The last few weeks have seen reports of yet more terror attacks and mass shootings in our country. One of these attacks even happened in a church as services were going on! Often there seems to be no warning of any kind, no way to stop these horrific acts, and a lot of handwringing from the authorities over an inability to stop further attacks.
Human history has shown us that people are capable of terrible violence against others and all kinds of motivations can be cited for their actions. It is very likely that these kinds of attacks will continue in the future. After one of these attacks our responses have become commonplace. There are those who call for prayer and those who shout that prayer isn't doing any good. There are those who call for more regulations and those who shout that we mustn't give up our freedoms. There are those who call for more programs for the mentally ill and those who shout that we can't afford it. Some want to limit who can come into our country while others remind us that we are a nation built on immigration. The debates go on and on while little changes.
The main problem ( at least as I see it) is that both sides have good points, but the other side is rarely able to acknowledge this. As our nation struggles to come up with a response to evil, it may be a good idea to examine the nature of the problem, organize our own beliefs, and determine where we are willing to compromise on the issues that are important to us.
Step One: Acknowledge the problem. "Terror attacks/shootings are killing too many people."
Step Two: Acknowledge all the possible solutions, even ones you don't like. These are often hot-button issues like immigration policy, personal freedoms, governmental surveillance, mental health policy, religious belief, etc.
Step Three: Rank your beliefs. Examine each of your own deeply held beliefs and see how they compare to the problem. For example, would you agree to broader governmental surveillance if it meant saving 100 lives in the future? 1000 lives?
Step Four: Admit that there is a place for compromise. Our current plan, shouting at each other from the opposite corner of a large room, is not working. It is not working. Try to imagine a place where people were able to make reasonable, common sense decisions and agree to give up a little something for the common good. There are few people who would argue that seatbelt laws, though they restrict your freedom, have made our lives worse over the last fifty years.
Step Five: Take positive action. If you have an idea for a compromise or are willing to support someone else's, call your legislator and let them know. Run for office yourself. Make policy changes in your own workplace. Do something that moves the debate along.
We should all pray for an end to violence, but this must be accompanied by positive action.
Soon we will be kicking off RCIA (The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). This is the process whereby a person (who is not an infant) enters into the Catholic Church. The classes will start soon and there are several tracks available. Father Guillermo will have a Spanish language track at St. Mary's and there will be an English track here at St. Alphonsus with the Sisters. Generally speaking, the first several classes are a time to ask questions, find out about the program, and make a decision about whether or not this is the right time for you to enter the Church. RCIA can be for those people who have never been baptized as well as for those who have been baptized Christian but still need to make a Catholic Profession of faith or become confirmed.
Perhaps you are the one who would like to attend classes, or perhaps you have a family member who has been coming to Church but has never made it official. Whatever your situation, please prayerfully consider attending one of our sessions.
Since the Holy Spirit is the best way to get people thinking about making a change, I leave you with a prayer to the Holy Spirit:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and you will renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructs the hearts of the faithful, grant that by that same Spirit we may be ever wise and rejoice in His consolations. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.
The Sacred Heart is a powerful devotion and has led many people to rediscover their faith. It is my hope that many people in our parish will be enlivened by this devotion and it will be a source of blessing to all of us. When Jesus spoke with St. Margaret Mary about this devotion, he made several promises to those who follow this devotion and dedicate their lives to him. Here are the twelve promises of Our Lord Jesus to St. Margaret Mary for those devoted to His Sacred Heart:
1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will establish peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of death.
5. I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.
9. I will bless the homes in which an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored.
10. I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
12. The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Holy Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under My displeasure, nor without receiving their Sacraments; My heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.
Powerful stuff, I am sure you would agree… Please continue to pray for the successful completion of this endeavor!
For the last few weeks we have been learning about St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and the devotion to the Sacred Heart. It is time to start planning how the consecration to the Sacred Heart will take place in our parish. I have already presented an initial plan to our Knights of Columbus Council and they are eager to help me in the process. One of the key elements of the consecration is that each family have an image of the Sacred Heart in their home as well as an “enthronement” package that includes the prayers of consecration as well as the promises to those who partake in this devotion. I would like to be able to provide these packets free of charge to each parish family.
One of our Knights of Columbus, Bob Quast, stepped forward with an idea to help raise funds for the purchase of these packets. Bob is a member of St. Peter’s Parish in Buffalo and recently wrote his “educational autobiography,” a book entitled Life 101. In this book Bob talks about his faith, his business experience, family tragedy, lobbying congress, and everything from fast cars to first communion. It is a reflection on how his Catholic Faith has touched every aspect of his life and what he has learned along the way. While it may not earn an Imprimatur for theology, it is an interesting point of view on life from the standpoint of a good Catholic gentleman. Bob has generously donated a number of freshly printed copies to the parish and you can find them for sale ($20) in the parish office or in the hall after Sunday Mass. All proceeds will go directly to fund our Sacred Heart enthronement packets for the parishes.
Soon I will order the enthronement packets and we can begin practicing the enthronement prayers together. Once everyone has a firm grasp on the prayers and the nature of the devotion, we will schedule a date to make the consecration together as a parish family. Please pray for the successful completion of this endeavor! For more info, head over to www.enthronement.org and take a look at some of their resources.
As we continue to prepare for our parish’s consecration to the Sacred Heart, here is a bit more info on the devotion:
St. Margaret Mary wrote, "And He [Christ] showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin that made Him form the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which it contains, in order that those who desire to render Him and procure Him all the honor and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which His heart is the source." — from Revelations of Our Lord to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque
The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, encircled by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross and bleeding. Sometimes the image is shown shining within the bosom of Christ with his wounded hands pointing at the heart. The wounds and crown of thorns allude to the manner of Jesus' death, while the fire represents the transformative power of divine love. The Feast of the Sacred Heart has been in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar since 1856, and is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost. As Pentecost is always celebrated on Sunday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart always falls on a Friday.
The Roman Catholic acts of consecration, reparation and devotion were introduced when the feast of the Sacred Heart was declared. In his Papal Bull Auctorem Fidei, Pope Pius VI praised devotion to the Sacred Heart. Finally, by order of Leo XIII, in his encyclical Annum Sacrum (May 25, 1899), as well as on June 11, he consecrated every human to the Sacred Heart. The idea of this act, which Leo XIII called "the great act" of his pontificate, had been proposed to him by a religious woman of the Good Shepherd from Oporto (Portugal) who said that she had supernaturally received it from Jesus. Since c. 1850, groups, congregations, and States have consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart. In 1873, by petition of president Gabriel García Moreno, Ecuador was the first country in the world to be consecrated to the Sacred Heart, fulfilling God's petition to Saint Margaret Mary over two hundred years later.
Coming soon, how will our parishes be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?
Lets continue to look at how the devotion to the Sacred Heart came about…
The discussion of Alacoque's own mission and qualities continued for years after her death. All her actions, her revelations, her spiritual maxims, her teachings regarding the devotion to the Sacred Heart were subjected to the most severe and minute examination. Finally the Sacred Congregation of Rites passed a favorable vote on the heroic virtues of this "servant of God." In March 1824, Pope Leo XII pronounced her Venerable and on 18 September 1864 Pope Pius IX declared her Blessed. When her tomb was opened in July 1830, two instantaneous cures were recorded to have taken place. Her incorrupt body rests above the side altar in the Chapel of the Apparitions, located at the Visitation Monastery in Paray-le-Monial, and many striking blessings have been claimed by pilgrims attracted there from all parts of the world. Alacoque was canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920 and her feast day is October 16.
In his 1928 encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor, Pope Pius XI affirmed the Church's position regarding the credibility of her visions of Jesus Christ by speaking of Jesus as having "manifested Himself" to Saint Margaret Mary and having "promised her that all those who rendered this honor to His Heart would be endowed with an abundance of heavenly graces".
Alacoque's short devotional writing, La Devotion au Sacré-Coeur de Jesus (Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus), was published posthumously by J. Croiset in 1698, and has been popular among Catholics.
Here are a few comments we have received at the website since it got up and running. Thanks so much for all your support!
"We love St Alphonsus"
"I really appreciate being able to enter the church early before Mass so I can pray the Rosary. Praying the Rosary while in the presence of the Holy Eucharist is a privilege.Also, thank you for mentioning the sanctity life (womb to the tomb) during the prayers of the faithful; this shouldn't be limited to just the month of October. I also truly appreciate the non-political homilies of Father Appel...I can always tell when something comes from "Homily Helps/Homily Hints" or the latest political happenings no matter how vaguely a homilist tries to cover it to keep the tax exempt status. There is always something to be learned from Father's homilies. There's no looking at the wrist watch when Father Appel is preaching!"
"Thank you for offering the Tridentine Latin Mass."
"I have been going to this church ever since I was born (27 years)!"
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From Father’s Desk
Last Sunday I gave an intro (from Wikipedia) into the life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Here is what happened next:
One night she returned home, dressed in her finery, from a ball for Carnival. She experienced a vision of Christ, scourged and bloody, in which he reproached her for her forgetfulness of him, and of how His heart was filled with love for her due to her promise. As a result she determined to fulfill her vow and entered, when almost 24 years of age, the Visitation Convent at Paray-le-Monial on 25 May 1671, intending to become a nun. Alacoque was subjected to many trials to prove the genuineness of her vocation. She was admitted to wearing the religious habit on 25 August 1671 and she was admitted to profession on 6 November 1672.
In this monastery Alacoque received several private revelations of the Sacred Heart, the first on 27 December 1673, and the final one 18 months later. The visions revealed to her the form of the devotion, the chief features being reception of Holy Communion on the first Friday of each month, Eucharistic adoration during a "Holy hour" on Thursdays, and the celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart. She stated that in her vision she was instructed to spend an hour every Thursday night to meditate on Jesus' Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
On December 27, 1673, the feast of St. John, Margaret Mary reported that Jesus permitted her to rest her head upon his heart and then disclosed to her the wonders of his love, telling her that he desired to make them known to all mankind and to diffuse the treasures of his goodness, and that he had chosen her for this work.
Some time ago, I asked the people of the parish to pray for my “secret intention.” I later let everyone know that my intention was to consecrate our parishes to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Now that the Knights of Columbus council is up and running, we are ready to begin this great work. In order to prepare ourselves for the consecration, I would like to offer a little history lesson on where this particular devotion came from. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia regarding Margaret Mary Alacoque, who first had a vision of the Sacred Heart:
Alacoque was born in 1647 in L'Hautecour, now part of the commune of Verosvres, then in the Duchy of Burgundy, the only daughter of Claude Alacoque and Philiberte Lamyn, who had also several sons. From early childhood, Margaret was described as showing intense love for the Blessed Sacrament, and as preferring silence and prayer to childhood play. After her First Communion at the age of nine, she was confined to her bed with rheumatic fever for four years. At the end of this period, having made a vow to the Blessed Virgin to consecrate herself to religious life, she was instantly restored to perfect health. In recognition of this favor, she added the name Mary to her baptismal name of Margaret. According to her later account of her life, she had visions of Jesus Christ, which she thought were a normal part of human experience and continued to practice austerity.
Alacoque lost her father at a young age, and the family's assets were held by a relative who refused to hand them over, plunging her family into poverty. During this time, her only consolations were frequent visits to pray before the Blessed Sacrament in the local church. When she was 17, however, the family regained their fortune and her mother encouraged her to go in society, in the hopes of her finding a suitable husband. Out of obedience, and believing that her childhood vow was no longer binding, she began to accompany her brothers in the social events of her society, attending dances and balls.
Her story does not end here…
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Here you will find my periodic musings on life in the parish, answers