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In recent times we have unfortunately heard more about the Christian communities in many of the countries of the Near East because of their threatened or precarious status. Many Catholics in the United States may have been surprised to learn that Christian communities, many established in apostolic times, have in fact continued to exist in areas whose populations are now largely Muslim. Further confusing the situation for many American Catholics are the unfamiliar sounding names of some of the communities. At the end of last month Pope Francis visited Egypt. In addition to meeting with Muslim leaders, Pope Francis also met with Christian leaders, including some who are Coptic Orthodox (and separated from us as Catholics) and some who are Coptic Catholic (who are united with us as Catholics).
The Universal Catholic Communion consists of twenty-three sui iuris Churches: The Roman Catholic Church and twenty-two other Churches known collectively as Eastern Catholic Churches. Each of the twenty-three Churches has a hierarchy which enjoys a self-governing power that has either been expressly conceded or recognized by the supreme church authority; these ecclesial groupings are called churches sui iuris (literally, “of their own right”). They recognize one another as being united in one profession of faith, united under one supreme authority, sharing is one sacramental life, with each being an expression of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. In some cases this bond of communion was severed for some time, only to be reestablished at a later date. Membership in the Catholic Church is never “at large”; instead a person is a member of a specific church sui iuris. Each of the twenty-two Eastern Catholic Churches observes a rite, i.e., a body of liturgy, theology, spirituality, and discipline, derived from one of the five Eastern traditions: Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Chaldean, and Constantinopolitan.
Within the Catholic Church, the presence, distinction, and importance of the Eastern Churches was unfortunately under recognized for many years, even centuries, by those in the West. This began to change substantially when, during the Second Vatican Council, the council issued the decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Eastern Churches) in which it affirmed that it held, “in high esteem the institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and the established standards of the Christian life of the Eastern Churches” (no. 1) and that it, “solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, as much as those of the West, have a full right and are in duty bound to rule themselves, each in accordance with its own established disciplines, since all these are praiseworthy by reason of their venerable antiquity, more harmonious with the character of their faithful and more suited to the promotion of the good of souls” (no. 5). The establishment of a permanent synod of bishops following the Second Vatican Council for the universal Church was a clear instance of the history and traditions of the Eastern Churches being allowed to influence the direction of the universal Church. Pope St. John Paul II, during his pontificate, reinforced this message when he spoke on numerous occasions of the need for the Catholic Church to “breathe with both lungs,” i.e. to incorporate within itself the inspiration and genius of both east and west.
The United States, being, like most nations of the western hemisphere, a nation of immigrants, has within itself both Roman Catholics and Catholics of several of the Eastern Catholic Churches. There are 18 established hierarchies of Eastern Churches in the United States (2 archeparchies, 15 eparchies, and one exarchate) from 10 different Eastern Churches (Byzantine-Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Maronite, Chaldean, Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, Armenian, Melkite, Syriac, and Romanian Churches).
Within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston there are a number of parishes and missions of various Eastern Catholic Churches. These parishes then, are not Catholic parishes that are not a part of our archdiocese; rather, they are under the jurisdiction of one of those 18 Eastern circumscriptions. In Houston, these include a Ukrainian Catholic parish, a Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic parish, and a Maronite parish. Also, there are two Syro-Malabar Catholic communities in Missouri City (a Malayalam speaking community and a Knanayan community), and a Syro-Malankara community in Stafford. The Roman Catholics of our Archdiocese are enriched by the presence, witness, and collaboration of these our Catholic sisters and brothers. It is important to remember that these are communities of Catholic Churches with whom we have full communion and therefore all Catholics are welcome not only to attend their liturgies but to share fully in the sacraments. Our own Cardinal Archbishop, with his own deep love of the Eastern Churches, has made it his practice regularly to visit these local eastern communities and to give visible testimony to our full communion by sharing together with them in the sacraments.
As we hear news of the situation of Coptic Catholics in Egypt, Syriac, Melkite, Armenian and Maronite Catholics in Syria, and Chaldean Catholics in Iraq we do well to remember the bonds of communion that unite us to them and to pray for them and their safety.
In the United States we as Catholics can often be guilty of presuming that the issues that seem most pressing to us are likewise the most pressing for the Church throughout the world. That is very often not the case.
On the topics of euthanasia and assisted suicide, however, we see that this issue is indeed a pressing one in many places. Read here about how the issue one that has again been brought to prominence in Italy. https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2017/05/04/pontifical-academy-life-speaks-polarizing-euthanasia-debate/
Next Sunday, Palm Sunday, begins our Holy Week. This history of Palm Sunday is very interesting.
“Library : History of Palm Sunday | Catholic Culture
As soon as the Church obtained her freedom in the fourth century, the faithful in Jerusalem re-enacted the solemn entry of Christ into their city on the Sunday before Easter, holding a procession in which they carried branches and sang the Hosanna (Matthew 21, 1-11). In the early Latin Church, people attending Mass on this Sunday would hold aloft twigs of olives, which were not, however, blessed in those days.” To read more, go to: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=105
ST. JOSEPH NOVENA PRAYERS
Find the Original Here: http://www.praymorenovenas.com/st-joseph-novena/#ixzz4bEyPtPu1
The St. Joseph Altar or St. Joseph Table is an old tradition from Sicily. Here is the explanation of how the tradition started.
The people of Sicily prayed. For too long there had been no rain to nourish the crops that sustained life for most of the island.
The dried out wheat stalks cracked beneath the feet of the poor farmers as they walked through their barren fields. Only a sea of dust and withered vines remained from what had once been row upon row of brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
And so the people prayed.
They pleaded to St. Joseph, their patron, for relief from the famine that gripped the island. At last the skies opened, sending down the life-giving water. The people rejoiced. Some time later, to show their gratitude, they prepared a table with a special assortment of foods they had harvested. After paying honor to St. Joseph, they distributed the food to the less fortunate.
The first St. Joseph Altar set up on the Island of Sicily was a small one, of course. But as time went on and the tradition took hold, the flamboyant nature and creative spirit of the Italians caused the altars to grow larger and more ornate.
Today, the artistic quality of the breads, cookies and pastries, which are baked in such shapes as chalices, staffs and pyramids, often rivals the exquisite flavor of the food offerings.
Though Sicilian immigrants introduced the custom to America, the celebration is not confined to any nationality. Rather, it has become a public event which its devoted participants embrace for a host of private and personal reasons. The feast is alternately a source of petition and thanksgiving.
To watch a short video about St. Patrick go to http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=89
Just a reminder: Taken from ArchGH.org – The Daily Vine
“This year, St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Lenten Friday. After consideration of the traditions often related to this festive holiday, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo is granting a dispensation of abstinence from meat on March 17 for local and visiting faithful in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Cardinal DiNardo is asking Catholics who are required to abstain from meat on Friday to do an extra act of charity or penance in exchange for eating meat.”
Watch this short video to learn more!
Journey to the Foot of the Cross:
Bishop Ricken Offers 10 Things to Remember For Lent
Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, former chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers “10 Things to Remember for Lent”:
- Remember the formula. The Church does a good job capturing certain truths with easy-to-remember lists and formulas: 10 Commandments, 7 sacraments, 3 persons in the Trinity. For Lent, the Church gives us almost a slogan—Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving—as the three things we need to work on during the season.
- It’s a time of prayer. Lent is essentially an act of prayer spread out over 40 days. As we pray, we go on a journey, one that hopefully brings us closer to Christ and leaves us changed by the encounter with him.
- It’s a time to fast. With the fasts of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, meatless Fridays, and our personal disciplines interspersed, Lent is the only time many Catholics these days actually fast. And maybe that’s why it gets all the attention. “What are you giving up for Lent? Hotdogs? Beer? Jelly beans?” It’s almost a game for some of us, but fasting is actually a form of penance, which helps us turn away from sin and toward Christ.
- It’s a time to work on discipline. The 40 days of Lent are also a good, set time to work on personal discipline in general. Instead of giving something up, it can be doing something positive. “I’m going to exercise more. I’m going to pray more. I’m going to be nicer to my family, friends and coworkers.”
- It’s about dying to yourself. The more serious side of Lenten discipline is that it’s about more than self-control – it’s about finding aspects of yourself that are less than Christ-like and letting them die. The suffering and death of Christ are foremost on our minds during Lent, and we join in these mysteries by suffering, dying with Christ and being resurrected in a purified form.
- Don’t do too much. It’s tempting to make Lent some ambitious period of personal reinvention, but it’s best to keep it simple and focused. There’s a reason the Church works on these mysteries year after year. We spend our entire lives growing closer to God. Don’t try to cram it all in one Lent. That’s a recipe for failure.
- Lent reminds us of our weakness. Of course, even when we set simple goals for ourselves during Lent, we still have trouble keeping them. When we fast, we realize we’re all just one meal away from hunger. In both cases, Lent shows us our weakness. This can be painful, but recognizing how helpless we are makes us seek God’s help with renewed urgency and sincerity.
- Be patient with yourself. When we’re confronted with our own weakness during Lent, the temptation is to get angry and frustrated. “What a bad person I am!” But that’s the wrong lesson. God is calling us to be patient and to see ourselves as he does, with unconditional love.
- Reach out in charity. As we experience weakness and suffering during Lent, we should be renewed in our compassion for those who are hungry, suffering or otherwise in need. The third part of the Lenten formula is almsgiving. It’s about more than throwing a few extra dollars in the collection plate; it’s about reaching out to others and helping them without question as a way of sharing the experience of God’s unconditional love.
- Learn to love like Christ. Giving of ourselves in the midst of our suffering and self-denial brings us closer to loving like Christ, who suffered and poured himself out unconditionally on cross for all of us. Lent is a journey through the desert to the foot of the cross on Good Friday, as we seek him out, ask his help, join in his suffering, and learn to love like him.