A Penitent Blogger

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

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

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Greatest Catholic Quotes of All Time

Inspired by the American Film Institute's list of "100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time", Enbrethiliel has created on her blog Sancta Sanctis her own list of great Catholic quotes.

"Over the last twenty-one hundred years that the Church has been on earth, She has wisely turned to words, whether those spoken by our Lord Himself, those inspired by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament writers, or those written by anyone and everyone who came after and was moved to put pen to paper for the greater glory of God."

(Hat tip: Recta Ratio)

"A significant relapse"

In a tragic story, WFSA, in Montgomery, Alabama, reports a Catholic high school principal there as saying that the school's young chaplain "had dealt with neurological problems in the past. 'He was doing very well, but I guess he had a significant relapse.'" (UPDATE - The principal elaborates in the blog The Catholic Educator.)

Father Michael Labadie, 32, was found dead earlier this week: an apparent suicide.

Requiescat in pace.

Objectively, suicide is a great evil: an offense against God and against everyone in that person's life.

Psychological and other great disturbances may mitigate (if not eliminate) subjective culpability and so we prayerfully leave that person's fate in the hands of our loving God who is perfectly merciful and just.

However, as we put the dead prayerfully in God's hands and ask God to bring healing to the survivors, we should do all we can to keep others (or to keep ourselves) from heading down that darkest of roads, for the risks there are deadly and eternal.

Married or single, priest or layperson,
tough guy or sensitive soul--
this tragedy should remind us
of our urgent obligation
to care for others
and to let others care for us.

Bishops new and old

The Holy Father this morning accepted the retirement of Bishop James O'Brien, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Westminster, England.

He also named Msgr. Bernardo Alvarez Afonso, vicar general of the diocese of San Cristobal de La Laguna, Spain, as the new Bishop, replacing Bishop Felipe Fernandez Garcia whose resignation (for reasons other than age) was accepted by the Holy Father this morning.

The Holy Father appointed two new bishops in Bolivia (both in their forties): Polish-born Fr. Krzysztof Bialasik S.V.D., secretary for pastoral care of the Bolivian Episcopal Conference, as Bishop of Oruro and Fr. Ricardo Ernesto Centellas Guzman as Auxiliary Bishop of Potosi.

Ready to give it all

In today’s first reading (Gen. 22:1-19), Abraham is ready to give up his most precious gift from God: the focus of all his hopes and dreams.

He is ready to do this because of the faith, trust, and love he has for God.

At any moment, you or I might be forced to lose things that are precious to us.

Are we ready?

Do we believe? Do we trust? Do we love?

Perhaps we don't feel totally ready. We are not yet perfect (God knows I am far from perfect).

So we must continually pray
and ask our merciful Lord Jesus
for the grace we need
to do his will,
to be always ready,
to believe,
to trust,
to love
in absolute totality

In manuas tuas, Domine,
commendo spiritum meum

The church kept losing members

They would be there one Sunday and then never seen again.

It was a very serious situation.

But the church survived.

Sometimes over a hundred parishioners would disappear in a single week.

But the church endured.

Those who were left would seek out their missing brothers and sisters, retrieving their bodies from the government authorities who had arrested and killed them and giving them a Christian burial.

And the church of the city of Rome, remembering its brothers and sisters who died for their faith in Jesus Christ, would flourish.

Today the universal Church celebrates the memory of the first martyrs of Rome.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The value of silence

from the website of the Corpus Christi Monastery
of the Poor Clare Nuns of Rockford, Illinois

"It is time
to propose the religious life once again
as a serious plan of life
to show the nobility of the total gift

Christian Carnival

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

Dangerous email about Pope's death

CNET reports about a email going around that says, "Someone sent me this document which is stolen from a secret government body and deals about John Paul's death. It says he was killed by two 'doctors' who were hired by some government bodies. The text attached contains all the story behind his death and who these doctors are."

It should come as no surprise that opening the attached text launches a 'worm' that may damage one's security software, etc.

It goes without saying that the story to which the email alludes is bogus.

Other fake but sensationalist stories are also associated with this worm.

Caveat lector!

The Great Race

In today’s second reading (from 2 Timothy 4), St. Paul anticipates his coming death and looks back on his life.

The time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well;
I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.

From now on
the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day...

Do we need to pick up our pace in serving the Lord?

Let us pray

Catholic News Service reports that in the course of presenting the new Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI “urged Catholics around the world to memorize the most common Catholic prayers in Latin. Learning the prayers in Latin as well as in one's own language ‘will help Christian faithful of different languages pray together, especially when they gather for special circumstances.’”

CNS also reports that “the Italian version of the Compendium (includes) an appendix with the Latin texts of many traditional prayers, including the Sign of the Cross (below), the Gloria, the Hail Mary and Come, Holy Spirit" (and doubtless the Our Father as well).

At the moment, the Compendium “is available only in Italian. National bishops' conferences will be responsible for translating and publishing the text in their own languages.”

In his speech yesterday, the Holy Father indicated that “in every one of the translations, the majority of the prayers will also be presented in Latin.”

In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus sancti. Amen


The Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

Sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Paulum

Gloria Patri

et Filio,
et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio,
et nunc,
et semper, et in saecula saeculorum.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning
is now
and will be forever.

He was the top guy

He had been the top guy even before they had gone public and he was also their chief spokesman: their most recognizable face.

He later took the lead in opening a new market that was so vast it would dramatically reshape the organization and even change the face of the world.

But there was also the other guy.

He had been brought in from a competitor, where he had been one of their most aggressive players. At first, he had laid low, but when the opportunity was presented to him, he moved quickly. In time, he would become the lead guy in the largest growth market with an almost unlimited territory.

They both ended up in jail, in different places in the same city. The top guy would be tortured to death and the other guy beheaded, but their work would go on and flourish.

Today the Church solemnly celebrates the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

Ave Maria

gratia plena,
Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.

Hail Mary,
full of grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus

reple tuorum corda fidelium,
et tui amoris in eis accende.

V. Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur.
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.


qui corda fidelium
Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti.
Da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere,
et de eius semper consolatione gaudere.
Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

Come, Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of Thy faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray:
Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful
by the light of the Holy Spirit,
grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise,
and ever rejoice in His consolation.
Through Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"I find many who will ask..."

"'I wonder what I want to do with my life?'

"and I find another smaller group of young and other aged people who are asking a very different and more challenging question:

"'I wonder what God wants me to do with my life?'

"The question you choose to ask will have a direct impact on the direction your life will take and those whom God wants to entrust to your care.

"What would happen if a group of young people were to make this prayer:

"'Lord, if you have something special which needs to be done -- even if it is difficult, especially if it is difficult—I pray for the grace to say, yes—Give me the grace to do something challenging for You with my life.'

"Jesus changed the world with a small group of men. All the saints made this kind of surrender.

"What about you?

"St. Paul said it with his words and with his life: 'None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. While we live we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we die as his servants. Both in life and in death we are the Lord’s' (Romans 14.7-9).

The Lord tends not to answer with claps of thunder or visions but through the still whisper heard in prayer and waiting.

"When I was a college student Fr. Burke (now Bishop Burke) told me to spend time in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. He said, 'You will find your vocation through prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.' This prayer has changed my life and truly has led me to the priesthood.

"I invite and challenge you to make this prayer of surrender. If we could only learn to make this personal surrender to Jesus Christ there would not be a shortage of holy priests, deacons, religious, as well as holy married persons."

Rev. Joseph Hirsch
Director of Vocations
Diocese of La Crosse

excerpted from the Vocations website of
the Diocese of LaCrosse

Official JPII Beatification website

Today, the Diocese of Rome solemnly initiated the formal inquiry for the beatification and canonization of the great Pope John Paul II.

The Diocese of Rome has set up an official website for this cause: http://www.vicariatusurbis.org/Beatificazione/

The site has been difficult to reach, due to very heavy traffic.

The website is primarily in Italian, but has English sections (marked by the UK flag).

Focusing on destruction

In today’s first reading (Gen. 19:15-29), we have the familiar story of Lot’s wife:

The sun was risen upon the earth
when Lot entered into Zoar.
Then the LORD rained upon Sodom
and upon Gomorrah
brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;
And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain,
and all the inhabitants of the cities,
and that which grew upon the ground.
But his wife looked back from behind him,
and she became a pillar of salt.

Why did she look back? Perhaps, in some tragic way, she had left her heart in Sodom and Gomorrah: her home for many years (as evil a place as it was).

But there may have also been another reason for her to look: a very human reason.

Consider the awesome spectacle that was happening behind her: cities collapsing, fire and brimstone coming out of the sky, an unleashing of destructive power greater than Hiroshima. Consider the tremendous flashes of light and the “long echoing roll of ruinous noise” coming from behind her.

Who wouldn’t be tempted to look? Who has not been drawn to and mesmerized by the sight of terrific destruction? Who hasn’t said to themselves..

"That could have been me."

(That may have been what Lot’s wife was thinking – in the instant before she was killed.)

Destructive power also holds the attention of the disciples in today’s Gospel (Mt. 8:23-27) as a violent storm rages over and around their small boat.

Once again, it is very natural, very human, that they are focusing on this destructive power.

But the first thing our Lord says to them is,

“Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”

They had been focusing on the storm – it filled their eyes and their minds – and so they were afraid.

In his gentle rebuke,
our Lord is reminding them
not to focus on the destructive forces around them,
nor to be concerned about their own safety,
but to keep the focus of faith:
focus on God
and focus on his plan for them.

It is no coincidence that Lot’s wife met with doom when she took her eyes off the path set for her by God and looked at the destructive forces of fire and brimstone. Nor was it a coincidence that Peter stopped walking on the water and started sinking when he took his eyes off Christ and looked at the destructive forces of wind and wave (Mt. 14:30).

So too in our lives we can be frozen at the sight or the at thought of frightening things and then fail in those things which God calls us to do.

It is good for us to be prudent, but our focus should not be on the bad things that can happen to us in the world but on the good things of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: the blessings and the labors he gives us through his grace.

The world is full of terrors – especially in these days – and threats of destruction seem to grow ever darker and ever larger.

But our primary focus should be on none of these things: our eyes must be fixed on Christ and the path of service and love he calls us to follow, for he alone offers us the path of ultimate safety and everlasting life.

Catholic Carnival

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

They said the Spirit spoke through them

Prophecy, of course, is a charism of the Holy Spirit: manifested from Biblical times to the present day. But there was something more than a little different about these prophets. They fell into trances and spoke in ways different from the ways of the prophets in Scripture.

At first, what they said was pretty orthodox and many in the Church joyfully accepted them.

But soon the prophecies went further and strange stories about the prophets themselves began to filter throughout the Church.

The Diocese of Lyons in France wanted to look into the matter more closely and sent one of their priests to Rome for consultation.

In time, the influence of the strange prophets would die out, but the influence of the priest from Lyons would increase tremendously. He had impressed the Pope very much and would become Lyons’ next bishop. His writings against the heresies of the day would be widely read and admired.

He felt humbled to be following in the footsteps of those who went before him, and not just at Lyons. In the faraway hometown of his youth, he had been a great admirer of the elderly bishop there: Polycarp, who in his youth had been a disciple and personal friend of Saint John the Apostle.

The memorial of Saint Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons and one of the ancient Fathers of the Church, is celebrated on this day.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Favorite Image of A Penitent Blogger

is this 19th century woodcut illustration "Jesus and Nicodemus" by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld from Das Buch der Bücher in Bilden.

Prayer and negotiations

In both of today’s readings, people try to “negotiate” with God.

In the first reading (Gen. 18:16-33), Abraham appears to haggle with the Lord over the minimum number of righteous people required to save the notoriously wicked Sodom and Gomorrah from the wrath of God. The Lord responds by accepting each of Abraham’s proposals.

In the Gospel (Mt. 8:18-22), a man tries to delay following Christ for what sounds like a good reason (burying his father). The Lord responds by rebuking the man.

Why was one man’s “negotiation” with God accepted and the other’s not?

The answer to this question is important because when we pray, we may sometimes appear to be "negotiating" with God.

The answer is not that God simply plays favorites.

Compare Abraham’s “negotiation” in the first reading with Peter’s remonstrations in Matthew 16: Both men are identified as "favorites" - indeed, both have just been singled out by the Lord himself as special, universal instruments of God’s saving power.

Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation,
and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him

Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona:
for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,
but my Father which is in heaven.
And I say also unto thee,
That thou art Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church;
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I will give unto thee
the keys of the kingdom of heaven:
and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth
shall be bound in heaven:
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth
shall be loosed in heaven.

But then, when Peter tries to reason with Christ about suffering and dying in Jerusalem, our Lord rebukes him in the strongest fashion

Get thee behind me, Satan:
thou art an offence unto me:
for thou savourest not the things that be of God,
but those that be of men.

In this rebuke, our Lord gives us the answer to the question - the difference between successful and unsuccessful “negotiation” with God: humble fidelity to God’s will.

First, note that when Abraham speaks with God, he is abjectly humble (“See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes!”) in contrast to the attitude of Peter and the man in today’s Gospel.

Second, note that what Abraham says does not contradict the Lord’s explicit words (which spoke of investigation rather than destruction) and that his argument is based on God’s own attributes (“Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?”).

Peter and the man in today’s Gospel, on the other hand, try to adapt the Lord’s call and his words to a human agenda.

A cynic might conclude therefore that the only successful negotiation with God is to agree with God (to which the undiplomatic believer might reply, “Duh!”).

Ultimately, of course, no one can win a disagreement with God - God is omnipotent and omniscient – but we also know that God is love.

As human beings in a complex world, we may have our own feelings about how things should be, and we should be honest with God about our feelings, but we also know that it is God’s way that ultimately brings the greatest good and the greatest happiness.

Honesty in prayer is indeed critical: opening ourselves completely to the Lord, so that by his grace we may be purified and may discern what is godly and what is not. (Too often, like the man in the Gospel, we fool ourselves with specious excuses.)

Just as the Lord invited Abraham to speak with him, so too God invites us to speak with him in prayer: not so that he may do as we want, but so that we may be more and more like him.

Abraham’s “negotiation” with God was ultimately a manifestation of the mercy and justice of God and an example to all of us.

But the most perfect example of prayer (and divine-human negotiations) comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself:

And he went a little further,
and fell on his face,
and prayed, saying,
O my Father, if it be possible,
let this cup pass from me:
nevertheless not as I will,
but as thou wilt.

Matthew 26:39

That is the perfect example of prayer:
complete humility,
absolute honesty,
and total fidelity.

Let us pray.

The new bishop was greeted with protests

Many were upset with this African gentleman becoming the bishop and the disagreements grew very heated.

The bishop’s earliest decisions did not help matters. One of the decisions he made in the interests of protecting his flock would be denounced as a gross violation of justice.

He was personally a holy man. He was also very intelligent and he meant well, but his impulsiveness sometimes betrayed him.

Nonetheless, the Pope thought he was just the man to handle a very high-profile controversy. Sure enough, the controversy was not resolved pleasantly, but the bishop’s dramatic defense of the faith was admired by the Church everywhere.

Cyril, bishop of Alexandria in Egypt and Doctor of the Church, is said to have died on this very day in the year 444.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The little things

Today’s Gospel (Mt. 10:37-42) contains several sayings on seeming diverse topics that can be summed up in one expression:

The little things

In the first part of the passage, our Lord speaks of things that most of us consider very important (and not without reason), but everything pales in comparison to God.

Everything else - our most significant relationships and even our lives - are little things in comparison to the goodness and the importance of God and his way of love.

"Whoever loves father or mother more than me
is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me
is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

In the second part of the passage, our Lord speaks of what seem to be little things – an attitude of acceptance, the virtue of simple hospitality, even a cup of cold water – that can reap great rewards.

Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me

receives the one who sent me.

Whoever receives a prophet

because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet's reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is a righteous man
will receive a righteous man's reward.

And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because the little one is a disciple--
amen, I say to you,
he will surely not lose his reward.

Before God and his glory, all things are really little things.

Through God and his grace, even little things gain infinite value.

Praised be Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Laughing at God

What makes us laugh? It’s hard to define or predict (consider how often professional comedians and comedy writers produce punch lines that fail).

One of the things that makes us laugh is absurdity: a scenario that is so out of sync with logic and everyday experience, it’s funny.

In today’s first reading (Gen 18:1-15), Sarah laughs at God.

Fortunately for her, in his own way, God quietly laughs back.

Why does she laugh? Because the idea that she will have a child seems patently absurd: it defies logic and everything state-of-the-art medical science knew at the time.

There is, of course, more than a touch of bitterness in her laugh: lancing the boil of old disappointment.

The cause for God’s laughter is obvious: it is Sarah’s doubt that is out of sync with logic and reality, for all things are possible with God.

God, of course, would not laugh with bitterness, but with delight and with love for Sarah and his great friend Abraham.

Faith opens our horizons beyond the limits of this world, beyond the limits of science and human experience.

Faith enables us to laugh with God, in great joy and overflowing love.

Experience firsthand the life and ministry

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In today's first reading, Abraham exemplifies the wonderful virtue of hospitality – something too rare nowadays.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Remember: the LORD will be with you - always

Elizabeth Lev ended her column on ZENIT yesterday mentioning the latest Star Wars movie as a prelude to discussing the Catholicism of Sir Alec Guiness (who played Obi Wan Kenobi in the first three Star Wars releases).

Christus Vincit

Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini kisses the ring of Pope Benedict this morning as the Holy Father prepares to visit the Italian President.

In the background is the foot of the obelisk in St. Peter's Square with the inscription:


Behold! The Cross of the Lord!
ye adversaries!
He has conquered - he the Lion
of the Tribe of Judah.

(Humble hat tip to Bill Cork for his correcting my previous, inaccurate identification of the object in the background. Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?)

Special celebration in Rome Tuesday

The Diocese of Rome
Archbasilica of St. John Lateran
Tuesday 28 June 2005, 7:00 p.m.

Celebration of Vespers
on the eve of
the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
Opening of the Formal Diocesan Inquiry
into the life, virtue, and reputation for holiness
of the Servant of God
John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla)
Supreme Pontiff

Presiding: Cardinal Camillo Ruini
His Holiness' Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome


* * * * * * *

Meanwhile, ZENIT reports that "the Diocese of Rome (has) published the written prayer to implore favors through the intercession of the late Pope John Paul II.... In the last phase of the process of beatification, proof will be required of a miracle attributed to Karol Wojtyla's intercession."

"'O Blessed Trinity,
We thank you
for having graced the Church with Pope John Paul II
and for allowing
the tenderness of your Fatherly care,
the glory of the cross of Christ,
and the splendor of the Holy Spirit,
to shine through him.

"'Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy
and in the maternal intercession of Mary,
he has given us a living image
of Jesus the Good Shepherd,
and has shown us that holiness
is the necessary measure
of ordinary Christian life
and is the way of achieving
eternal communion with you.

"'Grant us, by his intercession,
and according to Your will,
the graces we implore,
hoping that he will soon
be numbered among your saints.

A new diocese and some new bishops

The Holy Father this morning erected the diocese of Gulbarga, India, as a suffragan to the Archdiocese of Bangalore, its territory coming from the Archdiocese of Hyderabad and the dioceses of Bellary and Belgaum. The Holy Father named as the diocese's first bishop Father Robert Miranda, a native and priest of the diocese of Mangalore.

The Holy Father this morning also named Father Fidelis Rakotonarivo, S.J, as the new bishop of Ambositra, Madagascar. He is a native of the diocese and head of the Jesuit community there.

The Holy Father named as auxiliary bishop of Monterrey, Mexico, Monsignor Alfonso Cortés Contreras, a priest of the Archdiocese and Rector of the Pontifical Mexican College in Rome.

At the end of days

For some, the end of the week can be a moment when we realize what little we accomplished and how unsatisfying the results of all our time and effort.

The prophet Isaiah has a moment like that in today’s first reading (Is. 49:1-6) – but only a moment.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,

yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.

For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,

that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;

and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!

Is our time and effort centered on the Lord and his work?

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel

he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath

he swore to our father Abraham;
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight

all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called

the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord

to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.

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.

Et Zacharias pater eius impletus est Spiritu Sancto
et prophetavit dicens:

“Benedictus Dominus, Deus Israel,
quia visitavit et fecit redemptionem plebi suae
et erexit cornu salutis nobis
in domo David pueri sui,
sicut locutus est per os sanctorum,
qui a saeculo sunt, prophetarum eius,
salutem ex inimicis nostris
et de manu omnium, qui oderunt nos;
ad faciendam misericordiam cum patribus nostris
et memorari testamenti sui sancti,

quod iuravit ad Abraham patrem nostrum,
daturum se nobis,
ut sine timore, de manu inimicorum liberati,
serviamus illi
in sanctitate et iustitia coram ipso
omnibus diebus nostris.

Et tu, puer, propheta Altissimi vocaberis:
praeibis enim ante faciem Domini

parare vias eius,
ad dandam scientiam salutis plebi eius
in remissionem peccatorum eorum,
per viscera misericordiae Dei nostri,
in quibus visitabit nos oriens ex alto,
illuminare his,

qui in tenebris et in umbra mortis sedent,
ad dirigendos pedes nostros in viam pacis.

Lucam 1:67-79

"It’s a high-risk pregnancy"

"You really should terminate it.

"I mean, look at the statistics: pregnancies later in life are much more likely to produce birth defects such a Downs Syndrome and worse.

"And besides, you and your husband really don’t have what it takes to raise a child. I mean, let’s be real. He’s already had a stroke or something: he can’t even speak!

"And what about you? You know how tired you get. Do you really think you can take care of a baby? And what happens when he gets older? Can you be chasing a toddler at your age? Can you picture yourself at PTA meetings? And do you really think you’ll be around when he’s ready for college?

"And besides, do you really want to bring a child into a world like this? What a nightmare.

"Anyway, I really think you should just end it. An abortion is very easy at this stage.

"Let’s talk about it after your cousin Mary comes to visit...."

* * * * * * *

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
"Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting
reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

"Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled."

Luke 1:41-45

Today the Church celebrates
the Birth of John the Baptist.

(Pray for the victims of abortion and for the women who are tempted.)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rage, rage against the lameness of TV

Father Shane Tharp at Catholic Ragemonkey has a very funny post in which he pitches ideas for new television series such as
  • "CSI: Alva" (Click here for info on Alva)
  • "What Not to Wear: Clerical Edition"
  • "Star Trek: DS9" (as in Diocesan Seminary #9)
  • "Extreme Makeover: Rectory Edition"

A priest serves the People of God

"His life is to be a life of service, in imitation of Jesus Christ the High Priest, who came" not to be served, but to serve...

"Are YOU being called by Jesus Christ to serve Him and the Church as a priest? If there is any possibility, check it out. The call of Christ to the priesthood is a rare and precious gift, and should not be put off or left aside. If the call is real, there will be an abundance of peace and joy in one's heart, knowing that he is doing what he was created by God to do with his life."

from the Vocations website of the Diocese of Fargo

where five men were ordained to the Priesthood June 4, 2005.

Quite a tour

He was born in 1944 in Epinal, France. In 1963, he entered the White Fathers order and studied Philosophy. From 1966 to 1968, he was in the military. He then resumed his education, obtaining degrees in Canon Law and in Islamic studies.

He was ordained a priest in 1972 and served for nearly ten years as the Director of Centre Amana - Hommes & Migrations.

In 1982, he entered the Cistercian monastery at Lérins. He was solemnly professed in 1988 and named Prior that same year. The very next year, he became Abbot.

In 1998, he was named Bishop of Chartres.

This morning, Pope Benedict XVI named Bernard-Nicolas Aubertin, O. Cist. Archbishop of Tours, France.

Opera (noun): Latin for “works”

Today’s first reading (from Genesis 16) sounds like a soap opera: a wife letting her husband sleep with the maid and then abusing the maid.

Sarai initiated this whole mess by not trusting the Lord and by trying to achieve her goals by any means necessary. God, however, brings good out of this immoral scenario: even bestowing abundant blessings on the slave girl.

So too we get in trouble when we think that we are smarter than God and that we can cut whatever corners we like to achieve what we want. God's justice is inescapable (yet so too is his mercy inexhaustible for the truly repentant).

In the end, no matter how big a mess we humans make of things, God can always bring out of it a greater good by the power of his love and the mystery of his will.

How much more fully then may God’s blessings abound when we do his will!

Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord

will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one
who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Many will say to me on that day,
Lord, Lord,
did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?

Then I will declare to them solemnly,
I never knew you.
Depart from me, you evildoers.
Matthew 7:21-23

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Christian Carnival

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

This week's host, Dee Kreidel, has done an excellent job with the grouping and layout of the posts - complete with section introductions and thematic illustrations! The theme is "Road Trips & Journeys."

Go deep

In today’s first reading (Gen. 15:1-12,17-18), a trance falls upon Abram and “a deep, terrifying darkness” envelops him. It is an encounter with God and the moment when God establishes a covenant with Abram.

Not every trance is of God, of course, nor is every darkness a beneficial “dark night of the soul,” yet fear of such things sometimes keeps us from a deeper prayer life and fuller experience of God.

If we remain focused on Christ and true to the faith, we should fear no darkness nor should we shy away from intensity in our private prayers.

We must pray constantly for the grace of a deeper life of prayer in Christ and the grace of discernment, remembering the criterion our Lord gives in today's Gospel:

By their fruits you will know them.

Thomas was a successful lawyer

He rose to become one of the most powerful people in the country.

He was also a best-selling author and hung out with some of the most famous creative people in the world.

And then his boss had a "personal" problem.

For many people, it would have been a minor thing, but Thomas’ boss made it everybody’s problem and wanted everyone to sign off on his “solution.”

Thomas refused, knowing it meant his job and even his family’s economic wellbeing.

It ended up costing Thomas his life.

Thomas More was executed 470 years ago (in two weeks) for not agreeing to King Henry VIII’s actions against the Church in connection with his divorce. He was canonized in 1935 and his memory is celebrated on this day.

Cambridge University’s Star

John received his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees at Cambridge. He was elected to high positions within the University and held prestigious professorships.

Rich and powerful people selected him to tutor their children. He would stay close with many of his students, giving them guidance in their careers and even their personal lives.

When one of his brightest students later had a crisis in his high-profile marriage, John did his best to help, but his former student was already set on divorce and more.

John would remain true to his beliefs in this situation and spoke about these beliefs openly.

His former pupil was not amused and had him killed.

John Fisher, formerly of Cambridge University and later Bishop of Rochester (and Cardinal), was executed 470 years ago today by King Henry VIII. He was canonized in 1935.

Their baby died

He had been their only child and only several days old. The loss was devastating.

The father and mother decided to dedicate themselves totally to God. They gave away their wealth and withdrew to the monastic life.

The father, however, was not destined for a quiet life of prayer and solitude. He was called to the priesthood and eventually became a bishop, serving the people of his diocese for more than 20 years. He became known for his writing, for his holiness, and for his devotion to the saints.

It was no surprise that when he died, he was recognized as a saint himself by everyone, including his sometime pen pal, St. Augustine.

St. Paulinus, native of Bordeaux, died in his adopted town and diocese of Nola (near Naples) 1574 years ago today.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Broad is the way

that leadeth to destruction
and many there be
which go in thereat...

This saying from today’s Gospel (Mt. 7:6, 12-14) does not sound like good news. It certainly does not sound like the “peace, love, and whatever” version of Jesus promoted by some today.

Yet the truth of the statement is undeniable and not only because of the divinity of Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture.

One need only look at the world today:

  • At the many who - consciously or unconsciously - promote selfishness and gratification under the banner of what they call “freedom” (or even "normal")...
  • At those who advocate terror and violence under the banner of what they call “religion...”
  • At the many who simply drift under the banner of what they call “getting along...”

...all caught in the acceleration of technology and all ending ultimately in nihilism.

Broad is the way
that leadeth to destruction
and many there be
which go in thereat...

Christ calls us to a better way – not an easier way – but an infinitely better and more satisfying way.

Enter ye in
at the strait gate...

Because strait is the gate,
and narrow is the way,
which leadeth unto life,
and few there be that find it.

This brings to mind what our Lord says in John 10:9 -

I am the door:
by me if any man enter in,
he shall be saved,
and shall go in and out and find pasture.

Our fallen human nature inclines us to follow the easiest path and to seek comfort in numbers, but the right way - the way of life and of eternal happiness - is very often a narrow target and a difficult road.

We should not despair, however, or be put off by the words "few there be that find it" for it is the Lord himself who provides the grace to find and hold to the narrow way.

Being faithful to the Lord is not always easy nor does it always seem popular. The way of the world often seems easier and "normal" but God's path - the road that may seem hardest, the gate that may seem narrowest - is the one that brings us to infinite peace and eternal happiness through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Signs of a Religious Vocation

  • "A desire to have a religious vocation, together with the impression that God is calling one to His service. This desire is most strongly felt when the soul is calm.

  • "A growing attraction for prayer and holy things in general, together with a longing for a hidden life and a desire to be more closely united with God.

  • "A conviction of the emptiness of the world and of its insufficiency to satisfy the soul. This feeling is often strongest felt in the midst of worldly amusements.

  • "A longing to sacrifice oneself and abandon all for the love Jesus Christ.

  • "A longing for God's glory, a realization of the value of immortal souls, and a desire to cooperate in their salvation.

  • "A willingness to be received in any capacity is a proof of a real vocation.

  • "The happiness which the thought of religious life brings, its helps, its peace, its merits, and its reward.

  • "A desire to atone for sin, to make reparation.

  • "A desire to devote one's whole life to obtain the conversion of sinners.

  • "It is sometimes the sign of a vocation when a person fears that God may be calling her; when she prays not to have it and cannot banish the thought from her mind. If the vocation is sound, it will eventually give place to attraction."

from the website of
The Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus

Catholic Carnival

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


The young man was truly gifted. His family was well connected and he himself was very bright and highly motivated.

A successful career in the military and politics seemed assured (when he was four, they said, he was sometimes found already marching in uniform).

And then God touched his life.

From the age of seven onward, he devoted himself to the Lord. Even when he was bedridden by kidney disease a few years later, he considered it a blessing because it enabled him to concentrate even more on prayer.

Despite his father’s opposition, he renounced his worldly goods and entered the Jesuits. He excelled at his studies and was considered one of the order’s most exemplary young men.

In his fourth year of theological studies, an epidemic struck the city. Even though his own health was not the best, the young man was tireless in caring for the stricken.

Sure enough, his own health failed. He lingered on for three months before the Lord finally called him home at the age of 23.

Aloysius Gonzaga died around midnight 414 years ago today. He was canonized in 1726.

New bishops

The Holy Father this morning named Bishop Walter Allison Hurley, Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit, as the new bishop of Grand Rapids, Michigan (USA).

The Holy Father also named Monsignor John Gerard Noonan, rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami Florida (USA), as an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami.

The Holy Father also accepted the resignation (for reasons other than age) of the Bishop of Reno, Nevada (USA) the Most Rev. Phillip Francis Straling.

Terri Schiavo's resting place

The St. Petersburg Times reports that Terri Schiavo has been laid to rest at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park in Clearwater, Florida.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The death of Sin

Cardinal Jaime Sin, retired Archbishop of Manila, died early Tuesday morning (Manila time) after a long illness.

Requiescat in pace.

Telegram from the Holy Father:




The lumberyard of the eyes

Judge not,
that ye may not be judged.

This first verse from today’s Gospel (Mt. 7:1-5) sometimes appears on signs waved by people protesting against religious conservatives.

“Who are you to judge us?” they say. “Aren’t you being a hypocrite? What about your religious leaders and all those scandals? What kinds of skeletons are rattling in your personal closet? You may think you’re holier-than-thou, but you’re not.”

Today’s Gospel is a familiar one, but it is also a challenge that must be wrestled with continually by anyone who is serious about truth and faith and about right and wrong.

When our Lord tells us not to “judge,” he is not telling us to pretend that evil is not evil or to be silent about moral truth.

Most of us understand that judgment belongs to God alone. Only God can judge the state of someone’s soul for only God sees so perfectly, so completely, and so objectively. We cannot even judge ourselves - perfect objectivity and self-knowledge eludes even the best of us (we all have wooden beams and splinters in our eyes).

Even so, through Christ’s grace and as part of our response to his call to holiness, we can and must recognize sinfulness, see how we fall short (God knows I do!), strive for greater perfection, and help others along the same path to holiness.

As we do this, as we help each other on the road to holiness, we do not always make this context explicit and thus we might be perceived as judging others or being ‘holier-than-thou’ when we make concrete statements about morality.

Sometimes it is not just a matter of other people’s perceptions: sometimes we truly can be arrogant in our denunciations of other people’s sins and smug (foolishly!) about our own virtue, forgetting that we ourselves are miserable sinners totally dependent on the grace and the mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, we can sometimes be so intimidated by our own unworthiness that we may fail to speak the truth, disregarding both the command of Christ to speak his truth and also the power of his grace.

We are not perfect – not as individuals and not even as a human community – but ultimately it isn’t about us.

We are not involved with my truth or your truth or Joseph Ratzinger’s truth, but God’s holy truth: you and I and even Pope Benedict himself are simply servants of God’s word.

Some of us may be more intelligent (or less), more saintly (or less), or gifted with ministerial or other charisms (or not so much), but the authority and truth of the Gospel comes not from us but from God.

We are all sinners – our eyes are full of splinters, wooden beams, and all kinds of lumber – but we are all called to holiness in Christ and by God’s grace to help each other on the way.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Not... without your Father

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 10:26-33), our Lord says,

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?
and one of them shall not fall on the ground
without your Father.

The word translated as “without” indicates a level of involvement not always clearly understood in the English word. The full phrase is therefore variously translated as “without your Father’s knowledge” or “will.” The Greek word itself, according to the dictionary, means “without one's will or intervention.”

The bottom line is that our heavenly Father is always present and involved, even in the smallest things of life.

More than that, our Lord says,

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

This familiar verse is very rich with meaning.

Consider how close, how intimate one must be to count hairs on a person’s head. Consider the time and the diligence required.

Consider also that no one can count the hairs on one’s own head without help (even with the help of mirrors it would be very, very difficult).

Consider then how close God is to us, how intimate the relationship between us and our heavenly Father, how much and how thoroughly he cares for us, and how he knows us better than we can know ourselves.

No matter what our experiences or memories of earthly fathers may have been, the goodness of our heavenly Father is as wonderful as we can imagine... and even more wonderful!

Our Father
Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Feeling frustrated?

that I might not become too elated,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me,
an angel of Satan,
to beat me,
to keep me from being too elated.

"Three times I begged the Lord about this,
that it might leave me,
but he said to me,
'My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.'

"I will rather boast most gladly
of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ
may dwell with me.

"Therefore, I am content
with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions,
and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak,
then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 (from today's first reading)

Friday, June 17, 2005

Where's your heart?

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and decay destroy,
and thieves break in and steal.
But store up treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor decay destroys,
nor thieves break in and steal.
For where your treasure is,
there also will your heart be."

(Where's your mind's eye?)

"The lamp of the body is the eye.
If your eye is sound,
your whole body will be filled with light;
but if your eye is bad,
your whole body will be in darkness.

And if the light in you is darkness,
how great will the darkness be."

Matthew 6:19-23 (today's Gospel)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

"We've grown up seeing so many things go wrong"

"Marriages break up, people leave the priesthood and religious life, people changing their jobs every few years, changing where they live, and always looking around for something else.

"Nothing seems to be permanent anymore; nothing is for good or for life, and that goes for causes I might be committed to, or a person I might be committed to.

"But I'm absolutely convinced that most people know deep down they're going to find happiness by committing to someone or to something.

"A big part of the challenge for us as a Catholic community is to draw that out and to really cultivate that in people...."

I love being a priest, and that's the truth of it."

"I want them to know that you can really be happy and do great things as a priest, and at the end of the day the greatest sense that anyone can have is that this is what God wants of me, this is what I'm made for.

"If most of the people I speak to say no to the priesthood or a religious life, but at least have thought about it seriously I'll think I have achieved something.

"At least they'll be more mature, more serious Christians, and hopefully more supportive of those vocations in others."

from an interview with Bishop Anthony Fisher, Auxiliary Bishop and Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Sydney

Pray for the bishops

The Spring General Meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops begins today in Chicago.

Pater noster

qui es in caelis,
sanctificetur nomen tuum.
Adveniat regnum tuum.
Fiat voluntas tua,
sicut in caelo et in terra.
Panem nostrum quotidianum

da nobis hodie.
Et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus

debitoribus nostris.
Et ne nos inducas in tentationem:
sed libera nos a malo.

Our Father
Who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day
our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.

Good Jealousy

In today’s first reading (2 Cor. 11:1-11), St. Paul says to the Corinthians, “I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God...

Human jealousy focuses on the feelings of the person who is jealous. The jealousy of God, however, focuses not on God’s feelings but on the good of the one who strays: for there is no other god – no other absolute Good - but God, and no other source of ultimate salvation except Christ.

Being human as we are, it is easy for our feelings to get in the way (even St. Paul gets a little “worked up” in this passage) when people stray or stay away from God and Christ.

Sometimes these feelings can become a barrier in themselves: turning people off unnecessarily and not letting them hear the gentle voice of the Spirit leading them to the truth and to recognize Christ as the way to eternal happiness.

Are we jealous with the jealousy of God? Or are we mired in the jealousy of man?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

90 years ago today

Blessed James Alberione
the Daughters of St. Paul

to adopt the modern instruments of communication

as a means of evangelization.

Christian Carnival

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

Cheerful sacrifice

Today’s readings – both the Gospel (Mt. 6:1-6, 16-18 [verses 7-15 will be tomorrow’s Gospel]) and the first reading (2 Cor. 9:6-11) – reinforce the importance of a positive attitude when engaged in sacrifice: e.g., when giving of one’s resources...

whoever sows sparingly
will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully
will also reap bountifully.
Each must do as already determined,
without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.

...or when fasting...

"When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you,

they have received their reward.
But when you fast,

anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to others to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden

will repay you."

Are we cheerful and generous followers of Christ - who accepted even death on a cross - or are we reluctant and resentful?

Spanish protest planned

Spero News reports that "One million protestors are expected to descend upon Madrid Saturday in a pro-family demonstration against the Spanish government’s plans to legalize same-sex marriages. At last count over 150 associations have expressed their support for the demonstration, uniting Catholics with other Christians, as well as with Muslims and Jews.

"The demonstration is being organized by The Spanish Forum for the Family (Foro Español de la Familia), which claims to have protestors arriving to Madrid in 600 chartered buses – up from the originally planned 200 - as well as 5 chartered airplanes arriving from the Spanish Canary and Balearic Islands."

Spero News, a bilingual news service of the online Catholic community, has logistical information regarding the demostration on its Spanish language site as well as the following message from the Spanish Bishops' Conference:

'La Conferencia Episcopal, a través de su Comité Ejecutivo, ha manifestado en dos ocasiones su juicio claramente negativo sobre la legislación que se prepara en este momento y que supondría una corrupción tal del matrimonio en nuestras leyes, que esta institución vital e insustituible para las personas y para la sociedad dejaría de ser la unión de un hombre y de una mujer. Los obispos, en sus diócesis, han expuesto también la doctrina católica a este respecto de modo nítido y reiterado.

'La sociedad, a través de diversas instancias, ha manifestado igualmente su rechazo de una legislación tan injusta y contraria a la razón. Entre las iniciativas sociales propuestas para la defensa de los derechos del matrimonio, de la familia y de los niños, una organización civil ha convocado a los ciudadanos a expresar su apoyo a estos derechos por medio de una manifestación convocada para el día 18 de junio en Madrid bajo el lema de "La familia sí importa".

'La causa es justa. Nos hallamos ante una cuestión de la mayor trascendencia moral y social que exige de los ciudadanos, en particular de los católicos, una respuesta clara e incisiva por todos los medios legítimos.

'Los fieles laicos responden adecuadamente al desafío planteado cuando hacen uso de sus derechos democráticos a expresar su desacuerdo manifestándose pacíficamente. Es un modo legítimo de cumplir con su deber al servicio del bien común.'

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Catholic Carnival

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

Preaching for dollars

Many people roll their eyes, shake their heads, twist their faces or cluck their tongues when a Church leader starts asking for money.

Some people react that way out of cynicism. Some people think Church should be a commercial-free zone.

In today’s first reading (2 Cor. 8:1-9), St. Paul is beginning a pitch to the Corinthians for contributions to help needy Christians elsewhere (“ministering to the saints”).

Thus we see that even in the first decades of Christianity, even the mightiest Apostles were not above fundraising.

St. Paul gets into the specifics of this effort later, but in this passage he introduces important points: summed up in verse 8:

I speak not by commandment,
but by occasion of the forwardness of others,
and to prove the sincerity of your love.

The last point in this verse is the most important: the Corinthians are being called to “prove the sincerity of (their) love.

We are called to do this as well.

It is very easy for us to say we that we love others because of our Christian faith, but it needs to be real.

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
And one of you say unto them,
Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled;
notwithstanding ye give them not
those things which are needful to the body;
what doth it profit?
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say,
Thou hast faith, and I have works:
shew me thy faith without thy works,
and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
James 2:15-18

How we use our resources (including money) needs to be consistent with what we say is in our hearts and souls.

Secondly, this consistency between faith and action is not only important for our own integrity before God: when we are “forward” in the exercise of our faith and generosity, it is also a powerful witness and example to others.

This witness becomes all the more powerful when it is substantially beyond what is expected, as St. Paul says of the Christians in Macedonia:

How that in a great trial of affliction
the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty
abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
For to their power, I bear record,
yea, and beyond their power
they were willing of themselves;
Praying us with much intreaty
that we would receive the gift...

Sacrificial generosity – giving until it hurts – is indeed a powerful witness to Christ

For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that, though he was rich,

yet for your sakes he became poor,
that ye through his poverty might be rich.

This point must be very carefully considered, however, and it brings us to the third point: “I speak not by commandment.”

First, St. Paul means that he is not commanding the Corinthians to give more than they can afford (as the Macedonians did): such giving should be a very free choice.

We must also remember our Lord’s denunciation of those who try to evade their familial obligations for ostensibly religious reasons (Mk. 7:6-13).

Self-sacrifice should be a free choice but it does not release us from solemn responsibilities we may have. For a father to give away his child’s food money, for example, is morally dangerous - very dangerous.

In modern society, however, the risk of excessively generous giving is rare. It is much more common – especially among the middle and upper classes - to be excessively generous in estimating our "needs:" calling many comforts and conveniences “absolutely essential.” This is a challenge for all of us (myself included – miserere mei, Domine).

Finally, when St. Paul says, “I speak not by commandment,” he is not relinquishing his right to speak authoritatively and even commandingly to the Corinthians. Rather, he chooses to exhort through the giving of examples and theological reminders.

So too it is often best for us to exhort others through examples and faith-based reasoning rather than the brusque pronouncing of commandments.

Yet neither should we be shy when exhortations must be made. We should encourage others appropriately to be as generous as we are. By our words and our deeds we must give clear and convincing witness to Christ’s truth and Christ’s love.

Talking about money in a religious setting may feel awkward, but it is important for us to be faithful and clear and to prove the sincerity of our love in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Badges of honor

Education is a wonderful thing and it is good for leaders to be well educated - even on the parish level and even the non-ordained. (The Church throughout the millennia has suffered too much from poorly educated ministers.)

But sometimes we may boast too much and too quickly of our education or other earthly credentials (e.g., wealth, reputation, connections, charm, good looks): forgetting the ultimate source of our power as fellow workers for Christ.

Likewise, St. Paul would refer occasionally to his own excellent education and background (e.g., Acts 22:3), but...

What things were gain to me,
those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss
for the excellency of the knowledge

of Christ Jesus my Lord:
for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,
and do count them but dung,
that I may win Christ,
Philippians 3:7-8

Thus in today’s first reading (2 Cor. 6:1-10), St. Paul puts forward a very special set of credentials as a minister of God, obtained not in schools but...

In afflictions, hardships, constraints,
beatings, imprisonments, riots,
labors, vigils, fasts;

Credentials earned not by exams and papers but...

By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering,
by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,
By the word of truth, by the power of God,
by the armour of righteousness

on the right hand and on the left,

These credentials are not recognized or respected by the world for the world does not recognize the reality behind them. Thus the world sees faithful ministers and people of faith...

as deceivers [and yet (we are) true];
As unknown [and yet well known];
as dying [and behold, we live];
as chastened [and not killed];
As sorrowful [yet always rejoicing];
as poor [yet making many rich];
as having nothing [and yet possessing all things].

All of these things seem bad in the eyes of most people in this world - afflictions, hardships, beatings, bad reputations, poverty, etc. – yet for St. Paul they are badges of honor for they are occasions for his manifesting the power of God.

Earthly credentials may have their uses, but they also have their limits.

All of us – ordained or otherwise, well-credentialed or not – should strive for these credentials: seeking to manifest the Lord’s grace more and more perfectly, no matter what troubles and challenges we may face, so that we may obtain the greatest badges of honor and glory in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Priest's blog noted in newspaper

Bill Tammeus, a religion writer for the Kansas City Star on Saturday wrote about faith-related blogs, including his own (Faith Matters) and also "Dappled Things, by the Rev. Jim Tucker (who) describes himself as a 'generation X (Catholic) priest of the Diocese of Arlington in Northern Virginia' (and) writes about everything from 'Star Wars' to Latin — and sometimes even in Latin."

Ready to preach

There were a good number of priests there and many of them were very educated, but nobody had been assigned to preach the sermon and now that they were all gathered together, nobody wanted to preach. “I haven’t anything prepared,” was the common excuse. No doubt many of them felt intimidated at the thought of speaking off-the-cuff in front of such a highly educated (and likely critical) assembly.

Embarrassed and desperate, the organizer turned to a quiet young priest who had recently come from Portugal. He was so quiet, they were not sure how intelligent he was, but there was a holiness about him and the organizer took a gamble and told him to preach whatever the Spirit of God might put into his mouth.

Very soon, everyone else’s mouths would be hanging open in astonishment.

Word quickly reached the founder of Anthony’s religious community (it was very new - less than 20 years old at the time) who then assigned Anthony to teaching and preaching.

Anthony would become known as a powerful preacher, a worker of miracles, and even a Doctor of the Church – fulfilling very well the assignment that had been personally given him by St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Anthony died in Padua, Italy, at the age of 36 on this very day in 1231.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

At the sight of the crowds

Jesus' heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples,
"The harvest is abundant

but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest."

Matthew 9:36-38

Pray and think about vocations.

Last week's Catholic Carnival

is archived here.

Feeling helpless?

St. Paul has good news in today’s first reading (Rom. 5:6-11):

For Christ, while we were still helpless,
yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly.

Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person
one might even find courage to die.

But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Thank you, Jesus. I need your help.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

More “yes” and “no”

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 5:33-37), our Lord warns us against swearing and ends with this simple bottom line: “Let your ‘Yes' mean ‘Yes,' and your ‘No' mean ‘No.'”

If men were not sometimes dishonest, there would be no need for oaths. That is why our Lord goes on to say that “Anything more (than ‘yes’ and ‘no’) is from the Evil One."

Does our “Yes” mean “Yes” and our “No” mean “No”?
Do we tell “white lies”?
Do we use hyperbole?
Do we over-promise?

The more careful and honest we are with our words, the more valuable they will be and the more effective for communicating to others the truth of Christ.

Joseph’s friend had a history

It was a bad history – full of hatred and even violence – and so people did not trust him when he had supposedly “seen the light.”

But Joseph stood up for his friend and because the people in charge trusted Joseph, they accepted his friend on his word.

After a while, Joseph’s friend moved back to his hometown and the two of them lost touch.

Some time later, Joseph was on a business trip and he discovered something truly wonderful: a tremendous opportunity. He immediately thought of his old friend as just the man for the job, so he tracked his friend down and the two of them got to work.

Joseph was right: his friend was perfect for the task. In fact, Joseph’s friend would prove incredibly successful and would be known as one of the greatest men who ever lived.

Joseph, also known as Barnabas, would always be esteemed as a great Apostle (although not one of the Twelve) and he would die gloriously for Christ. But his greatest contribution to Christianity may have been what he did for his friend Saul, who would be known as St. Paul the Apostle.

The memory of St. Barnabas is celebrated on this day.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Tough talk

Today’s Gospel (Mt. 5:27-32) has some very tough talk from our Lord:

"You have heard that it was said,
‘You shall not commit adultery.’
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

”If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

"It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife

must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife

(unless the marriage is unlawful)
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman

commits adultery."

As the first reading (2 Cor. 4:7-15) reminds us, “we hold this treasure in earthen vessels” – none of us are so perfect that we can sanctimoniously condemn others, yet neither dare any of us fail to communicate the truth of Christ as faithfully as possible.

  • Relationships may become broken on a human level and we need to be compassionate to those living with these painful human realities, yet we must also firmly uphold the sanctity and the commitment of marriage.
  • Plucking out and cutting off body parts for no medical reason is immoral. Nor is it required by our Lord’s words, for the real cause of our sin is not a body part, but our will.

    Even so, if we are stuck in sinful situations, we need to do whatever it takes to break free, within the bounds of morality, discarding those things that may be precious to us and yet are unhealthy for us, for it is better than… the alternative.

  • Finally, we have responsibility not only for our physical actions but also for our intentional thoughts.

    To be sure, we are not responsible for thoughts that come into our minds unbidden, but we are not without responsibility in what happens before and after. It is certainly wrong for us to purposefully hold onto or to act on immoral thoughts. It is also counterproductive to obsess on ridding ourselves of these thoughts.

    (Remember the story of the two monks: a young girl by a stream asks to be carried across. The older monk does so and she goes on her way. Later, the young monk reproaches the older monk who replies, “I left her behind at the stream. You’re the one still carrying her.”)

    It is good to minimize those things and occasions that may feed our imaginations in wrong ways, but it is always best to focus on filling our minds, our hearts, and imaginations with godly things, so that no untoward thought may have a chance.
The words of the Lord are sometimes tough, but we always do well to let ourselves be challenged, so that we may grow more and more fully in his abundant and glorious grace.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Vocations... are gifts of God...

"...and each one is as distinct from the other as an eye is from an ear, as a hand from a foot. We are all parts of the one body of Christ but we all have our distinct and separate vocation within that body....

"Benedictine contemplative nuns... live within the monastic cloister.

"Our vocation also is distinct. It is a call to a LIFE OF PRAYER. Naturally, prayer is an integral part of all our lives and of every vocation but prayer is the WHOLE meaning of our lives."

"I do not mean just saying prayers (though that does form a very significant part of each day) but rather I mean that we are called to LIVE prayer. We become Benedictine nuns in order to give our lives to SEEKING GOD, seeking to please Him 'that in all things He may be glorified.'"

* * * * *

"Just as the great cathedrals witness to God and to the faith of those who built them, just as they call us to prayer and to faith, so too the life of Benedictine contemplative nuns witness
to the existence of God
to the presence of God
to the reality of God who draws the human spirit
to believe
to worship,
to praise,
to adore Him absolutely and simply because HE IS GOD
and for no other reason.

"You see,
there is no meaning to our lives
and no meaning to the great cathedrals...
unless God exists
and He is worthy of total worship, honour and praise. "

from the website of the Benedictine nuns of Jamberoo Abbey, New South Wales, Australia.

Within the parentheses

From time to time, the Lectionary will omit verses from a Scripture reading selected for a particular day: sometimes leaving out something parenthetical or tangential.

While there may be good reasons for this, it is good not to let these verses always go unnoted, because there is great treasure in them as well.

Today’s verse in this category is 2 Cor. 4:2

Rather, we have renounced shameful, hidden things;
not acting deceitfully or falsifying the word of God,
but by the open declaration of the truth
we commend ourselves to everyone's conscience
in the sight of God.

Sadly, there are too many who falsify the word of God or try to twist Scripture to their own ends. As Shakespeare wrote in Merchant of Venice (Act I, Scene 3):

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul, producing holy witness,
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

We need to pray always for the grace of discernment: that we may not be led astray, neither by others nor by own selves.

This verse also emphasizes the value of openness.

It is sometimes necessary to keep certain things private. Sometimes, however, it is not necessity but rather our own convenience or fear of embarrassment that tempts us to shield things from others’ scrutiny. Unnecessary secrecy can be a dangerous trap.

(A personal note: since I write here under a pseudonym, this verse especially hits home for me. Ironically, a key reason for my use of a pseudonym is illustrated by a subsequent verse in this passage – verse 4: “For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ ….” Even so, I must continually examine and challenge myself in this regard. “Pray for me, my friends…”)

Scripture comforts us; it also challenges us. All of us need to be humble and open to these challenges, so that we may think and speak and live ever more faithfully in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Guidelines for ministry

In today’s first reading (2 Cor 3:15—4:1, 3-6), St. Paul gives us in a single, brief verse some very important guidelines for ministry:

For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord,
and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus.

These guidelines are not just for ministry, but indeed are very relevant for anyone wanting to live the Christian life.

  • Are we focused too much on ourselves?
  • Are we more interested in our own opinions than the truth of Christ?
  • Do we really live and act as servants and even slaves of our sisters and brothers?

We have this ministry through the mercy shown us…

The Syrians slipped across the border...

...escaping from the authorities and establishing themselves in places they could quietly continue the work they said God wanted them to do.

One of them would be scarcely seen by the local population, but he was always hard at work to spread his doctrine: writing poetry, establishing a school, and writing about the truths of the Christian faith.

St. Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor of the Church, is said to have died on this very day in the year 373.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Bishops passing

Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy, retired Archbishop of Miami and (previously) first bishop of Phoenix, died in his sleep yesterday at the age of 87 after years of illness.

Also, news came today that Bishop John Wang Xixian of Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, who was arrested for being a Christian and who lived 21 years in a Chinese forced labor camp, died last month after a long struggle with bone cancer. He was 79.

Requiescant in pace.

Christian Carnival

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

Teaching others to rationalize?

In today's Gospel (Mt. 5:17-19), our Lord says,

"Do not think that I have come
to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.

"Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.

"Therefore, whoever breaks
one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.

"But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven."

Some people take isolated verses of St. Paul out of context to rationalize their inattention to revealed moral truths.

Rationalization is easy and it is then one short step to teach others to rationalize as we do (trying thus to quiet our wounded consciences).

The better path, the path of growth, is to challenge - first ourselves and then others - with gentleness and firmness, to embody ever more perfectly the moral truths revealed by God and fulfilled in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Yes! Yes! Yes!

In today’s first reading (2 Cor. 1:18-22), Saint Paul speaks of “yea and nay” in a way that may be confusing for some.

An understanding of the context lessens the confusion: Paul had had a mind to come to Corinth, but something changed and he did not come. This might have caused some to have doubts about Paul: that he was not serious or that he says one thing (“yes, yes”) when he intends sometimes else (“no, no”). Paul indicates this just before this passage (in verse 17ff):

When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay?

But as God is true,
our word toward you was not yea and nay.
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ,
who was preached among you by us,
even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus,
was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.
For all the promises of God in him are yea.
and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

God is faithful and true and so Paul, wishing always to be godly, aims to be faithful and true.

Paul also knows that doubts about his credibility and integrity could be stumbling blocks for hearers of his message. This also motivates him to be faithful and true.

There are a number of lessons for us in this passage.

The first is that we need to be very careful about our own integrity and honesty, so that we may be godly and that no such failure on our part may become a stumbling block to others.

Of course, we are imperfect human beings (O God, be merciful to me, a sinner): we fall short, we sin, we fail, and repenting we receive forgiveness and grace through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, the credibility of the Gospel rests in God, even as God works through imperfect instruments such as ourselves.

For all the promises of God in him are yea,
and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ,
and hath anointed us,
is God;
Who hath also sealed us,
and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

Thus, while each of us need to do everything we can to preserve our integrity and honesty, human failures (bad as they may be - our own failures or the failures of others) ultimately do not diminish the truth and the power of the Gospel.

We must always strive to be godly, but we ultimately rely on God.

Another lesson is found in this:

But in him (Christ) was yea.
For all the promises of God in him are yea

This sounds like “bumper sticker theology” – “God is always ‘Yes!’”

There are, of course, deeper meanings. One is ontological: there is no “no” or “not” in God, for God simply is.

But this verse also reminds us that everything revealed by God is – fundamentally - something positive and that we always do well to present God’s truth that way to others.

It is often simplest - and often necessary - to explain things negatively (e.g., “Thou shalt not kill”, “the Church’s teaching on abortion: ‘No!’”, etc.) but the underlying truth is always something positive (e.g., God’s gift of life): it is always a “Yes.”

The world is full of people unconcerned with integrity and honesty, who are quick to accuse others of hypocrisy, who spin, and who play games with “yes” and “no.”

We are called to be people of “yes” – aspiring to, relying on, and proclaiming always the fidelity and truth of God in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Catholic Carnival XXXIII

Church Furnishings & Related Realities

Chairs and Pews: The People

In Created Male and Female, the blog Our Word and Welcome to It says that "when it comes to gender differences, a lot of people want you to think that 'equal' means 'identical'. But that's not the way God created us, and it's a good thing. The unique roles of male and female, properly understood, work together to create a complimentary whole."

In A Grand Slam Insight, HerbEly observes that "detachment is a common theme found in the Chinese poet Lao-Tzu, John of the Cross, the twelve steps, Gerald May and St. Ignatius of Loyola."

In There is no Superman, A Penitent Blogger (yours truly) reflects on heroes, on the source of real strength, and what we must do.

In Christian Realism, HMS Blog offers "a brief reflection on what last Sunday's Mass readings tell us about the realism of the commandment to love."

Icons and Statues: The Saints

In The Heart of Mary, on his new blog Quo Vadis, "Nathan Nelson discusses the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and its Christological significance."

In St. Rita of Cascia, Patron Saint of Parenthood, Living Catholicism offers "the first of a series on patron Saints that are appropriate for families. St. Rita is the patron of parenthood for good reason - she's an excellent example for us all. (Includes a prayer to St. Rita.)"

The Ambo: The Truth

In The Effects of Relativism on Christianity, Deo Omnis Gloria gives "an overview of how relativism is affecting not only Catholics, but also Protestants in our day and age."

In Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, Ales Rarus asks and answers a question: "Why is sola scriptura a bad doctrine? By its fruits you will know it. One of those fruits is division in the Body of Christ."

In Teachings, Crusader of Justice shares "lessons taken from a M.U.D. Mass."

In a suggested Ressourcement reading list, la nouvelle théologie proposes an "introductory reading list of classic books of the Ressourcement Movement, including authors such as de Lubac, Balthasar, von Speyr, Danielou, and Peguy." (Editor's note: for those unfamiliar with the very influential Ressourcement Movement, a quick introduction can be found here.)

The Altar: The Eucharist

In On June 5, 1847..., Quenta Nârwenion shares a "note on an important anniversary in the life of Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O., along with a quote from him."

The blog Notes presents Host 5: "the last of 5 Java applets celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi."