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For your New Year's reading try "Killing Jesus" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. The first half of this history shows the vivid atrocities and brutalities of the Romans.
Jesus' short but powerful ministry on earth is uplifting and will open new doors for your understanding of the Gospels. You won't regret having read it.
Origins of Israel
In his letter (Forum, Jan. 6). Richard Vincent attempts to relate a version of the history of Israel that includes some information about the acquisition of Palestinian land by Zionists and various immigrant Jews from 1890-1948. Much of his information is not factual.
I recommend those interested in the truth read, "My Promised Land," by Ari Shavit, an Israeli journalist who was born in Israel in 1957 and is the great-grandson of a British Zionist who first visited the Holy Land in 1897.
The book is a forthright and heart-wrenching admission that though the Jewish state is a man-made miracle, it has been based on denial of confiscation of Palestinian land, razing Palestinian villages and even enacting laws that revoked Palestinian citizenship. Nation building, much similar to what occurred in the United States as people moved westward, had no time for guilt or compassion during this time period.
Also, before 1957 most Palestinians still did not define themselves as a distinct people and the vast Arab nations did not try to help them as they became refugees in the land they had lived for so many years.
What has happened cannot be denied and all the Western nations were complicit in what happened, whether from out of guilt or to achieve other self-interest goals.
Now, all we can do is understand the truth and try to resolve the conflict in a way that is most fair and just to all who have strived and suffered. Nothing can be done to unravel events of the past but trying to escape the truth will not serve anyone's interests.
It will be extremely difficult to achieve a peaceful solution for all the people who regard this area as their homeland. If Israel is to remain a Jewish State, reasonable concessions must be made to allow Palestinians a truly viable country of their own and also full rights of citizenship and freedom to travel across borders.
We should try our best to be supporters of a fair solution and pray that peace return to the land where Jesus was born.
A letter (Forum, Dec. 16) defends the use of statues and other images as sources of inspiration and as mediators between us and the Father in our prayers. These images are uplifting works of art, but are not necessary and can act as distractions and diversions in our prayer.
Jesus gave us the perfect prayer, which begins, "Our Father..." (Mt 6, 9-13). He did not instruct us to pray to saints, to Mary His mother, to Joseph His father, not even to Himself.
He further taught us to go into an inner room, close the door and pray directly to our unseen Father in private; our Father who sees all in private will repay us (Mt 6, 6). He went even further by telling us not to use a lot of meaningless words (Mt 6, 7) such as those recently added to the Mass as the Prayer of the Faithful.
It has become accepted practice for parishes to hold a "Communion service" on weekdays when a priest is not available to say Mass. People have become accustomed to these "Communion services" as a substitute for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which they aren't.
Some things are surrendered, such as the value of the priesthood and the offering of ourselves in Mass. It's not "Mass without a priest." The closest thing to a "Communion service" occurring in the Catholic Church prior to the Second Vatican Council was on Good Friday when no Mass can be celebrated but we receive Holy Communion as part of the Liturgy.
In June 1988, anticipating the growing shortage of priests in some areas of the world, the Congregation of Divine Worship issued a "Directory for Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest." It did not authorize, and was not intended for, weekday "Communion services." In fact, there was no specific direction from the congregation for such weekday services.
The USCCB subsequently recommended that daily Mass should be celebrated in each parish and, if that is not possible, the Mass schedule of nearby parishes should be available to parishioners and serious consideration should be given to encouraging people to participate in that Mass.
In April 2004, the congregation promulgated "Redemptionis Sacramentum," ("Sacrament of Redemption"), instructions on the Eucharist, to address liturgical abuses, including celebrations conducted in the absence of a priest. Bishops were told, among other things, that it is necessary to avoid any sort of confusion between a "Communion service" and the celebration of the Eucharist; that they should prudently discern whether Holy Communion ought to even be distributed in celebrations carried out in the absence of a priest. Some bishops have subsequently ended the practice.
I have been taking Holy Communion to patients in John Muir Hospital and those in assisted living for 15 years and I recognize the gift that it is, but maybe it's time to consider other options for regular weekday Mass-goers in the absence of a priest: morning or evening prayer from the liturgy of the hours, adoration and benediction, 20 decades of the Rosary, etc. in the spirit of a penitential fast from receiving Communion outside of the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass.
What readers want
Thank you for running, and publishing, the results of your diocesan survey (Voice, Dec. 16). I for one found it very informative.
Most striking is the percentage of those who want "lots more coverage" in The Voice is dominated by subjects such as: doctrine, theology; Church history; liturgy/scripture meanings; prayer/spiritual growth; and why Catholics do the things we do.
All American bishops and pastors should take serious note. Do they want a more committed and dedicated group? Then pay attention to our needs. The people are educated and sophisticated, who need the bishop's guidance and hunger for help.
Do not just tell us what to believe or what to do as though we are the ignorant peasants of old. Address our questions, doubts and confusion. Explain to us why we should hold these beliefs and follow these guidelines.
The Church will grow in numbers and strength if they do. We will all become believing disciples and evangelists. This is their challenge.
"I believe, help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 24)
We want to thank The Catholic Voice and writer Michele Jurich for the excellent article (Voice, Jan. 6) about our St. Joseph Seniors group in Pinole. We advocate that every parish should have a seniors group.
There are more seniors now than ever before who need each others' support. Our St. Joseph Seniors is a faith-based community that strives for the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical well-being of its participants.
We hope all parishes have a pastor as cooperative as our Father Paul Schmidt, and a liaison as helpful as Sister Celine Pathiaparambi. They are both gems.
Bill and Susan Gahan
'Judge not …'
In spite of Pope Francis' reminder that Holy Communion "is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak," there are still those who advocate denying Communion to certain individuals, specifically to those legislators who support abortion rights.
Let's think for a moment where this could lead. Would we also deny Communion to those legislators who vote for spending on unjustified military actions that cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people or for laws that push more people into poverty?
Would we deny Communion to judges who uphold the death penalty in opposition to our Church's teaching? Should we be asking our parish priests to deny Communion to parishioners we know who are having premarital sex or using birth control, both of which are against Church law?
Instead, let's follow the advice of Jesus in Luke 6:37, "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned."
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