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...

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Have a blessed Year

"To you, dear Brother Bishops, I commend this Year (of the Eucharist), confident that you will welcome my invitation with full apostolic zeal.

"Dear priests, who repeat the words of consecration each day, and are witnesses and heralds of the great miracle of love which takes place at your hands: be challenged by the grace of this special Year; celebrate Holy Mass each day with the same joy and fervour with which you celebrated your first Mass, and willingly spend time in prayer before the tabernacle.

"May this be a Year of grace also for you, deacons, who are so closely engaged in the ministry of the word and the service of the altar. I ask you, lectors, acolytes and extraordinary ministers of holy communion, to become ever more aware of the gift you have received in the service entrusted to you for a more worthy celebration of the Eucharist.

"In particular I appeal to you, the priests of the future. During your time in the seminary make every effort to experience the beauty not only of taking part daily in Holy Mass, but also of spending a certain amount of time in dialogue with the Eucharistic Lord.

"Consecrated men and women, called by that very consecration to more prolonged contemplation: never forget that Jesus in the tabernacle wants you to be at his side, so that he can fill your hearts with the experience of his friendship, which alone gives meaning and fulfilment to your lives.

"May all of you, the Christian faithful, rediscover the gift of the Eucharist as light and strength for your daily lives in the world, in the exercise of your respective professions amid so many different situations. Rediscover this above all in order to experience fully the beauty and the mission of the family.

"I have great expectations of you, young people, as I look forward to our meeting at the next World Youth Day in Cologne. The theme of our meeting—'We have come to worship him'—suggests how you can best experience this Eucharistic year.

"Bring to your encounter with Jesus, hidden in the Eucharist, all the enthusiasm of your age, all your hopes, all your desire to love."

John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 30

Thinking outside the box

For some people, “thinking outside the box” is a trendy business slogan that they may frequently say but almost never do.

For others, “thinking outside the box” is just a cover story for lazy, undisciplined thinking or for rejecting any “box” that impedes their own autonomy.

In today’s Gospel, we have two people who think outside the box – with salvific results.

Zacchaeus is a short man who is blocked by the crowd from seeing our Lord. He thinks “outside the box” and climbs a tree.

Zacchaeus is also a tax collector, hated by the people not only for filling the coffers of the Roman oppressors, but also because tax collectors often used extortion and other crimes to make their quotas (and also fill their own pockets).

Jesus thinks "outside the box." He recognizes Zacchaeus’ interest as an opportunity to save another lost soul and indeed, salvation comes to Zacchaeus’ house.

In our baptism, we too have been commissioned to carry on Christ’s mission of seeking out and, by his grace, saving those who are lost.

To do this, we must think "outside the box:" to break out of our habits, daily routines, social barriers, and personal preferences in order to reach out to people who really need to hear the truth of Christ.

As we look at the world today, we are sometimes very discouraged. Yet, as today’s first reading reminds us, the power and mercy of God is still at work in the world, extending the possibilities of repentance and redemption not only for ourselves (who need it so badly) but also for the whole world.

We are to be instruments of the Lord in this sometimes darkening world, helping others to repentance and redemption. To borrow Lincoln’s phrase, “we must think anew and act anew” – think outside the box – being always faithful to the truth and to our mission of sharing that truth with others in the name of Jesus.

False mercy

"Often disguised by the name 'mercy killing,' euthanasia is a form of homicide. No person has a right to take his own life, and no one has the right to take the life of any innocent person.

"In euthanasia, the ill or elderly are killed, by action or omission, out of a misplaced sense of compassion. But true compassion cannot include intentionally doing something intrinsically evil to another person. Like abortion, euthanasia violates the commandment 'You shall not murder.'"

from Voter's Guide for Serious Christians
by Catholic Answers, Inc

Respecting God-given dignity and creation

"How can we join with other nations to lead the world to greater respect for human life and dignity, religious freedom and democracy, economic justice and care for God’s creation?"

Faithful Citizenship:
A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Priesthood Sunday

celebrated today, "is a special day set aside to honor Priesthood in the United States. It is a call for parishioners to honor Christ as Priest and the men who are called to be his priests on earth. It is also a day to honor all religious and to focus on the importance of vocations."

Saturday, October 30, 2004

A more Christian All Hallow's Eve

Godspy has an interesting article about Halloween and suggestions for restoring a Christian focus for All Hallow's Eve.

(Hat tip to Amy Welborn.)

To recap

Beatification Mass - October 3, 2004 (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun - get it? re-cap? Again, sorry)

"'O Sacrum Convivium, in quo Christus sumitur!'

"The Year of the Eucharist has its source in the amazement with which the Church contemplates this great Mystery. It is an amazement which I myself constantly experience. It prompted my Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

"As I look forward to the twenty-seventh year of my Petrine ministry, I consider it a great grace to be able to call the whole Church to contemplate, praise, and adore in a special way this ineffable Sacrament. May the Year of the Eucharist be for everyone a precious opportunity to grow in awareness of the incomparable treasure which Christ has entrusted to his Church. May it encourage a more lively and fervent celebration of the Eucharist, leading to a Christian life transformed by love.

"There is room here for any number of initiatives, according to the judgement of the Pastors of the particular Churches. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will not fail to provide some helpful suggestions and proposals.

"I do not ask, however, for anything extraordinary, but rather that every initiative be marked by a profound interiority.

"If the only result of this Year were the revival in all Christian communities of the celebration of Sunday Mass and an increase in Eucharistic worship outside Mass, this Year of grace would be abundantly successful.

"At the same time, it is good to aim high, and not to be content with mediocrity, since we know we can always count on God's help."

John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 29

Embracing the difficult

Both of today’s readings invite us to embrace that which is difficult.

In the Gospel, our Lord seems to be a little like Martha Stewart, giving advice about where one should sit at a party.

In the first reading, St. Paul seems to be a little like Hamlet, contemplating whether it is better for him to go on living or to die.

(Actually, St. Paul is also a little like Martha Stewart: he’s writing from prison. [May God bless her])

Life is not a good thing for St. Paul at the moment he is writing: it is full of suffering, degradation, rejection, and ridicule.

Yet St. Paul embraces life, with all of its suffering and disappointments, because he knows it is what Christ wants: to use the gift of life and all the gifts he has received to help bring closer to Christ everyone he can.

So too our Lord urges us to embrace humility, as difficult as it may be for us in a world where “blowing your own horn” and “looking out for number one” are the name of the game.

Why do this? Why embrace the difficult or something that is not good for us? Because, ultimately, we are not number one, we cannot attain perfect happiness by our own power alone, we need God, and we need to make that truth thoroughly manifest in our lives.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

"The decision to commit oneself..."

"...to the religious life, as with all vocations, must be the result of much prayer, reflection, and guidance. Often as men and women consider a religious vocation they are faced with difficult choices and sacrifices. However, Our Lord Himself speaks of this call to sacrifice and conversion:

"'The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.' (Matthew 13:44-46)

"Every religious house, even those that form part of a larger Order or Congregation, has its own unique personality and culture. What makes the Monastery of Saint Jude special?

  • "Our smaller community offers a strong family spirit of loyalty, simplicity and love.
    Because we were founded as an interracial community we are accustomed to thinking of all as possessing equal dignity. Each candidate is evaluated and accepted based on her own gifts and merits as a child of God.
  • "Our monastery offers an atmosphere of serenity and order (most of the time anyway).
  • "Our goal has always been to provide an example of simple Christian love and devotion, to offer Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the recitation of the Rosary, and to pray in a special way for priests and for the conversion of the world.
  • "The Blessed Sacrament abiding with us is like the hub of a wheel with spokes reaching out across the South to touch the hearts of those who do not know Him fully yet. Because He is here, we have come. Because we are here, He remains."

from the vocations website of the Monastery of St. Jude
(Dominican sisters) Alabama

Human embryos are human beings

"It is grossly immoral to kill embryonic humans in order to use their bodies as medical consumables, but this is precisely what happens in embryonic stem cell research. Unborn children are killed to extract their stem cells for use in medical experiments. This practice also violates the commandment 'You shall not murder.'

"Recent scientific advances show that the medical treatments that researchers hope to develop from embryonic stem cells may be developed by using adult stem cells instead. Adult stem cells can be obtained without doing harm to the adults from whom they come. Thus there is no valid argument in favor of using embryonic stem cells. But even if there were benefits to be had from such experiments, they would not justify destroying innocent human beings."

from Voter's Guide for Serious Christians
by Catholic Answers, Inc

A Penitent Blogger writes that while we work to protect unborn life, we must also do everything we can morally do to find cures for disease and to care for people who are ill or otherwise disabled.

Use of force

"When should our nation use, or avoid the use of, military force—for what purpose, under what authority, and at what human cost?"

Faithful Citizenship:
A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Friday, October 29, 2004

Summary Points

from The Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke
Archbishop of Saint Louis
On our Civic Responsibility for the Common Good
  1. "The Archbishop is impelled to speak to Catholics and all people of good will in the metropolitan community on Our Civic Responsibility for the Common Good on account of his responsibility as a Bishop to teach clearly the moral law.

  2. "Scripture teaches definitively that we are our 'brother’s keeper,' good Samaritans charged to exercise our civic responsibility to promote the common good. Above all, we must promote and protect the inviolable dignity of all human life.

    "We are called to be 'Christians Without Borders,' without boundaries to our love of neighbor.

  3. "Our civic responsibility to promote the common good is informed by our life in Christ, which unites us in a bond of charity.

  4. "As citizens of Heaven and earth we are bound by the moral law to act with respect for the rights of others and to promote the common good.

  5. "The right to act in accord with conscience presupposes that it is informed with the truth God has inscribed in our hearts and revealed in Sacred Scripture. Conscience is the voice of God within us, assisting us to choose good and to avoid evil, in accord with God’s law.

  6. "We are morally bound in conscience to choose government leaders who will serve the common good. The first priority of the common good is the protection of human life, the basis of all other social conditions.

    "There can never be justification for directly and deliberately taking innocent human life: abortion, destruction of human embryos, euthanasia, human cloning.

    "Legal recognition of same-sex relationships undermines the truth about marriage and sanctions gravely immoral acts.

    "For the sake of the common good we must safeguard the good of human life and the good of marriage and family life.

    "The death penalty and war are different from procured abortion and same-sex 'marriage', since these latter acts are intrinsically evil and therefore can never be justified.

    "Although war and capital punishment (can) rarely be justified, they are not intrinsically evil.

  7. "To insure (sic) the common good Catholics have a responsibility to vote for a worthy candidate, because the welfare of the community depends upon the persons elected and appointed to office.

  8. "It is never right to vote for a candidate in order to promote immoral practices; this is 'formal cooperation' in evil.

    "In some circumstances it is morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for a candidate who supports some immoral practices while opposing other immoral practices. This is called 'material cooperation' and is permissible under certain conditions and when it is impossible to avoid all cooperation with evil, as may well be true in selecting a candidate for public office.

    "There is no element of the common good that could justify voting for a candidate who also endorses, without restriction or limitation, the deliberate killing of the innocent, abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia, human cloning, or same-sex marriage.

  9. "If a candidate supports abortion in a limited number of cases, but is opposed otherwise, Catholics may vote for this person. This is not a question of choosing a lesser evil but of limiting all the evil one is able to limit at the time.

  10. "As Catholics we cannot remain silent. We have a serious obligation to bring the moral law to bear upon our life in society, so that the good of all will be served."

Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke
(emphases in original)

A Penitent Blogger writes that we should each pray extensively and resolve to vote and to act in ways that best reflect our obligations to the truth and to charity.

Rules getting in the way

In today’s Gospel, our Lord confronts those who condemn him for healing sick people on the Sabbath, but they refuse to discuss it, even when he actually heals a sick person or tries to reason with them.

For some people, nothing is more important than rules and they hold onto these rules like grim death. To let go of rules, they feel, would be chaos.

For other people, rules are meaningless and to be ignored. To follow rules, they feel, would be oppression.

For still others, rules are generally useful and they follow the rules as long as it is convenient for them. To be locked into the rules, they feel, would be inconvenient.

But what are rules? In a fundamental sense, a rule represents a formal understanding of how behavior reflects a truth.

Rules can also be a means of protection for individuals and for society.

The Pharisees and the scholars of the law were focused solely on the formal manifestations of the rules: afraid to consider the truth underlying those rules or to grow in their own understanding. Even today there are people for whom the rules are just a club with which to beat themselves and others (and these people often don’t have a deep or detailed knowledge of the rules to begin with).

Ironically, those who are disdainful of rules are also generally afraid to consider the truth underlying those rules or to grow in their own understanding. They also fail to appreciate how the formalities of rules – including the formalities of rewording rules – may be associated with respect for the community to which they themselves belong – which is even more important when the community is a community of faith, charged with transmitting the saving truth of Christ.

We as Christians must respect our community of faith, working within it to achieve in the rules an ever clearer understanding of the truth they signify.

We as Christians need to consider the truth underlying rules and how our behavior should be consistent with the truth that comes from God: a truth to which we must cling, a truth that can set us free.

And this is my prayer

that your love may increase ever more and more
in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value,
so that you may be pure and blameless
for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ
for the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11


Washing of the Feet - Holy Thursday - Parish of St. Eugene, Asheville, NC

"There is one other point which I would like to emphasize, since it significantly affects the authenticity of our communal sharing in the Eucharist. It is the impulse which the Eucharist gives to the community for a practical commitment to building a more just and fraternal society. In the Eucharist our God has shown love in the extreme, overturning all those criteria of power which too often govern human relations and radically affirming the criterion of service: 'If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all' (Mark 9:35). It is not by chance that the Gospel of John contains no account of the institution of the Eucharist, but instead relates the 'washing of feet' (cf. John 13:1-20): by bending down to wash the feet of his disciples, Jesus explains the meaning of the Eucharist unequivocally. Saint Paul vigorously reaffirms the impropriety of a Eucharistic celebration lacking charity expressed by practical sharing with the poor (cf.1 Cor 11:17-22, 27-34)."
John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 28

Overcoming poverty

"What are the responsibilities and limitations of families, community organizations, markets, and government?

"How can these elements of society work together to overcome poverty, pursue the common good and care for creation?"

Faithful Citizenship:
A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

God designed the human race

"to reproduce by the union of man and woman. Every child has the right to be born of a father and a mother. Human cloning violates God’s design by trying to create a child with only a genetic father or only a genetic mother.

"Human cloning also involves abortion because the 'rejected' or 'unsuccessful' embryonic clones are destroyed. Some people want to create human clones simply to experiment on them, yet each clone is a human being."

from Voter's Guide for Serious Christians
by Catholic Answers, Inc

A Penitent Blogger writes that while we work to protect unborn life, we must also do everything we can morally do to help married couples who have trouble conceiving naturally, to find cures for disease and to care for people who are ill or otherwise disabled.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Moments of decision

The opening words of today’s Gospel are very simple and yet very powerful.

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray
and He spent the night in prayer to God.

He then comes down the mountain and chooses the Twelve Apostles. It was a very important moment, for it would be upon the foundation of the Apostles that the whole Church would be established, as we heard in today’s first reading.

These words also give us a great example, for we too have very important moments in our own lives: moments when we make (or fail to make) decisions that will have tremendous consequences for us and even for others.

Sometimes we try to ignore these moments of decision: thus choosing not to decide (but not being able to escape the consequences of our inaction).

Sometimes we decide haphazardly: going with our gut, going along with everybody else, or going where our feelings point us.

That is not what our Lord did for His great moments of decision; that is not what we should do for ours.

We should pray, as He did.

If at all possible we should physically go to a special place where we can be alone and feel closer to God: a mountain, a garden, a quiet chapel, or even an empty room.

If it is truly a momentous decision, we should take whatever time is available to be alone with the Lord and to pray: a night, a day, or even an hour (if that is all there is).

Once we have done this, we can go forward with the Lord.

If we do this, are we guaranteed to have a smooth outcome from our decision? Absolutely not!

Look at what followed from the decision our Lord made in today’s Gospel: Peter would deny Him; Judas would betray Him to his death; and one of the greatest Apostles, St. Paul, was not one of the Twelve seen on the mountainside that day.

Yet God’s purposes would be fulfilled in each of these twelve men according to His infinite wisdom and His mysterious, salvific will. Another would be chosen to take the place of Judas and the Twelve Apostles would become the foundation of a Church, made of imperfect humans, but ultimately undefeatable and an instrument of universal salvation.

In the end, what saves us are not the intrinsic benefits of the things we choose – although they are important. In the end, what saves us is the will and the power of God to which we conform ourselves in our prayer.

We should not flee or mishandle our great moments of decision.

We should – we MUST – pray: taking the time and finding the place to be alone with God, so that we can go forward with Him.

"We believe that Jesus is calling men today...

"... just as he did in the time of St. Francis, to leave everything and follow Him. However, a call to our particular way of life is not for everyone....

"We happily embrace the gifts of poverty, chastity and obedience and live a three-fold way of life:
  • "To know, love and serve God above all else.
  • "To dwell in unity, living in community with our brothers.
  • "To give free, wholehearted service to all; especially to the spiritually and bodily poor....

"We provide sanctuary and a loving, healing environment to international survivors of torture.

"We provide a peaceful presence in a violent, North Minneapolis neighborhood overrun with drug and gang activity.

"We maintain a small food shelf and clothing distribution program for the poor.

"We volunteer our time in the Right to Life movement (praying at abortion clinics, assisting unwed mothers and those in crisis pregnancies, etc.), befriending the homeless and outcast, visiting the imprisoned and the sick, and other small acts of charity and mercy."

from the website of The Franciscan Brothers of Peace
a public association of the faithful
in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul


St. Simon the Apostle - Immaculate Conception Church, Earlington, KY                                St. Jude the Apostle - Immaculate Conception Church, Earlington, KY


'Peace' ('Paz') Mass - Campinas, Brazil

"The Eucharist is not merely an expression of communion in the Church's life; it is also a project of solidarity for all of humanity. In the celebration of the Eucharist the Church constantly renews her awareness of being a 'sign and instrument' not only of intimate union with God but also of the unity of the whole human race. Each Mass, even when celebrated in obscurity or in isolation, always has a universal character. The Christian who takes part in the Eucharist learns to become a promotor of communion, peace and solidarity in every situation. More than ever, our troubled world, which began the new Millennium with the spectre of terrorism and the tragedy of war, demands that Christians learn to experience the Eucharist as a great school of peace, forming men and women who, at various levels of responsibility in social, cultural and political life, can become promotors of dialogue and communion."
John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 27

True marriage

"is the union of one man and one woman. Legal recognition of any other union as 'marriage' undermines true marriage....

from Voter's Guide for Serious Christians
by Catholic Answers, Inc

A Penitent Blogger says that while we seek to protect marriage as it was meant to be, we must not forget also to encourage stronger and better marriages. Nor dare we forget, as we uphold the principles of natural law regarding human behavior, to treat every human person with dignity and charity and to combat unjust discrimination.

Justice and peace

"How will our nation pursue the values of justice and peace in a world where injustice is common, desperate poverty widespread, and peace is too often overwhelmed by violence?"

From Faithful Citizenship:
A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Hanging around... and more

Cleo and Mary’s son Thad at some point started hanging around with Mary’s nephew. So did their other son, James, but there was something about Thad. In time, nearly everyone who knew him would automatically associate him with “hopeless causes.”

Later on, Thad teamed up with a fellow named Simon, who had also hung out with the group. The two of them eventually ended up going to Iran and being killed for religious reasons.

Not much else is really known about these two, but they are remembered and venerated today by millions as two of the Apostles of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and as martyrs for preaching the Gospel: St. Simon the Zealot and St. Jude Thaddeus.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Largest at Methodist University

"We certainly can say with some definitiveness that the Catholic population is the largest self-identified group on campus and is the largest worshipping student community on campus," said Judy Henneberger, assistant chaplain at Southern Methodist University.

Reported by Catholic News Service

Do it

In today’s first reading, St. Paul, inter alia, advises slaves how they are to obey their masters and advises slave-owners how they are to treat their Christian slaves.

This passage may upset some people who feel a particular kind of zero-tolerance for injustice. They may see this passage (and yesterday’s passage about husbands and wives) as Paul’s kowtowing to - if not actually supporting – the evil status quo of society.

Church people, they feel, should not for a moment tolerate or even allow themselves to be perceived as acquiescing to any unjust situation.

Injustice is indeed intolerable for Christians and we should do everything we can to establish true justice and peace on the earth – without, however, neglecting our other duties of preaching the full Gospel of Christ and ministering to people in their present needs.

We can and should do it all. The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ cannot be reduced to simply a campaign for earthly justice with a Christian veneer or merely a pious anesthesia of otherworldly realities.

Thus, St. Paul ministered to people in their current needs, telling how to live in their particular concrete circumstances, yet also quite clearly planting the explosively subversive seed of the Gospel: that everyone, even slaves and masters, are equal in the eyes of God. Within a matter of decades, ex-slaves would become popes.

(Sadly, the road to the universal abolition of slavery would still be long and uneven: evil is always inclined toward domination and thralldom – even today, slavery rears its ugly head in Sudan and elsewhere.)

For some, it may seem to be too much, that too much is required: to preach the full Gospel AND work for justice AND minister to people. It is not easy, but it is what we are called to do: the way to eternal happiness and glory.

Today’s Gospel should help impel us to action. We should strive to enter through the narrow gate – as I have just said, being a true Christian is not easy – and we must put into effect in our lives that which we have heard and that which we believe, lest we be like those shut out by the Lord. Simply listening to the Lord and feeling close to him are not enough.

We must teach, work, and minister as Christ commands.

Plan for Christian Mission

Praying on a public sidewalk for an end to abortion

"One fundamental element of this plan is found in the very meaning of the word 'Eucharist:' thanksgiving.

"In Jesus, in his sacrifice, in his unconditional 'yes' to the will of the Father, is contained the 'yes”, the 'thank you' and the 'amen' of all humanity.

"The Church is called to remind men and women of this great truth. This is especially urgent in the context of our secularized culture, characterized as it is by a forgetfulness of God and a vain pursuit of human self-sufficiency.

"Incarnating the Eucharistic 'plan' in daily life, wherever people live and work—in families, schools, the workplace, in all of life's settings—means bearing witness that human reality cannot be justified without reference to the Creator: 'Without the Creator the creature would disappear.'

"This transcendent point of reference, which commits us constantly to give thanks for all that we have and are—in other words, to a 'Eucharistic' attitude—in no way detracts from the legitimate autonomy of earthly realities, but grounds that autonomy more firmly by setting it within its proper limits.

"In this Year of the Eucharist Christians ought to be committed to bearing more forceful witness to God's presence in the world. We should not be afraid to speak about God and to bear proud witness to our faith. The 'culture of the Eucharist' promotes a culture of dialogue, which here finds strength and nourishment.

"It is a mistake to think that any public reference to faith will somehow undermine the rightful autonomy of the State and civil institutions, or that it can even encourage attitudes of intolerance.

"If history demonstrates that mistakes have also been made in this area by believers, as I acknowledged on the occasion of the Jubilee, this must be attributed not to 'Christian roots,' but to the failure of Christians to be faithful to those roots.

"One who learns to say 'thank you' in the manner of the crucified Christ might end up as a martyr, but never as a persecutor."

John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 26

Unjust discrimination

"How will our society combat continuing prejudice, overcome hostility toward immigrants and refugees, and heal the wounds of racism, religious bigotry, and discrimination?"

Faithful Citizenship:
A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

"Our vocation is not a career..."

"...but a way of life
motivated by intense love of God."

"The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne... live in community, strive to grow in a deep prayer life, and rely on and radically trust in God's providence.

"Our apostolate is to nurse and shelter incurable cancer patients who cannot afford care elsewhere. All care is free. No payments are accepted either from patients or their families, nor from Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance.

"Traditions of the Dominican Order ... love of the Church and the Holy Father, wearing the habit, devotion to the Passion of Christ and Our Blessed Mother ... are a major focus of the community's life."


(Hat tip to Gerard Serafin)

Be subordinate

Today’s first reading is the electrified third rail of Scripture for some congregations and preachers: they are afraid to touch it, lest they die.

The problem is really one of selective listening, cultural conditioning, and closed minds.

It is a little bit like a commercial currently on television (or a classic Far Side cartoon), revised to go like this:

“…this is what the people in the congregation hear:

“’blah blah blah blah WIVES SHOULD BE SUBORDINATE TO THEIR HUSBANDS blah blah blah blah blah.’”

Churches that use a Lectionary or some other comprehensive rotation of Scripture readings cannot escape this passage. Sadly, too many preachers still duck the issue by ignoring that reading and talking about the Gospel passage instead. Very often, it is a matter of cowardice.

That is NOT to say that I am the most courageous Christian on the planet (far from it!), but in failing to speak to this passage, these preachers are not only deserting Scripture – the inspired Word of God – but they are also deserting the flock entrusted to their care and that in this case may desparately need someone to break through the fog of half-heard statements and social prejudices and unpack the treasure of God’s word.

Regarding this particular passage, there are at least here points that need to be made.

First, the fundamental meaning of the passage is made very clear in the very first verse of the passage:

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The attitude of Christians is to be one of MUTUAL SUBORDINATION - repeat - MUTUAL subordination.

Why? For one thing, we are to be imitators of Christ, who humbled himself, took the form of a slave, and even went so far as to accept the most painful and humiliating of deaths. Also, we are to treat each other as we would Christ, for we are all parts of the body of Christ and each of us in some way represent Christ to each other and to the world.

Second, while Paul does not explicitly say that husbands are to be subordinate to their wives, their obligation to their wives is far greater than simple subordination: they are to love their wives “even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her.”

The “handing over” refers to Christ’s giving himself up to death on the cross. Greater love than this no man has. It is quite a high standard of self-giving love that husbands are called to meet.

The third point actually pales in comparison: husbands are to love their wives as they love their own bodies. It is stronger than the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”), although not as strong as the standard set by Christ in His love of the Church.

Our culture emphasizes independence, self-reliance, and autonomy, but ultimately that is a path that leads to isolation and an eternity of nothingness.

God calls us to imitate the loving, honest, and complete mutuality of Christ in our marriages and in all our lives.

Sex-Abuse Scandal and Shaken Faith

Another excellent post at the blog Dappled Things by Father Jim Tucker.

"I got a nice email from a fellow today who described an experience that I know is not uncommon. In the wake of the clerical sex-abuse scandal's breaking into the news, many previously devout Catholics either became less involved in the Church or drifted away altogether. I guess a lot has been written already about how the Church should deal both with the abuse problem and with restoring people's trust. Less frequent, I think, have been the discussions of how the individual Catholic (whether cleric or layman) should deal with this in his own spiritual life.

"A few years back, I wrote three articles in an exchange with Peter Nixon (whose blog we all miss so much). These pieces are linked in my Blog Index, but let me highlight them again for anyone who's interested. The first was an initial homily on the importance of fixing our faith on Jesus Christ, and not on anything else. The follow-up looked at the role that other people and their credibility play in one's initial acceptance of faith and in supporting one's faith. The final, summing-up post, which deals a bit more with sinfulness and holiness in the Church, is here."

Although I have had not had the honor of meeting him, I think Father Tucker is a great example of a priest in many ways, not the least of which is his taking the time (out of the very busy schedule of a parish priest) to extend his ministry into the blogosphere).

Firmum sit cor suum ...semper

Strength and direction

Pope John Paul II prays during an evening Mass in St. Peter's Basilica

"The Eucharist not only provides the interior strength needed for this mission, but is also —in some sense—its plan. For the Eucharist is a mode of being, which passes from Jesus into each Christian, through whose testimony it is meant to spread throughout society and culture.

"For this to happen, each member of the faithful must assimilate, through personal and communal meditation, the values which the Eucharist expresses, the attitudes it inspires, the resolutions to which it gives rise.

"Can we not see here a special charge which could emerge from this Year of the Eucharist?"

John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 25

Who is "we"?

When the bishops in an election year message ask rhetorically how can "we" do this or that, we must remember that we are the "we" they are talking about - all of us: individuals, neighborhoods, groups, organizations, the Church, businesses, and governments.

We must avoid the extremes of assuming that the government has the major role in solving every ill or assuming that the government has no role in addressing any social ill.

Health care

"How will we address the growing number of people without affordable and accessible health care?

"How can health care better protect human life and respect human dignity?"

Faithful Citizenship:
A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Monday, October 25, 2004

Roe v. Kerry

LifeNews reports that Norma McCorvey, the former plaintiff ("Roe") in the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion, who subsequently became a Catholic, has endorsed President Bush in his re-election bid.

Talk the talk

In today’s first reading, St. Paul denounces immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, and…

…silly talk.

Now, most of us who call ourselves Christians do a pretty good job of avoiding immorality (“fornication” in some translations). We also do well in staying away from pornography, foul language, and pagan sacrifices. We may still be working on completely exterminating greed ("covetousness") from within ourselves (a very strong temptation in modern society), but we think we’ve got it pretty much under control.

But since when is “silly talk” a sin?

There is a good case to be made that St. Paul is primarily talking here about silly talk when the Christian community comes together for worship and thanksgiving (“which is out of place”).

Even so, we should take heed of St. Paul’s warning not only in Church but also throughout our lives.

Why? Because, as St. Paul says, we are to “be imitators of God.”

That is not to say that we must be dour and unhappy – quite the opposite! As Christians, we have an infinite number of reasons to be happy, to rejoice, and to celebrate.

What we must do is strive to make everything we say and everything we do reflect our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: his love, his holiness, and his truth.

How do we do this? Not by fretting and obsessing, but by asking for his grace, building up our spiritual lives, and remembering that at every moment in our lives, with every action and every word, we have a wonderful opportunity to be imitators of God.

The work of ministry

As reported by the Diocese of Charlotte's Catholic News and Herald, its new bishop, the Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, J.C.D., reflects on his first year of episcopal ministry.

"He is discovering that just as in parish life, a bishop's ministry has to be based in prayer....

"'It has to be Christ-centered -- based in prayer and your living relationship with the Lord,' the bishop said."

People of conviction

"(Lectures about how) Roman Catholics must not 'impose their beliefs on society' or warnings about the need for 'the separation of church and state...' are two of the emptiest slogans in current American politics, intended to discourage serious debate. No one in mainstream American politics wants a theocracy. Nor does anyone doubt the importance of morality in public life. Therefore, we should recognize these slogans for what they are: frequently dishonest and ultimately dangerous sound bites....

"Democracy depends on people of conviction expressing their views, confidently and without embarrassment."

Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M.Cap, Archbishop of Denver
Op-Ed in New York Times (excerpt)
October 22, 2004

Set out in joy

"The two disciples of Emmaus, upon recognizing the Lord, 'set out immediately' (cf. Luke 24:33), in order to report what they had seen and heard.

"Once we have truly met the Risen One by partaking of his body and blood, we cannot keep to ourselves the joy we have experienced.

"The encounter with Christ, constantly intensified and deepened in the Eucharist, issues in the Church and in every Christian an urgent summons to testimony and evangelization.

"I wished to emphasize this in my homily announcing the Year of the Eucharist, based on the words of Saint Paul: 'As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes' (1 Corinthians 11:26). The Apostle closely relates meal and proclamation: entering into communion with Christ in the memorial of his Pasch also means sensing the duty to be a missionary of the event made present in that rite. The dismissal at the end of each Mass is a charge given to Christians, inviting them to work for the spread of the Gospel and the imbuing of society with Christian values."

John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 24

Defend morality

"How can our nation help parents raise their children with respect for life, sound moral values, a sense of hope, and an ethic of stewardship and responsibility?

"How can our society defend the central institution of marriage and better support families in their moral responsibilities?"
Faithful Citizenship:
A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Self-Test on Vocational Interest

  • "Do you find your weekly ministry more life-giving and energizing than your 40-hour work week?
  • "Do you read vocation literature with more than superficial interest Do you feel called to give more or be more?
  • "Does the idea of becoming a brother, sister or priest keeping coming back time and time again?
  • "Does your relationship with God sustain you, enliven you, invigorate you in such a way that you want to share the Good News with others?
  • "Do you long for 'MORE?'
  • "Do you have a sneaking suspicion that you are on the brink of a major life decision?
  • "Are you afraid to tell friends and family that you are thinking about a Church vocation?
  • "Do you feel a recurring tug in your heart to serve others more?

"If you checked three or more of the statements above, then you may have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life!"

from the Vocations website of the Archdiocese of Washington

The torch

It is an interesting coincidence, if it is a coincidence, that the Lord should call home a very old and high-profile pastor on the very day this particular passage is read in Churches around the world.

I am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.

Many today fear death. Some others fear life.

St. Paul feared neither death nor life: his only thought was doing the work of the Lord.

In today’s second reading, we hear the profoundly moving feelings of a man who has grown old in the Lord’s service and is now passing the torch to the next generation.

It is a powerful and amazing torch. It has enabled him to suffer much, to stand absolutely alone in the face of terrifying opposition, to travel far and wide in order to bring the Gospel message to thousands and thousands of people face-to-face, to write about God in ways no one had written before, to feel life pour from him, and to accept death not as a doom nor as a release but simply as the next step in his journey in the Lord.

It is the torch of faith: faith in God the Father, faith in Christ the Son, and faith in the Holy Spirit.

Paul passed that torch to his friend and protégé Timothy. That torch is within our grasp as well.

We sit with St. Paul in the gathering dark and we want to let ourselves be filled by the light and warmth of faith. We want to let that faith fill every part of ourselves, so that we will fear nothing in this world or beyond this world, but only do what God wants us to do and share his gift of love and truth.

The torch has been passed to us. If we hold fast to it and carry it high, then like St. Paul by the grace of God we will pass through all the evil the world can muster and in the end be brought safely to the heavenly Kingdom of God.

Do not be afraid. Carry the torch of faith.

A Cardinal Passes

James Cardinal Hickey
retired Archbishop of Washington
former Bishop of Cleveland
died early this morning at the age of 84.

Requiescat in pace.

Cardinal Hickey and Bishop William Lori at the Vatican


"In a particular way I ask that every effort be made this year to experience Sunday as the day of the Lord and the day of the Church.

"I would be happy if everyone would reflect once more on my words in the Apostolic Letter Dies Domini.

“'At Sunday Mass, Christians relive with particular intensity the experience of the Apostles on the evening of Easter, when the Risen Lord appeared to them as they were gathered together (cf. John 20:19). In a sense, the People of God of all times were present in that small nucleus of disciples, the first-fruits of the Church.'

"During this year of grace, priests in their pastoral ministry should be even more attentive to Sunday Mass as the celebration which brings together the entire parish community, with the participation of different groups, movements and associations."

John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 23

That all may be one

Pope John Paul II concelebrates with Melkite Greek Catholic Patriach Gregorios III - Vatican City - February 12, 2002

"The Eucharist is both the source of ecclesial unity and its greatest manifestation. The Eucharist is an epiphany of communion. For this reason the Church sets conditions for full participation in the celebration of the Eucharist. These various limitations ought to make us ever more conscious of the demands made by the communion which Jesus asks of us. It is a hierarchical communion, based on the awareness of a variety of roles and ministries, as is seen by the reference to the Pope and the Diocesan Bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer. It is a fraternal communion, cultivated by a 'spirituality of communion' which fosters reciprocal openness, affection, understanding and forgiveness."

John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 21

World Mission Sunday

"The social and religious challenges facing humanity in our day call believers to renew their missionary fervour. Yes! It is necessary to re-launch mission 'ad gentes' ('to the peoples') with courage, starting with the proclamation of Christ, Redeemer of every human person....

"Gathered around the altar, the Church understands better her origin and her missionary mandate. As the theme of World Mission Sunday this year clearly emphasises 'Eucharist and Mission' are inseparable....
from Pope John Paul II's Message for World Mission Sunday 2004

"Contributions to the Society for the Propgation of the Faith on World Mission Sunday and throughout the year help support pastoral and evangelizing programs, catechists and catechetical work, the building of churches and chapels, the work of Religious Communities in health care and education, and communication and transportation needs."
From the Propagation of the Faith website

Children dying of hunger

"How will we address the tragic fact that more than 30,000 children die every day as a result of hunger, international debt and lack of development around the world?"
Faithful Citizenship:
A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Saturday, October 23, 2004

She thought she had no vocation

I finally saw the film "Therese: the story of St. Therese of Liseux."

One of the scenes that made me smile was the day before Therese’s final profession as a Carmelite nun when she comes panic-stricken to the mother superior and babbles that she’s realized she doesn’t have a vocation.

This is the future Saint Therese of Liseux speaking, who in a short time would become one of the greatest Carmelites of the modern era.

It is one of the very nice moments in the film. Another follows shortly thereafter, as a glowing Therese is led into the chapel the next day, lies prostrate and cruciform on what appears to be a black mat lined with small flowers, and then is raised up to receive the veil of a fully professed Carmelite.

There are other nice moments in the film as well.

Also, both the exterior and interior locations are gorgeous, the costumes are lovely, the soundtrack is sweet and very pretty in its small way, everyone in the film seems to be very devoted to the subject, and there are not too many films nowadays that are so thoroughly and unabashedly Catholic.

However, although there are many good things about the film, it is best seen with very low expectations of cinematic quality.

With that caveat in mind, Catholics who find traditional devotions comforting should appreciate this movie very much.

And I shall cultivate

the ground around it and fertilize it;
Charterhouse of the Transfiguration - Arlington, Vermont (USA)
it may bear fruit in the future.
Luke 13:8b-9a

(Originally posted on Toward Contemplation)


John was so successful as a lawyer, he became a governor. He was so impressive as a governor that he was chosen to carry out a critical diplomatic assignment in a time of war.

That particular assignment didn’t go well: John ended up in prison.

While in prison, John decided to dedicate his life to Christ. He joined the Franciscans and became a traveling preacher.

John was so successful as a preacher, that when he came to preach in a town, all the stores would close and the people would come to hear him.

When he was 70, he was called to rally the people to repel a massive invasion. The invaders were turned back, but John died of natural causes near the field of battle on this very day in 1456. He was canonized in 1724.

A little over fifty years later, another Franciscan friar would name a new Mission Church after John, calling it in Spanish "San Juan Capistrano."


In today’s first reading, St. Paul speaks of Christ’s very special gift to the Church: ministers.

Of course, some parishioners might wish they could take that particular gift back.

Indeed, some people have such an egalitarian view of things that they reject the very idea of ministers? Why should I need a middleman between me and God?

Why? Because as finite human creatures, while we can discern something about God based solely on the evidence of the created world and our own human reason, by our own power alone we cannot relate to the infinite, eternal God. We can enjoy a relationship with God only on the terms that He sets, because only He can make such a relationship possible.

As it turns out, God chooses to establish a relationship with us on our own level, working through human intermediaries and most perfectly through His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Christ continues this dynamic in part through His gift of minsters: Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, as St. Paul describes.

Beyond the incarnational dimension, St. Paul describes additional benefits of Christ’s gift of ministers to the Church: to equip other members of the Church for their own ministry or service, to build up the Church as the Body of Christ, and to attain the unity of faith.

All of this helps get us away from a situation where, in St. Paul’s words, we may no longer be "tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery."

We see this benefit manifested in a very special way in ecclesial communities that have maintained the ancient interrelated structure of ministers, with pastors and bishops and so forth. It is no accident that these Churches historically have been the least likely to be "swept along by every wind of teaching" or cultural fad.

Yet, no matter what ecclesial community we may belong to, where we fit within it, or what manner of gift we may be, we should strive toward greater perfection in Christ, as individuals and as parts of the whole, in the words of St. Paul,

living the truth in love,
we should grow in every way
into him who is the head,
from whom the whole Body,
joined and held together
by every supporting ligament,
with the proper functioning of each part,
brings about the Body's growth
and builds itself up in love.

How Will I Know God Is Calling Me?

  • Am I open to whatever God's will is for me?
  • Am I free to respond to God's call?
  • Do I feel joy, hope, or peace when I think about religious life?
  • Is my motivation of a spiritual nature, wanting to serve God and His people?
  • Am I in good health physically and emotionally?
  • How is Jesus present in my life?
  • Do I love silence and prayer?
  • What do I hope for?
  • Can I see God working in my life?
  • What are the "Gospel Values" for me in relation to discipleship, the Kingdom of God, perseverance, truth, poverty, chastity, obedience, hope, mercy, humility?
  • What is my "inner voice" saying to me?

From the Discernment page of the website for
the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception

One bread, one body

St. Bridget Parish, River Falls, WI

"This special closeness which comes about in Eucharistic 'communion' cannot be adequately understood or fully experienced apart from ecclesial communion. I emphasized this repeatedly in my Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. The Church is the Body of Christ: we walk 'with Christ' to the extent that we are in relationship 'with his body.' Christ provided for the creation and growth of this unity by the outpouring of his Holy Spirit. And he himself constantly builds it up by his Eucharistic presence. It is the one Eucharistic bread which makes us one body. As the Apostle Paul states: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17). In the mystery of the Eucharist Jesus builds up the Church as a communion, in accordance with the supreme model evoked in his priestly prayer: 'Even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me' (John 17:21)."
John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 20

Protect the weakest

"How will we protect the weakest in our midst—innocent unborn children?

"How can our nation not turn to violence to solve some of its most difficult problems
  • abortion to deal with difficult pregnancies;
  • the death penalty to combat crime;
  • euthanasia and assisted suicide to deal with the burdens of age, illness, and disability;
  • and war to address international disputes?"

Faithful Citizenship:
A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Vatican & the U.S. Church

John L. Allen, Jr., once again a has a very interesting column in this week's National Catholic Reporter. (NCR is a very left-of-center publication, but Mr. Allen's reporting is generally regarded as even-handed.)

The most significant part of his column this week is a comprehensive and nuanced analysis of how people in the Vatican view the Church in the U.S.


In today’s Gospel we hear two sayings of Jesus that may sound a little strange to us: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ passing on lessons about ancient meteorology and pre-trial settlements.

Buried just below the surface of these sayings, however, are very valuable nuggets of guidance for our daily lives.

On one level, these sayings are about recognizing the signs of the Messiah’s coming: his coming among us two thousand years ago and his coming at the end of time. It is important to recognize the signs and to get our affairs in order quickly… or else.

(May God have mercy on us all.)

On another level, these sayings are about where our minds should be minute by minute in our daily lives.

At any moment we may (and often do) encounter an opportunity to share our faith, to perform a work of Christian charity, or to lift up a particular person in prayer.

Are we alert to these opportunities? Or are we too preoccupied with our own worries and our own agenda?

Are we keeping our eyes open to see and read the signs around us? Signs of opportunities to share our faith, to perform a work of Christian charity, or to lift up a person in prayer?

When we fail to recognize these signs, when we pass up these opportunities to be channels of God’s grace, we risk our own spiritual growth.

Keep your eyes open. See the signs. Hurry. Be a channel of grace.

Faith and works in the public arena

"Words are cheap. Actions matter. If we believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, we need to prove that by our actions, including our political choices. Anything less leads to the corruption of our integrity. Patriotism, which is a virtue for people of all faiths, requires that we fight, ethically and nonviolently, for what we believe. Claiming that 'we don't want to impose our beliefs on society' is not merely politically convenient; it is morally incoherent and irresponsible.

"As James 2:17 reminds us, in a passage quoted in the final presidential debate, 'Faith without works is dead.' It is a valid point. People should act on what they claim to believe. Otherwise they are violating their own conscience, and lying to themselves and the rest of us."
Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M.Cap, Archbishop of Denver
Op-Ed in New York Times (excerpt)
October 22, 2004
(Hat tip to Amy Welborn)

Stem Cells and Cloning

"From a purely scientific point of view, the therapeutic progress already achieved with so-called adult stem cells, namely stem cells from bone marrow, cord blood, and other mature tissues appears very promising. Embryonic cloning, for its part, is as yet far from delivering the progress that its advocates suggest. There has yet to be a definite clinical success using cloned embryonic stem cells even in animal experiments. The work that would make it safe to experiment in this manner on human beings will likely take a very long time, and these obstacles may never be overcome.

"Moreover, the distinction that is sometimes drawn between reproductive and therapeutic cloning seems specious. Both involve the same technical cloning process and differ only in goal. Both forms of cloning involve disrespect for the dignity of the human being. In fact, from an ethical and anthropological standpoint, so-called therapeutic cloning, creating human embryos with the intention of destroying them, even if undertaken with the goal of possibly helping sick patients in the future, seems very clearly incompatible with respect for the dignity of the human being, making one human life nothing more than the instrument of another. Further, given the fact that cloned embryos would be indistinguishable from embryos created by in vitro fertilization and could readily be implanted into wombs and brought to birth, we believe it would be practically impossible to enforce an instrument that allowed one type of cloning while banning the other.

"If adult stem cell research has already demonstrated conditions for success and raises no ethical questions, it is only reasonable that it should be pursued before science embarks on cloning embryos as a source for stem cells, something which remains problematic both scientifically and ethically.

"Does this mean we are opposed to scientific progress? Rather, we would say that the choice is not between science and ethics, but between science that is ethically responsible and science that is not. Thousands of lives have been saved by adult stem cells, most often in the treatment of leukemia and other cancers. Solid scientific evidence has now established that adult stem cell transplants are safe, and preliminary results suggest they will be able to help people with Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, heart damage and dozens of other conditions. The danger is that this progress toward cures will be halted or slowed down by the diversion of attention and resources towards the cloning of human beings as a potential source of stem cells."
From a speech by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, to the International Convention Against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings (emphases added)
October 21, 2004

Abide in me, and I in you

Detail (reversed) from 'Sacrament of the Last Supper' by Salvador Dali

"When the disciples on the way to Emmaus asked Jesus to stay 'with' them, he responded by giving them a much greater gift: through the Sacrament of the Eucharist he found a way to stay 'in' them. Receiving the Eucharist means entering into a profound communion with Jesus. 'Abide in me, and I in you' (John 15:4). This relationship of profound and mutual 'abiding' enables us to have a certain foretaste of heaven on earth. Is this not the greatest of human yearnings? Is this not what God had in mind when he brought about in history his plan of salvation? God has placed in human hearts a 'hunger' for his word (cf. Amos 8:11), a hunger which will be satisfied only by full union with him. Eucharistic communion was given so that we might be 'sated' with God here on earth, in expectation of our complete fulfilment in heaven."
John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 19

A better world

"After September 11, how can we build not only a safer world, but a better world—more just, more secure, more peaceful, more respectful of human life and dignity?"
Faithful Citizenship:
A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The most precious Blood

Today, the Congregation of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus, including Father Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S., celebrates the memory of their founder St. Gaspar del Bufalo.

Members of that religious community say, “Our Spirituality is calling us to be witnesses of the communion which Jesus established in his own body, with his own blood. A spirituality of the blood of Christ call us to gather people, facilitate the experience of community, and encourage and celebrate covenant.”

Are there recurring signs in your life?

"These signs may be clues to a direction for your future. They can make the difference between a peaceful way of life and a restless one. They can assist you in your life direction...

"'You made us for yourself, O Lord,
and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.'
St. Augustine
  • "Is there a restlessness or a longing for a more meaningful life within me?
  • "Am I sensing something inside of me that makes me feel that I am still lacking something?
  • "Am I feeling that the person I am today is not being faithful to my "true" self?
  • "Is my body telling me something that I am not paying attention to?
  • "When have I felt most alive?
  • "How do I feel when I see others suffering?
  • "What does Jesus’ suffering do to me?
  • "Do I wonder if the earth and our universe suffer?
  • "Do I feel over-whelmed and powerless by the violence and suffering around me
  • "Do I feel that God is somehow mixed up in all of this?

"Passionist Priests and Brothers intervene in the suffering and death present in the world through their prayer and service. The Passionists proclaim and extend the compassion and love of Jesus to the sick, the poor and abandoned."

From the Vocations of the Passionists website

Real conflicts

Many people go to Church and seek to follow the teachings of a cartoon Jesus: one who only speaks of love and peace and who gives everyone nice warm fuzzy feelings.

That latter part of today’s Gospel should come as quite a shock to them.

Do you think that I have come
to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you,
but rather division.
From now on
a household of five will be divided,

three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son

and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter

and a daughter against her mother…

What’s wrong with love and peace and feeling good?

Nothing, as long as they’re consistent with reality.

The prophet Jeremiah offers a great key for understanding this passage.

They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, 'Peace, peace,'
when there is no peace.
Jeremiah 8:11

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ offers us truth – true peace, true salvation, true morality, and true happiness – but that inevitably causes conflict in this broken and fallen world.

Too many people seek pabulum instead of substance, suppression instead of peace, warm feelings instead of true love, and instead of eternal reality they settle for convenience and aesthetics.

When Christ confronts them with the simple, life-giving truth, they feel threatened. The truth shakes the false structures around which they have entangled their minds and upon which they have built their lives. Sometimes, by the grace of God, the truth sets them free: they are able to extricate their minds and their lives and to enjoy the freedom of the children of God. Too often, however, they reject the truth and even make war against it and against those who hold to the truth.

We need to look within ourselves and see how we can more perfectly reflect the truth of Christ. Have we papered over areas in our hearts or in our lives that are not perfectly in accord with the truth of God in Christ?

We also need to do what we can to bring the truth of Christ to others. Of course, we should be as wise and prudent as we can in bring this truth, so that we may not cause undue hurt or pain, but neither can we be so afraid of conflict that we fail to bring truth and we settle for a "peace" that is false and deadly.

Be peaceful, be loving, but be real – be faithful and true to Christ.

Let's find cures we can ALL live with

The U.S. Bishops have launched an ad campaign highlighting the issue of stem cell research.

Copies of the print ads may be acessed here.

A Question and Answer pamphlet may be viewed here.

Worship the Lord Jesus

Pope John Paul II adoring the Lord Jesus in the Most Eucharist

"There is a particular need to cultivate a lively awareness of Christ's real presence, both in the celebration of Mass and in the worship of the Eucharist outside Mass. Care should be taken to show that awareness through tone of voice, gestures, posture and bearing. In this regard, liturgical law recalls—and I myself have recently reaffirmed—the importance of moments of silence both in the celebration of Mass and in Eucharistic adoration. The way that the ministers and the faithful treat the Eucharist should be marked by profound respect. The presence of Jesus in the tabernacle must be a kind of magnetic pole attracting an ever greater number of souls enamoured of him, ready to wait patiently to hear his voice and, as it were, to sense the beating of his heart. 'O taste and see that the Lord is good!' (Psalm 34:8).

"During this year Eucharistic adoration outside Mass should become a particular commitment for individual parish and religious communities. Let us take the time to kneel before Jesus present in the Eucharist, in order to make reparation by our faith and love for the acts of carelessness and neglect, and even the insults which our Saviour must endure in many parts of the world. Let us deepen through adoration our personal and communal contemplation, drawing upon aids to prayer inspired by the word of God and the experience of so many mystics, old and new. The Rosary itself, when it is profoundly understood in the biblical and christocentric form which I recommended in the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, will prove a particularly fitting introduction to Eucharistic contemplation, a contemplation carried out with Mary as our companion and guide.

"This year let us also celebrate with particular devotion the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, with its traditional procession. Our faith in the God who took flesh in order to become our companion along the way needs to be everywhere proclaimed, especially in our streets and homes, as an expression of our grateful love and as an inexhaustible source of blessings."
John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 18

New bishop in Kansas

The Holy Father this morning has named Father Paul S. Coakley, Vice-Chancellor of the Diocese of Wichita and Administrator of the Church of the Magdalen in Wichita, as the new bishop of Salina, Kansas, having accepted the retirement of the current bishop.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The pebble

In today’s first reading, St. Paul offers profound insights about how God chooses to communicate with humanity.

For some, these insights are obscured somewhat by some of the other things St. Paul says. To begin with, he repeats twice the fact that special knowledge concerning God was hidden from all the people in the ages before Christ.

“(My) insight into the mystery of Christ… was not made known to human beings in other generations…. The mystery hidden from ages past.”

This may strike some people as strange. Why should God have been so unfair to those people who lived before the time of Christ or who otherwise – through no fault of their own - never had a real opportunity to hear or see the revelation that comes through him?

The bottom-line is that God is present to all people in one way or another and that God wants all people to be saved. We are therefore in no position to denounce God or to make assumptions about the limits of his salvific activity.

Yet God has chosen to communicate and to relate to us not only in general, mystical ways or through the beauty of his creation.

In fact, God has chosen to communicate and to relate to us on our very own level as creatures of flesh and blood living in four dimensions of space and time.

The infinite unknowable God speaks to us on a human level through revelation; he is present and working among us in salvation history; and, most wonderfully and importantly, he has become one of us in the person of his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – the most perfect revelation of God.

This real, concrete, and historical revelation of God in Jesus Christ continues through those who experienced him and whom he sent forth for that purpose: the Apostles, upon whom the Church was founded, in which Gospel was preached, the New Testament was written and the Sacraments celebrated.

The feeling of true “connectedness” that comes to us in this way is more awesome than can be expressed. The word we hear was written and spoken by those who heard and saw God in the flesh. When he was ordained, the priest who leads our prayer received the laying on of hands stretching back in an unbroken chain to those who received their mandate from Christ himself. We break bread as he did. We baptize with water as he was baptized with water. We anoint as he was anointed.

The image comes to mind, as imperfect as it may be, of a pebble hanging above a great lake of clear water. All parts of the lake, above and even below, can somehow see that pebble. Unexpectedly, the pebble decides to enter the lake, sending out ripples that pulse outward from molecule to molecule, passing on in a special way the energy from that pebble.

How God relates to those who could not know Christ... that belongs to God. What belongs to us, our joyful task, is to pass on the special knowledge of God that we have received from Christ's coming among us, to be one of the ripples of salvation in the universe.

The “connectedness” with the physical reality of Christ that we have through the Apostles and the Church continues through each of us in one way or another. We are part of that chain of God’s action in human history. As we have received this special experience of God in Christ, so we enthusiastically pass it on to others.

…so that the manifold wisdom of God
might now be made known through the Church
to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.
This was according to the eternal purpose
that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
in whom we have boldness of speech
and confidence of access through faith in him.

Why do you embrace your cross?

(From the film The Passion of the Christ)

Someone asks Jesus,'Why do you embrace your cross?'

From a letter by Saint Paul of the Cross:
"It is very good and holy to consider the passion of our Lord, and to meditate on it, for by this sacred path we reach union with God.

"In this most holy school we learn true wisdom, for it was there that all the saints learned it.

"Therefore, be constant in practicing every virtue, and especially in imitating the patience of our dear Jesus, for this is the summit of pure love.

"Live in such a way that all may know that you bear outwardly as well as inwardly the image of Christ crucified, the model of all gentleness and mercy.

"For if a man is united inwardly with the Son of the living God, he also bears his likeness outwardly by his continual practice of heroic goodness, and especially through a patience reinforced by courage, which does not complain either secretly or in public.

"Conceal yourselves in Jesus crucified, and hope for nothing except that all men be thoroughly converted to his will."


In his father’s eyes, Paul was bright and devout and would make a good businessman – like himself.

In his uncle’s eyes, Paul was bright and devout and would make a good priest – like himself.

In the eyes of a certain young lady, Paul was bright and devout and would make a good husband for some lucky girl – like herself.

But Paul’s eyes were fixed elsewhere. From the time he was a young boy, he had always been amazed by and attracted to the image of Christ on the crucifix. He was overwhelmed by the great love of God he saw there: love for the world and love even for a small boy like himself, love in Christ’s eyes and love in Christ’s heart, love even in every drop of blood and in every moment of pain.

After attending to some family obligations and spending a little time in the armed forces, Paul dedicated himself to the service of God. He got permission to live at a church, working as a custodian and sacristan while also teaching children. The young man’s reputation for holiness and wisdom spread quickly and many adults came to him for counsel.

The next year, Paul tried to see the Pope and get his approval for a religious community that he wanted to start, dedicated to the passion of Christ. In the eyes of the papal guards, Paul was a crazy beggar and they turned him away.

Paul was disappointed but rededicated himself to his work. Others joined him. In time he was ordained a priest and he preached widely about the passion of Christ.

"The world lives unmindful of the sufferings of Jesus which are the miracle of miracles of the love of God. We must arouse the world from its slumber," he wrote.

The community of like-minded souls that had gathered around Paul in his quest was eventually recognized by the Pope. They became known as the Passionists and Paul became known as Paul of the Cross.

St. Paul of the Cross died in October 1775 and was canonized in 1867. Today, there are more than two thousand Passionists in 52 nations, reminding people throughout the world to keep their eyes fixed on Christ and the love of his cross.

Dignified center

Litany of the Saints - Ordination Mass - Christ the King Cathedral, Atlanta, GA

"The Eucharist is a great mystery! And it is one which above all must be well celebrated. Holy Mass needs to be set at the centre of the Christian life and celebrated in a dignified manner by every community, in accordance with established norms, with the participation of the assembly, with the presence of ministers who carry out their assigned tasks, and with a serious concern that singing and liturgical music be suitably 'sacred.' One specific project of this Year of the Eucharist might be for each parish community to study the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. The best way to enter into the mystery of salvation made present in the sacred 'signs' remains that of following faithfully the unfolding of the liturgical year. Pastors should be committed to that 'mystagogical' catechesis so dear to the Fathers of the Church, by which the faithful are helped to understand the meaning of the liturgy's words and actions, to pass from its signs to the mystery which they contain, and to enter into that mystery in every aspect of their lives."
John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 17

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The path of the Martyrs

Ravine trail, National Shrine of the North American Martyrs, Auriesville, NY

On this trail, St. Rene Goupil was martyred
as witnessed by St. Isaac Jogues.

The National Shrine of the North American Martyrs at Auriesville, New York, is the site of the United States' first and only canonized Martyrs: St. Rene Goupil (1642), Jesuit brother; St. John Lalande (1646), lay missioner ; and St. Isaac Jogues (1646), Jesuit priest.

It is also is the birthplace of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks, born in 1656, just ten years after these Martyrdoms.

Prayer for vocations

Lord Jesus,
as You once called the first disciples
to make them fishers of men,
let your sweet invitation continue to resound:
Come, follow Me!

Give young men and women
the grace of responding quickly to Your voice.

Support your bishops, priests and consecrated people
in their apostolic labor.
Grant perseverance to our seminarians

and to all those who are carrying out the ideal
of a life totally consecrated to Your service.
Awaken in our community a missionary eagerness.

Send workers to your harvest
and do not allow humanity to be lost
for the lack of pastors, missionaries
and people dedicated to the cause of the Gospel.

Mary, Mother of the Church,
the model of every vocation,
help us to say "yes"
to the Lord who calls us to cooperate
in the divine plan of salvation.
Pope John Paul II

From the Vocations Website of the Diocese of Fall River.

The Day of the Lord is coming

Our Lord is coming again and Christians look forward to that day with joy.

Some Christians throughout the millennia expected that day to come in their own lifetimes, but they died without seeing it.

They experienced the Day of the Lord as individuals and when the great Day of the Lord comes for the entire world, St. Paul says we will be caught up with them in the clouds.

The reality of this prolonged period of expectation is depicted quite pointedly at the end of today’s Gospel.

Imagine that a dear friend you haven’t seen for a long time says that she or he will be coming on a particular day.

You wait eagerly for your friend, but your friend doesn’t come. You wait all day, but your friend fails to show. It gets dark and the stars come out (the first watch of the night), but still nothing. Between nine and midnight (the second watch), everyone else goes to bed, and still no word. Finally, somewhere in the hours right after midnight (the third watch), you give up and drift off to sleep.

Your dearest friend comes... and is welcomed with resentful, lethargic anger.

Your friend goes out of your life… forever.

Sometimes the most difficult times for Christians are not the intense times: the times of persecution and martyrdom, the battles of the daylight hours. Sometimes the most difficult times for Christians are the dark and empty hours, days, and years that stretch on and on without any hint of the Lord’s presence. It is during those times that we may feel most tempted to despair and to fall away.

It is the Lord himself who gives us the grace of perseverance, perseverance in the face of pain or perseverance in the face of emptiness. We must remember to ask for that grace and to rely upon it (rather than upon our own human strength).

It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the wisdom to keep alert for the Lord and who gives us the strength to endure even the darkest emptiness.

Then, when at last the Lord Jesus comes to us, how much more radiant will be that sight, how much sweeter will be that embrace, how much readier we will be to be filled completely by his light and love in his Kingdom of eternal day.

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!