Monday, February 19, 2018

Sunday Sermon, February 18 -- The World Needs Catholics to Fast (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

For the Christian, holiness is the imitation of Christ - and Jesus fasted for forty days, which is why we fast and do penance during Lent. In particular, we fast from food and abstain from meat. Fasting and abstinence is deeply connected with who man, it is not merely a convention. Of all the ways we are attached to worldly things, food is primary. And of all types of food which give strength to the body, the meat of warm blooded animals is primary. Therefore, we sacrifice not only what is good, but even what is necessary (food, and in particular meat); so that we might be strengthened to give up what is not only not necessary, but is not even good (that is, sin).

One hundred years ago, Our Lady appeared in Fatima to ask for penance and prayers for the conversion of sinners and peace in the world. At that time, Catholics fasted for over fifty days of the year (included every day of Lent excepting Sundays), and abstained from meat and eggs and dairy for about one hundred days of the year (including every day of Lent, even the Sundays). Nowadays, we are only required to fast two days a year and to abstain from meat eight days - that is less than five percent of the fasting and less than ten percent of the abstinence which Catholics have practiced for some two thousand years!

No wonder the world and the Church are in such a sad state! Catholics don't do penance any more! Mary has been asking for one hundred years now, will any generous hearts embrace fasting and abstinence this Lent for peace in the world and the salvation of souls?

Listen online [here]!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lenten Fasting and Abstinence, and Fridays abstinence throughout the year

The Current Law of the Church
Abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of the year (except if there is a Solemnity), which is strictly mandatory during Lent but can be substituted with another penance outside of Lent. [This is mandatory for all 14 and up, until death.]
Fasting, meaning one regular meal and two small snacks, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday – and encouraged on Holy Saturday.  [This is mandatory for all from 18 to 59.]
(Laws of fasting and abstinence bind gravely, so that it is objectively in the realm of mortal sin to break them significantly without a grave reason [like being very ill or having to perform some extreme physical labor, or pregnancy, etc].)

Father Ryan’s Recommendations  (simply some ideas of how to enter more fully into Lent)
Fasting has traditionally been understood to mean only one meal (taken after 3pm), and only one very small snack (like a piece of bread with honey, or a few veggies). Those who are grown and healthy might consider incorporating this practice on even a weekly basis, especially Fridays – however, growing children, the elderly, the sick, pregnant mothers, etc should speak first with their confessor.
Abstinence has traditionally been understood to mean not just avoiding meat, but also products derived from these animals – namely, broth, meat-gravy, dairy, eggs, etc. This is the origin of the “Easter egg,” since eggs were forbidden during Lent. This is also why Catholics were called “Fish eaters” because they couldn’t eat meat or eggs or dairy – fish was a major part of the Lenten diet.
Less than 100 years ago, abstinence was practiced not only on Fridays, but also on Wednesdays and Saturdays – and even “partial abstinence” on every day of Lent (including Sundays), which meant that meat, eggs, or dairy could only be eaten at one meal during the day. The more ancient practice was to fully abstain from meat, eggs, and dairy on every single day of Lent, and to fast every day but Sunday!
For those who are able, it would be good to consider practicing abstinence from meat, eggs, and dairy on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays – especially on the Ember Days of the First Week of Lent. And even to adopt partial abstinence on every day of Lent.


“The observance of Lent is the very badge of the Christian warfare. By it, we prove ourselves not to be enemies of the cross of Christ. By it, we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it, we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should mankind grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God’s glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe.”
(Pope Benedict XIV, in the Constitution Non ambigimus of 10 June 1745)
Let’s review the Canon Law of the Church:
Can. 1249 All Christ's faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his or her own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. […]
Can. 1250 The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and [every day of] the season of Lent.
Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. […]
Can. 1253 The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

It is clear that each and every Friday through the entire year is a day of penance. This is prescribed by the Law of the Church. In the Universal Church, Catholics are obligated to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. The US Bishops have obtained permission for some other form of penance for Fridays outside of Lent. However, we must recall that all US Catholics are obligated to do penance of some sort on every Friday of the year (excepting if it be a solemnity; for example, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart). Penance on Fridays is binding on all Catholics from 14 years until death. There is no upper age limit to abstaining from meat or some other form of penance outside of Lent. However, the two days of fasting (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) bind only from 18 to 60 years – we are encouraged to fast also on Holy Saturday.
But how serious is this obligation? After Vatican II, Pope Paul VI issued a declaration regarding the necessity of penance in the Christian life. Regarding abstinence from meat (or some other penance as determined by the Bishops’ Conference) on every Friday throughout the year, the Pope states, in 1966, “Their substantial observance binds gravely.” (Paenitemini, Norm II.2) This was further clarified by the Vatican, stating that omitting a part of the prescript of penance “which is notable either quantitatively or qualitatively, without an excusing motive” is a grave sin. (Dubium of 31 March 1967).
What does this mean? It means that Catholics are bound under pain of mortal sin to practice penance on every Friday throughout the year, and not just during Lent. The universal way in which Catholics practice this penance is by abstaining from meat. However, in the USA other forms of penance may be substituted, but some sort of penance is mandatory. To omit penance on numerous Fridays outside of Lent (or even one Friday of Lent) without a grave reason would be a mortal sin.
Am I in mortal sin, if I've never heard about this and have never done Friday penance before?! Of course not. If you truly did not know, but generally seek to follow the teachings of the Church, you are not guilty of committing a mortal sin you didn't know about. However, we all have the obligation to learn and spread the fullness of the Catholic teaching, so we must strive from now on to practice Friday penance throughout.
Why haven't I heard about this before? If it really is an issue of mortal sin, why haven't other priests told me about this?! It is sad that there are many teachings which have not been communicated clearly over the past 50 years. Friday penance is a wonderful way to be united with Christ, who died on Friday for our salvation – this is all about imitating Jesus with much love!

Ash Wednesday Sermon, February 15 -- On Lenten Fasting (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi)

"Rather than giving something up, this Lent I'm going to add something."
This is a recipe for a terrible Lent.  Indeed, there are three acts to be performed during Lent: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving - if we don't fast, we are already at 66%, which is a D-.

The fast is the core of our Lenten discipline: Fasting helps us to break free from the attachments of the world so as to pray with greater devotion, and fasting brings us to union with the poor whose whole year is a continuous fast.

Just one hundred years ago, Catholics would abstain from meat every day of Lent (even Sundays), and from eggs and dairy on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Further, every day of Lent excepting Sundays was a fasting day. There were 40 days of fasting during Lent! Not to mention more than 10 others throughout the year!

Today, we are only required to fast on two days (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) and to abstain from meat on Fridays. No wonder the world is in such a terrible state - Catholics don't do penance any more! Who else will do penance and pray for sinners, if we don't fast during Lent?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sunday Sermon, February 11 -- The Fruitfulness of Priestly Celibacy, St Damien of Molokai (Sermons on Priestly Celibacy, Part 3 of 3 - Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

Review of the previous two sermons on the theology of priestly celibacy and the history of clerical celibacy.  The priest is celibate primarily because Jesus was a celibate priest - being so conformed to Christ, it is fitting that the priest should imitate the Lord in embracing celibacy. Furthermore, the celibate man offers to God an undivided heart, but the married man's heart is divided between his wife, the world, his family, etc and the Lord - since the priest is wholly consecrated to divine worship, it is fitting that his heart be given to God wholly through celibacy.

Celibacy is tied to the very nature of the priesthood, even as Christ united celibacy to the priesthood in his own person. It is a discipline which could change, but it would be horrible if it did change.

The real history of "married priests" is that the common practice in the early Church was for married men to cease living as husbands with their wives at the time of their ordination. Furthermore, even today, when a married man is ordained (for example, when a married man is ordained a permanent deacon), he makes something like a "conditional promise" of celibacy, since he is not permitted to remarry after ordination if his wife dies. Holy Orders tends towards celibacy.

We consider the joy and the fruitfulness of priestly celibacy as we look at the life of the Leper Priest of Molokai, St Damien.

“Missionary priest, born at Tremeloo, Belgium, 3 January 1840; died at Molokai, Hawaii, 15 April 1889. He was sent to the mission of the Hawaiian Islands, where he arrived, 19 March, 1864. Ordained priest at Honolulu 24 May of the same year. On 10 May, 1873, Father Damien, at his own request and with the sanction of his bishop, arrived at the settlement [on Molokai] as its resident priest. There were then 600 lepers. He not only administered the consolations of religion, but also rendered them such little medical service and bodily comforts as were within his power. He dressed their ulcers, helped them erect their cottages, and went so far as to dig their graves and make their coffins. After twelve years of this heroic service he discovered in himself the first symptoms of the disease. On 28 March, 1889, Father Damien became helpless and passed away shortly after, closing his fifteenth year in the service of the lepers.” (From the Catholic Encyclopedia)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Sunday Sermon, February 5 -- The Real History of Priestly Celibacy (Sermons on Priestly Celibacy, part 2 of 3)

"Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever." (March 1:30)

Having discussed the theology of priestly celibacy last week -- pointing out the gift of celibacy where by the priest imitated Jesus who was a celibate priest and is consecrated entirely to the Lord for divine worship -- we turn this week to the history of clerical celibacy.

There is a common myth that says that the priests were married in the early Church and only in the Middle Ages did the Church force priests to be celibate. This is a false and incomplete picture of the early Church. In fact, from the time of the Apostles (example, St John and St Paul), there were men who embraced celibacy as they lived their priestly vocation. On the other hand, we note that St Peter was married, and likely even had children -- thus, we see that there were married priests in the early Church.

However, we also know from divine revelation, that St Peter gave up married life with his wife when he was called to be an Apostle. And this was the common practice throughout the early Church, that when married men were called to become deacons, priests, or bishops, they voluntarily abandoned married life with their wives and children. St Jerome testifies to this saying, "Though they have wives, they are no longer husbands." In order to be ordained, the common practice of the early Church was that a man would give up marital intimacy with his wife - we call this "continence", whereby a married couple chooses perpetually to abstain from conjugal union.

This is explicit in the Bible: The Lord says to Simon Peter, "You have left wife and children to follow me" (cf Luke 18:29). This indicates that St Peter gave up the intimacies of married life with his wife, when he was called to be an apostle and a priest.

Furthermore, even in those Eastern Churches where married men are permitted to be ordained as priests, and also in the Roman Catholic Church where married men are ordained as deacons, we see that Holy Orders (of its very nature) tends toward celibacy. Indeed, once a man is ordained, he is not permitted to marry - thus, if the wife of a married priest or deacon dies, that man is not permitted to remarry, but is expected to embrace celibacy. We might even say that even in those cases where a married man is ordained as a deacon or a priest, he is making a "conditional promise" of celibacy, if ever his wife should die.

This is the real history of clerical celibacy and married priests in the early Church, and it shows even more plainly that celibacy is intimately tied with the very nature of the deacon, priest, and bishop.

Listen online [here]!

Sunday Sermon, January 28 -- The Theology of Priestly Celibacy (Sermons on Priestly Celibacy, part 1 of 3 -- Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi)

St Paul says, "I should like you to be free from anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided." (1 Corinthians 7:32)

Inspired by the readings of the next three weeks, we will be preaching a series of sermons on priestly celibacy, indeed on clerical celibacy. This week, we consider the theology behind priestly celibacy; next, the history of clerical celibacy (for deacons, priests, and bishops); and finally, an example of celibacy in the life of a saintly priest.

Celibacy is a great gift, and a source of much joy. In fact, celibate priests are generally happier (according to surveys) than most married men in the USA -- thus, celibacy is not a burden or a cause of sorrow, but is shown even by the secular studies to be a means of gaining great happiness and fulfillment.

There are three reasons often given for priestly celibacy: Married priests wouldn't be able to focus as much on their ministry, they would have to be paid a great deal more to support their families, and they would not be able to be sent as missionaries. These are all good reasons, but they are not the best reasons or the real reason.  Even if some men could perform the work of priestly ministry while being married, even though some parishes could afford to pay the priest more, and even though some priests will never be sent on mission - still, it is better that the Church maintain priestly celibacy in the West.

Celibacy is an imitation of Christ Jesus. Jesus was a celibate priest, and his example shows us that celibacy is tied to the very nature of the priesthood. The priest, in his very person, is consecrated to the Lord for worship - even as the Church building is set aside from the world for the sake of divine worship, the priest is set apart for worship by the gift of celibacy.

Listen online [here]!