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EPISODE #214
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: MERCY IN HOSEA AND JONAH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

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 God’s mercy as shown to us in the books of Hosea and Jonah in the Old Testament.

Tune in and be sure to SHARE this podcast!

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 10/13/19

GOD’S WRATH IS JUST AS GREAT AS HIS MERCY, POPE SAYS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians must not take advantage of God’s forgiveness — selfishly repeating sin after sin — because God’s wrath for those who refuse to change their ways is just as great as his mercy, Pope Francis said in a morning homily.

“Do not say, ‘God’s compassion is great, he will forgive my many sins’ and then I just keep going on, doing what I want,” he said Feb. 28 at morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Pope Francis suggested Catholics spend five minutes at the end of each day examining their conscience, pinpointing their failings and working to conform their life ever more closely to Christ’s.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the first reading from the Book of Sirach (5:1-8) in which the Jewish sage warns the faithful against being too overconfident with God, “adding sin upon sin,” and delaying conversion because “mercy and anger alike are with him; upon the wicked alights his wrath.”

The reading prompted Pope Francis to tell the small congregation at Mass, “Do not wait to convert yourself, to change your life, to perfect your life, to remove the weeds.”

Wisdom, he said, is something that grows through daily use and through reflection on one’s actions and controlling one’s passions, he said.

“Passion is not a bad thing; it is, let’s say, the ‘blood’ for carrying many good things, but if you are not able to control your passions, they will control you,” he said.

Taking five minutes at the end of every day to reflect and to examine one’s conscience, he said, “will help us a lot to think and to not put off a change of heart and conversion to the Lord.”

No one knows when his or her hour will come, he said, and God’s infinite mercy does not mean people can keep doing what they want

EPISODE #180
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: ON FIRE WITH JESUS – REMARKABLE STORY OF A VIETNAM VETERAN

On today’s installment, Deacon Steve welcomes another new friend whose story will surely leave you amazed.

Manny Montanez was gravely wounded in combat in Vietnam some 50 years ago; and he was very fortunate to make it out of that situation alive. He goes on to share so much more of what he has done with his life in the ensuing years.

It’s a beautiful portrait of God’s grace, love, forgiveness and compassion.

Listen in, and be sure to share this podcast with others! 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 1/20/19

 

FORGIVENESS TURNS EVIL INTO GOOD, POPE TELLS CATHOLICS IN GENEVA

GENEVA (CNS) — At the end of a day dedicated to celebrating 70 years of an ecumenical fellowship forged by the World Council of Churches, Pope Francis turned to the region’s Catholics, reminding them of what lies at the heart of the faith. 

The Lord’s Prayer “offers us a road map for the spiritual life” by reminding people they are part of one human family, that they should live a simpler, more caring life and that forgiveness works miracles in history, he said. 

“There is no greater novelty than forgiveness, which turns evil into good,” he told 40,000 Catholics from Switzerland, France and other nations not far from this landlocked country, whose history was built on the values of peace and neutrality. 

The pope was in Geneva June 21 “as a pilgrim in quest of unity and peace,” for a one-day journey celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the World Council of Churches — a fellowship of 350 ecclesial communities, including many Orthodox churches, who represent some 500 million Christians worldwide. The Catholic Church, which cooperates extensively with the council, is not a full member. 

Celebrating Mass at the city’s enormous indoor expo center, the pope pointed to the essential lessons contained in the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus teaches his disciples in the day’s Gospel reading.  

The pope first circled the vast indoor center in a small white electric cart, greeting the faithful and blessing babies. Former pontifical Swiss guards in traditional uniform were present, standing at attention, representing their service rendered for more than 500 years in Rome. 

“Father, bread, forgiveness,” Pope Francis said in his homily. These are the three words in the Lord’s Prayer “that take us to the very heart of our faith.” 

When praying “Our Father, who art in heaven,” people are reminded that God “does not group us together in little clubs, but gives us new life and makes us one large family.”  

This prayer says that “every human being is part of us,” he said, and that “we are called to be good guardians of our family, to overcome all indifference toward” everyone. “This includes the unborn, the older person who can no longer speak, the person we find hard to forgive, the poor and the outcast.” 

God commands his children to love each other from the heart, he said. 

When praying, “Give us this day, our daily bread,” it is asking God to “help me lead a simpler life.” 

“Life has become so complicated,” he said, with everyone acting “pumped up, rushing from dawn to dusk, between countless phone calls and texts with no time to see other people’s faces, full of stress from complicated and constantly changing problems.” 

“We need to choose a sober lifestyle, free of unnecessary hassles,” the pope said, pointing to the example of a fellow Jesuit, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whose feast day is June 21. The 16th-century Italian saint renounced his family’s wealth and desired an austere religious life to better serve others. 

With so much abundance in the world, the pope said, it fills up people’s lives and empties their hearts.  

May people rediscover “the courage of silence and of prayer” and “let us choose people over things so that personal, not virtual relationships may flourish.”  

“Daily bread” also means to never forget the life-giving power of Jesus; “he is our regular diet for healthy living. Sometimes however, we treat Jesus as a side dish.” 

Without him every day, life is meaningless, the pope said. 

Finally, the prayer calls for forgiveness, which is not easy, but it is a gift. 

God forgives everything and yet, “he asks only one thing of us: that we in turn never tire of forgiving. He wants to issue a general amnesty for the sins of others.” 

Offer up to God those lingering dregs of resentment and bitterness that prevent complete forgiveness, the pope said. 

Imagine taking an X-ray of the heart, and point to the “stones needing to be removed,” the pope said. Pray to God, “You see this stone? I hand it over to you and I pray for this person, for that situation; even if I struggle to forgive, I ask you for the strength to do it.” 

Forgiveness renews and works miracles, he said. After receiving God’s forgiveness, “each of us is born again as a new creation when we love our brothers and sisters. Only then do we bring true newness to the world.”  

The pope said God is pleased “when we love one another and we forgive each other from the heart.” 

“Let us take the first step, in prayer, in fraternal encounter, in concrete charity” and, like God, love without ever counting the cost.  

CALL ME CATHOLIC: GUESTS ARE ERIN DOOLEY AND JOE THORDARSON

Lights, Camera, Action! We hope today’s Call Me Catholic stimulated your interest in engaging with some summer movie fare. Thanks, Erin Dooley, for sharing the inspiration and vision for your movie “A Way to Forgiveness”. You can learn more about Erin’s work at dashentertainmentllc.com

And we always enjoy our conversations with Joe Thordarson from Geek Tank Radio about Catholic themes in super hero movies. Follow Joe on instagram for Catholic insight about superheroes at the box office at #geekradiojoe

See you at the movies this summer!

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 6/16/18

THE GIFT OF FORGIVENESS

I did it. Along with my husband, I obtained the Jubilee Year of Mercy Plenary Indulgence I wrote about in my previous column.

Last week I pointed out the rare opportunity we all have to purify our souls (and those of our departed loved ones) through the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy Plenary Indulgence.

A quick recap: If before Nov. 20, when the Jubilee Year of Mercy comes to a close, you obtain this indulgence, you will earn complete remission from all temporal punishment due to sin. Your soul will be cleansed. That means that should you die while still in the state of grace that the indulgence affords you, you will bypass purgatory and head straight to heaven. To obtain the indulgence you must go to confession and receive the Eucharist (within 20 days of each other), recite the Creed, pray a Hail Mary and an Our Father for the intentions of the pope, and walk through one of the two Holy Doors in the diocese (at Holy Family Cathedral or Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano).

My point in revisiting this subject is two-fold. First is to remind you to take advantage of this wonderful gift of forgiveness. But secondly, to point out the gift that the Sacrament of Penance is at all times.

I’d not been to confession for a while. Neither had my husband. We decided the special plenary indulgence was a good enough reason to get us back into the confessional. After all, who doesn’t want to go straight to heaven when the time comes? We headed to Holy Family Cathedral near Old Town Orange for the Saturday evening vigil Mass that is preceded by reconciliation.

There is something about standing in line, waiting one’s turn to confess, that is a bit unsettling; as it should be, I suppose. As people disappear one by one into the confessional, you inch your way closer to the moment you must account for your sins. As I rehearsed what I would say when it was my turn, I wondered if this was a glimpse of what it will be like waiting to enter the Kingdom of God on judgment day.

Fr. Troy Schneider, whose voice was clearly recognizable behind the confessional curtain, set the tone for reconciliation in a way that I’d not experienced before. Instead of listening and then handing down my penance, he offered calm and caring words of encouragement. After the Act of Contrition (which I was proud to recite from memory – thank you, Mom and Dad for teaching me), he told me that my sins were forgiven. Then, instead of the usual penance, he said he wanted me to sit quietly and reflect on God’s mercy and love, and to count the many blessings God has bestowed on me.

I left the confessional with a sense of peace. I felt different. Better, somehow. I sat with my husband in the second pew of the Church for Mass and sang the hymns a little louder than usual. I listened more intently.

My husband said he, too, felt uplifted, and that Father Troy’s words helped him view the world a little differently. He said he would carry that with him throughout the week ahead.

Though we went to confession to obtain the plenary indulgence with eternal life in mind, Father Troy reminded us what a gift the Sacrament of Penance can be for us in this life, as well.

Go.

 

A CATHOLIC REFLECTION ON 9/11: FORGIVENESS IS A PROCESS

“Here, grief is palpable.”

Pope Francis made this comment when he visited, last fall, the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Anyone who has been to the reflecting pools and the 9-11 National Memorial at Ground Zero can attest to the pope’s words.

As the nation and the world commemorate the 15th anniversary of the attack by the Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda that killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000, Catholics also reflect on the tragedy and what it means, and continues to mean, in the context of their faith.

“9/11 will always be seared in my memory,” says the Rev. Msgr. Arthur A. Holquin, episcopal vicar for divine worship for the diocese and pastor emeritus at Mission San Juan Basilica.

“I was the rector of Holy Family Cathedral at the time of the attack that occurred shortly before school opened,” Msgr. Holquin says. “All the children gathered for a special Mass that morning as we prayed for all the victims. The darkness of that day was made a bit lighter by our prayerful solidarity at the altar with our sisters and brothers who suffered so much as a result of this senseless tragedy.”

Of course, no parish felt the crushing agony of 9/11 — and continues to feel it most acutely today — than St. Peter’s Church, located at 22 Barclay Street, only a block away from where the World Trade Center towers once majestically stood.

The terrorist attacks “without a doubt made us stronger and more connected,” reads a detailed message on the church’s website (spcolr.org) titled “Our Remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001.”

Fr. Kevin Madigan was pastor of St. Peter’s Church at the time. He recalled after the second plane hit the tower seeing a wheel of an airplane fly over his head. The landing gear of one of the planes pierced the roof of the church.

A lector at St. Peter’s and a parishioner at the mission of St. Joseph’s Chapel, which is part of the church, were killed on 9/11.

In addition to serving as a relief supply station, the church provided pastoral care to rescue workers and those allowed to enter the area. It was open 24/7 for the workers until the end of October 2001, when martial law was lifted and workers returned to offices in downtown Manhattan.

Father Mychal Judge, chaplain of the New York Fire Department, was the first certified fatality of the terrorist attacks. For a while, his body was placed at the altar of St. Peter’s.

Father Madigan played a role in preserving what became a relic of hope in the days after 9/11: two huge steel beams of the wreckage that resembled a cross. From 2006 through 2011, the 6,000 lb. cross stood outside St. Peter’s. It currently is housed inside the 9/11 museum.

Ten years after 9/11, a new custom cross was installed to stand in the same place outside St. Peter’s to represent the resurrection of the neighborhood.

After the attacks, St. Joseph’s Chapel became a FEMA command station. It also became a temporary sanctuary where construction workers, police offers and firefighters could come to eat, email their families, talk with spiritual counselors and “rest from the physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting work at Ground Zero,” as the church’s website put it.

A Catholic memorial, meant to impart the broad message that life is stronger than death, was included in the refurbished St. Joseph’s Chapel. The memorial’s message—life is stronger than death—echoes the broad response to 9/11 among Catholic leaders.

James R. Nicholson, the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, told the Catholic News Agency about meeting, for the first time, with Pope John Paul II, a few days after 9/11, to receive his diplomatic credentials.

“Ambassador Nicholson,” the pope told him, according to CNA, “this was an attack, not just on the United States, but on all of humanity.”

He added: “We must stop these people who kill in the name of God.”

The response of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the Sept. 11 attack, issued in November 2001, urges, among other things, Catholics to reach out to those in need and to avoid succumbing to hate, revenge and violence, particularly against Arab-Americans and Muslims.

It’s a message that continues to resonate loudly today.

“These things can really create a sense of anger and even hatred and bitterness and a thirst for vengeance, and none of those things hold a place in the Catholic Church,” says Father Christopher Smith, rector of the Christ Cathedral.

“That’s why, in many ways, forgiveness is truly divine,” Father Smith adds. “It takes something beyond ourselves to be able to get to that point. And forgiveness is never instant. It’s a process.”

Father Smith says even if we are never able to forgive the people who carried out the Sept. 11 terrorist tasks — or those who have committed countless atrocities since then — just being open to the possibility of forgiveness means we are on the right track.

“With that attitude,” he says, “we automatically are going to be something other than being bent on seeking revenge.”

 

THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

Do you believe, with absolute certainty, that Jesus is the Son of God? Are you confident that evidence of His life on earth, and His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven, is completely irrefutable? Is your belief in God’s love for humanity and God’s forgiveness for human sins perfect and true, down to the very core of your being?

If so, then your faith may be on shaky ground.

For centuries, theologians have maintained that pure, absolute conviction, the total absence of doubt in religious and spiritual matters, is anything but a sign of faith. Furthermore, doubt itself may be essential to a life of Christian faith.

Still, if God is love, then why is there so much suffering in the world? Why am I constantly in debt if God wants me to prosper financially? If God wants me to be happy, then why did my spouse leave me? You may have asked questions such as these and either shared them with others or kept them hidden deeply inside.

“Doubt can be good,” says Father Robert Spitzer, former president of Gonzaga University and president of the Magis Center and the Spitzer Center for Ethical Leadership. “First of all, it drives people to ask questions and to seek evidence. If doubt leads people to make real intellectual inquiries, that’s terrific. If someone with doubt looks for and finds strong evidence, [his or her] faith will be enhanced. In this case, doubt is productive.”

Rev. Msgr. Arthur Holquin, episcopal vicar for Divine Worship at the Diocese of Orange and pastor emeritus of Mission Basilica in San Juan Capistrano, brings up the story of Doubting Thomas. “Sometimes he is viewed in a pejorative sense because he doubted the message of his brothers, who announced that ‘The Lord has been raised!’ Thomas’ doubt points to the very human tendency to seek certitude in life.”

This hesitation to trust in blind faith, Msgr. Holquin says, has a strong upside: It compels efforts that ultimately strengthen faith.

“As St. Anselm put it many years ago,” he says, “theology is really ‘faith seeking understanding.’ It is precisely this ‘seeking understanding’ that … can be the catalyst for exploring, pondering and even wrestling with realities of faith, enabling us to arrive at newer insights and clarity as to what it is we believe and why we believe it.”

The path of doubt may be wrought with pain and darkness. A faithful Christian, for example, may believe that he has the core messages of God, Jesus and Christianity figured out. He has, through God and Jesus, all of the answers.

Then something happens in his life, a relatively inconsequential event or a tragic catastrophe, that undermines his “perfect” understanding of God. Doubt enters the picture, and since God is perfect, the Christian believes he must be flawed. So he tries to flee from doubt – as quickly as possible. After all, perfect faith is the absence of doubt, right?

Wrong. His agonizing doubt, allegorically referred to as the “dark night of the soul,” is a sign that his once-ironclad belief in all things spiritual is finally dying.

If this uncertain Christian were to take his angst to a priest, he would be counseled to embrace his doubt, to actually welcome it as a gift, difficult though that would be. He’d be told that his doubt would spur him to move along his path, even if it seems as though he’s lost that path entirely. That’s good, since he’s no longer stuck in certainty.

Father Spitzer notes that, when counseling others, it’s important that a priest determine what kind of person is experiencing this gnawing bewilderment.

“An analytical person should be sent to a place that offers ‘deep information,’ a place like our website [magiscenter.com]. Any number of sites can help. Just lead them to a lot of good, well-researched information.”

Father Spitzer continues: “The second group of people, those who are by nature affective, ask questions such as, ‘Why would an all-loving God allow suffering?’ In this case, the priest must answer this question from an interpersonal perspective. He can explain, from the heart, how suffering can shock someone out of superficiality and into deeper faith and humility.”

And those who are action-oriented, Father Spitzer says, are looking for something to do to make them happy and successful. In this case, “A priest should teach doers the contributive view of happiness: taking action that helps others in the world – doing things with friends, family, community, the church and the kingdom of God.”

A priest for 42 years, Msgr. Holquin always shares an essential fact to those dealing with doubt: They are not alone. “One of the first things I try to do is assure them that Christians down through the centuries have wrestled with such feelings. They’re in good company! I help them to realize that doubting is not the same as denying one’s faith; it is not ‘unbelief.’

Sometimes the answer simply involves letting go.

“I like to convey that doubts in our life of faith can, more often than not, be the opportunity for deeper faith, hope and love if we are open to letting the Holy Spirit guide us through these moments. Questioning our faith can lead to deeper insights into the truth of what it is we believe about God and His vocation of holiness for each one of us.”

FOLLOW CHRIST ON THE PATH OF FORGIVENESS, NOT VENGEANCE, POPE SAYS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — To follow a path toward Christ, one must follow the good path of forgiveness, peace and solidarity, and avoid following the evil path of vengeance, war and selfishness, Pope Francis told hundreds of Italian children.

The members of Catholic Action’s children’s section, parish-based groups of young people from 4 to 14 years of age, spent the year on various projects that aided migrants in the Italian diocese of Agrigento.

Upon the pope’s arrival, the youth sang “Happy Birthday” and presented him with a cake for his 79th birthday Dec. 17 during his traditional pre-Christmas audience with them.

The pope blessed and thanked the youth for their work with migrants, saying that they welcome in an exemplary way “so many brothers and sisters who arrive full of hope, but are also wounded and in desperate need of so much, including peace and bread.”

“You can offer a special contribution to this initiative with your enthusiasm and prayer, which I advise you to accompany with a small sacrifice, to share their essentials with others who do not have them,” he said.

Departing from his prepared speech, the pope asked the youth what would they do if they had two candies and their friend had none. “I’ll give him one,” a child responded.

“And if you have one candy and your friend has none, what do you do?” he asked. “Half!” another child exclaimed.

“Yes, half. Very good! Go forward this way,” the pope said.

After thanking the leaders of Catholic Action’s Italian branch, Pope Francis led the group in praying the “Hail Mary” and thanked them for their “commitment and dedication to Christian education.”

 

 

ADMINISTERING MERCY

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Always, but especially during a Holy Year, the Catholic Church does everything possible to help Catholics repent of their sins, receive forgiveness and draw closer to God.

The church’s law and its canon lawyers are part of that effort, said Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and a prelate of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court handling matters of conscience.

When Pope Francis announced the Holy Year of Mercy would open Dec. 8, he also said he would appoint “missionaries of mercy” to preach and teach about God’s mercy. They will be given special authority, the pope said, “to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.”

The first step, of course, is to recognize an action is a sin and confess it, expressing contrition and a willingness to do penance. Bishop Arrieta said the pope’s action is designed to ensure that the path to penance and reconciliation is not blocked by a priest not having the full authority to offer absolution in the name of God and the church.

In an interview with Catholic News Service June 2, Bishop Arrieta said the pope’s mention of “reserved” sins refers to actions that can bring with them automatic excommunication, for example, abortion when the person is aware of the penalty and commits the sin anyway.

The missionaries of mercy will have the “faculties” or authority to remove the excommunication and grant absolution in those cases, which normally require the intervention or permission of the local bishop or the Apostolic Penitentiary, he said.

Some commentators have questioned whether the pope’s plan for mercy will send the message that abortion isn’t a serious sin.

But for Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel, a ministry promoting healing and forgiveness for those who regret an abortion, it is a crucial part of the Year of Mercy.

“For millions of women, in their hearts abortion is the unforgiveable sin,” Thorn said during a telephone interview from her home in Milwaukee.

“This sin holds people hostage,” she said.

“Some women keep coming back confessing the same sin” over and over, Thorn said. “She knows she has committed a sin — the hard part is to convince her of God’s mercy.”

In the Latin church’s Code of Canon Law, Bishop Arrieta said, the offenses that carry automatic excommunication are: apostasy, heresy and schism; profanation of the Eucharist; physical violence against the pope; attempted absolution of an accomplice in sexual sin; attempted ordination of women; consecration of a bishop without papal approval; violating the secrecy of the sacrament of confession; recording the words of a confessor or penitent during confession; procuring, performing or actively assisting or pressuring a woman into having an abortion.

“All sins can be forgiven,” Bishop Arrieta said, but more serious sins are also considered crimes under canon law and carry penalties. In order to receive absolution, a person must be allowed to receive the sacraments, which he or she cannot do while under the penalty of excommunication.

However, when an excommunicated person is in danger of death, any priest can hear his or her confession and grant absolution, the bishop said. That is because the priority in the church’s law is the salvation of souls.

“All the barriers of canonical penalties fall when faced with the need to save souls and the danger of death,” he said.

When a woman goes to confession seeking absolution for abortion, “the problem is not the sin, but the penalty, which prevents the reception of any sacrament,” Bishop Arrieta said, which is why Pope Francis is making special global provisions.

In most dioceses of the United States, England and several other countries, the bishops regularly give all their priests the faculties to grant absolution for abortion. But in other places, like Italy, such permission is given only on special occasions.

During the April 19-June 24 public exposition of the Shroud of Turin, for example, Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin granted his priests such faculties to “demonstrate the Father’s mercy toward those who repent of an evil committed.”

He said, however, the permission would be valid only during the shroud’s public display so as not to “diminish the rigor of the law,” which is designed to teach people how seriously wrong it is to kill an innocent life.

Bishop Arrieta said that when the Code of Canon Law was being revised in the 1970s and ’80s, church officials had long, passionate discussions about removing the penalty of automatic excommunication for an abortion. After all, the serious sin of murder does not carry the penalty of automatic excommunication.

The penalty was maintained, however, because officials believed it could “give a distorted impression that the church no longer sees abortion as so grave,” he said.

“Sin is sin,” Bishop Arrieta said, and the offenses that can carry automatic excommunication are especially serious, but a Holy Year is an especially serious time of grace.

“The pope is not saying abortion is no longer important. No. It’s important,” the bishop said. “It is the most frequent cause of excommunication.”

By granting a special faculty to certain priests during the Year of Mercy, he said, Pope Francis is trying to balance a desire “to facilitate reconciliation as much as possible” while also “trying to form consciences” about the seriousness of abortion.

“The church has a spiritual patrimony and during a Holy Year, it encourages the faithful to draw on this patrimony” for the grace and strength to reconcile with God and begin a new life, he said.

The pope is not saying that any sin is unimportant, the bishop said. “No, not at all. The pope is saying the church is like a field hospital in the middle of battle and the treasure of the merits of Christ and of the saints must be distributed broadly” to heal the wounded.