Feast of the Presentation of Baby Jesus

Happy Sunday

We’ve got a great week lined up for the final week before Lent begins. We’re hosting over 20 high school students this Saturday, February 9, for a retreat that is focused on the Holy Spirit working in and through their lives as they receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Also, don’t miss the next Newman Film Club night, this Friday, February 8, 8p. We’ll be watching “The Scarlet and the Black.”

For all of this week’s happenings, dig the bulletin: Bulletin-2013-02-03.pdf

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Finally, the Gospel for next Sunday, February 10:

Luke 5:1-11

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them.  They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.

What’s the big deal about saints?

Why does the Catholic Church celebrate the lives of the saints?

It’s common to think that one can go it alone in this whole loving God thing, but the Catholic faith insists on a way bigger picture: the love of God poured out through Christ and His bride, the Church, so that every heart might confess God. Well that sounds all fluffy and pretty, but the fact is that God’s grace is not limited by space and time, such that the lives of virtuous and holy women and men are beacons of Christianity forever. The witness of sacrificing one’s life, literally as a martyr or figuratively as a completely selfless servant, is a tremendously powerful example for us. In fact, the word martyr comes from the Latin word for witness.

An awesome Biblical founding for the veneration of saints is Hebrews 13:7: “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

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Alright, so I get that these men and women had lives that are worth celebrating. Why in the world do we pray to them, though?

People in heaven are pretty darn close to God. Take that back: people in heaven are in complete union with God: that’s a definition of heaven. They stand before the throne of God and offer prayers to him on our behalf (Revelation 5:8). They do this people they are people with perfected love: they’re saints! For us to ask for their prayers is to recruit an army of assistance for our souls. If we simply say, “Nah, I don’t need any saints to pray for me,” it’s as if we’re saying, “Bro, I can just do this whole loving God thing on my own. I don’t need a friend to hold me accountable, to invite me to deeper holiness, or just have a shoulder to lean on.” Salvation is a family affair, as Jason Evert wrote on Catholic.com, and the saints are exceedingly great family members to have.

What are practical steps to invoke the help of the saints in my life?

  1. If you don’t know when your patron and confirmation saint’s feast days are, give them a Google and put it on your calendar. Heck, nine days before his or her feast day, you could offer a novena for that saint. A novena is simply a prayer that you offer daily for nine days in a row – it doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary, but you can search around for some crazy good ones. PrayMoreNovenas.com is a great place to start.
  2. Lost something? Hit up St. Anthony for his prayers for your searching. Traveling? Ask St. Christopher for his prayers for a safe journey. Figure out all of the patron saints for whatever struggles you’re having in life. You’d be surprised how many saints they’re are – people just like you and I who said yes to God’s call a long ago but remain influential today by their examples and prayers.
  3. Get excited about the saints! It’s one of the coolest parts about being Catholic. Secular culture can easily forget that St. Patrick’s Day and St. Valentine’s Day are actually the feast days for saints, but we don’t have to forget the party!

In Defense of Marriage

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, Shepherd of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, released a letter this month in defense of marriage the way God intends. His words directly address the proposed Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, a measure that the legislature of the state of Illinois considered in the most recent assembly. The words of Bishop Paprocki are applicable for all of Christ’s faithful, nonetheless. He delivers his letter in the video below.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Our state’s elected lawmakers will soon consider a bill called “The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.” A more fraudulent title for this dangerous measure could not be imagined. The proposed law is, in truth, a grave assault upon both religious liberty and marriage. All people of goodwill, and especially Christ’s faithful committed to my pastoral care in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, should resolutely oppose this bill and make their opinions known to their representatives.

The pending bill would, for the first time in our state’s history, redefine marriage to legally recognize same-sex “marriages.” But neither two men nor two women – nor, for that matter, three or more people – can possibly form a marriage. Our law would be lying if it said they could.

The basic structure of marriage as the exclusive and lasting relationship of a man and a woman, committed to a life which is fulfilled by having children, is given to us in human nature, and thus by nature’s God. Notwithstanding the vanity of human wishes, every society in human history – including every society untouched by Jewish or Christian revelation – has managed to grasp this profound truth about human relationships and happiness: marriage is the union of man and woman.

The bill’s sponsors maintain it would simply extend marriage to some people who have long been arbitrarily excluded from it. They are wrong. The pending bill would not expand the eligibility-roster for marriage. It would radically redefine what marriage is- for everybody.

It would enshrine in our law – and thus in public opinion and practice – three harmful ideas:

  1. What essentially makes a marriage is romantic-emotional union.
  2. Children don’t need both a mother and father.
  3. The main purpose of marriage is adult satisfactions.

These ideas would deepen the sexual revolution’s harms on all society. After all, if marriage is an emotional union meant for adult satisfactions, why should it be sexually exclusive? Or limited to two? Or pledged to permanence? If children don’t need both their mother and father, why should fathers stick around when romance fades? As marriage is redefined, it becomes harder for people to see the point of these profoundly important marital norms, to live by them, and to encourage others to do the same. The resulting instability hurts spouses, but also – and especially – children, who do best when reared by their committed mother and father.

Indeed, children’s need – and right – to be reared by the mother and father whose union brought them into being explains why our law has recognized marriage as a conjugal partnership – the union of husband and wife – at all. Our lawmakers have understood that marriage is naturally oriented to procreation, to family. Of course, marriage also includesa committed, intimate relationship of a sort which some same-sex coulples (or multiple lovers in groups of three or more) could imitate. But our law never recognized and supported marriage in order to regulate intimacy for its own sake. The reason marriage is recognized in civil law at all (as ordinary friendships, or other sacraments, are not) is specific to the committed, intimate relationships of people of opposite-sex couples: they are by nature oriented to having children. Their love-making acts are life-giving acts.

Same-sex relationships lack this unique predicate of state recognition and support. Even the most ideologically blinded legislator cannot change this natural fact: the sexual acts of a same-sex couple (regardless of how one views them morally) are simply not of the type that yield the gift of new life. So they cannot extend a union of hearts by a true bodily union. They cannot turn a friendship into the one-flesh union of marriage. They are not marital. This is not just a Christian idea, but one common to every major religious tradition and our civilization’s great philosophical traditions, beginning with ancient Greece and Rome.

The pending bill is not only a dangerous social experiment about marriage. It is also a lethal attack upon religious liberty. This so-called “religious freedom” would not stop the state from obligating the Knights of Columbus to make their halls available for same-sex “weddings.” It would not stop the state from requiring Catholic grade schools to hire teachers who are legally “married” to someone of the same sex. This bill would not protect Catholic hospitals, charities, or colleges, which exclude those so “married” from senior leadership positions. Nor would it protect me, the Bishop of Springfield, if I refused to employ someone in a same-sex “marriage” who applied to the Diocese for a position meant to serve my ministry as your bishop. This “religious freedom” law does nothing at all to protect the consciences of people in business, or who work for the government. We saw the harmful consequences of deceptive titles all too painfully last year when the so-called “Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act” forced Catholic Charities out of foster care and adoption services in Illinois.

These threats do not raise a question about drafting a better law, one with more extensive conscience protections. There is no possible way – none whatsoever- for those who believe that marriage is exclusively the union of husband and wife to avoid legal penalties and harsh discriminatory treatment if the bill becomes law. Why should we expect it be otherwise? After all, we would be people who, according to the thinking behind the bill, hold onto an “unfair” view of marriage. The state would have equated our view with bigotry – which it uses the law to marginalize in every way short of criminal punishment.

The only way to protect religious liberty, and to preserve marriage, is to defeat this perilous proposal. Please make sure our elected representatives understand that and know that they will be held to account.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki
Bishop of Springfield in Illinois