Why Infant Baptism?

Catholic Church doctrine concerning infant baptism often comes under attack from those who believe that a person should be of the age of reason and make a well informed choice to be baptized. In the following article from his weekly article found in The Quiet Corner section of The Rhode Island Catholic, Father John Kiley brilliantly sheds much light on the most important reason for infant baptism. Father John Kiley writes the following:

National Public Radio featured a discussion of religion among millennials, young adults born just before the turn of this century. One speaker decided to wait before introducing her own children to any specific religious tradition, allowing them to be exposed to diverse spiritual experiences and then arriving at their own religious conclusions as they approached adulthood. The Catholic practice of infant baptism seemed presumptuous to the speaker, coopting a believer’s opportunity to make an informed and mature choice regarding one’s eternal destiny. Millennials are certainly not alone in this thinking.

Some dedicated American Baptists have long postponed baptism into a believer’s grown-up years in the hope that a mature, adult decision will be spiritually more fruitful than a ceremony conducted long before a believer has even reached the age of reason.

William John Hammann was recently welcomed into this world by his parents Joshua and Shannon and brought to St. Francis Xavier Church in Brooklyn, New York, for baptism. Ritually welcoming the child into the Christian community was my honor as the infant’s second cousin twice removed. Friends and family gathered from Brooklyn, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, Indiana, Connecticut and Rhode Island, including the baby’s great-grandfather. Young Will was happily sedate during the celebration, especially enraptured by the flame of the baptismal candle. Admittedly, the new born had no notion of what was taking place amid the marble and stained-glass of this splendid parish church. Whether his grandfather retired NBA coach Jim O’Brien presented him with a basketball or his grandmother my cousin Gail offered him a new winter outfit from L.L. Bean to mark this occasion would not have registered at all with baby Will. Confirming the radio remarks of the millennial, William John Hammann was clueless that he was being cleansed of original sin, becoming a son of God, a temple of the Holy Spirit, a Christian, and a member of the universal Church.

But young Will’s ignorance is precisely the glory of Catholic infant baptism. A small community had gathered in that Brooklyn baptistery not to celebrate William John Hammann’s love of God but rather to celebrate God’s love of William John Hammann. From all eternity God’s Providence determined that William John Hammann would enter into this world and be welcomed by a believing family. When God created Adam and Eve he knew that eventually history would evolve into this happy ritual in Brooklyn. When God announced himself to the early Jewish community he knew that eventually William John would benefit from this ancient revelation. When Jesus Christ became man and established his Church, God knew that Christ’s spiritual legacy was destined for William John Hammann. From eternity and through the centuries, God’s love worked its way into the life of William John. And through the pouring of the Church’s baptismal waters, this love of God was made actual and tangible and perceptible to the Church community gathered one Sunday afternoon on Sixth Avenue in Brooklyn. Baptism is first and foremost a celebration of God’s love for the young believer. God must always be primary. Now the Christian community, both Church and family, must bring the young believer’s love for God to fruition.

An older generation knew that children learned their religion at their mother’s knee. Nowadays that saying might be politically corrected by observing that children learn their religion at their mother and father’s knees. And not only mother and father, but a child’s whole environment – family, friends, neighbors, parish, school, even toys and entertainment – must speak of the love of God to the child. When prayers are part of the home, when Mass is part of the week, when Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, are family observances, when Bible stories are told and saints are invoked, when parish life is part of family life, when the poor are assisted and justice is a concern, when evil is repented and temptations are resisted, then the love of God celebrated sacramentally at Baptism and First Communion and Confirmation is nurtured practically in everyday life. Parents, family, friends, parish and the universal Church can give the new baptized a daily experience of the inexpressible love that God has for his chosen soul. Through an active Christian lifestyle, God will transform the clueless infant into an alert believer.The above article can be found at http://www.thericatholic.com/detail.html?sub_id=6210

Our Value in the Eyes of God!

Our value is not determined by anything worldly, that is, by how we look, what we own, our educations, our salaries, our jobs, our talents. God, our Creator, loves every person equally and unconditionally. God, Creator of all things visible and invisible, became man, and through His passion, death, and resurrection, gives Himself to us eternally so that we may have eternal life in the perfect happiness of His presence! We can’t get any more valuable than that!


Peter, Do You Love Me? Do You Love Me? Do You Love Me?

Have you ever been given a second chance, or perhaps many chances to repair the damage you have done in a relationship with our Lord? I have! Through the sacrament of Reconciliation, God always gives us that second, third, fourth, . . . one thousandth chance to restore what we have damaged by our sins! 
After hearing the gospel reading for Friday, May 17, 2013, I was once again deeply moved, and so felt strongly compelled by the Spirit to share my feelings about this passage. The reading involves Jesus providing Peter with the perfect chance to undo his cowardly denial of him while our Lord endured his passion. Jesus had already forgiven Peter and made atonement for his sins through his passion and death. Jesus is always willing to allow us the opportunity to restore our relationship with him, no matter how serious the offense! This is a powerful illustration of Jesus’ love, mercy, and perfect knowledge of what each one of us needs to be at peace in our relationship with him.

One of the most beautiful things about this exchange between Peter and our Lord is the fact that Jesus lovingly allows Peter the opportunity to express his love for him, not once, but three times, the very same number of times that Peter fearfully denied even knowing him just a short time earlier. Although Peter privately expressed complete and utter sorrow for his act immediately upon realizing what he had done. I’m sure Peter's actions continued to bother him in the recesses of his heart, that is, until the moment Jesus healed this wound with the tender love, compassion, and mercy shown in this gospel account! Has Jesus done this for you? I know he has done it for me! For this, I am eternally grateful!

The gospel reading is from John 21:15-19, and is as follows:

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Prayer After Receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving Yourself to me under the appearance of this bread and this wine; thank you for making Your Whole Self available to me, just one of the over 7 billion human beings whom You have brought into existence, temporarily residing on this small planet within the vast universe You created! How awesome, loving, and merciful You are to give Your entire Self to me; Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, a Gift that will nourish me and provide me with the grace to be able to one day see Your precious face, and experience the joy of being in Your presence for eternity! This is life’s greatest Gift - You in the Eucharist! There is no more valuable Gift we will ever be privileged to receive on this journey back to You! Lord, as I receive You in this Eucharist, I ask, that in Your unending mercy, You extend the grace I receive today to all those, whom for whatever reason, will not, or cannot partake in this precious Gift today! Please help me to go beyond mere words in expressing my thanks to You! Let me draw upon the grace you provide to act in a way that expresses my love and appreciation. Make my heart like yours, and help me to become worthy to be used as an instrument through which You draw others to Your Way, Truth, and Life! Thank You, Lord, for giving Yourself to me!  


Mass: Is It Appreciated and Understood As It Should Be?

Relative to the vastness of the universe we are nothing, but to Him we are everything!

First, let me start off by counting myself guilty during my lifetime of both misunderstanding the Mass, and being unappreciative of this most precious gift. In fact, I remained pretty distant from my Catholic Faith for about twenty-two years, between the ages of eighteen and forty. I am now 57. Twenty two years is a long time to be away from home. Prior to the age of eighteen, I attended Catholic school, grades K-8, and served as an "altar boy" for several years during that time. Looking back, even during those times when I was privileged to be serving at Mass, I did not fully appreciate the miraculous gift Christ has prepared for us. 

I am writing this post with great humility and charity, aware that my present knowledge and appreciation for what takes place at Mass is possible only through God's grace. I felt compelled to write this after observing how my own children approach the Mass. My children are 11 and 12 years of age and have attended Catholic school from kindergarten. They have also been altar servers for the past two years, and are raised in a home where our Faith is practiced.

One would think after attending Catholic school since kindergarten, and serving at the altar during Mass, children would remember, and have enough knowledge and reverence for Christ's presence in the Eucharist, to genuflect before entering the pew without being reminded to do so. Sometimes I have to remind my ten year old son, to prayerfully prepare to "participate" in the Mass and receive our Lord in the Eucharist while waiting for Mass to begin. And during Mass, I cannot help but notice that my son is sometimes only present in body, his mind and heart are somewhere far from the liturgy. I am not judging his disposition during Mass, but am only pointing out the need for a different approach to catechesis concerning the importance of Mass, the very summit of our Christian Faith. 

As a CCD teacher, parent, and lover of evangelization and apologetics, I see this as a most serious problem concerning the practice of our Faith. I feel more emphasis should be given to education concerning the precious gift Christ has given us in the Mass. Appreciating Mass begins with the infusion of God's precious grace at baptism, but as we grow we must cooperate with that grace by combining our God given ability to reason with the gifts of faith, hope and charity.

The Mass must be presented in a thought provoking manner appropriate for the audience, from toddler to 100. Growing up and being educated in the Catholic Faith by Sisters of the Felician Order, I recall being told that Mass was an obligation, and that Hell awaited those who chose not to attend. Notice the word "attend," as opposed to "participate." I don't say this to denigrate the great work these wonderful Sisters accomplished in their vocations as teachers and servants of God. My point is that the magnitude of this most wonderful gift needs to be presented and taught differently, and from a very early age.

Reflecting on Who it is who longs to give himself to us at Mass, how privileged we are to be in His presence, and the importance of participating in God's greatest Gift to us, are things our minds must become focused upon and deeply contemplate. These things will help lead us to a new appreciation and zeal for Mass! Instilling these thoughts should begin at the earliest of ages and continue throughout our lives. Even toddlers, made in the image and likeness of God, have been created with the ability to understand God's awesome majesty!

The following are the things I would like to see emphasized in catechesis, and which we must all continually remind ourselves of, contemplate, and meditate upon concerning the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:

1) Although Mass "attendance" is an obligation, it should never be looked upon as merely an obligation. The Church makes it an obligation because she knows it is for our greatest good! Once we understand what Mass truly is, we will long to be there, and eagerly await each time we will participate in future Masses.

2) The Mass is God's greatest gift to us because it is where He gives Himself to us, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It is the closest, personal relationship we can ever attain with Jesus, if, and only if we approach the Mass with the proper disposition!

3) Most importantly, prayerfully consider this: Christ, who longs to give himself to us at Mass, who longs for the most personal relationship with us, is the One who created the entire, vast, universe. Remember how small we are relative to the created universe, the ends of which have not been determined by science. To put things in perspective, we live on tiny planet Earth, situated in our solar system within the Milky Way galaxy. Our galaxy is just one of approximately 300 billion galaxies beyond our galaxy. Each of these galaxies contain billions and billions of stars and other celestial bodies. As BIG as the universe is, it is with each of us, that the Creator of it all longs, that's right LONGS, with perfect love to give His entire self to us at each Mass. How could anyone reject such an offer from such a GREAT and LOVING God? Relative to the vastness of the universe we are nothing, but to Him we are everything!

4) Our awesome Creator humbles Himself by making Himself substantially present in the forms of bread and wine so that we can be nourished and strengthened on our journeys back to Him. Let us begin to contemplate the magnitude of this gift and give it the respect and priority it deserves! 


It's All About the Love!

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, here is a post to remind us of the true meaning of love.

“But the Greatest of these is Love!” St. Paul concludes his discourse on charity with the words, “but the Greatest of these is Love.” One of my favorite wedding gifts was a beautifully framed decorative wall hanging, with the words St. Paul used to describe love in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13, 4-7). The words pierced deep into my heart. It was the most profound description of love I had ever heard! I immediately knew I had to put the inspired words of St. Paul into practice. Those words are as follows: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world in which everyone practices St. Paul’s description of love? I dare to say it would solve every problem known to man! Think about it, no more unkind acts toward one another, no jealousy, no feeling superior to others, humility would replace arrogant pride, no more rude encounters, not a selfish person in the world, no anger, and no gloating over others’ misfortune. Think of the effect true love for one another would have on every relationship, including every marriage. How about our business relationships? Greed, corruption, and self-centered business practices would cease to exist! The sharing of our resources would result in every child being fed and eliminate their suffering and dying of hunger! Road rage would become a thing of the past! Hatred, bigotry, and vengeance would be replaced by love and forgiveness!

On July 7, 1967, the Beatles released a song entitled, All You Need Is Love. Throughout recent history, many other artists have written songs with a similar message. The message is incredibly profound, and sorely needed to change our world for the better, yet as well as these songs did at the time rising to the top of th charts, the words seem to fall on deaf ears because very little changed with regard to true love in the world. But the most profound message of all concerning love was given to the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, when he was asked by the teachers of the law which was the greatest commandment, Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” This was the entire summary of the message Jesus came to give us, simply stated, and one which Jesus lived out among us on earth. God simply wants us to love, and if these commandments are followed, as previously stated, life on earth will improve dramatically!

If You Ever Wonder What Your Worth . . .

Consider the vastness of the created universe. The most current estimates guess that there are 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the Universe, each of which has hundreds of billions of stars. A recent German supercomputer simulation put that number even higher: 500 billion. Now think about the fact that God created it all!

Now think about the size of the earth relative to the vastness of the universe, and ponder how much you must be worth to God, and loved by Him, so much so that He became incarnate in order for us to live eternally in the light of His presence! And think of how God remains personally involved in our lives, never letting us go, always wanting us to choose living eternally with Him as our ultimate goal, and ultimate happiness. You are obviously extremely precious and have unfathomable worth in the eyes of the Lord!