Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Immaculate Conception

Audio of Council 13112's December FGO. I have a whiteboard now, so I can draw while I talk.

 Ark of the Old Covenant

 Ark of the New Covenant

Contents of the New Ark

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Last night at our business meeting I had access to a whiteboard like I use in Catechism class, so I drew 6 mountains and added notes and drawings over them to make these points:

1. A mountain is naturally hierarchical: it's wide at the bottom, and comes to a point at the top where everyone wants to be. Cultures throughout history have gone to mountaintops to get closer to God. In fact if a culture isn't near a mountain, such as Babylonians or Mayans, they will build an artificial mountain.

2. At Mount Sinai the Israelites met with God hierarchically. The people around the base, the elders midway up, Aaron and Moses at the top with God in the Shekhinah cloud.

3. The plan of the Meeting Tent is hierarchical. The people may occupy the front court, the Levites the outer Holy Space, and the High Priest the Holy of Holies, where God descends from the Shekhinah cloud hovering above. (all true as well for Solomon's Temple)

4. The miracle of the Loaves and Fishes is hierarchical. Many people are hungry; the apostles mediate between the people and Jesus; Jesus works the miracle, but does not directly engage the people.

5. The Church is hierarchical. Christ is the invisible head, the pope is his prime minister, the bishops, priests and deacons minister more directly to the people.

6. The Mass is hierarchical. The people occupy the main part of the church, but may not go past the altar; the priests and deacons occupy the sanctuary proper, Jesus, the High Priest offers the sacrifice directly to the Father in the heavenly Holy of Holies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bible Threads

October 14, 2014 audio of a few examples of how concepts stream through the Bible in ways that culminate in Stuff About Jesus. Partly based on this post from Catechism class.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


September 9, 2014 Council 13112 business meeting: an 8-minute look at the role of Arks in salvation history. Audio based on this post at my blog.

Monday, July 21, 2014

On the Liturgy of the Word

   July 2014 talk by Bro. Dan Grossano,  Lector at Council 4524, St. Joseph's Parish, East Rutherford, NJ, Archdiocese of Newark. Click to access handout.
                Before addressing tonight’s topic, I hope you brothers were able to follow through on the challenges from the last time of reviewing the handout I gave previously on the introductory rites of the Mass and tried to utilize its insights as you attend Holy Mass.  Brothers I do not give these talks to entertain myself, but rather to help enliven, educate and challenge you all.  Tonight we will be addressing the Liturgy of the Word.  First, we need to remember that Holy Scripture these are God’s own Words; the Scripture is literally God-breathed, theopneustos (pronounced thee-o-new-stos) in the Greek meaning that they are inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The Scriptures are similar to Christ in that He was both fully human and divine so with the Scripture, which was inspired by God, the divine element, but He also used the sacred authors’ own volition and gifts to proclaim this Word, the human element (Sri 2011, p. 53).  Know that there is a power to God’s Word even regardless of our complete grasp of it (Origen as cited in Crean 2008, p. 59).  Thus there is more power on a metaphysical level to God’s Word, even the most seemingly dull passages, when compared to the most rousing poetry.  This is because when God’s Word allows us to commune with the divine (Hahn 1999, p. 99).  Similar to the Jews when we read Scripture we remember God’s past wondrous deeds as signs that point to our hope in the blessings that He wants to give us in the future (Hahn 2005, p. 90).  For example, we recall the Exodus of the Jewish people from slavery from Egypt knowing that it points to our freedom from slavery from sin that our Lord desires to give us on our way to the true Promised Land which is Heaven.  In the liturgy one is drawn not as an outsider, but mysteriously is a participant in the history of salvation that we read about in the Liturgy of the Word (Hahn 2005, p. 93).  The liturgy makes present the events of the liturgy in the here and now even though they occurred long ago in history (St. Augustine as cited in Hahn 2005, p. 96).  Again, so it is not just God drawing Israel out of Egypt, but it is God drawing me away from my idols of lust, pride, laziness, etc. 
                 Now to get more practical, the readings on Sundays come from a three year lectionary indicated by years A, B and C.  The weekday liturgy follows a two year cycle (Sri 2011, p. 55).  There is some evidence that this practice even went back to the Jews (Sri 2011, p. 54 & 55).  What is great about the lectionary is that it covers most of the Bible and not contingent on the particular passages that a priest might like to preach on (Sri 2011, p. 55).  Also the Church give us different liturgical seasons so that we can reflect on different aspects of Christ and the Catholic faith.  Being that we are human we can not comprehend all of these mysteries all at once (Sri 2011 p. 56).  Think about appreciating family members every day though we still celebrate certain anniversaries and birthdays to particularly celebrate what they mean to us (Sri 2011 p. 57).  As we go through the liturgical cycle we hopefully grow deeper and deeper into these mysteries and come to appreciate them more (Sri 2011 p. 57).    The first reading at Mass is usually taken from the Old Testament, then a selection is read from the Psalms, the second reading is from one of the New Testament epistles, the book of Revelation or the Acts of Apostles and the Gospel is the climax as all of salvation history which pointed to Christ (Sri 2011, p. 55 & 64).                                                                                     

We treat listening to the Word of God as something everyday and commonplace, but know that the Israelites prepared for three days until they were ready to listen to God declare the words of the covenant . . .wow what reverence and awe (Sri 2011, p. 53&54)!  That is why in the New Covenant in Christ we have to prepare for His word through the introductory rites of the sign of the cross, the penitential rite and the Gloria.  Through this we show how are unfit to be in the Lord’s presence, ask for His mercy and sing his praises (Sri 2011, p. 54).  We sit to listen to God’s Word because sitting in the ancient world was the posture for learning and listening to a teacher.  In the early Church sitting was seen as that position of a student or mentee (Barron 2011, p. 178).  The Word of God invites us into a world in which we are challenged to talk, behave and think differently, but we have to be open to it (Barron 2011, p. 179).  Through being open to this Word we are also agreeing to hold fast to it.  Hearing the law in the Old Testament was to put it into practice because if one was disobedient one would be punished.  The covenants that God made with the Israelites carried with them blessings and punishments or curses (Hahn 1999, p. 49).

The reader stating “The Word of the Lord” should help move us to amazement that God is actually speaking to us and we respond by saying “Thanks be to God” (Driscoll 2005 p. 40-41 as cited in Sri 2011, p. 59).  Then there should be some time of silence for us to ponder this word for our lives as well as to stand in awe that the Lord has just spoken to us (Sri 2011 p. 60).  The Responsorial Psalm comes from the book of Psalms in the Old Testament which is comprised of 150 psalms that were used privately as well as in public worship in the Temple liturgy (Sri 2011 p. 61).  We can see the use of a call and response style use of the psalms going back to the third century and that probably was similar to how the Israelites also used them in worship (Sri 2011 p. 63).  The Second Reading is usually from one of the New Testament epistles, the book of Revelation and the Acts of Apostles (Sri 2011 p. 64).                  

In the Gospel we stand to welcome Jesus who will speak to us (Sri 2011, p. 65).  When the Gospel is proclaimed we stand to indicate that we are prepared to receive His Word and carry it out.  One way to help us prepare our hearts would be to say to ourselves “‘Jesus Christ was made obedient unto death, even the death on the cross’” (St. Francis deSales as cited in Crean 2008, p. 68).  We say Alleluia which means “Praise Yahweh” or “Praise the Lord” and is used to praise God for His work of salvation through Christ especially the coming of Christ depicted in the wedding supper of the Lamb in the book of Revelation (Revelation 19:1-9 as cited in Sri 2011 p. 65-66).  We make the sign of the cross on our mind, lips and heart so that we might be open to the Word that is proclaimed in the Gospel as well as sharing it with others (Kocik 2007, p. 51).  We also say “Glory to you, O Lord” because this is the climax of the Liturgy of the Word when Christ becomes present similar to the climax of the Liturgy of the Eucharist (Hahn 1999, p. 121).  In the Words of the Gospel, Christ is speaking to us individually so He does not merely say long ago “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17) rather He is speaking to you, Eugene . . . Joe . . .Pat individually today (Sri 2011 p. 67).  We should hear the words of the Gospel as spoken to us personally by Jesus and we should ask Him for the help to put these words into practice (St. Alphonsus as cited in Crean 2008, p. 70).  The homily should help us comprehend the readings and make it applicable to our lives.  In Greek the word homily means “explanation.”  Also having an ordained minister, one having valid apostolic succession, read the Gospels points to the fact that all of Scripture needs to be interpreted in the light of the faith of the apostles, which has been preserved through the Church.  This is also the reason why only an ordained minister can preach a homily even though a lay person may have great gifts of preaching.  Having an ordained minister should in a sense guarantee that what he is preaching on is in line with the apostolic faith faithfully preserved through the Church and not just his own opinions or experiences (Sri 2011 p. 68).  In closing, I want to issue you three challenges which I have indicated on the handout.  The first is to start reading the Bible more frequently, at least twice a week.  Start just reading the Gospel of Mark as it is a simple Gospel.  Reading the Gospel will help you to become more familiar with the Scripture as it is proclaimed at Holy Mass.  The second is to ask the Holy Spirit before Mass to open your heart to God’s Word as it is spoken to you today, amidst your joys, sorrows, struggles and hopes and that you would put its truth into action.  The third is to review the handout that I have left for you and try to remember its insights as you actively participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Remember brothers we are called to continue to enter more deeply and with greater appreciation into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass not just as passive participants.  Vivat Jesus

Works Cited

Crean, T. (2008). The Mass and the Saints. San Francisco: Ignatius.
Driscoll, J.  (2005). What Happens at Mass. Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications.   
Hahn, S. (1999). The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth. NY: Doubleday.
Hahn, S. (2005). Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word in the Liturgy.  New York, NY: Doubleday. 
Kocik, T. (2007). Loving and Living the Mass.  Bethesda, MD: Zaccheus Press.
Sri, T. (2011). A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in     the Liturgy. West Chester, PA: Ascension Press.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sin and Worldview

My recording was bad this month so here's the basic text of Council 13112's FGO for May 2014.

"Last Thursday night I attended the first of two lectures at my parish on the topic of worldview. It started like this:

The ultimate reality is God, who is all good. Therefore the worldview most attuned to reality is most likely to lead to holiness. I like that. Anyway, amid discussion, someone asked about Beauty- is it objective or subjective? Now, when I was about 14 years old I began to notice that occasional smells, handwriting, tunes, color combinations, foreign word sounds, images, or voices had a druglike effect on me which was both very personal but also very transcendent. It had been true since I was a little kid. I still recall being mesmerized by the colors on a toy seaplane; and even until today, I can de-stress if I look at something purple (usually a necktie) and repeat the word "purple" a few times...mmm...purple. Go figure. Anyway, at 14 I began to wonder about the beauty within these bewitching bits of Creation: was it just my reaction to them, or were they beautiful on their own? That is, was Beauty objective or subjective? Did beauty exist, the way a rock exists? Or was it but a therapeutic figment of my imagination? If no-one sees beauty, is it still beautiful?

This was also when I was having to make my own mind up about God & All That without much success.

It took me about 20 years to realize that Beauty did indeed exist independently of my perception of it. And that once I got that settled, all the Godstuff fell into place in a way that tied into the worldview discussion. Put simply, God is Good/ Everything he made is Good/ Beauty is a manifestation of that intrinsic Goodness. As a wooden spoon reveals the beauty of the wood from which it's made, so does all Creation manifest the Beauty of God's Goodness. Easy, right? That took me 20 years. Thank ya Jesus for letting me live long enough to suss it out.

But further discussion led to how people often disagree about what's beautiful. Yes, that's so, people don't agree on all sorts of stuff. When I bump into problems like this, first I think about Eden- you know, before sin. Did Adam and Eve disagree? I doubt it. Their worldview was as aligned with reality as a human being's worldview can possibly be. What's to disagree about? They lived a holy life 24/7, hanging out with God in the shade of the Garden. Did they have God's worldview? Well, no. But their small, human worldview was in perfect harmony with God's...ya can't ask for more than that.

Then Sin entered the World, and messed up not just us, but Creation: hurricanes, carnivores, plagues, you name it. Not only does Sin cloud our view of beauty and everything else, but also degrades Creation itself. There's less Beauty to see, and it's harder to see it. Our whole existence is a grinding struggle against the continual physical and metaphysical consequences of our sins; speaking as an architect, I tell my wife that it's a wonder that we can stack one stone on top of another one. And all of us, isolated in our unique, mean little sin boxes, peek out at adulterated fragments of God's wonder, and inevitably argue about what we are looking at. It's impossible to underestimate the effects of Sin- indeed, Sin makes it so. Sin stunts us so that except for God's revelation, we have little choice but to grasp at mere batches of reality: always the snake, the tree trunk, the fan; but never the elephant.

Which is frustrating. As someone commented later on last night: there are so many conflicting ways of imagining God, so many ways to put God in a box, yet he remains unboxable. Yes again- but we can't be discouraged. Looking again at Eden, did Adam and Eve have to box little wads of data? Again, I doubt it. But we're stuck with boxes, we can't fix that. Yet we can always aspire to bigger boxes, and fewer boxes, which I think leads to a better understanding of God; and by extension, of reality. For example, the more I understand the Bible as a single box, the more it points to Catholicism, which unsurprisingly is the biggest box of Christian thinking; well, the biggest box of thinking, period."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On the Rosary

Bro. Dan Grossano's April 2014 FGO; download his related handout here.
·         Archbishop Hebda at the Knights Communion breakfast: He spoke about how even though he does not have family in this area he felt that he had brothers in the Knights.  In his brief remarks, he encouraged us to be able to witness to how the Catholic faith has made a difference in our lives.  In his letter of thanks after attending he stated how impressed he was by the caliber of men in the Knights.

·         How did you brothers do with praying the Examen which was one of the challenges from the last time? 

Before moving to the focus of my talk tonight on the Rosary, I want to briefly touch on the spiritual disciplines of Lent.  Lent is a time of reflection and conversion.  The Church invites us to enter into this time especially through three means: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  In terms of prayer we are called to increase or deepen our life of prayer as to grow deeper in our relationship with Christ.  As I spoke about the last time a Catholic is called to be an intentional disciple: one who chooses to drop everything and radically follow Christ in the midst of his Church.  In terms of fasting, we are called to die to our passions and pride through self-denial.  We fast from things that are good in and of themselves such as food, media or drink.  The problem is that sometimes we can make idols of them, meaning we give them too much pride of place to them, so we need to learn to die to them.  In terms of almsgiving, the Church is calling us to not only be detached from our money by giving it away, but also through giving away our time in service. 

            Now to transition to speaking about the Rosary.  Hopefully brothers you remember the promise of the first degree?  What is it?  To carry the Rosary everywhere and pray it as much as possible.  One tradition states that it was given to St. Dominic by Our Lady in the year 1221 to fight a heresy that was rampant in the Church (Sri 2003, p. 35).  Another tradition says that it came out of how the monasteries used to pray the 150 psalms and this was the way for a poor person who did not have a book of the psalms to pray along (Sri 2003, p. 35-36).  The mysteries of Rosary also came from how the monks would associate different psalms with the life of Jesus and Mary (Sri 2003, p. 36-37).  The Rosary really is a means appointed by Mary, our mother, to meditate on the mysteries of our salvation and impress them on our mind and heart (Leo XIII 8 September 1892, ¶14).  If we recite the Rosary with faith it allows our family history, the history of salvation, to unfold before our eyes and help us to see their relevance to our lives today (Leo XIII 8 September 1892, ¶ 17).  While we reflect on these truths with our minds we are also called to make resolutions to grow in virtue with God’s help with our hearts (Leo XIII 8 September 1892, ¶ 20).  The Rosary should lead us to gratitude and wonder for all that Christ has done for us through His life, death and Resurrection as well as His holy mother (Leo XIII 8 September 1892, ¶ 7 &21).  The rhythm of the Rosary can come to shape the rhythm of our daily lives (Sri 2003, p. 34).

We repeat the prayers to slow our minds and hearts so we can reflect on the different aspects of the life of Christ (Sri 2003, p. 32).  Repetition is part of the language of love and the center of the Hail Mary is the name of our beloved, Jesus (Sri 2003, p. 35).  For example, for those that are married is your wife ever tired of hearing you say “I love you?”  The Hail Mary is a Biblical prayer centered on Christ so it is fitting that the mysteries of our salvation pass by against the backdrop of this prayer (Sri 2003, p. 35).  The doxology, Glory be to the Father and the Son. . ., glorifies God who is one in three and is our origin, sustainer and destiny (Paul VI 2 February 1974, ¶ 49d.).  We can’t also help crying this out based on we have seen through each mystery (Sri 2003, p. 49).  While we are saying the vocals prayers we should be meditating on the mystery of that decade.  Otherwise as Pope Paul VI stated “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas” (Paul VI 2 February 1974, ¶ 47 as cited in Sri 2003, p. 34).

To meditate on the mystery is imagine oneself in the scene or reflect on the virtues of that mystery and how one can incorporate them into one’s life.  For example, in the Annunciation we can reflect on Mary’s great yes to God and cooperation in His plan of salvation and ask ourselves “how am I saying yes or not to God?”  In the Nativity, we can contemplate the mystery of the infinite God becoming finite in a little baby and the poverty of His birth and ask ourselves “How has God becoming man affected my life or how attached am to material goods?”  A couple of other tips for praying the Rosary from soon to be St. John Paul II include announcing each mystery and visualizing it, listening to the Word of God before each decade, having silence to ponder the mystery and applying it to your life (Sri 2003, p. 40, 43, 44, 49-50).  In terms of meditations for the mysteries I would recommend Dr. Edward Sri’s book, The New Rosary in Scripture: Biblical Insights for Praying the 20 Mysteries, which gives an explanation of each of the mysteries and how to apply them to your life.  Also remember that there are four sets of mysteries: the Glorious, Sorrowful, Joyful and recently added in 2002 the Luminous. 

Finally I wanted to close with two stories about the power of the Rosary.  One is that in the 16th century a huge Muslim Turkish fleet was invading Italy and was set to conquer most of Europe through it.  Months before word reached Italy about this attack and starting in 1569 the Pope urged the praying of the Rosary for them to be delivered from the Turks.  Keep in mind that this fleet had not been defeated since the 15th century.  Many were worried that Europe would be overrun.  Even though the Christian fleet gathered by Don Juan from Spain was outnumbered, a shift in the wind at the opportune time allowed the Christians to defeat the Turks.  In thanksgiving for this victory, the Pope put into the place the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary which is celebrated on October 7 still to this day.  The second is more contemporary only in the 20th century (Rosaries for Life n.d.). 

This second miracle involved eight German Jesuit missionaries who prayed the Rosary every day in Hiroshima, Japan.  Their home was only eight blocks from where the atomic bomb hit, but it was not destroyed even though their attached church was completely destroyed.  They all only had at most minor injuries and lived long past that day without radiation sickness, no hearing loss or long term issues.  Fr. Schiffer, one of the survivors, stated over 200 times when questions by scientists and health care personnel “‘we believe that we survived because we were living the message of Fatima. We lived and prayed the rosary daily in that home’” (Rosaries for Life n.d.).  Hopefully you brothers know about the powerful apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal where she asked us to pray the Rosary daily for peace and sacrifice for sinners among other requests.  In closing, I challenge you brothers to come to the lecturer’s meeting on March 25 to pray the Rosary, to pray the Rosary at least once a week over the next month and read over the handout I put together which gives you reasons and tips to better pray the Rosary.  You might not be able to pray the Rosary all at once, but pray one decade an hour so that you can pray it a little at a time.  Also in this way you can sanctify your time as well. 

Works Cited


Leo XIII. (8 September 1892). Magnae Dei Matris. Retrieved from



Paul VI. (2 February 1974). Marialis Cultus. Retrieved from



Sri, E. (2003). The New Rosary in Scripture: Biblical Insights for Praying the 20 Mysteries.

Servant Books: Cincinnati, OH


Rosaries for Life. (n.d.). “The Power of the Rosary.” Retrieved from

Eat x 10 x 2 = ?

Audio file from Council 13112 April 2014 FGO, based on this written bit: Not Like Magua.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

On the Examen

The dreadful scourge of Snow in South Carolina has created a local shortage of FGOs. Fortunately, Bro. Dan Grossano sent me another one of his:

Lecturer Talk 5 – On the Examen

Brothers, how did everyone do with the challenge from the last time?  [It was to attend the March for Life or at least pray and sacrifice on the anniversary for the building of the a culture of life].  Today we are going to return to the topic we reflected on two months ago.  If you remember my sequence of talks, I started out talking about what is the essence of the Gospel message and what does it mean to have a relationship with Christ, then I moved on to the importance of prayer and one way to pray with Scripture, next I spoke about Advent and last month about being pro-life.  I want to first of all reiterate the importance of prayer.  Brothers, you might be used to having the identifiers of being a Catholic as I go to Mass, I go to the Knights meeting, I serve as an usher, whatever, but as I spoke about in my first talk the essence of our faith is to be in an intimate, personal relationship with God that overflows to the love of our neighbor.  Now here is a question for all of you, how do we strength relationships?  (This is not a rhetorical question).  We spend time together.  We will be judged by our love first, not just our activities.  Prayer foster love, it is spending time with the one we should love.  If we say that we are Knights of Columbus and disciples of Christ we need to be spending time every day, in personal prayer.  Prayer needs to become an essential part of our day!  Also I want to introduce a concept that I am going to come back to again and again. 

This is the concept of intentional discipleship.  Our supreme chaplain, Archbishop William Lori put it very well: “To be an intentional disciple is to make an act of faith that is not merely notional but is rather an entrustment of our whole lives to Christ our God.  It is an act of faith that shapes one's whole existence because it leads again and again to an encounter with Christ” (“Chaplain’s Report” 2014 January, p. 2).  In other words rather than being one who is just someone who goes through the motions of their faith or is busy with Catholic activities, one needs to be consciously following Christ in the midst of the Church and being obedient to all Her teachings.  He also states "It has to do with closing the gap between the rich and beautiful teaching in Scripture, in tradition, in the liturgy - articulated in our day as never before - and the lived experience of so many Catholic Christians, which barely scratches the surface.  What is lacking is not only an adequate knowledge of these riches, but a conscious decision, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to follow Christ. . .” (“Chaplain’s Report” 2014 January, p. 2).  So while there is a crisis today of a lack of adequate understanding about our faith, in other words catechesis, there first is a crisis of evangelization, meaning people understanding the Gospel message and responding.  Again to put it simply this message is God desires a relationship with you, the relationship is ruined by my own sin, it is renewed by Christ’s life, death and resurrection and it requires a response in order “to trust Him and follow Him in a new way” (FOCUS October 2013).  Three questions to ask oneself about one’s own discipleship is “do I understand what it means to be in relationship with Christ,” “do I know the cost of discipleship” and “do I know and strive to practice the habits of being a disciple?”  If you recognize that you are not an intentional disciple, be not afraid!  The first step is recognizing in humility where you are at, desiring to intentionally follow Christ and asking for the grace to say “yes” in stepping forward to become an intentional disciple.  Then one needs to try to live, by God’s grace, the life where Christ is truly the center and Lord of your life.  One of the habits of being an intentional disciple is daily prayer.  Not just prayer when one feels like it, on Sunday or when one is in trouble.  It is a spiritual discipline that strengthens our ability to love God and our neighbor.  The fruit of prayer is a deeper hunger to know God, not just know about Him as well as joy and peace and who does not want those (Lee 21 January 2014)?  It is hard to get started just like getting into a regiment with exercising, but it gets easier over time.  The type of prayer that I want to introduce to you tonight is the prayer of Examen. 

It is not the same thing as an examination of conscience which we do before confession, but it is similar.  It is a method of prayer that comes from St. Ignatius of Loyola who is the founder of the Jesuits to become more aware of God’s presence in our lives and understand how to respond to His presence.  To make sure you are paying attention who do we know who is a famous Jesuit?  The Pope.  There are basically five steps to this prayer which I have included on the handout that I will be giving to you.  The first is to look back on your whole day or if you are doing it mid-day, half your day, with gratitude (Brotherhood of Hope 2005).  How often do you or I truly thank God for all the graces in our lives, or do we just take them for granted?  Also having a grateful heart leads to joy and being positive because we recognize our blessings and how these are all gifts that show the goodness of our Heavenly Father.  This prayer also allows us to be thankful for the ordinary such as last week I helped an acquaintance from our parish find a lawyer as he was facing drunk driving charges and through the Examen I was able to thank God that I was able to be Christ to someone who is at the margins of the Church.  The second step is to ask for the Holy Spirit’s help that He would help you to see what He wants you to see and would help to guide this time of prayer (Brotherhood of Hope 2005). 

The third step is understanding where we pick out a few important parts of our day and truly reflect on what was happening or not happening in our hearts (Ivany n.d.).  An example could be getting drunk.  Why did you get drunk?  What thoughts were going on in your head that lead you down that road?  Was their emptiness in your life?  Did you fall into peer pressure?  These thoughts which lead to sin fall under St. Ignatius’ concept of spiritual desolations when for example we have desire for base things (lust, overeating, overdrinking, foul humor), slothfulness, dryness, sadness, separation from God or thoughts that lead away from God (Ignatius, 317 as cited in Brotherhood of Hope 2005).  When we gets these thoughts or feelings we need to reject them right away and cling to God’s personal love for us even when we might not feel it.  The Examen is not just about what we did wrong, but also where did we see God speaking to us through other people, events, places?  Through this prayer we are able to receive the lessons that the Lord desires to teach us through the ordinary events of our day (Ivany 18 February 2012).  Also harkening back to the concept of intentional discipleship, one sign of being an intentional disciple is through starting to see how Christ is working in one’s daily life and how He is inviting one to move in a direction (i.e. die to oneself more, get more involved at the parish, trust God more).  Otherwise we have this dichotomy between we go to church on Sunday and then the rest of the week we live our life without reference to Christ. 

Through our day we might sense spiritual consolations that the Lord has given us such as increased love for God, hope, charity towards others, sorrow for sin, interior joy, movement towards God, peace and a sense of hopeful purpose (Ignatius 316 as cited in Brotherhood of Hope 2005).  We need to receive these consolations with thanksgiving, acknowledge that they are gifts from Him and ask that the Lord might continue to allow us to continue to witness to Him no matter what the circumstance (Brotherhood of Hope 2005).  For example last week, I could see through the fact that almost every day the plans I had put forth got ruined, I sensed that the Lord was teaching me to be detached from my plans.  By God’s grace, even though my plans were constantly being changed, I was able to be at peace with that, which is a spiritual consolation, something that leads me towards God.  The final step is action.  If we see that we messed up we need to relive this situation again from the perspective of God’s love where the emptiness that we may have felt is filled with His love.  Then the next time we face a similar situation we will have acted it out again in our mind (Ivany 18 February 2012).  Overtime we will come to see patterns in our behavior and ways that the Lord might be speaking to us(Brotherhood of Hope 2005). 

In closing brothers, I know that I am challenging you each time I speak to think, pray and act differently which you are probably not used to.  I am doing this because I care for you as my brothers in Christ and want to challenge you to not be complacent or stagnant rather continue to move forward to being the saint that the Lord desires you to be.  I want to be like your spiritual coach that needs to push the players to help them grow.  I want to issue you three challenges:

-one is to try out this form of prayer at least once a week over the next month, may be more if you find it fruitful

-second is to invite you to the upcoming Communion breakfast on March 2 sponsored by the Bergen Federation with the coadjutor Archbisho Bernard Hebda.  He is the coadjutor meaning that he helps out the current archbishop, Myers, and eventually will succeed him.

-third is to invite you to the men’s conference.  It is the day of our St. Patrick’s Day dance, but it will be over before it begins.  I understand if you are already dedicated to helping set that up and can’t come, but wanted to propose it as an option.  I know that when I went two years ago I thought it was wonderful.  It is an opportunity more deeply encounter Christ, be with other men of faith and learn more about our faith.  Vivat Jesus!

Works Cited

FOCUS. (October 2013). “Fruits of Fall Outreach: Stories from FOCUS Campuses.”  Retrieved



Brotherhood of Hope. (2005). “Prayer of Examen.”


Ivany, M. (n.d.) “Handout on the Examen.”


Ivany, M. (18 February 2012).  “iPray Conference: Father Mark Ivany.”  Retrieved from


Lee, N. (21 January 2014). “On the Joy of the Gospel.” Delivered at The George Washington

University Newman Center, Washington, D.C.


Monday, February 17, 2014

On Building a Culture of Life

Y'all welcome Bro. Dan Grossano, Lector at Council 4524, St. Joseph's Parish, East Rutherford, NJ, Archdiocese of Newark. Here's his first FGO for us.
On Building a Culture of Life

      A week from tomorrow we commemorate the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion on demand.  We have reached over 56 million abortions since that fateful decision in 1973 (O’Bannon 12 January 2014).  56 million . . .  To help understand this huge number, if you add up the population of the 25 cities in the U.S. with the greatest populations you total only around 36 million (Grant 23 July 2010).  Let that sink in.  Image they were all wiped out tomorrow.  We are not only missing millions of our brothers and sisters, but it has left a path of destruction in its wake.  It has caused untold suffering to women, men and families.  It has caused us to construct a society where the most vulnerable among us are not protected, what Blessed John Paul II called the culture of death.  Sadly, the most dangerous place now for a person on earth is his mother’s womb which should truly be the safest. 

Let me mention from the outset that I am not here to talk politics, but rather to speak about this issue from a moral perspective.  Also seeing the huge statistics, may be one of you brothers in this room encouraged a wife, girlfriend to have an abortion or did not discourage a family member from having an abortion.  I not here to condemn, but to let you know that the Church is here to forgive and help you in the process of healing.  I would invite you to have the courage to mention this the next time you go to confession as well as look into Rachel’s Vineyard which is specifically a healing retreat for men and women who are post-abortive. 

      So now in the face of such gross evil on a scale of which the world has never encountered, especially such calculated evil, how do we respond?  First of all, we should not hate those who support abortion (9 March 2010 CNA/EWTN News).  We need to remember that they are held captive by the enemy of our salvation Satan and that as St. Paul reminds us that our war is not against “. . .flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 RSV-CE).  This means that we need to fight with spiritual weapons – prayer and fasting.  When dialoging about life use tact to avoid personal attacks, using terms that could attack people outright such as abortion mills or pro-abortion, if someone makes a claim he needs to back it up himself and pray for the person asking that the Holy Spirit would open their heart (Benderas 9 October 2010).  Keep in mind that the Lord will remember and make fruitful even the simple acts that we do to build up a true culture of life whether that be praying in front of an abortion clinic, authentically loving your friend in a time of great struggle, talking to a person who is homeless or standing up to defend life among your peers (9 March 2010 CNA/EWTN News).  While we recognize the seriousness of this spiritual battle, we also need to have a sense of joy in the hope that the Lord is with us and has won the definitive victory over sin including abortion (9 March 2010 CNA/EWTN News & 1 Corinthians 15:25-27). 

How we live our lives should exude a pro-life spirituality.  Do we see or attempt to see each person as created in the image of God and having an inestimable dignity?  Do we try to see Jesus in His distressing disguise of the poor as Blessed Mother Teresa encouraged us whether that is in the unborn, the homeless, the immigrant or the elderly?  Or do we judge people depending on their abilities or lack of abilities?  Pope Francis, in a meeting on Monday with member of his diplomatic core of ambassadors condemned “‘the throwaway culture.’”  He stated:

Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as “unnecessary”. For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts; and children being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity (Francis 13 January 2014).

The philosophy behind abortion says that one is a burden that needs to be eliminated while the philosophy of life upholds that it is not about what one can or can not do, but who one is that matters. 

At the root of the culture of death is a lack of understanding of the human person, sex and chastity and the widespread use of contraception especially the birth control pill which can be an abortifacient, but that is a topic for a whole other talk.  I want to go over some current challenges to life:

·         Euthanasia: the direct killing of an innocent person who is suffering or feels that their life is worthless.

-We are not masters over our life (Chacon &Burnham 2008 p. 19).

-Contrary to the Hippocratic oath

-People worry about being a burden to others (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 18)

-They should be able to receive proper pain management even if it hastens death or the person loses consciousness (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 19-20)

-Suffering has a redemptive value through the cross of Christ

-Ordinary (well established and beneficial, could depend on age) is required v. extraordinary (expensive, experimental) means of treatment is not required (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 20).

-When death is close at hand, one can avoid treatment which will prolong the seemingly inevitable.  The person should receive adequate warmth, food, water and hygiene (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 20). 

-This attitude about a person having a poor quality of life or being a burden is similar to the logic of Hitler and Stalin.  Anything seemingly could become poor quality of life.  We should use technology to help the dying rather than hasten death.  All life should be seen as sacred.  The dignity of the human person is key to the teaching of the Church in its teaching on social issues (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 21). 

·         Therapeutic v. selective gene manipulation

-Therapeutic is to help prevent cancer and other diseases while selective gene manipulation is trying to give human beings certain physical characteristics.  It is morally permissible to fix genetic problems, but “. . .may not genetically design people with pre-selected qualities” (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 33).  Human beings are ends in themselves and should not be prized because of their characteristics.  Parents should not design their children to meet their needs (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 33). 

      Conversion of hearts and not just getting power in the government is the end of the pro-life movement.  This conversion of hearts will lead to the renewal of culture which eventually by God’s grace allows us to have a culture which embraces rather than rejects life (Gilbert 11 February 2009).  I want to posit that to build a culture of life requires a collective conversion of heart and not just for those who support abortion.  Consider these sobering words from Msgr. Charles Pope, a priest from the Archdiocese of Washington and a popular blogger:

It is this nation, collectively that is guilty. It is those who have sought abortion, those who perform them, those who pressure women to have them, those who vote to uphold this evil as a “right.” It is those who remain silent and those who vote for those who uphold this grave evil, or downplay its horrific reality. It is those who fail to provide reasonable alternatives and resources for women in crisis. It is those who live unchastely and fail to reproach those in their family members who live that way.  Yes, to a large extent few of us can fail to escape the fact that we have contributed to, even indulged in an unchaste, unjust and unholy culture that leads to the death of millions every year. Abortion results largely from unchastity and the refusal of Americans, collectively to accept the consequences of our sin. (20 January 2013)

So it is not only those who actively promote the culture of death who require conversion, but also our lack of living chastity and having the humility to own up to our sin.  The building of a culture of life starts with me and as well as you. 

Works Cited

Benderas, A.  (9 October 2010).  “5 tips for Pro-Life conversation.” Live Action Blog. 

     Retrieved from

Chacon, F. & Burnham, J. (2008).  Beginning Apologetics 5: How to Answer Tough Moral

Questions: Abortion, Contraception, Euthanasia, Test-Tube Babies, Cloning & Sexual Ethics.  Farmington, NM: San Juan Catholic Seminars:. 

CNA/EWTN News. (9 March 2010). “Archbishop Chaput suggests ‘Dos and Don’ts’ for pro-

life advocates.”  Retrieved from

Francis. (13 January 2014). “Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Members of the

Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See.”  Retrieved from

Gilbert, K. (10 February 2009).  “Archbishop Chaput Warns Ireland against Compromising   

    with ‘Pluralism’ and ‘Abortion Reduction Strategies.’”  Retrieved from

Grant, J.C. (23 July 2010).  “Largest U.S. Cities: Population Size (2012).”  Retrieved



O’Bannon, R. (12 January 2014). “56,662,169 Abortions in America Since Roe vs. Wade in

1973.” Retrieved from

Pope, C. (20 January 2013). “Light and Darkness: Some thoughts on this Presidential  

     Inauguration Rooted in another Inauguration in 1865.” Archdiocese of Washington Blog.

     Retrieved from