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Love God, Love Others, Make Disciples

Faith Answers with Fr. Jerry

June 16

What’s in the Future of Nativity with Another Priest?

When Fr. Siriac arrives, he will need an office. Even though it is small, the room where the chairs and tables are kept is wired for phone usage and was the initial office space of the Office Manager.

We have purchased a pre-built building (with monies from our larger groups) to be placed on the south balcony of the church. It will store our chairs and tables. It is water-proof and can be secured with a lock. We realize it will be more difficult to set up tables and chairs but hopefully other steps will help.

Our hope is to eliminate chairs in the narthex for our Sunday liturgies. We will be adding an early Sunday morning Mass at 7:00. This Mass will be a quiet Mass; basically a daily Mass with the Gloria, Creed and homily.

It is our hope that this will siphon off enough people to reduce the population of the 8:30 and 11:00 Masses.

By adding another Mass, it is hoped that we will not need to spend any money on expanding the worship space (at least for a while) which will provide more money for our parking, entrances, church center and playground.

With the addition of Father Julio, the Spanish community will be able to have regular confessions and, with the assistance of Deacon Mario, provide more programs for evangelization, education, etc…

All Faith Formation classes will be in English, since this generation of Latinos are all speaking English.

Finally, with another priest, this will allow for more community visits and more attendance to the needs of our homebound community.

June 9

NFP

Before the20th century, the three major Christian groups were against artificial birth control:  Catholicism, Orthodox and Protestantism. With the introduction of the pill in 1952, the walls came down in the Protestant community. 

The Church, with its magisterium (all bishops with the pope as the teaching authority of the Church) debated the situation. The conclusion was to maintain a ban on artificial birth control and to promote natural family planning based on the goods of marriage of fidelity, permanence and openness to life. 

In his encyclical, Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), Pope Paul VI stated that the usage of artificial birth control, including the pill would increase pornography, divorce and abortion. 50 years later, this all seems to have come true. 

With artificial birth control, there is a very small liability held against adultery, fornication and all sex outside the confines of sex in its gifted purpose of expression of love between a husband and wife. In fact, births outside of marriage are common today often leaving a child in a precarious situation lacking permanence and stability.

Society considered the Church as archaic and laughable; the brunt of jokes. However, over time, conclusions have shown that artificial methods can and often are dangerous. Chemicals induced via the pill send many women into a frenzied state of nervousness. The IUD is a foreign object implanted that does cause an abortion. Subcutaneous applications have demonstrated cancer and stroke issues. Spermicides used on condoms are often damaging to the woman. A side effect of this controversy also reduces communication between partners. This lack of communication can also become harmful. 

Every couple I have prepared for marriage are now looking for an holistic approach to birth control aside from harmful drugs. Therefore, NFP is embraced. 

Agreed, NFP used to be difficult and unreliable but now, you can buy a watch that will tell you of fertile and infertile times. One lady told me it wouldn’t work for her because her cycles were irregular. That’s where the watch comes in; it aligns itself to the individual. It is natural and just as effective as any artificial product which holds a degree of error, some more than most. Is it still birth control? Yes, it is, but it is God’s birth control. 

Finally, there is an issue of free will involved. Having more children than you can care for financially or emotionally is detrimental. 

I’m sure this will spark questions regarding abortion but this item doesn’t stretch that far. 

June 2

My Child has Left the Faith. What should I do.
If your adult child has left the faith, remember that they are adults who have free will. The most basic thing you can do is to continue to live your faith, love your children and pray for them. Above all, do not blame yourself! Their decisions are not faults of your own unless
you have removed yourself from the faith also. Then, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they have left.

Other ideas you can utilize:
1. Pray, Fast and Sacrifice for your child. Get others to pray also; sometimes it really does take a village.
2. Equip yourself to answer questions( at least on the big issues). Remember, honesty is reality. If you don’t know an answer look it up (www.catholic.com).
3. Plant seeds. Put a rosary in their suitcase or a good Catholic book
4. Create opportunities to talk. First listen without condemnation or correction. Get to
know what they think.
5. Ask them, “THE 5 BASIC QUESTIONS”
   a. What do you believe about (Jesus, God, the Church, morality, or faith)?
   b. Why do you think what you believe is true?
   c. How did you come to believe that?
   d. What do you mean about God? How do you see/understand God?
   e. What would you say to someone who disagrees with you on faith topics?
6. Identify Roadblocks
   a. What is the biggest thing keeping you away from the Church?
   b. What is the one thing that really bugs you about the Church?
7. LISTEN, DO NOT CONDEMN, LISTEN AND LISTEN SOME MORE
8. Clear up misconceptions.
9. Speak about your faith with joy.
10. Invite AND DO NOT PREACH.

May 26

HOW TO GUARANTEE YOUR FALLEN AWAY CHILD WILL NOT COME BACK TO THE CHURCH.

If your child is away from the Church, there are five ways that will guarantee that they will not come back

1. Don’t force them to go to Mass. Now, I’m not talking about young children, but late teens and college age. You will only frustrate the situation. In the Catholic faith, Mass is not the first step; it’s the final destination. We have to establish an understanding of God, the
underlying fundamentals of faith, what worship is, the sacrifice of Christ, redemption, theology, sacraments and relationship with Christ and then the Mass reveals its reality of what is actually happening. If you are not in love with Christ and understand what is going
on the Mass can be a meaningless ritual. The Mass was never intended to convert. Its primary focus is to worship God and provide us with sanctifying grace to be Christ in the world.


2. Don’t criticize their lifestyle. That is, don’t lead with moral correction; waging a finger about how they are doing the wrong thing. Focus on the heart’s sickness rather than the symptoms. Be open to how they see things, listening without moral correction. We must
first understand what they don’t like about the Church in order to address the issue. This means listening and communicating without being judgmental.

3. Don’t nag. Recall the scenario of a young girl in love with a young boy whom the parents see as “undesirable” or “not good for her”. She will only desire what you don’t want her to have all the more. Going over and over with your point of view as the only correct way will not convince them to come back.

4. Do not dismiss their objections. Listen with an open mind. There may be some validity to what they are thinking; perhaps some issue of abuse that you never knew about. If you refuse to see their side, you’re telling them they are not adult or smart enough to know what
they need.

5. Do not assume you can change your adult child. However, live your faith joyously. Success breeds success. Is what you have in your faith what they would want? Does your faith attract? Don’t complain about the Church or the faith. You are just providing them with more fuel to stay away.

May 19

The “Three” Churches of the Church.

The word Catholic means universal: one church that follows the teachings of Christ. In the Catholic Church there are three divisions of the church: 1) Church Militant 2) Church Triumphant and 3) Church Suffering.

The Church Militant is us on earth now. We are militant in the fact that we are not of this world; we belong the Kingdom of God. The Master of our world is Satan and the allurements of earth lead us away from God. As Christians, we should live in the world but not be for the world. We should focus on God and the Love of God and neighbor rather than the pleasures and temptations surrounding us: sex, pleasure, money, pride, power, etc.

The Church Triumphant is the Church already in Heaven. Those in the realm of Heaven exist in perfect happiness but they are also a great assistance to the Church Militant and the Church Suffering in that they can pray for others. We pray to the saints and they pray for us in a kind of circular manner called the Communion of Saints; we are in communion with the saints: they are in Heaven; we are fighting to get there, in Purgatory, we are waiting to get there.

The Church Suffering are those in Purgatory. Every sin brings with it a penalty. When are sins are forgiven, we still owe the penalty due. Example:  I hit your car. I can be forgiven, but the penalty is to replace or repair your car. Some faiths tell to not pray for the dead but even if one were killed in a crash where they were responsible, insurance or one’s estate would rectify the situation; the penalty due. Purgatory is when our penalties are not taken care of before we die. Our sins may have been forgiven, but penalties due are not completed. The souls in Purgatory also assist us with their prayers and we can pray for them to be released into Heaven. However, the souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves. Grace is not grated to the dead just as you cannot offer the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick to the dead. Example; someone murders another. They can be forgiven, but their penalty is a prison term. In prison, you cannot release yourself to freedom. You must rely on someone else to let you out. In Purgatory, one must wait to be released by God.

At the Mass, all three churches are present. Jesus is truly at the Mass. Heaven is opened (remember we sing with the saints and angels the hymn of Heaven: Holy, Holy, Holy….). Even with a few a Mass, the church building is crowded with the spiritual presence of all the churches.

May 12

The Selection of a Bishop

During the course of the years of a diocese, priests, whom the local diocese deem as particularly good priests in manners of the gifts granted to the Priesthood are selected as a pool of qualified individuals who would be eligible and capable to step up form priest to bishop.

When a diocesan seat becomes vacant, these names are vetted at different levels. Afterwards, the selected names are submitted to Rome. After prayer and decision, the Pope selects who may be elevated to the level of Bishop. 

The See of the Diocese of Knoxville has been vacant for quite a while with Bishop Sticca stepping down.

From the names provided to the Holy See, one of our very own priests, Fr. Mark Beckman has been chosen to succeed Bishop Sticca.

The Nuncio of the United States then contacts the individual to offer him the position. The position does not have to be accepted in fact, over time, many have refused. The job has become a relentless and tough job especially in the days of Social Media.

However, the Diocese of Nashville now celebrates the acceptance of Bishop-Elect Fr. Mark Beckman as the Fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.

Rev. Beckman is presently pastor or St. Henry Church and previously St. Matthews. He has served the diocese for 33 years and will be a true model of a shepherd for the people of East Tennessee. The installation date has not been set.

May 5

Time, Talent and Treasure.

One of the Precepts of the Church is to contribute to its support. Notice that treasure is last! We do need money to support Nativity and to grow, but the Great Commission of Jesus is not to build buildings but to go out to all the world and proclaim the Good News.

Time well spent proclaiming the message of Jesus is a benefit for others and yourself. While many of us think that we don’t know what to say, we really do. Jesus loves you!

Imagine the sorry of those who have no idea of a saving God who is their cheerleader, the sorrow of not believing and knowing that this world is not all that God has planned for us. That’s what many need to hear. And it’s not the lost people of foreign lands. Increasingly, it’s our next door neighbor!

Are you afraid someone might ask you something about your Catholic faith? Grab that phone that EVERYONE has. Catholic.com will provide the answer you need.

Spread the Gospel constantly; use your mouth when it is necessary. Living a good life is a sign to others. Joy attracts! Think how bad you feel when you have locked yourself in sin and remove yourself from God. Then translate that to those who do not know, do not understand or walk a road without God!  Time well spent benefits you and others.

Time? Pray! Everyone can do this. Pray for the success of the faith in your environment. Pray for more priests. Pray for the courage to be a true member of the Royal Priesthood: priest, prophet and king.

Talent is a unique gift from God and not everyone has the same talent. Sometimes our talent is not something most people would consider a “talent”.  Do you talk well? Being open and approachable is a talent and we need that to reach out to others. But everyone can do something.  Caring for children in our nursery is a talent that many don’t have but maybe you do. Helping with VBS is a talent to help our young people learn about God. Our teens need consistent leaders not so much to talk to but to lead and transport.

Treasure is a quantitative amount. Some people have more; some less. A big bulldozer can move a lot of dirt but a small dozer can still dig.

I’m convinced and have experienced for myself that tithing works. God will not be out done in giving. But it takes faith. Some of us haven’t reached that faith level yet and St. Paul tells us to be patient will people whose faith is not on our level.  Tithing is a biblical principle, not a command. Tithing helps others and you but you are not sinning if you don’t hit 10%.

Money is important. We need more space and we need room to grow but that’s just the way of the world.

The precept is to suppor: Time, Talent and Treasure.  Please support the Church the best way you can. It will benefit you and others.

 

April 28

Who Can Get into Heaven?

Jesus says,” I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Throughout the Old Testament, God tells us that He will take away our stony hearts and give us fleshy hearts and write His law upon them.

The law, is not the 10 Commandments, but what St. Thomas Aquinas calls, “the Natural Law”. Not, the law of nature, that’s eat or be eaten. But the Natural Law is defined by doing good and avoiding evil.

Every human is made in the “image and likeness of God”, whether they know this or not. And every human is born with the reality that certain things are wrong; certain things are good.

Unless we are mentally challenged, we all instinctively know these items. And even if we do fall short, there is forgiveness if we turn away from evil and do good.

The Catholic teaching is that every human being has the ability to get to Heaven. Yes, following Jesus is a good way, He is truth and He is life. By virtue of His suffering and death to pay for the penalty due to Original sin, the Gates of Heaven, once locked are now open.

So, do Jews, who do not believe in Jesus have the ability to get to Heaven? Yes. We are required to act to the level of the ability we can intellectually attain and even though one does not believe in Jesus, if they do good and avoid evil, the ability to gain Heaven is there. An isolated tribe in South America, who has never heard the word Jesus, if they follow the Natural Law also have the ability to attain Heaven as do all non-Christians.

We have the ability to gain Heaven by way of what Jesus has done: He has opened the Gates of Heaven by His sacrifice for the penalty due to humanity’s original sin and offers forgiveness for every sin.

God does not put us in Heaven or Hell. Each human decides that for themselves. Their activities in this life decide their cooperation or rejection with the good. We place ourselves in Hell or Heaven. Jesus is the final judge of our activities; a job given to Him and Him alone by the Father.

April 21

Confirmation

Our students are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation on April 30. So, what exactly is this sacrament and what does it do?

Confirmation is confirming the promises made for you at Baptism as a child. As an adult, if you were Baptized and then received Confirmation, it still reaffirms the promises made in Baptism. But in both cases, you receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

At Baptism, we receive the implantation of the Holy Spirit and Confirmation brings the fullness that is, the seven gifts and the fruits of the Spirit to the person.

Every sacrament has two signs, outward and inward. In Baptism, the outward sign is water. The inward sign is God wiping away original sin, implanting the Holy Spirit, incorporating the person into the Church, making them a member of the Royal Priesthood (priest, prophet, king) and we are granted our salvation.

In Confirmation, the outward sign is Chrism oil. (Chrism means Christ), the inward sign is the granting of the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Usually, a bishop confers this sacrament, but a priest can be delegated to confer. The celebrant dips his thumb into the oil and says, “be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit’ while making a cross on the forehead.

In the observation of many Confirmations, never have I seen anyone float or glow. However, the sacraments do what they say they do, you receive the Holy Spirit in Its fullness. The gifts you receive come to the surface when and if you need them.

Supernatural courage is not entering a cave without a flashlight, but the courage to die for Christ. Supernatural wisdom is not knowing all of the answers on the test, but discerning your way in life with Christ. 

April 14

Should I Only Receive the Eucharist from Consecrated Hands?

A couple of times this has come up in conversation with me that only consecrated hands should distribute the Eucharist. There are some rites of the Church that impose this, but overall, it is not a necessity. The only consecrated hands at a Mass would be the priest. The deacon’s hands are not consecrated. With the number of people receiving the Eucharist, it would be very cumbersome to communicate in a timely/orderly fashion.

And then this rather undermines the dignity of the Eucharist. Jesus is in the Eucharist, truly, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. If only consecrated hands could distribute, what would that mean for our homebound Catholics who receive the Eucharistic each week. It would be impossible for most churches to have the priest visit every home communicant each week. That’s pretty much all they would be doing.

However, great detail and attention should be taken in the distribution of Jesus. From the altar, only a pyx will suffice and the Eucharist should be taken as soon as possible to the home. If there are extra hosts left over, they are stored in the tabernacle.

When you receive the Eucharist, YOU become a human “tabernacle” to carry Christ into the world with you. We become what we eat and the “bread of angels” is sent out in you.

Bishop Robert Barron tells us that the word tabernacle translates into “He has pitched His tent among us.”  You pitch your “tent” of Christ within your family, your workplace, your life.

April 7

Papal Election

At the death of a pope, the embers of the Curia (cardinals) begin a conclave. Conclave means “with key”. The cardinals are gathered and locked in; no communication out or in by any means. Meals are eaten behind locked doors. Nominations are made and discussion follows. The cardinals even sleep behind locked doors. Prayer is offered by the individuals and group for the selection of the next pope. At a determined time, a vote is taken. Should a pope be selected, white smoke is sent up the chimney. If no agreement is met, black smoke.

It may take a very long time to choose a pope. The selected man is gathered and immediately prepared to meet the Church from a balcony after the announcement is made:” habemas papum” or, “we have a pope”. 

It is the guidance of the Holy Spirit which directs the selection of the pope. The Curia is brought to an agreement under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

The longest conclave was held from 1268 until 1271 after the death of Pope Clement IV. The shortest conclave was in 1503 which took only 10 hours.

March 31

Purgatory

Every sin contains a penalty. For instance, if I hit your car, I could be forgiven but the penalty is to fix or replace your car. Even if I should die in the collision, my insurance, estate or family would be responsible to replace the car.

When we sin, we immediately receive a penalty due that particular sin. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin. Look at the crucifix to see how bad sin really is!

It helps to think of Purgatory as a process. From our first sin, we are purging ourselves of the penalty due the sin.

Should we die before the penalties are all paid, our sins are gone but we still owe those penalties to be reconciled so that we may enter Heaven, “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.’ 

In His great mercy, God allows the state of Purgatory for this process. Think of it as taking a shower to get ready to meet God.

On earth, we can pray for those in Purgatory and the souls in Purgatory can pray for us. However, the souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves: they cannot gain any grace since they are dead (in our earthly sense).

To better understand this, if someone has committed a crime and placed in prison (although Purgatory is NOT a prison) when in prison, no one can get themselves out on their own. They need to be released by someone else: they finished their sentence, they have been release by a state or federal act of clemency or by a legal process.

Purgatory is a timeless place. Time is a human construct. No one knows how long their stay in Purgatory will be except God. Our works of mercy or indulgences can be applied for their release to assist in their entrance into Heaven.

So, scripturally, where is Purgatory in the Bible? We find this in the Book of Maccabees: “And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. … [2 Maccabees 12;45). There is a battle and Judas Maccabeus finds dead soldiers, who are good Jews but under their armor are found amulets pertaining to other gods (similar to holding a “rabbits foot” for good luck.)  Judas knows that they are good Jews and states that it is good to pray for the dead.

Our Protestant brothers and sisters, whom we respect do not have the Book of Maccabees in their Bible. It was removed as part of the Protestant Reformation.

 

March 10

Indulgences.

One of the items Martin Luther was upset about was indulgences; not the fact that they existed, but that money exchanged hands. 

Indulgences have long been a doctrinal teaching of the Church based on scripture. (cf. Mt 16:19, 18:18, Jn. 20:23), An indulgence is the remittance (partially of full) of the penalty due to sin. Even though a sin is forgiven, there is a penalty attached to the infraction. Let’s say crashing a car into another car is a sin (it isn’t, but just as an example). I will eventually be forgiven for crashing your car but the penalty is to repair or replace your car. Or, you can be forgiven of a murder, but the penalty would be imprisonment. If there were no penalty attached to sin, Jesus would not have had to die to rectify sin.

Think of Purgatory not so much as a place, but rather a process. When you first sin, you have to make up for that sin by works of mercy, charity or penance; you are now in a state of purging yourself from that penalty. If all sins are forgiven and the penalties have not been taken care of at the time of death, the mercy of God allows a time to remove those penalties so that you become “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” and thus to enter into Paradise.

By the authority given to the Church by Jesus, indulgences, again based on scripture can be offered to remove all or part of the penalties due.

But even at the time of Luther, the Church’s doctrine did not allow for money to exchange hands. There were some who did abuse this privilege, but it was not Church teaching.

There is a Handbook of Indulgences one can purchase for specific indulgences but there are some very common ones such as the Stations of the Cross. When saying the Stations of the Cross, a plenary (full) remittance of the penalties due to sin is offered by the authority of the Church. There are specific requirements.

  • Be a baptized Catholic, not excommunicated, and not in a state of mortal sin at the time of the actions taken for the indulgence.
  • Have the intention of gaining the indulgence.
  • Perform the required actions in the required amount of time and in a devout manner.
  • Go to confession and receive communion. It is good to receive confession and communion on the day of the action, but you have 20 days before or after the action. Receive Holy Communion in the state of grace. You have 20 days.
  • Pray for the intentions of the Pope.

March 3

Law of Graduality

The misunderstanding among Christians is often that if people aren’t doing what I’m doing, they are not good Christians. I see this too often!  The Church gives us the Law of Graduality or the Law of Gradualness.

This means that we first identify the individual as a human made in the image and likeness of God without any expectations of where they stand morally. By association, we come to know where they stand.

Then we are called to always accept that person, made in the image and likeness of God and gradually, we help them to grow in faith and understanding.

Even within the Church, there can me a notion that everyone is on the same level, the same playing field. The rules are not applied first but rather acceptance of the person (we never have to accept what a person does but we MUST accept the human person). Then through growth, we assist by example, education and prayer a particular individual to help them grow in their relationship with God and the faith.

We see this in a normative pattern of children being formed firstly in the Domestic Church and then growing in their understanding, awareness and practice of the faith.

Some adults have never had this beginning and as mature beings are really infants in the faith. We must accept and nurture these humans, love them and respect them. As St. Paul says, “We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves;…”  (Romans 15:1].

February 25

Why did Catholics Abstain from Meat on Fridays? 

Every Friday, all Catholics are asked to do some type of penance. This requirement is to unite yourself with the sufferings of Christ on the Cross, Who died on a Friday. It used to be that every Friday was a day without meat, Why?  Jesus gave His flesh for the life of the world so Catholics would not eat flesh on Fridays. Flesh is described by science as pork, pigs, really any mammals. Fish and amphibians are not listed as flesh.

It was thus for a long time, but after the Second Vatican council, the Church released us from not eating meat on Fridays. Many thought this released everyone from any type of penance on Friday. This is a mistake. Catholics are STILL required to do some type of penance on every Friday of the year.

But it doesn’t have to be that hard!  Step back your coffee drinking or sodas that day. Say an extra rosary, go to Mass, spend some quiet time with Jesus, visit a sick person, pray for the sick, pray for peace. Write a letter or call someone who has moved out of your daily life that could use a call.

Remind yourself, by works of penance of the sufferings of Jesus on the cross. 

February 18

What we do During the Week Comes to Mass; What we do at Mass Goes with us Into the Week.

All of us are called to conform ourselves to the cross; this is how we work out our personal salvation.  Each vocation has a particular way of carrying out the work done to conform ourselves. A parent, who has a million things to do, sacrifices time to sit with their toddler for 30 minutes to build a tower of blocks to see them fall over is working out their salvation. Your job, done to the best of your ability is an offering to God. Dealing with a sick parent, giving up something so that your spouse or friend can have their way, etc… All these things we do during the week, we bring to Mass.

At the Mass, Jesus sacrifices Himself for our sins. The Mass is celebrated every day in many places. When we come to Mass, we bring our sacrifices to offer to Jesus. What we do during the week comes with us to Mass. We unite our sacrifices to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.

At the Mass, we receive. We are fed with the Word and the Eucharist to empower ourselves to be Christ in the world for the coming week. We take with us the work of the Mass into the week.

What we do during the week, we bring to Mass. What we do at Mass is brought into the week ahead.

From the Mass: “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice AND YOURS may be acceptable to God the Father, Almighty.”

 

February 11

This Lent, Does God Want More from You, or More for You?

Many of us go through Lent without a clear idea of how we are going to spend this time given to us to prepare for Easter. We seem to always see Lent as a time of “giving up something”.  Look at it another way: God doesn’t want more from you; He wants more FOR you.

The days of Lent are an opportunity to focus on the spiritual life. The common things to give up: chocolate, alcohol, etc… are fine, but perhaps if we do more instead of giving something up, we can empower ourselves and help others in the process.

How about visiting a nursing home once a week, or one extra Mass during the week offered up for someone who needs support or help?

It is always true that whenever we feel alone, separated, or useless, getting up and helping another person helps us to feel better about ourselves. Giving to others always helps us in return.

Look around and see who needs you more in their life, or someone who could benefit from you being in their lives.

It is true that we should develop our interior self for God, but we are community. Focusing inward is just fine, but focusing outward; towards others is imperative.

Go out to all the world and spread the good news. Wherever you find yourself, there is always a way to preach the Gospel; if not by words, by example.

February 4

Start Thinking Now About Lent.

Every year, Ash Wednesday hits us all before we really think about what we are going to do. Give up chocolate? Candy? Social Media?  I have my ashes, NOW what will I do. 

Jesus spent this time in the desert preparing to give His life for all of us; praying, fasting, being alone.

While most of us can’t be alone, we can pray and fast. Of course there are now only two days of required fasting for Catholics: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. (If you can, we are asked to continue the Good Friday Fast until Easter.)

But it always seems like we tend to “give up” something. Perhaps we could look at a chance to “give MORE.” Not just money, but more time in prayer. Maybe time visiting the nursing homes or writing letters to the elder members of our families. Even a chance to break the ice between one’s self and an estranged family member or friend.

We could all take the initiative to get to know the person setting next to us at Mass. Or perhaps time well spent in getting to know the One we come to Mass to say thank you for our lives.

Jesus actually did both: He gave all He had and gave up everything His human nature desired.

Our cars run better when we change the oil and have them regularly serviced. Lent is an opportunity to service our direction of life, our soul, our faith.

But you have over a week to decide on what will benefit your faith. Don’t wait until Ash Wednesday to decide what you are going to do.

January 28

“BELONG, BELIEVE, BEHAVE”. 

The definition of a community to become the fullness of a life-giving parish which is prepared to turn out; to focus outwards is to belong, believe and behave. We all belong. Nativity is a family and we all belong. However, all families have issues. Remember like is not love. We don’t have to like everyone but we do have to love/respect everyone. The answer is simply the “Golden Rule”; treat other people as you would like to be treated. Face to face is always better than behind the back.

There are a lot of things we Catholics believe but Jesus has so eloquently reduced them to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Belong and believe meld into one. To behave in a family means sharing. Everyone doesn’t always get their way. Even though one may feel their way the best, compromise allows others to participate and belong.

So, in reality, belonging, believing and behaving within a family all blend together. No family is perfect. Our exemplar is the Holy Family but in our human natures, we miss the mark. Patience, acceptance of everyone, sharing, caring and love bring us together even in the midst of disagreement.

The result of buying into all this is a community that stops looking at its faults and moves outward to fulfill the “Great Commission”; go OUT to all the nations and proclaim the good news!

Evangelization is not just the job of those in the clerical state of vocations. All of us are priests, prophets and kings by the nature of our Baptism! Even the smallest can be a part of the whole and a great force in our community, country and world!

January 21

Keep your children off of social media. It hurts with unrealistic images of what our youth should look like, tells them they are not good enough and leads them down roads we do not want them to travel.  If you are not going to remove them from social media, here are some helps to limit their participation.

 
  1. Establish Tech-Free Zones and Times: Encourage quality family time by designating certain areas or times as tech-free zones. For example, consider having no phones at the dinner table or designating specific rooms as device-free to foster more face-to-face communication.
  2. Dial-it Back: Maybe your child already has a tech device and you’re not comfortable with how much time they are spending on the device, or maybe you wish you’d waited a little longer before giving them that phone or tablet computer. That doesn’t mean that it’s too late to establish some rules around usage, like no phones in the bedroom, no social media, or phones have to be turned-in to mom or dad at a specific time every day.
  3. Practice Digital Wellness: Promote healthy tech habits by setting limits on screen time for both parents and children. Use tools and apps that allow you to monitor and manage screen time, ensuring that everyone in the family has a healthy balance between online and offline activities.
  4. Cybersecurity Awareness: Educate your family about online safety and cybersecurity. Make sure everyone understands the importance of strong, unique passwords, the dangers of sharing personal information online, how to identify and avoid phishing scams, and not to talk to anyone online that they don’t know in the real world.
  5. Whenever Possible, Make Screen Time a Family Activity: One reason why technology can lead to mental health challenges is because it tends to isolate the user. We’re not saying to avoid technology altogether, but we do need to be intentional about its use. Whenever possible, look for ways to share these tools and technologies together as a family. Watch streamed programs together in a central part of the house. If your child received a video game console for Christmas, look for games that the family can play together. This not only makes screen time more productive but also turns it into a shared, positive experience.

 

January 7

Get More out of Church

As a child, I played basketball. However, not very long. I didn’t get to play often and I wasn’t very good. As a result, I quit. Soon, I jumped into organized baseball. I got to play most of the time because I hit the ball and caught the ball. I was successful and had fun. I excelled and kept playing.A lot of us come to Mass on Sunday. That’s great! But are you really getting as much out of church as you can?
Sitting on the sidelines isn’t fun in any activity. The most important activity; Mass (which should be the reason to miss everything else) is only a small part of the week. It is important, but are you involved?
When you get involved in your community, in your “family”, you gain so much more. You are an active part and not just sitting on the sidelines.
Whenever someone comes to me and says they are depressed or lonely, my suggestion is to get involved. The sure fire wary of getting yourself out of the doldrums and have more fun is to be a bigger, and more active part of the family. Doing something for someone else takes you out of yourself and brings you happiness! It’s true! Giving is better than getting.
Men’s Club, Women’s Club, Knights, Fraternus, Fidelis, Book Clubs, Knitting Group, Altar service, Home Communion…. We have around 50 ministries that help you help others and thus help yourself.
The Church needs all of us and all of us need the Church.

December 31

Am I Helping or Hindering my Parish?

Am I helping or hindering my parish? Well, are you?  There are several things that can separate or unite us.

  1. Am I complaining about things in the church community like Faith Formation, other groups, music, lecturing, altar serving but don’t step up to help? Think about it.
  2. Do I get aggravated by things in the church so I pull away and don’t participate in any way that includes myself or my family? Think about it.
  3. Am I complaining about the community, schools, social groups but don’t do anything to help while pulling away and not being involved to help; to shine the light of Christ in those places? Think about it.
  4. Do I blame others for doing something wrong, but do not step in to patiently correct or do I just talk behind backs? Think about it.
  5. Is my work or activity more important than other’s? Think about it.
  6. Do you use the church but do not contribute? Think about it.
  7. Do I exclude myself from church activities because others are somehow less than? Think about it.
  8. Is my way better than others? Think about it.

Every family has issues; so does our community. If we are not all pulling in the same direction, we become a hindrance. As the saying goes, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Each and every person has the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God; worthy of respect.

Every family argues and has impatient moments. But conversation and rolling up our sleeves to help out or participate helps; it doesn’t hinder.

The Kingdom of God is among us; among us all.

December 24

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

This is the Diocesan Curriculum for every 5th grade student in a Catholic School or Faith Formation:

 

Grade 5 Celebrating Jesus’ Presence

  • A Sacrament is: An outward sign of Christ working on the inside; instituted by Christ and given to the Church for dispensation of the salvation of souls. Every sacrament is scripturally based.
  • Sacraments: Sacraments of Initiation; Baptism (its signs and effects), Reconciliation (its signs and effects/ mortal and venial sins) Eucharist (its signs and effects; transubstantiation) and Confirmation (its signs and effects). Review Sacraments of Healing: (Reconciliation from earlier classes) and Sacrament of the Sick.
  • Catholicism (meaning and living as a Catholic in the world) What does the word Catholic mean?

Scripture:  Baptism of Jesus, Jesus confers the Sacrament of Confession on the Apostles, Letter of James (anointing of the sick along with confession of sins) Old Testament: Isaiah, Prophet

INTERGRATION; Prayer, personal and communal, Methods of prayer, Lectio Divina, spontaneous prayer, Service, Retreats, Rosary, Martyrs,

Saints:  St. Jude, St. Rita of Cascia, St. John Bosco, Immaculate Conception (Mary)

The family is the Domestic Church. In this relationship we should find the PRIMARY teaching of the faith with church classes as assistants. Discussion with your children will help them be able to retain and to PASS ON the faith.

Do you know your faith? 

Resources:  Adult classes at Nativity, www.catholic.com, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (can be found on line), ask your priest.

“Preach the Gospel constantly; open your mouth when necessary.”  But when you have to open your mouth, know what to say or AT LEAST where to find the answer.

December 17

Communion Fast, Fasting and Friday Penance

The Fast to receive communion is one hour before COMMUNION; not before Mass. I have been asked by a couple of people if they have broken their fast by lozenges to stop a cough. NO.  Even if the only thing you have to stop your cough is a piece of hard candy or a LifeSaver, you do not break the fast because you are not using the item as food, but as medicine.

There are two days (only) that the Church requires us to fast for the entire day: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The requirements are 2 small meals and 1 meal that adds up to the amount of the other smaller meals and no food between meals. Normal drinks can be consumed (coffee, etc…during the day) but not chocolate malt or milkshake.

Those who have reached the age of 60 are not required to fast, but for most of us older folks, it really isn’t a question of suffering.  If you are recovering from an illness, your doctor may prescribe small amounts of soup or food throughout the day. This doesn’t break the fast either. However, there is NO age limit on abstinence from meat for any age on the Fridays of Lent.

In the Old Testament tradition, Fasting was used more frequently than today. And, before Vatican Council II, there were more days and requirements for fasting.

Fasting is a good way to offer sacrifice to God for the remission of your sins, for the souls in Purgatory and to remind ourselves of those who go without proper food and nourishment. In many cases, families may skip a meal and offer the cost of that meal to a service agency.

Every Catholic is required to do some type of penance on Fridays to unite themselves to the sufferings of Jesus, Who died on the cross on a Friday. However, fish on Fridays is only required during Lent. Any type of penance can be offered on the other Fridays.

Why fish? Jesus gave His flesh for our redemption. Science indicates fleshy food as pork, beef, chicken and mammals.  Fish are not considered flesh nor are reptiles (turtle soup), and amphibians (frog legs).

 

December 10

HOPEFULLY, Good News for Private Education 

On Tuesday, November 28, Governor Bill Lee announced his proposal of the “Tennessee Education Freedom Scholarship Act of 2024. This would provide every citizen in the state of Tennessee to be able to take their education money with them to the school of their choice.

At present, Hamilton, Shelby and Davidson are the only counties participating in the program. In the 24-25 school year, it is proposed to add another 10,000 vouchers for those students at or below 300% of federal poverty level, possess a disability, or already eligible for the ESA pilot program and 10,000 scholarships for a universal pool attending private schools on a first come/first served basis.

In the 25/26 school year, all TN students eligible to attend public K-12 public schools, including homeschoolers enrolled in an umbrella or church-related school for eligibility. However, if demand extends past available funding, low income students and returning scholarship students will have priority.

The argument against this action is that it will destroy the public education system when in reality, competition for students will force every educational outlet to step up its game to attract and retain students.

This would be a great advantage for Catholic schools for parents seeking a faith-based education for their children. At present, the fund for each student is $7075.00.

December 3

Reasons People Leave the Church (In Three Parts)

Part 3: Theological Objections:

  1. “There is simply no evidence for God.” Response: There is plenty of evidence for God. Including, strongest of all, the universe itself.
  2. Faith and science are at odds, and I choose science.” Response: Faith and science are mutually supportive and do not conflict. Some of the most famous scientific pioneers were Catholic.
  3. “I never found a personal relationship with Jesus in the Catholic Church.” Response: The Church exists to help people encounter Jesus Christ.
  4. “I just wasn’t being fed in my parish. I’ve found another church that is more vibrant and fulfilling. “Response: Nothing can replace the Eucharist, which offers a direct encounter with God that no song, sermon, or experience can match.
  5. “How could God possibly have let that evil thing happen to me?” Response: Although pain and suffering are often difficult to understand, God doesn’t abandon us; he suffers with us. He may not move the “mountain”, but will help us over and around the obstacle. Most pain in the world is caused by human sin.

November 26

Reasons People Leave the Church in (In Three Parts)

Part 2: Moral Objections:

  1. The Church is so judgmental. Didn’t Pope Francis say, ‘Who am I to judge?’” Response: We should never judge persons, but it’s okay and sometimes necessary to judge actions. A reminder: forming an opinion of someone is beyond your control. The human mind immediately forms an opinion on its own. Judging is in your control.
  2. The Church hates LGBTQ persons. Response The Church welcomes everyone and demands that Catholics treat all people with respect, compassion and sensitivity.
  3. I’m gay. How could I ever be Catholic? Response: Same-sex attraction is not incompatible with Catholicism, but those who struggle with it need love, support, and guidance.
  4. Why is the Church against me living with my boyfriend/girlfriend? We love each other so what’s the problem? Response: True love leads to a lifelong commitment in marriage, not a temporary partnership through sex/cohabitation. Cohabitation before marriage has a 90% divorce rate. However, being married in the Church, attending Mass, utilizing NFP, and praying for and with each other drops to rate as low as 7%.
  5. “I’ll come back to church, when they stop oppressing women.” Response: Even though women can’t be priests, they overwhelmingly lead the work of the Church. The Church praises women’s “feminine genius”.
  6. The Church is behind the times on contraception and abortion.” Response: Contraception and abortion are harmful to women and children. Thankfully, the Church offers better alternatives. NFP offers an holistic approach to spacing births. NFP is no longer a hard thing “to keep up with”. Now, a watch can be worn that tracks the periods of an individual woman spacing births with scientific accuracy.
  7. “I’m divorced. The Church doesn’t want me.” Response: Divorced people are most certainly welcome in the Church. Divorce does not keep you from the sacraments. Everyone is a vital parts of the Body of Christ.

November 19

Reasons People Leave the Church (in three parts)

PART 1: Personal Objections:

  1. I don’t have time; I’m too busy. Response: Mass becomes the highest priority only when you realize it offers a direct encounter with God.
  2. Mass is boring. Response: Mass is exhilarating once you learn to see what’s really going on. Go to youtube.com and type in “what really happens at Mass”.
  3. The Church is too focused on rules and making people feel guilty. Response: The Church doesn’t add guilt; it takes away guilt. Its mission involves forgiveness and healing. Everything we humans do involves rules in order for the activity to flow and develop. Reduce all the rules to Love God and Love Your Neighbor. There are some other rules, but there are a lot less than you think.
  4. How could anyone remain Catholic after the sexual abuse crisis? Response: The Church has always been full of sinners, but faith is grounded in Christ, not the actions of wayward people. Sexual abuse is found in many aspects of humanity, not just the Church. The number of abusers in context to the number of religious is minimal when set side by side. Abuse is never right but most religious do not abuse.
  5. I’m married to a non-Catholic. Returning to the Church would upset my spouse. Response: Your marriage is important. You should still move forward into the Church, but gradually rather than suddenly. You have the right to live your faith as does your spouse. Even though “the two become one”, you don’t have to always do the same things. Love will allow the other to find their spiritual place in the world.

F .I had a bad experience with the Church; I’m not going back. Response: The Church I bigger than one mean priest, one ugly receptionist, one unfortunate event. Don’t focus on the priest, the person or the event. We go to Mass not for those things but for Jesus.

  1. God can never forgive me for what I’ve done. Response: God’s mercy is unconstrained. There is nothing that He will not forgive. Even the so called “unforgivable sin’ of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is when you make yourself a god and don’t need God’s forgiveness. So, the only sin that will not be forgiven is the sin that forgiven is not asked for.