How to Make the Most of Our Podcasts

This article first appeared in the July 16, 2017 edition of Vidi Dominum, the parish bulletin of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church. Re-published here with permission. The all-time stats number below has been changed to reflect the numbers as of today.

Are you aware that the Sunday homilies and the Saturday Morning Speaker Series talks are available on iTunes and Google Play Music? Have you subscribed yet to receive our podcasts from one of these two sources?

As long as I can remember from the time I started working here at the parish, we have wanted to make our homilies available digitally. The Sunday homilies and Saturday Morning Speaker Series talks have now been available for download on iTunes and Google Play Music for 16 months. As of the final edit of this article, there have been 18,296 downloads (all-time) since the beginning of July 2016. Each month has seen a steady increase.

When I share this bit of information with my friends that work for other parishes across the country, they are always eager to learn how we do it. It’s definitely a small segment of the New Evangelization. Not only can our own parishioners download our homilies, but anyone that has an iPhone or Droid across the country and the world can access them as well.

We provide you with the homilies and talks for the simple reason that if you were unable to be physically (or mentally) present during the time that they were given, you can download them to your phone, computer, or tablet and listen at a time that’s convenient for you.

Some practical ways you can make the most of our podcasts: 

  1. If you have a long commute to work, you could listen to the podcasts as you drive into the office or job site. Do you travel on a plane for work? You could download them before you take off in order to listen in-flight.
  2. You could listen to the podcasts while you work out at the gym, or while you’re out for a walk or run (of course, when it’s not as hot as the surface of the Sun).
  3. Are you taking any vacation time this summer and spending time in the car for long hours? Here’s another time that podcasts might come in handy.
  4. Sometimes we get distracted at Mass or our children need our attention during the homily. If you missed something, you could always go back and listen to it again.
  5. Perhaps you particularly like the preaching style of one of our priests, and he wasn’t celebrating the Mass you attended. You could listen to his homily later for some mid-week inspiration!

Here is the simplest way to find the podcasts:

  1. On your phone, computer, or tablet, go to our website: smarymag.org
  2. In the right hand corner of the website are icons – if you have an iPhone click on the “Apple”; if you have a Droid, click on the “G” – you will then be brought to those respective sites where you can download the homilies and talks.
  3. Both iTunes and Google Play Music give you the ability to “subscribe” to the podcasts. If you choose to do this, then each week when we put up the homilies/talks, you will automatically receive them to your device. You might have to “refresh” your account to get them.

If you don’t have an iPhone or Droid, or maybe you’re not that technologically savvy, you can go to the Podcast page of our website and listen to the homilies and talks there as well: smarymag.org/audio

Only the homilies and talks from May 2017 to the present are available. If you want to listen to the homilies or talks from before this date, you can find them on the Podcast webpage listed above.

What can I do to help with the New Evangelization?

“The Church recognizes that these media, if properly utilized, can be of great service to mankind, since they greatly contribute to men’s entertainment and instruction as well as to the spread and support of the Kingdom of God.” (Inter Mirifica, 2)

You can share all of this information with your family and friends, no matter where they are. I know iTunes gives you the ability to share any homily or talk that you would like to give others the opportunity to hear. If you have any social media accounts, such as Facebook, share this information on there as well. You will be surprised how many Catholics are seeking this kind of service, but their own parish does not provide it.

Pentecost: Lighting the World on Fire with the New Evangelization

There is a scene in the 1991 film, Backdraft, when Robert De Niro’s character asks Donald Sutherland’s character (an imprisoned pyromaniac), “what do you want to do to the whole world Ronald”, and he replies “burn it all.”

If you have never see the movie, I encourage you to see because it’s a great film, however the reason why I quote this film is because as Catholic Christians living in the world, we should want to do the same thing to the world, but in a Evangelistic way. We should be seeking to light the world on fire with the light of the Holy Spirit.

As Catholics, we should be spiritual fire-starters for Jesus Christ and His Church. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled” (Lk 12:49). Obviously, I am not talking about starting literal fires, but I am speaking about playing with the fire of Pentecost and the fire that we receive in the Sacrament of Confirmation. As Catholics, it is our fundamental duty to evangelize the world by playing with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

At the direction of a good friend of mine, a few years ago, I read George Weigel’s book – Evangelical Catholicism. His understanding of the Catholic Church and the deep reform (not doctrinal reform) that is needed for the Church in the 21st century is prophetic, and remember we are only at the beginning of it. If you have never read it, I would highly encourage you to do so.

In Chapter 1, there is a section called – Pentecost, Again. He begins this section by stating that through the pontificates of Pope St. John XXIII (and the Second Vatican Council) and Pope St. John Paul II, a new Pentecost is on the horizon in the Catholic Church. The marching orders that will lead this new Pentecost is the New Evangelization.

In his encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, Pope St. John Paul II says this –

God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel. I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.

Now this is no easy task, especially in a Church that seems to be somewhat conflicted with herself today, but if the mission can be met, it means that we who take on this great call will have to play with fire.

To encourage you to “play with fire”, here are some dynamic and powerful quotes from Evangelical Catholicism and the section on the new Pentecost –

Quoting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger –

“the Holy Spirit is fire; whoever does not want to be burned should not come near him.” This fire…”is an “inimitable” part of the “relationship between Christ, Holy Spirit, and Church.””

Fire of the Holy Spirit and the Body of Christ –

“The fire of the Holy Spirit purifies, inspires, and fuses men and women together into a new human community, the Church. Through each of its members, and in them as a whole, the Church is the Body of Christ on earth.”

Fire of the Holy Spirit, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger  –

“Faith is a tongue of fire that burns us and melts us so that ever more it is true: I am no longer I…When we yield to the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, being Christian becomes comfortable only as first glance…Only when we do not fear the tongue of fire and the storm it brings with it does the Church become the icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God.”

Evangelical Catholicism is Not Easy –

“The cultural Catholicism of the past was “comfortable” because it fit neatly within the ambient public culture, causing little chafing between one’s life “in the Church” and one’s life “in the world.”…Evangelical Catholicism does not seek to “get along”; it seeks to convert.”

Evangelical Catholicism in the Church –

“…Lukewarm Catholicism has no future: submitting to the transforming fire of the Holy Spirit is not longer optional…Evangelical requires a generosity about time from the laity, who must make time amid the rush of postmodern life for a deeper encounter with Christ than that permitted by an hour’s worth of weekly worship…more attention to sacramental preparation and sacramental discipline…”

Evangelical Catholicism, Community, and Holiness –

“Evangelical Catholicism builds up the community of the faithful not for the sake of the community but for the sake of a common reception of the mysteries of the faith, which in turn become the fonts of grace…The tongues of from which the Church is formed thus become the fire of mission by which the world is set ablaze…Evangelical Catholicism calls the entire Church to holiness for the sake of mission.”

I don’t know about you, but these words from George Weigel get me fired up…pun intended! As Catholics, it is time, now more than ever before, for us to light the world on fire with the love of Jesus Christ and the Church. Find strength in the Sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist – they unite us with Jesus Christ and each other, the Body of Christ.

In the book, The Spirit of Catholicism (another great text!) Karl Adam says, “Twelve simple, uneducated fishermen revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

If the Twelve Apostles could do this, imagine what we can do with 2,000 years of Scripture and Tradition behind us. My fellow Catholics – Go! Evangelize! And the set the world on fire

Understanding Apologetics: How to Defend Your Faith

This is an article that had been on my heart and mind to write for some time since we are often asked if we will offer “apologetic classes” at the parish. It first appeared in the March 5, 2017 edition of Saint Mary Magdalene’s Parish Bulletin, Vidi Dominum (Latin for – “I have seen the Lord.” The words of St. Mary Magdalene to the Apostles [John 20:18]). With permission, I am able to provide this article to you here.

In a world filled with buzzwords, there is one on the lips of many Catholics I run into. That buzzword is apologetics. Recently, a lot of parishioners have been requesting that more apologetics classes be offered here at St. Mary Magdalene. Before I address that, we should first ask whether we really understand what this word means – what apologetics is, and what it isn’t.

What is Apologetics?

The word apologetics comes from the Greek root word, apologia, which means to defend. In Ancient Greece, it was referred to as the formal way one would defend a belief, explanation, or argument for one’s philosophy or religion. Although we might associate this term with the word, apologize, it does mean to say that we are sorry for what we believe, or that we are sorry for offending someone because of our beliefs.

The term apologia cannot only be found in the New Testament (Acts 22:1 and 1 Peter 3:15), but also in other documents in ancient history, such as The Apology of Socrates by the Greek philosopher Plato. In this text, he makes a defense for Socrates when accused of wrongdoing. Furthermore, we also see this word in the Early Church writings of St. Irenaeus (Against the Heresies), St. Justin Martyr (The First Apology), and, most notably, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Clement of Rome, St. Polycarp, St. Ignatius of Antioch, and Tertullian, among others. In more modern times, we have G.K. Chesterton, Bishop Fulton Sheen, Frank Sheed, Peter Kreeft, Jimmy Akin, and Arizona’s own, Trent Horn.

Although the aforementioned Early Church Fathers defended their newfound Catholic faith and beliefs to a pagan culture of non-believers, Catholics today are in a similar position. We are constantly being required to explain and defend our Catholic faith to many non-believers, even to those who were raised Catholic but were never truly taught their Catholic faith correctly. Many people have left the Catholic Church as a result of having been poorly catechized. Even I was not catechized correctly as a young child and adolescent. I first had to learn the truth before having the courage to defend it.

Preaching of Saint Peter by Masolino da Panicale (The Brancacci Chapel in Florence, Italy).

For us today, and for our older brothers and sisters in the past, the battle cry of defending our Catholic faith should be centered on St. Peter’s words – “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). In his book, Reasons to Believe – How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith, Scott Hahn says the following in reference to St. Peter’s words:

 “We should…always “be prepared” to explain the reasons why we believe what we believe. That statement assumes our beliefs are defensible on rational grounds, and that we’re willing to spend a lifetime preparing to defend what we profess in the articles of faith…as Christians, we have the sweet obligation of coming to know them and coming to their defense as often as we please. There is no shortage of opportunity of study, contemplation, and evangelization. Wherever we go, we are in God’s presence and in His world. And in most places we go we can take a good book along for stolen moments of study. It’s the work of a lifetime.”

 Always be prepared

So we might be asking ourselves at this point: How can we make sure that we are always prepared?

First, we must be people of prayer. The greatest apologists in the history of the Church were those striving to be saints. Their work as apologists was secondary. The best way to become a saint is to strive for holiness and to converse with God through prayer. A consistent daily and lively prayer life is fundamental for anyone who wants to learn and defend the Catholic faith. A good place to start with prayer is attending Sunday Mass and spending time with Jesus in Adoration. If you can make daily Mass, that will benefit you even more.

Second, we must come to have a good understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches on the fundamental articles of faith. Although the Catholic faith is vast and contains a wealth of knowledge, starting with the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, amplified with strong works of biblical and theological learning is fundamental. You can read and learn on your own, but many people find it overwhelming to pick up the Bible or the Catechism. I have heard it here at the parish many times.

Do We Offer Apologetics Classes?

In a recent Flocknote survey that I sent out, I received numerous requests to offer “apologetics classes.” Although I understand what people are asking, the simple response to the question above is, “We already do!” Through the Porta Fidei Adult Faith Formation Program, we have already provided Bible studies such as Genesis to Jesus, The Gospel of Matthew, Book of Revelation; the Catholicism Series, sessions on the Mass and the Eucharist, Consecration to Jesus through Mary, Prayer, and many others.

Third, we must realize what apologetics is and isn’t. Apologetics is simply, as I stated above, the ability to defend one’s faith, but more than that, apologetics should remove false notions of Catholicism. We should be able to explain to people, through reason, what Catholicism is, and what it is not. Many people have been given a false perception of the Church through no fault of their own.

Apologetics seeks to bring people to Jesus Christ through conversion. It is not about bringing someone to Christ by force. Apologetics is not about winning or trying to recruit people to the faith. People must be open to hearing the truth of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church in order for conversion to take place, and the Holy Spirit will take care of that.

Lastly, Apologetics is not just answering questions or giving quick answers to questions asked by our friends and coworkers. Many people I encounter just want some rote answer to a question (although memorization does have its place too). However, that often does nothing but give a cold response when so much more could be achieved. Our sessions will help you understand Catholicism as a whole, not just give you answers to questions your neighbor might ask you.

Giving a quick answer is not what St. Peter meant in his letter. St. Peter, along with Jesus, wants us to be well-trained Christians with minds and hearts formed in love, humility, and generosity. Scott Hahn says in the aforementioned book,

“We’re not looking for the quick comeback…we’re looking for answers that will satisfy – first ourselves and then others. Apologetics is a theological art that must rest on a firm foundation of theological science. If our defense does not flow from deep preparation, deep Christian formation, it will be unconvincing at best, but merely offensive at worst.”  

Saint Paul delivering the Areopagus Sermon in Athens by Raphael, 1515.

 To defend our faith is about engaging the culture in which we live, actually that’s the mission of the Catholic Church – to engage the culture, to be counter-cultural, and to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each person we encounter in our daily lives is different. We must learn to develop relationships with each of them. One of the best sort of apologetic “arguments” is giving your personal testimony to those who question our beliefs. Cardinal Avery Dulles once said,

“The apologetics of personal testimony is particularly suited to the genius of Catholicism. In the act of the Catholic faith, reliance on testimony goes out indivisibly to Christ and to the Church through which he continues his mission in the world. Such testimony invites us not only to individual conversion but to communion with the whole body of believers.”

 Suggestions for Further Reading

Below are five books that I suggest for further reading. It’s my hope that if you have not attended one of our Porta Fidei Adult Faith Formation sessions in the past, that you will seek out what we will offer in the months and years ahead, in order that you will have the proper formation, and as St. Peter states, “Always be prepared to make a defense.”

  1. Reasons to Believe – How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith, Scott Hahn.
  2. Theology for Beginners and Theology and Sanity, Frank Sheed.
  3. Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating
  4. The Fundamentals of the Faith, Peter Kreeft
  5. Handbooks of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Jr.

Sources:

“”Be A Catholic Apologist – Without Apology”. Ignatius Insight, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.

Hahn, Scott. Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith. New York: Doubleday, 2007. Print.

“Starting Out as an Apologist.” Catholic Answers, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.

Sunday Homilies and Saturday Morning Speaker Series on iTunes and Google Play Music

As I have done in the past, I want to share with all of you some exciting news coming out of the parish that I work for in Gilbert, Arizona. Our parishioners as well as all of you can now download our Sunday homilies and Saturday Morning Speaker Series through iTunes and Google Play Music. We have been offering this service since July, when I first wrote about it. Every month our download numbers increase, and although it’s not about numbers, I felt the desire to share this information again, especially since I gained many new followers in the month of October.

For the longest time, we have offered the homilies on our website for our parishioners (and visitors to the website), but now using iTunes and Google Play, a person can download the homilies (and the Saturday Morning Speaker Series) to their device and listen to them anytime and anywhere. I hope that many of you will take the time to listen to the great preaching many of us here on a weekly and daily basis. I hope that you will also share it with your family and friends.

Francis.Benedict - SMM Homilies meme

For those of you that don’t have a device and just want to listen to the homilies via the website, click here.

For those of you that prefer iTunes, and more than likely own Apple products, click here.

For those of you that prefer Google Play, and more than likely own an Android, click here.

Listening to St. Mary Magdalene’s Sunday Homilies…and Some Advice from Mother Angelica

As I have done in the past, I want to share with all of you some exciting news coming out of the parish that I work for in Gilbert, Arizona. Our parishioners as well as all of you can now download our Sunday homilies through iTunes and Google Play Music. It’s something we have talked about doing for a couple of years, but in the last month or so, we figured out how to properly do it and are happy to offer the homilies to not only the Catholic world, but to anyone that wants to listen to them.

For the longest time, we have offered the homilies on our website for our parishioners (and visitors to the website), but now using iTunes and Google Play, a person can download the homilies to their device and listen to them anytime and anywhere. I hope that many of you will take the time to listen to the great preaching many of us here on a weekly and daily basis. I hope that you will also share it with your family and friends.

Francis.Benedict - SMM Homilies meme

For those of you that don’t have a device and just want to listen to the homilies via the website, click here.

For those of you that prefer iTunes, and more than likely own Apple products, click here.

For those of you that prefer Google Play, and more than likely own an Android, click here.

To end this very short post today, here is some motherly advice on ‘Listening to Sermons’ from none than Mother Angelica –

“I never saw such a bored group of people as the looks of you all listening to a sermon. If I was the speaker, I would be so discouraged. Some of you are asleep, some of you are bored. It’s distressing because you are not listening. Some of you should try some public speaking, and we’ll respond the way you do at Mass. What an un-Christian attitude. You can’t tell me you’re listening when your eyes are closed and your face is taut. Don’t shut off the Word, because you’re going to miss a lot of graces in your life. Don’t say, ‘I’ve heard all of this before.’ Listen to what the Spirit wants to say to you right now. How uncharitable you are, to sit there like a sphinx while the poor priest is talking.

Now, maybe you don’t like his interpretation. Fine. You don’t have to like it. There are a lot of speakers that I don’t like. But there have been times where the worst speaker will say something that hits me like a rock. So please don’t sit there with a Christian Science grin. Wake up and listen. Really listen! There is no sermon that you cannot get something out of. I don’t care who gives it. It’s not what they are saying. It’s the Word! You need to ask only one question when that homily begins: ‘What is Jesus going to say to me today?’” (Taken from: Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality).

675th Blog Post 

My Fellow Catholics – Are You Hungry For More?

Wednesday night, June 15 at 9:00pm Eastern Time, 6:00pm here in Arizona, I will be on the Fiat Ministry Network for an interview with Al Smith on his show, Hungry for More.

The Fiat Ministry Network is a Catholic Internet Broadcasting TV Network which encourages us to to say “Yes” to Jesus Christ, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary said “Yes” when the Angel Gabriel came to her at the Annunciation announcing the coming of the Messiah.

Hungry-for-More-Episode-14-Tom-Perna-320x180

It’s my hope that many of you will be able to watch the show via the Internet. To watch the interview LIVE, just click on the Fiat Ministry Network above or bookmark it today.

And, please pray for me. 

Are You Hungry For More?

Wednesday night, October 7 (Our Lady of the Rosary) at 9:00pm Eastern Time, 6:00pm here in Arizona, I will be on the Fiat Ministry Network for an interview with Al Smith on his show, Hungry for More.

The Fiat Ministry Network is a Catholic Internet Broadcasting TV Network which encourages us to to say “Yes” to Jesus Christ, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary said “Yes” when the Angel Gabriel came to her at the Annunciation announcing the coming of the Messiah.

Hungry-for-More-Episode-14-Tom-Perna-320x180

It’s my hope that many of you will be able to watch the show via the Internet. To watch the interview LIVE, just click on the Fiat Ministry Network above or bookmark it today.

And, please pray for me.