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...

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Pray for vocations

"The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few:
pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest,
that he would send forth labourers into his harvest."
Luke 10:2

Hope among the dust

In today’s first reading, the book of Job reaches an emotional climax: his suffering seems infinite and absolute, and instead of bringing comfort, his friends just add to his misery.

But it is at that very moment, when things seem to be at their worst, that Job, with great and unshakeable seriousness, reaffirms his faith in God.

Pity me, pity me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has struck me!

Why do you hound me as though you were divine,
and insatiably prey upon me?

Oh, would that my words were written down!
Would that they were inscribed in a record:
That with an iron chisel and with lead
they were cut in the rock forever!

But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives,
and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust;
Whom I myself shall see:
my own eyes, not another's, shall behold him,
And from my flesh I shall see God;

My inmost being is consumed with longing.

Despite the suffering that he seems to have received from the hand of God, Job knows that God will come through for him. He is not sure when or how, but he knows that he himself will see God come to his rescue.

Many translators over the millennia (and all Christians) have understood that what Job is referring to (although the original Hebrew is vague) is the Resurrection of the Body and our redemption in Christ. Nowhere has this been expressed more perfectly than in Handel’s Messiah:

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and though worms destroy this body,
yet in my flesh shall I see God.

(Job 19:25-26)

For now is Christ risen from the dead,
the first-fruits of them that sleep.

(1 Cor. 15:20)

Indeed, may these words be carved in stone in our minds and in our hearts! That no matter what may happen to us, no matter what suffering or isolation we may endure, if by God’s grace we persevere, our Redeemer, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, will come and raise us up and with our own eyes we shall see God.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Ubi est?

As wonderful as Jerome’s work was, scholarly adjustments have had to be made to the Vulgate over the centuries.

The latest edition can be found on the Vatican web site

The Bible Gateway has an edition that may be slightly different, with a more hi-tech interface.

A much older, incomplete edition is available at

I myself am not a scholar, but every translation has its limitations and also its own insights. One quick example may be seen in one of the most familiar verses of Scripture:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

The older Vulgate says
Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit
The Lord rules me, and nothing to me will be lacking.

The newest Vulgate says
Dominus pascit me, et nihil mihi deerit
The Lord pastures me, and nothing to me will be lacking.

The first phrase in both versions is more active than the familiar English version (and generally more faithful to the ancient text).

The older Vulgate would seem to resonate better with people who have a more benevolent concept of "being ruled" (which is not generally the case today). It might also be more appropriate for city dwellers who have no experience of shepherding.

The newer Vulgate restores the more pastoral flavor and thanks to modern education and communication nearly everyone can summon a wonderful image of a shepherd (even though few of us have ever met one).

Again, just some ideas -- I am not a scholar and "have no mind for strife except with the Enemy and his servants."

To the big city and back

He was a young man from the boondocks, lured by the attraction of the greatest city in the world, but when he got there, what ultimately seized his imagination were not the great monuments of power and commerce, but rather the churches and the faithful people. He received baptism and devoted himself to studying ever more deeply the faith he had embraced.

During his life, he would find himself in many places, but his favorite place was in the Holy Land, in Bethlehem, where he would live and work for many years, often in near isolation.

He wrote books, sermons, and commentaries full of wisdom and insight, but his greatest work was commissioned by an old bishop friend of his: a high-quality translation of the entire Scriptures into the language of the day that could be given to the people for their use.

So great was the quality of his work, his translation of the Holy Scriptures is still used even today: nearly one thousand and six hundred years after he completed it!

St. Jerome – priest, hermit, and ancient Father of the Church – died in Bethlehem on this very day in the year 420, about fifteen years after completing what would be known as the Vulgate or Biblia Vulgata: a Bible for the people (who in Jerome’s time used Latin).

Austrian bishop quits

The BBC reports that Bishop Kurt Krenn, 68, the bishop responsible for a scandal-ridden Austrian seminary is stepping down. Investigators had found thousands of lewd images at the seminary, including child pornography.

"Yes, I'm resigning immediately as bishop of St Poelten," he said in an interview with Der Standard newspaper.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Abortion's effect on women

The Office of Communications for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reports that a congressional hearing today included testimony from a woman who suffered profoundly after an abortion and a medical doctor who has researched the physical and psychological health complications from induced abortion.

Contemplate this!

The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady and St. Joseph in Boston, Massachusetts, have a beautiful web site that explains their life and offers wonderful insights about vocations to the contemplative life.

St. Michael in Stained Glass

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Saint Michael the Archangel
Our Lady of Carmel Church
Chicago, Illinois

Images of angels

The most common images of angels in today’s culture are blank-faced glimmering things with wings atop Christmas trees or cherubs from Renaissance paintings (that seem to resemble the Greek god Eros).

The angels we celebrate today are very different.

Today’s readings present us with images of angels in their multitudes: thousands upon thousands ministering to God as well as ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

Today’s feast presents us with very special images of angels, far removed from the frilly conceptions of popular culture, a close-up view of the grand images in today’s readings.

I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels,
which present the prayers of the saints,
and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.

Tobit 12:15

And the angel answering said unto him,
I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God;
and am sent to speak unto thee,
and to shew thee these glad tidings.

Luke 1:19

And there was war in heaven:
Michael and his angels fought against the dragon;
and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not;

neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out,
that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan,
which deceiveth the whole world:
he was cast out into the earth,

and his angels were cast out with him.
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven,
Now is come salvation, and strength,
and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ:
for the accuser of our brethren is cast down,
which accused them before our God day and night.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb,
and by the word of their testimony;
and they loved not their lives unto the death.
Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.
Revelation 12:7-12a

These angels are no Christmas ornaments or valentine cartoons: these are beings of great power and majesty.

Some Christians today prefer not to speak of angels, either dismissing them as vestiges of primitive anthropomorphic religion or boasting of a more “direct” relationship with God.

To be sure, God grants us a direct relationship with Him through His Spirit working within us, but God always chooses to work also in a most special way in and through others: through the prophets, through the writers of Scripture, through the Apostles, through ministers, through each other, and most perfectly through the humanity of Christ.

As God works in and through these tangible beings, so too God works through creatures that we may not always see. That is the way God worked in the days of Scripture. That is the way God works now.

The Feast of the Archangels is a reminder that God’s work is being done even if we cannot see anyone doing it (which does not absolve us from our obligations to do God's work).

There are angels; there are archangels: creatures of majesty and power who we cannot see but who are accomplishing the will of God, just as we strive to do. We may not see them, but they are there and, God willing, we will one day see them and rejoice with them in glory.

A Blogger Departs

Mark Windsor, a rather prolific Catholic blogger, has grown weary of the seemingly incessant negativity of so many in the blogosphere and decided to terminate his blog.

"There are people out there who like nothing better than to complain about the Church. I’ve even taken to calling them the 'blame the Church first crowd.' They disavow anything the church does that’s good, instead focusing more on scandal and ugliness. (Yes, such needs to be exposed, but the Church has not devolved to the point where scandal and ugliness are its defining features.) They’ve begun spreading their disaffection at every opportunity in every comments box they can find. Some readers are drawn to their cataclysmic view; their faith challenged, broken, or at the very least altered and nearly unrecognizable. To speak out against them is to be considered uncultured; blind, ignorant, otherworldly. Even the blogs that attempt to do some good, and come close to doing so at times, attract those that seek to poison the Church and all she stands for....

"There’s far more good that comes from the Church than bad, and it sickens me that a few people are able to skew the debate publicly."

(Hat tip to Gerard Serafin)

A Penitent Blogger says, I admire the good-hearted people who have the time, patience, and intellectual energy to facilitate dialogue by enabling comment boxes on their blog. It is very sad that one of these good people has been worn down and driven away. I hope he comes back and that more good people will speak up for Truth and Charity in the blogosphere.

A retired Bishop reflects

The retired Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas, the Most Reverend Rene Henry Gracida, reflects on the controversy over admitting pro-abortion politicians to Holy Communion, drawing upon his own pastoral experience.

Feast of the Archangels

"You should be aware that the word 'angel' denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message.

"Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called 'angels'; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called 'archangels.'

"And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.

"Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us.

"Thus, Michael means 'Who is like God'; Gabriel is 'The Strength of God'; and Raphael is 'God’s Remedy.'

"Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: 'I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High.' He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: 'A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.'

"So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

"Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy."
From a sermon by St. Gregory the Great
(Office of the Readings)

Saint Michael the Archangel

defend us in battle;
be our protection
against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, thrust into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.

Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli
esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum

pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in infernum detrude.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004


“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD!"

But why does it have to hurt so much?

As we heard in yesterday’s reading, Job knows intellectually that everything is a gift from the Lord and he strives to remain faithful to God, but that does not spare him from feeling the full grief of his situation: the death of all his children, the destruction of all his possessions, and the unceasing pain of his sores.

In today’s first reading, we have the full brunt of his anguish: a pain and heartache so deep and so intense that Job longs for death.

We know how the story ends: Job perseveres and is rewarded with much more than he ever had before. But it may be useful for us not to leap over this excruciatingly painful moment in our rush for the Happy Ending.

Why do we rush? Perhaps because we are afraid. Perhaps because it reminds us too much of dark moments we have had in our own lives or (God forbid) may even be experiencing now: feelings of wrenching pain, choking depression, and yearning for death.

Don’t be afraid. Look. You are not alone. You are not the only one to feel these feelings. Job felt them. So too did Lorenzo Ruiz and so many of the saints and martyrs. Even our Lord himself cried out,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Yet our Lord knew he was not forsaken and so did Lorenzo and all the saints. They sought and received grace from the Lord, directly and through the help of others, and, through their pain, persevered in doing what was right – no matter the pain, no matter how long or short the time.

If things go bad for us, if we feel depression and despair, we should remember that we are not alone.

Job has been there. Others have been there. God is there.

We must reach out to God. We must reach out to the Church. We must seek strength from God and continue to strive to live as God wants us to live.

God will give us his strength and his grace, often in unexpected ways, and the rewards will be greater than we can imagine.

Inside stories

Some may have noticed that I like to post short stories about saints, following the liturgical calendar.

Some may have also noticed that I like to present these stories somewhat in the style of radio commentator Paul Harvey's famous “The Rest of the Story” segments.

My intent (as I’m sure it has been for Mr. Harvey) is to present the stories of these people’s lives in ways that seem more fresh, immediate, and relevant to our own lives.

Saints and other historical figures often seem too far off and irrelevant to the challenges we face here and now. For many, they are just two-dimensional figures, devoid of life and humanity.

Yet we have much to learn from history, from the life experience of those who have gone before us, and most especially from the saints, whose imitations of Christ give us an ever-richer understanding of the same Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we too seek to imitate.

(Besides, some of these are just great stories – despite my own shortcomings as a storyteller. The literary parallels go far beyond Paul Harvey. The story of St. Vincent de Paul being captured by pirates recalls Robert Louis Stevenson [although I avoided the word “pirate,” which too often evokes cartoonish images of Long John Silver]. The story of Wenceslaus’ murderous royal family could have been told by Shakespeare. The story of Lorenzo Ruiz, an innocent man being caught up in intrigues of murder and horror, recalls the movies of Alfred Hitchcock and the books of Steven King. If I had more time, discipline, and skill, I might have consciously crafted these stories to reflect those literary genres, but alas I do not.)

Just a regular guy

Lawrence had a wife and three kids. He had a modest job as a document specialist and he went to Church regularly.

Out of nowhere, this regular guy was accused of murder. The local justice system was notoriously corrupt and unreliable, so fellow church members arranged for him to leave the country.

This regular guy soon found himself on a ship with four priests and a leper. To make matters even more uncomfortable, after the ship left port, Lawrence discovered that they were going to a distant country where Christians were routinely tortured and killed

Sure enough, not long after their arrival, Lawrence and his companions were arrested. They were cruelly tortured for days. They reaffirmed their faith in Christ and rejected the offer of release.

Lawrence said, "I'm a Christian and I will remain a Christian even to the point of death. Only to God will I offer my life. Even if I had a thousand lives, I would still offer them to Him. This is the reason why I came here in Japan, to leave my native land as a Christian and die here as a Christian, offering my life to God alone."

Lawrence and his companions were hung upside down and bled slowly to death. Days later, Lawrence was the last to die, on September 29, 1637 outside Nagasaki.

Pope John Paul II beatified Lawrence Ruiz and his companions nearly 350 years later in Lawrence’s home country of the Philippines. He canonized them on October 18, 1987.

Following a thread...

I was looking at A Catholic Blog for Lovers and followed a link to a Christianity Today blog entry that linked to a GetReligion thread about the Christian teams who were finalists in The Amazing Race (the thread's title was "Believers with too much leisure time" -- uh, oh).

I love the LORD

because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
Because he hath inclined his ear unto me,
therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

The sorrows of death compassed me,
and the pains of hell gat hold upon me:
I found trouble and sorrow.

Then called I upon the name of the LORD;
O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
yea, our God is merciful.

The LORD preserveth the simple:
I was brought low, and he helped me.

Return unto thy rest, O my soul;
for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.

For thou hast delivered my soul from death,
mine eyes from tears,
and my feet from falling.

I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

I believed, therefore have I spoken:
I was greatly afflicted:

I said in my haste, All men are liars.

What shall I render unto the LORD
for all his benefits toward me?

I will take the cup of salvation,
and call upon the name of the LORD.

I will pay my vows unto the LORD now
in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
O LORD, truly I am thy servant;
I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid:
thou hast loosed my bonds.

I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and will call upon the name of the LORD.

I will pay my vows unto the LORD now
in the presence of all his people,

In the courts of the LORD's house,
in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem.

Praise ye the LORD.
Psalm 116

Vocational Self-Test

A very interesting set of questions relating to one's own faith and personal discernment.

A Dysfunctional Family

Vaclav was a fine young man, raised by his grandmother in the Christian faith of his father. His mother, however, hated Christianity and when Vaclav’s father died, she sought to drive it out of the country their family ruled.

Though he was not yet of age, responding to the pleas of the people, Vaclav overthrew his mother. He made an alliance with the neighboring superpower, brought in more priests, built churches and cared for the poor.

One Sunday, he was visiting a church in another town. He planned to return home after Mass, but his brother stopped him and made him stay the night.

Early the next morning, as the church bells rang, Vaclav rose and went out. His brother followed him to the church door.

Vaclav, knowing that his brother and his mother had been scheming against him, looked back at him and said: “Brother, you were a good subject to me yesterday”.

“And now I intend to be a better one!” said his brother as he struck Vaclav’s head with his sword.

Vaclav grabbed his brother and wrestled him to the ground, saying, “Brother, what are you trying to do?”

One of his brother’s henchmen then stabbed Vaclav in the hand. Vaclav let go of his brother and went to take refuge in the church, but his brother’s henchmen struck him down at the church door and ran him through with a sword.

They say that Vaclav, still a very young man, died there on this very day in the year 935 with the words: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!”

The people immediately acclaimed Vaclav as a saint and a martyr. He remains the patron saint of the Czech Republic to this day. (Sadly, many remember him only through a Christmas carol by the Latinized form of his name: Wenceslaus).

Monday, September 27, 2004

Again, what about them?

Christopher at the Ratzinger Fan Club has posted a very interesting and substantive reflection about Islam within the Christian economy of salvation.

It is thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Too many people either
consider all religions to be equally Godly or
consider all other religions thoroughly demonic.

I exhort therefore, that, first of all,
supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks,
be made for all men;
For kings, and for all that are in authority;
that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life
in all godliness and honesty.
For this is good and acceptable
in the sight of God our Saviour;
Who will have all men to be saved,
and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God,
and one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus;
Who gave himself a ransom for all,
to be testified in due time.
1 Timothy 2:1-6

Do you want to help the poor?

"Inspired by Gospel values, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic lay organization, leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul.

"As a reflection of the whole family of God, Members, who are known as Vincentians, are drawn from every ethnic and cultural background, age group, and economic level. Vincentians are united in an international society of charity by their spirit of poverty, humility and sharing, which is nourished by prayer and reflection, mutually supportive gatherings and adherence to a basic Rule.

"Organized locally, Vincentians witness God's love by embracing all works of charity and justice. The Society collaborates with other people of good will in relieving need and addressing its causes, making no distinction in those served because, in them, Vincentians see the face of Christ."

The Pope Blog

Well, not exactly...

As BeliefNet reports, "While this one isn't written by the clergy member in question, it is a digest of news about Pope John Paul II. The bloggers, students at the University of Notre Dame, frequently update readers on the Pope's speeches, travel, and health."

(Hat tip to Amy Welborn)

Very bad storms

Amazingly, the day after the second major hurricane in a month strikes the same Florida coastline, the first reading for the daily Liturgy features the story of Job’s family and property being destroyed by bad weather.

Yet on the same day some people in Florida were complaining of hurricane fatigue, some people in Haiti were worshipping God even as they mourned the loss of thousands and suffered unimaginable deprivations from the very same storm.

Then Job began to tear his cloak and cut off his hair.
He cast himself prostrate upon the ground, and said,
"Naked I came forth from my mother's womb,
and naked shall I go back again.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD!"

That is not to say that everyone in Haiti reacted to calamity in the same pious way as Job. In both Haiti and Florida, some reacted piously, some reacted heroically, some reacted irritably, and some reacted maliciously.

For most of us, the bad things that may happen in our lives are far, far less dramatic, but we should learn from the example of Job.

He was not reckless or irresponsible. He was prudent with what he had. Yet even as he worked hard and was blessed with great wealth, he always remembered that each and every thing was a gift from the Lord and that what was important is how he used these things.

He loved his children deeply and did everything he could to make them safe and happy, but he always remembered that they too were gifts from God, that they too were in the hand of God, and that what was important was how he loved and taught them. (Perhaps, as we read of Abraham in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Job also realized how God could give him back his children in the resurrection.)

God gives us many gifts, but it is His love that lasts forever and will keep us truly safe and happy, no matter what we have or what we lose.


was a young priest, still continuing his studies and traveling, when he was kidnapped by violent men from the Middle East and forced into slave labor. Within two years, however, he converted one of his captors to Christianity and together they made their escape.

Back home, Vincent soon found himself ministering to the rich and powerful, but his heart went out to the poor and the rejected. He established groups to care for the poor and for prisoners. He also wanted to establish an order of priests to serve the rural poor, but he soon realized that there was a desperate need for more and better seminaries. Vincent’s priests would eventually run a third of the seminaries in the country, in addition to their missionary work to the rural poor in many places.

St. Vincent de Paul, founder of the Congregation of the Mission and of the Daughters of Charity, died on this very day in 1660. He was canonized in 1737. A hundred years after that, a group of laymen drew upon St. Vincent as the inspiration for the service of the poor and founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Come to our help, Lord

"holy Father, almighty and eternal God;
you are the source of every honor and dignity,
of all progress and stability.
You watch over the growing family of man
by your gift of wisdom and your pattern of order.

"When you had appointed
high priests to rule your people,
you chose other men next to them in rank and dignity
to be with them and to help them in their task;
and so there grew up the ranks of priests
and the offices of levites, established by sacred rites.

"In the desert you extended the spirit of Moses
to seventy wise men
who helped him to rule the great company of his people.

"You shared among the sons of Aaron
the fullness of their father's power,
to provide worthy priests in sufficient number
for the increasing rites of sacrifice and worship.

"With the same loving care
you gave companions to your Son's apostles
to help in teaching the faith:
they preached the gospel to the whole world.

"Lord, grant also to us such fellow workers,
for we are weak and our need is greater."
Prayer of Consecration - Rite of Ordination of Priests

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Who must care for the poor?

The bottom line: all of us.

  • The government. Many people today look to the government to take care of the poor. Other people point to the inherent limitations and historical flaws of government poverty programs. Government certainly has its proper role, but it is only one part of the equation.

    As citizens, we should not leave this responsibility to others but rather we should fully enter into the public discussion of what government should do for the poor and what it should not.

  • Non-governmental organizations. Many say that nongovernmental organizations (private charities, faith-based groups, etc) do a better job than governments of helping the poor permanently rise above their poverty. Not all the people who say this, however, give a fair share of their money and time to these organizations. These organizations have their proper role, but they are only one part of the equation.

    As members of society, we cannot stand off by ourselves, but we should make use of these organizations to combine our time, talents, and treasure for the betterment of our fellow man.

  • Our individual efforts. Too many of us have an “I gave at the office” mentality. Caring for our brothers and sisters in need should not just be a matter of politics or charitable donations or social involvement.

    Each of us as individuals, as we go about our lives, have an obligation to be keep our hearts open to those in need. To be sure, we must be prudent – we should not destroy ourselves and we must not fail in our responsibilities to our children and those entrusted to our care – but we must be careful about using excuses as a cover for our own selfishness.

  • The poor themselves. Too often, care that is given to poor people treats them as passive creatures, not as human beings of dignity and worth. What the rest of us do to help the poor must help them as much as possible to help themselves and to become contributing members of society: people of worth who add value. Too many people have been caught in a quagmire of dependence that continues for generations.

    Human beings who are poor remain human beings and they should be encouraged to help themselves as much as possible (which is not to absolve government, charities, or the rest of us from our obligations to help).

Who must care for the poor?

Each of us - rich and poor, governments and charities, groups and individuals – you and I must care for the poor - for God's sake, for their sake, and for our own.

Feel comfortable?

It is a good bet that if you can read this blog, you are much better off than most of the people in the world.

Even if we feel that we are not doing well or that we’re suffering in some way, there are always people whose suffering is worse.

Today, the first reading and the Gospel both speak strongly against people who are living a comfortable life.

Too often, when we hear these readings, we think that they’re talking about someone else, some rich person, not ourselves. That is a dangerous way for anyone to hear Scripture, for there is invariably a message for us and we ignore it at our peril.

What’s wrong with being comfortable? Certainly we should appreciate the good things that God has given us, but there are dangers.

First, we can become too focused on the transient pleasures of this world and lose touch with the eternal happiness of heaven. As our Lord says,

Woe to you who are rich, for your consolation is now.
Luke 6:24

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.
Matthew 6:21

Second, we can fail to use the gifts we have received to help our brothers and sisters in need as we should. This is a responsibility that none of us can shirk, no matter how rich or not so rich we may be. St. John makes this point very clearly:

But if any one has the world's goods
and sees his brother in need,
yet closes his heart against him,
how does God's love abide in him?

1 John 3:17

Is our treasure in heaven?

Do we close our hearts against our brothers and sisters in need?

Could we not do a better job of sharing with them our hearts as well as what time and treasure we have?

Listen to what God is saying.

Could we not do more?

Could God be calling you

to serve him as a Little Sister of the Poor or to contribute your time, talents or resources to their mission of hospitality to the aged poor?

For more infor­mation about the life and work of the Little Sisters of the Poor, go to http://www.littlesistersofthepoor.org/.

I charge you before God

who gives life to all things,
and before Christ Jesus,
who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate

for the noble confession,

to keep the commandment without stain or reproach
until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ
that the blessed and only ruler
will make manifest at the proper time,
the King of kings and Lord of lords,
who alone has immortality,
who dwells in unapproachable light,
and whom no human being has seen or can see.
To him be honor and eternal power.

1 Timothy 6:13-16

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Health Insurance for Catholic Feds

The New York Times reports that the Bush administration has broken new ground in its 'faith-based' initiative, this time by offering federal employees a Catholic health plan consistent with Catholic tenets, specifically excluding payment for contraceptives, abortion, sterilization and artificial insemination.

Joy and gloom

Today’s readings both depict enjoyment of what feels wondrous overshadowed by foreboding of what seems ominous.

In the first reading, Ecclesiastes warns young people to enjoy their youth while they can, but to be mindful of the inevitability of decline, of death, and of judgment.

In the Gospel, the disciples are amazed at the wonderful miracles of Christ – sure signs that He is the long-awaited Messiah – only to hear our Lord hint about a future too ominous for them to even ask about.

In our own lives, we may have times when everything seems wonderful and times when our future looks grim.

It is important for us to keep a properly balanced attitude: neither to focus so much on enjoyment that we dislodge prudence and morality, nor to focus so much on that which is unhappy or fearful that we fail to appreciate truly the good gifts God still gives us.

What helps us keep that balance is God’s grace and focusing always, in good times and in bad, on the will of God: understanding always, as St. Paul says (Romans 8:28), that ultimately
“all things work together for good
to them that love God.”

Friday, September 24, 2004

The fifth season of the Amazing Race

ended this week, after winning its second Emmy for Best Reality Competition television show (how could it lose? No voting, no firing, just an extremely competitive race around the world through some of the globe's beautiful locales as well as some of its most challenging - first to finish, wins).

The winning team, married parents in their 40’s, said that the first thing they would do with their million dollar prize money is tithe to their church.

The sixth season will premiere in the next month or so (date and time TBA).

Watch for it.


I have considered the task
which God has appointed
for men to be busied about.
He has made everything appropriate to its time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts,
without men's ever discovering,
from beginning to end,
the work which God has done.

Ecclesiastes 3:10-11

The first eight verses of today's first reading are extremely familiar (especially for those familiar with pop music from the 1960's): so familiar and so simple that they might almost seem trite.

But those first eight verses receive a very special perspective and profundity when heard together with the 10th and 11th verses of that chapter, given above.

It isn't just a matter of there being a time for one thing and a different time for something else: it is God who has made everything appropriate to its time and he has put the timeless in our hearts.

These two verses call to mind Augustine's classic meditation:

'Great art thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised;
great is thy power, and infinite is thy wisdom.'
And man desires to praise thee,
for he is a part of thy creation...

Thou hast prompted him,
that he should delight to praise thee,
for thou hast made us for thyself
and restless is our heart
until it comes to rest in thee.
(St. Augustine, Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 1)

We may trudge through the world day after day, faced with one thing after another, but we are more than just the things we do and the things we experience. God has put the timeless in our hearts: we have immortal souls that are destined for eternity with the wondrous, beauteous infinity of God.

To every thing

there is a season,
and a time
to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born,
and a time to die;

A time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill,
and a time to heal;

A time to break down,
and a time to build up;

A time to weep,
and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn,
and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace,
and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get,
and a time to lose;

A time to keep,
and a time to cast away;

A time to rend,
and a time to sew;

A time to keep silence,
and a time to speak;

A time to love,
and a time to hate;

A time of war,
and a time of peace.

Ecclesiates 3:1-8

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Archbishop v. Kennedy-Cuomo

(In his column this week in the Denver Catholic Register, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M.Cap., denounces the division between faith and public service as articulated by the late John F. Kennedy and former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and adopted by many Catholic politicians since. Here are some highlights.)

. . . . .

"Forty-four years ago this month (Sept. 12, 1960), (then-Senator and Presidential candidate) John F. Kennedy delivered remarks to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association wherein he effectively severed his Catholic identity from his public service. It’s OK to elect me president, he argued to a wary Protestant audience, because I won’t let the pope tell me what to do.

"In pledging to put the 'national interest' above 'religious pressures or dictates,' Kennedy created a template for a generation of Catholic candidates: Be American first; be Catholic second.

. . . . .

"The Kennedy compromise seemed to work pretty well as long as the 'religious pressures' faced by Catholic elected officials involved issues like divorce, federal aid to Catholic schools or diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Each of these issues was important, surely, but none involved life and death. None was jugular.

"In 1973, by legalizing abortion on demand, the U.S. Supreme Court changed everything. The reason is simple: Abortion is different. Abortion kills. The great Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke for the whole Christian tradition when he wrote:

"'Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.' ([Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (New York; Macmillan, 1965) 175-6])

"Resistance to abortion cuts across all religions. It’s not a 'Catholic' issue. In fact, it’s finally not a religious issue at all, but a matter of human rights...." (emphasis added)

"(Eleven years after Roe v. Wade, then-New York Governor Mario) Cuomo argued that 'in our attempt to find a political answer to abortion - an answer beyond our private observance of Catholic morality' - he had concluded that 'legal interdicting of abortion by either the federal government or the individual states is not a plausible possibility, and even if it could be obtained, it wouldn’t work.' He might privately oppose abortion but, in his view, he had no right to “impose” that belief on others.

"In hindsight, Cuomo’s speech is a tour de force of articulate misdirection. It refuses to acknowledge the teaching and formative power of the law. It implicitly equates unequal types of issues. It misuses the 'seamless garment' metaphor.

. . . . .

"Next month, October, is Respect Life month. It’s a good time to reflect on the meaning of the Kennedy-Cuomo legacy. In brief, it’s OK to be Catholic in public service as long as you’re willing to jettison what’s inconveniently 'Catholic.'

"That’s not a compromise. That’s a deal with the devil, and it has a balloon payment no nation, no public servant and no voter can afford."
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M.Cap.

Yet another blog

"But God said..." is a lovely blog by a young Christian mother that sometimes soars poetically in its reflections on faith and on everyday life.

There is no remembrance

Of former things.

Thus says Ecclesiastes in today’s first reading. How true that observation rings today!

The overwhelming majority of people today have a very, very poor knowledge of history.

This lack of remembrance is crippling for people in a democracy, depriving them of history’s lessons and of the perspective that history gives, leaving them vulnerable to the manipulations of the glib and the ever-changing currents of popular opinion.

Remember the new technology that promised to revolutionize the economy and connect people everywhere? Millions were invested into companies that “built out” or otherwise aimed to capitalize on that technology. In the end, there was a capacity glut: the majority of the companies went bankrupt and thousands of those who had sought to capitalize on this technology were left with nothing.

That is what happened with railroads in the 19th century and there was little or no remembrance of these former things by those who invested in the Tech Boom at the end of the 20th century and subsequently lost millions.

Such a lack of remembrance is even more dangerous for those of us who are Christians. First of all, we believe in Salvation History: that God not only speaks to our hearts through the Spirit, but that God’s most definitive communications with us came at particular places at particular points in our history – most definitively when God walked among us two thousand years ago in a small Middle Eastern country in the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Remembrance of these “former” things is essential.

It is also good for us to have remembrance not only of God’s explicit interventions in human history but also of God’s people before and after the time of Christ. For too many of us, our knowledge is limited to what we read in Scripture and the examples we see in our brothers and sisters here and now: with no remembrance of the believers of old and of the example they give, good and bad alike.

We are thus deprived of the lessons and the perspective that comes with knowledge of the people of old. We are deprived of the edifying examples of those who have imitated Christ most profoundly and most spectacularly since the time of the Apostles: the great saints. We are deprived of the example of saints who may have been less high profile, but whose devout imitation of Christ may resonate in a very special way with our individual personalities. We are also deprived of the lessons of how God’s grace has continued to work in and through His people, even when some of these people and their leaders have behaved in ways that were less than edifying.

Remembrance of former things can give us guidance, perspective, and even hope as we seek to imitate Christ ever more closely in our own day and in the days to come.

An authentic vocation

"requires a life of intimacy with the Lord, ...a spiritual freedom acquired through mortification of defects, a forgetfulness of self so as to enter into the concerns of others, community demands, and the life of the Church."

From the website for The Sisters of the Visitation at Rockville, Virginia.

"The sisters are called to...
  • A contemplative life of prayer and meditation.
  • Unite to God in one heart and one soul.
  • Live a life of profound humility
  • A life of great simplicity and joy in the common life.
  • Strive to transform daily reality into ever greater joy."

On this day in 1968

The Beatles recorded the song “Happiness is a Warm Gun.”
A bloody war was being fought in Vietnam.
“Funny Girl” was the most popular motion picture.

And an old man died in a small town in Italy.

In that same small town, on the night of June 20, 2000, a seven-year-old boy was admitted to the I.C.U. The next day, his organs were failing and the doctors lost hope.

That evening, his mother prayed with some Capuchins from the town, asking for a miracle. Meanwhile, in the I.C.U., though the young boy’s eyes were still closed, he saw an old man with a white beard and a brown robe. The old man looked at him kindly and said, “Don’t worry, you will soon be cured.”

Suddenly, to everyone’s amazement, the boy got better. When he was fully awake, he told them what he had seen. The older people were awestruck, because they recognized that he was talking about the old man who had died back in 1968: the old Capuchin priest whom so many had called a saint even before his death.

Doctors and Church experts examined the boy and the circumstances of the case and the very next year it was formally declared to be a miracle.

Six months later, on June 16, 2002, Pope John Paul canonized St. Pio of Pietrelcina (“Padre Pio”).

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Help Caribbean Storm Victims

The damage caused by this summer's hurricanes in Florida, Alabama and other parts of the eastern United States has been very bad.

However, the damage caused by these storms to the people in the islands of the Caribbean (often desperately impoverished to begin with) is mind-boggling and heartbreaking.

Catholic Relief Services describes how it has been responding with aid to the people in these countries (and how we can help).

Is your marriage tearing you apart?

  • "Do you feel lost and alone?
  • "Are you frustrated, hurt or angry, with each other?
  • "Are you constantly arguing or fighting?
  • "Have you thought about separation or divorce?
  • "Without the time or desire to communicate.
  • "Does talking about it only make it worse?
  • "You don't know how to change or where to turn?


"The word Retrouvaille, simply means 'rediscovery'. The program offers the chance to rediscover yourself, your spouse, and a loving relationship in your marriage. 10's of 1000's headed for divorce have successfully saved their marriages by attending. Retrouvaille is a not spiritual retreat, not a sensitivity group, not a seminar, not a social gathering."

To learn more about Retrouvaille, visit www.retrouvaille.org.

Instructions and focus

In today’s Gospel we hear once more Christ’s commission to those who are to spread the Gospel.

His instructions are brief, but challenging: calling us to a simplicity of life that is much more than the mere lack of physical things. Our Lord’s instructions urge us to avoid becoming distracted as we spread His word.

Physical things and wealth can be good things in themselves, but they quite often come at the price of distraction, as the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us

For what profit comes to a man
from all the toil and anxiety of heart
with which he has labored under the sun?
All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;
even at night his mind is not at rest.
This also is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 2:22-23

Material things can distract us from what our true responsibilities are, but not only material things.

Most of us want to be liked and when we experience rejection, it bothers us. Sometimes it can totally knock us off track and we spend time thinking, “What should I do? What did I do wrong? How can I make things better?”

These are the kinds of distractions our Lord tells us to leave behind when he says, “As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.”

We should learn from the past and repent when we have sinned, but we dare not dwell on the past at the expense of the work that is before us.

We must not be distracted. We must remember our prime responsibilities. We must focus on Christ and his truth.

The Little Sisters of the Poor

"are religious women, members of an International Congregation, who have dedicated their lives to the service of the elderly, in 30 countries of the world on its 5 continents.

"They are also women who are deeply in love with the Lord and who desire to serve Him in those who have reached the final stages of their life's journey - accompanying them with love, compassion and skilled care, strengthened by the strong contemplative dimension of their life.

"They desire, by their compassionate accompaniment of those preparing to meet their Lord, to be 'pro-life' - witnessing to the dignity of all human beings, but especially to the inestimable value of those whom our 'consumer societies' often consider a burden - the elderly.

"The spirit of the congregation is the evangelical spirit expressed by Jesus in the Beatitudes. Mindful of the words of their foundress, Blessed Jeanne Jugan, 'Never forget that the poor are Our Lord,' the Little Sisters continue her charism and desire that their hospitaller mission of humble service, exercised in the name of the Church, be a sign of the compassionate love and mercy of God. Sisters to the elderly who are journeying towards the Kingdom, the Little Sisters witness to the primacy of eternal values and to respect for life, of which God alone is the master."

Cell phones silenced in Churches

Four Catholic churches in Monterrey, Mexico, are using hi tech to silence cell phones ringing during Mass: jamming cellphone signals with Israeli-made transmitters, the same kind used to protect embassies and presidential motorcades.

However, for better or worse, jamming cell phones is illegal in Mexico, the United States, and elsewhere.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

London calling

Today the Holy Father appointed Msgr. Robert Anthony Daniels, vicar general of the diocese of London, Canada, as auxiliary bishop of the same diocese. Bishop-elect Daniels was born in 1957 in Windsor, Ontario and was ordained a priest in 1983 for the diocese of London.

Another blog

I received a very kind email from another blogger, whose blog is titled "Uhm... Yes?" and includes interesting reflections on what the blogger is doing and reading (e.g., John Paul II's encyclical Fides et Ratio).

The Begging of the Apostle

I therefore, (Paul), a prisoner for the Lord,
beg you
to lead a life
worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
with all lowliness and meekness,
with patience, forbearing one another in love,
eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit
in the bond of peace.

These words from today’s first reading too often fall on deaf ears in our Christian communities today.

For any community to thrive, there must be a strong concern both for the common good and for individual needs. This must be even more so for any community that wishes to call itself Christian.

Sad to say, too many people in Church communities are too often concerned not with the common good of the Church and the needs of its members, but with their own interests and their own selfish desires.

Clergy and laity, parish groups and diocesan organizations, dioceses and national conferences, international movements and high officials – all of us, each of us, should always remember to open our hearts and to listen to the begging of St. Paul.

Are you considering...?

"a vocation to the priesthood or religious life?

"Thank you for listening to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and, at the very least, being open to what God may want to do with your life."

From the Vocations website for the Diocese of Rockford: www.rockvoc.org


So, you go up to the guy and you tell him that he’s gotta give you such and such amount of money and if he doesn’t, you’re going to take his stuff or take his family or tie him up and take him someplace until his relatives cough up the dough. It’s a pretty sweet racket, because you get a big piece of the action: as big as you want. You can live like a king and all you got to do is put the squeeze on the people in your territory.

That is what it was like to be a tax collector in the time of Christ: more like a gangster than a dedicated public servant.

Not only were tax collectors generally corrupt, decadent, and ruthless: they were ultimately collecting taxes to fund the very same regime that was cruelly oppressing the people.

Hence the scandal of Christ calling a tax collector (technically, collecting customs duties) to be one of his key disciples.

Needless to say, it proved to be an excellent choice. Levi, also known as Matthew, would not only be a successful Apostle, but would be responsible for the Gospel that stands at the beginning of the New Testament canon: a Gospel that strove eloquently to make clear to his fellow Jews that the Messiah had come in the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

St. Matthew is a reminder to us all of how successful repentance can be.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Sometimes we just want to hide

Sometimes we want to hide our faith, to protect ourselves from conflict in an unchristian world.

Indeed, the saints whose memorial we celebrate today had reason to hide their Christian faith in a violently antichristian country.

On the other hand, sometimes we want to hide something shameful we have done, to protect ourselves from punishment or from a diminishment of our good reputation.

In today’s Gospel, Christ tells us
No one after lighting a lamp
covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed,
but puts it on a stand,
that those who enter may see the light.
For nothing is hid
that shall not be made visible
nor anything secret
that shall not be known and come to light.

The men and women whose memorial we celebrate today had received the light of Christ. Some of them may have been more outspoken about their faith, setting it on a high lampstand for all to see. Others may have been more careful, but even so their light could not be hidden completely, and so all of them, the careful and the outspoken alike, suffered martyrdom.

As for those of us who want to hide because we are ashamed of what we have done, consider this:

First, I do not exempt myself from what I say here.

Second, shame is an appropriate reaction to sin (how sad that so many in the world no longer feel shame). If we feel we have to hide something we are currently doing, we must seriously consider the likelihood that what we are feeling is shame, that what we are doing is wrong, that we must repent, and that we must seek God’s mercy.

Third, if we have truly repented of something shameful that we have done in the past and have been forgiven, why are we hiding it from others? If our purpose is to protect our reputation, then what is more important: a façade of self-made virtue or the reality of God’s mercy in Christ? If our purpose is to keep the focus on the message of Truth and not on the messenger, how will the message be harmed when the history of the messenger becomes known? If our purpose is to protect innocent people who might be harmed by our downfall, how much worse will they be harmed when our past guilt is known?

This is not to say that all of us guilty creatures should immediately call and confess the sordid details of our lives to Dan Rather or to the scandal sheets. Nor is it to say that only the perfectly virtuous can spread the truth of Christ. Nor are we required to rush into a location where we can proclaim the Truth of Christ and be assured of instant martyrdom.

What we must do is be faithful: faithful to Christ and faithful to our penitent selves. We may be prudent and careful in what we say and do, but we must never say or do anything that contradicts the truth of Christ or the truth about ourselves. Whether we speak of sin or of virtue, we must always speak with acknowledgement of our personal sinfulness and of the undeserved grace we receive through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If what we are holding onto is the grace of Christ, then “more will be given.” If what we are holding onto are our reputations in this world, then even what we seem to have “will be taken away.”

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Not an easy road

Andrew wanted to be a priest and he knew it would not be easy. For one thing, there were no seminaries near where he lived. The nearest seminary that would take him was over a thousand miles away.

He also knew his decision would not be popular, so he kept his studies secret.

Finally, he knew that it would be dangerous, but it was something he had to do, it was what he was called to do.

Andrew’s wish would be fulfilled. He was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ.

Andrew’s fear would be realized quickly. The year after his return home, in 1846, Andrew Kim Taegon and his father were executed by the Korean government, together with Paul Chong Hasang, a lay apostle, and many others.

More martyrdoms would follow, but Church in Korea would survive and eventually thrive. In less than a century and a half, Pope John Paul II would visit Seoul in 1984 and there canonize Andrew and 102 other Korean martyrs for Christ.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Mindless Christianity

The parable that our Lord tells in today’s Gospel seems a strange one. It almost sounds as if our Lord is saying that fraud and embezzlement are good things!

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The key verse is this:

For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.

There are two aspects of this that are especially important:

First, our Lord is counseling us to be prudent and active. Too many of us practice mindless Christianity: we simply drift along through our lives without taking the initiative or taking the time and effort to think long and hard about how we can best be serving God and our sisters and brothers.

Our faith and our spirituality are too often purely habitual (for good or ill). We need to take the initiative, we need to seek God’s grace, we need to take the time to discern what can we be doing better in the service of our Lord.

Second, in this passage, our Lord is reminding us that we are not of this world, although we are in this world for a time. We are not like everybody else, nor should we be thinking and wanting to be like everybody else. We are children of the light. We are having eternal dwellings prepared for us. We serve God for God’s sake, not money for money’s sake or for our own comfort.

Don’t be mindless. Don’t be like everybody else.

Be proactive about the higher things.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Ultimate Makeover

Many television shows recently devote themselves to “makeovers” achieved by plastic surgery, wardrobe replacement, cosmetics, house reconstruction, and so forth.

These makeovers are sometimes dramatic, but by themselves they may actually be destructive, because they make people think that changing externals will make them truly happy.

That is Extreme Nonsense.

One can imagine that the ancient Corinthians might have thought that everyone in their resurrected bodies would become perfect physical specimens: veritable Adonises and Venuses (carrying over the pagan Greek concepts of physical beauty).

Whatever they thought, Paul is extremely dismissive of their speculation. He tries to pound into their heads the absolute paradigm change that the Christian faith represents.

The Resurrection is not a resuscitation: it is a change to a totally different kind of life, a life more wonderful than we can even imagine.

We may feel bad about our physical limitations or lack of classic beauty. We may resent the diminishment that often comes with age. We may feel alienated and unhappy. We may feel weak and depressed.

The message of the Resurrection is that all this will be changed and more!

Physical makeovers will not make us happy, but God will.

Ultimately, we don’t need physical things for true happiness, but we can use the things we have for the good of others and for God’s glory: building up for ourselves treasure in heaven, so that after our Lord calls us to Himself, we may share fully in the glory of His resurrection.

Don’t settle. Start saving now, through grace-enabled faith manifested by good works, for the Ultimate Makeover when we will share in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Christ’s women

In today’s Gospel, Luke makes a point of mentioning the women who accompanied and supported our Lord and the Twelve on their journey.

Luke is making it clear that even though the Twelve were men, women were an integral and essential part of our Lord’s team as he carried our His public ministry.

Do we think we’re on the Lord’s team? Or do we feel excluded because we are not this or that or because we are not in this group or the other?

St. Paul addressed this point most famously in his first letter to the Corinthians:

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, "Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body," it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, "Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body," it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.

If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended.

If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I do not need you," nor again the head to the feet, "I do not need you."

Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.

If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

Now you are Christ's body, and individually parts of it.

Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:12-28

We are all on the Lord’s team, each as we have been created and called by God, serving (hopefully) to the best of our ability wherever and whoever we are.

Successful Nepotism

There seemed little doubt about Roberto’s career path: it was the 16th century, he was Italian, there was a new Jesuit school in his hometown, and his mother’s late brother had been the Pope.

Throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, many Papal nephews found careers in the Church and many of them were incompetent at best and sometimes extraordinarily decadent. In those turbulent times, as kingdoms and empires rose and fell, the Church was often the only stable institution and the safest route for ambitious men.

Unlike many other Papal nephews, Roberto was extremely intelligent and devout. He entered the Jesuit order, went to some of the greatest centers of learning, and was ordained a priest. taught at universities and wrote powerfully against the errors of Protestantism. He was made an Archbishop and a Cardinal. He advised Popes and also cared for the poor.

St. Robert Bellarmine died on this very day in 1621. In the 20th century he was declared a Doctor of the Church and the patron saint of catechists.

Catholic Voting

The Archbishop of Newark, John J. Myers, writes in today's Opinion Journal Wall Street about what Catholics should consider when going to the polls.

"Certainly policies on welfare, national security, the war in Iraq, Social Security or taxes, taken singly or in any combination, do not provide a proportionate reason to vote for a pro-abortion candidate."

The Bishop of Evansville

told the Evansville Courier and Press on September 14 that he will deny Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion or same-sex marriage.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

What to do about that sinner?

Today’s Gospel is the Gospel pre-selected for the Thursday of the 24th week of Ordinary Time, not for today’s memorial in honor of Cornelius and Cyprian. Even so, it resonates wonderfully with the lives and the teaching of these two saints.

The great theological problem of their time was the question of what to do with Christians who have apostatized by sacrificing to pagan idols (often under duress) and who later seek to return to the Church. This problem was made all the more difficult because the bloody persecution of Christians was still in full force. Many Christians were being slaughtered for their refusal to make pagan sacrifices: even Cornelius the Pope and Cyprian the bishop would die thus at the hands of the Roman Empire.

Some Christians harbored great anger toward the apostates, mindful of the suffering of those who had stood fast and of St. Paul’s strong words about those who fall away after embracing Christ, and said the apostates could not be forgiven. Others felt that mercy must be shown to all sinners who repent, and that even the most egregious apostates could be readmitted to communion with little concern.

Cornelius and Cyprian advocated a middle course: one that dealt seriously with the relative gravity of the sin and yet was always directed toward mercy and forgiveness.

Today’s Gospel has many of the elements of this ancient controversy: the self-righteous who think some people are unforgivable, the sinner performing acts of penitence and love, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who brings forgiveness and truth.

How do we treat sinners? How do we deal with Christians “who have fallen yet strive to rise again?” Do we treat them as practically unforgivable? Or do we ignore the real evil of sin by throwing around some “feel good” theology?

We are all sinners. To some extent, all of us are in a spiral of falling and (by God’s grace) rising again.

We cannot let the evil of sin and its consequences be ignored, but neither can we -- nor should we -- obstruct the infinite mercy of God (upon which each one of us so desperately depends).

Be real. Be faithful. Be honest. Be merciful.

Being a Christian used to be no big deal

Christians were accepted members of society. Church leaders lived comfortable lives (sadly, some were even scandalous).

But things changed. Society turned against Christians. Government agents targeted the Church. There were many stories of violence and even death.

Many Christians succumbed to the pressure and turned publicly away from the faith. Of these, many would eventually repent of their apostasy and return to the Church.

Some of those who had remained loyal to the faith were angry with those who had deserted, even to the point of treating these penitents with extreme cruelty. Some said that baptized Christians who had formally embraced another religion could not be forgiven.

The divisions within the Church on this question were bitter and intense, so much so that a rival Pope was elected. The most prominent of the moderate bishops, a man who had become a Christian when he was already middle-aged, wrote and spoke eloquently in defense of the rightful Pope and in asserting a stern but merciful approach to repenting apostates.

Meanwhile, the rightful Pope, overwhelmed by the attacks of an anti-Christian society and an extremist rival, was driven out of Rome and died. For the next five years, the leader of the moderates continued to support the rightful Pope’s successors and strove to restore reason to Church debates. His work would be cut short, however, when he was seized by government agents.

St. Cyprian, bishop of the North African city of Carthage, refused to renounce his faith and was martyred during this very week in the year 258. His memorial is celebrated together with St. Cornelius, the Pope he had fought to support against enemies inside and outside the Church, both men simply trying to be Christians who were faithful to the Truth and to mercy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

God is calling

Sister Margaret Michael of the Daughters of St. Paul has a blog devoted to vocations.

"If you keep up with our blogs, you’ll get to know more about who we are as a community of women religious, proclaiming Christ in a media world. Have you ever seriously wondered what life as a Sister is like? Well, if you feel that God might be nudging you to consider this life, I invite you to come visit and check it out."

How to be a good bishop

"1..... Today our considerations turn to the munus regendi, the power of governance by which the successors of the Apostles have been set apart by the Holy Spirit as guardians of the flock and shepherds of the Church of God (cf. Acts 20:28).

"As the Church’s constant Tradition attests, this apostolic authority is a form of service to the Body of Christ. As such, it can only be inspired by and modelled on the self-sacrificing love of the Lord who came among us as a servant (cf. Mk 10:45) and, after stooping to wash the feet of his disciples, commanded them to do as he had done (cf. Jn 13:15).

"The existence of an unequivocal right and duty of governance entrusted to the successors of the Apostles is an essential part of the Church’s divinely-willed constitution (cf. Lumen Gentium, 18).

"As a ministerial power, given for building up the Body (cf. 2 Cor 10:8), this sacra potestas must be seen as one of the hierarchical gifts (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4) bestowed upon the Church by her divine Founder, and thus a constitutive element of that sacred Tradition which contains everything passed down from the Apostles as a means of preserving and fostering the holiness and faith of the People of God (cf. Dei Verbum, 8).

"History amply demonstrates that the firm and sage exercise of this apostolic authority, particularly in moments of crisis, has enabled the Church to preserve her integrity, independence and fidelity to the Gospel in the face of threats from within and without.

"2. Building on the rich reflection on the episcopal munus regendi occasioned by the Council, and in light of the challenges of the new evangelization, the recent Synod of Bishops insisted on the urgent need to recover a fuller and more authentically 'apostolic' understanding of the episcopal office.

"The Bishop is above all a witness, a teacher and model of holiness, as well as a prudent administrator of the Church’s goods. The sacred power which he legitimately exercises should be rooted in the moral authority of a life completely shaped by his sacramental sharing in Christ’s consecration and mission. Indeed, 'all that the Bishop says and does must reveal the authority of Christ’s word and his way of acting' (Pastores Gregis, 43).

"As a result, 'a renewed appreciation of the Bishop’s authority will not be expressed by external signs, but by an ever deeper understanding of the theological, spiritual and moral significance of this ministry, founded on the charism of apostolicity' (ibid.). Bishops need to be esteemed as successors of the Apostles not only in authority and sacred power, but above all by their apostolic life and witness.

"In our meetings, many of you (bishops) have expressed your concern about the crisis of confidence in the Church’s leadership provoked by the recent sexual abuse scandals, the general call for accountability in the Church’s governance on every level and the relations between Bishops, clergy and the lay faithful. I am convinced that today, as at every critical moment in her history, the Church will find the resources for an authentic self-renewal in the wisdom, vision and zeal of Bishops outstanding for their holiness.

"Saintly reformers like Gregory the Great, Charles Borromeo and Pius X understood that the Church is only authentically 're-formed' when she returns to her origins in a conscious reappropriation of the apostolic Tradition and a purifying re-evaluation of her institutions in the light of the Gospel.

"In the present circumstances of the Church in America, this will entail a spiritual discernment and critique of certain styles of governance which, even in the name of a legitimate concern for good 'administration' and responsible oversight, can run the risk of distancing the pastor from the members of his flock, and obscuring his image as their father and brother in Christ.

"3. In this regard, the Synod of Bishops acknowledged the need today for each Bishop to develop 'a pastoral style which is ever more open to collaboration with all' (Pastores Gregis, 44), grounded in a clear understanding of the relationship between the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of the baptized (cf. Lumen Gentium, 10).

"While the Bishop himself remains responsible for the authoritative decisions which he is called to make in the exercise of his pastoral governance, ecclesial communion also 'presupposes the participation of every category of the faithful, inasmuch as they share responsibility for the good of the particular Church which they themselves form' (Pastores Gregis, loc. cit.).

"Within a sound ecclesiology of communion, a commitment to creating better structures of participation, consultation and shared responsibility should not be misunderstood as a concession to a secular 'democratic' model of governance, but as an intrinsic requirement of the exercise of episcopal authority and a necessary means of strengthening that authority.

"4. The exercise of the munus regendi is directed both to gathering the flock in the visible unity of a single profession of faith lived in the sacramental communion of the Church and to guiding that flock, in the diversity of its gifts and callings, towards a common goal: the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Every act of ecclesiastical governance, consequently, must be aimed at fostering communion and mission.

"In view, then, of their common purpose and aim, the three munera of teaching, sanctifying and ruling are clearly inseparable and interpenetrating: 'when the Bishop teaches, he also sanctifies and governs the People of God; when he sanctifies, he also teaches and governs; when he governs, he teaches and sanctifies' (Pastores Gregis, 9; cf. Lumen Gentium, 20, 27).

"Experience shows that when priority is mainly given to outward stability, the impetus to personal conversion, ecclesial renewal and missionary zeal can be lost and a false sense of security can ensue.

"The painful period of self-examination provoked by the events of the past two years will bear spiritual fruit only if it leads the whole Catholic community in America to a deeper understanding of the Church’s authentic nature and mission, and a more intense commitment to making the Church in your country reflect, in every aspect of her life, the light of Christ’s grace and truth.

"Here I can only state once more my profound conviction that the documents of the Second Vatican Council need to be carefully studied and taken to heart by all the faithful, since these normative texts of the Magisterium offer the basis for a genuine ecclesial renewal in obedience to the will of Christ and in conformity with the Church’s apostolic Tradition (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, 57)."

John Paul II
Address to the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Regions of Pennsylvania and New Jersey during their Ad Limina visit
Saturday, September 11 2004

(In his greeting, the Holy Father noted that it was the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States and said, "I assure you of my closeness to the American people and I join you in praying for an end to the scourge of terrorism and the growth of the civilization of love.")

What's love?

On the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows one would expect the readings to be full of, well, sorrows.

So, many of us may have been surprised to hear as today’s first reading St. Paul’s famous discourse about love. Although this passage is frequently used for weddings, the love of which Paul speaks is not the natural love of man and woman, or even the fraternal love among people of good will: it is a very special kind of self-giving love that reflects the love of Christ, a love manifested most perfectly in Christ’s death on the cross, a love manifested so clearly in Christ’s mother as she watches her son die.

Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.

Many things are said and sung about love: often to the point of triteness.

We need to remember what real love is. We need to read the words of Paul afresh, keeping in mind the image of Mary as she stands before her dying Son: an image of unfathomable love.

In this way we must love one another.

Casting the first stone

That is the accusation made by some people against bishops who have said that pro-abortion politicians should not be admitted to Holy Communion.

The accusation reflects a serious misunderstanding (at best) of the Gospel, of the relevant canon, and of the bishops.

First, the Gospel:

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more."
John 8:3-11

The point of the Gospel is that awareness of one’s own sinfulness should incline one to be merciful regarding the sins of others. As God continues to show mercy to the sinner, so we should show mercy, so that the sinner may repent and return to God. (This is one of the reasons why the Church says that society should defend itself by capital punishment only as a last resort, so that the guilty party may have every opportunity to repent and find redemption.)

But our Lord still calls sin sin. He is not saying that we are to deny that sin exists or to refrain from making clear what is a sin.

Pointing out a sin is not the same as condemnation. Nor is it condemnation to refute those who say that their sin is not a sin.

Declining to admit someone to Holy Communion under Canon 915 is neither execution nor condemnation. It is merely to keep people from publicly using Holy Communion to assert a level of communion with the Church that is belied by their obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin.

This is NEVER something that should be done lightly or in a Pharisaic manner. This is something that should be only done with charity and when necessary to encourage the repentance of the apparently obstinate grave sinner and to avoid serious moral confusion among the faithful.

We are all sinners. We cannot judge even our own souls – only Christ can do that (and He mercifully withholds His judgment until the end of time). We must all help each other to be clear about what is right, to be clear about what is wrong, and to become more lovingly perfect like Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, be merciful to me: a sinner.
Have mercy on us all.

More about the Stabat Mater

I found a very interesting website about the Stabat Mater with excellent, substantial information: www.stabatmater.dds.nl

The primary author of the website admits to lacking a religious background, which testifies to the intrinsic power of what the words signify (portrayed so powerfully in the recent film The Passion of the Christ): a grief-striken woman witnessing the tortuous death of her only son and the deeper meaning of salvation.

The sorrowful mother stood

By the cross weeping
Where her Son was hanging.

Through her weeping soul,
Compassionate and grieving,
A sword passed.

O how sad and afflicted
Was that blessed
Mother of the Only-begotten!

Who mourned and grieved,
The pious Mother, looking at
The torment of her glorious Child.

Who is the human who would not weep
Seeing the Mother of Christ
In such agony?

Who would not be able to feel compassion
On beholding Christ's Mother
Suffering with her Son?

For the sins of his people
She saw Jesus in torment
And subjected to the scourge.

She saw her sweet offspring
Dying, forsaken,
While He gave up His spirit.

O Mother, fountain of love,
Make me feel the power of sorrow,
That I may grieve with you.

Grant that my heart may burn
In the love of Christ my God,
That I may greatly please Him.

Holy Mother, grant that
The wounds of the Crucified
Drive deep into my heart.

That of your wounded Son,
Who so deigned to suffer for me,
I may share the pain.

Let me, pious one, weep with you,
Bemoan the Crucified,
For as long as I live.

To stand beside the cross with you,
And to join you
In your weeping, this I desire.

Chosen Virgin of virgins,
Be not bitter with me,
Let me weep with thee.

Grant that I may bear the death of Christ,
Share his Passion,
And commemorate His wounds.

Let me be wounded with His wounds,
Let me be inebriated by the cross
And your Son's blood.

Lest I burn, set afire by flames,
Virgin, may I be defended by you,
On the day of judgment.

Christ, when it is time to pass away,
Grant that through Your Mother I may come
To the palm of victory.

When my body dies,
Grant that to my soul is given
The glory of Paradise.

Stabat Mater dolorosa

iuxta Crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.

Cuius animam gementem,

contristatam et dolentem
pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta

fuit illa benedicta,
mater Unigeniti!

Quae maerebat et dolebat,

pia Mater, dum videbat
nati poenas inclyti.

Quis est homo qui non fleret,

matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio?

Quis non posset contristari

Christi Matrem contemplari
dolentem cum Filio?

Pro peccatis suae gentis

vidit Iesum in tormentis,
et flagellis subditum.

Vidit suum dulcem Natum

moriendo desolatum,
dum emisit spiritum.

Eia, Mater, fons amoris

me sentire vim doloris
fac, ut tecum lugeam.

Fac, ut ardeat cor meum

in amando Christum Deum
ut sibi complaceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,

crucifixi fige plagas
cordi meo valide.

Tui Nati vulnerati,

tam dignati pro me pati,
poenas mecum divide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,

crucifixo condolere,
donec ego vixero.

Iuxta Crucem tecum stare,

et me tibi sociare
in planctu desidero.

Virgo virginum praeclara,

mihi iam non sis amara,
fac me tecum plangere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,

passionis fac consortem,
et plagas recolere.

Fac me plagis vulnerari,

fac me Cruce inebriari,
et cruore Filii.

Flammis ne urar succensus,

per te, Virgo, sim defensus
in die iudicii.

Christe, cum sit hinc exire,

da per Matrem me venire
ad palmam victoriae.

Quando corpus morietur,

fac, ut animae donetur
paradisi gloria.