Monday, January 21, 2019

Crying Out for Help

(As a reminder, be sure to click on the words highlighted in purple for clarification or additional information.)

I was at one of our monthly Lay Dominican meetings where the discussion led to one of our members saying that she takes a day and commits her words and actions as an offering for the souls in purgatory.

Offering our works on behalf of another is very important.  Wrapped up in what we refer to as the Corporal Works of Mercy, the baptized are called to pray for those who have died before us.  Praying for those who have completed their life here on earth, but are awaiting final purification to reach heaven, speaks to all of us being part of the communion of saints.

I decided to take up my Dominican friend’s suggestion and have begun to start each day with a commitment to pray for someone.  Some days I have chosen to pray for unborn babies, other days for the special needs of those around me, or in these especially cold days, for the homeless and those who do not have adequate shelter.

Usually before I get out of bed in the morning, I try to identify who I will offer my day for, then, throughout the day, I try to remember to think of them and recall their needs.

The thing about praying for others is that we do not pray to try to manipulate the outcome of their situation.  We pray in confidence that God hears our prayers and we trust that he knows what is best.  He does, indeed, see the bigger picture when we often cannot.

Even if the end result causes us disappointment or grief, we do not stop praying.  Besides, praying is good for us and it reflects our belief in God, for if you do not believe in God, why are you even praying, unless to ask for help in your unbelief? (which is a good prayer)

The mere expression, the “crying out” to God, “as it was for Jesus on the Cross,” is “the deepest and most radical way of affirming our faith in his sovereign power,” according to Pope Benedict XVI, as he wrote in his encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est (On Christian Love, 38).

I often use this example:

If I am home alone and fall down the basement stairs, am I going to call out to my husband to come save me?  No, that wouldn’t make any sense, if he is not home.  It is only when I know he is in the house that I will call out in the hope that he will hear me and respond.  And, knowing that he loves me, I am confident he will come to help me.

As Pope Benedict has shown, the very “crying out” to God is an affirmation of faith.  It speaks of our confidence that he is “in the house.” 

When you think about it, if we believe in God and do not pray, we are on very shaky ground, because if crying out affirms our faith, what does our silence say?
I hope you will join me—especially this week—in praying for the unborn.  Let us pray for mothers everywhere, particularly those whose circumstances cause them to consider abortion.  So many out of fear or loneliness, poverty or pressure, go against their natural love for their child and fall prey to our culture’s false ideology.

Here’s an excerpt from a response I received when I wrote my congressman.  It is a sad testimony to how ingrained in this ideology our leaders have fallen:

Women have a fundamental right to a full range of health care services, including the right to choose a safe and legal abortion. As an active participant in the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, I ensure you I will vigorously oppose any attempt the House of Representatives makes to dictate a women's health care or erode the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade. Those decisions should be made by a woman and her doctor, not politicians.”  Congressman Dan Kildee

 As I lamented his response which infuriates me to no end, I grumbled to my husband about the idea that abortion has become synonymous  with “women’s health care,” to which he aptly replied, “Sounds like convenient healthcare"


The only way you could possibly associate abortion and health care would be to honestly acknowledge that it is unhealthy for the woman, the father of the baby, and, of course the unborn baby, whose life is in imminent danger.

God bless,
Janet Cassidy

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Bible—Just a Bunch of Outdated Stories?

Many people have difficulty reading the bible.  You will hear comments like, “I don’t understand what they are talking about” or “they are just a bunch of old stories.”  

In fact, the bible is a collection of books that express God’s revelation of himself to us.  The events they recall and the messages they unfold through a variety of writing styles, such as poems, analogies, epic narrative stories, and of course, some literal accounts, are all very relevant to you and me today.

For instance, the reading for today, Friday, January 18, 2019, comes from the Gospel of Mark Chapter 2.  It relates the account of Jesus healing a paralytic who sought him out with considerable effort.  There are two types of healings taking place here, the first of which the gathered crowd wasn’t buying at all—that he could forgive sins.  The second was a physical healing, not unrelated to the first.

But let’s put it in today’s language.

Let’s say Jesus said to you, “Susie, don’t worry, I am going to see to it that your sins are forgiven.”  Probably the first thing you would say would be, “Prove it.”  Because what Jesus claims he is doing for you is not visible, you would have a hard time believing it.  

But, what if he did a parallel act that you could see?  Would you believe him then?

The people of the time of Jesus were no different than you and I, in this regard.  They looked at him and said, “Why does this man speak that way?  He is blaspheming.  Who but God alone can forgive sins?”

In 21st century speak, they are saying, “What are you talking about?  You’re crazy!  How can I know that what you said you did, you actually did?”

Jesus knew what the scribes were thinking privately, so he asked them a question:  “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk?’” (Drum roll please—the answer is A, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’)

In order to show that he did have the power to forgive sins—something that was invisible—he did something that was visible:  He told the paralytic to pick up his mat and go home. Definitely the harder of the two. After the man walked away, everyone was “astounded and glorified God . . . .”

The bottom line is, we can believe in Jesus.  For over two thousand years, the miracles he performed—that people actually saw and told others about, and wrote about—took place.  We are not talking about a couple of isolated events.  We are talking about accounts that sometimes involved thousands of people.
If you are one that has a hard time believing in the power of the words of Jesus, you can look to the hard physical evidence that you can actually see.  Maybe that will help. The testimony of his followers—and even those who doubted him at first—is solid.

And finally, like moving the crowd from his words of forgiveness to his physical sign of healing, Jesus likewise revealed by his very physical suffering on the cross, he came to save us all.

It is but a little step to see the parallel here.  Jesus died on the cross—and rose from the dead—no small act, but indeed very visible—revealing that he truly has the power to save us.  His words and deeds matter; they are both to be trusted.

There is so much more to all of this, especially when you look at the sacraments, but this little bite will hopefully get you thinking as you consider not only your life here on earth, but your hope for the great beyond.

God bless,
Janet Cassidy

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

What's a Pastor to do?

Bear with me, I am just making an observation and asking a few questions.

We all know about the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  We know that pastors are in charge of the souls over whom they have been placed.  We know that they, and other priests, are primarily responsible for the sacraments being offered for the people.

But what is a pastor, really, and what is he supposed to be doing? 

What happens, for instance, if by extension of his ministry, a pastor finds himself in the position of spending time away from his parish in the interest of educating, inspiring and evangelizing people both in and out of the church?

I was thinking about Bishop Robert Barron recently, of Word on Fire fame.  He is all about social media.  He does podcasts and pilgrimages and is an informational resource extraordinaire.  How does he have time to be a bishop?

From what I can see, he has people in charge of the media end of his ministry and I would guess he relies heavily on them to keep things moving.

But what about the pastor who has the same natural drive for evangelization and social media, or enjoys public speaking engagements (or any other particular charism), but does not have the support staff to run a “business” allowing him time to pastor?

For sure, Bishop Barron is not the only ordained priest active in evangelization and actively using social media, but he does stand out because of the breadth of his ministry.

Even Archbishop Fulton Sheen embraced the public teaching element of his ministry and reached millions of people back in the day.  Those were simpler times, for sure, but I expect his episcopal work was still all-encompassing.

In the diocese where I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28 😊), due to the limited number of vocations and our bishop’s commitment to having a priest in every parish, pastors are more frequently running two or three parishes.  Now what if you add into that mix a priest’s evangelistic drive as well?  How can a pastor manage all of that, or does he have to squash his natural evangelizing skills?

Here’s the thing.  I would instinctively say his first responsibility is to his parish and the people to whom he serves.  Seems like a no-brainer.

But the more I think about it, this question crops up:

What if his teaching, etc., which is a good thing, keeps him so busy that he does not have time to take care of his people, what is he supposed to do?

I’m just asking, really.

I see that under Canon law (and I am definitely no expert here!) that a bishop is given a solution if his problem is too few priests. 

For instance, a pastor of a particular parish is called to exercise his care of the community, and under his authority he carries out his priestly functions which are teaching, sanctifying and governing.  He does this in cooperation with the other priests and deacons, with the assistance of lay members. (Canon Law 519)

But, if there is a lack of priests, a bishop can entrust a deacon, or someone who is not a priest, or even a community of persons, to assist the pastor in the pastoral care of a parish. (Can 517 §2)

I know this is a jump, but that being said, I wonder if we need a shift in our thinking to the extent that the door should be opened wider for priests to teach, sanctify and govern without putting their attentiveness to their parish at risk.  They could do this by depending on those “others” who can legitimately give them qualified assistance.

It seems to me, everyone wins—pastors might actually have more quality time for the people of the parish when the administrative work (within his purview of course) is taken care of by utilizing the gifts of the non-ordained, plus, the people he reaches outside the church who are drawn in by his particular way of proclaiming the gospel also benefit, thus widening the circle of evangelical activity.

You could say this is already happening in a lot of places, and that would be true, but it is not happening everywhere, dare I say, to the detriment of our parishes and communities at large, and our overworked pastors.

Will the face of the church and the pastorate have to change to allow them to use their natural gifts and let someone else participate in the administration part, as well as assisting pastorally?

Maybe as a church, we need to look more carefully at this growing challenge so that pastors are better able to serve the people.  We have to recognize that not everyone called to the priesthood desires to be a CEO.  These men who have dedicated their lives to God—out of their love of God and his people—deserve the opportunity to fulfill that call.

So what is a pastor and what is he supposed to be doing?

Well, governing a parish for one thing.  This IS part of the work he is called to do, but I would argue that in the same vein that Bishop Barron oversees his media empire, a pastor could still oversee the governance of a parish and broaden his evangelical, or teaching work, as well, IF he had the help and resources he needed to do it.

Good stewardship by the people in the pews could go a long way in terms of helping provide the necessary support staff and resources.

Of course, it simply cannot be said enough that the members of any given parish—all of the baptized—are also responsible for proclaiming the gospel in the particular way in which they are called as well.

This rising concern (of pastors being overworked and laypeople being under- utilized) may not be resolved quickly, but in the very least, I think we need to work toward a shift in our approach to ministering to God’s people, as well as taking care of the ministers themselves.

The Amazing Parish Minute:

"The journey toward becoming an amazing parish is a long one, but it begins in a moment of silence, in the mind and heart of the pastor. Very few will have the desire, skill or time to fulfill every leadership function that is required... The only way for that to happen is for the pastor to prayerfully acknowledge and accept his ultimate responsibility as a leader, and to turn to God regularly for the grace and wisdom needed to step into that role without fear."

 God bless,
Janet Cassidy