“So my Fellow Catholics: Ask not what your God can do for you…”

In light of today’s Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States of America – Donald J. Trump, I found it fitting to share with you an excellent homily I personally heard last weekend at the parish of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church. The homily is given by my Pastor and Boss, Fr. Will Schmid.

Focusing on the words of John F. Kennedy Jr from his inaugural speech, Fr. Will breaks open for us as Catholics the importance of what we can do for God, instead of asking what God can do for us. In his homily, Fr. Will also focuses on the Catholic Mass and the primary reason of why we attend Mass weekly. To learn the primary reason, I would encourage you to listen to the homily below.

He also focuses on the importance of discipleship and how the Catholic Mass allows us to be disciples to the world. Drawing from the readings of the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Fr. Will in a most excellent way, examines how important it is for us to give back to God instead of always expecting God to give us something.

He concludes with the words – “So my Fellow Catholics: Ask not what your God can do for you (because he’s already done it) — instead, ask today what you can do for your God.”

Fr. Will’s homily:

If you are interested, all Sunday homilies and Saturday Morning Speaker Series talks are available for download via iTunes and Google Play Music.

Fr. Will Schmid

725th Blog Post 

“Mondays with Mary” – The Top 5 Most Popular “Mondays with Mary” of 2016

Since we are at the beginning of a new year, I wanted to share with you the Top 5 Most Popular “Mondays with Mary” of 2016. Many of you may have read these already, but I know there are new followers to my blog who may not have read these blog posts when they were first published. I do this from time-to-time as a way to share what readers found to be interesting in this series. They are numbered 1 to 5, 1 being the most views.

1. “Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of La Salette 

2. “Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of America, Part I 

3. “Mondays with Mary” – Bishop Fulton Sheen and ‘The Assumption and the Modern World’ 

4. “Mondays with Mary” – 10 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on the Presentation of the Lord 

5. “Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Walsingham 

Please continue to pray for the success of this weekly series on the Blessed Virgin Mary. I am approaching the 5th Anniversary of “Mondays with Mary” this upcoming May. I have also turned some of these into a book and waiting to hear back from some Catholic publishers. Pray that they will publish my manuscript so that others, who may not know about this series or my blog, may come to grow in their relationship with Jesus through Our Lady.

Our Lady of Guadalupe…Pray for Us.

Our Lady of Fatima…Pray for Us.

Our Lady of America…Pray for Us.

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Absam

As much as I think I know about the teachings of the Catholic Church in regards to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the primary approved apparitions, there is still so much I don’t know and so many apparitions of the Blessed Mother I have never heard of before – today’s feast day in Austria is no different.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is truly our Mother and never leaves us for she seems to have appeared, and continues to appear, in nearly in every country across the globe. I realize that many of us know about Guadalupe, Fatima, Lourdes, Amsterdam, and La Salette, but how many of you are aware of Our Lady of Absam in Austria?

In 1797, a young 18-year-old female by the name of Rosina Buecher was sewing by her window. At the same time, our father was working in the salt mines. Out of nowhere, she felt a terrible feeling that something was wrong with her father, maybe he had an accident in the mines. As she stared out her window wondering about her father, she saw an image of a beautiful woman on the window. After calling her mother into her room, who also saw the image, they both believed that they were looking at the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not sure if they were correct or not, they called their neighbors and their parish priest to confirm their belief.

The parish priest had the windowpane removed so it could be scientifically tested. During the testing of the window, it came to be that when the window was submerged under water – the image would disappear, but when the window was a dried off, the image would then reappear. The scientists who examined the window were not able to conclude how the image was created on the glass.

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Realizing that it was more than likely a miracle and not explainable through the scientific process, the priest returned the image to the Buecher family. As word spread, the miraculous image of what would become known as Our Lady of Absam grew in popularity and many people came to venerate the holy image.

The family decided to donate the image to the parish church so people could come and view it. Quickly word spread of Our Lady’s face on the pane glass window. Many people from all over Austria descended upon the small town six miles outside of Innsbruck, and just as quickly miraculous healings began.

Today the image can be seen in the parish of St. Michael the Archangel, which has been raised to a Minor Basilica. The holy image of Our of Absam is enshrined on a side altar. It measures 5”x7”.

The parents and grandparents of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were married in Absam. According to Georg Ratzinger, the brother of Pope Benedict says in his book, My Brother the Pope, that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has a special devotion to Our Lady of Absam.

Our Lady of Absam…Pray for Us.

Source:

Guide, The Catholic Travel. “Innsbruck, Austria: Our Lady of Absam Shrine.”Our Lady of Absam Austria Miraculous Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2017.

The Magi Have Arrived

Since today is Epiphany Sunday here in the USA, it fell this past Friday nearly everywhere else; I wanted to share with you an excerpt from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that focuses on the Magi. This excerpt comes from the book titled, Benedictus – Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. A friend gave it to me last year and I hope to use it this year at work for daily meditations.

Once I provide you with this heart-penetrating excerpt (because when I read it, my response was – Wow!), I am going to share with you the journey of the Magi through pictures from my new Nativity set, which began around Christmas Eve and ended with them seeing Baby Jesus and the Holy Family on Friday. Even though I am not married nor do I have children, I felt the need to do this with my own Magi as they approached Baby Jesus on Epiphany in my own home. It will be a tradition I carry on from here on out and one that I hope to share with a family some day.

In the biblical text, when the Magi showed up at Herod’s door seeking the New Born King of the Jews, Herod was scared and nervous since he was only a puppet king the Romans put in place to rule. He was not about to give us his dominion to some young child. After realizing the Magi would never return, because he asked them to come back and share with him their findings (they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod), Herod’s anger grew and he ordered the killing of all male children three and under. Liturgically, we celebrate this as the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28.

Why three years and under you may ask? It took the Magi somewhere between two to three years after they met with King Herod to locate our Lord, who would have been around 2 or 3 years old. Furthermore, although Our Lord would have been older by the time the Magi arrived, we often see him as a little baby in a manager in most Nativity sets. Again, this has to do with the way we liturgically celebrate the Christmas Season, which includes the arrival of the Magi on Epiphany.

So with this being said, let’s turn our attention to the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI – this excerpt is titled, What the Magi Learned –

“Going into the house, the Magi saw the child…Outwardly, their journey was now over. But at this point a new journey began for them which changed their whole lives…Deep within themselves they felt prompted to go in search of the true justice that can only come from God, and they wanted to serve this King, to fall prostrate at his feet and so play their part in the renewal of the world. They were among those ‘who hunger and thirst for justice’ (Mt 5:6). This hunger and thirst had spurred them on in their pilgrimage – they had become pilgrims in search of the justice they expected from God…The new King, to whom they now paid homage, was quite unlike what they were expecting. In this way they had to learn that God is not as we usually imagine him to be. This was where their inner journey began. It started at the very moment when they knelt down before this child and recognized him as the promised King. But they still had to assimilate these joyful gestures internally. They had to change their ideas about power, about God and about man, and in so doing, they also had to change themselves…They had to learn to give themselves – no lesser gift would be sufficient for this King. They had to learn that their lives must be conformed to this divine way of exercising power, to God’s own way of being. They must become men of truth, of justice, of goodness, of forgiveness, of mercy…They will have to ask: How can I serve God’s presence in the world? They must learn to lose their life and in this way to find it. Having left Jerusalem behind, they must not deviate from the path marked out by the true King, as they follow Jesus.”

On this day, let us be like the Magi, who after being in the presence of Jesus as a child, changed their lives, sought justice and mercy, and were ever transformed for the rest of their days. Let us also learn to be obedient to Jesus and His Catholic Church.

Now the pictures of my Magi and their journey…

The Magi start on the top of my bookcase after talking with Pope Benedict and the Knight.

The Magi start on the top of my bookcase after talking with Pope Benedict and the Knight.

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The Magi on my desk. An up close look at their gifts.

The Magi in my kitchen. A little sip of the vino might help them sleep better that week.

The Magi in my kitchen. A little sip of the vino might help them sleep better that week. Carrying their gifts.

The Magi on my dining room table.

The Magi on my dining room table. Gifts in hand.

The Magi can see Baby Jesus in the distance.

The Magi can now see Baby Jesus. They are close now.

The Magi have arrived for Epiphany.

The Magi have arrived for Epiphany. Here they are bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Remembering Father Michael Scanlan, TOR

Although my testimony to this great man of God and Catholic priest will not compare to the many others who knew him better than I, I felt the need to write this as soon as possible.

My decision to finally take the plunge into the deep waters of Catholicism and attend Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio for my Masters in Theology came in the spring of 2008; it was and is the best decision I have made in the last 10 years (which includes taking my dream job and working for my current Pastor). It was a chance to study with some of the great Catholic minds in the US Church and to be on the campus that many see as a beacon of Catholicism (think the lighting of the beacons from The Return of the King).

I never realized when making this decision that I would come face-to-face with the great man and Catholic priest, known to many as Fr. Mike, so soon after I arrived in Steubenville. After making the four-day trek across the country, I arrived in Steubenville close to the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. And since traveling across the USA had its toils, along with my own sins of impatience while driving, I remember how much I wanted to go to the Sacrament of Confession. Friends at the time suggested that I go to the Friary on campus, ring the bell, and one of the Friars would more than likely come out – never did I realize it would be Fr. Michael Scanlan!

After the initial shock of seeing him in person, and asking him if he was Fr. Michael Scanlan just to be 100% positive, although I had seen pictures and read one of his books, we chatted briefly about my trip across the country to attend Franciscan and to attain the MA in Theology. After this, we both made the Sign of the Cross and entered into the Sacrament of Confession. Although I regularly receive the graces from this sacrament to this day (going again this afternoon once I hear from my confessor), this is one time I will always remember in a way like no other.

All I can say is that it was like being in the presence of an elderly grandfather who is Jesus Christ. That’s it – that’s how I remember him. Simple, humble, understanding my failings, and readily excited to forgive me through his priestly vocation.

fr-michael-scanlan-tor

Once the sacrament concluded, he walked me out of the Friary, said his good-bye and wished my studies on campus well. I remember him distinctively saying that he would pray for me and pray for my time at Franciscan. I walked to my 4Runner, got in, and a tear fell from my eye, realizing that I just went to Confession with a living saint. I quickly started my 4Runner and drove to my friend’s house and shared that I just met “Fr. Mike” (which is how I remember him introducing himself).

One of the girls said to me jokingly but still serious – did you get a piece of his hair? She said that to me because we both knew someday he would be a saint and that his hair would be a first-class relic (Ha ha!) I replied no – I just wanted to go to Confession.

Although I saw Fr. Mike from time-to-time on campus, he was already retired when I went to Franciscan. When I did see him he was so cordial, joyful, smiling, and eager to talk. The one time I did speak to him was after an intramural football game during my second year. He knew I was playing with the graduate students since my t-shirt had “Old Skool” on the front of it. He asked me – can you keep up with these kids? After we both laughed, he told me to go home and ice down my sore muscles. Again, another experience I will cherish.

I woke up this morning and received the news of his passing, and although I was saddened by the news, I can’t help to think of the great rejoicing that must be occurring in Heaven at this time. It’s my hope that in five years time, the process to begin his Canonization as an official saint of the Catholic Church will begin.

Canonization doesn’t make a person a saint; it only confirms what God has already done with the individual, and nothing is truer than the saintly life of Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR, President Emeritus of Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Pray with me this day for Fr. Michael Scanlan – Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

“Mondays with Mary” – 5 Quotes on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God by Pope St. John Paul II

Yesterday, we celebrated one of great Marian Solemnities in the Catholic Church – Mary, Mother of God. As another year comes upon us, we begin our year focusing on Our Lord’s Mother, particularly in her role as Theotokos or God-Bearer.

As some of you know, this happens to be my favorite title for the Blessed Virgin Mary. I like this title for Mary so much that my home Wi-Fi is named Theotokos and my fantasy football team, which by the way won the league championship, is titled – The Theotokos Tide.

In the past, I have written on this title for Mary many times, if you are interested in reading some of those posts, I would encourage you to check those out here.

As many of you also know, Pope St. John Paul II is a major influence in my writing and work, not only here, but also at the parish. Next week and week after, I will be teaching on his life to the parents of our family formation program. So for today’s, “Mondays with Mary”, I am going to provide you 5 quotes from homilies written by Pope St. John Paul II that focus on Our Lady in this Solemnity – Mary, the Mother of God. Feel free to share these on your social media sites or with family and friends.

1. “Today’s liturgy celebrates the solemnity of the Mother of God. Mary is the one who was chosen to be Mother of the Redeemer, sharing intimately in his mission. In the light of Christmas, the mystery of her divine motherhood is illumined. Mary, Mother of Jesus who was born in the Bethlehem cave, is also the Mother of every man and woman who comes into the world. How is it possible not to commend to her the year that is beginning, to implore a time of serenity and peace for all humanity? On the day when this new year begins under the blessed gaze of the Mother of God, let us invoke the gift of peace for each one and all.” – 1997

Orans - Theotokos

2. “‘When the time had fully come’ (Gal 4:4). These words of the Letter of St Paul to the Galatians correspond very well to the character of today’s celebration. We are at the beginning of the New Year. According to the civil calendar, today is the first day of 1998; according to that of the liturgy, we are celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God…The Virgin most holy, whom we address on this first day of the year by the title ‘Mother of God’, turns her loving gaze to the whole world. Through her motherly intercession, the people of all the continents can feel more like brothers and prepare their hearts to welcome her Son, Jesus. Christ is the genuine peace that reconciles man with man and all humanity with God.” – 1998

3. In a certain sense, the whole liturgical year follows in the footsteps of this motherhood, beginning with the feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, exactly nine months before Christmas. On the day of the Annunciation, Mary heard the Angel’s words: ‘Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus…. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God’ (Lk 1: 31-33, 35). And she answered:  ‘Let it be to me according to your word’ (ibid., 1: 38). – 2000

4. “Today the Church is celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. After presenting her as the One who offers the Child to the shepherds who sought him anxiously, Luke the Evangelist gives us an image of Mary, at the same time simple and majestic. Mary is the woman of faith, who made room for God in her heart, in her plans, in her body, in her experience as a wife and mother. She is the believer who is capable of understanding the unusual event of the Son as the coming of that ‘fullness of time’ (Gal 4: 4), in which God, choosing the simple ways of human life, decided to involve himself personally in the work of salvation.” – 2001

5. “Today, the liturgy of the Octave of Christmas presents to us the icon of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary. The Apostle Paul points her out as the “woman” through whom the Son of God entered the world. Mary of Nazareth is the Theotokos, the One who “gave birth to the King of Heaven and earth for ever” (Entrance Antiphon; cf. Sedulius). At the beginning of this new year, let us place ourselves with docility at the school of Mary. We want to learn from her, the Holy Mother, how to accept in faith and prayer the salvation that God never ceases to offer to all who trust in his merciful love.” – 2004

As we begin this new year of 2017, let us ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Mother of God, to intercede always for us by leading us closer to her Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us also pray that the Pope St. John Paul II will continue to watch over and pray for the Catholic Church from his place in Heaven. Amen.

Merry Christmas!

birth-of-jesus-christ-icon

“On this night, the ancient yet ever new proclamation of the Lord’s birth rings out. It rings out for those keeping watch, like the shepherds in Bethlehem two thousand years ago; it rings out for those who have responded to Advent’s call and who, waiting watchfully, are ready to welcome the joyful tidings which in the liturgy become our song: “Today is born our Saviour”.

The Christian people keep watch; the entire world keeps watch on this Christmas night…this proclamation, with its inexhaustible power to renew us, echoes once more on this holy night with special force: this is the Christmas of the Great Jubilee, a living remembrance of Christ’s two thousand years, of his wondrous birth, which marked the new beginning of history. Today “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14).

“Today”. On this night, time opens to eternity, because you, O Christ, are born among us, coming from on high. You came to birth from the womb of a Woman blessed among all women, you “the Son of the Most High”. Once and for all your holiness made all time holy: the days, the centuries, the millennia. By your birth, you have turned time into the “today” of salvation.” – Pope St. John Paul II, Midnight Mass Homily 2000 

May you and your loved ones have a Blessed and Joyous Christmas this year. Let us give praise and thanksgiving for the Birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!