Vocations Sunday 2013 – The Catholic Priesthood

Today we celebrate the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations to both the priesthood and consecrated life. For this post, I am choosing to focus just on Vocations to the Catholic Priesthood, because the Parochial Vicar at the parish I work for here in Arizona is a true inspiration of humility and the Catholic Priesthood needs to be written about more often by the lay faithful. He is a good priest who prays the Mass with reverence, loves to celebrate the Sacraments, particularly Reconciliation, is a great homilist, and has saintly zeal that resembles St. John Vianney, St. Francis de Sales, and Blessed John Paul II.

On October 6, 2012, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI provided the world with the message regarding this day of prayer. The theme for this world day of prayer is Vocations as a sign of hope founded in faith. For the Church to remain strong in the years ahead, we need vocations to increase to the priesthood. We must strive to form young men properly in the Catholic faith and ask them if they are willing to sacrifice their lives for Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Priesthood (<– The Day in the Life of a Priest video) was fulfilled by Christ Jesus himself and then given to the Apostles (the first Bishops) with Saint Peter as the head. Jesus Christ is the Royal High Priest. He completed the Levitical Priesthood that we read about in the Old Testament. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1544 states, “Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men.” The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek…” For more information on the Sacrament of Holy Orders in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, read paragraphs 1536-1600.

Melchizedek

Many of the current men in seminary are coming from strong Catholic families that often pray together, from strong parishes that encourage men to discern their potential call to the priesthood, and from Catholic schools that also place an importance on vocations. Many dioceses in the United States are placing school chaplains back into the catholic high schools. The Bishops that oversee these particular churches know the importance of having a full-time priest on campus and the influence they have in such a place of catholic education. Blessed John Paul II (ordained a priest on All Saints Day) said in, Pastores Dabo Vobis (I Will Give You Shepherds), “…priests in particular, should not be afraid to set forth explicitly and forcefully the priestly vocation as a real possibility for those young people who demonstrate the necessary gifts and talents.”

Furthermore, the Vatican II document, Optatum Totius (Decree on the Training of Priests) states, “The duty of fostering vocations falls on the whole Christian community…the greatest contribution is made by families…as it were, a first seminary, and by parishes in whose abundant life the young people themselves take an active part. Teachers…involved in the education of boys and young men – should endeavor to train the young entrusted to them to recognize a divine vocation and to follow it willingly”(#2).

Phoenix seminarians

Within the seminaries across this country and the world, a new breed of holy priests (see the video in this link – it’s the best!!) are on the rise. They come from many paths of life. They are being formed, educated, and prepared to lead the Catholic Church well into the 21st century by means of the New Evangelization. Proposition 49 from the Synod on the New Evangelization states, “Seminaries should take as their focus the New Evangelization so that it becomes the recurring and unifying theme in programs of human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation in the ars celebrandi, in homiletics and in the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation, all very important parts of the New Evangelization.”

I know many dioceses throughout the country that are stepping up their efforts to promote vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. The Diocese of Phoenix, the Diocese of Evansville, the Diocese of Austin, the Diocese of Joliet, the Diocese of Sacramento, the Diocese of Providence, the Archdiocese of Denver, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and many more are reaching out to their young men like never before.

catholic-matrix-priest

The Catholic Church in Africa and in Asia, where the Church is rapidly growing, is putting forth great efforts as well. The Catholic Church in Uganda has been rapidly growing for many years. They continue to produce great men ready leave their families and homeland to travel across the globe to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those in need of it. Here in Phoenix, we have the Apostles of Jesus serving the faithful at St. James Greater Roman Catholic Parish.

As we celebrate Vocations Sunday 2013, let us offer up our prayers that God will send us worthy men ready to serve the Catholic Church through the Priesthood, which Christ Jesus himself established with the Apostles. For prayers on Vocations, visit the USSCB website.

St. John Vianney (Patron of Parish Priests)…Pray For Us!

Trailer – Catholicism: The New Evangelization

I don’t know about you, but I am super excited for Fr. Robert Barron’s next project – Catholicism: The New Evangelization. Last night my students and I watched Episode 10 of the Catholicism Series – The Last Things. It’s the the final episode which explains Death, Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. It also wraps up the entire 10 part series. After watching the episode, I spoke briefly about Fr. Robert Barron and his ministry – Word on Fire. Below is the trailer for the New Evangelization Series due to be released this Fall.

During this Year of Faith, we as the Church are being challenged to learn about our faith more so than we know it now. We must no longer be Catholics by accident, but Catholics of conviction. At the beginning of this summer, the Vatican will host a weekend event focused on Pro-Life efforts and the New Evangelization.

If you are in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area on April 25, I will be giving a talk on the New Evangelization and it’s importance for Catholics in the 21st century. I will explain the overall importance of the New Evangelization and discuss quite a few of the propositions developed by the Bishops in the Synod on the New Evangelization from this past October. It will be held at Christ the King Parish in Mesa at 7:00 p.m. Hope to see you there!

“At its heart, the New Evangelization is the re-proposing of the encounter with the Risen Lord, his Gospel, and his Church to those who no longer find the Church’s message engaging.” – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

“The New Evangelization is not a matter of merely passing on doctrine but rather of a personal and profound meeting with the Savior.” – Blessed John Paul II

“Good Catechesis is essential for the New Evangelization. The Synod calls attention to the indispensable service that catechists provide the ecclesial communities and expresses profound gratitude for their dedication. All catechists, who are at the same time evangelizers, need to be well prepared.” – Synod on the New Evangelization, Proposition 29

Saying Good-Bye to a Pope

It’s been on my mind to write a farewell post since the day Pope Benedict XVI dropped what we now know to be the ecclesiastical announcement of the past 600 years. I can tell you exactly the place and time when I learned of Blessed John Paul II’s entrance into glory, and years from now, I will be able to recollect how I awoke out of sleep to read about Benedict’s resignation on my Smartphone. When Cardinal Josef Ratzinger was elected to the Chair of St. Peter, it was an ecstatic day for many of my friends and I who knew of his work in the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith.

We hoped for another long papacy, but knew deep in our hearts that might not be the case. Even the words of Pope Benedict XVI should ring out to us, as he said only days after his election – he would be a transitional Pope. Are we that surprised now thinking back at his words from nearly 8 years ago? Honestly, I was surprised, but others who knew the man better than I maybe could see it coming.

Is it a sad day in the Church? Yes – most definitely. Is it a day of hope as well? Yes – most definitely. As Catholic Christians (yes, we are Christians!), we must keep in mind that the Church has seen her fair shake of ups and downs, scandals, and assaults throughout the centuries. What we must remember is that we are still here, we are still strong, and we are not going anywhere. We have at the center, the source and summit of our Christian faith – Jesus Christ in his body, blood, soul, and divinity.

Benedict’s stepping down is yet another notch of history in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. From the small Christian community in Jerusalem on Pentecost Sunday, we now have millions of Catholics around the globe in hundreds of countries (just attend a World Youth Day – and that is just the youth of the Church).

The Catholic Church is built upon Peter! Christ promised us that the gates of hell would never prevail against it. The gates of hell have tried, and may try in the future, but mark the words of Our Lord – the Church will always stand firm in the face of evil. Anti-Catholics, which includes fall away Catholics, uncatechized Catholics, general haters of anything religious, atheists, moral relativists, and others throw stones, little pebbles, at the Church. What they lack to see is that we just don’t have a rock, but we have THE ROCK, and Jesus Christ himself set that ROCK in place. In the weeks ahead, another Pope will be elected to the Papacy, and he will be yet another Rock in a long line of Rocks that have extended the centuries (Read Mt 16:13-20).

Holy Father – it’s never easy saying good-bye. But before you leave us, we thank you for your years of service to the Catholic Church as a Priest, Bishop, Cardinal, and Pope. Your words have inspired countless Catholics to deepen their faith during your Pontificate, especially during this Year of Faith. The documents you gave to the universal Church will be read and cherished. Just as your predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, inspired young men to give up their lives for Christ, your countless efforts to increase vocations to the priesthood, and bring a new breed of priests to the Church will not go unnoticed. The magnitude of scholastic work in the area of Scriptural exegesis will not be matched for centuries to come. Your love for the Holy Liturgy has inspired us to bring back sacredness and reverence to the Mass that was misguided in many places throughout the world. Under your Pontificate, we have experienced in the English translation, a renewal of the words professed in the Holy Mass.

Personally, I would like to thank you for the Synod on the Sacred Scriptures, which produced your Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini. As one who has studied the scriptures, it’s a great document that gives us hope in the Sacred Scriptures and the tools to teach it to Catholics in today’s Church. Picking up where Dei Verbum left off was a stroke of genius. You are the Biblical Titan of the modern age!

I would also like to thank you for your recent Synod on the New Evangelization. Although the document for this gathering of Bishops has been put on hold for the time being, the propositions developed by you and Bishops will surely be implemented into the Church soon. You took Blessed John Paul II’s battle cry and developed it into a battle plan for the Catholic Church to win souls. When the souls return, we will have you to thank for it.

As you enter your life of prayer and study, we ask you to pray for us. We know full well that you are in communion with the Holy Trinity. See that the Church is led in the right direction, and that she, yet strong, become even stronger in the years ahead.

We thank you, we love you, and we will miss you. Good-Bye…

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

It’s Monday night, late – in the 11 o’clock hour in Arizona. The film, Shrek Forever After is on FX. All night long I have had Confession on my mind (Sacrament of Reconciliation – for any non-Catholics). The reason it’s been on my mind all night is that I really want to go tomorrow. St. Daniel the Prophet in Scottsdale offers Reconciliation a few times during the week. The Pastor, Fr. Thaddeus McGuire, understands the importance of the Sacrament. He is a good and faithful priest. For me, Reconciliation is a place of great penance. I try to go every week or every other week depending on the severity of my sins. Realizing that I am weak and need God’s grace is not easy to admit, but I truly enjoy the Sacrament given to us by Jesus Christ (see Jn 20).

It’s also been on my mind from last night since that is when I read Proposition 33 from the Synod on the New Evangelization. Proposition 33 of 58 states that there should be a place of distinction (a church), in each diocese, where the Sacrament of Reconciliation is celebrated perpetually – everyday. You heard me right! Just like we have Perpetual Adoration, the synod proposes that we have Perpetual Reconciliation! What a message this would send to the secular world!

Can you imagine the conversions (Metanoia – change of heart) each diocese would have on a daily basis if the Sacrament of Reconciliation were offered daily, around the clock, during every week of every month – day or night???

The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1422 states, “Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.”

If you have not been to Reconciliation in sometime, I encourage you to go soon! With the Year of Faith upon us, make that leap “of faith” and go. If you need encouragement from a friend who goes on a regular basis, then ask him or her to go with you. If you think God won’t forgive you of your sins, think again brothers and sisters. God’s mercy, his covenant fidelity, never ceases! Ask a priest and go today!

Today at the USCCB Assembly, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said that, “As we ‘come and go’ in response to the invitation of Jesus, we begin with the Sacrament of Penance. This is the sacrament of the New Evangelization.” (Bold is mine)

The powerful video below (seen by 50,000 teens and young adults this past summer during the Franciscan University of Steubenville High School Youth Conferences) hopefully inspires you. Don’t wait another second to receive God’s abundant Grace. Here is the schedule for Confessions in the Diocese of Phoenix.