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“How shall freedom be defended? By arms when it is attacked by arms, by truth when it is attacked by lies, by faith when it is attacked by authoritarian dogma. Always, in the final act, by determination and faith.” ― Archibald MacLeish

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“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

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“How shall freedom be defended? By arms when it is attacked by arms, by truth when it is attacked by lies, by faith when it is attacked by authoritarian dogma. Always, in the final act, by determination and faith.”

― Archibald MacLeish

Saturday, May 17, 2014

An Open Letter To The Benedictine Monks in the Philippines:“Without Sunday, we cannot live.”

Fr. Rafaelito V. Alaras, OSB, Prior Administrator
San Beda College Alabang

12"He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.…

Dear Father Alaras OSB:

Fraternal Greetings!

You have a way of shocking us, your flock, on Good Shepherd Sunday.

Last Sunday was Good Shepherd Sunday.
Jesus the Good Shepherd
…10"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 11"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 

You have a letter posted in the St .Benedict Chapel doors stating that there will be no more anticipated masses on Saturdays and also no more evening mass on Sundays. In other words, the Sunday mass schedule is now limited to two masses ONLY.

The  reason: you are placing more importance on "monastic life" now.
Is there anything more important in your Benedictine monastic work than saying the MASS?
Fr. Alaras: Remember what The Good Shepherd said:
12"He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.…

That in All Things, God May Be Glorified!

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In the early days of the Church, Christians did not enjoy the freedom of religion that we do today.  They were regularly persecuted by the Roman authorities for attending Mass.  Pope Benedict XVI often tells the story of the martyrs of Abitene (in modern-day Tunisia).  In 303, forty-nine Christians suffered torture and martyrdom because they defied the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s order not to celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday.  When asked why they had disobeyed the emperor, one of them said, “Sine dominico non possumus” — “Without Sunday, we cannot live.” 

In fact, for nearly 2,000 years Christians have risked their lives to participate in Sunday Mass.  During the Reformation in England, priests were martyred when caught offering Holy Mass for English Catholics.  Courageous lay people who gave their homes over as places of Catholic worship, and who harbored priests, suffered torture and death. 

The witness of saints in our own lifetime testifies to the tremendous price paid by some of our Catholic family for celebrating the Sunday Eucharist. In the past century, Catholics in former Communist countries like the Soviet Union or Vietnam were persecuted for practicing their faith. Today in places such as Egypt, China, North Korea, Iraq, Sudan and countless other areas, Catholics risk their lives and travel for hours to attend Sunday Mass. We give thanks to God that we do not have to put our lives in jeopardy to attend Mass at our local parish. We rejoice that, unlike those in poor areas, we do not have to walk for miles, over hills or on inadequate dirt roads to attend. The vast majority of us can walk safely down the street or make a short drive to arrive at our beloved parish. But the ease, convenience, and legality of the Mass should not cause us ever to lose sight that the Mass is so precious that many of our Catholic brothers and sisters around the world are braving great inconvenience and persecution to receive what we, by God’s love, have available near us.

In his first Holy Thursday letter to priests, Blessed Pope John Paul II touchingly recalled situations of the faith triumphing over persecution from his own personal experience of living under religious oppression:

Sometimes it happens that [the lay faithful] meet in an abandoned shrine, and place on the altar a stole which they keep, and recite all the prayers of the Eucharistic liturgy: and then, at the moment that corresponds to the transubstantiation a deep silence comes down upon them, a silence sometimes broken by a sob … so ardently do they desire to hear the words that only the lips of a priest can efficaciously utter.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta often spoke about how precious each Mass is.  Frequently she would instruct newly ordained priests to “celebrate each Mass as if it is your first Mass, your last Mass and your only Mass.”  In other words, she implored priests never to take the celebration of the Mass for granted and let it become routine.  I ask the same of every Catholic in the archdiocese.  Just as we should be grateful for each day God grants us, let us anticipate and participate in each Mass as if it could be our last or our only Mass. Let us never take for granted the wonder that is the encounter we have with God each Sunday that we celebrate the Eucharist together.

“Every time we celebrate the Eucharist,” Saint John Paul II preached in 2004, “we participate in the Lord’s Supper which gives us a foretaste of the heavenly glory.”18  

The Pope would add in his beautiful encyclical on the Eucharist,

The Eucharist is a … foretaste of the fullness of joy promised by Christ; it is in some way the anticipation of heaven, the ‘pledge of future glory.’19  In the Eucharist, everything speaks of confident waiting ‘in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.’ Those who feed on Christ in the Eucharist need not wait until the hereafter to receive eternal life: they already possess it on earth, as the first-fruits of a future fullness which will embrace man in his totality. For in the Eucharist we also receive the pledge of our bodily resurrection at the end of the world: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.’20  This pledge of the future resurrection comes from the fact that the flesh of the Son of Man, given as food, is his body in its glorious state after the resurrection. With the Eucharist we digest, as it were, the ‘secret’ of the resurrection. For this reason St. Ignatius of Antioch rightly defined the Eucharistic Bread as ‘a medicine of immortality, an antidote to death.’21 

St. Augustine wrote, “O God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”22  God wants us to experience deep peace and joy by sharing in His divine life.  The Mass, because we receive divine life within us, is the foretaste of that heavenly peace and joy. From Boston Catholic.org

Catholic schools exist to help children to be saints and to live Gospel teachings as part of their daily lives.  Among other things, that means making sure that the program is geared toward Sunday Mass, which should be presented as the most natural activity for a Catholic.  
Your personal witness and example are crucial: when your students know that you “cannot live without Sunday,” they are inspired and encouraged to imitate you in practicing their faith.

Mass is the central aspect of our Christian life and must be central to religious formation, from pre-kindergarten through high school.  Catholic educators should develop strong programs and faith-based activities to reinforce what is heard at Mass.  Friday classes can be used to give students a “sneak preview” of the coming Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word and instruction about the liturgical season. 

We must remind parents that religious education is incomplete unless it includes participation at Mass, whether youngsters are in Catholic school or the parish religious education program.  At parent meetings for a school’s open house or in sacramental preparation meetings, let parents know that religion classes will include discussion of the Scripture readings at Mass each week.  Many of our parishes now communicate with families via e-mail.  Perhaps an e-mail reminder can be sent to families at the end of the week briefly mentioning the theme of the upcoming readings and our interest in hearing what the children/teens think about Jesus’ message.   There are many websites that pose a “Question of the Week” based on the Sunday readings.  These might be effective reminders to parents that we hope to have them and their children with us at Mass. From Boston Catholic.org