Posted by: Fr Chris | April 11, 2018

Holocaust Remembrance & Catholics: Part II

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Rescued Jewish children in Poland 

Sir Martin Gilbert, Jewish historian of the Holocaust, defends Pius XII  https://zenit.org/articles/historian-sir-martin-gilbert-defends-pius-xii/

Refuting the Black Legend about Pope Pius XII 

http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1337848bdc4.html?eng=y&refresh_ce

Framing Pope Pius XII    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/the-framing-of-pius-xii-from-skepticism-to-belief

Pope Pius XII and World War II   https://www.amazon.com/Pope-Pius-XII-World-International/dp/1477157042/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1523473753&sr=1-1&keywords=9781477157060

All Saints Church was in the Warsaw Ghetto until 1942. Its priest, once known for  disliking Jews, used it as an escape route for numerous Jews out of the ghetto – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Saints_Church,_Warsaw

Saint Augustine Church was in the Warsaw ghetto and was closed. But the priests stayed on, rescuing Jews and getting help for the ghetto. Both died for this – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Augustine%27s_Church,_Warsaw

Irena Sendler with Jewish baby 

Polish Priests, Nuns, and rescue of Jews (book excerpts) 

https://books.google.com/books?id=s2xhKJ-gz5oC&pg=PA52&lpg=PA52&dq=nuns+who+saved+polish+jews&source=bl&ots=tjGF_P52KS&sig=5mramjWhy7t0YOSY_umkN_5p-sQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwixs5vc8vfTAhVHllQKHSvRDRYQ6AEITzAH#v=onepage&q=nuns%20who%20saved

Banasiewicz Family who saved 15 Jews   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franciszek_and_Magdalena_Banasiewicz

Nuns Who Saved Polish Jews  http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/nuns_who_saved_polish_jews

Why don’t you take care of this child? – the rescue of a Jewish boy in Warsaw – http://www.aish.com/ho/p/The_Bakers_Tale.html

Irena’s Children – rescuing children from Warsaw Ghetto http://www.aish.com/ho/p/Irenas_Children.html

I’m no hero – Irena Sendler, savior of 2,700 Jewish children – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/mar/15/secondworldwar.poland

Henrik Swalik, Polish diplomat who saved 5,000 Polish refugee Jews in Hungary & 35,000 Christian Poles in Europe, hanged by Nazis – http://www.thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/176404,Polish-Wallenburg-honoured-in-Silesia

Consul Souza de Mendes, who defied Portugal’s dictator to save Jews – http://www.aish.com/ho/p/The-Portuguese-Consul-who-Disobeyed-Orders-to-Save-Jewish-Lives.html. He also rescued the Imperial Family of Austria, Empress Zita and her children, who escaped to Canada because of him – they were wanted by Hitler.

Cardinal Stepinac and rescuing Jews in Croatia  http://www.croatianhistory.net/etf/jews.html

Ulma Family, massacred for hiding Jews in Poland-   http://www.polamjournal.com/Library/Sophie_Knab_Index/The_Ulmas_of_Markow/the_ulmas_of_markow.html

Nuns who saved Jews in occupied Poland – https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/history/nuns-who-saved-polish-jews.html

Byzantine Catholic Bishop who saved Jews, Bl. Paul Gojdic https://aktualne.centrum.sk/biskup-gojdic-zachranoval-zidov-pred-holokaustom/slovensko/spolocnost/  (use Google Translate, in Slovak)

Bishop Gojdic http://www.yadvashem.org/righteous/stories/gojdic.html

Fr. Pierre Chaillet, underground leader and rescuer of Jews in France http://db.yadvashem.org/righteous/family.html?language=en&itemId=4042730

Rescue of 85% of Italy’s Jews, and the work of Fr Francesco Brondello  http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/saviors/italian/don-brondello-catholic-church/

Italian Catholic Rescuers  http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/category/saviors/italian/

Italian TV about the rescue work of Angelo Ronacalli (Pope John XXIII)  http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/roncalli/tributes-29/two-italian-productions-about/

Gino Bartali – saving Jews by bicycle   http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/righteous-sportsmen/bartali.asp

Belgian Rescuers  http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/category/saviors/belgian/

Sisters of Social Service in Hungary http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/news/sisters-of-social-service-of-budapest-was-declared-house-of-life/

Bl. Sara Salkhazi, SSS, killed for helping Jews in Hungary

The leader of the Council to Aid Jews in Poland  http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/saviors/others/keepers-flame/

Book about the council: https://www.amazon.com/Code-Name-1942-1945-Dangerous-Conspiracy/dp/031338391X/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1469296628&sr=1-8&keywords=poland+righteous+gentiles

Irene Gut Opdyke, a Polish Catholic woman who hid Jews literally under the noses of the Nazis  http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/saviors/others/her-hands/

Fr. Alfred Delp, SJ, anti-Nazi German priest and rescuer of Jews http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/news/celebrating-100th-birthday/

Msgr. Beniamin Schiavo, rescuer in Italy   http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/saviors/others/monsignor-beniamino-schivo/

Portuguese diplomats who rescued Jews by supplying them with visas – http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/wp-content/files_mf/1349882040ebooksparedlifes.pdf

Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky and the rescue of Jews in Ukraine, ongoing debate about making him a Righteous Gentile – https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=uk&u=http://ipress.ua/articles/chastyna_i_19445.html&prev=search

How FDR and the US kept Anne Frank from reaching safety in Massachusetts, while allowing in British children and also British purebred puppies. 

https://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/16784#.VTBBJ61VhBd

The Polish doctor who saved a village with a false epidemic –  http://holocaustforgotten.com/eugene.htm

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Fr Chris | April 11, 2018

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2018: Part 1

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Refugees in the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo during the war 

After the genocide of the Jews – and also Gypsies, Poles and other “subhumans” – the motto was “Never again.” Sadly this has happened again and again – in Rwanda, Cambodia, and probably the first televised genocide, the “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia in the Yugoslav War and the bloody siege of Sarajevo.  

Today people talk about the Jewish Holocaust in different ways. One of the current ones in the US is to evoke the Nazis’ disarming of the Jews and compare that to possible gun control. That strikes me as incredibly insensitive, and it is also ignorant: Jewish groups have been asking for people to stop proclaiming that this would have stopped the Nazi bloodbath but any perusal of social media turns up memes using Holocaust photos.

Another disturbing  thing is how casually people talk with anger, vitriol and even hatred of those who oppose their views. Nothing gets done in Congress because the two sides barely speak to each other, and no longer socialize together where families would meet up for picnics, parties, and games. Conservatives and liberals alike malign one another – we live in the richest, most powerful nation the world has ever seen and yet we are incapable of solving our current problems. We have been The City on the Hill – the shining light of morality, ethics, and liberty, envy of the planet. Yet we now see our leaders, our media people, our own president speak viciously about other people who are also made in the image and likeness of Almighty God. What must our Crucified and Risen Savior think of us who claim a Judeo-Christian heritage? 

When remembering the Holocaust, it is worth remembering how hard it was for German and Austrian Jews to escape: Canada and America both shut the doors in their faces: Anne Frank’s relatives in the US were blocked repeatedly by our government. A Canadian immigration agent said of Jews fleeing Europe:  None are too many.  This is what happens we deny to ourselves that our political or social opponents are not equally worthy of dignity, when we blithely allow the massacre of unborn babies because they might be “deformed” or have Down’s Syndrome, or aren’t “wanted” by the abusive boyfriend, or because the mother is trapped in grinding poverty and thinks she has no options, we advocate for killing the elderly, the disabled. A culture of death has taken root. The Jews died because too many Europeans and people in the Western Hemisphere were not brave enough to step in, accept them into their nations, protect them – the Nazi propaganda, old stereotypes, and fear combined to let six million men, women, and children die horrible deaths. And what of the Christians trying to flee the Middle East today? Or other refugees: the new limit is 45,000 a year now can come into the United States – how magnanimous!

Catholics are often blamed in social media for “not doing enough to stop the Nazis/ save Jews” – oddly enough, Western presidents and prime ministers who appeased Hitler and did nothing to save Jew are not reviled. The Church is also blamed because Hitler was a baptized Catholic – Lenin and Stalin were baptized Orthodox but nobody says the Orthodox Church is to blame for Communism’s atrocities! Here are some Catholics who stood up and did what was right and went the distance, at great risk, to save lives: 

A Jewish historian’s appraisal of Pius XII – http://www.ewtn.com/v/news/getstory.asp?number=8546

Andrea Tornelli: Pope was not silent: https://zenit.org/articles/book-shows-pius-xii-wasn-t-silent/

Pius XII’s summer residence as a refuge for Italian and foreign Jews – http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/castel-gandolfo-history-of-the-summer-residence-of-the-pope-a-886181.html — Jewish babies were born in his bedroom.

A second article on Castel Gandolfo and Jews https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/03/castel-gandolfo-home-of-popes-refuge-for-jews

Activities of Pope John XXIII as a papal diplomat in the saving of Jewish lives – http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/category/roncalli/

Ten Catholic Heroes of the Holocaust  http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2011/01/19/ten-catholic-heroes-of-the-holocaust/

Augustinian Nuns of Rome who hid Jews in their cloister – http://www.30giorni.it/articoli_id_11037_l3.htm

Bridgettine Nuns of Rome rescuing Jews in their monastery – http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2013/12/06/two-nuns-honored-for-hiding-jewish-families-in-wwii/

St Elizabeth Hasselbad and rescue of Jews – http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2015/12/18/swedish-sister-who-hid-jews-from-the-nazis-is-to-be-canonised/

Mother Elizabeth of the Eucharist, who hid both Jews and weapons for the French Resistance http://20thcenturymartyrs.blogspot.com/2006/07/do-not-touch-sisters-and-children.html

The Rescue of Jews in Italian Monasteries in 1943-45   http://insidethevatican.com/news/lead-story/thousands-jews-saved-churches-convents

Cardinal Stepinac, reviled as a “Jew-lover” and the truth of his activities file:///E:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Father%20Chris/My%20Documents/Holocaust%20Rescuers/Stepinac%20and%20Jews.pdf

Cardinal Stepinac’s actions in Croatia for Jews against the fascists   http://www.lastampa.it/2015/03/02/vaticaninsider/eng/documents/the-blessed-stepinac-and-the-persecution-of-the-jews-fVH0T5hr2UAsmif3U9nA8J/pagina.html

5,368 Poles killed for helping Jews 1939-45  http://sunday.niedziela.pl/artykul.php?dz=z_historii&id_art=00075  (The Poles are the largest nationality recorded at Yad Vashem as Righteous Gentiles)

Polish Rescuers – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rescue_of_Jews_by_Poles_during_the_Holocaust

The Council for the Rescue of Jews in Occupied Poland – the only occupied country to have a government recognized group involved in rescuing Jews from the Nazis – https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rada_Pomocy_%C5%BBydom (in Polish, use Google Translate)

President Quezon of Philippines who saved 1,200 Jews – http://haruth.com/jw/QuezonsList.htm

Maronite Rite Jesuit who saved Jewish children in Italy  https://aleteia.org/2015/04/21/how-one-jesuit-risked-his-life-to-save-jewish-children-from-the-holocaust/

Brazilian ambassador who saved 1,200 Jews – http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/saviors/diplomats/souzadanta/luiz-de-souza-dantas-biography/

 

 

Posted by: Fr Chris | April 4, 2018

Executions of Catholics at Easter

A priest was executed by a gang in El Salvador on Holy Thursday, the feast of the priesthood and Eucharist, while he was on his way home from the Chrism Mass. In Pakistan, four members of a family were executed by Islamists in front of the family home in Quetta on Easter Monday. An ISIS statement said that “Christian combatants” were targeted. They did not say that they were civilians sitting in a rickshaw  – how brave the ISIS attackers were to shoot four unarmed adults and a little girl.

And how afraid the Salvadoran gangs must be of the Catholic Church’s priests who stand for justice and peace, to gun one down on Holy Thursday!

Image result for Pervaiz Masih, one of his parishioners killed in Quetta

Funeral in Quetta, Pakistan, of murdered Catholics, April 4

.- Fr. Walter Osmir Vásquez Jiménez was shot and killed the afternoon of March 29, Holy Thursday, on a dirt road outside of the town of Lolotique, El Salvador, as he was on his way to celebrate Mass.  The Archdiocese of San Salvador released a statement expressing “its sorrow over the murder of Fr.  Walter Vásquez. We express our solidarity with the Diocese of Santiago de María and his relatives. We urge the appropriate authorities to determine the facts,” they added.

According to the National Civil Police of El Salvador, the priest, 36, was stopped and killed “when he was riding in a car to celebrate a Mass in a place known as La Casona.” The local press attribute the crime to gangs active in the area. According to the Italian publication l’Avvenire, three armed men wearing ski masks robbed the priest and other passengers in the vehicle, taking their wallets, watches and cell phones. They then ordered the priest to get out of the car and took him some 150 feet away and shot him. However, Fr. Vásquez Jiménez was only grazed by the bullet and attempted to flee, when he was then shot again and killed. Witnesses claim it was “an execution.”

Image result for Walter Osmir VásquezAlthough the motive for the killing is unknown, l’Avvenire reported that the victim exercised his ministry in a violent area of the country where the gangs extort businesses and the priests often try to provide protection for the inhabitants. They also support young men who do not want to join the gangs. “We’re on the front lines, every day we wonder when they’re going to shoot us, and we’re surprised they still haven’t done it,” said a priest whose name was withheld for security reasons.

“We express our condolences and solidarity” with the family of the priest and to the faithful he cared for,” the Salvadoran diocese of Santiago Santa Maria stated.   “We condemn violence of any kind,” they said in a statement while they thanked “ the authorities for their prompt response in face of such a sacrilegious act,” in order to “find those responsible for the crime and that justice be done.”

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Hundreds of faithful attended the priest’s funeral Mass and burial in Lolotique on April 1, Easter Sunday. Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, the auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, presided at the Mass, which was concelebrated by the Archbishop of San Salvador, Luis Escobar Alas. The archbishop stated that “unfortunately we must recognize and denounce sin, injustice, lies, corruption, arms trafficking, drugs and so many social evils, especially the violence which has caused and continues to cause so much pain.” “It is incredible that  on Holy Thursday, after having participated in the Chrism Mass, one of our priests, Fr. Walter Osmir Vásquez, would be violently murdered. It is not possible that this should happen in a Christian country,” he added. Speaking to the media, the prelate stressed that “it is not only the person of the priest that moves us to sorrow  but all those who die because of these kinds of situations which end up in these grave, very grave incidents.” Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez, emphasized that “we are here along with Fr. Walter to say: Yes to life, yes to love, yes to forgiveness, yes to justice.”

This article is a CNA translation and adaption of stories originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa.

Quetta (Agenzia Fides) – “It is sad to see that once again our people are attacked and killed on the occasion of one of our religious festivities. First the bomb at Christmas and now a massacre of the innocents at Easter. I am praying for the persons involved and I pray that God will convert the hearts of those responsible for such acts of terrorism”: Fides was told by Rev. Wajid Michael, a Catholic priest who said Mass at the funeral of Pervaiz Masih, one of his parishioners killed in Quetta, capital of Beluchistan province, on Monday 2 April. Four men, all members of the same family, were shot dead in front of their home in Pervaiz Masih, Shah Zaman district, Quetta, and one young girl, the daughter of Pervaiz, was wounded. Three, all relations of Pervaiz, were from a village near Lahore, in Punjab, and the bodies were taken back for the funeral and burial. Pervaiz instead was buried in the Christian cemetery of Quetta.
Rev. Wajid Michael tells Fides: “It is terrible to know that a family was massacred in front of the gate of the family home. The massacre occurred just as the family were preparing for an outing. Protection and safety for minorities has become an important issue for the government of Pakistan: all the different religious minorities Christians, Hindu, Shiite and also many Muslims sects face discrimination, violence and terrorism”, says the parish priest.
Over three hundred Christians attended the funeral yesterday of Masih, who had invited his relations from Lahore to celebrate Easter in Shah Zaman, a mainly Christian district of Quetta. A neighbour told Fides: “Two men on a motorbike opened fire on the family seated in a rickshaw. Four adults, Pervaiz Masih, Tariq Masih, Imran Masih and Firdous Bibi were killed, the daughter of Pervaiz Masih was injured and taken to hospital”
Azeem, a local catechist says: “Most of the homes on that road belong to Christian families; the street is a dead end. The attackers opened fire and then turned back on the same road. The whole area is gripped by fear, and the other members of the family are in a state of shock. This is a grave loss for the family of Pervaiz Masih because he looked after them all and provided for them. The other three were relations visiting Quetta for the first time “.  According to local information, the so-called Islamic State (DAESH) claimed responsibility for the attack but failed to provide to evidence. Other observers speak of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan terrorist group (TTP), active in the area. Moazzam Jah Ansari, a local police chief said: “This act of terrorism would appear to be a targeted attack”. 
In December 2017, the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta was attacked by two suicide bombers on the third Sunday of Advent, when 14 people were killed and 56 injured. (AG) (Agenzia Fides 4/4/2018)

Posted by: Fr Chris | April 3, 2018

CHRIST IS RISEN!

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Troparion in the Byzantine Rite for the 40 days of Easter: Christ is risen from the dead, by death He trampled death, and to those in the tombs He granted life!

The Paschal troparion in different languages:

 

The daily greeting: Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

Slavonic: Christos voskrese! Voistinnu voskrese!

Arabic: El-Masieh kam! Hakkan kam!

Hungarian: Krisztus feltamadt! Valoban feltamadt!

German: Christus ist auferstanden! Wahrlich ist Er auferstanden!

Greek: Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!

Easter Chants from different monasteries and churches in Russia and Ukraine:

 

 

Posted by: Fr Chris | March 31, 2018

An Ancient Homily: Holy Saturday

The origin of this is unknown, other than it goes back many centuries. As the homily says, this is a day to try and keep quiet, as Jesus prepares to descend in search of Adam and Eve and all the Just in Sheol, waiting to enter heaven. 

Image result for jesus lying in the tomb

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep.

The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

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He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

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Jesus reaches for Adam and Eve in Sheol 

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hades.

Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden. 

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

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Jesus carries the life-giving Cross into Sheol to deliver the Just 

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity. 

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Posted by: Fr Chris | March 30, 2018

Good Friday Poem

Jesus speaks directly to us in this English Catholic poem from the late 1400s:

Woefully arrayed
My blood, man for thee ran, it may not be nayed;
My body, blo and wan;
Woefully arrayed.

Behold me, I pray thee
with all thy whole reason
and be not hard-hearted,
and for this encheason,
sith I for thy soul sake
was slain in good season,
Beguiled and betrayed
by Judas’ false treason,
unkindly entreated,
with sharp cord sore freted,
the Jews me threated,
they mowed, they grinned,
they scorned me,
condem’d to death as thou may’st see;
Woefully arrayed.

Thus naked am I nailed.
O man, for thy sake;
I love thee, then love me,
why sleepst thou, awake,
remember my tender heartroot for thee brake;
with pains my veins constrained to crake;
thus tugged to and fro,
thus wrapped all in woe,
whereas never man was so entreated,
thus in most cruel wise
was like a lamb offer’d in sacrifice;
Woefully arrayed.
Image result for crown of thorns plant
Of sharp thom I have worn
a crown on my head.
So pained, so strained, so rueful, so red,
thus bobbed, thus robbed,
thus for thy love dead;
unfeigned, not deigned,
my blood for to shed,
my feet and handes sore
the sturdy nailes bore;
what might I suffer more,
than I have done, O man, for thee?
Come when thou list, welcome to me!
Woefully arrayed.


A Clerk of Oxford (perhaps John Skelton)

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Posted by: Fr Chris | March 28, 2018

HOLY THURSDAY

Holy Thursday

We commemorate two events at the Last Supper: the institution of the Priesthood and of the Holy Eucharist.  In the communist countries people will go to extraordinary lengths to attend a Catholic celebration, to be in the presence of a priest for the Mass or Sacraments, risking arrest or even torture.Parishes in the Amazon basin see a priest once a year.

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Palm Sunday, Youtong village, Shijiazhuang, China, for Catholics not registered with the regime

 Yet 75% of American Catholics can’t be bothered to get out of bed on Sunday to go to church weekly – though they will go to run in a marathon, attend a sports event, go to a farmers market, join friends for brunch. But church? Seriously – today? For old people and fools.

This is one of the great tragedies of our age – due to poor catechism classes in the last 50 years, and watering down of dogma –  sometimes in the name of a false ecumenism whereas authentic ecumenism requires an honest presentation of one’s faith-  Catholics have lost their belief in the Church and what the Church offers, and left the Church in droves.

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Coptic Orthodox icon of the Last Supper 

This is My Body – This is My Blood.  Verses which all fundamentalists should take literally but which they suddenly decide are figurative words only.  Jesus makes it very clear what He means in chapter six of the Gospel of St John, another passage where Christians who proclaim Sola Scriptura, or only Scripture, suddenly decide that Jesus did not mean what He said: unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood YOU HAVE NO LIFE IN YOU – Jesus is very blunt and clear. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 

But only the apostles and immediate disciples remain: John says everyone else abandons Jesus as the words He says, Eat My flesh, Drink My blood, are too harsh.  Only the disciples remain with Him, because, they say, He has the words of everlasting life. Where else would we go?, says Peter.

Who else has the words of everlasting life? Churches like Sagebrush, or Calvary, or is it trendy atheists with snarky comments about believers? The second largest group of believers in this country is composed of ex-Catholics who go to a variety of churches or none at all. I thank God for the grounding in faith that I received from my parents, my grandparents, the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur at St John the Baptist in Kenmore, New York – I was presented with teachings in both university and seminary that were false, but without that grounding I might have lost my way.  Parents: what grounding is being given to your children? Look at all the children in our parish – but the odds are very high that unless they are steadily and constantly strengthened in faith, half or more will lose their way. We all have the obligation to prevent that, by our teaching and by our example – in our moral lives, in what we say and do, and how we approach the holy mysteries of the Church, the sacraments.

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Infant Communion in Byzantine Catholic church: adults must fortify children while being child-like in love of God 

Jesus is very clear in the Scriptures as to what He is doing in the Last Supper.  He does what Jews still do: first he does Berakah – blessed are You, O Lord.  Then he invokes Zikaron – which is the sense of “making present,” as if past and present coalesce into a single intensive experience of “now.”

It is as if we are able to inhabit two separate points in time simultaneously. For the Jew, this sacred time is most clear on Passover: they are present at the original event, while sitting around a table in a modern home. For the Greek converts, Saint Paul uses the word anamnesis, which is even more powerful – not only does it involve a memory but also something from the world of ideas becoming physically present.

Thus when Jesus says Do This in Memory of Me, it is extremely powerful. The mistake so many Reformed and other Protestants make when reading this phrase is approaching it in English – Jesus did not speak English nor were the Gospels written in English. It is not a remembrance – it is making something from the world of ideas and word physically present. It is here, alive, among us, exactly what will happen on this altar in a few minutes when the priests repeat Christ’s words and invoke the Holy Spirit upon the gifts. Christ is alive, in the tabernacle, NOW – waiting for us to be with Him, visit Him, pray to Him. Christ will be coming to us in the consecrated gifts – He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

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Just as every generation of Jews would experience the original Passover, we are privileged to experience at every Eucharist the fullness of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, complete and whole. The matter or form remain: bread with wine and water, but the essence is changed to Christ.

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Roman Rite Holy Communion, Palestine, Ash Wednesday

Christ speaks literally –  Eat My flesh, Drink My blood – at every Divine Liturgy, Mass, Qurbana – whatever the word, that is what happens to the bread and wine: Christ is present in them, Body and Blood, Soul, Divinity – the fullness of Jesus the Son of God and Son of Mary, God and Man. Because He loves us so much, He comes to us in the most intimate way possible – food inside of us. Why? Because He WANTS to be with us, inside us, close to us. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. Abide here is according to the dictionary definition of the verb: to continue in a place, to live there, to continue in a place. Jesus desires to continue on inside us, to live there, to be with us. For how long? As long as it takes for the human system to consume these forms of bread and wine – thus the liturgies always end quickly after Communion  -the idea is that we will go out into the world, with Christ Jesus abiding inside us, and therefore inspiring us, changing us, guiding us as we encounter the world.

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Byzantine Rite Holy Communion: preparing the Chalice 

Only this way will the world be healed, brought to fullness in God, only this way can Christians cooperate with God’s grace most fully in converting the fallen world into the Kingdom of God, to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ in the best way possible.

Tonight after the Last Supper Jesus is betrayed with a kiss – Judas has to kiss Him so that the soldiers know Who Jesus is because the hillside and gardens were packed with sleeping Jewish pilgrims who had come for Passover. Do not betray the Lord with the kiss of coolness, or laziness, or embracing false teachings. May we instead come for the kiss of love from Christ in the Holy Eucharist and draw ever closer to His heart, the Heart that will be pierced with the soldier’s spear tomorrow, and let our hearts be wounded by His great love and let them be united to He Who will lift up all humanity with Him on Easter Sunday, to restore us to our destiny: to be lovers of God and beloved by Him, working with God and His grace throughout our lives on earth.

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Tonight the Jewish leadership breaks their own laws – there could not be trials at night, witnesses had to be honest and not paid for, and no physical abuse of a prisoner was allowed. All those rules and more are broken, and then Jesus is led out – starved, thirsty, beaten – and turned over to the Roman occupying forces, where a mob is brought into the courtyard to call for Jesus’ punishment and the release of a terrorist. But as Jesus says in the gospel, all this must be done so that what was written about Him in the prophets is fulfilled.

The Last Supper and the Cross are intimately connected – it is one united sacrifice. In the Passover ritual of Jesus’ day, there were 4 cups of wine that had 4 separate prayers. Saint Paul tells us that after supper Jesus takes a cup of wine – this was the third cup. But instead of the normal blessing, Jesus consecrates it into His Precious Blood. Then Jesus says He will not drink wine again until He drinks it in the Kingdom of God. The gospels say that they got up and left and headed out to Gethsemane – they did not finish the meal. In the Garden Jesus prays three times about the cup of suffering, and then comes the betrayal, arrest, and the beginning of His Passion. Wine is offered to Him on Mount Calvary by the soldiers mixed with myrrh, in order to relieve His suffering, but He rejects those. But on the Cross, as He is dying, He finally accepts wine. When? John 19:23-30: Jesus says I thirst, and the soldiers pass up a sponge soaked in sour wine, the wine that they carried with them all the time. That Jesus drinks, then He says, It is finished, and dies. Thus the Last Supper, the First Eucharist, is extended to unite with the suffering and dying on the Cross. This is My Body given for you – Luke and Matthew – as a ransom for many – Mark – and so the Cross and Supper are one offering, one gift. The Blood we drink is that Blood which soaked into the wood of the Cross, the Body we eat is the Body broken on the Cross, and every Eucharistic liturgy makes present both the Last Supper and the Cross on Calvary.

Let us never betray the Lord with the kiss of coolness, or laziness, or embracing false teachings. May we instead come for the kiss of love from Christ in the Holy Eucharist and draw ever closer to His heart, the Heart that will be pierced with the soldier’s spear tomorrow, and let our hearts be wounded by His great love  and let them be united to He Who will lift up all humanity with Him on Easter Sunday, to restore us to our destiny: to be lovers of God and beloved by Him, working with God and His grace throughout our lives on earth.

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Posted by: Fr Chris | March 26, 2018

The Holy Anointing on Great Wednesday

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Tonight we receive the Mystery of Anointing, or Sacrament of the Sick. why?

  1. In memory of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus with expensive ointment at the house of Simon the Leper – Jesus says she did this in preparation for His burial. She anoints him and weeps because of her sinful life and her desire to go forward now in holiness.       

The sinful woman anoints Jesus at the house of Simon the Leper (Simon is center, with SS. Peter, James and John watching)

2. Judas leaves the house and betrays Christ to the priests of the Temple in exchange for 30 pieces of silver, the bounty for catching a bandit. Ever since, this night is called Spy Wednesday, as he now becomes a spy within the apostles.

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The devil tempts Judas into betraying Christ to the Sanhedrin

3. The next days are the most important of the liturgical year, and as such are also a time when we may be tempted to sin -either in food or in thoughts or in actions. This anointing helps us to both fight Satan and curb our own passions.

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The Gospel Book open to receive us 

 4. For  the Anointing, the Gospel Book is brought forward and held over our heads. This contains the Four Gospels only, the living Word of God among us. We are covered by the Eternal Word of God, sheltered under His embrace, protected by His grace watching over us. It is a moment to experience God’s enormous love and mercy for us.

In the anointing itself, we are blessed with the holy oil so as to receive healing for soul, mind, and body. Whatever our difficulty is – physical, emotional, spiritual – this is the moment to bring it forth. This is the place to present it to God. We will be anointed at the head, the hands, the feet or lower legs. At the moment of anointing, we have to open ourselves to God’s healing power, for our souls, minds and bodies alike.

With this holy anointing then, we can go forward to do battle with Satan, go forward to walk with Christ the rest of this Holy and Great week, and go forward with Jesus’ healing power inside us.

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Christ our true God, Who willingly ascended the Cross for us, save us! 

Posted by: Fr Chris | March 24, 2018

Palm Sunday / Annunciation

Double feast – Today is Palm Sunday obviously -Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem. And also the Annunciation – which commemorates the day when Jesus is created inside the womb of the Virgin Mary through the action of the Holy Spirit. The key there in the whole episode of Gabriel coming to Mary is her Yes – Let it be done unto me according to thy word – Luke 1: 38. She says yes although she has absolutely no preparation for this – Jewish writings did not talk about the possibility of God becoming Incarnate in a woman – rather at the time they were looking for a royal messiah, a king to drive out the Romans and reestablish an independent and truly Jewish state, not the puppet kingdom of the Herodians who did not follow Jewish law. Her reply sets the entire event, all of world history from that moment on, into motion – Let it be done unto me.

Why does that matter? In the 1st century world people worshipped many gods – but these gods could be nasty, even vicious. Their will was forced upon the worshipper, often with no regard for them. So despite claims by certain enemies of the Gospel that this the re-creation of a pagan story it is definitely not. Mary is asked – the Divine Office says that creation holds its breath waiting for her answer and rejoices when she says that wonderful verse.  Without the Incarnation, there is no holy week, no passion, no resurrection, no Christianity whatsoever. The Logos, the Word, takes up residence in Mary’s womb while remaining in heaven as the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity and Jesus exists: God and Man, united in one unique, never to be repeated Person, Who comes to earth in order to save sinful humanity from itself and restore the balance between God and mankind on the Cross.  God becomes Man so that Man might become God in the womb of the ever-virgin sinless Mother of God.

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Ustyug Annunciation (original is 12th century) showing Jesus Incarnate 

The entry – what animal does Jesus ride? The colt of a donkey, one which had never been ridden.  First, it is a donkey, the most humble of animals, not a warrior’s horse, not a royal chariot pulled by beautiful horses , but a donkey, the same kind of working donkey that probably carried the pregnant Mary to Bethlehem 33 years earlier. And it has never had a rider -we know in the American West that if you try to mount a horse of any kind that has never felt weight on its back, there will be one heck of a negative reaction. The horse, donkey or mule will buck and toss, and fight against the strange feeling of pressure on its spine, and it takes a while to accomplish that task.

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But this colt knows its Rider – it knows Who it is that rides it: its Creator, the creator of the world, through Whom all things were made – and the colt accepts Him right away. Many of the Jews hailing Jesus that day were anticipating that this famous preacher and healer would overthrow the existing order – they wanted a political upset. Others probably were just excited to see Jesus up close at last; some may have been looking for healing.  Jerusalem would be packed with pilgrims for Passover, with thousands camping on the hillsides below the walls and every inn and house filled with visitors.  So Jesus’ entry is one seen by Jews from around the civilized world, as we are reminded 50 days after Easter on Pentecost when the crowd realizes all the languages that are hearing Peter’s words: Jews from Africa, Persia, and from across the whole Roman empire. Jesus’ public and very triumphal entry into the holy city is a bold statement to the ruling Jewish priesthood, to the leadership of both Pharisees and Sadducees, and to  Pontius Pilate and king Herod Antipas: I am here, I am active, and something is going to happen this week, something big and beyond your control. Even the temple guards listen to His preaching in the early part of the week and will say “No one has ever spoken like this.”

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Today in Roman rite churches the Passion narrative is read, with the priest, deacon and people taking different parts.  The Eastern Churches look at Holy Week differently. We walk with Christ all week, day by day, experiencing His preaching, His cleansing of the temple, His prayers. We will be anointed with holy oil on Wednesday night for both physical and spiritual healing, just as the sinful woman anointed Christ with her tears and expensive ointment. We will be at the Last Supper, we will be at the betrayal, at the arrest in the midst of the camping pilgrims, His abandonment, at His illegal trial, His equally illegal torture, His unjust imprisonment, and finally at the first Way of the Cross and His Crucifixion. We will descend into darkness on Good Friday night and keep watch at the tomb with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, as Saint Matthew recorded in chapter 27, and finally we will begin to anticipate the coming hope of His glory on Saturday night.

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The holy shroud, or plashchanitsa, laid in the tomb Good Friday night 

It is the week of weeks, the days of days, the holiest most sacred time of the year. There are services here every night, plus during the day on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  Take the time out to pray, to think. Take time away from television, Facebook, smart phones, Snapchat and everything else to read what is happening in the Scriptures, to look at footnotes in Catholic Bibles and get the full impact of what’s going on. Take time on Good Friday night to come into the church in the dark to be with Jesus lying in the tomb, as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary did on that first Good Friday evening. Allow ourselves to confront our sins, our bad habits, our anger, our weaknesses and ask Jesus to strengthen us, heal us, lift us up. Take refuge in the pierced side of Jesus Christ on the Cross, like the doves that find clefts in the rock to rest it – take rest in Jesus’ five wounds.  Do not let it be an ordinary week of commuting, studying, working, playing sports, goofing off. Pick up a good book from the church’s store today, one you’ve never read, and use it this week. Above all, pray – pray that we as a parish walk with Jesus every step of the way; that we as a parish grow in faith and commitment to God and His Church, that we as individual souls get closer to Jesus through His self-giving this week of weeks, and find the healing that we need, including the healing we don’t even know we need. 

Let us walk with Him, walk with the Virgin Mary, walk with the holy women and St John who are the only ones to accompany Him, and ask His grace to move forward in our personal lives, and as a parish, and that His Precious Blood will truly wash away our sins, and the sins of this suffering world which has so much going crazy in it. Only in God do we find our answers, only in God will we find our peace, only in God will we know who we truly are and who we are meant to become.

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Christ is among us.

Posted by: Fr Chris | March 21, 2018

Joseph of Egypt and Christ

Genesis, chapter 43  – first Old Testament reading tonight

6th Wednesday of Great Lent. You meant evil against me but God meant it for good. 

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The calendar has been following the story of Joseph, the next-to-last son of Jacob and Rachel. The story itself is fascinating – the young brother whose interpretation of dreams aggravates the older brothers, who were already mad at him because their father favored him and his little brother Benjamin. Only Judah, from whom the name Jew is taken for the future Israelite nation, has any sense, and even he falls into the trap of the other nine who not only lie to their father about what happened to his son, but they even end up lying to Joseph about their father’s wishes after Jacob dies, in chapter 50, when Joseph weeps over their final lie.  But there are several important themes and this is why the Byzantine tradition uses the Joseph story in the last week of Lent – Lent ends for us on Friday  night, followed by the Raising of Lazarus and Palm Sunday, and then Holy and Great Week.

First: God is at work throughout the story, not in a blaze of revelation as He will in Exodus, but rather through the actions of various people. In fact He works through the sins of some of them, as Joseph points out tonight in the reading: because of the brothers’ jealousy, he was carried off into Egypt and rose to a position in which he can save the entire People of God during the seven year famine.

Second: Innocence. Joseph has done nothing wrong to his brothers – they are simply angry that he tells them the truth about his dreams, rather than asking – as people did then – are these dreams messages from God about the future?

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Joseph does not give in to the wife of his Egyptian master when she tries to seduce him. He is innocent, but abandoned by his own brothers; he is innocent in the seduction, but is sent to prison. His innocent interpretation of the dreams is once again true: one prisoner dies, one is exonerated. He does not seek favoritism, only the truth in all innocence.

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Third: Guilt. Judah says at the discovery of the silver goblet in  Benjamin’s bag that their guilt has been uncovered and now God is punishing them. That is the first acknowledgment that what they did to the innocent  Joseph was radically wrong.  But with guilt comes repentance: all ten offer to become slaves in order to save Benjamin’s life and return him to their father. They know they did wrong and got away with it, but no longer.

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Fourth: Reconciliation. Joseph restores them to himself, forgives them, embraces them, and points out that their sin actually worked to the salvation of the entire tribe of Jacob: all those people in the tribe, the servants and herdsmen, all their families, all their animals will be saved because Joseph was sold.

Fifth: at the end of Genesis, there is the promise of fulfillment of God’s promise: that they will inherit the land promised by God to Abraham, and they will be delivered out of Egypt.

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Joseph obviously is seen as a forerunner of Jesus Christ. Joseph is innocent but suffers; Joseph is sold as Jesus was sold;  those who were guilty ultimately are faced with their sin and the opportunity for forgiveness, as Jesus offers us His forgiveness; Joseph brings salvation to the people God has chosen through what he does for them, as Jesus brings salvation to all humanity.  It’s up to us to imitate Him, and to take hold of what He offers us every day, not only in Lent.

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