Survey on Catechetical Preaching

Catholic_priestDuring the Year of Faith, at Bishop O'Connell's request, we have dedicated the second Sunday of each month to catechetical preaching. As you know, catechetical preaching explains or illustrates a teaching of the Faith rather than concentrating on the Scriptures read during the Mass. 

It's time to decide whether we continue the practice on a routine basis at Holy Cross.

What do you think?    Take our one-question survey and let us know!


Click here for Preaching Survey


Thought Provoking Article by Theologian Stanley Hauerwas – “The End of American Protestantism”

"The End of American Protestantism" by Stanley Hauerwas

This article via Bioedge Newsletter was originally published on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) by Professor Stanely Hauerwas, now of Duke University.

Entitled "The End of American Protestantism," it decries the dissolution of faith in God, or at least in the American god Protestantism had created from "a synthesis of evangelical Protestantism, republican political ideology and commonsense moral reasoning." Hauerwas' analysis of the peculiar secularism in which we now find ourselves comes from the unravelling of the moral consensus we previously held on the importance of faith in republican democracy and the common sense of the average American. 

Hauerwas begins his article by exempting American Catholicism from his analysis, but I'm not so sure we have escaped the melting pot of America's new god – freedom of choice. Look at the first two paragraphs of his essay and see if they would intrigue you, as they did me, to read the entire piece:

Catholics in America know they do not belong, which is why they are so determined to demonstrate that they are more American than the Americans.

All you need to know to understand America is that the FBI is made up of Catholics and Southerners. This is because Catholics and Southerners have to try to show they are more loyal than most Americans, since Southerners have a history of disloyalty and Americans fear that Catholics may owe their allegiance to some guy in Rome. That is why the FBI is given the task of examining graduates of Harvard and Yale – that is, high-culture Protestants who, of course, no longer believe in God – to see if they are loyal enough to be operatives for the CIA.

The related phenomenon is what I call "the New York Times Catholics." These are Catholics, usually clergy, a New York Times journalist has learned to call after the Pope has issued an encyclical or given a speech that seems offensive to American sensibilities. They call a Catholic, whom they have previously identified as a critic of the church, to have confirmed that whatever the Pope has said, Catholics in America are not required to obey, or even if they are so required, Catholics will not take what the Pope has said seriously. From the perspective of the New York Times, therefore, a good Catholic is one that would be regarded by the Vatican as a bad Catholic.


To emphasize the point even more strongly, it seems that several of the most well published writers critical of the Catholic church and its teachings identify themselves as Catholics. 

In a fascinating analysis of why American divorce and abortion have become widespread, Hauerwas asks if the "person on the street" would agree that someone should be held responsible for something they promised when they didn't know what they were doing. Of course not, would be the likely reply. So how could you possibly make an unconditional promise of marriage, or be held to deliver an unwanted child to put the child up for adoption? The dysfunctional marriage or the unplanned pregnancy are circumstantial evidence that at least two persons didn't know what they were doing. Either the marriage or the child can be dismissed.

Don't look for Catholics to save the day warns Hauerwas, for Catholicism in America has become another variety of Protestant Christianity. The laughable assertion that " I believe in Jesus as Lord, but that's just my personal opinion," is likely to be the sentiment of the average politically correct American Catholic. Similarly, a chorus of Catholic elected officials will carefully explain the dinstinction betweeen their "public" and "private" morality in an effort to reassure the electorate they will ignore Catholic doctrine at the office. Should we call this their belief in the Kennedy-Cuomo Doctrine?

The article is thought provoking commentary on modernity, pluralism and religious freedom. It makes interesting companion reading with Pope Francis' Encyclical "The Light of Faith."

Maybe the proverb many of us learned in our youth (perhaps taught by a nun) "better to light one candle than curse the darkness" needs a modern day Catholic revision – important to curse the darkness but keep lighting candles anyway.

The Light of Faith – “Lumen Fidei”

The Light of Faith

The papal encyclical of Francis with the collaboration of Benedict highlights once again, the difficulties a disciple of Jesus faces in the modern world.

The encyclical, though brief, is not a breezy read. I won't even try to summarize the whole letter, but point out two of the many passages which invited me to pray:

Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light. 

 And, of course, the prayer which closes the encyclical itself:

 Let us turn
in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith. 

help our faith! 

our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call. 

in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to
receive his promise. 

us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith. 

us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at
times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to

Sow in
our faith the joy of the Risen One. 

us that those who believe are never alone. 

us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path.
And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that
undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!

Prayer Service for Religious Liberty

2f26f341f4caea7a5809ab9751f2fef7Thank you to all who stayed to pray today after the 10:30 AM mass for religious liberty in our country and in the world. We prayed the litany suggested by and composed by the American bishops which was quite beautiful and very appropriate.

Our campaign to collect signatures for letters to our elected representatives is ongoing and there were letters available for signing after all the masses this weekend. To date, almost 1000 signatures have been collected and letters mailed.

Sunday's Homily

"Do not be afraid, just have faith." I hope these words of Jesus go straight to our minds and hearts this weekend; how sorely we need to hear them. 

In the face of sin, illness, even death, Jesus reassures us. How much more should we be reassured in the face of disorder in our relationships, finance, politics, family?  Increase our faith, O Lord!

There is a surely a crisis of faith, both secular and religious. All human institutions and promises are undergoing a trial: do we mean what we say, can we trust anyone's promise? Can we rely on each other? These questions are serious enough, but the crisis of religious faith tempts us to believe we cannot or better not rely on God. Or equally perilous, we might come to believe that our faith is simply an inner assertion of belief which carries no obligations to live a faith-filled life.

Our faith is a precious gift and it must be nurtured and protected. How many times, if we're honest, have we chosen fun over faith? Our amusement and leisure time is important, but so is preserving some of it to nurture and practice our faith. 

Pope Benedict has proclaimed a Year of Faith beginning in October 2012. In calling for a year of prayer and action to nurture our faith, he reminds us that Mary's "yes", her life of discipleship from Bethelehem to Golgotha, her taste of the fruits of Jesus' resurrection and participation in the formation and life of the early Church at Pentecost – all were acts of faith. The first apostles left everything in fatih and preached everywhere. This very faith which has been handed down to us by countless men and women so that we can recognize Jesus in the Eucharist and in each other, in our church and in our history.

Faith has both an intellectual and spiritual component. We hope our faith resides down deep in our hearts, but it is also fed by our mind and our reason. To nurture our faith, we need acts of prayer and charity, the Eucharist, the sacraments, but we also need to read, study, appropriate the faith for each stage of our journey. There is a rich content to the faith, even called "the deposit of faith," a rich tradition and beautifully clear Church teachings for us to know and understand. In conjunction with the Year of Faith, Bishop O'Connell has proclaimed that the preaching on the second Sunday of each month be reserved for teaching an important aspect of our faith, church tradition or church teaching.

We must appreciate how threatened our faith can become by simple everyday events, if we don't take precautions to strengthen and protect it. The books we read, the news we hear, the movies we see, the conversations we have and the jokes we laugh at; the friends we keep, the things we buy, the ad campaigns we respond to, the way we permit our children to dress, the song lyrics they carry around in their heads, the trends we become part of…all these can be a slow and relentless drip, drip, drip eroding the foundations of our faith. Without reparative and preventive measures, we should not be surprised to discover at a funeral, or a wedding, or the doctor's office, that when we turn to rely on our faith…it has collapsed.

This weekend, especially, we remind ourselves that our civic freedom also needs protection. If we fail to nurture and protect our liberties, pay little heed to world events, our nation's history, or political discourse, our freedoms will wither or be clipped and trimmed into a shape our forbearers wouldn't even recognize.

Today we join in prayer for the preservation of faith and freedom in our nation and in the world. This will become more important as specific articles of our faith bring us into conflict with the political and moral climate of our country, but also with a militant secularism which strives to sanitize God from any American public discussion. Some seek to regulate our Catholic charities and our Catholic teaching institutions no differently than MacDonalds or Walmart. We are different! What we do and how we do it springs directly from our faith, which we must be free to practice in private and in public.

Faith and our freedom to practice it is a God given liberty, which today we acknolwedge, has required heroic human sacrifice to preserve. Let us resolve today to reinforce both faith and freedom by prayer, reading and study, by witness and whenever necessary by willing sacrifice.

Catechetical Preaching Sundays

PreachBeginning in October of 2013 for the Year of the Faith, Bishop O'Connell has designated the Second Sunday of each month as "Catechetical Sunday."

The topic for each Sunday will be published well in advance so that homilies at every Mass celebrated in the Diocese on that particular weekend will be on the same topic of Church doctrine/faith using the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a primary reference.


Catholic preaching in the last decades has moved away from sermons -  topics chosen by the priest or preacher without any correlation to the lectionary readings. Priests were taught to preach homilies, which are specifically written to illustrate or complement one or more of the lectionary readings at the mass, frequently the gospel.

What exactly does catechetical preaching mean?  Don't worry, it does not mean that homilies will become lectures. But a catechetical homily should teach or inform us about a particular aspect of the Catholic faith. Illustrative stories can still be helpful, but the gospel or the 1st reading may not specifically relate to the topic of the sermon.  At daily mass, for example, if the priest preaches about the life of a saint, it could be a catechetical homily; we learn about the life of the saint, sometimes the controversies when the saint lived or the doctrines the saint might have taught or exemplified by his or her life.

The topics for these homilies are still being selected. Some of them might be grace, or original sin, or topics of belief in the Nicene Creed, etc. It's a noble experiment which I think will be well received. 



Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Happy Saint John's Day


  • The tradition of St. John's Eve bonfires survives in many parts of the world. A bonfire was blessed, old sacramentals were burned, torches lit from the bonfire were carried to fields, flocks and herds to bless their fruitfulness. Light a candle at home or in church to pray for someone; burn old missals, prayer cards; write a resentment down on a piece of paper and burn it. Bury the ash. Give someone hope or pray that God grant you more.
  •  This date traditionally marked the end of a quarter, the books were balanced, debts were settled, rents were due. Donate to charity, settle a dispute, mend a relationship.
  • Collect some flowers for drying or give them to someone.
  • Children who went strawberry picking this day were traditionally accompanied by Mary. The strawberry, a plant which has pure white flowers and mature fruit at the same time, has been a symbol for Mary, who is virgin and mother. Eat some strawberries or pick some.
  • St. John's Wort is in bloom at this time of year. It was gathered to ward off evil spirits and can be used in a tincture to treat depression or enjoyed in a tea. Pray for someone who is depressed or help brighten someone's day.
  • Ashes from the bonfire were saved and mixed with water to bless the sick. Pray for the sick and dying today. 

Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist Was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Don’t Anger the Queen

2 Kgs 11:1-4,9-18,20 Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Did you know there was a Queen of Judah? Queen Athaliah had been married to King Jehoram (from the House of David) and had persuaded him to allow the worship of Baal in Judah along with other pagan practices. When Jehoram died, his son Ahaziah became king but it was not long before he was assassinated by faithful followers of Yahweh. The Queen Mother Athaliah sought revenge by killing all potential successors to the throne, including her own grandchildren. In her rage, she exterminated all but one – Joash, an infant who was protected from the Queen’s murderous rampage and sequestered in the Temple where he was raised by the high priest. Queen Athaliah enjoyed an illegitimate reign of seven years, until a coup was arranged by the priest Jehoiada, who brought the young Joash out of hiding, crowned him rightful king and renewed the Davidic covenant. They slew Queen Athaliah and purged the kingdom of pagan worship. Quite a saga and quite a bloodbath.

Murderous anger is not confined to the pages of the Bible, and its consequences are no less deadly today than centuries ago. We might be tempted to cloak our own anger in righteousness, but righteous anger defends the powerless and right-wises injustice, it never deliberately harms others, defames or detracts from them. It is distinct from vindictiveness, resentment and rage. Righteous anger is a weapon best wielded by God; murderous rage is an armament of bullies.



Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time 2 Kings 2:1,6-14

Elijah's Mantle

3903801185_6835406cba_zThe bullying, uncontrollable tempers and disrespect for others in our school playgrounds mirror the troubles in our neighborhoods and our nation. Whereas previous generations were more likely to protect children from “adult” discussions and problems until a certain age, now we use children as pawns in our own battles.

Our missionary speaker informed us last Sunday about the “Sunflower Children” in Ethiopia – young girls purchased cheaply from their families by farmers to run up and down rows of sunflowers and substitute for pollinating bees, until the girls outgrow their usefulness at age 13 when they are discarded. Taliban leaders recently announced that in protest of US drone strikes, no more children will be vaccinated against polio.  One prominent ethicist wondered, “Where is the outrage?”

Elijah passed his mission and his mantle to the younger Elisha , whom he had mentored and prepared to assume the difficulties of leadership of the Israelites. All young people, especially men, need an Elijah to help form them in fortitude, right reason and protective compassion for their loved ones and strangers alike. First the mantle protects and then it empowers. 

Every child deserves a childhood. Whenever company was visiting and I heard my grandmother proclaim, like a truce, “little pitchers have big ears,” it annoyed me because I knew I was going to miss some glorious grown up gossip or be excluded from some vociferous argument. Now that I understand what she was doing, I love her all the more.