29th Sunday In Ordinary Time Year A

     In today’s Gospel the Pharisees try to trick Jesus into committing a crime by asking Him if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar? Jesus very cleverly responds by asking whose image is on the coin, and when they answer Caesar He tells them to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Today’s gospel should challenge us to ask ourselves whose image do we bear because when we know whose image we bear we know to whom we belong?

     In the book of Jeremiah we hear “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you,” and in the book of Genesis we hear “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them.[1] The bible is clear, you and I, from the moment we were conceived, bear the image of God himself. Just as the coin, which bears the image of Cesar belongs to Cesar, we who bear the image of God, belong to God and if there was ever any doubt to how precious we are to God we need look no further than the Cross.

     The situation of the world today begs us to ask the question; if life is indeed so precious, than why is it often treated as a disposable commodity? It seems that every day in the news we see violence, hatred, and immorality plague even our own city. While it is tragic that in our time “human life is sometimes narrowly viewed in terms of being inconvenient or unwanted, unproductive or lacking arbitrarily imposed human criteria”[2] we must remember that all life, which bears God’s image, is a gift to us. I think there is so much injustice in our world, because humanity has lost sight of Him, in whose Image we are created.

     Sadly God is becoming more and more unwelcome in society; one can hardly even mention or address Him in the public square without being threatened with a lawsuit. The further we get from God as a society, the further we get from our image and the more we forget who we are and why our lives have dignity and value. As a result, life is no longer seen as a precious gift, but rather a burden and an obstacle to be gotten rid of; so terrible that the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is replaced by the license to choose. If we want to restore the Image of God in society, then we must be who we are meant to be! We must be living images of God to others!

     While many people in our country want to try and convince us that our country is a secular state, our country is not a secular state. History does not lie and history shows us that our country has very deep religious roots. Certainly there is no official state religion and there is room for both believers and non-believers, but the United States was never intended to be a secular country. Almost all of the Founding Fathers were Christians, and all the foundations of our country are based on a Judeo – Christian faith, so if we remove God from the public life we also chip away at the foundation from which our country was built.

     While we often hear people challenge us to a separation of Church and State we must remember that separation of Church and State does not, and cannot ever mean separating our own Catholic faith from our public witness because to do so would require us to deny who we are. Asking a Catholic to live this kind of separation of Church and State would be similar to asking a married person to act in public as though he is not married. This call to keep our faith private is a call to disunity; it calls us to live hypocritical lives.

     Today’s Gospel makes it clear that we should render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but to God what belongs to God. We must always remember that political leaders draw their authority from God and we owe no leader any kind of cooperation that will lead to grave evil. We as Catholics have the obligation to change bad laws and resist grave evil through our witness of life and how we vote. In fact the greatest respect we can show our civil authority is to witness to our Catholic faith and moral convictions without apology.

     We cannot live our lives divided. We can’t come to Church on Sunday and profess our faith in God and then leave into the public square to pretend God’s laws do not matter. We can’t be Catholic and not care about the mass killing of innocent life that goes on in our country through abortion As Catholics we believe in the sanctity of life from the moment life begins at conception. It is simply impossible for us to be Catholic and be “pro-choice.” As Catholics we believe in the sanctity of life because all people are made in the image and likeness of God and if we don’t believe in the sanctity of life from the moment of conception we should stop lying to ourselves, other and God by claiming something we are not.

     If we want to see a greater respect for human life in our country we must be the change we want to see. We serve our country best by serving God first; by living our Catholic faith without apology. We render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar but we can never give to Caesar what belongs to God and we must work to defeat any injustices that occur when Caesar tries to take what belongs to God by actively living out our faith at all times.

[1] Jer 1:5 and Gen 1:27

[2] Terence Cardinal Cooke, Letter on the Sanctity of Life to the people of the Archdiocese of New York on October 9th 1983 accessible at http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/cardcookeltr.htm

Holiness, the Lapis Angularis of the Conspiratio of the Sensus Fidelium

Holiness, the Lapis Angularis of the Conspiratio of the Sensus Fidelium:

A Response to Dr. Finucane’s paper Reading Lumen Gentium through Evangelii Gaudium

On the occasion of the 5th Annual Newman Convocation in St. Louis,Missouri

     In calling for the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII, called for a “new Pentecost.”[1] Fifty-two years later Pope Francis encouraged the Christian faithful in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, “to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.”[2] Pope Francis, like Pope John XXIII before him, called for a new springtime in the Church; one in which the Sensus Fidelium is lived out in the world. At the heart of Pope Francis’ call to live the Joy of the Gospel there is a call to live lives of heroic holiness.

     The key to living out the exhortation of the Holy Father, to live lives that reflect the Joy of the Gospel, that is to say to live lives of holiness, is the Sacrament of Baptism. The International Theological Commission’s document Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church, referencing Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, teaches that “as a result (of Baptism) the faithful have an instinct for the truth of the Gospel which enables them to recognize and endorse authentic Christian doctrine and practice, and to reject what is false.”[3] Through the grace of baptism, the Christian is given a gift of discernment, a gift to sniff out what is holy and good as well as what is sinful and dangerous. The Sensus Fidelium is a gift of the Holy Spirit that is given in baptism, which disposes a person to exercise his priestly, prophetic and kingly offices in accordance with his state in life.

     Lumen Gentium teaches that this instinct for the truth of the Gospel is rooted in one’s baptism whereby all the baptized in their own way share in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ.[4] Lumen Gentium also teaches that from the Sacrament of Baptism flows a universal call for holiness. The teachings of the Sensus Fidelium and the universal call to holiness are rooted in the understanding that the Sacrament of Baptism configures the Christian to Christ, through whom he is brought into communion with the Blessed Trinity.

     In baptism, charity is infused into the soul. If one lacks charity he will lack the presence of the Holy Spirit who is first given in baptism, the same Spirit who is the primary agent at work in the Sensus Fidelium. When one falls away from holiness, he loses the gift of charity and communion with the Blessed Trinity. When he removes himself from the state of grace, he looses the ability to properly participate in the Sensus Fidelium. After all, one who has separated himself from full union with the body of Christ, the Church, through mortal sin has “dead faith”and thus is unable to exercise the sense of the faithful.[5] The Council of Trent dogmatically teaches,

consequently, in the process of justification, together with the forgiveness of sins a person receives, through Jesus Christ into whom he is grafted, all these infused at the same time: faith, hope, and charity. For faith, unless hope is added to it and charity too, neither unites him perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of his body. Hence it is very truly said that faith without works is dead and barren.[6]

For the Sensus Fidelium to bring a new springtime in the Church, all Christians must remain in the state of grace; they must live lives of holiness.

     In its teaching on the Sensus Fidelium, Lumen Gentium teaches that Christ continues to preach the kingdom of the Father through both the hierarchy and through the laity, “whom he constitutes his witnesses and equips with an understanding of the faith and a grace of speech precisely so that the power of the gospel may shine forth in the daily life of family and society.”[7] Yet, one must realize that the work of evangelization is not one’s own. One does not choose Church doctrine, but rather he must be docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who is both the guardian and the guide of the deposit of faith. “In every activity of evangelization, the primacy always belongs to God, who has called us to cooperate with him and who leads us on by the power of his spirit.”[8]

     Dr. Finucan is correct, “the sensus fidelium is an active reality. It is the result of each believer accepting the roles of priest, prophet, and king – to bring the gospel into the world.”[9] To accept the role, however, one must share in the intertrinitarian life of the Blessed Trinity, that is to say one must be holy. Pope Francis insists that to live out the Sensus Fidelium, to be an evangelizer, one must live a holy Christian life, his actions must be in conformity to his preaching. “We need to remember that all religious teaching ultimately has to be reflected in the teachers way of life, which awakes the assent of the heart by its nearness, love and witness.”[10]

     To be contributing members of the active reality that is the Sensus Fidelium, one must remain in unity with the Church and actively be growing in holiness. Both the sensus fidei fidelis, the “personal aptitude of the believer to make an accurate discernment in matters of faith,”[11] and the sensus fidei fidelium, “the Church’s own instinct of faith,”[12] requires a Church of people living in the state of grace and actively seeking to live lives of heroic holiness. Living out both the sensus fidei fidelis and the sensus fidei fidelium is nothing more than actively living out one’s Catholic faith. Faith, which is expressed and nourished in prayer and worship requires repentance and brings knowledge which leads to confession but entails responsibility especially to charity and service.[13]

     Both Lumen Gentium and Evangelii Gaudium warn against seeing the Sensus Fidelium as simply a majority vote. The International Theological Commission expressed this most clearly saying, “the sensus fidei does not consist solely or necessarily in the consensus of the faithful. It is the task of the Church’s pastors to promote the sense of faith in all the faithful, examine and authoritatively judge the genuineness of its expressions and educate the faithful in an ever more mature evangelical discernment.”[14] The fact that many people disagree with Church teaching on many dogmatically defined issues like contraception, the reservation of the priesthood to males, etc. does not demonstrate that the Church needs to change her teaching, but rather demonstrates a need for both education and conversion in the life of the Church. As the lay and ordained members of the Church grow in holiness, the Church will become more unified in her living out of the authentic teaching of the Church.

     To live a life of Holiness one must live a sacramental life. One must root his life in the frequent reception of Holy Communion, wherein he receives Charity Himself, and he must make frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance, whereby he is reconciled with God, given graces to strengthen him in living a life of holiness, and he is assured that charity is alive in his soul and thus he is capable of participating in the Sensus Fidelium.

     Pope Francis, in calling the Church to live out the Sensus Fidelium, has called the Church to orient Herself to the poor.[15] He understands that it is the poor who will call the members of the Church to holiness. Cardinal Ratzinger summarized beautifully the need to turn to the poor saying, “Christian holiness is simply the obedience that makes us available where God calls us to be, the obedience that does not rely on our own greatness but allows our God to bestow his greatness upon us and knows that only in service and self-surrender can we truly find ourselves.”[16] If we want to actively participate in the Sensus Fidelium, we must turn to the poor because in ministering to the poor we grow in charity and in being with the poor we learn the humility required for the growth in holiness.

     The Sensus Fidelium is a powerful gift that God has given the Church, which can assist the Church as she continues her mission of the new evangelization. Essential to the Sensus Fidelium are lives of heroic holiness. To renew the Church, Pope Francis has encouraged the faithful to turn to the poor, who are both teachers of humility and provoke us to grow in charity. If the Sensus Fidelium is to be truly lived out in the Church, all members of Christ’s body, the Church, must strive to live holy lives rooted in the sacraments of the Church and in service to those in need.

[1] Pope John XXIII, Apostolic Constitution Humanae Salutis, (25 December 1961), at The Holy See, http://www.vatican.va.

[2] Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation on the Church’s Primary Mission of Evangelization in the Modern World Evangelii Guadium (24 November 2013), §1, Origins 43, no. 28 (2013).

[3] International Theological Commission, Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church ( 3 July 2014), §2, Origins , 44 no. 9 (2014), 134.

[4] Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium (21 December 1964), §31, in Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils Vol. II, ed. Norman P. Tanner (London: Sheed and Ward, 1990), 875.

[5] Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church §99.

[6] Council of Trent, Decree on Justification Decretum de Jusitificatione (13 January 1547), Chapter 7, in Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils Vol. II, ed. Norman P. Tanner (London: Sheed and Ward, 1990), 674 – 675.

[7] Lumen Gentium § 35.

[8] Evangelium Guadii, §12.

[9] Daniel Finucane, Reading Lumen Gentium through Evangelii Gaudium (St Louis, MO: 5th Annual Newman Convocation 15 October 2014). 9.

[10] Evangelium Guadii, §42.

[11] Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church §3.

[12] Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church §3.

[13] Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church §12.

[14] Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church §47.

[15] “O How I Wish For A Church That Is Poor and For the Poor. Official Vatican Network, March 16, 2013. http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-oh-how-i-wish-for-a-church-that-is-poor

[16] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 367.

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

IS 5: 1-7 / PS 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16 , 19-20 / Phil 4: 6-9 / MT 21:33-43

     In 2008, my second year in the seminary, Kerry Kennedy came out with a New York Times Bestselling Book entitled Being Catholic Now. In this book, Kerry compiled reflections from many famous Catholics including Cardinal McCarrick, Nancy Pelosi, Bill O’Reilly, Peggy Noonan, Martin Sheen and many ordinary Catholics like you and I. Each of the contributors gave a reflection on change in the Church and the quest for meaning. As I read this book I was fascinated to hear countless different views of our faith. Reading these different views of the Church certainly had an effect on me as a young man preparing to minister to people with this wide chiasm of views, but it wasn’t until I put the book down that it had any real effect on me. As I went to put the book on the shelf I realized deep down each of the contributors was answering a very simply question: why am I Catholic.

     That book made me ask the question for myself, why am I Catholic. Right off the bat I had the usual answer of well that’s just how I was raised, but I was not satisfied with that answer and so for the next year I kept that question in the back of my mind and in the forefront of my prayer. Over my second year in the seminary I began to realize the true answer to that simple question lies at the heart of today’s Gospel.

     Today’s Gospel presents us with the parable of a vineyard entrusted to tenants. Over my second year in the seminary as I kept coming back to the question why am I Catholic the answer became more and more obvious, I am Catholic by the grace of God. Like the vineyard entrusted to the tenants in today’s Gospel, my faith has been entrusted to me by God. God has done the hard work, He has planted the seed of faith within me, but now I must work to cultivate that vineyard of faith with His grace.

     As I read Kerry Kennedy’s books I was surprised to see so many varying views on the Church. As I reflected on the contributors reflections I realized most of them had made a fatal flaw. As they were composing their reflections they subconsciously were thinking “how can the Church better serve my need?” Today’s first reading and responsorial psalm warn us against this temptation. We are reminded today that the vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel. The vineyard, our faith, is not ours to mold and shape as we see fit, no it is a gift from God that is to be cultivated for our salvation and not for our own selfish desires. Pope Francis reminds us “the Church is sent by Jesus Christ as the sacrament of salvation offered by God.”[1] Our salvation comes through the Church, through faithfully cultivating that gift of faith and sharing it with others. While this may seem like a daunting task today’s second reading reminds us there is no need to fear. It is our Lord who has given us the gift of our faith, if only we ask Him to guard it and we work towards whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious we can be sure that our vineyard will bear an abundant harvest. Do we go looking for wild grapes by trying to impose new beliefs that are incompatible with our faith or do our lives reflect the beauty of the faith by living out the virtues listed by St. Paul in today’s second reading that are the fruits of a healthy vineyard?

     My brothers and sisters, “our salvation is intimately related to our participation in the great Sacrament that is the Church, through which we hope to manifest the living kingdom coming to be now and realize our part in it in glory.”[2] We as Catholics, although it may feel like we are often the stone that the builders reject, must continue to bear fruit by living out our faith and through that fruit show the world the beauty that an encounter with Jesus which can only be fully found in the Catholic Church brings to ones life. As I read Kerry Kennedy’s book it became abundantly clear to me for the need for Catholics to stand up for their faith and hand on what Pope Francis calls the Joy of the Gospel.

     As we prepare to receive our Lord who sustains our faith I challenge all of us to ask ourselves why am I Catholic and what does that mean for my life? Do I recognize the great gift that is my faith or do I see it as just another way of life? Does some pruning need to go on in my vineyard so that my life will bear abundant fruit by authentically living out my faith? Am I truly working to cultivate that field of faith entrusted to my care and will I share the beauty of her harvest with others or will my faith fizzle out because I try to keep it bottled up? As we prepare to receive Jesus in the Eucharist let us ask Him to give us an increase in the gift of faith and the strength to share the fruits of that faith with others.

[1] Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium. Washington DC: USCCB, 2014. 57

[2] Wuerl, Donald Cardinal. New Evangelization: Passing on the Catholic Faith Today. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2013. 81.

Purgatory 101

The doctrine of purgatory is one of the most basic teachings of the Catholic Church. The doctrine of purgatory finds its roots in the Bible and the teaching has been clarified and expounded on by the Church up to the understanding we have today. This once universally accepted teaching of Christianity was challenged by the reformers and is still challenged by some today. Here I intend to explain and defend the doctrine of purgatory by giving a synthesis of the Church’s teaching on purgatory, looking at the doctrine’s historical development, and glancing at three Church Documents explaining the teaching.

Synthesis of the Church’s Teaching

The Church teaches that all who die in a state of grace but are not yet perfectly purified must undergo purification in a place called purgatory so they can obtain the holiness required to enter into eternal life.[1]The souls in purgatory undergo purgation for any venial sins that were not forgiven, and for temporal punishment due to sin for any forgiven mortal or venial sins.[2] Those who are undergoing purgation in purgatory can be greatly aided by the prayers, sacrifices, almsgiving or indulgences of the Church militant on earth.[3]

Historical Development

The tradition of purgatory extends back to before Christ to His Jewish ancestors. In the second book of Maccabees, Judas Machabee, as he was making funeral preparations for his fallen soldiers, realized they died wearing pagan good luck charms. Judas knew his soldiers had been punished for their sin and collected an offering on behalf of the sinful soldiers. “He took a collection from them individually, amounting to nearly two thousand drachmas, and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin offered, an action altogether fine and noble, prompted by his belief in the resurrection.”[4] The author of Maccabees expresses that this action is in fact a belief that their sins can be purified. “For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead, whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. Hence, he had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin”[5] (2Mac12:44-45).

In the New Testament Christ himself makes reference to the existence of purgatory without ever explicitly teaching the doctrine. “Anyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but no one who speaks against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven either in this world or in the next.”[6] While Christ does not explicitly state there is a place where one can undergo purification after death, He does say that sins can be forgiven in the next world.

While the doctrine of purgatory certainly has its roots in the Bible, it cannot be said to be an explicit doctrine taught by the Bible. The early Church, following the teachings of Christ, did not believe all souls destined for heaven would enter the beatific vision immediately after death.[7] It was not until the teaching of the Church Fathers that a formal doctrine of purgatory began to take shape. St. Augustine says, “but temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then.”[8]

The scholastics, using the teachings of the Fathers, composed concrete statements about purgatory. St. Thomas Aquinas definitively states “it is sufficiently clear that there is a Purgatory after this life.”[9] He arrives at this conclusion because “the universal Church holds by praying for the dead that they may be loosed from sins. This cannot be understood except as referring to Purgatory.”[10] St. Thomas reasoned that purgatory must exist because the Church teaches that people can pray for those who have died and this can free them from sin. This can only be the case if purgatory exists because if purgatory does not exist the only options after death are heaven and hell. To enter heaven one needs to be in a perfect state of grace and those souls would not need prayers, and if one is in hell he cannot achieve salvation. It was the teachings of the Church Fathers that were incorporated into the Councils of Lyons, Florence, and Trent that formally defined the doctrine of Purgatory.[11]

Church Documents

The doctrine of Purgatory was not solemnly declared until the First Council of Lyons in 1254. The council, while it did define the doctrine of Purgatory, was more focused on secular matters, such as a crusade to the Holy Land, the Heretical emperor Frederick II and the reunification of the eastern and western churches.[12] Even after the declaration of the dogma of Purgatory discussion continued about Purgatory. 300 years later the doctrine of Purgatory was most clearly defined at the council of Trent.

Both the First Council of Lyons and the Council of Trent were ecumenical councils. An ecumenical council is a gathering of bishops from all over the world in which the proclamations are approved by the successor of St. Peter, the pope.[13] Ecumenical councils carry a very high level of authority. In fact, because of the relationship established by Christ between Peter and the other apostles, the authority of an ecumenical council “is the highest and most solemn that exists in the Church.”[14]

The Council of Trent was opened in 1545 primarily in response to the reformation. The council ran for 25 sessions discussing many reforms and restating many doctrines. On January 30, 1564 Pope Paul V signed the papal bull Benedictus Deus approving all of the decrees of the council.[15]

The 25th and final session met on December 3 – 4, 1563 to discuss purgatory and other matters. The council decreed that the doctrine of purgatory has been taught from sacred scripture, from ancient tradition and the current council. It decreed “purgatory exists, and that the souls detained there are helped by the prayers of the faithful and most of all by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar.”[16] The council not only upheld the truth expressed previously at the First Council of Lyons that purgatory exists but also reiterated the truth that the prayers and sacrifices of the Church militant can obtain the release of those in purgatory.

The Council of Trent did not lead all people to accept the doctrine of purgatory. Even today debate continues amongst nominal Catholics and non-Catholics over the existence of purgatory. Just four years ago Pope Benedict taught the doctrine of purgatory authoritatively through his encyclical letter Spes Salve. Near the end of his encyclical the pontiff taught on purgatory and the role the Church militant plays for those in purgatory.

Much like an ecumenical council an encyclical carries a very high level of authority. Matters resolved in encyclicals are definitive answers and debate over them should cease. “When a pope has seen fit in an encyclical to render an opinion of a matter freely disputed among theologians up to that point, the matter is no longer open to theological discussion.”[17]

The pope, in his encyclical, simply takes for granted the existence of purgatory based on previous teachings. “The early Church took up these concepts and in the Western Church they gradual developed into the doctrine of Purgatory. We do not need to examine here the complex historical paths of this development; it is enough to ask what it actually means.”[18] The fact that the current Holy Father sees no need to demonstrate the truth that purgatory exists is significant because it shows that the Church sees the existence of purgatory a long resolved matter.

The Holy Father teaches the truth that the Church militant can assist those souls in purgatory. “Our lives are involved with one another; through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better or for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In that interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other – my prayer for him- can play a small part in his purification.”[19] The Holy Father clearly teaches very clearly that our prayers can play a role in the purification of a soul in purgatory.

The question of purgatory has also been addressed by lower levels of authority. The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a papal congregation charged with overseeing doctrine of the Catholic Church, carries much less authority than an ecumenical council or a papal encyclical letter but these teachings should not be ignored.

In May of 1979 the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in its Letter On Certain Questions Concerning Eschatology, addressed the question of purgatory. The document says that the Church “She believes in the possibility of purification for the elect before they see God, purification altogether different from the punishment of the damned.”[20] This letter of the congregation reemphasized what has already been taught by the Church through higher levels of authority. This letter from the congregation serves as a clarification and not a teaching tool.


The Church’s teaching on purgatory traces its roots back to before Christ. The New Testament, while not explicitly defining the doctrine, teaches of it. The Church Fathers, using the Scriptures, also teach about purgatory and by the time of the scholastics a concise formula of the doctrine starts to emerge. Over time the Church solemnly proclaimed the doctrine and through the ages has continued to reaffirm and expound the doctrine that purgatory exists and that members of the Church militant can pray and offer sacrifices for those in purgatory.



[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 130 -131.

[2] Ryan, J. “Purgatory.” New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 11, Jack Heraty et al., 1034. New York: McGraw Hill, 1967.

[3] CCC, 1032.

[4] 2Mac12:43

[5] 2Mac12:44-45

[6] Mt 12:32

[7] Ryan, “Purgatory,” 1035.

[8] Augustine of Hippo, City of God, in Great Books of the Western World: Augustine, trans. Marcus Dods (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952), 572.

[9] Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologia, Supp, Appendix II , a.1, in Summa theologica: Complete English Edition in Five Volumes, vol. 5, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Notre Dame, IN: Christian Classics, 1981), 3010.

[10] ST, app. II, a.1. a.1., , trans. English Dominican Province, 3010.

[11] Ryan, “Purgatory,” 1036.

[12] McKenna, O. “Lyons Council of.” New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 8, Jack Heraty et al., 1116-1118. New York: McGraw Hill, 1967.

[13] Thoralf T. Thielen, What is an Ecumenical Council (Westminster: The Newman Press, 1960), 16.

[14] Thielen, What is an Ecumenical Council, 48.


[15] Jedin, H. “Trent Council of.” New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 14, Jack Heraty et al., 271 – 278. New York: McGraw Hill, 1967.

[16] The General Council of Trent, Twenty Fifth Session Decree on Purgatory (4 December 1563), §2310, in Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils Vol 2, ed. Norman P Tanner, S.J. (London: Sheed & Ward, 1990), 774 – 776.

[17] John P. Boyle, Church teaching Authority: Historical and Theological Studies (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1995), 85.

[18] Benedict XVI, Encyclical letter on Christian Hope Spe Salve (30 November  2007), §45 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008), 94.

[19] Spe Salve§48

[20] Congregation for the Doctrine of  the Faith, Letter on Certain Questions Concerning Eschatology (17 May 1979), § 7, at the Holy See, http://www.vatican.va.

The Love Promised by Pop Stars is Already Ours

    Anyone who knows me knows that I cannot stand pop music. Unfortunately pop music is so ingrained in our culture however; it is simply impossible to avoid it. My great dislike of pop music gives me a strong abhorrence to pop concerts.

     Over the past few years I have had the unfortunate privilege of being invited by friends to attend a few concerts as a VIP. A couple of years ago I attended the Taylor Swift Fearless tour in St. Louis as a favor to a friend who is friends with Taylor. I could not help but stand back stage and wonder what it is about artists like Taylor Swift that brings young people to tears and to the point of hysteria.  As I listened to the words of her songs I realized all of her lyrics revolved around being in love. As I continued to listen to the words I was transformed back to a year prior when I was standing in the wings of a Justin Bieber concert and I remembered the audience going crazy over his song “One Less Lonely Girl.”

     The experiences of these two pop concerts made me realize the youth in our world want to love and be loved. The good news is there are no lonely girls and every human person has his or her own love story. We need to open our eyes to the truth that all of us are beloved sons or daughters or daughters of God the Father. Those desires for love promised by pop stars, yet seem so far away, are realities in our lives if only we open ourselves up to receiving the infinite love of the Father.

     Imagine the how vast the crowds of youth flocking to Church would be if only they understood that they were already loved in the way far greater than these pop songs could ever imagine to promise. If we want to evangelize the youth we need to work to spread the message that their love story is already written and there are in fact no lonely girls.  The desire for love exists in our culture we simply need to harness that power and lead the youth to the truth that the only satisfying love, the love of the Father is already offered to them.

Homily for College Seminarians at Cardinal Glennon College

PRV 21: 1-6, 10-13 / PS 119: 1, 27, 30, 34, 35, 44 / LK 8: 19-21

     Today’s Gospel, while short, presents us with a very powerful and challenging meditation about our families. In today’s Gospel St. Luke recounts an incident from Jesus’ life when the Blessed Virgin and some of Jesus’ relatives came to visit him and upon seeing the crowd gathered around Jesus, they send someone to get Him. Rather than stop what He is doing to see His family Jesus recognizes He is with His new family, those who listen to the Word of God and put it into practice, the new Christian community, and continues with His work.

     My brothers and sisters, those of us who aspire to follow after Christ, and most especially those of us who desire to be alter Christuses must take this example of Christ to heart. When we put our faces down on that cold marble at the Cathedral we surrender our entire life and while as diocesan priests we are blessed to have many freedoms, this means we need to be willing to give up everything, including our family, for the sake of the people of God. In my short time as a deacon I have come to realize that it is not just I who is affected by that total surrender, in many ways my family is asked to give me up. While I do my best to be with my family, my primary obligation is to my parish. I will not be with my family on Christmas Eve because the parish has Masses, I will meet with my family on Christmas night, but I will be exhausted from being up late on Christmas Eve and up early for Christmas day Masses.

     While this may seem depressing there is something very beautiful about living our lives as priests in this new family. In my short time as a deacon I have been humbled by how people welcome us into their lives and in their generosity provide for us. While I have to sacrifice time with my natural family, hundreds of families at the parish have adopted me into their own family. Regardless of where you find yourself in your relationship with your family, when you lay prostrate on the floor of the Cathedral you will be offering your total life to Christ and His Church and in so doing you will take on a new family, the family of the Church. As you prepare I can think of no better way than to begin developing a devotion to our Blessed Mother, the saints and your brother seminarians, who will be our companions in the journey of the priesthood.

     All of us are called to the Christian family, to be united with the Church, both here on earth, in heaven and in purgatory. Our natural families certainly play important roles in our lives but we must be willing to follow the example of Christ who calls us into the Christian family which at times will require us to make sacrifices with our natural families. As we approach this Holy Eucharist, which unites us to our Christian family, let us ask the Lord to enlighten our hearts to show us the great gift of our natural families and ask Him to prepare us to serve Him totally, making us willing to totally give up lives, even time with our natural families to serve His family.


Homily for the Exaltation of the Cross, 2014

Nm 21:4b – 9 / PS 78: 1BC-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38 / Phil 2:6-11 / Jn 3:13-17

     The cross of Christ understandably became a place and an object of veneration for early Christians. In response to the Jewish revolt of 70 AD the Roman emperor Hadrian leveled the top of Calvary, erected a temple to the pagan goddess Venus on the site where the true God’s blood was spilled, and destroyed the hillside where Christ was buried, building a temple to the pagan god Jupiter on that site. Ironically, the emperor, in trying to destroy these sacred sites only preserved them. In the year 313 the Roman emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman empire and in the year 326 work began to destroy the temples made to Venus and Jupiter and the emperor himself ordered that the cross be found. In a short time three crosses and a wood plague inscribed with the words Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews was found on Calvary hill. In 327 Constantine’s mother Helena made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with the intention of finding out which of the three crosses was the cross of Christ. Why did the emperor order this excavation and why did Helena make the difficult pilgrimage to Jerusalem herself?

     Obviously the first answer lies in the truth that the cross of Christ held the body and soaked in the blood of our Lord, the same body and blood we will receive today when we receive Holy Communion. I think Fulton Sheen summarized best the importance of this discovery and of today’s feast when he reportedly said “keep your eyes on the crucifix, for Jesus without the cross is a man without a mission, and the cross without Jesus is a burden without a reliever.” Jesus transformed the cross, a symbol of death, into a symbol of life. It was by His cross that He redeemed the world.

     Today we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Whether you have realized it or not we have been preparing for this feast for the past three weeks. Three weeks ago, in the Gospel reading we were asked to profess with St. Peter our faith that Jesus is the Messiah. Two weeks ago we, having accepted Jesus as our Lord were challenged to follow Him to the cross, and last week we were asked to bring others with us to Calvary so that they may obtain eternal life. So here we stand today at the cross. But why do we celebrate this feast, after all we celebrate great moments in salvation history, not objects, we honor the lives of great saints, not a piece of wood, so why do we have today’s feast?

     As Christians we should exalt in the cross of Christ because it is the instrument of our salvation. In adoring the cross we adore Christ, the God-man who suffered and died on this Roman instrument of torture and in so doing won for us redemption from our sin. The cross is the symbolic summary of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Savior.

     The cross, because of what it represents, is a powerful symbol of the Christian faithful. It should inspire both our liturgical and private prayer and devotions. Placing a crucifix in our homes, or wearing it on our persons should be a constant reminder and witness of Christ’s ultimate triumph over sin and death through His suffering and death on the cross.

     Sadly today the cross is often reduced by some people in our society to some kind of good luck charm. Some athletes make a sign of the cross when getting a base hit or scoring a touchdown, other people wear the cross around their neck simply as a good luck charm without any devotion to the cross. The irony of this is the cross does not promise us worldly success: no it promises us something far greater, it promises us that Jesus will be with us through the most difficult of times. The whole meaning of the cross can be summarized with the truth that Jesus is with us.

     While many people look to the crucifix with the hope that they will not have to suffer, the crucifix shows us that God choose to suffer with us, and if our savior must suffer shouldn’t we as well? While this suffering is not always easy there is a beauty in suffering. Christ did the hard work, He opened up the gates of heaven for us and showed us the path to Calvary which will lead to eternal life, but we too must follow after him and must suffer. You see God loves us and true love does not force itself on anyone thus Christ invites us into that love on the Cross so that we may share that eternal love of heaven with him.

     Many people looked at Christ on the cross and saw failure, but we who know of the resurrection look to Christ hanging on the cross and see victory over death. Some Christian’s today look at the crucifix with distain, preferring only to use a cross because they see defeat in Christ hanging on the cross. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christ hanging on the cross is a moment of great rejoicing; it is through the complete emptying of Himself on the cross that we are able to gain eternal life. Let us look at the crucifix with a spirit of reverence, respect, adoration and thanksgiving and work to join ourselves to Christ on the cross so that we too may enter into eternal life.