Monday, January 30, 2012

This ruling effects all Christians!

Fr. Tim Ralston – Homily for January 29, 2012
I have some very unbelievable, yet very real, news for you today: religious liberty in this country is now dead. Or if not dead, it’s at least been condemned to death. I know, I was shocked when I first heard it too. But as surprising and confusing as that may seem, it’s true.
And while we all know that our country has faced some pretty tough times over the last few years, with a divided people, with economic crises, and with natural disasters, I would be surprised if any of us here saw this coming. For our own government has decided to completely toss aside the First Amendment of the Constitution and try to mandate that Catholics, and Catholic organizations, deliberately violate the teachings of the faith, as well as their very consciences.
How, you may ask? Well, as a way to summarize, I’ll read an excerpt from a letter sent out by our very own Archbishop, Dennis Schnurr.
He writes, “The US Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employee’s health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.
In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so).” (end quote)
So, basically, Catholics and Catholic organizations will have to pay to provide sterilization, contraception, and abortion-inducing drugs for their employees, or face serious punishments from the government. Our Catholic schools, universities, nursing homes, hospitals, and social services would seemingly all be included in this group. And just so everyone is clear, sterilization, the use of contraception, and abortion are all serious sins that cannot be approved of. The dignity of every human person, born or unborn, the sanctity of marriage as a lifelong, faithful commitment between one man and one woman, which is open to life, and the fundamental role of the human family in building and sustaining a strong society, are too important, and too beautiful, to denigrate and destroy.
The Catholic Church has always held this and will always believe it. And throughout the history of this great country of ours, we’ve always had the freedom to allow these beliefs to guide how we live, not only as faithful disciples, but also as faithful citizens. However, that freedom to practice our religion, that freedom to live out our faith, as I said earlier, has been condemned to die. It’s not quite dead yet, simply because our government did grant it a stay of execution for one year. This one year window is meant to help us figure out how to comply with the new mandate. But, as Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York put it, “In effect, the president is saying that we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”
And violating our consciences is something we cannot do. As Archbishop Schnurr so bluntly puts it in his letter, “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.” Let me repeat that: “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.” This is our Archbishop saying this. And he is being joined by bishops all around this country on this issue. They are standing united, providing clear and strong leadership for all of us. And they are speaking out with a sense of outrage, and a sense of urgency, but also, with a sense of hope.
After all, as Christians, everything we do should be done with a sense of hope. Even witnessing the potential death of religious freedom is not enough to make us despair. For at the center of our faith, is the idea of resurrection. We know that during His life on earth, Jesus raised people from the dead, including Lazarus. And then, He Himself, after dying a horrible, painful death on the cross, conquered death by His own rising from the dead. So Christ has conquered death and can bring our religious freedom back from the brink of death. And again, quoting Archbishop Schnurr, “Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible.”
So, what can be done? Even if we have this hope that we can still fix this problem, what actions can we take to help this happen? First of all, we need to educate ourselves about this extremely serious matter. Read the letter that Archbishop Schnurr sent out. It is posted on our website here at St. Charles, as well as on the website for the Archdiocese. We will also print it in the bulletins next weekend. Also, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has great information on their website regarding all of this. I encourage you to check that out as well. We need to know what is at stake here.
Along with educating ourselves, the Bishops have asked us to “commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and just may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored.” Prayer and fasting – we won’t get anywhere without these two things.
And finally, we need to let our elected officials know that we will not stand idly by and just watch our liberties taken away. So, again on the US Bishops website, there is information on how to contact Congress to encourage them to support legislation that will reverse this unjust mandate given to us by our current Administration.
Please, I beg of you, take this very seriously. Our country that has long been known as the land of the free is in danger of forfeiting that title. Our bishops have acted quickly in showing their leadership. But they don’t want to stand alone. They are asking us to join them. I, for one, am choosing to do so. I hope you will too because this country that I still love, despite her flaws and weaknesses, is in trouble. Your country needs you.

Gregory Nazianzus

To speak concisely, the Godhead is undivided in separate persons. There is one mingling of light, as though three suns are joined to each other. When then we consider the Godhead, or the first cause, or the undivided majestic unity, that which we conceive is one. However, when we consider the persons in whom the Godhead dwells, those who timelessly and with equal glory have their being from the first cause, there are three whom we worship."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
29 January 2012 Mark 1:26.
“And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.”
Today’s Gospel deals with a subject that is often met with skepticism or outright unbelief in our modern world: the reality of evil, unclean spirits. Those who have been baptized and taught to pray, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, however, know differently. We know all too well what it means to be harassed and tempted by evil and unclean spirits. They whisper lies and half-truths and try to confuse us. They try to influence us to do things we know are wrong – even things we don’t want to do. We have all felt their influence at different times. We know how they have tried to sow division, to make us fearful, to get us down on ourselves, to lie, to manipulate people, or to doubt God’s love. Today’s Gospel story concerns us directly. In it we see both an urgent warning and a powerful promise of safety in the presence of the Savior, Christ Jesus.

1. Give Satan a foothold and he will build a stronghold.
a. The poor man in the synagogue didn’t get there overnight – neither do we. Perversity, promiscuity, pornography, drug use invite the unclean spirits.
b. Consider those who have given evil and inch and seen it take a mile:
Cain -- 6The LORD said to Cain: What's wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? 7If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don't let it! Samson -- 4Some time later, Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, …..
5The Philistine rulers went to Delilah and said, "Trick Samson into telling you what makes him so strong and what can make him weak. Then we can tie him up so he can't get away. If you find out his secret, we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver."
2. The gates of brass before Him burst, the iron fetters yield.
• A. He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him! "The presence of the Savior is the torment of the devils." Bede the Venerable
b. The same power and authority can be found in the Word of God today, as well as in the sacraments and in the body of Christ.
"When sin is forgiven it is certain that the devil is driven out from the sinner's heart, and for this reason Christ embraced all sinners in His statement: 'Now sentence is being passed on this world, now the prince of this world is overthrown.' God removes the sin of the one who makes humble confession, and thereby the devil loses the sovereignty he had gained over the human heart." -- Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 6.4, The Works of Bernard of Clairvaux (vol. 2); The Song of Songs I, pg. 34.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

bread and wine, body and blood

St. Ambrose of Milan

Perhaps you will say,

“I see something else, how is it that you assert that I receive the Body of Christ?”

And this is the point which remains for us to prove. And what evidence shall we make use of? Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed.

Moses was holding a rod, he cast it down and it became a serpent. (Exodus 4:3-4)

Again, he took hold of the tail of the serpent and it returned to the nature of a rod. You see that by virtue of the prophetic office there were two changes, of the nature both of the serpent and of the rod. The streams of Egypt were running with a pure flow of water; of a sudden from the veins of the sources blood began to burst forth, and none could drink of the river.

Again, at the prophet’s prayer the blood ceased, and the nature of water returned. The people of the Hebrews were shut in on every side, hemmed in on the one hand by the Egyptians, on the other by the sea; Moses lifted up his rod, the water divided and hardened like walls, and a way for the feet appeared between the waves.

Jordan being turned back, returned, contrary to nature, to the source of its stream. (Jos. 3:16)

Is it not clear that the nature of the waves of the sea and of the river stream was changed? The people of the fathers thirsted, Moses touched the rock, and water flowed out of the rock. (Exodus 17:6)

Did not grace work a result contrary to nature, so that the rock poured forth water, which by nature it did not contain?

Marah was a most bitter stream, so that the thirsting people could not drink. Moses cast wood into the water, and the water lost its bitterness, which grace of a sudden tempered. (Exodus 15:25)

In the time of Elisha the prophet one of the sons of the prophets lost the head from his axe, which sank. He who had lost the iron asked Elisha, who cast in a piece of wood and the iron swam. This, too, we clearly recognize as having happened contrary to nature, for iron is of heavier nature than water.

We observe, then, that grace has more power than nature, and yet so far we have only spoken of the grace of a prophet’s blessing. But if the blessing of man had such power as to change nature, what are we to say of that divine consecration where the very words of the Lord and Saviour operate? For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? You read concerning the making of the whole world:

“He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created.”

Shall not the word of Christ, which was able to make out of nothing that which was not, be able to change things which already are into what they were not? For it is not less to give a new nature to things than to change them.

But why make use of arguments? Let us use the examples He gives, and by the example of the Incarnation prove the truth of the mystery. Did the course of nature proceed as usual when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? If we look to the usual course, a woman ordinarily conceives after connection with a man. And this body which we make is that which was born of the Virgin. Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body.

The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims:

“This is My Body.” (Matt. 26:26)

Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.

Christ, then, feeds His Church with these sacraments, by means of which the substance of the soul is strengthened, and seeing the continual progress of her grace, He rightly says to her: “How comely are your breasts, my sister, my spouse, how comely they are made by wine, and the smell of your garments is above all spices. A dropping honeycomb are your lips, my spouse, honey and milk are under your tongue, and the smell of your garments is as the smell of Lebanon. A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed.” By which He signifies that the mystery ought to remain sealed up with you, that it be not violated by the deeds of an evil life, and pollution of chastity, that it be not made known to thou, for whom it is not fitting, nor by garrulous talkativeness it be spread abroad among unbelievers.

Your guardianship of the faith ought therefore to be good, that integrity of life and silence may endure unblemished.

(On the Mysteries 9.50-55)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thoughts from a candidate for the Holy Ministry

“I love praise and worship music, and I love heavy metal.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a story in the January 19 edition (written by reporter Tim Townsend) about David Ellefson, a student in the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program of Concordia Seminary-St. Louis. go to the site to read the whole article, “Megadeth bassist studying for Lutheran ordination at Concordia,” and to see more photos and comments.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Who really believes in choice?

Texas Gives Women a Choice, Planned Parenthood Goes Apoplectic
Steven Aden

The basic components of a choice are easiest understood as a selection of one option out of the two or more options that are presented at any given time. Often choices are simple: vanilla or rocky road, for example. But sometimes they are difficult, especially if the choice in view carries life-altering—and perhaps even life-ending—consequences. One thing, however, is for sure—when only one avenue or one side is presented there is no real choice to be made.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott understands this and also understands that Planned Parenthood hasn’t really been providing mothers in Texas with a choice when it comes to abortion. Therefore, he supported passage of a new law that requires doctors to show mothers a sonogram of their babies before aborting them. Once they see the child, they can make a real (informed) choice to allow Planned Parenthood to kill him or her. Or not, more than likely, since studies have shown that mothers who see their babies before making that decision overwhelmingly choose life.

This law—the Sonogram Bill—was immediately challenged in court upon its passage, and federal district court Judge Sam Sparks halted parts of the law’s implementation just two days before they would have gone into effect. In turn, Abbott appealed Sparks’ decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which reversed Sparks’ decision by declaring the law constitutional earlier this week.

In expressing the court’s opinion, Chief Judge Edith Jones said that Texas had “legitimate interests in protecting the potential life within [mothers].” And concerning the issue of making informed choices, Jones wrote, “Denying [a mother] up-to-date medical information is more of an abuse to her ability to decide than providing the information.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry responded by calling the ruling “a victory for all who stand in defense of life.”

He also addressed the fact that women now have the information necessary to make an informed choice: “Every life lost to abortion is a tragedy, and this important sonogram legislation ensures that every Texas woman seeking an abortion has all the facts about the life she is carrying, and understands the devastating impact of such a life-ending decision.”

But not everyone was happy with the fact that Texas women now have a choice. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, referred to the 5th Circuit’s ruling as “abhorrent.”

Sunday, January 15, 2012

tolkein on the liturgy

Tolkien on the Liturgy

I've never understood how people can just sit in the pew and not sing. If you don't like the liturgy here, you're going to really be bummed out in heaven. It's one endless Divine Service with an endless liturgy sung by angels and men. Now, I can understand (with sensitivity) the timid in voice, those who are afraid of "how it might sound," but just to sit in silence without as much as a quiver of the lip, or a silent hum-along. That I don't understand. Neither did Tolkien.

Even if you've only spent a short time in Middle-earth it is quite apparent that men and elves, hobbits and wizards, even the trees love to sing. They sing of sorrow and joy, dark days and homely day dreams. All of life is encompassed in song in Middle-earth. Come to think of it, that's the same way it is in the Church. The liturgy envelops sings along with our sorrow and sadness as much as it does our great joy and celebration. Whatever day we might be having, the liturgy gives us a song to sing, filling our lips with the Word of God. The liturgy is what fulfills and consumes all songs (even our very lives) in heaven and on earth, even in Middle-earth.

In a letter to his son, Christopher, Tolkien makes a similar point:

"If you don't do so already, make a habit of the 'praises'. I use them much (in Latin): the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Laudate Dominum; the Laudete Pueri Dominum (of which I am specially fond), one of the Sunday psalms; and the Magnificat; also the Litany of Loretto (with the prayer Sub tuum praesidium). If you have these by heart you never need words for joy."

The liturgy not only gives our voice God's Word to sing, but it shapes our lives with the very Word of Christ, the forgiveness of sins and above all, the liturgy points us, leads us and woos us to the Sacrament, from whence all liturgy leads to and flows out of. The road to the Altar goes ever on...even unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures (of earth and Middle-earth) here below. Praise Him above ye heav'nly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Posted by Pastor Samwise Praetorius (Samuel Schuldheisz) at 9:30 PM