Quick Lessons from the Catechism – The Family in God’s Plan

In recent years, and now even more recently, the self-designated “science guy,” Bill Nye has made some rather interesting comments in regards to science, climate change, and the penalizing of parents who have large families. Although the last comment was made in regard to families in poor countries, I would bet if you pushed him on the subject, he would make the claim that countries that can sustain large families should do the same thing. This whole notion that the world is overpopulated is a big pile of horse dung. Every few years these crackpots come out their cocoons to make these ridiculous comments.

In regards to “Mr. Science Guy”, let’s make something very clear. He does not have a degree in a Physical science like Biology, Chemistry, or Physics; his degree is in Mechanical Engineering, which is an Applied Science. Not that mechanical engineers aren’t intelligent, not saying that at all, but claiming that you are a “science guy” with that degree is just nonsense. What is ironic about Bill Nye is that he promotes science and the study of life, but really he is anti-family, anti-children, and anti-life. The National Catholic Register article says it all – Bill Nye the Pseudoscience Guy.

So with this being said, let’s briefly examine what the Catholic Church teaches on family, children, and society’s role in developing families from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

“Honor your father and your mother” (Deut 5:16; Mk 7:10). [#2247]

According to the fourth commandment, God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents and those whom he has vested with authority for our good. [#2248]

The conjugal community is established upon the covenant and consent of the spouses. Marriage and family are ordered to the good of the spouses, to the procreation and the education of children. [#2249]

“The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life” (GS 47 § 1). [#2250]

Children owe their parents respect, gratitude, just obedience, and assistance. Filial respect fosters harmony in all of family life. [#2251]

Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children in the faith, prayer, and all the virtues. They have the duty to provide as far as possible for the physical and spiritual needs of their children. [#2252]

Parents should respect and encourage their children’s vocations. They should remember and teach that the first calling of the Christian is to follow Jesus. [#2253]

Public authority is obliged to respect the fundamental rights of the human person and the conditions for the exercise of his freedom. [#2254]

It is the duty of citizens to work with civil authority for building up society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. [#2255]

Citizens are obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order. “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). [#2256]

Every society’s judgments and conduct reflect a vision of man and his destiny. Without the light the Gospel sheds on God and man, societies easily become totalitarian. [#2257]

For a more complete understanding of this topic, I would encourage you to read paragraphs 2196-2246.

I have written on this topic in the past in other articles, if you are interested, here they are: 7 Quotes on Family Life from Mother Teresa, 10 Quotes on the Holy Family from Pope St. John Paul II, “Mondays with Mary” – Pope St. John Paul II, Challenges of the Family, and Marian Prayer, and “Mondays with Mary” – 10 Quotes on the Family from the Guardian of the Redeemer.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism – What is Prayer?

Since today is the National Day of Prayer here in the United States of America, and since I have not written a Quick Lessons from the Catechism (QLC) in many months, I thought I would quickly review with you what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says about prayer. Now it should be noted, the entire last section of the Catechism focuses on Christian prayer. It should also be noted that I have written on other aspects of prayer in the past. You can check those out on the QLC page on this website.

Recently, I have had two excellent experiences with prayer – first, was on Monday night with my Brother Knights of Knights of Columbus. Since it is May – the month of Mary, I thought it would be good to get together and pray the Holy Rosary. We had 32 men show up to pray the Rosary. It was pretty awesome to pray the Holy Rosary with so many Brothers. Because they enjoyed it so much, this is going to become a regular prayer gathering before our monthly meetings.

Second, during the Season of Lent and into the Easter Season, I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office), which is actually the official prayer of the Catholic Church. Priests and Religious are required to pray it daily. What I have been doing, since it is bit difficult to get into a habit on your own (most times it is said in community), is that I try to pray 1-2 offices a day (morning prayer/daytime prayer/evening prayer/night prayer). Personally, I have found that when I do pray it, my day is more complete and my relationship is better that day with Christ and His Church. The app, iBreviary, is a great way to start praying the Liturgy of the Hours without purchasing the four-volume set.

Sassoferrato – Virgin Mother

Now let’s quickly examine what the Catechism says about the question – What is Prayer? The CCC answers the question directly with a quote from St. Therese of Lisieux –

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

Furthermore, the Catechism says,

“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God” (St. John Damascene, De fide orth. 3, 24:PG 94, 1089C). [#2590]

God tirelessly calls each person to this mysterious encounter with Himself. Prayer unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation as a reciprocal call between God and man. [#2591]

The prayer of Abraham and Jacob is presented as a battle of faith marked by trust in God’s faithfulness and by certitude in the victory promised to perseverance. [#2592]

The prayer of Moses responds to the living God’s initiative for the salvation of his people. It foreshadows the prayer of intercession of the unique mediator, Christ Jesus. [#2593]

The prayer of the People of God flourished in the shadow of the dwelling place of God’s presence on earth, the ark of the covenant and the Temple, under the guidance of their shepherds, especially King David, and of the prophets. [#2594]

The prophets summoned the people to conversion of heart and, while zealously seeking the face of God, like Elijah, they interceded for the people. [#2595]

The Psalms constitute the masterwork of prayer in the Old Testament. They present two inseparable qualities: the personal, and the communal. They extend to all dimensions of history, recalling God’s promises already fulfilled and looking for the coming of the Messiah. [#2596]

Prayed and fulfilled in Christ, the Psalms are an essential and permanent element of the prayer of the Church. They are suitable for men of every condition and time. [#2597]

For a more complete understanding, I would encourage you to read paragraphs 2558-2589. If you are looking for Catholic prayers, here is EWTN’s page on Prayer. If you are interested in learning more about the Liturgy of the Hours, you can read about it here.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Person and Society

In light of recent events developing in the world, I want to refocus my efforts and turn back towards a series I haven’t worked on for some time – Quick Lessons from the Catechism.

I think there are Catholics who are unaware that the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church focuses on many things that pertain to our every day lives. For today’s QLC, I want to focus on what the Catholic Church teaches on when it comes to The Person and Society. The human community’s image lies in the image of God and focuses on the divine. Paragraph 1877 in the Catechism states,

The vocation of humanity is to show forth the image of God and to be transformed into the image of the Father’s only Son. This vocation takes a personal form since each of us is called to enter into the divine beatitude; it also concerns the human community as a whole.

In his encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern), Pope St. John Paul II says,

“Development that does not include the cultural, transcendent and religious dimensions of man and society, to the extent that it does not recognize the existence of such dimensions and does not endeavor to direct its goals and priorities toward the same, is even less conducive to authentic liberation. Human beings are totally free only when they are completely themselves, in the fullness of their rights and duties. The same can be said about society as a whole.”

For more on authentic liberation, I would encourage you to check out my QLC on The Freedom of Humanity and Religious Freedom.

With this being said, let’s examine quickly, what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states on The Person and Society –

There is a certain resemblance between the union of the divine persons and the fraternity that men ought to establish among themselves. [#1890]

The human person needs life in society in order to develop in accordance with his nature. Certain societies, such as the family and the state, correspond more directly to the nature of man. [#1891]

“The human person . . . is and ought to be the principle, the subject, and the object of every social organization” (GS 25 # 1). [1#892]

Widespread participation in voluntary associations and institutions is to be encouraged. [#1893]

In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, neither the state nor any larger society should substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and intermediary bodies. [#1894]

Society ought to promote the exercise of virtue, not obstruct it. It should be animated by a just hierarchy of values. [#1895]

Where sin has perverted the social climate, it is necessary to call for the conversion of hearts and appeal to the grace of God. Charity urges just reforms. There is no solution to the social question apart from the Gospel (cf CA 3, 5). [#1896]

For more information on this topic, I would encourage you to read paragraphs 1878-1889. To read what Pope St. John Paul II has to say on Social Concern, I would encourage you to read the aforementioned encyclical. He experienced firsthand the destruction of the human person and authentic freedom in Poland after World War II.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Pentecost and ‘I Believe in the Holy Spirit’

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the great day known as the birth of the Catholic Church and the day the Holy Spirit, which was promised by Jesus Christ numerous times in the Gospels, descended upon the Apostles (and more than likely the Blessed Virgin Mary as well) just days after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. Pentecost is known as the founding of the Catholic Church as the bearer of God’s spirit to the world. It is one of the great Solemnities in the liturgical calendar and one of the great days culminating the Easter Season.

So before we get to the heart of today’s QLC, ‘I Believe in the Holy Spirit’, lets briefly focus on Pentecost.

Originally, the feast was known as the Feast of Weeks (Dt 16:10) or the Feast of Harvest (Ex 23:16). Later on, among the Jews that spoke Greek, the feast became known as penetkoste, which in Greek means “fiftieth.” The fifty days refers to the timing of the festival – fifty days after the spring celebration of Passover (Lev 23:15-16).

In the Old Testament, the Feast of Weeks, is one of the three major feasts listed in Exodus 23:14-17. The other two feasts are Unleavened Bread and Ingathering. The feast was gauged to happen seven weeks from the day of when the first sheaf was presented from the barley harvest during the Passover celebration (Lev 23:15-21). In the ancient days of Israel, the Feast of Weeks was a harvest festival where baked loaves of bread made with wheat, from the spring harvest, were offered to the Lord as a gift from the first fruits. The day was meant for sacred rest and there was worship with certain prescribed sacrifices (Num 28:26-31).

It became a pilgrim feast in the Deuteromonic Covenant, which required all participants to travel to “the place which the Lord your God will choose” (Dt 16:9-12). This would eventually become Jerusalem. There they would celebrate the sacred rites. To this day, Jerusalem is still a city of pilgrimage (just like Rome).

Now that we have a better understanding of the biblical history of Pentecost, let’s focus on the third person of the Holy Trinity – The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as I said above, was promised in numerous places, with numerous names, in the Gospels (Lk 12:12; Jn 14:16, Jn 14:26, Jn 15:26, and Jn 20:22). Jesus promised that he would send the Counselor and the Advocate to give them all that he taught and shared with them.

The Second Vatican Council document, Ad Gentes (Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity) says this about the Holy Spirit and Pentecost –

“On the day of Pentecost, however, he came down on the disciples that he might remain with them forever; on that day the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun. Finally, on that day was foreshadowed the union of all people in the catholicity of the faith by means of the Church of the New Alliance, a Church which speaks every language, understands and embraces all tongues in charity, and thus overcomes the dispersion of Babel.”

The Holy Spirit is a gift to the Church who continues to guide and direct the Church even today. The mission of Jesus and God the Father is in union with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is united as three persons and one God. A simple way to understand the Holy Trinity is through water and it’s three forms – liquid, ice, and steam – they are all water (one nature), but three separate entities (persons).

Mary is the Mother of the Church on Pentecost

Now that we have an understanding of the Holy Spirit, let’s turn to what Catechism of the Catholic Church states on the topic –

“Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!”‘ (Gal 4:6). [#724]

From the beginning to the end of time, whenever God sends his Son, he always sends his Spirit: their mission is conjoined and inseparable. [#743]

In the fullness of time the Holy Spirit completes in Mary all the preparations for Christ’s coming among the People of God. By the action of the Holy Spirit in her, the Father gives the world Emmanuel “God-with-us” (Mt 1:23). [#744]

The Son of God was consecrated as Christ (Messiah) by the anointing of the Holy Spirit at his Incarnation (cf. Ps 2:6-7). [#745]

By his Death and his Resurrection, Jesus is constituted in glory as Lord and Christ (cf. Acts 2:36). From his fullness, he poured out the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the Church. [#746]

The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church. She is the sacrament of the Holy Trinity’s communion with men. [#747]

I would suggest reading paragraphs 683-741 in the Catechism as well. Pope St. John Paul II was one of the pope’s that wrote an entire encyclical on Holy Spirit. It’s titled Dominum et Vivificantem (On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World). He also left us a series of Catechesis on the Holy Spirit.

I would also suggest reading some of my other blog posts from the past on Pentecost – ‘Mary and Pentecost’, 5 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on Pentecost, Mary is the Church on Pentecost, Pentecost, Playing with Fire, and the New Evangelization, and Reflections on the Pentecost Readings.

As we celebrate the great Solemnity of Pentecost, let us joyfully proclaim with fire in our souls…Come Holy Spirit! 

Holy-spirit-window

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Respect for Human Life and Health

Since today is the memorial of St. Gianna Beretta Molla – wife, mother, and doctor, I found it fitting to discuss with you what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about respecting human life and health. Today’s QLC comes from the Catechism’s section on the Fifth Commandment – “You Shall Not Kill.”

It could be easily argued that St. Gianna is one of the faces of the Pro-Life movement in our modern culture. With no concern to her own life, simply that her fourth child must live, St. Gianna refused the recommendation to have an abortion. Bringing the child to full term would cause the tumor on her uterus to burst causing eventual death.

When I think of heroic virtue among our saints, she is one that immediately comes to mind for me. Being a medical doctor herself – graduated in 1949 and three years later received her specialization in pediatrics, St. Gianna understood the importance of health and medicine as well as the Catholic Church’s teaching on such matters. In the end, she chose her child’s life before her own, and her husband, Pietro Molla, who passed away in April 2010, fully understood her decision and supported her in that decision, even though he would lose his wife.

stgiannaberettamolla

To read more about St. Gianna Beretta Molla, I would suggest reading my two previous blog posts on the Italian saint here (2012) and here (2013).

So with this being said, what does the Catechism teach on respecting human life, specifically abortion, as well as health, and medicine?

“In [God’s] hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10). [#2318]

Every human life, from the moment of conception until death, is sacred because the human person has been willed for its own sake in the image and likeness of the living and holy God. [#2319]

The murder of a human being is gravely contrary to the dignity of the person and the holiness of the Creator. [#2320]

The prohibition of murder does not abrogate the right to render an unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. Legitimate defense is a grave duty for whoever is responsible for the lives of others or the common good.

From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a “criminal” practice (GS 27 § 3), gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life. [#2322]

Because it should be treated as a person from conception, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed like every other human being. [#2323]

Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. [#2324]

Suicide is seriously contrary to justice, hope, and charity. It is forbidden by the fifth commandment. [#2325]

Scandal is a grave offense when by deed or omission it deliberately leads others to sin gravely. [#2326]

For a more detailed understanding of these points, I would encourage the paragraphs that precede these paragraphs – for Abortion, read paragraphs 2270-2275. Also see my QLC – Abortion and March for Life.

To read what the Catechism says about Respect for Health, read paragraphs 2288-2291. Also see my QLC on Euthanasia and Suicide. If you are interested in learning more about what the Catechism says about Respect for the person and scientific research, read paragraphs 2292-2296.

To learn more about Catholic Medicine and/or to locate a Catholic doctor in your area, I would suggest checking out the Catholic Medical Association. Furthermore, here is the link to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services located on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Resurrection of the Body (and One Year Without Dad)

One year ago today, April 22, 2015, my Dad, Thomas Michael Perna Sr., passed away due to complications with Crohn’s Disease, which he endured for many years. It was the hardest day of my life as well as one of the hardest years for my entire family.

I can honestly say that this past year has taught me more about myself than any other year previously. I have realized how life short truly is. I have realized that the Christian lifestyle is not a bed of roses (not that I thought this before), but a life with experiences of suffering. And although the culture will say to us that suffering is bad and we should avoid it at all costs, enduring my Dad’s death has helped me grow more in love with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. The one saying that I try to embrace/apply to my life is the quote from Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, “Suffering is not a problem to be solved; it is a mystery to be lived.”

I wouldn’t wish the pain, the nights feeling alone, and the nights struggling to sleep (like right now…it’s in the 2am hour and I am awake) on my worst enemy. Maybe it’s coming across that I am contradicting myself when I say I try to endure suffering, but wish the pain wasn’t there. This is something contradictory about death since we are made for life. It’s hard to write and explain what the last year has been like unless you have also endured this type of loss yourself.

For someone who talks about life and death on a daily basis, this year has challenged me in ways that I never thought were possible. Although I miss my Dad immensely and not a day goes by that I don’t wish I had just more day with him, he has provided me so much to teach others with – either through this blog or in my position at the parish. It was always his desire that I would be able to do the things I am doing in my writing and in my position as a catechist and evangelist in the parish. The eulogy I gave at the vigil and viewing last year was just the beginning of what Dad gave me with his exodus from this side of Heaven.

So as we do with all those that go before us – we pray for them and ask them to pray for us. We offer Masses for them in the hopes that our prayers will bring them to Heaven as well as ask them to intercede for us when we need prayers. It’s my hope that Dad is in Heaven or at least making his way to Heaven. In the end, we all will endure this thing we call death. Let us hope that through Jesus’ Resurrection, we will come to know and see our resurrection in the life to come.

So with this being said, for today’s QLC, let’s briefly examine what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say on Death and the Resurrection of the Body –

“’The flesh is the hinge of salvation’ (Tertullian, De res. 8, 2:PL 2, 852). We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.” [#1015]

“By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives for ever, so all of us will rise at the last day.” [#1016]

“‘We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess’ (Council of Lyons II: DS 854). We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible body, a ‘spiritual body’ (cf. 1 Cor 15:42-44). [#1017]

As a consequence of original sin, man must suffer ‘bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned’ (GS § 18). [#1018]

Jesus, the Son of God, freely suffered death for us in complete and free submission to the will of God, his Father. By his death he has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men. [#1019]

For a complete understanding of this topic, I would encourage you to also read paragraphs 988-1014, especially the paragraphs that speak about The meaning of Christian death.

On this day, I ask for prayers for the repose of the soul of my Dad, Thomas M. Perna, Sr. Thank you.

All Glory, Praise, and Thanksgiving to Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Sacrament of Confirmation

Over the past few days, through a variety of different avenues at the parish, I have either overseen or directly taught on the Sacrament of Confirmation. On Monday night, Fr. Chris Axline, Chaplain and Theology Teacher as Seton Catholic Preparatory, taught RCIA Mystagogy about the Rites of Baptism and Confirmation that happened at the Easter Vigil. Yesterday morning during our Tuesday morning adult faith formation book study, I taught on the writings of St. Cyril of Jerusalem and what he said about Baptism and Confirmation in the 4th century.

During both sessions that were taught about Confirmation, we both spoke briefly on the “slap” that once was given to those receiving the sacrament on the cheek from the Bishop. This light “slap” was to remind those receiving Confirmation that you are now a solider for Christ, and with that, will come combat and battles (read CCC 1303 – effects of the Confirmation). In my morning session from yesterday, there were numerous parishioners that remember receiving this from the Bishop when they received Confirmation. Many of the participants realize the importance of spiritual warfare and are prepared to combat Satan and his minions. Read Ephesians 6:10-18.

Satan's arse

I know for my generation (I was confirmed nearly 25 years ago at the age of 17), Confirmation was seen as a “graduation” of sorts from the Church. The overall general attitude among those receiving the sacrament, mostly cultural Catholics at the time, was – now that I am confirmed, I don’t have to go to church anymore and be involved. If I had to take a guess of where this disposition began it would have to be that we (members of the Church here in the USA) turned the sacrament of Confirmation into a sacrament of choice and not the final sacrament of full initiation into the Church. The sacrament of Confirmation was never meant to be a choice. The sacrament assists us in making good choices and should be given at the age of reason.

Before I descend to deep into this rabbit hole that I enjoy speaking about, let’s focus our attention to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the Sacrament of Confirmation –

“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14-17). [#1315]

Confirmation perfects Baptismal grace; it is the sacrament which gives the Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine filiation, incorporate us more firmly into Christ, strengthen our bond with the Church, associate us more closely with her mission, and help us bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds. [#1316]

Confirmation, like Baptism, imprints a spiritual mark or indelible character on the Christian’s soul; for this reason one can receive this sacrament only once in one’s life. [#1317]

In the East this sacrament is administered immediately after Baptism and is followed by participation in the Eucharist; this tradition highlights the unity of the three sacraments of Christian initiation. In the Latin Church this sacrament is administered when the age of reason has been reached, and its celebration is ordinarily reserved to the bishop, thus signifying that this sacrament strengthens the ecclesial bond. [#1318]

A candidate for Confirmation who has attained the age of reason must profess the faith, be in the state of grace, have the intention of receiving the sacrament, and be prepared to assume the role of disciple and witness to Christ, both within the ecclesial community and in temporal affairs. [#1319]

The essential rite of Confirmation is anointing the forehead of the baptized with sacred chrism (in the East other sense-organs as well), together with the laying on of the minister’s hand and the words: “Accipe signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti” (Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.) in the Roman rite, or: Signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti [the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit] in the Byzantine rite. [#1320]

When Confirmation is celebrated separately from Baptism, its connection with Baptism is expressed, among other ways, by the renewal of baptismal promises. The celebration of Confirmation during the Eucharist helps underline the unity of the sacraments of Christian initiation. [#1321]

For a deeper understanding of this sacrament, I also suggest you read paragraphs 1285-1314 in the Catechism. To read more about the Restored Order of the Sacraments, I would read this article from Our Sunday Visitor as well as a 2005 article from The National Catholic Register. Below is also a video explanation from Bishop Robert Barron.