Jul 19, 2017

Sunday Sermon, July 16 -- Justified by works, not by faith alone (Sermons on Romans, Part 3)

Quotes from Scripture related to Faith:

Romans 3:27-28, "Where is then thy boasting? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the Law."

Romans 11:5-6, "There is a remnant saved according to the election of grace. And if by grace, it is not by works: otherwise grace is no more grace."

Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you are saved through faith: and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God. Not of works, that no man may glory."

Quotes from Scripture related to works:

Matthew 16:27, "For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his works."

1 Corinthians 13:2, "And if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains and have not charity, I am nothing."

Philippians 2:12, "Work out your salvation in fear and trembling."

James 2:24, "A person is justified by works and not by faith alone."


It is amazing that Luther and Calvin (and the Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Fundamentalist Protestants today who follow them) could claim that man is saved through FAITH ALONE. This phrase "faith alone" is only used one time in the Bible, specifically to reject the very heresy that the Protestants promote -- "A person is justified by works and NOT by FAITH ALONE." (James 2:24).

How could the Protestant heresy have gotten it so wrong? There are two main errors which led Luther into his heresy 500 years ago. 1) A Scriptural error: Luther read all of the Bible in light of St Paul and especially placed Romans as the most important book of Scripture; but the true approach to Scripture places the Gospels first and reads St Paul in light of Christ presented in the Gospels.

2) A philosophical error: Luther thought that if I do 50% of the work of salvation, then that would mean that God could only do 50%, or if God does 100% then I must do 0%. However, the work of salvation is fully divine and fully human (even as Jesus is fully God and fully man) -- salvation is both 100% the work of God and 100% my work.

We affirm: Of course man can merit salvation! After all, Jesus was a man, and he merited salvation for the whole world. In Christ, we too merit our own salvation, as we cooperate with the grace of the Lord.

Listen online [here]!

Jul 16, 2017

July 16 - The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Informational Bulletin)

The History of the Brown Scapular
of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

On 16 July 1251, St Simon Stock, who was then the superior of the Order of the Carmelites, received an apparition from Our Lady. She handed him a brown scapular saying, “Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I obtained for thee for they children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”

However, the history of the brown scapular begins long before the 13th century, originating with the mantle of the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament! To bring the people back from their worship of the false god Baal the prophet Elijah prayed for a drought, which lasted for three and a half years. After this, Elijah climbed Mt. Carmel to petition for the rain to return. A cloud in the shape of a foot came and provided much-needed rain. (See 1 Kings 18:41-46)

Pious tradition holds the cloud represented Our Lady’s heel crushing the devil, as prophesied in Genesis. We also recognize Mary as the Mediatrix of graces, for out of a single cloud flowed an immense quantity of rain, or grace, which quenched the parched desert.

Following the event, Elijah formed a community of hermits on Mt. Carmel. These Jewish “carmelites” awaited the return of Elijah to announce the coming of the Messiah. After Pentecost, it is believed that these hermits were converted to Christianity. It was out of this community the Carmelite Order was born in the late 11th century.

The Devotion of the Brown Scapular
The scapular in the well-known smaller form came about by at least 1276, adopted by laymen who had worked with the community as a pious tradition. Over the years a great many holy men and women developed devotions to the Brown Scapular, including St. Teresa of Avila, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. John Vianney, St. Bernadette Soubirous, St. Maximilian Kolbe and Pope St. Pius X. Pope St. John Paul II was also known for his devotion to the sacramental, famously instructing surgeons to leave his scapular on him during the operation after the 1981 assassination attempt. Of this
sacramental, the Pope said: “The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother's loving presence in their lives.”

The scapular is not really in the same category as blessed medals or other objects, rather it should be thought of as a piece of clothing. Indeed, we are “invested” (i.e. “dressed”) in the scapular, after the manner that a Carmelite monk or nun is given a religious habit to wear. This is why a cloth scapular is preferred to wood or metal.

Our scapular is a reminder of the constant protection and love of Mary for each of her children. We are “clothed” with the virtues of Mary, and even of Christ.

What are the requirements of the Brown Scapular?

Wearing the scapular is traditionally associated with the praying of the breviary or of the Little Office of Mary (a collection of psalms said at various points through the day). However, it is now permissible to pray five decades of the rosary daily to fulfill the obligations of the scapular - even here, it is good to recall that we are all simply trying to grow in holiness and devotion, we should start wherever we are and simply try to do better each day. If we forget or fail to pray the rosary on a given day, there is no additional sin committed by wearing the scapular - we simply ask our Lady's help to strive to grow more and more each day. I should also note that there is a strong tradition of abstaining from meat on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year as a practice associated with wearing the scapular - it isn't mandatory, but perhaps something worth considering (even just restricting ourselves to meat at only one meal on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with meatless Fridays).

What are the promises associated with the Brown Scapular?

Our Lady promised to St. Simon Stalk that those who wear the scapular with devotion will be saved. This is not to be interpreted in a superstitious manner, as though the scapular were some sort of “charm” or “loop-hole” into heaven. However, certainly our Lady will give special graces to the one who wears the scapular devoutly - if we trust in Mary and place ourselves under her care and protection, we will find the grace necessary to be saved. The scapular is a most powerful and easy means of gaining salvation! Wearing the scapular doesn’t mean we can go on sinning as we please, rather this devotion will break the bonds of sin so that we can live a life of freedom in the law of the Gospel.

Many also speak of the sabattine privilege whereby Mary is said to have promised Pope John XXII that anyone who dies wearing the scapular will be freed from purgatory on the following Saturday. Although some of the stories associated with this promise are not based in history, there can be no doubt that Mary’s love and care for her children does not end with death but continues even into Purgatory. Who could doubt but that our Lady’s special patronage is felt by the Holy Souls on Saturdays, the day which is specially dedicated to her honor? I would invite you to pray in a special way on Saturdays for the souls in purgatory who died wearing a scapular, and trust that others will pray for you if you find yourself in Purgatory on a Saturday!

Sunday Sermon, July 9 -- Christ liberates us from sin, the flesh, death, and the Law (Sermons on Romans, part 2)

Romans 8:1-13, from which our second reading is taken in today's Mass, put forward four major themes which are essential to St Paul's understanding of the human condition prior to redemption in Christ.

Before man receives the grace of Christ, he is under the law of sin, the law of the flesh, the law of death, and the Law of Moses. The law of sin: Man is conceived in sin, in a state of rebellion against God. The law of the flesh: The lower part of man's soul, his passions and emotions ("the flesh"), rebels against the higher part of man's soul, his reason and will. The law of death: Man is conceived destined for death, not just bodily death but also eternal death. The Law of Moses: Although the Law pointed out the way to do good, it did not give man the grace to actually follow the path to heaven.

But Christ liberates us from sin, the flesh, death, and the Law of Moses! Christ makes us free! This is the joy and good news of the Gospel! However, because our hope is in heaven and not in the vanities of earth, we live a life of penance and mortification - putting to death the deeds of the body. As G.K. Chesterton once said, "It is better to fast for joy, than feast for misery."

Listen online [here]!

Jul 12, 2017

Schedule Change for VBS Week, July 17-21

Mass and confession schedule for the week of July 17-21 (Monday through Friday).

Daily Mass will be at noon. No 7 AM Mass.

Rosary will be at 5:30 PM with the Dominican Sisters, followed by dinner. No 4:30 PM Confessions.

Jul 6, 2017

Sunday Sermon, July 2 -- Introduction to the Letter to the Romans (Sermons on Romans, Part 1)

We read from the Letter of St Paul to the Romans from the 9th to the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time this year (Year A). For an additional 8 Sundays or Holy Days, we read from Romans as well. Practically, we will be reading from Romans for three months straight - from the last Sunday of June to all but the last Sunday of September (with the exception of the Transfiguration on August 6).

Catholics are often intimidated by St Paul's Letter to the Romans, thus we will be preaching on Romans many of the weekends over the next three months. It is my hope that we will all feel familiar with Romans by the end of September.

A basic outline of the Letter can be found below. We also point out the historical context: This letter was written by St Paul in the year 58, the 6th and longest of 14 letters included in Scripture, the final letter written prior to his arrest. Rome, at the time, had about one million inhabitants, with 50,000 Jews and 13 synagogues. The Christian community in Rome was made up of a good number of Jewish converts, but certainly there were even more gentile converts to the faith. St Peter was the bishop of Rome at the time.

St Paul is writing about the grace of Christ, and shows that neither the Law of Moses nor the wisdom of the pagan philosophers will bring salvation. Thus, all (Jew and gentile) are united as one by the grace of Christ and by the Catholic religion.

Listen online [here]!


An Outline of the Letter of St Paul to the Romans
From Father Ryan Erlenbush (based on the commentary of St Thomas Aquinas)

St Paul’s Letter to the Romans discusses the grace of Christ considered in itself
Part I (Chapters 1-11): The Doctrine of the Grace of Christ
Part II (Chapters 12-16): The Moral Life of Grace in Christ

Part I is divided into three parts:
A.     (Chapters 1-4): The necessity of grace.  St Paul teaches us that all men are conceived in sin and need the grace of Christ in order to be saved. We are not saved by the works of the Law of Moser, nor by the wisdom of the world, but only by the Christian Religion which Christ established.
B.     (Chapters 5-8): The effects of grace, that grace is sufficient for salvation. St Paul discusses what grace does for the soul. Specifically, the Apostle teaches that, by the grace of Christ, we are freed from sin, from death, and from the ordinances of the Law of Moses.
C.     (Chapters 9-11): The origins of grace. Here, St Paul explains that from the Jews has come the adoption, the glory of the covenant, the giving of the Law, the service of God, the promises, and even the Christ. The Apostle discusses the relation of the Jews and the Gentiles in the Church.

Part II is divided into two parts:
A.     (Chapter 12-15): The living in grace, morality. St Paul explains how the Christian should cooperate with grace so as to become perfect in Christ, and how those advanced in perfection should relate to those who are not so advanced. 15:14-33, St Paul addresses issues specific to the Roman Christians.
B.     (Chapter 16): Conclusion of the Letter.