Tag Archives: Christian

Sunday Sermon: God didn’t make you a coward

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Saint Paul in prison, writing one of the epistles

 

As most already know who follow this website, I am a Catholic. I also serve as a Lector many weeks during Mass services, which gives me the opportunity and honor of reading to our parishioners from the Word of God.

This ‘Sunday Sermon’ series dates all the way back to 2005, and is always based on a reading or sermon from the Mass on that particular Sunday.

This morning, my New Testament reading came from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy. It is one of three known “epistles” written by Paul.

Before we get into the specific message for today, a quick vocabulary lesson.

An epistle is simply a letter or series of letters. In the New Testament, they come in the form of a book, made up of the letters from a particular apostle.

An apostle is someone who has been sent to specifically spread a message or teaching. Saint Paul, also known historically as Saul of Tarsus, was perhaps the most important apostle of the first century.

In the two decades immediately following the death of Jesus Christ, Paul underwent a personal conversion and then began to spread Jesus’ teachings throughout the Roman and Jewish world of the times.

The second letter to Timothy, a segment of which made up today’s New Testament reading, is considered by tradition to have been written just before Paul’s death, sometime in the mid-late 60’s during the first century A.D.

However, there are many scholars who now believe that it was actually the product of one of his students, writing in the decades after Paul’s death. In any event, it was certainly in keeping with his philosophy.

The letter was written to Timothy, who was one of the earliest Christian church leaders. Timothy served as the very first bishop of Ephesus, located in Egypt.

In the letter, Paul writes from prison, where the Romans are holding him for the teaching of the Gospel. He writes the following as encouragement to Timothy in the latter’s role as an early church leader:

Beloved:

I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.

So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

The phrase which jumps out at me from this letter is this: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice…”

This letter is one of three ‘pastoral epistles’ written by Paul. They are considered as such because they were written to individuals with pastoral care and responsibility over a particular church, and cover issues of Christian living, doctrine and leadership.

While these epistles are clearly written to church leadership with them in mind, they are just as relevant to all members of the church.

God does not want us to live as cowards. He did not imbue us with a “spirit of cowardice“, as Paul writes.

Paul calls on all of us to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within each believer, the love preached by Jesus Christ himself during his life on Earth, and the self-discipline gained during our own lifetime of experiences and failures in order to help spread the Word of God.

Stop looking to others to carry a load that you have every ability to help carry yourself. You can teach your family. You can volunteer in some way at your church. You can personally set an example by regularly attending church services and participating in the sacraments.

Far too often, far too many of us point the finger at others shortfalls, be those church leaders, politicians, any of our fellow men. We are often unwilling to look in the mirror at our own sins and shortcomings.

Have the courage to not only take that hard look in the mirror at yourself, but also to actually take some positive action regarding your faith.

Even if you consider yourself a brave Christian, we all have moments or periods of life in which we falter. Whatever your present or future attitude and situation, remember, God didn’t make you a coward. Don’t act like one.

Sunday Sermon: Are Catholic Schools ‘Better’ Than Public?

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See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ” ~ St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians (New Testament, Colossians 2:8)

It’s a question that does not have a simple answer: are Catholic schools “better” than public schools here in the United States?

You will hear and read many Catholic school parents and students make the claim that they are indeed better in every way.

But you can also find many proponents of the American public school system who will claim that there is nothing inferior about the education they provide.

There have been a number of formal studies made on the issue. Mai Miksic with the CUNY Institute for Public Policy took on the question in his June 2014 piece “Is the ‘Catholic School Effect’ Real“?

Miksic’s piece concludes that “there is no lack of rigorous research…indicating a possible Catholic school advantage.”

However, Miksic also correctly points out that many proponents of Catholic schools point to simplistic statistics such as higher standardized test score results achieved by their students.

Education is, in the end, about much more than test scores.
And a system that works for one student is not necessarily going to work for another. One thing that we know about our kids is that they are not cookie cutter products.

No matter what argument that you want to make for or against Catholic schools, there is one area of education that is far greater in those institutions. One area that the vast majority of Americans agree upon.

In a June 2016 survey by the Gallup organization, a full 89% of Americans said that they believe in God. If given the choice of “not sure”, the figure remains overwhelmingly high at 79% who are believers.

In research conducted by the respected Pew Research Center, their “Religion Landscape Study” found that over 70% of Americans today still identify as Christian.

If your kids attend Catholic school, they are going to learn about God, about Jesus Christ, and about a whole host of other Christian ideas.

Gaining a respect for the truth that God exists is vital for a child’s appreciation of his or her special place in the world. Learning the teachings of Jesus Christ in a proper setting provides an introduction to foundational principles to guide them through life.

Public schools in today’s America are allowed to teach about religions, but they are not permitted to teach religion. They begin from the false premise that all religions are the same or equal, and that to teach one as more “true” than others is prejudicial at best, and simple indoctrination to fantasy at worst.

This is not the way that it always has been here in America. There was a time – a long, long time – when teaching the precepts of the Christian faith was a vital part of every American child’s education.

Only in the previous century, when so-called progressives began to gain control of American academic institutions and made inroads into the court systems of our country, was God largely banished from public classrooms.

No matter what is taught in schools, a sound religious home life is important for children. It is the parents responsibility to educate their kids from the youngest age. That education must include a strong faith component.

We all come to our faith at different times and in different ways. Despite my own Catholic education through the entirety of grade school, high school, and even college, my faith was not an important part of my life until recent years.

There are no guarantees. Just because your child attends Catholic schools does not mean that they will become a model citizen. It does not mean that they will automatically make all good choices, that they will never sin.

It certainly does not mean that they are “better” than kids who attended public schools.

But on the whole, the numbers don’t lie. Your kids are generally going to be better and more fully educated at a Catholic school.

National test scores, high school graduation rates, college acceptance and attendance, and a variety of other educational areas all favor a Catholic education for your kids.

There is, of course, a cost for this education. Catholic schools are not free.

Tuition is high in many cases. That can be a challenge for many families who would, except for this one major drawback, prefer to send their kids to Catholic schools.

This is one reason that school choice is such an important issue, and that the area of school vouchers is such an important one for folks to educate themselves on.

This is the beginning of Catholic Schools Week. The theme this year is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service.”

All during the week, schools and parishes across the country will be involving their students and communities with activities in this theme.

If you are the parents of a child preparing for their school years, or the parents of a child who is currently attending public school, take the time to look into the possibilities offered by your local Catholic school.

I have personally had the experience of attending Catholic schools, and of sending my children to both Catholic and public schools. There have been good and bad experiences at both. In my opinion, the good of the Catholic school experience far outpaces the alternative.

Lenten Sacrifice

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the holy Christian season covering approximately six weeks until Easter.

During the Lenten season, Christians traditionally prepare for Easter through a process of increased prayer, penance, and sacrifice.

Of course, we are all supposed to be praying regularly, asking repentance and making atonement for our sins, and finding ways to sacrifice some part of our own blessings in the form of charity all during the year.

Lent is a good time to both get yourself back on track if you have let some of that spiritual responsibility slip, and also a good time to strengthen your commitment to areas of your life that perhaps need more attention.

To meet these increased spiritual goals during Lent, Christians often make what amount in the secular world to New Year resolution-type promises of change. Only these are promises to God from themselves. The promises can involve saying a daily rosary, returning to Church and the sacraments, and giving up something of importance to them.

That last part, the giving up of something important, is known as a Lenten sacrifice. Remember, the whole point is to prepare for the events of Good Friday and then Easter, when Jesus Christ sacrificed his own life for your sins. Keeping that much sacrifice in mind, how tough is your own?

Each year, I also try to make a Lenten sacrifice. I’ve usually had success in the past, but this year I am going a little more ambitious. I am personally building a number of elements into my Lenten sacrifice. Maybe one or more will inspire you as well.

First, I am actually simply going to continue a spiritual exercise which I began all the way back in November. At some point in mid-November of 2013, I began to say a full rosary each day. Somehow, I have been able to keep it up every day. I have found lately that there were a couple times where I almost just let it go. Lent will be a good time to increase my commitment to it.

Next, I am going to commit to going to Church more often. My own local St. Christopher’s Roman Catholic parish will be offering Mass on a nightly basis. I will be going a few times. I am also volunteering more in my role as a church Lector to do the readings at Mass during this period.

Also during Lent, I am going to make sure that I participate in appropriate sacraments more often. Most specifically, going to Confession, doing Penance, and sincerely attempting to stay away from the occasion of sin. I’m planning on making a Confession now, at the start of Lent, and again closer to Easter.

These things should go a long way towards meeting my goals of increased prayer and penance during Lent, and your own adoption of any would help you do the same. So now, on to the sacrifice part. What am I “giving up for Lent” this year?

First, we’ll start with the treats/goodies category. I will be giving up all cakes, cookies, pies, candy, ice cream, and other similar desserts and treats. Only exception will be for breath mints, which some might consider as “candy”, but which I slot into their own special category as someone who has a lot of dealings with the public.

Next, a bit tougher one thanks to specific circumstances. I will be giving up soda as well. However, I am giving myself a “special dispensation” on St. Patty’s Day weekend to allow for drinking soda at events surrounding that upcoming celebration. Better that than imbibe in too many “adult beverages”, especially when driving. Outside St. Patty’s weekend, no soda either.

Not just a “don’t do that” period, Lent is a time to “do”, to take action where it may be needed. I am going to begin seriously getting back into a regular physical workout routine. Starting with daily walking, and then building up to more as the Lenten season advances and I get in better physical conditioning.

And then I added on a new one this year, limiting my use of personal social media, particularly by refraining from Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media during the Lenten season with two exceptions only.

Those two social media exceptions will be this blog, where I will actually attempt to write MORE, something that I have been trying to get myself to do anyway. And also my professional Twitter account @PPDMattVeasey, where I have an expected responsibility to participate for my employer.

I have also undertaken a couple of more personal restrictions for Lent, and we’ll just keep those between me and the Lord at this point. Oh, and all of my fellow Catholics should remember to refrain from eating meat today, Ash Wednesday, and every Friday through Good Friday. Also, today and each Friday you should limit yourself to one full, large meal.

I think that if I can successfully accomplish all of that, it adds up to a solid, legitimate personal Lenten observance. Prayer, penance, and sacrifice all built into the plan. So, there’s my plan for Lent – what’s yours?

Christians Need to Love One Another

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As a lifelong Catholic who loves the Church, defends her publicly, and tries my best to follow her teachings, I have observed a phenomenon over the years.

It has become very obvious to me that some of my brothers and sisters in the Church have a serious moral superiority complex in regards to other Christian faiths. And I believe that this attitude has played a major part in continuing a divide in Jesus’ Church.

Let’s remember that one simple fact to begin with: it’s not our Church. It’s not mine, or yours. It doesn’t belong to Pope Francis, or any other human being. The Church belongs to Jesus Christ. He is it’s founder, and he is it’s genuine leader still today.

Throughout centuries past, the sometimes immoral actions of Popes and other Church leaders directly led to many of the major schisms that have occurred which have separated believers from one another. Catholics need to recognize the truth in that burden before judging any Protestant, Episcopalian, or other Christian denomination.

The most important thing for any Christian is that they believe in the fact that Jesus Christ suffered and died for their sins, and that as followers of the Lord we have a responsibility to learn about his teachings and spread his Word, both to unbelievers and to those who have never heard it in the first place.

We also have a responsibility to share our faith with one another. Jesus began our Church when he passed that responsibility directly on to Peter: “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.

Jesus didn’t say “churches”, plural. He didn’t say: “Now just basically go with what I taught you, and the rest, well, doesn’t matter.

No, Jesus also gave his Church power: “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

In those words, Jesus established his Church here on earth, to continue his work here on earth, led by men beginning with Peter and guided by the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, as in the Garden of Eden, that Church was entrusted to men. Frail, sinning human beings.

At various times in the history of the Church, the men leading her have turned from the Spirit, turned from their mission, and sinned, sometimes in the most sinister, vile, and inhuman ways. These sins led to the Church fracturing and splintering.

I heard it said recently that I should “read the Catechism” in order to learn what the Church teaches on some issue. The fact is, I read the Catechism daily. But it’s not the only book of faith that I read. I also read the Holy Bible, the direct Word of God.

Catholics who point solely to current Church leadership teaching, the current version of the Catechism, the reforms of Vatican II, and the sermons of their local priests are selling their faith short. Those things are all very important, and should be experienced with sincere faithful discernment.

But all Catholics should also be picking up and reading their Bibles as well, learning the direct teaching of Jesus Christ, and fashioning their lives after him. Every single Catholic, from the Pope down to any lay person reading this article, including the one writing it, is a sinner.

Stop judging, that you might not be judged,” said Jesus.

“For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

Catholics have no business holding themselves up as in any way better than any other believer. We have no right holding on to any type of superiority complex over followers of another Christian faith.

Now this is not to say that those Protestants and other so-called Bible-based churches are without fault in this Christian schism either. And those believers also do plenty of judgmental criticism of the Catholic Church and it’s adherents.

All Christians need to follow the teaching of Jesus again: “This I command you: love one another.

There is far too much judgmentalism taking place in modern day Christianity, and nowhere near enough loving taking place.

I call on my fellow Catholics to set aside your air of superiority and embrace your fellow Christians. I call on Christians of other denominations to recognize that Jesus founded one Church, that he wants us to all be as one, and that we are to work to come together as often as possible.

There is one final fact to remember. It is clearly taught in the Book of Revelation, chapter 19, verses 11-21 that Jesus will return at the end of time, unite his Church, and win victory over evil, establishing the Church again as one as told in Revelation 21.

No Pope, no church leader, no great preacher will ever unite the Christian church on earth again under one banner, as Christ intended when he founded her. Only Jesus himself will accomplish that at the end of the current age.

It is our duty during our lifetime here on earth to do all that we can to perpetuate love and peace with, between, and among our fellow believers. It is all of our duty to spread his Word to any non-believers in a loving, thoughtful manner.

Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Adventists, whatever you call yourself, wherever you practice your faith, and especially now at Christmas when we celebrate the birth of the Savior of us all – we must love one another, as Jesus loved us. God bless you.

Sunday Sermon: The most powerful prayer

Give me an army praying the rosary, and I will conquer the world” – Blessed Pope Pius IX

The rosary has been called the most powerful of prayers. In her appearance on May 13th, 1917 at Fatima, Mary herself said that a daily praying of the rosary could bring an end to war. In this month of October, it is an especially good time to review this unmatched prayer experience, since it is also the Month of the Holy Rosary in the Catholic Church.

On October 7th, 1571, the historic Battle of Lepanto took place. In this battle, a vastly outnumbered Christian fleet led by Don John of Austria faced off against and defeated the mighty Ottoman Muslim fleet led by Ali Pasha to halt the Islamist westward expansion in the Mediterranean.

At the time, Christian Europe was being torn apart by internal strife and the Reformation from the inside, and was being threatened by the relentless expansionism of the Muslims from the outside.

The victory in this pivotal naval battle against superior forces was attributed to the fact that on the day of the battle, many rosaries were offered and processions made in Rome to the Blessed Mother for her intercession on behalf of the united Christians. The victory was thus attributed to her, and those rosaries.

In honor of this victory, Pope Pius V instituted the ‘Feast of Our Lady of Victory’, and following another victory over Muslim forces in 1716, Pope Clement XI extended the Feast to the entire Church, making it the ‘Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary’.

In 1883, Pope Leo XIII released the first in a series of encyclicals on the rosary, urging Catholics to increase their devotion to Mary, especially through the rosary, and dedicated the entire month of October to the prayer.

So what exactly is the rosary, how does one say the prayer, and why is it considered so powerful?

The word “rosary” comes from the Latin meaning “garland of roses”, with the rose traditionally being one of the flowers that symbolizes Mary in the Church. The rosary is a devotion in her honor, one in which we are petitioning her to intervene on our behalf, and on behalf of our prayerful intentions, with the Lord.

To facilitate the saying of the rosary, a petitioner utilizes “rosary beads”, a series of beads linked together along with a medal representing Mary and with a small crucifix at the end of the chain. Each bead, the medal, the crucifix, and even some of the chain links are used as placeholders at which a specific prayer is said.

The main prayer said is the “Hail Mary“, which is actually recited 10 times each over a series of 5 ‘decades’, meaning that one who completes the prayer will say the “Hail Mary” some 50 times. One of the beads marks each saying of the prayer.

A person who undertakes praying the rosary will also say “The Lord’s Prayer” (“Our Father“), the “Apostle’s Creed“, the “Glory Be“, and may insert certain other prayers along the route around the full chain. Also, a brief reflection on different mysteries of the faith is done at a handful of points.

Doing so much praying at one time may seem daunting to individuals who are not used to the process. But the fact is that saying a complete rosary takes no more than about 20 minutes for an experienced person.

A great idea when first starting out is to try saying the rosary along with others more experienced, but this is not in any way necessary. It’s 2013, there is indeed “an app for that” if you search on your digital device, and there are many online resources to help guide you.

Rosary beads themselves come in all shapes, colors, and styles. You can find your favorite color if you search around, and can find a theme that fits your lifestyle.

Years ago, I was given an Irish rosary as a gift, complete with green-colored beads, and I use this rosary to pray from time to time. I know that I don’t pray it enough, and saying the rosary more is something that I have begun to incorporate into my personal faith experience.

During a number of her apparitions over the years since it’s institution by the Church, Mary herself has passed along the confirmation of the power of saying the rosary. Among it’s benefits, she promises powerful graces and her special protection.

Mary promises that it will be an armor against hell itself, and that it will destroy vice, reduce sin, and defeat heresy. Among the many other benefits, she has promised to deliver from purgatory anyone who regularly says the rosary during their lifetimes.

In April of 2003, Father Gabriel Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist, said that during a particular exorcism, the devil himself had said that “If Christians knew how powerful the rosary was, it would be my end.”

All one needs to do is undertake a reasonable Google search, and you will come across hundreds of stories where the saying of the rosary is credited with direct aid and intervention in the most hazardous, dangerous, deadly, and hopeless of situations that humans have encountered.

If you’ve never considered it before, look more closely at the rosary. Stop by a religious store, or go online, and pick out and purchase one for yourself. Purchase or research and print out a short guide to saying the rosary. And then undertake actually saying it a couple of times over a few days.

See what all the fuss is about first-hand. I promise you that you will never feel the same, and you will see a positive change in your life and situation.