What Can I Pray For?

I will be on retreat this coming week with the priests of the diocese. Do you have any special prayer requests for me to remember daily in prayer and Mass?

I have received a number of requests lately, which I will bring with me (having already prayed for them here at the rectory as well), and to them will add your new requests also.

Please pray for all of us priests as we make our annual retreat!

The model of St. Peter's Basilica at Ave Maria Grotto, on the grounds of the monastery where we'll be making our retreat. Photo taken by me on 3/26/05.

The model of St. Peter’s Basilica at Ave Maria Grotto, on the grounds of the monastery where we’ll be making our retreat. Photo taken by me on 3/26/05.

Your Prayer Request(s) – Be Concise and Focused

This form will be removed before mid-day on Monday, October 13

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Free Talk in Birmingham – This Coming Monday

This coming Monday, October 13, at St. Barnabas Catholic Church (7921 1st Ave. N., Birmingham, AL 35206), acclaimed speaker Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers will give a dynamic talk at 7:00pm on the first black diocesan priest in the United States, Father Augustine Tolton. A cause for Fr. Tolton’s sainthood is open and recently made significant progress. The talk is entitled “From Slave to Priest” and will last about an hour. Entrance is free (a free-will offering will be taken to support the Deacon’s ministry).

St. Barnabas is easily accessible from all parts of Birmingham, being just off highway I-59 (and visible from it). Click here for a Google Map, to be able to calculate directions from your starting point. Parking is behind the church.

Here is the flyer for the talk (click the image to download it in a printable PDF format):

Click the image to download in PDF format.

Spread the word using the sharing buttons below! Let’s have a good turnout for this inspiring and informative talk!

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A Prayer for Protection

A certain prayer book for priests that I have indicates that the following prayer is suitable also for lay people. I think it is quite appropriate, given the state of our world today and the challenges that we face.

A Prayer for Protection and Deliverance

Heavenly Father, I praise and thank you for all you have given me. Please cover me with the protective, Precious Blood of your Son, Jesus Christ, and increase your Holy Spirit in me with His gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, hunger for prayer, guidance, and discernment to help me know your will and surrender to it more completely.

Father, please heal my negative emotions and any wounds in my heart and spirit. Send the sword of your Holy Spirit to sever and break all spells, curses, hexes, voodoo, and all negative genetic, inter-generational, and addictive material – past, present, or to come; known or unknown – against me, my relationships, and family, finances, and possessions.

Father, I forgive and I ask forgiveness for my sins and failings, and I ask that my whole person – body and mind, heart and will, soul and spirit, memory and emotions, attitudes and values – be cleansed, renewed, and protected by the Most Precious Blood of your Son, Jesus.

In the name, power, blood, and authority of Jesus Christ, I bind and break the power and effect in or around me of any and all evil spirits who are trying to harm me in any way; and I command these spirits and their companion spirits, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to leave me peacefully and quietly and go immediately and directly to the Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ in the closest Catholic Church tabernacle, to be disposed of by Jesus and never again return to harm me.

Dear Holy Spirit, please fill up any void in me to overflowing with your great love. All this, Father, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, by the guidance of your Holy Spirit. Immaculate Heart of Mary, spouse of the Holy Spirit, please pray for me and with me. Amen.

* * *

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A Gift of Spiritual Renewal

As part of our 125th Anniversary Celebration at Holy Rosary Parish, I petitioned the Apostolic Penitentiary for a special indulgence for the parish. Their swift response – the entire process was conducted over email – far exceeded my expectations: the Major Penitentiary, Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, conceded a Jubilee Year to the parish with a number of opportunities for gaining a plenary indulgence throughout the year.

The Decree, naturally, was in Latin. Here is the fairly literal English translation that I prepared (closely mirroring the Latin structure of the original text):

Click the image to load a larger version for easier reading.

Click the image to load a larger version for easier reading.

This decree follows a standard template: the first part is a summary of my original petition, re-presented as if I had made it directly to the Pope (hence, the address, “Most Blessed Father”). Then follows the reply from the Apostolic Penitentiary, written “by mandate of the Most Holy Father”. As you can deduce, I had to send a letter from one of our Vicars General giving consent to my request along with my original petition; hence, his being mentioned in the Decree.

The wonderful thing about indulgences is that they are incentives and helps to our growth in sanctity. The Church incentivizes those prayers and works that should make up a normal part of any healthy Catholic spirituality, so as to purify us of the effects of our past sins and so help us along the path of holiness. I think that a key to internalizing the spirituality of indulgences is recognizing the fact that indulgences are gifts attached to works and prayers that good Catholics are supposed to be doing anyhow!

If we structure our spiritual life around the obtaining of indulgences, we will develop good general habits of prayer, use of the sacraments, and charitable works. We will also be purified of the temporal punishment due to sin that we have accrued over our lives. We will thus grow in holiness, and this will have an effect on others.

Get indulgences – everyone wins!

For those in the Birmingham area, an article will soon be published in our diocesan newspaper further explaining this decree and how the indulgences mentioned in it can be gained. Anyone who has questions is free to contact me also.

On this feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, I give thanks to God for my parish, and for the gifts that His Church has lavished upon it! I pray that this Jubilee Year that has so graciously been given us will indeed be a time of spiritual renewal for us all.

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Catholic Doctor in Liberia UPDATES

I recently posted about a faithful Catholic doctor (and deacon), Rev. Dr. Timothy Flanigan, who has gone on a mission to Liberia to help provide training and healthcare for those fighting the deadly Ebola virus.

In the meantime, the hospital that I mentioned in that post has been closed – because the Director and eight of its staff members died of Ebola. (May they rest in Christ’s peace!)

Now there are efforts under way to re-open that hospital so that the many people who need healthcare can obtain it there again. Please read more information here.

Also, the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, whom I mentioned in the previous post, have shifted their efforts to their other missions, and so no longer need our support for this particular project. Thank you to all who helped them.

Please see if you can help support the re-opening of St. Joseph’s Hospital. (CLICK) Also, please continue to pray for Dr. Flanigan and for all those who are helping to fight this deadly epidemic! Read the latest updates on his blog: Dr. Timothy P. Flanigan

Pallets of supplies shipped to Liberia by the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, thanks to your help!

Pallets of supplies shipped to Liberia by the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, thanks to your help!

Original Post Here

Don’t forget to pray the Memorare, a prayer all should know!

The Memorare

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help, or sought thy intercession
was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins, my mother!
To thee do I come, before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful.
O mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

* * *

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The Apostolic Blessing Imparted by a Bishop

Today, one of my parishes celebrated its 125th anniversary. [More to come this week on its being named a place of pilgrimage for the coming year, indulgences, etc.!!]

As part of our beautiful ceremony, our Bishop imparted the Apostolic Blessing. I provide the text of this beautiful blessing below. Bishops have the privilege, by law, of offering this blessing on solemn occasions three times per year in their diocese. In order to be sure that the Bishop could offer it on our occasion, we requested and received the faculty from the Apostolic Penitentiary for him to do so (i.e., in case he already used up his three times!). This blessing is given in the name of the Pope, and has a plenary indulgence attached to it, under the usual conditions.

Not a photo of our event (:fyi:).

Not a photo of our event (:fyi:).

Here is the text. First, there is a different conclusion for the Penitential Rite (i.e., after the Confiteor or “I Confess”) at the beginning of Mass:

The bishop says the absolution, using the special form for Masses at which the Apostolic Blessing is imparted:

May blessed Mary, ever virgin,
the holy apostles Peter and Paul,
and all the saints
assist you with their merits and prayers.

May the almighty and merciful Lord forgive you
and free you from all your sins.

May he help you persevere in fruitful penance,
good example, and sincere charity,
and lead you to everlasting life.

The people answer:


Then, at the conclusion of the Mass, after the closing prayer, and in place of the usual blessing, the following is said (involving also the deacon):

The deacon next announces the Apostolic Blessing with the following words:

The Most Reverend Father, NAME, by the grace of  God and the Apostolic See, Bishop of this holy Church of DIOCESE, will give the Apostolic Blessing with a Plenary Indulgence in the name of the Roman Pontiff, to all present who are truly penitent and have confessed their sins and received Holy Communion.

Pray to God for our Holy Father, Pope NAME, for our Bishop, NAME, and for holy Mother Church and strive, by holiness of life, to walk in full communion with it.

Facing the people, the bishop extends his hands and sings or says:

The Lord be with you.

The people answer:

And with your spirit.

The deacon invites all present:

Bow down for the blessing.

Then the bishop sings or says a solemn blessing over the people from the Roman Missal, concluding with the Apostolic Blessing:

Through the intercession
of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul
may almighty God bless you,
+ the Father, + and the Son, and + the Holy Spirit.

The people acclaim:


Mass then concludes with the usual dismissal.

The blessing is very beautiful, and moving, as one expects a blessing given in the name of the Pope to be, knowing the great spiritual benefit attached to it by the Church.

Read about plenary indulgences at this page.

I have the impression that few Bishops take advantage of the privilege of imparting the Apostolic Blessing on three solemn occasions per year. Do you recall any times when your bishop used it at an event you attended?

Source for the above liturgical texts: Ceremonial of Bishops

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Another Great Catholic Luncheon Coming to Birmingham!

I recently received this great news for Birmingham-area Catholics from John Martignoni:

Our next Catholic Quarterly Luncheon is going to be on Wednesday, October 29th, at The Club, from 11:30am – 1:00pm. You may not believe me when I say this, but if you thought Scott Hahn’s talk was awesome, well, I think this one is going to be even better. Our guest speaker is Dr. Brant Pitre (pronounced “Pea-tree”), who is a Professor of Theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He is a brilliant theologian and he is particularly adept at bringing the Old Testament scriptures alive and explaining them in light of the New Testament in such a way that all you can say is…”Wow!” Scott Hahn even said to me about Brant, “He’s going places and doing things in scripture study that go way beyond anything I’ve ever done.”

Dr. Pitre’s talk is entitled: Jesus the Bridegroom and is based on his book of the same name. I guarantee you will leave this luncheon absolutely on fire for your faith.

To reserve your spot, you can pay online with a credit card or via PayPal. When you pay online the cost is $26.00 per person (the extra dollar covers the processing fees). Or, you can mail a check for $25.00 per person to:

Bible Christian Society, PO Box 424, Pleasant Grove, AL  35127

(When you pay online, you will receive an email acknowledging your reservation. If you send in a check, and would like an acknowledgment, please include an email address.)

Seating is limited and is first come, first served, so the sooner you sign up, the better. We will be unable to accommodate walk-ups the day of the luncheon, so you need to make your reservation beforehand. And, just so you know, if you pay now and something comes along that will cause you to miss the luncheon, you have until 48 hours before the luncheon to notify me and receive a full refund.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at: john@biblechristiansociety.com or 205-744-1856.

I have read a good portion of Dr. Pitre’s book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, and am indeed impressed with his work. This sounds like it’s going to be a great talk. I hope that many from the Birmingham area will sign up!

Please use the sharing buttons below to help spread the word!

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Feast of St. Vincent de Paul

On this feast of St. Vincent de Paul, here is a photo of his effigy in Paris, which I took on November 9, 2013:

He had been incorrupt, but then at some point the church where his tomb was kept was flooded, his body disintegrated as a result, so now the remaining relics are kept within this effigy.

He had been incorrupt, but then at some point the church where his tomb was kept was flooded, his body disintegrated as a result, so now the remaining relics are kept within this effigy.

St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us.

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Behind the Screen

One of my parishes has a very small (and historic) church. At some point during its nearly 125 years, the old confessional, which I am told used to be on the left side as you walked in the front doors, was removed. I’m not sure why. Fortunately, the deacon who most recently administered the parish before my arrival in July, took care to reinstate a proper area for confessions. The sacristy to the left of the sanctuary now doubles for that purpose.

Just recently, we acquired a screen or grille for that confessional, to make it possible for penitents to exercise their right to anonymity, and for the priest to exercise his right of hearing confessions “behind the screen” (more on these rights in a moment):

Screen donated by a generous benefactor.

Screen donated by a generous benefactor.

Now those who wish to confess “behind the screen” can kneel at this screen when they walk in; those wishing to confess “face to face” can make use of the chair to the right.

Indeed, as I said above, penitents have the right to confess anonymously (within reason – obviously there are situations where that might not be possible). Here is what Canon Law says about it:

Can.  964 §1. The proper place to hear sacramental confessions is a church or oratory. §2. The conference of bishops is to establish norms regarding the confessional; it is to take care, however, that there are always confessionals with a fixed grate between the penitent and the confessor in an open place so that the faithful who wish to can use them freely. §3. Confessions are not to be heard outside a confessional without a just cause.

A 1994 clarification from the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts indicates furthermore that the priest can insist on the use of the screen when there is a just cause and outside of cases of necessity (for example, when someone in the hospital requests the sacrament). In other words, even if you prefer to go to confession face-to-face, it is the priest’s prerogative to ask that you go behind the screen instead.

I personally prefer to go “behind the screen” myself, and I encourage others to do so as well. Perhaps in a future post I will explain the reasons why I think the traditional manner is preferable.

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May Non-Catholic Christians Receive Blessings?

Pope Francis blesses a whole ton of people. It's highly likely that some non-Catholics were present in the crowd!

Pope Francis blesses a whole ton of people. It’s highly likely that some non-Catholics were present in the crowd!

I was consulting the Vatican’s “Ecumenical Directory” today (= directives, save this link in case you have trouble sleeping one night), and came across this paragraph which answers our question: May non-Catholic Christians receive blessings?

121. Blessings ordinarily given for the benefit of Catholics may also be given to other Christians who request them, according to the nature and object of the blessing. Public prayer for other Christians, living or dead, and for the needs and intentions of other Churches and ecclesial Communities and their spiritual heads may be offered during the litanies and other invocations of a liturgical service, but not during the Eucharistic Anaphora. Ancient Christian liturgical and ecclesiological tradition permits the specific mention in the Eucharistic Anaphora only of the names of persons who are in full communion with the Church celebrating the Eucharist.

There are some restrictions and also ambiguities (probably deliberate) in this directive, but the short answer is: Yes, non-Catholic Christians may (generally) receive blessings. It is also important to note that this directive extends to objects as well – so, for instance, a non-Catholic Christian could request that a Catholic priest bless his home. And I have done this on a few occasions. As someone recently said somewhere (maybe I read it on Facebook or Twitter), non-Catholics often believe in the Catholic Church when it comes to dealing with the forces of evil! It’s not uncommon for a Protestant to request holy water or a house blessing if they notice strange phenomena happening in their home.

A few notes about this paragraph: it restricts blessings to Christians – i.e., those baptized with the standard trinitarian formula). Obviously, when a priest (or the pope, as above) is blessing a crowd of people, he doesn’t necessarily know the faith of all present. But he gives the blessing anyway – even if there should be some hindus or muslims or non-baptized atheists present. So this doesn’t have to with crowd circumstances. It is understood that it concerns individual requests for blessings.

It also directs that in the Eucharistic prayer, where – depending on which prayer is used – it is possible to insert names (for example, the memorial of the living, or the memorial of the deceased), only the names of Catholics may be inserted. Finally, please note that this does not have to do with the intention for which Mass is offered – so if you wanted to have a Mass said for a deceased non-Catholic Christian relative, you could.

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Our Lady of Sorrows

Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. It follows upon the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and is closely connected with it. Our salvation came through the cross of Christ, through his sacrifice on the cross, and Our Lady was closely associated with his sacrifice. She was no detached bystander; she was intimately involved. In today’s gospel we hear how Our Lady kept vigil with her Son as he hung dying. And before Jesus died he gave St. John to Our Lady as her son. We can imagine how this only increased her suffering – it made the reality of her son’s impending death even more acute, as he now entrusted her to another. And so we say that Our Lady cooperated in the redemption in a very real way. The suffering that she experienced was profound and it was profoundly united with that of her Son. All of us, for our part, have a share in the cross of Christ as well. We all have a cross to bear; sometimes more than one, it seems. Our Lady stands beneath our crosses as well, bearing her share of the burden of suffering. She stands with us as Jesus entrusts us to her as well. Today we should reflect on our relationship with Mary, who stands silently in our own lives just as she did in Christ’s. She is there for us, as our mother. Let us always remember to turn to her in our every need.

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The Holy Name of Mary

Tomorrow, September 12, we observe the liturgical memorial of the Holy Name of Mary – an old feast, which was removed from the liturgical calendar in 1969, but restored more recently by Pope St. John Paul II.

It says, "May the sweet Name of Mary be my hope and my refuge!"

It says, “May the sweet Name of Mary be my hope and my refuge!”

Did you know that the celebrant at Holy Mass is supposed to bow his head at the name of Mary? Here is what the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says about this gesture:

275. A bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them…

a) A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.

The context of this instruction suggests that it is to be observed by the celebrant and other ministers at Mass. However, there was a time when many people were taught to bow their heads at the names of Jesus and Mary – even when attending Mass in the congregation. I’ve seen some people doing it at some of the Masses I’ve celebrated!

This is a beautiful tradition and a fitting way to honor these powerful and important names. It is also a good way to listen and participate more attentively at Holy Mass.

Maybe we could all resolve to bow our heads slightly out of reverence for the names of Jesus and Mary from now on!

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