Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I invite you: Study the Catechism!

Dear Friends,
I have been asked to be in charge of the Confirmation Preparation for our High School
Students. I very much look forward to working with our youth as well as the parents to
help form them into their adult faith. I have been surprised to find that many people in
their Catholic faith never learned more than they did in grade school! Think about it. Is
it true for you? Have you continue to really learn substantially about your faith? Have
you taken any classes? Read any books with depth?
My favorite thing about priesthood is taking people deeper. This is
the most important thing in life… actually the only important thing
in life. So I encourage you to take every opportunity you can to
learn about your faith. It will only enrich your life, deepen your
prayer, join you more fully to the community, and help you to
become the person that you were always created to be.
This past world youth day our Holy Father, Pope Benedict,
encouraged the teens to really learn their faith. Here’s an excerpt
for the special catechism that was given to teens at World Youth
“So I invite you: Study this Catechism! That is my heartfelt desire. This
Catechism was not written to please you. It
will not make life easy for you, because it
demands of you a new life. It places before
you the Gospel message as the 'pearl of
great value' (Mt 13:46) for which you must
give everything. So I beg you: Study this
Catechism with passion and perseverance.”
“Yes, you need to be more deeply rooted in
the faith than the generation of your
parents so that you can engage the
challenges and temptations of this time
with strength and determination.”
If you do not have a catechism or have never read it, I highly
encourage you to get a copy. I think the best one by far is the
Catechism of the Catholic Church. They have also developed
companions to the Catechism which make it more accessible. There
, the
is a special one for adults United States Catholic Catechism for Adults
brand new one for teens YOUCAT and my personal favorite This Is Our Faith: A Catholic Catechism for
by Michael Pennock.
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I believe that every Catholic Household should have a bible as well
as a Catechism, because scripture and tradition are the two wings to
our faith. We need them both. We need to know them both, love
them both, and share them both with our children. And with both
the bible and the Catechism, they were never meant to be
interpreted alone, but in the community. That will be the focus of
the Confirmation Program and hopefully the focus of your family
life, that we may grow together sharing our love for Scripture and Tradition.

-Fr. Michael

Cathecism of the Catholic Church:


This is Our Faith

Saturday, August 27, 2011

East Africa Drought

In the last couple of weeks I’ve mentioned two huge events. First, in our diocese, was , which brought over thirty thousand people together for a day of celebrating our faith. The second was World Youth Day in Madrid Spain. It’s estimated that between one and two million people were in attendance. 

There’s an event going on right now that is even bigger than that. In East Africa a drought has caused over two-million children to be malnourished and in need of “Life-Saving Action.” Over 10 million people are affected by the drought and the number is climbing by thousands every day.

As you know, East Africa is in the grip of a horrible drought. We have all seen images of the hungry and malnourished arriving in refugee camps, many after walking for weeks or months, surviving not only the bleak landscape but also bandits and even wild animals. The perseverance of these people, of mothers sacrificing to save their children, is a tribute to the human spirit

The crisis in the Horn of Africa is intensifying, and extreme hunger is a harsh daily reality for more than 12 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti. A famine has been declared in parts of Somalia for the first time in decades. Kenya and Ethiopia are further burdened by an influx of refugees from Somalia, many making the harrowing journey across the border and into camps like the one in Dadaab, Kenya.

This drought in East Africa in a very vivid and stark way brings to life today’s responsorial psalm:

R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.

You can see in East Africa what “Parched, lifeless earth without water” looks like. News reports are warning that as Hurricane Irene hits our country people may be without water or electricity for a few days. The people in East Africa have gone for months without water. Not only are they thirsty, but their land is thirsty. The farms are destroyed, plants have completely dried out and their animals have withered and turned to dust and bones.

Maybe in your life you are experiencing some dryness. Maybe you too feel parched for thirst, lifeless without water… desiring for God in your life, but feeling nothing only more thirst. One of the ways to resist this dryness in prayer is to do some act of charity.

This weekend the Catholic Church is asking you to perform a specific act of Charity. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is asking that all Americans give in some way to Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

I have been blessed to be a member of CRS as one of their “Global Fellows.” I have witnessed the amazing work that they do in Africa.

How CRS is Helping?

For decades, CRS has actively worked in Kenya and Ethiopia through programs that address agricultural and water needs. Reports from the field indicate that CRS' efforts have helped ease the effects of drought in many communities.

In Ethiopia, CRS is leading a coalition of humanitarian groups that has more than doubled the size of its feeding program. It is now reaching more than 1 million people affected by the emergency.
In Kenya, Catholic Relief Services is working to get aid to many of the tens of thousands of famished Somalis who are pouring across the border. Through our many ongoing water, sanitation and agriculture projects, CRS is also responding to Kenyans’ needs during this crisis.
Working with partners, CRS has been able to get some aid into the stricken areas of Somalia and is assisting displaced families throughout the country with basic necessities.

How you can help:

Donate to the East Africa Emergency Fund online at https://secure.crs.org/site/Donation2?df_id=4240&4240.donation=form1&JServSessionIdr004=klk89jvvz1.app243b or call 877‐Help‐CRS (877‐435‐7277). Mail donations to: Catholic Relief Services, Attn: East Africa Emergency Fund, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21203‐7090.

Advocate: Please contact President Obama and your members of Congress and remind them not to cut programs that allow the US to respond in times of great human suffering. Click on this link and it will automatically send your message to your appropriate representatives depending on where you live. It’s pretty cool: https://secure.crs.org/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&page=UserAction&id=740


Gracious and Loving God,
As witnesses to the drought in East Africa, continue to provide your people with hearts of service, compassion and solidarity.
Console our sisters and brothers living with uncertainty and the scarcity of food.
Guide our leaders that they might work together to offer solutions to the needs of the people in East Africa.
May your grace remind us that you are the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.
Continue to gather us in your name so as your children we embrace our sisters and brothers as we respond to your call.
You call us your people. You taught us to be just and you gave us good ground for hope.
Lord, help us to respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters in the coming weeks.
Mold us in your will so that our brothers and sisters will see you reflected in our response.
We ask this through your son, Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
All: Amen.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Homily: The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven

And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

This week over one million people gathered from all over the world came together to listen to, pray with, and be inspired by the Pope.  What is it about this figure that would draw more people than any rock concert, any sporting event, or any flash mob combined?  He holds the keys. 
One of the first things that happened when I got to my new parish, St. Joseph in Amherst, was the pastor handing me a set of keys.  With these keys I have access to everything at the parish.  I can get into the school, into the offices, into the church, into the gym, into the social hall, into the rectory.  I have open access with these keys. To be honest it’s a great responsibility which requires a great deal of trust in me. 
I’ve also realized very quickly what happens when I forget them!  Let me tell you there’s nothing more embarrassing then having to ring the doorbell and wake up “the pastor” at 11pm because I forgot my keys.  Without my keys I can’t get in to anything.  I’m locked out of the church, the offices, the rectory, my truck. 
For you teens, think about the great responsibility it is when your parents first hand you the keys to the car.  They are entrusting you with not only a car, but your life and others. 
Have you ever lost your keys?  Have you ever locked them in your car?  Think of how lost we are without our keys.  So much more with the kingdom of heaven.  That is why Jesus gave to Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. 
So what draws over one million people to World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain?  They know the feeling of finding someone who has the keys.  They, like us, believe that the Holy Father, our Pope has been given this great privilege and responsibility of overseeing our church, binding what needs to be bound and loosing what needs to be loosed. 
And just as peter wasn’t perfect, (remember he denied Jesus three times, fell asleep in the garden, and didn’t make it more than a couple steps walking on water)… He was the only one to walk on water when Jesus commanded him, he was the first to enter the empty tomb, the first to preach, the first to work a miracle, the first to heal and cure, and the one to whom Jesus would entrust with His Church.  Peter was able to do the things that Jesus promised to those who believe.  So despite his weaknesses God’s grace worked so abundantly through this “Rock”. 
Some people criticize the Catholic Church.  One of the biggest criticisms tends to be Papal Authority.  “Why do we have to have a pope?  Why do we have to listen to the Pope?”  Some of our Protestant friends see this as such a negative aspect of our faith.  The truth is however, having a Pope is not a detriment, having a Pope is actually a great blessing. 
We have someone who holds the keys!  He is in fact given the ability to bind and loose.  It is a great and serious responsibility.  Imagine how much trust God must place in this man that he is willing to give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. 
Because it is so grave and serious, at every mass we always begin the Intercessions by praying for our Pope, our church and its leaders, and in Every Eucharistic Prayer the Pope is prayed for by name… “We pray for Benedict our Pope, for Richard our Bishop, and for all the Clergy.” 
We have access to the kingdom of heaven right here in our world because Jesus continues to trust our Pope with the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  And we have been blessed for over two thousand years to have someone to Shepherd our church.  Though not perfect, the Holy Spirit continues to work... the Rock; our church has remained and will remain because of the gift of the Papacy. 
So let us never be ashamed or embarrassed because of the hierarchy of the church, rather let us celebrate that we have in our Pope the keys to the kingdom of heaven. 

Picture: African Safari with my Nieces 2011