A Penitent Blogger

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

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

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Time and satisfaction

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 14:13-21), our Lord decides to take a break and get away, but when he arrives at his destination, what he finds are people who need his help.

Our Lord frequently demonstrated the importance of what we call today “recharging one’s batteries” or “sharpening the saw,” as he would regularly take time to be alone with God in prayer, going off to “deserted places.”

Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke quite explicitly on the value of vacations.

“In the world in which we live, the need to be physically and mentally replenished has become as it were essential, especially to those who dwell in cities where the often frenzied pace of life leaves little room for silence, reflection and relaxing contact with nature.

“Moreover, holidays are days on which we can give even more time to prayer, reading and meditation on the profound meaning of life in the peaceful context of our own family and loved ones.

“The vacation period affords unique opportunities for reflection as we face the stirring views of nature, a marvelous ‘book’ within the reach of everyone, adults or children. In contact with nature, individuals rediscover their proper dimension, they recognize that they are creatures but at the same time unique, ‘capable of God’ since they are inwardly open to the Infinite.

“Driven by the heartfelt need for meaning that urges them onwards, they perceive the mark of goodness and divine Providence in the world that surrounds them and open themselves almost spontaneously to praise and prayer.”

Significantly, the Holy Father said this as part of his weekly leading of the Angelus prayer while he himself was on vacation (July 17, 2005).

Sometimes people see vacations as opportunities for the pursuit of decadent pleasure or for wallowing in inactivity. Such “vacations,” however, are ultimately unsatisfying, recalling the words of today’s first reading (Is. 55:1-3):

Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?

On the contrary, when it comes to that which comes from Christ...

They all ate and were satisfied.

Elsewere (Jn. 4:34), the Lord says,

My food is to do the will of the one who sent me
and to finish his work.

The Holy Father’s words and our Lord’s example remind us that time away is best realized as an opportunity to draw closer to God.

Yet we also see in today’s Gospel (and in the Holy Father’s working “vacation”) that we cannot totally disregard the needs of others while fulfilling our own needs.

The situation in today’s Gospel is striking: our Lord tries to be alone but finds himself faced with a crowd who needs him.

Many of us would be upset at such a disruption of our plans. Christ’s reaction, however, was not frustration or exasperation, but rather pity and compassion.

So he went right to work: curing the sick among them and making sure they had the food they needed.

After that, according to the verses immediately following today’s passage, our Lord sends the disciples and the crowds on their way and then goes up on a mountain to pray by himself. The need for him to minister to others caused a change in schedule, but not a change in the need to be alone with God.

Whether we are at work or on vacation, no matter what we feel our needs may be, our greatest need and our greatest satisfaction is to be found in doing the will of God and taking the time to be alone with him in prayer.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


and the livin' is easy.
Pope Benedict XVI on his recent vacation (A tip of the biretta to White Around the Collar: The Meandering Mind of a Prairie Priest)

The Bread that lasts forever

"The day after Jesus fed the five thousand people, with five loaves and two fish, an even larger crowd followed him. He said to the people:

"'You are looking for me,
not because you have seen the signs,
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that goes bad.
Work for food that endures to eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you...
(Jn. 6:26-27)

"This is his invitation to you also, irrespective of the way of life to which you are called. Our invitation... is to use our web-site as a help in discerning God's call in your life."

from the Vocations website of the Archdiocese of Dublin

The Dublin Vocations Centre has created a "mousemat" and "car sticker" (a.k.a., "mouse pad" and "bumper sticker") "based on the theme of Jesus' invitation to his disciples to work for the food that endures to eternal life. In an increasingly busy world, people increasingly want to be assured that the work they do, and the energy they spend, is directed towards something of lasting value."

Correcting myth with history

A rabbi and college professor by the name of David Dalin has written a new book called The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis. The book refutes in detail some terrible myths (popular among cultural elites) about what Pope Pius XII allegedly did or did not do regarding the Holocaust.

In a column this morning on RenewAmerica.us, Michael Gaynor enthusiastically discusses Rabbi Dalin's book and the rabbi's interview last night on EWTN's "The World Over" (which will be rebroadcast).

Do not deal unfairly

Today’s first reading (from Leviticus 25) tells us of a Jubilee year, to be celebrated twice a century.

The details of the celebration as given here, however, are not purely liturgical: the celebration has very concrete agricultural and economic impacts.

While the details may seem archaic and confusing to some modern readers, there is a repeated refrain that is very clear: do not deal unfairly.

Our relationship with God is not limited to our common worship or our personal piety: it needs to have a real impact on all aspects of our life, even how we treat others in business.

Do not deal unfairly, then;
but stand in fear of your God.
I, the LORD, am your God.

The bishop had been a convert

He was also very young, but he had a wisdom and an eloquence beyond his years.

In fact, his eloquence was for the ages. He articulated the truths of the faith so wonderfully that he was nicknamed “Golden Word” or “Golden Speech.”

He also died relatively young, before he was fifty, but his words lived on.

Peter, bishop of Ravenna, nicknamed “Chrysologus,” died in 450 and was quickly declared a saint. In 1729 he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. His memory is celebrated on this day.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Quality time

Sometimes, married couples can have very busy lives together, but one will nevertheless observe, “We never spend time together anymore.”

What is missing, people usually say, is “quality time” – time when the focus is not on common tasks or activities, but on each other.

It is an important part of any deep, living relationship.

Today’s first reading (from Leviticus 23) details various festivals which God commands the children of Israel to celebrate, festivals with a common requirement:

“...and you shall do no sort of work.”

In a very real sense, these festivals are an invitation to spend quality time with God.

To be sure, God is always with us and we may be mindful of God throughout our day, but that does not take away our need for quality time with God.

Our modern lifestyle is often the enemy of quality time in our important relationships – with God, with spouses, with children, and with others.

It is particularly easy to let quality time with God slip. Even the Lord’s Day has often been overrun by errands and entertainments (the great Pope John Paul II spoke out on this in his Apostolic Letter Dies Domini “On Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy”).

Eventually, all of the things with which we spend our time in this world will pass away.

How we spend our eternity depends entirely upon our relationship with God: a relationship that needs and deserves quality time.

Not all of us are called to be cloistered contemplatives, but each of us need to devote quality time to the Lord.

Each of us can dedicate at least a few minutes each day purely for prayer. We would also do well to reexamine how we spend the Lord’s Day. (God knows I am far from perfect in all of this.)

Too often in the rush of daily life we take our important relationships for granted. We need to be careful that we do not take our most important relationship – our relationship with God – for granted.

We need to give the Lord service, worship, and quality time.


The sisters were very different and yet they were also much alike.

One way in which they were different was in that one was practical, while the other was not.

One way in which they were very much alike was attentiveness.

Martha was attentive to Christ in the practical details of hospitality.

Mary was attentive to Christ in the words he spoke.

May you and I be always attentive to Christ both in the practical details of our lives and also in our prayerful reflection on his word.
'Christ in the House of Martha and Mary' by Johannes Vermeer - National Gallery of Scotland, EdinburghOn this day the Church celebrates the memory of St. Martha.

Former diocesan priest becomes bishop

The Holy Father has accepted the resignation (for reasons other than age) of the bishop of Oslo, Norway, the Most Rev. Gerhard Schwenzer, S.S.C.C., and has named as the new bishop Father Markus Bernt Eidsvig.

Bishop-elect Eidsvig is a native of the diocese of Oslo and had served as a diocesan priest there for several years after his ordination in 1982. In 1991 he entered the Canons Regular of St. Augustine at the Abbey of Klosterneuburg, Austria and has been Master of Novices there since 1996.

Now he's back.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

God is THERE

Today’s first reading (Ex. 40:16-21,34-38) comes from a long section of the book of Exodus that methodically details the construction of the most sacred of sacred objects, from the ark of the covenant to what is described in this particular passage: the Mishkan.

Traditionally, this Hebrew word has been translated as “tabernacle.” A few modern translations translate Mishkan as “the Dwelling,” but I humbly think that a better modern translation is “Dwelling Place.”

Moses raised up the Dwelling Place;
he laid its bases, and set up its frames,
and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars;
and he spread the tent over the Dwelling Place,
and put the covering of the tent over it....

And he brought the ark into the Dwelling Place,
and set up the veil of the screen,
and screened off the ark....

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting,
and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling Place

However one translates Mishkan, the meaning is powerful and profound: the God of Infinity and Eternity, the maker of heaven and earth, makes himself specially and uniquely present THERE.

We know, of course, that God is everywhere and also that, in another real sense, Christ dwells in our hearts, as St. Paul prays in Ephesians 3: that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith... that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Yet, though by God’s grace we may be filled with “the fullness of God,” God is more than we are (a truth that we can easily loose if we only worship “God within us”).

Moreover, as physical beings, who perceive and move within physical space, we do well also to seek God as he makes himself present in space and time.

That is what made the Mishkan, the tabernacle, the Dwelling Place such a gift. It is a wonderfully comforting reality: God is really present – in this place, at this time, in our very midst.

Nor is it a coincidence that the ancient word “tabernacle” is used to describe the place where the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist remains after Mass.

It is easy to become lost and confused in this chaotic world. It is also easy, in this oppressive culture of selfishness, for us to become self-centered and self-absorbed.

We need to seek and spend time in the presence of God, not just the presence of God within, but most especially where God makes himself really present THERE.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Carthusians in Korea

The Carthusians are an amazing community of communities of men and women throughout the world with an extraordinaily intense dedication to prayer, simplicity, and contemplation.
Image from the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration in Vermont, USATheir wonderful, multilingual website now shows pictures of one of their newest communities, Chartreuse Notre Dame de Corée, in South Korea.

Christian Carnival

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

Silence, solitude, and God

"The Cistercian monastery forms an environment of silence and solitude within a community. In this atmosphere of quiet and separation from the noise of the world one is able to enter into the stillness of the spirit and encounter God dwelling within.

"Requirements For Entrance
"Age: 21 to 35
"Two yrs college or work experience
"Good physical and psychological health

"Willingness for obedience, humility
and the total surrender of one’s self to God in love

From the website of the Valley of Our Lady Monastery


Today’s first reading (Ex. 34:29-35) describes the strange phenomenon of Moses’ face glowing after he looks upon God.

The people found this disturbing, so after speaking with God and then passing God’s word on to the people, Moses would place a veil over his face.

However, while he was passing on God’s word, Moses’ face would still be unveiled and would be glowing with God's glory.

Our own encounters with God in prayer may rarely (if ever) be as dramatic as those of Moses, but if we are open to his grace, these encounters will always have an effect on us, in various ways and various degrees.

Moreover, if this effect on us is apparent to others as we give witness to Christ, then the effectiveness of our witness can be greatly enhanced. (A "glowing" Christian generally makes a better witness than a cranky Christian.)

Of course, there may be times when we need to keep ourselves veiled (figuratively speaking). Sometimes the intimacy of our encounters with God can be so great that they cannot be properly shared with everyone.

This veil, this reticence, however, cannot be absolute and permanent, for Christ calls us to let our light shine before men that they may give glory to our heavenly Father.

In whatever form the Lord desires, may you and I always glow with the glory and for the glory of God.

Bach, Bishop of Toledo

The Holy Father has named Father Francisco Carlos Bach, Vicar General of the Diocese of Ponta Grossa, as the new Bishop of Toledo, Brazil.

Moral Reflections on Vaccines

Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Stem Cells Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses

a study by the Pontifical Academy for Life - June 9, 2005

The matter in question regards the lawfulness of production, distribution and use of certain vaccines whose production is connected with acts of procured abortion. It concerns vaccines containing live viruses which have been prepared from human cell lines of fetal origin, using tissues from aborted human fetuses as a source of such cells.

The best known, and perhaps the most important due to its vast distribution and its use on an almost universal level, is the vaccine against Rubella -- German measles.

Rubella and its vaccine

Rubella -- German measles -- [1] is a viral illness caused by a Togavirus of the genus Rubivirus and is characterized by a maculopapular rash. It consists of an infection which is common in infancy and has no clinical manifestations in one case out of two, is self-limiting and usually benign. Nonetheless, the German measles virus is one of the most pathological infective agents for the embryo and fetus.

When a woman catches the infection during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, the risk of fetal infection is very high -- approximately 95%. The virus replicates itself in the placenta and infects the fetus, causing the constellation of abnormalities denoted by the name of Congenital Rubella Syndrome. For example, the severe epidemic of German measles which affected a huge part of the United States in 1964 thus caused 20,000 cases of congenital rubella [2], resulting in 11,250 abortions -- spontaneous or surgical -- 2,100 neonatal deaths, 11,600 cases of deafness, 3,580 cases of blindness, 1,800 cases of mental retardation. It was this epidemic that pushed for the development and introduction on the market of an effective vaccine against rubella, thus permitting an effective prophylaxis against this infection.

The severity of congenital rubella and the handicaps which it causes justify systematic vaccination against such a sickness. It is very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to avoid the infection of a pregnant woman, even if the rubella infection of a person in contact with this woman is diagnosed from the first day of the eruption of the rash. Therefore, one tries to prevent transmission by suppressing the reservoir of infection among children who have not been vaccinated, by means of early immunization of all children -- universal vaccination.

Universal vaccination has resulted in a considerable fall in the incidence of congenital rubella, with a general incidence reduced to less than 5 cases per 100,000 live births. Nevertheless, this progress remains fragile.

In the United States, for example, after an overwhelming reduction in the number of cases of congenital rubella to only a few cases annually, i.e. less than 0.1 per 100,000 live births, a new epidemic wave came on in 1991, with an incidence that rose to 0.8/100,000. Such waves of resurgence of German measles were also seen in 1997 and in the year 2000.

These periodic episodes of resurgence make it evident that there is a persistent circulation of the virus among young adults, which is the consequence of insufficient vaccination coverage. The latter situation allows a significant proportion of vulnerable subjects to persist, who are a source of periodic epidemics which put women in the fertile age group who have not been immunized at risk.

Therefore, the reduction to the point of eliminating congenital rubella is considered a priority in public health care.

Vaccines currently produced using cell aborted fetuses

To date, there are two human diploid cell lines which were originally prepared from tissues of aborted fetuses -- in 1964 and 1970 -- and are used for the preparation of vaccines based on live attenuated virus.

The first one is the WI-38 line (Winstar Institute 38), with human diploid lung fibroblasts, coming from a female fetus that was aborted because the family felt they had too many children. It was prepared and developed by Leonard Hayflick in 1964 [3] and bears the ATCC number CCL-75. WI-38 has been used for the preparation of the historical vaccine RA 27/3 against rubella [4].

The second human cell line is MRC-5 (Medical Research Council 5) -- human, lung, embryonic -- (ATCC number CCL-171), with human lung fibroblasts coming from a 14 week male fetus aborted for "psychiatric reasons" from a 27 year old woman in the UK. MRC-5 was prepared and developed by J.P. Jacobs in 1966 [5]. Other human cell lines have been developed for pharmaceutical needs, but are not involved in the vaccines actually available [6].

The vaccines that are incriminated today as using human cell lines from aborted fetuses, WI-38 and MRC-5, are the following: [7]

A) Live vaccines against rubella [8]

-- Monovalent vaccines against rubella Meruvax® (Merck, United States), Rudivax® (Sanofi Pasteur, France), and Ervevax® (RA 27/3) (GlaxoSmithKline, Belgium)

-- Combined vaccine MR against rubella and measles, commercialized with the name of M-R-VAX® (Merck, United States) and Rudi-Rouvax® (AVP, France)

-- Combined vaccine against rubella and mumps marketed under the name of Biavax® (Merck, United States)

-- Combined vaccine MMR -- measles, mumps, rubella -- marketed under the name of M-M-R® II (Merck, United States), R.O.R.®, Trimovax® (Sanofi Pasteur, France), and Priorix® (GlaxoSmithKline, Belgium)

B) Other vaccines, also prepared using human cell lines from aborted fetuses

-- Two vaccines against hepatitis A, one produced by Merck (VAQTA), the other one produced by GlaxoSmithKline (HAVRIX), both of them being prepared using MRC-5

-- One vaccine against chicken pox, Varivax®, produced by Merck using WI-38 and MRC-5

-- One vaccine against poliomyelitis, the inactivated polio virus vaccine Poliovax® (Aventis-Pasteur, France) using MRC-5

-- One vaccine against rabies, Imovax®, produced by Aventis Pasteur, harvested from infected human diploid cells, MRC-5 strain

-- One vaccine against smallpox, AC AM 1000, prepared by Acambis using MRC-5, still on trial.

The position of the ethical problem related to these vaccines

From the point of view of prevention of viral diseases such as German measles, mumps, measles, chicken pox and hepatitis A, it is clear that the making of effective vaccines against diseases such as these, as well as their use in the fight against these infections, up to the point of eradication, by means of an obligatory vaccination of all the population at risk, undoubtedly represents a "milestone" in the secular fight of man against infective and contagious diseases.

However, as the same vaccines are prepared from viruses taken from the tissues of fetuses that had been infected and voluntarily aborted, and the viruses were subsequently attenuated and cultivated from human cell lines which come likewise from procured abortions, they do not cease to pose ethical problems.

The need to articulate a moral reflection on the matter in question arises mainly from the connection which exists between the vaccines mentioned above and the procured abortions from which biological material necessary for their preparation was obtained.

If someone rejects every form of voluntary abortion of human fetuses, would such a person not contradict himself by allowing the use of these vaccines of live attenuated viruses on their children?

Would it not be a matter of true -- and illicit -- cooperation in evil, even though this evil was carried out forty years ago?

Before proceeding to consider this specific case, we need to recall briefly the principles assumed in classical moral doctrine with regard to the problem of cooperation in evil [9], a problem which arises every time that a moral agent perceives the existence of a link between his own acts and a morally evil action carried out by others.

The principle of licit cooperation in evil

The first fundamental distinction to be made is that between formal and material cooperation. Formal cooperation is carried out when the moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person, sharing in the latter's evil intention. On the other hand, when a moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person, without sharing in the intention, it is a case of material cooperation.

Material cooperation can be further divided into categories of immediate -- direct -- and mediate -- indirect -- depending on whether the cooperation is in the execution of the sinful action per se, or whether the agent acts by fulfilling the conditions -- either by providing instruments or products -- which make it possible to commit the immoral act.

Furthermore, forms of proximate cooperation and remote cooperation can be distinguished, in relation to the "distance" -- be it in terms of temporal space or material connection -- between the act of cooperation and the sinful act committed by someone else. Immediate material cooperation is always proximate, while mediate material cooperation can be either proximate or remote.

Formal cooperation is always morally illicit because it represents a form of direct and intentional participation in the sinful action of another person [10]. Material cooperation can sometimes be illicit -- depending on the conditions of the "double effect" or "indirect voluntary" action -- but when immediate material cooperation concerns grave attacks on human life, it is always to be considered illicit, given the precious nature of the value in question [11].

A further distinction made in classical morality is that between active -- or positive -- cooperation in evil and passive -- or negative -- cooperation in evil, the former referring to the performance of an act of cooperation in a sinful action that is carried out by another person, while the latter refers to the omission of an act of denunciation or impediment of a sinful action carried out by another person, insomuch as there was a moral duty to do that which was omitted [12].

Passive cooperation can also be formal or material, immediate or mediate, proximate or remote. Obviously, every type of formal passive cooperation is to be considered illicit, but even passive material cooperation should generally be avoided, although it is admitted, by many authors, that there is not a rigorous obligation to avoid it in a case in which it would be greatly difficult to do so.

Application (of principle) to vaccines prepared from cells of aborted fetuses

In the specific case under examination, there are three categories of people who are involved in the cooperation in evil, evil which is obviously represented by the action of a voluntary abortion performed by others: a) those who prepare the vaccines using human cell lines coming from voluntary abortions; b) those who participate in the mass marketing of such vaccines; c) those who need to use them for health reasons.

Firstly, one must consider morally illicit every form of formal cooperation -- sharing the evil intention -- in the action of those who have performed a voluntary abortion, which in turn has allowed the retrieval of fetal tissues, required for the preparation of vaccines. Therefore, whoever -- regardless of the category to which he belongs -- cooperates in some way, sharing its intention, to the performance of a voluntary abortion with the aim of producing the above-mentioned vaccines, participates, in actuality, in the same moral evil as the person who has performed that abortion.

Such participation would also take place in the case where someone, sharing the intention of the abortion, refrains from denouncing or criticizing this illicit action, although having the moral duty to do so -- passive formal cooperation.

In a case where there is no such formal sharing of the immoral intention of the person who has performed the abortion, any form of cooperation would be material, with the following specifications.

As regards the preparation, distribution and marketing of vaccines produced as a result of the use of biological material whose origin is connected with cells coming from fetuses voluntarily aborted, such a process is stated, as a matter of principle, morally illicit, because it could contribute in encouraging the performance of other voluntary abortions, with the purpose of the production of such vaccines.

Nevertheless, it should be recognized that, within the chain of production-distribution-marketing, the various cooperating agents can have different moral responsibilities.

However, there is another aspect to be considered, and that is the form of passive material cooperation which would be carried out by the producers of these vaccines, if they do not denounce and reject publicly the original immoral act -- the voluntary abortion -- and if they do not dedicate themselves together to research and promote alternative ways, exempt from moral evil, for the production of vaccines for the same infections. Such passive material cooperation, if it should occur, is equally illicit.

As regards those who need to use such vaccines for reasons of health, it must be emphasized that, apart from every form of formal cooperation, in general, doctors or parents who resort to the use of these vaccines for their children, in spite of knowing their origin -- voluntary abortion -- carry out a form of very remote mediate material cooperation, and thus very mild, in the performance of the original act of abortion, and a mediate material cooperation, with regard to the marketing of cells coming from abortions, and immediate, with regard to the marketing of vaccines produced with such cells.

The cooperation is therefore more intense on the part of the authorities and national health systems that accept the use of the vaccines.

However, in this situation, the aspect of passive cooperation is that which stands out most. It is up to the faithful and citizens of upright conscience -- parents, doctors, etc. -- to oppose, even by making an objection of conscience, the ever more widespread attacks against life and the "culture of death" which underlies them.

From this point of view, the use of vaccines whose production is connected with procured abortion constitutes at least a mediate remote passive material cooperation to the abortion, and an immediate passive material cooperation with regard to their marketing. Furthermore, on a cultural level, the use of such vaccines contributes in the creation of a generalized social consensus to the operation of the pharmaceutical industries which produce them in an immoral way.

Therefore, doctors and parents have a duty to take recourse to alternative vaccines [13] -- if they exist -- putting pressure on the political authorities and health systems so that other vaccines without moral problems become available. They should take recourse, if necessary, to the use of conscientious objection [14] with regard to the use of vaccines produced by means of cell lines of aborted human fetal origin.

Equally, they should oppose by all means -- in writing, through the various associations, mass media, etc. -- the vaccines which do not yet have morally acceptable alternatives, creating pressure so that alternative vaccines are prepared, which are not connected with the abortion of a human fetus, and requesting rigorous legal control of the pharmaceutical industry producers.

As regards the diseases against which there are no alternative vaccines which are available and ethically acceptable, it is right to abstain from using these vaccines if it can be done without causing children, and indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to their health.

However, if the latter are exposed to considerable dangers to their health, vaccines with moral problems pertaining to them may also be used on a temporary basis.

The moral reason is that the duty to avoid passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience. Moreover, we find, in such a case, a proportional reason, in order to accept the use of these vaccines in the presence of the danger of favoring the spread of the pathological agent, due to the lack of vaccination of children. This is particularly true in the case of vaccination against German measles [15].

In any case, there remains a moral duty to continue to fight and to employ every lawful means in order to make life difficult for the pharmaceutical industries which act unscrupulously and unethically.

However, the burden of this important battle cannot and must not fall on innocent children and on the health situation of the population -- especially with regard to pregnant women.


To summarize, it must be confirmed that there is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems.

As regards the vaccines without an alternative, the need to contest so that others may be prepared must be reaffirmed, as should be the lawfulness of using the former in the meantime insomuch as is necessary in order to avoid a serious risk not only for one's own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole -- especially for pregnant women

The lawfulness of the use of these vaccines should not be misinterpreted as a declaration of the lawfulness of their production, marketing and use, but is to be understood as being a passive material cooperation and, in its mildest and remotest sense, also active, morally justified as an "extrema ratio" due to the necessity to provide for the good of one's children and of the people who come in contact with the children -- pregnant women.

Such cooperation occurs in a context of moral coercion of the conscience of parents, who are forced to choose to act against their conscience or otherwise, to put the health of their children and of the population as a whole at risk. This is an unjust alternative choice, which must be eliminated as soon as possible.


[1] J. E. Banatvala, D.W.G. Brown. "Rubella," The Lancet, April 3, 2004, vol. 363, No. 9415, pp. 1127-1137.

[2] S.A. Plotkin. "Virologic Assistance in the Management of German Measles in Pregnancy," JAMA, Oct. 26, 1964, vol.190, pp. 265-268.

"Rubella , Morbidity and Mortality," Weekly Report, 1964, vol. 13, p. 93.

[3] L. Hayflick. "The Limited In-Vitro Lifetime of Human Diploid Cell Strains," Experimental Cell Research, March 1965, vol.37, no. 3, pp. 614-636.

G. Sven, S. Plotkin, K. McCarthy. "Gamma Globulin Prophylaxis; Inactivated
Rubella Virus; Production and Biological Control of Live Attenuated Rubella Virus Vaccines," American journal of Diseases of Children, August 1969, vol. 118, no. 2, pp. 372-381.

[4] S. A. Plotkin, D. Cornfeld, Th.H. Ingalls. "Studies of Immunization With Living Rubella Virus, Trials in Children With a Strain Coming From an Aborted Fetus," American Journal of Diseases in children, October 1965, vol. 110, no. 4, pp. 381-389.

[5] J.P. Jacobs, C.M. Jones, J.P. Bailie. "Characteristics of a Human Diploid Cell Designated MRC-5," Nature, 11th July 1970, vol.277, pp. 168-170.

[6] Two other human cell lines, that are permanent, HEK 293 aborted fetal cell line, from primary human embryonic kidney cells transformed by sheared adenovirus type 5. The fetal kidney material was obtained from an aborted fetus, in 1972 probably, and PER.C6, a fetal cell line created using retinal tissue from an 18 week gestation aborted baby, have been developed for the pharmaceutical manufacturing of adenovirus vectors --for gene therapy.

They have not been involved in the making of any of the attenuated live virus vaccines presently in use because of their capacity to develop tumorigenic cells in the recipient. However some vaccines, still at the developmental stage, against Ebola virus (Crucell N.V. and the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institutes of Health's Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID), HIV (Merck), influenza (Medlmmune, Sanofi pasteur), Japanese encephalitis (Crucell N.V. and Rhein Biotech N.V.) are prepared using PER.C6® cell line (Crucell N.V., Leiden, The Netherlands).

[7] Against these various infectious diseases, there are some alternative vaccines that are prepared using animals' cells or tissues, and are therefore ethically acceptable. Their availability depends on the country in question.

Concerning the particular case of the United States, there are no options for the time being in that country for the vaccination against rubella, chickenpox and hepatitis A, other than the vaccines proposed by Merck, prepared using the human cell lines WI-38 and MRC-5.

There is a vaccine against smallpox prepared with the Vero cell line -- derived from the kidney of an African green monkey -- ACAM2000 (Acambis-Baxter), a second-generation smallpox vaccine, stockpiled, not approved in the US, which offers, therefore, an alternative to the Acambis 1000.

There are alternative vaccines against mumps (Mumpsvax, Merck, measles (Attenuvax, Merck), rabies (RabAvert, Chiron therapeutics) -- prepared from chicken embryos, however serious allergies have occurred with such vaccines -- poliomyelitis (IPOL, Aventis-Pasteur, prepared with monkey kidney cells) and smallpox (a third-generation smallpox vaccine MVA, Modified Vaccinia Ankara,

In Europe and in Japan, there are other vaccines available against rubella and hepatitis A, produced using non-human cell lines. The Kitasato Institute produce four vaccines against rubella, called Takahashi, TO-336 and Matuba, prepared with cells from rabbit kidney, and one (Matuura) prepared with cells from a quail embryo.

The Chemo-sero-therapeutic Research Institute Kaketsuken produce one another vaccine against hepatitis A, called Ainmugen, prepared with cells from monkey kidney. The only remaining problem is with the vaccine Varivax® against chicken pox, for which there is no alternative.

[8] The vaccine against rubella using the strain Wistar RA27/3 of live attenuated rubella virus, adapted and propagated in WI-38 human diploid lung fibroblasts is at the center of the present controversy regarding the morality of the use of vaccines prepared with the help of human cell lines coming from aborted fetuses.

[9] D.M. Prummer O. Pr. "De cooperatione ad malum," in Manuale Theologiae
Moralis secundum Principia S. Thomae Aquinatis, Tomus I, Friburgi
Brisgoviae, Herder & Co., 1923, Pars I, Trat. IX, Caput III, no.2, pp. 429-434.

K.H. Peschke. "Cooperation in the sins of others," Christian Ethics: Moral Theology in the Light of Vatican II, vol.1, General Moral Theology, C. Goodliffe Neale Ltd., Arden Forest Industrial Estate, Alcester, Warwickshire, B49 6Er, revised edition, 1986, pp. 320-324.

[10] A. Fisher. "Cooperation in Evil," Catholic Medical Quarterly, 1994, pp. 15-22.

D. Tettamanzi. "Cooperazione," in Dizionario di Bioetica, S. Leone, S. Privitera ed., Istituto Siciliano di Bioetica, EDB-ISB, 1994, pp. 194-198.

L. Melina. "La cooperazione con azioni moralmente cattive contra la vita umana, in Commentario Interdisciplinare alia 'Evangelium Vitae,'" E. Sgreccia, Ramon Luca Lucas ed., Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997, pp. 467-490.

E. Sgreccia, "Manuale di Bioetica," vol. I, Reprint of the third edition, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1999, pp. 362-363.

[11] Pope John Paul II, "Evangelium Vitae," no. 74.

[12] Catechism of the Catholic Church, no.1868.

[13] The alternative vaccines in question are those that are prepared by means of cell lines which are not of human origin, for example, the Vero cell line -- from monkeys -- the kidney cells of rabbits or monkeys, or the cells of chicken embryos.

However, it should be noted that grave forms of allergy have occurred with some of the vaccines prepared in this way. The use of recombinant DNA technology could lead to the development of new vaccines in the near future which will no longer require the use of cultures of human diploid cells for the attenuation of the virus and its growth, for such vaccines will not be prepared from a basis of attenuated virus, but from the genome of the virus and from the antigens thus developed.

Some experimental studies have already been done using vaccines developed from DNA that has been derived from the genome of the German measles virus.

Moreover, some Asiatic researchers are trying to use the Varicella virus as a vector for the insertion of genes which codify the viral antigens of Rubella.

These studies are still at a preliminary phase and the refinement of vaccine preparations which can be used in clinical practice will require a lengthy period of time and will be at high costs.

D. Vinnedge. "The Smallpox Vaccine," The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Spring, 2000, vol.2, no. 1, p. 12.

G.C. Woodrow. "An Overview of Biotechnology as Applied to Vaccine Development," in New Generation Vaccines, G.C. Woodrow, M.M. Levine eds., Marcel Dekker Inc., New York and Basel, 1990, see pp. 32-37.

W.M. McDonnell, F.K. Askari, "Immunization," JAMA, Dec. 10, 1997, vol. 278, no. 22, pp. 2000-2007, see pp. 2005-2006.

[14] Such a duty may lead, as a consequence, to taking recourse to "objection of conscience" when the action recognized as illicit is an act permitted or even encouraged by the laws of the country and poses a threat to human life. The encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" underlined this "obligation to oppose" the laws which permit abortion or euthanasia "by conscientious objection" (no. 73)

[15] This is particularly true in the case of vaccination against German measles, because of the danger of congenital rubella syndrome. This could occur, causing grave congenital malformations in the fetus, when a pregnant woman enters into contact, even if it is brief, with children who have not been immunized and are carriers of the virus. In this case, the parents who did not accept the vaccination of their own children become responsible for the malformations in question, and for the subsequent abortion of fetuses, when they have been discovered to be malformed.

(Translation by the Vatican and ZENIT)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Christian Video Games

CNET has a Reuters story about the Christian Game Developers Conference being held this week in Portland, Oregon, and the growth of this market segment.

That day

In this life on earth, there is a continuous comfort that we may scarcely (if ever) notice. It is like the gentlest yet most delightful music – so gentle and soft that we almost never consciously hear it, but we feel it: caressing our soul and sustaining our spirit.

It is the abiding presence of God, still mindful of and present to his Creation.

In this life on earth, there is also a continual discomfort that we may scarcely (if ever) notice. It is like walking on ground that looks clear and flat, but is subtly and unpredictably uneven. It causes us to tread with uncertainty and sometimes leads us to stumble or wander off course.

It is the reality of sin and its effects in this world – our own sin and the sins of others – that disrupts, distorts, and deviates.

But it will not be this way forever.

Scripture teaches us that life on earth and its mysterious confluence of comfort and discomfort will come to an end.

We hear this truth described vividly in today’s Gospel (Mt. 13:36-43) with an apocalyptic image of weeding and damnation.

As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire;
so shall it be in the end of this world.

The Son of man shall send forth his angels,
and they shall gather out of his kingdom
all things that offend,
and them which do iniquity;
And shall cast them into a furnace of fire:
there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun
in the kingdom of their Father.

Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

This is not a popular message in today’s world, for many people live in denial.

Some (young people especially) live in denial regarding their own mortality: they banish from their minds any thought of death.

Some live in denial regarding the fate of the world: they are terrified at the thought of a giant asteroid or some other “extinction event.”

Some live in denial regarding the afterlife: betting their eternity on either the obliteration of consciousness or the magical salvation of even the worst unrepentant sinner - an infinitely risky bet.

And… there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Many people rebel at the notion of divine punishment. It conflicts with the warm, fuzzy concept of God they have made for themselves.

What they fail to remember is that actions have consequences – evil actions have evil effects – and that it is only by the merciful patience of God that we are spared the full reality of the evil we do.

"Yet your people say,
'The way of the Lord is not just';
when it is their own way that is not just.
When the righteous turns from his righteousness,
and commits iniquity, he shall die for it.”

Ezek 33:17-18

As I live, saith the Lord GOD,
I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked;
but that the wicked turn from his way and live...
Ezek 33:11

God is patient. He waits for us to accept the grace he offers, for us to turn from our selfish ways and to turn fully to him. Thus he lets us struggle on in this mixed world of comfort and discomfort.

But this struggle will not continue forever. The day of the Lord will come, the world will end (our world and/or the world), and this world’s mix of comfort and discomfort will be gone.

On that day, only the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can save us from the consequences of what we ourselves have done. This reality is expressed eloquently in the classic verses of the Dies Irae:

Quantus tremor est futurus,
quando judex est venturus,
cuncta stricte discussurus.
What dread there will be
When the judge shall come
To examine all things strictly....

Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet apparebit,
nil inultum remanebit.

When therefore the judge will take his seat
Whatever is hidden will reveal itself --
Nothing will remain unaddressed....

Recordare Jesu pie,
quod sum causa tuae viae,
ne me perdas illa die.
Remember, O dear Jesus,
That I am the cause of Thy pilgrimage.
Do not forsake me on that day...

Catholic Carnival XXXX

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

New auxiliary bishop in California

The Holy Father has named Spanish-born Father Rutilio J. Del Riego, member of the Diocesan Laborer Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Riverside, California, as the new Auxiliary Bishop of San Bernardino.

Killing in Rio suburbs

UPI reports that 29 people who spoke out against corrupt police officers in suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, were shot to death last April.

Father Paulo Henrique Machado was working with the families of those who lost loved ones in these murders.

Father Machado was himself shot to death yesterday.

There was a very rich man named Joachim

who would come before the Lord with double the required offerings.

He said, that which is the offering to the Lord for my forgiveness shall be a mercy offering for me, and that which is over and above shall be for the whole people.

As the great feast of the Lord drew near and the men of Israel were bringing their offerings, a particular man confronted Joachim and said, It is not right for you to bring your offerings first, because you have produced no children for Israel.

Joachim learned that all the righteous men of Israel had children.

He was heartbroken. He refused to go near his wife, but went out into the desert and fasted there for forty days and forty nights.

His wife Anna mourned doubly and lamented doubly, saying: I shall grieve my childlessness and now I shall grieve my widowhood.

She then saw a laurel tree, and sat under it, and prayed to the Lord, saying:
O God of our fathers,
bless me and hear my prayer,
as you blessed the womb of Sarah
and gave her a son, Isaac.

Gazing upward, she saw a sparrow's nest in the tree and wept to herself:

Alas! Who fathered me? And what womb bore me? I have been reproached and have become a curse in Israel, and in derision they have driven me out of the temple of the Lord.

Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the birds of the sky, because even they are fruitful before you, O Lord.

Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the beasts of the earth, because even the beasts of the earth are fruitful before you, O Lord.

Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like these waters, because even these waters are fruitful before you, O Lord.

Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like this earth, because even the earth brings forth its fruits in season, and blesses you, O Lord.

Suddenly Anna saw an angel of the Lord standing there and saying:

Anna, Anna,
the Lord has heard your prayer.
You shall conceive and give birth
and your offspring shall be spoken of
throughout the world.

Anna said: As the Lord my God lives, whether I have either a boy or a girl, I will bring that child as a gift to the Lord my God; and that child shall minister to Him all the days of its life.

Then she saw two angels who said: Look! Joachim, your husband, is approaching.

For an angel of the Lord had gone to Joachim in the desert, saying:
Joachim, Joachim,
the Lord God has heard your prayer.
Go down from here,

for your wife Anna shall conceive.

Anna was standing by the gate and saw Joachim approaching with his flocks. She ran to him and hung upon his neck, saying:
Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly;
Look! The widow is no longer a widow,

and I the childless shall conceive.

And Joachim rested the first day in his house.

And in the ninth month Anna gave birth. She asked the midwife whether it was a boy or a girl. A girl, said the midwife.

My soul has been magnified this day, said Anna.

And when the time came, Anna nursed the child and named her Mary.

(Adapted from the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James.)

On this day the Church celebrates Saint Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus. 'The Virgin and Child with St Anne' by Leonardo da Vinci National Gallery, London

Monday, July 25, 2005

What does God want me to do with my life?

from the Vocations website of the Diocese of Orlando

Supermen for God

It is thrilling to consider that we have a personal relationship with the One who is all-powerful: the Creator of all things, the Lord of the Universe.

We read God’s promises to us in Scripture and we feel a great upwelling of confidence within us.

We imagine ourselves walking mightily through the streets of the city like Peter the Apostle: miraculous power flowing out from us left and right, thousands being enthralled by our words and converting to Jesus Christ in a single day. Glory! Glory!

But things don’t usually turn out that way for us.

Actually, even for the Apostles themselves, not every day was a day of miracles and awe; many days were just plain awful.

We get a taste of that in today’s first reading (2 Cor. 4:7-15) as St. Paul tells the Corinthians what life is like for him as an Apostle. It is very different from the cartoon-like image of Apostles as being Supermen for God. It is also different from the St. Louis Jesuits’ confection “Earthen Vessels” (based somewhat loosely on this passage).

In fact, St. Paul’s words sound very much like the last days of the great Pope John Paul II.
We are afflicted in every way,
but not constrained;
but not driven to despair;
but not abandoned;
struck down,
but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body
the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus
may also be manifested in our body.

For we who live
are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus
may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Sometimes it is very easy for us to become discouraged. Sometimes we feel as useless as dirt.

The message of St. Paul is clear:

We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God
and not from us.

All of us, even the mightiest of Apostles and Popes, are finite human beings, but it's not about us: it's about God.

What we believe is not the concoction of clever men. The holiness we desire is not simply the rectitude of the strong-willed. The glory to be revealed in us far surpasses the fleeting splendor of riches and celebrity.

What we believe, what we seek, what we do is the work of grace: the undeserved gift of God, of Infinity and Eternity itself in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We are not supermen, we are often feeble and fragile, but through us, by the grace of Christ, the omnipotence and wisdom of God is to shine.

Embarrassed by Mom

Their mother walked right up to the teacher, in front of all their friends, her sons sheepishly following behind her.

She was straightforward in saying what she wanted: special treatment for her boys.

Her sons looked at the ground, their friends grumbled, but the teacher smiled: a gentle smile with the barest hint of a shadow.

The teacher spoke directly to the sons. There was a serious misunderstanding here. He asked them if they could do something and they said they could.

The teacher now spoke quite solemnly. The specific request was off-limits, but they would get very special treatment.

“The cup that I drink,
you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized,
you will be baptized.”

On this day we remember St. James the Apostle (a.k.a. James the Greater), the eldest of these two sons, who shared in the suffering of Christ through martyrdom just over a decade after his teacher and Lord.

New Auxiliary Bishop

The Holy Father has named Msgr. José Rojas Rojas Jr., Vicar General of the Diocese of San Carlos in the Philippines, as Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese, while also accepting the retirement of the previous Auxiliary Bishop Salvador T. Modesto.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

We know that all things work for good

for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28


In today’s first reading (1 Kgs. 3:5,7-12), Solomon asks God for wisdom.

His request is echoed in this glorious passage from the book of Wisdom:

O God of my fathers, and Lord of mercy,
who hast made all things with thy word,
And ordained man through thy wisdom,
that he should have dominion
over the creatures which thou hast made,
And order the world
according to equity and righteousness,
and execute judgment with an upright heart:

Give me wisdom, that sitteth by thy throne;
and reject me not from among thy children:
For I thy servant and son of thine handmaid
am a feeble person,
and of a short time, and too young
for the understanding of judgment and laws.

You and I may not have the same responsibilities as a king, but we should find great resonance with Solomon here, for we too have responsibilities – regarding our families, our communities, and even our world – and we too often feel inadequate to the challenges that face us (I know I do). We too therefore would do well always to repeat Solomon’s prayer:

Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart....

Give me wisdom....

And then may God say also to us,

"Because you have asked for this--
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding

so that you may know what is right--
I do as you requested.”

It might be nice to have a long life, immense riches, and a world free of enemies, but wisdom – true wisdom, God’s wisdom – can give us more of what we really need than any amount of time, any amount of money, or any number of friends.

With thee is wisdom, who knows thy works
and was present when thou didst make the world,
and who understand what is pleasing in thy sight
and what is right according to thy commandments.

Send her forth from the holy heavens,
and from the throne of thy glory send her,
that she may be with me and toil,
and that I may learn what is pleasing to thee.

For she knows and understands all things,
and she will guide me wisely in my actions
and guard me with her glory.

Ask for wisdom.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

A new priest with a fine voice

The BBC reports that Deacon Paul Moss, the Oxford native who chanted the Gospel at the funeral of the great Pope John Paul, is being ordained a priest today at St Peter's Church in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire by the Archbishop of Birmingham the Most Rev Vincent Nichols.

Splashing with blood

In today’s first reading (Ex. 24:3-8), the covenant between God and his people is solemnized in a ritual that is not for the squeamish: large bowls of fresh blood being splashed on an altar and sprinkled on a crowd of people.

As grisly as the symbolic action may seem, it is also rich with meaning. For one thing, because blood has been associated with life, this action symbolized the life shared in this covenant between the Lord and his people. Thus Moses says,

"This is the blood of the covenant
that the LORD has made with you
in accordance with all these words of his."

The People of God would hear words like this again: words associated with another covenant – a new and everlasting covenant – and with blood that is infinitely precious:

And he took a cup,
and when he had given thanks
he gave it to them, saying,
"Drink of it, all of you;
for this is my blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for many
for the forgiveness of sins.”
Matthew 26:27-28

We should let neither many people’s squeamishness about blood nor some people’s obsessions about blood distract us.

Blood is something sacred and the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the most sacred of all.

The blood of Christ seals our covenant with God. The blood of Christ enables us to share life with God.

That is why it is so good to have a proper devotion to the blood of Christ: not to be focused on gore for its own sake, but to be deeply mindful of and appreciative for this most precious and life-giving of gifts.

Bridget had Jesus on her mind

She was happily married and took care of her husband and their eight kids, but Jesus was always on her mind.

When her children grew up and her husband died, she devoted herself completely to Jesus: even starting her own religious order.

She designed a habit with a built-in reminder of Jesus being always on her mind: a white cross over and around her head with five marks signifying Christ’s five wounds on the cross.

Bridget of Sweden, founder of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, died on this very day in 1373 and was canonized in 1391.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Reflections of a Law School Graduate

In his blog Recta Ratio, G. Thomas Fitzpatrick, Jr, has a good, long biographical reflection on devotions as well as shorter reflections related to U.S. Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts.

A young woman begins a journey

The Dominican Contemplative Sisters at the Monastery of the Heart of Jesus in Lockport, Louisiana welcome a new postulant, Sister Marjorie. They share pictures on their Xanga site.

(A tip of the appropriate head covering to Cnytr.)

Steps to Discernment

"Stay Close to the Sacraments
"Participate in Mass every Sunday, on holy days of obligation and daily when your schedule permits. Make frequent confession, once a month or even more often. Not yet confirmed? Do it!

"Get A Spiritual Director
"Ask a priest to meet with you once a month for 30 to 60 minutes for confession and to discuss your spiritual life. Tell him you're considering priesthood.

"Pray Every Day
"Develop a daily prayer routine with your spiritual director. Pray for God to give you not only knowledge of what He wants you to do but the courage to do it.

"Serve Your Parish
"Seek opportunities to get involved in parish life. Choose one parish and register - don't float from parish to parish.

"If you do these things and still think you might have a vocation, it's probably time to contact (the Vocations Director)."

from the Vocations website of the Archdiocese of Washington

Jesus saith unto her, 'Mary.'

'Noli me tangere' by Antonio Raggi (design by Gian Lorenzo Bernini) SS. Domenico e Sisto, RomeShe turned herself, and saith unto him, 'Rabboni; '
which is to say, Master.

Jesus saith unto her, 'Touch me not;
for I am not yet ascended to my Father:
but go to my brethren, and say unto them,
I ascend unto my Father, and your Father;
and to my God, and your God.'
John 20:16-17

The Commandments

In today’s first reading (Ex. 20:1-17), we have the Ten Commandments: resented by some who see it simply as a list of prohibitions - limitations on one’s freedom and fun.

Believers, on the other hand, see God’s commandments not as limitations on freedom, but as making freedom truly possible and fully fruitful; not as warnings against fun, but as gateways to endless happiness.

Today’s responsorial psalm (from Psalm 19) expresses this reality in a wonderful way:

The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.

Blessed be God!

God delivered all these commandments

"I, the LORD, am your God
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
that place of slavery.

"You shall not have other gods besides me.

"You shall not carve idols for yourselves
in the shape of anything in the sky above
or on the earth below
or in the waters beneath the earth;
you shall not bow down before them
or worship them.

"For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God,
inflicting punishment
for their fathers' wickedness
on the children of those who hate me,
down to the third and fourth generation;
but bestowing mercy
down to the thousandth generation
on the children of those who love me
and keep my commandments.

"You shall not
take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.
For the LORD will not leave unpunished
him who takes his name in vain.

"Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.
Six days you may labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day
is the sabbath of the LORD, your God.
No work may be done then either by you,
or your son or daughter,
or your male or female slave, or your beast,
or by the alien who lives with you.
In six days
the LORD made the heavens and the earth,
the sea and all that is in them;
but on the seventh day
he rested.
That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day
and made it holy.

"Honor your father and your mother,
that you may have a long life in the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you.

"You shall not kill.

"You shall not commit adultery.

"You shall not steal.

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife,
nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass,
nor anything else that belongs to him."
Exodus 20:1-17

There was something about Mary

something very wrong.

The very best medical care available seemed unable to help her and she went from place to place with no relief.

Finally, she found someone who was able to cure her. She was so grateful that she went to work for him, learning everything she could from him.

Then, in a terrible turn of events, the man who had cured her was arrested on trumped-up charges, found guilty, and executed.

Mary watched him die, one of the few who stayed by him to the end.

Two days later, still overcome with grief, she went to visit his grave, but the body was gone.

Mary ran in panic to her coworkers, but they just came, looked, and left.

Grief now totally overwhelmed Mary and she sobbed uncontrollably.

Through her tears, she saw people around her and she heard them ask why she was crying. One of them seemed to be a landscaper. She hardly knew what to say to them.

Then the "landscaper" called her by her name, “Mary.”

Now she saw clearly.

It was him.

It was Jesus.

It was the Lord. He was risen as he had said.

Mary Magdalene was thus the first to see the risen Lord and would be the one to bring the news to the Apostles. Much later, many strange stories would be told about Mary, but what always remains clear is that she was faithful to the Lord even in the most horrible of circumstances and that she was the first to tell the news of Christ’s resurrection.

The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene is celebrated on this day.

(updated from an earlier post)

Thursday, July 21, 2005


In today’s Gospel (Mt. 13:10-17), our Lord repeats grim words from the prophet Isaiah:

They have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts
and be converted
and I heal them.

Do we close our eyes, our ears and our minds?
Have we stopped trying to understand our faith more deeply?
Do we think we do not have any need of conversion?
Have we grown numb to our need for healing?

“Amen, I say to you,
many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."

May you and I be ever more open to grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

They named the baby Julius Caesar

And sure enough, he would grow up to stand at the head of a great army... but it would be as Brother Lawrence: a Capuchin friar and army chaplain, rallying the troops in a battle against a host of invaders.

He was no soldier: he was a phenomenal linguist, a brilliant administrator, but most of all, he was a holy man of God and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, bringing many to faith in Christ.

St. Lawrence of Brindisi, died at the age of 60, on July 22, 1619 and his memory is celebrated on this day.

Christian Carnival

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Heads up!

In today’s first reading (from Exodus 16), the people grumble and complain, certain of their doom, only to find the answer to their need literally fall out of the sky from the hand of God.

From time to time, we ourselves may feel cause to grumble and complain or to think that doom is certain.

We need to remember always the outstretched hand of our loving God who gave them and who gives us bread from heaven.

The bishop was not popular in that city

Several times he was physically attacked, coming close to death more than once, and thrown out of town.

This went on for nearly 25 years, but the bishop always came back, so finally they killed him.

Bishop Apollinaris thus followed in the footsteps of the Pope who had appointed him and who himself had been martyred.

This Pope happened to have been an old friend and comrade of Bishop Apollinaris. This Pope also happened to be the very first Pope or Bishop of Rome: Peter, former fisherman of Galilee and leader of Christ's twelve Apostles.

The memory of St. Apollinaris, martyr and bishop of Ravenna, is celebrated on this day.

"The main apostolate for all religious...

"is their life of prayer, sacrifice and witness.

"The Sisters of Nazareth are apostolic, not because they have an 'Apostolate,' but because they live as the apostles lived. All apostolic activities spring from a close union with Christ, based on prayer. As Christ was sent on a mission by His Father, so He, through His Church, sends the Sisters of Nazareth to share in that Mission.

"It is a community that the Sisters carry out their apostolate and give witness to the power of the love of Christ in whose name they work. All talents are welcomed in the apostolate of service.

"The special apostolate entrusted by the Church to the Sisters of Nazareth is the care of the needy, the elderly, the infirm and the poor.

"Various other ministries are carried out by the Sisters such as teaching in schools, the provision of day nurseries and the care of children.

"Today the Sisters continue their apostolate in the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia, the United States and American Samoa."

from the website of the Sisters of Nazareth
(which includes dates for Young Women’s Vocation Retreats and other discernment events)

Catholic nominee to SCOTUS

Press reports indicate that John G. Roberts, nominated yesterday by President Bush for the Supreme Court of the United States is a practicing Catholic. A Catholic boarding school in northwestern Indiana, La Lumiere School, claims him as an alumnus and has posted a special web page about him.

UPDATE: Catholic News Service reports that Judge Roberts, his wife, and their two children are members of Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, Maryland.

New diocese in India

This morning it was announced that the Holy Father has created a new diocese in Jaipur, India, from the territory of the diocese of Ajmer-Jaipur, making it a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Agra and naming as its first bishop the Most Reverend Oswald Lewis, who had been Coadjutor Bishop of Meerut. The diocese of Ajmer-Jaipur has now been renamed the diocese of Ajmer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Him who slanders his neighbor secretly

I will destroy.
Ps 101:5a
'Cocytus' - one of Gustave Doré's illustrations for Dante's Inferno

Dissing his mother?

A previous reflection related to today's Gospel (Mt. 12:46-50) is here.

Catholic Carnival

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

What happened to the Egyptians

Scripture tells us that "God is love" (1 Jn. 4:8 & 16) and wants “all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4).

In today’s first reading (Ex. 14:21-15:1), God wipes out hundreds of Egyptians down to the last man.

And it came to pass, that in the morning watch
the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians
through the pillar of fire and of the cloud,
and troubled the host of the Egyptians,
And took off their chariot wheels,
that they drave them heavily:
so that the Egyptians said,
Let us flee from the face of Israel;
for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians.

And the LORD said unto Moses,
Stretch out thine hand over the sea,
that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians,
upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.

And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea,
and the sea returned to his strength
when the morning appeared;
and the Egyptians fled against it;
and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians
in the midst of the sea.

And the waters returned, and covered the chariots,
and the horsemen,

and all the host of Pharaoh
that came into the sea after them;
there remained not so much as one of them.

This story has been told and depicted so often that it is easy to come away with a superficial understanding of it: the God of the Old Testament wiping out the bad guys.

It is better - and much more meaningful – to look deeper into this familiar account and see it not just as the key moment of salvation history for the people of God but also as a moment in which the Egyptians encounter God: an encounter that has warnings for us all.

The Egyptians’ problems begin when they actually get a glimpse of God through the pillar of fire.

In a real sense, what is described here is a classic instance of human beings having an encounter with God for which they are not prepared: they are troubled and disoriented by this glimpse into the Infinite.

Prior to this moment of encounter, the Egyptians’ approach to the Infinite was crudely materialistic: their gods were Pharaohs and idols, and immortality was associated with embalming.

Too many of us in the world today likewise seek refuge in materialism or in mental images of God purely of our own making - not the best preparation for the reality of infinity.

Thus, at this moment of encounter, the Egyptians glimpse Infinity itself and they are stricken with an existential crisis of cosmic proportions.

Finite, weak-minded, time-bound human beings cannot survive unmediated contact with the Infinite, Omnipotent, Eternal God.

That is why the Lord says (Ex. 33:20), “No man may see me and live.” Contact with God is only possible through grace.

But grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
No man hath seen God at any time;
the only begotten Son,

which is in the bosom of the Father,
he hath declared him
(John 1:17b-18)

As people of faith, when we have crises – existential or otherwise – we call upon God, seeking his grace and rejoicing in the infinite bounty we receive through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Egyptians' reaction to their crisis, on the contrary, is not to seek God’s grace, but to try to run away from God. This, of course, leads them deeper into disaster. Nature takes its course and the waters of the sea flow back to their place.

One might speculate or hope that in their last moment of life, the Egyptians realized their folly, came to know that the Lord is God, and turned to him with their last thought. Indeed, one might see this as part of the mysterious plans and purposes of God, over and above the rescue of his people from slavery.

And I will harden Pharaoh's heart,
that he shall follow after them;
and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh,
and upon all his host;
that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.
(Exodus 14:4)

Along these lines, in Cecil B. de Mille’s classic film The Ten Commandments, Pharaoh has only one thing to say after witnessing this event.

"His God IS God."

What happened to the Egyptians at the Red Sea reminds us of the catastrophic power of a true encounter with God, of how God’s grace in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ makes such encounters life-giving instead of life-threatening, and of how we need to pray for that grace always – no matter how great the crisis or how late the moment.

Praised be Jesus Christ

Monday, July 18, 2005

They are coming...

In today’s first reading (Ex. 14:5-18), the Israelites start to panic as Pharaoh’s hundreds of chariots come thundering toward them.

But Moses answered the people,
“Fear not! Stand your ground,
and you will see
the victory the LORD will win for you today.
These Egyptians whom you see today
you will never see again.
The LORD himself will fight for you;
you have only to keep still.”

And then God gives the command for the people “to go forward.”

Today, the risk of catastrophic attack by horse-drawn chariot is rather low, but sometimes we may still have the same sense of worry and even panic as the Israelites did.

In the spiritual life, we may feel besieged by many different hordes:
  • when we try to pray, we are overwhelmed by mundane distractions;
  • when we try to think and act chastely, we find ourselves deluged with incessant messages and images of decadence;
  • when we try to focus on the truth, we are barraged by those who disrespect the faith.

And then we hear the voice of Moses:

"Fear not! Stand your ground..."

Do not panic: that way lies disaster.

"The LORD himself will fight for you;
you have only to keep still."

The struggle (and the victory) ultimately belongs to God.
Only by his grace can we prevail
and through his grace we can achieve all things.

"Go forward."

Despite everything the world may throw at us, we are to keep always moving forward in response to the commands of God.

Despite our inadequacies, God calls us to go forward and to do his will with the help of his grace.

Our lives may be very complex and the world can be very scary, but down through the millennia the Lord’s message remains unchanged :

Fear not.... Be still.... Go forward....

Soldier, gambler, vagrant

It was a nasty slide downward.

He had picked up the gambling habit when he was in the service. After his unit disbanded and he exited the service, gambling caused him to lose everything he had.

He tried different things, but nothing worked. When war broke out again, he went back into the military and served until the war was over.

After the war, he was out on the street again. He was hanging out with some other homeless men when a rich man came by and offered him a job, working on construction for a new monastery the man was building for the local Capuchins.

The ex-soldier accepted the offer and, after one last struggle with his temptations, took the job.

He worked diligently and came close to becoming a Capuchin himself. A chronic physical ailment, however, came back in force and so instead of a Capuchin friary, he found himself in a big city hospital.

While he was at the hospital, he did what he could to help out, no matter how menial the task. In time, this six-foot-six former soldier would become a nurse.

Eventually, he would become a priest and founder of a religious order devoted to the sick: the Order of St. Camillus, which continues to this day.

Camillus de Lellis died at the age of 64 on July 14, 1614 and was canonized in 1746. His memory is celebrated in the United States on this day.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Enemy among us

Today’s Gospel (Mt. 13:24-43) has the well-known parable of an enemy’s weeds being sown among the wheat of the Master.

This image resonates with the news of the past few weeks, as we have heard that the recent bombings in Britain were carried out by British citizens and as people in different places throughout the world have subsequently increased their worry about the potential enemy among us.

Certainly, we need to be careful and take appropriate actions, but we cannot let ourselves be defined by our worries and fears.

There are also people who worry about enemies among us within the Church: who worry about heretics, about wayward politicians, or about those who may otherwise undermine or water down the truth.

Again, we need to be prudent and discerning and take appropriate actions, but our prime focus cannot be on those among us who may be less than perfectly faithful.

If we are the wheat of the Lord, our primary focus should not be on weeds.

Rather our primary focus should be on sinking our own roots ever deeper into the solid and nurturing earth that is the deposit of our Christian faith and on reaching upward to the Son of God who calls us to follow him.

The other two parables in the longer form of today’s Gospel reinforce the importance and the power of remaining focused on our life with God rather than on our fear.

As people committed to the faith and striving to live out that faith, we may sometimes feel isolated and alone. The parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the yeast remind us of what the power of God’s grace can do through us: the small seed becomes something much, much larger and the tiny bits of yeast leaven the entire dough.

We may feel small and insignificant in a big and scary world. We may also feel sinful and unworthy (I know I do), but God’s grace can enable us to grow larger than anything we may fear and to make a difference in the world in the name of Jesus .

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Working quietly

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 12:14-21), we see our Lord trying to keep people from talking about the cures he is performing. The evangelist sees this as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy

He will not contend or cry out,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
a smoldering wick he will not quench...

To be sure, when necessary, our Lord does make his voice heard in the streets and even takes strong physical action (in the cleansing of the Temple), but his normal mode of action as depicted here is working quietly.

This is very much against the way of the world, which encourages people to blow their own horn, but the glory we seek is not the glory of this garish world but the eternal glory of our heavenly Father.

You and I can sometimes feel unappreciated as we try to do things that are right and good. We should recognize that we follow in the footsteps of Christ: working quietly for the good of others and the greater glory of God.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Today is the Feast day for all Carmelites

* * * * * * * * * *

"The Hermits of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel are a community of men called to a life of silence, solitude, prayer, and penance for the good of the Church and the salvation of the world. The hermits live in a Laura, a colony of Hermits living in separate dwellings around a central chapel, following the original Carmelite rule.

"The vocation of the Carmelite Hermit is the contemplative vocation. And the foundations of his life are the Eucharist, The word, and devotion to Our Blessed Lady under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel .

"For the hermits the cell is the place of encounter. The Carmelite Rule states "Let each one remain in his cell, or near it, meditating day and night on the law of the Lord and keeping vigil in prayer, unless occupied with other lawful duties." The cell is also the place where the hermit sleeps and takes his meals alone, except on Sundays and special days where the hermits eat in a common refectory. The cell is composed of a study, chapel, bedroom, bathroom, and porch. Each cell is separated from the next by an enclosed garden.

"Centering their lives on the Word, through Lectio and the Eucharist the main activity of the hermits is prayer. Because of our lifestyle we are not engaged in any active ministry.

"The hermit's first priority is that of prayer and penance. Because we see God as the Absolute of our lives, we give Him our full attention, Praising Him and bringing all people to Him through prayer."

from the website of
the Carmelite Hermits of Christoval, Texas

Friday, July 15, 2005

Emmaus Days

"is a vocations awareness program sponsored by the Diocese of Peoria. This program was created to help young men discover their vocation. Participants are immersed in a spiritual and fun-filled environment designed to make them more aware of God's presence in their life."

from the Vocations page of the Diocese of Peoria.

Marked with blood

In today’s first reading (Ex. 11:10-12:14) we have the familiar story of the first Passover, including the somewhat odd-sounding ritual of painting the doorframe of a house with the blood of a lamb.

There are many levels of meaning to this action, but it finds its greatest meanings in the Passover of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: his suffering, death, and resurrection.

It is in the Passover of the Lord Jesus that we find salvation and the blood of that Passover is the most precious blood of Christ: the Lamb of God.

In a very real sense, we are the doorframes marked with that blood: a blood that purifies and protects.

Why does the blood of Christ have this power? Because it is the great proof and instrument of God’s love for us and of his sharing his life with us.

We are marked with blood – the blood of Christ. We have been purchased at a great price. So much does Jesus love us: with his heart, his life, and his blood.

Praised be Jesus Christ.

Another bishop murdered?

Oddly enough, the day after an Italian-born bishop is shot to death in Kenya, we celebrate the memorial of another Italian-born bishop who may have been poisoned to death in France.

This other bishop had been at the center of several conflicts. Some of these conflicts involved his religious order: with different factions within the order and enemies of the order outside it. His death came in the midst of a major meeting of church leaders, in which he took a leading role in seeking to heal deep divisions within the Church.

His life, however, was not defined by these battles. He was a powerful and prolific theologian. He also had great friends within the Church, within academia, and within government. He was the friend and mentor of Popes. One of his closest friends in academia was Thomas Aquinas. He was also close to the King of France: St. Louis.

St. Bonaventure, bishop of Albano, former Minister General of the Franciscans, known as the Seraphic Doctor, died suddenly and mysteriously on this very day in 1274 during the Fourth Council of Lyons.

Bishop shot to death in Kenya

Italian-born bishop Luigi Locati, Vicar Apostolic of Isiolo in northern Kenya, was fatally shot on the street there yesterday.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The name of God

In today’s first reading (Ex. 3:13-20), Moses asks what name he should use in referring to God.

Much ink has been spilled over the millennia in trying to understand the Lord’s first answer.

God replied, "I am who am."
Then he added,
"This is what you shall tell the children of Israel:
I AM sent me to you."

For various reasons, there has even been uncertainty regarding how the word here translated as “I AM” is pronounced. There are also important metaphysical and ontological meanings to be derived from this word as they may apply to God (especially within an Aristotelian or Thomistic framework).

While it would be difficult to go fully into these discussions here, there are a few special insights in this name of God that present important meaning for our lives.
  • First, there is the basic fact that God is giving us his name: a special act of openness and even friendship to us.
  • Furthermore, this name is mysterious, as God is mysterious: ultimately beyond the limits of our imagination and greater than any problems we may have.
  • Even so, this name also tells us something about God’s own nature: tied in some way to existence itself. St. Paul touches on the meaning of this in a borrowed line of poetry (Acts 17:28): `In him we live and move and have our being.' God exists and all things exist because of Him. All things may pass, but God will always be there.

But God does not stop there with this amorphous, existentialist title – he goes on to identify himself this way:

The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob...

This is not the cold, abstract God of the philosophers: this is a God who enters into human history and human relationships. Nor are we alone in our relationship with God: we are part of a great people and family of God, reaching its full perfection in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – the ‘name above every other name.’

The ‘wondrous names of God’ are many, but it is hard to equal these ancient names from today’s reading. When we feel overwhelmed or lost, it is good to remember these most precious names of God.

I am the God of your fathers – of your mothers and of every member of your family going back to the beginning.

And no matter how dark life may seem, there is the comfort of this most special and powerful name of God:

I am.