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.