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
If you’ve ever seen the movie My Cousin Vinnie, you probably remember the scene where Bill Gambini and Stan Rothenstein’s characters are being interrogated about the murder of the store clerk, but they still think they were brought in over shop lifting a can of tuna. Stan said he didn’t even know anything happened until afterwards, and the sheriff says he could still be charged with aiding and abetting. Legally, aiding means doing something to support the crime, either before or after it happened, abetting means encouraging the person to commit the crime, and accessory means doing something to protect the person who committed the crime.
In Catholic moral theology we have a similar idea. Helping someone to commit a sin can be a sin itself, depending on how much help you give and whether or not you agree with their actions. This is called either Formal or Material Cooperation and Immediate or Mediate Cooperation. All of them happen when you’ve done something to help someone commit a sin. Formal Cooperation means that you’ve done something to help them and that you approved of their actions or agreed with them. This is always a sin because your intention was to help them commit an evil action or promote evil. It doesn’t matter if it was a little help or a lot of help, your agreement with their actions makes it formal cooperation.
Material Cooperation is when you’ve done something to help or promote the evil of another person, but that you are opposed to that evil action but supported it for some other reason. If you’re help was necessary for the evil action to take place (you gave them the gun that they used to murder someone) then it’s still not allowed. If the help was further removed it could be allowed if there was a serious enough reason.
Voting for a politician for office is cooperating in what they say they’ll do once they’re in office, but it’s very rare to agree with a politician 100% of the time. We shouldn’t vote for someone who promotes or intends to support gravely sinful actions, especially those that threaten the right to life. Pope St. John Paul II wrote about this in Christifideles Laici, “Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”
It may be possible to support a candidate who promotes gravely evil actions, provided that you completely oppose those actions, in two cases. First, if all of the candidates support gravely evil actions, such as if all candidates support abortion, then we must weigh the other issues or, in very serious cases, refuse to vote for any of them. Second, a Catholic can only vote for a candidate who supports gravely evil actions if there is a proportionate reason to do so.
When you’re choosing who or what to vote for, remember that you are connecting yourself to that person or issue. I would encourage you to look at all of the option, try to ignore political propaganda, look at what they say and what they’ve done, and always remember to bring it to prayer. We must all ask the Holy Spirit to give us the gifts of wisdom, to know God’s will, and prudence, to know how best to do it.
The novena is an ancient Catholic tradition of prayer by which we dedicate nine days (either consecutively or the same day of nine weeks or months) to prayer. A novena can be prayed either for the living or the dead. There are novenas of mourning, or preparation, and of petition. There are novenas directly to the Lord and novenas through the intercession of the Blessed Mother and the angels and saints. Some novenas have a special place in Catholic devotion, such as the Novena of Masses offered on the death of the Holy Father for the repose of his soul and the novenas in preparation for Christmas, Pentecost, and Divine Mercy Sunday. However, there are hundreds of other novenas for dealing with different things in life or through many different saints.
The main Biblical reference for novenas comes from our Lord and the apostles. After His Passion and Resurrection, the Lord Ascended to heaven on the 40th day. The Gospel of Luke records that He told the apostles to stay in Jerusalem until they receive “the Promise of my Father” and are “clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49). St. Luke also wrote, “And when the days of Pentecost were completed, they were all together in the same place. And suddenly, there came a sound from heaven, like that of a wind approaching violently, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them separate tongues, as if of fire, which settled upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1-4). There are 9 days in between the Ascension and Pentecost, and on the 10thday, Pentecost, they received the Holy Spirit. Whatever else we’re praying for, in every novena and in every prayer we’re asking the Lord to send us the same Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to pray novenas, even if most of them are fairly short. The biggest challenge I have with praying novenas is actually remembering to pray it every day for nine days. I almost always forget to pray the novena prayers at least one day. Sometimes I’ll get discouraged and quit and sometimes I’ll go on to finish the novena, but if I’m trying to finish by a certain date it can be really annoying. That’s where this app comes in. It has the prayers for hundreds of different novenas, and you can set it to automatically remind you at whatever time you want every day by setting a notification on your phone or tablet. It’s available for both iOS and Android devices, and it’s free, although there is a way to donate to the developer. You can get the app by searching for “Pray Catholic Novenas” in the App store or visiting www.catholicnovenaapp.com.
Novenas, because they’re short, are great for families to pray together, and it gives you a reason to get the family together. You can do the novena prayer before a meal every day for nine days or for nine Sundays in a row (if you have a family dinner on Sunday or some other day).
The Rosary Novena begins Monday, September 28, in preparation for the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on Wednesday, October 6. You do the novena simply by praying the Rosary for those nine days. I’ll offer this novena and I invite all of you to offer it with me. If you want to do this with your family but don’t have time for the whole Rosary, pray one decade of the Rosary each day. We’ll offer it for those in our families who are most in need of the graces.
Have you ever wanted to find out how far your car can drive after the needle hits empty? The furthest I’ve ever pushed it in my current truck is 40 miles. The problem, of course, is that you get stuck somewhere if you run out of gas. Western culture, the culture that developed in Europe and spread to the Americas, Australia, and a few other places, is running on the fumes of historic Christianity, and especially Catholic Christianity, and has been for at least decades. There are, of course, quite a few Christians left, but the culture itself is no longer centered around the Church. Instead, it’s centered around consumerism, relativism, nihilism, and many other ‘isms. Eventually, we’re going to run out of gas.
Western civilization is no longer built around Christianity. For example, in 1076 Emperor Henry IV of Germany tried to depose Pope St. Gregory VIII, and in response the Holy Father excommunicated Henry IV and absolved his subjects from their oaths of fealty. Being excommunicated meant the end of Henry IV throne, so he went to the Pope, begged forgiveness, and was absolved and the excommunication lifted. Today, an excommunication would be a badge of honor in many places.
In the height of Christendom, the vast majority of people not only believed in the faith but it affected how they viewed the entire cosmos. They understood all things as being connected, that God was over all things, and that everything in life had meaning and purpose, even if they couldn’t see if in that moment. Now we mostly see life as being governed by the laws of physics. We see a separation between faith and reason, while the ancients and medievals saw them as being allies.
I’m not saying that the Middle Ages were better than today. There were many problems and it could be a truly brutal time. However, people at least knew that they could turn to the Lord, they shared a common view of life, and they believed that God was ultimately in control of everything. Now, we believe that we can control our own lives and even the world around us, so we don’t turn to the Lord in our needs.
In the Middle Ages kings and emperors tried to control the Church in order to control the people, so God sent people like Pope St. Gregory VII to protect the independence of the Church. The Church started to become corrupted by wealth and power so God send people like St. Francis and St. Dominic to show them the power of poverty and absolute trust in God. God is working in the world and in each one of our lives. God wants to use each one of us to speak His truth, to show His love, and to bring people together in Him. God wants us to be saints. It may seem like the world has turned away from God, but He hasn’t turned away from us.
You may have noticed that we recently added a veil, basically a white curtain, to the tabernacle. My mom actually made the veil with material left over from my Marian chasuble and some lace that she made. Aside from being beautiful, why should we have a tabernacle veil? A Vatican document from 1967 tells us the purpose of a tabernacle veil, “Care should be taken that the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle is indicated to the faithful by a tabernacle veil or some other suitable means prescribed by the competent authority” (Eucharisticum Mysterium, 57). The idea of the tabernacle veil goes back to the Old Testament, and that history can shed light on the Mass and the Eucharist.
In the book of Exodus the Lord tells Moses how to make the Tent of Meeting, called the Tabernacle, to be a place for the people to worship God and offer sacrifice to Him. The Temples in Jerusalem were copies of this original design. The innermost room was the Holy of Holies and was reserved for the High Priest, who could only enter it once a year on the Day of Atonement. The Ark of the Covenant was kept in the Holy of Holies. The Ark was a symbol of God’s covenant faithfulness to the people of Israel and was considered to be like a throne for God. The lid of the Ark was called the “Mercy Seat.” There was a veil separating the Holy of Holies. The veil represented the presence of God because this place, the Holy of Holies, was set apart for the Lord God. The entire Temple was God’s house, but the Holy of Holies was the holiest part of the Temple.
At the moment of Christ’s death on the Cross, the veil of the Temple was torn down the middle (Mt. 27:50-51). Why was the veil torn? Jesus Christ is the true Temple (Jn 2:21), the true presence of God on Earth. When Christ gave up His Spirit, the Spirit of God also left the Temple in Jerusalem because the True Temple had been destroyed. The veil was torn as a sign that God was no longer present in the Temple.
However, Christ has been raised from the tomb and has ascended to heaven, and He’s left us the Mass as the memorial of His Cross and Resurrection. In every Mass the Spirit of God descends and changes (through Transubstantiation) the bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. After Mass, the consecrated hosts are placed in our own Tabernacle, which houses the True Presence of God. The veil in the tabernacle is a sign that God is truly present there, but that veil is drawn back during every Mass as a sign that faithful followers of Christ will share His presence forever in heaven.
The Vatican Council talks about the Mass as a prayer directed to God while also being meant for our instruction, saying, “Moreover, the prayers addressed to God by the priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ are said in the name of the entire holy people and all present. And the visible signs used by the liturgy to signify invisible divine things have been chosen by Christ or the Church. Thus not only when things are read ‘which were written for our instruction’ (Rom. 15:4), but also when the Church prays or sings or acts, the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer Him their rational service and more abundantly receive His grace” (SC, 33).
Everything in the Mass is there for a reason and has a meaning. Of course, the readings and homily are meant to teach us about God and His will for our lives, but even the prayers, songs, and the actions of the Mass should lift our minds to God and teach us about the faith. In the readings we hear the written Word of God which prepares us to receive the living Word of God in the Eucharist. The prayers are addressed to God, not to us, but they’re for us. God already knows what we’re thinking and how we’re feeling, so He doesn’t need to hear our prayers to know what we want and need. The prayers are meant to direct us to pray for the graces that God wants to give us.
The things we sing in Mass should also be prayers. In fact, the entire Mass is a song and is set to music so that it can be sung. Singing is a higher form of praying since we’re putting more of ourselves into the prayer when we sing. After the Mass itself, the next most important thing to sing in Mass is the Bible. Every Mass has a set of Bible verses, the antiphons, which are chosen for that Mass and are meant to be sung at the opening, the Gospel, the offertory, and during Communion. After all, what better to sing to God than His own Words? Finally, the hymns chosen for Mass should be designed for the liturgy. Not every Christian song is fitting to be sung at Mass, so the hymns must be chosen carefully so that they help us to enter more fully into the Mass and don’t distract us from it.
Finally, the actions of the Mass have meaning and are directed at helping us to lift our hearts to the Lord. The actions of the priest, like the elevations of the Blessed Sacraments and various genuflections, have meanings, but so do the actions of all the people. When you stand, sit, or kneel, when you make the sign of the Cross, and when you go forward to receive Holy Communion you are uniting yourselves to the prayers and actions of the priest and the entire Church as we offer ourselves as “a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.