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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
“Give thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” – Ephesians 5:20
 
The rule of St. Benedict prescribes that the doorkeeper shall say “Deo gratias’’ whenever a stranger knocks at the door or a beggar asks for assistance.
 
Recently, I was at the door of the convent at dusk, with my keys in my hand, when I was approached by a woman begging for money. I am always conflicted in these situations, but after a long conversation, I gave her five dollars. It wasn’t until after she left that I said, “Thanks be to God,” using the expression, as I usually do, more as a sigh of relief than as an expression of profound gratitude.
 
My response to the woman at the convent door fell way short of Benedict’s ideal or St. Paul’s admonition to give thanks always, in everything and, I would add, in everyone.
 
Expressing gratitude at Mass
At Mass we say the words “Thanks be to God” after the first and second readings, expressing our gratitude for the word of God we have received. We still use those words, “Thanks be to God,” when we respond to the new dismissals at Mass. We are expressing our gratitude for the graces received at Mass and for the call to live a eucharistic life.
 
Whichever new form of the dismissal is used, the meaning is the same: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”—a life of praise and gratitude.
 
Let your gratitude lead you
The dismissal calls us to show our gratefulness for the graces we have received by how we live the gospel after Mass, after we have left the church. These words that send us forth from Eucharist change our direction. They grab us by the shoulders and turn us away from the altar, pointing us to the open door of the church and into the world. It is into the world that we are sent to seek and follow Christ, bringing God’s compassionate and gracious love to all.
 
The last words we speak at Mass sum up our response to such good news: “Thanks be to God.” May these words help us to stop, to notice, to appreciate our daily blessings, and, most importantly, to give thanks always and in everything and everyone. Gratitude on our lips has the power to transform our hearts.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
  – Cultivate an attitude of gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal, regularly writing down those things for which you are grateful.
  – The next time you encounter a person begging or someone who has interrupted an important task in which you are engaged, thank God for the person and the interruption.
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
Go Forth“Go forth, the Mass is ended. Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord. Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. Go in peace.” -Dismissal Rite
 
Mother Teresa often told her Sisters to remember the “gospel on five fingers.” As she held up each finger of her hand, she would say, “You. Did. It. For. Me.” These words come from Matthew 25:40, where Jesus tells us we will be judged by how we help the thirsty or hungry or sick.
 
We are charged with a mission
The Eucharist calls us to become the Church of Matthew 25. We who have been fed, filled, and healed by word and sacrament are charged to go forth to carry God’s mission into the world.
 
The changes in the dismissal formulas at the end of Mass might be easy to overlook. But for me, they are one of the best changes in the new Mass translations. They make more explicit the relationship between Eucharist and mission. Each of the new dismissal options begins with “Go.” The dismissal is more about beginning than ending.
 
The Eucharist will guide us
The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church’s participation in God’s mission to the world. We are sent from the liturgy of the Eucharist to the liturgy of the world. The heart of the Eucharist is missiological, reminding us through word and sign that the household of God is not meant to stay in the house.
 
The gospel we hear proclaimed week after week is God’s good news about the redemption of the world, in which we are invited to take part. In the Penitential Act, we acknowledge our sins against God and neighbor, and we do not mean just those sitting beside us in our pews or even those sitting next to us at our dinner tables. Our prayers of petition are prayers for the Church and for the world.
 
We are a people on mission—God’s mission of bringing mercy and healing to the world.
 
Go and glorify the Lord!
Every Mass exhorts us to “Go” and be the Church of Matthew 25—a community of committed disciples helping the thirsty, hungry, and sick. We are gathered and sent to go forth; to go in peace, glorifying the Lord by our transformed lives; to go and announce the gospel, the good news of Jesus’ saving love for the world.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
  – How do I live during the week what I celebrate on Sunday?
  – Prayerfully read Matthew 25:31-46 and then pray, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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A reflection for Catechetical Sunday, September 15, 2013
 
It was a fun and inspiring visit last Saturday. Two children played on the floor creating funny videos of each other; the adults conversed about everything and anything as the children pretended not to be listening; there was music and TV in the background, and there was laughter, some chaos – and much joy in this well-lived in home. In the midst of it all the dog was vying for attention and a share of anyone’s snack. The entire scene spoke of people loving, valuing, and respecting one another.
 
Caroline, when I suggested you join us at the 5 p.m. Mass you responded, “These two don’t look like they are moving. I’d never get them dressed on time and, anyhow, Deirdre is at a birthday party.” I was reminded that including everyone in the family as you go to Sunday Eucharist is important and dressing appropriately teaches the children that Church is something special–it’s different from running track (they were still in track clothes from an earlier event) or hanging out. These are values that are “caught” more than they are taught.
 
Matt, when you said you hoped we got Fr. D because of his great homilies, you touched my heart and made me proud. That you are concerned that your family and especially the kids hear a good homily speaks of the value you place on nourishing your spirit for the week ahead. Not many young men and women your age even know what a homily is or how it can help them live the faith they profess in their lives the coming week. You are an exceptional Catholic couple and family. Your kids will “catch” this fire.
 
Caroline, when you spoke in front of your children about your desire to someday join a mission effort with the doctors and nurses with whom you work, you were teaching those children about connecting our faith with our lives. You may need to tell them more directly that this is what the Gospel asks of all of us, to share our gifts and talents with others. They get so many other messages from our culture that at times we need to be direct about our faith and maybe even ask them what they think of it.
 
We are all called to do that every day within our families, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces, but some of us are called, nudged, or invited to do that with the poor in our own country and in other lands. Whatever comes from that conversation, it is a teaching moment for your family. Being willing to talk about and learn more about our faith will continue to make it so. Sharing your faith with your family will give them ideas as well.
 
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful “teaching moment” and moment of “New Evangelization” this September if in every home every parent had one conversation with his or her spouse and children about how they live their faith in everyday life? Just a conversation: no expectations and no right or wrong answers — just some faith-sharing!
 
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
Centurion“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
– Invitation to Communion
 
A number of years ago I was giving a talk on the Mass. Afterward, I asked for comments or questions. A woman stood up and said angrily, “I refuse to say the words, ‘Lord, I am not worthy.’ I have worked so hard rebuilding my self-esteem, and every time I come to Mass I am reminded that I                                  am worthless.”
 
The woman had misunderstood the idea behind that biblical statement. Our admission of our unworthiness before receiving the Lord is not meant as a self-indictment; rather, it is the recognition of Jesus as the power and compassion of God.
 
The plain truth, on a human level, is that we are unworthy to have the Lord visit us, and yet God makes us worthy for that honor and privilege. In the Incarnation, God lowered himself so he could raise humanity to be in union with him. That’s why Jesus reminds his followers in the Gospel of John, “I no longer call you slaves.…I have called you friends” (15:15).
 
Remember Jesus’ compassion
The new response to the Invitation to Communion calls to mind the encounter between Jesus and the Roman centurion found in the gospels. The centurion begged Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant, saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).
 
Jesus doesn’t respond with the disdain others showed to Roman soldiers. Rather, he says to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Matthew 8:10). Immediately, Jesus’ healing spirit enters the home and souls of these “outsiders,’’ healing, saving, and freeing them from every kind of paralysis.
 
Share God’s healing presence
By God’s grace we are temples of the Holy Spirit. We come to Eucharist aware of our brokenness and our need for forgiveness and healing from a God who calls us “friend.”
 
Christ does for us what he did for the centurion; his healing spirit enters under the temple roof of our very souls, setting us free to “go” and be God’s healing presence in the world.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
  – In the Scripture passage about the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), Jesus recognized the centurion as a model of faith. Reflect on and pray for someone who has been a model of faith for you.
  – How do I welcome Christ in my life? What stands in the way of my inviting Jesus to come under my roof?
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
braes of balquhidder“Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” – Invitation to Communion
 
Sometime during the 8th or 9th century, St. Angus came to Balquidder, a stunning valley surrounded by forested hills in the Scottish highlands. Moved by its beauty, he said it was a “thin place”—a place where the separation between heaven and earth was very thin. St. Angus built a church on that spot, and it has survived to this day.
 
We, too, experience a “thin place” every time the priest calls us to communion by announcing, “Behold the Lamb of God.” At that moment, the separation between heaven and earth is bridged, and Jesus, the face of God, is revealed in our midst.
 
The supper of the Lamb
The new translation of the Communion Invitation uses the word “behold” rather than the simpler “this is.” The solemn word “behold” is a direct connection to John 1:29, where we read that John the Baptist announces Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
 
This is implies a statement or teaching about something; behold conveys a sense of “here he is” or “pay attention” and signifies clearly and with more majesty an announcement that someone special is present in the liturgical assembly.
 
It is an invitation to look, receive, and be transformed by the body of Christ made present in our midst.
 
A solemn invitation
The second part of the Invitation to Communion, “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb,” comes from Revelation 19:9, where the angel speaks to John about the martyrs who have shed their blood for Christ. The destiny of the martyrs is not death but a special place at the wedding feast of the Lamb—the eternal feast where all creation will be healed and God’s reign of peace and justice will prevail.
 
The word “behold” is a solemn invitation to look upon Jesus, the Word of God, the Savior of the world, our brother, and receive him who comes to transform us by his death and resurrection. As we find ourselves at the altar of the Lord, we recognize it as a “thin place” where we as Church, God’s people broken and healed, become Christ’s body and are sent forth to glorify God by our transformed lives, to go forth and announce the gospel.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:

    – Pray and reflect on the word “behold.”
    – Reflect on a “thin place” where you experience the divine presence in your ordinary life.
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
“When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.” – Memorial Acclamation 2
 
My 92-year-old dad had been in a coma for six hours—we thought this was the end. During those last months, he refused to fight against death, but instead he fought for life with a tangible faith and a confidence in God.
 
One evening, my brother-in-law Doug was keeping vigil. Suddenly, my dad opened his eyes and said, “Hey, Doug, is that you?” Doug replied, “Yeah, Dad.” With an incredulous look, Dad said, “Jeez, am I still here? I thought the Lord already came for me.” Two days later he peacefully passed from death to life—entering into the fullness of the paschal mystery.
 
Proclaim the paschal mystery!
After the consecration, the priest now says or sings to the congregation simply, “The mystery of faith,” and we respond with a prayer proclaiming the paschal mystery.
 
The word “paschal” is derived from the Greek word meaning “pass over.” At its very heart, it is less about events and more about movement: from slavery to freedom, from death to life.
 
Each of the three new Memorial Acclamations includes us (“We proclaim,” “When we eat,” and “Save us”) and speak of what Christ did for us (“you have set us free”).
 
The very core of our faith
We respond to the words “The mystery of faith” by acclaiming that the bread and wine have been changed into the Body and Blood of Christ and that the paschal mystery is the core of our faith.
 
We acclaim that death does not have the last word—that through our faith in Christ we too will move from death to life. It is truly a mystery in that the fullness of God’s love, Jesus the Christ, is made present among us. In this life we grasp something of the mystery of God’s reign, but the full reality remains veiled before our eyes—until he comes again!
 
Our source of strength and hope
For more than 90 years my father, through God’s grace, acclaimed the mystery of faith in the ups and downs of his daily life and, yes, at Mass too. We too gain strength from the Eucharist so we can embrace our own suffering and transform it into a sure hope in the Lord’s many comings into our life.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
   – How do we enter more consciously and more fully into Christ’s paschal mystery in our life’s daily experiences?
   -Pray each of the three Memorial Acclamations with a new sense that each one includes us and speaks of what Christ did and is doing in our daily lives—setting us free.
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts…the whole earth is full of his glory!” – Isaiah 6:3
 
When I was in the first grade, my teacher, Sr. Placida, explained that we each had a guardian angel to protect and guide us. She instructed us, “Sit to one side of your seat and make room for your guardian angel.” In Sacred Scripture, angels are God’s messengers and are part of God’s heavenly court. For me, sharing my seat with my guardian angel made God seem very near.
 
The angels seem near to Isaiah, too. Unlike any other prophet, he receives his prophetic call in a vision during temple worship
(Isaiah 6:1-9).
 
The temple is transformed into God’s holy court and is filled with a “host” of angels singing the threefold “holy.” The majestic nature of the liturgical drama that unfolds invokes a sense of praise and makes clear the sacredness and nearness of God.
 
Join in the angels’ exultation
The cry of the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision provides the text of the Sanctus, the acclamation in which we join our voices “with angels and archangels and the company of saints” at the celebration of the Eucharist.
 
The words of the Sanctus have been “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might.” In the new edition of the Roman Missal, the words are “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts,” a more literal translation of the original Latin text and more faithful to the text of Isaiah 6:3.
 
Go out, surrounded by angels
Liturgical worship at its best engages our senses and creates an environment that moves us to a deeper awareness of the sacred presence of God. Isaiah felt the temple shake as he heard the voice of God: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” “Here I am,” Isaiah answered, “send me!”
 
The host of angels surrounds us in liturgy and in life. The world is dynamic, energized, and filled with the glory of God.
 
Every time we gather for Mass, we sing in unison with the host of angels and are commissioned like Isaiah to go out into the world, newly confident that God is near and will send angels to protect, guide, and support us.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
– Conscious of the host of angels that surrounds you, join them in praying, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.”
– Reflect on a time when you sensed that God sent an angel to protect, guide, or support you. Give God thanks.
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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The Bible is filled with towering figures whose names are known around the world: Abraham, Moses, Solomon, John the Baptist, Esther, Ruth, Mary.
 
But in the stories about these familiar men and women, unnamed personalities flit in and out, such as the man who told Joseph where his brothers were tending their flocks, the lad who had “a few loaves and fishes” from which Jesus fed thousands, and the young man who fled naked into the night after the arrest of Jesus.

 
That last mysterious figure appears in the Gospel written by Mark, whom the Church honors with a feast day on April 25.
 
The writer devoted only two sentences to the elusive character: “Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked into the night.’’
 
We never hear of that young man again in the scriptures, but some authorities believe that it was Mark himself.
 
What that means is the subject of speculation, because there are varying opinions about the identity of Mark, but the Catholic Church, based on evidence from ancient sources, believes that he was a follower of the apostle Peter — perhaps Peter’s interpreter in Rome. If Mark was close to Jesus’ inner circle, so to speak, that would explain his presence on the periphery of the events that began the Lord’s passion.
 
Although it is the second of four Gospels in the New Testament, Mark’s is the oldest — probably dating from around 65 A.D.
 
That’s not just a detail in the history of Christian scriptures. It is an important fact, because the appearance of the Gospel of Mark was a pivotal event.
 
Before Mark sifted through the sometimes contradictory accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the story was transmitted mostly or even entirely in oral form.
 
Thanks to Mark, it was for the first time set down in writing — presumably based on what Mark heard Peter teach in Rome — providing a reliable source for readers and for the evangelists who would follow.
 
This wasn’t only a scholarly exercise for Mark; it was an act of courage and commitment. He wrote this Gospel in a time and place, during the reign of the Emperor Nero, in which publicly declaring faith in Christ was dangerous.
 
Mark’s Gospel is not exhaustive; none of the Gospels are. But it is a clear and concise presentation of essential information about the life of ministry of Jesus.
 
Mark devotes a lot of attention to the miracles of Jesus, startling events that provoked the disciples to ask, after Jesus had calmed a storm at sea, “Who, then, is this?”
 
It was a question Jesus wanted people to ask; Mark portrays the Lord as putting it directly to his followers: “Who do you say that I am?”
 
There was no doubt in Mark’s mind, and he begins his Gospel with the proclamation that resounds across the ages: “Jesus . . . the Son of God.”
 

Prayer

Father,
you gave Saint Mark
the privilege of proclaiming your gospel.
May we profit by his wisdom
and follow Christ more faithfully.

The Liturgy of the Hours

 
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
Who among us has never prayed? Probably not a one! Whether it’s “Thank you, God!” when there’s good news or “God, help me!” when there’s bad news, or a feeling of gratitude that enters our hearts, or a yearning to be close to God, we all have prayed.
 
Yet so often I hear, “I wish I knew how to pray,” “I wish I could really pray,” “What is prayer all about?” or “I used to pray, but I gave up because nothing happened.” Just last night I received a phone call from someone I had prayed with over the phone. The person put a relative on the phone with me asking if I would help. The relative said, “I am having a hard time, and I prayed to Jesus for days, and nothing happened.”
 
We are not alone in these feelings. We have only to read the Scriptures to see that we are in very good company! Remember Job? He was a good person, yet he endured severe trials, and perhaps the worst was his friends’ attitude, “Aw, come on Job, you know you had to do something wrong to get yourself into all this trouble!” Even the disciples, those closest to Jesus said, “Teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
 
Jesus answered their request, and he answers ours, when he said, “When you pray, pray like this: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name…” The words we know so well.
 
Jesus gives the disciples two gifts with this prayer. The first gift is a “formula,” a guide, they can use when the words fail them. Just repeating Jesus’ words is a reminder of him, and whenever they are in union with him, they will be praying. The second gift is the “attitude” for prayer.
 
Our problem with praying, at times, is that we begin with the “formula” and end with the “formula” instead of beginning with the attitude. We start off with “God, help me. I need this,” “My neighbor needs to be healed,” “The world needs peace,” or “Our church needs a new pastor…” These are all good petitions, all prayers that we need to offer. But what if we started off instead with “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name,” with an attitude of awe, wonder, and praise.
 
“Your kingdom come!” Welcome, Lord, into my life. I welcome your reign over me and over all those whom I love.
 
“Give us this day our daily bread…” I am weak, and I can’t do it without you. I depend on you. I trust you to be there for me, day by day. I am willing to wait, day by day.
 
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Have mercy on me, Lord, and help me to have mercy on others.
 
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I am weak and frail, but you are powerful to save me.
 
“For the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are yours…” Praise and thanks to you O God: you are the creator, you are the Lord, you are the mighty and just one!
 
Then, perhaps we might see our needs in a slightly different light. Perhaps we might feel a little calmer. Perhaps we might be moved to find a solution. Perhaps we might try to make peace with another.
 
Next time you go to pray, just try to have the attitude. We find it throughout the Bible, e.g. Psalm 139:
 
Marvelous to me are your works.
How profound are your thoughts O my God.
Even if I could count them, they would outnumber the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky

 
Revelation 22:20: Come, Lord Jesus
 
John 6: Lord, to whom shall we go?
 
Let the words of Scripture carry you into the attitude of prayer, and when you have entered the attitude, you will find yourself praying. The attitude of prayer—recognizing that God is all powerful, and that weak as we are, God chose to create us in the divine image and gift us with great love and mercy—is the attitude that underlies every kind of prayer from deep silent prayer to boisterous hymns of praise, from contemplating a passage in Scripture to speaking in tongues, from our desperate cries of distress to the “Glory, halleluiah!” of celebration.
 
It is this attitude that helps us be faithful to prayer when it seems that God is far away, that God isn’t listening, that we are not getting any answers. An important thing to remember is that prayer does not change God, prayer changes us. Prayer helps us to see where God is leading us, how we can find solutions to our problems, how we can be better Christians. Prayer allows us to accept God’s gifts of courage in face of difficulty, peace in the midst of trial, gratitude for all we have received.
 
For more reflections on how to pray, please check out our audio podcasts on prayer:

 
 

A few days after he was elected, Pope Francis made an unusual gesture during a meeting with several thousand journalists who had assembled in Rome to cover the conclave.
 
After complimenting the journalists on their work, talking to them about the centrality of Christ in the Church, and telling them how he had chosen his name, the pope closed with these words:
 
“Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God.’’
 
Although he didn’t say so, Francis was speaking to the journalists in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, which the Church commemorates this year.
 
The manner in which he blessed the journalists evoked one of the best-known documents issued by the council: the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, usually referred to by the first two words of the Latin text, Nostra aetate —that is, “in our age.”
 
The document notes that in a world that is shrinking – in terms of better communications and travel and massive immigration – the need for the Church to understand what people have in common has become more urgent than ever.
 
For example, the document says, people of all backgrounds pursue the answers to certain questions: “What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of our life? What is moral good, what is sin? Whence suffering and what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What are death, judgment and retribution after death? What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going?’’
 
After discussing in very broad terms how Hinduism and Buddhism approach such questions, the document goes on:
 
“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself. ’’
 
The document also acknowledges the Muslims’ belief in the one God; their desire to submit to his will; their regard for Jesus — as a prophet — and for Mary; and their commitment to prayer, fasting, and charity.
 
Nostra aetate is especially emphatic in pointing out the bond between the Catholic Church and Judaism, rooted in the patriarch Abraham and God’s covenant with Israel.
 
The document says that the Church “decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone,’’ and more broadly “reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion.”
 
Nostra aetate has at times been misunderstood or misrepresented as suggesting that all religions are equally valid, but the document itself contradicts that when it says that the Church must ever proclaim Christ as “the way, the truth, and the life.’’
 
Instead, the document calls for respect for humanity’s common pursuit of truth and respect for the consciences of individual men and women.
 
The document encourages an attitude that was demonstrated by Jesus himself, who responded to the needs of the centurion and the Phoenician woman without deriding their religious beliefs.
 
Pope Francis did refer to Nostrae aetate in an audience with representatives of other Christian churches and non-Christian religions and perhaps even broadened its message when he said:
 
“(W)e . . . sense our closeness to all those men and women who, although not identifying themselves as followers of any religious tradition, are nonetheless searching for truth, goodness and beauty, the truth, goodness and beauty of God. They are our valued allies in the commitment to defending human dignity, in building a peaceful coexistence between peoples, and in safeguarding and caring for creation.’’
 
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
The Lord be with you. And with your spirit. Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right and just. – Preface Dialogue
 
“What life have you if you have not life together?” T.S. Eliot asked. “There is no life that is not in community, and no community not lived in praise of God.”
 
I experienced this reality while awaiting the sunset on a beach at the Jersey shore.
 
People carrying coolers and blankets poured onto the beach. The place was bustling with conversation, laughter, and children playing. Then, as if someone had dimmed the lights, the crowd became quiet as together we watched the setting sun paint the sky with an array of beautiful colors. “Oohs” and “aahs” filled the summer eve.
 
When the sun slipped from sight, the crowd spontaneously broke into applause. I joined in, and then I paused and thought, “Who are we clapping for? God, of course!” I prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for the beauty of your creation.” It is right and just to give God praise.
 
A simple, poetic new response
In the new Roman Missal, the dialogue that precedes the Preface opens with the familiar words, “The Lord be with you.” But our new response is: “And with your spirit.”
 
The final line of the dialogue also changed. The new response to “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God” is a simple sentence: “It is right and just.” This leads more poetically into the opening of the prefaces, which always starts with the words, “It is truly right and just.”
 
What can we bring to Mass?
St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that we participate in Mass as an act of justice, giving God the praise and thanksgiving that is his due. It is not so much about what we “get out of Mass” but instead what we bring to Mass.
 
Christian worship is about praising and thanking God in community as we recall God’s blessings and as we rediscover our own identity as Christ’s body in this world.
 
Gathering every Sunday for Mass challenges us both as individuals and as a community to live differently because of the worship we celebrate. Authentic worship fills our hearts with gratitude and leads us to deeds of justice.
 
We are missioned to “go” from Mass and live each day lifting our hearts to the Lord, aware of God’s glory in creation and thanking and praising God, because it is right and just.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
– This month pay particular attention to God’s goodness and glory revealed through creation. Notice and give thanks.
– Pray the Preface dialogue with a new awareness that it is right and just to give God praise.
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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When I was around 14 years of age, my parents bought me a Pentron stereophonic reel-to-reel tape recorder.
 
It weighed about 30 pounds — a far cry from the tiny digital devices we use today.
 
I didn’t need a tape recorder, so this was an expensive toy that I played around with until I got myself into trouble.
 
The occasion was a casual Sunday dinner that included my immediate family and two other couples with whom we socialized a lot.
 
Anticipating that there would be a lot of chatter at the dining room table, I thought it would be fun to secretly record the conversation, so I hid the Pentron behind an upholstered arm chair that stood just inside the next room.
 
I put the switch in the “on” position so that when everyone had settled in around the table, all I had to do was put the plug in a socket.
 
The Pentron recorded for two hours until the tape ran out and we could hear the loose end slapping against the recorder as the reel continued to spin.
 
I was found out.
 
When I confessed what I had done, the six adults at the table laughed and encouraged me to put the recorder on the table and play back the tape.
 
When they heard their own voices, they stopped laughing.
 
They turned on me and demanded that I rewind the tape to the beginning and erase it while they watched.
 
Of course, I had no business recording a conversation that they had a right to assume was private.
 
But what I found interesting was that they got angry at me not after discovering my prank but after listening to what they had been saying — specifically the critical things they had been saying about folks who were not present.
 
I’m not sure those people would have thought twice about that conversation if the tape hadn’t thrown it back at them.
 
I think about that incident whenever I read that passage in the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus is commenting on the emphasis the religious leaders of his time placed on purity laws, asking Jesus why his disciples didn’t wash their hands before a meal.
 
The question wasn’t concerned with hygiene but with ridding the hands of any contamination they may have incurred from touching something that was ritually unclean.
Jesus derided the idea that such practices were enough to keep a person at peace with God and the world.
 
“It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person,” he told the crowd. “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile.’’
 
And Jesus mentioned some heavy-duty sins as coming from the heart: “murder, adultery, un-chastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.”
 
There was nothing unusual about what those chatterboxes said around the dinner table at our house, and that’s what’s most significant about it. It was a casual conversation of a kind that many of us engage in at one time or another, maybe not the root of blasphemy, adultery, or murder, but unkind, imprudent, perhaps corrosive enough to tarnish a reputation, perhaps invasive enough to violate a confidence.
 
In other words, it was the kind of conversation that many of us have without thinking twice but that, if we heard it played back, might summon us to a change of heart.
 
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
“…like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 2:5
 
RENEW International ministers in a very poor, very large parish in Honduras. When I visited the RENEW small communities there, the leaders proudly showed me a chapel they had been building, one stone at a time, for six years. There were three-foot high walls surrounding a small altar, folding chairs, and a family of chickens. The church seemed devoid of God’s presence; it was more like ruins than a new church rising.
 
When I returned for Sunday Mass, the chapel was transformed, filled with children dancing; people dressed in their Sunday best, clapping and singing; and a joyful Franciscan friar powerfully preaching the word. The people gathered in that church were the stained-glass windows reflecting God’s goodness, beauty, and holiness.
 
I realized the stone church was being built, but the spiritual house was already raised, made of a holy people offering prayers for their own good and the good of the whole Church.
 
The gifts we offer are holy
In the new edition of the Roman Missal, there is a slight change to the people’s prayer before the Preparation of the Gifts. When we say “for our good and the good of all his holy Church,” the word “holy” echoes the description of the Church in the Creed.
 
The addition of “holy” is an important recognition of the status of God’s people in the Church. The gifts we offer are holy because they are both the work of God and the work of human hands. The Lord hears our prayers and accepts the offering of our spiritual sacrifice, and the whole Church benefits from our collective prayer.
 
We make up the holy Church
When we focus on Church as a building, we limit God’s presence to the confines of four walls and make a distinction between the spiritual and the secular.
 
In the New Testament, the Greek word for Church is ekklesia, “a called-out people or holy assembly.” Vatican II recaptured the dynamic, biblical understanding of Church as the “body of Christ”—united in the Eucharist, not in stones.
 
At Mass, as a holy assembly, we offer our spiritual sacrifice of praise and glory of God’s name and go forth, impelled by the Spirit to become what we have celebrated and received—the body of Christ.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
– How does the sacrament of the Eucharist empower me to live a life of faith and love?
– As you pray the words “for the good of all his holy Church,” pray that we the Church will reflect more clearly the presence and holiness of God.
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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Parte I: ¿Cuál es su novedad?
 
El pasado 11 de octubre de 2012, la Iglesia Católica, junto con las Iglesias cristianas históricas, iniciaba –gracias a la iniciativa del Papa Benedicto XVI–, la celebración del Año de la Fe. Su propósito era conmemorar el quincuagésimo aniversario del inicio del Concilio Vaticano II convocado por el Papa Juan XXIII, nacido Angelo Roncalli, declarado beato y modelo para el cristiano por el Papa Juan Pablo II en el año 2000.
 
El Vaticano II nace bajo el amparo de tres grandes protagonistas:
a. Sin duda, el Papa Juan XXIII, quien con apenas tres meses en su servicio como Obispo de Roma, expresa su deseo, convoca y comienza a trabajar a toda máquina.
b. Un movimiento de renovación eclesial interna que viene gestándose entre las Guerras Mundiales, luego de la I y consolidando al finalizar la II, bajo el pontificado del Papa Pío XII. Este movimiento, del que Juan XXIII fue fiel testigo, reclamaba una presencia renovada de la Iglesia en todos los ámbitos: el universitario-académico, el ecuménico, el pastoral y la sociedad civil.
c. El Espíritu Santo, que jamás cesa de actuar y de trabajar en la Iglesia, como fiel testigo de la presencia perenne de Dios entre nosotros y como fiel promesa de Jesús a sus discípulos.
 
La convocatoria para el Concilio Vaticano II se emitió el 25 de enero de 1959, significativo día si consideramos la fiesta litúrgica que celebramos: la conversión de San Pablo.
 
A diferencia de muchos otros concilios, el Vaticano II no nace como respuesta y en reacción a una herejía o apostasía. Al contrario, quiere responder más bien a la necesidad de un aggiornamento de la Iglesia, en las palabras del mismo Juan XXIII. El término se refiere a la renovación, apertura, diálogo, adaptación, hermenéutica consciente y crítica de la Iglesia. Juan XXIII escoge sabiamente este término, utilizando la suavidad de la lengua italiana, y al mismo tiempo el dinamismo que impone el verbo aggiornare, que implica constante movimiento. Así, evitando cualquier referencia a la palabra “reforma”, y con ella cualquier alusión a los acontecimientos vividos en el siglo XVI, Juan XXIII abre, sin duda, una nueva etapa en la historia de la Iglesia Católica y, definitivamente, en la teología cristiana en general, pues el fenómeno del Vaticano II afectó también a las Iglesias históricas cristianas.
 
¿Cuáles era los objetivos principales del Vaticano II en la mente de Juan XXIII? Según él mismo lo expresa en su alocución de la convocatoria, estos serían dos:
• La apertura de la Iglesia al mundo moderno y a la sociedad, escrutando “los signos de los tiempos”, con el objetivo de hacer inteligible el anuncio del Evangelio.
• La unidad de los cristianos o presencia activa de la Iglesia en el ecumenismo.
Un mes antes del inicio del Concilio, Juan XXIII añadió otro objetivo:
• Ser la Iglesia de los pobres, en estricta fidelidad al Evangelio. Esta tesis fue defendida por el Cardenal Lercaro en una de sus intervenciones en el Concilio: “La Iglesia se presenta, como es y como quiere ser, como Iglesia de todos, en particular como la Iglesia de los pobres”.
 
Fue el Cardenal Juan Bautista Montini, sucesor de Juan XXIII y a quien conoceremos como Pablo VI, declarado Venerable por Benedicto XVI el pasado 14 de diciembre de 2012, quien le dió forma y cuerpo a los objetivos de este Concilio. En su intervención en la Asamblea Conciliar, propuso tres metas:
• Profundización de la naturaleza y renovación interna de la Iglesia.
• Diálogo de la Iglesia con el mundo.
• Reunión de los cristianos separados.
 
Estas tres metas se convirtieron a lo largo del proceso del Concilio, que duró tres años (1962-1965), en los tres motores de reflexión y cuyo resultado vemos en sendos y completos documentos, ya sean “Constituciones” (que implican carácter de ley y por lo tanto obligan), o “Decretos” (que abres el diálogo para la reflexión teológica y el desarrollo pastoral-práctico-jurídico). Así, respectivamente y en relación con las tres propuestas por el Cardenal Montini:
• Constitución dogmática sobre la Iglesia Lumen gentium (documento fundamental del Vaticano II y que desarrollaremos en otro artículo).
• Constitución pastoral Gaudium et spes sobre la Iglesia en el mundo actual (documento e instrumento de reflexión pastoral fundamental que desarrollaremos en otro artículo dada su importancia para toda la Iglesia y, de manera particular, para todos los países del Hemisferio Sur).
• Declaración Unitatis redintegratio sobre el ecumenismo.

El Vaticano II ha legado a la Iglesia Católica y a todos los cristianos un mensaje claro: leer los signos de los tiempos para que desde allí, y a la luz del Espíritu Santo, podamos discernir la presencia o ausencia de Dios y actuar en consecuencia, tal como dos mil años atrás la comunidad apostólica reunida en Jerusalén discernió cómo obrar ante la llegada y la inclusión de los paganos al anuncio de la salvación (Hechos 15). Y aunque han pasado 50 años, el Concilio Vaticano II sigue creando ese aggiornamento del que tanto habló Juan XXIII cuando lo convocó.
 
En las próximas entregas iremos profundizando en los temas y documentos claves del Vaticano II, qué significado tienen para nosotros hoy y cómo podemos conocer mejor estos documentos gracias al desarrollo de la tecnología.
 
El P. Alejandro López-Cardinale , un sacerdote de la Arquidiócesis de Caracas, Venezuela, es el Coordinador de Servicios pastorales hispanos de RENEW International.
 
Part I: What’s the Novelty?
 
On October 11, 2012, thanks to the initiative of Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church together with the historic Christian churches, began the celebration of the Year of Faith, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. This council was convened by Pope John XXIII who was declared blessed and a model for all Christians by Pope John Paul II.
Vatican II was born under the protection of three major players:
a. Pope John XXIII, who barely three months after starting his ministry as Bishop of Rome began to work at full steam;
b. An ecclesial internal renewal movement that began brewing after World War I and was gelling by the end of World War II, during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. This movement, of which John XXIII was a faithful witness, called for a renewed presence of the Church in all areas of society: ecumenical relations, education and academia, as well as pastoral and civil society;
c. The Holy Spirit, who never ceases acting and working in the Church as God’s presence in our midst and as the faithful promise of Jesus to his disciples.
 
On January 25, 1959, Pope John announced his intention to convene an ecumenical council; the pope chose a significant day since the liturgical feast we celebrate on that date is the conversion of St. Paul.
 
Unlike many ecumenical councils of the past, Vatican II was not called as a response to a heresy or apostasy. On the contrary, John XXIII said that it was a response to the necessity of an aggiornamento for the Church. The term refers to a renewal, an opening, a dialogue, an adaptation, a conscious hermeneutic and critique of the Church. John XXIII chose this term wisely, utilizing the smoothness of the Italian language while at the same time making use of the dynamism of the verb aggiornare, which implies constant movement. In this manner he avoided any reference to the word “reform” was and, with it, any allusion to the events lived in the 16th century. Without a doubt, John XXIII opened a new era in the history of the Catholic Church and in Christian theology in general, because the phenomenon of Vatican II impacted the historical Christian churches as well.
 
What were the objectives of Vatican II? As John XXIII expressed in his address during the convocation, there were two:
• The opening of the Church to the modern world and society to scrutinize “the signs of the times” in order to make intelligible the proclamation of the Gospel.
• The unity of all Christians or the active presence of the Church in ecumenism.
A month before the beginning of the council, John XXIII added another objective:
• In strict fidelity to the Gospel, to be the church of the poor. This thesis was defended by Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro in one of his addresses at the council: “The Church presents itself, as it is and as it wants to be, as everyone’s Church, in particular, as the Church of the poor.”
It was Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini (Pope Paul VI), successor to John XIII declared Venerable by Benedict XVI on December 12, 2012, who gave form and substance to these objectives. In an address during the council Paul VI proposed three aims:
• Deepening of the nature and internal renewal of the Church;
• Increasing the dialogue between the Church and the world;
• Reuniting separated Christians with the Catholic Church.
 
These three goals evolved throughout the process of the council, which lasted three years, 1962-1965, into three engines of reflection whose result we see in three documents. They are at the level of “constitution” (which implies the character of law and therefore obligation) and the level of “decree” (which opens the dialogue for theological, pastoral, practical, and canonical reflection. Thus, respectively, in relation to the three goals proposed by Cardinal Montini, they were:
• The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium;
• The Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes;.
• The Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio.
 
Vatican II has bequeathed to the Roman Catholic Church and all Christians a clear message: read the signs of the times so that—from them and in the light of the Holy Spirit—we may discern the presence or absence of God and act accordingly. In a similar way, the Apostolic community in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago discerned, as they proclaimed salvation through Jesus Christ, that God had made no distinction between Jews and Gentiles (Acts 15). And although 50 years have passed, this council, continues to create the aggiornamento that John XXIII announced when he summoned it.
 
In upcoming installments we will explore more deeply the themes and key documents of Vatican II, their meaning for us today, and how, thanks to the development of technology, we can know them better.
 
Fr. Alejandro López-Cardinale, a priest of the Archdiocese of Caracas, Venezuela, is Coordinator of RENEW International’s Hispanic Pastoral Services.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
“I believe in one God….I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ….I believe in the Holy Spirit…” -Nicene Creed
 
I once served on a team leading a pre-Lenten retreat at a university in New Jersey. We met daily with students for a 45-minute spiritual conversation. One student companion, in a doctoral chemistry program, struggled with being both a person of faith and a scientist. She felt her colleagues would think less of her if they knew she was a practicing Catholic. She prayed for courage.
 
Following the retreat, I received an email from her. On Ash Wednesday, she had gone to noon Mass and then returned to the lab, where she was tempted to wash off her ashes. She decided not to and hoped no one would notice. Another graduate assistant said, “You have some dirt on your face.” She replied, “Today’s Ash Wednesday.” When her colleague asked, “You don’t believe in that stuff, do you?” she responded, “Yes, I do believe.”
 
The collective “I” becomes “we”
At the death of Lazarus, Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He then asks her, “Do you believe this?” Martha answers, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world” (John 11:27). The Greek text indicates that Martha placed a certain emphasis upon the personal pronoun “I.”
 
During Mass, we stand together as one people to profess the Nicene Creed, a summary of the truths of our faith. In the new edition of the Roman Missal, “We believe” is changed to “I believe.” I can’t be part of the “we” without personally coming to faith in Christ. In the liturgical act of professing our faith, the collective “I” becomes “we” as we are transformed into the body of Christ.
 
Find strength in community
As Catholics, we are invited to both a personal relationship with Christ and a communal one in unity with all believers. My personal relationship with God is to be manifested in the community that is the Church, and I am energized by that relationship to be Christ for the world.
 
My student companion found courage in our faith conversations and in the community gathered at the Ash Wednesday liturgy. The faith the young scientist assented to was our faith, the faith of the Church. The “I” becomes “we” as we stand together as one people and proclaim one faith in one voice.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
– How have my struggles, and even my doubts, led me to deeper faith in Jesus Christ?
– Reflect on John 11:17-27 and hear Jesus ask you: “Do you believe?” Pray the Nicene Creed as your own personal “Yes, Lord, I do believe.”
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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