A Penitent Blogger

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

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

Monday, October 31, 2005

What's the plan?

Where am I going?
What’s going to happen to me?

Most of us want to have some kind of answer to these questions.

Many of us try to be prudent: we plan, we make preparations, we do the right things, and we get ready for contingencies.

But, ultimately, we do not know what the future will bring. Things happen, and sometimes the logic of events escapes us.

God has a plan, they say, but it is sometimes hard for us to see.

In today’s first reading (Romans 11:29-36), St. Paul descants about the plan of God in these classic, beautiful verses:

Oh, the depth of the riches
and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments
and how unsearchable his ways!

For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given him anything
that he may be repaid?

For from him and through him and for him
are all things.
To God be glory forever. Amen.

By the grace of God, we may come to know certain aspects of his plan for our lives and because he gives us free will, we have a certain responsibility in making decisions (even though the relationship between God’s plan and our decisions is a fundamentally mysterious one).

What is more, God’s gift of faith not only gives us insights into God’s plan, it also gives us greater comfort to trust that plan, even when it seems beyond what our minds can grasp.

This trust in God’s plan was expressed most wonderfully by the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman in his famous verse “Lead, kindly Light”

I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on!

Life is often uncertain, but God has the plan and we have his gift of faith: to comfort us, to guide us, and to lead us on to him.

Catholic majority on Supreme Court?

President Bush has nominated Federal Appeals Court Judge Samuel A. Alito to be Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.

If confirmed (and his confirmation promises to be contentious), five of the nine justices on the Court would be Roman Catholic: Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and Alito.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Considering Priesthood?

from the Vocations website of
the Archdiocese of Melbourne (Australia)

Bad priests and good priests

Whether they are called priests or ministers, pastors or rabbis, some religious leaders do great good and some cause great harm.

While there are many, many religious leaders who do great good, the headlines are too full of those who do great harm, especially the relative few who harm children or the handful who steal. There are also others whose personal moral failures have become serious obstacles.

Today’s readings speak strongly against religious leaders who violate their vocations and they establish a high standard for those who would serve the Lord.

These readings thus provide guidance both for those among us who minister and also those among us who support the work of ministry.

* * * * *

The first reading (Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10) is dramatic and clear: prophesying how even the good things of ministry turn sour for the unrighteous minister.

And now, O priests, this commandment is for you:
If you do not listen,
if you do not lay it to heart,
to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts,
I will send a curse upon you
and of your blessing I will make a curse.

If you think that’s bad, the next verse (left out of today’s selection) is pungently vivid about the aftermath of unrighteous ministry.

Behold, I will rebuke your offspring,
and spread dung upon your faces,
the dung of your offerings,
and I will put you out of my presence.

What did these priests, these ministers, do that was so bad? They no longer followed the example and the doctrine of their exemplar and ancestor Levi.

My covenant with him was one of life and peace;
fear I put in him, and he feared me,
and stood in awe of my name.

True doctrine was in his mouth,
and no dishonesty was found upon his lips;
He walked with me in integrity and in uprightness,
and turned many away from evil.

For the lips of the priest are to keep knowledge,
and instruction is to be sought from his mouth,
because he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

But you have turned aside from the way,
and have caused many to falter by your instruction.

The greatest failure of the unrighteous ministers is thus a failure in their responsibility as teachers of God’s word. Even the notorious scribes and Pharisees were more reliable than that, as we hear in today’s Gospel (Matthew 23:1-12):

The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe
all things whatsoever they tell you...

The most critical role of all ministers is their role as teachers of God’s word. Faithful communication of God's word must therefore be the most fundamental and serious focus of all those among us who are engaged in ministry.

Even priests, who may see their role as primarily a sacramental one, must have the same primary focus, as the Church makes clear:

The People of God are joined together primarily by the word of the living God. And rightfully they expect this from their priests. Since no one can be saved who does not first believe, priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all.
Presbyterorum Ordinis, 4

It is vital for all of us to support the ministers among us in this task of faithfully communicating the word of God: to express appreciation when they are faithful and substantive and, when they are not, to pray for them and to dialogue with them respectfully and encouragingly (cf Matthew 18:15-17).

* * * * *

Doctrinal correctness, of course, is not enough. Both the first reading and the Gospel also speak to the importance of the minister’s personal morality.

On the one hand, Levi walked with the Lord “in integrity and in uprightness.” On the other hand, with regard to the scribes and the Pharisees, our Lord warns us

But do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.

Obviously, personal rectitude helps reinforce God’s message of righteousness, whereas moral failings contradict the very message with which the minister is entrusted and thus damage even the most doctrinally pure preaching.

Thus, ministers must all strive to “practice what they preach” and “to walk the walk they talk.” Even “private” sins must be avoided as much as possible, because even where there is no victim or scandal as such, the strain on the minister’s integrity can be insidiously damaging.

That being said, we need to be realistic about human nature and about the Gospel. We are all sinners. None of us are perfect: not even ministers. Ordained or not, we are all in need of God’s grace and mercy through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Imperfect as we are, clergy and laity, we are called to be instruments of that grace and mercy to each other as we struggle up the road toward perfection.

In cases of serious sin where there is unrepentance or (as with serial pedophiles) the risks of recidivism are grave, the flock must be protected: public ministry cannot continue and a new life must be found.

In other cases, however, like the father of the prodigal son, we should keep our hands outstretched to those who are truly repentant and who, like the rest of us, are faithfully struggling up the road to the perfection to which Christ calls us.

* * * * *

Another common theme in today’s readings can be summed up by the words “It’s not about YOU.”

The scribes and the Pharisees prove the classic bad example: it’s all about THEM.

They love places of honor at banquets,
seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces,
and the salutation 'Rabbi.'

St. Paul, on the other hand, in today’s second reading (1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13) maintains the right perspective: he had worked hard and had spoken in the face of struggles, but it’s not about HIM – it’s about GOD.

In receiving the word of God from hearing us,
you received not a human word
but, as it truly is, the word of God,
which is now at work in you who believe.

This is an important lesson for any minister – especially the gifted or popular ones – it should never be about you, it should always be about God.

Likewise, ministers should always remember that any title of honor must always point back to God: you are a pastor only insofar as you share in the work of the Good Shepherd; you are a teacher or “doctor” in the Church only insofar as you participate in the teaching of Christ; you are called “Father” only insofar as you are an instrument of God begetting spiritual life in Christ (cf 1 Cor. 4:15).

Everyone, ordained or otherwise, needs to keep this perspective: it’s not about this minister or that minister or even about ourselves – especially since all of us are sinners – everything comes from Christ and goes back to Christ, no matter how good or bad any of us might be.

* * * * *

Today’s readings, however, offer more than just bad examples of ministry and religious leadership. In the passage from which today’s second reading is taken, St. Paul gives an example of Christian ministry that abounds in love, beauty, strength, and faithfulness.

Rather, we were gentle among you,
as a nursing mother cares for her children.

With such affection for you,
we were determined to share with you
not only the gospel of God,
but our very selves as well,
so dearly beloved had you become to us.

You recall, brothers, our toil and drudgery.
Working night and day
in order not to burden any of you,
we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

You are witnesses, and so is God,
how devoutly and justly and blamelessly
we behaved toward you believers.

As you know, we treated each one of you
as a father treats his children,
exhorting and encouraging you
and insisting that you conduct yourselves
as worthy of the God
who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

It is a great example for all who minister within the Church.

It is a great example for all of us in helping each other in Christ.

Priesthood Sunday

"(Today) is a special day set aside to honor priesthood in the United States. It is a day to reflect upon and affirm the role of the priesthood in the life of the Church as a central one.

"In the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal, there has been concern that the image of all priests has been tainted by the actions of a few. Priesthood Sunday sends a message to all that the sins of a few do not reflect the innocent majority, and that the parish priest, as the instrument of Christ's ministry on earth, is loved and respected by those in the parish community.

"This nationwide event is coordinated by the USA Council of Serra International. It is sponsored by the USA Council of Serra International and the Serra International Foundation."

* * * * *

"The USA Council of Serra International is an organization of lay men and women whose mission is to foster and affirm vocations to the ministerial priesthood and vowed religious life in the USA. More than 12,500 Serrans in over 300 clubs nationwide collaborate with their bishops, parishes and vocation directors to fulfill this mission. Through this ministry, Serrans work to further their common Catholic faith. You can find out more about Serra at www.serraus.org."

from the website www.priestsunday.org

A Penitent Blogger humbly suggests: take this opportunity to pray for all priests and to tell the ones you know how you appreciate the good that they do.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate

"To My Venerable Brother
Cardinal Walter Kasper
President of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews

"Forty years have passed since my predecessor Pope Paul VI promulgated the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Church’s relation to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate, which opened up a new era of relations with the Jewish People and offered the basis for a sincere theological dialogue.

"This anniversary gives us abundant reason to express gratitude to Almighty God for the witness of all those who, despite a complex and often painful history, and especially after the tragic experience of the Shoah, which was inspired by a neo-pagan racist ideology, worked courageously to foster reconciliation and improved understanding between Christians and Jews.

"In laying the foundations for a renewed relationship between the Jewish People and the Church, Nostra Aetate stressed the need to overcome past prejudices, misunderstandings, indifference, and the language of contempt and hostility. The Declaration has been the occasion of greater mutual understanding and respect, cooperation and, often, friendship between Catholics and Jews. It has also challenged them to recognize their shared spiritual roots and to appreciate their rich heritage of faith in the One God, maker of heaven and earth, who established his covenant with the Chosen People, revealed his commandments and taught hope in those messianic promises which give confidence and comfort in the struggles of life.

"On this anniversary, as we look back over four decades of fruitful contacts between the Church and the Jewish People, we need to renew our commitment to the work that yet remains to be done. In this regard, from the first days of my Pontificate and in a particular way during my recent visit to the Synagogue in Cologne, I have expressed my own firm determination to walk in the footsteps traced by my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II. The Jewish-Christian dialogue must continue to enrich and deepen the bonds of friendship which have developed, while preaching and catechesis must be committed to ensuring that our mutual relations are presented in the light of the principles set forth by the Council. As we look to the future, I express my hope that both in theological dialogue and in everyday contacts and collaboration, Christians and Jews will offer an ever more compelling shared witness to the One God and his commandments, the sanctity of life, the promotion of human dignity, the rights of the family and the need to build a world of justice, reconciliation and peace for future generations.

"On this anniversary I assure you of my prayers for you and your associates, and for all those who have committed themselves to fostering increased understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews in accordance with the spirit of Nostra Aetate. Upon all of you I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace."

From the Vatican, 26 October 2005


Sticking it to the Jews

Many terrible things have been said about the Jews.

Anti-Semites have even used Christian doctrine as bogus justification (thus adding sacrilege to their sin).

In the middle part of his letter to the Romans (from which today’s first reading is taken), St. Paul addresses the situation of the Children of Israel.

And he really sticks it to them.

He is clear about the fact that many of them have rejected Christ, although some have indeed accepted Jesus as the Messiah.

So also at the present time there is a remnant,
chosen by grace....
What Israel was seeking it did not attain,
but the elect attained it;
the rest were hardened...

(cf Romans 11:5,7)

St. Paul is also clear about other important points about the Jewish people: points that stick.

His first point that sticks is the Jews’ historic key role in God’s saving plan.

Theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants,
the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;
theirs the patriarchs,
and from them, according to the flesh,
is the Messiah.

(cf Romans 9:4-5)

His second point that sticks is their current role in God’s plan.

Through their transgression
salvation has come to the Gentiles.
(cf Romans 11:11)

His third point that sticks is their future role in God’s plan.

I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers,
so that you will not become wise (in) your own estimation:
a hardening has come upon Israel in part,
until the full number of the Gentiles comes in,
and thus all Israel will be saved...

(Romans 11:25-26a)

St. Paul sums it all up this way:

In respect to the gospel,
they are enemies on your account;
but in respect to election,
they are beloved because of the patriarchs.

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.

Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy
because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed
in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may (now) receive mercy.

For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.
(Romans 11:28-32)

We are all sinners. We are all in need of what God offers in his saving plan: salvation through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We also need to help each other towards a fuller understanding of God’s plan and a more perfect living out of that plan in our lives. It should be obvious that anti-Semitism can have no part of that.

Despite their present rejection of the Savior, the Jewish people are still mysteriously involved in God’s saving plan in Christ, for the gifts and the call of God stick.

Friday, October 28, 2005

"We are like dwarfs..."

"...riding on the shoulders of giants,
so that we can see more than they
and things more remote,
not by our own sharp sight or physical excellence,
but because we are carried high
and raised up by their giant size."

Nos esse quasi nanos gigantium humeris insidentes, ut possimus plura eis et remotiora videre, non utique proprii visus acumine aut eminentia corporis, sed quia in altum subvehimur et extollimur magnitudine gigantea

The man who wrote these words taught at a Cathedral school in France. Sadly, he lived to see that Cathedral burned to the ground but never to see it rebuilt.

When it was rebuilt, less than a hundred years after his death, the Cathedral of Chartres would be an architectural gem acclaimed for centuries.

By that time, he himself had already been immortalized by the scholars who had come after him and who rode on his shoulders.

This quote by Bernard of Chartres in turn echoes the words of St. Paul in today’s first reading (Ephesians 2:19-22):

You are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.

Indeed, we ride on the shoulders of giants, but they in turn rode on the shoulders of others... and ultimately we all rely on Christ.

Through him the whole structure is held together
and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;
in him you also are being built together
into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

We are sometimes intimidated by the world around us, by the tasks ahead of us, and by the example of those great people who went before us.

But we not only ride on the shoulders of giants, as the body of Christ, by the power of his spirit, we ARE the giant.

We need not be intimidated;
we need only to be faithful
and do the work of giants
in the name of Jesus.

The other ones

His name was Simon, but he wasn’t THE Simon.

His name was Judas, but he wasn’t THE Judas.

They were each one of the twelve, specially chosen by Christ himself, and yet both of them shared names with colleagues who would be much more famous (or infamous).

They were the other ones.

Thus “other” Simon is often called Simon the Zealot, to distinguish him from Simon Peter, and the “other” Judas is called Judas the son of James or Jude or Jude Thaddeus.

But the only name that really mattered for them was the name of Jesus: a name that they exalted and spread everywhere they could, a name for which they both died.

The Feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude is celebrated on this day.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

In the wake of Hurricane Wilma

which made landfall in Collier county and crossed the state of Florida, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice immediately opened five hurricane relief centers for victims of the storm in Lee, Collier and Hendry counties.

The centers provide nonperishable food, water, cleaning supplies, baby items and personal hygiene products, along with other services.

They are accepting donations on their website.

The websites of Catholic Charities in the other affected dioceses (Miami and Palm Beach) as well as Catholic Charities USA have not yet been updated with information about hurricane Wilma.

The Red Cross and the Salvation Army are also assisting victims of this latest disaster (in Florida and in Mexico).

"If God is for us, who can be against"

"If the spirit of God has set us free?"

For some, this refrain from an old St. Louis Jesuit’s song conjures up the image of flower-children-Christians, singing bouncily with joyful naiveté (blissfully unaware of their bitter and cynical future).

Today’s first reading (Romans 8:31b-39) begins with the same first line, but the whole of the passage is not so cheery.

We are being slain all the day;
we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.

Yet St. Paul’s confidence in God’s providential care is no less great than that of the stereotypical “happy music” people.

Indeed, his faith is much stronger and much deeper, never to be conquered or to give way to bitterness and cynicism, for he has experienced the very worst this world has to offer and yet has always felt God’s abiding love.

As we endure the ups and downs of our own lives, may the Lord give us that same grace, no matter how bad things may ever be, and may we then say with confidence and inner joy:

No, in all these things
we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Christian Carnival

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

Video Trailer for "Fishers of Men"

The video trailer for the U.S. Bishops' new vocation program "Fishers of Men" is available online on the website of Grassroots Films. The trailer comes in bandwidth-appropriate formats (small, medium, and large).

It's short, but worth watching.

Stupid person at prayer

Yes, that’s me – and I even took a class or two!

But I’m not the only dummy, as St. Paul says in today’s first reading (Romans 8:26-30):

The Spirit helps us in our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
with sighs too deep for words.

It is a very comforting thought, especially at those times when our prayer life may become dry, that the Holy Spirit is at hand with omnipotent, wordless grace.

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

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

Let us pray. O God, 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. Amen.

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

Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur;
Et renovabis faciem terrae.

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Birmingham Bishop

The Holy Father has named as auxilary bishop of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, Father David Christopher McGough, 60, a priest and native of the Archdiocese. He is a graduate of Rome's Venerable English College and has licentiate degrees in Theology from the Gregorian University and Sacred Scripture from the Biblicum. He has worked as a professor of Scripture and as a parish priest.

Awakening the Vision

"To say a 'yes' to God means answering a call, rather than initiating it. The process leading to that answer and later affirmation by the Church is called discernment.

"In some ways, vocation discernment is similar to career planning. Both involve recognizing talents and personality traits suited to work tasks.

"However, recognizing a vocation is so much more than deciding on a career.

"We choose our career.

"Our vocation is God’s choice of us."

from the Vocations website of the Diocese of Arlington


Sometimes I simply cannot figure things out.

Sometimes there are just too many things to handle: I cannot see a way through.

Sometimes I am afraid.

These are some of the things that go through my mind, from time to time.

But I know that there are many, many people in this world whose troubles and sufferings go far beyond what most of us – God willing – will ever experience.

What goes through their mind?

How does one deal with things too grievous and intricate to figure out?

St. Paul was a man who knew suffering, who knew failure, who knew rejection and pain.

But he was also blessed with grace – the grace of a glimpse of the glory of God – and even during his darkest moments, that grace-filled memory lived in a quiet place of his soul.

And so, no matter what or how much happened to him, St. Paul had it figured out, as he says at the beginning of today’s first reading (Romans 8:18-25):

For I reckon
that the sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared
with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

It is probably safe to say that none of us are like St. Paul, but it is also safe to say that all of us have times of suffering – some more than others.

Yet that is not all, because God extends to us too his wonderful, comforting grace through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

And so, no matter how intense our pain, no matter how confusing our world, no matter how loud our temptations, there is a quiet place in our souls where the firstfruits of the Spirit abide: at least the hint of a foretaste of the joy that God has prepared.

For I reckon
that the sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared
with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Praised be Jesus Christ.

Catholic Carnival LIII - Pillars

Pillar of the Church: Truth of Words

In Saying What Needs To Be Said, Living Catholicism gives a "meditation on our role to speak the truth to those around us."

In Blogging bearings, bearing blog says "Conventional wisdom (holds that) bloggers should choose a blog title with care, to distinguish it and to convey perfectly what you plan the blog to be. But sometimes, the name guides the blog, and that can be a good thing. This is the short story of how I came to blog bearing, and the unexpected places it has taken me."

In Our Name for God, A Penitent Blogger reflects on the majestic, awe-inspiring, and simple gift of one very special word.

Pillars of the Church: Saints of God

In Anonymous Saints, The Paragraph Farmer tells how "a friendly barista and a passage in Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's book, The Spirit of the Liturgy helped me come to terms with little-known saints."

The words of St John de Brébeuf and his Desire for True Martyrdom are excerpted in Toward Contemplation.

Pillar of the Church: Love of Neighbor

In Another Self, HMS Blog offers "reflections on the relationship between the commandments to love God and neighbor, of which Jesus speaks in last Sunday’s Gospel."

In The Platinum Rule, Our Word and Welcome to It says, "It's the latest new-age business gimmick: The Platinum Rule. It's an attempt to improve on the teachings of Jesus which, as we all know, is never a good idea..."

In Love of Neighbor and the Homosexual Person, Deo Omnis Gloria leads "an exploration of our role to both love our neighbors, no matter their sins, and call them to repentance."

In Strife in St. Blog's, Ales Rarus says that a recent mass reading ("Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you") gave him food for thought regarding discontent he has noticed in St. Blog's Parish.

Sunday's gospel reading on the second greatest commandment gives Herb Ely an opportunity to reflect on a definition of unconditional love. Properly understood, unconditional love requires a balance between love of neighbor and love of self. Herb quotes a definition from his long time friend and teacher, Msgr. Chester Michael, and offers some suggestions as to how to discern this balance. He finds a clue to discernment in Lincoln's second inaugural address."

THE Pillar of the Church: Christ Himself

In Soul of Christ, CowPi Journal gives a "reflection on the prayer 'Soul of Christ' (a modern version of the Anima Christi)."

Monday, October 24, 2005

Our name for God

The LORD. The Almighty. The Most High. The LORD of Hosts. The Creator of heaven and earth. The Infinite, Omnipotent, Omniscient, ETERNAL...


It is a disconcerting juxtaposition of names, and yet that is what is at the heart of today’s first reading (Romans 8:12-17) and the Aramaic word “Abba.”

Paul follows this word with the Greek word for Father, but it is not just a generic Aramaic word for “father” – it is the word a little child lovingly uses for “father”: just as English-speaking children may call their fathers “Daddy.”

For you did not receive
a spirit of slavery
to fall back into fear,
but you received a spirit of adoption,
through which we cry,
Abba, Father!”

It is the very same word our Lord used when praying to the Father (e.g., Mark 16:36).

Thus, when we are given the ability to call God “Daddy,” we are not only given the incredible honor of childlike closeness with God, we are also drawn in a real and mysterious way into the infinite and eternal relationship between God the Father and his only-begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It is a thrilling, mind-blowing reality – a reality that is affirmed, St. Paul says, by the highest authority:

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…

It just makes you want to sing:

O what glory, far exceeding
all that eye has yet perceived...

But then St. Paul suddenly smacks us back down to earth.

...if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

Oh, great, we might say, there’s a catch: we have to suffer.

But in truth, this connection between suffering and glorification only deepens and intensifies the reality of our union with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: for this is the heart of his very own saving work, the center of the paschal mystery, the way of the cross that leads to eternal life.

This is our joy: the Spirit that enables us to call God "daddy," the grace that allows us to use Christ's own special name for his Father, and the love that calls us to suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Praised be Jesus Christ.

Glory be to the Holy Spirit.

Thanks, Daddy.


He started working at the age of twelve as a weaver in his native village.

A little over 30 years later, he would be an Archbishop and the founder of a religious order. He would go on to be an advisor to a Queen and a trusted ally of the Pope.

Throughout the many phases of his ministry, his zeal was uncontainable, even though it earned him so much opposition that he was the object of rumor-mongering and even assassination attempts. But it did not deter him.

"The love of Christ arouses us, urges us to run, and to fly, lifted on the wings of holy zeal.

"The man who truly loves God also loves his neighbor. The truly zealous man is also one who loves, but he stands on a higher plane of love so that the more he is inflamed by love, the more urgently zeal drives him on. But if anyone lacks this zeal, then it is evident that love and charity have been extinguished in his heart.

"The zealous man desires and achieves all great things and he labors strenuously so that God may always be better known, loved and served in this world and in the life to come, for this holy love is without end....

"For myself, I say this to you: The man who burns with the fire of divine love is a son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and wherever he goes, he enkindles that flame; he desires and works with all his strength to inflame all men with the fire of God’s love.

"Nothing deters him:
he rejoices in poverty;
he labors strenuously;
he welcomes hardships;
he laughs off false accusations;
he rejoices in anguish.
He thinks only
of how he might follow Jesus Christ
and imitate him by his prayers,
his labors,
his sufferings,
and by caring always and only
for the glory of God
and the salvation of souls."

St. Anthony Claret, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba and founder of the Claretians, died 135 years ago today.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Pray for the people of Florida

all the elements of nature
obey your command.

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

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

(Pray also for those in Mexico already stricken by Hurricane Wilma.)

New saints

Well, they're not actually new - they've been with the Lord for a while - but today Pope Benedict added five people to the ranks of officially recognized saints:

  • Jozef Bilczewski (1860-1923), an archbishop in Ukraine who was a significant presence for Ukrainians during World War I and afterward;
  • Gaetano Catanoso (1879-1963), Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face;
  • Zygmunt Gorazdowski (1845-1920), a priest in Ukraine, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph;
  • Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, S.J. (1901-1952), a Chilean ex-lawyer who became a priest and would serve young people and the poor;
  • Felice de Nicosia, O.F.M.Cap (1715-1787), an illiterate layman, who after numerous attempts became a Capuchin. He begged in the streets and also performed miracles.

Just you and me, God?

For many of us, our most wonderful experience of God comes in our prayer and in our worship.

Our personal relationship with God is the focus of our lives.

But a one-to-one relationship with God is not enough.

Today’s readings all remind us that our relationship with God is inextricably bound with how we relate to our fellow human beings.

In the Gospel (Matthew 22:34-40), our Lord is asked “which commandment in the law is the greatest.” Christ gives TWO commandments, bound closely together: love God; love your neighbor.

St. John in his first epistle (1 John 4:20 – not today’s epistle) makes explicit what connects these two commandments:

If anyone says, "I love God,"
but hates his brother,
he is a liar;
for whoever does not love a brother
whom he has seen
cannot love God
whom he has not seen.

Of course, what is meant by “love” is not simply a warm feeling: it must have a real effect, as St. James says in his epistle (James 2:15-16):

If a brother or sister has nothing to wear
and has no food for the day,
and one of you says to them,

"Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,"
but you do not give them the necessities of the body,
what good is it?

Today’s first reading (Exodus 22:20-26) is likewise specific. Indeed, thousands of years after these words were first set down, they relate to topics in our own day that are very controversial: mistreatment of immigrants, protection of the helpless, stopping predatory lending practices, and so forth.

However, we need to be careful. Scripture does not demand that we replicate the socioeconomic structures and environment of an ancient utopia, yet neither do we dare dismiss this passage as irrelevant to modern situations. These words are profoundly relevant, both on a macroeconomic level and on the level of individual relationships.

Each of us need to seriously consider the basic meaning of God’s words and how we might best put them into practice: as individuals, as communities, and as a society.

Reasonable people can disagree about which practical approaches may be the most effective, but none of us dare ignore what the Lord says or ignore "a brother in need."

The needy are all around us and none of us is totally without at least some ability to make a difference in our own ways.

As St. John says (1 John 3:17):

If someone who has worldly means
sees a brother in need
and refuses him compassion,

how can the love of God remain in him?

However, we must also remember that what we do for others must involve more than just their practical needs: we have a role in their spiritual lives as well.

Thus in today’s epistle (1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10), St. Paul writes about how the Thessalonians’ faith in Christ has made an impact on other people far and wide “so that you became a model for all the believers.”

The bottom line is that our personal relationship with God necessarily involves others.

We have our orders.

You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

On these two commandments – both of them – everything depends.

Immigration: what is right, not reflex

The readings for Sundays of Ordinary Time were established many years ago in a three-year cycle.

The first words of today’s first reading (Exodus 22:20-26), however, seem ripped from today’s headlines.

You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.

Last Tuesday, there was an announcement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning immigration reform. They highlighted these 4 goals for immigration reform (ordering altered):

  • “Border protection policies that are consistent with humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect, while allowing the authorities to carry out the critical task of identifying and preventing entry of terrorists and dangerous criminals, as well as pursuing the legitimate task of implementing American immigration policy.”
  • “An opportunity for hard-working immigrants who are already contributing to this country to come out of the shadows, regularize their status upon satisfaction of reasonable criteria and, over time, pursue an option to become lawful permanent residents and eventually United States citizens;
  • “Reforms in our family-based immigration system to significantly reduce waiting times for separated families who currently wait many years to be reunited;
  • “The creation of legal avenues for workers and their families who wish to migrate to the U.S. to enter our country and work in a safe, legal, and orderly manner with their rights fully protected.”

As I have said before, some on the left might be quick to applaud the bishops’ as “enlightened” and “progressive” without bothering to understand fully what the Church teaches in this area (e.g., CCC 2241, etc.).

Likewise, some on the right may be quick to dismiss the bishops’ as “misguided” and “liberal” without bothering to understand fully what the Church teaches in this area (e.g., CCC 2241, etc.).

Too often people react reflexively based on sound bites or specific proposals and stop there.

That is true not only on this issue or only for U.S. bishops – it is a challenge for the People of God throughout the world.

Devising practical solutions is inherently a matter of prudence and may also require various amounts and kinds of technical expertise. Human prudence, of course, is never infallible - neither for clergy nor for laity - and bishops rarely possess technical expertise in fields of purely human endeavor. Thus no one’s specific concrete proposals should be taken as absolutely definitive (as if any practical plan proposed by church leaders or by committees of scientific experts or by anyone on this earth can be embraced as guaranteed to work perfectly).

However, practical solutions do have intrinsic moral aspects: in their goals, in their means, and in their results. It is in addressing these moral aspects that the competence of bishops grows strongest.

Indeed, one does not need scientific expertise to know that some goals, means, and results are immoral. Nor does one need to be perfectly saintly in all things to say that some things are wrong.

When they are at their best, Church leaders begin by articulating fundamental moral principles directly tied to natural law (as well as revelation): principles that are perilous to ignore.

Church leaders may then endeavor to apply these principles concretely through specific proposals. These proposals are best understood as serious efforts to apply critical moral principles to specific problems: proposals to be analyzed thoughtfully.

Not everyone may agree that certain practical proposals are the most appropriate, effective or prudent, but everyone should endeavor – each in his or her own way - not to act by reflex but to do what is right: that is, to help society (inside and outside government) to devise effective solutions to problems in accordance with the fundamental moral principles of the Church.

World Mission Sunday

is a day set aside for Catholics worldwide to recommit themselves to the Church's missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice. It gathers support for the pastoral and evangelizing programs and needs of more than 1,150 mission dioceses in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and remote regions of Latin America. The funds gathered on World Mission Sunday are distributed in the Pope’s name by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

Before he died earlier this year, the great Pope John Paul II wrote a message for World Mission Sunday (posted in 2 parts here and here), concluding the Year of the Eucharist with the theme "Bread Broken for the Life of the World."

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Being a brother

"Dominican Brothers have felt Christ's call to 'Come, follow me,' though they have not felt that answering this invitation meant, for them, becoming priests. Theirs is not a half-way response to Christ, but rather a full-hearted response to what they are called to do.

"Because they are not called to ordination, they pursue a specialized apostolate complementary to the work of their priest-brothers, enhancing the preaching ideal of the Order.

"Dominican Brothers are involved in specialized preaching, religious education and catechetical formation, pastoral administration and campus ministry, domestic service to the community... as well as professional and technical ministries (social work, classroom teaching, academic/provincial administration, health care, creative arts, etc.)."

from the Vocations website of
the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

The Dominican Province of St. Joseph has


ZENIT today has an interesting review of a intriguing new book:

The Passing of Personal Virtue
and Its Replacement
by Political and Psychological Slogans

According to the website of Social Affairs Unit, the book's London-based publisher:

"Britain, Europe and the United States are decadent societies in a special sense of that word. They have traded in an old morality that served them well throughout their civilisation for a new, experimental quasi-morality.

"The old morality had well-known virtues, courage, love, fairness, honesty and prudence.

"The new ‘virtues’ are equality, anti-discrimination, environmental concern, self-affirmation, a ‘caring’ attitude, and a critical mindset.

"The old were genuine virtues; they required specific behaviours of individuals. The new are quasi or bogus virtues. Some, such as equality, are political policies rather than features of personal conduct. Environmentalism is an arena in which virtue may be exercised not a virtue themselves. Transparency in business is a way of revealing virtue not a virtue. Some are slogans: they make rhetorical appeals to moral indignations. Others such as self-affirmation would once have been regarded as a vice."

Living Bread for the Peace of the World

The Final Message of the Synod of Bishops is online. Here are some excerpts:

* * * * *

"We invite you, dear Christian brothers and sisters of every confession, to pray more fervently that the day of reconciliation, and the full visible unity of the Church might come in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in conformity with the prayer of Jesus on the eve of his death: 'That all may be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, that they may be one in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me' (Jn 17:21).

* * * * *

"The Synod reaffirms that the Second Vatican Council provided the necessary basis for an authentic liturgical renewal. It is necessary now to cultivate the positive fruits of this reform, and to correct abuses that have crept into liturgical practice. We are convinced that respect for the sacred character of the liturgy is transmitted by genuine fidelity to liturgical norms of legitimate authority. No one should consider himself master of the Church’s liturgy. Living faith that recognizes the presence of the Lord is the first condition for beautiful liturgical celebrations, which give a genuine 'Amen' to the glory of God.

* * * * *

"Dearly beloved brothers and sisters, we are called, in whatever form of life we find ourselves, to live our baptismal vocation, clothing ourselves with the sentiments of Christ Jesus (see Phil 2:2), matching one another in humility, following the example of Christ Jesus. Our mutual love is not only an imitation of the Lord, it is a living proof of his life-giving presence among us.

* * * * *

"The Holy Father Benedict XVI has restated the solemn commitment of the Church to the cause of ecumenism. We are all responsible for this unity (see Jn 17:21), as we are all members of the family of God because of our Baptism, graced by the same fundamental dignity and sharing in the remarkable sacramental gift of divine life. We all feel the sadness of separation which prevents the common celebration of the Eucharist. We wish to intensify the prayer for unity within communities, the exchange of gifts between the Churches and ecclesial communities, as well as the respectful and fraternal contact among everyone, so that we may better know and love one another, respecting and appreciating our differences and our shared values. The precise regulations of the Church determine the position we are to take on sharing the Eucharist with brothers and sisters who are not yet in full communion with us. A healthy discipline prevents confusion and imprudent gestures that might further damage true communion.

* * * * *

"At the beginning of the fourth century, Christian worship was still forbidden by the Imperial authorities. The Christians of North Africa, committed to their celebration of the Day of the Lord, defied the prohibition. They were martyred, because they declared that they could not live without the Sunday Eucharistic celebration. The 49 Martyrs of Abitene, united with so many saints and blesseds who have made the Eucharist the center of their life, are praying for us at the beginning of this new millennium. They teach us faithfulness to the gathering of the New Covenant with the Risen Christ.

"At the end of this Synod we experience that Peace full of hope that the disciples of Emmaus, with burning hearts, received from the Risen Lord. They arose and returned in haste to Jerusalem, to share their joy with their brothers and sisters in the faith. We hope that you will go joyfully to meet him in the Holy Eucharist, and that you will experience the truth of his words: 'And I am with you until the end of the world' (Mt 28:20)

"Beloved Brothers and Sisters, Peace be with you!"

What are you concerned about?

We tend to have many things on our minds.

Sometimes we have a great many things on our minds: things that keep us from going to sleep, things that make us lose track of our surroundings, things that run through our mind over and over like an endless loop of tape.

Today’s first reading (Romans 8:1-11) essentially asks us the question: what are we concerned about? Are we concerned about the things of this world, of the flesh, or are we concerned about the things of the spirit and our relationship with God?

For those who live according to the flesh
are concerned with the things of the flesh,
but those who live according to the spirit
with the things of the spirit.

The concern of the flesh is death,
but the concern of the spirit is life and peace.

For the concern of the flesh is hostility toward God;
it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it;
and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Perhaps we take the things of the spirit and our relationship with God for granted.

Maybe we should be less concerned about passing things and more concerned about eternal life.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me – a sinner.

They deserved disaster?

Sometimes after catastrophic events there will be religious leaders who blame the catastrophe on the allegedly egregious sins of the stricken place and the people who lived there.

As another hurricane pummels the Yucatan and threatens the United States, in the pre-selected Gospel of the day (Luke 13:1-9) our Lord strongly counters such accusations.

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled
with the blood of their sacrifices.

He said to them in reply,
“Do you think
that because these Galileans

suffered in this way
they were greater sinners

than all other Galileans?
By no means!

”But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!

”Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them—
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!

”But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!”

It is extremely ill advised to ascribe special moral blame to the victims of disasters.

We are all sinners, deserving of God’s wrath. We need to focus on our need for repentance and the wonderfully abundant grace that God gives us in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Friday, October 21, 2005


I don’t know about you, but I often feel confused.

My mind is so easily distracted. I feel pulled in many directions at once.

I want to be a good servant of God, but I fail so often.

I read about the saints and I want to be the way they were: focused completely and powerfully on God.

Among the greatest of these saints is Saint Paul the Apostle, and in today’s first reading (Romans 7:18-25a) this great Prince of the Apostles says this about himself:

For I do not do
the good I want,
but I do the evil
I do not want.

When we feel discouraged about our failures, we can take great comfort in that we are not alone, for we are all human – even the greatest among us.

That is not a license for moral apathy, but a message of encouragement: from the greatest of apostles to the greatest of sinners, we need not despair, for by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we can do better.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"I just want you to know...

"...no matter what you do, you are going to die – just like everybody else."
from the movie Moonstruck

People do all sorts of things in this world “because it makes me feel alive.”

But no matter what it is, if it is not of God, the end result is death.

St. Paul puts it quite bluntly in today’s first reading (Romans 6:19-23):

But what profit did you get then
from the things of which you are now ashamed?

For the end of those things is death.

But now that you have been freed from sin
and have become slaves of God,
the benefit that you have leads to sanctification,
and its end is eternal life.

For the wages of sin
is death,
but the gift of God
is eternal life
in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In every moment of our day, in all of the things we do, may we always choose that which brings eternal life.


In his father’s eyes, Paul was bright and devout and would make a good businessman – like himself.

In his uncle’s eyes, Paul was bright and devout and would make a good priest – like himself.

In the eyes of a certain young lady, Paul was bright and devout and would make a good husband for some lucky girl – like herself.

But Paul’s eyes were fixed elsewhere.

From the time he was a young boy, he had always been amazed by and attracted to the image of Christ on the crucifix. He was overwhelmed by the great love of God he saw there: love for the world and love even for a small boy like himself, love in Christ’s eyes and love in Christ’s heart, love even in every drop of blood and in every moment of pain.

"The world lives unmindful of the sufferings of Jesus which are the miracle of miracles of the love of God. We must arouse the world from its slumber," he would write.

A community of like-minded souls would gather around Paul and his quest to proclaim the Passsion of Christ to the world. They would become known as the Passionists and Paul would become known as Paul of the Cross.

St. Paul of the Cross died 230 years ago this month and his memory is celebrated on this day.

More than two thousand Passionists in 52 nations remind people to keep their eyes fixed on Christ and the love of his cross.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - an ecumenical collection of posts from various Christian blogs - is online at World of Sven's Theology and Biblical Studies blog.

We are slaves

Some of us are slaves to our stomachs; some of us are slaves to our physique; some of us are slaves to our imagination; some of us are slaves to other aspects of ourselves; and many of us have multiple masters.

We may think we are free, but we are really enslaved – one way or another.

St. Paul speaks directly to us in today’s first reading (Romans 6:12-18):

Sin must not reign over your mortal bodies
so that you obey their desires.

And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin
as weapons for wickedness,

but present yourselves to God
as raised from the dead to life

and the parts of your bodies to God
as weapons for righteousness....

Freed from sin,
you have become slaves of righteousness.

Thus may we be slaves no longer of the flesh or even of our pride.

May we instead rejoice to be slaves of God.

Is God calling you?

"Today, we gather information in many different ways and 'surfing the net' is a very convenient mode of communication. From the comfort of your school, home, or workplace, you can discover more about ministry in the Church.

"This website is designed as just another way of sharing the invitation to service.

"The Vocation Office is here to help spread the word that serving God's people is an excellent way to follow the example of Jesus, who gave his life for us. You will find here information about how to serve, how to promote vocation, how to make that message of loving service more tangible in your life and in the life of the Church."

from the Vocations website of the Diocese of Ogdensburg

The path of the Martyrs

Ravine trail, National Shrine of the North American Martyrs, Auriesville, NY

On this trail, St. Rene Goupil was martyred
as witnessed by St. Isaac Jogues.

The National Shrine of the North American Martyrs at Auriesville, New York, is the site of the United States' first and (so far) only canonized Martyrs: St. Rene Goupil (1642), Jesuit brother; St. John Lalande (1646), lay missioner ; and St. Isaac Jogues (1646), Jesuit priest.

It is also is the birthplace of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks, born in 1656, just ten years after these martyrdoms.

(post repeated from last year)

There is a valley

that runs from the northwest down to the Hudson River just above Albany, New York. It is wide and deep and green in the summer and glows with brilliant colors of red and orange in the fall.

Isaac loved looking out over that valley. Even more, he loved the people there. But it was a never-ending pain in his heart that so many of them did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Indeed, there were some men whose hatred of Christ was terrifying. These men kidnapped Isaac and tortured him, going so far as to bite and burn off some of his fingers. His comrade Rene was killed before his eyes.

Isaac himself was held captive for over a year and was just about to be killed when he was finally rescued.

Isaac made his way home, where he was acclaimed as a living martyr for Christ.

But Isaac could not forget the people of the valley. Disregarding all warnings, he returned there less than three years later.

He was stripped naked, beaten, slashed, and finally killed in October 1646.

Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil, and other members of the Society of Jesus who came to be known as the North American Martyrs were canonized in 1930 and are celebrated on this day.

(Adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Be thou ware

I always figure you might as well approach life like everybody's your friend or nobody is... don't make much difference.

The character who says this line in the movie Silverado then goes on to recount how a group of new friends took everything he had and left him to die in the wasteland.

As is often the case, virtue lies in the middle (in medio stat virtus).

It is the same way within our Christian community: some people approach every fellow Christian as a friend in Christ, while others trust no one until they have been thoroughly proven.

Today’s readings offer approaches that lie in between.

In the first reading (2 Timothy 4:10-17b), St. Paul seems to tend toward the latter approach, advising Timothy to take a rather stern stance regarding a particular individual.

Of whom be thou ware also;
for he hath greatly withstood our words.

In the Gospel (Luke 10:1-9), our Lord commands his followers to take a more open approach:

And into whatsoever house ye enter,
first say, Peace be to this house.
And if the son of peace be there,
your peace shall rest upon it:
if not, it shall turn to you again.

These two approaches – one more guarded, one more open – are not really in conflict. Rather, they are part of a continuum.

Our Lord’s words advise us how first to approach people whom we do not know: by wishing them well.

And into whatsoever house ye enter,
first say, Peace be to this house.

Yet from the very beginning, we are to be engaged in discernment.

And if the son of peace be there,
your peace shall rest upon it:
if not, it shall turn to you again.

The primary initial criterion is receptivity: receptivity to peace and receptivity to the Gospel. Later in this same chapter, our Lord advises how to deal with those who are not receptive to the Gospel:

But into whatsoever city ye enter,
and they receive you not,
go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,
Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us,
we do wipe off against you:
notwithstanding be ye sure of this,
that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

So too, as we encounter people in our lives and even in cyberspace, our initial stance must be to wish all people well, yet with discernment fully engaged.

If the others are not receptive, we move on.

The act of shaking off dust has at least two levels of meaning. On the one hand, it is one last act of communicating the message we have been commanded to communicate.

Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us,
we do wipe off against you:
notwithstanding be ye sure of this,
that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

On the other hand, shaking off the dust “which cleaveth on us” symbolizes how we should not hold onto grudges or second-guessing from unsuccessful contacts, but rather keep our attention focused on the task at hand and on those to whom we must yet tell the good news of Christ.

Finally, at the far end of the continuum, we come to the situation where people are not just unreceptive: they actively oppose our speaking of the truth, our sharing of God’s word. That is the situation of which St. Paul is speaking (“for he hath greatly withstood our words”).

In such a situation we must indeed beware, yet neither must we let these evil-speakers become our focus. Our focus must be Christ and the work he has given us to do.

Ultimately, we leave these others to God (as St. Paul says, “the Lord reward him according to his works.”)

Not everyone is our friend, neither should we assume everyone is our enemy. In our dealings with others, stranger or acquaintance, Christian or otherwise, we must always discern and must always focus on sharing the peace and the truth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Luke alone is with me


Did you get that, Luke?

Yes, Paul. “Luke alone is with me.”

No, I mean, did you GET that?


And... you have nothing to say?




Fine! Let’s continue... Get Mark and bring him with you...


Luke, I just can’t believe you’re not bothered by this.

Why should I be bothered?

Well, some people might hear this and take it in a bad way.

How so?

They might think I’m not happy to have you as the only other person around.

Why would that be?

I don’t know... maybe it’s because you don’t have much of a personality.

No, that’s right. I don’t.


Did you want me to write that down?

I’m sorry. Look, Luke, you work hard, and you’re incredibly loyal, and you and I have gone through a lot together. I really didn’t mean anything bad.

Paul, it’s okay. I’m really just thrilled to be a part of this. I mean, you’re doing the work that the Lord Jesus himself gave you. It’s the work of God: it’s bringing the Gospel to the world. I know I’m not the most exciting person in the world, but I do what I can: I write, I gather things together. I just do my little part in helping people learn about the good news of the Lord Jesus.

You do a lot, Luke... and you do it well. Thank you. And again, I’m sorry.

Not a problem. Shall we continue?

Yes... for he is very useful in serving me.

* * * * *

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist

Catholic Carnival

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

New bishop

The Holy Father has named Monsignor Renato Pine Mayugba, 49, seminary rector and priest of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan in the Phillipines, to be an auxiliary bishop of the same archdiocese.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Some people freak out over doubts.

After all, if we are “justified by faith” as St. Paul says, what happens if we have doubts?

How can we measure up to the standard set forth in today’s first reading (Romans 4:20-25)?

Abraham did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief;
rather, he was empowered by faith
and gave glory to God
and was fully convinced
that what God had promised
he was also able to do.
That is why it was credited to him
as righteousness.

But what about those of us who are not free of doubts?

To begin with, we mean different things when we use the word “doubt.”

First, there is the “doubt” that is practically the same as denial - “I doubt this” and “I doubt that” – a doubt that (at best) leans against giving assent. This kind of doubt is incompatible with faith, which necessarily involves the giving of assent.

Then, there is the “doubt” of an intellectual no-man’s land – “I’m struggling with doubts” -- in which a person is unable to give the assent of faith. Sometimes it is because the person lacks information, sometimes it is because they are being confused by contrary ideas, sometimes it is simply because God’s gift of faith has not yet come to fruition within them, and sometimes (most dangerously) the person actually chooses not to move forward.

For many, this time of “doubts” is but a transition to faith, but if it does not lead to faith, the person stays in darkness.

Finally, there are the “doubts” of passing, contrary thoughts – “but what if...?” – temptations to unbelief that just pop into our minds. Perhaps it is the work of the Tempter; perhaps it is just concupiscence. In such cases, the greatest danger can be to panic, or otherwise to dwell too long on such thoughts.

Even Abraham would not have been exempt from these thoughts, but Abraham was absolutely firm in his assent to the truths that God revealed to him.

This itself was the work of God’s grace – a grace extended to us even more wonderfully in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We deal with doubts best in the same way we are to live our Christian life: to immerse ourselves in the teaching of Christ that we have received, to open ourselves to God’s grace (especially in the Sacraments), and to pray always for an ever-deeper faith.

He wanted to die

But he was not going to commit suicide.

Actually, he didn’t really want to die: his goal was eternal life with Christ and faithfulness was the path.

The problem was that he was going to be forced to choose between faithfulness and death.

Needless to say, he was more than a little nervous.

In fact, he was afraid that he would fail, that he would deny his faith in order to save himself from a horrible death.

So, he prayed incessantly and also psyched himself up to stand firm. He wrote to the people he knew, telling them about the path he was on and asking them not to try to save him even if he should momentarily crack and beg them to intervene on his behalf.

As it turned out, he kept the faith and was strong to the end, even when he was fed alive to wild animals.

Ignatius, bishop of Antioch and faithful martyr for Christ, died horribly at the beginning of the second century A.D. and his memory is celebrated on this day.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Render unto Caesar

It is easy to be cynical about politics today.

On the one hand, the political atmosphere has become so poisonous, the battle lines so firmly entrenched, and the “middle ground” a true no-man’s land.

On the other hand, there seem to be people of influence who seem to prosper no matter which political side is “in charge” while the great majority of people feel detached from the very governments that “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Who wants to get involved in that?

But in today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21), our Lord gives us this two-fold command:

Render therefore unto Caesar
the things which are Caesar's;
and unto God
the things that are God's.

In democratic systems, the people as a whole take the place of Caesar. That which is to be rendered unto Caesar is therefore more than just taxes and obedience: without the active and intelligent participation of its citizens, democracy cannot function – the Caesar of popular sovereignty cannot exist.

Render therefore unto Caesar
the things which are Caesar's

The second half of our Lord’s command, together with today’s first reading (Isaiah 45:1, 4-6), adds critical perspective.

Today’s first reading is addressed to Cyrus, King of Persia and conqueror of ancient Babylon, revealing to him the real source of his power and authority:

...I have called you by your name,
giving you a title, though you knew me not.

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

It is I who arm you, though you know me not,
so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun
people may know that there is none besides me.

I am the LORD, there is no other.

It is necessary and important that we get involved – that we render unto Caesar – but it is also necessary and important (indeed, supremely important) that we render unto God that which is God’s:
  • that we integrate our faith with our intelligent and active participation in government and society,
  • that we give proper priority to our duties to God and to his people, and
  • that we realize that our ultimate home and goal is in our heavenly Father’s house.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Fishers of Men

"A new program launched (yesterday) by the bishops’ Committee on Vocations is meant to renew priests’ sense of vocational fulfillment and to encourage them to draw on that satisfaction and invite other men to pursue the priesthood.

"The Priestly Life and Vocation Summit: Fishers of Men program is designed to get priests to step back from their daily lives and reflect on the many positive reasons they pursued their vocations, to discuss those reasons with their brother priests, and ultimately to share those reasons with other men with an invitation to the priesthood."

from a Press Release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

"The reason for the Carmelite life...

"...its prayer and austerity, its silence and enclosure, is to allow the Carmelite Sister to devote her entire energy to the worship, the contemplation, and love of God. The sisters pray for the whole world; this is how they express their love and concern.

"The Sisters pray quietly in Choir (the part of the Chapel that is reserved to the Sisters) each morning and evening, and at times their prayer takes them into the monastery gardens....

"Another aspect of the life of prayer is the place that the cell (monastic name for sleeping quarters) has in each Sister's life. It is here that an intimate experience takes place between God and the Carmelite Sister as she prays, reads, or works in solitude.

"Carmel, for all its enclosure and solitude is essentially missionary and active but it takes a living faith to comprehend this. A Carmelite Sister is dedicated to the prayer for the needs of the Church, the Pope, Bishop, Priests, religious, laity, and especially for the diocese in which the Carmel is located. She prays for the return of lapsed Catholics to the spirit and practice of the Faith, for the conversion and salvation of all peoples, and recommends to God their needs in all circumstances of life."

from the website of
Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery
Salt Lake City

Worldwide spheres of influence

Some build spheres of influence around the world by force of arms.

Some build spheres of influence around the world by the power of commerce.

In today’s first reading (Romans 4:13, 16-18), St. Paul writes of another way to extend a sphere of influence around the world: of how Abraham inherited the world and became the father of many nations “through the righteousness that comes from faith.”

How do we extend influence?

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa di Avila

Cornaro Chapel, Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria - Rome (Click picture for more info)

Bernini’s masterpiece depicts one of St. Teresa’s spiritual experiences, in which she feels the love of God pierce her heart like an arrow.

(Post repeated from last year)

She liked it rough

Nothing soft and pretty for her: the harder the better.

She got other women to do it with her.

Men heard about her and wanted to do it too.

But nobody had the incredible ecstasy that she enjoyed.

She wrote about it and her books would fly off the shelves.

The funny thing is, she didn’t think that she did it all that well.

The Church, her confessors, her readers, and her followers disagreed.

No one prayed like St. Theresa of Avila.

Nor did anyone write so openly and passionately about such an incredible life of prayer and spiritual things.

St. Teresa of Avila, founder of the Discalced Carmelites and Doctor of the Church, died in October of 1582 and her memory is celebrated on this day.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Great Accountant

Some people love accounting; other people would prefer to be buried alive.

In today’s first reading (Romans 4:1-8), St. Paul continues his great discourse on faith and righteousness with the language of accounting.

Abraham believed God,
and it was credited to him as righteousness

The language of accounting may seem to be a strange way to speak of the ineffable grace of the invisible God.

The fact is that the human approach to religion and morality is very often like accounting: such and such an amount under the good column, such and such an amount under the bad column, and so forth.

Some of us – sad to say – operate with two sets of books: on the one hand, the balance sheet of righteousness we display for all to see, and on the other hand, the dark and tangled trail of transactions we hide from the light of day.

However, just as the Lord’s ways are not our ways, so too the Lord’s accounting is not our accounting.

First of all, there is no “cooking the books” with God: everything is transparent to the Lord.

Second, if you think the taxman's audits are dreadfully thorough, wait until what comes on Judgment Day.

But the most important difference between God’s accounting and ours is the accounting entry for which there is no human parallel:


Grace is an entry that only God can make. Grace not only balances the books: it wipes them clean and fills them up. Grace is real: it is no accounting fiction.

Grace is also perfectly simple: so simple that our convoluted minds cannot fully understand it. Only at the end of time, when the great Book is opened, will we really see how the light of grace shines within the ledger of God.

In the meantime, while it is important for us to keep track of the balance sheet of our moral and spiritual lives, it is much more vital for us to focus on, to open ourselves to, and to be thankful for God’s great accounting entry of grace.

The grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with us all.

Pope denounced by leading theologians

They not only ridiculed his theology but spread scandalous rumors about his past.

Some said that he was too “soft.”

Some said he was out-of-sync with the wider culture’s views on marriage.

For his part, he continued faithfully with his work and some say he was actually killed for his fidelity back in the third century A.D.

Today, the Church celebrates the memory of Pope St. Callistus.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


In today’s first reading (Romans 3:21-30), we have St. Paul’s classic statement about justification by grace

All have sinned
and are deprived of the glory of God.
They are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption in Christ Jesus...

The bottom line, Paul goes on to say, is that we have no cause to boast, for we are entirely dependent on grace, which is the free gift of God.

The Latin Vulgate has a little word play that drives home the point that grace is a free gift of God, translating “justified freely by his grace” as “iustificati gratis per gratiam ipsius.”

omnes enim peccaverunt
et egent gloriam Dei
iustificati gratis per gratiam ipsius
per redemptionem quae est in Christo Iesu

It is important, of course, to understand this passage in harmony with the rest of St. Paul’s writings and rest of the New Testament. The gratuitous quality of God’s grace is neither a license for laziness nor for licentiousness.

The gratuitous grace of God is rather a cause for courage and for humility: for God makes everything possible for us through this wonderful gift.

With the help of God’s grace, may we embrace his grace: that infinite gift that is so wonderfully free.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - an ecumenical collection of posts from various Christian blogs - is online at Random Acts of Verbiage…

Slapping the devout

Today’s readings are a real slap in the face to many (if not most) of us who are serious about our faith.

First, because we take our faith seriously, we are concerned about details. Indeed, these details often are the focus of much of our time (and certainly many of our discussions in the blogosphere).

It doesn’t take a Scripture scholar to see that many of these things are the modern equivalent of “tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb” and that our Lord’s warning in today’s Gospel (Luke 11:42-46) applies to us:

Woe to you Pharisees!
You pay tithes of mint and of rue
and of every garden herb,
but you pay no attention
to judgment
and to love for God.
These you should have done,
without overlooking the others.

Details are important and we should not be “overlooking” them, but our primary focus of our minds, of our discussions, and of our deeds should be on justice and the love of God.

Second, because we take our faith seriously, we are keenly aware of others who do not: people who do not do what is right, who do not know what is right, or who simply do not care.

It doesn’t take a mind reader to see that we pass judgment on these people all the time, even though we ourselves are sinners. Just to be clear, however, St. Paul gives us another slap in today’s first reading (Romans 2:1-11):

You, O man, are without excuse,
every one of you who passes judgment.

For by the standard by which you judge another
you condemn yourself,
since you, the judge, do the very same things.

We know
that the judgment of God on those who do such things
is true.

Do you suppose, then,
you who judge those who engage in such things
and yet do them yourself,
that you will escape the judgment of God?

Or do you hold
his priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience
in low esteem,
unaware that the kindness of God
would lead you to repentance?

By your stubbornness and impenitent heart,
you are storing up wrath for yourself
for the day of wrath and revelation
of the just judgment of God,
who will repay everyone according to his works,
eternal life
to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality
through perseverance in good works,
but wrath and fury
to those who selfishly disobey the truth
and obey wickedness.

We must be clear about what is right and what is wrong, but we also must be very clear about our own need for penitence, for forgiveness, and for the overflowing mercy and grace of God (which we do not deserve).

Finally, as we try to make clear what is right and what is wrong, because we are imperfect ourselves, we must all help one another on the road to perfection through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, lest we run afoul of our Lord’s second warning in today’s Gospel:

You impose on people burdens hard to carry,
but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.

None of us are so perfect that we are exempt from God’s warnings or from the need for penitence and the grace of God.

Each of us must ask ourselves how serious we are about our faith: the response to grace within us.

Are we focused on the important things of life in Christ (without neglecting the details of faith)?

Do we ignore our own need for conversion, penitence, and grace?

Are we really doing all we can to help each other on the road to perfection?

Each one of us needs to heed our Lord’s warnings – to take the slap – and to take advantage of this opportunity to grow in the love and the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Catholic Carnival

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

Hearing God’s Call in Grade School


"Did you know that God is calling you? From before you were born he had a plan for you. His son, Jesus, has a special place in his heart for you, too. He once said,

"'Let the little children come unto me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.' Mark 10:14


"God is looking for you to go to Him and listen. He will give you ideas about how to live your life. He might ask you to get married or he might ask you to be a priest or a brother or sister.

"Whatever your calling is, remember this:

† "The Lord wants you to be happy and to feel loved.
† "This is his plan for your life however he wants you to live it.


"What can you do to listen to God’s voice? Because he talks to us in so many different ways, try to do these activities and always listen for God’s voice.

† "Go to church and religious education, youth group...
† "Help with activities in church and at home.
† "Pray alone and with your family.
† "Learn more stories from Jesus’ life.
† "Ask God to help you make decisions. "

from the Vocations pages of the Diocese of Richmond

Intelligent un-design

There has been much debate lately about “intelligent design” as a more-or-less theistic alternative to godless evolution to be presented in public schools.

Some formulations of “intelligent design” have more intellectual merit than others and there are also many prudent considerations that must be taken into account when it comes to what is taught in public schools.

Today’s first reading (Romans 1:16-25) offers us an opportunity to step back from the details of primary school curricula and appreciate what underlies this whole debate: an association between immorality and rejecting what may be known of God through creation.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Because that which may be known of God
is manifest in them;
for God hath shewed it unto them.

For the invisible things of him
from the creation of the world are clearly seen,
being understood by the things that are made,
even his eternal power and Godhead;
so that they are without excuse:
Because that, when they knew God,
they glorified him not as God,
neither were thankful;
but became vain in their imaginations,
and their foolish heart was darkened.

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God
into an image made like to corruptible man,
and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Wherefore God also gave them up
to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts,
to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie,
and worshipped and served the creature
more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

This is not just about old-fashioned idolatry – bowing down before statues of birds and calves (although there is still some of that today) – this is about idolatry in its most basic form: treating as the ultimate good something that is not God.

As it was in the days of St. Paul, so it is now: the most insidious idolatry is the worship of godless intellect and godless pleasure – exchanging the immortal glory of God for the corruptibility of man, worshiping and serving man the creature rather than God the Creator.

When man tries to detach totally from the Creator, the debauchery can be limitless. St. Paul describes this in vivid detail as he continues :

For this cause
God gave them up unto vile affections:
for even their women did change the natural use
into that which is against nature:
And likewise also the men,
leaving the natural use of the woman,
burned in their lust one toward another;
men with men working that which is unseemly,
and receiving in themselves
that recompense of their error which was meet.

And even as they did not like

to retain God in their knowledge,
God gave them over to a reprobate mind,
to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication,
wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness;
full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity;
whisperers, backbiters, haters of God,
despiteful, proud, boasters,
inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenant breakers,
without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God,
that they which commit such things

are worthy of death,
not only do the same,

but have pleasure in them that do them.

As always, it is very important not to see denunciations in Scripture as only being directed at people other than oneself, as if St. Paul is only denouncing atheists or people who engage in homosexual activity or whomever, for each one of us in our own way is deserving of God’s wrath (O God, be merciful to me - a sinner).

Indeed, how much more may we be held to account for our own violations of God’s law, for we have not just the guidance of natural law, but the law of God revealed in detail by Scripture and in its perfection in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We may not be engaged in temple prostitution or explicit worship of graven images, yet we Christians are so very often covetous, whisperers, backbiters, proud, boasters, disobedient to parents, unmerciful, and full of debate (especially in the blogosphere).

And because we are Christians, because we say we know God through his most perfect revelation of himself in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – we have even less excuse than the ungodly people we may despise.

Make no mistake: not all sins are alike on every level - some sins involve an ontic evil of greater extent than others (some of them far greater) – yet even the lightest sin is beyond our ability to redeem on our own

For all have sinned,
and come short of the glory of God;
Being justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
Romans 3:23-24

The bottom line of this passage is that when we disconnect ourselves from the knowledge of God, there is no limit on the evil into which we can become immersed – as individuals, as a society, and as a world – as we try to redesign reality in our own image

We therefore need to deepen our knowledge of God: first within ourselves, as individuals and as communities of faith; and then beyond ourselves, through various means of evangelization and also by helping people understand what may be known of God through the design of his creation.

We also need to make stronger the connection between what we know and what we do, between our faith and our actions.

We are all imperfect, we are all sinners, and we are all in desperate need of God’s grace, yet by the grace of God we need to recapture and grow in the integrity of faith, love, and life which belongs to the saints – for that is what God calls us to be, that is God’s ultimate, infinitely intelligent design.

Blessed be God.