Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving with the Holy Spirit and Bishop Loverde

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, our nation's oldest holiday, but the parish of Blessed Sacrament got an early start with the Turkey Dinner we held last Saturday evening.

On Thursday (and on Friday too for many people), we will gather with family and friends for a feast of succulent turkey, gravy, potatoes, stuffing, corn and green beans, cranberry sauce, pies and cookies, delicious wine, and more. Before eating, many will "say grace" and go around saying what they are thankful for.

But even though many gathered around the table do have this tradition of saying what they are thankful for, we do not call this Thankfulness Day, but Thanksgiving Day. Even for nonbelievers, this day is Thanksgiving Day. And to give thanks, rather than being merely thankful, means giving that thanks to someone.

Who is that someone to whom we give thanks on this holiday? Sure, some of the thanks will go to family and friends, but primarily our "thank you" is given to God. (Indeed, the word "holiday," even though used in a civic setting, is derived from "holy day.") "Thank you" not only for the food around the table, but for all of the blessings of our lives, even if we do not recognize them to be blessings.

The word for "thanksgiving" in Greek is, as you may already know, "eucharistia." This is the name we give to the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we receive at the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

Bishop Paul Loverde came to our parish of Blessed Sacrament on Monday evening, November 19, for a Eucharistic celebration to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation upon many members of our parish community. Noting his own nervousness that the bishop might call on him when he was confirmed in 1950 at the age of ten, Bishop Loverde sought to reassure the confirmandi that one of the graces received from the Holy Spirit in Confirmation was that of strength and fortitude to not be afraid to give witness to the Lord, especially out there in the world, "where it really counts." In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit would come to dwell within the recipient; He would be a helper, a guide, and thereby transform the recipient into a clearer image of Jesus Christ to others and bind him or her more closely to the Church and her mission to be a witness of Jesus to others in everything we say and think and do.

Being a witness for the Lord in this world will not be easy for the newly-confirmed, Bishop Loverde said, but out there in the world is where this witness really counts, that is, that is where it is so necessary. From the many attacks on the sanctity of life to the scourge of drugs, alcohol, and pornography, to a culture of violence and injustice, and the many other failings or outright evils of humanity, the world is a cold and dark place, and it needs the Light of Christ that can shine through us by our witness of Him. The Holy Spirit is stronger than all the vices and evils of the world and with Him in our hearts, we can be heralds of hope to others. To do that, Bishop Loverde said, all one needs do is open his heart to receive the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and then to allow Him to remain there, dwelling within you.

These graces received in Confirmation are crucial to being an effective witness, including the grace of strength to resist peer pressure to engage in any number of wrongful things that the world tempts us to do and, by having this strength to say "no" to these things, and "yes" to God instead, we provide a witness and example that encourages others to avoid the wrong and do the good, we can be Good News to them.

In Confirmation, we join in the mission of the Church to share the Lord with others. The word "thanksgiving" is "eucharistia" in Greek. The Lord is our Eucharist, our Grace, and as Confirmed Catholics, we should seek to invite others to our feast with Him and in Him.

The turkey and wine we will eat and drink on Thanksgiving Day will be deliciously good, but they are pale imitations of the real food, the real drink that the Lord invites us to receive to have life in abundance. More than merely saying what we are thankful for, we need to give that thanks to Him, and beyond saying grace, we need to open our hearts to the grace of the Holy Spirit, to dwell within us and be a light of the Lord to others. More than merely inviting others to share turkey on Thanksgiving, we need to invite others to share in our Lord, the fullness of life, in the Eucharist. In love, with the graces of the Holy Spirit we received in Confirmation, we need to invite them to join us at the real Thanksgiving meal, not merely once a year, but to join in the joyous feast everyday of our lives.

See also, The First Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of President Washington (1789)

(cross-posted at Adoramus Te)

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Church: Christ's Mystical Body

Episode Six of Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism series --

Father Barron explores the Catholic Faith’s unique understanding of the relationship of Jesus Christ and the Church and presents the reality of the Church as a truly global culture. From the Church’s center in Rome to the cities of New York, Lagos, Manila and Rio de Janeiro, Father Barron explores the Catholic conviction that the life and presence of Christ continues to embrace humanity in all its joys and sorrows through the presence of the Church.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Living the Faith: Conscience and Election Day 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012, is election day. Part of living the faith -- everyday, in all aspects of our lives -- is the question of how to apply the truths of the faith, most especially the truths of the inherent dignity of the human person, in that part of civil society known as the political and electoral process. (See Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est 28-29)

Who should you vote for?

The Church will not tell you who to vote for. Instead, it calls you to have an adult faith, such that, as with all decisions in life, your ballot should be based upon a properly-formed good conscience and well-informed prudent judgment. However, it must be understood that conscience is not the same as one’s opinions or feelings, and one cannot choose or create his own conscience. That is not the conscience, that is the will. Rather, conscience is a judgment of reason in the application of objective moral truth to a particular case.

A major objective of the New Evangelization is to explain the faith more effectively, including correcting misconceptions and misunderstandings that might present obstacles to conversion and people fully accepting and living the Good News of Jesus Christ. And one enormous area of misunderstanding in the modern day is this concept of conscience, an error which has led many astray. The word "conscience" comes from the Latin "con-scientia," meaning "with knowledge." Knowledge of what? Knowledge of something other than our subjective selves, something that is beyond the self -- it is knowledge of objective and eternal truth, the "anamnesis" of the Creator who exhorts us to love in truth. Rightly understood, conscience is not the voice of self or the personal will, but is the voice of God within our hearts, our very souls; it is the light of objective moral truth which is given us so that we might make our way in the dark. (See Blessed Pope John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem 43, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship 17)

The task of conscience is not to create moral truth, but to perceive it and then apply it, not ignore it. In our perception of such moral truth, we are assisted by the Magisterium of the Church, by the Pope and bishops, who are in turn specially guided and protected from error by the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete promised to us by Jesus Christ. Thus, as Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman noted, a properly-formed good conscience cannot be one that is in contradiction with the teachings of the Church.

Prior to the obligation of conscience is the obligation to properly form one's conscience, or more specifically, "an actual conscience, conscience understood as a 'co-knowing' with the truth," in the words of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (before he became Pope Benedict) in his 1991 talk, Conscience and Truth. If we have a false, improperly-formed conscience, one that is not "with knowledge" of objective truth, but is instead one that is "with ignorance" of objective truth, including knowing contradiction with authoritative Church teaching, including those teachings on the inviolability of human life, then we cannot assert a right to follow it. The obligation to follow one’s conscience is an obligation to follow a good conscience, one that is "with knowledge" of transcendent objective truth, and not a bad or malformed counterfeit "conscience." Conscience is meant to accuse one of error in sin, not justify it, and conscience is most emphatically not a license to delude ourselves to truth so as to justify doing, facilitating, or participating in that which is intrinsically wrong or mala in se (evil in and of itself). One's "subjective conviction and the lack of doubts and scruples which follow therefrom" are not sufficient, explains Cardinal Ratzinger in Conscience and Truth, "it will not do to identify man's conscience with the self-consciousness of the I, with it subjective certainty about itself and its moral behavior," especially in a relativistic age when so many can no longer see moral fault and sin. (see also Blessed John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae 24)

Photo of White Rose from Wikipedia
With this connection to transcendent objective moral truth, in all things, including when making electoral decisions, we have an obligation in conscience, written as law upon our hearts, to do the good and resist evil. (Gaudium et Spes 16) This obligation to follow a good conscience, properly formed in conformity with the teachings of the Church, does not restrict human freedom, but instead calls the person to genuine freedom in truth, for only in truth will one be set free. On the other hand, Cardinal Ratzinger continues in Conscience and Truth, "the identification of conscience with superficial consciousness, the reduction of man to his subjectivity, does not liberate but enslaves. It makes us totally dependent on the prevailing opinions and debases these with every passing day."
O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.
Most Holy Mother, we beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son. Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins of our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.
Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people. Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.
Free us from the falsehoods that lead to the evil of abortion, other assaults on the truth of the fundamental dignity of the human person, and whicht threaten marriage, family life, and fundamental rights of conscience. Grant our country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law of Love and Truth is the foundation on which this nation was founded, and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.
(cross-posted in large part at Adoramus Te)

See also -
Letters from Bishop Paul Loverde:From the USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
From the Virginia Catholic Conference:Doctrinal Note, On Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Human Life and the Obligation of Conscience