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St. Peter’s rocky road

Posted September 23, 2020 at 12:00 am

In the (Sept. 11) issue of The Catholic Commentator I wrote that St. Peter was chosen by Jesus to not only lead his apostles and be the human founding stone of his church but also to be a “model for us of what God wants from us in his mysterious plan of salvation.” St. Peter learned, often through his own mistakes and his own suffering, to follow Jesus with faith rather than with his own worldly judgments. If we follow Jesus in the New Testament Scriptures, from the time of his declaration that he would build his church on the rock of Peter (Mt 16:13) to the time of Peter’s second and last Epistle and then martyrdom sometime between 64 and 67 a.d., we can learn much of what Jesus wants from us too. 

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    A risky gamble

    As a youngster donning a Nelson Stokley jersey and later the famous No. 37 of Tommy Casanova (which officially qualifies me as a candidate for the Antiques Roadshow), the approaching college football season somehow always eased the agony of going back to school.  

    Curiously, even back then when rather than fly to games teams would travel by Tyrannosaurus Rex, one of the perennial questions was if LSU could beat Alabama and its Hall of Fame coach. Some things never seem to change.  

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    The last temptation

    “The last temptation is the greatest treason:  

    To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”  

    T.S. Eliot wrote those words to describe how difficult it is to purge our motivation of selfish concerns, to do things for reasons that are not ultimately about ourselves. In Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral,” his main character is Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury, who is martyred for his faith. From every outward appearance, Archbishop Becket is a saint, unselfish, motivated by faith and love. But as Eliot teases out in “Murder in the Cathedral,” the outward narrative

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    What kind of rock was St. Peter?

    What kind of rock was St. Peter? 

    A few Sundays ago we prayed at the beginning of Mass, “Lord Jesus Christ, you have built your church upon the rock of St. Peter’s faith. Grant that nothing can make our faith waver or fail, because you live and reign with the father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.” Is God hearing that prayer that we have prayed every year since the end of the Second Vatican Council

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    Lessons learned during past pandemics

    Coronavirus is only the latest iteration of an age-old human affliction. Even now, with the benefit of advanced medical science, our reaction – our confusion, our fear – is not so different from how our ancestors experienced recurrent and terrifying onslaughts of plague, cholera and yellow fever across the ages. We can learn from the courage and ingenuity of those who travelled this road before us.

    Consider the work of Dr. Carlos Finlay in Cuba. In 1880 he hypothesized, and

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    Sweet doing nothing

    I support The Christophers with a modest yearly donation. They are a non-profit organization founded in 1945 by Father James Keller MM to encourage people to change the world for the better. Every month they send me a begging letter and a tri-fold newsletter called “Christopher News Notes.”

    Whoever selects their topics must give spiritual retreats or preach a lot of homilies. The News Notes do not keep up with news about what is happening currently in the church or the world, but

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    Pornography and the sacred

    The ancient Greeks had gods and goddesses for everything, including a goddess of shame called Aidos. Shame for them meant much more than it normally means to us. In their mind, shame brought with it modesty, respect and a certain needed reticence before things that should remain private and hidden. The goddess of shame instructed you as to when you were supposed to turn your eyes away from things too intimate to be seen. Shame, as they understood it, contained a modesty and reverence you were supposed to feel in

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    ‘All creation is groaning’

    Scientists tell us that the creation of our universe began with a big bang. Everything we see now on a clear night, including the earth we inhabit and its stars, the sun and our single moon was cast outward into motion and continues to expand. And telescopes put into space tell us that there is so much more to be seen. Yet none of this stars, planets, moons, water, vegetation, fish, animals and finally human beings can have caused itself. We are here because God wished that, besides

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    Meaning of original sin/ Obligation for televised Mass?

    Q When I was a Protestant, I never heard mention of “original sin.” We were told that each person is responsible for their own sins and need not even worry about sin until we approached “the age of accountability” (usually said to be about the age of 10). Until then, we were told, people are in a “state of grace” meaning that, if they died, they would go to heaven.  

    Now, as a Catholic, I hear original sin mentioned almost weekly and, it

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    Letting go of false fear

    Recently in a radio interview, I was asked this question: “If you were on your deathbed, what would you want to leave behind as your parting words?” The question momentarily took me aback. What would I want to leave behind as my last words? Not having time for much reflection, I settled on this. I would want to say: “Don’t be afraid. Live without fear. Don’t be afraid of death. Most of all, don’t be afraid of God!”  

    I’m a cradle Catholic,

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    A prayer for our vulnerable earth, its creatures and people

    A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law texted to my family the beautiful prayer you can read that accompanies this column. Its timing could not have been better. On June 18, the Catholic Church celebrated the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ social encyclical on the environment and human ecology, “Laudato Si’,” on Care for Our Common home.” Since then, there have been many articles in Catholic magazines and newspapers commenting on the effect of the pope’s urgent request that we care for the earth. In one way or another

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    Do converts have to be ‘remarried’?/ Bowing at name of Jesus

    Q A friend and his wife, along with their daughter, were recently confirmed into the Catholic Church after being Methodists their entire life, including getting married within the Methodist Church. They were told by some parish officials (laymen) that their marriage is not recognized by the Catholic Church and that they must be “remarried” within the Catholic Church.  

    That does not sound right to me, but I can’t find any specific ruling or teaching on this. (The same lay leaders also claimed that

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    Teach us to fight racism

    The Catholic Church never taught me how to fight racism.  

    As a cradle Catholic, the church taught me how to fight abortion, poverty, hunger, violence and even the degradation of the environment.  

    I learned about the power of prayer. I saw parishes raising money, volunteering locally and protesting publicly. I heard stirring homilies, read books denouncing these evils, and celebrated saints who gave their lives for what was right.  

    But when it

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    Some secrets worth knowing

    Monks have secrets worth knowing, and these can be invaluable when a coronavirus pandemic is forcing millions of us to live like monks.   

    Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of us have been forced to stay at home, work from home, practice social distancing from everyone except those in our own houses and have minimal social contact with the outside. In a manner of speaking, this has turned many of us into monks, like it or not. What’s the secret

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    Forgiveness of ‘many’ or ‘all’?/ Divorce, remarriage and Communion

    Q During Mass, at the consecration of the wine, the priest says, “for the forgiveness of many.” Why not “for the forgiveness of all”? (Northampton, Pennsylvania)  

    A I should start by saying that it is clearly the teaching of the church that Jesus suffered and died for all men and women. That is attested to in several different scriptural passages (Jn 11:52; 2 Cor 5:14-15; Ti 2:11; 1 Jn 2:2).  

    In the official English-language edition of the Order

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    Avoiding the trap of money

    For most of us money can be a trap. When income tax time rolls around, as it did this year even though it was delayed to July 15 because of the coronavirus pandemic, it is a rather blunt reminder of how much of our personal world is controlled by money. We tally up our tax bill and moan about how little of our salaries we get to keep. We wonder if we should not have given more to charity, helping others while taking more deductions. We look at

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    How faith grows in quarantine

    Families have never been closer. Families have never been farther apart.

    Like many of you, I’ve been sheltering in place with my spouse and kids for three months. We’ve eaten every meal together, spent every day together, argued and laughed and fumed and forgiven together. 

    But we can’t visit with friends and relatives like we used to do. We don’t get to catch up with co-workers over lunch or hang out with classmates after school. We’re stuck with the seven of us which,

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    Our deep failure in charity

    St. Eugene de Mazenod, the founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the religious congregation to which I belong, left us with these last words as he lay dying: “Among yourselves, charity, charity, charity.” I don’t always live that, though I wish I could, especially today.

    We are in a bitter time. Everywhere there is anger, condemnation of others, and bitter disagreement; so much so that today we are simply unable to have a reasonable discussion on any sensitive political, moral, or doctrinal issue. We demonize each other to the point where

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    Life in lockdown

    Commonweal is an excellent Catholic magazine published monthly in New York City by Catholic laity.  Its May issue was  entitled “Life in Lockdown” and contained four letters, one from a Jewish woman and three from Catholics around the world describing their experiences of being quarantined in one form or another because of the coronavirus epidemic.  Their experiences were sad, beautiful and spiritual.

    Hammer wrote that “aloneness was like a migraine, a sickness that never left. No matter how hard I worked, how much I prayed, or

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    Which day is the Sabbath?/ Mass obligation, emotional struggle

    Q Is it true that the church changed the day of the Sabbath? I have always felt that the Sabbath occurred on Saturday, but I have learned that the early church decided to celebrate the breaking of bread on Sunday because that was the day of Christ’s resurrection. (Nigeria)  

    A Technically, it is not true that the Christian church changed the Sabbath day. The Sabbath is still on Saturday (or, more properly, from sundown on Friday), marking the fact that God rested from

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    My interview with Mr. Fred Rogers

    Fred Rogers was a good friend for many years. He entertained and educated children for more than a generation, and died on Feb. 27, 2003.  

    When he came to New York we often had dinner together. It’s my privilege to introduce him to you again today. Children still love him and parents trust him.  

    The theme song of his TV Show, “Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood,” contained the words, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” When I did my TV show

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    What to save of Notre Dame?

    Out of great tragedies come great lessons. Six days before Easter the Cathedral of Notre Dame, “Our Lady” as the French think of it, almost completely burned to the ground. The roof and its steeple entirely burned to ash, along with almost the entire inside of the cathedral. However, the front towers and the exterior walls with their beautiful stained glass windows were saved by some very brave firefighters. In his Easter homily, Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris praised those firefighters and their priest chaplain, Father Jean-Marc Fournier, who

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    Who really were those Magi?

    The Gospel of St. Mark begins with Jesus being baptized by St. John the Baptist as a grown man who will soon begin his own ministry. St. John begins with Jesus as God’s divine word through whom he creates the universe. It is this word who becomes man and lives among us having the “glory of the Father’s only Son.” Again there is no description of Jesus’ birth or youth. Only St. Matthew and St. Luke begin their Gospels with infancy narratives. Their narratives, however, focus on different

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    The double message of Christmas 

    I’ve never been happy with some of my activist friends who send out Christmas cards with messages like: “May the Peace of Christ Disturb You!” Can’t we have one day a year to be happy and celebrate without having our already unhappy selves shaken with more guilt? Isn’t Christmas a time when we can enjoy being children again? Moreover, as Karl Rahner once said, isn’t Christmas a time when God gives us permission to be a happy? So why not?

    Well, it’s complex. Christmas is time when God gives us permission to be

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    Become Catholic to marry?/ Luminous mysteries

    Q I was browsing the internet today, ran across your column and have a question. I am in a long-term relationship with my partner, and we are planning on getting married next year. But we are having some conflict as to where (i.e., in what church) we are going to celebrate our wedding. 

    My family are all born-again Christians and actively participate in many church activities and ministries. My partner, though, is a devout Roman Catholic and wants me to become a Catholic.

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    Can Lutheran receive Catholic Eucharist?/ Possible to confess online?

    Q One of my sisters who is Lutheran recently moved to an area where there is no Lutheran church, so she started attending Mass at a nearby Catholic parish. She has been receiving the Eucharist at Mass even though she is not Catholic. She says that she asked the Catholic pastor and he said that it was OK. Is it? 

    I find this completely wrong because when I converted to the Catholic faith 30 years ago, I was required to complete RCIA classes.

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    Fatima, a message of prayer for peace

    On Nov. 8, I returned from a three-week trip to Portugal, Spain and Liberia, Africa. It began with plans of parishioners of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Prairieville to go to Fatima to see the shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Two couples in the group and I sponsor children in an orphanage in Liberia. We decided to tack on an extension of the trip to Africa when the rest of the group returned home. Liberia Mission Inc. includes the orphanage and a school for the orphans plus

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    Is annual confession mandated?/ Can’t understand priest

    Q Could a person go to daily Mass and receive Communion without having gone to confession in four years? (Batesville, Indiana)  

    A The answer, technically, is yes. If the person had committed no serious (mortal) sins over that four-year period, he or she could go to Mass and receive Communion every day. Strictly speaking, the obligation of annual confession applies only to those in serious sin.  

    The church’s Code of Canon Law reads this way: “After having reached

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    Dual citizenship

    I live on both sides of a border. Not a geographical one, but one which is often a dividing line between two groups.  

    I was raised a conservative Roman Catholic, and conservative in most other things as well. Although my dad worked politically for the Liberal party, most everything about my upbringing was conservative, particularly religiously. I was a staunch Roman Catholic in every way. I grew up under the papacy of Pope Pius XII (the fact that my youngest brother is named

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    Fanucci, Laura-FAITH AT HOME.pdf

    Use your words

    Two groups ask me often what they can do to help their children grow in faith: parents of toddlers and parents of young adults.

    Surprised? While their ages and stages of life may differ, the two groups are closer than you might think.

    When I write about faith at home, I often hear from new parents. They want to know what prayers or books they can use to make sure their child

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