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EPISODE #251
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: ALL ABOUT EUCHARISTIC MIRACLES

On today’s broadcast, we’re going to learn a thing or two about Eucharistic miracles. Deacon Steve interviews a young man (Ray Grijalba) who is causing quite a good stir with his popular channel on Youtube.

Tune in and hear what he has to say!

Check out “The Joy of the Faith” on Youtube!

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 7/26/2020

EPISODE#206
OC CATHOLIC RADIO: GUEST DEACON STEVE GRECO SPEAKS ON OUR CURRENT PANDEMIC

Each week, we bring you compelling conversation with church leaders and laity. Our host and primary speaker is Rick Howick.

Today’s guest is Deacon Steve Greco, the host of the weekly radio show EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT, heard on Sundays at 12 noon on Relevant Radio. He’s also the founder and president of Spirit-Filled Hearts Ministry.

Deacon Steve has just written a very timely book for these times. It’s called “Be Not Afraid.”

Give us a listen and spread the word!

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 7/18/20

EPISODE #248
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: THE ‘BREAD OF LIFE DISCOURSE’ FROM THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

Join Deacon Steve Greco as he welcomes Fr. Tim Peters to the studio. Fr. Tim is a biblical theologian who, among his many duties, is a professor at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, CA.

Our focus today is on the Eucharist and the “Bread of Life Discourse,” from the Gospel of John.

Give a listen and SHARE this podcast!

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 7/5/2020

EPISODE#201
OC CATHOLIC RADIO: SPECIAL EDITION “OUR JOURNEY BACK..”

This is a very special podcast-only edition of Orange County Catholic Radio!

Lend an ear as host Rick Howick welcomes Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Freyer back to the studio – to discuss the re-opening plan for our parishes in the Diocese of Orange.

Listen and SHARE.

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 6/5/20

RECEIVE COMMUNION EVERY TIME AS IF IT WERE THE FIRST TIME, POPE SAYS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Every time a Catholic receives Communion, it should be like his or her first Communion, Pope Francis said.

Marking the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ June 23, the pope spoke about the gift of the Eucharist during his midday Angelus address at the Vatican and at the Rome parish of Santa Maria Consolatrice, where he celebrated an evening Mass and led eucharistic Benediction after a Corpus Christi procession.

The feast, he told visitors in St. Peter’s Square, is an annual occasion for Catholics “to renew our awe and joy for the stupendous gift of the Lord, which is the Eucharist.”

Catholics should concentrate on receiving Communion with gratitude every time they receive it, he said, rather than approaching the altar “in a passive, mechanical way.”

“We must get used to receiving the Eucharist and not go to Communion out of habit,” the pope said. “When the priest says to us, ‘The body of Christ,’ we say, ‘Amen.’ But let it be an ‘Amen’ that comes from the heart, with conviction.”

“It is Jesus, it is Jesus who saved me; it is Jesus who comes to give me the strength to live,” Pope Francis said. “We must not get used to it. Every time must be as if it were our first Communion.”

Later, celebrating an evening Mass on the steps of the Rome parish of Santa Maria Consolatrice, about six miles east of the Vatican, Pope Francis’ homily focused on the Gospel story of the multiplication of the loaves and the connection between the Eucharist and blessings.

“When one blesses, he does not do something for himself, but for others,” like Jesus did when he blessed the five loaves and two fish before they were miraculously multiplied to feed the crowd, the pope said. “Blessing is not about saying nice words or trite phrases; it is about speaking goodness, speaking with love.”

The Mass is “a school of blessing,” the pope said. The people gathered for the Eucharist are blessed, they bless the Lord, and they, in turn, are sent forth to be a blessing to the world.

“It is sad to think of how easily people today speak words not of blessing but of contempt and insult,” the pope said. “Sadly, those who shout most and loudest, those angriest, often appeal to others and persuade them.

“Let us avoid being infected by that arrogance,” he said. “Let us not let ourselves be overcome by bitterness, for we eat the bread that contains all sweetness within it.”

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves also is a lesson in giving, a lesson Jesus taught in a supreme way by giving up his life and giving himself in the Eucharist, the pope said.

Taking the small basket of food offered by a boy and feeding a multitude with it shows that “whatever we have can bear fruit if we give it away — that is what Jesus wants to tell us — and it does not matter whether it is great or small.”

“Being simple and essential, bread broken and shared, the Eucharist we receive allows us to see things as God does,” the pope said. “It inspires us to give ourselves to others. It is the antidote to the mindset that says, ‘Sorry, that is not my problem,’ or, ‘I have no time, I can’t help you, it’s none of my business.'”

CALLED TO CELEBRATE A DEEPER COMMUNION

If the liturgy is truly the source and summit of the life of the church, the Communion rite is the source and summit of the liturgy. Several prayers and acts earlier in the Mass may give us insight into this fuller union we are called to celebrate: 

  • As Mass begins, the celebrant invites us into the communion of the Trinity.
  • Before the Gospel is read, we sign ourselves praying that these words would be on our minds, on our lips and in our hearts.
  • In the creed, we state our belief in the communion of saints.
  • During the offertory, our offering is symbolic of the very gift of our daily lives.
  • As the priest or deacon mingles water and wine, he prays: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
  • In a prayer to the Holy Spirit, the priest asks the Spirit to come upon the offerings of bread and wine (and our lives) so that they (and we) may become the body and blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
  • We respond “Amen” to the fact that “through him, and with him, and in him … in the unity of the Holy Spirit,” we are able to give “all glory and honor” to the Father.
  • The priest reminds us that we are about to receive the Lamb of God, who takes away our sins and the sins if the world.

 

When the priest breaks the bread, we should recall how Jesus broke the bread at the Last Supper. We are about to join in this sacred meal and sacrifice of the cross. The priest commingles a piece of the consecrated host and prays as he puts it into the chalice: “May this mingling of the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.” He (and we) should be praying that we might become more what we are about to receive. 

Now so close to receiving the Lord, we are asked to pray the adapted words of the Roman centurion in the Gospel (Mt 8:5-13 and Lk 7:1-10): “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” 

 

How should we approach communion as Catholics? 

We joyfully and silently (when not singing) approach in procession. We seek healing, knowing that we are among those blessed to be called to the table. We reverently approach to acknowledge Jesus’ real presence. We are about to receive his very body, blood, soul and divinity. 

Let’s not forget that this sacrament is also the third of the three rites of initiation: baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. It is through the Eucharist that we renew our baptismal and confirmation commitments to enter in and become the very body of Christ, i.e., to become more fully the church. 

 

Why should Catholics embrace this time during the Mass as a community, rather than as individuals? 

Reception of Communion is less about Jesus and me and more about how communion with Jesus makes us one, affirming our communion with the whole church. Our Communion song expresses with one voice our union with Jesus, one another and indeed with the whole church living and dead. 

This is one reason it is not appropriate to leave right after Communion, as so many sadly still do. To do so makes it appear that holy Communion is only about me and Jesus rather than the moment to become most a people gathered into communion with him. 

We are mostly such a community at Communion time. We should then return to our seat and complete the full prayer of thanks together. We are encouraged to stay, give thanks and
only leave after we have been blessed and sent. 

 

Why is there a time of prayer that follows reception of communion? 

We pray quietly because we are now intimately united to him. We recall that we have entered into full communion with the saints (mentioned in the creed) and with all those whom we loved and who have preceded us in the pilgrimage to heaven. There is much for which to give thanks. 

We thank God for this great food for our journey of faith — to strengthen us against sin, to help us to become more concerned for the poor, to become more of the body of Christ for the world we are about to enter as we leave Mass. 

Silence leaves us in awe of the union with Our Lord and one another. We ought to pray to become more of the body of Christ for the world that we are meant to be so that we may spread the Gospel by our lives as we are sent to do as the Mass is ended. And perhaps, more grateful, we may be a little kinder when leaving the parking lot. 

 

Dudley, retired from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Catholic Education, consults on curriculum development, leadership and ministry formation through his company, Ambulans Vobiscum. He holds a doctorate in ministry from Graduate Theological Foundation in Indiana and lives in New Castle, Pennsylvania. 

INCLUSION IN COMMUNION

“Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.” – Celiac Disease Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds and executes national initiatives in medical research, patient and health-care provider education, and public policy advocacy to bring an end to the suffering caused by celiac disease. 

For those with celiac disease or other serious allergies or reactions to wheat products, receiving the consecrated host in Holy Communion can lead to bloating, diarrhea, and other health complications. 

When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their bodies mount an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body. 

“Celiac disease is relatively rare, and everyone is different in their amount of sensitivity, but if you have celiac disease and have been diagnosed, even one bite of something with wheat in it can cause problems,” says Natalie Buntzen, registered dietitian with the Center for Health Promotion, part of the St. Joseph Health Care System.  

Still, the Church recognizes that it mustn’t exclude Catholics with celiac disease from receiving Communion, so there are accommodations for those who cannot consume bread. 

So, even though completely gluten-free hosts are not valid for the celebration of the Eucharist (because wheat bread and wine of the grape are the matter of the sacrament of the Eucharist as Jesus instituted it), there are alternatives for celiac sufferers. 

Low-gluten hosts are valid for consecration as long as they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to become bread without the addition of foreign materials and without procedures that would alter the nature of bread, according to a July 2003 circular letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

Both priests and laity must receive express permission from their bishop in order to participate in receiving consecrated, low-gluten hosts at Holy Communion, the letter says. 

Father William Goldin, who serves as parochial vicar at St. Irenaeus Parish in Cypress, was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2013 when he was about to be ordained as a deacon. “I had been sort of sick for years and mysteriously sick, and it was getting worse.” 

Fortunately, Father William notes, his condition has not affected his ministry at all. “It’s an easy disease to manage because all you need to do is avoid something.  

“Some people have a small amount of wheat and they’re hospitalized,” says Father William. “I occasionally accidentally consume gluten, such as in a restaurant with soy sauce hidden in a sauce, and when that happens, I don’t feel well for several days. It’s not something my body gets over quickly.” 

Father William orders his low-gluten hosts from the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri. The sister’s website includes a page about proper storage and distribution of low-gluten hosts so as to avoid cross-contamination. 

[The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration’s website is benedictinesisters.org; phone them at 800-223-2772.]

OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES

Before the age of 8, Catholic children are bestowed three of the seven sacraments.

There’s the first sacrament, baptism. For parents, perhaps the hardest part of introducing a child to baptism is dealing with a baby that may squirm and cry as holy water is cascading down his or her head.

But introducing confession and communion at the age of 7 or 8 – when most children will receive those two sacraments – can be a more daunting task for parents. At this age, most children are still learning to understand the concept of time and space and are just starting to enjoy reading a book by themselves.

With that in mind, how can parents prepare young children for what is considered a profound spiritual concept: a Christian rite that serves as a visible form of grace?

The key to approaching the sacraments is teaching it as an opportunity to be closer to Jesus Christ, says Katie Dawson, director of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange.

“The occasions of First Reconciliation (also referred to as First Penance or First Confession) are moments of opportunity for children to truly encounter Jesus,” she says. “And that’s the goal of our catechetical preparation – to assist the child, to prepare the child to recognize Jesus present to them in these sacraments.”

Children have an innate, built-in spiritual sense and are often more easily aware of God’s presence than adults, Dawson says.

“We want to encourage them in that awareness,” she says. “God is inviting them to a deeper relationship with Him through the Eucharist and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and it is that friendship that should be emphasized.”

The ritual of practicing the sacraments of confession and communion for the first time can create some nervousness for children, whether it is approaching a priest with the appropriate words once he or she is in the confessional or deciding how to accept the Eucharist.

But parents and teachers can help manage that anxiety by emphasizing the exciting, loving relationship into which God has invited them, Dawson says.

“An overemphasis on ‘doing things the right way’ – i.e. processing, bowing, the words that need to be says – can increase anxiety,” she says. “While the externals are important, they need to be understood in the context of this wonderful meeting with God that we are preparing for.”

To help children have a successful confession, CatholicCulture.org suggests that children need to be taught why they have sinned to avoid “teaching our children a list of sins that they recite in a ‘respectable’ way. Such practice reduces the sacrament to a formula.”

With communion, parents can point out how the Holy Eucharist nourishes the soul the way food in general sustains the body.

The most important thing that parents can do to help their children in preparing for the sacraments and beyond is for parents to fully participate in receiving the sacraments and to nurture their own friendship with Jesus and with God, Dawson says.

“The core message of sacramental preparation (for any of the sacraments) is that an infinitely-loving God loves each of us infinitely and invites us into an intimate relationship with him, into deep friendship with him,” she says. “Focusing on that reality and spending some time and energy on our own relationship with God is what will help our children most. This provides an authentic model for the relationship we propose to the child.”

 

This is a reprint of a column that previously appeared in OC Catholic in January 2016.

‘BODY OF CHRIST’

Ponder, for a moment, the spectacular phenomenon known as photosynthesis. Through photosynthesis, billions, perhaps even trillions, of plants receive energy from the sun, enabling them to grow and flourish. The very existence of plant life on Earth will cease without this life-giving energy from our nearest star.

So it is with Holy Communion, the sacrament in which Catholics throughout the world receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Through this intimate encounter, the Word made flesh, our bodies are spiritually nourished and more completely assimilated into His. The Church encourages every Catholic to receive frequent Communion, even every day if possible.

“Holy Communion is the centrality of our faith,” says Michael Donaldson, the Diocese’s director of Pastoral Care for Families in All Stages. “It’s the source and summit of our Catholic faith. It’s what brings us together every Sunday and what feeds us so that we may be present with Christ for others.”

While bishops, priests, deacons and acolytes (those on their way toward ordination into the priesthood or deaconate) distribute Holy Communion, there are an insufficient number of these ordinary ministers to do so without rushing the process. For this reason, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion assist with this sacrament.

“On a normal Sunday Mass at a parish, most of the time you’re going to have extraordinary ministers helping out,” says Lesa Truxaw, director of the Diocese’s Office for Worship. “The distribution of Holy Communion is supposed to be done reverently, with care. It’s not supposed to be unduly long, but we’re not worried about being inefficient with something so important.”

Thanks to the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (commonly referred to as EMHCs), every Catholic can receive Holy Communion in a solemn, worshipful manner. For this reason, EMHCs are essential.

This position is particularly necessary in the Diocese of Orange.

“In our Diocese, we’re blessed to have so many people going to Mass,” Truxaw says. “Christ Cathedral draws 9,000 to 14,000 people on a given weekend. In other places in the country, you won’t see these numbers, so Extraordinary Ministers aren’t necessary.”

On the other hand, Truxaw says, “It all depends on the Eucharist celebration. For example, it would be highly unusual to have an extraordinary minister at an Ordination Mass or a Chrism Mass.”

EMHCs were first permitted in the U.S. in 1971. In January 1973, Pope Paul VI, in “Immensae Caritatis,” extended this permission to the universal Church. He wrote, “Present-day conditions demand that greater access to Holy Communion shall be made possible, so that the faithful, by sharing more fully in the fruits of the sacrifice of the Mass, might dedicate themselves more readily and effectively to God and to the good of the Church.”

Most laypeople become extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at the request of their parish’s clergy. To qualify, they must have been baptized, received First Communion and received Confirmation. Future EMHCs are trained in theological and practical matters.

“Practical training includes what you wear, some of the terminology, where you sign in, where you stand and scheduling matters,” says Truxaw. “Eucharistic theology includes concepts such as Eucharist as a meal and a sacrifice, transformation, real presence and the ecclesial nature of Eucharist.”

The number of training hours varies from parish to parish. The names of those who complete the training are then sent to the bishop for approval.

In the Diocese of Orange, an EMHC serves for a maximum of two years. “It is renewable,” says Truxaw, “based on the discernment of the pastor and priests of the parish.” However, “If [an extraordinary minister] does something notorious or causes the Church to be seen in a negative light, he or she can be removed. This is very rare, but it illustrates how important the position is.”

Important, indeed, since extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion fill a critical need in parishes near and far.

 

HELPING THE HOMEBOUND

It’s essential that all Catholics have the chance to receive Holy Communion, including those who cannot make it to Church. These include the sick, elderly and infirm. Since it’s often impossible for the clergy and acolytes to take the Eucharist to every homebound parishioner, some extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are trained to visit private homes, hospital rooms, nursing homes or any other institution that provides daily care to those who cannot go out.

“[These EMHCs] need to learn basic pastoral care skills: how to be good listeners, how to be present, attentive and hospitable, how to lead prayers, how to interact with those who are sick or dying,” says Michael Donaldson. “The Holy Eucharist is placed in a vessel known as a pyx. Extraordinary Ministers receive blessings from the Mass to go forth into the community.”

EMHCs are trained in a different ritual. “Within the Pastoral Care of the Sick, there is Communion of the Sick,” says Lesa Truxaw. “There are different options for different situations. Is the setting in a hospital? Is the person [receiving Holy Communion] homebound? There’s Communion in Ordinary Circumstances [in the homes of the sick, for example] and Communion in a Hospital or Institution.”

In addition, say Donaldson and Truxaw, EMHCs are trained to know the correct protocol for different environments, specifically when visiting those who are vulnerable. “They need to look for any signs of abuse and act accordingly,” Donaldson says.

 

 

IN COMMUNION

If you have a cute little seven or eight year-old in your life that is about to don a beautiful white dress or “big guy” suit and make their First Holy Communion – lucky you! This is an opportunity to walk with them as they receive their second sacrament of initiation into the Catholic Church. While Baptism and Confirmation, the two other sacraments of initiation, are once-in-a-lifetime events, receiving the Holy Eucharist is a sacrament that we can (and should) receive as often as possible.

This is a great cause for celebration, but the focus should always be on the sacrament and the significance of the little ones joining the table of the Lord. Much like the day a child moves from the “kids table” to the “grown-up table,” they now are able to share in the miracle of the Eucharist and participate at a new level in their Catholic faith.

In fact, a big family meal is the perfect way to celebrate the occasion as the Eucharist was given to us at Jesus’ final meal with his closest friends. First communion is a wonderful time to remind the whole family how important the gift of his flesh and blood is to our daily lives.

Fr. Troy Schneider, Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Cathedral, draws a parallel between Mass as and the Jewish Meal Prayer (Shabbat).

Jewish Shabbat Meal Blessing:

Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe who finding favor with us, sanctified us with mitzvoth. In love and favor, you made the holy Shabbat our heritage as a reminder of the work of Creation.

Consecration:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.

 

According to Fr. Schneider, “Our Catholic Mass and is deeply rooted in both the Jewish Shabbat and the Seder or Passover meal. For us, the Mass is both the meal and the sacrifice in remembrance of the gift of God’s son.” We trace our roots and our liturgy right back to the same practices as Jesus. A meal prayer and sacrifice is central to both traditions.

There is nothing like “breaking bread” to bring people together. Passover is the great unifying observance and celebration for Jewish people around the world. The Mass and especially the Eucharist is the great unifier of Catholics into physical union with the body of Christ. In that moment we are all one body, one spirit.

According to Katie Dawson, Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese, “We stress the idea that children are meeting Jesus in the Eucharist, so anything the family can do to reinforce that concept in children is good.”

The Mass, like a family meal, begins with a greeting and then a sharing of the things that are on our mind. A family might talk about daily events, at Mass we confess and ask each other to pray for us. As the meal is set before us, we give thanks and share the food.

One of the most frequent questions Fr. Schneider is asked by children before they make their first communion is “what does Jesus taste like?” As we all know, the answer is He tastes like bread. “But I also tell them it is more important to go by what your heart tells you than your taste buds.”