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The First Temptation: Turning Stones into Bread

September 28, 2018

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By Christopher Menzhuber

Most people imagine that Jesus’ first temptation in the desert was to turn stones into bread. This makes perfect sense because the text literally states the Tempter told him “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Mt 4:3. But without undermining this traditional interpretation or minimizing the importance of fasting, what if for a moment we considered that scene may not have played out exactly as many have imagined? What if, instead of loaves, the devil was really tempting Jesus with human hearts?

Human hearts? What could possibly suggest Jesus was being tempted with anything other than bread, much less hearts of all things? To begin answering this question, listen closely to what just happened in the same Gospel a few verses earlier. When the presumptuous Pharisees and Sadducees came to John in the wilderness he warned them “God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” Mt 3:9.

Were these stones John was referring to similar or perhaps even the very same stones scattered around the scene of the temptation? Was the devil’s temptation influenced by listening to John the Baptist’s reproach of the power brokers of that time? Who knows? But what is significant about John’s statement is that God –who made the whole universe out of nothing – can surely raise up faithful people from stones.

Next, recall how the prophet Ezekiel described the new covenant that God would forge with his people. “I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26. Of course this was not meant to signify a literal organ transplant. Rather, it describes in symbolic language what God was promising to accomplish through his Messiah, a promise which Jesus would of course have been aware of and very much desired.

And so if we allow these Biblical texts to provide a background for this temptation, then it is not really a contortion to imagine that during the deadly mystical showdown between the savior and the father of lies, while they were indicating the physical stones in front of them, there was an awareness these stones signified something far greater: They represented the hearts of men.

But how would Jesus be tempted to turn hearts of stone into faithful ones? The text states that Jesus was hungry. Of course, there is no need to downplay the significance of real physical hunger after fasting. But we also know from the Gospel of John what Jesus hungers for even more than food. After speaking with the Samaritan woman his Apostles offered him something to eat and he explained, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and accomplish his work.” Jn 4:34. The exchange with the woman at the well fed him. His food –his bread- was the changed heart of the Samaritan woman.

When we put these ideas together and re-read the story, as the devil points to the stones, he is at the same time indicating all those faithless, obstinate, “stone”- hearted people who fall so very short of what really satisfies Jesus. The temptation to “make stones into bread,” takes on a new level of meaning: “Since you have the power of God, why don’t you just snap your fingers and change those hard-hearted people into good people? It’s what you’re most hungry for, after all.”

Considering the temptation in this way contrasts two very different ways of using power. To someone who is concerned exclusively with themselves, it is incomprehensible that you wouldn’t use power to satisfy yourself, commanding, intimidating, and coercing others to get your way, especially if what you want is something good. Those who mocked Jesus on the cross revealed their misunderstanding of divine wisdom when they taunted, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” Mt 27:40.

This temptation to use power to change others into something for my own consumption has reiterated down the centuries to our present day. In politics, entertainment, industry, media, education, and even tragically within the Church itself –we can observe instances of capitulation to this diabolic temptation: I command you to be my bread; I’m going to use my power to turn you into what I desire.

But what was Jesus’ way? How did Jesus -the great I AM- wield his omnipotence? What did Jesus ultimately do that not only repelled the temptation, but completely subverted the devil’s notion of how to use power?

Jesus did not turn us stone-hearted people into his bread. Jesus turned himself into bread for us.

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Words Matter: A Catholic Civility

September 6, 2018

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Anne Weyandt

Anne Weyandt

By Anne Weyandt

Here’s an idea to consider as the school year begins.

Let’s encourage more students to pay close attention to civility as an essential component of our Catholic identity.

As a nation, we need to prepare our learners at all levels to problem-solve and shape practical solutions; to find common ground; and to achieve meaningful discourse and inclusivity, with compassion, gracefulness and dignity.

To do these things, we need people for whom words matter. We need people who put the needs of ‘the dear neighbor’ before their own. We need people who think clearly and act with conviction and civility.

Our world is in desperate need of reflective individuals whose words and actions will profoundly influence the nature and content—the civility—of our public life. As Pope Francis wisely reminds us, ‘securing the common good and human dignity [is] the ultimate aim of politics, and political life’.

Thanks to our parents and our teachers, many of us are readers and writers for whom respect and reverence for the word runs deep and true, and is inextricably bound to the Word–our Catholic identity.

Civility is profound manifestation of the Word. Our individual choice of respectful words and meaningful deeds tangibly manifests Christ’s presence in our world. These choices—at whatever age level, in every stage of learning and life—can and should express the preferential option for the poor and the solidarity that is the essence of our One-ness with the Other.

This commitment to civility means that we stand against bullies, and bullying. It means that as teachers, we encourage our learners to engage deeply and respectfully with classmates that express cultural and faith traditions that differ from theirs. And it means that young adults must accept the fundamental expectation of civility in our democratic republic, the obligation to vote thoughtfully, with a focus on building up our society and our world, as contrasted with tearing it apart with words and deeds of hate and disrespect.

It is our job as educators, committed to a deep Catholic identity in our classrooms and communities, to ensure that the practice of civility is learned. By observing Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who lived the words of the beloved Latin hymn, ubi caritas et amor Deo ibi est [where charity and love exist, God is there], learners of all ages and faith traditions learn how to see and to believe. And act, with compassion and awareness of the inherent dignity of all.

The practice of civility is aspirational. Young Malala Yousafzai, courageously doing all of which woman is capable under threat of terror and personal harm, exemplifies fully present and engaged servant leadership, in the here and in the now.

And ultimately, practicing civility is enduring; it is our life’s work. Civility is demonstrated in attitudes and behaviors that reflect honesty and justice when we are confronted by hatred or intolerance. As former First Lady Michelle Obama reminds us, “When they go low, we go high.” That’s civility–a thoughtful and informed choice of words and deeds expressing our shared dedication to an honest, just and joyous common life.

Fidelity to civility—seeing and believing and choosing to speak out and work for the common good, right here and right now, must be our hope for our common future as a nation. It is a hope we must inspire our students of all ages to embrace as a fundamental expression of our Catholic identity.

Weyandt is the vice chair of the St. Pascal Baylon Catholic School board and associate provost of the College for Adults at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.

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The Price of Knowing

July 30, 2018

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by Christopher Menzhuber

Sometimes car salesmen will use a tactic that goes like this: If the customer offers to buy a car at a certain low price, the salesman writes that price down on a piece of paper and asks the customer to sign their name next to it. Signing one’s name is the customer’s pledge to buy the car at that price so the salesman has motivation to talk to his manager to try and get that low price.

It can be a little disorienting because often customers just want to know if the dealership will sell a car for a certain price before having to decide if they want to actually make the purchase. This tactic requires a commitment from the customer in order to obtain that knowledge. It takes away the advantage a customer has of being free to walk out of the sale and it requires the customer to be confident in the price they offer. I recently encountered this technique and the experience brought to mind what I think are two important and related principles.

Firstly, there is a kind of knowledge that can only be obtained by investing something of ourselves in a kind of quid pro quo. For example, will joining this parish help me grow spiritually? Do I have what it takes to stay committed to this person in marriage? Will this person stay with me? What is it like join the Catholic Church and become “Catholic?” When we are presented with such overtly life-altering decisions, it’s only natural to want to know the outcome before it happens, especially if the decision involves some kind of personal risk.

But we only come into full knowledge by taking the leap of faith, entering into them with ourselves and accepting all of the risks and uncertainties that go along with it, trusting that God is a providential Father who loves us and wants what is best for us. These are not transactional in the same way as major consumer purchase, but they are relational; for all of the preparation that can be done leading up to the decision, after a certain point one cannot learn anything more from a position of detachment.

Secondly, the anxiety of being presented with a significant decision can be greatly diminished by the preparation we do. The effort spent striving after virtue during a courtship pays dividends later in marriage. Attending Mass and meeting with parishioners and staff can help prepare us for what to realistically expect at a given parish. The RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) is designed to gradually lead people to a place of freedom where they can say with confidence “I believe in all the Catholic Church believes.” Above all prayer, works of charity, participation in Sunday Mass, and frequent confession give us the spiritual foundation to move forward in peace.

We are living in a time when there is an unprecedented amount of data available to us, much of which can be passively acquired safely behind a screen. We are called to be good stewards of this opportunity but to also remember that there are kinds of knowledge that can only be obtained by opening up ourselves in a generous exchange with the reality that is before us. Last February, Pope Francis summed it up well when he encouraged young people to “Open wide the doors of your life! May your time and space be filled with meaningful relationships, real people with whom to share your authentic and concrete experiences of daily life.”

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 9

July 26, 2018

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St. Joachim and St. Anne

For all those who bear the cross of infertility

Lord, God, thank you for the gift of life and for the gift of children. This very day we ask you for a special blessing and healing upon all those couples who so desire the gift of a child and wait patiently for Your timing. Grant them the supernatural gifts of hope, trust and patience in Your Divine Providence. Guide all who labor and research to help infertile couples to your Divine Wisdom and to follow the natural law and moral order that you have established. Give all who struggle with this pain complete resignation to Your Divine Will. Bless and strengthen those families who have adopted a child or who serve as foster parents. Help all couples who struggle with infertility to remain chaste and pure. And grant them the grace to drink joyfully from this bitter cup, offering up their pain and agony for the salvation of souls. Dear St. Joachim and St. Anne, you, too, knew the sorrow of being childless. Intercede for these couples that God, too, in His perfect time and way may grant to them the precious and eternal gift of a child. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of your love into the hearts, minds and souls of all couples who yearn for a child that they may be forever blessed with such a precious gift, done all in accord with Your Most Holy Will. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 8

July 25, 2018

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St. James the Greater — Anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae

For all those who pray and labor for a rebirth of chastity and purity.

Lord, God, we humbly come before you this day asking a very special blessing upon all those who minister for the cause of life, chastity and purity. Grant all the gift of humility and purity of intention. Grant them fortitude, wisdom and counsel. Help them to see Your Most Holy Face in every single person that they serve. Let them never judge another nor bring condemnation. Bless their labors and prayers abundantly with the fruit of many conversions and many souls being led more closely to You. Help them to be like St. James, unafraid to go out into the deep, away from the safety of the shore, to bring the light of chastity and purity to those who are in most need. Protect this very special work, dearest Jesus, from all division, jealousy, bitterness and contention of any kind. May all their work be done for the sole honor and glory of God. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of Your love into the hearts, minds, and souls of all who pray and labor for the cause of chastity, purity and life that they may be renewed in spirit, fortified for the battle, and hopeful for the salvation of many souls. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary and One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 7

July 24, 2018

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For all teachers and educators

Lord, God, today we beg of you to send forth your Spirit of Love and Truth upon all who educate and instruct. Give them a sincere desire and yearning to know the Truth and a humble and open heart to accept it. We especially lift up to you our Catholic schools and universities. May these servants of yours always place chastity and purity at the forefront of their instruction. May they remain ever faithful to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. May they never tire or become afraid of being that salt and light in a world of darkness. Our sweet Jesus, awaken the minds and stir the hearts of those who are being deceived by the evil one into false teachings. O Divine Instructor, give to them all a thirst for righteousness and wisdom that comes only from You. Bless all teachers and educators, Lord, who do labor so unselfishly to spread the knowledge of Christ. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of Your love into the hearts, minds and souls of all educators that they may constantly meditate upon the Most Holy Trinity, the source of all wisdom, the source of purity and chastity. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 6

July 23, 2018

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St. Bridget of Sweden

For all divorced couples, for those having marital difficulty and for broken families

Lord, God, we come before you today to beg for mercy on behalf of all those couples and families who are hurting and who are bearing heavy crosses at this very moment. We beg for the graces for all husbands and wives to be able to give of themselves so completely and so unselfishly, laying down their very own wills and lives for one another, just as you did for love of us. Give all families the supernatural graces they need to live out their vocations as husbands and wives, as mothers and fathers, and as sons and daughters, in complete imitation of the Most Holy Trinity. Heal, in a very special way, Lord, the hearts and souls of those husbands and wives who are bearing the cross of either past or present infidelity. Allow true contrition and forgiveness to enter into their hearts. Transform and sanctify all marriages and families. Call those who have left the fold home to You and to Your Church. Help them to see the importance of chastity and purity in their lives as one of the most important means for getting back on track. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of your love into the hearts, minds and souls of all those who have been wounded by divorce, marital infidelity or other marital difficulties, that they may soon feel the presence of God’s love burning within them and for them, so as to give and share this love with their spouses and families. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 5

July 22, 2018

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St. Mary Magdalene

For all who work in entertainment and the arts

Lord, God, we ask you today to send forth in great abundance, through your Mother’s Most Immaculate and Pure Heart, the graces needed to convert and change the hearts of all those who work in the entertainment industry and in the arts. Grant them the gift to see the true beauty and dignity of the human person and thus create accordingly. Let them always place the virtue of chastity and purity at the forefront of their creations. Through the intercession of St. Mary Magdalene, may all writers, producers, artists, musicians and poets come to love you just as much as this holy woman did. Free from the bonds of slavery all those addicted to pornography and all those involved in prostitution. May Your Most Precious Blood this very day cover the multitude of sins committed against the flesh and wash clean the hearts of those who are deceived by the evil one. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of your love into the hearts, minds and souls of every single person involved with entertainment and art, that they may be directed by Your voice and Your love in the work that they produce, and as such, give You high honor and glory for all the world to see. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 4

July 21, 2018

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For all doctors, nurses, and all who work in the fields of medicine and pharmacology

Lord, God, we ask your very special blessings and graces to be showered forth upon those who serve you in their ministry to others in the fields of medicine and pharmacology. Help them always to maintain a high respect and dignity for all human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Grant to them a deep and abiding love and awe for the creative powers you have endowed to your creatures. May they use technology and medicine for your greater honor and glory and with the utmost respect to the moral law and natural order. Lead many doctors and nurses, sweet Jesus, to the Good News of Natural Family Planning. Give them all the great gift of humility and a fervent desire to know and to do Your Will. We thank you with overflowing hearts, Lord, for those doctors and nurses who have embraced your calling and who promote only Natural Family Planning to their patients. Give them fortitude to go against the tide and bless them, their practices and their families one-hundred fold. Give special strength, O Divine Physician, to those who hear your voice but are afraid to come. Keep knocking patiently and perseveringly upon their hearts and may they know and accept Your love for them. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of your love into the hearts, minds and souls of all in the medical and health fields that they may be sanctified to grow in love of chastity and purity and thus gain an earnestness to bring these holy virtues to the souls that they minister to. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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Novena for a Rebirth of Chastity and Purity – Day 3

July 20, 2018

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For all the unmarried

Lord, God, we ask your very special graces and blessings to be showered this day upon all the unmarried. Help them to embrace and love deeply the sweet virtues of chastity and purity. Give to them the resolve they need to remain pure in a world that is hostile to such teachings. Take all of our precious youth, dear Mother, under your protective mantel where they may be kept unstained, unsullied, and unblemished. Lord, Jesus, call and beckon those who have strayed and sinned to come back to your loving arms, and to start clean again through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Guide, with your loving hands, Lord, all engaged couples that they may remain pure and chaste throughout their courtship. Give special aid, O Spotless Lamb, to those who have never heard about the virtues of chastity and purity. Soften their hearts and lead them to the well of chastity where they may drink of the pristine and uncontaminated waters. Help all of our children and the parents who love them, sweet Jesus, to guard attentively the minds and souls of their precious little ones so that they may be kept from impure images, art, music, books and movies, that may work to usurp their beloved innocence. And, sweet Jesus and dear Mother, we pray especially for those souls who bear the cross of homosexuality. Lead them to embrace chastity and may your most Precious Blood deliver them from the deceit and the lies of the evil one. Holy Spirit breathe the fire of your love into the hearts, minds and souls of all the unmarried that they may grow ardently in their love and understanding to acquire the virtues of chastity and purity. Amen.

One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be.

Mary, our Mother, perfect model of purity and chastity, pray for us. 

Attributed to:
Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis

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