Hey, Father! Why do Catholics have the crucified Christ in their homes and churches and even sometimes wear it around their necks?

Sunday, 12 May 2019 09:57

First time in the front pew

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I am a cradle Catholic. Like many Catholics, I prefer to sit comfortably toward the middle or back of church.

Tuesday of Holy Week, I attended the chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. In my new role with the curia at the diocese, I was tasked with taking a few photos. Unfamiliar with the best way to do this, while being discreet, I decided to sit in the front pew — the dreaded front pew. As I settled in, it suddenly hit me that people may watch the front pew to know when to sit and stand.

God speaks through our thoughts and feelings. It is of fundamental importance to know our thoughts and arguments and to understand where they come from in order to discern which to follow. The interaction between thought and feeling is important because it permits us to verify adherence to God or to the realities that take us away from God. Feelings can betray the effective adherence to God. I can have a good thought of Gospel content but associate it with a negative feeling. The question becomes: What is it that resists this thought that is good in itself?


As we survey the highlights and “lowlights” of human history, there is a category of achievements (or achievements’ opposite) which have been classified as “dubious distinctions.”

Especially now that baseball season has started, we may recall the obituary of Randy Jackson, who died on March 20 at age 93. His New York Times obituary noted that he hit the last home run for the Brooklyn Dodgers (Sept. 28, 1957, at Philadelphia) before the team found itself playing home games in Los Angeles. The Times called this a “melancholy achievement.”

Some final considerations: Any predominant fault will be opposed to either an active or passive pursuit of God’s will. We will either fail to actively do what God wants by disobeying, sinning against the virtue of charity or seeking our will over his own; or we will fail to passively desire what God does by rebelling against his will for us with complaining and growing impatient because things seem out of our control.

I am confused about holy days of obligation. What or who decided that if the holy day falls on Saturday or Monday, we are not required to go to Mass unless for certain feast days? From childhood, it did not matter what day the holy day fell on, it was still a holy day of obligation. In addition, how come some dioceses and the requirements to attend Mass on these days sometimes differ?I am confused about holy days of obligation. What or who decided that if the holy day falls on Saturday or Monday, we are not required to go to Mass unless for certain feast days? From childhood, it did not matter what day the holy day fell on, it was still a holy day of obligation. In addition, how come some dioceses and the requirements to attend Mass on these days sometimes differ?— Dorothy in Springfield

Hey, Father! Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest? Why can’t I just go directly to God?
— Maddison in Springfield

The examination of conscience is indispensable for gaining self-knowledge. Frequent confession and spiritual direction are also wonderful aids in finding our predominant faults.

We must seek to divide and conquer. Trying to root out all of our faults at once will only unsettle us and we will lose heart. It is not possible to do this anyway. Aim at only one objective at a time.

Hey, Father! Why can we not eat meat on Friday during Lent? Where in the Bible does it say that? Also, isn’t fish meat? That seems to contradict meatless Fridays.


I was shocked when, on visiting Ireland at Easter 1981, I discovered that St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is Anglican (“Church of Ireland”), not Roman Catholic!

I did, however, find some consolation at this cathedral.

I had written my first high school term paper on a portion of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (born at Dublin, 1667; died at Dublin, 1745). When I wrote the term paper, I consulted a number of commentaries on the book; what I did not do was read a biography of Swift. I kept wondering why the commentaries referred to him as “Dean Swift.”

Sunday, 03 March 2019 00:55

Penance and Purification

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Lust, gluttony, avarice and sloth of the seven deadly sins

In the previous issue we examined the deadly sins of pride, anger and envy. We continue that examination of the seven deadly sins with those of lust, gluttony, avarice and sloth. The purpose is to enable an honest evaluation of our weaknesses and begin to take steps toward a positive change in our lives and to embrace our Lord’s mercy and forgiveness.

Hey, Father! Why does the church teach purgatory exists? Where is purgatory in the Bible? I thought Jesus’ sacrifice of himself was enough?
— Dale in Mattoon

Sunday, 03 February 2019 08:47

It is not about us, but him

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For several decades now, well-meaning catechists, priests and deacons have told candidates for the sacrament of confirmation something along the lines of this: “Confirmation is when you decide to accept the Catholic faith for yourself.” If this were true, it would mean that my own reception of the sacrament of confirmation means nothing because I was confirmed the same day I was born; at such a young age, I could not possibly make such a momentous decision. The sacrament of confirmation, then, cannot be about an individual’s choice. Indeed, such an understanding was never present in any official document or prayer of the church.

Sunday, 03 February 2019 08:46

What Covington can teach us

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Students from Covington Catholic School in Kentucky went to the March for Life, advocating for the most defenseless among us — the unborn. When they left Washington, it was those students who felt defenseless after a barrage of inaccurate reporting in the mainstream media and attacks on social media hit them like a ton of bricks.

A viral video showed one of the students, Nicholas Sandmann, and Nathan Phillips, an activist for indigenous people’s causes, confronting each other. The video showed Phillips beating a drum while Sandmann stood there with his group. At one moment, Sandmann smiled. Someone took that picture. And in that moment, everything changed.

Before moving forward in A Disciple’s Journey to Holiness, let’s review the four R’s of mental prayer: read, reflect, relate and resolution. We end our meditation by choosing a practical concrete resolution to keep in mind and live throughout the day. Resolve to apply the grace from this meditation to transform you. You can, also, take a phrase or word that struck you—and repeat it throughout the day. This will keep your mind on the meditation and help to focus your thoughts and heart on God and following the example of Jesus.

Sunday, 20 January 2019 16:25

Sharing in the Life of Christ

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Many centuries ago, Pope St. Leo the Great wisely said that “what was visible in our Savior has passed over into his mysteries” (Sermon 74.2). He spoke these words concerning the ascension of Christ and in this way referred to the relationship between the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus and the Sacraments of his Body, the Catholic Church.

Sunday, 20 January 2019 16:24

Called to resolve this new year

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It is January, the season of resolutions. As most people did, I took some time to think about my resolutions and how I wanted to start 2019. After looking at my list, it occurred to me that my resolutions this year, and honestly most years, had a lot to do with me. That may seem obvious; they are in fact my resolutions. However, I started to wonder how many people resolve to help the poor, the marginalized, the hungry or the homeless. If you are reading this and you are someone who did that, I applaud you. If you are like me and your resolution was to drop 20 pounds and helping the poor did not hit your resolution list, here is my challenge to both you and me.

Sunday, 20 January 2019 16:22

Studying the Bible with eyes of faith

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You may remember my mentioning, in 2016, a professor of New Testament named Amy-Jill Levine. I have been thinking about her Jewish perspective on how Christians respond to their own Scriptures, and I remember especially her question to Christian pastors: “Do you know the Bible, or just the lectionary?”

First of all, you and I as Catholic Christians can take great pride in the 50 years that we have had our Sunday lectionary, which allows us to proclaim the Scriptures on a three-year cycle, and the weekday lectionary, which has a two-year cycle for Ordinary Time and a one-year cycle for the other seasons. Our lectionary is the basis for Sunday lectionaries which have been adopted by numerous Christian denominations.

Because our physical life is a good, as stated in a previous article, another aspect of our plan of life should be exercise. Thirty minutes of brisk exercise at least three times a week is a feasible goal. We must also combine this with a healthy diet and proper sleep. God gave us the night to rest and the light to work. Staying up late and sleeping in late are often signs of imbalance and disorder in our life.


Sunday, 23 December 2018 15:04

Called to be the light

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“I am a mother of twins. With winter coming early I do not have the money to cover heat and I will not qualify for assistance for another month. Can Catholic Charities help me?”

In cold and darkness, you were the light.

“My husband lost his job, I work part-time and we have two kids plus my dad living with us. We need food to help stretch our paycheck and pay the bills. Can Catholic Charities help us?”

In hunger and darkness, you were the light.

Sunday, 23 December 2018 15:02

The theology of Christmas

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On the Feast of the Incarnation we celebrate Almighty God’s decision to become man by assuming the body of a human being. The Heavenly Father announced to Mary that she was chosen to be the mother of God’s only begotten son. Mary had been immaculately conceived in her mother’s womb, and was made ready from her conception for this supreme moment in the history of the world.

Sunday, 23 December 2018 14:59

The plan of life Establishing a plan – Part 2

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The next element to establish a “plan of life” is to practice daily meditation and spiritual reading. As mentioned in earlier issues, it is in our daily meditation that our hearts and minds become like Christ’s because we spend time with him. (cf. Mt 6:6) In fact, meditation is nothing other than a discovery of God’s indwelling in our souls. He is already in us, we need only remove the obstacles in our wills and intellects to let him flood us with his sanctity. (cf Jn 14:12)

With ever greater frequency, it seems, I hear people talking about the items on their “bucket lists.”

This term refers to the things one feels called upon to do before “kicking the bucket.”

Sunday, 09 December 2018 10:09

The plan of life Establishing a plan – Part 1

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This first element involved in establishing a plan of life is to realize one very important fact: Holiness is for you and everyone else. It is possible? Yes, sanctity is not just for the priest, nun or monk living in some cloister somewhere. It is for you as well, and you must take advantage of the means available to achieve this marvelous destiny.


Sunday, 11 November 2018 16:33

Instruments of God’s peace, shalom

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Over the last weekend, I heard from a parishioner who had just attended a Sabbath service at a St. Louis-area synagogue. This first Sabbath of November was also the first Sabbath since the killing of 11 worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27. There was, in fact, an emphasis on interfaith Sabbath participation in many synagogues. My parishioner had never previously been present for a Jewish worship service, and she found it uplifting, for a couple of reasons: an awareness that our Christianity sprang from Judaism, and the encouragement coming from people of many religions at a time of grief.

Sunday, 11 November 2018 16:29

Called to feed the hungry

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When grocery shopping, I doubt a can of green beans really calls out to you as a delicious must-have item. If you are like me, most of the calls I hear in the grocery store come from the ice cream aisle.

At Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, a can of green beans is not just another food choice, it is the answer to a much bigger call: to feed the hungry. On Oct. 5, Decatur wrapped up its WSOY Food Drive and Springfield Catholic schools wrapped up their Incredible Food Drive Competition. The results were tremendous.

The first order of business is to review what has been said regarding faulty notions of holiness. To do this, we will discuss the following:

The basic personal goods we all desire. The basic relational goods we all desire. The basic spiritual goods we all desire.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 14:43

Praying the psalms

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One of the things I am most grateful for in my life of prayer has been the praying of the psalms during the Liturgy of the Hours. Before I began to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I had never had close contact with the psalms. There were a couple that I had read or heard that I loved, but outside of that, there were at least 145 psalms to which I had never truly paid attention. However, after three years of praying the Liturgy of the Hours, though I am still a child in the practice, I have found much more depth in them than I ever thought I would.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 14:38

The plan of life — Establishing holiness

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Past articles of A disciple’s journey to holiness have offered systematic information of some of the truths of our faith to guide us to a personal knowledge and relationship with our Lord. Knowledge of the Lord is good. Yet, this good is also designed to achieve something even more magnificent — holiness. So, it may be helpful to discuss a very practical way to synthesize what we have said thus far and put it to good use. To do this, let us discuss and understand what spiritual writers mean by the term “plan of life.”

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