Archive for the ‘Blogroll’ Category

Da Vinci Code DVD Release Homily

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

Homily — 5th Sunday Easter B May 14, 2006

adoration of the lamb by jan van eyck

All the ends of the earth . . . . remember,
and turn to the LORD

Remain in me, for without me you can do nothing.

Since the beginning of the Faith, Catholic Christians around the world have gathered in large numbers on the First Day of the week, Sunday, to worship God.

Not a Sunday has gone by for the past 2000 years where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass hasn’t been celebrated somewhere by a priest and a congregation. Tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of Catholics gather this Sunday.

And while the language may be Latin, Greek, English or French, and while the music may be ancient chant, or more modern sacred music, and while the rituals and prayers may differ slightly depending upon the age and the culture, the basic structure of the Mass we are now celebrating is the same basic structure of every Sunday Mass that has ever or will ever be celebrated by Catholics until the end of time.

I’d like to focus today on a part of the Mass that has always been there, a part we probably don’t think much about. It’s called the Anamnesis — the Remembering.

The Anamnesis in our Western, Latin Rite Mass is the part right after the Consecration. In Eucharistic Prayer I the Anamnesis is when the priest says “we your people and your ministers recall His Passion, His Resurrection from the dead, and His Ascension into glory. ” In Eucharistic Prayer II its when he says “In memory of His Death and Resurrection we offer you this (Eucharist)”

In Eucharistic Prayer III: Father, calling to mind the death your Son endured for our salvation, His glorious Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, and ready to greet Him when He comes again, we offer you this (Eucharist)”

This Anamnesis has been part of the Mass from the beginning, not only in the Western, Latin Rite Church but also in all the various Eastern Rite Catholic Churches as well, always occurring near the time of the Consecration.

And really, after the Consecration, the Anamnesis is considered by the Church to be the next most important part of the Mass Liturgy.

That’s because the word “Anamnesis” is a Greek word which literally means “Free from Amnesia”. A person with Amnesia forgets who he is, but a person with An-amnesia never forgets who he is.

And woe to us if we forget who we are as a People of God.

There’s a familiar saying “Those who forgot about history are doomed to repeat it.”

But that only applies to world history, the history of the City of Man, not Church history, the history of the City of God. Those who forget about Church history are doomed not to repeat it.

For the History of the Church is the History of the Triumph of Freedom, Peace and Human Nature over sin, death and Evil.

It’s a history that begins way back in the Old Testament, when God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt by signs and wonders. From the Exodus forward, there began to be on earth a people set apart by God, distinct from every other tribe or nation, that God exclusively called “His People”.

When God’s People remembered the Lord and were faithful to Him, God greatly blessed and prospered them, as we see in the times of Joshua, David, Esther and the Maccabees to name a few. But when they failed to remember the Lord, God let them reap the fruits of their wickedness, as we see in the days of the Judges, of King Ahab, and during the 70 year exile when Jerusalem was destroyed by the King of Babylon.

But the chosen People of God we find in the Old Testament, great as they were, were only phase one of a two phase Work of God. The People of Israel were a preparation for the New People of God, who would have the law written not on tablets of stone but in hearts of flesh. And when the fulness of time had come, during the Pax Romana, when not only the Jewish but the pagan world was in God’s eyes ready for Him, the Virgin brought forth a child, Jesus of Nazareth: True God and True Man. The Word who is God became Flesh and dwelt among us, John the Evangelist wrote in 100 AD.

And with a bunch of scruffy illiterate fishermen and a few pious women, Jesus began His Catholic Church and changed history.

Soon the people of God weren’t just Jews, they included people of every race and nation, man and woman, slave and free, rich and poor — through Baptism they became all part of the New People of God, all members of the One Body of Christ.

The Anamnesis is a remembering of the life of Christ — not only Christ Jesus of Nazareth, the Head, but also the life of the Body of Christ, the Church. It is a remembering of the great works Christ has done and will continue to do for those who remain in Him, for apart from me you can do nothing.

And the Church these past 2000 years, while she certainly has done some things that were sinful and should be repented of, has on the other hand done so much more great and wonderful things that we members of the Body of Christ need to remember and keep alive.

To remember how heroic martyrs like Peter and Paul, Ignatius, Isaac Jogues, Thomas More, Paul Miki, Perpetua and Felicity bravely endured torture for love of the Faith. To remember how virtuous men and women like Athanasius, Catherine of Sienna, Charles Borromeo, and Teresa of Avila brought the Church through the darkest of hours when all seemed lost.

To remember how great Catholic minds like Augustine, Aquinas, and Newman laid the foundations of our western civilization; how celibate, Catholic Monks preserved ancient Greek and Roman civilization from the Barbarians in the dark ages.

How our Mother the Church has in large part gave birth to the Modern University, the Modern Hospital, International Law, even Modern Science.

I could go on about many other great and Holy Things we need to remember about the Body of Christ which we are a part of. But even more than these things, we need first and foremost to remember the great and holy things Christ has done in our own personal history — how Christ has blessed and prospered me, my family, my parish.

Because those who don’t remember Church History are doomed to not repeat it, doomed to not partake of the Triumph of the Lamb of God.

Remain in me, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ! In this culture we live in, a terrible spiritual amnesia is setting in. The once Christian world around us is forgetting, even re-writing the history of Christ and His Body the Church.

The antidote to this cultural Amnesia starts with Anamnesis. The Mass, the Eucharist is like a memory pill that helps us remember, helps us believe, hope, love supernaturally in this faithless world that has lost it’s bearing.

Let us stay close to Jesus, and on this Mothers Day may we especially remember to Thank Him not only for our Earthly Mothers, but for our Blessed Mother and our Mother the Church as well.

Mass for Pope Benedict XVI (Given the week following his election)

Friday, April 29th, 2005

Homily — Mass for Pope Benedict XVI (April 29, 2005)
Pope Benedict XVI

I give you Peter the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus’ conferral of the Keys wasn’t simply so that Catholics can make good jokes about standing before Peter at the pearly gates when you die.

Note that Jesus gave Peter not one Key but Keys to the Kingdom. Every Pope’s Coat of Arms shows Two Keys, a Gold One which does open that pearly gate found in the next life, and a Silver One which open’s the gate to God’s Kingdom in this life on earth — the key which opens the doors of the Church of Christ, which opens the Word of God in its fullness, which opens the floodgates of grace found in the seven sacraments.

I give you the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. That same Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus says belongs only to the poor in spirit, Christ has given Peter the keys to.

That same Kingdom of Heaven that no one can enter unless he becomes like a little child, unless he is born anew of water and the Spirit, Christ has given Peter the keys to.

That same Kingdom of Heaven that is neither here nor there, but within you — Peter holds the Keys to that Kingdom. And Whatever he binds on earth shall be bound in Heaven, whatever Peter loosens on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.

From the early centuries of the Church up until today, we have believed that when Peter died, he handed on those Keys of the Kingdom to his successor, the Bishop of Rome. We see in the most ancient Christian accounts how the Church in Rome was viewed as the Mother Church. We also see how the Bishop of Rome from the beginning exercised his moral and spiritual authority outside the bounds of his territory without an outcry from the other Churches that he had no authority to do so. Finally, history shows us that Churches outside the Bishop of Rome’s territory appealed to Rome to settle disputes.

This led to the realization in the Church that Jesus’ unchangeable will was that these Keys to the Kingdom are to be passed down to each successor of Peter until Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time.

And it is Catholic Faith to believe: 1) that the papacy wasn’t invented by men in the Church, but willed and instituted by Christ himself, 2) that until Jesus comes again we are guaranteed to have a Pope, and 3) just as the Jews will always have a spiritual connection with the land of Israel, so the Pope will always have a spiritual connection with the city of Rome.

But why did Jesus establish the Papacy? Christ asked Peter “who do they say I am?” — well, who does Jesus say the Pope is?

The answer can be found in the many names and titles we give the Pope.

First of all, Pope — it means “papa” — Father. The Pope is our Father who leads us to our one and only Father in Heaven.

The Pope is also called Peter — the Rock of true faith in the midst of a world of shaky foundations; the Rock in a world plagued with doubt, disbelief, and falsehoods.

The Pope is Bishop — that word means “overseer” — not only of the City of Rome, but of the entire world. Urbi et Orbi — the city and the world — is overseen spiritually by the Pope.

The most formal and stuffy of titles the Pope has is Supreme Pontiff. Actually as stuffy as it sounds its probably one of the best titles, because the word Pontiff means “bridge builder.” The Pope is the Supreme Bridge Builder — he is called to build bridges between man and God, between earth and heaven, between the Church and other religions, between nations and peoples, and lastly the most difficult bridge he must build, between Catholics and Catholics.

The Pope is also Supreme Pastor — Shepherd — of the billion-plus flock of Jesus Christ on earth. He is to see that all those sheep are kept safe and well fed. If other shepherds aren’t able or willing to, the Pope is also to identify and stand up bravely against the many wolves that threaten to harm this precious flock.

He is the vicar of Christ, as Catherine of Sienna whose feast is today called him “the Sweet Christ on Earth.”

He is like St. Peter the Fisherman — called to “put out into the deep” of contemporary society, and catch men with the bait of the Gospel, bringing them up into the ship which is the One Holy Catholic Church, and ultimately leading them safely to the shores of Heaven where the Risen Christ stands waiting for this great catch of fish.

The Pope is the highest court of appeal in the Church. He is also the supreme court where matters of faith or morals can be definitively settled. He alone can declare a deceased Christian a canonized saint.

He is the Head of the Universal College of Bishops, not as a king among servants, but also not as a first among equals. Rather the Pope is called to strengthen his brother bishops as they each teach, sanctify and rule the people Christ has entrusted to each of them personally. The Pope is to always strengthen the bishops, while the bishops in turn must always act in union with the Pope.

All of what I’ve just mentioned should make the last title obvious — that the Pope is the Servant of the Servants of God, called to a total life of service with a special care for the poor and the young. At times, the Pope is called, as Christ was, to be a suffering servant, bearing persecution and even martyrdom with love and patience, also offering up his weaknesses, his sicknesses, ultimately his old age and his own death in union with Christ’s Redeeming Suffering and Death.

All this and more the Pope is called by Christ to be, for the good of the Church.

It is to this high office that Joseph Alois Ratzinger, in his own words a “humble worker in God’s vineyard,” has been called.

This theologian greatly loved and admired by Pope John Paul II, this Bavarian who loves Mozart Symphonies, the Mountains, and watching pro Soccer games, this somewhat shy but gentle and friendly man who prayed that God would let him go back to Germany to retire — has now become our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

While I knew and admired Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope, as I continue to read more by and about him I continue to be more impressed with him. I am sure that the more the Church and the world comes to know him, the more all will come to love him and respect his wisdom and learning.

From the moment he was elected, Pope Benedict has asked us to pray for him, that he will with God’s help be a good Pope.

May we all make it a special intention each day to pray for Pope Benedict, that he would follow in the footsteps of St. Benedict, Pope Benedict XV, and our late great Holy Father John Paul II. May he succeed in being a peace maker, a promoter of the Faith, and a unifier of Christians.

Thank you Jesus, for giving the Keys to Peter and to his successors. May you and your Mother bless and strengthen our new Pope, that we your Church may continue to grow in your love.

India’s untouchables, and America’s untouchables

Sunday, October 3rd, 2004
 

   Respect Life Homily — 27th Sunday OT C October 3, 2004
 India's Untouchables
Last Sunday, in Southern India, four of Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity nuns went out to serve food to the poor people of the area, accompanied by three missionary brothers and 2 truck drivers. (*see CNA News story at the end of my homily)

Before they got to the village a group of 50 Hindu extremists attacked them, beating them over the head with rods and warning them not to enter the village.

One of the main reasons for the attack was because Mother Theresa’s sisters were on their way to feeding a group of people known in India as “untouchables.”

Untouchables are members of the fifth and lowest Hindu caste. There are currently over 160 million untouchables in India.

Hindus believe in reincarnation, they believe that the current life you are now living is either a reward or a punishment for the last life you lived. In other words, if you were born into a wealthy, upper class family it was because you lived a holy life in your past life, but if you are born into a poor, lower caste family it means you lived and died a big sinner the last time around.

Those who lived exceptionally wicked past lives are believed to reincarnate into the lowest and poorest caste, called the “untouchables.”

Since these people are being punished for their past sins, traditional Hindus believe untouchables shouldn’t be helped or even touched by people not of their own caste.

While the majority of Hindus wouldn’t go so far as to attack nuns who would seek to help these poor people, a recent article in National Geographic showed how many Indians today are still deeply prejudiced against these untouchables despite anti-discrimination laws protecting them.

While the Hindu religion certainly has many good and holy aspects to it in other areas, it should be clear to us Christians how wrong and harmful this particular aspect of their religion is.

Christ has taught us that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. We get only one life on this earth, and it is a preparation for eternal life in Heaven. While some are poor and others are rich in this life, rich and poor alike have an opportunity to be rich forever in the next life by following Christ’s commandment of love and forgiveness.

Today the Church celebrates Respect Life Sunday. While our culture and our class system is vastly different than that of India, we Americans unfortunately have our own version of untouchables. They are a group of humans that are literally not to be touched, not to be defended, not to be helped.

Our society with its unofficial religion of secularism has deemed these humans untouchable, not because of the untrue Hindu doctrine of Karma but because of the untrue secular doctrine of so-called “choice.” Should you or I try to do anything morally permissible to keep one of these untouchables from suffering pain and death, we will pay a severe price. Even to just stand peacefully but firmly in-between an untouchable and someone who means to harm him is a felony offense which carries stiff fines and prison sentences in our country.

Since 1973 over 40 million humans have been classified as untouchable by our Supreme Court. Less than 2% of these humans were the result of rape or incest, or were severely deformed, or were a serious threat to the mother’s health. 98% of those 40 million were deemed untouchable and allowed to die because they were considered an inconvenience to the people surrounding them.

It is a great scandal that in a nation full of Christians who have the light of the Gospel and should know better, we have a group of humans whose lives are not cherished and protected by our society.

While the people of India have a long way to go, the Indian government at least is beginning to acknowledge the injustice being done to their untouchables. The police chief of the region condemned last Sunday’s attacks on Mother Theresa’s nuns and has promised a full investigation. There are also laws in India which seek to protect untouchables from discrimination.

The news report said the attackers were carrying political signs supporting the Hindu extremist party. Imagine if you will living in India, and one of these Hindu extremists was running for political office. As part of his campaign promises, he vows to keep untouchables untouchable. He vows to pass laws which will stiffly fine people like the Missionaries of Charity for trying to help the untouchables.

Would anyone here among us even look at any other viewpoints this candidate has? Hopefully we would have the guts to say to their face “there’s no way I would ever vote for you given your stand on the untouchables. If you want my vote, you had better start protecting their rights and the rights of those who are trying to help them.”

Do you think Jesus is indifferent when Indian citizens blindly look the other way and vote these people into office? Is Jesus unfazed that the majority of Hindus do nothing to help these people and have no qualms of conscience over it?

Is Our Lord indifferent when American citizens and Catholics do the same regarding abortion?

On this respect life Sunday, may God help us all to take the beam out of our own eye, so that we can see clearly to help take the sliver that will be left out of the eye of our neighbors.

 

***INDIAN BISHOPS CONDEMN ATTACKS AGAINST MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY ”

ROME, India, Sep. 28, 2004 (CNA ) – The state of Kerala in southern India was the scene Sunday of a new attack on Catholics. This time, the victims were sisters from Mother Teresa’’s Missionaries of Charity, who were beaten while they were serving food to the poor.

According to “”The Hindu”” newspaper, the nuns were assaulted with rods by Hindu extremists and warned not to enter the local villages.

Four nuns, three brothers and two drivers from the congregation were treated for wounds to the head. At present police have rounded up 14 Hindus involved in the attacks.

The EFE news agency reported that the attacks took place in Kerala’’s Kozhikode district, first when the sisters attempted to distribute food to “”untouchables,”” and second when the regional superior of the order arrived with seven other nuns to see what had occurred.
Some fifty individuals, carrying signs in support of extremist Hindu political parties, attacked the sisters and their companions.

Regional police chief Arvind Ranjan said, “”These are very serious acts,”” and he assured that police are investigating those responsible for the assaults.
Hindu extremists are responsible for a number of attacks and threats against Christians in different regions of India. They accuse the Missionaries of Charity of converting lower caste Hindus to Christianity. Some regions have passed laws prohibiting Hindus from converting to other faiths.

Nevertheless, the Missionaries of Charity have denied they are engaging in proselytism. They tend to “”Hindus, Muslims and Christians,”” without requiring that anybody convert to Catholicism.

Energetic condemnation
The Fides news agency published the official reaction of the Bishops Conference of India. “”We strongly condemn the attacks against the Missionaries of Charity which took place yesterday in Kerala. We are very concerned about the worsening of Hindu fundamentalist groups who seek a political role,”” said Fr. Babu Joseph Karakombil, spokesman for the Conference.

Fr. Karakombil added, “”We have received the solidarity expressed by civil organizations and institutions, and by numerous Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist religious groups.””

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Homily

Sunday, August 1st, 2004

 

 Human Embryonic Stem Cell

Homily — 18th Sunday OT C August 1, 2004

Take care to guard against all greed.

The sin of greed takes many different forms, all of which Jesus warns us to guard against.

One particularly subtle and detestable form of greed is when the poor and defenseless are exploited by the rich for the sake of wealth or power.

If we take a look at American history, we can see how there have unfortunately been times when our country fell into this terrible kind of greed.

For example, for many years, thousands of African men, woman and children in our country were treated as property that could be bought and sold. Their humanity was denied in large part due to the sin of greed, a disordered desire for greater wealth.

Also for many years, during the industrial revolution, thousands of underprivileged young children were basically slaves of the factory. In order to survive, these small children were forced to work long hours in mills under dangerous and unhealthy working conditions, for little pay. Many died in accidents or were maimed for life, due to this terrible kind of greed which oppresses the poor and defenseless.

But thankfully, our country has learned to a great extent to guard against this type of greed. It is now illegal to enslave a man or woman of a different skin color than ours for profit. Industries are governed by strict child labor and worker’s safety laws.

It is to our credit that in these areas, our country has repented of its past offenses against the weak and vulnerable.

But this kind of greed is something that we always must be on guard against, both individually and collectively. For this form of greed which exploits the poor literally blinds us, it makes us unable to see that the people we are exploiting are equal in dignity and worth to ourselves.

This kind of greed to a large extent blinded the slave owners and much of the rest of our country from seeing the humanity of the black man. This kind of greed blinded the factory owners and others from seeing the humanity of the lower class child.

And an even more subtle form of this kind of greed, my brothers and sisters, is beginning to blind many in our country from seeing the humanity of a new group of humans. More subtle because people want to exploit these human beings not for the sake of money but for the more honorable sake of scientific knowledge. As noble as the goal they are trying to achieve truly is, their desire to achieve that goal through exploiting human life puts them in the same category as the plantation and sweat shop owners of old.

The group of human beings many today are becoming blind to are human embryos created in laboratories.

This past Tuesday, the son of late former U.S. President, and a certain Rhode Island U.S. Congressman both spoke at the National Democratic Convention in support of embryonic stem cell research.

While they spoke at a political rally, both speakers emphasized that stem cell research isn’t about partisan politics. They are right at least on that one point. But when they argue that, out of compassion for the sick and suffering, we should allow scientists to destroy human embryos for their stem cells, they are totally wrong.

In his speech, the son of the former U.S. President alluded to his belief that such research would be “for the good of all humanity.” No. Such research would certainly not be good for all humanity — it will destroy the humanity found in the countless embryonic human lives it kills. And as the saying goes, a defeat for part of humanity is a defeat for all of humanity.

But the speaker and 60% of Americans are currently blind to the humanity of the embryo. In the speech itself, the former President’s son said that these embryos, which he admits are destroyed in the stem cell making process, are “not in and of themselves human beings.”

Human embryo’s aren’t human beings? What kind of beings are they then? Back when Roe vs. Wade was being decided on, many people in favor of legal abortion were arguing that “science doesn’t tell us when human life begins.”

That statement was true in 1972 perhaps. But today, thanks to advances in science, we now know exactly when biological human life begins — it begins at fertilization. At fertilization, a human embryo has all the DNA it will ever have. If implanted in a woman’s womb, the embryo won’t become a chicken or even an ape, it will become a baby human just like you and me. Excuse me, sir, it’s a human being and deserves to be treated as such.

Presently, the human embryos many scientists want government funds to destroy are those created through in vitro fertilization. Crudely put, in vitro is when a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg are fertilized in a petri dish. This newly created embryo is then implanted in the womb of a woman who carries the baby to term. But each year, hundreds of human embryos created in vitro are instead frozen alive to inhibit their growth, because they are unwanted.

While these human embryos don’t have a face, each one of them has a biological mother somewhere in the world, and she has a face. Each one of these frozen human beings has a biological father, and he has a face. Each one of them have biological grandparents, and they have a face.

And each and every human embryo also has a “brother.” And while He’s not a biological brother, He has the face and the name of Jesus Christ. And their brother Jesus once said to you and me “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me.” That word least in Greek means “most insignificant.” Brothers can’t get much more insignificant than human embryos. Yet whatsoever we do to even a tiny human embryo, we do to Jesus.

While today there are hundreds of frozen living human embryos in laboratory freezers, the former president’s son didn’t mention them. He spoke instead Tuesday about a kind of human embryo that will be created in the future, and treated with even greater indignity. The way these embryos are made makes in vitro look old fashioned. The human embryos he eagerly looks forward to seeing created and then destroyed are human clones. His impassioned speech in support of stem cell research was also a veiled speech in support of therapeutic cloning.

The speaker talked of a “personal biological repair kit standing by at the hospital” “10 years or so” into the future, if only we start funding embryonic stem cell research today. But how will my “personal biological repair kit” actually be made? By making a clone of myself with the same DNA makeup as me, then killing him and using his stem cells to keep me from getting sick. Is this the ultimate oppression of the poor or isn’t it?

Certainly, everyone’s heart must go out to the two speakers and all who are daily affected by debilitating illness. Our country and us citizens should work hard to do all we can within moral bounds to find cures for things like Alzheimer’s Disease. But God help us if we destroy innocent life in the name of compassion and scientific progress.

It certainly is a great temptation to do just that however. Which is why Jesus in today’s Gospel warns us Take care to guard against all greed. Jesus is certainly pleased that we have finally abolished slavery and child labor in our country. But we still have a long way to go in recognizing the rights of unborn human beings.

Our Holy Father, John Paul II, who has for years borne the Cross of Parkinson’s Disease yet continues to condemn embryonic stem cell research, gives all who suffer a great example of courageously resisting the temptation to devalue and violate any human life for the sake of one’s own well being.

For we must resist this very temptation if we want a hope filled future. The U.S. Congressman from Rhode Island stated Tuesday his hope that that “one day, a child with diabetes will no longer face painful shots and tests . . . one day families will no longer watch in agony as a loved one with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s gradually declines.”

Mr. Congressman, that day you hope for will come about, but only if we create a culture which guards and upholds without any equivocation whatsoever the precious gift of human life. If we believe all human life is precious and sacred, our children will grow up to be men and women with a mission. They will become adults who will work and sacrifice in fighting against human sickness, suffering and injustice. And should they fail, they won’t quit until they have succeeded, because human life for them will be held sacred and inviolable. And succeed they will.

But if we continue to live and to send a mixed message, that only some human life is sacred but other human life can be exploited and denied, then we will continue to create a self-centered culture where the rich and healthy care little about the sick and the weak. We will never achieve the scientific, intellectual, and artistic heights that could have been achieved had we created a culture that valued all human life from conception to natural death.

I urge all Catholics, and all men and women of good will, to guard against and to reject strongly this subtle but certain form of greed and sin which is embryonic stem cell research.

Same Sex Marriage – the Revival of a 12th Century Heresy

Sunday, May 16th, 2004

Preached at St. Joseph Church, Woonsocket, Rhode Island, on May 16, 2004, the day before civil “marriage” between two men or two women became legal in Massachusetts, a mile up the road from my parish.

Homily — 6th Sunday Easter May 16, 2004

St Dominic Receives the Rosary from the Virgin Mary (Carlow Cathedral)

St Dominic Receives the Rosary from the Virgin Mary (Carlow Cathedral)

When I go up to Somerville near Boston to visit my sister, I sometimes take a walk up to McIntire and Moore Booksellers in Davis Square to look around. This book store is kind of a unique place, much like the rest of Somerville and nearby Cambridge. McIntire and Moore sells “new used” books — almost every book in the place has been in print for twenty or more years, but they all look like they’ve never been touched. I’ve bought two of them if you don’t believe me.

But besides this, the bookstore has a punk rock record store/nightclub feel to it. It’s kind of a hip place to be. It has that atmosphere Borders Bookstore spends ten of thousands of dollars trying to get but doesn’t achieve. All the signs are hand painted, the Talking Heads are playing on the stereo system, and you know you’re within a five mile radius of Harvard University.

So there I was, taking this all in and waiting for some new used book to interest me, when I hear a young man near me say something very strange to the woman with the purple hair behind the cash register: “Do you have any books on the Albigensian Heresy?”

As David Byrne and company kept the funky beat going in the background, the girl with the purple hair said “the what?”

“The Albigensian Heresy. I think it was in the 12th century.”

“Do you know the name of the author?”

I swung around with my clerics on and asked if I could be of assistance. The young man asking was a lot less radical looking than the cashier, your typical Bostonian urban college student. I told him I knew a little about that heresy, that it began in the 12th century from southern France and as a result St. Dominic formed the Dominican Order to defeat it.

We couldn’t find any books on it. Since it didn’t look like the guy was a religion major, I asked him why on earth did he want to learn about Albigensianism. He told me “the New Yorker Magazine had a neat article on it a few weeks ago.”

“The New Yorker Magazine — you sure?”

“Yup. It was pretty interesting.”

When I got back to my sister’s house, I told her about what happened and she said, “oh yes, I remember seeing that article but I didn’t read it. Here it is” — my sister is a subscriber to the New Yorker.

I must admit I knew very little myself about the heresy until I read the article. The main error the Albigensians fell into was that they saw the material world to be evil. Everything done by the body was sinful. Eating was a mortal sin. Walking was a mortal sin. Relations with a spouse were as sinful as relations with any other person. Wanting nice possessions was a mortal sin.

Everything you did with your body was equally sinful, except for one sin — to have children was the worst thing you could do, because it created more evil matter. And killing a person was a little less sinful, since you are freeing a person from their evil body. Actually, to kill yourself was considered a good thing, comparable to martyrdom, and hundreds of Albigensians did that to be freed of their bodies.

Thousands of people bought into this heresy, and it’s not too difficult to see why not, because if everything is forbidden than everything becomes doable.

Strangely enough, the New Yorker Magazine article which described these things was actually sympathetic to the heretics, kind of winking at their transgressions. Albigensianism was made to look “cool,” which is why this college student was asking a purple haired girl if she knew of any good books on this religion.

After praying and thinking more about this, I have come to the conclusion that after 700 years, the Albigensian Heresy is back and stronger than ever. The only difference is that the neo-Albigensians say matter isn’t evil or good, matter is just meaningless.

Tomorrow, on May 17, we will see another logical conclusion to this philosophy in the state just north of us. Massachusetts tomorrow will become the first state in our country to change the definition of the word marriage, a word that since the beginning of recorded history has meant the civil union of a man and a woman.

How has this happened? Is it like the movie and comic book X-Men, is humankind now evolving into a radical new thing? Or is it like the book A Wrinkle in Time, just made into a TV movie last week, have humans on planet earth expanded their cosmic consciousness due to scientific advancements? Or is it just further down the slippery slope, a further decay in the apple that on the outside looks shiny and fresh, but on the inside is full of creeping rot, an undermining of the foundations a civil society is based upon?
What would Jesus think of same-sex marriages? What would the apostles think of them?

In the first reading, there’s some problems occurring in the early Church in Antioch, and so they send men to Jerusalem to ask for answers from the Apostles. The Apostles say to them it is the decision of the Holy Spirit and us that such-and-such is to be done. The voice of God and the voice of the Church are now one, because Jesus is one flesh with His Bride the Church.

And the Magisterium, the apostolic teaching authority of the Church now based in Rome, has spoken regarding this current problem, as everyone knows: it is the decision of the Holy Spirit and us says the Catholic Church, that there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.

But how did we get to May 17, 2004? Why can’t we see the obvious? Because we have made the material world something meaningless in our modern world.

The Albigensian Heresy came rushing back to us in the 1960s with the Pill. The Pill made it possible to separate the unitive and procreative dimensions of our sexuality. People were able to be sexually active without the troublesome risks and responsibilities of children being born.

Everyone in the 1960’s accepted this separation of babies from the sexual act. Everyone that is but the big bad Roman Catholic Church. It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and us says Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae that it is gravely sinful to separate the unitive and procreative dimensions of the sexual act, based on the nature of the human person and the human body.

But we didn’t want to hear it, it would spoil the fun. So in order to justify the Pill, we became neo-Albigensians. The human body was meaningless, it was the spirit of love that mattered. So we went on not heeding the successors of the Apostles, and the 1970s brought in the next two phases, the sexual revolution followed by the gay rights movement.

Our culture was powerless to condemn extra-marital or homosexual actions, since one of the main reasons they are wrong is that they aren’t open to life, and neither are most heterosexual actions within marriage at this point. So we ultimately had to accept the gay lifestyle in our culture. But that was OK now, because the body was meaningless anyway. It was love that mattered.

Finally the last piece of the puzzle came with the advent of test tube babies. Now one can go to Lincoln RI and make a baby in a Petri dish. Two women can have a baby without a man getting too involved. What does it matter that a child doesn’t has two fathers and no mother or visa versa? The body doesn’t matter at all.

That’s wrong. From both a natural and a supernatural basis, the body has profound meaning which affects our moral life.

On the natural level, the family unit of a man and a woman is the best place psychologically to raise a child. Traditional marriage needs to be given privileged status in our society because of this. Homosexual persons should have the same rights as others, but not the special rights given to married people.

On a supernatural level, we believe that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The invisible God became a human, giving profound meaning to the body. And even if the Son of God hadn’t become Incarnate, our bodies still have spiritual significance.

What do we do now? Well, how was Albigensianism defeated the first time? The main weapon which defeated this heresy was the Holy Rosary. It was there in France at this time that the Rosary became a popular devotion of the people. There is even a pious tradition that the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Dominic and gave him the Rosary, saying “with this you will defeat the Albigensians.” Whether that apparition actually happened or not, St. Dominic did bring people back to the faith by the Rosary, and for 700 years that heresy was defeated.

And I am certain that this new outbreak of the same heresy can be conquered in the same way. Take up your Rosary, grab the beads in your hands, and realize you are praying to a woman now body and soul in Heaven. Meditate each day on the mysteries of our Faith: How the invisible God took Flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and was born into a family of one man and one woman; how in order to free us from our sins Jesus’ Human body was pierced and His blood was shed, and how Jesus rose from the dead in His human body. Pray that our culture comes to realize how God made us body and spirit.

Pray also for me and all priests and bishops. Soon it may be illegal to preach a homily like this. That might sound incredible to some of you, but it is already illegal in some countries.

For example, the April 19, 2004 issue of US News and World Report, on page 14 states that “In Sweden, sermons are explicitly covered by an anti-hate-speech law passed to protect homosexuals. The Swedish chancellor of justice said any reference to the Bible’s stating that homosexuality is sinful might be a criminal offense, and a Pentecostal minister is already facing charges. . . .In Ireland last August, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties warned that clergy who circulated a Vatican statement opposing gay marriages could face prosecution for incitement- to- hatred-legislation.”

The Church will continue to preach the truth in love, be it legal or illegal to do so. God forbid that I as a priest of Jesus Christ stop proclaiming His Gospel in its fullness. But perhaps the next time I give a homily like this, I will get a transfer back to living in my last parish — at the State Correctional Institutions in Cranston, half a mile up the road from St. Mark Church! If so, I’ll send you letters.

Until then, next time you see a Boston college student talking to a girl with purple hair about medieval heresies, hand them both a Rosary, OK?