Labor Day and our Faith

the-labor-crossWhat does Labor Day have to do with our faith?  While it is not a feast on our liturgical calendar, Labor Day reinforces important values as Catholics.  Based on our beliefs, the Church has certain teachings on just wages and the value of work.  Every human person is valued and important.  The value in work is derived from the value and dignity of the human person, which comes prior to their interaction with society, not through the end result of their work.  Through work, we honor God’s creation and the talents he has given to us.  It unites us, in our labors, with the work and sufferings of Christ, and therefore contributes to our sanctification.  Every human person is called to work: it is what distinguishes us from other creatures.  Here are some excerpts from the Catechism:

“Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another. (…) It can also be redemptive…  Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ.” (CCC 2427)  “In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature.  The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and its beneficiary.  Work is for man, not man for work.” (CCC 2428)

The Church also teaches that each person should receive appropriate remuneration for their work as a matter of justice.  Employers should keep in mind not only an agreement between themselves and the person on the amount of the wages, but also the importance of the family, especially to supporting and valuing the family, in determining wages.  This also includes the right and the value of rest.

“A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work.  To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice.  In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account.  ‘Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural, and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.’  Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.” (CCC 2434)

The Church has a rich teaching on the value of human work as participation in the creative work of God, emphasizing the dignity of the human person.  If you are interested in more reading on the subject, check out Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical on work, “Laborem exercens.”

The Lay Apostolate

Bloch-SermonOnTheMountEvery Christian person, by virtue of their Baptism, is called to participation in the life of the Church. This participation sometimes may take the form of a vocation to the priesthood or to religious life. For those not called in that particular way, we have both the right and the duty to participation in the lay apostolate.

“Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth. This duty is the more pressing when it is only through them that men can hear the Gospel and know Christ. Their activity in ecclesial communities is so necessary that, for the most part, the apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without it.” (CCC 900)

The lay apostolate does not mean that lay people should do everything in the Church, and it certainly isn’t a call to do the things that are reserved to a priest. The ministry of the priesthood is a ministry to the baptized faithful; the lay apostolate is a ministry to the greater society. Sometimes the laity’s ministry includes service to their parish, in roles that are appropriate to their state in life. Often, the laity serve in many ways outside of their parish Church, in social ministries. Whatever the particular ministry is, it must always be in conformity with the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.

“Social action can assume various concrete forms. It should always have the common good in view and be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. It is the role of the laity ‘to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice.’ (CCC 2442)

There are many opportunities in your parish for lay people to serve both within the appropriate ministries of the Church, as well as social outreach ministries. Often, you just need to call and find out where help is needed. Are you involved in your parish? One aspect of our baptismal call is that of service, in cooperation with the ministry of the Church. How do you respond to that call?

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

assumption window

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated on August 15 is a solemnity in the life of the Church. You may remember that a solemnity is our most important type of feast.  In the dioceses of the United States, it is a Holy Day of obligation.  More that you just “have to go” to Mass, you should want to go to Mass. Do we really have that much else to do that we cannot find a Mass to go to today?  Mary is the example of perfect obedience and trust in God, and we could do well always to learn from her example.

For those that pray the rosary regularly, when you get to this mystery, you might say, “the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul into heaven.”  The Assumption is not simply celebrating that Mary went to heaven.  (Of course she did!)  Let’s look at what the Catechism teaches in this regard:

“Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.” (CCC 966)

Mary’s assumption into heaven is a foreshadowing of our life in heaven to come, hopefully the resurrection of all Christians.  We can point to scriptural evidence to support this belief.  Some key places are chapter 12 of the book of Revelation, Genesis 3:15, Corinthians 15:54, other letters of Paul, and Psalm 132  as evidence of Mary’s victory over sin and death.  Here is verse 8 of Psalm 132: “Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place: thou and the ark, which thou hast sanctified.”  The Church understands the ark of the New Covenant to be Mary, taken body and soul to her resting place.

The Assumption is a dogma of the Catholic Church, proclaimed in 1950 by Pope Pius XII in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus.  However, there is much evidence of this belief from as early as the third and fourth centuries, and it was celebrated by Christians as early as the fifth century.

 

Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us.

 

 

*As a side note, I am blessed to be in a parish under the patronage of our Blessed Mother. The above image is one of our stained glass windows (I apologize for the quality, taking them on my phone). The first image is the window depicting the Assumption, so you will note the inscription “Definita 1950 Pio XII.” The image below is a portion of the window depicting the crowning of Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth.

queen of heaven window

 

 

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

 

eucharisticon

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, often known as “Corpus Christi”.  You might be thinking, gee, don’t we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ at every Mass?  Sure, but just as with the Lord’s Resurrection, a particular day is set aside to celebrate and reflect on this aspect of the mystery and saving work of Christ!

The Catechism, no. 1374, quotes both St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope Paul VI in teaching us about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist:

“The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique.  It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as ‘the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.’  In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.’”

So, to repeat it, BOTH the Body and the Blood of Christ that we receive contain ALL of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.  Christ is not just there “beside the bread” (which is a Lutheran belief, consubstantiation – not to be confused with the word consubstantial in our Creed, which is not applied to the Eucharist).  The word that we use for this is TRANSUBSTANTIATION.  The substance of the bread or wine has changed – it is no longer bread or wine!  It only retains the “appearances” (physical qualities) of bread and wine, but it is not bread and wine.

This is a great time to focus on how we approach for the reception of Holy Communion.  Do we show respect for the Eucharistic species?  How do our actions reflect our beliefs?

A couple of reminders on the reception of Holy Communion:

1)      Bow, before both the Body and Blood of Christ.  This still applies even if you are not receiving!  (So don’t just walk past the Blood of Christ like it’s not there.  Is that how you would pass Jesus in the street??)

2)      If you are receiving in the hand, consume the consecrated Host immediately.  Do not walk anywhere with the sacred species. If you drop Him, pick Him up and consume!

3)     The reception of Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue is always permitted!

Finally, another reminder – go to confession! To receive the Most Holy Eucharist, one should be in a state of grace. If it is not possible to get to confession, make a perfect act of contrition before reception, and then go to confession!  How amazing and awesome the endless mercy of God…chalice

Pentecost

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“The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the ‘dispensation of the mystery’ – the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, ‘until he comes.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1076).

We speak about Pentecost as the beginning of the Church, but do we really know what we mean when we are saying that?  Often our “great commission” is quoted, that we need to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations.  Yet the gift of the Spirit on Pentecost is not only for the purpose of evangelizing non-Christians.  The Holy Spirit helps us experience that invisible heavenly reality through the Sacraments and other sacramental signs.  The Holy Spirit helps us to understand how Christ is acting through the Church, through her Sacraments, in this time when we can’t physically see him.

“In this age of the Church Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church, in a new way appropriate to a new age.  He acts through the sacraments, in what the common Tradition of the East and West calls the ‘sacramental economy’;  this is the communication (or ‘dispensation’) of the fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery in the celebration of the Church’s sacramental liturgy.” (CCC 1076).

Read this carefully.  Christ acts through the Church.  It is through the Church’s liturgy that we receiving the “fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery” (the saving work he did for us on the Cross).  The sacraments, signs and symbols of heavenly realities, were instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church.

As we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost, and remember our own reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation, let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to understand how he is working through the Church and making Christ present to us at each and every Mass.

Saints

saints and martyrs

In my last entry, we looked at what the Catechism teaches about the Lord’s Day: Sunday is the most important day of the week, the celebration of the Christ’s Paschal mystery.  The liturgical year is structured in such a way that throughout the Sundays and Solemnities of the year, the entire mystery of Christ is unfolded for us.  Another way of exploring the Paschal mystery of Christ throughout the year is through the “Sanctoral cycle,” that is, the memorials of the lives of the Saints.  The Catechism (no. 1173) teaches us:

“When the Church keeps the memorials of martyrs and other saints during the annual cycle, she proclaims the Paschal mystery in those ‘who have suffered and have been glorified with Christ.  She proposes them to the faithful as examples who draw all men to the Father through Christ, and through their merits she begs for God’s favors.’”

I may have mentioned here before, and we should remember, that as Catholics, we do not “worship” or “adore” the saints.  Worship is reserved for, and due to, Almighty God alone.  We do, however, venerate the saints.  This means that we acknowledge our respect for this particular person, and that we hold them as an example of how to live the Christian life. Saints are people that we know are in heaven.  Some people, and some other Christian groups, may say that honoring a saint, or even a statue of a saint, is worshipping a false idol.  This is not what we are doing.  We are not making that person into a god, but we are saying that they honored God by their life, and we wish to follow their example.  By contemplating an image or praying in front of a statue, we are asking for help in leading good Christian lives, just as that person lived.  Pre-eminent among the saints is our Blessed Mother, Mary, a perfect example of how to answer God’s call to holiness.

When we ask a Saint for their intercession, we are asking, believing that they are in heaven, for them to be an advocate for us to Christ.  In the Litany of Saints, we sing the name of a Saint followed by “pray for us.”  This means “pray to God for us.”  It’s like having a friend go whisper in His hear, because you know this friend is in “good-standing”, so to speak. In the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen), one of the many awesome titles we give to Mary is “most gracious Advocate.”  There’s nothing wrong with praying to Jesus, and also asking His mother to go ask Him for help, too.  After all…what happened at the Wedding at Cana?

Is there a particular saint that you ask for intercession on your behalf?  Who do you wish to emulate?  Who is your patron saint?

The Lord’s Day

alleluia

“By a tradition handed down from the apostles which took its origin from the very day of Christ’s Resurrection, the Church celebrates the Paschal mystery every seventh day, which day is appropriately called the Lord’s Day, or Sunday.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1166/Sacrosanctum Concilium 106)  The entire week revolves around Sunday, as the “pre-eminent” day for the Church to come together.  Sunday is both the first day of the week, representing the first day of creation, and the eighth day, which represents the eternal day after the Lord’s rest, a new creation, the “day the Lord has made,” which has no end. (See CCC 1166).

Each Sunday is like a “mini-Easter”, celebrating Christ’s Resurrection.  Easter is not just one Sunday feast out of the year, but as the Catechism says, is the “Feast of feasts” and the “Solemnity of solemnities.”  Each Sunday represents and celebrates the saving work of Christ, his life, death and resurrection for us so that we might have eternal life.  That is why participation at Mass each Sunday is an obligation for Catholics (so there are at least 52 days of obligation during the year, not to mention the additional solemnities that are obligatory).  We are asked to keep holy the Lord’s Day, just as the early Christians did. It is at the heart of our life in the Church.

One of the most important texts from the Second Vatican Council is Sacrosanctum Concilium, or the “Consitution on the Sacred Liturgy.”  This is the document that addresses the Liturgy.  It contains a beautiful reflection on Sunday:

“When we ponder, O Christ, the marvels accomplished on this day, the Sunday of your holy resurrection, we say: ‘Blessed is Sunday, for on it began creation…the world’s salvation…the renewal of the human race…  On Sunday heaven and earth rejoiced and the whole universe was filled with light. Blessed is Sunday, for on it were opened the gates of paradise…’” (SC 106).

How do you keep the Lord’s Day holy?