Easter Vigil

I got home a few minutes ago from the Easter Vigil. I had gotten involved in my parish’s RCIA program to help those interested in joining the Catholic Church learn more about our faith before making the final commitment. Weekly meeting began in late September or early October, culminating into their full acceptance into the Church this evening at the Easter Vigil Mass. I had the great honor of sponsoring one of our catechumens for full communion.

Being on the RCIA team was very enriching for me. Seeing the genuine excitement some of them were showing as they learned about the faith really invigorated my faith. It makes me realize how blessed I am to have been raised in the Catholic Church my whole life. I’ve never had to search for Christ’s Church; I’ve been in it from my baptism when I was a month old. I also had the pleasure of talking to an acquaintance of mine who I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to in a while. I was surprised to see she’s now a lector, after having only become a Catholic a few years ago. I spoke to her after Mass and she reminded me that she had been a Baptist but came to discover the Truth of Catholicism. It was good to hear that her father had become reconciled to her decision, after vehement opposition. These things take time and maybe now that he’s accepted her decision, his heart can be opened to make the same journey.

I always enjoy the Easter Vigil. The Church really goes all out to bring the the specialness of this evening that we begin the celebration of Christ’s victory over death. (In the Catholic Church, Easter last for eight days. All of next week is a time of celebration of Christ rising from the dead.) We sing the Exultet rejoicing that God sent Christ (and we always make sure to have our best cantors scheduled for the Easter Vigil). It’s also the culmination of a lot of work. We decorated the Church Thursday morning. (I had to miss that session due to work.) We had the Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper Thursday night commemorating Christ’s gift of the Eucharist and the ordained priesthood Thursday evening. Following that Liturgy, we had silent adoration in the Church to keep a vigil of prayer with him while he was in the Garden praying before his Passion. Friday morning, we gathered for Morning Prayer and another session of setting up the Church for the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. That began at three in the afternoon, the hour of Our Lord’s death for our sins. At seven that night, we prayed the Stations of the Cross, commemorating Our Lord’s journey from his being condemned to death to his burial in the tomb.

This morning, we again had Morning Prayer. (Mass and other sacraments are not offered between Thursday and Saturday due to Christ being in the tomb. It’s a reminder of what we would be missing without His sacrifice.) We then spent about two and a half hours decorating and cleaning the Church to prepare for tonight. The Mass began tonight at 7:30 with the Liturgy of Light where we light a fire in the back of the Church which represents Christ, light the Paschal candle from it and then light candles held by members of the congregation to signify the light of Christ spreading throughout the world. (The church is dark through this time.) There are then up to seven readings from the Old Testament to show the buildup to Christ coming into the world. It’s hard to read those readings without getting hit by the beauty of God’s plan for us.

I’m always pumped up by the Easter celebrations in the Catholic Church. For all our problems, we do liturgy right.

The Exultet- Christ is Risen!

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!

My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,

that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.

Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
“The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy.”

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church’s solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

(For it is fed by the melting wax,
which the mother bee brought forth
to make this precious candle.)

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

Easter Faith

Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings for Easter Sunday’s liturgy.

There are men — we see this in the phenomenon of suicide bombers — who die for a misguided or even evil cause, mistakenly retaining, but in good faith, that the cause is a worthy one.

Even Christ’s death does not testify to the truth of his cause, but only the fact that he believed in its truth. Christ’s death is the supreme witness of his charity, but not of his truth. This truth is adequately testified to only by the Resurrection. “The faith of Christians,” says St. Augustine, “is the resurrection of Christ. It is no great thing to believe that Jesus died; even the pagans believe this, everyone believes it. The truly great thing is to believe that he is risen.”

Keeping to the purpose that has guided us up to this point, we must leave faith aside for the moment and attend to history. We would like to try to respond to the following question: Can Christ’s resurrection be defined as a historical event, in the common sense of the term, that is, did it “really happen”?

There are two facts that offer themselves for the historian’s consideration and permit him to speak of the Resurrection: First, the sudden and inexplicable faith of the disciples, a faith so tenacious as to withstand even the trial of martyrdom; second, the explanation of this faith that has been left by those who had it, that is, the disciples. In the decisive moment, when Jesus was captured and executed, the disciples did not entertain any thoughts about the resurrection. They fled and took Jesus’ case to be closed.

In the meantime something had to intervene that in a short time not only provoked a radical change of their state of soul, but that led them to an entirely different activity and to the founding of the Church. This “something” is the historical nucleus of Easter faith.

If the historical character of the Resurrection — that is, its objective, and not only subjective, character — is denied, the birth of the Church and of the faith become an even more inexplicable mystery than the Resurrection itself. It has been justly observed that “the idea that the imposing edifice of the history of Christianity is like an enormous pyramid balanced upon an insignificant fact is certainly less credible than the assertion that the entire event — and that also means the most significant fact within this — really did occupy a place in history comparable to the one that the New Testament attributes to it.”

How to Deal with Bible Quoting Protestants

In answer to a question on how to respond to Protestants who ask where some Catholic practices and beliefs are found in the Bible, Leon Suprenant of Catholics United for the Faith offers these points on understanding the role of the Bible in relation to the Church:

(1) Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the only source of God’s Word.

(2) The first Christians “were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles” (Acts 2:42; 2 Tim 1:14) long before the New Testament was written — and centuries before we knew with certainty which books were part of the New Testament.

(3) The Bible affirms that Christian teaching is “preached” (1 Pet. 1:25), that the Apostles’ successors were to teach what they have “heard” (2 Tim. 2:2), and that Christian teaching is passed on both “by word of mouth [and] by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15; 1 Cor. 11:2).

(4) Not everything Christ did and said is recorded in Scripture (Jn. 21:25).

(5) New Testament authors availed themselves of sacred Tradition. For example, Acts 20:35 quotes a saying of Jesus that is not recorded in the Gospels.

(6) Scripture needs an authoritative interpreter (Acts 8:30-31; 2 Pet. 1:20-21, 3:15-16).

(7) Christ left His Church with divine authority to teach in His name (Mt. 16:13-20, 18:18; Lk. 10:16).

(8) The Church will last until the end of time, and the Holy Spirit protects the Church’s teaching from corruption (Mt. 16:18, 28:19-20; Jn. 14:16).

(9) The Church — and not the Bible alone — is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

(10) The Bible refers to more sources of the Word of God than only Scripture. Jesus Himself is the Word (Jn. 1:1, 14), and in 1 Thess. 2:13, St. Paul’s first epistle, he refers to “the Word of God which you heard from us.” There St. Paul is clearly referring to oral apostolic teaching.

Read the whole thing

One point that is persuasive for me, and this relates to the first point, is how do we know the Bible is the Bible? By what authority do we know that the books that in the Bible are the books that should be in there, and other books don’t belong? We got the Canon of the Bible from the Catholic Church. While Protestants later removed some books from the Canon, we see the current Catholic canon taking shape through ecumenical Councils by about 360 AD. To reject the Church is to reject the Bible. Otherwise, who’s to say that the Gospel of Judas, among other apocryphal works, doesn’t belong in the Bible? This is a point made by Mark Shea in his book By What Authority?, and his search for the answer helped bring him into the Cahtolic Church. Scott Hahn, another convert, made a similar point that the Bible and the Catholic Church are a “band/and” situation: you have to accept both or neither and that realization helped bring him into the Catholic Church.

How to Deal with Bible Quoting Protestants

In answer to a question on how to respond to Protestants who ask where some Catholic practices and beliefs are found in the Bible, Leon Suprenant of Catholics United for the Faith offers these points on understanding the role of the Bible in relation to the Church:

(1) Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the only source of God’s Word.

(2) The first Christians “were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles” (Acts 2:42; 2 Tim 1:14) long before the New Testament was written — and centuries before we knew with certainty which books were part of the New Testament.

(3) The Bible affirms that Christian teaching is “preached” (1 Pet. 1:25), that the Apostles’ successors were to teach what they have “heard” (2 Tim. 2:2), and that Christian teaching is passed on both “by word of mouth [and] by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15; 1 Cor. 11:2).

(4) Not everything Christ did and said is recorded in Scripture (Jn. 21:25).

(5) New Testament authors availed themselves of sacred Tradition. For example, Acts 20:35 quotes a saying of Jesus that is not recorded in the Gospels.

(6) Scripture needs an authoritative interpreter (Acts 8:30-31; 2 Pet. 1:20-21, 3:15-16).

(7) Christ left His Church with divine authority to teach in His name (Mt. 16:13-20, 18:18; Lk. 10:16).

(8) The Church will last until the end of time, and the Holy Spirit protects the Church’s teaching from corruption (Mt. 16:18, 28:19-20; Jn. 14:16).

(9) The Church — and not the Bible alone — is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

(10) The Bible refers to more sources of the Word of God than only Scripture. Jesus Himself is the Word (Jn. 1:1, 14), and in 1 Thess. 2:13, St. Paul’s first epistle, he refers to “the Word of God which you heard from us.” There St. Paul is clearly referring to oral apostolic teaching.

Read the whole thing

One point that is persuasive for me, and this relates to the first point, is how do we know the Bible is the Bible? By what authority do we know that the books that in the Bible are the books that should be in there, and other books don’t belong? We got the Canon of the Bible from the Catholic Church. While Protestants later removed some books from the Canon, we see the current Catholic canon taking shape through ecumenical Councils by about 360 AD. To reject the Church is to reject the Bible. Otherwise, who’s to say that the Gospel of Judas, among other apocryphal works, doesn’t belong in the Bible? This is a point made by Mark Shea in his book By What Authority?, and his search for the answer helped bring him into the Cahtolic Church. Scott Hahn, another convert, made a similar point that the Bible and the Catholic Church are a “band/and” situation: you have to accept both or neither and that realization helped bring him into the Catholic Church.

About Lust

Bishop Raymundo J. Peña:

God endowed our human nature with the capacity to give and receive love, and to beget new life, through the sexual act. In itself, it is good and, in fact, holy.

Lust is the disorder in our sexual drive due to the mystery of sin. It turns the giving of love into the selfish taking of pleasure. It involves a communion of bodies but not of spirits. Lust focuses not on the person, but on the person’s body. It demeans individuals by judging their value according to their physical attractiveness and availability. It strips the body of its dignity by turning it into merchandise, and robs sexuality of its mystery by reducing it to be an instrument of raw pleasure.

By not recognizing lust for what it is, and by encouraging us not to control it, our culture trains us to relinquish self-restraint in every other dimension of life. It trains us to obey every impulse or appetite. While claiming freedom to live as we desire, we actually lose our freedom. Instead of controlling our passions, we allow our passions to control us. Reducing life to the search for self-gratification, we become self-centered and ignore the needs of others.

Divine Mercy Novena – Second Day

The Divine Mercy Novena

“Today bring to Me the Souls of Priests and Religious, and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave me strength to endure My bitter Passion. Through them as through channels My mercy flows out upon mankind.”

Most Merciful Jesus, from whom comes all that is good, increase Your grace in men and women consecrated to Your service,* that they may perform worthy works of mercy; and that all who see them may glorify the Father of Mercy who is in heaven.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company of chosen ones in Your vineyard — upon the souls of priests and religious; and endow them with the strength of Your blessing. For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless mercy for ages without end. Amen.