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Vatican City, Jul 4, 2015 / 11:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After receiving an honorary doctorate from both the Pontifical John Paul II University of Krakow and the Krakow Academy of Music, retired pontiff Benedict XVI credited the saintly example of his predecessor for his spiritual and theological achievements.

Benedict said he received a “special joy” in receiving the doctorates, because “in this way my bond with Poland, with Krakow, with the home of our great St. John Paul II, has become even deeper.”

“Without him my spiritual and theological journey would not be imaginable.”

The retired pontiff – who now goes by “Father Benedict” – made his comments at the July 4 conferral of his two honorary doctorates in Sacred Music, one from the Pontifical John Paul II University of Krakow and one from the Krakow Academy of Music.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow and former secretary of St. John Paul II, conferred the degrees. The ceremony took place in the Italian city of Castel Gandolfo, where Benedict is currently on a two-week stay at the papal summer residence.

The doctorates were conferred due to the great contributions Benedict has made to both knowledge and culture, specifically his attention to truth, beauty, faith and the presence of sacred music in the liturgy.

John Paul II was a “living example” of how “the joy of sacred music and the task of common participation in the sacred liturgy, the solemn joy and the simplicity of the humble celebration of the faith” can go hand in hand, Benedict said.

He noted how even though it might not be felt that strongly, “little by little” a certain tension has developed between active participation in the liturgy and solemn, sacred music.

Benedict pointed to how the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, mentions both.

It says that “the treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care,” while at the same time emphasizing that the active participation of the faithful is “a fundamental liturgical category,” he noted.

“Those two things, which in the text of the Constitution remain together and at peace with each other, were in the implementation of the Council, often in a relationship of dramatic tension,” the former pontiff observed.

Asking how the two can be reconciled and how the council can be implemented in its entirety, Fr. Benedict said that a deeper and more fundamental question is “what is music really? Where does it come from and toward what does it tend?”

Benedict then pointed the origins of music itself, saying that it first of all stems from one’s personal experience of love, sadness and death, and a true encounter with God.

One of music’s first expressions “is the experience of love,” he said. “When men were seized by love, another dimension of being burst within them, another greatness and another breadth of reality. And it also led them to express themselves in new ways.”

Poetry, song and music in general were all born “from this being affected, from this unfolding of a new dimension of life,” he said.

Another origin he pointed to was the experience of sadness, death, pain and “the abyss of existence,” which the former Pope said also opens up, in the opposite way, “new dimensions of reality” which can “no longer find an answer in mere speeches.”

The third origin Benedict indicated was “the encounter with the divine, which from the beginning is part of what defines man.”

A major reason for this, he said, “is that it is here where the totally-other and totally-great arouses in man new ways of expressing himself. Perhaps we can say that actually in the other two areas – love and death – the mystery of the divine touches us and, in this sense, it is being touched by God which together constitutes the origin of music.”

He said that the quality of music depends on “the purity and greatness” of one’s encounter with the divine, with their experience of love and of pain.

“The more pure and true that experience is, the more pure and great will be the music from which it was born and developed.”

Benedict then turned to the types of music found in different cultures, saying that music from the West in particular has the ability to go beyond the religious and ecclesial domain, mentioning Bach as an example of where for him, the glory of God is represented.

Whenever music is developed based on an encounter with God, he said, “you encounter the truth, with the true creator of the world.”

“Because of this the great sacred music is a reality of theological rank and of permanent significance for the faith of all Christianity, even if it is not at all necessary that it be done always and everywhere,” he noted.

On the other hand, Benedict pointed out that it is also clear that such music “cannot disappear from the liturgy and that its presence can be a special way of participation in the sacred celebration.”

At the end of his speech, Benedict said that although we don’t know where the future of our culture and sacred music are going, one thing is clear: “where a true encounter with the living God who is Christ among us is had, there the response is also born and grows, whose beauty comes from truth itself.”


Vatican City, Jul 3, 2015 / 11:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ attendance for the second consecutive year at the Catholic charismatic movement’s Renewal with the Spirit convocation shows his attention to charismatic movements as means to foster ecumenical path.

Not by chance, Renewal with the Spirit styled the convocation to be heavily ecumenical.

During the meeting with Pope Francis’ in St. Peter’s Square, prayers were raised by Cardinals Kurt Koch and Leonardo Sandri, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches; the Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, who represents the Archbishop of Canterbury toward the Holy See; and Msgr. Barnaba El Soryani, Coptic-Orthodox Bishop, as a delegate of Theodore II, Patriarch of Alexandria.

Also present were Msgr. Athanasisu Matti Shaba Matoka, Syriac-Catholic archbishop emeritus of Baghdad; His Eminence Polycarpus Eugenio Aydin, vicar of the Syriac-Orthodox diocese of the Netherlands; Rev. Louie Giglio, from the Passion City Church of Atlanta; Jonas Jonsoon, from the Lutheran Church of Sweden; and Giovanni Traettino, president of the Evangelical Church for Reconciliation in Italy.

This varied presence aligns with Pope Francis’ commitment to ecumenism. Beyond the recently opened dialogue with Orthodox and Anglican Churches, the Evangelical world is a big challenge for ecumenism, and perhaps one of the most important ones.

Dialogue with evangelical groups, especially Pentecostals, has been called “the fourth ecumenism” by several authors, including the Catholic sociologist Massimo Introvigne, an international authority on religious sects.

According to Introvigne, the fourth ecumenism – that of the new Protestant sects born at the beginning of the 20th century – is perhaps the most fruitful ground for ecumenical dialogue.

Attempts at such dialogue have limits: for example, a search for parties to represent the Pentecostals. Although they make up three-quarters of Protestants in some parts of the world and as much as one-third of all Christians, Pentecostals are very fragmented. The diversity within the group presents difficulties for dialogue.

This might be why Pope Francis has chosen to foster dialogue specifically with individuals and small groups.

On July 28, 2014, the Pope paid a private visit to the evangelical pastor Giovanni Traettino’s Church in Caserta. The two had met in 2006 and have maintained good relations ever since.
That meeting came at the end of a series of meetings Pope Francis had with evangelical leaders in 2014.

Televangelist Joel Osteel, pastor Tim Timmons and president of the Evangelical Westmont College Gayle D. Beebe visited Pope Francis June 4, 2014.

Pope Francis then met June 24 of that year with the televangelists James Robins and Kenneth Copeland, with the bishop Anthony Palmer of the Communion Evangelical Episcopal Churches, with the spouses John and Carol Arnott from Toronto and – among others – with Geoff Tunnicliffe and Brian C. Stiller, respectively general secretary and ambassador of the World Evangelical Alliance.

According to the prominent Italian vaticanista Sandro Magister, through these meetings Pope Francis is putting into action a broad effort to “win the favor of the worldwide leaders of those ‘evangelical’ and Pentecostal movements which especially in Latin America are the most fearsome competitor of the Catholic Church, from which they are snatching enormous masses of the faithful.”

Attending the Renewal with the Spirit convocation is part of this effort. Pope Francis himself acknowledged – during his trip back from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro – that he used to look at charismatic movements with suspicion, and that he later changed his mind, and now he believes that “this movement does much good for the Church overall.”

Renewal with the Spirit president Salvatore Martinez, an academic of music and musician, who has been committed to the movement since his youth, had the occasion to meet with Pope Francis at the very beginning of the pontificate, after the Mass the Pope celebrated in the Vatican parish Sant’Anna March 17, 2013, four days after his election.

After that, Martinez had a private meeting with Pope Francis in September 2013, and there the invitation to the 2014 annual convocation was forwarded directly to the Pope, who accepted, probably considering it as a part of his ecumenical commitment.

Speaking in front of the convocation June 1, 2014, the Pope voiced hope that both evangelical and Catholic charismatic groups, gathered in the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, would share the same office as a sign of ecumenism. They did it.

Meeting with them Oct. 31, 2014, the Pope praised the decision, and stressed that “unity is not uniformity… it does not mean doing everything together, nor thinking the same way, nor losing identity.”

Pope Francis went further. Last May 23, he sent a video message to the participants of the Day of Dialogue and Prayer organized by the Diocese of Phoenix, which gathered Catholics and evangelical Pentecostal pastors. In the message, the Pope asked them to pray “together for the grace of unity,” that unity that “is flourishing among us, and begins with the only Baptism all of us received.”

All of these signals suggest that Pope Francis has indeed changed his mind and, starting from an initial skepticism, he later found in charismatic movements a privileged path to seek ecumenism.

There could be another pressing factor in the Pope’s enthusiasm for such meetings – a wave of conversions, particularly in Latin America, where it is estimated that100 million Catholics have converted to evangelical Christianity. Now, it appears that Pope Francis would like to evangelize the evangelicals.

His spiritual ecumenism, putting prayer at the center, and even making it a diplomatic tool, represents the most logical meeting point with the Protestant world.

Attending a large Catholic charismatic event could be the bridge the Pope needs to reach his final goal, to turn the evangelicals from rival to allies and push ecumenical efforts forward.

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2015 / 06:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With a sister who is a Doctor of the Church and parents set to be canonized in October, Leonia Martin could be the fourth member of her family declared as a saint after her own cause for canonization was recently launched.

Yesterday morning, Leonia’s cause was officially opened by Bishop Jean-Claude Boulanger of Bayeux-Lisieux in the chapel of the Visitation Monastery at Caen, France, where Leonia spent the majority of her life and where she died. Mass was celebrated following the cause opening.

The intention to open her cause was originally announced January 24, according to French daily La Croix. On April 25, a “recognition” of her body was made – a process which included opening her tomb to check the state of her remains.

With the opening of her cause, Leonia has now received the title “Servant of God” and is on the path toward beatification, the step in the sainthood process which precedes canonization.

The July 2 step comes at the conclusion of the initial phase of gathering all the historical documents related to her life.

The official opening of her cause signals that Bishop Boulanger has obtained the needed nihil obstat, the official approval of the Catholic Church from the moral and doctrinal point of view granted by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, which as of February was still being waited on.

Leonia is the sister of St. Therese of Lisieux and the third daughter of Blessed Louis and Zelia Martin, who are set to be the first couple ever to be canonized at the same ceremony, which will be held Oct. 18 in the Vatican.

The event will take place fewer than three weeks after the Oct. 1 feast of their daughter, and doctor of the Church, St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

In statements made to CNA in February, Carmelite Father Antonio Sangalli, Leonia's postulator, said the fact that St. Therese’s “difficult” sister is on the path toward sainthood is a reminder that holiness is call for everyone.

“Although she was expelled three times from the convent, she achieved her goal of becoming a religious, which shows that if we persevere, it is possible to do God's will,” he said.

“Leonia's difficulties were primarily due to her order's strict rules, which were very difficult to follow in those times. However, this did not lead her to bury the one talent she received and that she used fruitfully to fully live out her vocation.”

He noted that even before her cause was opened, Leonia was revered for her holiness and that her crypt at the Monastery of the Visitation in Caen is frequently visited by pilgrims from all over the world.

“They come to pray. They ask her for favors and they find spiritual help in her. Their faith is strengthened by the example of this humble sister of the Visitation, and many letters testify to graces received,” the priest said.

Leonia, who took the name Sister Francisca-Teresa, also suffered from physical problems as a child.

“She did not have the human qualities of her other sisters, but she knew how to abandon herself to God, who calls us all regardless of our qualities. No one is excluded from the call to holiness,” Fr. Sangalli said.

Leonia also had a close relationship with St. Therese, and the two often exchanged letters. After her saintly sister died, Leonia decided to try to enter the convent again, following the “little way” traced out by St. Therese, with trust and abandonment to God.

Fr. Sangalli said she ultimately was admitted to the convent, which “shows that Therese's doctrine is not only meant for the Carmelites but for everyone – with the little way, Leonia became a better sister of the Visitation, always remaining in the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales and St. Frances de Chantal, the founders of the Order of the Visitation.”

Leonia died June 17, 1941, at the age of 78 in the monastery where she lived. Her tomb has become a refuge for parents concerned about raising their children, who find in her an example and an inspiration.

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