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...

Monday, February 28, 2005

The Outsiders

You know who they are. They’re not like us. They offend us.

We, on the other hand, are good people and we feel - we know - we are in a wonderful place.

The Outsiders disturb us: not only because they offend us, not only because they do not think or act as we do, but - most insidiously - they disturb us because of one nagging thought in the back of our brain:

What if we do not have the monopoly on goodness and blessedness? What if God also somehow blesses those Outsiders?

Both of today’s readings refer to both to Outsiders who are blessed by God and to some “insiders” who are violently resentful.

We ourselves can sometimes develop a "fortress mentality:" feeling very superior to Outsiders and feeling angry and defensive when that mentality is threatened.

The truth is that God can and does work beyond the “Circle of the Blessed” among which we number ourselves. Rather than become resentful or defensive, we should rejoice in the wondrous goodness of God whenever it is manifested. Indeed we can sometimes even learn a thing or two from Outsiders.

That being said, truth is truth and full membership has its privileges.

Throughout salvation history we see consistently that God’s loving relationship with humanity is focused through the instrumentality of a chosen people, even when the people are imperfect. Moreover, learning from those outside the faith must never be allowed to dilute or diminish the truths of the faith.

We have a responsibility to be faithful instruments for the good of the world according to the will of God, not according to the way of the world.

Even in today’s first reading, which our Lord in today’s Gospel points to as a great example of God’s blessings being bestowed outside the chosen people, two of the most critical instruments of those blessings are indeed two members of the chosen people.

The prophet Elisha gives the instructions for the healing of Naaman, even while deliberately maintaining a certain distance. While blessed by God in some ways, Naaman is not quite yet part of the people of God. To act as if that distinction did not exist would be to diminish the people of God as that most special instrument of God’s grace in the world.

The other “insider” who is most crucial in facilitating Naaman’s healing, and perhaps the best example for us, is perhaps the little Israelite slave girl: a child, a slave, a female, part of a conquered people – as much of an outsider as one could get in those days!

In a real sense, we are the Outsiders: we are the people in the world who hold onto something precious that comes from beyond the world and extends infinitely beyond it.

Yet we should not be arrogant and defensive like the "insiders" of Christ’s hometown. Nor should we be paranoid and suspicious like the King of Israel (the ultimate insider) who chased Naaman away. Nor should we cast away the truth and the grace we have received (and the distinctiveness that comes with it).

Rather, we should be more like the little slave girl: humble, yet faithful instruments of God’s grace and truth... even to Them.

Sunday, February 27, 2005


I always feel sad when the short form of readings is chosen at parish Liturgies, especially when the readings are as beautiful and rich with meaning as today’s Gospel (John 4:5-42).

Of the many gems within this passage, two in particular leap out for me today:

"Everyone who drinks this water
will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give
will never thirst;
the water I shall give
will become in him
a spring of water
welling up to eternal life."

You and I feel many earthly needs: not only the need for water, but also the need for food, the need to feel good, even the need to be loved.

Sometimes these needs and these feelings may get out of hand, pushing us to excess or to do things and tolerate things that are harmful and wrong.

We may eat and drink until we're full, but we will be hungry and thirsty again. We may experience great pleasure, but the cravings return. We may think we’ve found love, but feelings of loneliness and insecurity still lurk within us.

What we really need (and need to pray for) is the living water of Christ.

The love of God “welling up” within us is what we really need and if we don’t have that, no comfort food, no relationship, nor any other earthly thing can make up for that emptiness.

How do we obtain this infinitely satisfying and lasting sustenance from Christ?

We obtain it from the wonders of his grace by asking for it in prayer and by doing God's will

"I have food to eat
of which you do not know....
My food
is to do the will of the one who sent me
and to finish his work."

Come and get it.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Who and when

Today’s Gospel presents the wonderful parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15).

Who are we more like?

Are we like the young man?
  • When he is running away from his father?
  • When he is immersing himself in hedonism?
  • When he experiences emptiness, regret, and despair?
  • When he resolves to make the hard, long journey back?
  • When he throws himself at his father’s feet in deepest penitence?

Are we like the father?

  • When he is on the lookout for his wayward loved one?
  • When he embraces his repentant son with forgiveness and love?

Are like the older son?

  • When he is working diligently and faithfully in his father’s fields?
  • When he is angry and resentful of repentant sinners enjoying forgiveness?
  • When he (I presume) enters into the feast of joy with his father and brother?

As the first reading says (Micah 7:18-19a):

...the God who removes guilt
and pardons sin
for the remnant of his inheritance;
Who does not persist in anger forever,
but delights rather in clemency,
And will again have compassion on us…

To Communicate with the Power of the Holy Spirit

13. "The great challenge of our time for believers and for all people of good will is that of maintaining truthful and free communication which will help consolidate integral progress in the world.

"Everyone should know how to foster an attentive discernment and constant vigilance, developing a healthy critical capacity regarding the persuasive force of the communications media.

"Also in this field, believers in Christ know that they can count upon the help of the Holy Spirit. Such help is all the more necessary when one considers how greatly the obstacles intrinsic to communication can be increased by ideologies, by the desire for profit or for power, and by rivalries and conflicts between individuals and groups, and also because of human weakness and social troubles.

"The modern technologies increase to a remarkable extent the speed, quantity and accessibility of communication, but they above all do not favor that delicate exchange which takes place between mind and mind, between heart and heart, and which should characterize any communication at the service of solidarity and love.

"Throughout the history of salvation, Christ presents himself to us as the 'communicator' of the Father: 'God, in these last days, has spoken to us through his Son' (Heb 1:2).

"The eternal Word made flesh, in communicating Himself, always shows respect for those who listen, teaches understanding of their situation and needs, is moved to compassion for their suffering and to a resolute determination to say to them only what they need to hear without imposition or compromise, deceit or manipulation.

"Jesus teaches that communication is a moral act:

"'A good person brings forth good
out of a store of goodness,
but an evil person brings forth evil
out of a store of evil.

"'I tell you,
on the Day of Judgment
people will render an account
for every careless word they speak.

"'By your words you will be acquitted,
and by your words you will be condemned.'
(Mt 12: 35-37)

14. "The apostle Paul has a clear message for those engaged in communications (politicians, professional communicators, spectators):

"'Therefore, putting away falsehood,
speak the truth,
each one to his neighbor,
for we are members one of another…

"No foul language should come out of your mouths,
but only such as is good for needed edification,
that it may impart grace to those who hear.'
(Eph 4: 25, 29)

"To those working in communication, especially to believers involved in this important field of society, I extend the invitation which, from the beginning of my ministry as Pastor of the Universal Church, I have wished to express to the entire world:

"'Do not be afraid!'

"Do not be afraid of new technologies! These rank "among the marvelous things" – inter mirifica – which God has placed at our disposal to discover, to use and to make known the truth, also the truth about our dignity and about our destiny as his children, heirs of his eternal Kingdom.

"Do not be afraid of being opposed by the world! Jesus has assured us, 'I have conquered the world!' (Jn 16:33)

"Do not be afraid even of your own weakness and inadequacy! The Divine Master has said, 'I am with you always, until the end of the world' (Mt 28:20).

"Communicate the message of Christ’s hope, grace and love, keeping always alive, in this passing world, the eternal perspective of heaven, a perspective which no communications medium can ever directly communicate:

“What eye has not seen,
and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared
for those who love him”
(1Cor 2:9).

"To Mary, who gave us the Word of life, and who kept his unchanging words in her heart, do I entrust the journey of the Church in today’s world. May the Blessed Virgin help us to communicate by every means the beauty and joy of life in Christ our Savior.

"To all I give my Apostolic Blessing!

"From the Vatican, 24 January 2005, the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales, Patron Saint of Journalists."


from an Apostolic Letter
to those responsible for communications (nn.13-14)
published February 21, 2005

Friday, February 25, 2005

Oscar film reviews

Here are evaluations of this year's contenders for Best Picture

The MPAA designations are listed by the film name.
The USCCB indicates morally appropriate audience.
DecentFilms.com indicates (inter alia) moral and spiritual value

The Aviator (PG-13)
USCCB - A-III (adults)
DecentFilms.com - -0.5 (somewhat problematic)

Finding Neverland (PG)
USCCB - A-II (adults and adolescents)
DecentFilms.com - -0.5 (somewhat problematic)

Million Dollar Baby (PG-13)
USCCB - O (nobody - morally offensive)
DecentFilms.com - -2 (poison)

Ray (PG-13)
USCCB - A-III (adults)
DecentFilms.com - no review (?!)

Sideways (R)
USCCB - L (limited adult audience, problematic content)
DecentFilms.com - no review (?!)

(The USCCB also has an online poll)

Schiavo deadline extended to March 18

Have you experienced...?

"...God's loving action within your heart?

"Do you have an increasing desire to be in relationship with God through prayer?

"Do you sometimes experience God's invitation to risk reaching out to others and believe that you can make a difference?

"Have you considered that God may be calling you to become a sister?

"If your answer is 'yes' to the above questions, we encourage you to consider that you may be gifted with the great grace of a religious vocation out of God's love for you, for the good of the Church and the world.

"When God calls someone to surrender her life totally to Him as a religious Sister, the grace is there for that person to sacrifice everything to follow His call.

"Give yourself the opportunity to explore what this might mean for you. You will find it helpful to share with others who are similarly searching and with sisters who have made this journey in faith. Enjoy doing this in a reflective atmosphere at one of our weekend retreats. By contacting our Vocation Director, you can receive information and guidance that will help you explore your questions and to eventually make a decision about religious life.

"We, the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, participate in the mission of the Roman Catholic Church by living the Gospel in imitation of St. Francis and our foundress, Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel.

"As consecrated women faithful to our vows, we strive in community to combine the contemplative life with the active through perpetual adoration and works of mercy in education, healthcare, and other ecclesial ministries.

"We respond gratefully to our call in the Church to adoration and evangelization by:

  • "Fidelity to our charism of Eucharistic and lived adoration
  • "Dependence upon Divine Providence
  • "Loving concern for one another
  • "Authentic witness of our Franciscan values
  • "Joyful service to all in need of Christ's presence, especially the poor."

from the Vocations website of
Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration

Blogger on the air

Earl Appleby passes on the following on his blog Times Against Humanity:

"Tomorrow, i.e., Friday, morning at 7:30 a.m. ET, I will be a guest on the Steve Kane Show, which airs on WNN at 1470 on your AM dial in South Florida.

"We will be discussing the fight for Terri (Schiavo) and the fight against euthanasia. You may also listen online at either of the two preceding links. I ask, no, I beg your prayers that the Holy Ghost may guide my poor words in defense of God's great gift of life—Terri's and her brothers' and sisters'—threatened by the increasingly insidious danger of epivalothanasia (imposed death). I also invite our readers to call the show's nationwide toll-free call-in number 877-275-2326 to join me in defending the defenseless.

"And as always, pray and act for Terri!"
(hat tip to Joshua LeBlanc)

“Come, let us kill him”

These words are spoken in both of today’s readings: in the story of Joseph and his brothers (Gen 37) and the parable of the vineyard (Matt 21).

These stories are harsh reminders of the ferocity of the opposition we may experience as people of faith in this world.

People of faith have confident assurance of things unseen and unacknowledged by the world. The world resents this confidence: this confidence in truth, this confidence in a salvation that the world cannot overcome or grasp.

It is good for us to remember the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (John 16:33b):

In the world
ye shall have tribulation:
but be of good cheer;
I have overcome the world.

Crossroads of the Great Social Questions

"The Mass Media:
the Crossroads of the Great Social Questions

10. "The Church, which in light of the message of salvation entrusted to it by the Lord is also a teacher of humanity, recognizes the duty to offer its own contribution for a better understanding of outlooks and responsibilities connected with current developments in communications.

"Especially because these influence the consciences of individuals, form their mentality and determine their view of things, it is important to stress in a forceful and clear way that the mass media constitute a patrimony to safeguard and promote.

"The communications media must enter into the framework of organically structured rights and duties, be it from the point of view of formation and ethical responsibility, or from reference to laws and institutional codes.

"The positive development of the media at the service of the common good is a responsibility of each and every one.

"Because of the close connections the media have with economics, politics and culture, there is required a management system capable of safeguarding the centrality and dignity of the person, the primacy of the family as the basic unit of society and the proper relationship among them.

11. "We are faced with three fundamental options: formation, participation and dialogue.

"In the first place, a vast work of formation is needed to assure that the mass media be known and used intelligently and appropriately.

"The new vocabulary they introduce into society modifies both learning processes and the quality of human relations, so that, without proper formation, these media run the risk of manipulating and heavily conditioning, rather than serving people.

"This is especially true for young people, who show a natural propensity towards technological innovations, and as such are in even greater need of education in the responsible and critical use of the media.

"In the second place, I would like to recall our attention to the subject of media access, and of co-responsible participation in their administration.

"If the communications media are a good destined for all humanity, then ever-new means must be found – including recourse to opportune legislative measures – to make possible a true participation in their management by all. The culture of co-responsibility must be nurtured.

"Finally, there cannot be forgotten the great possibilities of mass media in promoting dialogue, becoming vehicles for reciprocal knowledge, of solidarity and of peace.

"They become a powerful resource for good if used to foster understanding between peoples; a destructive 'weapon' if used to foster injustice and conflicts.

"My venerable predecessor, Blessed John XXIII, already prophetically warned humanity of such potential risks in the Encyclical, Pacem in Terris.

12. "The reflection upon the role 'of public opinion in the Church,' and 'of the Church in public opinion' aroused great interest.

"In a meeting with the editors of Catholic publications, my venerable predecessor, Pius XII, stated that something would be missing from the life of the Church were it not for public opinion. This same idea has since been repeated on other occasions, and in the Code of Canon Law there is recognized, under certain conditions, the right to the expression of one’s own opinion.

"While it is true that the truths of the faith are not open to arbitrary interpretations, and that respect for the rights of others places intrinsic limits upon the expression of one’s judgments, it is no less true that there is still room among Catholics for an exchange of opinions in a dialogue which is respectful of justice and prudence.

"Communication both within the Church community, and between the Church and the world at large, requires openness and a new approach towards facing questions regarding the world of media.

"This communication must tend towards a constructive dialogue, so as to promote a correctly-informed and discerning public opinion within the Christian community.

"The Church, like other institutions and groups, has the need and the right to make its activities known. However, when circumstances require, it must be able to guarantee an adequate confidentiality, without thereby prejudicing a timely and sufficient communication about Church events.

"This is one of the areas in which collaboration between the lay faithful and Pastors is most needed, as the Council appropriately emphasized:

"'A great many wonderful things are to be hoped for from this familiar dialogue between the laity and their spiritual leaders: in the laity a strengthened sense of personal responsibility; a renewed enthusiasm; a more ready application of their talents to the projects of their spiritual leaders.

"'The latter, on the other hand, aided by the experience of the laity, can more clearly and more incisively come to decisions regarding both spiritual and temporal matters.

"'In this way, the whole Church, strengthened by each one of its members, may more effectively fulfill its mission for the life of the world.'"

from an Apostolic Letter
to those responsible for communications (nn.10-12)
Pope John Paul II
published February 21, 2005 (emphases added)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Reality check

Today's first reading from the book of the Jeremiah (17:5-10) includes a reality check for all of us (most especially those who exalt a false conception of 'conscience').

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately corrupt;
who can understand it?

"I the LORD search the mind
and try the heart,
to give to every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his doings."

We can fool ourselves, but we can't fool God.

Miserere mei, Domine

"Poor man Laz'rus, sick and disabled"

"Dip your finger in the water,
Come and cool my tongue,
'Cause I'm tormented in the flame.

"He had to eat crumbs from the rich man's table

"Dip your finger in the water,
Come and cool my tongue,
'Cause I'm tormented in the flame.

"Rich man Dives, he lived so well

"Dip your finger in the water,
Come and cool my tongue,
'Cause I'm tormented in the flame.

"And when he died, he went straight to Hell

"Dip your finger in the water,
Come and cool my tongue,
'Cause I'm tormented in the flame."

(from an old spiritual)

Why did the rich man in today's Gospel (Lk 16:19-31) go to Hell? Mostly for ignoring Lazarus in his need, but also for the reasons given through Jeremiah in today's first reading (Jer 17:5-10):

Cursed is the man
who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.

He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.

Do we ignore those in need?
Do we put all our trust in human efforts or in ourselves alone?
Do we have our hearts set on things other than God?

If so,
we can look forward to excruciating nothingness,
for all that is not of God will pass away.

On the other hand...

Blessed is the man
who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.

He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.

If we trust in God,
we may suffer,
but we will endure and prosper forever.

Change of Mentality and Pastoral Renewal

7. "In the communications media the Church finds a precious aid for spreading the Gospel and religious values, for promoting dialogue, ecumenical and inter-religious cooperation, and also for defending those solid principles which are indispensable for building a society which respects the dignity of the human person and is attentive to the common good.

"The Church willingly employs these media to furnish information about itself and to expand the boundaries of evangelization, of catechesis and of formation, considering their use as a response to the command of the Lord: 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature' (Mk 16:15).

"This is certainly not an easy mission in an age such as ours, in which there exists the conviction that the time of certainties is irretrievably past. Many people, in fact, believe that humanity must learn to live in a climate governed by an absence of meaning, by the provisional and by the fleeting.

"In this context, the communications media can be used 'to proclaim the Gospel or to reduce it to silence within men’s hearts.' This poses a serious challenge for believers, especially for parents, families and all those responsible for the formation of children and young people.

"Those individuals in the Church community particularly gifted with talent to work in the media should be encouraged with pastoral prudence and wisdom, so that they may become professionals capable of dialoguing with the vast world of the mass media.

8. "The appreciation of the media is not reserved only to those already adept in the field, but to the entire Church Community.

"If, as has already been noted, the communications media take into account different aspects of the expression of faith, Christians must take into account the media culture in which they live: from the Liturgy, the fullest and fundamental expression of communication with God and with one another, to Catechesis, which cannot prescind from the fact of being directed to people immersed in the language and the culture of the day.

"The current phenomenon of communications impels the Church towards a sort of pastoral and cultural revision, so as to deal adequately with the times in which we live.

"Pastors, above all, must assume this responsibility. Everything possible must be done so that the Gospel might permeate society, stimulating people to listen to and embrace its message.

"Consecrated persons belonging to institutions having the charism of using the mass media have a particular responsibility in this regard. Spiritually and professionally formed towards this end, these institutions, 'should willingly lend their help, wherever pastorally appropriate […] in order to offset the inappropriate use of the media and to promote higher quality programmes, the contents of which will be respectful of the moral law and rich in human and Christian values.'

9. "Such is the importance of the mass media that fifteen years ago I considered it inopportune to leave their use completely up to the initiatives of individuals or small groups, and suggested that they be decisively inserted into pastoral programs.

"New technologies, in particular, create further opportunities for communication understood as a service to the pastoral government and organization of the different tasks of the Christian community.

"One clear example today is how the Internet not only provides resources for more information, but habituates persons to interactive communication.

"Many Christians are already creatively using this instrument, exploring its potential to assist in the tasks of evangelization and education, as well as of internal communication, administration and governance.

"However, alongside the Internet, other new means of communication, as well as traditional ones, should be used. Daily and weekly newspapers, publications of all types, and Catholic television and radio still remain highly useful means within a complete panorama of Church communications.

"While the content being communicated must obviously be adapted to the needs of different groups, the goal must always be to make people aware of the ethical and moral dimension of the information.

"In the same way, it is important to assure that media professionals receive the necessary formation and pastoral attention to confront the particular tensions and ethical dilemmas that arise in their daily work.

"Often these men and women 'sincerely desire to know and practice what is ethically and morally just,' and look to the Church for guidance and support."

from an Apostolic Letter to those responsible for communications (nn.7-9)
Pope John Paul II
published February 21, 2005 (emphases added)

Pope returns to hospital (THREE updates)

Wire services report that the Pope has been taken back to the hospital.

UPDATE #1 - Vatican Spokesman Dr. Joaquín Navarro-Valls told journalists this morning that yesterday afternoon the Holy Father had had a relapse of the flu and has been taken back to the Gemelli polyclinic this morning for attention by specialists and further tests.

UPDATE #2 - ANSA and other news services report that the Pope may undergo a tracheotomy to aid his breathing.

UPDATE #3 - The Vatican confirms that a tracheotomy was successfully performed on the Pope in a 30 minute operation.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - a collection of posts from Christian blogs of various types - is online at walloworld.com.

Anything you say may be used

In today’s first reading (Jer 18:18-20), the prophet Jeremiah faces opposition that is particularly insidious:

"Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah….
let us destroy him by his own tongue;
let us carefully note his every word."

This is a good reminder for us to exercise due care in the words we use.

On the other hand, it is also a good reminder that if we choose to do and say what is right, we will be opposed, even to the point of being ridiculed and our words twisted against us.

And yet we must act, we must speak,
for our own salvation,
for the good of those around us (even those who oppose us),
for the love of Jesus
and for the greater glory of God.

Statement on Vocations

"I want to ask you, dear sisters and brothers, to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life in a very particular way.

"I am not asking you to pray for vocations in general, for example,

“Dear God, please choose someone, like the person next door.'

"Rather, I am inviting you to pray this way:

'Dear God, if you will, please choose someone from my family – my family – to be a priest, sister or brother. And if you do, I will support that person with my prayers and encouragement.'

"Admittedly, this is a more difficult prayer because it reaches the heart of each family. But it is also a more generous prayer and God responds to generosity!"

Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington
from the
Vocations website of the Diocese of Arlington

He was over eighty years old

yet still physically agile and mentally sharp.

What made him interesting, however, was not so much how had aged well, but how much he had experienced and how much good he had done for so many decades.

The young people could only marvel as he spoke of things that seemed to them ancient history but that he himself had lived through. He was a living link to the past.

And the link reached back even further than his lifespan, as great as it was, for when the old man was young, he had learned much from the old men of that day, especially one old man they said had lived to be ninety.

Thus when young people now gathered around the old man, he could tell them of things that had happened more than a century before and that he had heard from someone who had actually been there, someone who spoke of amazing events with simple, wonderful words:

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.

(1 John 1:1)

St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and disciple of St. John the Apostle, was martyred for the faith on this day in the year 155 at the age of 86.

Gospel Reflection and Missionary Commitment

"4. The world of mass media also has need of Christ’s redemption.

"To analyze with the eyes of faith the processes and value of communications, the deeper appreciation of Sacred Scripture can undoubtedly help as a 'great code' of communication of a message which is not ephemeral, but fundamental for its saving value.

"Salvation History recounts and documents the communication of God with man, a communication which uses all forms and ways of communicating.

"The human being is created in the image and likeness of God in order to embrace divine revelation and to enter into loving dialogue with Him. Because of sin, this capacity for dialogue at both the personal and social level has been altered, and humanity has had to suffer, and will continue to suffer, the bitter experience of incomprehension and separation.

"God, however, did not abandon the human race, but sent his own Son (Cf. Mk 12:1-11).

"In the Word made flesh communication itself takes on its most profound saving meaning: thus, in the Holy Spirit, the human being is given the capacity to receive salvation, and to proclaim and give witness to it before the world.

"5. The communication between God and humanity has thus reached its perfection in the Word made flesh. The act of love by which God reveals himself, united to the response of faith by humanity, generates a fruitful dialogue.

"Precisely for this reason, making our own in a certain sense the request of the disciples, 'teach us to pray' (Lk11:1), we can ask the Lord to help us to understand how to communicate with God and with other human beings through the marvelous communications media.

"In light of so decisive and definitive a communication, the media provide a providential opportunity to reach people everywhere, overcoming barriers of time, of space and of language; presenting the content of faith in the most varied ways imaginable; and offering to all who search the possibility of entering into dialogue with the mystery of God, revealed fully in Christ Jesus.

"The Incarnate Word has left us an example of how to communicate with the Father and with humanity, whether in moments of silence and recollection, or in preaching in every place and in every way.

"He explains the Scriptures, expresses himself in parables, dialogues within the intimacy of the home, speaks in the squares, along the streets, on the shores of the lake and on the mountaintops.

"The personal encounter with him does not leave one indifferent, but stimulates imitation:

“'What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops,' (Mt 10:27).

"There is, however, a culminating moment in which communication becomes full communion: the Eucharistic encounter. By recognizing Jesus in the 'breaking of the bread,' (cf. Lk 24: 30-31), believers feel themselves urged on to announce his death and resurrection, and to become joyful and courageous witnesses of his Kingdom (cf. Lk 24:35).

"6. Thanks to the Redemption, the communicative capacity of believers is healed and renewed. The encounter with Christ makes them new creatures, and permits them to become part of that people which he, dying on the Cross, has won through his blood, and introduces them into the intimate life of the Trinity, which is continuous and circular communication of perfect and infinite love among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

"Communication permeates the essential dimensions of the Church which is called to announce to all the joyful message of salvation.

"For this reason, the Church takes advantage of the opportunities offered by the communications media as pathways providentially given by God to intensify communion and to render more penetrating the proclamation of His word.

"The media permit the manifestation of the universal character of the People of God, favoring a more intense and immediate exchange among local Churches, and nourishing mutual awareness and cooperation.

"We give thanks to God for the presence of these powerful media which, if used by believers with the genius of faith and in docility to the light of the Holy Spirit, can facilitate the communication of the Gospel and render the bonds of communion among ecclesial communities more effective."

from an Apostolic Letter to those responsible for communications (nn.4-6)
Pope John Paul II
published February 21, 2005

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The rapid development of technology

"in the area of the media is surely one of the signs of progress in today’s society. In view of these innovations in continuous evolution, the words found in the Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Inter Mirifica, promulgated by my venerable predecessor, the servant of God Paul VI, December 4, 1963, appear even more pertinent:

"'Man’s genius has with God’s help produced marvelous technical inventions from creation, especially in our times. The Church, our mother, is particularly interested in those which directly touch man’s spirit and which have opened up new avenues of easy communication of all kinds of news, of ideas and orientations.'

"2. More than forty years after the publication of that document, it appears appropriate to reflect on the 'challenges which the communications media constitute for the Church, which Paul VI said 'would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means.'

"In fact, the Church is not only called upon to use the mass media to spread the Gospel but, today more than ever, to integrate the message of salvation into the 'new culture' that these powerful means of communication create and amplify.

"It tells us that the use of the techniques and the technologies of contemporary communications is an integral part of its mission in the third millennium.
"Moved by this awareness, the Christian community has taken significant steps in the use of the means of communication for religious information, for evangelization and catechesis, for the formation of pastoral workers in this area, and for the education to a mature responsibility of the users and the recipients of the various communications media.

"3. Many challenges face the new evangelization in a world rich with communicative potential like our own.

"Because of this, I wanted to underline in the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio that the first Areopagus of modern times is the world of communications, which is capable of unifying humanity and transforming it into – as it is commonly referred to – 'a global village.'

"The communications media have acquired such importance as to be the principal means of guidance and inspiration for many people in their personal, familial, and social behavior.

"We are dealing with a complex problem, because the culture itself, prescinding from its content, arises from the very existence of new ways to communicate with hitherto unknown techniques and vocabulary."

from an Apostolic Letter to those responsible for communications (nn.1-3)
by Pope John Paul II
published February 21, 2005

The best of Bloggers Best for Terri Schiavo

Earl Appleby has most kindly and graciously included my post among what he considers the best of the "Bloggers Best for Terri" posted Sunday at the blog Wittenberg Gate. His list appears on the blogs Catholics in the Public Square, Life Matters, and Times Against Humanity.

Catholic Carnival XVIII

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

The Chair of Peter

'Cathedra Petri' - St. Peter's Basilica - by Bernini (Click for larger image)

"Today is the Feast of the Cathedra or Chair of St. Peter: a recurrence dating back to the fourth century that honors and celebrates the primacy and authority of St. Peter....

"Last year, on this day, in reflections made during the Angelus, Pope John Paul remarked that 'the liturgical feast of the Chair of Peter underscores the singular mystery, entrusted by the Lord to the leader of the Apostles, of confirming and guiding the Church in the unity of faith. This is what the ministerium petrinum is, that particular service that the Bishop of Rome is called to render to all Christians. An indispensable mission that is not based on human prerogatives but on Christ Himself as the cornerstone of the ecclesial community.

"'Let us pray that the Church, in the variety of cultures, languages and traditions, will be unanimous in believing and professing the truth of faith and morals transmitted by the Apostles.'"

from the Vatican Information Service


Today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 16:13-19) consists of Peter’s profession of faith in Christ and our Lord’s multifaceted response. To this day, Christians disagree among themselves about the implications of Christ’s words in this passage, particularly as they have been applied to the Bishop of Rome.

What fuels this disagreement primarily is an argument about power in the Church: who has it and how it is to be used.

The real problem, however, is having an argument about power in the Church in the first place.

In a later passage (Matthew 20:25-28), our Lord warns against power struggles within the body of believers:

But Jesus called them unto him, and said,
Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles
exercise dominion over them,
and they that are great
exercise authority upon them.

But it shall not be so among you:
but whosoever will be great among you,
let him be your minister;
And whosoever will be chief among you,
let him be your servant:
Even as the Son of man came
not to be ministered unto,
but to minister,
and to give his life a ransom for many.

Peter got the point (eventually), as he says in today’s first reading (1 Peter 5:2-4):

Feed the flock of God which is among you,
taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint,
but willingly;
not for filthy lucre,
but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God's heritage,
but being examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear,
ye shall receive a crown of glory
that fadeth not away.

Sadly, just like other people, Christians often entangle themselves in power games: explicitly or implicitly, as part of a formal structure or just within one’s web of relationships, imposing oneself on others or rebelling against others.

But, as both our Lord and Saint Peter warn us, it should not be so. Our primary focus should not be on power, but on service.

These readings invite us to consider first of all how we as individuals relate to others within the body of believers, the body of Christ.

Are we focused primarily on power (ours or others’) rather than on our being servants? Also, is our service toward others done grudgingly or with ulterior motives?

Our Lord calls each of us to serve and to do it willingly and gladly in imitation of him who “did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Monday, February 21, 2005

Thin lines

There is sometimes a thin line between being merciful and being an accomplice.

There is also sometimes a thin line between being morally evaluative and being damnably judgmental.

Today’s Gospel challenges us along these very lines:

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.

Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together,

shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.

For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you

It is important for us to be clear about what is right and what is wrong. It is important for us to speak the truth and to act in the interests of justice.

But it is critical that we be always explicitly clear about our personal sinfulness, our need for God’s mercy for ourselves, and our obligation to be instruments of God’s mercy for others.

It is a challenge to do all this, but we are called to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect, in and through the wonders of his grace.

Before all else, God loves us

"each and every one of us, and He calls us to love Him in return for all eternity. What an unspeakable privilege is ours!

"As religious, we are called in a particular way to give our lives to Him, letting our lives, our very beings, be transformed by Him so all that we do will witness His love to the world....

"The apostolate of the Religious Sisters of Mercy is in the areas of Health Care and Education. The charism is that of Mercy under the patronage of Our Lady of Mercy.

"In addition to the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, the Religious Sisters of Mercy take a fourth vow of service to the poor, sick, and ignorant. Our unique charism is embodied in this fourth vow of service.

"We wear a full length habit, veil and mercy cross in order to visibly represent the Church to those whom we serve and to manifest our consecration....

"We have convents in: Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, Connecticut, Maryland, Italy, and Germany."

from the Vocations web page of
the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma

The unwanted baby was left to starve

The family was already large and poor. The last thing they needed was another mouth to feed, so after some arguments, the mother decided to let the baby starve.

Someone who worked with the family, however, saw what was happening and fed the newborn, pulling him back from the brink of death.

The family was then shamed into taking care of the infant (now named Peter) themselves. A few years later, both parents were dead and one of Peter’s elder brothers was forced to take responsibility for him. He abused him, malnourished him, and overworked him. Still, Peter grew to be a bright lad, with a devout spirit.

One of Peter’s other brothers, Damian, came to the boy’s rescue and put him through school. He succeeded brilliantly at academics and by the time he was 25 he was already a famous university professor.

But Peter felt the call of the monastic vocation and a few years later withdrew from the world.

Once again, Peter succeeded brilliantly, rising not only to run his own monastery but become an advocate of reform in monasticism and in the Church at large. So great was his reputation that he was forced to become a bishop and cardinal. He proved instrumental in helping resolve many crises in the church.

St. Peter Damian (he had added his brother’s name) died on this very day in 1072.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


TheTransfiguration (detail) by Raphael

Bloggers' Best for Terri Schiavo

A collection of posts from Christian blogs of various types in support of Terri Schiavo is online at Wittenberg Gate.

Bear your share of hardship for the gospel

with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace

bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death

and brought life and immortality to light
through the gospel.
2 Timothy 1:8b-10

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Wait for the gifts

Sunday’s Gospel tells of the Transfiguration of our Lord on Mount Tabor: the quintessential image of Christian glory.

This Gospel is a bright light, literally a mountaintop experience, in the midst of our Lenten journey, but this journey also presents us with images not so glorious.

As we journey through Lent and as we journey through life we encounter images of sin, suffering and affliction. Sometimes they are more than images: sometimes they are concrete, painful realities in our own lives and in the lives of those we love.

For many people, the greatest personal affliction would be catastrophic illness – especially one that took everything away except the breath of life itself. Our imagination shudders in terror at the claustrophobic purgatory of being trapped in a lifeless body.

We know people in that dreadful state. In particular, most people know about a young woman in Florida, Terri Schiavo, whose estranged husband may try to starve her to death this coming week.

The legal and political twists and turns of that particular situation as well as the histories and agendas of all the people involved are complex in the extreme, not to mention the natural emotions of such a situation and the frustration of medical science, like all forms of human knowledge, being far short of absolute certainty.

As we consider this soul-churning situation, we look again to Sunday’s readings and these verses from the Responsorial Psalm catch our eye:

Behold, the eye of the LORD
is upon them that fear him,
upon them that hope in his mercy;
To deliver their soul from death,
and to keep them alive in famine.

Psalm 33:18-19

It is easy to imagine Terri praying these words, somewhere deep beneath the shadows of her injured brain.

None of us can hear her, of course. In her prayer, she is totally alone with God.

Does she also ask God for death? Perhaps, but the answer must come from God, for not only is God the Creator but God is also the Redeemer.

Life is God’s gift – for God alone to take back – and so too is the ultimate end, purpose, and meaning of life a gift from God – to be found in eternal life, which comes from God alone. To try to snatch that gift away – either by force or by neglect – is a mistake that can have eternally deadly consequences.

As difficult and as painful as life can sometimes be, it is better to wait for the Lord’s time - for the eternal gifts he prepares for us are greater than any temporary darkness.

We await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
who will change our lowly body
to be like his glorious body,
by the power which enables him
even to subject all things to himself.

Phillipians 3:20:b-21

And that leads us back to the Transfiguration:

And he led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun…

You are so peculiar!

Or at least you should be (and so should I).

In today’s first reading, the Lord tells the people of Israel that they “are to be a people peculiarly his own” and ties that to their keeping of his commandments.

In today’s Gospel, our Lord is continuing to kick these commandments up another notch, holding us to an especially high standard, one that distinguishes us from the pagans.

"You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.

But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

For if you love those who love you,

what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?

So be perfect,

just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Are we striving to meet this standard?

Are we unusual? Peculiar? Or do we blend in with the pagans?

Our heavenly Father is calling us to enjoy his perfection.

Friday, February 18, 2005

This priest could really paint!

'The Annunciation' by Fra Angelico (version painted c. 1430-32) Museo del Prado, Madrid

His name was John and it was an understatement to say he was a gifted painter, but what he really wanted to do is become a Dominican and devote himself to God.

He indeed became a Dominican, a priest, and one of the great painters of history. Even in his own day, he was called "Angelic."

Fra Angelico died on this very day in 1455. He was beatified in 1982.

(A tip of the head covering to Cyntr, Moniales, Disputations, et al.)

Reports on Terri Schiavo

Father Rob Johansen, who has been very close to Terri Schiavo's parents, has new posts today with the latest information.

There is anger in the blogosphere

Sometimes it is justified, rational, proportionate, and directed toward appropriate action; and sometimes it is not.

(St. Thomas Aquinas explores the issue of anger in question 158 of the Secunda Secundæ Partis of his Summa Theologica.)

That being said, all of us in the Christian blogosphere (myself included) – no matter where we stand on any of the hot-button issues – should keep the words of our Lord in today’s Gospel firmly in mind as we read, post, comment, and email.

“I tell you,
unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven….

I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa,
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,'
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.

Settle with your opponent quickly….

Pax et veritas!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Call to Diocesan Priesthood

"When it came to calling Apostles, Jesus did not pin a notice to a tree and ask for volunteers. Instead, he looked people in the eye and called them by name to follow him. This personal call to each person rings through our church still, and this invitation comes in many forms:

"It comes first of all in the home, from the example of parents and friends for whom faith in Jesus Christ is important. It comes from good priests and an active community. More than these, however, it comes in the quiet moments when we return Christ's gaze and meet him in personal prayer.

"Perhaps in these moments we will see the greater picture of God's desire for his people, and realise the intrinsic need for pastors of these people. A need that is growing as fast as the community we call the Church.

"We are the Church, all of us together who follow Jesus Christ. Each of us is called by Jesus to serve him in a special way. We are rightly very much aware today of the tremendous dignity and responsibility of every person in the Church, and indeed of every human being. But we need the ministry of priests so that we can be the integrated community the Lord calls us to be.

"The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) reminded us that priests have the chief role to play in the renewal of the Church. The more active lay people become in the church's life and work, the more the priest is needed to sustain and empower them for their service of the Lord.

"Diocesan Priesthood is all about being a community priest in one area, with the people of that area! These priests share in the bishop's ministry for the church of one diocese. Their spirituality and community life are tied to the people they serve. Through knowing their community they plant the Gospel in the local Church in a way that is contextual and meaningful....

"'Am I the Right Man for the Job?'

"The big question that faces many men who are thinking about priesthood is whether they have the right character or personality for the life - some even worry that they are not 'holy enough.'

"Don't let this scare you! All it takes is a little generosity, being a reasonably outgoing man, with a real personal desire to be prayerful. It takes someone who feels at home with his friends, has good health and moral character and a potential for some academic studies....

"'What do Diocesan Priests actually do?'

"There are many areas in which the diocesan priest may end up working, but the vast majority will be parish priests. Most people see very little of the daily work of the parish priest, and many think it is just about saying mass and celebrating the other sacraments. This is a big part of the work, but there is much more to it.

"Parish priests are called on to visit and care for the sick and elderly, to counsel people through their daily problems, to foster and engage in catechetics, adult faith education, bible study groups, faith sharing groups, sodalities and other parish activities.

"He is also involved in community development and projects, as well as ways of tackling the many social problems of our age-especially through working with the diocese and engaging himself in ecumenical efforts.

"This and so much more!!!"

from the Vocations website of
the Diocese of Johannesburg

(They also have a lovely Discernment page)

For the asking

Today’s Gospel presents us once again with our Lord’s most glorious encouragement for us to pray.

"Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks,
the door will be opened.

Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?

If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father
give good things to those who ask him.”

Yeah, but what if your kid keeps asking for snakes?

Our Lord does not here say that we will get exactly what we ask for, but that if we ask, if we pray, we will receive good things from God – ultimately better than what we could have asked for.

But if we do not ask, if we do not pray, if we do not seek, if we do not signal our desire to move forward, then we are less likely to get anything or go anywhere.

Ask. Seek. Knock. Trust in the Lord.

Seven guys

They were young, rich and well-connected men who liked to do something behind closed doors:


Then one day these seven young men felt the call to leave the world behind and dedicate themselves to God. So they made sure their earthly obligations were taken care of and then set up a hermitage for themselves away from the city.

Their reputation for holiness spread and they were asked to speak at churches throughout the region.

They were not always well received. At one place, a heckler actually got violent (he subsequently became one of their most devoted followers).

They and their followers called themselves the Friar Servants, others called them Servites. The last of the seven founders died on this very day in 1310. The Servites continue to serve the Church in many parts of the world.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Online Oscar Poll

"The U.S. Bishops' Communications Committee is urging people to cast their own vote for the Academy Awards.

"The Committee, which oversees the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting (OFB), is providing the opportunity to vote on the USCCB Web site at (www.usccb.org/movies/oscarvote2005.htm).

"The options include voting for Best Actor, Actress, Director and Best Movie of the Year and a handful of other categories. The chance to vote continues through February 27, the date of the annual presentation of the coveted Oscars, voted on by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.The results of the Communications Committee survey will be posted on the USCCB Web site February 28.

"The Office of Film and Broadcasting reviewed all of the movies nominated. Reviews include a description of the film, the USCCB classification of each movie's suitability by age group, along with the rating given by the Motion Picture Association of America. In 2004, the office reviewed 225 movies.New reviews are posted each week on the Web site (www.usccb.org/movies) which receives over 20,000 visits each month, with 297,484 total visits in 2004."

from a USCCB Press Release

Catholic Carnival XVII

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at LivingCatholicism.com. This week's title is "Spiritual Nourishment during Lent."

Bloggers' round-up for Terri Schiavo

Wittenberg Gate will host a bloggers' round-up for Terri Schiavo on Sunday, February 20th. Anyone blogging for the protection of Terri Schiavo's life is invited to submit their one best post on her behalf by noon Saturday (Eastern US time). Please send submissions for the Bloggers' Best for Terri Schiavo.

UPDATE - Roundup posted

Hopeless task

At a certain point we may look at our lives and despair.

Even in our spiritual lives, we may look at ourselves - how intractable our faults and our sinfulness, how weak our efforts at prayer or service, how frequently we have backslidden – and we may despair of any real improvement, let alone anything approaching real holiness.

In today’s first reading, the prophet Jonah has reason to despair as he faces an incredibly daunting task: walk through the huge city of Nineveh and bring its inhabitants to repentance (this task would be daunting even today: Nineveh is in present-day Iraq – right across the river from the hotspot of Mosul).

Yet Jonah, despite some earlier resistance, goes forward anyway and does the right thing: preaching even though it seems a hopeless task

For their part, the Ninevites have reason to despair as they face imminent destruction, yet they go forward anyway and do the right thing: repenting even though it seems a hopeless task.

And, by the power of God... the hopeless task meets with miraculous success.

The people repented – every last one of them - and were spared.

That is part of what our Lord means in Luke’s Gospel by “the sign of Jonah” – an unexpectedly effective – indeed, miraculous – manifestation of God’s power to change people’s lives.

We must always turn away from despair (and from presumption) and go forward with faith and humility, doing the right thing even when it seems a hopeless task, for God’s power and love is unstoppable.

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - a collection of posts from Christian blogs of various types - is online at Wittenberg Gate

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

More blogs

that have kindly linked to mine

Flos Carmeli - "Reflections on the arts, Carmelite traditions and saints, and contemplation. . . among other things."

Deo Gratias - "A forum to express (the author's) gratitude, concern, and opinions about being Catholic."

Res et Rationes - "Thoughts from a conservative Notre Dame student desparately seeking a job."

Testimony and Truth - a blog by a campus minister in Akron, Ohio.

Spread the Word

Today’s first reading is a beautiful one.

For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

An important lesson to be gained from this passage is the perfect effectiveness of the word of God, especially the word of God in Scripture (effective in achieving God’s purposes, not necessarily our own or even what we personally think his purposes may be).

It is therefore important for us to be ever more effective in helping to spread that word.

Sometimes this can be done explicitly, quoting chapter and verse with the obvious purpose of evangelization.

Many times it is best done subtly. Sometimes it is best when it is not even deliberate.

A way to do this is to develop the habit of soaking ourselves in the word of God, taking advantage of every opportunity to read the word and to hear it (even if only on tape in the background as we get ready in the morning).

If we let the word of God permeate us, it will flow more naturally from us: gently falling all around us, achieving the end for which God sends it.

Dominican Nun Blog

One of the "great gems discovered by many during the recent Catholic Blog Awards was the blog Moniales by the contemplative Dominican nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey.

As their blog says...

"A blog from the monastery? And why not? With this blog is we share with you a bit of our Dominican monastic life.

Dominican nuns? Yes! In fact, Dominican nuns are the firstborn of the Order of Preachers, founded by Saint Dominic a full 10 years before the friars. The nuns are the 'partners' of the Friars in the Holy Preaching. It is said that the Dominican Preacher speaks of God to men while the Dominican Nun in her cloister speaks of men to God.

"The nuns are at the heart of the Order, holding in the inmost sanctuary of their compassion, that is, in the heart, all those who St. Dominic used to cry out in the midst of the night, 'O God, what will become of sinners!'

"This 'cry of Dominic' is the cry of every Dominican Nun. It is the cry of every Dominican who is passionate for the preaching of the Good News and the salvation of souls."

From their Vocation site:

"A contemplative nun is called to live in very great intimacy with Jesus. She is called to be a spouse and mother: a spouse of Christ and mother of souls through her life of prayer and sacrifice.

"God issues His invitation in many ways-a homily, the reading of a book, the example of a friend or family member, the advice of a spiritual director…perhaps even this very website will be the means of helping you correspond to the grace of a contemplative vocation…but always God leaves you perfectly free to accept or reject His beautiful invitation to a special way of life.

"How do you know you have a Dominican contemplative vocation? First, there are usually several simple indications that you may be called to this life. Every call is different and unique. For some, the call is very clear at an early age; others come to it after much searching.

"Signs of a call to Dominican Contemplative Life

  • "single woman between the ages of 21-40
  • "a practicing Roman Catholic
  • "fidelity and love for the Church
  • "good physical and mental health
  • "a joyful, generous spirit
  • "willingness to learn
  • "ability to live in community and in solitude
  • "zeal for the salvation of souls
  • "an attraction to prayer and the things of God
  • "a desire to give yourself entirely to Jesus Christ

"If you have these qualifications, why wait? We invite you, as Our Lord did His first disciples to 'come and see,' and contact:"

Vocation Directress
Dominican Nuns
Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary
543 Springfield Avenue
Summit, NJ 07901-4498
Phone: 908-273-1228
e-mail: vocations.summit@op.org

Pater qui est in caelis

The prominent feature of today’s Gospel is the Our Father, the Lord’s prayer, and the very first word of the prayer in Greek is “Father” (as it is in Latin: Pater).

For some people, this opens up a whole set of issues, because their personal experience of “father” was not a good one: their earthly fathers were abusive, emotionally distant, totally absent, etc.

Such experiences are tragic and those who suffer them need protection and healing, but this prayer is not about our earthly fathers: it is about our Father who is in heaven (Pater qui est in caelis).

If our personal experience of “father” was a good one, that’s wonderful, but no matter how great our dads may have been, they were at best a weak echo of the incredible goodness and love that our Father in heaven has for us.

And if our personal experience of “father” was not a good one, what wonders are in store for us, for we can experience in God the Father we never had, the special sweetness of his love – greater and more intense than any earthly father could ever give his daughter or son.

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.

I will not use vain repetitions in prayer

I will not use vain repetitions in prayer
I will not use vain repetitions in prayer
I will not use vain repetitions in prayer

In today’s Gospel, our Lord warns his disciples

When ye pray,
use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do:
for they think that they shall be heard

for their much speaking

Catholics are sometimes accused of doing this: from saying five to ten Our Fathers as a penance to praying the Rosary, repetitions are not uncommon in Catholic prayer.

Yet repetition in prayer is not uncommon for any Christian.

Consider how repetitious so many extemporaneous prayers are. Consider also how many times we pray for the exact same thing: from world peace to healing for a particular illness.

The real problem is not so much the repetition but the intention: the idea that multiplying words will change God’s mind.

We cannot change God in se through our prayer. Rather, it is God who changes us through our prayer and who makes us his instruments of change through our prayer.

Extended and repeated prayer may have many effects on us. Sometimes it is like the old practice of writing repeated sentences in school, drumming important things into our brain. Sometimes it is like exercise, gaining strength by repeating the same action. Sometimes it is just the extra time we spend with our minds and hearts specially directed toward God and his will.

Repetition as a way of changing God is in vain, but the more we pray – even if our prayer seems repetitious – the more God changes us according to his ways.

May God’s will be done.
May God’s will be done.
May God’s will be done.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Opere et omissione

A significant aspect of Lent is looking at one’s life afresh and seeing the need for continual conversion and forgiveness in Christ: seeing where we still fall short and how we need God’s grace.

A good tool for this spiritual self-examination can be a structured Examination of Conscience.

Both of today’s readings give us wonderful touch points that we should integrate into our personal self-reflection and examination of conscience: not only in terms of what wrong we have done but also what good we have failed to do (opere et omissione).

Some of these points are magnificent and all-encompassing yet simple:

Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy....

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Others are very concrete and should prompt us to ask ourselves challenging questions, to find seriously honest answers deep within ourselves, and to resolve to follow the way of God more closely.

Read these readings... slowly and carefully.

The first reading, from the book of Leviticus, warns us of things we should not do.

It is an amazing thing that a book mostly full of obscure, complex rituals performed in temples and meeting tents speaks so movingly of our religious obligations outside of explicit worship, that treating other people badly directly impacts our relationship with the Lord.

Some of the warnings are familiar: Thou shalt not steal, lie, swear falsely, spread slander, defraud or take revenge.

Some warn us not only against evil actions but also evil intentions: thou shalt not bear hatred in thy heart, show partiality, or even hold a grudge.

How often do we fail in these things?

Some of the warnings sound very modern: demanding right treatment of day laborers and persons with disabilities.

How often do we think of these things?

A possible reaction to all of this "Thou shalt not this” and "Thou shalt not that" is to avoid doing anything, but even failing to act can be a sin.

Nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor's life is at stake

How often do we stand idly by while our neighbors’ lives are threatened and even destroyed? We watch the news and say “what a shame” and do no more (or we close our eyes completely to the suffering and troubles of those around us).

We cannot save everyone, but we cannot simply do nothing.

Indeed, in the Gospel, people are sent to Hell precisely for doing nothing.

Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?'

He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.'

What should you and I as individuals be doing for strangers, whether newcomers in our congregations or newcomers to our country?

What should you and I as individuals be doing for the poor, near and far? For the sick, for shut-ins, or even for prisoners?

We have much to consider, much to pray about, and much to do.

Miserere nobis, Domine.

The brothers came from a political family

but what interested them was the spiritual life, so they left the world behind and entered a monastery.

The world, however, would not leave them alone.

A great need was being felt in many places for the Gospel of Christ, but different problems posed obstacles in various places.

In one distant location, there were simply no teachers well-educated in the faith, so the brothers were called out of their monastery and sent.

In another location, the native people resisted anything not in their language. This was complicated by the fact that they did not have a well-developed written language. Once again, the brothers were chosen. The younger brother actually devised a whole new alphabet, whereupon they translated the Gospels and many prayers into the native people’s language.

Sadly, success sometimes brings new challenges, especially envy, rivalry, and other political problems. People from Western regions attacked them – after all, the brothers were Easterners. They were summoned to Rome where they were not only vindicated but selected to become bishops!

The younger brother, St. Cyril, Apostle to the Slavs and inventor of the Cyrillic alphabet (used to this day), died shortly afterwards on this very day in the year 869. His brother, St. Methodius, Apostle to the Slavs, continued their work and their struggles until his own death in 885

Last child of Fatima

Sister Lucia de Jesus Santos, the last of the three children who had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima died yesterday at the age of 97.

(Hat tip to Ut Unum Sint)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Six aspects of Temptation

Today’s readings on this first Sunday of Lent talk about six different aspects of temptation:

In the first reading, the object of temptation is perceived as

  • good for food,

    (So too our physical needs can get out of control and tempt us – “If it feels good, do it”)

  • pleasing to the eyes,

    (So too we may confuse morality with aesthetics – “If it looks good, do it”)

  • and desirable for gaining wisdom

    (So too we may rationalize our way to do anything – “If I think it, it must be right”)

But the most insidious temptations are yet to come...

In the Gospel, our Lord is tempted

  • To do miracles

    (So too we may be too focused on getting glorious things from faith – “If I have glorious experiences, I have no problems”)

  • To step out on faith - literally

    (So too we may be lazy and reckless in our earthly and spiritual lives – “If God loves me, I can do anything I feel like… or nothing at all!”)

  • To gain the whole world

    (So too we may limit our vision to this world only or let the ends justify the means – “If it means good things for the world, it must be okay.”)

None of these things (physical needs, aesthetics, wisdom, miracles, confidence, or the good of the world) are necessarily bad by themselves - indeed, they can be very good things - but ultimately none of them are good unless they are in accord with the will of God.

If they are not in accord with the will of God, anything good in them will ultimately fail and then what will we be left with?

Resisting temptation is ultimately a matter of doing the right things for the right reasons: seeking always and everywhere to do only the will of God, for it is only in and through God’s will that we can enjoy the Good that lasts forever.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Are you talking to ME?

Caravaggio's 'The Calling of St. Matthew' - The Contarelli Chapel, Church of St. Louis of France, Rome

Today’s Gospel is a familiar one: the call of St. Matthew.

The thought that comes to mind is also a familiar one: which of the people in the Gospel is more like us?

The second thought is: are we sure?

Are we the righteous people?

Are we sure?

Are we the ones who 'think outside the box' and reach out to people who really need the Gospel?

Are we sure?

Are we the sinners?

I think he’s talking to me.

Ready for Sunday?

From today's first reading:

If you hold back your foot on the sabbath
from following your own pursuits on my holy day;

If you call the sabbath a delight,
and the LORD's holy day honorable;

If you honor it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice–

Then you shall delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;

I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Isaiah 58:13-14

(I know I need to do better in this - among other things.)

Friday, February 11, 2005

The primacy of truth

George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, delivered an address to members of the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago last fall on the "primacy of truth" and the "primacy of conscience." ZENIT recently posted a synopsis of this very interesting speech.

"A debased notion of conscience - a barely-concealed enthusiasm for autonomy disguised as an appeal to the primacy of conscience - weakens our sense of obligation, damages our purity of heart, and makes it harder and harder to see God."

(Hat tip to Quenta Nârwenion)

Vocations prayer

Spirit of eternal Love,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
we thank You for all the vocations
of apostles and saints which have enriched the Church.
Continue, we pray, this work of Yours.

Remember when, at Pentecost,
You descended on the Apostles gathered together in prayer
with Mary, the mother of Jesus,
and look upon your Church which today has
particular need of holy priests,
of faithful and authoritative witnesses of your grace;
she needs consecrated men and women,
who show the joy of those who live only for the Father,
who make their own the mission and the offering of Christ,
who build up in charity the new world.

Holy Spirit, eternal Spring of joy and peace,
it is You who open the heart and the mind to the divine call;
it is You who make effective every impetus
towards good, towards truth, towards charity.
Your "inexpressible groans"
rise up to the Father from the heart of the Church,
which suffers and struggles for the Gospel.

Open the hearts and minds of young men and women,
so that a new flowering of holy vocations
may show forth the fidelity of your love,
and all may know Christ,
the true light come into the world
to offer to every human being
the sure hope of eternal life.
John Paul II
Message for 1998 World of Prayer for Vocations (excerpt)

posted on the Vocations website
of the Diocese of Buffalo

Bad News in Schiavo Case

Father Rob Johansen has some bad news regarding the case of Terri Schiavo.

Marines vs. Priests

In his Diary of a Suburban Priest, Father Ethan comments on a recent newspaper column in which the writer indicated that he'd rather that his sons join the Marines than be priests.

2005 Catholic Blog Award Winners

Best Apologetics: Defensor Fidei
Best Blog by a Man: A Saintly Salmagundi
Best Blog by a Seminarian: Meandering Mind of a Seminarian
Best Blog by a Woman: Open Book
Best Blog by Priest/Religious: A Saintly Salmagundi
Best Group Blog: Catholic Ragemonkey
Best New Blog: Being or Nothingness
Best Overall: Open Book
Best Political: Southern Appeal
Best Presentation: Shrine of the Holy Whapping
Best Social Commentary: Southern Appeal
Most Bizarre: A Saintly Salmagundi
Most Creative: The Curt Jester
Most Devotional: El Camino Real
Most Humorous: A Saintly Salmagundi
Most Informative: Open Book
Most Insightful: Secret Agent Man
Most Intellectual: The Old Oligarch / Catholic Apologetics of America (tie)
Most Theological: Not so Quiet Catholic Corner

Congratulations to all the winners!

Special thanks to Joshua LeBlanc for his hard work on this project.

My heartfelt thanks to all those who voted for my humble blog.

All of the nominees are to be commended. There are also very worthy blogs who, for one reason or another, happened to not appear on the list of nominees.

May God bless all faithful bloggers!

Have mercy on me, O God

according to thy steadfast love;
according to thy abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
and done that which is evil in thy sight,
so that thou art justified in thy sentence
and blameless in thy judgment.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Fill me with joy and gladness;
let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence,
and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of thy salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors thy ways,
and sinners will return to thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
thou God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of thy deliverance.

O Lord, open thou my lips,
and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.

For thou hast no delight in sacrifice;
were I to give a burnt offering,
thou wouldst not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God
is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God,
thou wilt not despise.
Psalm 51:1-17