A Penitent Blogger

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

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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Natural Family Planning clinics

The Washington Post has an article about doctors who restrict their practices to avoid immoral procedures.

It references a website for finding doctors around the United States and Canada who only work with Natural Family Planning: One More Soul - www.omsoul.com

Of course, the article also includes comments by those promoting artifical contraception, etc.

The article focuses on Tepeyac Family Center in the Washington, DC, suburbs: "one of the largest NFP-only practices in the country, with three full-time obstetricians... serving about 15,000 patients."

Stay awake!

For you do not know
on which day your Lord will come.

Be sure of this:
if the master of the house
had known the hour of night
when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.

So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.

(from today's Gospel - Matthew 24:42-51)

Remember also,
you could die tomorrow
or even before you take your next breath.

(Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me - a sinner)

Sioux Falls gets a bishop

The Holy Father has named as the new Bishop of Sioux Falls, South Dakota (USA), Monsignor Paul Joseph Swain, up to now Vicar General of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, and Rector of the Cathedral.

Bishop-elect Swain was born into a Methodist family. He received a Bachelor of Arts in History from Ohio Northern University in 1965, a Master of Arts in Political Science from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1965, and then (after serving in the Vietnam) a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1974. He served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1971 as an Air Intelligence Officer and earned a Bronze Star. As a lawyer, he served as Legal Counsel, League of Wisconsin Municipalities and later as Legal Counsel to the Governor of Wisconsin, Lee Sherman Dryfus, from 1979 to 1983.

In 1982 he was received into the Catholic Church and in 1983 entered the seminary, attending Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, where he earned a Master of Divinity. He was ordained a priest May 27, 1988, and has served in various parochial and diocesan positions.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Shun the bum?

In today's first reading (2 Thessalonians 3:6-10, 16-18), St. Paul warns us about those who appear to act improperly.

We instruct you, brothers and sisters,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
to shun any brother
who walks in a disorderly way
and not according to the tradition they received from us.

In the Gospel (Matthew 23:27-32), our Lord warns us about those who appear to act properly.

You are like whitewashed tombs,
which appear beautiful on the outside,
but inside are full of dead men's bones
and every kind of filth.

Even so,
on the outside
you appear righteous,
but inside
you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

(May God have mercy on me)

Faithfulness in word and appearance is necessary, but faithfulness in heart and deed is even more necessary.

By their fruits you will know them.
(Matthew 7:20)

We need, of course, to look first at ourselves: do we fail to walk and live according to the truth of Christ? Are we disorderly bums? Are we whitewashed tombs?

(May God have mercy on me)

We must also help each other as we struggle together up the road to holiness by the grace of the Holy Spirit, with sincere humility and loving honesty.

"If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault,
between you and him alone.

"If he listens to you,
you have gained your brother.

"But if he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
that every word may be confirmed
by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

"If he refuses to listen to them,
tell it to the church;
and if he refuses to listen even to the church,
let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

...Then Peter came up and said to him,
"Lord, how often
shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?
As many as seven times?"

Jesus said to him,
"I do not say to you seven times,
but seventy times seven."
(Matthew 18:15-17,21-22)

"Christian Carnival"

This week's "Christian Carnival" - a collection of posts from various blogs (not all of them are Christian this time) - is online at Brain Cramps for God.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A blessing for the President

(Photos:REUTERS/Jim Young)
During a Mass today at New Orleans' Cathedral of St. Louis, commemorating the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush crosses his arms over his chest to receive a blessing at Communion time.

Hold the traditions

The second chapter of St. Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians (from which today's first reading is taken) speaks dramatically of the Second Coming of Christ and the rise of the "son of perdition" - commonly known as the Antichrist.

These dramatic words (and the reality that lies behind them) can be real attention-grabbers. In particular, many books and movies have been made, fantasizing about the Antichrist, who it might be, and in what manner that dreadful figure will step out of the shadows and take over the world.

Such fantasizing is treacherous.

Yes, the prophecies are true and yes, the "son of perdition" will be revealed, but it is dangerous folly to focus too much on the things of darkness and evil.

Our focus needs to be on Christ and his truth.

The reality of evil, human and superhuman, must never be ignored, but likewise it must never be an object of obsession for us.

Now we beseech you, brethren,
by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and by our gathering together unto him,
That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled,
neither by spirit, nor by word,
nor by letter as from us,
as that the day of Christ is at hand.

St. Paul's principal intent is to keep the Thessalonians from being distracted by rumors of Christ's imminent return. The rise of the "son of perdition" must come first and that denouement will be unmistakable.

Let no man deceive you by any means:
for that day shall not come,
except there come a falling away first,
and that man of sin be revealed,
the son of perdition;
Who opposeth and exalteth himself
above all that is called God,
or that is worshipped;
so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God,
shewing himself that he is God.

There is a recognizable parallel with what our Lord says in foretelling his own coming (e.g., Matthew 24:23-27):

Then if any man shall say unto you,
Lo, here is Christ, or there;
believe it not.

For there shall arise false Christs,
and false prophets,
and shall shew great signs and wonders;
insomuch that, if it were possible,
they shall deceive the very elect.

Behold, I have told you before.

Wherefore if they shall say unto you,
Behold, he is in the desert;
go not forth:
behold, he is in the secret chambers;
believe it not.

For as the lightning cometh out of the east,
and shineth even unto the west;
so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

But even as St. Paul writes about the future "son of perdition," the ultimate false Christ who will appear before the final coming of our true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, he makes this one fact perfectly clear:

The mystery of iniquity doth already work.

The spin machine of evil is already in operation - as we know all too well.

Indeed, St. Paul goes on to write about "all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved," about "strong delusion, that they should believe a lie," and about those "who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you,
brethren beloved of the Lord,
because God hath from the beginning
chosen you to salvation
through sanctification of the Spirit
and belief of the truth:
Whereunto he called you by our gospel,
to the obtaining of the glory
of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And then St. Paul gets to the heart of his message for the Thessalonians (and for us) - the "what-do-we-do-now" statement:

Therefore, brethren, stand fast,
and hold the traditions which ye have been taught,
whether by word, or our epistle.

Again, this is the key part of the passage and the most important message for the Thessalonians and for us: hold the traditions which ye have been taught - that is to say, the truth about Christ which we have received from St. Paul and the other Apostles.

Christians may develop new ways of explaining the unchanging truth of Christ to a changing world, but Christianity is first and last a conservative religion in that it holds faithfully onto that which comes from the unique, perfect and historical revelation of God in the person, in the teaching, in the life, in the death, and in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast,
and hold the traditions which ye have been taught,
whether by word, or our epistle.

We should keep in mind, of course, that this conservatism and these traditions must not be automatically or exclusively identified with the "traditions" of our personal experience or of our childhood (as good as those may be). Our "old time religion" should reach back to the time of Christ and those he himself commissioned.

In this ever changing world, we must always keep reaching back, returning again and again to the source of our faith (ressourcement), as we go forward in faithfulness to the truth of Christ, by what we say and what we do.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast,
and hold the traditions which ye have been taught,
whether by word, or our epistle.

Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself,
and God, even our Father,
which hath loved us,
and hath given us everlasting consolation
and good hope through grace,
Comfort your hearts,
and stablish you
in every good word and work.

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at A Song Not Scored For Breathing.

The nation's most powerful man...

...had a weakness for young ladies.

The moves of one young lady in particular caught his eye.

He called her over.

She came to him and whispered...

"I want you...

"...to give me...

"...right now...

" ...the head of John the Baptist on a platter."

Thus a sleazy moment in the corridors of power ended with the death of one of history's greatest holy men.

Today the Church remembers the death of John the Baptist.

(from an earlier post)

Monday, August 28, 2006

I deserve THIS?

You deserve to be ridiculed.

You deserve to be shunned.

You deserve to be passed over at work.

You deserve to be fired.

You deserve to go to jail.

You deserve to be beaten.

You deserve to be killed.

So it seems in today's first reading (2 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12):

...regarding your endurance and faith
in all your persecutions
and the afflictions you endure.

This is evidence of the just judgment of God,
so that you may be considered worthy
of the Kingdom of God
for which you are suffering.

St. Paul goes on to connect this with broader statements (not included in today's reading) about God's rewards for the faithful as well as his punishments for evildoers and unbelievers.

It can be a little confusing: the implication in the above verse that our afflictions are "evidence of the just judgment of God" as well as the description in the non-included verses of "...taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Is this fair? Is this really just?

Ultimately, of course, God alone is the judge, for God alone knows what is in our hearts - better than we ourselves (we can fool ourselves, but we cannot fool God - may God have mercy on us all).

As for "taking vengeance on them that know not God" the expression translated as "know not" is not to be understood as invincible ignorance - especially when considered in connection with Paul's statements elsewhere (e.g., Romans 1:19-20, 1 Timothy 2:4).

As for our afflictions, it is arguable that the just judgment of God is evidenced more in our endurance and faith than in the afflictions themselves, especially when they are undeserved, so that we "may be considered worthy of the Kingdom of God."

But even in the afflictions themselves there is evidence of the just judgment of God, not in that we are targeted by God for affliction but in that these afflictions, these evil effects, follow from evil choices: choices made by ourselves or (perhaps more often) by others.

God permits evil choices so that he might enable our free choice for good, i.e., our free choice to love him.

(Saint Augustine, whose memory we celebrate today, famously wrote [Enchridion, xi]: "For Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, were He not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil." "Neque enim Deus omnipotens quod etiam infideles fatentur Rerum cui summa potestas cum summe bonus sit ullo modo sineret mali esse aliquid in operibus suis nisi usque adeo esset omnipotens et bonus ut bene faceret et de malo.")

In the infinite mystery of his loving will, it is the just judgment of God that permits evil effects to come from evil choices, even when the evil effects extend beyond the evildoer.

The just judgment of God, of course, does not end there. Evil will not forever stand. The scales of justice will be made level - in Time and in Eternity.

Yet God does not stop even there. As St. Paul says elsewhere (Romans 5:20):

But where sin abounded,
grace did much more abound.

God will make all things right
...and more!

We cannot fully understand this. There are sufferings and evils that seem too great to be overcome by any reality no matter how otherworldly.

Yet we must also recognize that our intelligence, as great as it may be, is limited.

There are many things in this physical world that our human minds cannot comprehend and our human minds can probe very little into the Infinity and Eternity that is beyond it.

Here faith plays an essential role: a gift of God's grace, enabling us to endure afflictions, weaknesses, and the seeming delays of justice, while we work as much as we can for the justice, mercy and truth of God to be made manifest.

God's justice and mercy will conquer, but in the meantime, we find our security in faith and grace.

He said to me,
"My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness."

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

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses,
insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

We always pray for you,
that our God may make you worthy of his calling
and powerfully bring to fulfillment
every good purpose
and every effort of faith,
that the name of our Lord Jesus
may be glorified in you,
and you in him,
in accord with the grace
of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

Did you hear about the bishop?

The bishop had a girlfriend once and got her pregnant.

The bishop used to make his mother cry all the time.

People also remembered the bishop saying pretty contemptuous things about the Church, its leaders, and its theology.

All that happened before he had heard the Archbishop of Milan. Soon after that, he started getting his life together, his girlfriend left him to pursue the religious life on her own, and eventually he and his 15-year-old son entered the Church to the great joy of the man's mother.

He settled into a quiet life of prayer and writing in monasteries that he established, but he was not to be allowed a quiet life. He was practically drafted into the priesthood and to be a prominent spokesperson for the Catholic faith. When his bishop became feeble, he was again drafted into being made coadjutor bishop. After the old bishop died, he would continue as bishop of the diocese for 34 years, all the time writing and preaching about the Catholic faith.

St. Augustine, bishop of the north African city of Hippo, Doctor of the Church, one of the greatest intellects of the Western world, died at the age of 75 on this very day in the year 430.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sunday, August 27, 2006


"This saying is hard; who can accept it?"

So say many of Christ's disciples in today's Gospel (John 6:60-69) and so say many Christians and others in the world today.

Sad to say, a choice will be made in some parishes this weekend to choose the short form of the second reading rather than the full selection (Ephesians 5:21-32) in order to avoid hearing any mention of submission or subordination.

The specious excuse usually offered is that more than half the congregation would be instantly and irretrievably alienated by the "Seven Words You Cannot Say among the PC" (Politically Correct):

Wives should be subordinate to their husbands...

Oh, no! "Fire and brimstone coming down.... Rivers and seas boiling.... Dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!"

Completely lost in this pandemonium - between the hypersensitive, the chauvinists, and the generally confused - is the fundamental point of the reading that was clearly stated just one verse before:

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Men, women, husbands, wives, children, mothers, fathers, single people, childless people, laypeople, hierarchical people... whoever or whatever you are....

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.

That is the bottom line of the reading.

That points also to the bottom line of the resistance to the reading (and indeed to most of the deposit of faith).

The modern world teaches us that submission and subordination are bad things: to be rejected in favor of "autonomy," "doing my own thing," "my feelings," "having a life," "my space," and all forms of narcissistic propaganda.

What the world is selling us, of course, is submission and subordination to whims and impulses.

What the world eventually leaves us with is "the dictatorship of relativism" and oftentimes outright totalitarianism as a "solution" to the chaos it has unleashed.

The submission that the world offers under the guise of "autonomy" is bound inextricably with conflict: conflict within oneself and conflict with others.

The submission of which St. Paul writes is bound inextricably with love: love of God and love of God's children (which includes love of one's true self).

Wives should be subordinate to their husbands
as to the Lord...

Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church
and handed himself over for her....

The submission of which St. Paul writes can itself exist only with submission to the Lord.

Only in loving submission to the loving and infinite God of the Universe can we find true freedom: freedom from our limitations, freedom from the failures in our past, and freedom from the culture of selfishness that is all around us.

It is the same loving submission and the same choice as that of Joshua in today's first reading (from Joshua 24):

Decide today whom you will serve....

As for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.

It is the same loving submission and the same choice as that of Simon Peter in today's Gospel:

Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced
that you are the Holy One of God.

We must rise above the dictatorship of whims that the world calls autonomy.

We must rise above the slavery of coordinated selfishness that the world falsely calls love.

We must love truly and be in submission to our loving God, so that we may more perfectly love and that we may be in loving and proper submission to one another.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Simple messages

It is easy to get distracted in today's Gospel (Matthew 23:1-12), with its references to phylacteries, long tassels and calling no man "father", but there are simple messages here:

Respect those in authority,
including our teachers and fathers on earth,
but without committing idolatry:
God is the ultimate
and master.

Do not simply proclaim the truth:
live the truth
and give a hand to help others live it as well.

Do what is right in the eyes of God
and not for the praise of men.

Be humble.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Crossing the Tiber

The Christian Century has an article about six Protestant theologians who recently entered the Catholic Church (hat tip: Pontifications)

The answer to dryness

Dry bones lying scattered across a great empty space.

That is sometimes how it feels to be in Church.

It is the driest of desert experiences - sometimes right in the midst of what others are calling a parish community.

That is sometimes how some people see the Church as a worldwide institution.

Dry bones lying scattered across a great empty space.

People talk of renewal - one way or another - but the dryness sometimes does not seem to go away, the hope never flowers, and we feel irretrievably, interminably lost.

Today's first reading (Ezekiel 37:1-14) has the answer to our dryness: the power of God himself.

The hand of the LORD came upon me,
and led me out in the Spirit of the LORD
and set me in the center of the plain,
which was now filled with bones.

He made me walk among the bones in every direction
so that I saw how many they were
on the surface of the plain.
How dry they were!

He asked me:
Son of man, can these bones come to life?
I answered, "Lord GOD, you alone know that."

Then he said to me:
Prophesy over these bones,
and say to them:
Dry bones,
hear the word of the LORD!

Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones:

See! I will bring spirit into you,
that you may come to life.
I will put sinews upon you,
make flesh grow over you,
cover you with skin,
and put spirit in you
so that you may come to life
and know that I am the LORD.

I prophesied as I had been told,
and even as I was prophesying
I heard a noise;
it was a rattling as the bones came together,
bone joining bone.
I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them,
and the skin cover them,
but there was no spirit in them.

Then the LORD said to me:
Prophesy to the spirit,
prophesy, son of man,
and say to the spirit:
Thus says the Lord GOD:

From the four winds come, O spirit,
and breathe into these slain
that they may come to life.

I prophesied as he told me,
and the spirit came into them;
they came alive and stood upright,
a vast army.

Then he said to me:
Son of man, these bones
are the whole house of Israel.

They have been saying,
“Our bones are dried up,
our hope is lost,
and we are cut off.”

Therefore, prophesy
and say to them:
Thus says the Lord GOD:

O my people,
I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves
and have you rise from them,
O my people!

I will put my spirit in you
that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know
that I am the LORD.

I have promised,
and I will do it,
says the LORD.

We need to remain faithful,
for the Lord Jesus Christ remains faithful to his people,
to His Church.

Veni Sancte Spiritus

Get medieval on you

Disputes were decided by combat. Testimony was verified by ordeal. The word of the king was law. The acquisition of land by force was the rule. Early 14th century statue from the church of Mainneville, France - reputed to be a true likenessReligion was important only as a tool for power.

The young king thought differently.

He instituted systems of courts and written law. He negotiated treaties with neighboring rulers, acquiring some lands while handing over others to maximize political and economic stability for his people.

Most importantly, for the young king, religion was not a tool – quite the contrary, everything should be in service to faith.

He personally fed and served the poor daily. He built great houses of prayer and worship, including the glorious Sainte Chapelle.

The glorious interior of the Sainte Chapelle - click image for larger version and above link for more information and pictures

He would also come to the aid of important churches in other lands, no matter what the risk.

Louis IX, King of France, died of disease at the age of 56 in North Africa while on a failed campaign to rescue churches in the Holy Land, 736 years ago today. Saint Louis was canonized 27 years later.

(from an earlier post)

Joseph's family was wealthy

so they had no problem giving him the finest university education he could want (and he could pick his own majors).

Once he was finished with school, however, his father had plans for him, intending that Joseph carry on the family line.

Then Joseph got sick - and nearly died. After he recovered, he knew he had to follow his own way. He became a priest.

He proved to be an excellent priest, working in a parish and in various positions in the Diocese: reviving zeal among laity and clergy alike. After several years, he realized that he had to go further. He gave away his fortune and went to Rome where he ministered to the noblest and to the lowest members of society.

When he tried to enroll poor outcast children in school, he was met with stiff resistance from many quarters. So, he started his own school and his own order to teach the poor children.

His work continued to meet with external resistance. Some were afraid that educating the poor would cause unrest. Some religious orders were jealous. Joseph's friendship with a controversial scientist was also troubling to some Church leaders.

Later, when Joseph was a very old man, members of the order he himself had founded turned against him. He would be vindicated, but the dissension took its toll. The order was dissolved two years before Joseph died, at very ripe age of 91 on this very day in 1648.

The next year, Joseph's order, the Piarists, was resurrected and continues even now. St. Joseph Calasanz was canonized in the following century.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Meet the Missus

As is usual for almost any passage from the book of Revelation, today's first reading (Revelation 9b-14) is a bit unusual: a bride that turns out to be a floating city that is called Jerusalem but sounds like the Church.

Not many people nowadays may see the Church as a beautiful bride gleaming with the splendor of God.

Instead, what many people see are scandals and divisions and sins and hypocrisy.

The writer of the book of Revelation saw those things too – and worse: indeed, the first chapters of the book reflect rather badly on first century Christianity (bad enough to make the Lord spit).

Yet the vision remains true as the grace of God is true, for it is by the grace of God that this assembly the Church becomes the beautiful bride of Christ.

Indeed, St. Paul says (in Ephesians 5:25) that "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."

Therefore we should never despair nor flee, but rather we need to remain always faithful, for at the end of all things, this sometimes struggling reality we call the Church - of which we are a part - will find perfect fulfillment and be ultimately revealed as the beautiful bride of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

What would he have thought?

It is hard to imagine what Tholmai would have thought of his son that day when his friend found him taking a break in the shade.

The friend was babbling excitedly about something and Tholmai's son was skeptical, to say the least, but at his friend's insistence, he went along to see what all the fuss was about.

When they arrived at their destination, Tholmai's son saw a man (whom he had never seen before) talking about him. They were good things, but strange to hear from a complete stranger.

"How do you know me?" Tholmai's son asked.

"Before Phillip called you, I saw you under the fig tree."

Tholmai's son saw the light. "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."

There was a smile. "You believe because I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than this."

Nathaniel, son of Tholmai (Bartholomaios), indeed saw greater things, including the death and resurrection of Christ, and would help spread tidings of these things to the world.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle.

(from a previous post)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Christian Carnival

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


Everyday it seems (especially in cyberspace) we hear about the sins and failings of yet another man of the cloth.

It is hard, therefore, to let today's first reading (Ezekiel 34:1-11) pass by without letting this prophecy of warning resonate.

Thus the word of the LORD came to me:

Son of man,
prophesy against the shepherds of Israel,
in these words prophesy to them
to the shepherds:

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who have been pasturing themselves!

Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?

You have fed off their milk,
worn their wool,
and slaughtered the fatlings,
but the sheep you have not pastured.

You did not strengthen the weak
nor heal the sick
nor bind up the injured.

You did not bring back the strayed
nor seek the lost,
but you lorded it over them
harshly and brutally.

So they were scattered
for the lack of a shepherd,
and became food for all the wild beasts.

My sheep were scattered
and wandered
over all the mountains and high hills;
my sheep were scattered over the whole earth,
with no one to look after them
or to search for them.

Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:

As I live, says the Lord GOD,
because my sheep have been given over to pillage,
and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast,
for lack of a shepherd;
because my shepherds did not look after my sheep,
but pastured themselves
and did not pasture my sheep;
because of this, shepherds,
hear the word of the LORD:

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I swear I am coming against these shepherds.

I will claim my sheep from them
and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep
so that they may no longer pasture themselves.

I will save my sheep,
that they may no longer be food for their mouths.

For thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.

Where much is given, much is required.

This prophecy and this burden therefore lie heaviest upon those to whom the greater grace of ministry is given.

Lord, have mercy.

Yet each one of us, in accordance with our respective vocations, has a role in the shepherding of others, if only by our witnessing to Christ.

So let none of us think he or she is exempt from the warning or from the responsibility given us by the Gospel of Christ.

Insofar as we have pastured ourselves when we should have been pasturing our fellow sheep, we must repent.

Insofar as we have contributed to the scattering of God's flock, we must repent.

Insofar as we have not done we could to protect helpless sheep from this world's wolves, we must repent.

Henceforth, whenever we see God's lambs in need, we must help.

Whenever we see his sheep going astray, we must call to them and go further to seek out those who are lost.

Whenever the wolves of this world draw near, we must stand with the flock and do what we can to defend the defenseless.

And if we are weary, we must reach out to Christ the Good Shepherd.

If we are lost, we must listen for his voice.

And if we are afraid, we find shelter in the shadow of his arm.

Gifts of beauty

From the moment she was born, everyone knew that Rosa had been given the gift of physical beauty. What they didn’t know was that she had also been given other gifts of beauty.

She began to show these gifts as a little girl: respectful to her parents, industrious around the house, kind to all, generous to the needy, and very devout in prayer.

As she grew up, however, she began to manifest a gift of beauty that was very, very hard to recognize: the gift of being united to the sufferings of Christ in a very real way and to a very profound degree. Her family, her friends, and even the local Church authorities were very concerned about what she was doing. Before she was allowed to receive the Dominican habit, many worried about her health, her sanity, and what would come from all this.

What came from it was charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. When she finally entered into paradise, many miracles took place.

Less than sixty years after her death, St. Rose of Lima was canonized, in 1671 - the first native born American saint.

Her memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


There was a comic strip some years ago that had a scout leader leading the recitation of a traditional prayer on a dark and scary night:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep...

The scouts start to relax, but then the prayer takes an ominous turn

…and should I DIE before I wake...

The scouts are now absolutely terrified.

Okay, the scout leader stammers, how about some nice psalms?

The strip ends there, with what seems to be a comforting alternative.

The peaceful, gentle verses of the 23rd Psalm may then come to the reader's mind.

The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

One can imagine the little scouts starting to relax again.

though I walk
through the valley
of the shadow of death…

Boom! The night terror returns.

In truth, even with the dark imagery, the psalms are very comforting.

It is the world that is often a scary place.

Nor do the psalms bring the comfort of syrup-laden cheesecake or opium: driving fear and pain away with sweetness or numbness.

The psalms bring the comfort of real faith, struggling with real troubles and even the most terrifying moments when God seems to be silent.

Pope Benedict XVI noted this quite movingly at that most dreadful of evil places, Auschwitz:

"How many questions arise in this place! Constantly the question comes up: Where was God in those days? Why was he silent? How could he permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil?

"The words of Psalm 44 come to mind, Israel's lament for its woes:

'You have broken us in the haunt of jackals,
and covered us with deep darkness ...
because of you we are being killed all day long,
and accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?
Awake, do not cast us off forever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
For we sink down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up, come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!'

(Psalm 44:19,22-26).

"This cry of anguish, which Israel raised to God in its suffering, at moments of deep distress, is also the cry for help raised by all those who in every age -- yesterday, today and tomorrow -- suffer for the love of God, for the love of truth and goodness. How many they are, even in our own day!

"We cannot peer into God's mysterious plan -- we see only piecemeal, and we would be wrong to set ourselves up as judges of God and history. Then we would not be defending man, but only contributing to his downfall."
(Excerpt from Benedict XVI at Auschwitz-Birkenau May 28, 2006)

Many people of faith respond to the suffering of the innocent or to the perceived silence of God with pat answers. Sometimes the grace of God works wonders in those simple answers, but sometimes these trite answers are worse than useless.

Ultimately, the best response by people of faith to the terrors and the silence of the night is simply faith: that precious gift of God upon which all other gifts are built up.

We see this in the Psalms, most especially Psalm 22, which our Lord himself spoke from the Cross: those ancient words of faith in the midst of despair thus helping to complete God’s total embrace of our human suffering, so that we ourselves might be fully embraced by his eternal life and love.

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Why art thou so far from helping me,
from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day,
but thou dost not answer;
and by night,
but find no rest.

Yet thou art holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In thee our fathers trusted;
they trusted,
and thou didst deliver them.
To thee they cried,
and were saved;
in thee they trusted,
and were not disappointed.

But I am a worm,
and no man;
scorned by men,
and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me,
they make mouths at me,
they wag their heads;
"He committed his cause to the LORD;
let him deliver him,
let him rescue him,
for he delights in him!"

Yet thou art he who took me from the womb;
thou didst keep me safe upon my mother's breasts.
Upon thee was I cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me
thou hast been my God.

Be not far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is none to help.

Many bulls encompass me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax,
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
thou dost lay me in the dust of death.

Yea, dogs are round about me;
a company of evildoers encircle me;
they have pierced my hands and feet --
I can count all my bones --
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my raiment they cast lots.

But thou, O LORD, be not far off!
O thou my help, hasten to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion,
my afflicted soul from the horns of the wild oxen!

I will tell of thy name to my brethren;
in the midst of the congregation
I will praise thee:
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
all you sons of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you sons of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted;
and he has not hid his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

From thee comes my praise
in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live for ever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.

Yea, to him
shall all the proud of the earth bow down;
before him shall bow
all who go down to the dust,
and he who cannot keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
men shall tell of the Lord
to the coming generation,
and proclaim his deliverance
to a people yet unborn,
that he has wrought it.

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at To Jesus Through Mary.


The prophecy in today's first reading (Ezekiel 28:1-10) was initially directed at the ruler of Tyre, the famous ancient port city of Lebanon.

It is a vivid prophecy of doom against a supremely arrogant power.

Over the millennia some have tried to apply this prophecy to particularly arrogant entities of their own day.

Yet we ourselves run the risk of increasing our arrogance if we think that this warning cannot be applied to ourselves: as individuals and as societies.

Thus saith the Lord GOD;
Because thine heart is lifted up,
and thou hast said, I am a God,
I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas;
yet thou art a man, and not God,
though thou set thine heart as the heart of God:

Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel;
there is no secret that they can hide from thee:
With thy wisdom and with thine understanding
thou hast gotten thee riches,
and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures:

By thy great wisdom and by thy traffick
hast thou increased thy riches,
and thine heart is lifted up
because of thy riches:

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD;
Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God;

Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon thee,
the terrible of the nations:
and they shall draw their swords
against the beauty of thy wisdom,
and they shall defile thy brightness.
They shall bring thee down to the pit,
and thou shalt die the deaths
of them that are slain in the midst of the seas.

Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God?
but thou shalt be a man, and no God,
in the hand of him that slayeth thee.

Thou shalt die the deaths of the uncircumcised
by the hand of strangers:
for I have spoken it,
saith the Lord GOD.

There is no god but God: the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, "who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4)

May God have mercy on us all.

May we never allow ourselves to be arrogant, but always recognize our weakness.

May you and I be humble instruments of God's mercy, love, and truth.

Taking the throne

And Jesus said unto them,
Verily I say unto you,
That ye which have followed me,
in the regeneration
when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory,
ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

(Matthew 19:28 - from today’s Gospel)

If that is the destiny of the Apostles, by the favor of God and the power of their faith, how much more the destiny of that "highly favored" one whose faith in Christ was second to none?

Today the Church celebrates the power of faith and grace
as it celebrates the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Taking away the delight of your eyes

The prophecy of today's first reading (Ezekiel 24:15-23) is heartbreaking and doubly so.

The symbolic action of the prophecy is the death of Ezekiel's wife.

The immediate meaning of the prophecy is the destruction of the Temple: ripping out the very heart of Israel.

I will now desecrate my sanctuary,
the stronghold of your pride,
the delight of your eyes,
the desire of your soul.

Many of us, in different ways, can find resonance in this.

For some, it recalls the pain of losing a spouse (may they find comfort in the Lord).

For some, it resonates with changes in the Liturgy: the abrupt departure of elements of communal worship that had been so comforting and uplifting.

For others, it may be something even deeper: the desecration of one's interior sanctuary, that place deep within our consciousness where we used to feel the presence and the love of God and where now we do not.

Perhaps it was some catastrophic event that "by a sudden blow" seemed to break our faith.

Perhaps it was prolonged inattention and apathy that caused our interior sanctuaries to fall into dusty decay.

Perhaps we didn't even notice.

You shall not mourn or weep,
but you shall rot away because of your sins
and groan one to another.

There is also a connection between this theme and today's Gospel (Matthew 19:16-22): the familiar account of the rich young man who is devoted to the Commandments.

The young man said to him,
"All of these I have observed.
What do I still lack?"

Jesus said to him,
"If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me."

When the young man heard this statement,
he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.

The young man's interior sanctuary had been overrun by materialism, leaving no more room for God.

So, what do we do?

"If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me."

We must grow in detachment - never letting the tools that are given us cause harm to our relationship with God

Also, we must never take for granted what we have been given, for all things in this world must pass away. Rather we must use what we have when we have it for the good of others and for the glory of God.

Finally, our focus must be on following Christ
above all things
and in spite of all things.

The delight of our eyes
and the center of our lives
must be our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
who lives and reigns forever
in that imperishable sanctuary
not made by human hands.

Therefore, brothers,
since through the blood of Jesus
we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary
by the new and living way
he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh,
and since we have "a great priest over the house of God,"
let us approach with a sincere heart
and in absolute trust,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
and our bodies washed in pure water.

Let us hold unwaveringly
to our confession that gives us hope,
for he who made the promise is trustworthy.

We must consider
how to rouse one another to love and good works.

We should not stay away from our assembly,
as is the custom of some,
but encourage one another,
and this all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:19-25)

An energetic pastor

Joseph Sarto's father was a postman but he wanted to be a priest. From his very first assignment he was a tireless worker, tackling multiple responsibilities at once. He kept up his own studies, while providing night school for adults in the area. Many towns in the region asked him to preach in their parishes. He would later be heavily involved in the seminary, energetically promoting study of St. Thomas Aquinas and of Gregorian Chant.

When he was 54 he was appointed bishop of a troubled diocese. Again, his energy, vision, and devotion proved very successful. Within ten years he was promoted to head an archdiocese and was named a Cardinal.

Ten years after that, against his wishes, he was elected Pope.

In the eleven years of his pontificate, he initiated a complete revision of canon law as well as the Liturgy. He worked to navigate the Church through a very dangerous political environment as well as philosophical challenges to Church teaching. He encouraged early and frequent reception of the Eucharist. A strong Pope, he was personally humble, austere, and devoted to pastoral work: especially preaching and hearing confessions.

He was greatly troubled by the political instability in the world and a growing militarization. His fears would be brutally confirmed. Two months after a high-profile assassination, a ferocious war broke out.

Within days, the man born as Giuseppe Sarto but forever known as Pope St. Pius X, died of grief, 92 years ago yesterday. He was canonized forty years later and the memory of Pope St. Pius X is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sunday, August 20, 2006


In today's Gospel (John 6:51-58), we hear more of the Bread of Life discourse.

Many recognize that our Lord is speaking very much of what we know as the Eucharist.

It has been frequently pointed out that, unlike the other Gospels, the Gospel of John does not have a narrative of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, but rather has this extensive discourse on the Bread of Life - the meaning of which would be quickly understood by the early Church, which celebrated this from the very beginning (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 11:20-29).

For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.

But what our Lord speaks of is more than just Communion alone - although it is that. It is not just the Body of Christ for its own sake (as wonderful and miraculous as that is): it is His Flesh "for the life of the world" - His Body "which shall be given up for you." It is abiding in Christ and not only that: it is making his singular sacrificial death present here and now. Nor it just a remembrance of the past made present in the future: it is, as Aquinas said, a "pledge of future glory."

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.

For some of us, Holy Communion can feel like just a ritual or our relationship with Christ is just this warm but inert feeling that we keep tucked away in our consciousness somewhere.

The opportunity for all of us is to realize in greater and greater measure each week and each day that it is so much more.

"O sacrum convivium,
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis eius;
mens impletur gratia
et futurae gloriae
nobis pignus datur."

"O sacred banquet,
in which Christ is received,
the memory of His Passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory
given to us."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Jesuit on Monk

Last night's episode of Monk featured a one-armed psychiatrist, played by Brother Rick Curry, S.J., Ph.D., founder and Artistic Director of the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped (and who was born with only one arm).

Menstruation and charging interest

Not everything we read in the Bible is "politically correct" - especially in the Old Testament.

For example, today's first reading (Ezekiel 18:1-10, 13b, 30-32) lists things that the virtuous man does not do, including such things as having "relations with a woman in her menstrual period" and lending money at interest.

It is easy, of course, to brush off such admonitions as only pertaining to the Mosaic covenant or a particular time and place - irrelevant to our own lives. After all, we may say, we are not Jews and we live in an economic frame of reference that is very different from ancient times.

But it is dangerous to dismiss any Scripture out of hand.

To be sure, some Old Testament admonitions require very careful exegesis, to be done within the full context of the deposit of faith and with the help of the Holy Spirit, in order to understand their applicability in a definitive and detailed way.

But in a more general way and on a more personal level, it is always worthwhile to search for meaning within Scripture rather than dismiss it out of hand.

In the present example, we may ask ourselves: are we respectful of God's gift of sexuality and (if we are married) respectful of our spouse, or do we focus on our own desires and selfish "needs"?

Likewise, are we narrow-minded and short-sighted in our business decisions, violating both ethics and long-term business sense?

We must respect ourselves.
We must respect others.
We must respect Scripture.
Most of all, we must respect God.

A John

He was often seen in the company of prostitutes and he went by the name of "John."

It wasn't what one might think: he was a priest.

Also, a notorious Cardinal vouched for him.

Seriously, few souls are more lost than those who find themselves in situations where they sell themselves for money or whatever. They are in a dreadful trap and society does not always make it easy for them to get out of it.

Father John disregarded the cynicism of society and reached out to these lost sheep, establishing a place of refuge to which women of "ill-fame" could go and change their lives.

He did other good work as well, from educating the clergy to spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart. He also established new religious orders (for which he needed the political assistance of Cardinal Richelieu and others).

St. John Eudes died at the age of 78 on this very day in 1680.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, August 18, 2006


In today's Gospel (Matthew 19:3-12), our Lord is asked a question on a hot button topic.

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying,
"Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife

for any cause whatever?"

He said in reply,

"Have you not read that from the beginning
the Creator made them male and female and said,
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,

and the two shall become one flesh?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
Therefore, what God has joined together,

man must not separate."

They said to him, "Then why did Moses command
that the man give the woman a bill of divorce

and dismiss her?"

He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts
Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,
but from the beginning it was not so.
I say to you, whoever divorces his wife
(unless the marriage is unlawful)
and marries another commits adultery."

The Pharisees' questions are about divorce, but our Lord's response is first and foremost about the wonderful unity of marriage.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke similarly in a recent television interview when confronted with a controversial marriage question:

"Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of prohibitions: it's a positive option. It's very important that we look at it again because this idea has almost completely disappeared today. We've heard so much about what is not allowed that now it's time to say: we have a positive idea to offer, that man and woman are made for each other, that the scale of sexuality, eros, agape, indicates the level of love and it's in this way that marriage develops, first of all, as a joyful and blessing-filled encounter between a man and a woman, and then the family, that guarantees continuity among generations and through which generations are reconciled to each other and even cultures can meet."

We must be compassionate with people who are divorced and we need to reach out and help those in troubled marriages, but most of all we must uphold the truth of marriage - that great and wonderful gift from God himself.

Young wife and mother and...

Jane got married when she was twenty. Her husband was a good man and they were very happy together. They both wanted kids and they wasted no time: she had six before the time of their tenth wedding anniversary.

But it would not be a happy anniversary. Jane’s husband was killed the year before in a hunting accident.

A few years later, she attended a Lenten mission that moved her tremendously. The visiting bishop who gave the mission agreed to be her spiritual director. Several years later she and three other women decided to start a religious community of their own. The primary purpose of the community was gentle prayer, while remaining mindful of the poor. So many more women became interested, Jane had to open more monasteries for her community. After three decades, there would be 80.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal died at the age of 69 in 1641 and was buried near her longtime spiritual director St. Francis de Sales. The order she founded, the Sisters of the Visitation, would continue to flourish and other great saints would come from their number.

Here memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from a previous post)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Show pity... or else...

"'I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?'

"Then in anger
his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.

"So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."

When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

(from today's Gospel: Matthew 18:21-19:1)

From Philadelphia to South Africa

The Holy Father has named Monsignor James Patrick Green to be Apostolic Nuncio to South Africa and Namibia as well as Apostolic Delegate to Botswana, also raising him to the dignity of Archbishop.

Archbishop-elect Green was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1950, ordained a priest for the Archdiocese in 1976, and entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1987.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Escalation with charity

Our Lord's admonition at the beginning of today's Gospel (Matthew 18:15-20) is a familiar one, but always worth remembering, especially in this age of hyper-litigation and cyber-calumny.

If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault
between you and him alone.

If he listens to you,
you have won over your brother.

If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

If he refuses to listen to them,
tell the Church.

If he refuses to listen even to the Church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

We need to be patient.
We need to be firm.
We need to be faithful.
We need to be loving.
We need to be truthful.

We need to be like Christ.

Christian Carnival

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

A Father's words of faith

"My beloved son, delight of my heart, hope of your posterity, I pray, I command, that at every time and in everything, strengthened by your devotion to me, you may show favor not only to relations and kin, or to the most eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbors or fellow-countrymen, but also to foreigners and to all who come to you.

"By fulfilling your duty in this way you will reach the highest state of happiness.

"Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart the example of the Lord who said, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'

"Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak.

"Finally, be strong lest prosperity lift you up to much or adversity cast you down. Be humble in this life, that God may raise you up in the next.

"Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you may never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness of lust like the pangs of death.

"All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown, and without them no one is fit to rule here on earth or attain to the heavenly kingdom."

* * * * *

Stephen's son would be later killed in a hunting accident

Stephen's life thereafter would be filled with grief and many troubles, but through it all he remained faithful in his imitation of Christ, even as a heir of barbarian warlords.

Stephen, first king of Hungary, died in August 1038

His words and his faith would live on.

45 years later, both he and his son were declared saints

The memory of St. Stephen of Hungary is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at just another day of Catholic pondering.

Blessed is she that believed

In the first chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, many amazing things are said about Mary, the mother of Jesus, beginning with verse 28:

And the angel came in unto her, and said,
Hail, thou that art highly favoured,
the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women.

We hear more of this in today's Gospel (Luke 1:39-56).

Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb....

Behold, from henceforth

all generations shall call me blessed.

Obviously all of this relates to Mary becoming the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ - part of the very center of salvation history, but otherwise perhaps not very relevant, it might seem, to our day-to-day lives.

But Mary's becoming the mother of her Lord and Savior was not a matter of random chance: it was entirely a matter of grace and faith - and that is very relevant to our day-to-day lives.

Without that grace and faith, Mary could not have been the mother of Jesus. Grace and faith are fundamental and primary, as our Lord reminds us later in Luke's Gospel (11:27-28):

And it came to pass, as he spake these things,
a certain woman of the company
lifted up her voice, and said unto him,
Blessed is the womb that bare thee,
and the paps which thou hast sucked.

But he said, Yea rather,
blessed are they that hear the word of God,
and keep it.

You and I cannot aspire to give biological birth to Christ, but thanks be to God we can aspire to grace and faith.

You and I might not be able to aspire to be called blessed among women or for all generations like Mary, but by the grace of God you and I can aspire to be people of faith like Mary and to have it said about us, like Mary:

Blessed is she that believed:
for there shall be a performance of those things
which were told her from the Lord.

How much more Mary

And Enoch walked with God:
and he was not;
for God took him.
Gen 5:24

By faith Enoch was translated
that he should not see death;
and was not found,
because God had translated him:
for before his translation
he had this testimony,
that he pleased God.
Hebrews 11:5

And it came to pass,
as they still went on, and talked,
that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire,
and horses of fire,
and parted them both asunder;
and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

2 Kings 2:11

And she spake out with a loud voice, and said,
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
And whence is this to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For, lo,
as soon as the voice of thy salutation
sounded in mine ears,
the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
And blessed is she that believed:
for there shall be a performance of those things
which were told her from the Lord.
Luke 1:42-45

"...and if He had prepared a place in heaven for the Apostles,
how much more for His mother;
if Enoch had been translated and Elijah had gone to heaven,
how much more Mary..."
Theoteknos, Bishop of Livias (near Jericho), c. 600 A.D.

Today the Church celebrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

(from a previous post)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Focus into God

Today's first reading is the famous vision that opens the book of the prophet Ezekiel.

Or at least part of it: Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28c.

The verses and the imagery omitted from the passage are fascinating. The imagery of the four living creatures would come again in the visions of the book of Revelation and would provide the traditional iconography for the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Other aspects of the vision have been seized upon by some imaginative people who say that Ezekiel really had a close encounter with a UFO.

But those details are set aside for today's reading.

The focus is sharpened on what is the most important part of the reading: the vision of God himself.

Yet even when the focus is thus sharpened, much remains unclear. Ezekiel's descriptions are vague ("something like.... something like....") and challenge translators (Ezekiel uses the obscure word "Chashmal" which may mean "amber," "electrum," or even "gleaming bronze" - as in the RSV below).

And above the firmament over their heads
there was the likeness of a throne,
in appearance like sapphire;
and seated above the likeness of a throne
was a likeness as it were of a human form.

And upward from what had the appearance of his loins
I saw as it were gleaming bronze,
like the appearance of fire enclosed round about;
and downward from what had the appearance of his loins
I saw as it were the appearance of fire,
and there was brightness round about him.

Like the appearance of the bow
that is in the cloud on the day of rain,
so was the appearance of the brightness round about.

Such was the appearance
of the likeness
of the glory
of the LORD.

The task that lies before us is to see more clearly into this glory, to focus more into God.

We can get caught up in many details - and many of them may be important and godly - but we must never forget that our ultimate destiny is the vision of God himself: a vision of infinite dimensions and inexhaustible beauty for which eternity itself is insufficient to behold and explore.

Until the day when God calls us to stand before him face to face (give me that grace and show me your mercy, Lord), we must prepare, focusing into God in our prayer and in our worship, through the Sacraments and the Scriptures and the beauty of his creation.

We must focus into God, letting his grace strip away from us those things which are not godly, which impede us from the glory of God.

We must focus into God most of all in and through his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Come, Lord, enlighten us and unburden us, that we may shine with your light in this darkening world, and that we may focus ever more perfectly into the glory that is yours.

Mad Max

Some said that there were things that made Max mad.

Some said that he said bad things about Jews or at least worked with people who said terrible things about Jews (during a very sensitive time).

But Max did not hate Jews: he had even worked at great personal risk on behalf of Jews.

He loved all people and most of all, he loved the truth.

Of course, Max would occasionally step out of line.

One day Max stepped out of line and took the place of a man who had been chosen for death.

Father Maximilian Maria Kolbe was put to death by lethal injection on this very day 65 years ago at Auschwitz.

He would be canonized by another Polish priest, the great Pope John Paul II, in 1982.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

"We Have a Positive Idea to Offer"

Vatican Radio and Deutsche Welle have posted a translated transcript of last week's television interview with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

The Holy See has posted the original German text together with translations in Italian and "unofficial" English.

As always, Pope Benedict has wonderful things to say and he says them wonderfully - even off the cuff.

Well worth reading.

(Hat tip: Amy, Fr. Stephanos, and Sandro Magister)

Else the journey will be too long

Sometimes we get tired.

Sometimes we just want to stop.

That is the way Elijah feels in today's first reading (1 Kings 19:4-8):

He prayed for death saying:
"This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life..."

....but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
"Get up and eat,
else the journey will be too long for you!"

He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights
to the mountain of God....

If we feel tired,
if we feel worn out,
if we feel that we just want to stop,
we must remember to eat.

And in today's Gospel (John 6:41-51), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says this:

I am the living bread
that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread
will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh
for the life of the world

We must always remember to eat spiritually, so that we may continue the journey our Lord sets before us in this world.

Let us come to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us eat of the Bread of Life.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


The question comes up again and again.

Why do the wicked prosper - often at the expense of the innocent?

The question is asked in today's first reading (Habakkuk 1:12-2:4):

Are you not from eternity, O LORD,
my holy God, immortal?


Too pure are your eyes to look upon evil,
and the sight of misery you cannot endure.

Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence
while the wicked man devours
one more just than himself?


Shall he, then, keep on brandishing his sword
to slay peoples without mercy?

I will stand at my guard post,
and station myself upon the rampart,
And keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what answer he will give to my complaint.

Then the LORD answered me and said:
Write down the vision
Clearly upon the tablets,
so that one can read it readily.

For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment,

and will not disappoint;
If it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.

The rash man has no integrity;
but the just man,
because of his faith,
shall live.

There are many wicked people today who slay the innocent.

And there are also many rash people: impatient at the seeming tolerance of injustice and tragedy by a just and merciful God.

They cannot make sense of it, so they conclude that there must therefore be no justice or no God or both.

What arrogance.

Human reason is indeed the way humans try to make sense of the world and human reason is very efficacious, but it is not infinite.

A child may not be able to understand the reason for something, but that does not mean a reason does not exist.

It is human arrogance (and indeed ignorance) to think otherwise.

We should use our intellects, but we must also be realistic and to some extent patient.

Our minds can discover and understand much, but there will always be the need for faith.

Faith does not always yield the answer of instant gratification, but it provides the truest strength.

For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment,

and will not disappoint;
If it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.

The rash man has no integrity;
but the just man,
because of his faith,
shall live.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Woe to the bloody city

Once again, today's readings are topical and challenging.

The first reading (Nahum 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7) starts happily...

See, upon the mountains there advances
the bearer of good news,
announcing peace!

But the last verses are brutal in their imagery and their impact.

Woe to the bloody city, all lies,
full of plunder, whose looting never stops!

The crack of the whip,
the rumbling sounds of wheels;
horses a-gallop,
chariots bounding,
Cavalry charging,
the flame of the sword,
the flash of the spear,
the many slain, the heaping corpses,
the endless bodies to stumble upon!

I will cast filth upon you,
disgrace you and put you to shame;
Till everyone who sees you runs from you, saying,
"Nineveh is destroyed; who can pity her?
Where can one find any to console her?"

(Nineveh, of course, was the capital of an ancient empire centered in what is now Iraq.)

In these days of war and terror, the images in these verses resonate tragically and there are some people who might point to a particular city or a particular ideology as being the modern fulfillment of this prophecy.

It is always risky, of course, to tie Scripture to one's geopolitics: to think automatically that we and our friends are the Chosen People and our opponent is the bloody city full of lies.

Ultimately, this passage reminds us that no matter how awesome and fearful earthly power may be, whether we are the victims or the victors, God's power is even greater.

This message is reinforced by the verses from which today's Responsorial is taken: most especially Deuteronomy 32:39 (slightly truncated in the Lectionary).

Learn then that I, I alone, am God,
and there is no god besides me.

It is I who bring both death and life,
I who inflict wounds and heal them,
and from my hand there is no rescue.

Victim or victorious, fearful or confident, we are all in the hands of God, whose ways may sometimes seem depressingly unfathomable, but who is himself infinitely merciful and inescapably just.

Yet we cannot be passive. We must fulfill our responsibilities as people in society, as members of families, as fellow human beings and - most importantly - as people of faith.

We must also remember the truest road to peace: laid before us in today's Gospel (Matthew 16:24-28).

Whoever wishes to come after me
must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.

For whoever wishes to save his life
will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
will find it.

What profit would there be
for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?

Or what can one give in exchange for his life?

For the Son of Man will come
with his angels in his Father's glory,
and then he will repay each
according to his conduct.

She was rich and beautiful

and all the men wanted her. They approached her with their charming smiles and boastful dreams.

They bored her.

Instead, she was fascinated with the village idiot.

To be sure, where she lived was much larger than a village and he was technically not an idiot. He had been a fine young man from a good family, but his life had gone off track. He was virtually homeless and went about town talking loudly.

Strangely enough, other young men of the town had joined him. He said they were embracing the simplicity and the poverty of Christ.

She knew what that meant.

She and other young women needed to embrace the simplicity and poverty of Christ.

Around the age of eighteen, she withdrew from the world. Her father threatened to drag her back home, but he was soon realized that it was pointless.

St. Clare of Assisi, friend of St. Francis, led the community she founded for four decades until she died of natural causes on this very day in the year 1253.Tens of thousands of Poor Clare nuns continue to follow her example of prayer and devotion to Christ, from Kiryushi, Japan, to Birmingham, Alabama (the convent of Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN).

(adapted from earlier posts)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Message to Muslims

"My beloved Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, once said to the young Muslims assembled in the stadium at Casablanca, Morocco: 'The young can build a better future if they first put their faith in God and if they pledge themselves to build this new world in accordance with God's plan, with wisdom and trust' (Insegnamenti, VIII/2, 1985, p. 500).

"It is in this spirit that I turn to you, dear and esteemed Muslim friends, to share my hopes with you and to let you know of my concerns at these particularly difficult times in our history.

"I am certain that I echo your own thoughts when I bring up one of our concerns as we notice the spread of terrorism. I know that many of you have firmly rejected, also publicly, in particular any connection between your faith and terrorism and have condemned it. I am grateful to you for this, for it contributes to the climate of trust that we need.

"Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts of the world, plunging people into grief and despair. Those who instigate and plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our relations and destroy trust, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful and serene life together.

"Thanks be to God, we agree on the fact that terrorism of any kind is a perverse and cruel choice which shows contempt for the sacred right to life and undermines the very foundations of all civil coexistence.

"If together we can succeed in eliminating from hearts any trace of rancour, in resisting every form of intolerance and in opposing every manifestation of violence, we will turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress towards world peace.

"The task is difficult but not impossible. The believer - and all of us, as Christians and Muslims, are believers - knows that, despite his weakness, he can count on the spiritual power of prayer.

"Dear friends, I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims. There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values.

"The dignity of the person and the defence of the rights which that dignity confers must represent the goal of every social endeavour and of every effort to bring it to fruition. This message is conveyed to us unmistakably by the quiet but clear voice of conscience. It is a message which must be heeded and communicated to others: should it ever cease to find an echo in peoples' hearts, the world would be exposed to the darkness of a new barbarism.

"Only through recognition of the centrality of the person can a common basis for understanding be found, one which enables us to move beyond cultural conflicts and which neutralizes the disruptive power of ideologies.

"During my Meeting last April with the delegates of Churches and Christian Communities and with representatives of the various religious traditions, I affirmed that 'the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole' (L'Osservatore Romano, 25 April 2005, p. 4).

"Past experience teaches us that, unfortunately, relations between Christians and Muslims have not always been marked by mutual respect and understanding. How many pages of history record battles and wars that have been waged, with both sides invoking the Name of God, as if fighting and killing, the enemy could be pleasing to him. The recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of religion.

"The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other's identity. The defence of religious freedom, in this sense, is a permanent imperative, and respect for minorities is a clear sign of true civilization. In this regard, it is always right to recall what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said about relations with Muslims.

"'The Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God.... Although considerable dissensions and enmities between Christians and Muslims may have arisen in the course of the centuries, the Council urges all parties that, forgetting past things, they train themselves towards sincere mutual understanding and together maintain and promote social justice and moral values as well as peace and freedom for all people' (Declaration Nostra Aetate, n. 3).

"For us, these words of the Second Vatican Council remain the Magna Carta of the dialogue with you, dear Muslim friends, and I am glad that you have spoken to us in the same spirit and have confirmed these intentions.

"You, my esteemed friends, represent some Muslim communities from this Country where I was born, where I studied and where I lived for a good part of my life. That is why I wanted to meet you. You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith.

"Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation. I learn with gratitude of the spirit in which you assume responsibility.

"Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our time. There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for partiality and sectarianism. We must not yield to fear or pessimism. Rather, we must cultivate optimism and hope.

"Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends.

"The young people from many parts of the world are here in Cologne as living witnesses of solidarity, brotherhood and love.

"I pray with all my heart, dear and esteemed Muslim friends, that the merciful and compassionate God may protect you, bless you and enlighten you always.

"May the God of peace lift up our hearts, nourish our hope and guide our steps on the paths of the world."

Benedict XVI
Address to representatives of some Muslim communities
Cologne - August 20, 2005


I don't know about you, but today's readings (2 Corinthians 9:6-10 & John 12:24-26) challenge me.

They are a reminder that I have a long way to go as a Christian.

I need to give more: more of my time, more of my money, more of the talents and the things I have. I need to do more for others with the little knowledge and abilities I have.

Of course, I should not abandon prudence, but neither should I confuse prudence with fear.

Whoever sows sparingly
will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully
will also reap bountifully.

Each must do as already determined,
without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.

God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things,
always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.

As it is written:

He scatters abroad,
he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.

The one who supplies seed to the sower
and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Jesus said to his disciples:

"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat
falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.

Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.

The Father will honor
whoever serves me."

People told stories about Larry

Everyone knew that he was a deacon of the Church, that he was well thought of, and that he was arrested during one of those large-scale roundups by the authorities.

Some said he was originally from Spain. Some said that when he was asked to show where the “riches” of the Church were kept, he pointed to the poor.

Some said that he ran into one of his old mentors in prison as he was being led to his execution.

Many said that Larry was killed by being burned alive (and afterwards he always appeared in paintings with a gridiron).

What is accepted by historians is that St. Lawrence, deacon of the Church of Rome, was executed under the emperor Valerian on this very day in the year 258.

(from an earlier post)

Christian Carnival

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

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Jesus went to...

The Gospels are full of transitional verses, marking the end of one incident and the beginning of another. Usually they seem dry and uninteresting to the modern reader.

But today, that transitional verse, the first verse of the Gospel (Matthew 15:21-28) is chilling.

Then Jesus went from that place
and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.

As almost everyone knows, on this very day, the cities of Tyre and Sidon are heavily involved and greatly suffering in the war between Hezbollah and Israel.

We pray for the innocent people suffering in those cities and throughout that area - in modern Lebanon and modern Israel - where our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ once walked.

May they come to know the healing and saving presence of Christ.

We pray also, as we must, for the men of violence who bring death and destruction upon the innocent.

May they come to know the truth of Christ, turn their hearts to his way of love, and beg for his mercy.

Let grace come and this violence pass away.

Come to us, Lord Jesus.

"Since the Catholic Bishops have meddled...

"...in affairs that have nothing to do with them, all the Catholic Jews will be deported by the end of this week. No intervention (in their favor) will be respected."

So said the Nazis the day after their actions had been condemned from every Catholic pulpit in Holland.

Within the week, several hundred had been rounded up, including two Carmelite nuns who were biological siblings and converts from Judaism. They were taken out of their convent on August 2, 1942 and brought to Auschwitz a week later, where they were immediately put to death.

One of these two sisters had been a brilliant philosopher – a protégé of the famous Edmund Husserl. Her writings before and after her conversion would influence a young Polish priest and philosophy student who would become the great Pope John Paul II.

Sister Teresa Benedict of the Cross, whose birth name was Edith Stein, was put to death on this very day 64 years ago. She was beatified in Cologne, Germany, in 1987 and declared a saint in 1998.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

8 men receive Dominican habit today

Today, on the Feast of Saint Dominic,
in Cincinnati, Ohio,
eight men received the Dominican habit.

from the Vocations Site
of the Order of Preachers - Province of St. Joseph