A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Friday, December 31, 2004

Year in review

In the last few weeks of a calendar year news organizations always post a list of what they considered to be the biggest news stories of the year just ending.

The folly of such efforts was powerfully demonstrated this year as some of those lists were already published and discussed before the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami – certainly one of the most significant events of the year and arguably the most significant of all.

Inevitably, those things considered important by the opinion makers of the day often fade into obscurity with the passage of time and small events unnoticed by the great and the wise are later proved to be turning points of great import to the history of mankind.

Thank you, Lord, for the good things of the past year; forgive us our faults; and give us the grace to come closer to you in the days to come.

Tsunami donations

Catholic News Service reports that among the international aid agencies accepting donations for victims of the December 26 earthquake and tsunami that affected countries around the Indian Ocean, the following U.S., Canadian and British aid agencies affiliated with the Caritas Internationalis network are working with partner agencies in affected countries and are accepting donations:

Catholic Relief Services
phone: 1-800-736-3467,
209 W. Fayette St.
Baltimore, MD 21201-3443

Catholic Near East Welfare Association
phone: 1-800-442-6392
1011 First Ave.
New York, NY 10022-4195

Canadian Catholic Organization
for Development and Peace
phone: 1-888-664-3387
Development and Peace
5633 Sherbrooke St. East
Montreal, Quebec H1N 1A3

Catholic Agency for Overseas Development
phone: 0500 858885
Romero Close
Stockwell Road
London SW9 9BR.

Funds should be earmarked for "tsunami relief" or "tidal wave disaster."

Wishes coming true

The Church was not popular, but Sylvester loved it any way. Practicing his Christian faith could get him in serious trouble, but his faith in Christ was strong.

Blessed are they
which are persecuted for righteousness' sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you,

and persecute you,
and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely,

for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad:
for great is your reward in heaven…

Matthew 5:10-12

Still, in their quiet moments, everyone wished that they might be able to practice their faith without fear of reprisals or ridicule and that the Church might have a place of prominence and honor in the world. These thoughts crossed Sylvester’s mind: of what might then be and what he might then do.

And then it happened.

Society embraced Christianity, the truth of Christ came to be discussed and defended in the highest corridors of power, plans were begun for church buildings that would dominate the skylines of the greatest cities of the world…

And Sylvester became Pope.

Pope St. Sylvester I, Bishop of Rome during the reign of the Emperor Constantine, died and was buried on this very day in the year 335.

The Apostates

It is not easy being a Christian in today’s world: the media bombards us with messages of materialism and gratification that few seem willing to resist.

As Christians, we understandably look to each other for support in standing against the ways of the world, but then how great is our discouragement (if not despair) when we find that one of those we relied on, our brother or sister in the Lord, our comrade in spiritual warfare, has given up the fight, walked away, and slipped into the ranks of the worldly.

Perhaps it was a schoolmate, a fellow parishioner, a fellow novice, a fellow seminarian, or even a spouse. Perhaps it was someone we looked up to: a parent, a teacher, a pastor, a superior, or even a bishop.

Sometimes it is only a temporary lapse: like many of us, they fall, repent, and return to the Lord.

Sometimes they do not come back… except to attack the body of Christ that had once lovingly nurtured them.

In today’s first reading, Saint John comforts a flock that has been greatly disturbed by those who had been their fellow worshippers and even teachers and had now turned on the faith.

In response to this spiritual tragedy, Saint John has three messages of comfort:

  • First, that we had already been warned of antichrists, implying that their attacks have already been factored into God’s plan for our ultimate salvation;
  • Second, that they were not really “of our number,” implying that our true brothers and sisters in the Lord, who have been given to us for our encouragement, are still there for us when our false brethren have gone; and
  • Third, although we must be instruments of grace for each other, our faith and life in Christ ultimately depends on God himself:

    But you have the anointing that comes from the Holy One

If – God forbid – any one of us should fall, we must beg for the grace of repentance and forgiveness.

Then, all of us, the weak and the strong, must continually work to strengthen one another: guarding against enemies inside and outside our fellowship and building all of ourselves up in true faith and true love by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


The enormity of the disaster in and around the Indian Ocean overwhelms the mind: over 135 thousand dead at last count (a number that is sure to rise), five million facing terrible diseases and other challenges, and economies of nations wrecked.

For some, the enormity of such death and suffering also overwhelms their faith or reaffirms their disdain for faith. How could a loving God let this happen?

It doesn’t help that natural disasters are sometimes referred to by insurance companies and others as “Acts of God.”

How could a loving God let this happen?

We don’t really know. We are not God. We may be able to know and understand some things about God, especially through his gifts of grace and faith, but ultimately eternity, infinity, omnipotence, and omniscience cannot be fully comprehended by the human mind (and it is childish arrogance to think that that which cannot be fully understood cannot exist).

The simple fact is that there are things in this world (and beyond) that cannot be fully understood. Indeed, the term “Acts of God” specifically acknowledges that things happen in life that are beyond the power or foresight of man.

With all due respect to insurance companies, the believer generally refrains from assuming that any such event is literally an Act of God (i.e., directly willed by God), while acknowledging that all things – good and bad – are somehow encompassed by the “permissive will” of God: God did not do it, but God let it happen.

But how could a loving God let this happen? Again, we really don’t know, but our faith tells some things.

Our faith tells us that even this long road of death and suffering somehow leads ultimately to a loving God and to goodness prepared for all of us that is incomprehensibly greater than all the evil in this world.

If human happiness were limited to this life only, death and suffering would be truly hard to endure.

If our hopes in Christ are limited to this life only,
we are the most pitiable of men.
But as it is, Christ has risen from the dead,
the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:19-20

Sadly, even those of us who profess to be Christians many times think and act as if this world in which we live is the totality of existence. Disasters remind us that life in this world is fragile and fleeting: a corridor through which we pass, a relatively short time in which by grace we prepare for eternity through faith in God and care for one another.

The very next verse of 1 Corinthians 15 that follows the passage above is also relevant

For since by a man came death,
by a man also comes resurrection of the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:21

This is reinforced by a passage from the book of Wisdom

For God made not death:
neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living.

For he created all things that they might have their being:
and the generations of the world were healthful;
and there is no poison of destruction in them,
nor the kingdom of death upon the earth
(for righteousness is immortal).

But ungodly men with their works and words

called it to them:
Wisdom 1:13-16a

These verses remind us that death and suffering were not God’s intent for the world. By sin, humanity itself stepped outside the protective cocoon that God created for us in the original paradise and became vulnerable to “the thousand natural shocks the flesh is heir to.” God let that happen so that humanity might be redeemed by Christ and so attain an infinitely more wonderful paradise in heaven.

We pray for the souls of this disaster’s many, many dead and dying victims, that Christ may take them to himself in his infinitely mysterious mercy, those who did not really know him during their days on earth through no real fault of their own and those who fully embraced the faith of Christ (including those hundreds of pilgrims to a Marian shrine in India who were washed away).

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

We must also pray and work for those still alive and suffering in the wake of this disaster (the website for Catholic Relief Services appears to be online again).


Disasters should shake us out of the sometimes self-centered habits of our minds and lives and remind us what life is supposed to be about: about faith in a God whose love extends beyond our comprehension and about living that love as best we can in our care for one another.

Help them

I have been thinking and praying about the horror of the earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean, as we all have.

I haven't been ready to set any reflections down, but I probably will soon.

The first thing, however, is to pray for the victims, in their thousands upon thousands, and to do what we can to help.

Catholic Relief Services has a good track record as a conduit for aid to people afflicted by crises in distant parts of the world. Unfortunately, like several other charities, their website has crashed under the outpouring of interest in their efforts in connection with the present horror.


Catholic Relief Services
209 West Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

Thursday, December 30, 2004

I am writing to you, children

because your sins have been forgiven
for his name's sake.

I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I am writing to you, young men,
because you have conquered the Evil One.

I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.

I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,
because you are strong
and the word of God remains in you,
and you have conquered the Evil One.

Do not love the world or the things of the world.

If anyone loves the world,
the love of the Father is not in him.

For all that is in the world,
sensual lust, enticement for the eyes,
and a pretentious life,
is not from the Father but is from the world.

Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.

But whoever does the will of God remains forever.

1 John 2:12-17

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

New bishops and a new Archdiocese

The Holy Father today named José Horacio Gomez,
auxiliary bishop of Denver, as the new bishop of San
Antonio, Texas, having accepted the retirement of the
current bishop Patrick F. Flores.

The Holy Father today named Jerome E. Listecki,
auxiliary bishop of Chicago, the new bishop of La
Crosse, Wisconsin.

The Holy Father today named Robert James Carlson,
bishop of Sioux Falls, as the new bishop of Saginaw,

The Holy Father today also made the Diocese of
Galveston-Houston the archdiocese of a new
ecclesiastical province encompassing the Texas
Dioceses of Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus
Christi, Tyler and Victoria and raising
Galveston-Houston's current bishop and coadjutor,
Joseph Anthony Fiorenza and Daniel Nicholas DiNardo,
to the level of Archbishop.

Hearing the call?

The cloistered Dominican Monastery of the Heart of Jesus in southeastern Louisiana is "looking for generous young women willing to leave everything to live a hidden life of sacrifice and prayer."

Dominican Contemplative Sisters
Monastery of the Heart of Jesus
155 Church Street
Lockport, LA 70374
Phone: 985-532-2411

The Commander in Chief

replaced his most troublesome enemy with his very best friend.

His friend, however, took his new job very seriously and the Commander in Chief grew more and more frustrated and angry.

After conflict after conflict, the Commander in Chief cried out in exasperation.

Some military officers overheard him and decided to eliminate his former friend.

They murdered Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his own cathedral on this very day in 1170. He was canonized three years later.

Are we liars?

Today's first reading talks about those who say they know Christ but do not keep his commandments. We might call these people "hypocrites;" St. John calls them "liars."

In truth, nearly all of us in some way fall short in obeying the commandments of Christ, in walking just as he walked, but such an observation excuses none of us.

What separates the hypocrites from the rest of us still striving toward perfection is the fact that we are striving, not content with our spiritual and moral status quo but continuing to examine our hearts, attitudes, words, actions and lack of action and trying by the grace of Christ to be more and more like him, so that our joy in him can be all the greater.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sin and salvation

Today's first reading can be seen as referring to the
universal sinfulness of humanity (as well as the sins
we as individuals have committed) together with the
universal redemptive power in Christ.

Many people throughout the millennia have fought and
discussed concepts such as Original Sin, universal
salvation, and the uniqueness of Christ in God's plan
for human redemption. There can be a time and place
for such discussions, but the most important thing for
us is to acknowledge our personal sinfulness and need
for God's forgiveness as well as to do everything we
can to spread the Good News of salvation in Jesus
Christ our Lord.

On this Feast of the Holy Innocents

who were murdered by Herod in his eagerness to defend
his regal lifestyle, let us remember in prayer those
millions of unborn children killed every year by

Let us also pray for those who are tempted to choose
abortion and those who have committed it.

We also need to work for a world that protects
children even in the womb and that takes good care of
children, their mothers, and their families.

Monday, December 27, 2004

The one Jesus loved

In today's Gospel and throughout the Gospel according
to St. John, one of the disciples is always referred
to as "the one whom Jesus loved." This disciple has
been identified as John the Apostle.

The repetition of the phrase "the one whom Jesus
loved" in this very literary Gospel indicates a deeper
meaning than just describing a relationship between
two historical people, for each of us by our baptism
are to be disciples "whom Jesus loves" and so the
Gospel writer is in some sense placing us in the
middle of these great events he recounts.

You are there. You are the one whom Jesus loves. Live
that way.

This is the disciple

which testifieth of these things,
and wrote these things:
and we know that his testimony is true.
(John 21:24)

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. John the

Sunday, December 26, 2004

What's your family's focus?

It sometimes seems as if some people are actually
looking and listening for opportunities to be
offended. It often seems that way in politics. It can
feel that way at some family gatherings. It can also
be like that in Church.

On the Feast of the Holy Family, in addition to the
Gospel account of the Flight into Egypt, the Church
offers readings that are full of opportunities for
these happy grumblers, using words like "authority,"
"subordinate," and "obey" as part of guidelines for
family relationships.

The grumblers, of course, miss the point. In their
full context, the readings show that what makes a
family tick are not power games but mutual care and
respect. As St. Paul says,

Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another...

If we keep that focus in our families, we will never
have an opportunity or a need to be offended.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

A keeper

The shopping rush of Christmas is over (until tomorrow, when the rush of returns and exchanges begins).

But when all is said and done, how long will what we have received, given, bought or sold really last?

Today many families gather, often love but sometimes with bickering, while others will be far from any loved one, either because of military service, estrangement, or other circumstance.

But is Christmas just a time for the warm feelings of family ties?

Today many, many people will go to Church, some for the only time this year (except perhaps for Easter, weddings, and funerals).

What do any of us take away from this celebration?

In the midst of all the rushing and gathering, whether we celebrate Christmas in a traditional way or not, there is a special verse to remember from St. Luke's account of the Nativity that is read during Christmas Masses at Dawn:

But Mary kept all these things,
and pondered them in her heart.

Mary does this after hearing the report of the shepherds: illiterate men with dirty feet who have seen angels from God.

In the rush of giving and receiving, it is important to remember that more valuable than any material object is the heartfelt care and love we give one another.

We must keep these things and ponder them in our hearts.

In the complexity of family and human relationships, it is important to remember that we are at our best when we do not let any hurt feelings keep us from always reaching out with kindness, patience, and true Christian charity to those around us and even to those from whom we feel estranged (for "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" - Romans 5:8).

We must keep these things and ponder them in our hearts.

Finally, while we may not fully appreciate everything that happens in Church and we might not feel good about particular shepherds, we are only hurting ourselves if we do not let our minds be open to what God is trying to say to us through this celebration, if only through this or that beautiful image, that intriguing thought, that lovely song, that devout parishioner, that sacred space, or that breaking of the bread.

We must keep these things and ponder them in our hearts.

In principio erat Verbum

et Verbum erat apud Deum,
et Deus erat Verbum.
Hoc erat in principio apud Deum.
Omnia per ipsum facta sunt,
et sine ipso
factum est nihil quod factum est;
in ipso vita erat,
et vita erat lux hominum,
et lux in tenebris lucet,
et tenebrae eam non comprehenderunt.

Et Verbum caro factum est
et habitavit in nobis;
et vidimus gloriam eius,
gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre,
plenum gratiae et veritatis.

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him;
and without him
was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life;
and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness;
and the darkness comprehended it not.

And the Word was made flesh,
and dwelt among us,
(and we beheld his glory,
the glory as of the only begotten of the Father),
full of grace and truth.

Friday, December 24, 2004

In the tender compassion of our God

the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine
on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

Great things

In this morning's first reading, King David wants to build a great temple for the Ark of the Covenant, but God has other ideas, more glorious than what David could have imagined.

When we try to do great things for God, God will prepare great things for us as well.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Seriously, get ready!

Two Sundays before Christmas, the purple of serious spiritual preparation for Christmas gives way for the joyous rose of Gaudete Sunday and now, two days before Christmas, the joyful readings of expectation are tempered by today's first reading that reminds us of our need for serious preparation for the Lord's coming:

But who will endure the day of his coming?
And who can stand when he appears?
For he is like the refiner's fire,
or like the fuller's lye...

Before the day of the LORD comes,
the great and terrible day...

If we prepare seriously now, removing from our lives those things that lead us away from God, how much will God's joy be able to fill us when the Lord Jesus comes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Welcome to the Revolution

While some people have seen religion as a sedating influence (“the opium of the people”) or as a intrinsically conservative force that supports the political status quo, today’s Gospel (Mary’s Magnificat) and Responsorial “Psalm” remind us that the effect of God in human history is very often disruptive, for God’s ways are not the ways of sinful man.

What are we doing to “lift up the lowly” and “fill the hungry with good things?”

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Here, there and everywhere

No nation can maintain a full embassy and ambassador
in every other nation in the world. Sometimes a single
person must be an ambassador to more than one country
at the same time.

Back in October, the Holy Father raised an American
priest and Vatican diplomat Monsignor Thomas
Gullickson to the level of ambassador, appointing him
Apostolic Nuncio to

Trinidad and Tobago
The Bahamas
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

All at once.

He was consecrated an Archbishop on November 11 in his
native Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Since then, the
following ambassadorial appointments have been added
to his plate:

Antigua and Barbuda

And, as of yesterday, Grenada.

How about those frequent flier miles?

The arrival

It has often been said that what makes Christmas so appealing, even to people who do not fully appreciate the implications of the Incarnation or accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, is the simple beauty and wonder of a child’s birth.

Even the story of the Visitation in today’s Gospel is accessible as the sharing of joy between two expectant mothers. (The unbeliever, of course, will completely ignore the detail about the prophetic action of the unborn John the Baptist in his mother’s womb.)

For the Christian, however, the celebration of Christmas is more than the commemoration of the birth of a child. It is also much more than just a Christianized celebration of the winter solstice: it is the special annual celebration of a key moment in the history of our salvation.

Nor is it just an abstract theological remembrance: it is an opportunity for us to stir again the emotional embers of our faith, to appreciate afresh how wonderful it is that Christ has come among us.

This isn’t just the birth of a baby. This isn’t just a milestone in salvation history. This is the arrival of the One whom we love and who loves us beyond our ability to express.

That is why a selection from the Song of Songs is an optional first reading today. In the context of Christmas, this ancient wedding song expresses the intense rapture that the soul feels at the coming of Christ: the One whom we love and who loves us.

The voice of my beloved!
behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains,
skipping upon the hills.
My beloved is like a roe or a young hart:
behold, he standeth behind our wall,
he looketh forth at the windows,
shewing himself through the lattice.

My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle (dove) is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.

Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret places of the stairs,
let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice;
for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.

Amen! Welcome, dearest Lord Jesus!

When others ran away

Peter was a prodigy: he earned his Master’s degree by the time he was 19. He could have been successful at many different things, but he chose to commit his life to a disaster.

Scandal after scandal had rocked the Catholic Church. The priests seemed either totally detached from the real lives of people or openly indulging in earthly things. Walking into a church and listening to what was being said, one sometimes needed a tremendous leap of faith to imagine that it had anything to do with the Christ of the Gospels. Many people were running away from the Church and many others were attacking it.

But Peter had faith and he felt called to do what he could to rebuild the Church as a community of faith in Jesus Christ. He became a Jesuit. He traveled and spoke widely and wrote extensively. He defended the Church vigorously against its attackers and worked to reform the lives and education of the Catholic clergy, even at its highest levels. He preached Christ to the multitudes and consoled victims of sectarian strife.

Many would later say that he almost single-handedly saved the Church in his adopted country.

St. Peter Canisius, sometimes called the “Second Apostle of Germany,” died on this very day in 1597.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Catholic Carnival IX

The Family’s Christmas Dinner

The Bread

In “Why does Jesus call himself ‘Bread?’Deo Omnis Gloria observes that “Jesus refers to Himself as ‘bread’ in the Gospels, but why? Do other Scriptures illuminate this teaching? This post provides more proofs that the Eucharist is real.”

In “The Holy Power of God With UsHMS Blog offers “a brief meditation on the readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent, focusing on what we need to do to cooperate with God’s promise of ‘Emmanuel’”

The Decorations

In “Madrid Govt´s Politically Correct Christmas Decoration: Words with no MeaningsSantificarnos reports that “the Madrid government approved a new Christmas decoration where words such as ‘wound,’ ‘hammer’ and ‘trap’ light up the avenue. The artist behind the design claims this is to represent that Christmas means different things to different people. I suggest that this instead is an example of being PC and yet still needing flashy lights to encourage people to spend their money.”

The Relatives

In “What a Christmas Card Can ShowHappy Catholic reminds us that “Christmas is not always about love. Sometimes it is a time when we see the worst expressed in our families, as I saw in a family Christmas card this weekend.”

The Siblings

In “Angels - No Wings, Please!Notes tells “Mary Murphy’s story about a Christmas pageant.”

The Paterfamilias

In “From Addresses to Cardinal Newman with His RepliesQuenta Nârwenion shares “a short quote from Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O., on St. Joseph.”


In “Why should men develop a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary?Living Catholicism observes that “men are notorious for being less devotional than women. But when it comes to the Virgin Mary, men need to step up to the plate. This post examines why and provides some practical ways to begin your devotion to Mary.”

In “Knowing who you areA Penitent Blogger discusses what the Annunciation can teach about self-knowledge and being overwhelmed.

The Son

In “San Juan de la Cruz IIIThe Blog from the Core gives us a poem by St. John of the Cross: “Of the Incarnation.”

* * * * * * *

May these last few days of Advent be a special time of blessings for all!

Vocation prayer

Lord, Jesus Christ,
Good Shepherd of our souls,
you know your sheep
and know how to reach our hearts.

Open the minds and hearts
of those young people
who search for and await
a word of truth for their lives.

You who are the Word of the Father,
the Word which creates and saves,
the Word which enlightens and sustains.

Conquer with your Spirit
the resistance and delays of indecisive hearts.

Arouse in those whom you call
the courage of love’s answer:
'Here I am, send me!'

from the Vocations website of
The Archdiocese of Miami

Message of the Christmas Tree

"The feast of Christmas, perhaps the dearest to popular tradition, is very rich in symbols connected with different cultures. Among them all, the most important is surely the Nativity scene, as I had occasion to underscore last Sunday.

"Next to the Nativity scene, as here in St. Peter's Square, we find the traditional 'Christmas tree,' also a very ancient custom, which exalts the value of life, since in winter the Evergreen becomes a sign of life that does not die. Usually the tree is decorated and Christmas gifts are placed at its feet.

"The symbol thus becomes eloquent also in a specifically Christian sense: calling to mind the 'tree of life' (see Genesis 2:9): a representation of Christ, God's supreme gift to humanity.

"The message of the Christmas tree, therefore, is that life is 'ever-green' if one makes a gift not of material things, but of oneself: in friendship and sincere affection, in fraternal help and forgiveness, in time together and listening to each other...."

Pope John Paul II
Angelus message (excerpt), Sunday, December 19, 2004

Knowing who you are

We often hear in the news about people who are talented, beautiful, rich, and famous and whose lives are train wrecks: addicted and/or dying from alcohol and/or drugs, divorced, or even committing suicide. The real-life subject of a current motion picture from Hollywood, for instance, was an incredibly rich, famous, handsome, and talented man who ended up a wretched, paranoid hermit in a dark penthouse.

Invariably these people have been so overwhelmed by the glory of their lives that they have lost touch with who they really are: their fundamental sense of self-identity, the anchor of their personal consciousness.

For most of us, the nitty-gritty necessities of our daily responsibilities help us keep our feet on the ground, yet even we can be overwhelmed by the innumerable “little” things of life and feel that we have lost touch with who we are.

In today’s Gospel we have the immensely familiar account of the Annunciation in which "the Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary" that she would give birth to Christ. It sometimes takes a special effort to peel away the accumulation of beautiful art and devotion regarding that transcendent moment in order to feel afresh the human reality that is also there.

Imagine: a young girl – barely a teenager – sees an angel from God (reputedly a sign of doom) who says incredibly good things about her. If a teenage girl today can be totally awestruck by a smile from a boy on the school football team, imagine how overwhelming these heavenly compliments might have been.

Then the angel goes on to talk about things that will happen to Mary that are absolutely beyond imagination: that she will conceive a son without having relations, that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her, and that her son will be the Son of God.

All of this, dropped suddenly out of the sky, is really too much for a person to process easily even as a philosophical matter, let alone as something that involves the rest of your life and that at this moment puts you literally at the center of the Universe.

But Mary is unshakably grounded. She knows who she is and that knowledge keeps her calm and steady as the pivotal moment of all Time is thrust upon her.

"I am the handmaid of the Lord."

We ourselves may sometimes feel desperately the need for the peace and steadiness that Mary showed at that moment.

We need to pray for God’s grace, that our hearts, minds, and lives may become ever more perfectly aligned with God’s will, so that no matter how overwhelming our lives may be or what choices we may face, we may enjoy the immeasurable peace of saying with the deepest truth,

"I am the servant of the Lord."

Miracles on the road

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints today certified 11 miracles attributed to the intercession of specific individuals, advancing them on the road toward being recognized as saints, including
  • Blessed Gaetano Catanoso, an Italian priest who died in 1963
  • Venerable Charles de Foucauld, a French priest called the "little brother of Jesus," who was killed in 1916
  • Venerable Marianne Cope, a German-born American nun who died serving the lepers in Molokai, Hawaii in 1918

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Reacting to signs

For most of us who love God (or at least say we do), the dialogue between King Ahaz and the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading is astounding. Ahaz is being offered a blank check from God: a generous, open-ended offer of cosmic dimensions.

Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!

And Ahaz turns God down.

I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!

On one level, Ahaz is making a specious show of piety, possibly referring to Deuteronomy 6:16: “You shall not put the LORD, your God, to the test…”

But of course, that’s exactly what Ahaz is doing: putting God’s patience to the test.

Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?

Ahaz does not want God to give him a sign because he does not want to see or hear anything that would deflect him from the direction he has set for his life. Moreover, he feels more comfortable following and relying on earthly allies (who murder their own children) than following and relying on the ways of the Lord.

The contrast between Ahaz in today’s first reading and Saint Joseph in today’s Gospel could not be greater. Joseph simply accepts the angelic sign from his dream and goes against the ways of earthly men (especially for that time and place): taking as his wife a woman already pregnant with a child who is not his.

That was not the direction Joseph had set for his life, but he would rather do what the Lord wanted him to do because he loved and trusted the Lord for his ultimate happiness.

Most of us would prefer to think we are more like Saint Joseph than King Ahaz, but too often we are the ones who ignore the signs God gives us.

We go through life focused on the direction we have set: our goals and plans for this day, what we’re going to do this week, what we want out of life period. Too often, what influences the direction of our lives, even minute by minute, is not the will of God but the way of the world: the culture, our friends, what’s popular, what’s convenient, and, of course, our own selfish desires.

Even if we live basically “good” lives, we are not always perfectly attuned to the signs God gives us. We may dissent from this or that teaching. We may rationalize this or that behavior or “temporary lapse” (may God have mercy on us all).

Even those among us who feel themselves to be the most orthodox and moral (very good things indeed) may not always be perfectly attuned to all the signs God gives us. We may be so focused on particular tasks or a day’s particular agenda that we fail to see or hear God telling us to do another task: perhaps to pray for a particular person, to speak a particular word of faith in a particular situation, to do a specific act of true Christian kindness, or to dedicate our entire lives in a special way to the heroic service of God and his people.

Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

American on the move

The Holy Father has today transferred American Archbishop and Vatican diplomat Ambrose B. De Paoli from Apostolic Nuncio in Japan to Apostolic Nuncio in Australia.

God is

In today’s readings, God is referred to not just as "God" or "Lord," but as

the LORD our justice

the LORD… who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt

the LORD…who brought the descendants of the house of Israel up from the land of the north

and our Lord Jesus Christ as

Emmanuel… God is with us.

These readings remind us that God does not exist as an abstraction: God exists as one who is real, active, salvific, and loving in our lives.

Friday, December 17, 2004

List, list, O list!

For many people, today’s Gospel sounds as exciting as a telephone directory - a long recitation of mostly unfamiliar names – but this list of names reminds us of the real human history out of which our Lord in his human nature came: good people and flawed people, heroic figures and faceless nobodies.

We ourselves may not be rich or famous, nor may we be perfect in our own personal histories, yet God offers us - you and me - the grace to prepare the way of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in our own lives and in our world.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Today’s long and touching first reading depicts the people of God as an abandoned spouse and God as the husband who takes her lovingly back to himself.

Whenever we may feel abandoned or desolate – because of sin, misfortune, loneliness, or spiritual dryness – we need to persevere in asking God for his grace, so that we may feel his loving arms around us at every moment of our lives and in the eternity to come.

New bishop

The Holy Father this morning has named as Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh Father Paul J. Bradley, currently Vicar General of the Diocese.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Are you “it?”

People need assurance that there is something on which they can depend while everything else changes or proves insecure.

In our Lord’s answer to the Baptist’s disciples in today’s Gospel and in today’s first reading, we have the answer to this need we all have:

Turn to me and be safe,
all you ends of the earth,
for I am God; there is no other!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Discalced Carmelite Nuns

"are a reformed branch of the ancient Carmelite Order, whose patron is Elias, the Old Testament prophet of Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. Like St. Elias, we stand in the presence of the Living God to experience His nearness and to pray for His people.

"Our little monastery in St. Agatha, Ontario, was founded in 1952. We are a cloistered contemplative community. Our way of life follows the reform of Saint Teresa of Avila, a joyful expression of total dedication to Christ in a community atmosphere of unity and constant prayer. Our daily life is centered around the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Jesus - daily mass, from which we receive the grace to live up to our calling. The hours pass in an alternating rhythm between prayer and manual labor. Simplicity of life, the silence and solitude of a hermit, the support of a loving community, all help to keep our goal in focus: 'the one thing necessary.'

"A vocation to Carmel is an individual's response to a Divine invitation. This living witness of a life consecrated to Christ serves the Church through the hidden fruitfulness of Faith and self-sacrificing Love."
from the Catholic Youth Networking Site
Web page for
Discalced Carmelite Nuns (St. Agatha, Ontario)
(Emphasis added)

Return of the King - Extended Edition

What does that mean?

Answer A
Today's DVD release

Answer B
Credo.... in unum Dominum Jesum Christum.... iterum venturus est cum gloria judicare vivos et mortuos: cujus regni non erit finis.

Answer C
Both of the above

(Correct Answer = C)

His father left the easy life

and married his mother for love. They were promptly disowned and so John was born in poverty.

The poverty grew deeper when John’s father died. John would help as best he could. As he grew older, John began to work in hospitals, caring for others in need. He decided to devote his life to God in a special way by entering a Carmelite monastery.

The monastery was not all he had hoped for. While he found godly men there, John felt a certain lack of intensity in the spiritual life of the place. He resolved to seek to have a greater intensity within himself. He embraced a more rigorous observance of classic Carmelite asceticism. He was also sent to study for the priesthood and was ordained.

Still not entirely satisfied, he was considering joining a Carthusian monastery. It was at this time that he met a Carmelite nun who convinced him to keep striving for greater perfection within the Carmelites.

John gathered a small group of like-minded monks around him. As word spread, more and more Carmelites sought to follow the same path. His nun-mentor also asked him to serve as spiritual director for her convent.

John would face tremendous opposition, even to the point of being imprisoned, but he remained firm. By the very end of his life, even his opponents recognized the sanctity of what he was doing and that it would flourish.

St. John of the Cross, cofounder with St. Teresa of Avila of the Discalced (“barefoot”) Carmelites, died on this very day in 1591 at the age of 49.

He was canonized in 1726 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1926. His spiritual writings, such as Dark Night of the Soul, are widely read to this day.

Catholic Carnival VIII

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs (including one of my posts from yesterday) - is up at LivingCatholicism.com.

It’s not too late

In today’s Gospel, our Lord tells the story of two sons asked by their father to do something: one says he will, but doesn’t, while the other at first refuses, but later complies.

No matter what we have said or done (or failed to do), it is not too late for us to change and to live our lives more perfectly as God wants us to live.

Monday, December 13, 2004


Today’s Gospel focuses on questions of authority.

The chief priests and elders of the people (the religious authorities of their day) refuse to acknowledge the divine authority of John the Baptist because doing so would morally obligate them to follow John’s teaching. They hide this refusal behind a specious and cynical plea of ignorance.

In the first reading from Numbers 24, we hear an oracle uttered by a man named Balaam who essentially foretells the coming of the Messiah, but Balaam's “back-story”also tells us something about authority and God.

A professional soothsayer, Balaam had been bribed by a king to invoke curses upon the people of Israel, but then, in one of the strangest miracles of the Old Testament, he is rebuked by a talking donkey and then by the angel of the Lord. These events eventually lead him to pronouncing the utterances we hear in today’s reading.

Balaam knew what the will of God was, but he had subordinated it to the power of the king and to the lure of material wealth.

We today are often tempted to subordinate the authority of God to the lure of material wealth and to various forms of political conformity. Indeed, some people today reject any authority except their own whim.

Some do this without even a pretense of rationalization or excuse. Others, like the chief priests and the elders in today’s Gospel, develop rationalizations that are sometimes quite complex and sophisticated.

No rationalization or excuse, however, can diminish the authority of God or our obligation to seek and to defer to that authority.

A common rationalization throughout history (and especially so today) is to use the imperfections of religious leaders as a reason to follow one’s authority rather than the authority of God.

Certainly the religious leaders at the time of Christ left much to be desired. Our Lord constantly denounced them for all sorts of evil and hypocrisy, but he was also careful to distinguish between their personal failings and the role God had given them.

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat;
so practice and observe whatever they tell you,
but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.
Matthew 23:2-3

Obviously, it is best to teach by example and by word. Also, although none of us are perfect in this world, the personal or professional failings of God’s ministers can be especially grievous and must be dealt with appropriately (may God have mercy on them and all of us), but these failings must never be allowed to be used as an excuse to diminish the authority of God or to be selective about God’s truth.

We must respect the authority of God: we must discern and follow his truth, even if we happen to hear it from someone who is like a donkey.

Bringer of light

When she was born, she was a light to her parents’ eyes, so they gave her the name Lucy, which means light. As she grew, she continued to shine in the lives of all who knew her: a gentle girl, devoted to God.

For that, she was mercilessly killed.

The memory of St. Lucy, virgin and martyr, would spread far beyond her native Sicily and continue long past the 4th century persecution of Diocletian in which she was killed. Her name is included in the Roman Canon of the Mass to this day.

Sunday, December 12, 2004


Today’s first reading fairly sings with the joy that is the traditional focus of the third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday).

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song....

They will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:

Be strong, fear not!

Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Those whom the LORD has ransomed
will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;

they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.

We may not feel the full presence of the Savior right now, but he is coming – indeed, he is already with us and all we need to feel the joy is the grace of God (for which we must always pray).

Saturday, December 11, 2004

New bishop

The Holy Father today named as Bishop of Boac, Marinduque (in the Phillipines) Father Reynaldo Gonda Evangelista, priest of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Lipa and Pastor of San Guillermo Parish in Talisay, Batangas.

More blogs

Here are a few more blogs (in alphabetical order) that have very kindly referenced mine:

Ad Limina Apostolorum is an impressive blog by a "doctoral student, patristics scholar, and inveterate Augustinian." (Non sum dignus)

A Real Big Fish is written by a husband and father, often about his family's challenging life and Christian faith journey.

Nathan Nelson is a young Catholic man who writes with great fervor and openness about his struggles with the faith as well as the great need for that faith in the world and in himself. It can be a wild ride. His blog is currently titled Fides, Spes, Caritas. (Orate pro eo.)

This Moment is a lovely, faith-filled blog by a "SAHM of two and recently-professed Lay Carmelite." Musical (in more ways than one).

And here's a blog that I 've not mentioned before, that doesn't mention my blog, but is good nonethless


Heart Mind and Strength: "Faith-filled Answers for Life's Toughest Questions - An Internet Ministry of the Pastoral Solutions Institute"

Is it for me?

"What is a Priest?
One who celebrates the life of Jesus

"This is the very heart of the call to the priesthood. Aware of his own unworthiness, the priest is a man who joyfully walks in the footsteps of Christ. He hears the teaching of Jesus and through his own example, images to others, God's call to a life of holiness."

from a set of reflections on the website
of the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Providence

Hearts and the holidays

Today’s readings focus on the figure of Elijah who was “destined… to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons” (and, I think we can safely say, vice versa).

Whenever this holiday season reminds us of family relationships that are not as they should be (or were not as they should have been), we need to ask God to send down his mercy on all of us, to heal all that may be hurt and broken, and to bring all of our hearts closer together in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Accused of adultery

He was exonerated by the highest civil authority.

Beset by heretics, he rallied other bishops in defense of the faith and initiated a new translation of the Bible.

Born in a time of persecution, he lived to see the Christian faith take a central place in a new world order.

St. Damasus, bishop of Rome and mentor of St. Jerome, died on this very day in 384.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Deadly excuses

In today’s Gospel, our Lord criticizes the criticizers: the ones who denounce John the Baptist and himself for self-contradictory reasons (who are really just making excuses for not listening to the will of God so they can live the way they want).

What excuses are we making?

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Feeling low

In today’s first reading Isaiah prophesies, “Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the LORD.”

Even when we feel as low and miserable as worms and maggots
(and we all have our low moments),
God is there,
telling us not to be afraid:
he is with us,
he will help us,
and we will rejoice in him.

The aliens had invaded

They came from far, far away and laid waste to everything. Resistance was futile, for their technology and their ruthlessness were beyond imagination. Wherever they went, death followed and some of the people they merely touched would die of strange diseases.

One man, however, had learned not to fear the aliens. Even before their coming, he had always known that there was more than the world in which he lived and his eyes had often been fixed on the skies.

He had learned how to communicate with them and had even been accepted as one of their disciples. He felt sure that not all of the invaders were evil and that the message they brought was a higher and greater truth than anything his people had known. It would bring them great happiness, if only they would believe.

And then he saw her face.

He was walking in a place away from the city around dawn. She was standing on a small hill, surrounded with dazzling light. As he looked at her, it was as if he were looking at his mother, except infinitely more beautiful and loving and kind.

Immediately, his faith in the message was reaffirmed.

But nobody believed him – not even the invaders.

He saw her again the next day and they still didn’t believe him. He saw her yet again two days after that. Then they believed him, for on the front of Juan Diego’s outfit appeared a miraculous image of a woman clothed with the sun, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who would now also be known as Our Lady of Guadeloupe.

Our Lady of Guadaloupe appeared to Juan Diego on this very day in 1531. St. Juan Diego went on to live a very devout life and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on July 31, 2002.

New bishops

The Holy Father has today appointed Bishop Wilton D. Gregory as the new Archbishop of Atlanta, Georgia (USA), after accepting the retirement of Archbishop John Francis Donoghue. Bishop Gregory had been Bishop of Belleville, Illinois, and until last month President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Holy Father also appointed Monsignor Michael J. Bransfield, Rector of the National Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C, as the new Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia (USA), after accepting the retirement of Bishop Bernard William Schmidt.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The sinfulness of the world

can make us very depressed, especially as we perceive that sinfulness in ourselves, in what we have done, and in what we have failed to do.

Today’s readings, however, remind us that no matter how deep or far back our human sinfulness goes (even to the beginnings of humanity), God’s salvific will goes even further (“before the foundation of the world”) and can bring us to be “holy and without blameless in his sight” so that, like Mary, we can say,

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
Let it be done to me according to your word."

Blessed be

the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who hath blessed us
with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places
in Christ:
According as he hath chosen us in him
before the foundation of the world,
that we should be holy
and without blame before him....

Ephesians 2:3-4

"God ineffable...

"whose ways are mercy and truth,
whose will is omnipotence itself,
and whose wisdom
'reaches from end to end mightily,
and orders all things sweetly'
- having foreseen from all eternity
the lamentable wretchedness of the entire human race
which would result from the sin of Adam,
decreed, by a plan hidden from the centuries,
to complete the first work of his goodness
by a mystery yet more wondrously sublime
through the Incarnation of the Word.

"This he decreed
in order that man
who, contrary to the plan of Divine Mercy
had been led into sin by the cunning malice of Satan,
should not perish;
and in order that
what had been lost in the first Adam
would be gloriously restored in the Second Adam.

"From the very beginning, and before time began,
the eternal Father
chose and prepared for his only-begotten Son
a Mother
in whom the Son of God would become incarnate
and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time,
he would be born into this world....

"Wherefore.... the most Blessed Virgin Mary,
in the first instant of her conception,
was preserved free from all stain of original sin
by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God,

in view of
the merits of Jesus Christ,
the Savior of the human race...."

(...beatissimam Virginem Mariam in primo instanti suae conceptionis fuisse singulari Omnipotentis Dei gratia et privilegio, intuitu meritorum Christi Jesu Salvatoris humani generis, ab omni originalis culpae labe praeservatam immunem...)

Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius IX
December 8, 1854
150 years ago today

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist

"The Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist continue the call of St. Francis of Assisi to rebuild the Church. Like St. Clare, we are vowed religious women who embody the spirit of St. Francis and seek to enflame humanity with a sense of the sacred found deep within each person.

"We are dedicated to the teachings of the Holy Father and maintain authentic perennial values while initiating new forms of apostolic service.

"Our way of life is centered by the Holy Eucharist and strong community bonding. These lay the foundation for our many outreaches into the complexities of today's world."

From the website of The Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist

Comfortable words

Today’s very familiar first reading from the prophet Isaiah (the source of at least five selections from Handel’s Messiah) is especially appropriate for us in these contentious times – in secular society and even in the Church.

Both of today’s readings remind us that, while we must always remain strong and clear in our faith, we must never forget our obligation to do what we can to help lost sheep come to the Lord and to speak tenderly words of true comfort.

He was unbaptized

He was a government lawyer in his early thirties.

Everyone thought he was an excellent choice to be the new bishop.

He tried to hide, but the people tracked him down. He was baptized, rushed through all the intervening stages and ceremonies, ordained a priest, and then, 1630 years ago today, Ambrose was ordained bishop of Milan.

He then began his on-the-job training – surely one of the most successful of all time.

Ambrose was not only a devout bishop, who gave away his immense inheritance and lived in simplicity, he also became a powerful teacher of Christian truth in a very contentious world. His works are venerated to this day. Among his many converts were a man who would become Emperor and an unmarried father who would become known as St. Augustine.

Ambrose died of natural causes in his late fifties, universally acclaimed a saint.

Catholic Carnival - Advent Edition

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from Catholic blogs - in now online at Dunmoose the Ageless, Protomonk

Monday, December 06, 2004

Advent - yeah, yeah, whatever

Some may be sick of hearing that Advent is a time of preparation: the Lord is coming, etc. etc. etc.

And in today’s first reading, we have yet another of Isaiah’s messianic prophecies: complete with verses included in Handel’s Messiah.

For some of us, the familiarity of all things Christmassy and Adventish may be like a thick syrup that covers our eyes, ears, and hearts: nothing gets through... and we want to get out.

We may need to scrape away the sweet patina of familiarity and find afresh the meaning of what God is trying to tell us.

If we have lost our tolerance for the sweetness of the season, perhaps it may be because we have had too much a taste of the bitterness of life.

Gerard Manley Hopkins’ famous poem comes to mind.

THOU art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build—but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

Now we turn again to the beginning of today’s first reading:

The desert and the parched land will exult…

Perhaps it is the most cynical among us whose soul is so parched, whose prayer feels so feeble, whose mind’s eye seems so full of darkness, whose heart is so frightened, whose inner silence is so deafening, and whose life seems so paralyzed who need God's grace the most.

Perhaps it is the most cynical and Christmas-weary of us who need this time of preparation more than anyone : to recognize all the places within our hearts and within our lives where we still need God - where we still need his healing, his love, and his grace – and to ask anew for him to come within us in a deeper, richer, and more powerful way this Advent and this Christmas.

Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

Conqueror of Nations

That was the meaning of the name that his parents gave him when he was born in a city by the sea: a city that is now nothing but ruins.

He came to power while still a young man and he made his mark swiftly, but the Empire moved quickly thereafter to crush him and he soon found himself in chains.

After the passage of time, the emperor died and a new one took the throne. Fortune then smiled and “the Conqueror of Nations” was once again let loose on the world. He returned to his throne and to the labors that had frightened an empire.

He would be remembered as a kind and holy man, generous to the poor and especially benevolent toward children.

Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, died on this very day in the mid-fourth century and was widely celebrated as a saint.

(His legendary kindness toward children would eventually morph into the character known today as Santa Claus.)

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Glimpses and warnings

Today’s readings present both glimpses of paradise and also warnings of judgment.

If we are sincere in wanting a new start or a deeper relationship with God, John the Baptist warns us not to presume, but to “bear fruit that befits repentance.”

Saturday, December 04, 2004

A shepherd's love

Today’s readings focus on the Lord’s care for his sheep and how he commissioned the Apostles to provide this care.

These readings should remind us of
  • the reality of the Lord’s love and care for us,
  • the importance of supporting the work of the shepherds among us, and
  • the necessity of generously passing on to others what we have received from the Lord.

A Christian in Muslim Damascus

John nonetheless made himself indispensable to the people in power, as his father had been. As a matter of fact, in addition to his fulltime government job, John was even able to write publicly on the hot button topics of Church life and theology.

His fellow Christians responded by forging a letter to incriminate him in a plot against his Muslim employer. At first, John’s boss believed him and had John’s hand chopped off. Then, without the benefit of surgery, John’s hand was miraculously reattached.

John’s employer took this as a sign that John was innocent. John took it as a sign that he needed to devote himself fulltime to the work of God. He withdrew to a monastery where he wrote important compilations of Christian theology and other works.

St. John of Damascus, priest and Doctor of the Church, died of natural causes in the middle of the eighth century A.D. and is celebrated by East and West today.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Two priests outside a church...

...in Iraq.

U.S. Air Force Reserve Chaplain Father Robert Cannon, left, visits with Father Bashar Wada, CSsR, the pastor of a Chaldean Catholic parish bombed by terrorists. Father Cannon helped bring donated supplies for the parish.
(reported by The Florida Catholic)
(A Penitent Blogger observes: a military chaplain named "Father Cannon" - oh, my)

Have a fun weekend!

Stay holy and safe!

'Lord, send us more holy priests!'

The Church is praying: 'Lord, send us more holy priests!' Are you the answer to a prayer? - St. John Fisher Seminary Residence - Diocese of Bridgeport

"We pray that this site will inform you about our seminary life and help anyone thinking of a priestly vocation to respond generously to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. May you respond courageously and faithfully in discerning a vocation to the priesthood of Jesus Christ or to another vocation to which he calls you within the Church.

"Whatever your reason or interest may be in visiting these pages, we ask for your prayers in all vocations in the Church so that every person will answer the call to holiness in the way the Lord asks."
From the Vocations website of
The Diocese of Bridgeport

You see?

Today’s readings both refer to God’s restoration of sight to the blind, but the Gospel adds our Lord’s stern warning that no one know about the healing (implicitly distancing himself from people’s inaccurate Messianic preconceptions).

Even those of us who may not be physically blind may need the Lord’s grace to heal us of intellectual, emotional, or spiritual blindness that keeps us from seeing the full beauty of God’s loving truth.

They were college buddies

and bonded together for life, even if they ended up on different sides of the world.

It was more than just the shared experience of being far away from home. It was even more than just the normal excitement and adventures of a university environment.

What bonded these seven guys together was Jesus and a deep desire to do great and brave things.

That bond persisted even when one of them lay dying in a makeshift hut on a small island off the coast of China.

The dying man was disappointed that he had taken ill just before what had promised to be the biggest opportunity of his life (in China) and yet he was content, because his soul was in the hands of the Lord.

In truth, he had already accomplished great and brave things for Jesus: performing awesome miracles as well as personally converting and baptizing over forty thousand people in the farthest reaches of the world, including India and Japan.

St. Francis Xavier, Apostle to the Far East and one of the original seven Jesuits, died 502 years ago yesterday.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Based on what?

Both of today’s readings remind us of the necessity of having the Lord as the rock-solid foundation of our lives, including everything we say and everything we do.

As 2004 winds down and 2005 approaches, we should look carefully at ourselves and ask whether we really base what we say and do, our lifestyle, our hopes, and our self-esteem on our faith in Christ.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

That they may be fed

Both of today’s readings feature mountains on which the Lord provides an abundance of food for multitudes.

These readings should remind us of the poor - especially during this holiday season - and how we should assist in their being fed, with reliance on the Lord’s blessing and in preparation for the heavenly banquet that is to come.

What shall we pray for this month?

The Holy Father's general prayer intention for the month of December is:
  • "That children may be considered as precious gifts of God and may be given due respect, understanding and love."

His missionary intention is:
  • "That Jesus Christ's Incarnation may be the model of genuine inculturation of the Gospel."