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...

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Last Hour

It is probably not a coincidence that the first reading of the last day of the secular calendar year (1 John 2:18-21) repeatedly refers to our being in “the last hour.”

Primarily, of course, “the last hour” refers to the last period of salvation history: between the Ascension and the Parousia.

It is also deliberately designed to remind us that our time is truly short: the Lord could come at any moment, either with the ending of the world or our individual death (Lord Jesus, have mercy on me).

The placement of this reading is particularly useful on this day, as many people look back on the year now ending and take stock of their lives.

This is the last hour. May we open our hearts to the Lord and offer him everything - our successes and our failures – and ask him to give us grace, guidance, and strength in the time we have left.

The Church was not popular

but Sylvester loved it anyway.

Practicing his Christian faith could get him in serious trouble, but his faith in Christ was strong and he remembered the words of the Lord:

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

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

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

Matthew 5:10-12

Still, like everyone, Sylvester wished that they might be able to practice their faith without fear of reprisals or ridicule and that the Church might have a place of prominence and honor in the world.

Such were the thoughts that crossed Sylvester’s mind: of what might then be and what he might then do.

And then it happened!

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

And Sylvester became Pope.

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

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, December 30, 2005

Serving the Gospel of Life

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

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

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

"The spirit of the congregation is the evangelical spirit expressed by Jesus in the Beatitudes. Mindful of the words of their foundress, Blessed Jeanne Jugan, "Never forget that the poor are Our Lord," the Little Sisters continue her charism and desire that their hospitaller mission of humble service, exercised in the name of the Church, be a sign of the compassionate love and mercy of God."

from the website of the Little Sisters of the Poor
Totowa, New Jersey

Old gifts

In the years immediately following the second World War, there was a tremendous increase in the number of babies born in the United States. These children became known as the “baby boom.” They have had a great influence on American culture ever since, especially in the power of the “youth culture” in the late sixties and early seventies. “Never trust anyone over 30,” they said.

Now, this generation is approaching retirement age and the media often repeats the slogan “60 is the new 30.”

Other cultures throughout the world and throughout history have maintained a deep appreciation for the elderly and their ongoing ability to contribute to society.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 2:22-40), two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, play key roles in the early life of Christ: providing unique insights to our Lord’s parents (prophecies that the Blessed Mother in particular takes to heart) as well as helping to spread the good news about the child to others beyond the parents’ immediate circle.

So also today in our own families and in our own lives, we should consider well and appreciate the value of the elderly among us: within our families, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, and even at work. God can give us many important gifts through our older brothers and sisters (and all of us will be in that same position ourselves someday).

Thursday, December 29, 2005

End the darkness

In today’s first reading (1 John 2:3-11), St. John speaks of those whose eyes are blinded by darkness.

He is writing here not of a physical blindness, but of a spiritual blindness: most especially the blindness of hate.

We all know people like that and we even sometimes get that way ourselves: hate, resentment, and anger causes us not only to ignore the good in other people, but also closes us to the light of God. We become fixated on our own feelings and perceptions. We actually may become unconsciously afraid of being challenged by the truth: the truth of Christ and the full truth about others.

We need to pull out of the darkness of negative emotions we may have piled up around ourselves and let the light and the truth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ shine.

The Commander in Chief

replaced his most troublesome enemy with his very best friend.

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

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

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

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

(Adapted from an earlier post)

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - an ecumenical collection of posts from various Christian blogs - is online at The secret life of Gary.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Catholic Carnival "Best of the Year"

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at LivingCatholicism.com. This week's edition includes posts offered by Catholic bloggers as the "best of 2005."

Walking in twilight

Today’s first reading (1 John 1:5-2:2) begins with one of those lovely spiraling parallelisms that St. John does so well and that captures many profound mysteries in a few simple words.

God is light,
and in him there is no darkness at all.
If we say,
“We have fellowship with him,”
while we continue to walk in darkness,
we lie and do not act in truth.
But if we walk in the light
as he is in the light,
then we have fellowship with one another,
and the Blood of his Son Jesus
cleanses us from all sin.

Sadly, there are some among us who claim to be devout Christians and yet walk in terrible moral darkness.

There are also some among us who are walking saints, whose lives are fully in the light and radiate a truly spiritual and moral light.

And there are some of us who walk in twilight: we may not be the most egregious sinners or hypocrites but neither are we the most thoroughly saintly.

We walk in grayness like the fog.

But Christ is born, the real light that enlightens every human being has come into the world, and he calls us to come out of the shadows and walk in the light.

The twilight may feel safer – not to stand out or to make waves – but the twilight is a trap: keeping us from walking fully in the light of salvation and eternal security.

Perhaps we may feel ashamed, mindful of our sins, but that is as it should be.

If we acknowledge our sins,
he is faithful and just
and will forgive our sins
and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.

If we say, “We have not sinned,”
we make him a liar,
and his word is not in us.

My children,
I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin,
we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.

He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only
but for those of the whole world.

No matter how dark the paths we have walked, no matter how long we may have meandered in twilight, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ reaches out to us with his bountiful mercy and calls us to walk now fully in the light: to walk towards him, to walk in him, and to walk with him.

On this Feast of the Holy Innocents

Massacre of the Innocents by Guido Reni (1611), Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna

On this Feast of the Holy Innocents who were murdered by Herod in his eagerness to defend his lifestyle, let us remember in prayer those millions of unborn children killed every year by abortion.

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

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

(Adapted from an earlier post)

2 New Bishops for 1 Diocese

The Holy Father has named two new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Southwark, England: Father Patrick K. Lynch, SS.CC. and Father Paul Hendricks, a priest of the Archdiocese.

Bishop-elect Lynch was born in Ireland in 1947, went to seminary in the United States, was ordained a priest in 1972, and has served in various parishes as well as Provincial and other positions for his order. He has been Pastor of St Chad Parish in Norwood since 2003 and Episcopal Vicar for Southwark since 2001.

Bishop-elect Hendricks was born in England in 1956, studied at Oxford, and worked in scientific research before entering the seminary and attending the Venerable English College in Rome. He was ordained in 1984, completed a Masters degree in Philosophy degree at the Gregorian University and returned to England where he taught at seminary and served in parishes. He has been Pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in London since 2000.

The Holy Father today also approved the elections of 4 Maronite bishops: Fr. Georges Bou-Jaoudé, C.M., as Archbishop of Tripoli, Fr. Elias Nassar as Bishop of Saïd, Fr. Abbott Simon Atallah, O.A.M. as Bishop of Baalbek (all in Lebanon), and Fr. Abbott François Eid, O.M.M. as Bishop of Cairo (Egypt) of the Maronites.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Touching the face of God

John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was the son of missionaries and passed up a Yale scholarship to join the Royal Canadian Air Force to defend his mother’s native England in 1940.

After an especially thrilling training flight the following year, young John wrote some verses on the back on a letter to his parents.

His proud father, the assistant Rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church (across Lafayette Square from the White House), published the verses in the church bulletin. The sonnet, named "High Flight," would become quite famous.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds--and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of--wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence, Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

A few months after writing these verses, during another training flight, 19-year-old John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was killed in a midair collision...

...and touched the face of God.


I am reminded of this by the opening verse of today’s first reading (1 John 1:1-4):

This is what we proclaim to you:
what was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked upon,
and our hands have touched

-- we speak of the word of life.

So indeed John, the Beloved Disciple, in an infinitely profound and yet mysteriously literal sense, touched the face of God: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ - true God and true man.

As for us, we are not those who physically touched Christ when he walked on this earth, nor are most of us pilots or astronauts who experience the spiritual thrill of which John Magee wrote, nor are we likely to die in the clouds as he did.

Yet all of us, in different ways yet always through Christ, can touch the face of God: in our prayer, in meditating on his word, in the Sacraments, and in his body which is the Church.

And ultimately, by his grace, if we are faithful to him, we will one day stand before that great heavenly throne where myriads of angels serve...

...and we will touch the face of God.

Bad puns - excellent thoughts

from the Vocations website of the Diocese of Toledo

The one Jesus loved

In today's Gospel (John 20:1a, 2-8) and throughout the Gospel according to St. John, one of the disciples is always referred to as "the one whom Jesus loved."

This disciple has been identified as John the Apostle, whose Feast we celebrate today.

As I mentioned in a similar post last year, the repetition of the phrase "the one whom Jesus loved" in this very literary Gospel indicates a deeper meaning than just describing a relationship between two historical people.

Indeed, each of us by our baptism are to be disciples "whom Jesus loves."

And so, the Gospel writer is in some sense placing us in the middle of these great events that he recounts.

You are there.

You are the one whom Jesus loves.

Live that way.

Monday, December 26, 2005

They’re coming after you next

For many, the celebration of Christmas is a celebration of peace: it is the birth of the Prince of Peace and angels sing of peace on earth.

And on the very next day, the Church celebrates the feast of the first person to suffer a violent death for the sake of Christ.

It is no coincidence, as the Lord himself says in Luke 12:51.

Do you think that I have come
to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.

Christ indeed comes with a peace beyond all understanding, but it is a peace the world cannot give, and the world hates it.

Therefore, as the Lord foretold in today’s Gospel (Matthew 10:17-22), beginning with Stephen and continuing to this day, his followers meet with opposition, persecution, and even violence.

These things have been in the news quite a bit this year. In some parts of the world, nuns, priests, bishops and laypeople have been beaten, imprisoned and even killed for standing up for Christ. Even in “first world” countries that profess “tolerance,” Christian leaders have actually been prosecuted for their fidelity to traditional Christian teaching.

Persecution of Christians is not a thing of the ancient past: it is a present reality and Scripture tells us that it will get worse.

We should not be paranoid, yet you and I should not be surprised if the world comes after us next.

But as our Lord says in today’s Gospel, he will take care of his faithful ones, no matter what we may have to suffer.

When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you....

You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.

The world is a scary place, but the Lord is with us, and since this is still the season of Christmas, we can look back again at the Christ Child in the manger, delight in his peace and his love, and draw from him the strength to face anything that may come next.

He was the first

Upper management reviewed all the candidates and picked seven men for promotion.

Steve was the first picked and was the obvious star of the group.

Steve exceeded all expectations. No one sold like he did and he really cleaned up against the competition.

Then Steve found himself the target of some serious accusations. He was hauled into court, but didn’t let it rattle him. Instead, he continued to sell – right there in the middle of the court with the competition all around.

The competition was beside themselves with anger, so they took Steve outside and killed him.

Thus, Steve was the first to be picked and the first to die.

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Stephen, Deacon and first Martyr of the Christian faith.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

See what I see

To have seen what I have seen,
see what I see!

(Hamlet - Act III, Scene 1 - spoken by Ophelia)

I have seen much in this year now ending

I have seen things most sacred – innocent human life and the bond of matrimony – trodden into the dust by arrogant human selfishness.

I have seen hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children swept away or crushed by the still-greater powers of nature.

I have seen one of the greatest men of our time relentlessly weighed down by infirmity and then silenced.

I have seen fear and worry in families, pain and doubt in people of faith, and desperate emptiness in the faces of the old and the young.

But I have also seen something else.


I have looked into the eyes of a child, of a boy newly born into the world.

The eyes are clear, bright, and warm.

They look out into the same terrible world that I have seen, but there is no fear in those eyes.

In those eyes, tiny and gentle, there is peace and strength reaching into infinity.

The eyes look at me: they are filled with love, forgiveness, and measureless grace.


Look away for a moment from the trouble of the world.

Look into those eyes and see what I see.

A child is born in Bethlehem.

It is Christ the Lord.

Come, let us adore.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

In the tender compassion of our God

ICEL (the International Committee on English in the Liturgy) – the people responsible for the rendition of liturgical texts into English - has been criticized much over the decades.

But ICEL does sometimes have its moments: when some of what it has rendered into English may be found to possess a beauty and grace that is precious and rare in this age of quasi-literacy.

In the last two verses of today’s Gospel (Luke 1:67-79), the conclusion of Zechariah’s canticle the Benedictus, we have such a moment.

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

Very special words to repeat and to remember on this day and this night before Christmas.

Fear not to take unto thee Mary

Many Christians have problems with at least some aspects of Marian devotions as they have developed within the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Many Christians are even afraid to say too much about Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, lest they be accused of “Popery” or of disregard for the one mediatorship of Christ.

But there is a message in the Gospel for this evening, the Vigil of Christmas (Matthew 1:1-25):

Joseph, thou son of David,
fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife...

As we go through this celebration of Christmas, reflecting on the Scriptures concerning Christ's birth and meditating on the mysteries of his coming among us, it would be good for us not to fear to take Mary unto ourselves, but to reflect on the wonder and the beauty of that most blessed event through her eyes - eyes of faith, eyes of love - as she gives birth to her Savior.

Fear not. Come close.

Look upon the Child.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Randolph the Reno bishop

The Holy Father has named as the new Bishop of Reno, Nevada (USA), Father Randolph R. Calvo, 55, a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco (formerly headed by Archbishop Levada, the Pope's close collaborator and successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith).

Bishop-elect Calvo is a native of Guam. He later moved with his family to San Francisco. He did his seminary studies at Saint Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park and was ordained a priest in 1977.

During the next 5 years, he served successively in two parishes before going to Rome to earn a doctorate in Canon Law from the Angelicum. Upon his return to the Archdiocese, he served for a year as Vice-Judicial Vicar and then for a decade as Vicar General.

Since 1997, he has served as Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Redwood City, while teaching Canon Law at Saint Patrick Seminary. He serves on the Archdiocese's Presbyteral Council, College of Consultors, and special commission on the sexual abuse of minors. He is a member of the Canon Law Society.

Open mouth

In today’s Gospel (Luke 1:57-66), two very special things happen for an old man named Zechariah: first, he sees the birth of the son he had despaired of having, and then – after resolving a conflict about the boy’s name - another miracle happens:

his mouth was opened,
his tongue freed,
and he spoke
blessing God.

This, I believe, was not only a special grace for Zechariah, but also a grace for which we should pray.

We are often tongue-tied in our prayer and even more tongue-tied in telling others about the marvelous gift of faith we have in Christ and his Church.

We should pray for the special grace that Zechariah received, that the Lord may open our mouths, free our tongues, and let us speak clearly and powerfully with the truth and the praise of God.

That would be a glorious Christmas present indeed.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

"This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome"

Great stuff from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in countering the allergic reaction of extremists to anything connected to religion in the public square.

"[T]he ACLU makes repeated reference to 'the separation of church and state.' This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state."

The case is ACLU of Kentucky v. Mercer County, Kentucky. The full text of the decision is available here.

(Hat tip: Sed Contra and Holy Fool)

Choices for the years ahead?

"Are you asking God about your choices for the years ahead?

"What do you want of yourself?

"To use the precious gift of life as well as you can? To give as much as you can to the healing of this world?

"Perhaps you feel that without some exterior discipline--a sensible and reasonable discipline--your life has a tendency to grow flabby and unproductive. Perhaps you have a desire to strip down the externals of existence in order to find its essence, to walk with uncluttered step into the arms of God.

"You are willing to embrace the challenges of community life because you know they will draw you along the path of human and spiritual growth. You want to grow because you know that life is more, much more than pleasure and success.


"Could these flashes of insight be the way to God's answer? You would like to be married, you would love a productive and fulfilling career, motherhood, service, most of all love, in its many forms. You would like to grow in the capacity to love.

"What form of life will help you to grow in love? It can be very confusing, with so much to want and so many ways of finding God.

"If, among all these possibilities, an interest in Cistercian life is tugging at your heart as well, let us know, ask us questions."

from the website of Santa Rita Abbey

Thanks and dedication

In today’s first reading (1 Samuel 1:24-28) we see Hannah, Samuel’s mother, bring offerings of thanksgiving to the temple and dedicate to the Lord the most precious gift of her life.

We could not ask for a better example as we draw near to the celebration of Christmas and to the end of the calendar year.

Even unbelievers in these days celebrate Thanksgiving and also give gifts of appreciation to people in their lives.

As believers, as those who know fully what God has done for us in Christ, how much more should we – as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth – be thankful and share that thankfulness with others!

Even unbelievers in these days contemplate resolutions for the New Year about to start.

As believers, as those who know fully the presence of God among us, how much more should we be resolved and dedicated to deeper love and greater service of God and his people in the New Year ahead.

With the Lord’s grace, we can make this celebration of Christmas the most special of our lives.

With his help, we can truly dedicate our lives – from this New Year forward – to love and service in the name of Jesus.

Let us come before the Lord with thanks. Let us come before him with absolute dedication.

Christmas is coming.

Cry out with joy to the Lord...
Serve the Lord with gladness.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

From today's audience

The elderly Pontiff at the audience held outside in St. Peter's Square tried to keep warm with the traditional papal hat: the camauro. The resemblance to Santa Claus has been widely noted."Today's audience takes place in an atmosphere of joy and longing expectation of the now imminent Christmas festivity.

"'The Lord Jesus is coming!' we repeat these days in prayer, preparing our hearts to experience the joy of the Redeemer's birth.


"In preparing to celebrate the birth of the Savior with joy in our families and ecclesial communities -- while a certain modern and consumer culture tries to make the Christian symbols of the celebration of Christmas disappear -- let us assume the commitment to understand the value of the Christmas traditions, which are part of the patrimony of our faith and our culture, in order to transmit them to the new generations.

"In particular, on seeing the streets and squares of our cities adorned with glittering lights, let us remember that these lights evoke another light: invisible to our eyes, but not to our hearts. Contemplating them, when lighting the candles of churches or the Nativity and Christmas tree lights in our homes, may our spirits open to the true spiritual light brought to all men and women of good will. The God-with-us, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, is the Star of our lives!


"With these sentiments, exhorting you to keep alive the interior wonder in the fervent expectation of the now close celebration of the birth of the Lord, with joy I wish all of you here present, your families, your communities, and your loved ones a holy and happy Christmas.

"Merry Christmas to all!"

(Translation by ZENIT. Full text available here)

Teach philosophy in schools

Science does not have all the answers.

Science does reveal much about many things and it also provides tools for doing and creating very helpful things, but science has limits and even scientists will acknowledge that (if only defensively).

Many of science’s limits are due to the finitude of human cognition and the even narrower limits of the Scientific Method.

Indeed, empirical science does not even contain all of human knowledge and wisdom.

Unfortunately, our modern society and school systems have effectively divided all of human thought and discourse into two distinct realms: science or religion – anything else is just half-baked opinion.

But there is a third realm, distinct from science and religion yet relating to both, and that is philosophy.

As a matter of fact, the assertion of science as the sole guiding force of public thought and education has its origin in particular, rather old-fashioned philosophies.

This may be a good time to reintroduce the study of philosophy into our schools: providing young people with the intellectual tools and the opportunities to think carefully through questions that science cannot answer (without resorting to pure fideism).

There are a number of efforts being made in this regard. Here are just a few (inclusion in this list does NOT consistute endorsement):

Just a thought.

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - an ecumenical collection of posts from various Christian blogs - is online at The Bible Archive.

Why joy?

Today, in anticipation of our Lord’s arrival at Christmas – only a few days away! – two different first readings are available: one is a song of love, the other (Zephaniah 3:14-18a) is a song of joy.

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!

But why should we feel joy?

The news is full of war and threats of terror. Political leaders scheme and bicker. Our personal finances are challenging. Our families and relationships are stressful (or non-existent). We have worries about health. Even in the Church, that special place of refuge, we find conflict and scandal.

We feel bad about ourselves and uncertain about the future.

Why should we feel joy?

The answer begins with forgiveness.

The LORD has removed the judgment against you...

Through the wonderful gift of God’s forgiveness that comes to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we find healing and peace in the deepest part of our being.

Thus we can have joy.

The world may fall apart around us like a house in a hurricane, but with God’s forgiveness we can always have a quiet place of contentment in our heart of hearts, for the Lord forgives us and has turned away everything that would keep us from an eternity of blessedness.

...he has turned away your enemies;

The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.

On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior...

There, in that quiet place, we feel the presence of the Lord: a presence of infinite comfort and indomitable strength.

Thus we can have joy.

But there is yet another cause for joy: a reason that is humanly simply and yet theologically profound.

He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Joy is contagious
and God rejoices because of us.

Thus we can have great joy.

Life can be hard and it can be scary, but God reaches to us so that we may open our hearts and let in his infinite love, mercy, grace, and eternally increasingly overflowing joy.

Shout for joy...!
Sing joyfully...!
Be glad and exult
with all your heart...!

Amen, come Lord Jesus!

A Church rocked by scandal after scandal

The priests seemed either totally detached from the real lives of people or openly indulging in earthy things.

Many people were running away from the Church and many others were attacking it.

But Peter had faith and he felt called to do what he could to rebuild the Church as a community of faith in Jesus Christ.

He traveled and spoke widely and wrote extensively. He defended the Church vigorously against its attackers and worked to reform the lives and education of the Catholic clergy, even at its highest levels.

Peter consoled victims of sectarian strife and preached Christ to the multitudes.

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

St. Peter Canisius, S.J., sometimes called the "Second Apostle of Germany," died on this very day in 1597.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Catholic Carnival

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

Brand new bishop for Grand Ole Opry

The Holy Father has named Father David R. Choby, 58, as the new Bishop of Nashville (USA). He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Nashville in 1974, has a canon law degree from the Angelicum, has served in a number of parishes (including Saint John Vianney in Gallatin as Pastor since 1989) and on the faculty of the Pontifical College Josephinum (1984-1989), has held in the Diocesan Tribunal as Judicial Vicar, and has served as Diocesan Administrator since November 2, 2004.

The leader of the nation is an idiot

What can be done? The situation seems impossible.

In fact, not only is he an idiot: he is an immoral idiot.

How else can one explain the behavior of Ahaz, the King of Judah, in today’s first reading (Isaiah 7:10-14):

Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying,
Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God;
ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.

But Ahaz said,
I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.

And he said,
Hear ye now, O house of David;
Is it a small thing for you to weary men,
but will ye weary my God also?

God effectively gives him a blank check for a miracle and King Ahaz effectively says, “Doh. Nope, I don’t wanna.”

And then there is the situation of a particular teenager who gets pregnant: she has no known job skills, her small town has no social services (but it does have a murderously judgmental mob), and her fiancé isn’t even the child’s father.

What can be done? The situation seems impossible.

In point of fact, however, the answer to both “impossible situations” was one and the same: as prophesied in the first reading...

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign;
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel.

...and fulfilled in the teenager from today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38):

...and the virgin’s name was Mary.

You and I may not be national leaders, nor may we be pregnant teenagers, but in different ways we too may have situations in our lives that seem absolutely impossible.

The message of today’s readings and of the Christmas we are about to celebrate is clear:

For with God nothing shall be impossible.

We may not always be able to see it, but “either in the depth or in the height above” God has an answer: a way to solve even the most impossible situations.

We cannot find this answer, however, by closing our minds to God, as Ahaz did.

No matter how impossible our lives may seem, we find the answer by committing ourselves to God’s will, as Mary did.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord;
be it unto me according to thy word.

May these always be the words of our heart to God.

Ecce ancilla Domini.
Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Poster available

The National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors has announced that "that cool 'Matrix' poster from Indianapolis" is available for purchase through the National Coalition for Church Vocations.

The thing I want

During these wonderful days, the commercial world is full of messages about what they believe is the true meaning of Christmas: you must buy this thing and that thing.

There are also sometimes advertisements that feature couples that had been suffering from childlessness, but who now - thanks to the people at Such-and-such Center - have acquired the very special thing they had always wanted.

Both of the couples in today’s readings (Judges 13:2-7,24-25a and Luke 1:5-25) also suffer from childlessness. In some ways their suffering was even worse, for in that time and place childlessness was one of the worst stigmas imaginable.

But there are worse things than childlessness.

Indeed, whether it is childlessness or some other life problem (real or perceived), instead of seeking to understand God’s will for their lives, too many people are willing to cross any line to obtain what they want.

It is sometimes a very slippery slope: for example, what begins as compassionate medical care for childless couples leads so easily to demands for “selective reduction” (abortion) or to the manufacture of human embryos (who can be locked away in a freezer pack for future use).

This is not a situation only for childless couples: in different ways we are ALL tempted to bend rules, rationalize, go along, or “do what we have to do” to gain or hold onto a thing that we feel or think is “good.”

Sometimes, like Zechariah in today’s Gospel, we may even question God’s message (especially when it clashes with “conventional” wisdom).

As a society, we have seen where these temptations lead: an increasingly slippery slope into moral chaos and the degradation of human life.

As individuals too we have seen where personal moral shortcuts leave us.

It is good to be happy and to do things that improve our lives. Whether our problem is childlessness or something else, we (as individuals, couples and as societies) should pursue every objectively moral approach available.

First and foremost, however, we should always be trying to discern God’s will: not to do things because we “can” but to do only those things God wants us to do.

If we seek happiness and fulfillment apart from God, sooner or later we will find ourselves empty and frustrated.

We cannot get true or lasting happiness from any thing or any person, but only from the grace of God, who is infinite and eternal love.

We may want many things, but God is the One that we need.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Preparing a house

There is a wonderful play on words in today’s first reading (2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16)

Thus says the LORD:
Should you build me a house to dwell in?’
....I will.... establish a house for you.

In the first instance, the word “house” means “shelter” (indicating the Temple) and in the second, “house” means “family of descendents.” This latter meaning is also used in today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38).

But there is another sense of the ancient Hebrew word that means “place” or “receptacle” and I cannot but help think of that sense as I read today’s Gospel account of the Annunciation.

David’s immediate son Solomon built the earthly house of the Lord, but in this other sense, the Lord himself has prepared for the ultimate Son of David a very special “house:” Mary.

God has prepared for himself a very special “receptacle:” Mary.

If you think this is a “stretch,” recall these verses from Isaiah (66:1-2):

Thus says the LORD:
The heavens are my throne,

the earth is my footstool.

What kind of house can you build for me;
what is to be my resting place?

My hand made all these things
when all of them came to be, says the LORD.

This is the one whom I approve:
the lowly and afflicted man
who trembles at my word.

Indeed, in a way different from Mary (and yet still in a very real way), God wishes to establish us as “houses” – as “receptacles” for himself.

The Lord is on his way. Christmas is near.

The Lord is on his way. Behold, I am coming soon, says the Lord.

The Lord is on his way. He wants us to receive him.

We need to get ourselves ready, with the help of his grace.

We need to recognize our lowliness. We need to learn from our afflictions.

We need to tremble at the word of God: tremble with fear, tremble with love.

God wants us to be true and good houses for himself.

Be prepared

Saturday, December 17, 2005

New Nuncio

The Holy Father has accepted the retirement of Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America and named as his successor Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who had been Apostolic Nuncio to Israel.

I've got a real long list...

For many people, today’s Gospel (Matthew 1:1-17) - a long recitation of mostly unfamiliar names - sounds as exciting as a telephone directory.

But this list of names reminds us of the real human history out of which our Lord in his human nature came: good people and flawed people, heroic figures and faceless nobodies.

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

(adapted from an earlier post)

The... what? ...between his... what?

The last verse of today’s first reading (Genesis 49:2, 8-10) is sometimes translated strangely: sometimes because of uncertainties in the Hebrew and sometimes because of uncertainties in the modern mind. The RSV does a fair job:

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

The Lectionary, based on the NAB, steps in it.

The scepter shall never depart from Judah,
or the mace from between his legs,
While tribute is brought to him,
and he receives the people’s homage

There is a "Freudian" aspect here that may make some people feel uncomfortable (and understandably so), but if we are able to set aside the distractions of concupiscence, we can recognize that this ancient symbolism emphasized the paternal and life-giving aspects of ruling authority...

...the authority of God our Father and of his Christ – the fulfillment of this prophecy – a fortiori.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Rejoicing a while in a light

Every once in a while, someone comes along who really resonates: everything we read or hear from that person makes us go, "Yeah! That’s so right!"

Sometimes that person is a particular writer. Sometimes it is a particular preacher (e.g., the great Pope John Paul II or our current Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI). Sometimes it is even a blogger.

For the people our Lord addresses in today’s Gospel (John 5:33-36), that person had been John the Baptist.

John was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.

So too are we sometimes quite content to rejoice in the intellectual and spiritual light of some great person.

But John the Baptist was killed. So also will every human light be taken away or diminished by death and the passage of time.

It is just as well, because as our Lord says, "I have testimony greater than John's."

In speaking of John the Baptist and our Lord, John the Evangelist puts it this way (John 1:8-9):

He was not the light,
but came to bear witness to the light.

The true light
that enlightens every man
was coming into the world.

It is good to take advantage of the great human lights, intellectual and spiritual, that God has given us, but it is even more important – indeed, it is critical – to be always focused on and open to the true light – Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What did you go out to see?

Our Lord asks this question over and over in today’s Gospel (Luke 7:24-30).

Nowadays, when people ask a question like this, they’re often asking about a movie.

Our Lord’s question goes deeper: challenging us to examine ourselves, our motivations, and our inmost needs.

What did we go out to see?

What have we been looking for?

What do we really need?

We should ask ourselves these questions seriously.

We will find the ultimate and complete answers in Christ.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Archbishop of San Francisco

The Holy Father has named the Most Reverend George Hugh Niederauer, currently Bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah (USA), as the new Archbishop of San Francisco.

Born in Los Angeles in 1936, Archbishop-elect Niederauer was ordained in 1962 for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He received a PhD in English Literature from USC in 1966. He has worked in parishes and priestly formation. He was consecrated Bishop of Salt Lake City in 1995.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

We, the Discalced Carmelite friars...

"are men who follow a way of consecrated life inspired by the Rule of St Albert as it was interpreted by Saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.

"The distinctive feature of our way of life is our focus on personal prayer - or meditation, as it is often called today. In addition to our daily Mass and Divine Office we spend two hours in personal prayer each day.

"This prayer is at the very heart of our life. Through it we deepen our awareness of God's love for us and his presence in our world. We feel called to witness to the value of prayer.

"The second important element in our life is that we live in community, usually of 4-6 people.

"Life in community supports us as we try to live out our 'allegiance to Jesus Christ.'

"Our life is at the service of God's people. Prayer is a priority in that service.

"We are fortunate in inheriting the mystical tradition of St Teresa and St John of the Cross.
"Our contribution as Carmelites lies principally in helping people in their prayer, whether they pray regularly or have forgotten how to pray."

from the website of the Carmelite friars of the Discalced (OCD) tradition in Ireland, Scotland and Nigeria

Christian Carnival C

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

This is the 100th edition and is hosted by the Carnival's founder.

Needing the dew

Today's first reading (Isaiah 45:6c-8,18,21c-25) contains the verse that inspired the classic Advent hymn Rorate Caeli.

It reminds of our great need, our great thirst, for the Savior whose coming we await.

Come, Lord Jesus, bring us your mercy!

Let the dew fall from above, O heavens,
And let the clouds rain down the Just One.

Be not angry, O Lord,
and remember no longer our iniquity:
behold the city of thy sanctuary
is become a desert,
Sion is made a desert.
Jerusalem is desolate,
the house of our holiness and of thy glory,
where our fathers praised thee.

Let the dew fall from above, O heavens,
And let the clouds rain down the Just One.

We have sinned,
and we are become as one unclean,
and we have all fallen as a leaf;
and our iniquities, like the wind,
have taken us away
thou hast hid thy face from us,
and hast crushed us by the hand of our iniquity.

Let the dew fall from above, O heavens,
And let the clouds rain down the Just One.

See, O Lord, the affliction of thy people,
and send him whom thou hast promised to send.
Send forth the Lamb, the ruler of the earth,
from the rock of the desert
to the mount of daughter Sion,
that he himself may take off the yoke of our captivity.

Let the dew fall from above, O heavens,
And let the clouds rain down the Just One.

Be comforted, be comforted, my people;
thy salvation shall speedily come
why wilt thou waste away in sadness?
why bath sorrow seized thee?
I will save thee; fear not:
for I am the Lord thy God,
the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.

Let the dew fall from above, O heavens,
And let the clouds rain down the Just One.

Rorate caeli desuper,
et nubes pluant iustum.

Ne irascaris Domine,
ne ultra memineris iniquitatis:
ecce civitas Sancti facta est deserta,
Sion deserta facta est:
Ierusalem desolata est:
domus sanctificationis tuac et gloriae tuae,
ubi laudaverunt te patres nostri.

Rorate caeli desuper,

et nubes pluant iustum.

et facti sumus tamquam immundus nos,
et cecidimus quasi folium universi;
et iniquitates nostrae quasi ventus abstulerunt nos:
abscondisti faciem tuam a nobis,
et allisisti nos in manu iniquitatis nostrae.

Rorate caeli desuper,
et nubes pluant iustum.

Vide, Domini, afflictionem populi tui,
et mitte quem missurus es,
emitte Agnum dominatorem terrae,
de Petra deserti montem filiae Sion:
ut auferat ipse iugum captivatis nostrae.

Rorate caeli desuper,
et nubes pluant iustum.

Consolamini, consolamini, popule meus:
cito veniet salus tua:
quare moerore consumeris,
quia innovavit te dolor?
Salvabo te, noli timere:
ego enim sum Dominus Deus tuus,
Sanctus Israel, Redemptor tuus.

Rorate caeli desuper,
et nubes pluant iustum.

John's father had an easy life

but when he married for love, he was promptly disowned and so John was born in poverty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What does God want you to do with your life?

"The Diocese of Orlando has released a new video promoting vocations to the priesthood.

Using the tag line, 'What Does God Want You to Do with Your Life?' the video features testimonials from men about the joys and challenges of diocesan priesthood, as well as parents’ reactions to their sons’ decisions to follow their priestly call."

Catholic Carnival

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

Woe to the city

Sometimes you have to really think hard to see how a particular passage of Scripture applies to today’s world.

On the other hand, sometimes the applicability of a passage hits you in the face like a brick.

to her that is filthy and polluted,
to the oppressing city!

She obeyed not the voice;
she received not correction;
she trusted not in the LORD;
she drew not near to her God.

The opening words of today’s first reading (Zephaniah 3:1-2,9-13) speak sharply not only against ancient Jerusalem, but also against the modern civilization in which we dwell today: a civilization of physical and moral pollution, a culture of disobedience and distrust, a people alienated from God and from their innermost selves.

Zephaniah goes on to denounce those who are powerful in the earthly city, then and now.

Her princes within her are roaring lions;

He denounces judges, then and now.

Her judges are evening wolves;
they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.

He denounces the opinion makers, then and now.

Her prophets are light and treacherous persons:

He denounces those who should have been closest to God and most obedient to his law.

Her priests have polluted the sanctuary,
they have done violence to the law.

It is easy to hear this last part and think of Catholic priests or other ministers who have committed terrible crimes, of disastrous efforts to improve community worship, or of theologians who twist Scripture to let people do whatever they want.

However, it is also important not to let these obvious connections “out there” blind us to the applicability of this prophecy within ourselves: how we may have polluted ourselves as temples of the Holy Spirit, how we have may have grown somehow indifferent in our personal worship, or how we may rationalize doing what is bad and shirking what is good.

Woe to the city

Woe to us

Yet, the prophecy of Zephaniah is not a prophecy of condemnation only, but also of hope.

I will also leave in the midst of thee
an afflicted and poor people,
and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.

No, the world may not always be a good place and terrible things may be going on, but the Lord calls us to be his own, to be his people and to find comfort and strength in him even when we are afflicted and poor.

Likewise, no matter how much we might have let ourselves go, no matter how far we may have gone down the road of degradation, the Lord has left within us at least a remnant of his grace calling us back to him: calling us to repent, to find forgiveness and mercy, and to trust in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sample Bishop

The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of the Most Reverend James Garland as Bishop of Marquette, Michigan (USA), for reasons other than age and has named as the new bishop Father Alexander K. Sample, 45, who has been the Diocese's Chancellor.

Bishop-elect Sample is a native of Montana and obtained a Masters degree in metallurgy from Michigan Technological University before entering the seminar, studying at Saint John Vianney Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota,and the Pontifical College Josephinum. He was ordained for the Diocese of Marquette in 1990 and served in parishes before completing his License degree in Canon Law from the Angelicum in Rome in 1996, after which he began serving as Chancellor.


When she was born, she was a light to her parents’ eyes, so they gave her the name Lucy, which means light.

As she grew, she continued to shine in the lives of all who knew her: a gentle girl, devoted to God.

For that, she was mercilessly killed.

The name of St. Lucy, virgin and martyr, would spread far beyond her native Sicily and continue long past the 4th century persecution of Diocletian in which she was killed. Her name remains today in the first Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass. Her memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Labor pains

One of the readings provided for today (Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab) focuses on the mysterious figure of a woman. As with most things in the Book of Revelation, there have been many different interpretations about this woman over the millennia.

Some say the woman is Mary, some say she is Israel, some say she is the Church, and some say she is all of the above.

The mystery piles deeper as the woman wails aloud with the pains of labor, since Genesis 3:16 associates labor pains with original sin.

Yet Scripture does not reserve the language of crying aloud in labor pains to women in the condition of sin.

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
Romans 8:22

St. Paul even applies this language to himself.

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again
until Christ be formed in you...

Galatians 4:19

And so also does God:

I have long time holden my peace;
I have been still, and refrained myself:
now will I cry like a travailing woman

Is 42:14

The ultimate cause of this pain and travail is the separation of mankind from God. Sometimes pain is simply a reality of the human condition and original sin; sometimes it is the deeply painful recognition of our sin against God; sometimes it is the intensely pain of seeing how far others have strayed from the God of mercy and truth.

We cannot escape this pain, nor should we even try, for the embrace of this pain is necessary to bring an end to our separation from God.

Indeed, the greatest of all labor pains were the pains suffered by Christ in his passion and death: pains that culminated in the birth of Christ’s faithful people, the Church.

Today’s culture is allergic to pain. We try to avoid pain at all costs and when we cannot avoid it, we anesthetize ourselves with drugs, alcohol, hedonism, escapism, or even suicide.

To be sure, it is a perversity to seek pain for its own sake, but the Christian does not seek pain for pain's sake nor for perverse pleasure. The Christian seeks the good, even where pain is unavoidable - and there are things far worse than pain.

Where Christ has gone, so we must follow. We must not be afraid of pain or travail, but must to do what is necessary for our good, the good of others, and the glory of God – to bring healing, truth and love.

Imagination and faith

A racist character in an old television show was once arguing with someone about whether God was white or black. The racist said that all the pictures showed God to be white, including those by an Italian painter he identified with an ethnic epithet. The other person humorously suggested that the white racist had only been looking at photographic negatives and that God was black.

We know, of course, that God is pure spirit and therefore neither black nor white.

Likewise, artists have depicted our Lord Jesus Christ in countless ways, from a blue-eyed blond to a black man with an Afro.

We also know, of course, that our Lord was born of a Jewish woman and therefore with physical characteristics typical of Jewish people.

Today the Church celebrates Our Lady of Guadeloupe, when a Mexican peasant had a miraculous vision of the mother of Jesus appearing very much like a Mexican peasant herself.

It was an important moment for the history of the faith in the Americas: a sign and an instrument by which the native people could embrace the Christian faith of the European invaders as something that could be their own.

Today’s celebration is a reminder that God reaches out to all of us, wherever and whoever we are.

In some way, if only deep within our heart of hearts, all of us walk around with visualizations of the Lord and of saints such as the Blessed Mother. Often, these visualizations are related to idealized visualizations of ourselves and make us feel closer and more connected to God.

Yet, while visualization and imagination may be useful servants of faith, they also have their limitations. Faith therefore must also go deeper: to the reality of God, who works throughout human history and yet is infinitely and eternally beyond it – God who became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

This holiday season is full of images. Let us use them to draw closer to the One who is “the image of the invisible God” – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


The time before Christmas in today’s world is often one of chaos and stress, as people feel compelled to “shop ‘til they drop,” attend all manner of social celebrations (office Christmas parties, etc.), and argue about the use of crèches and even the word Christmas.

In the Church, this particular Sunday before Christmas, the third Sunday of Advent, is traditionally known as a time of joy: Gaudete Sunday.

This theme of joy is sung gloriously in today’s first reading (Isaiah 61:1-2a,10-11), as the prophet exults in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit flowing upon him.

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me....

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation....

As St. Paul tells us (Galatians 5:22), joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

No matter how chaotic things may be, no matter what pressures may fall upon us, we can always have joy – overflowing in abundance or deep within our souls – if we keep open and docile to the Holy Spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Come, Holy Spirit.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Veni, veni, Emmanuel.

A Life of Contemplation

"Through contemplation, one sees the mystery of Christ behind all human experience - that He was always and is always there.

"A Cloistered Life

"An introduction to the world, not a separation from it. On the fringe of the world, it's noisy, cluttered, confused and complicated. To find its center you leave the fringe and begin a pilgrimage into a quiet world where God can speak in silence.

"A Life of Adoration

"Christ's Eucharistic presence is singled out for constant adoration. So central is He to the life of a Holy Spirit Adoration Sister that His presence is never left unadored.

"A Life of Community

"Your delicate journey is done in the company of like-minded and like-hearted women. Some are older and more experienced guides, others are younger, but all have their hearts centered upon Him.

"A Missionary Life

"You may never leave the States, but your prayers and concern will. The passion of your life is that Christ be known by all nations.

"A life lived with Him, in Him and through Him!"

"This is the cloistered life of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters."

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Call to Narnia

Barbara Nicolosi at Church of the Masses advises anyone planning to see the Chronicles of Narnia to see it NOW -- THIS weekend.

The bigger the opening weekend numbers, the better for this movie and for family-friendly, faith-friendly movies in the future.

Different parts in the plan

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 17:9a,10-13), we hear one of those classic “already but not yet” statements.

Elijah will indeed come and restore all things;
but I tell you that Elijah has already come...

The disciples understand that our Lord is speaking here of John the Baptist, but that does not explain everything.

This enigmatic statement reminds us that God’s plan for our salvation is mysterious and still unfolding and that there are many parts to that plan: different parts in time, different roles, and different people to play different parts.

Elijah played his part, then John the Baptist played his part: a part that was also Elijah’s.

And there are more parts to come.

Only at the end of time will all things be made clear and the mysterious plan of God be fully understood in all its parts.

We ourselves have our own parts to play in the great plan of God, even though we cannot understand it all. What we can do – what we must do - is be faithful to the parts God has given us to play (however small or however difficult) to be faithful to his will.

Therein all glory lies.

Friday, December 09, 2005

For your own good

It is the height of paternalism: a parent, a government, a public interest group, or some other “authority” says that they are doing something or telling you something “for your own good.”

Many times, we resent it or even rebel.

In today’s first reading (Isaiah 48:17-19), the Lord says

I, the LORD, your God,
teach you what is for your good,
and lead you on the way you should go.

And indeed many of us, one way or another, rebel.

But there is a great difference – an infinite difference – between merely human paternalism and the paternalism of God.

It is not just a difference in degree. It is not just that God is infinitely wiser and infinitely more loving than even the wisest and most caring paternal figure of this world.

When God teaches “what is for our good” it means infinitely more because God is good: God is goodness itself.

Moreover, when God teaches what is for our good, he is sharing of himself, for he is Good itself and Truth itself.

And when God leads us on the way we should go, he is leading us to himself and in himself.

I am the Way and the Truth and the Life, says the Lord,
for our infinite and eternal good.

They came from far, far away

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

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

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

And then he saw... her.

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

Immediately, his faith in the invaders' message was reaffirmed.

But nobody believed him – not even the invaders.

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

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

(adapted from an earlier post)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

From the beginning (and before)

People talk about how immoral and contentious the world is today: not like the good old days.

Educated people tell us that, in some ways, the “good old days” were even worse.

Almost from the very beginning, sin has been part of human life, as today’s first reading (Genesis 3:9-15,20) reminds us.

Today’s second reading, however, (Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12) goes even further back, before the beginning of all things, to God’s eternal plan of salvation.

Blessed be
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him,

before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.

This is what celebrate today: God’s eternal decision to make Mary and all God’s faithful people holy by the infinite merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, not by anyone’s self-made worthiness – not mine, not yours, not even Mary’s – it is all due to the grace of God.

Is Mary's case unique? Yes, as her role was unique - a role for which God chose her, as we hear in today's Gospel (Luke 1:26-38) - but the same grace that saved Mary (and the same Savior - her Son, Jesus Christ) also saves us.

Things may be bad now. Things may have been bad in the past. We ourselves are bad, one way or another (Lord Jesus, have mercy on me).

But God wills salvation for us from eternity.

As it was in the beginning (and before),
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.

"God ineffable...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Not like when I was younger

People often say something like this as they age and encounter some physical or even mental limitation.

Sometimes in the nostalgia of the old and in the fantasy of the young, youth means unlimited vitality and even invulnerability.

Experience proves otherwise.

Today’s first reading (Isaiah 40:25-31) reaffirms this reality, but adds glorious words of hope for us all.

Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the LORD
shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Young, old or middle-aged – no matter how long the road or steep the climb, no matter what we may enjoy or what we may have to suffer – we can find truly unlimited strength in God: absolute vitality and ultimate invulnerability – not like when we were younger, but infinitely and gloriously better!

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - an ecumenical collection of postsfrom various Christian blogs - is online at Attention Span.

He wasn't even baptized

He was a lawyer, he worked for the government, and he was only in his early thirties.

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

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

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

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

Ambrose died of natural causes in his late fifties, universally acclaimed a saint, and his memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Thinking about priesthood

"Some people think about priesthood for a long time ~ even from youth. Some, after discovering the call, act on it right away. Others discover this call only later in life (for some, much later).

"A good portion of internal discernment involves reflection, prayer, and listening to God. Being involved in one’s parish, going to Mass regularly, receiving the sacraments, attempting some type of Christian or community service, and trying to live a good Christian moral life are just some of the ways that often help to bring one’s call into focus."

from the Vocations website of the Diocese of Owensboro

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Your _____ is grass

There are some very impressive people in this world: THE people.

You see them on television all the time: men and women of incredible skill, wealth, power, beauty, and/or fame.

The words of today’s first reading (Isaiah 40:1-11) has something to say about them:

They are grass.

All flesh is grass,
and all the goodliness thereof
is as the flower of the field:

The grass withereth,
the flower fadeth:
because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it:

surely the people is grass.

All flesh is grass.

That rich and arrogant man who fires people for entertainment is just grass.

That model whose face and body generates millions of dollars is just grass.

And the grass will wither and blow away.

Your flesh is grass too. We’re all grass.

The grass withereth,
the flower fadeth:
but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

In these days before Christmas, full of television specials and end-of-year reports, it is important for us to remember that everything in this world and just about everything in our lives will pass away, but the word of our God (our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – God with us - Emmanuel) stands and rules for ever.

O come, o come, Emmanuel

Catholic Carnival

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

Conqueror of Nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

New bishop

The Holy Father has appointed Monsignor John Arnold, 52, as Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, England. Bishop-elect Arnold was born in Sheffield, studied law at Oxford's Trinity College, and worked as a lawyer before studying for the priesthood. He is an alumnus of the Venerable English College in Rome and has a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Gregorian. He was ordained in 1983 for the Archdiocese of Westminster and served in various pastoral positions. He has been Vicar General and Chancellor of the Archdiocese since 2001.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Feeling beaten down?

Christians and other people who take faith and revelation seriously may sometimes feel “beaten down.”

Human life (at its beginning and at its end) and the sanctity of marriage are being assaulted on more and more fronts.

Those who uphold the perennial truths of revelation and of natural law are vilified and even prosecuted as hatemongers.

We are besieged incessantly by images and fables of hedonism under the guises of entertainment, marketing, and even “news.”

Modern opinion-makers are advancing their efforts to marginalize the free exercise of religion (guaranteed by the Constitution) in the name of the “separation of Church and state” (which is not in the Constitution).

Today’s first reading (Isaiah 35:1-10) gives special words of comfort to all faithful people who may feel beaten down.

Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.

We must continually ask our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for his grace:
  • to strengthen our hands to do his will even when it is difficult and the effort prolonged;
  • to make firm our knees – to embolden us - that we continue to stand up for what is right and to move forward on the path he marks out for us;
  • and to give us courage by the power of his truth and his Spirit.

From time to time (and sometimes for a long time), things may not seem to go well, but God is always with his faithful people and in the end God will make all things right.

He will come and bring us total vindication, infinite rewards, and eternal salvation.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Quoting Handel’s Messiah

In the “post-Christian” world in which we live, it would not be surprising for someone to hear today’s first reading (Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11) and wonder why the Church was using all these quotes from Handel’s Messiah: “Comfort ye.... Every valley.... And the glory.... O thou that tellest.... And he shall feed his flock....”

Most of us understand, of course, that it was the other way around: Handel’s libretto is taken from the Church’s traditional selection of texts associated with Christ.

Many Christians (and even some non-Christians) lament the increasing secularization and even anti-religious tendencies of today’s culture.

Some do more than lament: standing and peacefully fighting to uphold proper public expressions of faith – most especially at this time of year in connection with Christmas.

But this state of affairs is more than a cause to lament or to do battle: the “post-Christian” culture it is an opportunity to evangelize anew.

So it has happened many times during the two millennia of Christianity: the failures of men and the forces of this world lay waste where the faith once flowered, yet the seeds of faith remain and are nurtured by the warm earth of the Holy Spirit, waiting only to be watered by a new generation of evangelists before flowering again.

We – called by Christ to be citizens of the new and heavenly Jerusalem -- can be these evangelists: the heralds of good news (in the words of today’s first reading).

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain…
herald of glad tidings;
cry out at the top of your voice…
herald of good news!

Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities…
Here is your God!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

An Advent shower

Isaiah’s prophecy in today’s first reading (Isaiah 30:19-21,23-26) is like standing in a long, comfortable shower of grace.

In his own time and in his own way, he will end all our grief and pain.

O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem,
no more will you weep

We will feel his loving response in all our prayers.

He will be gracious to you when you cry out,
as soon as he hears he will answer you.

He will give us everything we truly need.

The Lord will give you the bread you need
and the water for which you thirst.

We will no longer feel confused or unsure.

No longer will your Teacher hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
"This is the way; walk in it,"
when you would turn to the right or to the left.

We will realize how our personal idols – money, pursuits of the flesh, trendy philosophies – have hurt us (verse omitted in Lectionary).

And you shall consider unclean
your silver-plated idols and your gold-covered images;
You shall throw them away
like filthy rags to which you say, "Begone!"

We will no longer feel frustrated or desperate in anything we do, in our personal lives or in our daily work.

He will give rain for the seed that you sow in the ground,
And the wheat that the soil produces
will be rich and abundant.
On that day your cattle will graze in spacious meadows;
The oxen and the asses that till the ground
will eat silage tossed to them with shovel and pitchfork.

We may have to endure many things – experiences of exaltation as well as times of hardship and loss – but the Holy Spirit of God will always be flowing through us and will bring us to healing and to peace.

Rorate caeli desuper,
et nubes pluant iustum.

Let the dew fall from above, O heavens,
And let the clouds rain down the Just One.

They were college buddies

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Francis Xavier, Apostle to the Far East and one of the original seven Jesuits, died 503 years ago yesterday and his memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Blind and deaf

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 9:27-31), our Lord heals two blind men and today's first reading (Isaiah 29:17-24) speaks of healing both the deaf and the blind.

On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.

In some ways, we all tend to be deaf and blind.

We are deaf to the voice of God in our lives and to the cry of people in need, often because we can only hear the shouts of our selfishness, our opinions, and our “needs.”

We are blind to the light of God in our lives and to the path God calls us to walk in this world, sometimes because we are distracted by the glitz of the culture, the lure of the flesh, or carnivorous black hole of depression.

This Advent, we need to ask the Lord to heal us of every kind of spiritual and moral deafness, that we may hear more clearly the voice of the Lord and the cry of our brothers and sisters (especially those we see everyday).

We need to ask the Lord to heal us of every kind of spiritual and moral blindness, that we may pull our gaze away from the distractions and darkness of this world and keep our eyes fixed on God’s path.

Caring for the neediest

Rose was the daughter of a famous novelist, but in her forties, she dedicated her life to caring for indigent cancer victims. She also became a Catholic and even founded her own religious order.

Over a century later, the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne continue the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s daughter, caring for those who are poor and incurable.

This year, they have expanded their outreach, opening a mission in Kenya.

"If you think God is calling you, you owe it to yourself and to God to explore the possibility that you may have a religious vocation. A first step in finding this answer is to visit religious communities, get a sense of their life, and try to identify the apostolate that would suit your vocation...."

"We welcome Catholic women of all backgrounds and races. To apply, you must be in good health and have at least a high school diploma. Age is decided on an individual basis, but generally not over 50...."

"We invite interested women who are exploring their religious vocation to visit with us at our Motherhouse."

from the website of
the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne