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In a culture that idolizes the individual and reflexively mistrusts authority, Catholics often hear the challenge: "I have a personal relationship with God; why do I need the Church?"

“In a series of reflections on the relationship between Christ and the Church made during his Wednesday general audiences in St. Peter's Square in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI addressed that challenge.”

The Pope noted a slogan that was once popular in some religious circles: "Jesus, yes; Church, no." But such an approach, He declared, given the express intention of Christ, is "totally inconceivable" (reflection presented March 15, 2006).

"This individualistically chosen Jesus is an imaginary Jesus," the Pope insisted. "We cannot have Jesus without the reality He created and in which He communicates himself. Between the Son of God made flesh and His Church there is a profound, unbreakable and mysterious continuity by which Christ is present today in His people."

What in particular are the aspects of "the reality [Christ] created" -- that is, the Church -- that makes Christ in His fullness inseparable from it? How, specifically, does He "communicate himself" through it? According to the Pope, it all begins with the foundation for the Church established by Christ himself: the Twelve Apostles.

Apostolic Foundations

"Through the apostles," says Pope Benedict, "we come to Jesus himself." Their mediation takes place in several ways.

First, "it is from the apostles, through their word and witness, that we receive the truth of Christ." They were eyewitnesses to His life and message, given the commission to preach the kingdom of God, and they appointed successors so that "the mission entrusted to them would be continued after their death" (March 29, 2006).

"The Church is wholly of the Spirit but has a structure, the apostolic succession, which is responsible for guaranteeing that the Church endures in the truth given by Christ" (April 5, 2006).

To know Jesus, then, we need the Church, because it is the Church that authoritatively and reliably preserves and proclaims the truth about who Jesus is.

Second, Christ gave His authority and power to the apostles and their successors to offer the sacraments, which we need to be fully joined to Christ. The Pope notes in particular holy orders, through which the apostolic succession is continued; the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which reconciles us to God; and the Eucharist, in which "Jesus nourishes us, He unites us with himself, with His Father, with the Holy Spirit and with one an-other" (March 29, 2006).

Communion With Christ

Third, through the apostles Christ gathered a community that, despite the failings of its members, is a communion with himself, filled with love by the power of the Spirit: "The Holy Spirit builds the Church and gives her the truth; He pours out love, as St. Paul says, into the hearts of believers (see Rom 5:5)."

This "Communion is born from faith inspired by apostolic preaching, it is nourished by the Breaking of Bread and prayer, and is expressed in brotherly love and service" (April 5, 2006).

In all these ways, then, "through apostolic succession it is Christ who reaches us: in the words of the apostles and of their successors, it is He who speaks to us; through their hands it is He who acts in the sacraments; in their gaze it is His gaze that embraces us and makes us feel loved and welcomed into the Heart of God" (May 10, 2006).

To know Jesus Christ in His fullness, we need the Church.

Find more from Our Sunday Visitor

This is taken from Bishop Barron's daily Gospel Reflection - visit Word on Fire

THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST

MARK 14:12-16, 22-26

Friends, today’s Gospel focuses on the spiritual power of the Eucharist. The central claim of the Catholic Church is that Jesus is substantially present under the forms of bread and wine. His presence is not simply evocative and symbolic, but rather real, true, and substantial.

To verify this scripturally, look at the accounts of the Last Supper in Matthew, Mark, and Luke—and also in Paul. But look especially at the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” But when they object, Jesus does not soften his language; he intensifies it. 

This is the ground for the Church’s defense of the Real Presence. How can we make sense of it? It has everything to do with who Jesus is. If he were simply an ordinary human being, his words would have, at best, a symbolic resonance. But Jesus is God, and what God says, is. 

Thus, when Jesus’ words over the bread and wine are spoken, they change into what the words signify. They become really, truly, and substantially the Body and Blood of the Lord.

This is a beautiful article explaining why we love Mary and her role in history and the Catholic faith.

READ ARTICLE

novena is a nine day period of prayer (either private or public) to obtain special graces.  The word novena is derived from the Latin word novem or nine.  The biblical basis for this extended prayer comes from Acts 1:12-14 where the disciples "devoted themselves to prayer."

It is important during this time of the liturgical year because the Feast of Pentecost will be celebrated on Sunday, May 20, 2018.
The "first novena of the Church" is the Novena to the Holy Spirit.
Annual Pentecost Novena Begins May 11, 2018

Video of a Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

Liturgical Notes for Easter

From Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar:

The fifty days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in joy and exultation as one feast day, indeed as one "great Sunday."  These are the days above all others in which the Alleluia is sung.  The Sundays of this time of year are considered to Sundays of Easter and are called, after Easter Sunday itself, the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Sundays of Easter.  This sacred period of fifty days concludes with Pentecost Sunday.

The first eight days of Easter Time constitute the Octave of Easter and are celebrated as Solemnities of the Lord.

On the fortieth day after Easter the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated, except where, not being observed as a Holyday of Obligation, it has been assigned to the Seventh Sunday of Easter (cf. no. 7).

The weekdays from the Ascension up to and including the Saturday before Pentecost prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.

The liturgical color for Easter is white.  The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (no. 346) also states: "On more solemn days, festive, that is, more precious, sacred vestments may be used even if not of the color of the day. The colors gold or silver may be worn on more solemn occasions in the Dioceses of the United States of America."

Especially during Easter Time, instead of the customary Penitential Act, the blessing and sprinkling of water may take place as a reminder of Baptism.

There are six metropolitan sees and their suffragan Dioceses which maintain the Solemnity of the Ascension on Thursday:Boston, Hartford, Newark, New York, Omaha, and Philadelphia.Every other region of the United States has opted to transfer the Solemnity to the following Sunday (the Seventh Sunday of Easter).

 

This was taken from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website - USCCB

This is a commonly asked question by many non-Catholics, but also by many children and those who may be entertaining the idea of becoming a member of the Catholic Church. They have heard of this practice of giving up food or sacrificing something that gives one pleasure, however, they have never fully understood what purpose it serves in one’s spiritual journey.

The three traditional pillars of Lenten observance are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that fasting is meant to prepare us for the liturgical feast. One of the great benefits of fasting is it allows us to feel our hunger. So, getting in touch with our physical hunger is meant to get us in touch with our spiritual hunger for a more intimate relationship with God.

Bishop Robert Barron teaches the pleasures of the body have a way of becoming too domineering, so we fast from them purposely to allow the deeper hungers to arise. When you suppress certain desires, other deeper ones can emerge. Archbishop Coakley says, “Acts of fasting and self-denial help us to be less focused upon ourselves and more available to be attentive to the needs of those around us. Prayer and fasting open us up to the awareness of the needs of our brothers and sisters around us, which can be expressed beautifully in works of charity or the works of almsgiving.

During Lent, one does not only have to focus on giving up something pleasurable. Instead, or in addition to, consider giving up some bad habit, meaning, fast from being judgmental, fast from your ego, or fast from finding more meaning in material things and find more meaning in building up your relationship with God. It is the hope of the church that in doing this, we will arrive at a deeper understanding of our own baptism and be lead to live it with a deeper commitment. The goal of Lent is not to arrive at the altar 20 pounds lighter, the goal of Lent for Christians to emerge at Easter resembling Jesus more profoundly.

Another word for this practice is abstinence.
"Catholics from time immemorial have set apart Friday for special penitential observance by which they gladly suffer with Christ that they may one day be glorified with Him.  This is the heart of the tradition of abstinence from meat on Friday where that tradition has been observed in the holy Catholic Church."     --USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Abstinence is reserved for ages 14 and older.  Catholics are permitted to eat fish and seafood on days of abstinence. 
All Fridays (even outside of Lent) are considered days of penance whereby a person is encouraged to make a sacrificial act of some kind.

Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ's victory over death.  This season urgently calls us to conversion.  Christians are asked to return to God "with all their hearts" (Joel 2:12), to refuse to for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord.  Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us.  Even when we sin, he patiently awaits our return; by the patient expectation, he shows us his readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, 8-Jan-2016).

Lent is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church:  fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply.                                                                   --taken from Pope Francis' Lenten Message

Sacraments are outward signs that Christ instituted to give grace. (Grace is a totally free, unmerited gift from God, the sharing in the divine - God's help to us.) 

There are seven sacraments:  Baptism, Penance (also called Reconciliation), Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick
These Catholic rites marking the seven major stages of spiritual development are based on the premise of union of body and soul, matter and spirit, physical and spiritual.  The sacraments involve a physical, tangible symbol, such as the water used in Baptism and the oil when anointing, to represent the invisible spiritual reality, the supernatural grace given in each sacrament.

Taken from Catholicism for Dummies by Rev. Trigilio & Rev. Brighentipage 10-11

Basically, Catholicism is the practice of Roman Catholic Christianity.  Catholics are members of the Roman Catholic Church, and they share various beliefs and ways of worship, as well as a distinct outlook on life.

Catholics believe:

  • THE BIBLE - is the inspired, error-free, and revealed word of God
  • BAPTISM - the rite of becoming Christian, is necessary for salvation - whether the Baptism occurs by water, blood, or desire
  • GOD'S TEN COMMANDMENTS - provide a moral compass - an ethical standard to live by
  • THE HOLY TRINITY - or one God in three persons - is also part of Catholic belief.  In other words, Catholics embrace the belief that God, the one Supreme Being, is made up of three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit

Taken from page 10 of Catholicism for Dummies by Rev. John Trigilio & Rev. Kenneth Brighenti

The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him…including the fact that he was born to die for us. Therefore, the official end of the entire Christmas season on the new liturgical calendar is the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, after which Ordinary Time begins.

In Matthew 3:14 we read, “John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” You see, Jesus didn’t HAVE to be baptized, Jesus CHOSE to be baptized. Why? He chose to be baptized for us, to give us the example to follow. Many Fathers of the Church commented that in the baptism of Jesus the sacrament of baptism was born. When we receive a sacrament grace flows to us from the sacrament. In the baptism of Jesus, the grace of Christ flowed into the sacrament. Sacraments are filled with the grace of God. Baptism not only frees us from original sin, it also is where we first meet God. We are joined to the church in a special way. We are made sons and daughters of the Father and we are also made brothers and sisters of one another in the church. So, Jesus chose to be baptized for us. He gave us this sacrament, placed this permanent mark on our souls as a sign that we belong to Christ and that we are made citizens and heirs of heaven.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

On New Year’s Day, January 1, the octave day of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Solemnity (the highest rank of liturgical celebration) of the Holy Mother of God, the divine and virginal motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Catholic Church recognizes that Christmas is not only on December 25, but the Church’s liturgy actually emphasizes the eight days or octave of Christmas. By celebrating a solemnity dedicated to Mary’s motherhood, the Church highlights the significance of her part in the life of Jesus, and emphasizes that he is both human and divine.