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



Monday, February 10, 2014

Christ, Truly Present

February 2014 FGO by Bro. Jason Rhoad

One of the documents from the Second Vatican Council is named Sacrosanctum Concilium, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. While there is much to be learned from entire document, for this month’s discussion, I am only going to focus on one small aspect of it, paragraph seven. In that one small section, we get a very key catechesis on the liturgy. There we are reminded of the four ways Jesus Christ is present at each and every mass.

Given recent poll numbers concerning how many Catholics actually attend mass regularly, and how many of those that either don’t know or don’t believe in the real presence of Christ at mass, part of the new evangelization has to be focused on helping baptized Catholics understand just what a true treasure the holy sacrifice of the mass is. St. Padre Pio once said, “If we only knew how God regards this sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass.” Paragraph 11 of CSL teaches that the full, conscious, and active participation by all the people at mass is the pastoral aim to be considered before all else. In other words, the most important thing is that we the faithful understand what the mass is, what is going on, and what our participation should be. So in that spirit, let’s take a look at one aspect of the mass that should capture our awe, Christ’s presence.

CSL 7 teaches us that there are actually four ways that Christ is present in the liturgy. First, he is present in the person of his minister, “the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross.” The Church teaches us that the priest acts in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. Christ is present then through the ministry of the priest. The priest participates in the priesthood of Christ, the true high priest. So when the priest performs the priestly functions during the liturgy, such as administering the sacraments, it is Christ who administers the sacraments.

Second, Christ is present in the sacraments themselves, most notably in the holy Eucharist. Christ is present in all the sacraments as each of them were instituted by Him in order communicate to us the grace that they signify. To receive a sacrament is to receive the grace of Christ. But the way we receive Him par excellence, the way that Christ’s presence trumps all other ways in which He is present to us, is in the holy Eucharist. When the priest consecrates the bread and wine, those ordinary elements which are condensed symbols representing the entire lives of all the faithful, become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The CCC tells us that Christ is really, truly, and substantially present. The smallest fragment of the host and the smallest drop of the precious blood contain the whole Jesus, so when we receive under either species, we receive the full Christ.

The third way Jesus is present at mass is in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. In John 1:1 we read that in the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. We then read that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus is the logos, the eternal Word of God. Every word in the Bible can be condensed into one word, Jesus. St. John of the Cross said, “In the eternal silences of the Trinity, God only spoke a single word, the Eternal Word. He has nothing more to say.”

Finally, CSL 7 tells us that Jesus is present when the Church prays and sings, for He has promised “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Mt. 18:20). Through this, Jesus shows us the importance of gathering together as a community to worship. While it is true that we can experience Jesus anywhere and in many different ways, He specifically tells us that if we gather together in His name, He is truly there with us.

CSL 7 sums it up this way: “From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.”

The document goes on to tell us how the earthly liturgy is a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy. The mass is truly heaven on earth. As one of the Eucharistic prayers tells us, God’s angel takes the sacrifice from the altar and brings it to the altar in heaven. We are entering into the once for all sacrifice of Jesus. We are at the foot of the cross. Through the earthly symbols of bread and wine, we are to offer ourselves, in union with Christ’s offering, to God the father. So we join our sacrifice to His, which accomplished the redemption of the entire world. Because of this, an infinite amount of grace is available at every single mass. The more we open ourselves to this grace, the more we cultivate our relationship with God and dispose ourselves to what God has ready and willing for us to experience, the more our capacity for the divine life increases. Let’s remind our brothers and sisters of this most awesome and sublime reality the next time we hear someone say “I don’t get anything out of the mass.”