Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Do others see the Catholic difference in us?

In Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez’s weekly column for today’s edition of Los Angeles weekly newspaper, The Tidings, he dedicates time to what we ought to make time for in Lent. Given the recent events in LA with the retired cardinal and auxiliary bishop, His Excellency’s words hit home, or at least they ought to. What is clear to me is that we can’t settle for following Jesus “half way” and “good enough” is not, in fact enough. The life we lead, our spiritual life, the friendship we share needs constant review and a constant infusion of grace. Gomez starts us on the path to ask, Am I leading the right kind of Christian life? The column, emphasis mine:

These have been challenging days for our local Church here in Los Angeles.

I have been talking and reflecting with Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry, along with our other Auxiliary Bishops about the events of last week. We are committed to moving forward in our ministries with hope and confidence in God’s grace.

We need to keep praying for those who are hurting. We need to ask again for forgiveness for the sins of the past and for our own failings. And we need to match our prayers for grace with concrete actions of healing and renewal.

And recent events should inform our prayer, penance and charity in this season of Lent, which begins next week with Ash Wednesday.

All of us need the grace of a new conversion. This is what Lent is for.

We need to be transformed once more by the person of Jesus Christ and the power of his Gospel. We need to live our faith with new sincerity, new zeal, new purpose and new purity. We need a new desire to be his disciples.

I cannot say it enough: We all need to rediscover the essential message of the Gospel — that we are children of a God who loves us and who calls us to be one family in his Church and to make this world his Kingdom, a city of love and truth.

The challenge we face — now and always, as individuals and as a Church — is to resist the temptation to only follow Jesus “half way.” We should never settle for mediocrity or minimum standards in our life of faith. There are no “good enough” Christians, only Christians who are not doing enough good.

God wants us to be great! We are called to the holiness of God, to a share in his own holiness. Jesus said this in his Sermon on the Mount: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Holiness does not mean separating ourselves from the world. Just the opposite. Holiness means loving God and loving our neighbor in the middle of the world. In our families, in our work, in our play, in everything we do.

The pathways of holiness are different for every one of us. How we love, how we seek the face of God, depends on the circumstances of our lives. And we will never be finished in this work of holiness.

But that’s the fun, the beauty and the joy of our faith.

The way forward for our Church is for each one of us to rediscover this universal call to holiness. This is the meaning of our Christian lives. We are children of God called to be holy as our Father is holy. And we seek that holiness by working with his gifts of grace to love as Jesus loved.

During these challenging times for our Church, we have to resist the desire to turn inward or to withdraw from our involvement with our culture and society.

We still have a mission as a Church — to continue the mission of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to redeem us from our sins and to show us the way to a new life of holiness. We need to carry his message of salvation, conversion and forgiveness to every person. We need to find new ways to evangelize our society — new approaches rooted in humility and the search for holiness, beauty and truth.

We can only change this world if we allow God to change us first. The lives we lead will always be the most credible witness we can give to the Gospel we believe in. People should be able to see “the Catholic difference” — the difference that our Catholic faith makes in our lives.

Our world today needs saints. Not “other-worldly” saints — but saints in our cities, our families, our parishes and schools, our media, our businesses, legislatures and courts.

We can’t wait for others. We need to become those saints ourselves. We need to inspire others around us to want to be saints.

So this week, let’s pray for one another and for our Church. Let’s keep praying for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church. And let’s continue the process of healing their wounds and restoring the trust that was broken.

We can make this Lent a time for renewal and holiness. We can do this by trying to lead holier and simpler lives. Let’s live our faith with joy and compassion — and a daily desire to become more like Jesus Christ.

And let’s ask Our Lady of the Angels to help us to draw closer as one family of God.

Cana: the window of glory


…so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.
This is the window unto our glory…do what he tells you.

A Te Deum in thanksgiving for 2012 and for 2013

Sing the Te Deum in thanksgiving for the past year and the Veni Creator for new year, and gain a
plenary indulgence.

In the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, 4th edition, 26:

§ 1. A plenary indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, in a
church or in an oratory, are present [take part] in a recitation or solemn
chant of: … 

1° the hymn Veni Creator … on the first day of the year, imploring divine assistance for the whole of the coming year…

2° the Te Deum hymn, on the last day of the year, in
thanksgiving to God for the favors received in the course of the entire year.

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Fasting to prepare for Christmas

The Four Men in the Fiery Furnace. Три отрока ...

Latin Catholics are accustomed to fasting once a year
at Lent. Historically speaking, there was a time when the tradition of fasting
was proposed a few more times a year than merely Lent, e.g., the Assumption fast, the Saints’ fast and the Advent

Liturgically speaking the time before any great feast of the Lord (i.e., Christmas & Easter), the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and
also of Mary (Assumption of the BVM) was preceded by a distinct time of preparation: prayer, fasting almsgiving.

In time, Catholics have relaxed some traditions and now they have become virtually obsolete. Think of the practice of Ember Days. Today, in fact, is the first of the three Advent Ember Days. You may have heard that the US bishops are encouraging the reinstitution
of abstinence on Fridays. Fasting and abstinence are different; do you know the
difference? What can we do to restore a reasonable practice of the Catholic faith that includes expanding our utilization of spiritual disciplines such as fasting? Can Catholics reinstitute the Ember Days in the praying of the Novus Ordo Liturgy?
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The end times are indeed near at hand…

Corcovado jesus

Corcovado Jesus (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The end times are indeed near at hand. That is not to say that the “12/12/2012” Mayan prediction of the end of the world is true –it is not– or that the rapture approach is insightful. But if you really believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior then an acknowledgement of our living in the end times is the right way to live. The Scripture readings in these final weeks of the liturgical year, but especially this week, prepare the believer to face the fact of the final things, sometimes called the Four Last Things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell. We can’t get away from these things. If we could, then there would be no need of a Messiah, of the Cross and Resurrection, the Eucharist, the sacraments, the Church, and a spiritual life; no need for salvation. If there is no probability of hell, then there is no need of salvation.

The subject of the Four Last Things was taken up by Pope John Paul II in the Wednesday Audiences in July and August of 1999. Look them up, they are worth a good review. By way of summary, let me draw attention to a few things the Pontiff said:
  • heaven “is not an abstraction nor a physical place amid the clouds, but a living and personal relationship with the Holy Trinity;
  • When this world has passed away, those who accepted God in their lives and were sincerely open to his love, at least at the moment of death, will enjoy that fullness of communion with God, which is the goal of human existence”;
  • the hell some will enjoy is not the result of God willing the death of the person but the result of the person not desiring the love and mercy God has offered, that he has freely given;
  • the Pope spoke of the danger of rigidly holding a literal interpretation of the Scriptural images of hell: for John Paul, and therefore us, “the inextinguishable fire” and “burning oven” in the biblical narrative points the hearer to “indicate the complete frustration and vacuity of a life without God”;
  • we know that hell exists; we don’t know the population of hell; Cf. Cardinal Avery Dulles’ famous First Things article, “The Population of Hell”; John Paul says that hell is not something that we can know but that real damnation “remains a possibility”;
  • On purgatory the Pope said, is the state of being “before we enter into God’s kingdom, every trace of sin within us must be eliminated, every imperfection in our soul must be corrected. This is exactly what takes place in purgatory”;
  • Purgatory is “the process of purification for those who die in the love of God but are not completely imbued with that love”; 
  • even though Christ holds His hand in friendship, that is, in love, the extension of our hand “does not exclude they duty to present ourselves pure and whole before God.”
  • Read the Catechism at paragraph 1861.
Perhaps tying all this together can be seen in Paul’s Letter to the Colossians where he says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you will appear with him in glory” (3:2-4) And in the collect for this week’s Mass: “Stir up the will of your faithful, we pray, O Lord, that, striving more eagerly to bring your divine work to fruitful completion, they may receive in greater measure the healing remedies your kindness bestows.”
What ought be my approach to the four last things today, and in the years to come? Well, if I truly believe that Jesus is real, then the nihilistic approach is not a winning one. If I believe what Jesus exhorted us to consider as genuine, “Do not be afraid” then fear (sinful activity) can’t rule my life. If I believe that God is always present, then I ought to receive the sacraments of Confession and frequently receive the medicine of Immortality –the Holy Eucharist– reminding myself that Jesus told us that he’d be with us to the end of the world. His presence is neither magic nor fiction, but a real presence that no other warm body can ever give. These are the things that our spiritual life needs to be fed with, these are the treasures given by the all-loving, all-powerful God.
One of the monks at New Skete Monastery (in New York) said the following at the Divine Liturgy:

So how can we honestly and proactively approach today’s feast, and this holiday season in a way that will get us past the public façade of wise-guy banter and beyond the disconnect between hard realities and sincere beliefs and honest ideals? How might we bravely allow our deeper humanity to shine forth in the midst of some extreme assaults on such things as tenderness, hope, and compassion?

Today’s readings, along with monastic wisdom and psychological insight suggest the following: Daily if not hourly slow down the frantic pace of our media interaction, verbosity, and endless tasks: daily if not hourly return to the temple of our own person and the holy and fertile ground of our interior life. Daily if not continually express appreciation for whatever someone does that makes my life richer today: Daily or at least once in a while do something simple but concrete and different, for the express purpose of nurturing the human spirit, within yourself, for someone else, and for the future.

In these days in the post Christ the King observance and before Advent, let’s pray for the grace to know ourselves more deeply so as to accept more fully “divine work” in our lives with the gift of discernment showing us the way to the Father.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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