A Prayer for Our Modern Martyrs

Lord God, you search the hearts of all, both the good and the wicked. May those who are in danger for love of you, find security in you now, and, in the day of judgment, may they rejoice in seeing you face to face.

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We praise you, O Lord, our Savior, inspiration and example for every martyr, for loving us to the end:
We praise you, O Lord.

For incorporating our dead brothers and sisters into your own death today:
We praise you, O Lord.

My Lent 2015

Lent is my favorite liturgical season because I’m a depressing-kind of guy.  The sorrowful mysteries of Our Lord appeal to my melancholic nature, and the sadness during this season counter-balances the joy I feel throughout the rest of the year.

I guess people who know me find it hard to believe that I have a somber nature.  People don’t believe it either when I say that I’m introverted.  The truth is, I get tired around people and I like thinking about my mortality.  Extroverts, I hear, feel energized when they mingle with large groups of people.  They are happy to meet new people.  I dread meeting new people and I would rather talk to one or two friends, if anyone at all.  I prefer to be alone.  Thinking about the shortness of life, and what to do to have no regrets.

Isn’t that weird?  And, I’m a diplomat.  And I do Toastmasters.  And I am involved in Church.  All people-centered activities.  This is how I know the Holy Spirit is alive in my life.  I no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in me.  He allows me to do things that are not really part of my nature.  Grace builds on nature, and God certainly has built much on such a poor foundation.

So, the season of Lent brings me back to my pensive roots.  I am reminded of the cost to Christ for the purchase of my salvation, and the salvation of my brothers and sisters.  I am reminded that we are all pilgrims, trying our best to be faithful, helping where we can.  It’s like we are all on this great big ship going on this incredibly long journey.  The ocean is the world and all its attractions, like the sirens of Greek mythology.  Can you blame us, Lord, for our weakness?  Are you surprised to see us jump ship, only to drown in our slavery to sin?  It takes so much discipline to tie ourselves to the mast of the ship like Odysseus.

"The Siren," by John William Waterhouse, (circa 1900)
“The Siren,” by John William Waterhouse, (circa 1900)

I will celebrate my sixth year as a Christian this Easter.  Lent also reminds me of my time as a catechumen in RCIA.  Oh, how deeply I fell in love with Your Church, Lord.  Your Bride is so beautiful and I was only too happy to be a part of her at Easter so that I could receive You.

I’ve grown so much, but have grown so little.  I grew beyond my selfish spirituality and realized that my mission is to make my whole family holy, not just myself.  If I fail in sanctifying my wife and children, then I fail in my vocation as a husband and as a father.  Being a diplomat is small stuff when compared to the responsibilities I have for the immortal souls of my family.

I grew beyond my selfish religion, where I go to Mass and then go home.  Now, I not only help build up my parish, but identify my spiritual growth along with my whole parish.  So, I do children’s liturgy (aka, Children’s Church) with my wife and daughters; I volunteer at RCIA when Maya is going to religious education classes; I sing in the choir for a second Sunday Mass.

As much as I grew, I have grown little in other areas of my life.  I still do not lead my family in prayer.  My wife is her own island of prayer.  I have my own prayer life that I cling to.  We pray together at meals, at Mass, and sometimes in the evenings before bed.  Leading a family prayer life? No, not yet.

Lent is not just a time to give up something temporarily for forty days.  Giving up something for forty days should help me give it up permanently — but the problem is that I’m not giving up anything that I will not pick up again after Lent.  Coffee? Can’t wait until Sunday, April 5th!  Netflix?  Oh, I can binge watch Season 3 of “House of Cards” with my coffee.  To paraphrase St. Augustine, “Give me self-control, Lord, but not yet!”

Since I can’t give up a bad habit, I can build good ones.  I will try to pray both the Morning and Evening Office in the Liturgy of the Hours.  This is in addition to doing daily Rosary prayers.  In addition to the obligatory days of fasting, I pray to observe days where I only eat bread and drink water.  Even just thinking about it makes my tongue feel bored.  Which means it will be a great mortification for my body — my free will shall be stronger than the passions of my flesh!

Pray for me.  I pray for you.  God bless you during this Lenten season.

Bread and Wine of Melchizedek

Bible Study: The Mass and the Old Testament (Lesson 2, Part 1)

For those who are just joining this study, we are going through the parts of the Catholic Mass and seeing how it is connected to the Bible.  For a convert like me, it is fascinating to learn how the Mass picks up where the Bible leaves off.  I learned that the Mass was the only way that Christians could encounter and learn about Jesus Christ for the first 1,500 years of Christianity (before the printing press was invented).  As a matter of fact, the Catholic Mass is still the only way Christians can physically encounter Christ — His Body and Blood through the Eucharist.  If you’re interested, the six parts to Lesson 1 can be found here.  Please join me in exploring Lesson 2 – The Mass and the Old Testament, an online Bible study provided by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

Biblical worship is the offering of sacrifice. Our worship in the Mass is likewise a form of sacrificial offering.

We hear this repeatedly in the Mass, although we may not notice it or fully understand what it means.

For instance, after the priest prepares the altar, he addresses us with these words: “Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.”

We respond: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His Name, for our good and the good of all His Church.”

Sacrifice was a universal practice in the religions of the ancient world and it is of the essence of the religious devotion and practice found in the Bible.

Here we have some examples of sacrifice in the Old Testament that prefigures what Catholics celebrate in the Mass:

Adam and Eve’s children offer sacrifices – Cain from the fruits of the earth, Abel from the firstlings of his flock (see Genesis 4:3-4). Noah, too, seems to have inherited a tradition of worship that includes burnt offerings of animals (see Genesis 7:2; 8:20).

Abraham, the father of the chosen people, responds to God’s call by building an altar and offering sacrifices (see Genesis 15:8-10; 22:13). Throughout the early part of the Bible, Abraham’s sons are frequently seen building altars and offering sacrifices (see Genesis 33:20; 35:1-7).

Of the sacrifices of Genesis, two are particularly important for our understanding of the Mass: that of the mysterious priest-king Melchizedek (see Genesis 14:18-20) and Abraham’s in Genesis 22.

Melchizedek is the first priest mentioned in the Bible. He is a “priest of God Most High.” He is also King of Salem, a land that would later be called “Jeru-salem,” meaning “City of Peace” (see Psalm 76:2).

This combination of priest and king is rare in the Old Testament. But later we will see this designation applied to the royal son of David (see Psalm 110:4) and, in the New Testament, to Jesus (see Hebrews 7).

Melchizedek’s sacrifice is also extraordinary in that it involved no animals. He offered bread and wine, as Jesus would at the Last Supper.

This is interesting… I didn’t know that Melchizedek offered only bread and wine as sacrifice.  Doesn’t the name “Melchizedek” come up again in the New Testament?

Melchizedek’s sacrifice concluded with the priestly blessing of Abraham.  And Abraham would later return to Salem to make his own offering.

At the mountain of Moriah, a site that would later be identified with Jerusalem’s Temple (see 2 Chronicles 3:1), Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only beloved son, Isaac.

As we will see in our next lesson, in the story of the “binding” of Isaac, the New Testament writers saw a foreshadowing God’s offering of his only beloved Son on the Cross (see Genesis 22:12,15; John 3:16).

Notice the language in the story told in Genesis 22. The words “his son” or “the boy” are used 11 times in 15 verses. The only words that Isaac speaks begin with the word, “Father.” As if to drive home the point even further, the narrator of the story says, “Isaac spoke to his father…

All of this will become even more important when we study our Lord’s sacrifice in our next lesson.

New Look for 2015

Do you like the new look?  I wanted to simplify the blog’s look for 2015.  I’ve had the same theme for two years; it was nice but I want a layout that focuses more on the words than on the image.  I can do more image-intensive posts for the Facebook Page.  For those of you who’ve visited before, let me know if you prefer the old theme.  God bless you.

Jane Roe of Roe vs Wade, Pro-Life Since 1995!

Norma McCorvey is better known as Jane Roe, the plaintiff in the landmark case in 1973, Roe v. Wade, that legalized abortion.  Did you know that she is a passionate pro-life advocate since 1995?  Her personal history is amazing.  She was a troubled child, an active lesbian and had three children of her own (who were given up for adoption).  In 1995, she had a profound conversion experience.  By 1998, she entered the Roman Catholic Church.  Here is an excerpt from her book, “Won by Love,” co-written with Gary Thomas:

I was sitting in O.R.’s offices when I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them. I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. ‘Norma’, I said to myself, ‘They’re right’. I had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that’s a baby! It’s as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth — that’s a baby!

I felt crushed under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn’t about ‘products of conception’. It wasn’t about ‘missed periods’. It was about children being killed in their mother’s wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion — at any point — was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.

See her testimony in this video produced by VirtueMedia:

 

Twin Blessings

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue Columbia Magazine, page 25.  Kevin DiCamillo is a freelance writer and editor in northern New Jersey, and is a member of the Don Bosco Knights of Columbus Council 4960 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Seeking to adopt a child following medical difficulties, a Knights of Columbus couple received an unexpected gift.

The DiCamillo Family are pictured at their home in New Jersey
The DiCamillo Family are pictured at their home in New Jersey

After my wife, Alicia, and I were married, we were looking forward to welcoming the children that God would send to our family.  Yet we never expected the challenges that we confronted when I was diagnosed with cancer.  Following surgery and months of radiation, doctors told us that we would not be able to conceive.  Amid the heartbreak, we began to explore adoption.

We checked out private agencies for domestic and foreign adoption, but chose a more affordable option close to home: the New Jersey state adoption agency.  After spending thousands of dollars on my cancer treatments, this seemed like the most sensible path.  As with most things in life, there were good and bad aspects, and in the end, we received a surprise that only God could have arranged.

Continue reading Twin Blessings

Where Did the Resurrected Jesus Give the First Mass?

Bible Study: The Bible and the Mass (Lesson 1, Part 6)

This is the last part to Lesson 1 of the Bible study we are doing from St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.  The other parts can be found here:

Today, we continue with Lesson 1: A Biblical Introduction to the Mass.  If the fact that the original Apostles celebrated the two-part Mass (see Acts 2:42, Luke 24:25, and Acts 20:7-12) is not enough to convince a person that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian faith, then what if the Mass was celebrated by the Resurrected Jesus Himself?  Do you know where Jesus gave the first Mass after He rose from the dead?  Check out Luke 24:13-35, again, and notice the parts of the Mass throughout the scene of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Jesus proclaimed the Old Testament Scriptures (i.e. the First Reading in Mass), talked about how they are fulfilled (i.e. the Second Reading and the Gospel Reading during Sunday Masses), and celebrated with the blessing, breaking and giving of bread (i.e., the Liturgy of the Eucharist).  The phrase “breaking bread” was Luke’s code-word for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Lastly, Lesson 1 concludes with the significance of the Sign of the Cross.  It’s not only a humble gesture that marks a person as distinctly Catholic, but a mark of protection by which “the Lord knows who are His” (see 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Tim 2:19).  The Book of Revelation refers to the seal on our foreheads that spare us from destruction (see Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 14:1; 22:4).  Makes you want to do the Sign of the Cross more often, doesn’t it?  Amen!

Hearing the Apostles, Breaking the Bread

The first descriptions we have of the Church in the New Testament are decidedly “eucharistic.”

Luke says, “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles and to . . . the breaking of the bread” (see Acts 2:42).

The “teachings of the Apostles” are sermons like those recorded in Acts and writings inspired by the Holy Spirit (see 2 Peter 3:15-16; 1 Corinthians 2:13). The “breaking of the bread” is Luke’s word for the Eucharist (see Luke 24:35; Acts 20:7,11).

Here then, in this most ancient description of the Church’s life, we see Word and Sacrament, Bible and Liturgy, united.

And the New Testament was composed and developed in the context of the early Church’s worship.

The epistles were first written to be read publicly “before” those gathered for the Eucharist (see 1 Thessalonians 5:26; Colossians 4:16; 1 Timothy 4:13).

Greetings and blessings in these letters were often adapted from prayers and hymns used in the Liturgy (see 1 Peter 1:2-5; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Colossians 1:15-20; Philippians 2:6-12; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 2:11-13).

The Book of Revelation was written to be “read aloud” during worship (see Revelation 1:3). And the shape of the Gospels – which consist of many short episodes from Jesus’ life and teaching – probably indicates that these scenes were first written down to be read in the Mass.

Hearing is Believing

“Faith comes from what is heard,” Paul said (see Romans 10:17). And the early Church heard God’s Word in the Mass.

Early Eucharistic celebrations followed the same “two-part” structure as our Mass today – readings from “the teachings of the Apostles” followed by the “breaking of the bread.”

We see this in a story of Paul celebrating the Eucharist in Troas. His sermon lasted until midnight, causing one of his parishioners to fall asleep and plunge to his death. Undeterred, Paul revived the man and continued the service. He “broke the bread” (see Acts 20:7-12).

In addition to the Apostles’ teachings, the earliest liturgies probably included readings from the Old Testament.

That’s the testimony of perhaps our oldest account of the Eucharist outside the Bible. Describing this part of the Mass in 155 A.D., St. Justin Martyr said “the memoirs of the Apostles and the writings of the prophets are read” followed by a homily (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1345.)

Use of the Old Testament in the Liturgy – as well as the “two-part” structure of the Mass – can be traced to the example of Jesus.

In fact, the Bible and the Mass were inseparably united for all time by Jesus himself on the first Easter night.

Luke tells us that upon rising from the dead, Jesus encountered two disciples on the road to Emmaus (see Luke 24:13-35).

They didn’t recognize Him at first. Nonetheless, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets,” Jesus explained the meaning of the Old Testament to them – showing how all the promises God made there were fulfilled in Him (see also Luke 24:44-48). As He spoke their hearts were “burning within.”

Then Jesus sat down at table, took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them.

Notice Luke’s deliberate use of the same words used in his Last Supper narrative: At table, Jesus takes . . . blesses . . . breaks . . . and gives the bread (compare Luke 22:14-20).

Luke is giving us a picture of the Eucharist, the first to be celebrated after the Resurrection.

Jesus first “proclaims” the Scriptures, showing how the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament made in His blood. Then He gives thanks for this covenant in the breaking of the bread.

When He does this, the promise of the Scriptures, Old Testament and New, is fulfilled – the disciples’ eyes are opened and they come to “know” Jesus in intimate communion.

Since that night, believers have gathered every Sunday, the day of the Resurrection known as the Lord’s day (see Revelation 1:10; Acts 20:7). In this gathering we open the Scriptures, and break the bread.

And when we do that in the Mass, we relive the experience of the disciples at Emmaus. The Scriptures are fulfilled – the Word of His new covenant “burns within” as if being written in our hearts; and our eyes are opened in faith to know Him in the breaking of the bread.

Back to Mass

That’s why we begin the Mass the way we do.

Jesus commissioned His Apostles to preach His Word and to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:19).

As newborn sons and daughters of the Father, the baptized gain access to the family table of the Lord’s supper. There they “tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the Holy Spirit and tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come” (see Hebrews 6:4).

This is the biblical legacy we recall – and become a part of – at the start of every Mass. As we make the Sign of the Cross and repeat the words of the Lord’s final commission, we remember and renew our covenant with God, made when we were baptized.

The Apostles began the tradition of marking the newly baptized with the Sign of the Cross.

It was a seal of the Lord’s salvation (see 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13) and a mark of protection by which “the Lord knows who are His” (see 2 Timothy 2:19).

The Bible’s last book reveals that those marked with “the seal of God on their foreheads” are spared from destruction (see Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 14:1; 22:4) and are called to participate in a heavenly liturgy – “the wedding feast” or “marriage supper of the Lamb” (see Revelation 19:7,9; 21:9).

As we’ll see in this course, that’s where we truly are in the Mass. We have been saved from sin and death and are happy to have been called to the Lamb’s Supper.

He is truly with us as we gather in His name (see Matthew 18:20). The words of the biblical promise – “The Lord be with you” – are fulfilled in our hearing (see Luke 4:21).

The Bible leaves off with the Lord’s promise that He is coming soon (see Revelation 22:20). And where the Bible leaves off, the Mass begins.

A photo posted by @keenforgod on

Communion. Holiness. Together.

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