Thursday, September 12, 2019

Sunday Sermon, September 8 -- The Letter of St Paul to Philemon (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi)

The Letter to Philemon is St Paul's shortest letter, with only 25 verses. It is also among the most personal writings in the Bible, with St Paul pleading for clemency toward Onesimus, the run-away slave who stole from his master and fled to Rome where he was converted and baptized by St Paul.

We consider how the Christian life means making real sacrifices and setting right things in our life -- Onesimus had to set things right with Philemon, even though it meant risking not only being made a slave again but even the possible punishment of death. Philemon had to set aside worldly possessions and forgive Onesimus even though that meant a significant financial loss.

There are some in the Church, even in the Vatican, who want to set aside this call to conversion, but this is the demand of Christ -- Those who are in invalid marriages must set things right (even if this means separating) in order to be authentic Christians, those who have defrauded people or who have business practices that are immoral must change and repay those of whom they have taken advantage, couples need to accept the plan of God for marriage and family rejecting contraception, etc.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

September 3rd, Adult Ed Series on the City of God, Session 6 of 16, The Fall, Sin and Death

In this series, which will continue for about six months, we are discussing the City of God by St Augustine - one of the most influential books in human history, a book that formed Western Civilization.

In Session 6, we conclude our discussion of the creation and fall of the angels and more forward with the state of man before the Fall, the Fall itself and the reality of Sin, and the effects of the Fall.


Sunday Sermon, September 1st -- The Letter of St Paul to the Hebrews (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

While all the letters of St Paul discuss the grace of Christ in the Church, the Letter to the Hebrews discusses grace in our Lord as the Head of the Church. Thus, this Letter is an extended theological reflection upon the Person of Jesus in his human nature.

Notice certain peculiarities about this Letter to the Hebrews:  While all the other Letters of St Paul are named either by the city in which the addressees live (eg. Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, etc) or by the individual who received the Letter (eg. Timothy, Titus, Philemon), this Letter is named after the race of the people to whom it was addressed, Hebrews.  In fact, this Letter was written to the Jewish converts to Christianity living in Jerusalem.

St Paul does not begin in his usual way, by setting forth his name and authority -- and the whole style of the Letter is very eloquent and much fancier than his other writings.  This is likely because the Letter was originally written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek by St Luke.

Overview of the Letter to the Hebrews:
Part I (Chapters 1-10), Grace in the Person of Jesus Christ who is greater than the angels, than Moses, and than Aaron and the Old Testament Priests.
Part II (Chapters 11-13), Faith by which we are united to the grace of Christ


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

August 27th, Adult Ed Series on the City of God, Session 5 of 16, Introduction to Books XI-XXII, Creation (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

In this series, which will continue for about six months, we are discussing the City of God by St Augustine - one of the most influential books in human history, a book that formed Western Civilization.

In session 5, we begin the study of the second half of the work (Books XI-XXII), and discuss St Augustine's theory of creation and why he does not believe that the "six days" refer to 24 hour periods or any passage of time at all, but to the angelic knowledge of creation.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday Sermon, August 25 -- The Heresy of Modernism

Pope St Pius X (who established our Diocese of Great Falls - Billings, MT) condemned modernism as the "synthesis of all heresies". But what is modernism, and how does it relate to the Church today?

Modernism claims that all truth and even the revealed dogmas of the Church are to be adapted, changed, and subordinated to the spirit of the modern age. Modernism teaches not simply the development of dogma (where what was believed from the very beginning is made more explicit and taught more clearly as the ages progress), but the evolution of dogma according to which the truth essentially changes for the modern era. Modernism, then, places man at the center of all things and defines truth and reality as subject to man's experience.

Though modernism was condemned over 100 years ago, we see it is still causing confusion in the Church today -- it is modernism which is at the root of Fr Sosa SJ (the superior of the Jesuits throughout the world) heretically stating that the devil doesn't exist as a real person, and it is modernism that leads people to reject our Lord's words in the Gospel that very few are saved.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sunday Sermon, August 18th -- The Prophet Jeremiah, Recognizing the Catastrophe and the Call to Repentance (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

The prophet Jeremiah is himself a prefigurement of our Lord in his passion. Having written the book of Jeremiah as well as Lamentations, and influencing Baruch as well, Jeremiah is the "weeping prophet" who calls Judah to repentance but is rejected by the people as they face destruction at the hands of the Babylonians.

We consider the history of the times of Jeremiah and the ways in which this prophet foreshadows our Lord.  Further, we recognize that the false prophets of Jeremiah's day said that all was well and that the nation was strong, and Jeremiah was seen as an enemy of the people for preaching the need to change course and repent. So also today, there are many who claim the Church is flourishing and parishes are vibrant and all is well, but we recognize a massive loss of the faith (only about 1/4 of Catholics under 40 believe in the Real Presence, and so few attend Mass on Holy Days of Obligation, etc). Today also, those who speak prophetically of the need for conversion and a change of course from what we have been doing in the past 40 years since Vatican II are seen almost as enemies of the Church -- but we must heed the voice of Jeremiah, and embrace the opportunity to return to the solid traditions of the Catholic Faith before all is lost.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

August 15th Sermon for the Assumption: The Memorare Prayer (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

The Dogma of the Assumption states that Mary was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven. She was preserved from corruption after her death while her body lay in the tomb for some days, then she was raised to life and taken up to heaven.

However, Mary does not abandon us, but remains ever our good mother. Her care and protection remain always with us.  We think of this especially in the beautiful prayer, 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 oh Virgin of virgins, my Mother! To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, answer me. Amen."

This prayer which, even if perhaps not composed by St Bernard of Clairvaux certainly captures the spirit of his devotion to the Mother of God, has been influential in the life of St Francis de Sales and so many other saints. I too know the value of this prayer in my own life.  Say it often, every day, and many times each day!


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Sunday Sermon, August 11th -- Abraham's Faith, Sarah and Hagar (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Sunday Sermon)

In Hebrews 11, St Paul presets Abraham as a model of faith. Abraham received God's threefold promise of a land, many descendants, and that through his descendant a blessing would be given to all the nations (this is the promise of a Messiah). Abraham heard and believed.

However, there is a rather troubling moment in Abraham's life in which he takes his wife's servant as his "wife" and begets a child with her. How is this not an act of adultery against Sarah? How is Abraham's begetting of Ishmael through Hagar not a lack of faith in God's promise?

We must maintain that Abraham is no adulterer, neither did he lack faith. Indeed, if we follow this passage of Genesis closely, keeping in mind the culture in which Abraham lived and the progressive degrees whereby God restored marriage to its original dignity, we will see that Abraham and Sarah did nothing wrong in this incident - neither did Abraham in any way doubt God's plan.

God had promised Abraham would have many children, but he had not yet specified through Sarah, therefore, it was entirely reasonable that Abraham would have thought it would be through his wife's servant. Further, Abraham is a model husband who is so good to his wife, and it was not considered adultery for him to take Hagar as a second wife (furthermore, he did not do this out of lust, but following the customs of the time by which a man might increase his family). Certainly, this is not God's plan for marriage and it immediately caused all sorts of problems for Abraham and Sarah, but it would be unjust to accuse Abraham of sin.

Sunday Sermon, August 4th -- The Book of Ecclesiastes (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most difficult to interpret in the Scriptures. Although it contains some of the most popular phrases of the Old Testament "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" and "There is a time for everything... a time to be born and a time to die...", it also contains passages that seem to deny the existence of the soul after death. At certain moments, the author seems almost at the point of despair, saying that the wise man is no better than the wicked fool (or even the beast of the field), since both must die and return to the earth.

Traditionally this book is ascribed to Solomon, who though wisest of all the kings of the earth, fell to great sin and idolatry.  Many believe that this book is an expression of his repentance and return to God at the end of his life. Thus, all human wisdom is seen as nothing without God's grace!


July 30th -- Adult Ed Series on the City of God, Session 4 of 16, Divine Providence and Human Freedom (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

In this series, which will continue for about six months, we are discussing the City of God by St Augustine of Hippo - certainly, one of the most influential books in the history of the Church, a book that formed Western Civilization.


Session 4 -- Review of key concepts of Books I-X. St Augustine's treatment of the foreknowledge of God and how to reconcile the certainty of divine providence with the reality of human free will. 


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sunday Sermon, July 28th -- Abraham, Lot, and the Sodomites (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

We recall the story of Abraham and Lot, as well as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah - considering also what this teaches us about prayer in the midst of our corrupt society.

Lot was the nephew of Abraham and chose to inhabit the region near the Jordan, while Abraham accepted the land of Canaan. Lot chose the land that as more fruitful and materially prosperous, but also more steeped in sin - for this was the land of the Sodomites.

Abraham refused to coexist with these exceedingly great sinners, and so his prayer was heard before God. While the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, Lot was preserved because of Abraham's intercession.

We should imitate Abraham, and separate ourselves from the corruption of modern society and the Gay Pride culture. Although boycotting the companies that are most insistent on destroying Christian values will mean a significant inconvenience for us, and though we may even suffer some material loss - we will be blessed like Abraham, and our prayer will also be heard by the Lord.

July 23 -- Adult Ed Series on the City of God, Session 3 of 16, St Augustine's Reply to Paganism and the Problem of Evil (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

In this series, which will continue for about six months, we are discussing the City of God by St Augustine of Hippo - certainly, one of the most influential books in the history of the Church, a book that formed Western Civilization.


Session 3 -- The key concepts of Books I-X of the City of God. St Augustine's reply to paganism and his argument that the gods of the nations (Zeus, Neptune, Juno, etc) are actually demons. St Augustine's discussion of suffering, and why God permits bad things to happen to good people.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Sunday Sermon, July 21 -- St Mary Magdalene and Religious Life (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

The long tradition of the Roman Catholic Church is that St Mary Magdalene is the penitent woman of Luke 7 who weeps at Jesus' feet, dries them with her hair, and anoints them with perfumed oil. Further, St Mary Magdalene is St Mary of Bethany, the sister of Sts Lazarus and Martha.

That the penitent woman of Luke 7 is Mary Magdalene is seen from the fact that our Lord assures us that the penitent woman will never be forgotten, but does not give us her name at that moment. However, the very next paragraph (the beginning of Luke 8), he tells us that Mary Magdalene was journeying with Jesus and that our Lord has cast out seven demons from her -- the connection is meant to be obvious.  Pope Francis explicitly affirmed this when declaring the year of Mercy.

We then realize that Mary Magdalene is Mary of Bethany because St John (in chapter 11) tell us that Mary of Bethany is the Mary that had anointed Jesus -- but the only woman who had anointed the Lord at that time was Mary Magdalene (Luke 7).  Further, when Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus in the day directly before his Passion and Judas objects to this, the Lord says that Mary of Bethany has anointed him in preparation for his burial -- but then we are told explicitly that Mary Magdalene brought the perfumed oils for our Lord's burial. This again indicates that Mary Magdalene is none other than Mary of Bethany.

We point out that the Church's liturgy indicates this, since there is no proper feast of St Mary of Bethany, excepting that of St Mary Magdalene - and St Martha is celebrated on the octave day of the feast of St Mary Magdalene, indicating that the two are sisters.

Finally, we consider the words of Jesus, "Mary has chosen the better part." The Lord teaches us that the vocation to the contemplative life, the vocation to religious life is objectively the better calling. It is objectively an higher vocation to be a monk or nun, than to be a diocesan priest or to be married - and, further, it is an higher calling to be a celibate priest than to be married.  This was explicitly taught by the Council of Trent, and confirmed again by Pope Pius XII and Pope St John Paul II.

The vocation to religious life is higher because it points to heaven more explicitly -- indeed, to enter religious life is to begin even now to live the life of heaven, being married to God alone.


Sunday Sermon, July 14 -- The Allegory of the Good Samaritan (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us of the fall of Adam (the fall of the human race), the way in which the Law pointed out sin but could not heal sin, the grace that is offered in Christ, and the communion which our Lord establishes in the Catholic Church.  Every detail of this parable has a deep spiritual meaning.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Sunday Sermon, July 7 -- Right Worship is the Answer to the Priest Shortage; not married priests, not deacons, and not female ministry (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

"The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he send labourers into his harvest."

When Jesus recognized a shortage of vocations, he did not look to human solutions (for example, relaxing the requirements of what was expected of the 72 disciples), but rather encouraged prayer. Prayer is the answer to the shortage of priests - and not only prayer, but right and proper worship of God. If we want more priests, if we want our young men to be able to discern a vocation to the priesthood, we need reverent worship following the norms of the Church. Even more, we recognize that traditional parishes are a source of vocations to the priesthood and religious life (some studies indicate that a young man is seven times more likely to become a priest if his family attends a traditional parish).

Many people today offer other solutions to the shortage of priests. But the solution isn't to change the norms on priestly celibacy - because celibacy is a great gift, and Christ Jesus was a celibate priest. Others recommend ordaining permanent deacons to help fill the lack of priests - but deacons aren't priests, and it is not proper to the theology of the diaconate to use deacons as a means to lighten the load of sacramental ministry for priests.  Finally, others recommend that we look to an increased role for women in the Church as a response to the priest shortage - but women have their own proper role, and it isn't to make up for a lack of priests!

July 9 -- Adult Ed Series on the City of God, Session 2 of 16, St Augustine's Theology and Overview of the City of God (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

In this series, which will continue for about six months, we are discussing the City of God by St Augustine of Hippo - certainly, one of the most influential books in the history of the Church, a book that formed Western Civilization.

Session 2 -- The key concepts of St Augustine's theology, especially as they relate to the City of God. Also, notes and suggestions on how to read The City of God, and suggestions on which chapters to read carefully and which can be skipped over or skimmed.

[Handouts for the session are below]

Saturday, July 6, 2019

July 2 -- Adult Formation Series on the City of God, Session 1 of 16, Introduction to St Augustine

In this series which will continue over about 6 months, we are discussing what is likely the most influential theological work in the history of the Church (excepting only the Summa of St Thomas) -- The City of God, by St Augustine.

Session 1 - Who is St Augustine? When did he write the City of God? And Why?
[The handouts for this session are below.]

Sunday Sermon, June 30 --- Samaritans and Patience (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

To understand the Sunday Gospel in which the Samaritan villagers refuse to welcome Jesus, we must know something about the geography of ancient Israel and the history of the Samaritan people.

Having discussed these points, and learning a little something about the 10 lost tribes of Israel as well as the 2 (or 3) tribes that were not lost, we then consider the two brothers James and John. Perhaps we all can learn a lesson in patience from this event -- to patiently trust that God will bring about the conversion of our loved ones, and also that he will likewise heal those areas of our souls which are yet in need of further conversion.



Sunday Sermon, June 23 -- Reflections on my 10th Anniversary of Ordination and the Holy Mass (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

This year, my tenth anniversary of ordination falls on the transferred feast of Corpus Christi and I see it as a great gift of divine providence that I celebrate Mass as pastor of Corpus Christi Parish. My ordination will only fall on the Sunday transferred feast of Corpus Christi four times in my life - so, this is a special opportunity for me to reflect upon the meaning of the priesthood and my vision of my own life as a priest in relation to the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar and especially the offering of the Holy Mass.

This sermon is very different from any other I have given, it is my personal reflections and personal sharing of my own understanding of the priesthood and my priestly life.  The Mass is everything for me, being united as a priest to our Eucharistic Jesus. By God's grace, I have said Mass every day since being ordained, offering the Mass about 4,500 times over the past ten years!


Monday, June 17, 2019

Trinity Sunday Sermon, June 16th -- Person and Nature in the Trinity (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

The mystery of the Trinity may be compared to the sun -- when I stare into the sun, I am blinded; but by that same overwhelming light, all reality is illumined and made intelligible to me.  So also, when I see to understand the Trinity, my mind is dazed and I am overwhelmed; but it is the love of the Trinity which has revealed to me all the other mysteries of our Faith.

The Trinity is one God in three Persons, three Persons in one Nature. But what do we mean by "Person" and "nature"? Person answers the question of "who?", while nature answers the question of "what?" -- in the Trinity there are three "Whos" (the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit) and one "What" (one God).

Reflecting further, we see that, because there is only one God and one divine Nature, the three Persons have only one Divine Intellect (one Divine Knowledge) and one Divine Will (one Divine Love). This means that there is no subordination in the Trinity, the Father is not greater than the Son nor is the Son less than the Father. Neither is there any obedience within the Trinity, the Son does not obey the Father because the Son has no personal will/desire he could subject to the personal will/desire of the Father - the Divine Will of the Son is the Divine Will of the Father.

However, we compare this to the mystery of the Incarnation:  In the Trinity, we have three Persons in one Nature; but, in the Incarnation, we have one Person in two Natures. Thus, in Christ, we have a Divine Nature and an human nature, but only one Divine Person. Hence, Jesus has a Divine Intellect (Divine Knowledge, which is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit) and an Human Intellect (human knowledge, which is proper to Jesus in his humanity). Likewise, the Lord has a Divine Will (one with the Father and the Holy Spirit), and an human will (in his humanity).

In this way, Jesus is obedient to the Father in his human nature -- the Lord submits his human will to the Divine Will; which means he is obedient as man also to himself as God, and to the Holy Spirit.

In his Love for us, God the Father sends his Son and the Holy Spirit invisibly into our hearts by grace.  And this is sanctifying grace, the created participation in the Life of the Trinity within us.


Pentecost Sunday Sermon, June 9th -- The Holy Spirit Proceeds from the Father and the Son (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

The Holy Spirit is truly God and equal with the Father and the Son, adored with the Father and the Son. He is a Person, not just a general "force" or "movement".

One of the key differences between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches is that we rightly believe in the doctrine of the Filioque - which states that the Holy Spirit proceeds not from the Father only, but from the Father "and the Son". This must be held, since the Person of the Son is defined as the one who proceeds from the Father alone -- thus, if the Spirit did not proceed from both the Father and the Son, he would not be distinguishable from the Son.

With further reflection, we see that the Holy Spirit, as proceeding from both the Father and the Son, is the procession of Love. If we desire to grow in Divine Love, we must grow in our devotion to the Holy Spirit.


Friday, June 7, 2019

Sunday Sermon, June 2nd -- Why Did Christ Ascend into Heaven? (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

[pre-sermon note on the Paschal Candle as a symbol of the Risen Christ during the forty days between Easter Sunday and Ascension Thursday]

For many reasons, it is better for us that Jesus ascended: Our faith is increased (since faith is about that which is not seen), our hope is lifted up (since he went to prepare a place for us), and our love is directed above all to heaven rather than the things of earth.

For the Lord, it is also fitting that he should ascend. A glorified body is not fittingly restricted or contained in the fallen world, but rises above the heavens.  St Thomas (and the great Thomistic theologians) offer an explanation of how the true physical body of Christ could ascend "to heaven" if heaven is not a "place up there".

By ascending, Jesus reveals that he is the true Judge seated at the right hand of the Father - he will come again.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Sunday Sermon, May 26th -- First Friday and First Saturday Devotions for Peace (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you."

The peace which our Lord gives is a true interior peace which rests in the heart of man, springing from the union of God and the soul. This interior peace then overflows to bring peace into the world.

Through devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, God desires to give true peace to the earth. The First Friday devotions to the Sacred Heart and the First Saturday devotions to the Immaculate Heart are heaven's plan for peace.

First Friday Devotions consist in receiving holy communion as an act of reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on the first Friday of the month for nine consecutive months.

First Saturday Devotions consist in receiving holy communion (either on the first Saturday the following Sunday, with the permission of the priest), making confessions (even ten or more days before or after the first Saturday), praying five decades of the Rosary, and spending an additional fifteen minutes in meditation upon the mysteries of the Rosary -- all offered as an act of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, on the first Saturday of the month for five consecutive months.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Sunday Sermon, May 19 -- The New Heavens and the New Earth (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Sunday Sermon)

What does St John the Evangelist mean when, in the book of Revelation (aka Apocalypse) he speaks of the "former" heavens and "former" earth passing away, and the coming of the "new" heavens and "new" earth?

Following St Thomas Aquinas and the best of Catholic commentaries as well as the insights given from other passages of Scripture, we give the best explanation of the Sacred Page.

The "heavens" does not refer to heavenly glory enjoyed by the angels and saints, but to the stars and planets of the universe. Thus, "the heavens and the earth" means all that is in the physical universe.  The "new heavens and new earth" are not some entirely new creation made out of nothing, but rather the renewal of the "old" to make it "new" - hence, Jesus says, "Behold, I make all things new."

This renewal of the heavens and the earth is similar to what is brought about in the resurrection of the body, which is why we consider this mystery during the Easter season. As the corruptible body is raised glorious, so also this material world is transformed and made glorious on the last day.


Sunday Sermon, May 12 -- Hearing the Voice of the Shepherd, Confirmation and First Communion (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

"My sheep hear my voice."

If we desire to hear the subtle and gentle voice of the Good Shepherd speaking in our souls, we must listen to his clear and manifest voice speaking in the public revelation of Scripture and Tradition as well as through the official teaching authority of the Church.

We hear the voice of our Good Shepherd through reading Sacred Scripture together with a good traditional Catholic Bible commentary (like that of Fr George Leo Haydock), as well as the writings of the Fathers of the Church (especially found in the "Catena Aurea" or "Golden Chain" Gospel Commentary compiled by St Thomas Aquinas).  Likewise, we can follow our Good Shepherd by imitating the lives of the saints who have been the good sheep of our Good Shepherd.


Monday, May 6, 2019

Sunday Sermon, May 5th -- St Peter, Supreme Shepherd of the Church (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

A detailed line-by-line study of the Sunday Gospel taken from John 21, concluding with a reflection on the last days of St Peter's life.

We discuss the following phrases: The "disciples", the "sea of Tiberias", "Zebedee's sons", "I am going fishing", "that night they caught nothing", "already dawn", "children", "the disciple whom Jesus loved", "one hundred fifty-three large fish", "the net was not torn", "the third time", "Do you love me?", "you know everything", "feed my sheep", "signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God", "follow me".

After having escaped from imprisonment in Rome, St Peter received a vision of Jesus returning to City. "Lord, where are you going?" "I am going to Rome, to be crucified again." And St Peter follows the Lord, and does not deny him this time, but returns to suffer being crucified upside down.


Divine Mercy Sunday, April 28th -- Divine Mercy and the Traditional Liturgy (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

[Pre-sermon note on receiving the indulgence for Divine Mercy Sunday as well as the promise our Lord makes to those who confess and receive communion on this day]


The popular devotions of the faithful are meant to flow from the Liturgy and return to the Liturgy. Personal devotion and personal prayer finds its source and summit in the celebration of the Eucharist in Holy Mass. We see that, in this respect, the devotions of Divine Mercy bring us to the very heart of the public worship of the Church in the Sacred Triduum and through Easter Week to the Sunday Octave.

In particular, the Divine Mercy devotions are rooted in the practices of the Traditional Latin Mass and in the ancient traditions of the Church which were are most striking on Good Friday (the beginning of the Divine Mercy Novena) and the Octave Sunday (now, Divine Mercy Sunday).

Although the richest connections between the Liturgy and the Divine Mercy devotion were greatly obscured in the years following the Second Vatican Council - when the new Mass is celebrated in a traditional way, we can still see how the Divine Mercy devotions highlight was is most essential to this sacred season.

Easter Sunday Sermon, April 21st -- The Resurrection was Hidden from the World (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

No one saw our Lord rise from the dead. Although there are many "proofs" of the resurrection, and although our Lord appeared to his disciples many times after rising - the resurrection itself occurred in an hidden and mysterious way.

The very same physical body in which Jesus suffered, is truly raised to a new and glorious life. Many historical facts testify to the truth of the resurrection -- the empty tomb, the transformation brought about in the lives of the disciples, the burial cloths, and more.

However, the risen Jesus did not appear to all people, but only to those few disciples who had been chosen. This surprises us - wouldn't it have been better if Jesus had appeared in a clear way to all people? Why doesn't he go about preaching and teaching and working miracles before the crowds, as he had before his passion?

The Lord is teaching us that we must rely on spiritual means rather than look to worldly power or worldly success in spreading the Gospel.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Palm Sunday Sermon, April 14th -- On Perfect Contrition (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

The story of the conversion of the Good Thief, St Dismas, inspires us to make acts of perfect contrition.  Contrition is a sorrow for sin -- an interior pain in response to the reality of sin, and a real detestation or hatred of sin.

Contrition is not primarily the emotion of sorrow, which can even be a hindrance to true spiritual growth. Rather, true contrition is expressed in the firm resolve to never sin again, and the willingness to make any sacrifice necessary so as to avoid sin.

Imperfect contrition, which is still very good and a gift from God, is to be sorry for sins so as to avoid the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. Perfect contrition, however, will be the greatest motivator -- it is to be sorry for sin because we realize how much God loves us, and also that we truly do desire to love Him in return.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sunday Sermon, April 7th -- The Stations of the Cross (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

The history of the development of the Stations of the Cross from when Our Lady first led the Apostles through the streets of Jerusalem to our own day.

Thoughts on how to benefit from this devotion and the particular insights of St Alphonsus Liguori.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Sunday Sermon, March 31st -- The Mercy of Christ Supersedes the Justice of the Old Testament (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

The traditional Old Testament reading associated with the Gospel Parable of the Prodigal Son is the story of Jacob and Esau. These are two tales of brothers, in which the younger is favored and the elder becomes angry. However, notice the difference of these two -- in the Old Testament, it Jacob who is just and Esau who sold his birth-rite; but in the New Testament, it is the prodigal son who is favored while the older brother seemed to be just.

Again, consider the traditional association of the Old Testament passage of Susanna with the Gospel story of the woman caught in adultery. Susanna was innocent and so was vindicated, but the woman of the Gospel was truly guilty and yet was spared.

The Law given through Moses indicated innocence and guilt, but the Grace and Truth which comes through the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes further yet: Jesus makes the guilty to become truly innocent.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Sunday Sermon, March 24th -- In Defense of Moses and the Violence of the Old Testament (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

Moses towers as the great figure of perfection and virtue in the Old Testament. Called from the Burning Bush to be the liberator and future lawgiver, Moses is likewise the great prophet and inspired writer of Sacred Scripture (of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Job).

However, how can we justify the violence that occurred under Moses' authority? Did God really kill the innocent children of the Egyptians? Did God really command Moses to exterminate whole peoples - not just the soldiers, but even the women and the children?

A few common answers cannot be correct: "The Bible isn't a history book" or "The Bible is determined by the culture of the day" or "Moses justified his people's violence by claiming that God had commanded it."

In this sermon, we explain that God's mercy is present even in these violent moments. The God of Moses is the same God who promised Abraham that he would not destroy the innocent along with the guilty, and the same God who tells the prophets that he desires the conversion of the sinner and not his death.

God is not to be accused of the evil, violence, and death which has entered the world because of sin.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday Sermon, March 17th -- St Patrick, Apostle of the Irish (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi)

Like Moses and Elijah, St Patrick preached in a time of incredible darkness. Like Moses and Elijah, St Patrick fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. And, like Moses and Elijah, St Patrick leads us through Lent to the glory of Easter.

Born in Kilpatrick, Scotland in 387, after being taken as a slave to Ireland and safely returning home, St Patrick returned to the green isle to preach the Gospel among the Gaels. By the time of his death, St Patrick had converted nearly the whole island and ordained over 430 bishops.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Sunday Sermon, March 10th -- On Temptation, and How to Profit from It (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

Our Lord was tempted in the desert, and all the saints endured temptation - and yet, we so often are surprised to find ourselves weak enough to suffer temptation.  However, God permits temptation to help us grow in holiness, especially through gaining the virtue of humility.

There are three stages of sin: Temptation to sin, delectation (delight) in the thought of sin, and consent to commit sin. There are two extremes which we must avoid: Either thinking that temptation is already sin, or thinking that taking delight in thoughts about sin is no sin at all.

How do we resist temptation? By making strong acts of faith, resolving to follow God's commands and trusting that his grace will sustain us. By praying when tempted, and praying before temptation that we will have the grace to pray during temptation. And, by practicing penance.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Sunday Sermon, March 3rd -- On Devotion to St Joseph (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

[Pre-sermon note about Lent (12 minutes). Obligation of fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and of abstinence on all Fridays of Lent, and of either abstinence or some other penance on all Fridays of the year.  Father Ryan's recommendations for prayer (daily Mass, Stations of the Cross), fasting (giving up meat, as well as eggs and diary), and almsgiving (various opportunities through the parish)]

March is the month of St Joseph, and we look to him as the universal patron of the Church. He was chosen as the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. Our devotion to St Joseph is founded in the marriage between Joseph and Mary.

St Joseph is so intimately tied to the mystery of the incarnation, we cannot truly or authentically come to Jesus without being devoted to St Joseph.

Sunday Sermon, February 24th -- What Catholics Believe About the Pope (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

In honor of the Feast of the Chair of St Peter (Friday, February 22nd), we consider the authority of the Pope and his role in the life of the Church. Many are confused about what we truly believe about Papal infallibility and how the Pope is chosen.

Papal infallibility refers to how God preserves the Pope from error in very specific moments when he invokes his supreme teaching authority -- however, it does not mean that he will necessarily say things in the clearest way, or that he will say everything he should say, but only that what he does say will not be incorrect.  The Pope isn't able to teach anything new, but only to hand on the faith.

God doesn't choose the Pope, and the cardinals are not directly inspired by the Holy Spirit in whom they chose. Neither do we believe that the Pope is necessarily "the best man for the job" -  but only that, whoever is chosen as Pope and whatever politics may have been involved in his election, God will preserve his Church through the papal office.

God didn't give us the Pope to change things, but to keep things the same - namely, to preserve the Catholic faith unchanged and entire. Even if there were a Pope that caused lots of confusion, or who did not teach the faith clearly, or who was involved in corruption; we would remain obedient to him but without defending or promoting the confusion. In this regard, we would imitate David who opposed wicked Saul but remained perfectly respectful and obedient.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Sunday Sermon, February 10th -- What Makes and Apostle?, and St Matthias (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

During his life, our Lord established the hierarchical structure of the Church and chose twelve men whom he named as his Apostles, and whom he sent out with authority to teach, govern and sanctify. These Apostles, having received instruction from the Lord and through the Holy Spirit's inspiration, established the means by which their authority would continue in the Catholic Church, specifically through the bishops of the Church.

We consider the meaning of the word "Apostle" and what were the "requirement" of becoming an apostle. The role of the Apostles in the early Church shows us the divinely instituted structure of the true Church of Jesus Christ. The vocation of an apostle is made evident in the calling of Peter and Andrew (from the Sunday's Gospel) and Paul's own insistence that he is a true apostle (Second Reading from 1 Corinthians)

Finally, we look to St Matthias, patron of the Diocese of Great Falls - Billings, who was chosen to join the Apostles after the fall of Judas.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Sunday Sermon, February 3 -- God Loves You (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi)

1 Corinthians 13 contains the hymn to Divine Love, sixteen characteristic of love/charity.  Love is a theological virtue (together with faith and hope) given by God and which directs to God in himself. As St Thomas Aquinas teaches, love is a certain friendship between God and the soul. The Lord desires not merely to be our king and master, but more to be our friend. He is the dear Friend of your soul!

As we consider the characteristics of love/charity, we recognize that God has so much love for each of us - God is love. What is our primary image for God? A God of wrath who looks to condemn us to hell, or a God of love who desires an eternal friendship with us in heaven?


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Sunday Sermon, January 27 -- A Sermon on a Book: Introduction to the Devout Life (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi)

What is devotion? St Francis de Sales tells us, "Devotion is the very real love of God." Jesus says, "Whoever loves me, keeps my commandments." Thus, devotion is not simply to keep the commandments, but to rejoice in following the law of God, to find one's great joy in the keeping of the commandments.

Yet, even as the body has many parts (as St Paul reminds us in the second reading of today's Mass), so too every member of the Church has his own particular vocation and state in life. Devotion means fulfilling God's commandments in the particular details of each one's circumstances and state in life.

We all want to become more devout, we all want to more joyfully fulfill God's commandments. But how do we grow in holiness? Who will guide us?  I propose to you, as your personal spiritual director, St Francis de Sales, and his classic book, "Introduction to the Devout Life."

If you have not already read "Introduction to the Devout Life," I would encourage you to set everything else aside and read this book. Read from it every day, read it two hundred times! I have found no other book to be as helpful to me as a priest, and St Francis de Sales has been for me a dear friend and spiritual father.

In this sermon, I give an overview of the book, and also offer a few points to help you appreciate the book all the more.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Sunday Sermon, January 13th -- The Baptism of the Lord as Epiphany (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

In our Catholic Tradition, the Epiphany of the Lord commemorates three mysteries: The visit of the Magi thirteen days after out Lord's birth, the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by St John, and the miraculous changing of water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. In each of these mysteries, our Lord's divinity is made "manifest" (Epiphany means manifestation). This is what connects our Lord's Baptism with Christmas, it is the manifestation of the incarnation, that the man Jesus Christ is truly the beloved Son of the eternal Father, God from God and Light from Light.

Thus three-fold Epiphany also calls to mind the key role of Mary and Joseph in the manifestation of who Jesus really is. If we desire to understand the divine relation of Jesus to his heavenly Father, I propose we may learn much from meditating upon the relation of Jesus to Mary. On the other hand, we look especially to St Joseph as we meditate upon the relationship of Jesus in his humanity to his heavenly Father.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Sunday Sermon, January 6th -- Epiphany and Interior Conversion (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

The feast of Epiphany really is the Christmas of the Gentiles, the day in which the mystery of Christ's birth was revealed to all the nations (symbolized by the Three Wise Men). This feast, in the early Church, was celebrated with even more solemnity than Christmas!

The historical journey of the Magi is a model for our interior conversion as we progress through the spiritual life. First, the Magi must set out from a pagan land and people - even as we must abandon vain and worldly pursuits, setting out in earnest to gain the great good of holiness.

However, this first conversion of the Magi was not sufficient, for although they sought spiritual goods, they still had a worldly approach. They went to the palace, where the rich and powerful are found - but the Child was born among the poor in the city of Bethlehem. So also, when we begin to seek spiritual things, we tend to retain a worldly or secular approach to the faith and to the Gospel. We want to be faithful, we want to embrace the teaching of Jesus; but we also want to be popular, to be accepted by the world, or at least to be acceptable to our fellow Catholics. There is a tendency to want to be "middle of the road" and not "rock the boat" - seeking to be successful while also following the Lord.   But like the Magi, we are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful - Epiphany is an invitation to follow the Wise Men along a path of humility and fidelity to the Lord, seeking spiritual goods in a spiritual manner.


Holy Day Sermon, January 1st - Mary, Mother of God - The Octave of Christmas and Mary's Joy (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

There are three mysteries commemorated on January 1st: The Octave Day of Christmas, The Circumcision of the Lord, and the Maternity of Mary.

The Octave of Christmas: We must remember that Christmas is not over, in fact, it has not even yet fully begun. We are still in the twelve days of Christmas, and the feast of Christmas is not even complete until Epiphany on January 6th. Yet, the liturgical season of Christmas extends to the feast of Our Lord's Baptism on January 13th. Furthermore, the spiritual devotion of Christmas extends for forty days through to our Lord's Presentation in the Temple on February 2nd. Be sure to celebrate Christmas through the whole of Christmas Season!

The Circumcision of the Lord: This is the day in which the Child began to be called Jesus. January is month of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Mary, Mother of God: Our joy in Christmas is the joy of Mary. Even as there is so much joy in a new mother over the birth of her child, we are invited to rejoice with Mary and St Joseph in the birth of the Christ!

Sunday Sermon, December 30 -- Jesus' Obedience to Joseph and Mary, and Obedience in Our Lives

A preliminary note regarding two common heretical errors people (even priests) often make when interpreting the Sunday Gospel about the Child Jesus being found in the Temple after he was lost for three days.

First, "He grew in wisdom and age and favor before God and men." Our Lord Jesus did not "grow in knowledge" simply speaking through his life, for he knew everything from the first moment of his conception. However, he grew in knowledge "before God and men," meaning that the perfection of his knowledge was progressively revealed to men - indeed, the very revelation of this passage of St Luke's Gospel is that Christ's perfect wisdom aroused admiration in men.

Second, "Son, why have you done this to us?" We must never think that Jesus was in any way disobedient to Joseph and Mary, or that he ever did anything that was less than perfect. In fact, the very point of this passage is that "Jesus was obedient to them" - the Christ Child is the model of obedience, who give true honor to his foster-father and mother. Indeed, Jesus' obedience to Joseph and Mary reveals the perfect obedience he has as man to his heavenly Father.

The obedience of Christ is a model for our own obedience. Charity is the virtue which brings the soul to perfection, but three other virtues protect and advance charity in the soul: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Poverty consecrates our external possessions to God, chastity consecrates our body to God, but obedience (which is most interior, and therefore most necessary) consecrates our heart to God.

Our obedience to God is expressed and realized in our obedience to them God has placed in authority over us. Children, obey your parents. Wives, obey your husbands. Men, obey your pastors and your government.


Christmas Sermon, December 25 -- The Eucharistic Mystery in Christ's Birth (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

Christ is born in Bethlehem, which means "House of Bread." He is laid in a manger, which is a food basket for the animals. He would one day teach us that he is the "Bread of Life." The shepherds of Bethlehem who came to adore him were those entrusted with watching over the sheep which would be sacrificed in Jerusalem for the nation of Israel - and now they adore the true Lamb of God.

The circumstances of Christ's birth point us to the Eucharistic Mystery of his Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

Sunday Sermon, December 23 -- Even the Protestants Become Catholic at Christmas (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

Christmas is a time to emphasize Christian unity, and there are many graces available to bring about conversion. In this sermon, we present a number of arguments or examples which show that even the most fundamentalist Protestants can't help but become a little bit Catholic at Christmas time.

1) The veneration of holy images and of saints, in the Nativity Scenes.
2) Greater attention given to Mary so as to come more fully to Jesus, in Christmas songs.
3) Celebrating "man-made" Holy Days, in the very celebration of Christmas.

The deeper reality that draws Protestants to a Catholic manner of worship during Christmas season is that the mystery of Christmas is the incarnation, that God truly became Man. The real heresy of Martin Luther and the other Protestants turns out to be a rejection of the importance of Christ's humanity.

Advent Adult Ed Course on the Traditional Latin Mass for the Church Today (December 4th, 11th, 18th -- Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi)

We consider the significance of the various words and gestures of the priest during the Traditional Latin Mass, and how we can more fully participate in the Traditional Mass. Further, we point out many ways in which the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass is helpful for both the priest and the people, and how the Traditional Mass will bring a much needed healing to a deep wound of division which has occurred in the Church in the years since the Second Vatican Council - the Church today seems almost to be divided against herself, her history, her tradition, and her Mass.

Sunday Sermon, December 16 -- The Right to War, the Right to Private Property, the Love of the Poor (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi)

St John the Baptist gives an implicit approval of both just war and private property when the people come to ask him "What should we do?"  To the rich, he does not deny the right to private property, but only says they should be generous to the poor. And, to the soldiers, he does not deny the right of nations to go to war (in just circumstances), but only commands them to be good soldiers.

Nations have a right to wage war either for their own defense or the defense of their rights, or even for the defense of weaker peoples who are suffering oppression. Still, this should only be a last resort - as war does bring much suffering.  The right of nations to wage war is a safeguard to check unjust aggression and greed.

Individuals have a right to private property, and this is why communism and socialism are true heresies which Catholics must reject. Socialist strive to take the wealth of the rich and redistribute it to the poor, and they further strive to subject the family to the whim of the State (redefining the nature of marriage and family life). We note that the democratic party in the USA is dangerous close to socialism, and the Church (Bl Pius IX and St John XXIII especially) has stated that a Catholic cannot be a socialist.

But private wealth is meant to be not only for the benefit of the rich, but also to be used to relieve the sufferings of the poor. If we desire to grow in a love for the poor (which is one of the essential fruits of the Christmas mystery), we can look to the great saints (like St Wenceslaus) and to our Lord (who became poor so that we might be made spiritually rich).