Sunday, August 21, 2016

Discipled - Homily for the 21st Sunday in OT (C)

No one loves you more than Jesus Christ loves you.

No one loves you more than Jesus Christ loves you, … yet no one spoke of judgment and heaven and hell more than He did.

And if He should speak about heaven and hell it is precisely because He loves you.

In the first reading, therefore, we hear how God comes “to gather nations of every language,” even those that “have never heard of my fame or seen my glory.” He comes to us because He does really want everyone with Him in heaven. He loves all of us and He sent His Son to prove it.

But that same Son then says that not everyone makes it. Some are not “strong enough.”

So let’s talk about that.

*          *          *

Back in 2011, my brother Chris and I decided that we were going to climb the highest mountain in the Lower-48: Mt. Whitney. The summit stands at 14,500 feet and it’s a 23-mile roundtrip trek with over 6,000 feet of vertical gain. In other words, it’s a beast.

Now, you know where I’m going with this. The vast majority of people can’t just pull up to the base of Mt. Whitney without training and say “Yeah, I’m gonna own that.” Yet, some people try. And that’s crazy. And they don’t make it. They’re not strong enough.

So, too, we can’t just simply go through life and think that, when it comes to heaven, we’re all gonna make it—like it’s just assumed. And, admittedly, that’s partly the fault of us priests for not saying more about this. Funeral homilies these days talk about how so and so is “walking with the Lord” and how “they’re home with Jesus.”

But Jesus says “many… will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

We often think that hell is simply for the worst of the worst: for murderers, rapists, facist dictators, and so on. But Jesus tells us that the bar isn’t that low. There are some who will say “Jesus, we ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets”—We went to Mass, we heard the bishops teach, … I was an altar server ... I went to Catholic grade school… I was a priest...

And what Jesus is saying is: that’s not enough. It’s not enough to simply go to Mass or to simply hear the Church teach or to simply call ourselves Catholic. Casual acquaintance with Jesus is not enough for our eternal salvation—just like knowing there is a Mt. Whitney and being vaguely familiar with it is not enough to make a successful climb to the summit.

We’ve gotta have a deep down, head-to-toes, light-shining-in-the-darkness kind of love which is strong enough to persevere when the climbing of life is tough.

*          *          *

If you’ve been watching the Olympics, you’ve seen our athletes win gold after gold. And that has come from hours and hours of training, a life totally oriented toward that goal.

And I could talk more about that, about how, in order to grow in this strength, we have to be disciplined. But I want to go deeper. (After all, you should know about that anyway).

The word “discipline” comes from the same word as “disciple.” And when we talk about Jesus’ disciples (not His apostles, but His disciples)—when we talk about them, we are talking about those men and women whom Jesus chose and whom He taught and challenged and whose lives were changed and strengthened because of it, and thus oriented totally and radically to the life of Christ.

Jesus disciplined them. Or, to put it another way: Jesus… discipled them.

Being discipled means being formed by another: strengthened by that person, sitting at their feet and learning and changing our lives because of it.

When my brother and I first talked about climbing Mt. Whitney, it was my brother who discipled me in the ways of making it to the summit. He showed me what was essential for the journey; He hiked with me on other paths to train me in what dangers to avoid and what views to see; in the days leading up to Whitney, He took me higher into the thin air to help acclimatize and discipline my body.

And it was a narrow way—not because my brother was making it difficult (he wasn’t), but because I had never done it before. Yet because of that discipline, we made it to the summit. I had been discipled.

*          *          *

For Catholics, being discipled is so very important.

For example, the Holy Mass is called the source and the summit of our faith. Indeed, there is this mountain imagery all thoughout the readings today: the gospel has Jesus on His way to Jerusalem—which is up a mountain. In the first reading, heaven is described as God bringing all of His people up the “holy mountain.”

So, if this Mass is called the summit of our faith, this Mount Calvary, doesn’t that imply that it is also a climb? And if it's a climb, then wouldn't that mean we should have some people helping us on the way, showing us the route, holding us accountable?

In other words: Who is discipling you?

I am convinced that a lot of people don’t “get anything out of Mass” precisely because they haven’t been discipled in how to climb this mountain. Because, yeah, it can be hard. And, quite frankly, if we have had no spiritual work-outs in the week prior to it, we’re not gonna make it. We will be a people with “drooping hands and weak knees” as Paul says. The climb will be a long slog and we won’t make the summit and see the views that the saints were talking about. We will be like those who cried out, “Lord, I ate and drank in your presence"—wasn’t that enough?

No. It wasn’t enough. You didn’t do the training, you didn’t have the strength, you didn’t make it. Who was discipling you, anyway?

Now, I love you. So I want to help you on the climb. I want you to reach the summit. This is the Year of Mercy. So, can I do for you what my brother did for me? Can I give you a few pointers so that you will make it?

1)      Every day you have to sit quietly and listen and talk to God in prayer. Be disciplined. If we don’t do this in the week, then this hour of heaven-meeting-earth-which-we-call-Mass will be hell. No athlete can come to the match without practice and expect to get something golden.

2)      You have to study the climb and come prepared for the summit. You don’t just climb Mt. Whitney without studying it. So, read the readings, reflect on the prayers, check out what the saints who have summitted say about it. Get excited about it. Else, you’ll be sitting here with your arms crossed and bored and looking for a way to get to the bathroom or stand in the back, leaning against the wall.

3)      Don’t leave early. What person would spend so much time climbing a mountain and then not savor the view? Leaving early is one of the most undisciplined and crazy things… “Lord, I ate and drank in your presence, let me in!”—No. You didn’t even say thank you. You did the exact same thing Judas did. Heaven was at that Mass, but Judas had things going on—and he never made it to the summit.

4)      Finally, if you are married, you need to pray with your spouse every day. Pray with your spouse. Pray with your spouse! Not just with your kids. But with your spouse. And not in the “Lord, help my spouse to be a better person”—don’t cut them down in prayer. But pray with them. Be united in your prayers for your salvation, the world, your family, and so on. You are climbing with them. God gave them to you and you to them precisely for this climb.

These are just little things, but this is how we are to be discipled—disciplined—and that will give us strength. And as we grow in strength, the climb will become easier. The narrow way won’t be as hard. We’ll find that we’re almost there….

And then… wow! Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I Come to Bring Division? - Homily for the 20th Sunday in OT (C)

There is a great paradox in today’s readings, isn’t there? In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that He comes not to bring peace, but division. And I kinda scratch my head at this, because isn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace? Didn’t He pray on the night before He died that we “may be one” as He and the Father are one? So how do we reconcile this?

When we think of division, we often think of hate and of wars. And there’s truth to that. But for Jesus the concept of division is a little different. And in order to understand that, we have to go back in time.

Before the Father sent His Son, there was, in a way, no division. There was a kind of unity. But the unity was tenuous: humanity was united in the universal experience of darkness—the darkness of sin and error. Into this was born our savior, Christ the Lord. And the “people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2).

The light divided the darkness. The light provided delineation and definition so that we might see the difference and the dividing line between right and wrong, between good and bad, heaven and hell, the sheep and the goats. The division, therefore, is the division between the Truth and the lies—and that we might know which is which and therefore love accordingly.

*          *          *

Our world, of course, balks at any kind of overarching distinctions between what is right and wrong, true or false. Now, I’m about to get a little “heady,” but you are smart and we need to know this.

So, you’ve probably heard it said, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you are a good person.” You’ve heard that before, right? But let’s take a look at that. What’s being said is that beliefs don’t matter, but being moral does. “It doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you are a good person.” Now, that’s a very interesting thought. If beliefs don’t matter, then why all the hubbub about radical Islamic terrorism? And what does it mean to be a “good person”? And who got to decide that?

Some people respond by saying, “Well, you know, what you say may be true for you, but it’s not true for me. So, the truth is, we just need to coexist.” That's a nice thought. But why is that belief The Truth? (And isn't it contradictory to say that all truth is relative while saying it an objective way?) And why should I believe it as objectively true if what is true for you may not be true for me?

How can we know the difference between The Truth and The Lies?

The two examples I just gave you are examples of two of the greatest errors of our day: namely, relativism and moral relativism. These errors, which are rampant in our culture, fail to provide a distinction between good and evil, and truth and falsehood. It is a great darkness.

Catholics, when they speak up and say that some things are always wrong or that there is capital-T truth, over-arching and objective and which no man can change or destroy—there will be division. Not because we have caused that division, but because the light, Jesus Christ, has shined in the darkness and separated the light from the dark.

Pontius Pilate cynically asked: “What is Truth?”—not as on a quest for it, but to express that he didn’t believe objective Truth to exist. The reality was, however, that Jesus—The Way, The Truth, and The Life—was standing right in front of him.

*          *          *

Some people try to avoid talking about what divides as a kind of way to promote unity. For example, I witness many weddings and get to go to many wedding receptions. When I’m there, there is always that someone who comes up to me and they are a fallen-away Catholic or a non-denominational Christian and they say to me, “Preacher, you know, we’re not so different, you and me. We both believe in Jesus. And that's all that really matters.”

And I smile and say that we should pray that our churches may one day be united, for this is what Jesus prayed for, too.

What I don’t say—because it is not the place nor the time—is that there are really big differences, important differences, in the various denominations. If there weren’t, then there would have never been the gut-wrenching division that plagues the Body of Christ.

Indeed, if the differences weren’t so big, then why, when Protestants convert to Catholicism, is the cost of the Cross for them so huge?

I direct the RCIA program here and I can tell you that becoming Catholic can cost the convert so much: it may cost him his extended family who sees him as a traitor, a pagan, a Papist. It may cost him his friends, as he now sees that living in Christ is different than the bar scene or the sleepy Sundays.

For Catholics, too, living out the faith can cost so much! I think of that Catholic doctor whose job is in jeopardy because he believes the Truth declared by the Church that contraception is wrong and abortion is wrong and we can’t do those things. Or I think of the Catholic in the marketplace who is so tempted by greed or the bottom line at the expense of charity. I think of the college or high school student who is pressured by peers to drink or struggling with that liberal university education which so often harbors doubts and attacks reason. I think of the Catholic mother who, with her kids in the grocery line, is asked whether she has “had enough” and so on.

Yes, there is a difference between Catholics and the world. And if our Catholic living looks like the rest of the world, chances are we are not living out our Catholic faith.

Because Jesus separates us from the world.

I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (Jn 15:19)

Or, as Paul says,

            What fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Cor 6:14)

God, therefore, when He gave the Ten Commandments, called us out from slavery—divided slavery from us and so set us free. The Truth sets us free (Jn 8:32). The Truth divides slavery from freedom. The Commandments divides the world from “those who love him” (Rom 8:28).

*          *          *

In this is our unity. Just as the Commandments divided Israel from Egypt, so too the Commandments are what constitute Israel as the Chosen People of God—the beginning of the Church.

Truth, the light of Christ, is what unites us as One People of God. Indeed, we are children of the light who no longer belong to darkness nor to night (cf. 1 Thess 5:5).

And we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1)—witnesses from the Greek, meaning “martyr”—those in heaven whom I will mention in the Roman Canon today; and those who sit among us in the pews.

Right now, there are Catholics sitting next to you who are giving up everything to be Catholic. Given up family so as to convert; family so as to follow Christ; jobs so as to be faithful.

Therefore, if you are struggling, if you are lukewarm… if you are scared about standing up and living out the faith in its rigor and vigor… well, our Lord has brought you here. Because He said, “I have come to set the earth on fire”—that is, to set us ablaze with His Love, His Holy Spirit. And by the graces at this Holy Mass, He is doing that.

And He longed for that. He longed to bring you here and set you on fire with Love for Him. Indeed, He Himself longed for the cost. He said, “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized” (He is talking about going to His death on the Cross) “and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” He agonized—He couldn’t wait!—to show us how much He loved us. He couldn’t wait to divide us from sin, so that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps 103:12).

So as to unite us to Him. For “if we have been united with Him in a death like His”—to love Him with all our mind, our heart, our soul, and our strength—“then we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Rom 6:5).

That is the whole point of the division. That, divided from this world, we may be set free so that “where I am, you also may be” (Jn 14:3).

Sunday, August 7, 2016

My Little Flock - Homily for the 19th Sunday in OT (C)

One of the classic movies of the Old Testament is the 1956 film, Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston as Moses. Every Easter, it seemed, the Ten Commandments would be on TV and I remember watching as Moses would part the Red Sea or as Pharoah would stand confounded by him. 

The scene I remember most, however, is when Moses and the Israelites offered the Passover. There was this terrifying Angel of Death, the tenth and final plague, that was coming down like a green haze upon the land. Every first born (even the Israelites’ first born) would be killed—unless they gathered in houses where the blood of the Passover Lamb was smeared on the doorposts and its flesh eaten. Only then would they be safe.

I remember being terrified by this—death all around them, people screaming in the street—wondering, “Will they make it?” I remember, too, how peaceful Moses was through all this. Even amidst what looked like the end of the world, Moses remained calm, serene, placing his trust in the Lord. After all, the Lord had gathered them into this place and into this moment. The protection of the Lord surrounded them.

*          *          *

This Passover reached its culmination many years later when Jesus, the New Passover Lamb, instituted a New Passover: His blood smeared on the doorposts of the Cross, His flesh eaten at the Eucharist (for He said to His disciples on the night before: “Take this, all of you, and eat it. This is my body, given up for you").

Therefore, at every Holy Eucharist, at every Holy Mass, our Lord gathers us into this place and into this moment. He gathers us in a New Passover, to protect us and to free us from the powers of death—a death like that green haze that covered the land. And in this moment, just like Moses, Jesus remains calm, serene, and beckons us to place our trust in the Lord. And so, He says to us:

Do not be afraid any longer, little flock.

Do not be afraid. This death will pass over. Yes, we are like lambs among the wolves. But, the Lord is protecting us.

*          *          *

What I love about these words is not only the reassurance of His care, but also that Jesus says: “Little flock.”

Little flock—He isn’t just talking about its size. Jesus is being affectionate. It is like the use of the diminutive in Spanish. In Spanish, you can call a priest “Padre”—father. But if you know the priest well and have affection for him, you could say, “Padrecito”—little father. It’s a word of affection, just as mothers may call their children “sweetie.” My little flock, my little child, … padrecito….

And as He says this, He gathers us, draws us close to Him. And when we are close to Him, we have nothing to fear. All shall be well.

*          *          *

Peter asks if these words are for him. Jesus responds by talking about Peter’s role as steward over the kingdom—that is, Jesus talks about Peter’s role as Pope. Jesus then warns Peter about how those who are given much, much is expected. There is a warning about the end of the world and how it comes like a thief in the night—just like the angel of death that stole the first born in Egypt. So, be vigilant! Stay awake!

There is a contrast here. In one moment, Jesus is giving words of affection. But in the next, He is giving words of warning. What is going on here?

Jesus is telling Peter: Peter, you have a choice. Will you either stay awake because of love or will you stay awake because of fear? I would prefer that you let me gather you in love, but if you don’t think these words are for you, then at least be moved by my warning. For I want to be with you, Peter, my little flock, my little child….

Yes, you *I’m looking into the pews now* Jesus looks at you and says, “my little son,” “my little daughter.” "I want to be with you."

*          *          *

I think when we let those words sink in, that Jesus treasures us, that here is where His heart is—I think this frees us to be generous and trusting and peaceful. I think it changes the way we look at others. Each person next to us is loved by God so, so much!

Being vigilant means keeping that in mind and in our heart.

And let’s be honest, the devil and the world are trying to steal that from us. The green haze is coming down, trying to take away this treasure that Jesus loves each one of us so affectionately!

Case in point: we have an election coming up. (Have you heard?) And there’s a big to do about the candidates. And you’re holding onto the pews now: is he going to get political? There will be a time for it, but not right now.

But we have opinions about the candidates. And maybe we're ruminating about what we think about them right now. There might even be some emotions under that.

And all I want to say for now is this: no matter what we think about them—and we probably have some problems with what they say or do (and we probably should)—but no matter what we think about them, God looks upon them and is trying to draw them close and says to them, “my little child….”

Because didn’t God the Father create them? Didn’t Jesus die for them? Are they not called into this little flock?

Have we prayed for them?

*          *          *
This is vigilance. Our world and the devil would have us buy into the lie that some people are just too far gone or the world would have us forget the very basic reality that all people are made by God and therefore treasured by Him. Each person: "my little one!"

And if we forget that, if we make our lives all about this earthly life and earthly gain and we simply label people as whatever-politicians and not as loved—well, then we will lose heaven. For our heart would be consumed by the things here on earth; and that is where our treasure would be.

And that’s a corrupt treasure that breeds resentment, hopelessness, self-pity, anxiety, division, and every kind of sin under the sun.

Vigilance! Remember the vertical dimension of our life: of heaven, of God to whom we pray “deliver us from evil” and who pours forth sun and rain upon both the good and the bad because He loves them all. Remember, little flock… and do not be afraid any longer. I will protect you, says the Lord.

You are my little son, my little daughter, my little child, my padrecito, my treasure. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Letter to Catholic Parents from the One Teaching Your Children - a Guest Post

As the school year gears up, I wish to share this letter from a dear college friend of mine. She is one of the most joyful, prayerful, peaceful, and happy persons that I know. Her experience totally resonates with my own. The treasure of this letter, I think, is that it highlights something so crucial in Catholic parenting today: doing the parent part does not always equate to accomplishing the Catholic part. Our children not only deserve better-- they're hungering for it.

This summer I had the extraordinary privilege of being a Totus Tuus teacher for a diocese a state away from my home. As a Totus Tuus teacher, I was paired on a team with two men (one of them being a seminarian) and another college aged woman. Each week, we traveled to a new parish to put on a week-long Totus Tuus 'camp', where during the day we taught catechesis to children aged 6---11 and gave witness at night to middle-schoolers and teens aged 12--18. All sixteen of us teachers arrived in late May for our training week, where under the direction of our priestly bosses, we devised lesson plans on the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, the Lord's Prayer, different types of prayer, Mary, and the saints. We were then divided into four teams of four and sent to "go proclaim the Gospel".
                And it was not easy. But it was beautiful. By far one of the most grace-filled times of my life. As I am not currently an education major, and the only interaction I'd had with children prior to Totus Tuus was in a summer-camp environment, I was looking forward to my time playing teacher. I was excited to evangelize and to spread the faith. I was also excited to be welcomed into a new parish community each week and have the opportunity to live with host families who would shepherd me into their own family for my brief stay.
                But by the end of my first full week of teaching--- I began to notice some trends among my students.
                Now, I don't pretend to know the situation of every family, nor do I claim to have exclusive, Divine knowledge of every household, but from spending time in the classroom with your children, Catholic parents, I have noticed some definite trends.
                It may be presumptuous for me to speak, me being twenty years old and with no children of my own. But, I noticed some things in those classrooms, a side of these children that not many people--- not even their parents probably get to see.
                It became apparent to me very quickly which children prayed with their families. It became obvious very quickly which children were well catechized at home. And it became very obvious to me....which children weren't.
                Now, I am fully aware how hard it can be sometimes to get children excited about the faith. Especially when we live in a culture that imposes a myriad of things as supposedly more important than Jesus. Instead our culture seeks to boil down the idea of "practicing Catholic" to Mass on Sundays and prayers before meals--- which, honestly, should be the bare minimum that a Catholic family should do together.
                Yes. The bare minimum.
                This summer I taught ten year olds who could not name the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, despite having been in Catholic education their whole lives. This summer I taught many, many elementary school children and high schoolers who did not know how to pray from their hearts. Who knew not how to speak to their Lord in a form other than a memorized prayer gleaned from Catholic schooling. This summer I taught ten and eleven year olds who had not been to Confession since their first Reconciliation at the age of seven. I taught children who had gone several years without receiving the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. And I wish that these were rare exceptions, but other findings have dissuaded that line of thinking.
                As I looked at these students who, though having spent a decade of their young lives in the faith, knew so very little about what the Church actually teaches, I couldn't help wonder how many of them would keep the faith as they got older.
                Statistically speaking, 1 in 10 American adults are lapsed Catholics or Catholic in name only.  And looking at my students who held such a precious and invaluable innocence, my heart was sad.
                At each parish, parishioners would thank us for the work we were doing, saying how needed it was. And I agree, supplementary catechesis is a large need in our church, and a beautiful ministry.
                But I also began to realize that though I taught a full eighteen lessons some weeks, my being there was only a dip into the ocean of needs my students have.
                Because my students were hungry. They wanted answers. They wanted to know about Jesus. Even some of the most unenthused students, would often times jump at the chance to participate in the Mass we celebrated each day. Whether it was serving, lectoring, or presenting the gifts, even some of the most lackluster students would grow excited at the chance to participate in the liturgy. Because some deep part of them understood it was important.
                Even if it wasn't treated as such at home.
                In one lesson, during my last week of teaching, when I was speaking about the importance of Mass, one student raised his hand.
                "Sometimes I have soccer games and we don't go to Mass--- is that okay?" he asked.
                I responded as gently and as charitably as I could that no, it is not okay to miss Mass because of soccer, and that maybe he should ask his parents to take him to Mass even on weekends when there is sporting events.
                He nodded and I continued with my lesson.
                Afterwards, when parents arrived to pick up their children, I found myself cringing. I figured it was only a matter of time before a parent approached me, angered by what I had taught. Because surely, it wasn't my place to tell their children that they had to go to Mass, was it? Surely it wasn't my place to....tell the truth?
                Earlier in the summer, I had a mother approach me with a vaguely accusatory and wary tone asking me what I'd been teaching her children. I responded, confused, that I'd been teaching lessons completely in line with Church teaching, that we'd been teaching things from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. She pondered my answer and proceeded to ask me why, then, did her children come home every night with questions about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory?
                I thought to answer her concerns with the fact that questions are only a natural part of learning, that her children are merely curious about the faith. But something stopped me as our conversation unfolded, and a new realization set in. These children were not taught at home. They were not catechized at home, and it wasn't so much that this woman was mad at me for catechizing them, after all--- wasn't that what she was paying me to do? Instead, she was mad that her children were approaching her with questions that she herself did not know how to answer.
                Like so many of my students, it seemed that Totus Tuus had sparked a natural curiosity in this woman's children. They longed to take the lessons that they had learned and go deeper. They longed to dive into the 2000 years of Church history and learn more.
                But throughout my summer, I noticed so many students whose curiosity would be sparked and I couldn't help but wonder how many of them would subsequently go home to parents who would not herald and honor this quest for Truth. I wondered how many of them would go home to parents who would  squelch this curiosity with indifference or indignation to hide the embarrassment of their own lack of catechesis.
                 Subsequently, a large majority of the high school students I taught did not appear to have any kind of faith development at home. Many of them didn't know how to come before our Lord in adoration. Many of them did not know how to pray from the heart. Many of them, by their own admission, spoke to no one, not even their parents, about their faith. And so any and all of their prayer experiences are kept inside of the Church walls and within the week that they were shepherded to Catholic youth programs or Church camps, and so stunted from bearing permanent fruit in their daily lives.
                I often times noticed a clear distinction from the catechized kids than those not catechized at home. The children I taught who were clearly catechized at home were often-times (but not always) more respectful, more patient, and more willing to admit wrongs.
                It seems to me that the children who have been taught to respect Christ in the Eucharist have a much easier time respecting authority figures, even me, their temporary teacher. It seems to me that the children who have been taught to be patient and attentive during Mass have an easier time doing so in the classroom or elsewhere. It seems to me that the children who have been taught it is right and good to say sorry to God for our sins have an easier time saying sorry to their fellow students as well.
                And I know that there are exceptions. And that willful, wild, and disobedient children appear in every family, no matter the piety of the parents. And I know that the behavior of the child does not always reflect the enthusiasm of the parents for the faith--- as it is, ultimately, the child's decision to accept the faith or not. But, as a general rule, there was a clear contrast between my students catechized at home, and my students whose religious education were kept to 45 minute slots in Catholic schools and the hourly Sunday Mass.
                So here is my impassioned plea.
               Catholic parents, here is a letter from one who has taught your children. And it seems to me while there are many Catholic parents in the world, there are so still many Catholic parents who only really do the parent part of the equation, and not the Catholic part.
                But here's the thing: by their very nature, Catholic families are supposed to look different than other families. As Catholics our very lives are supposed to look different than the secular world. Our families and lives are supposed to be a beacon of light in the world.
                And for those who do teach the faith at home, I saw that light. I saw it in the faces and the innocence of your children. I saw it in their respect, their kindness, their reverence, their charity. 
                But for those who do not teach the faith at home, or expect the occasional Mass to really give your child a relationship with Christ that is so desperately desired and needed--- I beg you, begin anew. Begin now. Please, educate your children at home. As a family. Make it a family quest for Truth. Learn with your children. For what a tragedy it would be for you to give your children the whole world and not give them the one thing that really matters---Jesus. What a tragedy it would be for them to gain the whole world, yet lose their souls.

                Because we don't have an excuse. Here in America where Catholic Churches are abundant, where there are so many at-home resources for catechesis and religious ed, where we cannot claim to face any kind of danger from transmitting the faith at home unlike our brothers and sisters in the Middle East--- there is simply no excuse.
                Parents, I have spent time with your children. And they are hungry. And they are searching. And they have such a need for Jesus. And what I did for them this summer--- is not enough. It is simply not enough. I have seen this vast ocean of needs in each of your children and  have prayed before the tabernacle in helplessness.
                Because I have but a bucket to remove some water from this ocean.
                I, a mere lightning bolt in your children's lives, here one moment gone the next, need your help.
                I need you to teach them at home. Because your children have such beautiful souls. And beautiful gifts. And beautiful hearts, as I'm sure you already know.
                And the Church needs them. The Church needs your children with their souls, and gifts and hearts. The Church needs them badly. And She wants them.
                As does Her bridegroom, Christ Jesus.
                The Church needs parents who view their holy vows as the vocation--- the mission--- that it is. Because if not, the cycle of cultural Catholicism continues. The number of Catholics in name-only increases. If not, how much harder will to be for your own children to fulfill their own vocation of sainthood if they have to search for places to be fed? How much harder will it be for them to stay in the faith if their own parents, their own family, is not cheering them on?
                Please, Catholic parents, your children have beautiful souls and beautiful potential.
                The world already has a lot of parents.  
                But the world needs more Catholic parents who are committed to spreading the faith.  I need your help. Because what I am doing is not enough. I only have a bucket on the shore of the sea.
                Please, water the seeds I have planted. Please, teach the faith at home. Please, treat your marriage and parenthood as the vocation it is. Do it for the Church. Do it for the good of this world. Do it for your children.
                Their very souls and salvation depend on it.

                Totus Tuus Ego Maria Sum.