There are two seasons of preparation in the Church calendar: Lent and Advent. During Lent we prepare for the Passion, death, and Resurrection of the Lord by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In the Mass we cover the statues, remove Holy Water from the fonts, stop singing the Gloria and stop saying Alleluia. At home we fast by giving things up, abstaining from meat on Fridays, and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We also give alms by doing extra good works and setting money aside for the poor. During Advent we’re supposed to be preparing for the birth of the Lord, but what do we actually do to prepare? We wear purple at Mass and we shop for Christmas presents. Aside from that? Not much. I encourage you to spiritually prepare for the birth of the Lord through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
What prayers can help us prepare for the Nativity? First, pray the O Antiphons. These are antiphons that are used in Mass from December 17 to Christmas that give different titles of Jesus Christ. We can meditate on these antiphons and ask ourselves who Christ is in our lives. You can also take time to read the accounts of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels. They can be found in Matthew 1 & 2, Luke 1 & 2, and John 1:1-28. Another good thing would be to participate in our 40 Hours Devotion, which is 40 hours (really 43) of continuous adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After all, what better way is there to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh than to spend time in the presence of the Most Holy Body of the Lord?
We aren’t officially required to fast during the season of Lent now, but traditionally there were several days of fasting on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the feast of St. Lucy of Syracuse on December 13. They were called Ember Days, and this year they would fall on December 16, 18, and 19. Fridays are also special days of fasting and abstinence in memory of the death of our Lord on a Friday. We sacrifice things on those days to unite ourselves to the Cross of our Lord and to teach ourselves to prefer God to all things. We may not be going to as many parties as normal this year, so we have an opportunity to prepare ourselves spiritually for the birth of Christ by sacrificing something on Fridays and Ember Days of Advent.
Finally, prayer and fasting are useless if they don’t lead to a growth in charity. There are so many opportunities to give during the Christmas season, and we should take advantage of them. You can give at OLOL either through the Angel Tree or by giving directly to the St. Anthony Boxes in Church, or you can give through any of the many good charities out there. Don’t just give money, though; make a point to do good things for the people around you during this time, especially when they won’t know about it. As the Lord said, “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your almsgiving may be in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you” (Mt 6:3-4).
In every validly celebrated Catholic Mass, as well as those Eastern Rite Churches that have valid sacraments, the priest calls down the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine and they are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so that they are really changed and Jesus Christ is really present on our altars. We owe the highest worship and reverence to God, so we owe the highest worship and reverence to the Holy Eucharist, because God is really present there. Let’s look at how the Church asks us to pay reverence to God when we go up to receive Holy Communion.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), which is the Church document that describes how Mass is supposed to be celebrated, says this, “The Priest prepared himself by a prayer, said quietly, so that he may fruitfully receive the Body and Blood of Christ. The faithful do the same, praying silently” (GIRM, 84). All the people, not only the priest, are to prepare themselves to receive by first praying. Every time we receive we are given grace, but that grace may be more or less effective, more or less fruitful, depending on how we receive it. There are two options for the priests prayer, here is the one I normally use, “May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgement and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.” As you’re coming up to receive, you may make an Act of Contrition, ask for a particular grace, or ask for growth in faith, hope, and charity.
When we go up to actually receive Communion, we have options on how to receive. First, we can choose to receive either kneeling or standing. The document Redemptionis Sacramentum (RS), which was put out in 2004 by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, says, “’The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, as the Conference of Bishops will have determined’… ‘However, if they receive Communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament” (RS, 90). You have the right to choose to receive kneeling or standing. If you stand, however, you should genuflect or bow before receiving to show reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. After all, you’re not in line for fast food but to receive the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. I’ve notice more people receiving Communion kneeling lately, and I want to make it easier for them, so we’re going to start putting kneelers out at the front Communion station.
Your second choice is to receive on the tongue or in the hand, “Although each of the faithful has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognition of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her” (RS, 92). Basically, receiving on the tongue is the ordinary way, but the bishops can ask the Pope for permission to give Communion in the hand as well. You therefore have the right to receive either way. If you receive on the tongue, extend your tongue and open your mouth wide enough to receive the Host, but not so wide that we can check your tonsils. If you receive in the hand, follow the advice of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, “When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost” (Cat. Myst. V, 21-22).
From the earliest days of the Church there have been debates about the faith and the teachings handed down to us from Christ through the Apostles. In that time there were many errors about who Jesus Christ is and what His nature is. Some said that Jesus Christ is only God and never really took on human flesh but only appeared to. Some said that Jesus Christ is a human that God merely worked through. Finally, some said that Jesus Christ is more than human but less than God and is something in between. The Church, reflecting on the Scriptures and Traditions, teaches that Jesus Christ is true God and true man in one Divine Person. The Son of God, coequal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, truly united Himself to a human man in the person Jesus Christ.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart is an expression of this Catholic faith in the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ. The heart is an organ of the body, but in Jesus Christ His Sacred Heart represents the love and mercy of God Himself for each one of us. I’m not talking about the emotion of love, which Jesus surely felt in His humanity for His mother and St. Joseph, for the Apostles, for Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, and for many others. I’m talking about His commitment to working for our good, our salvation, no matter what it cost Him, “even to the death of the Cross” (Phil 2:8). On the Cross Jesus offered His life for our salvation, to transform us into children of God and give us the grace to love as He loves. Then, to ensure that He had died, a soldier thrust a spear into His side which pierced His Sacred Heart, “and immediately there came out blood and water” (Jn 19:34).
One of the main acts of devotion to the Sacred Heart is the enthronement of the Sacred Heart. To do it you make an act of consecration of your family and home to Jesus Christ, and then you symbolically enthrone Him as King of your home and family by placing an image of the Sacred Heart in a prominent place in your home. Next week, we’ll do this together as a parish by enthroning the Sacred Heart as King of our Parish. We’ll make an act of consecration to the Sacred Heart after each Mass next weekend, then we’ll place the statue of the Sacred Heart in the alcove on the right side of the Church after the 11:00 AM Mass. To prepare yourself for the enthronement, say the following prayer every day this week:
O Christ Jesus, I acknowledge You to be King of the universe; all that has been made is created by You. Exercise over us all Your sovereign rights. We hereby renew the promises of our Baptism, renouncing Satan and all his works and empty promises, and we promise to lead henceforth a truly Christian life. Divine Heart of Jesus, we offer You our poor actions to obtain acknowledgement by every heart of Your sacred kingly power. May the kingdom of Your peace by firmly established throughout the earth.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Your kingdom come through Mary.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, protect us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, queen of heaven, pray for us.
St. Joseph, friend of the Sacred Heart, pray for us.
St. Michael, first champion of the Kingship of Christ, pray for us.
Guardian angels, pray for us.
Throughout the history of the Catholic Church there have been various periods of renewal. In these times the Church has tried to return to her original mission given by the Lord in Matthew 28, “Therefore, go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have ever commanded you.” The Church’s mission is to bring the Gospel to all peoples and to bring all people to Christ, and she does this by trying to live and teach what Christ taught, by seeking true holiness of life, and by administering the sacraments.
When the Church needs renewal, we must return to the original teachings of Christ to see how we have failed to live them out and how we can turn back to the Lord. Those teachings are found in the Sacred Scriptures and in the Sacred Tradition. One of the best ways of understanding both the Bible and the Tradition of the Church is by looking back to the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.
The Fathers lived between the time of the Apostles and the 8th century in both the Eastern, Greek-speaking Church and the Western, Latin-speaking Church. Many, but not all, of them are canonized saints. They aren’t infallible, but together they preserved, interpreted, and explained the teachings of Christ, especially by commenting on the Bible. In the late Middle Ages the Church had a renewed interest in the writings of the Fathers, and many of them which had been lost in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire were brought back from Greek and Arabic lands and translated into Latin. Pope Urban IV commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to collect the writings of the Church Fathers to make them readily available. In the Catena Aurea St. Thomas collects specifically their writings on the Gospels. He goes through each Gospel verse by verse and passage by passage collecting the best thoughts of the Church Fathers for each chapter and verse of each Gospel and connecting them in one continuous “chain,” which is what catena means.
The Catena Aurea or “golden chain” was finally translated into English by St. John Henry Newman in 1841 to further spread the teachings of the Church Fathers and help people have a deeper understanding of the Gospel of Christ and mysteries of God. So, the Catena Aurea is the thoughts of the Church Fathers (many of whom are saints) on the Gospels, by a saint, St. Thomas Aquinas, and translated by another saint, St. John Henry Newman. If you want to check it out, you can find it for free at the link above.
Anyone who visits a cemetery on any day from November 1 – November 8 and prays for the departed can gain a plenary indulgence for the souls in purgatory. On November 2, the indulgence can also be gained by visiting a church and praying an Our Father and the Creed. Praying at a cemetery on other days of the year is a partial indulgence. A prayer service for visiting a cemetery is printed in the back of the bulletin.
Normally this indulgence can be gained once a day from Nov 1-8, but the Holy Father has extended this all indulgence to all of November. So, this year, you can gain this indulgence for the souls in purgatory once a day every day in November.
What is an indulgence?
Sin hurts the people around us, hurts ourselves, hurts the Church, and ultimately separates us from life in Christ. Jesus Christ became man and died for our sins to restore us to the love of God, and we can receive forgiveness of our sins and be reconciled to God and the Church in the Sacrament of Confession. However, justice requires that we atone for those sins or in some way make up for them. If we don't do it here on earth, then we will have to do it in purgatory. Some of the punishment for our sins is done in penance, but not all of it. An indulgence is an action, usually a prayer or sacrifice, that makes up for the punishment for our sins, so we don't have to spend time in purgatory. In addition, the Holy Church adds to our actions the merits gained by Our Lord, our Blessed Mother, and the saints.
Plenary and Partial Indulgences:
A plenary indulgence is a complete indulgence; it makes up for all of the punishment that is due to us because of our sins. A partial indulgence only makes up for part of it. You can only gain one plenary indulgence per day, or multiple partial indulgences.
Prayer for the souls in purgatory:
An indulgence, just like any prayer, can also be offered for someone else. For example, the All Souls Day indulgence can only be offered for the souls in purgatory, not for oneself, and in that way it is an act of selfless love. We can offer them for the souls in purgatory because we are all united in baptism; we are one body in Christ.
What do I have to do?
At the time that you do the indulgenced work, you must:
1.Intend to gain the Indulgence,
2.Pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary for the intentions of the Pope,
3.Be detached from all sin, even venial sins, for example by asking God to give you a hatred for all sin, and a firm desire to flee from it.
Within 20 days before or after the visit, you must also:
1.Receive Holy Communion
2.Go to Confession
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.