a dead man to life: “They cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off.  But when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet” (2 Kings 13:21).

In the New Testament, too, we see the emergence of relics in the early church: “So extraordinary were the mighty deeds which God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

The role relics have played in the faith lives of both the Jewish people and Christians is clearly documented in the Bible itself.

In church history, there has also been an unfortunate side to the veneration of relics, or at least in the collecting of them.  Many kings, queen and emperors tried to out-do one another in a competition to lay claim to the greatest relic.  Very often this was done for economic gain, since the greater the relic, the better chance of attracting pilgrims; the more pilgrims, the more money into your local economy.  Out of this came the widespread forgeries that were taking place not only of significant relics but also of small ones, since many of these simple-minded pilgrims would be suckered into buying a fabricated piece of the relic they just visited.  Eventually, the church became much more careful in guarding against forgeries and now is very careful and precise when distributing true relics.

Something should also be said about the modern day “relic trade” on eBay and other online auction sites.  The selling of relics has once again become big business because of these web sites.  A simple search will reveal hundreds of relics that are available.  It is against church teaching to buy or sell relics.  Usually sellers find a loophole in stating the reliquary is what is for sale, and that the relic comes free with the reliquary.  There are also many forgeries out there; there is no such thing as a relic of any class of St. Michael the Archangel.

Either way, the selling of relics has become a very unfortunate situation.  They are to be venerated, not used for making a profit.  If you happen to have relics and you don’t know what to do with them, call your local priest or the diocese.  Do not sell them.

Some Relics Featured Today: (A Separate Column on Palm Sunday will include  more extensive information on the featured image, the relic of the true cross of Christ.)

This first item was made to dip into glasses of water, in the hopes for a miracle when people drank the water.The item is an antique, 18th century, very rare and unusual silver color metal reliquary. It is a tube with an inscription in Portuguese,  Reliquia de St. Alberto. Cranio, meaning Relic of St. Albert’s  Skull”  Inside of it is  a pierced container with a handle.  Through the holes it is possible to see the relic inside.  Father Kunst purchased this because it is so unique and unusual a relic.

St. Albert Relic (cranial) with Inner Dipping Container

St. Albert Relic (cranial) with Inner Dipping Container

 

Blessed Pius IX's Cassock in a Very Unique Reliquary with Papal Tiara

Blessed Pius IX’s Cassock in a Very Unique Reliquary with Papal Tiara

Relic of Pope St. Celestine V

Relic of Pope St. Celestine V

The second artifact is a second class relic, meaning it is an article of clothing belonging to the pope. It is contained in an ornate reliquary with the symbol of the papacy: the cross-keys and tiara. A cross adorns the top of the reliquary.

Pope Celestine V, who abdicated after only serving for five months as pope, was a very holy man who was canonized in 1313 by Pope Clement V.

Until Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation on February 11, 2013, Celestine was the last pope to have resigned from his office.

 

 

First Class Relic of St. John Paul II

First Class Relic of St. John Paul II

Document Authenticating St. John Paul Relic

Document Authenticating St. John Paul Relic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father Rich on the St. John Paul First Class Relic:

In May of 1981 papal travel protocol was changed with the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II. Because of the Pope’s rare blood type there was concern of a shortage for his needs when he lost so much blood from the gunshot wounds.

After he healed his doctors decided to draw his own blood so as always to have a fresh supply in case there was another emergency. So after 1981 everywhere the pope traveled so did a few pints of his own blood just in case. After his death (almost exactly 10 years ago), these spare pints of his blood became relics of a saint.

The Church has allowed distribution of some of his blood to various churches and dioceses throughout the world for veneration. I am humbled to have been chosen to received a relic of Saint John Paul’s blood through the assistance of my friend, Archbishop Schnurr of Cincinnati.

March 13, 2013: Habemus Papa! Welcome, Pope Francis!

The reaction of St. Peter’s Square to the white smoke and the announcement of a Pope

When the white smoke appeared at 7:06 p.m. on March 13, 2013, a loud applause erupted from St. Peter’s Square.

More than an hour later, at 8:12 p.m., Cardinal Protodeacon delivered the Habemus Papam from the large balcony of the Vatican Basilica.
The Argentine Cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected as the 265th successor of the Apostle Peter. We had just begun the pontificate of Pope Francis.
FIRST WORDS OF THE POPE
Brothers and sisters, good evening!
You know that it was the duty of the Conclave to give Rome a Bishop. It seems that my brother Cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get one… but here we are… I thank you for your welcome. The diocesan community of Rome now has its Bishop. Thank you! And first of all, I would like to offer a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us pray together for him, that the Lord may bless him and that Our Lady may keep him.
(Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory Be.)
And now, we take up this journey: Bishop and People. This journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity.
It is my hope for you that this journey of the Church, which we start today, and in which my Cardinal Vicar, here present, will assist me, will be fruitful for the evangelization of this most beautiful city.
And now I would like to give the blessing, but first – first I ask a favor of you: before the Bishop blesses his people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me: the prayer of the people asking the blessing for their Bishop. Let us make, in silence, this prayer: your prayer over me.
Now I will give the blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.
Brothers and sisters, I leave you now. Thank you for your welcome. Pray for me and until we meet again. We will see each other soon. Tomorrow I wish to go and pray to Our Lady, that she may watch over all of Rome.
Good night and sleep well!

A Message from Father Rich about Confession

father

As I mentioned in my homily last week, I am adding a couple additional times that I will be in the confessional so as to give more opportunity for people to take advantage of the sacrament.

Monday, March 14:  5:30 – 7:00 pm

Tuesday, March 15:  4.00 – 5:30 pm

There is also the regular time on Saturdays: 3:30 pm and by appointment.

I also mentioned we all need to go to confession, and for many people it has been way too long.  Confession is more difficult the less we go.  If we were to make a habit of it every month or every other month, it would be a breeze.

There is nothing you will say that will shock me and there is nothing I am going to get mad at you about in the confessional.  The sacrament is one of mercy not judgement, and we all need it.

As we approach the final days of Lent, this is one of the better things we can do to get ready for Easter.  –Father Rich

Confession: Jesus’ Most Important Gift to Us
Father Rich

Lent is a season of repentance of sin.  Repentance from sin for Catholics mostly means going to confession—yet another subject that is often misunderstood by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and for that matter, the most unused of the sacraments.

From time to time, you will hear people explain what the most important day in their life was.  Maybe it was a wedding day, a particular birthday, the birth of a child, a big promotion, etc.  What do you suppose the most important day in Jesus’ life was?  I will give you a hint.  It was the most important day in the history of the created universe: the day of his resurrection, the day that he rose from the dead.

Immediately after this most important event, Jesus appeared to his closest disciples, and of course the first thing he is going to say to them is going to be pretty important, if not most important.  The Gospel of John tells us he said, “’Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’”  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

The first thing Jesus said, the first thing Jesus did upon his resurrection was to give his disciples the very same authority he had—to forgive sins.

Some might say, “Well, that was the Apostles, not priests.”  If Jesus were to give that type of great assurance of forgiveness only through the Apostles, then it would have been offered only to the first generation of Christians.  Through the laying on of hands of ordination, the priestly presence of the Apostles continues through them to the bishops, and then to the priests.  God’s great gift of forgiveness was not limited to one generation.

But why do I have to go to a priest to have my sins forgiven?  Why can’t I go directly to God?  The short answer is that you are going directly to God when you go to confession.  The priest is “in persona Christi,” that is, “in the person of Christ.”  In the same way, we believe that Christ works through the priest at Mass for the Eucharist, baptisms and other sacraments, so too Christ works through the priest to forgive sins.  I, as a person, have no authority or ability to forgive sins, but by the fact that I share in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ, it is he who is doing the forgiving.

Here is an analogy: Suppose I walked into your house and I saw you watching television on an eight-inch black-and-white television set.  I would probably encourage you to get into the 21st century.  Now being the good friend that I am, I go to buy a 72-inch plasma TV to give to you as a gift.  You, of course, are thrilled and delighted at the same time.  Two weeks later, I stop by for a visit, and your are watching your favorite show on your old black-and-white; the plasma television I gave you is back in the box and in the garage.  How do you suppose I would feel?

Jesus gave the great gift of sacramental forgiveness on the most important day of his  life; it is a far greater gift than a big television.  We all know the intangible feeling we get once we have gone to confession; we know we are forgiven!  It is a gift the Catholic Church has kept.  Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required” (Luke 12:48).  We should not be asking why we have to go to confession; we should be beating down the priest’s door to be able to get to confession.  It is a gift that we have a responsibility to use.

Twelve thousand legions of angels cannot forgive sins.  The Blessed Virgin Mary in all her heavenly glory cannot forgive a single venial sin.  But a priest can!  What a gift!  God gives this to us as a great gift of his infinite mercy.  Nothing we can do can out-do God’s mercy.  Hitler’s sins are a speck of dust compared to the fountain that is God’s mercy.  But in order to have a good confession, you first have to be truly sorry for your sins, and then have the resolve to try not to sin in the future, which is why the Act of Contrition is important in the confessional.

What might be thought to be unique to Catholics in reality is not.  Nearly all Christian denominations believe that God forgives sins through another person.  Most believe that at baptism our sins are washed away.  Well, if God can use a person to forgive sins in baptism, who are we to say that God cannot forgive sins after baptism, in the confessional, especially since he was the one who said so on the day of this resurrection.

To deny the reality of confession is limiting the power and mercy of Christ.  It is Lent.  Prepare yourself for the high feast of Easter.  Prepare yourself for the day that Jesus gave us this great gift.  Cleanse your soul, and go to confession.  —Father Rich

In Defense of Christians: A Petition Led by the Knights of Columbus to Stop the Christian Genocide

 KC coat of arms   IDC image

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new online petition is urging Secretary of State John Kerry not to exclude Christians from a declaration of genocide at the hands of ISIS. Co-sponsored by In Defense of Christians (IDC) and the Knights of Columbus, the petition can be signed at 

StopTheChristianGenocide.org

The petition is being promoted by a new nationwide TV ad that includes quotes by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio endorsing a genocide declaration for Christians in the Middle East, a position supported by 55 percent of Americans, according to a 2015 K of C-Marist poll.

“Christians in Iraq and Syria have suffered injustice after injustice by being kidnapped, killed, having their homes and churches confiscated or destroyed, and being forced to flee for their lives. Because of hit squads, they fear to enter UN refugee camps and, as a result, are then often excluded from immigration to the West,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who signed the petition and testified on the matter before a congressional subcommittee in December.

He added, “After all of this, these people deserve to have the U.S. State Department call what has happened to them by its rightful name: genocide — just as the European Parliament, Pope Francis, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and so many other prominent individuals and institutions have already done.”

IDC Executive Director Kirsten Evans said, “The International Association of Genocide Scholars, over 200 members of Congress and over seventy human rights experts and organizations, spanning the nation’s religious and political spectrum, have raised their voices that the treatment of these communities by ISIS meets even the strictest definition of genocide under international law, and must be treated as such.”

The State Department is required by law to make a designation one way or the other on the matter by mid-March.

Signers of the petition “implore” Secretary Kerry “to speak up on behalf of these brutalized minority populations.” They conclude by urging him “to declare that Christians, along with Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, are targets of ongoing genocide,” arguing that such a declaration meets the criteria established by the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

In just its first hours, the online petition attracted some 15,000 signatures, including those of Gov. John Kasich of Ohio; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; U.S. Bishops Conference President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz; Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals; Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern Prelacy); historian Philip Jenkins; human rights experts and activists; and Hollywood producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

The Knights of Columbus began its Christian Refugee Relief Fund in 2014, with a particular focus on the Middle East. To date, more than $8 million has been raised to provide housing, food, medical aid, education and general relief to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities, especially from Iraq and Syria, and to raise awareness about their plight, including through a #40BucksForLent effort launched on Ash Wednesday. Additional information is available at ChristiansAtRisk.org

IDC is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that seeks the protection and preservation of Christians and Christianity in the Middle East through raising global awareness, mobilizing international support, and educating policymakers toward constructive international policies on their behalf.indefenseofchristians.org