Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Year II

Here is my homily from this morning. May God bless each of you!

Homily for Thursday, 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Year II

October 23, 2014

 Once God grabs you, he doesn’t let go. Never. His choices and his calling are irrevocable. His Word is unalterable. It simply IS.

So, no matter how much we may resist, our power is not equal to God’s. As a famous Jesuit poet once wrote in the poem, The Hound of Heaven, God is relentless in his pursuit of us and his claim on us.

St. Paul today prays that we might know the height and the depth, the breadth and the length of the love of Christ, and that we might comprehend and be strengthened by the power of God which is at work in us. Indeed, he writes, we are to be “filled with the fullness of God.” Imagine that!

Indeed, when we are grasped by God, when we begin to comprehend however imperfectly the power of God in our lives, then we truly are set apart from others. This chosen-ness – which is pure gift, not something we have ever or can ever earn – will cause division in our social network. Chosen-ness is not elitism. It is not clericalism. It is not a power or oppressive thing. To be chosen is to be set apart to be a beacon of hope, faith and love to the world. In being so chosen, we will cause division for we will be a sign of contradiction.

The mystery of all this is that God has chosen all men and women to something special. Yet many, because of ignorance or by decision, reject that call, that chosen-ness, and thus, divide themselves from God’s gifts of grace. When we reject God’s choices for us, we fail to know “the height and the depth, the breadth and the length of the love of Christ” and the power of God at work in us.

 My dear people, let us, this day, open our lives to the working of God, open our hearts to the gifts of his graces and the immeasurable love of God for each one of us.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Wednesday, 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Paul II

Today is the memorial of St. John Paul II who just recently was canonized by Pope Francis. I could not help but think of him when I read today’s first reading, which I would  like to reread in part to you again:

I became a minister by the gift of God’s grace that was granted to me in accord with…. his power. To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ…

I am sure that after he was elected pope, John Paul II read that verse more than once and reflected on it in his own life.

My friends, I was blessed to have been living in Rome at the time of John Paul II’s election. I still recall the white smoke from the Sistine Chapel and the cardinal coming out on the loggia and announcing his name Wojtyla. It sounded so African to our ears that night that we expected to see a man from Africa come out. Instead, it was a man from Poland!

Yes, St. John Paul II truly preached to the Gentiles. He travelled widely during his 26 year pontificate. He announced the Gospel. He would say in Italian, “Spalancate le porte a Cristo!” which translated means, “Open wide the gates of you life to Christ!” Indeed, open wide our hearts to Jesus Christ who has come into our world and is the only way to fulfillment and peace. This was his message. Open yourselves to encounter Jesus! He is the way, the truth, and the life.

My dear people, let us today open wide our lives, our hearts and our minds to the presence of Jesus who comes to us always.

Spalancate le porte a Cristo!

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Synod Fathers Message to Families

At the conclusion of the Extra-ordinary Synod on the Family  the Synod Fathers issued this message to the world’s families. I will let it speak for itself.

Taken from Radio Vaticana.

We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary
General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.
Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties.
The preparation for this synod assembly, beginning with the questionnaire sent to the Churches around the world, has given us the opportunity to listen to the experience of many families. Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today.
We offer you the words of Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.
We recognize the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life. There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.
We think also of the burden imposed by life in the suffering that can arise with a child with special needs, with grave illness, in deterioration of old age, or in the death of a loved one. We admire the fidelity of so many families who endure these trials with courage, faith, and love. They see them not as a burden inflicted on them, but as something in which they themselves give, seeing the suffering Christ in the weakness of the flesh.
We recall the difficulties caused by economic systems, by the “the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii gaudium 55) which weakens the dignity of people. We remember unemployed parents who are powerless to provide basic needs for their families, and youth who see before them days of empty expectation, who are prey to drugs and crime.
We think of so many poor families, of those who cling to boats in order to reach a shore of survival, of refugees wandering without hope in the desert, of those persecuted because of their faith and the human and spiritual values which they hold. These are stricken by the brutality of war and oppression. We remember the women who suffer violence and exploitation, victims of human trafficking, children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development, and the members of so many families who have been degraded and burdened with difficulties. “The culture of prosperity deadens us…. all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us” (Evangelii gaudium 54). We call on governments and international organizations to promote the rights of the family for the common good.
Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.
There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light—the light of a wedding story—shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis says (2:18), when the two are “face to face” as equal and mutual helpers. The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 2:16; 6:3).
This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigor and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved (cf Jn 15:13). In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.
This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education. It includes the capacity to offer life, affection, and values—an experience possible even for those who have not been able to bear children. Families who live this light-filled adventure become a sign for all, especially for young people.
This journey is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers. They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God—a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well.
Another expression of fraternal communion is charity, giving, nearness to those who are last, marginalized, poor, lonely, sick, strangers, and families in crisis, aware of the Lord’s word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It is a gift of goods, of fellowship, of love and mercy, and also a witness to the truth, to light, and to the meaning of life.
The high point which sums up all the threads of communion with God and neighbor is the Sunday Eucharist when the family and the whole Church sits at table with the Lord. He gives himself to all of us, pilgrims through history towards the goal of the final encounter when “Christ is all and in all” (Col 3:11). In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments.
We Synod Fathers ask you walk with us towards the next Synod. The presence of the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their modest home hovers over you. United to the Family of Nazareth, we raise to the Father of all our petition for the families of the world:
Father, grant to all families the presence of strong and wise spouses who may be the source of a free and united family.
Father, grant that parents may have a home in which to live in peace with their families.
Father, grant that children may be a sign of trust and hope and that young people may have the courage to forge life-long, faithful commitments.
Father, grant to all that they may be able to earn bread with their hands, that they may enjoy serenity of spirit and that they may keep aflame the torch of faith even in periods of darkness.
Father, grant that we may all see flourish a Church that is ever more faithful and credible, a just and humane city, a world that loves truth, justice and mercy.

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Cardinal Dolan of New York on the African Church’s Prophetic Quality

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has released an interesting video clip on the influence of the African bishops and their pastoral experience are having on the Extra-Ordinary Synod on the Family. I am including the link below.

As is typical for Dolan, he is expressive, direct and engaging in his comments!

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Fr. Robert Barron on the Synod’s Relatio

Fr Robert Barron had a few brief but interesting comments on the recent release of the Synod’s Relatio, comments which reflect and express my own assessment and understanding. I have the link here for you to read. As usual, he says it much better than me!

Having Patience for the Sausage-Making Synod | Word On Fire.

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The Summary of the Extra-Ordinary Synod on the Family

Here is an unofficial translation of the Italian original of the “Relatio” which is a working document meant to summarize the Synod’s discussion to date.

I repeat, this is a working document, which means it is not representative of any decisions or conclusion rendered by the Synod.

Remember too, that the Supreme Legislator, Judge and Executive of this Synod, as he is in all ecclesial matters, is the Holy Father. After all is said and done, what he writes and promulgates next year will be definitive. So please don’t assume what is written in the “Relatio” is definitive doctrine or substantial change in practice.



Synod14 – Eleventh General Assembly: “Relatio post disceptationem” of the General Rapporteur, Card. Péter Erdő, 13.10.2014

[Unofficial translation]


Part I

Listening: the context and challenges to the family

The socio-cultural context

The relevance of emotional life

Pastoral challenges

Part II

The gaze on Christ: the Gospel of the Family

The gaze on Jesus and gradualness in the history of salvation

The family in Gods salvific plan

The discernment of values present in wounded families and irregular situations

Truth and beauty of the family and mercy

Part III

Discussion: pastoral perspectives

Proclaiming the Gospel of the family today, in various contexts

Guiding couples on the path in preparation for marriage

Accompanying the first years of married life

Positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation

Caring for wounded families (separated couples, the divorced who

have not remarried, the divorced and remarried)

 Welcoming homosexual persons

The transmission of life and the challenge of declining birthrate

The challenge of education and the role of the family in evangelization



 * * *



1.          During the prayer vigil held in St Peter’s Square on 4 October 2014 in preparation for the Synod on the family, Pope Francis evoked the centrality of the experience of family in all lives, in a simple and concrete manner: “Evening falls on our assembly. It is the hour at which one willingly returns home to meet at the same table, in the depth of affection, of the good that has been done and received, of the encounters which warm the heart and make it grow, good wine which hastens the unending feast in the days of man. It is also the weightiest hour for one who finds himself face to face with his own loneliness, in the bitter twilight of shattered dreams and broken plans; how many people trudge through the day in the blind alley of resignation, of abandonment, even resentment: in how many homes the wine of joy has been less plentiful, and therefore, also the zest — the very wisdom — for life […]. Let us make our prayer heard for one another this evening, a prayer for all”.

2.        The source of joys and trials, of deep affections and relations – at times wounded – the family is truly a “school of humanity” (“Familia schola quaedam uberioris humanitatis est”, Vatican Council II, Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 52), of which we are in great need. Despite the many signs of crisis in the institution of the family in various contexts of the “global village”, the desire for family remains alive, especially among the young, and is at the root of the Church’s need to proclaim tirelessly and with profound conviction the “Gospel of the family” entrusted to her with the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

3.        The Bishop of Rome called upon the Synod of Bishops to reflect upon the situation of the family, decisive and valuable, in its Extraordinary General Assembly of October 2014, a reflection which will then be pursued in greater depth in the Ordinary General Assembly scheduled to take place in October 2015, as well as during the full intervening year between the two synodal events. “The convenire in unum around the Bishop of Rome is already an event of grace, in which episcopal collegiality is made manifest in a path of spiritual and pastoral discernment”: thus Pope Francis described the synodal experience, indicating its tasks in the dual process of listening to the signs of God and the history of mankind and in the resulting dual and unique fidelity.

4.        In the light of the same discourse we have gathered together the results of our reflections and our dialogues in the following three parts: listening, to look at the situation of the family today, in the complexity of its light and shade; looking, our gaze fixed on Christ, to re-evaluate with renewed freshness and enthusiasm what the revelation transmitted in the faith of the Church tells us about the beauty and dignity of the family; and discussion in the light of the Lord Jesus to discern the ways in which the Church and society can renew their commitment to the family.


first part

Listening: the context and challenges to the family

The socio-cultural context

        5.        Anthropological and cultural change today influences all aspects of life and requires an analytic and diversified approach, able to discern the positive forms of individual freedom. It is necessary to be aware of the growing danger represented by an exasperated individualism that distorts family bonds and ends up considering each component of the family as an isolated unit, leading in some cases to the prevalence of an idea of the subject formed according to his or her own wishes, which are assumed as absolute.

        6.        The most difficult test for families in our time is often solitude, which destroys and gives rise to a general sensation of impotence in relation to the socio-economic situation that often ends up crushing them. This is due to growing precariousness in the workplace that is often experienced as a nightmare, or due to heavy taxation that certainly does not encourage young people to marriage.

        7.        Some cultural and religious contexts pose particular challenges. In African societies the practice of polygamy remains, along with, in some traditional contexts, the custom of “marriage in stages”. In other contexts the practice of “arranged marriages” persists. In countries in which Catholicism is a minority religion, there are many mixed marriages with all the difficulties that these may lead to in terms of legal form, the education of children and mutual respect from the point of view of religious freedom, but also with the great potential that derives from the encounter between the differences in faith that these stories of family life present. In many contexts, and not only in the West, the practice of cohabitation before marriage, or indeed cohabitation not orientated towards assuming the form of an institutional bond, is increasingly widespread.

        8.        Many children are born outside marriage, especially in certain countries, and there are many who subsequently grow up with just one of their parents or in an enlarged or reconstituted family context. The number of divorces is growing and it is not rare to encounter cases in which decisions are taken solely on the basis of economic factors. The condition of women still needs to be defended and promoted, as situations of violence within the family are not rare. Children are frequently the object of contention between parents, and are the true victims of family breakdown. Societies riven by violence due to war, terrorism or the presence of organized crime experience deteriorating family situations. Furthermore, migration is another sign of the times, to be faced and understood in terms of the burden of consequences for family life.

The relevance of emotional life

        9.        Faced with the social framework outlined above, a greater need is encountered among individuals to take care of themselves, to know their inner being, and to live in greater harmony with their emotions and sentiments, seeking a relational quality in emotional life. In the same way, it is possible to encounter a widespread desire for family accompanied by the search for oneself. But how can this attention to the care for oneself be cultivated and maintained, alongside this desire for family? This is a great challenge for the Church too. The danger of individualism and the risk of living selfishly are significant.

     10.        Today’s world appears to promote limitless affectivity, seeking to explore all its aspects, including the most complex. Indeed, the question of emotional fragility is very current: a narcissistic, unstable or changeable affectivity do not always help greater maturity to be reached. In this context, couples are often uncertain and hesitant, struggling to find ways to grow. Many tend to remain in the early stages of emotional and sexual life. The crisis in the couple destabilizes the family and may lead, through separations and divorce, to serious consequences for adults, children and society as a whole, weakening the individual and social bonds. The decline in population not only creates a situation in which the alternation of generations is no longer assured, but over time also risks leading to economic impoverishment and a loss of hope in the future.

Pastoral challenges

     11.        In this context the Church is aware of the need to offer a meaningful word of hope. It is necessary to set out from the conviction that man comes from God and that, therefore, a reflection able to reframe the great questions on the meaning of human existence, may find fertile ground in humanity’s most profound expectations. The great values of marriage and the Christian family correspond to the search that distinguishes human existence even in a time marked by individualism and hedonism. It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God and the will to feel fully part of the Church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations. This requires that the doctrine of the faith, the basic content of which should be made increasingly better known, be proposed alongside with mercy.



The gaze upon Christ: the Gospel of the Family

The gaze upon Jesus and gradualness in the history of salvation

     12.        In order to “walk among contemporary challenges, the decisive condition is to maintain a fixed gaze on Jesus Christ, to pause in contemplation and in adoration of His Face. … Indeed, every time we return to the source of the Christian experience, new paths and undreamed of possibilities open up” (Pope Francis, Address of 4 October 2014). Jesus looked upon the women and the men he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps with patience and mercy, in proclaiming the demands of the Kingdom of God.

     13.        From the moment that the order of creation is determined by orientation towards Christ, it becomes necessary to distinguish without separating the various levels through which God communicates the grace of the covenant to humanity. Through the law of gradualness (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), typical of divine pedagogy, this means interpreting the nuptial covenant in terms of continuity and novelty, in the order of creation and in that of redemption.

     14.        Jesus Himself, referring to the primordial plan for the human couple, reaffirms the indissoluble union between man and woman, while understanding that “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Mt 19,8). In this way, He shows how divine condescension always accompanies the path of humanity, directing it towards its new beginning, not without passing through the cross.

The family in Gods salvific plan

     15.        Since, by their commitment to mutual acceptance and with the grace of Christ couples promise fidelity to one another and openness to life, they acknowledge as constitutive elements of marriage the gifts God offers them, taking their mutual responsability seriously, in His name and before the Church. Now, in faith it is possible to assume the goods of marriage as commitments best maintained with the help of the grace of the sacrament. God consecrates love between spouses and confirms its indissolubility, offering them help in living in fidelity and openness to life. Therefore, the gaze of the Church turns not only to the couple, but to the family.

     16.        We are able to distinguish three fundamental phases in the divine plan for the family: the family of origins, when God the creator instituted the primordial marriage between Adam and Eve, as a solid foundation for the family: he created them male and female (cg. Gn 1,24-31; 2,4b); the historic family, wounded by sin (cf. Gn 3) and the family redeemed by Christ (cf. Eph 5,21-32), in the image of the Holy Trinity, the mystery from which every true love springs. The sponsal covenant, inaugurated in creation and revealed in the history of God and Israel, reaches its fullest expression with Christ in the Church.

The discernment of values present in wounded families and in irregular situations

     17.        In considering the principle of gradualness in the divine salvific plan, one asks what possibilities are given to married couples who experience the failure of their marriage, or rather how it is possible to offer them Christ’s help through the ministry of the Church. In this respect, a significant hermeneutic key comes from the teaching of Vatican Council II, which, while it affirms that “although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure … these elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward Catholic unity” (Lumen Gentium, 8).

     18.        In this light, the value and consistency of natural marriage must first be emphasized. Some ask whether the sacramental fullness of marriage does not exclude the possibility of recognizing positive elements even the imperfect forms that may be found outside this nuptial situation, which are in any case ordered in relation to it. The doctrine of levels of communion, formulated by Vatican Council II, confirms the vision of a structured way of participating in the Mysterium Ecclesiae by baptized persons.

     19.        In the same, perspective, that we may consider inclusive, the Council opens up the horizon for appreciating the positive elements present in other religions (cf. Nostra Aetate, 2) and cultures, despite their limits and their insufficiencies (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 55). Indeed, looking at the human wisdom present in these, the Church learns how the family is universally considered as the necessary and fruitful form of human cohabitation. In this sense, the order of creation, in which the Christian vision of the family is rooted, unfolds historically, in different cultural and geographical expressions.

     20.        Realizing the need, therefore, for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognize those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries. Following the expansive gaze of Christ, whose light illuminates every man (cf. Jn 1,9; cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22), the Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings.

Truth and beauty of the family and mercy

     21.        The Gospel of the family, while it shines in the witness of many families who live coherently their fidelity to the sacrament, with their mature fruits of authentic daily sanctity must also nurture those seeds that are yet to mature, and must care for those trees that have dried up and wish not to be neglected.

     22.        In this respect, a new dimension of today’s family pastoral consists of accepting the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation, taking into account the due differences. Indeed, when a union reaches a notable level of stability through a public bond, is characterized by deep affection, responsibility with regard to offspring, and capacity to withstand tests, it may be seen as a germ to be accompanied in development towards the sacrament of marriage. Very often, however, cohabitation is established not with a view to a possible future marriage, but rather without any intention of establishing an institutionally-recognized relationship.

            23.        Imitating Jesus’ merciful gaze, the Church must accompany her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care, restoring trust and hope to them like the light of a beacon in a port, or a torch carried among the people to light the way for those who are lost or find themselves in the midst of the storm. 

Part III

The discussion: pastoral perspectives

Proclaiming the Gospel of the family today, in various contexts

     24.        The Synod dialog has allowed an agreement on some of the more urgent pastoral needs to be entrusted to being made concrete in the individual local Churches, in communion cum Petro et sub Petro.

     25.        The announcement of the Gospel of the family is an urgent issue for the new evangelization. The Church has to carry this out with the tenderness of a mother and the clarity of a teacher (cf. Eph 4,15), in fidelity to the merciful kenosi of Christ. The truth is incarnated in human fragility not to condemn it, but to cure it.

     26.        Evangelizing is the shared responsibility of all God’s people, each according to his or her own ministry and charism. Without the joyous testimony of spouses and families, the announcement, even if correct, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words that is a characteristic of our society (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, 50). On various occasions the Synodal Fathers underlined that Catholic families are called upon themselves to be the active subjects of all the pastoral of the family.

     27.        It will be decisive to highlight the primacy of grace, and therefore of the possibilities that the Spirit gives in the sacrament. This is about letting it be known that the Gospel of the family is a joy that «fills the hearts and lives», because in Christ we are «set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness» (Evangelii Gaudium, 1). In the light of the parable of the sower (cf. Mt 13,3), our task is to cooperate in the sowing: the rest is God’s work. We must not forget that the Church that preaches about the family is a sign of contradiction.

     28.        For this reason, what is required is a missionary conversion: it is necessary not to stop at an announcement that is merely theoretical and has nothing to do with people’s real problems. It must not be forgotten that the crisis of faith has led to a crisis in matrimony and the family and, as a result, the transmission of faith from parents to children has often been interrupted. Confronted by a strong faith, the imposition of certain cultural perspectives that weaken the family is of no importance.

     29.        Conversion has, above all, to be that of language so that this might prove to be effectively meaningful. The announcement is about letting it be experienced that the Gospel of the family is the response to the deepest expectations of a person: to his or her dignity and its full realization in reciprocity and communion. This is not merely about presenting a set of regulations but about putting forward values, responding to the need of those who find themselves today even in the most secularized countries.

     30.        The indispensable biblical-theological study is to be accompanied by dialog, at all levels. Many insisted on a more positive approach to the riches contained in diverse religious experiences, while not being blind to the difficulties. In the diverse cultural realities the possibilities should first be grasped and in the light of them the limits and radicalizations should be rejected.

     31.        Christian marriage cannot only be considered as a cultural tradition or social obligation, but has to be a vocational decision taken with the proper preparation in an itinerary of faith, with mature discernment. This is not about creating difficulties and complicating the cycles of formation, but of going deeply into the issue and not being content with theoretical meetings or general orientations.

     32.        The need was jointly referred to for a conversion of all pastoral practices from the perspective of the family, overcoming the individualistic points of view that still characterize it. This is why there was a repeated insistence on renewing in this light the training of presbyters and other pastoral operators, through a greater involvement of the families themselves.

     33.        In the same way, the necessity was underlined for an evangelization that denounces clearly the cultural, social and economic factors, for example, the excessive room given to market logic, that prevents an authentic family life, leading to discrimination, poverty, exclusion, and violence. For this reason a dialog and cooperation has to be developed with the social structures, and lay people who are involved in cultural and socio-political fields should be encouraged.


Guiding couples on the path in preparation for marriage

     34.        The complex social reality and the changes that the family is called on today to deal with require a greater undertaking from the whole Christian community for the preparation of those who are about to be married. As regards this necessity the Synodal Fathers agreed to underline the need for a greater involvement of the entire community privileging the testimony of the families themselves, as well as a rooting of the preparation for marriage in the path of Christian initiation, underlining the connection between marriage and the other sacraments. In the same way, the necessity was highlighted for specific programs for preparation for marriage that are a true experience of participation in the ecclesial life and that study closely the diverse aspects of family life.

Accompanying the early years of married life

     35.        The early years of marriage are a vital and delicate period during which couples grow in the awareness of the challenges and meaning of matrimony. Thus the need for a pastoral accompaniment that goes beyond the celebration of the sacrament. Of great importance in this pastoral is the presence of experienced couples. The parish is considered the ideal place for expert couples to place themselves at the disposal of younger ones. Couples need to be encouraged towards a fundamental welcome of the great gift of children. The importance of family spirituality and prayer needs to be underlined, encouraging couples to meet regularly to promote the growth of the spiritual life and solidarity in the concrete demands of life. Meaningful liturgies, devotional practices and the Eucharist celebrated for families, were mentioned as vital in favoring evangelization through the family.

Positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation

     36.        A new sensitivity in today’s pastoral consists in grasping the positive reality of civil weddings and, having pointed out our differences, of cohabitation. It is necessary that in the ecclesial proposal, while clearly presenting the ideal, we also indicate the constructive elements in those situations that do not yet or no longer correspond to that ideal. 

     37.        It was also noted that in many countries an “an increasing number live together ad experimentum, in unions which have not been religiously or civilly recognized” (Instrumentum Laboris, 81). In Africa this occurs especially in traditional marriages, agreed between families and often celebrated in different stages. Faced by these situations, the Church is called on to be “the house of the Father, with doors always wide open […] where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems” (Evangelii Gaudium, 47) and to move towards those who feel the need to take up again their path of faith, even if it is not possible to celebrate a religious marriage.

     38.        In the West as well there is an increasingly large number of those who, having lived together for a long period of time, ask to be married in the Church. Simple cohabitation is often a choice inspired by a general attitude, which is opposed to institutions and definitive undertakings, but also while waiting for a secure existence (a steady job and income). In other countries common-law marriages are very numerous, not because of a rejection of Christian values as regards the family and matrimony, but, above all, because getting married is a luxury, so that material poverty encourages people to live in common-law marriages. Furthermore in such unions it is possible to grasp authentic family values or at least the wish for them. Pastoral accompaniment should always start from these positive aspects.

     39.        All these situations have to be dealt with in a constructive manner, seeking to transform them into opportunities to walk towards the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel. They need to be welcomed and accompanied with patience and delicacy. With a view to this, the attractive testimony of authentic Christian families is important, as subjects for the evangelization of the family.

Caring for wounded families (the separated, the divorced who have not remarried, the divorced who have remarried)

     40.        What rang out clearly in the Synod was the necessity for courageous pastoral choices. Reconfirming forcefully the fidelity to the Gospel of the family, the Synodal Fathers, felt the urgent need for new pastoral paths, that begin with the effective reality of familial fragilities, recognizing that they, more often than not, are more “endured” than freely chosen. These are situations that are diverse because of personal as well as cultural and socio-economic factors. It is not wise to think of unique solutions or those inspired by a logic of “all or nothing”. The dialog and meeting that took place in the Synod will have to continue in the local Churches, involving their various components, in such a way that the perspectives that have been drawn up might find their full maturation in the work of the next Ordinary General Assembly. The guidance of the Spirit, constantly invoked, will allow all God’s people to live the fidelity to the Gospel of the family as a merciful caring for all situations of fragility.

     41.        Each damaged family first of all should be listened to with respect and love, becoming companions on the journey as Christ did with the disciples of the road to Emmaus. In a particular way the words of Pope Francis apply in these situations: «The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment”, which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Es 3,5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our  compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life» (Evangelii Gaudium, 169).

     42.        Such discernment is indispensable for the separated and divorced. What needs to be respected above all is the suffering of those who have endured separation and divorce unjustly. The forgiveness for the injustice endured is not easy, but it is a journey that grace makes possible. In the same way it needs to be always underlined that it is indispensable to assume in a faithful and constructive way the consequences of separation or divorce on the children: they must not become an “object” to be fought over and the most suitable means need to be sought so that they can get over the trauma of the family break-up and grow up in the most serene way possible.

     43.        Various Fathers underlined the necessity to make the recognition of cases of nullity more accessible and flexible. Among the propositions were the abandonment of the need for the double conforming sentence; the possibility of establishing an administrative means under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop; a summary process to be used in cases of clear nullity. According to authoritative propositions, the possibility should then be considered of giving weight to the faith of those about to be married in terms of the validity of the sacrament of marriage. It needs to emphasized that in all these cases it is about the ascertaining of the truth over the validity of the obstacle.

     44.        As regards matrimonial suits, the speeding-up of the procedure, requested by many, as well as the preparation of a sufficient number of operators, clerics and lay people, dedicating themselves to this, requires an increase in the responsibilities of the diocesan bishop, who in his diocese might charge a specially trained priest who would be able to offer the parties advice on the validity of their marriage.

     45.        Divorced people who have not remarried should be invited to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their state. The local community and pastors have to accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when there are children involved or they find themselves in a serious situation of poverty.

     46.        In the same way the situation of the divorced who have remarried demands a careful discernment and an accompaniment full of respect, avoiding any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against. For the Christian community looking after them is not a weakening of its faith and its testimony to the indissolubility of marriage, but rather it expresses precisely its charity in its caring.

     47.        As regards the possibility of partaking of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some argued in favor of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, others were in favor of a greater opening on very precise conditions when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering. For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop –, and with a clear undertaking in favor of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances.

     48.        Suggesting limiting themselves to only “spiritual communion” was questioned by more than a few Synodal Fathers: if spiritual communion is possible, why not allow them to partake in the sacrament? As a result a greater theological study was requested starting with the links between the sacrament of marriage and the Eucharist in relation to the Church-sacrament. In the same way, the moral dimension of the problem requires further consideration, listening to and illuminating the consciences of spouses.

     49.        The problems relative to mixed marriages were frequently raised in the interventions of the Synodal Fathers. The differences in the matrimonial regulations of the Orthodox Churches creates serious problems in certain contexts to which have to be found suitable responses in communion with the Pope. The same applies to inter-religious marriages.

Welcoming homosexual persons

     50.        Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

     51.        The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

     52.        Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

The transmission of life and the challenge of the declining birthrate

     53.        It is not difficult to notice the spread of a mentality that reduces the generation of life to a variable of an individual’s or a couple’s plans. Economic factors sometimes have enough weight to contribute to the sharp drop in the birthrate which weakens the social fabric, compromising the relationship between generations and rendering the view of the future less certain. Being open to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love.

     54.        Probably here as well what is required is a realistic language that is able to start from listening to people and acknowledging the beauty and truth of an unconditional opening to life as that which human life requires to be lived to its fullest. It is on this base that we can rest an appropriate teaching regarding natural methods, which allow the living in a harmonious and aware way of the communication between spouses, in all its dimensions, along with generative responsibility. In this light, we should go back to the message of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Paul VI, which underlines the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control.

     55.        So help is required to live affectivity, in marriage as well, as a path of maturation, in the evermore profound welcoming of the other and in an ever-fuller giving. It has to be emphasized in this sense the need to offer formative paths that nourish married life and the importance of a laity that provides an accompaniment consisting of living testimony. It is undoubtedly of great help the example of a faithful and profound love made up of tenderness, of respect, capable of growing in time and which in its concrete opening to the generation of life allows us to experience a mystery that transcends us.

The challenge of education and the role of the family in evangelization

     56.        The fundamental challenge facing families today is undoubtedly that of education, rendered more difficult and complex by today’s cultural reality. What have to be considered are the needs and expectations of families capable of testifying in daily life, places of growth, of concrete and essential transmission of the virtues that provide form for existence.

     57.        In this Church can carry out a precious role in supporting families, starting from Christian initiation, through welcoming communities. What is asked of these, today even more than yesterday, in complex as well as mundane situations, is to support parents in their educative undertaking, accompanying children and young people in their growth through personalized paths capable of introducing them to the full meaning of life and encouraging choices and responsibilities, lived in the light of the Gospel.



     58.        The reflections put forward, the fruit of the Synodal dialog that took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches in the year that separates us from the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of bishops planned for October 2015. These are not decisions that have been made nor simply points of view. All the same the collegial path of the bishops and the involvement of all God’s people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will lead us to find roads of truth and mercy for all. This is the wish that from the beginning of our work Pope Francis has extended to us, inviting us to the courage of the faith and the humble and honest welcome of the truth in charity.

[03037-01.01] [Testo originale: Italiano] [Unofficial translation]

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Quote for the Day

“Jesus is the perfect child of God. In his life and in his love, in the way he related to God and in the way he related to his sisters and brothers, we find our deepest meaning as human beings.” — Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 2014

Here is my homily from this weekend. God bless each of you!

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2014

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Isaiah 25: 6-10a; Phil 4: 12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22: 1-14

October 11/12, 2014

We here today are more than just a parish. We are more than just a local community. We are part of the diocesan Church, united under our bishop as our shepherd.

 Not only are we, as a parish, bound together with other parishes in the diocese, but our diocese is bound together with other dioceses in the world, under one shepherd, the Pope, who is Christ’s Vicar on earth. Because we are ultimately one Church, one faith, one baptism, one People of God, we have responsibilities to each other throughout the world. We are, then, Catholic, universal and complete.

 As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminds us, we cannot forget our brothers and sisters who live in places where they are being systematically persecuted and killed because they are Christians.

 In our first reading today, we hear of God providing for his people on the mountain. I could not help but think of persecuted Christians in northern Iraq who in recent weeks have fled from their homes and communities and run to a mountain, seeking refuge from the death and violence that have surrounded them by extremist groups in that region of the world. Yes, indeed, a dark veil hangs over all the Christians in that country. Terrorists threaten them all. The Holy Father has asked us to pray for them and to assist them.

 God wants to wipe away every tear on their faces, as we heard in our reading today. God has promised them a great feast of choice foods and drinks. God’s hand is on the mountain of their refuge in Iraq, just has God’s hand has been present in every other place of death and persecution of Christians throughout the centuries. Even though they walk in a very dark valley, God is with them.
In Iraq, just as he has here in the United States, God has prepared a great feast filled with his choicest gifts, a feast He has offered to all people; all people. I am speaking of the gift of the Church and specifically the Eucharist, which we call the Mass. I am talking about the gifts of the seven sacraments and the ordained clergy in apostolic succession. Yes, God has given the people of Iraq the gift of the Catholic Church as a source of grace and strength. All has been prepared by God. In Iraq, as in other places of the world, the parable we heard in today’s Gospel is being played out. The parable is being carried out. It is at its beginning, maybe nearing its midpoint.

 So many have been invited to take part in the banquet for so many centuries in that land, a land that was a fertile place for the Church for over 2000 years to grow. Now, it nears annihilation. Why has this happened? Why are they persecuted and why are they dying? We certainly need to ask ourselves, “Why are they persecuted?”

I don’t know really. I can only guess, but if we look at today’s Gospel parable, maybe it explains it a bit.

 In recent generations, what began so many centuries ago as a Christian nation has turned away from its roots. Some have followed radical extremist groups under the guise of a religion, which in fact is no religion but rather an expression of hate and violence.

 I wonder sometimes if it is always the same two things that turn someone away from the Church, from God’s gifts and graces, i.e., either ignorance and apathy or anger and blindness to the truth.

What can we do, knowing of this tragic situation for Iraqi Christians?

 First, we must remember them, and pray for them. We remember by speaking of them; we pray for them by bringing their needs to the Mass in our private intentions.

 Second, we must never presume our own worthiness to come to the feast prepared for us by God. We must not become like the man in today’s Gospel who came but had to leave because he was apathetic and did not prepare himself to come and was not dressed properly. We must not become lazy, ignorant or apathetic with the great gift of the Eucharist and the Church; rather, we must accept the invitation to come and come prepared. And we must never give into anger and resentment. If we become careless in our worship here, if we become worse angry or resentful, then we will no longer reach out to our hurting brothers and sisters in our midst, or in the world at large in places of great persecution. In other words, we must be always be prepared to come worthily to the Mass which God has so richly prepared for us.

 At each Mass, we need to bring to this altar not only our own needs, but the needs of the universal Church, especially the needs of our persecuted brothers and sisters.

 Do you think of these things when you come to Mass on Sunday? Are you prepared for the banquet feast? Do you pray ahead of time for the needs of the poor, the persecuted, and the needy? In other words, do you put on the garment of Christ, the garment you need to have on, to enter into the banquet of life and love? Or do we just show up, or worse, decide to come only once in a while and then ill-prepared?

 Let us this day remember our Christian brothers and sister in war torn areas of the Mideast. May our prayers, the way we approach the Eucharist, and our gratitude for the gift of the Church, serve to strengthen them in their need.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily to Deacon Aspirants

Here is my homily given last Saturday to deacon aspirants for the Diocese of Winona. May God bless them and all men preparing for the diaconate.

Homily to Deacon Aspirants

4th Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

October 11, 2014

“The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus… I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ…. I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.” – Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (1)

 We all are called to proclaim to the entire world what we have encountered: Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

 We are called to bring a message of joy and of hope to our world; the message that Jesus has redeemed us all by his life, death and resurrection; that he came to bring us life, fullness of life, eternal life; that he comes into our lives and into our world each and every day, and that he will come on the last day to judge us on how well we have loved others, especially the poor.

 None of us is exempt from doing this. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis reminds us that we must first encounter Jesus, encounter him by listening to him, listening to the Word of God who is Jesus Christ, listening to Jesus speak to us in the sacraments, listening to Jesus speak through the teachers of the Church, especially the bishops, priests and deacons, and in a special way listening to Jesus speaking in the lives of the poor, the sick, the rejected members of our society.

 How can we know and recognize Jesus if we have not first listened? We must listen to the Word of God speak to us so we will recognize Him, especially in the lives of the poor and marginalized.

 Yes, we must listen to Jesus and to his Body, the Church! A listening heart is like a fertilized field. Listening prepares our hearts to receive the seed, the Word of God who is Jesus Christ.

 Mary listened to God’s word spoken to her by the archangel Gabriel. She listened and then conceived the Son of God. She became the Mother of God and our spiritual mother because she listened and obeyed. Jesus came into this world when Mary listened and obeyed. He will come into your life too if you do the same.

 Saint Joseph listened, as we heard in the Gospel today. He listened and obeyed and then received both the Mother of God and the Son of God into his life and home and he will come into your family too if you do the same.

 Yes, we must listen to God’s word, to Jesus, and then respond as Mary responded, as Saint Joseph responded by taking Jesus into our lives and our world. We then after hearing and accepting, we must go out and tell others that the Christ has come, that he is coming now, and he will come again!

 My friends, Jesus comes now, each and every day. His Incarnation is, in a certain sense, completed when we listen to his Word and take it into our lives, into our hearts and live it out in caring for the poor. We become the eyes and ears, the hands and the feet of Jesus when we listen and obey.

 Jesus comes now, each and every time we hear God’s Word proclaimed and preached, a word that, as the Scriptures say, is a two-edged sword that penetrates deeply into our hearts. He comes now, each and every time we listen to that Word and we allow Jesus Christ to become a part of us, a part of our lives.

 Jesus comes now, each and every time a sacrament is celebrated. We encounter him in all the sacraments, when we are baptized and confirmed, when we confess our sins to a priest, when we marry in the Church, when we are anointed in the Sacrament of the Sick, when we are ordained deacons, priests or bishops, and most especially here at Mass in the Eucharist.

 Jesus comes into our world each and every time we reach out and touch the life of a poor man or woman, each time we listen to them, each time we feed them, each time we shelter them, each time we visit them in prison, each time we care for them when they are sick in our nursing homes and hospitals, each time we clothe the naked, instruct the ignorant or bury the dead.

 Jesus will come again over and over again in these ways and in many other hidden ways, until that glorious and most obvious day when he will come victoriously to judge the living and the dead.

 Let us always be listening, always preparing, ready for the coming of the Lord. God speaks. Jesus continually comes into our world. We can’t predict the time, the hour, or the place, but we know with certainty that he comes.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, 27th Week, Year II

Here is my homily from this morning. God bless you all!

When I lived in Rome, so many years ago now, I came to experience the diversity of the Church. So many men from so many parts of the world! Different languages, cultures and temperments. Different rites and liturgical practices. Different personal spiritualities. Yet, we were one. We were one in the faith. We professed the same Creed. We all had received the one Holy Spirit. We were united, studying together.

St. Paul  today in our first reading, in what you might say were some very blunt terms, warns us against divisions in the Church. Divisions and diversity are two different things, aren’t they. Divisions divide whereas diversity enriches and ultimately unites. St. Paul tells us that our unity comes from the Spirit which comes to us from hearing and receiving Jesus Christ, whom we receive here at this altar in the Eucharist and we receive in listening to God’s Word proclaimed and preached at this ambo. Yes, the Spirit is pure gift who comes to us from the Father by receiving his Son Jesus Christ. The moral law, while need and necessary to identify sin and develop virtue, does not give us the gift of the Spirit. Thus, the moral law can divide us, if we allow it to do so, but the Spirit received through Jesus always unites us.

As Jesus tells us in the Gospel today, we must pray with perseverance for this Spirit. If we pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit, He will always be given to us. We need only ask and be open to the Son, Jesus Christ. The Spirit comes as gift, freely given, never earned.

May we this day pray without ceasing for this gift! May are hearts be ever open to the presence of Jesus in our lives so His Spirit may permeate our lives. May we always beware of divisions, and work toward unity.

The law divides; the Spirit unites.

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Quote for the Day

“Blessed is the brother that would love his brother in illness, when the brother cannot be of use to him, as much as he loves him in health, when he can be of use to him.” – St. Francis of Assisi

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Beware of Greed and Aware of the Holy Spirit

Below is the Vatican’s translation of the Holy Father’s homily for the opening Mass of the Extrordinary Synod on the Family.

He warns the Synod Fathers against greed and encourages openess to God’s “dream”, the People of God.



Vatican Basilica
Sunday, 5 October 2014

Today the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel employ the image of the Lord’s vineyard. The Lord’s vineyard is his “dream”, the plan which he nurtures with all his love, like a farmer who cares for his vineyard. Vines are plants which need much care!

God’s “dream” is his people. He planted it and nurtured it with patient and faithful love, so that it can become a holy people, a people which brings forth abundant fruits of justice.

But in both the ancient prophecy and in Jesus’ parable, God’s dream is thwarted. Isaiah says that the vine which he so loved and nurtured has yielded “wild grapes” (5:2,4); God “expected justice but saw bloodshed, righteousness, but only a cry of distress” (v. 7). In the Gospel, it is the farmers themselves who ruin the Lord’s plan: they fail to do their job but think only of their own interests.

In Jesus’ parable, he is addressing the chief priests and the elders of the people, in other words the “experts”, the managers. To them in a particular way God entrusted his “dream”, his people, for them to nurture, tend and protect from the animals of the field. This is the job of leaders: to nuture the vineyard with freedom, creativity and hard work.

But Jesus tells us that those farmers took over the vineyard. Out of greed and pride they want to do with it as they will, and so they prevent God from realizing his dream for the people he has chosen.

The temptation to greed is ever present. We encounter it also in the great prophecy of Ezekiel on the shepherds (cf. ch. 34), which Saint Augustine commented upon in one his celebrated sermons which we have just reread in the Liturgy of the Hours. Greed for money and power. And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move (cf. Mt 23:4)

We too, in the Synod of Bishops, are called to work for the Lord’s vineyard. Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent… They are meant to better nuture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people. In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.

We are all sinners and can also be tempted to “take over” the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can “thwart” God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.

My Synod brothers, to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ by “the peace of God which passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7). In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 21:43).

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, October 2, Memorial of the Guardian Angels

Here is my homily from this morning. God bless you!

The best catechist I have ever had was my mother. Despite studying in Catholic grade and high schools, a Catholic college and in a Pontifical University in Rome, the best lessons of faith have come from my mother.

The first lesson I learned (I don’t have a specific memory of  this, but I am sure it happened) was my mom took my right arm when I was but an infant, and she traced the sign of the cross on me, saying, “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Her first lesson was that there existed a Triune God.

The second lesson she taught was I was to to glorify this God. So, she taught me the Glory Be.

The third lesson was that God was my Father. So, she taught me the Our Father.

The fourth lesson was that I had a spiritual mother whose name was Mary. So, she taught me the Hail Mary.

Interestly, the fifth lesson was that I had a guardian angel sent by God to be with me. She taught me the prayer,

Angel of God, my guardian dear

to whom, God’s love, commits me here.

Ever this day be at my side

to light, to guard, to rule, to guide.


Yes, the fifth lesson was there were angels!

We commemorate today our guardian angels. We know by faith, and through the testimony of  Scriptures, that there are myriads of spirits in heaven who behold the face of God and give him praise and glory. These spirits become “angels” when God sends them forth to accomplish his will here on earth. They become angels when they have their mission.

I often hear parents say that a child who has died has become an angel in heaven. I understand what they are trying to say, I guess, but I always cringe a bit because we human beings never become angels. We have bodies; angels don’t. Yes, it  is  true that when we die, our spirits temporarily separate from our bodies, but we remain human nonetheless. We are sons and daughters of God. Angels are created spirits without bodies.

My friends, we can take comfort in knowing that each of us has been given a guardian angel, sent by God to be with us always. We can ask this angel to help us, to accompany us, to protect and instruct us. He is, in a very real sense, the presence of God’s loving concern for us as individuals.

I honor my mom for giving me those basic instructions in the faith. I treasure those lessons. Angels were a part of that. Lest we forget…

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Wednesday, October 1, Memorial of St. Terese of the Child Jesus

Here is my homily from last night. God bless!

I was talking to someone today who told of an elderly man who had died years ago. This man sounded like a very simple gentlemen who lived a very simple life. I could not help to later reflect on three of my great-uncles: Jim, Joe and Eddy. They were brothers. Jim married and had a family, but Joe and Eddy were bachelors who farmed together. They were very, very, very simple men. Joe and Eddy especially, lived a very simple life that never really kept up with the times. They understood things in a very simple way; nothing was complicated about them.

I have never met any other men more simple in lifestyle, or firmer in their faith.

We celebrate today the memorial of St. Terese of the Child Jesus. St. Terese died in the late 1890s at a very young age. When she was 15 years old, she entered the convent, and she struggled to understand what her particular vocation was to be. She searched the Scriptures, and came upon St. Paul’s epistles, and there learned what she would call the simple life. She discovered that to live life simply out of love was the way for her. So, she went about her day, embracing the simple things of life and doing all of it out of  love. This included how she did the dishes, how she laundered the clothing, how she greeted her fellow sisters (some of whom treated her rudely). She discovered that simplicity in love was the way of holiness.

To you young people here today, I tell you that the world will try to get you to believe that the more complex, fancy and complicated you make your life, the happier you will become. It simply is not true. Even though most of you will never enter a convent, you too can embrace a life of loving simplicity. You can follow the example of St. Terese and  follow the simple life lived in love. This will bring you happiness.

Yes, my great uncles Jim, Joe and Eddy were men of great simplicity and faith. They always treated me very kindly, so I believe they also were men of simple love.

May all of us ask for the intercession of St. Terese today. May we follow her example.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 2014

Here is my homily for this weekend. May God bless each of you!

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 2014

Ezechiel 18: 25-28; Phil 2: 1-11; Matthew 21: 28-32

Do you want to become who you truly were made to be? In other words, do you truly want to be happy? Then, do what God tells you to do. God’s plan is always the best plan. Follow his script, his game plan, and his directions for your life.

Jesus has shown us how to do just that. Look at our second reading today from Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul tells us that we must have the same attitude as Jesus Christ. What was Jesus’ attitude? Humility. Even though he was God, completely humbled himself. He did the will of his Father. His will perfectly cooperated with the will of the Father. The Son and the Father and the Holy Spirit are one God, thus Jesus’ will was one with the will of the Father. Jesus fulfilled the mission he was given. Jesus knew the plan of the Father was the best plan, and Jesus never doubted it, as difficult as it would become to fulfill for his human nature. Jesus’s will and the Father’s will were perfectly united.

Our wills, our lives, also must become one with the will of God the Father. To say our wills — that is what we choose to do — are one with God’s will — that is what God would want us to do — means our deepest passions in life are to become one with God’s desire for us. To say our will is united to God’s will ultimately means that we become one with the love of God for us.

It is hard for us to understand how provocative today’s Gospel parable was to the religious authorities of Jesus’s time. Prostitutes and tax collectors were the bottom rung of the religious ladder back then, and Jesus was saying that they were entering the Kingdom of God before the religious leaders. Anyone using a similar parable directed at religious leaders of today would provoke the same kind of anger Jesus provoked. Yet, what Jesus spoke two thousand years ago he continues to speak to us, we who are leaders in the Church.

Prostitutes, sinners, the ignorant, children, workers, minorities, criminals, prisoners, drunkards, addicts, unmarried mothers and fathers, the illiterate, the sick, yes perhaps even heretics and atheists, indeed all those on the margins of society and Church, all those on the peripheries, those not a part of religious circles – all these people are, not always but often, entering the Kingdom of God before us who live all day in the Church and are a part of the Church’s inner circle.

Those we consider transgressors of the Law and those we condemn may be the ones who in the final analysis end up obeying God’s will most fully.

Before any of us presume to go out to those on the fringes, on the peripheries, to all those people I just mentioned, in order to correct them or criticize them or teach them, we need to be very humble like Jesus was humble. We have to take on the attitude of Christ. We need, as Saint Paul said in the second reading, to take on the attitude of Jesus who emptied himself and became completely like us in all things but sin. This means we must not build walls that separate us. We must become like them in every way, except their sin.

Before we presume to correct someone else who seems disobedient and far from God and the Church, we must recognize how we are so very much like him. We must understand and know him, get close to him, approach him, accept him without accepting his sin or becoming sinful ourselves. We must not build walls, but approach. This is what Jesus did.

So we have the question before us: Are we willing to do this with the prostitutes and tax collectors of our time?

We must, as Pope Francis says, take on the smell of the sheep if we wish to lead the sheep and have them listen and trust us. God has a passion, a deep love for the wayward sinner. He has a heart for the man or woman on the fringes. He desires to be reunited with the one who is lost and confused. He wants us to go out to them, in all humility, like them in everything but sin.

God wants us to do what he sent his Son Jesus to do. He wants our lives to be united to the life of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Accomplishing God’s will, responding to his plan for us is what is important. Please don’t second guess God’s plan for your life! The second son in the Gospel today did that. He first agreed to God’s plan but then thought later his plan was better and he didn’t’ go. The first son at first thought his plan was the better one, but then realized that God’s will was the best plan of his life.

Don’t try to outdo God in planning your life. Unite your will to his. Choose what he wants for you.

God’s plan is the best plan you will ever receive.

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