Articles by Fr. Alfonse

Fatherly Advice

Lk 11: 8-13 A Friend To Open the Door

Thursday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)


“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit
to those who ask him?”
“To the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God must have been laughing when I got locked out of my room this weekend.
For two weeks, I’ve perpetually kept my key tied around astretchy elastic band around my wrist. But disastrously, I had taken my key off when I practiced the day before and left it in my violin case (a fatal decision that I would only discover later). And so, I was locked outside of my room, with every RA in the building gone and a violin lesson in an hour.

Even if I had knocked, the door would not have been open to me; alas, there was no one behind the door. An hour later, though, my roommate eventually came back, and I was able to run down to the music school, take a 30-minute lesson, and emerge from the lesson, still sweating, with time left to buy a pumpkin. God is so good.

Sometimes, it seems as if there is no one behind the door, and that God isn’t listening. But the actions of friends and their prayers for you can open the door and bring you the grace of God.
The Catholic Fish (the freshmen of University Catholic) have aGroupMe, which is the better version of the group text. At the beginning, we started praying Compline and Rosary together in the late hours of the night together, and our group has grown so strong. In the past week, members of the group have started putting prayer requests into the GroupMe, and because we’re praying with and for each other, we’re only getting stronger.

Prayer chains often arise only in times of crisis. But how much better would it be if we could pray with our friends all the time—“to pray without ceasing?” If we can pray together all the time, we can pray together at any time.

So get a group of your friends together and go get lunch. Then, after lunch, find a place to pray and say a decade of the Rosary. Or better yet, the whole Rosary (and good for you if you don’t get the Nicene creed and the Apostolic creed mixed up; the Fish are still working on that). Prayer is powerful, and sometimes, someone else has to open that door for you.
Fatherly Advice

Lk 11:27-28 Wheels and Kneels

Saturday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
Last weekend I bought a brand new 2016 Honda Accord Coupe EX-L.  The beautiful body style is fully-loaded with the latest tech and safety features.   My old 2003 Accord with 167 K miles needed costly repairs. Two AAA emergency roadside calls within a short time period warned: “The car is dying. Time for a new set of wheels!”
 Did I make a wise decision?  Should I have purchased something without all of the bells and whistles?  I realize some people cannot afford a vehicle, yet I paid a hefty price tag for a luxury that only depreciates in value.  I can enjoy it while it is the latest and greatest,  but the new will eventually wear off.   In another 5-10 years, I’ll be in the same situation with a used and worn out car.  
One thing I know for certain is The Holy Spirit never depreciates! Jesus Christ is the greatest beyond the latest!  God is the ultimate engineer, technological expert, and safety specialist.  He rides with us along the roadways of life.  Sometimes he’s in the passenger seat whereas at other times he takes a hold of the steering wheel navigating us away from danger.
I like to think of an automobile as a moving sacred space.  Most of us cannot safely kneel on the floorboard. However, we can still pray, meditate, and witness to others as we place a foot on the gas pedal and crank up the tunes! 
With my new Sirius XM radio, I can hear the word of God and observe it through Catholic radio. I can be a good Christian witness by obeying traffic laws.  Instead of becoming irritated while stuck in traffic, I can pray a rosary or say a prayer for a stranded motorist.  Best of all, as I drive on long distance road trips, I can appreciate the beauty of nature – the mountains, hills, trees, and waterways.  Nothing more relaxing than seeing America’s countryside knowing God is part of the landscape!
“The prayer of the farmer kneeling in his field to weed it, the prayer of the rower kneeling with the stroke of his oar, are true prayers heard throughout nature.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality
Fatherly Advice

Jon 3:1-10 We Are All Jonah

Wednesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By Benedict Augustine
“He prayed, ‘I beseech you, LORD,
is not this what I said while I was still in my own country?
This is why I fled at first to Tarshish.
I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God,
slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish.
And now, LORD, please take my life from me;
for it is better for me to die than to live.”
But the LORD asked, “Have you reason to be angry?’”
Normally, people become angry with God for some kind of loss, some inexplicable evil, or some kind of injustice. Atheists, fallen-away Catholics, and many other nonreligious people usually cite God’s failure to help all the people, particularly innocent people. This is their best counterargument against the good God described in the Bible.
As with so many other matters, St. Thomas Aquinas anticipates this argument so many centuries before them. He responds with a very logical—though not exactly satisfying—answer: God wills evil for a good purpose, though human beings might be able to see this. Modern apologists will add that free will also factors into the presence of evil: if one cannot choose evil, one is not truly free, and if one is not free, one cannot truly love God.
Neither of these explanations will satisfy a person who has made up his mind on how the world should function, nor does it satisfy Jonah. However, despite employing the same reasoning as this group of non-theists, he differs from their conclusion, airing his grievances against God for being too nice! If he were God, he would destroy the Nineveh without a second thought; their people, the Babylonians, invaded and enslaved Jonah (and God’s) people, the Israelites. In this reluctant prophet’s mind, the least that God could do would be to annihilate such an idolatrous race of people.
Jonah feels so strongly about this that he even shirks his responsibility as a prophet to allow Nineveh to be destroyed. In his little mind, he might have even believed that God commissioned him with the message in order to have it not carried out, knowing Jonah’s resentment. Like American executives in government refusing to enforce a law—unless it related to same-sex marriage or some other hot-button issue—Jonah would simply refuse to announce God’s message.
After some extraordinary events take place, involving storms and praying inside a fish, Jonah finally relents and tells Nineveh to repent. To his dismay, they listen and actually do penance bywearing sackcloth, fasting, and praying for God’s mercy. Jonah’s subsequent bitterness conjuresimages of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son or the worthless servant in parable of the talents who buried his talent in the ground because his master was a hard man. Outside of parables, Jonah’s bitterness also foreshadows the attitude of the Pharisees.
To his credit, Jonah is at least honest, which says more than others who complain about God’s ineptitude. He does not attempt to rationalize his hatred, nor does he couch it in politically correct language that shows a nominal concern for thedisenfranchised. He hates the people of Nineveh, and he would rather die than see them happy. The only thing that pleases him is the gourd plant whichoffers shades as he stews in his misery over the city’s conversion. When God kills the plant, he asks again to die, and the story ends there.
The obsessive bitterness of Jonah probably makes little sense for Christians basking—or often, desperately clinging—to God’s mercy and His penchant for inclusion. Telling others that “God is love” is a great selling point for most people who could use some relief from their problems.
But kind and gentle Christians tend to forget that a good portion of people in the world do not want relief to their problems, but instead a quick and easy solution. Although they will never say it outright, except maybe in terrorist propaganda, many people want God to hate. In their black hearts, they want God to kill all the infidels, or all the poor people in the world, or all the rich people, or all the disabled, or all the elderly, or all the infants, or even all of humanity.
If people were as honest as Jonah, it would become clear that more people resent God for His love, for His goodness, than for His negligence or allowance of evil. Sadly, their hatred of God naturallyaccompanies a hatred of man. It is no coincidence that the two most violent and destructive ideologies in history, militant Islam and totalitarianism, have either mischaracterized God as killer or explicitly reviled Him as they mercilessly mowed down millions of innocent victims.
As difficult as it might be, no one should ignore Jonah. God certainly does not ignore him, despite his bile, pettiness, and darkness. By the end of the book, the narrative ironically seems to indicate that it is Jonah who needs saving more the people of Nineveh. He needs to transcend his brutal fantasies and lack of charity. The gourd that gives him shade likely symbolizes the dark delusions that gives him comfort and keeps him safe from the harsh light of truth.
God takes away his gourd to offer him something greater. Jonah cannot run, which is his first (and particularly strong) instinct. He must repent and accept God’s love, a love that extends beyond the Jewish people, beyond even the good people, but stretches forth to all creation—and He may desire that Jonah to preach to them too.
Christians today face the same dilemma as Jonah. At some point, they will need to reject the tacit prejudices they cherish against the poor, the rich, the weak, the strong, the different, or even the same that excuses their lack of action. God seeks repentance from all, because He is a God of love, not hate.
Fatherly Advice

Mk 10:2-12 Marriage 101

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)By FR ALFONSE NAZZAROThe Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him.  He said to them in reply, “What did Moses comma…

Fatherly Advice

Bar 4:5-12, 27-29 On Eagles’ Wings

Saturday of the Twenty Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
“Fear not, my children; call out to God! He who brought this upon you will remember you. As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God, turn now ten times the more to seek him; For he who has brought disaster upon you  will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.”
 Today’s first reading from the Book of Baruch reminds me of the hymn “On Eagles Wings”:
And he will raise you up on eagles’ wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of his hand.
What comfort to know that Our Lord is present, guiding and molding us.  He holds us in the palm in his hand as he shelters us from harm.  Do not worry about falling down; the Lord lifts up.  Do not fret about being alone; the Lord is a loyal companion.  Do not worry about death; the Lord grants eternal life to all who believe and follow His Will.
Back in junior high school,  our principal asked students to submit ideas for a new school motto.  The winner of the contest received a movie theater gift card and recognition during morning announcements….
My mom and I spent a weekend brainstorming ideas.   We wanted to use the school mascot, an eagle, in the motto. I remember we stopped by a local Shell gas station to fill up my mom’s old ’85 Ford Thunderbird.  Noticing the word “excellence” on the gas station sign, I turned to my mom saying: “Oh, what about using the words Eagle excellence!?”  She thought it was an “excellent” idea.  By the time we filled up the gasoline tank, the new motto was created:  Experience the Eagle Excellence.   It sounded pretty darn good.  Yet, I convinced myself another student would come up with a better motto.  No way within an eagle’s eye would I win the contest!
A few weeks later, I sat in 2nd period when the school motto contest winner was announced:  “And our new school motto is Experience the Eagle Excellence by Jennifer Burgin!”  My first reaction involved the instinctive cringe after hearing my last name mispronounced! However,  I quickly recovered feeling excitement as well as surprise.  Who knew my motto was a winner? I remember how proud my mom was after I told her the news.  She bragged to all of her coworkers and friends for weeks afterwards. 
I often wonder if that school motto is still in use so many years later…
We can allow fear to take over our lives, keeping us away from the Church and the Sacraments.  The eagle is one of the largest birds in the world.  We may think we can never reach its beauty, magnificence, and stature.  We may assume that our littleness is a sign of worthlessness.  Howeverthis is so far from the truth.  Through our smallness we see a need for God.  We may even crave an intimate connection with the Lord, not fully understanding how such a bond can give us interior peace and joy!
Imagine flying on an eagle’s wings seeing the vastness of the earth in all of its richness and beauty.  Let go of the anxiety and worry.  Snuggle up against the immense wings knowing that everything will be okay.  Nothing bad lasts forever when we have Christ and Our Blessed Mother close to the heart.
“I look upon myself as a weak little bird, with only a light down as covering.  I am not an eagle, but I have only an eagle’s EYES AND HEART.  In spite of my extreme littleness I still dare to gaze upon the divine Sun, the Sun of Love, and my heart feels within it all the aspirations of an eagle.”
Saint Therese of Lisieux (Feast Day October 1st)
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality
Fatherly Advice

Luke 10:1-2 Find a Partner

Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
“I love my faith.”

I saw that on the Facebook page and started smiling so much I thought my face would hurt. I couldn’t believe it—I had a Catholic friend! A Catholic friend!!!

There’s something so awesome about being able to talk about Catholic moral issues with someone who understands.  There’s something so amazing about sitting over tea with someone, talking about her excitement about seeing the pope in Philadelphia. It’s so nice to finally have someone who gets it.


On Wednesdays, I can go to Confession and tell everything I’ve thought about the entire week to the priest. He’s my partner in advancing and developing my faith.

The upperclassmen of University Catholic have so much to tell me about Catholicism and helping me grow in my faith. They’re my partners. They give books to me and hug me and make me feel like I’m part of one big Catholic family.

We’re all part of the Body of Christ. We’re his hands and his feet. And we have to have partners to make it when so many people haven’t heard about Christ and his amazing works. We can find these partners in the Catholic centers of universities, in the pro-life groups in high schools, and in the million and one groups in so many Catholic churches. So make an effort. Find your partner and start evangelizin’! Because “the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few…”, and we have so much work to do.
Fatherly Advice

Hg 1: 3-8 Eat and Be Satisfied

Thursday if the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)


Now thus says the LORD of hosts:
Consider your ways!
You have sown much, but have brought in little;
you have eaten, but have not been satisfied;
You have drunk, but have not been exhilarated;
have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed;
And whoever earned wages
earned them for a bag with holes in it.

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Consider your ways!
Go up into the hill country;
bring timber, and build the house
That I may take pleasure in it
and receive my glory, says the LORD.
We stood in the kitchen of Frassati house at 1:30 AM. “Hail Mary, full of grace…” It had been over a month since college started, and I still could not believe the amazing nature of the people around me. Two other girls and four guys in love with their faith stood, heads bowed, around the kitchen island. It was 1:30 AM in the morning, and we prayed.

Sometimes I’m worried that college isn’t going so well. After I received a 53 on my math test, this thought was confirmed. What was I doing wrong? I had spent hours on math. I had prayed to St. Augustine to help me on the math proofs. I had read the notes twenty times. And then, suddenly, my face smiled and almost not even realizing it, I said “Sophie! Your life is awesome.”
I shocked myself.
But my life really is awesome. I’m eighteen years old, I have a plan for world domination of University Catholic, and I’m learning so much in my math class and biology seminar. My math professor is willing to help me reach a B in his class. The group of University Catholic freshmen is growing. I’m still in touch with most of the friends I made at orientation, and I’ve even started tutoring and teaching violin lessons! And suddenly I thought of how much I was neglecting to count my blessings.

In the reading, Jesus says that we have “eaten, but not been satisfied.” This has happened to me so many times. When I began my freshman year of high school, I thought “Four more years til I’m out of this place! Let’s go!” And suddenly it was three more years, then two, then a year and a half, and finally, days, and I sat in my kitchen and cried because I didn’t want to leave home. The tile floor was cold and my mum was only half-sympathetic until she turned as cold as the floor and told me, “Sophers, be an adult. You’re going away to college. You’re going to be fine.” Talk about tough love.

But I have to remember all my blessings, and I have so many. There’s my lovely floormate who invited me to breakfast with her family when I grew so homesick that I hugged someone else’s sisters. There’s the slow mornings when I can play music and get dressed and I’m not rushed for the 8:10 AM. There’s the beautiful walk to campus—so many trees!—and the huge smile the upperclassmen in UCat always give me. I’ve waited four years to swing dance on top of a parking garage, play Murder in the Dark at 1:00 AM, and run across a lawn with the sprinklers on. I’ve waited four years to learn about Godel’s IncompletemessTheorem: there’s no limit to the human mind! I’ve waited so long and now’s my chance to eat and be satisfied.

So dear reader, eat and be satisfied.. Think about what you have right now, and if that’s hard, just start thinking about a delicious meal that you can make right now without having to go to a campus store. Start thinking, start counting, and then say a prayer to eat, and be satisfied.
Fatherly Advice

Mk 9:38-48 Cut it Out!

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)By FR ALFONSE NAZZAROIf your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. …

Fatherly Advice

Ps 137: 1-2,3,4-5,6 History Happened

Wednesday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
By Benedict Augustine
By the streams of Babylon
we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.”
The people of Israel were a defeated people, living in exile. They lost their homes, their pride, and (almosttheir God. They lived at the mercy of their conqueror, making their lives in the strange land of Babylon. Even though their tradition boasted of a great religion, one that was actually true and made sense compared to everything around them, and of great leaders like David and son Solomon, and great miracles like the crossing of the Red Sea, the reality around them continually reminded them that none of this existed anymore.
No one cared about the Israelites and their great history or their great destiny. At most, it could serve as a nice bit of entertainment for complacent pagan aristocrats. After hearing so many stories about divine bulls and promiscuous epic heroes, they wanted something new. Culturally speaking, the novelty of Jewish religion probably represented the only thing worthwhile to a people that surpassed them in everything else.
In the face of this oppression, the Israelites could do nothing more than remember. They desperately needed to remember, or else they would lose themselves. Many of them did indeed lose themselves. It was hard not to join the winners of that time, especially when their society promised so much pleasure for so little in return.
Then history happened. As Jesus warned St. Peter, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword” (Mt 25:52). Babylon fell to the Persians. The Persians fell to the Greek/Macedonians. The Greeks split into the three Hellenistic kingdoms, which lasted until the Romans conquered them. When Rome finally became Christian, the region then fell under dominion of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Rome), and then fell to the Arabs soon after the rise of Islam. After passing through various dynasties (theUmmayad, the Abbasids, the Turks), it eventually became the place of the Ottoman Empire. After WWI, France and England took possession of the area before relinquishing it to the nations that exist there today. Even today, those nations are now falling under the onslaught of the Islamic State and Iran’s proxies.
The few Christians and Jews who remain in the area know this violent cycle all too well, and yet they continue to remember. Even as their churches burn, their people suffer crucifixions and torture, and their brethren abroad continue to shrug and panic about the rush of refugees and migrants—it didn’t occur to anyone that they might not want to die or become rape victims or slaves by staying—they refuse to leave their home and sing a different song.
Although one cannot predict the future of Christians in these war-torn, Islamist-ridden areas, one thing is certain: God’s justice will prevail. The savage brutality endured by these few martyrs who dare not “sing the song of the Lord in a foreign land,” will certainly earn them a place in Heaven. The calm passiveness of those who watch them die without doing anything, or turn away in revulsion, will certainly warrant some time in purgatory, if not hell.
This thought alone, the thought of God’s judgment, galvanized action of a whole host of men in the Crusades, who gave up everything to save their fellow Christians. They did not have drone planes, precision bombs, or satellite surveillance; they had ricketyships run by greedy Italians, uncomfortable chainmail and heavy lances, and unreliable maps sketched from the details of legends and hearsay. Most of them went to their deaths, and the few who returned often came back maimed, diseased, or both.
History will continue to happen, and as such, it will not vindicate these victims of the past. The Ancient Jews in Babylonian exile, the Crusaders of the Middle Ages, or the Christians living in the Middle East right now will never be remembered as anything but helpless props of an inferior culture—that is, if anyone cares to think of them at all. Those in comfort may think of them when they are bored and need something to prod them into caring about life again.
In the end, however, these people are the wise ones. They chose to remember the two most important things, God Almighty and their neighbor in need. In turn, God will remember them, as will the people who will know them in Paradise. They weep in misery and suffer ignominy now, but they will laugh with joy and experience eternal goodness later.
Fatherly Advice

Lk 9:1-6 Living Lightly

Wednesday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By Benedict Augustine
“Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority
over all demons and to cure diseases,
and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God
and to heal the sick.
He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey,
neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money,
and let no one take a second tunic.”
After spending so much time with His disciples, enlightening them on the gospel, guiding them by example, praying with them and for them, Jesus finally sends off the twelve to go and share the gospel with others. Asking them to take nothing extra and entrusting them with miraculous powers, Jesus has complete confidence in their ability to save souls in His name. The disciples presumably share the same confidence, never even looking back and wondering whether it might be wise to at least bring a little money for an inn should something not work. Apparently, they have left doubt behind along with all their other possessions.
How different this is from the daily departures people make today for their jobs! People insist on carrying so many things with them and think nothing of using all their spare hands and shoulders to holdanother bag, or strap, or cup, or handle. On top of this, they have their smartphones which themselvescarry a whole world of information and services. Far from exhibiting the breezy confidence of the disciples, most working adults are plagued with anxiety and doubtThey pack meals, wardrobes, reading materials, writing utensils, electronic equipment, cosmetics, rolodexes, and personal protection, all so that they can make it to the mailbox with peace of mind.
Besides turning people into beasts of burden, this doubt also turns people’s houses into storage units. Although some people might desire to possess things that will earn praise among visitors or that will offer lasting pleasure, more people simply desire to possess things because it makes them feel safe. The boxes of junk in the garage, the ugly furniture in the front room in the empty bedroom, the unused exercise machines covered with cobwebs and dust,the “survival food” bursting out of the pantry and cabinets, the heaps of tools for that one repair, and the toys that a child once played with so many decades ago, all go towards making a person feel secure and oriented.
Doubt and fear often drive consumption, and it is sin that drives this doubt and fear. Sin signifies absence, an absence of God and thus an absence of goodness.Sin empties the fullness of the inner life so that it can fill the settings of the outer life. In other words, the emptiness of sin will fill one’s life with things; the lack of goodness in the heart will create a surfeit of goods in the house. This is the meaning of materialism. Material goods stand in for truth (scientism), moral excellence (capitalism), or happiness (socialism).
As a person confesses his sins and recovers his soul, he will often confront this host of doubts that have accumulated in his heart—much like the junk that accumulate in the garage. With the sin removed, the foundation upholding this bad habit of acquisition and hoarding is exposed in all its ugliness. The truth is clear: all one really needs is God, and so many things one has come to depend are superfluous.
People today marvel at the recklessness of Jesus and His disciples simply starting their mission withoutgiving it a second thought. In order to rationalize this attitude, they think that Jesus only intended these twelve to do such a thing, not other Christians,or that he means this metaphorically; but it would make more sense to think that Jesus really intends this advice for all his followers and in a literal way in addition to a spiritual one.
All Christians should live light, and they should pack light as they leave their homes each day. Only this will open them up to their neighbor and create opportunities to share the gospel, a gospel whichstates that God will provide so the quest for things should not worry anyone. The simple life of a Christian disciple and the joy it brings can be powerful lure to those entangled with so many things. Most people are all too familiar with the stress and futility brought on my so many things. A good cleaning is in order.
Knowing this, Jesus sends all Christians out to free others as they free themselves.

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