Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Monday, February 13, 2017

STOP TRIPPING OVER YOURSELF

It is very easy to write and speak of God, of Jesus, of Catholicism when your inside seems all aglow.

But, all too often, that glow seems to quickly fade. And, replacing the glow seems to be a dark feeling of loneliness, sadness and an unwillingness to review our own life.

This feeling, however, is not an indication that something is wrong with us. It is just an obstacle that we must deal with, climb over and move on. The problem is, however, that the hollowness inside us seems to militate against any positive movement.

We seem destined to wallow in our own self-pity. The more empty we feel, the less inclined we are to want to strive vigorously forward. Sadly, it is just easier to feel sorry for ourselves.

The expectations we have for ourselves actually get in the way of any forward movement in our lives. We become disheartened. We are ashamed. We feel hopeless and alone. The more we allow these negative feelings to bubble up inside us, the less likely we are to realize that the answer is there waiting to be discovered by us.

Think of EVERY possible reason for you to feel down. Maybe you are worried about health issues, or even concerns about death. Maybe you are worrying about loved ones, or problems that you cannot seem to resolve or conquer. These are all major issues.

I don’t think there are any worse kinds of concerns. And yet, what is the sadness that they bring about in you? Why the hollow pit in your stomach? What can worries do to correct any of these issues? Nothing. We are imperfect human beings. We are hampered by poor judgments.

We feel a hollowness inside that we try to alleviate with possessions, or wealth, or addictions, or anything else that we think will satisfy us. “If only this or that would happen, all will be better”, we reassure ourselves. But even if this-or-that were to happen, we would only find something else to bring us down. You know that this is true!

We are placing our trust in…. ourselves. We think WE can correct these negative feelings. We are sure that WE can set the matter straight. STOP trusting in yourself. It is that simple.
We don’t have the answers. We don’t have the capability to correct problems that we have no domain over. When are we going to believe that? When are we going to realize that we are creatures and not Creator? God, and only God, can write straight with the crooked lines that we scribble.

If we believe, truly believe, that God loves us, if we believe, truly believe, that God wants only the best for us, if we believe, truly believe, that God came to this earth to show us how to live, then we can stop the useless trust of ourselves and trust, truly trust, this God who loves us.

His love for you and me has no limits. He patiently waits for us to wake up, and to realize that He is eminently trustworthy. Why should we put our trust in weak earthen vessels, when our God is waiting with arms outstretched to embrace us?

I think all of us are really afraid of God. We are afraid that what He wants, what He will allow, is not what we want. And so, we worry about the outcomes of events, and try to manipulate them in some way.
If we can trust a doctor, or a pharmacist, or anyone else who has been trained to know, recognize and diagnose our ailments, why can we not trust our God?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

IMMIGRATION

What Does Saint Thomas Say About Immigration?

By John Horvat II

What Does Saint Thomas Say About Immigration?In looking at the debate over immigration, it is almost automatically assumed that the Church’s position is one of unconditional charity toward those who enter the nation, legally or illegally.

However, is this the case? What does the Bible say about immigration? What do Church doctors and theologians say? Above all, what does the greatest of doctors, Saint Thomas Aquinas, say about immigration? Does his opinion offer some insights to the burning issues now shaking the nation and blurring the national borders?

Immigration is a modern problem and so some might think that the medieval Saint Thomas would have no opinion about the problem. And yet, he does. One has only to look in his masterpiece, the Summa Theologica, in the first part of the second part, question 105, article 3 (I-II, Q. 105, Art. 3). There one finds his analysis based on biblical insights that can add to the national debate. They are entirely applicable to the present.

Saint Thomas:

“Man’s relations with foreigners are twofold: peaceful, and hostile: and in directing both kinds of relation the Law contained suitable precepts.”

Commentary:

In making this affirmation, Saint Thomas affirms that not all immigrants are equal. Every nation has the right to decide which immigrants are beneficial, that is, “peaceful,” to the common good. As a matter of self-defense, the State can reject those criminal elements, traitors, enemies and others who it deems harmful or “hostile” to its citizens.

The second thing he affirms is that the manner of dealing with immigration is determined by law in the cases of both beneficial and “hostile” immigration. The State has the right and duty to apply its law.

Saint Thomas:

“For the Jews were offered three opportunities of peaceful relations with foreigners. First, when foreigners passed through their land as travelers. Secondly, when they came to dwell in their land as newcomers.

And in both these respects the Law made kind provision in its precepts: for it is written (Exodus 22:21): ’Thou shalt not molest a stranger [advenam]’; and again (Exodus 22:9): ’Thou shalt not molest a stranger [peregrino].’”

Commentary:

Here Saint Thomas acknowledges the fact that others will want to come to visit or even stay in the land for some time. Such foreigners deserved to be treated with charity, respect and courtesy, which is due to any human of good will. In these cases, the law can and should protect foreigners from being badly treated or molested.

Saint Thomas:

“Thirdly, when any foreigners wished to be admitted entirely to their fellowship and mode of worship. With regard to these a certain order was observed. For they were not at once admitted to citizenship: just as it was law with some nations that no one was deemed a citizen except after two or three generations, as the Philosopher says (Polit. iii, 1).”

Commentary:

Saint Thomas recognizes that there will be those who will want to stay and become citizens of the lands they visit. However, he sets as the first condition for acceptance a desire to integrate fully into what would today be considered the culture and life of the nation.

A second condition is that the granting of citizenship would not be immediate. The integration process takes time. People need to adapt themselves to the nation.

He quotes the philosopher Aristotle as saying this process was once deemed to take two or three generations.

Saint Thomas himself does not give a time frame for this integration, but he does admit that it can take a long time.

Saint Thomas:

“The reason for this was that if foreigners were allowed to meddle with the affairs of a nation as soon as they settled down in its midst, many dangers might occur, since the foreigners not yet having the common good firmly at heart might attempt something hurtful to the people.”

Commentary:

The common sense of Saint Thomas is certainly not politically correct but it is logical. The theologian notes that living in a nation is a complex thing. It takes time to know the issues affecting the nation.

Those familiar with the long history of their nation are in the best position to make the long-term decisions about its future.

It is harmful and unjust to put the future of a place in the hands of those recently arrived, who, although through no fault of their own, have little idea of what is happening or has happened in the nation. Such a policy could lead to the destruction of the nation.

As an illustration of this point, Saint Thomas later notes that the Jewish people did not treat all nations equally since those nations closer to them were more quickly integrated into the population than those who were not as close.

Some hostile peoples were not to be admitted at all into full fellowship due to their enmity toward the Jewish people.

Saint Thomas:

“Nevertheless it was possible by dispensation for a man to be admitted to citizenship on account of some act of virtue: thus it is related (Judith 14:6) that Achior, the captain of the children of Ammon, ‘was joined to the people of Israel, with all the succession of his kindred.’”

Commentary:

That is to say, the rules were not rigid. There were exceptions that were granted based on the circumstances. However, such exceptions were not arbitrary but always had in mind the common good.

The example of Achior describes the citizenship bestowed upon the captain and his children for the good services rendered to the nation.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * *

These are some of the thoughts of Saint Thomas Aquinas on the matter of immigration based on biblical principles. It is clear that immigration must have two things in mind: the first is the nation’s unity; and the second is the common good.

Immigration should have as its goal integration, not disintegration or segregation. The immigrant should not only desire to assume the benefits but the responsibilities of joining into the full fellowship of the nation.

By becoming a citizen, a person becomes part of a broad family over the long term and not a shareholder in a joint stock company seeking only short-term self-interest. Secondly, Saint Thomas teaches that immigration must have in mind the common good; it cannot destroy or overwhelm a nation.

This explains why so many Americans experience uneasiness caused by massive and disproportional immigration. Such policy artificially introduces a situation that destroys common points of unity and overwhelms the ability of a society to absorb new elements organically into a unified culture. The common good is no longer considered.

A proportional immigration has always been a healthy development in a society since it injects new life and qualities into a social body. But when it loses that proportion and undermines the purpose of the State, it threatens the well-being of the nation.

When this happens, the nation would do well to follow the advice of Saint Thomas Aquinas and biblical principles. The nation must practice justice and charity towards all, including foreigners, but it must above all safeguard the common good and its unity, without which no country can long endure.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

CONSCIENCE

Conscience, hope and the double bind

Michael Whelan SM

One of the most wonderful gifts one human being can give another is the sense of realistic possibility. The presence of faith, hope and love tends to do this for us – especially when we are young and vulnerable.

When others – typically parents – communicate faith in us, hope for us and love no matter what, it can awaken a realistic sense of our own dignity and worth and allow us to engage the world with some confidence and honesty.

It tends to engender in us a life-giving sense of possibility, preparing us for adulthood ...

where we are confidently responsible and accountable for what we do and say.

One of the most destructive things we can do to another person is to rob them of a sense of realistic possibility.

When faith, hope and love are more or less inadequate to the child’s real needs or are replaced by over-control, cynicism, lack of care or even violence, it is highly likely that the child will grow up with a more or less poor sense of self and what is truly possible for them.

In this way, a person’s ability to be open to the future with a good measure of joy and grace, freedom and hope, will also be more or less diminished.

William Lynch SJ reminds us of the critical connection between a sense of the possible and hope – and by implication, the connection between a sense of the impossible and despair:

“... hope is, in its most general terms, a sense of the possible, that what we really need is possible, though difficult, while hopelessness means to be ruled by a sense of the impossible. Hope therefore involves three basic ideas that could not be simpler: what I hope for I do not yet have or see; it may be difficult; but I can have it – it is possible. Without this way of feeling about ourselves and things, we do nothing. We do not act or function. There is no energy.” (William Lynch, Images of Hope, University of Notre Dame Press, 1974, 32.)

Lynch goes on:

“One of the best safeguards of our hopes ... is to be able to mark off the areas of hopelessness and to acknowledge them, to face them directly, not with despair but with the creative intent of keeping them from polluting all the areas of possibility. There are thousands of things that we cannot do, thousands of things that some can do and others cannot.

To keep the two, the possible and the impossible, in place is to stay free of intolerable burdens. Thus with hope and hopelessness. We must have both. We all have areas of hopelessness, areas where we know that we are helpless or incompetent. We all know that there are situations we cannot handle, things we cannot do, tasks which for us would be hopeless.

But it contributes enormously to our well-being to keep all of these areas and problems sorted out from the things we can do, or can at least do with help. Thus, I repeat, the hopelessness does not get into the hope, nor do the areas of adequacy get into the areas of inadequacy. I know what I can do.

It is good to come to rest in the possible, letting the other people be, leaving them to the secret of their own possibilities. I stay within the human and leave the rest to fools and angels.” (Lynch, op cit, 62)

A particular obstacle to a healthy sense of the possible – and therefore hope – can come through the double bind. (See Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind (Ballantine Books, 1972/1985)). In a double bind a person is faced with:

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Monday, January 9, 2017

THE STEPPING STONES

Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo – (A prophet of our time)

Life's Actions, Living our Faith

On November 19, 1970, Fr. Ruotolo died at the age of 88. Padre Pio said of him, that the “whole of paradise is in your soul”. His life, his words all reflected very high devotion to God and serving Him to the nth degree of his ability.

In his profound humility, he was able to hear the words of God. One of the treasures that He learned from the words that Jesus spoke to him was this teaching about total abandonment to God. Each day of this novena, we hear of what surrender to God’s will requires. In this novena (nine days), Jesus is talking to Fr. Dolindo and also to you and me.

The nine days of the novena will be presented over the next three days on TheSteppingStones. Start the novena, and each day, of the nine days, reflect on that particular day’s words. Think and meditate on what that day’s reflection means to you.

Pray the conclusion prayer throughout that day. Realize and understand what the words of the conclusion prayer signify for your life.

Day 1:

Why do you confuse yourselves by worrying? Leave the care of your affairs to me and everything will be peaceful. I say to you in truth that every act of true, blind complete surrender to me produces the effect that you desire and resolves all difficult situations.

Oh Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything! (10 times)

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Day 2:

Surrender to me does not mean to fret, to be upset, or to lose hope, nor does it mean offering to me a worried prayer asking me to follow you and change your worry into prayer. It is against this surrender, deeply against it, to worry, to be nervous and to desire to think about the consequences of anything.

It is like the confusion that children feel when they ask their mother to see to their needs, and then try to take care of those needs for themselves so that their childlike efforts get in their mother’s way.

Surrender means to placidly close the eyes of your soul, to turn away from thoughts of tribulation and to put yourself in my care, so that only I act. Saying “You take care of it.”

Oh Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything! (10 times)

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Day 3:

How many things I do when the soul, in so much spiritual and material need turns to me, looks at me and says to me; “You take care of it,” then close its eyes and rests. In pain you pray for me to act, but that I act in the way you want. You do not turn to me, instead, you want me to adapt to your ideas.

You are not sick people who ask the doctor to cure you, but rather sick people who tell the doctor how to. So do not act this way, but pray as I taught you in the Our Father: “Hallowed be thy Name”, that is, be glorified in my need. “Thy kingdom come”, that is, let all that is in us and in the world be in accord with your kingdom.

“Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”, that is, in our need, decide as you see fit for our temporal and eternal life. If you say to me truly: “Thy will be done”. Which is the same as saying: “You take care of it”. I will intervene with all my omnipotence, and I will resolve the most difficult situations.

Oh Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything! (10 times)

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Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo – Novena days 4, 5, 6

Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo – Novena days 7, 8, 9

Stop Tripping Over Yourself

Saturday, December 31, 2016

IN GOD'S OWN TIME

Kathy Bernard - Publisher

Isaiah 40:31, "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

We live in a world where the word "wait" generates great exasperation, annoyance and frustration. With the fast paced world of skills, knowledge, scientific breakthroughs, as well as the abundance of 'things' we enjoy today, we expect that whatever it is that we need, we must have and should have it right now.

But if we really think about it, life is a life of waiting; waiting in line at the market, at the airport, in the doctor's office, waiting for the mail to be delivered, waiting for someone to love, for a check to come, or waiting for a job....a thousand different ways of waiting. Like impatient children, we expect the wait period should be minimal. And so, when we pray, we fervently hope that our answers will come quickly and without delay.

Webster's Dictionary defines waiting as "staying or remaining in a state of repose until something expected happens, or to be in readiness." The bible is full of passages telling us we must wait on the Lord. So when we pray, we are in a state of expectation. But some of us place a time limit for the answers to our prayers when we face a problem that we cannot solve ourselves.

And when our answers don't come swiftly, we sometimes become discouraged and even rethink our faith. Our mind tells us, "If I believe in Him and trust, shouldn't I depend on Him to carry me through my sadness, my pain, my needs, or whatever it is I am facing?" Thrown into the mix of our needs is our adversity, Satan, who stealthily whispers to us that we wait in vain. How do we silence these uncertainties?

The first thing to keep foremost in our minds is that our human timing is not in sync with God's divine timing. This does not mean God is not listening or that He does not care. He has a plan and an answer for each person and He will fulfill it according to His own timetable, if it is His will and is best for us. We cannot know what plans He has for us. We do not have His wisdom.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 tells us, "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Vasily Drosdov Philaret (1780 - 1867) a Russian prelate, author, and preacher, has this to say on this subject, " I do not know what to ask You. You alone know my real needs, and You love me more than I even know how to love. Enable me to discern my true needs which are hidden from me. I ask for neither cross nor consolation; I wait in patience for You. My heart is open to You.

For Your great mercy's sake, come to me and help me. Put your mark on me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. Silently I adore Your holy will and Your inscrutable ways. I offer myself in sacrifice to You and put all my trust in You. I desire only to do Your will.

Teach me how to pray and pray in me, Yourself." (Vasily Drosdov Philaret became archbishop of Tver and a member of the holy synod in 1819 and metropolitan of Moscow in 1826. He long urged the abolition of serfdom and is generally considered the author of the Edict of Emancipation promulgated by Alexander 11 in 1861. Philaret also wrote a standard catechism of the Russian Orthodox Church.)

Waiting means patience and a recognition of God's power and with this comes confidence and hope. We anticipate God's answer to us, even though we do not know how or what that good will be. We think something positive is about to happen. Like a child waiting for a parent to unwrap a gift for them, we wait earnestly for the Lord to come through with an answer for our concerns. But, sometimes He says "No" to us, and we think He has not heard our plea for help. Later down the road we see and thank God for saying "No" for it is then we understand with clarity that the thing we begged for was wrong and even detrimental to us.
Paul J. Bucknell in his article "Waiting on God Not Man", has this to say about being patient and letting God handle our trials: "Waiting for the Lord is not easy. Our heart is often crying out in agony. We feel oppressed and constrained. We yearn for freedom and provision. Waiting upon the Lord for needed supplies is one common area in which He trains us.

We have to be needy so that we are forced to look to the Lord for help. Our other resources are stripped away. Someone yesterday said to me, 'But I don't like what the Lord is bringing me through.' How true this is. We squirm, squiggle and squeak."

Continuing further, he tells, .... "We need to wait on God for a spouse, for a job, for healing, for wisdom, for ministry, etc. We might say that it is Satan tempting us, and in some cases he is, but at the same time it is God who is testing (proving) us. He is bringing us a step closer to Himself."

Here is a story that illustrates this point: "The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He began to pray loudly for rescue. Day after day, he searched for food under the boiling sun. He kept crying out "I am waiting patiently, Lord, for an answer from You. I am faithful and I know You love me. It has been a long, long time. How long must I wait?"

Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. But he kept praying. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. All day and before going to sleep in his little hut, he murmured feverishly for God to rescue him, but it seemed God was not going to help.

"I guess I am on my own", he thought. His hope began to fade with each passing day. His faith grew weak and he felt the One he counted on had let him down. Then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky.

The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stunned with grief and anger. "God, how could you do this to me! Why?" he cried, falling to the ground in intense grief, the few things he had gathered for a sparse meal scattering away from him. He fell onto the rocky ground and fell asleep with tears rolling down his tattered shirt.

Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island. At first he thought he was surely dreaming. "This can't be true", he told himself as his heart gave a great leap of hope. But this was real, someone was coming! Someone was coming to rescue him at last! "Over here", he shouted, waving his hands in happiness. "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers. "We saw your smoke signal," they replied.

Waiting takes discipline. Waiting means hope, a period of anticipation that God in His divine mercy will come through for us in ways we cannot see, so remain fast and keep praying for His mercy and guidance. Don't let your faith weaken as time goes by.

Be patient and keep your courage as there may be no swift answers. This is what God requires of us. As earthly beings, we don't have all the answers and God does not promise this life will be perfect. There will be snags that come which will try to destroy the soul, problems that make us stagger in indecision.

Christians who are weak in faith may lose hope as we see our lack of money to pay our bills, perhaps our children are in trouble, family members in ill health, and all the uncertainties that life throws our way. What we know is that our Lord asks us to wait on Him in trust, and if it is right for us, He will fulfill our needs. Rely on Him to give you courage, strength, and fortitude to overcome whatever it is that troubles your soul.

C.S.Lewis wrote, “To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way.”

Does this mean we pray God will fulfill our needs while we sit on our hands in despair? Absolutely not. We ask the Lord for His wisdom, we ask God to make known, through the Holy Spirit, the paths we must take to overturn our pitfalls. Psalms 25:5 says, "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day."

With His guidance and enlightenment we must keep moving forward for "The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him." - Lamentations 3:25. During this time we learn to be strong, letting God come through with a lesson that will strengthen us.

Praying to God about our burdens does not guarantee we will see the outcome we asked for, but our waiting will pull us closer to Him. Whatever He does bless us with will be greater than we asked for.

If God says no, we must defer to His infinite judgment, realizing that He knows what is best for us. He asks that we trust in His mercy and His love through our needs and our fears, being confident that He will make a way for us through His immeasurable wisdom in His own time.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. - Psalms 27:14