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Feast of the Holy Family 2008

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Fr.Paul Weinberger

Joined: 06 May 2005
Posts: 199
Location: Greenville, Texas

PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:07 pm    Post subject: Feast of the Holy Family 2008 Reply with quote

Feast of the Holy Family 2008

Homily by: Fr. Paul Weinberger
St. William the Confessor Catholic Church
Greenville, Texas
December 28, 2008

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit


There are some important anniversaries coming up in the days ahead; they are important to us and important to the Church.

For example, the 2nd of January, the day after the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, is the day St. Therese was born in 1873. St. Therese is known as the Little Flower from Lisieux and is a favorite of many of us here. She was born just at the end of the 19th Century and she would not even live to be twenty-five years old. She entered religious life very early and her Superior wisely instructed her to write her autobiography, which is something presumptuous for someone so young. People usually start writing their autobiography around the age of sixty or seventy, but not under the age of twenty-five. She would succumb to the ravages of tuberculosis before reaching twenty-four. She died in 1897.

I have been to Lisieux just north of Paris and visited the home where St. Therese lived as well as the monastery where she lived and died. I was very fortunate to go there.

Reading the life of St. Therese in the “Story of a Soul” we find out how important prayer was in the day-to-day life within her family. They prayed certain prayers every day and the Rosary was a particularly important prayer to the Martin family. Essentially St. Therese pulls the curtain back and allows us to look into the prayer life and other things about her family. It is a very good book even to this day. She gives credit to everyone else for her holiness, because she didn’t declare herself to be a saint. Her holiness was attributed to those around her, especially her mother and father and the presence of prayer in the home.

Seven hundred years before January 2, 1873, St. Dominic was born in the North of Spain . Once when I was in Lourdes I went from France to Spain and I had as my goal to visit the birthplace of St. Dominic. He was the founder of the Dominican Order and I have a special connection with the Dominican Order because when I was in high school at Bishop Lynch in Dallas the Dominican Fathers taught me or at least they gave it their best shot. I don’t know how much sunk in. So, when I went to visit the birthplace of St. Dominic it was like visiting with family. Speaking of family, his mother and father are up for beatification, which is the process before canonization, along with some of his uncles and aunts and siblings as well. It is interesting because on October 19th of this year the parents of St. Therese’ were beatified. We can’t know everyone who is in Heaven but are guaranteed those who are canonized saints are in Heaven. We follow this process with excitement and interest.

St. Dominic was sent into the South of France by the Pope to the area around Lourdes in the late 1100s and early 1200s to straighten things up. He founded a new order just at the time St. Francis was founding his new order. Things had deteriorated terribly and the faith had grown weak and had died out in some places. St. Dominic used the Rosary as a portable Gospel. It is amazing how many people just recently, say in the last hundred years, could not read. We seem to be approaching the time when that will be achieved yet again. There are so many young people who are not being taught how to read in school, as they should be. Because so many people couldn’t read they couldn’t read the Gospels therefore the Gospels had to be presented to them in images. The Rosary fits that bill.

Many Catholics and non-Catholics are mistaken when they believe that the Rosary is all about the Blessed Mother. For example, the 4th Joyful Mystery is the “Presentation in the Temple” and right out of today’s Gospel, isn’t it? It is not about the Blessed Mother but about the Gospel. The Rosary is a pocket version of the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Mysteries of the Rosary focus on these central passages of the Gospel. So, St. Dominic used the Rosary form of the Gospel to convert many people in the South of France and throughout the world.

Both St. Therese and St. Dominic benefited from prayer in the home and from that prayer in the home they had an impact on the prayer life of many others…people they would never personally meet, such as ourselves. We have never met St. Therese because she died before we were born. But she has had a great impact on the spiritual lives of many people.

January 10th is an anniversary for me, which I recall. It was my first day here in Greenville, five years ago. I remember those days, which were bitter/sweet. As you know I was at my last parish just over ten years and I didn’t want to part with my parishioners there. It had been long and hard work and we’d just begun to see daylight when I was transferred. I remember many contradictory feelings going through my mind at that time but I know that because I prayed and so many of you prayed that things improved greatly. After this I will be forever grateful.

I have met so many people over the years that say they prayed but because bad things happened to them they stopped praying. That doesn’t make any sense. Here in front of the Altar is Our Lady, St. Joseph, and in the middle of them, Jesus. This is a picture of contradictions. You see the fine polished Altar, the bright gold of the angel behind the manger scene, the cultivated poinsettias just for this purpose and then you see hay, which is not refined at all, a very crude material and setting if you will, for the Savior of the world. It is a mixture of bitter/sweet, isn’t it?

If today were not a Sunday we would be celebrating the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the little boy children that were slaughtered by King Herod, because they were male children living in a certain place at a certain time in history. We recall that the Three Kings told the evil King Herod of the birth of Jesus and were asking directions, so to speak. Herod ordered that all young male babies in that region should be killed. That is very much in contrast to the birth of Jesus, is it not?

A couple of months ago in front of the abortion clinic in Dallas I was thinking to myself, “If the soldiers came upon the Holy Family and they knew that this was the child Jesus, who Herod wanted killed, after they killed the child Jesus I wonder if they would stop there.” No, they would have orders to kill the parents, right? I never thought of it until this year but that probably would have happened as well. Right after the birth of Christ we have the Flight into Egypt because the king was trying to kill Jesus and they had to flee for their very lives. This was not an easy move for them. This business about praying and having bad things happen to you…welcome to life, right?

I remember my last Sunday at Blessed Sacrament and then on my first Sunday here, someone from Blessed Sacrament, who now attends here, told me that St. William Parish, the saint for whom this parish is named, was an abbot of a Benedictine Monastery. My first Sunday here I mentioned that the day I arrived, the day before, was the Feast Day of St. William. How providential. I also mentioned that in just a few years we would be celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the death of St. William. Just a couple of weeks from now, on January 10th, we will be celebrating this 800th Anniversary. Being a Benedictine Abbot, St. William led the other monks in prayer and then he was called from there to be a Bishop in Bourges, France.

Transcriber’s note* He, St. William, was preparing for a mission among the Albigensians when he died kneeling at prayer in 1209. In his last will and testament he requested to be buried with his hair shirt and in ashes.

You can see the patterns that are tied to families, which are tied to prayer.

The day before St. William’s 800th Anniversary, on January 9th, we will also be able to recall the Centennial of a priest you are going to recognize; his name is Father Patrick. He was one of nine children born in Ireland and he and his brother came over to the USA very early on looking to make their way. As a young man Patrick had been diagnosed with TB, the same thing St. Therese died from. At that time to have TB meant you had a death sentence. So, the doctor told Patrick, before he was a priest, that he had TB and that medicine would not help; all he had was prayer and pray he did. He prayed and was cured. Patrick went on in life to spread devotion to prayer, especially the Rosary. In fact, he is called the “Rosary Priest”, like St. Dominic centuries before him. You will recognize his name, Fr. Patrick Peyton. His cause has been opened for Canonization, being declared a saint. He is on the road to be Beatified and the next step would be Canonization. He is the one who went to speak to crowds, big and small, about the Rosary. Before long he was on radio and when TV was invented he even went on TV. He is the one, who made famous the phrase, “the family that prays together stays together.”

If humans have blood circulating through their bodies and have brain waves, we know they are alive. These are signs of life. The only way that you can know if you are a member of a holy family is if you have prayer in your family, and like in this image here, Jesus is at the center of the family. There are many people, even Catholic Christians and other Christians, who don’t have a holy family but a natural prayer. It is kind of like gravity; you don’t have to wake up in the morning and flip a switch and gravity takes over; gravity is always there whether you like it or not. The same way with prayer, if prayer is not there then there is not a holy family.

I have heard many people over the years claim that they don’t pray because bad things happen to them. Prayer is there so that we can deal with those bad things as they are happening. Can you image Our Lady and St. Joseph not praying in the presence of God Himself? Did you notice how intimate the conversation with Abraham was in that First Reading? Who was he speaking with in that First Reading? I guess he was just talking to himself. No, he was talking to God. Essentially he is pouring out his troubles to God.

Well God, I have all these things and I am an old man but have no heir, no son. What gives?

Abraham left everything to follow God and look what happens.

Do you want me to leave all of this stuff to my servant?

Perhaps this line in the First Reading went right by you. God took Abraham outside; He didn’t take him to the woodshed. He took him outside and showed him the stars and said that Abraham would have as many descendants as the stars in the Heavens or the sand on the seashore. Did you know that right now there are over a billion Catholics in the world? Abraham lived thousands of years ago. We are connected to Abraham through Christ. Christ fulfills that promise to Abraham. You see how intimate Abraham was in speaking with God; that is prayer.

Our prayer is often times non-existent or not focused. The other day I took my mom to my sister’s for Christmas dinner. As we were living my sister gave me a CD, and not the kind you get at a bank. She gave me a CD from a guy that I have never heard of. Sorry! Josh Groban is the artist and there were a bunch of Christmas hymns on it. Some were very good. There is one though that took the cake. It was number four and it was Ave Maria, the one you always hear at weddings or funerals.

This young man named, Josh, sang it beautifully. The beautiful thing about this song is that it is lifted right out of the Gospel and what the Archangel said to Our Lady. Ave Maria means Hail Mary, which is the main prayer of the Rosary, is it not? The way Josh sang the Ave Maria, he builds up to one crescendo and the goes to another crescendo. His voice is just tremendous and it is tremendous for other reasons because you know that while he sings the Ave Maria he is not secretly making a grocery list in his mind. He is not distracted and thinking about all those incidental things that persist in our lives until the day we die, he is actually…what do they call it? He is actually focusing on his prayer. What a concept, right? He is so intent like Abraham and look how long it took God to answer Abraham’s prayer. It was immediate. This is the way that you and I should pray.

The night after Christmas I took my mom to a Church in Dallas and we attended a Rosary for that woman and her two children, who passed away recently; you’ve read about them. My mother has known the mother of that woman for many years and so we went to the Rosary. It was very sad.

We got there just as the priest was explaining the Rosary. I guess there were a lot of people in attendance that were not Catholic. He said something along the lines, that we pray the Rosary and it is a repetition of a lot of things that are taken right out of the bible. He said that a lot of people object to it but that we do it to those around us that we love. We say things and repeat them, like “I love you.” We like to hear others say that to us. I thought that was a real good point.

The way Josh sang the Ave Marie you knew that it meant something more than just being another song on the CD. I would say that it was probably his favorite song on the CD just by the way he sang it; he put all of himself into the song in a way he didn’t put himself into the other songs.

In the Confessional I have asked the same question of parents, who are getting up in age or are already retired. I ask if they have any children and they say, “No…well yes.” When I ask what they mean they say the children are all grown. What is that about, right? The reason I ask that question is because I ask if they pray for their children. I remember when I finished high school and went out to make my mark on the world I pictured myself as something like Superman and Spiderman all rolled into one…bullet proof. I don’t even want to imagine the costume. [Laughter] I was bulletproof and nothing was going to stop me. Fortunately I had parents and others praying for me. When your children start having your grandchildren or start another phase in their life, that is when you really have to ramp up the prayers for them. Yet, this seems to be when parents pull over to the side of the road and stop praying. This is to abandon your children in the hour of their greatest needs because now so many things are possible that weren’t when under the watchful eye of mom or dad.

We have to be holy families. I spoke of Fr. Peyton; I now what his mother did when he and his brother got on the boat to come over to this country; they prayed. When they got to this country they prayed some more. You and I have to pray and in doing so we show ourselves to be connected to the Holy Family. Yes, problems and setbacks arise and terrible things can happen to us, like the Flight into Egypt or the Holy Innocents, but as long as Jesus is at the center of our homes we are comforted and consoled. We are not merely natural families but are called to be supernatural families yet there are many Catholic Christians and non-Catholic Christians who are merely natural families. This is reckless in the extreme and being a natural family on the surface seems like a good thing but we have to go beyond nature to be supernatural because nature, wounded by Original Sin is so weakened it is to no avail for us. We have to pray with intensity and focus like that young man singing. We even have to pray when we don’t “feel” like praying. How many times while raising children did you not feel like doing this or that but you did it because you knew it was needed, and prayer is needed if you want your family to get to Heaven the same way St. Dominic’s family, St. Therese’ family and Fr. Peyton’s family… you get the idea.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit

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