A Penitent Blogger

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

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

Friday, September 30, 2005


Many today cherish dissent, for they are intelligent people, products of modern education, and citizens of countries that advocate freedom.

To be sure, in many cases, discussion is a valuable thing, but dissent is not an end in itself.

In fact, when it comes to faith, dissent can be the end – the end of everything... forever.

Hear the word of the Lord to his disciples in today’s Gospel (Luke 10:13-16):

Whoever listens to you listens to me.

Whoever rejects you rejects me.

And whoever rejects me
rejects the one who sent me.

The Pope’s right hand man

He converted as a young man, was ordained, and quickly made a name for himself: eventually becoming secretary to the Pope himself.

But when the Pope died, he quickly realized that the corridors of power were not a good place for him to stay.

He retreated to the Holy Land and became a hermit: living many years in a cave, praying, reflecting on life and death, and making a new translation of the Scriptures.

The writings of this hermit would be widely read and his translation of the Bible would be the overwhelming favorite of Christendom for more than a thousand years.

Saint Jerome, translator of the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible and one of the great Church Fathers, died on this very day in the year 420.'St. Jerome writing' by Caravaggio - St John Museum, La Valletta (Malta)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Angels are cool

Some people love the classic images of gentle angels: feathery wings, golden halos and lacey robes.

Others thrill at the classic images of St. Michael and God’s warrior angels: mighty wings, bright armor, and long fiery swords.

Still others find wonder and comfort in a less detailed yet more powerful image of angels: unseen creatures of majesty and power who stand by the throne of God and yet also move among us.

Very cool.

But today’s Gospel (John 1:47-51) reminds us of an important truth about angels: as wonderful and powerful as they are, they are not independent actors – just like us, they live and move and do their work in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened
and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Angels are cool, but Jesus is LORD – the one whom we (both men and angels) love and serve.

I am Raphael

Raphael's Departure - by Giovanni Belivarteone 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

I am Gabriel

that stand in the presence of God

and am sent to speak unto thee
Luke 1:19

Saint Michael the Archangel

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.

Today the Church celebrates the Archangels
Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael

Joy with the Sorrowful

The name of their religious order - the Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R., of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother - sounds more than a little gloomy, but their website shows even more joy and other fruits of the Holy Spirit.

"Our primary call is to a life of prayer and penance, and to the witness of our consecrated lives.

"We seek to serve the Lord and others by making intercession, reparation, and atonement, begging the Lord to open the floodgates of His mercy.

"Motivated by this desire, we observe regular periods of silence, fasting, and more intense times of prayer and solitude in hermitages."

"From our life of prayer flows our ministry. In joy and gratitude for the Lord's daily provision for us, we in turn respond to the needs of our local church and community.... We are committed to the spiritual works of mercy through efforts of evangelization, renewing the fullness of catholic life and fostering growth in prayer. We are open to ministries which involve evangelization of those who have not heard the Good News, for those who have forgotten Christ or those who have been hindered from receiving God's love fully into their lives."

"We accept women from the ages of 18 to 35 years old who are in good physical and psychological health, and who have a generous heart to serve Christ and others. If you are discerning a religious vocation and are interested in our community, please feel free to contact us and we can discuss the possibility of a visit."

from the website of the Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R., of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - an ecumenical collection of posts from various Christian blogs - is online at In the Spirit of Grace.

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 average husband and father was accused of murder.

The local justice system being notoriously corrupt and unreliable, fellow church members arranged for him to leave the country.

This average husband and father 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, but 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."

They were all hung upside down and made to bleed slowly to death.

Lawrence was the last to die, days later, on September 29, 1637 outside Nagasaki.

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

(Adapted from an earlier post)

"How could I not look sad...?"

"…when the city where my ancestors are buried
lies in ruins,
and its gates

have been eaten out by fire?"

Nehemiah’s lament in today’s first reading (Nehemiah 2:1-8) resonates with many whose cities and towns have been devastated by the terrifying power of wind and water.

In a different but no less real way, his lament should resonate with each one of us, for we are all exiles: exiles from the paradise of primordial innocence, making our way in a world that seems increasingly alien.

The familiar words of the Responsorial Psalm express this with deeply poignant poetry.

By the streams of Babylon
we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the aspens of that land
we hung up our harps.

Though there our captors asked of us
the lyrics of our songs,
And our despoilers urged us to be joyous:
“Sing for us the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing a song of the LORD
in a foreign land?

This lament is echoed in the classic chant Salve Regina

Ad te clamamus exsules filii Evae.
Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes,
in hac lacrimarum valle.

To thee do we cry, exiled children of Eve
To thee do we sigh, groaning and weeping
In this valley of tears

In today’s first reading, God inspires an earthly king to help Nehemiah go back and restore the earthly Zion.

Even more so does God pour forth his grace through the King of Kings to prepare for us a new and eternal Jerusalem, as we hear in the Book of Revelation (21:2-3):

I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
"Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race.
He will dwell with them
and they will be his people
and God himself will always be with them.

The world in which we live is far from perfect and sometimes it seems to be getting worse. We are all out of place: we are exiles, refugees. We have reason to feel unhappy.

But even more powerful is the hope that we have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the King of Kings who prepares a dwelling place for his faithful people in his Father’s house.

And as our hope is powerful, so may our joy be powerful, even as we follow the way of the Lord in a darkening world, for we have the promise of Christ (John 14:3)

And when I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again
and will take you to myself,
that where I am
you may be also.

We may be exiles, but we have joy through hope – indeed, a confident assurance – for even as we faithfully struggle, our true home is being prepared.

It’s strange, when you think of it

The ritual. The vestments. The whole nine yards.

Readings and prayers are often recited dryly (or sometimes a bit strangely).

Some celebrants are haphazard with what they do, while others wear rubrics like large, heavy chains.

But when you really, really think of it, it’s so much more.

People all around the world, at this very moment, are gathered before the very same table of the Lord.

Every day, going back in history for nearly two thousand years, countless others have knelt there too.

And then... there was that night back at the very beginning.

His robes were a bit different and the room looked very, very different.

But our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also took the bread in his hands (his sacred hands) and he looked up to heaven to his Almighty Father and gave him thanks and praise.

He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples and said:

Take this, all of you, and eat it:
this is my body

which will be given up for you.

(My Lord and my God.)

May you and I always cherish the gift

His brother killed him

His mother put him up to it.

His nation loved him.

His Church called him a saint.

St. Wenceslaus was murdered 1,070 years ago on this very day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Come, Creator, Spirit

Veni Creator Spiritus,
Mentes tuorum visita,
Imple superna gratia,
Quae tu creasti, pectora.

Qui diceris Paraclitus,
Altissimi donum Dei,
Fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
Et spiritalis unctio.

Tu septiformis munere,
Digitus Paternae dexterae,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
Sermone ditans guttura.

Accende lumen sensibus,
Infunde amorem cordibus,
Infirma nostri corpis
Virtute firmans perpeti.

Hostem repellas longius,
Pacemque dones protinus;
Ductore sic te praevio,
Vitemus omne noxium.

Per te sciamus da Patrem
Noscamus atque Filium;
Teque utri usque Spiritum
Credamus omni tempore.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
Et Filio, qui a mortuis
Surrexit, ac Paraclito
In sacculorum saecula.

Come, Creator, Spirit,
Visit the minds that are Yours.
Fill with heavenly grace
The hearts You created.

You who are called the Paraclete,
Gift of God Most High,
Living Spring, Fire, Love,
And Spiritual Anointing.

You sevenfold gifts give,
Finger of God's right hand;
You, clear promise of the Father,
The tongue empower.

Kindle a light in our minds.
Pour love in our hearts.
Our weak bodies
Make firm with Your unfailing strength.

Drive our foe far away.
And give us peace always
Lead in such a way that
We may avoid all things despicable.

Through You, may we know the Father
And know also the Son,
And You, the Spirit of them both
May we believe at all times.

To God the Father be glory
And to the Son, who from death
Rose, and to the Paraclete
For Ages of Ages.

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at On the Other Foot.

We have heard that God is with you

Many of us are concerned about "fitting in," especially at sensitive times in our lives such as adolescence.

But many times, if not most times in this crazy world, it is better not to fit in, it is better to be different, for we are called to be holy.

This, however, is not simply a matter of looking out for ourselves, for the holiness of the people of God has a salvific role for the rest of the world, as we hear in today’s first reading (Zec. 8:20-23).

Thus saith the LORD of hosts;
In those days it shall come to pass,
that ten men shall take hold
out of all languages of the nations,
even shall take hold of the skirt
of him that is a Jew, saying,
We will go with you:
for we have heard that God is with you.

Throughout the millennia, Jews have many times been persecuted because they kept themselves different, because they held to the commandments the Lord had given them.

But by living their faith and standing out from the crowd, according to the prophecy of Zechariah, they become an instrument by which the nations are brought to the Lord.

This is true a fortiori for the people of God which is the body of believers in Christ.

As Christians, we must be holy, we must be faithful, we must stand out.

By our words, by our actions, by the way we live our lives we must display to all the world the love, the truth, and the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so that people may come up to us and say,

We will go with you:
for we have heard that God is with you.

Kidnapped by Muslim Outlaws

Father Vincent was held captive for two years. During that time, however, he succeeded in bringing one of his chief captors to Christ and the two of them made their escape.

His ministry thereafter would have a special focus on prisoners as well as the poor. He also saw a need for better formation of priests and by the end of his life his religious order was running a third of the seminaries in the country.

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 later, laymen drew upon St. Vincent as their inspiration for serving the poor and founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Monday, September 26, 2005


  • "Does the idea of becoming a priest or religious keep coming back time and time again even though you thought you had moved on in your life and forgotten about it?
  • "Do you feel called to give more, to be more?
  • "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 find your weekly ministry more life-giving and energizing than your 40 to 60 hour work week?
  • "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?
  • "Does the idea of becoming a priest or religious excite you and at the same time frighten you because you feel 'unworthy'?

"If you answered 'yes' to several of these questions, contact the Vocations Office. "

From the Vocations website of the Diocese of St. Petersburg

The Return of the City

Today, as many thousands of evacuees stream back into the cities they fled before Hurricane Rita (and many thousands still wait), the first reading (Zec. 8:1-8) speaks of the return of the people to another devastated city: the city of Jerusalem.

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Old men and old women,
each with staff in hand because of old age,
shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem.

The city shall be filled with boys and girls
playing in its streets.

The rest of the passage may be a special prophecy of hope for those who despair of being able to rebuild their lives in the wake of such devastation.

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Even if this should seem impossible
in the eyes of the remnant of this people,
shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also,
says the LORD of hosts?

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Lo, I will rescue my people
from the land of the rising sun,
and from the land of the setting sun.

I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem.

Of course, this prophecy is about much more than just the repopulating of a city: it is about reestablishing an intimate and fully integrated relationship between God and his people.

Thus says the LORD:
I will return to Zion,
and I will dwell within Jerusalem;
Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city,
and the mountain of the LORD of hosts,
the holy mountain....

They shall be my people,

and I will be their God,
with faithfulness and justice.

This prophecy will be most perfectly realized at the end of time, in the heavenly Jerusalem, but it also can be very relevant for our own spiritual lives today.

In one sense, the city of Jerusalem can be seen as a metaphor for our life of prayer.

Like the ancients, we may have let our internal city fall into decay. The internal city of our prayer life may have grown so weak that it is easily overwhelmed by outside forces that capture our attention and carry our thoughts far away from God.

Indeed, just as in the time of the Babylonian exile, it may have been years since we really, really prayed – with faithfulness and justice – as we were meant to.

Then, when we return to that inner sanctum of prayer, we find little but dust and the shards of past glory.

If we find ourselves in such deserted, devastated place in our life of prayer, we must not despair.

It may seem impossible for us to get back on track, but it is not impossible for God.

If, like the exiles of old, we remain faithful and patient, in his own time the Lord will bring us back, bestowing on us the riches of his grace that will restore our internal cities of prayer to wonderful life.

The old prayers will live again in the streets of our heart and new inspirations will frolic in the boulevards of our spirit.

We will be there with the Lord and he will be there with us.

No matter how destitute our spiritual lives may sometimes feel, if we remain faithful, the abundant graces of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will return abundant, joyful life to our internal city of prayer.

And there he shall appear in all his glory.


The brothers were remarkable.

They were both doctors.

They both refused to be paid for treating patients.

They were both zealous in their Christian faith.

They were both arrested and tortured.

They were both executed - just over 1,700 years ago.

They are included among the saints named in Eucharistic Prayer I.

Today the Church celebrates the memory of Saints Cosmas and Damian.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Traitorous extortionists and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you!

Today’s Gospel (Mt. 21:28-32) should be a slap in the face to all of us good little Christians: people who believe in objective morality and righteous living, people who live decent lives and have maintained kept their reputations unsullied. All of these things are good and right and laudable, but they are not enough.

Crooks and sluts are entering the Kingdom of God before us, not because they are crooks and sluts – for that they would deserve punishment - but because with the help of God’s grace they recognize their sinfulness, repent, and seek the forgiveness of Christ – through whom they receive the reward of eternal life.

We, on the other hand, having found ourselves at a particular plateau in our spiritual journey, too often stop climbing. We’re good enough, we think.

We’re not like the slime balls and scumbags we see in the world around us. We’re good people – good enough, at least.

We’re not like the chief priests and elders whom Jesus confronts in today’s Gospel. We’re good Christians – good enough, at least.

We’re not like the son in today’s Gospel parable who told his father, “'Yes, sir,” but did not go.” We went; we followed up – far enough, at least.

But we only THINK we’ve reached a plateau. We don’t realize that we’re really on a ledge. Nor do we realize that the ledge is crumbling beneath our feet.

Indeed, we may have progressed quite far in our spiritual and moral development (thanks be to God), but when we stop focusing on that development, our remaining flaws and imperfections – once relatively small – inevitably and insidiously grow — to our own downfall.

Nor do we realize that when we simply stand out on a ledge, we are dangerously vulnerable to the unexpected winds of life, while the person actively climbing finds safety by clinging to the face of the cliff.

Indeed, when we pride ourselves on being upright, we are setting ourselves up for a fall, for we are sinners (God knows I am) and we all have weaknesses.

It is only by remaining fully engaged in the journey of grace through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that we can withstand the storms of this world and the storms of our hearts.

The repentant know their own need and find life.

The self-righteous ignore their own need and die.

We must repent, with the help of God.

With the help of God, we must continue to climb.

Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.

O God, be merciful to me - a sinner.

Catholic Blogger in New York Times

Amy Welborn, Queen of Catholic Blogdom, has an Op Ed in today’s New York Times about the much-discussed Apostolic Visitation of U.S. seminaries. She does an excellent job of giving a broader perspective in a short space. (Sadly, among her points left on the cutting room floor by the notorious New York Times was that there are excellent seminarians who become wonderful priests.)

Saturday, September 24, 2005


In these days we have seen the limitations and even the failures of walls, most dramatically the walls against floods during the mightiest of storms.

Walls also figure prominently in today’s first reading from the book of the prophet Zechariah (Zec 2:5-9,14-15a), especially in a more traditional translation:

Jerusalem shall be inhabited
as towns without walls
for the multitude of men and cattle therein:

For I, saith the LORD,
will be unto her a wall of fire round about,
and will be the glory in the midst of her.

Human beings erect walls for protection, physical walls and emotional walls, but nothing manmade can withstand all the forces of this world.

Zechariah’s prophecy tells of a New Jerusalem, where there will be no more need for walls and where people can live in peace and prosperity, for the Lord himself will surround us with the fire of his love and fill us with the glory of his Spirit.

Until that time comes, we must be attentive and prudent in this dangerous world, even as we remain focused on the Lord, praying that he will always embrace us with his loving care and fill us with his peace.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Lord my God, I call for help

I cry at night before you.
Let my prayer
come into your presence.
O turn your ear to my cry.
Psalm 88:2-3
(from tonight's Night Prayer)

A Global Church in a Globalized World

Although he writes for a publication that is notoriously left-of-center, the National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican Correspondent, John L. Allen, is very well regarded as a journalist by conservatives and liberals alike. His column, The Word from Rome, is a weekly must-read for many.

This week’s column largely consists of a lecture he gave earlier in the week on "A Global Church in a Globalized World." It is breathtaking in its scope and insights.

I will shake the heavens and the earth

Okay, this is just too scary.

The very day that yet another category four hurricane is about to strike the United States, we have this prophecy in the pre-scheduled first reading (Hg. 2:1-9):

For thus says the LORD of hosts:
One moment yet, a little while,
and I will shake the heavens and the earth,
the sea and the dry land.

God, have mercy.

(Many of us recall this verse from its setting in Handel’s Messiah, especially the solo baritone’s dramatic elaboration of the word "shake" - And I will shay-a-a-a-a-AA-a-a-a-a-a-AA-a-a-a-a-a-AA-a-a-a-a-a-AA-a-a-a-a-a-AKE the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land.)

But the message of today’s first reading is first and last a message of hope.

In its original context, the prophecy is speaking to returning exiles about the restoration of the people and the house of God. The shaking of the heavens and the earth would result in the treasures of the world flowing in to fill the house of God with glory.

This prophecy will have its most perfect fulfillment at the end of time, when all things will be laid at the feet of Christ and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

In the meantime, this prophecy is also a message of hope to us all: that no matter how the world may shake around us, God is with us and that no matter what terrible things we may have to suffer, he will pull his faithful ones through to a place of peace.

Take courage, all you people of the land,
says the LORD, and work!

For I am with you, says the LORD of hosts.

This is the pact that I made with you
when you came out of Egypt,
And my spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!

Pray for Texas and Louisiana

all the elements of nature
obey your command.

Calm the storms
and hurricanes that threaten us
and turn our fear of your power
into praise of your goodness.

Grant this
through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Prayer in times of storms

"What’s up with a vocation anyway?"

"Well, each of us comes from God. As Christians, we believe that the Father has a specific reason and purpose for our lives—first to experience and know His love for us, then to respond to that love. When a relationship is real, we usually respond to the Person who loves us. Our vocation is simply responding to the Father’s gifts of life and love in our lives. It’s about finding that lifestyle which God desires for us, which will bring our deepest joy. Whatever vocation we are called to: marriage, single life, religious, or priesthood—it’s right there that we will know God’s life and love in the fullest way....

"Where are you being led? Do you know your vocation? If you don’t, here’s a heap of good news. You can!! First, commit yourself to spending daily quiet time with the Lord. Be honest with Him—share your heart! Maybe write out in a letter to Jesus your joys, fears, or concerns about where you feel He is leading you. Then listen to what He speaks to your heart. Be real with God. Another great thing to do is get a Spiritual Director—someone else you can talk with on a regular basis about your relationship with the Lord. You could talk to a religious community you are attracted to--or a diocesan priest. Find out more about them—Does their lifestyle, charism, and spirituality draw your heart? Be patient and God will show you the way."

"The Intercessors of the Lamb is a mixed community of priests, hermits (brothers and sisters) and lay families who have been called to continue the redemptive mission of the Lamb of God in the Church through the powerful ministry of intercession.

"Gathered together in His name, we are a people established in faith, living in hope, and proclaiming a covenant which has its beginning and end in the awesome Love of God! Through this Gift, poured forth from the pierced Heart of Jesus, we contribute to the raising of the spiritual life of the Church in this greater ministry of the Holy Spirit."

from the website of the Intercessors of the Lamb

He had been a priest for just 8 months

The older priest had been ordained a decade before the young priest had even been born.

The young priest had heard many things about the older priest, who was known as a humble and very holy man.

For his part, the older priest was happy to speak with the young man, to hear his confession, and to share some of what he knew about God and the love of Jesus Christ.

Then the older priest told his new young friend something very strange.

The young priest would someday become Pope.

The young priest would later tell that story among his friends and laugh. He venerated the old priest, but it was ludicrous that he would ever become the Bishop of Rome.

It would take more than a few miracles.

Fifty-five years and a number of miracles later, the once-young priest was already in the 23rd year of his pontificate as the great Pope John Paul II and now he had the honor of canonizing the humble priest who had heard his confession and who had told him such amazing things.

Today, just over 3 years later, on the 37th anniversary of the old priest’s death, the Church celebrates the memory of St. Pio of Pietrelcina – known in his lifetime worldwide as Padre Pio.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

"...about whom I hear such things?”

Another report about the sexual abuse scandal surfaced yesterday, this time in Philadelphia.

This whole, hideous tragedy makes the question in today’s Gospel (Lk. 9:7-9) stand out in a special and painful way:

"Who then is this about whom I hear such things?"

Far too many of us know priests, bishops, and others who have been accused of terrible things. Far too many of us know people who have been the victims of such terrible things.

Before anything else is said and done, the first priority is to help heal those who have been harmed and the second is to do what we can to prevent such harm in the future (including all appropriate processes – criminal, canonical, and otherwise).

Yet another critical priority is to stop people from using this horror to advance their own agendas.

Some, both liberals and conservatives, invoke the scandal to reshape the Church according to their own vision.

Some also invoke the scandal, the failures of systems and the crimes of individuals in self-defeating attempts to insulate themselves from the moral truths of Catholic teaching.

There are even individuals who are not above using the pain of victims for their own personal advantage.

But even as we help the victims, protect our children, and guard against agendas, we may still be left with residual damage to our own feelings about the Church, its leaders, and its ministers – even the particular leaders and ministers we know (or at least we thought we knew).

"Who then is this about whom I hear such things?"

In this scandal we have been brutally confronted with a fundamental truth of who we are as a Church, as the People of God and the Body of Christ: a reality both wonderfully divine and grittily human.

There is an intrinsic tension to this reality – a tension not always easy to maintain. And so we may emotionally shift to one side or the other.

It is very easy to lean toward the side of divinity, because divinity is why we come to Church in the first place, because of the great good we have received from the Church and so many of its ministers, and because – like your mother told you – one should always assume the best about people.

Then, after hearing and experiencing such terrible things, it is easy to flip over to the other side: to see only the human – with all of its flaws and imperfections, to be cynical, and to walk away.

But the divinity is still there, even though our scars may be thick and our vision may be jaded. The promises of Christ remain true, no matter what the gates of hell may unleash. The Church is still the Bride of the Lamb and will be made beautiful and pure. The men and the women within it are members of the Body of Christ, are temples of the Holy Spirit, and are instruments of grace – even as we all struggle with the aftereffects of our fallen nature.

None of this excuses sin, none of this permits us to turn a blind eye to evil, but never can we let sin and evil cut us off from what is good and grace-filled, especially in this darkening world.

"Who then is this about whom I hear such things?"

It is the Lord. It is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

That was the answer 2,000 years ago when Herod first asked that question about a man from the wrong part of the country who hung out with the wrong kinds of people.

That is still the answer today. We are the Body of Christ, signs and instruments of grace – even though we are earthen vessels.

And so we go on, together, prudent about what is wrong, faithful to what is right, and relying gratefully on grace.

Not yet the time?

As discussions continue about rebuilding all the places devastated by Hurricane Katrina (even as another major hurricane approaches), the people in today’s first reading (Hg. 1:1-8) seem to have made up their mind about rebuilding.

This people says:
“The time has not yet come
to rebuild the house of the LORD.”

At that time, the Temple was literally in ruins, but the people felt that they had other priorities, more immediate needs.

The proper worship of God could wait.

Too often you and I take the same approach: so busy with the practical priorities of life, that we don’t have time or energy for things like prayer.

But the funny thing is that even when we focus all our energies and efforts on practical priorities, we still feel like we’re coming up short.

Now thus says the LORD of hosts:

Consider your ways!

You have sown much,
but have brought in little;

you have eaten,
but have not been satisfied;

You have drunk,
but have not been exhilarated;

have clothed yourselves,
but not been warmed;

And whoever earned wages
earned them for a bag with holes in it.

The Lord’s prescription for this malady is simple: we cannot really succeed in life, no matter how much time and effort we invest in things, unless we also invest time and effort in our relationship with God.

The time we devote to God enhances the rest of the time we have.

The investment we make in our relationship with God – in and through his grace – will have a powerful multiplier effect for our entire life... and beyond.

Thus says the LORD of hosts:

Consider your ways!

Go up into the hill country;
bring timber, and build the house
That I may take pleasure in it
and receive my glory, says the LORD.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - an ecumenical collection of posts from various Christian blogs - is online with colorful commentary at Digitus, Finger & Co.

The Call of St. Matthew

The concept of vocation, of being called by Christ, was depicted most wonderfully by the great Italian painter Caravaggio in his "La Vocazione di San Matteo" which hangs in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.

Many of us can imagine ourselves in Matthew's place as he hears Christ calling him.

"Who? Me?"

Unity and diversity

Many today lament the divisiveness within the Church today: the struggles for power and all sorts of other things.

Yet so it was from the beginning, even in the glorious first generation of Christianity, when the physical eyewitnesses of Christ walked in power among us.

Indeed, in today’s first reading (from Ephesians 4), we hear the mighty Saint Paul the Apostle begging people to work and pray well together.

St. Paul is here speaking not only to the Ephesians, but to us as well: to us in our respective communities and sub-communities, denominations, churches, parishes, congregations, movements, councils, committees, and most especially to us in the blogsphere.

I therefore, 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.

Our fundamental unity in Christ needs to be primary and pervasive.

There is one body and one Spirit,
just as you were called
to the one hope that belongs to your call,
one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of us all,
who is above all
and through all
and in all.

A fundamental threat to that unity, even in Paul’s day, has been an assault on the clear diversity of functions given to individuals within the Body of Christ for the sake of the Body of Christ: assaults sometimes camouflaged by some hot button issue du jour or by false egalitarianism.

But grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ's gift....

And his gifts were

that some should be apostles,
some prophets, some evangelists,

some pastors and teachers,
to equip the saints
for the work of ministry,
for building up the body of Christ,
until we all attain

to the unity

of the faith
and of the knowledge of the Son of God,

to mature manhood,

to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;

so that we may no longer be children,
tossed to and fro
and carried about with every wind of doctrine,
by the cunning of men,
by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.

No, we must not let ourselves be tossed about by the winds of controversies nor by the storms of our own emotions.

Rather, each of us - in whatever way God has given us - each of us must do all we can to build us all up within the Body of Christ.

Rather, speaking the truth in love,
we are to grow up in every way
into him who is the head,
into Christ,
from whom the whole body,
joined and knit together
by every joint with which it is supplied,
when each part is working properly,
makes bodily growth
and upbuilds itself in love.

Pimps, traitors, gangsters

That is how tax collectors were considered in the time of Christ.

That is whom Christ called to be an Apostle when he called Matthew.

If God can extract an Apostle out of the ranks of scumbags like that, what amazing things may God make of us!

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


As the painful rebuilding proceeds along the northern Gulf coast of the United States, we hear in today’s first reading (from Ezra 6) of the rebuilding by the People of God after their return from Babylon.

This reading speaks forcefully and clearly to us, even with all of its historical and liturgical trappings, for we too are in the midst of rebuilding.

Because of this world’s many hurts and imperfections, we are all in the midst of rebuilding.

Because each of us has sinned, we are in the midst of rebuilding.

Because none of us are yet fully as God would have us be, we are in the midst of rebuilding.

We are being built and rebuilt in and by God.

Now therefore ye are no more
strangers and foreigners,
but fellow citizens with the saints,
and of the household of God;
And are built upon the foundation

of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ himself

being the chief corner stone;
In whom all the building fitly framed together
groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
In whom ye also are builded together
for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22

* * * * *

What then does this passage say to us?

The chapter begins with a decree from a foreign king, directing resources for rebuilding the house of God.

In the first year of Cyrus the king
the same Cyrus the king made a decree
concerning the house of God at Jerusalem,
Let the house be builded,
the place where they offered sacrifices,
and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid;
the height thereof threescore cubits,
and the breadth thereof threescore cubits;
With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber:
and let the expences be given out of the king's house

So too we – as individuals and as the Body of Christ - may find that God helps us in unexpected ways and through unexpected people: literal godsends (yet we must always remember that our help comes ultimately from God).

* * * * *

The chapter goes on to describe the fate of those who oppose the king’s decree (a verse sometimes passed over by Lectionaries):

Also I have made a decree,
that whosoever shall alter this word,
let timber be pulled down from his house,
and being set up, let him be hanged thereon;
and let his house be made a dunghill for this.

On the one hand, since this is all part of an effort to rebuild the house of God, this verse serves as a warning for us not to get in God’s way. On the other hand, it can also serve as a warning about the dangerous intensity of those who may now be friendly to us, but whose intensity may someday be turned against us.

* * * * *

The chapter goes on to reinforce doubly God’s primary role in the rebuilding through his commandments and through his prophets – over and above the involvement of earthly kings.

And the elders of the Jews builded,
and they prospered
through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet
and Zechariah the son of Iddo.
And they builded, and finished it,
according to the commandment of the God of Israel,
and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius,
and Artaxerxes king of Persia.

So too we in our rebuilding – as individuals and as the Body of Christ – must make sure that we never stray from the truth God has given us – no matter what “godsends” may come our way.

* * * * *

The last part of the chapter refers repeatedly to the “purification” of the priests and the people. Traditional translations are particularly vivid.

And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat, and kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy

It is important that we not interpret this purification in an earthly way, lest we focus on washing “the outside of the cup and of the platter” or worse things.

First and last, purification is focusing on God. Being built and rebuilt in God thus ultimately requires focusing on God as our source, focusing on God as our guide, and focusing on God as our goal.

* * * * *

The worship of God.

That, very simply, is the end result of all of this building and rebuilding.

That is the purpose of rebuilding the house of God in today’s first reading and that is the ultimate purpose of building and rebuilding in our own lives, as individuals and as the Body of Christ.

We are being built and rebuilt in God.

Come, let us worship.


His wife was literally torn from his grasp by Hurricane Katrina and he poured out his heartbreak in a video seen around the world.

The Virginian-Pilot reported last week that his wife’s body had been found and a funeral scheduled. A local Georgia paper, The Citizen, has an extensive interview with him, including a detailed account of the horror of the storm.

Hardy Jackson (misidentified originally as Harvey Jackson) is now trying to fulfill his wife’s last words to “take care of the kids” as he tries to rebuild his life near Atlanta, Georgia.


"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

The Most Rev. Thomas Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix
Ordination of Father Patrick Farley
Cathedral of Saints Simon and Jude
June 4, 2005
from the Vocations page of the Diocese of Phoenix

Seminarians et al killed

Paul was just an ordinary fellow, but he believed strongly in Christ and in the Church, so when problems came, he stepped up to the task and went to work: gathering scattered parishioners, writing to the Government, and even appealing to Rome.

His efforts met with great difficulty, but also some success.

Then, the way opened up for him to enter the seminary.

The problems returned, however.

The government struck out again and rounded up hundreds, including Paul.

Paul Chong Hasang was executed 166 years ago this week: one of the Martyrs of Korea, whose memory is celebrated on this day.

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at LivingCatholicism.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Bishop’s Blood

Winston Churchill once said that he had “nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

This bishop is remembered only for his blood

Little is remembered of the details of his life or of his death: he was just one of many hundreds who were being slaughtered for their faith in Christ.

But on this day, in the city of Naples and throughout the world, 1700 years after his death, the blood and the faith of this bishop, Januarius, is remembered.


Eviscerate your enemy; don’t just defeat him – that was the idea.

A key element to this strategy was to liberate a significant segment of the defeated enemy’s workforce and to have that workforce extract additional economic assets with it.

That was the strategy: using socioeconomic and political methods to cement military victory.

In the end, it turned out to be just one part of a much larger strategy: Salvation History – for these geopolitical machinations led to the end of the Babylonian Exile and to the return of God’s People to the Promised Land, as we hear in today’s first reading (Ez. 1:1-6).

Cyrus, the King of Persia and victor over ancient Babylon, had his own reasons for restoring the remnant of God’s People to Jerusalem, but ultimately this mighty king was a pawn in the hand of God, even when he did not realize it, as the prophet Isaiah elsewhere makes clear:

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus,
whose right hand I grasp,
Subduing nations before him,
and making kings run in his service,
Opening doors before him
and leaving the gates unbarred....

For the sake of Jacob, my servant,
of Israel my chosen one,
I have called you by your name,
giving you a title,
though you knew me not.

I am the LORD and there is no other,
there is no God besides me.

It is I who arm you,
though you know me not...
Is 45:1,4-5

Likewise in our own day, many things take place in our world and in our lives: some good, some bad; for obvious reasons and for reasons unknown; things that seem minor and passing as well as events that are truly epic (interestingly, today’s reading about the return of exiles to Jerusalem occurs on the day the first hundred thousand people were to start returning to the hurricane-devastated city of New Orleans).

Good or bad, obvious or inexplicable, minor or earth shattering, the lesson of Scripture is clear:

We know that all things work for good
for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Even when we don’t know it,
God has a strategy already at work
for our salvation
through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The world is full of scoundrels

There are wicked people all around us.

And sometimes we don’t feel terribly virtuous ourselves.

In today’s first reading (Is. 55:6-9), the Lord extends his hand to us and offers us hope.

Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.

The Lord extends his hand to us. Now is the opportunity.

May the Lord give us the grace to take it without delay.

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Do realize what you've got there?

A sad fact of the Christian life is that sometimes some of us can take our faith for granted.

We do not treat our faith as the precious, pure, and unimaginably wonderful gift that it is.

In today’s first reading (1 Tim. 6:13-16), St. Paul’s words speak directly to us of this most valuable of gifts that we bear:

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.

The ways of politics

His father wanted Robert to be a politician.

But Robert decided to become a priest instead, devoting himself to prayer, study, and teaching as a Jesuit.

His reputation as a teacher became widespread and he was eventually asked to teach in Rome. He wrote important works that defended the Christian faith against the heretics of the time. So great was his reputation for wisdom and faithfulness, that this academician who had rejected politics as a profession, ended up serving at various Vatican offices and advising a number of Popes.

At conclaves, many spoke of him favorably as a papabile (to his own horror), but politics spared him, because some Cardinals were prejudiced against Jesuits.

Often in frail health, Robert died at the age of 58 on this very day in 1621.

After centuries of politically-inspired delays, St. Robert Bellarmine was canonized in 1930.

2 seminarians dead, 2 charged

According to news reports, 4 Mundelein seminarians were driving home from a late dinner early Thursday morning when the driver swerved around a deer in the road and lost control of the vehicle.

Matthew Molnar, 28, and Jared Cheek, 23, both seminarians of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, were ejected and subsequently died from their injuries. Requiescant in pace.

The driver, Robert Spaulding, 27, a seminarian of the Diocese of Cheyenne, received minor injuries and was arrested for reckless homicide and driving under the influence.

The fourth seminarian, Mark Rowlands, 36, of the Diocese of Columbus, also received minor injuries. A former deputy sheriff, he was arrested for impersonating a police officer and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon after authorities found a handgun and old deputy badges in the car.

Pray for these young men, their families, the community at Mundelein, and their dioceses.

(Hat tip: Amy Welborn and David Cheney)

UPDATE: Catholic News Service provides additional details and reaction.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Losing argument

Some people love to argue against Church teaching and to throw around their learning and sophistication.

St. Paul describes such people well in today’s first reading (1 Tim. 6:2c-12):

Whoever teaches something different
and does not agree with
the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the religious teaching
is conceited,
understanding nothing,
and has a morbid disposition
for arguments and verbal disputes.

Thus even when these people think they are “winning” by their argument, it is really they themselves who are losing.

On the contrary, when Cardinal Ratzinger stepped upon the balcony of St. Peters’ as Pope Benedict XVI, he introduced himself as “a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.”

Likewise we all need to be firm in the faith and humble before the Word of God.

People often ask...

"what could possibly possess a person to make her want to give up her freedom and the pleasures of the world in order to lock herself up in a cloister....

"The simple and profound answer is that she has heard in her heart the words of Jesus Christ: 'Come, follow Me.'"

"The Visitation Sisters' apostolate to teach young girls is greatly enriched by the primary vocation of the Sisters, which is to a life of prayer."

"If you are discerning a vocation to the religious life and would like to visit our community please contact us for additional information."

From the web site of the Visitation Monastery
in Frederick, Maryland.

They called him a coward

The bishop was a devout man, a wonderful writer, and faithful in his teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But when trouble came, he fled and hid.

His enemies denounced him as a coward, but the bishop remained faithful to his work.

In those days of trouble, many Christians were caving under the terrible pressures being exerted and were publicly turning against the faith.

Later, when they repented, many of those who had stood firm in the faith blocked the return of those who did not.

The bishop offered the repentant sinners a way back.

His enemies attacked him for being soft. The bishop, however, was not alone: the Pope was on his side.

In the end, this bishop who was accused of being a coward would be beheaded by enemies of the Church in the middle of September 258.

Later, this same bishop who had been accused of being soft in the faith would be known as one of the great Fathers of the Church.

Today the Church celebrates the memory of St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage in Africa, as well as the memory of his ally, who was also martyred, Pope St. Cornelius.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Forgive me, Lord

Forgive me my arrogance.

Forgive me my sloth.

Forgive me my sins that are always before me.

Forgive me my failing to change my ways.

Forgive me my wandering.

Forgive me my doubts and fears.

Forgive me, dearest Lord Jesus.

May I live totally for you, my loving Savior, Jesus Christ.

In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum

Let no one diss your youth

Young people sometimes feel excluded in Church.

Today’s first reading (1 Tim. 4:12-16) is therefore a great gift to young people, starting with that great first line

Let no one have contempt for your youth

Or to be it more colloquially...

Don’t let anyone diss you for being young

It is a rallying cry for all young people who are serious about Christ and his Church.

But St. Paul is not saying, "Hey, go for it!" He encourages his young protege, but he also quickly urges him to keep his standards high.

This encouragement and these standards are for us as well (even those of us who are not so young anymore).

Let no one have contempt for your youth,
but set an example for those who believe,
in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity....

Attend to the reading, exhortation, and teaching.

Do not neglect the gift you have....

Be diligent in these matters,
be absorbed in them,
so that your progress may be evident to everyone.

Attend to yourself and to your teaching;
persevere in both tasks,
for by doing so you will save
both yourself and those who listen to you.

Don't let people get to you, but make sure you always get to Christ.

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.

Today, the day after the Feast of the Holy Cross,
the Church remembers Mary, the mother of Jesus,
as Our Lady of Sorrows

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - an ecumenical collection of posts from various Christian blogs - is online at Pseudo-Polymath.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Having it all

People nowadays want to have it all: money, possessions, pleasure, autonomy, and anything else their heart desires.

But, sooner or later, it all goes away and we die.

St. Paul gives us a better way in today’s second reading (Phil. 2:6-11): the way of the Cross, the way of Christ, the way of embracing eternity and infinity (literally having it all).

Have among yourselves the same attitude
that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God
a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form
he humbled himself
and became obedient unto death,
even death on a cross!

God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him
the name which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

It is perverse

Imagine putting a replica of a dead man in an electric chair on top of buildings, on billboards, in children’s bedrooms, or hanging above a Church altar.

That gives you a hint of how perverse it is for us to have crucifixes as objects to foster religious devotion (or even simple crosses: in many ways the G-rated version of the same thing).

Except that the crucifix was much WORSE than an electric chair.

In our faux-antiseptic society, criminals are executed out of the public eye, dressed neatly, their heads sometimes discretely covered with a hood, and killed in seconds.

Crucifixion was slow and very public. Crosses stood by the main road, where everyone walked by. Stripped of clothes and dignity, the condemned would suffer for hours before death would take them and then their bodies would hang there hours more for the sport of stone throwers and birds.

Our centuries of pious devotion have distanced us from the revulsion and the horror of crucifixion. The recent film The Passion of the Christ has reminded many of crucifixion’s bloody reality. Furthermore, the revulsion to the film that was expressed by non-believers and many of the world’s elite has reminded us of the perversion of our exaltation of the holy cross.

It pleased God to save those who believe
through the folly of what we preach.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
but we preach Christ crucified,
a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men,
and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1 Corinthians 1:21b-25

Christ’s death on the cross was the perfect realization of God’s self-sacrificing love for us. Christ’s death on the cross was the means by which he took sin and death to himself so that he may free us from both. Christ’s death on the cross, with all its suffering and degradation, is the great sign of unconquerable hope for us, no matter how difficult our own lives may become.

Today the Church celebrates
the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

(Adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

If I were a bishop...

The biggest fights within and among churches invariably involve disputes about positions of authority.

Sometimes these disputes center on theological nuances and on interpretation of Scripture passages such as today’s first reading (1 Tim. 3:1-13).

Sometimes these disputes are just grubby struggles for power or autonomy.

But no matter where we sit among the followers of Christ, no matter what community or position within the community we inhabit, St. Paul’s words speak to each of us... about discipleship and service within the Body of Christ.

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

Of course, more is required to be a bishop than just desire (as Paul goes on to elaborate), but although not all of us can be bishops, all of us can and should desire to serve the people of God in whatever way we are able.

A bishop then must be blameless,
the husband of one wife,
of good behaviour,
given to hospitality,
apt to teach;
Not given to wine,
no striker,
not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient,
not a brawler,
not covetous

All of us are sinners and so none of us, by ourselves, can be blameless (and thus we must be grateful for the mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ).

Even so, it is good for Christians – especially high-profile Christians – to be models of virtue (and when we fail, to be models of repentance and of faith in the grace of Christ).

Again, no matter where we sit among the followers of Christ, these virtues that St. Paul ascribes to bishops are virtues we all should embrace.

As St. Paul says later, Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Indeed, the good reputation of the Christian is a valuable asset in that Christian’s witness.

Obviously, we are bad witnesses of Christ if we are promiscuous, inattentive, silly, ill behaved, inhospitable and impatient with people, addicted, violent, or greedy.

Rather, we should be faithful, attentive, serious, well behaved, hospitable, ready to share our faith, moderate in our appetites, peaceful in our demeanor, and unselfish.

* * * * *

One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

There IS a connection between one’s private life and public responsibility. Of course, a person may have bad habits or bad luck in their relationships and yet be tremendously effective in their job and public responsibilities.

Also, as mentioned above, sometimes we are models of virtue and sometimes we are models of repentance.

Even so, a “disconnect” between our public and “personal” lives presents us with serious dangers: dangers to the effectiveness of our Christian witness as well as dangers to our personal integrity and more (dangers that can grow insidiously – like a cancer on our souls).

None of us are perfect – God knows I am far, far from it (be merciful to me, O Lord) – and we cannot wait for absolute perfection before answering Christ’s call to proclaim and serve, yet with the help of God we must be diligent in getting our own houses in order – our own selves – as we seek to serve the Lord in whatever way we can.

* * * * *

Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

The fervor of the newly converted is a wonderful gift to the Church, but initial conversion is not the end of the journey: a journey that all of us – the neophyte, the elder, and the spiritually middle-aged – must walk hand in hand.

* * * * *

St. Paul goes on to apply virtues such as these to others within the Church:

Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

No matter who we are or where we are within the body of Christ, we are all called to virtue, service, and reliance upon the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We may not be bishops, but we can and must be servants of Christ in the heart of the Church.

"The waters have risen..."

"and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus.

"What are we to fear?

"Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain.

"Exile? ‘The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord.

"The confiscation of goods? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it.

"I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.

"Do you not hear the Lord saying: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst? Will he be absent, then, when so many people united in love are gathered together?

"I have his promise; I am surely not going to rely on my own strength! I have what he has written; that is my staff, my security, my peaceful harbour.

"Let the world be in upheaval. I hold to his promise and read his message; that is my protecting wall and garrison. What message? Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!

"If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear? Though the waves and the sea and the anger of princes are roused against me, they are less to me than a spider’s web.

"Indeed, unless you, my brothers, had detained me, I would have left this very day. For I always say 'Lord, your will be done;' not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way.

"If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful."

From a sermon by St. John Chrysostom
in today's Office of Readings

Walked to death

He was about sixty years old, but he had offended too many powerful people.

Soldiers took him and forced him to march for days in the hot sun.

His enemies thought they would thus be rid of him, but his message could not be silenced, for it was the message of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, so great was the old man’s eloquence that people called him “Golden Mouth.”

He would be hailed as one of the great Fathers of the Church.

His body broken by sadistic forced marches, John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople, nicknamed “Golden Mouth,” would come to the end of his physical strength and die on this very day in the year 407.

His words - the words of Christ - live on.

"For over 2000 years..."

"Jesus has continued to call men to a special union with him to make himself known to the world through the Ordained Priesthood. The first priests who heard the words of Jesus to 'Come and follow me' were the Apostles; these in turn confirmed the call of those who would succeed them. The Sacrament of Holy Orders (Priesthood) was instituted by Jesus Himself so that his presence may continue to be felt and experienced throughout the world in the men who would say Yes to the call to Priesthood. The Ordained Priest is called to do the extraordinary; he is called to be another Christ, he is called to live in the person of Christ. A priest is ultimately one who gives his life for the service of the Church so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be proclaimed to all the corners of the world, in every age."

Ordination to the Priesthood, St. Michael's Cathedral, May 14, 2005

From the Vocations site of the Archdiocese of Toronto

Catholic Carnival XLVII - Faith

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at Our Word and Welcome to It.

New bishop

The Holy Father has named Father Philip Tartaglia, 54, a native of Glasgow, as the new bishop of Paisley, Scotland. He has a Doctorate in Theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, has worked in parishes, and has been Rector of the Scots College in Rome since 2004.

Monday, September 12, 2005

"He hates poor people!"

"She supports baby killers!"

"He’s on the wrong side of the marriage issue!"

Many people today, including many Christians, feel very badly about certain people in authority.

In today’s first reading (1 Tim. 2:1-8), St. Paul asks us to pray for them.

First of all, then,
I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings
be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity.

This is good and pleasing to God our savior,
who wills everyone to be saved
and to come to knowledge of the truth.

We may have reason to dislike certain people, including people in authority, and they may indeed be unjust or immoral to some extent.

Yet St. Paul’s admonition applies. After all, consider the people in authority at the time this was written: corrupt, oppressive, decadent pagans – and above them all, the infamous Emperor Nero.

St. Peter echoes St. Paul’s thought in one of his own epistles:

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution,
whether it be to the emperor as supreme,
or to governors as sent by him
to punish those who do wrong
and to praise those who do right.
For it is God's will that by doing right
you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
Live as free men,
yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil;
but live as servants of God.
Honor all men.
Love the brotherhood.
Fear God.
Honor the emperor.
1 Pet 2:13-17

As we know, this same emperor would have both St. Peter and St. Paul slaughtered.

If the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul counseled their contemporaries to honor and pray for the murderous tyrants of their day, how can we fail to pray for the people in authority over us, even those we oppose?

The Apostles’ rationale is twofold:

First, it was important for Christians to be seen as good citizens. This facilitates our Christian witness.

Most people are not revolutionaries: they just want to live their lives and so they appreciate stability and look askance upon those who threaten it. That is why the pagan spin machine tried to depict Christians as wild-eyed, immoral troublemakers and why it was important to “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” by good citizenship.

Good citizens listen to good citizens and usually close their minds to those tarred as dangerous.

Second, peace and stability enable Christians to “lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity:” allowing not only freedom of worship but also greater opportunities to spread the Gospel.

We must be careful, of course, not to go too far. Throughout history there have been examples of religious people and religious leaders who bind themselves too closely to the structures and personages of civil power, to the detriment of the faith and of the faithful.

Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. Indeed, the Gospel itself has intrinsically revolutionary aspects. It is important to be good citizens in the places we inhabit, but our real citizenship is in heaven. We may work within “the system,” but our understanding of truth and justice cannot be limited by it. Our quest for truth and justice may lead us into ad hoc political alliances (for or against this or that person), but these alliances must never take priority over our commitment to Christ and to the truth.

We cannot ignore the world as it is, for it is through this world that we must walk and in this world that we must accomplish the work Christ has given us to do, yet we must not let out minds or hearts be limited by this world, its politics or its prejudices.

Thus as we strive always to do the things that are right and godly, we must always remember to pray: pray for ourselves, pray for the world in which we live, and pray for the people and leaders within it, no matter how wrong or ungodly they may be.

Everybody knows your name

And Mary said,
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth
all generations shall call me blessed.

Luke 1:46-48

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of
the Holy Name of Mary, woman of faith and
mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Two weeks ago today

Hurricane Katrina approached the shores of Louisiana. Within a day or two, cities and towns would be overwhelmed and many people would be dead.

Four years ago today,
the World Trade Center was attacked. Within an hour or two, those great buildings would collapse and many people would be dead.

The words of today’s second reading (Rom. 14:7-9) speak gently and powerfully to us:

For if we live,
we live for the Lord,
and if we die,
we die for the Lord;

so then, whether we live or die,
we are the Lord's.

You and I – by the grace of God – are not dead yet, so therefore we must resolve ever more fervently to live for the Lord.

And today’s other readings (Sir. 27:30-28:7 & Mt. 18:21-35) remind us of one of the necessary ways we must live for the Lord:

We must forgive!

“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?”

Jesus answered,
“I say to you, not seven times
but seventy-seven times.”

That does not mean that once we pass number 77, we get to wreak our vengeance: it means we must continually forgive – again and again and again!

There’s an old saying, “Forgive, but never forget.”

There is great good in that, as long as each time we remember, we also remember to forgive again.

We must do what we can to protect the innocent and to solve the problems of injustice, but the lesson of these days and the lesson of today’s readings is that life is too short and the mercy of God too precious for us to hold onto anger and hatred. We must live for the Lord.

Forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us.

Remember your last days...

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.

The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.

Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray,

your own sins will be forgiven.

Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?

Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?

If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?

Remember your last days,
set enmity aside;
remember death and decay,
and cease from sin!

Think of the commandments,
hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High’s covenant,
and overlook faults.

Sirach 27:30-28:7

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The flood came...

The river burst against that house....

...it collapsed at once

and was completely destroyed.

This image from today’s Gospel (Lk. 6:43-49) is particularly disturbing now, less than two weeks since Hurricane Katrina smote the underside of the United States and unleashed such horrific misery.

It should be disturbing.

First, it should remind us to help the victims of this disaster, who will be in great need for a long time to come.

Second, it should remind us to prepare prudently for disasters ourselves.

But most importantly, it should impel us to double-check our own spiritual foundations: are our lives – what we believe, what we say, and what we do - really based on the hard truth of Christ?

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
but not do what I command?

I will show you what someone is like

who comes to me,
listens to my words,

and acts on them.

That one is like a man building a house,
who dug deeply
and laid the foundation on rock;
when the flood came,
the river burst against that house
but could not shake it
because it had been well built.

But the one who listens
and does not act
is like a person who built a house
on the ground
without a foundation.
When the river burst against it,
it collapsed at once
and was completely destroyed.

Dig deep. Be completely fastened to Christ.

Friday, September 09, 2005

How lonely sits the city

that was full of people...!

She weeps bitterly in the night,
tears on her cheeks....

All her people groan
as they search for bread....

"Is it nothing to you,
all you who pass by?

"Look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow..."

Lamentations 1:1a,2a,11a,12a
(from today's
Office of Readings)

Be grateful, sinner

St. Paul’s words from today’s first reading (1 Tim. 1:1-2,12-14) are a tremendous encouragement to those of us who are painfully aware of our imperfections (I know I am) and also our call to be servants of God’s word.

I am grateful to him
who has strengthened me,
Christ Jesus our Lord,
because he considered me trustworthy
in appointing me to the ministry.

I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor
and an arrogant man,
but I have been mercifully treated
because I acted
out of ignorance
in my unbelief.

Indeed, the grace of our Lord

has been abundant,
along with the faith and love

that are in Christ Jesus.

It is truly wonderful

"for a person to discover the vocation that God has always wanted her to live.

"We believe that God continues to call women to live as Sisters of the Resurrection and we invite you to prayerfully consider whether or not this could be true for you. Perhaps together our lives will reflect a bit of the joy and vibrancy which a life dedicated to the Risen Christ can hold!"

* * * * *

"The Sisters of the Resurrection are women of prayer and women of the Church. We bring a simple message of hope to those who have forgotten that God is alive and with them always."

* * * * *

"Our life is meaningful to all people of today ... - those in schools - those in hospitals and nursing homes - those in youth groups - those in soup kitchens - those in college and high school campuses - those who are homebound because of age or sickness - those who are in any kind of need which we can alleviate ... the list goes on!"

from the website of
The Sisters of the Resurrection
of our Lord Jesus Christ