Thursday, May 29, 2014

Climate change is upon us

By Fr. Shay Cullen, Mssc
PREDA Foundation
Global-warming.2The sights, sounds, and smells that assailed me as I was walking through the devastated chaos and destruction of Tacloban city in the Philippines last year, soon after the most powerful storm ever to hit land, made me realize that this was the future. This utter devastation wrecked by a vengeful nature on her tormentors was going to be repeated across the globe. Climate change is upon us.
Extreme weather conditions will be what we can expect in the future. In the UK last year, massive unprecedented flooding cut off towns and villages. The economic cost was massive. We have to ask why and what can be done to prevent such destructive weather conditions getting worse and less frequent. The Philippines experienced 25 typhoons in 2013.
Humans are the custodians of the creation and guardians of the planet and yet we have sinned against it. Now it’s time to repent and make amends, but how?
As I write this, the Balkans are experiencing the worst flooding in 120 years when records began. Vast areas of countryside, towns and villages are inundated and as many as 300 land slides have destroyed property and 35 people were killed. In three days, rain that would normally fall in three months hit the region causing destruction, death and huge commercial loss. In Afghanistan a few weeks ago, an entire village with hundreds of people were buried alive when a rain saturated hillside came roaring down to bury and smother them all.
Every news bulletin seems to carry reports of another huge ecological disaster, droughts and wild fires in the United States are consuming forests and fields, even more destructive floods are to come in Europe we are told.
Last week, the United Nations Inter-County Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made it’s latest report after seven years of exhaustive research and number crunching to inform and convince us that catastrophic climate change can be averted and even reversed if we act now. The report was made by 1,250 eminent scientists and experts and endorsed by 146 governments.
It’s for real, the planet has warmed up and we humans have caused it by burning fossil fuels non-stop for the last 150 years. That has to stop. We must turn to alternative sources of energy, the report strongly advises, or else..
The worst offenders are the oil and coal-burning industries. Their power plants, factories, houses and cars warm the earth by releasing CO2 gases. The carbon dioxide and methane gases create a blanket around the earth causing this warming. This in turn has melted huge sections of the polar ice caps and removed nature’s big reflector of sun light. Antarctica is melting too. Soon the rise in ocean levels will be covering low lying islands and beach fronts.
The permafrost in Siberia and Canada is melting, releasing even more deadly methane gas from the once frozen bogs and releasing it into the atmosphere. The effect on food production and water resources will be massive and will lead to food shortages and the social impact will be great; migration and armed conflicts will erupt.
China, one of the worst climate polluters with its thousands of coal and oil power plants is in direct conflict with Vietnam after moving an oil drilling platform into waters claimed by Vietnam. Riots, property destruction and the evacuation of thousands of Chinese from Vietnam is the news this week.
The content of the reports of the IPCC are vehemently denied by powerful business interests in the gas, oil and coal industries. These thermal tycoons want the burning of fossil fuels to continue but the time is coming when fossil fuels have to be abandoned and left in the ground. Alternative renewable sources of electric power like solar, wind and geothermal electric generation have to power the future.
Huge investments have to be made in wind and solar power. Natural gas is a much cleaner source of energy but with some limitations, but a better alternative to coal. The common people and their governments have to stand up to the polluters of the planet and bring closer that day when the demand for oil and coal will taper off. In the Philippines, crony capitalists are manipulating the national leadership and “capturing” the regulators to persuade them to approve more coal plants.
We all have to be caretakers of our God-given world, the garden of Eden is sadly wilting and dying and we humans will be dying in body and spirit with it through disease, famine, and extreme weather events. Remember, more than 6000 people were killed by Typhoon Haiyan last November 8, there will be many more dying in future storms and floods of equal magnitude. We must preserve all life, especially the life of the planet itself. [,]
(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


By: Bobby Quitain

The beautiful noonday sun shone brightly that day as I lazily stretched out under the overarching canopy of trees along the mesmerizing Boracay shoreline. Ahhh! What an incredible sight! Jeng, my wife, was enjoying her swim. I was enjoying well... just doing nothing.

Then my thoughts turned to the profound.

I asked myself, "How can a missionary couple like Jeng and myself enjoy such pleasures in life?"

Without expecting it, I received an answer. In the deepest recesses of my heart came a soothing and all-loving voice, "Because I am your Dad."

DAD. That word carries with it an avalanche of consoling truths and comforting emotions.

Dad means strength.
Dad means consolation.
Dad means security.
Dad means assurance.
Dad means safety.
Dad means comfort.
Dad means honor.
Dad means love.

No wonder a not-so-rich missionary like myself is treated to such royalty vacations and above-average luxuries.

My God is my Dad.

The Bible says:
"But my God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Phillipians 4:19)

The one who truly owns, not just the Boracay seas, but the entire universe is looking after me. He knows I need to rest. He knows I need recuperation. He knows I need to recharge.

Ever wonder if you can make it through your week with your tight budget? Or find the strength to recover from your illness? Or overcome that sin? Or win over that stressful situation?

Think about your Dad.

He is not asleep. He is not having a day-off. He is in control.

And He will supply your needs according to his riches in glory.

Yes, even as you relax by the Boracay seas!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Evangelization in the Work Place

by Father John McCloskey

The very title of this column may scare you off, but bear with me and you may find the topic less daunting than you fear.
God has brought us into this world to prepare us all for everlasting joy with him in Heaven. This eternity of bliss, however, is intended not just for you or me, but for as many as possible. So a large part of our mission here on earth is to share our faith with family, friends, and all those put in our path on the road to everlasting glory. And that includes those outside the home that we may spend much of our waking hours with, those in the workplace.
Work is a good in itself – and not simply (though importantly) a means of making money to support a family. St. John Paul II wrote in 1981: "Man was called to work even before original sin. Man is the image of God partly through the mandate received by the Creator to subdue. To dominate the earth. . .in other words man's work is in some way a part in God's creative power!"
We then are co-creators. This is both a privilege and a serious duty. The pope also discusses human work as a way of growing in holiness that prepares us for eternal happiness. After all, Our Lord constantly refers to workers in his preaching, and his greatest apostle was Paul, a tentmaker. You can be sure that St. Paul united his work with prayer so that it would not only contribute to earthly progress, but also extend the Kingdom of God.
This brings us to the second part of God's plan for work that was highlighted by St. John Paul II in his encyclical on work, Laborem Exercens: that work becomes a place and means of sharing one's faith not only by example, but also by words based on developing friendship in the context of the workplace.
Now our current pope (and Time magazine Man of the Year) Pope Francis has stressed from the opening days of his pontificate the importance of personal one-to-one, no-holds-barred, 24/7 evangelization, modeling in his own interactions with others how we as Christians should always be ready, as our first pope St. Peter put it, "to give an account of the hope that is in you."
In his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium "The Joy of the Gospel," Pope Francis writes:
Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they are our neighbors or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching that takes place in the middle of a conversation, something like what a missionary does when visiting a home. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others and this can happen unexpectedly anyplace: on the street in a city, or during work or in a city square or on a journey.
In this preaching, which is always gentle, the first step is personal dialogue, when the other person speaks and shares his or her joys, hopes, and concerns for loved ones, or so many other heartfelt needs. Only afterwards is it possible to bring up God's word, perhaps by reading a Bible verse or relating a story, but always keeping in mind the fundamental message: the personal love of God who became man, who gave himself up for us, who is living and who offers us his salvation and his friendship. This message has to be shared humbly as a testimony on the part of one who is always willing to learn, in the awareness that the message is so rich and so deep that it always exceeds our grasp.
So what can you do in your work to bring others to the Lord and his Church? Well, virtually all of you work if you are under 65 or so. You may work at home, from home, or at the office; you may be outside, in a government building, or in one of thousands of other settings. In any case, almost everyone comes in contact with people, whether few or many. Each has an immortal soul, and each one is either in a state of grace or in a state of mortal sin, ready for an eternity in heaven or hell.
What are you going to do with them as you encounter them throughout the day?
Here are some ideas of how to be a bearer of Christ to them:
  • Be an example of a hard worker;
  • Over time and in a natural way, become their friend, let them know they can rely on you always, and reciprocate by confiding in them when you have troubles (as we all do);
  • Be joyful and fun to be with;
  • Talk to them about your family;
  • Talk to them about your faith;
  • Ask them about theirs;
  • Pray for them;
  • Visit them when they are ill or down, when they've lost a job or a loved one;
  • Ask them if they have ever thought of being Catholic. Would they like to know more?
  • Invite them to noon or Sunday Mass;
  • Tell them about the love of Mary our mother.
And in addition, pray for and imitate our pope, cultivate crazy love for the Lord as he does, share that love with your fellow workers, and God will reap a harvest of souls through you.
First appeared on The Catholic Thing, May 2014.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Today's Mass Readings - May 25, 2014 with Reflection

 1ST READING - Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. 6 With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured. 8 There was great joy in that city. 14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, 15 who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
P S A L M - Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
R: Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
1 Shout joyfully to God, all you on earth, 2 sing praise to the glory of his name; proclaim his glorious praise. 3 Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds! (R) 4 Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you, sing praise to your name!” 5 Come and see the works of God, his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam. (R) 6 He has changed the sea into dry land; through the river they passed on foot; therefore let us rejoice in him. 7 He rules by his might forever. (R) 16 Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare what he has done for me. 20 Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer or his kindness! (R)
2nd READING - 1 Peter 3:15-18
15 Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, 16 but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord, and my Father will love him and we will come to him.
John 14:15-21
15 Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, 17 the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”


This text from the First Letter of St. Peter, a text that is most often regarded as a baptismal homily or instruction, is one that we should reflect upon often in terms of our commitment to our mission. St. Peter tells us that proclaiming the Gospel is not an option for a Christian. Of course we can choose to refuse to share our faith with anyone, but then not only would our faith be untrue to itself, it would also die. St. Peter reminds us to be always ready to share what we have received with anyone who asks for it.

       It is a good idea to have a few short testimonials prepared that we can easily draw upon when the right situation arises. It won’t hurt to be ready with a short personal testimony or simple Gospel presentation that can be shared in two or three minutes. Peter suggests that at least part of our motivation for doing this would come from reverencing the Lord Jesus in our hearts. In other words, if we truly treasure the gift of faith and salvation that we have received, then we will be motivated to share with others what we have received.

       St. Peter also reminds us that we should speak with gentleness and patience. The Gospel should never be forced on anyone. By its nature, it is a freely chosen gift. Thus, we have no right to impose it on anyone. He also reminds us to ensure that we have a clear conscience — that our witness should be consistent with what we proclaim. It is difficult. It is easier to say something than live it. Yet, this is our calling as Christians.

       Jesus has given us the example of what it means to lay down one’s life in the service of others. Let us do our best to follow His lead. Fr. Steve Tynan, MGL
REFLECTION QUESTION: How well do you proclaim the Gospel in your life?
Holy Spirit, help me to repent of my sins and grow in holiness so that I will be a better witness of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

St. Bede the Venerable, priest and doctor of the Church, pray for us.

Do you want to receive this in your email. To get Bo Sanchez to send it to you personally, register and log-on to

Friday, May 23, 2014

A lost tradition that will sanctify your home

Rescued from the lost
traditions of our Catholic Faith . . .

A powerhouse of grace
that bridges Church and home . . .

Reclaimed in these
pages for the first time . . . 

Keeping a prayer life
with your family isn't easy.

From herding distracted children
 to managing the endless litany of
prayers and devotions, our spiritual
life often feels frantic and burdensome.

This isn't the way it should be!

Our prayer life
and our family life 
— and can! — be in harmony.

When they are, our family
is a powerhouse of grace, and
our home becomes a Little Eden —
a little bit of heaven on earth.

With simplicity and holy wisdom,
this book shows you how to bring peace
to your home by integrating your family
into the calm, truly joyful way of Mother Church.

Thomas Howard
calls this book
"a rare treasure."

Christopher West
calls it "a superb guide."

Joseph Pearce
calls it "wonderful,
inspiring, and deeply practical."

In these pages, authors David
Clayton and Leila Lawler help you reclaim the
almost lost tradition of the little oratory.

Consisting of a modest table and icons,
the little oratory is a visible sign of
spiritual awareness and devotion . . .

. . . 
spiritually nourishing your family
by extending the Eucharistic worship
of the Mass into your home.

Building your own little oratory is
simple, and in these pages you'll discover
just how easy it is.

In fact, you likely have most of the
pieces in your home already — except,
perhaps, the sacred art.

That's why we've included in this book
eight full-colored icons that are ready
for framing.

Eight full-colored icons are
included in The Little Oratory.

Here are just two of them:

Each icon can be
easily removed from the book
and is ready for framing!


By following the wise advice in this book,
you'll discover the peace and love that
flow from a home that is focused on Christ.

You'll also learn:
  • How to overcome the feeling that you're too busy to pray.
  • How to use sacred art to strengthen your prayer life.
  • How to extend Catholic beliefs and devotions into every room of the house.
  • Why the Liturgy of the Hours is important and how it can make your family holy.
  • How to pray the Rosary with children — and keep the rowdiest of them calm and reverent.
  • The active role children can — and should — play in the prayer life of the family.
  • What to do when only one parent takes the spiritual life seriously.
  • Practical ways to extend the liturgical life into your workplace.
  • And countless other tips to help you practice your faith in the heart of your home.

The Little Oratory:
A Beginner's Guide to Praying in the Home

by David Clayton and Leila Marie Lawler
224 Pages — List Price: $19.95

Order online

Save 30% when you
order the set:

Original Price:

 Order the set at this link
for only $27.99.

In this classic of domestic spirituality, you’ll find all the prayers, crafts, family activities, litanies, and recipes that will help make your children ever-mindful of the beautiful rhythm of the Church calendar.

Learn how to make an Advent wreath — and how to make it more than just a pretty ornament.  Teach your children about the real Santa and how to celebrate all twelve days of Christmas, giving them a holy wonder that will continue long after all the presents have been opened.

When Lent comes, learn simple secrets to helping your kids embrace their sacrifices with enthusiasm.  Then, learn how to make your home a place where Holy Week and Easter are duly treated as the highest, holiest days of all the year.

Here Mary Reed Newland will teach you ways to reclaim All Souls’ and All Saints’ from the popular occultism of modern Halloween.  She’ll also show you why Church tradition accords special meaning to certain foods, colors, and symbols and how these add to the incarnational character of Catholic spirituality — allowing children to experience the Faith through sight, smell, touch, and taste.
Save 25%
when you order the set



Order online above, or call


Save up to 40%
when you join Sophia's

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

5 Old Testament Models for How to Live

How can one be a faithful Christian amidst a godless culture?
It’s a question that presses upon us today with renewed urgency. But it is not a new question. It is one that confronted the earliest Christians in the waning years of the Roman Empire. St. Augustine tackled the issue in his magnum opus, The City of God. Centuries later, great saints like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas were still grappling with it.
Society seems to always be sliding away from God, even those that are nominally Christian. The challenge is thus one that all of us must always face anew—whether in a society of apostates, atheists, or idolaters.
The ancient Israelites also struggled with the same fundamental problem of how to be faithful to God when the surrounding society had turned its back on Him. The problem was no less acute for Daniel and his three companions living in exile in Babylon than it was for Moses dealing with the faithless and idolatrous Israelites during the exodus. Their examples offer us fresh new ways of thinking about our calling as Christians, equally applicable to those who live in cloisters as those who work in cubicles.
How can we live out our faith in society? Here are five Old Testament models.
1. The man in the breach. Moses was many things to the ancient Israelites. In Psalm 106:23, he is described as the man who “stood in the breach,” preventing God from destroying the Israelites after they had worshipped the golden calf (Douay-Rheims). Moses acted as an intercessor on behalf of the Israelites, pleading with God to spare their lives in spite of their sin. The metaphor of the breach is an apt one: intercessors do not merely intervene on behalf of another. They stand in the gap, so to speak, between those being saved the one who has the power to save or destroy. By so doing, they bring the two closer together. This is, after all, what the ultimate mediator, Christ, did: He saved us by bringing us into communion with God.
Following the example of Moses, how can we be intercessors for others today? For some, it may mean praying for another. For others, it may involve active works of mercy—staging an intervention or warning someone against a poor choice. Sometimes it may simply mean bringing God’s presence to a person’s life.  Whatever it is, all of us have opportunities to be the man (or the woman) in the breach.
2. The disturber. Elijah was not very popular in the court of Ahab, the Israelite king who married Jezebel and started worshipping Baal. We first meet Elijah in 1 Kings 17, where he proclaims a drought upon the land. In the next chapter, Elijah challenges the 450 priests of Baal to a sacrifice-off: both would sacrifice bulls, Elijah would call on God and the priests would invoke Baal. Whoever responded with fire, Elijah said, would be God. The priests call on Baal. No response. Call louder … perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened, Elijah taunted them. The priests whip themselves up into such frenzy they even start cutting themselves. Still nothing.
Of course, when Elijah calls on God, fire storms down from the sky, consuming the whole altar—in spite of the water he had poured over it. It’s hard to imagine a more annoying figure to someone like the idolatrous Ahab. No wonder the king addressed him 1 Kings 18:17 as “you, you disturber of Israel” (NAB, Rev. Ed.). In a sense, we are all called to be ‘disturbers.’ The Catholic faith in one true God, Who became fully man while remaining fully divine, Who died on the cross and then was resurrected, Who founded one true, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church—these have always been ‘disturbing’ truths.
3. The watchman. Ezekiel 33 describes the role of a watchman in an ancient city: he stood guard, presumably on the outer wall, keeping an eye out for a coming attack. When the watchman “sees the sword coming … he should blow the trumpet to warn the people.” If they ignore the warning, they are at fault. If, however, the watchman fails to sound the trumpet, he is responsible. God then tells Ezekiel: “I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel: therefore, thou shalt hear the word from my mouth, and shalt tell it them from me” (verse 7, Douay-Rheims). But Ezekiel’s task was not to warn of coming invaders. Instead, he was to speak out only when he heard the voice of God warning the wicked they would die. Ezekiel’s task was to call them to repentance. In other words, he was called to be a spiritual watchman, as one commentator puts, keeping a look out for sin and warning of its consequences. We may not be prophets, but all of us, in a sense, are called to be “watchmen” for others—whether for our families, friends, or others who fall under our care.
4. The dreamer. When his brothers called Joseph a “dreamer” (Genesis 37:19), they did not mean it as a compliment. Joseph had just had two dreams that had less-than-flattering depictions of his family. In one, Joseph and his brothers are binding sheaves in the field when his sheaf rises while theirs bow down to it. In the other the “sun moon and eleven stars” bow down to Joseph. Today, we remember Joseph less for his dreams and more for the suffering he endured—his brother’s plot to kill him which ended instead with his sale into slavery and his later imprisonment in Egypt after being falsely accused of adultery.
While in prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of two of pharaoh’s former officials. In time, this led to an audience with the pharaoh himself, where he interpreted his dreams as well. Eventually, when famine struck, his brothers came to him begging for food—fulfilling his dreams from so many years before. Joseph endured hostility from his own house and spent much of his adult life alone in exile in a foreign country. Through it all, Joseph faithfully listened to God’s voice, even if it could only be heard in through the fog of sleep. For Joseph, to be a dreamer meant trusting in God’s vision for his life even when nothing in his life and his surroundings seemed even close to that vision.
5. The wanderer. Sometimes, the answer is to leave society, to start anew, to build from the ground up. This is what happened to Abraham, who was called to leave his city in Genesis 12. Throughout much of Genesis, Abraham never seems to really settle anywhere. He is not even a city-builder but a tent-dweller and he is often described as “wandering,” “journeying,” or “sojourning” in Genesis (depending on the translation). In Deuteronomy 26:5, when the Israelites are told to identify their “father” as a “wandering Aramean,” there is good reason to believe that the epithet is a reference to Abraham—so central is wandering to his identity that he needn’t even be named. Abraham had been promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars and the sands of the seashore (Genesis 22), but he never really got to see any of it. In Genesis 24, before his death, we see Abraham’s family still living in tents.
Abraham thus had to have complete faith in God’s promise. It is this kind of total unquestioning faith in God and His goodness that was famously on display when Abraham demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham is also remembered for his hospitality to the three mysterious men who showed up in front of his tent. As recounted in Genesis 18, Abraham pulled out all the stops for his guests preparing an instant feast for them. His unbridled hospitality stands in sharp contrast to the rapacious hostility with which the two angels were received in the city of Sodom in the next chapter. Today, we may not wander as much as Abraham—at least not in a physical sense—but regardless of where we are in our journey, the example set by Abraham’s faith and hospitality are worthy of our continued reflection and emulation.
Stephen Beale


Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on and A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at

Monday, May 19, 2014

Heart-to-Heart Preaching: Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman in the Pulpit

by Father John McCloskey

Dear Priest Friends and Brothers,
What a joy it is to be here again at Arnold Hall for a priest event. The last time I came here I preached a retreat during which one of the retreatants received a call from the Nuncio asking him if he would accept the Holy Father's appointment as a diocesan bishop, so one never knows. Fr. Landry will let you know if any unusual calls come in.
Going back much further in my recollections, I recall the memorable seminar for seminarians in the eighties and nineties sponsored by the New England Theological Forum during Easter week (and captained by the late unforgettable Fr. Sal Ferigle with Fr. Dave Cavanagh as his assistant and successor). This seminar did a wonderful work of fostering and in some case rescuing the vocations of a goodly number of seminarians during difficult times—many of you will remember spending those years as underground confessors to the faith in your own seminaries. Happily those trying conditions largely disappeared in seminaries and parishes during the pontificates of Bl. John Paul and Pope Emeritus Benedict.
As seminarians entered the priesthood, the seminar morphed into the present-day shorter seminar for priests. I am sure there are more than a few veterans here from the earlier seminar for seminarians.
Now on to the topic of Blessed John Henry Newman and his theory and practice of preaching. For a minute let's imagine what Bl. John Henry would have thought if he were moved in a H.G. Wells time machine from the church of the Brompton Oratory to a typical Catholic parish in the U.S. in the year 1975. There he would encounter 10-minute amplified homilies (what is that?), talking in Church, applause, and guitar masses with their childish tunes and saccharine lyrics. He would see the priest assuming the role of emcee, facing the people, adding his own words to the Canon of the Mass, and venturing out from the altar into the congregation, possibly dressed as a clown, to shake hands. And the list goes on.
It is all too painful to contemplate, and at this juncture almost difficult to believe that most of us lived through it. Happily John Henry did not witness this, or perhaps he would have apostatized back to the Anglican Community he had left in 1846.
Newman was quite possibly the greatest Catholic preacher in English in the history of the Church up to this day. In my opinion he achieves this ranking not only because of the effect his preaching had on congregations (and readers of his sermons) in his own time, but also because of his enormous influence on the other great preachers we are examining in this seminar, i.e., Msgr. Ronald Knox and Venerable Fulton Sheen. These men were great preachers, but with all their talents and all their particular gifts, there is in their own preaching perhaps something somewhat derivative of Newman's writing and his sermons, which they had undoubtedly read and, consciously or not, allowed to play at least a role in their own writing's content and style.
As you may know, when Blessed John Henry at long last became a Cardinal, he chose as his motto or seal "Cor ad cor loquitur" ("Heart speaks to heart"), appropriated from St. Francis de Sales, who easily could have been included in our seminar as a great preacher if we had had the time.
Newman was a prodigious preacher of sermons, and let's remember we are not talking about 15-minute homilies but rather half-hour or even hour-long sermons that were painstakingly composed by a man that—so the legendary critic and author Lionel Trilling once told me—was the greatest prose stylist of the English language.
To give you an idea of the extent of his output, in his first 20 years as an Anglican minister, he preached over a thousand of these carefully crafted sermons.
Keep in mind that Newman was a genius with an incredible capacity of memory. He basically had memorized the Bible in the glorious King James translation and had read the works of virtually all the Fathers of the Church in their original languages before he was 21. He indeed had the "Imperial Intellect," as one of his biographers put it.
But how did he preach? And what was its effect? Listen to the impression he left on one witness:
For a few moments there was breathless silence. Then, in a low, clear, voice, of which the faintest vibration was audible in the farthest corner of St. Mary's, he said, "Now, I bid you recollect that He to whom these things were done was Almighty God." It was as if an electric stroke had gone through the church, as if every person present understood for the first time the meaning of what he had all his life been saying. I suppose it was an epoch in the mental history of more than one of my Oxford contemporaries.
One of his contemporaries described it this way:
Newman spoke without Vehemence, declamation or display of argument. Newman had an unusual style of delivering his sermons that took some time to get used to: every separate sentence or at least each short paragraph was spoken rapidly, but with great clearness of intonation, and then at the end and as he closed there was a pause for nearly a half minute. It took some time to get over this but, that once done, the wonderful charm began to dwell upon you.
Newman was not what we would call a charismatic preacher; he kept his eyes fixed upon the manuscript, never moving, never looking at his congregation, or varying the tone or inflection of his voice. Nonetheless he gained a reputation as perhaps the most intellectual, spirit-filled, and gifted preacher of his day.
All of this must be understood in the context of a carefully thought-out theory of the relation of the preacher to the audience and the place of the sermon in the religious services. Above all it was a rejection of his early Evangelical beliefs. He decried the emotionalism and self-display of Evangelical preaching. For him the Cross of Christ was a mystery to be treated with deep reverence.
We could say that Newman was actually giving meditations or conferences not unlike the meditations given on retreats in Opus Dei retreat houses, except in the context of the Holy Mass. Newman was humble and retiring both by nature and through virtuous ascetical struggle. He had nothing of the showman about him, and he despised preachers whose ambition was to rise in the esteem of the wealthy and powerful. He wanted Christ to shine and the Holy Spirit to speak through his words. He believed that preaching must be subordinate to the ministration of the sacraments and the personal pastoral care of his flock. Newman and his associates sincerely believed that the sight of a devout clergyman, praying or carrying out his duties outside his church, had more effect than any sermon.
In his Idea of a University, speaking of university preaching, Newman writes:
…preachers should neglect everything whatever besides devotion to their one object, and earnestness in pursuing it, till they in some good measure attain to these requisites. Talent, logic, learning, words, manner, voice, action, all, are required for the perfection of a preacher; but "one thing is necessary"—an intense perception and appreciation of the end for which he preaches, and that is, to be the minister of some definite spiritual good to those who hear him…. I do not mean that a preacher must aim atearnestness, but that he must aim at his object, which is to do some spiritual good to his hearers, and which will at once make him earnest…. It is this earnestness, in the supranational order, which is the eloquence of saints; and not of saints only, but of all Christian preachers, according to the measure of their faith and love. As the case would be with one who has actually seen what he relates, the herald of tidings of the invisible world also will be…. Nothing is so fatal to the effect of a sermon as the habit of preaching on three or four subjects at once.
Finally, as to the writing or delivery of sermons, Newman said that the great thing is to have your subject distinctly before you: to think it over until you have it perfectly in your head; to take care that it should be one subject, not several; to sacrifice every thought however good and clever which does not tend to bring out the one point, and to aim earnestly and supremely to bring home that!
Blessed John Henry and the holy Cure of Ars St. John Vianney, our Patron, were contemporaries, and Newman was fascinated with him. He mentions him in his diaries, expressing a wish to meet him. Could there be two more different men? Newman, one of the greatest intellects of the 19th century, and Vianney, a simple unlearned parish priest, yet both extraordinary preachers—above all in their evident holiness. Surely we can all learn from them that what is most convicting in our preaching is our earnestness, and may we also always be priests who are striving for holiness.
First presented at a Spring 2013 seminar for priests in Pembroke, MA.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Today's Mass Readings - Sunday, May 18, 2014 with Reflection

1ST READING - Acts 6:1-7
As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with  the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
P S A L M - Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
R: Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Exult, you just, in the Lord; praise from the upright is fitting. 2Give thanks to the Lord on the harp; with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises. (R) Upright is the word of the Lord, and all his works are trustworthy. He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full. (R)18 See, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness,19 to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.(R)
2ND READING - 1 Peter 2:4-9
Beloved: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in  Scripture: “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.” Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “a stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall.” They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny. But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
I am the way, the truth and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father, except through me.
John 14:1-12
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. 12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”


Any leader in the Church, from the Pope down to the leader of the smallest prayer group in the world, ought to have meditated long and hard on the First Reading we have today. Why do I say this? It is very simple. The Apostles realized that so much of their time was being consumed by administrative functions that, though essential, need not be done by them. They raised up deacons to help them accomplish those tasks. But this was not just about getting the job done. In fact, the primary reason behind having deacons was so that the Apostles could devote themselves more to prayer and preaching of the Gospel. What does it mean to devote one’s self to something? It is giving your fullest and undivided attention to something. Every leader in the Church should ask themselves this question: “Do I devote myself fully to prayer and proclaiming the Gospel?” If not, what are you going to do about changing the priorities in your life?

       The Church needs leaders who are people of prayer and whose first priority is the proclamation of the Gospel. Yes, there are administrative tasks that need to be accomplished, but other people can do these better. The Church is either serious about evangelization and will set up its structures to promote this goal, or it is not! Let us pray for a newfound zeal to evangelize so that we can stem the number of people leaving the Church and recapture the dynamism of the Early Church, with its enthusiasm for the Gospel and the willingness of so many people to give their all in its service.

       Nothing will change in the Church if we just look at the problems and discern they are too big for us to overcome. We need to chip away at the encrusting barnacles that have attached themselves to the keel of the barque (ship/boat) of the Church. It is time to set a new course of evangelization for the Church and to put our energy, efforts and resources in this task. If people are genuinely undergoing conversion, all other problems will work themselves out. Fr. Steve Tynan, MGL
REFLECTION QUESTION: How much of your time do you devote to prayer and Church-related activities?
Holy Spirit, help me to be an agent of change in my local Church. Let me be an example of prayer to others and always ready to proclaim the Gospel at every opportunity that comes my way.

St. John I, pope and martyr, pray for us.

Do you want to receive this in your email. To get Bo Sanchez to send it to you personally, register and log-on to

Friday, May 16, 2014

25 popes insist you read this saint . . .

25 popes
consider him the Church's
preeminent theologian...

…because he saw truths about
God, our Faith, and the Christian
life which had never been seen before.

"His teachings could have come only from a
miraculous invention by God," said
Pope John XXII

Pope Leo XIII said his
teachings are "so vast they contain

all the wisdom that flows from the ancients."

But do you have time
to read the 3,000 pages
in his Summa Theologica?

I don't.


Can you comprehend the
abstract philosophical terms
he uses in On Being and Essence?

I can't.

Perhaps you, like me,
desire to be taught by such a
great philosopher as Thomas Aquinas,
but feel he is well beyond your reach.

Not anymore.

In these pages, veteran Catholic author Dr. Kevin Vost provides you with simple, readable explanations of St. Thomas's life-giving wisdom.

Karl Keating
says this book offers St. Thomas's arguments
in "bite-sized chunks that anyone can digest."

Peter Kreeft
says it will take you from
"confusion to clarity, from chaos to order."

In this book's lucid pages, you'll read small, digestible portions of St. Thomas's answers to questions such as . . . 

— Why do souls need the sacraments?

— Why didn't Jesus write the Bible himself?

— What are simple proofs of God's existence?

— What is heaven, and what is it not?

— Why did Jesus allow himself to be crucified?

— How can I grow quickly in virtue?

— Who are the angels and what are their powers?

— What is God's power and its limits?

— Why did God become man?

— Why did Jesus allow himself to be tempted?

And you'll learn countless, but quick, refutations to the relativistic and secular ideas that are so destructive in our culture today.

We're not all called to be intellectuals, but we are called to have an ever deeper understanding of the Faith.

As Fr. Dwight Longenecker said:
"For clarity choose Aquinas.  For clarity on Aquinas, choose The One-Minute Aquinas.

The One-Minute Aquinas
by Dr. Kevin Vost
304 Pages - List Price: $19.95

Order online

Save 30% when you
order the set:

Regular Price:

Order the set 
at this link for only

Discover, understand, and perfect the ten talents God gave you.
Beginning with the Gospel parable of the talents – which were buried in the ground by some, and multiplied by others – Kevin Vost here unearths a treasure for those who are struggling to live a life of Christian virtue: the ten particular talents that God has given each of us as our own . . . to bury . . . or to multiply for our own good and the good of the Kingdom.

Guided especially by St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the Church’s greatest teachers, as well as by Fathers of the Church and the example of many saints, Vost explains how you can discover, understand, and perfect each of your own ten talents.

In the process, you will develop your noble ability to reason, strengthen your faculties of mind, perfect your physical capacities for beauty of form and grace, nurture your ability to act angelically, and prepare yourself to live that life which is proper to a being made in the image of God.

Do you know what your ten talents are? Do you know what God wants you to do with your life? As He gave ten talents to each of the souls in the parable, so He has given ten particular talents to you.

Don’t ignore them any longer, or leave them buried.  Let Kevin Vost help you unearth them, and show you how to multiply them a hundredfold.

Save 30%
when you order the set




Order online above, or call

Save up to 40%
when you join Sophia's