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, November 30, 2006

Stop what you're doing

In today's Gospel (Matthew 4:18-22), four men are very busy working hard at their jobs when suddenly our Lord walks up and tells them to follow him.

They drop what they are doing and follow the Lord's call.

You and I may often be very busy: with our jobs, errands, and so forth.

Are we listening for the call of the Lord?

How ready are we to drop what we are doing and do what the Lord wants us to do?

This does not mean neglecting our obligations to our children or other solemn godly commitments (although we need to be careful about our rationalizations).

Nor does this just mean a call from God to a vocation (although it may be that as well).

Sometimes it is a call to do just one simple thing or to say one simple word of faith or kindness.

Very often we may be busily engaged in the stuff of our daily lives: checking off our list of things to do or perhaps just heavily involved in enjoying life's pleasures.

Very often in the midst of our busy lives, the Lord may be calling us to stop what we are doing and to be an instrument of his truth and love: to reach out to a person in need, to plant a seed of faith, or to help someone step more fully into the light of Christ's truth.

Are we listening for the call of the Lord?

How ready are we to drop what we are doing and do what the Lord wants us to do?

Pastor to become Archbishop

Yesterday, Father Gerard Pettipas, C.Ss.R., was pastor of St. Joseph’s parish in Grande Prairie, Alberta, in the northern Alberta Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan .

This morning, he is the Archbishop-elect, the Holy Father having named him as successor to the retiring Archbishop Arthé Guimond.

Archbishop-elect Pettipas was born in 1950 in Halifax, Nova Scotia; obtained a Bachelor of Arts at Holy Redeemer Redemptorist College in Windsor, Ontario, in 1971 and began studying at Montreal’s Redemptorist Formation House the same year; made his first profession in 1973; and was ordained a priest in 1977.

He served in parishes in Newfoundland until 1980, in formation ministry in Toronto from 1980 until 1990, as Director of the Holy Redeemer College Retreat Centre in Windsor 1990-1992, back to Toronto for youth ministry 1992-1995, and pastor of St. Patrick parish in Toronto 1995-1999. He has been pastor at St. Joseph’s parish in Grande Prairie since 1999.

The Holy Father today also named

  • Father Joseph Chusak Sirisut, 50, as Bishop of Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, to replace the retiring Bishop Joachim Phayao Mansap. Bishop-elect Sirisut is a professor at the national major seminary.
  • Bishop Immanuel Bushu as the new Bishop of Buéa, Cameroon, to replace the retiring Bishop Pius Suh Awa. Bishop Bushu had been Bishop of Yagoua.
  • Father Christophe Zoa, 45, as auxiliary bishop of Yaoundé, Cameroon. Bishop-elect Zoa was ordained in 1991, has a doctorate in Canon Law, and is currently the Chancellor of the Diocese.

Wanting more / having it all

Andrew did not have much free time. He and his brother ran a small business together and the work kept him pretty busy. Yet he felt the need for more.

He was a devout young man, whose interest in religion extended beyond the weekend, yet he felt the need for more.

For one thing, there was a decided lack of good preaching in the area where he lived.

Then one day he heard preaching like he had never heard before, from a man whose holiness and fervor for God blazed like fire. Andrew went to listen to him every chance he had.

Now Andrew felt that he was on track: he no longer felt the need for more.

Or did he?

The question stuck somewhere in the back of his brain, but he put it away and continued to drink in the marvelous preaching of God's word.

One day they both happened to be standing outside with one or two others. Andrew couldn't remember much about what they were doing, but suddenly the marvelous preacher, whom the whole country knew as John the Baptist, pointed and said:

"Behold the Lamb of God!"

Almost without thinking, Andrew walked over to the man to whom John was pointing.

"What are you looking for?" the man asked.

Andrew didn't know what to say, but he knew he wanted more.

"Teacher, where do you live?"

The teacher said, "Come and see."

Andrew went and saw. He and his brother Simon eventually left their fishing business and followed Jesus of Nazareth, all the way to their own deaths on their own crosses.

St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr of Jesus Christ, had it all.

The Feast of St. Andrew is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Perseverance against hatred

In today's Gospel (Luke 21:12-19), our Lord warns his followers that they will encounter terrible opposition in the world.

You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.

If we are serious about our faith, we will encounter opposition: sometimes subtle opposition, sometimes not so subtle. Yet no matter what happens, even if (as our Lord says in this same passage) we are put to death, we are perfectly safe in the hands of God.

Our focus, of course, should not be on opposition, but on faithfulness and on being instruments of the Holy Spirit in giving witness to the truth and the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We need to pray continually for the gift of ever greater faithfulness, for the gift of God's wisdom, and for the grace of perseverance, that our lives may be saved through Christ.

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - an ecumenical collection of posts from various Christian blogs - is online at Brain Cramps for God.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Catholic Carnival

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

News of terror and words of peace

The news we hear from around the world can be frightening, especially in these days when wars and conflict seem to be boiling over and threaten to flood the world with terror.

The words of our Lord in today's Gospel (Luke 21:5-11) speak directly to us in this time.

But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions,
be not terrified:
for these things must first come to pass;
but the end is not by and by.

Then said he unto them,
Nation shall rise against nation,
and kingdom against kingdom:
And great earthquakes shall be in divers places,
and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights
and great signs shall there be from heaven.

That which terrifies others should stimulate us to deepen our faith and to place ourselves more firmly in the Lord's hands - no matter what - so that we may not be terrified but rather have peace and confidence through the grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We do well also to echo the simple words St. Teresa of Avila wrote in her prayer book:

Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la pacïencia
todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene,
nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.

Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee;
All things are passing,
God never changeth!
Patient endurance
attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth
in nothing is wanting;
Alone God sufficeth.

The wrath of God

And the angel
thrust in his sickle into the earth
and gathered the vine of the earth,
and cast it
into the great winepress
of the wrath of God.

(The word of the Lord. T-t-thanks b-be... [gulp] ...t-to God.)

Today's first reading (Revelation 14:14-19) ends with a powerfully frightening image. But if you think that's bad, consider the verse that follows after:

The wine press was trodden outside the city
and blood poured out of the winepress
to the height of a horse's bridle
for two hundred miles.

(Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me, a sinner.)

How does one reconcile such terrifying descriptions of "the wrath of God" with the idea that God is love?

The truth is that God is indeed love. That which is depicted in this passage as "the wrath of God" is simply the accumulated result of the evil committed by mankind over the millennia. The words of Lincoln's second Inaugural Address come to mind:

"Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"

God in his love has given us freedom, so that we may freely love him, and although he enables us by his grace to choose love, he does not take back that gift of freedom, even when we choose not to love him and it is this choice - the choice to not love God - that is the essence of all evil.

For a time, God shields us from the full effects of the evil that we and all of mankind have committed. As St. Peter says,

The Lord does not delay his promise,
as some regard "delay,"
but he is patient with you,
not wishing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance.
(2 Peter 3:9)

Yet there will come a time when the choice will be behind us, when we will have passed the last fork in the road.

If, by the grace of God, we have chosen to love God and to be faithful to that choice, then we will be purified by that grace and experience the fullness of the grace we have lived in the eternal beatific vision of God in heaven.

If, however, (God forbid) we have chosen to not love God or have made a mockery of loving God, then we will experience the fullness of the evil we ourselves have wrought and have only temporarily eluded.

(May God have mercy upon me and make me walk down the center of the path that leads to Him.)

The images are frightening, but the reality is deadly serious - indeed, it is eternally serious.

God gives us the eternal gift of choice. God wants us to choose to love him. We should not delay. We dare not delay. You and I as individuals must choose God and purge ourselves of evil, embracing his truth and his love in its fullness before it is too late.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Can't learn this

In today's first reading (Revelation 14:1-3,4b-5) includes this cryptic reference (among the many, many cryptic references in this book):

No one could learn this hymn
except the hundred and forty-four thousand
who had been ransomed from the earth.

A relatively clear message of this verse is that faith, ultimately, is not something that can be learned by human intellectual effort alone: it is a gift.

From time to time, you and I may have trouble understanding or dealing with some aspect of the faith that has come down to us from Christ. This effort is often complicated by the dissonant voices and temptation that whirl about us on this earth.

Today's first reading is a reminder that faith is a gift and that we must always pray for the Lord to give us more of that gift: that we may understand more fully what Christ teaches more fully and live those teachings more perfectly each and every day of our lives.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pre-pilgrimage Prayer

"Heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, we humbly ask that you sustain, inspire, and protect your servant, Pope Benedict XVI, as he goes on pilgrimage to Turkey – a land to which St. Paul brought the Gospel of your Son; a land where once the Mother of your Son, the Seat of Wisdom, dwelt; a land where faith in your Son’s true divinity was definitively professed. Bless our Holy Father, who comes as a messenger of truth and love to all people of faith and good will dwelling in this land so rich in history. In the power of the Holy Spirit, may this visit of the Holy Father bring about deeper ties of understanding, cooperation, and peace among Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and those who profess Islam. May the prayers and events of these historic days greatly contribute both to greater accord among those who worship you, the living and true God, and also to peace in our world so often torn apart by war and sectarian violence.

"We also ask, O Heavenly Father, that you watch over and protect Pope Benedict and entrust him to the loving care of Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, a title cherished both by Catholics and Muslims. Through her prayers and maternal love, may Pope Benedict be kept safe from all harm as he prays, bears witness to the Gospel, and invites all peoples to a dialogue of faith, reason, and love. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen

Source: Bishop William E. Lori via the Knights of Columbus - who are sponsoring a "spiritual pilgrimage" for the time of the Pope's visit to Turkey.

(Hat tip: American Papist)

Christ the King

Jesus answered,
"My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here."
So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?"
Jesus answered, "You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Everything good and more

In today's Gospel (Luke 20:27-40), our Lord says something very interesting about marriage:

The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy

to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die,
for they are like angels....

This is disappointing news for some married people, who are distressed at the idea they will no longer be married to the love of their lives in heaven.

The truth is, of course, that none of us shall be disappointed in heaven. It is important to remember, however, that heaven very much transcends our earthly frames of reference. That is the fundamental point that our Lord is making here: heaven is not just Our Earthly Life - Part II: it is a fundamentally different reality.

Personally, I think that the bonds of love that we experience in this life will be transformed and that while the earthly, flesh-bound concepts of marriage will no longer apply, these transformed bonds of love will be even deeper and more wonderful than we can imagine in the eternal bliss of heaven.

Purify me, Lord Jesus, and let me flow with your love in this world, so that I may rejoice in you forever in the Father's kingdom.

Cracking down in Egypt

A young woman in Egypt named Catherine accepted Christ as her savior, entered the Church, and spoke to people about Jesus.

The government frowned on that, so she was arrested and eventually executed.

That was over 1500 years ago.

The memory of St. Catherine of Alexandria is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Live for the People of God

"Today's Priests Live Full Lives,
But Their Main Role is to Lead the Church

Q. "Why does the Church need priests?

A. "The Eucharist is the source and summit of the life of the Church. Without the Eucharist, there is no Church. In a sacramental way, Christ is present to the Church in the person of the priest. All of the sacraments offer a personal encounter with Christ, and the priest is the one who offers the sacraments.

Q. "How do I know if God is calling me to the priesthood?

A. "Today, many people look to the future and ask: 'What do I want to do with my life?' The proper question is: 'God, what do you want me to do with my life for you?' To know if you are being called, you must have a prayerful relationship with God, since God is the one who calls us to a specific vocation. Often, when someone senses that God is calling them to the priesthood, there is a negative reaction. This is normal, but do not think that it means you are not meant to be priest. Very often, it is a positive indicator!

Q. "What qualities are looked for in a priest?

A. "A desire to serve others - love for the Church - deep faith - man of prayer - leadership ability - one who relates well with people - and one who is a builder of the community."

from the Vocations page of the Diocese of Orlando

The words of the Lord

Both of today's readings describe the attractiveness of the words of the Lord.

"All the people were hanging on his words," says the last verse of the Gospel (Luke 19:45-48).

The first reading (Revelation 10:8-11) uses a complex, colorful metaphor (no surprise):

I took the small scroll from the angel’s hand
and swallowed it.
In my mouth it was like sweet honey,
but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour

To extend this metaphor further: sweet or sour, comforting or challenging, the word of the Lord always nourishes the soul.

Today's readings are an invitation for us to spend more time to read the word of the Lord more often.

The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces....

How sweet to my palate are your promises,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Vietnam veterans

Andrew Dung Lac An Tran, 54, priest

Anthony Quynh Nam, 72, doctor

Dominic Henares, 83, bishop

Francis Trung Von Tran, 33, soldier

John Charles Cornay, 26, priest

Joseph Uen, 52, priest

Paul Le Bao Tinh, priest

Peter Thi Van Truong Pham, 76, priest

There were many more: well over a hundred
- missionaries and natives,
priests, bishops, catechists,
farmers, doctors, soldiers,
husbands and fathers -
martyred for the Christian faith in Vietnam
in various ways and in various locations over the centuries,
canonized in 1988 as the Martyrs of Vietnam
and celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

And looking up to heaven,
to You, His Almighty Father,
He gave You thanks...

Et elevatis oculis in caelum
ad te Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem,
tibi gratias agens...

(from an earlier post)

If this day you only knew what makes for peace

On this day in the United States, there is the emotional reunion of many families to celebrate Thanksgiving Day.

On this day in the normal rotation of readings, the Gospel (Luke 19:41-44) presents the emotional reunion of Our Lord with the Holy City of Jerusalem.

What our Lord said then in tears to Jerusalem he also says to us.

If this day you only knew what makes for peace...

Words to remember as we gather with our families.

If this day you only knew what makes for peace...

Words to remember as we continue with the day-to-day struggles of our lives.

What makes for peace? Renouncing the totalitarianism of selfishness, embracing the Lordship of Christ, and working for the true good of our fellow man - in our families and around the world.

Arrested as a terrorist

He was a religious zealot who had received special training overseas.

He often used disguises.

He was sentenced to death for attempting to murder a former president with a bomb.

He was executed by the lawful authorities...

...seventy-nine years ago today - right after this picture was taken.

The charges were false.

Father Miguel Agustin Pro's real "crime" was to be zealous in administering the Sacraments during a time when Mexican authorities were viciously persecuting the Church.

In 1988, he was beatified by the great Pope John II.

(adapted from an earlier post)

He was a good-looking Irish lad

who made the women swoon.

Those who didn't swoon chased him.

He was flattered and very much tempted, but his heart belonged to God, so he decided to become a monk (over the energetic objections of his mother).

For many years he devoted himself completely to prayer, reflection, and spiritual writing.

Then, he felt God call him to leave his refuge and to become a missionary. When he was sure that it was the Lord’s will, he and several of his fellow monks left Ireland to preach Christ in foreign lands.

The foreign lands were not happy to receive them. In fact, the Church was already there (although the fire of Christian devotion was not what it once was) and local clergy grumbled about the Irishmen. But, here and there, the monks were able to establish small monasteries from which they could work to evangelize the people anew.

Toward the end of his life, he retired to a small cave where he had built a chapel high above a river amid beautiful snowcapped mountains.

There in the mountains of northern Italy, St. Columbanus, son of Ireland and re-evangelist of Europe, died on November 21, 615. His memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

The bishop had problems

His was a rather new diocese (it was only about half a century old and there had been only three bishops before him) but there was no shortage of problems.

One of the diocese’s main problems was that its bishops kept getting killed.

The problems in his own diocese did not blind him to the problems of the Church elsewhere. In fact, he was so moved by the plight of one diocese that he wrote them a letter, even though they were many hundreds of miles away and had already received letters and personal visits from the most exalted authorities in the Church.

The bishop's letter turned out to be truly magnificent. Copies were made and it would be read throughout the world.

As for the letter writer himself, the good bishop would indeed be killed, as had been the three bishops before him: his friends and mentors Cletus, Linus, and Peter - the fisherman from Galilee who had been named by Christ himself.

The letter that St. Clement, martyr and fourth bishop of Rome, had written to the Corinthians remains widely read still and his memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bring them here and slay them before me

We know Jesus Christ as our loving Savior and Lord.

Many people today, however, even people within the Church, often depict our Lord as a cartoon of fuzzy warm feelings, without a shred of what they would call being judgmental.

In order to do this, of course, these people must throw away the Gospels, especially passages such as the one proclaimed today (Luke 19:11-28): a parable of the last judgment, which ends with these chilling words from the messianic king:

Now as for those enemies of mine
who did not want me as their king,
bring them here and slay them before me.

Jesus loves us: this we know.

Jesus came into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it.

But salvation in Christ comes not from the ways of the world, but from the way of Christ; not from what the world calls love, but from the love God created and showed us in his Son; not from enjoying the good life and the fruits of this world, but from bearing fruit that will last in Spirit and in truth, in word and in deed.

We can fool ourselves, but when we come at last to stand before the Lord, all things will be clear: including whether we have let ourselves be filled with eternal life, or have filled ourselves with this world's deeds and attitudes of death.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me - a sinner.

She was a heartbreaker

She was a little girl whose beauty would shake the confidence of any little boy, but her own heart was always given to Christ.

She was known for her devotion to the Lord and for the things she did for the Church and for Christians.

That is why she was killed.

People continued to talk about her afterwards, remembering the grace with which she lived her life and with which she endured her death.

Churches were built in her memory. Many stories of her life were told and grew in the telling. Musicians in particular have been drawn to her memory and consider her their patron.

For more than 1500 years, the memory of this young girl, St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr, whose heart forever belongs to Christ, has been celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Good show, deadly finale

Many of us, especially those of us with a more-or-less high profile in faith communities, appear to be pretty faithful Christians (not that there's anything wrong with that).

The tricky part is that our externals - our words, deeds, and surface lifestyle - can give others the idea that we are perfect and holier-than-thou, while in fact we are sinners.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me - a sinner.

Worst of all, we might even fool ourselves, but there is no fooling God.

What the Spirit says to the churches in today's first reading (from Revelation 3) is thus said also to us:

I know thy works,
that thou hast a name that thou livest,
and art dead.

Be watchful,
and strengthen the things which remain,
that are ready to die:
for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

Remember therefore
how thou hast received and heard,
and hold fast,
and repent.

If therefore thou shalt not watch,
I will come on thee as a thief,
and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee….

Thou sayest, I am rich,
and increased with goods,
and have need of nothing;
and knowest not that thou art wretched,
and miserable,
and poor,
and blind,
and naked:

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire,
that thou mayest be rich;
and white raiment,
that thou mayest be clothed,
and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear;
and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve,
that thou mayest see.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten:
be zealous therefore,
and repent.

I stand at the door, and knock:
if any man hear my voice, and open the door,
I will come in to him,
and will sup with him, and he with me.

To him that overcometh
will I grant to sit with me in my throne,
even as I also overcame,
and am set down with my Father in his throne.

He that hath an ear,
let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Showing our faith by our words, deeds, and lifestyle is good and necessary.

But what is even more necessary is for us to realize continuously that we are sinners, that we have still more need of repentence, and that we are absolutely dependent upon the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Through Christ, we have life.

Without Christ, there is only death.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me - a sinner.

Catholic Carnival

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

A nice Jewish girl

Today's memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple, like all Marian celebrations, is ultimately about Christ her son, the Savior of all. It reminds us that our Lord’s coming was a culmination of a long history of God’s relationship with his chosen people, that our Lord was born into that unique tradition and covenant with God, and that he was born into the very best of that tradition: of a woman specially devoted and dedicated to the Lord from the very beginning.

May we give thanks for the long history of God’s salvation among us and may we ourselves become ever more devoted and dedicated to the Lord through the power of his grace.

(from an earlier post)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ancient and new

As we draw to the end of the liturgical year, the daily readings turn to the book at the end of the Bible: the book of Revelation, the famous, complex vision of the end of time.

In today's first reading (Revelation 1:1-4; 2:1-5), we hear the first of the letters to the churches in Asia Minor (what is now Turkey): to the church in Ephesus. This takes on special interest this year, since Pope Benedict is about to visit Turkey and will be celebrating Mass at Ephesus a week from this Wednesday.

As for the message itself, the words written so long ago speak sharply to us today (certainly to me), calling us back to the full love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, ever fresh and ever new:

You have lost the love you had at first.

Realize how far you have fallen.

Repent, and do the works you did at first.

Come into my heart afresh, Lord Jesus, and fill me, that your love may flow from me to all those I meet.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress

(No, it's not the family gathering at Thanksgiving.)

Today's first reading (Daniel 12:1-3, from which the above title comes) and today's Gospel (Mark 13:24-32) both describe the end of the world with fearful language.

In the words of our Lord…

In those days after that tribulation
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

And then they will see
'the Son of Man coming in the clouds'
with great power and glory...

And in the words of Daniel…

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth
shall awake;
some shall live forever,
others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.

These apocalyptic visions are terrifying, but lest they be dismissed as bogeyman mythology, consider the horrors that the modern world has already unleashed upon us: from Mengele to Hiroshima to Pol Pot to Osama Bin Laden; consider the threat of nuclear proliferation in the hands of madmen, the totalitarianism of political correctness, the nihilism of ideological extremists ("scientific" or "faith-based"), or the deadly recklessness of irresponsibility in business, politics, or activism.

(And those are just the man-made global threats and do not include asteroids, calderas, and other natural acts of planet-wide extinction.)

One way or the other, our world is coming to an end: if only when we as individuals die.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.

Yet even the signs of impending apocalypse bring hope for the faithful.

In the same way,
when you see these things happening,
know that he is near...

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, and have mercy on me.

Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.

And so we have hope, no matter what terrors may beset us, as today's Psalm says (Psalm 16:5, 8-11)…

Therefore my heart is glad,
my soul rejoices;
my body also dwells secure,
For you will not abandon me to Sheol,
nor let your faithful servant see the pit.
You will show me the path to life,
abounding joy in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.

Even when the signs are foreboding, our Lord gives us reason to hope, to draw closer to him, to beg for his mercy, and to move forward in confidence.

In the same way,
when you see these things happening,
know that he is near...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Please help them

Today's first reading (3 John 5-8) sounds a bit like a commercial - and it is, but for the best of reasons.

Please help them
in a way worthy of God
to continue their journey.
For they have set out
for the sake of the Name
and are accepting nothing from the pagans.
Therefore, we ought to support such persons,
so that we may be co-workers in the truth.

It is a good reminder for us to support the work of missionaries, but also to support the work of those who spread the word of God through means of modern communication: filmmakers, publishers, communication campaigns, radio and television outlets, websites and bloggers (other than myself)...

...so that we may be co-workers in the truth.

Basilicas and Apostles

Today's optional memorial of the Dedication of the Basilicas of the Apostles Peter and Paul is first and foremost yet another opportunity to celebrate the great faith of these two men and their special roles in Christ as foundation stones of the Church.

It is also an opportunity to appreciate the Basilicas themselves.

One of my favorite parts of St. Peter's Basilica is the Altar of the Chair, dominated by Bernini's magnificent sculpture group towering above it: the Cathedra Petri - the "Chair of Peter."

Four great Fathers of the Church – St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Athanasius, and St. John Chrysostom – each extend a single finger to hold a majestic chair aloft; on the back of the chair is an image of Christ entrusting the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to St. Peter; inside the chair are the venerated remnants of an ancient chair said to have been used by St. Peter himself; atop the chair two cherubs hold a papal tiara; and above it all is the glory of the Holy Spirit.

In this recent picture, the latest successor of Peter sits beneath the "Chair of Peter."

One of the most interesting features of the Basilica of St. Paul's "Outside the Walls" is the atrium: a common feature of ancient basilicas (an opportunity to "decompress" after walking in off the street and to prepare for entering a very special building).

Here, the gentle garden and covered walkways are centered on a statue of St. Paul wielding the sword of God's word.

Places of worship can be lesson books in themselves: witnessing both to the details and to the power of faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

(from an earlier post)

In 1818, she took a little trip...

...a little-known Frenchwoman, up the mighty Mississippi river.

She had nearly died from disease during the long ocean crossing. Now this petite 49-year-old would barely survive this hazardous river voyage.

But she would recover, settle in the Missouri territory, and would start teaching school out of a log cabin.

It was not exactly a complete success: her teaching style was foreign and her English was terrible.

In the end, however, most people recognized that the children were getting a good education and that the Frenchwoman's heart was in the right place.

She would establish convents and schools up and down the Mississippi. She also worked to help Native Americans. After 34 years of serving God on the American frontier, she would die at the age of 83 on this very day in 1852 in St. Charles, Missouri.

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne was canonized by Pope John Paul II on the 3rd of July 1988.

(from an earlier post)

Friday, November 17, 2006

"With it" and "out of it"

Many people today, especially young people, desperately want to be seen as being "with it" - in sync with what is fashionable and "up-to-date."

In the end, they are disappointed, for the fashions of the moment inevitably collapse into the ash heap of history: forever "out of it."

Today's readings (2 John 4-9 and Luke 17:26-37) speak strongly to those who seek to live according to the fashions of this world.

Anyone who is so "progressive"
as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ
does not have God....

Whoever seeks to preserve his life
will lose it,
but whoever loses it
will save it.

May we root ourselves in the eternal truth of Christ (forever "with it"), not the flowing quicksand of passing philosophy and contemporary culture.

May we seek abundant life in eternal happiness as we walk faithfully with Christ in this world and not chase after the quickly-dying spark of earthly pleasure.

With all my heart I seek you;
let me not stray from your commands.

Within my heart I treasure your promise,
that I may not sin against you.

A precious girl

When she was four years old, Elizabeth was essentially sold to a rich family.

When one of the family's sons reached manhood, Elizabeth was given to him for his wife, even though she was only 14.

As it turned out, the young man truly loved Elizabeth and she loved him. They became partners in life, prayer, and even work. When work called her husband away, Elizabeth would run the family business - thus great power and riches were placed in the hands of a still young girl.

Tragically, on one of those trips, Elizabeth’s husband would die, making her a widow at the young age of 20.

Powerful people quickly plotted against her. Elizabeth fled and devoted herself to the care of the sick. In a few years, Elizabeth would herself be overcome by sickness and weariness in the service of the Lord, dying on this very day at the age of 24.

Very soon, sick people would visit her grave and be healed. News quickly spread throughout the Church. Within four years, in 1235, Elizabeth of Hungary – wife, mother, princess, and servant of the wretched – was declared a saint.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

TIME: Today's Nun Has A Veil--And A Blog

Good article in TIME Magazine about religious vocations today.

(picture from website of the
Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist)


The Vocations Website of the Order of Preachers - Province of St. Joseph has pictures and video of their recent celebration of the Solemn Profession by four young men.

Rethinking the demeaned

We all have people in our lives of whom we think little, who are demeaned and denigrated in our thoughts and attitudes.

In today’s first reading (Philemon 7-20), St. Paul is writing to a slave master about an escaped slave of his: about whom the slave master would have a very, very, very low opinion.

Yet St. Paul exhorts him to treat this despised one
"no longer as a slave
but more than a slave,
a brother,
beloved especially to me,
but even more so to you,
as a man and in the Lord."

Do we need to rethink our view of fellow Christians of whom we think badly?

Do we need to remember that they are our brothers and sisters and renew our love for them in the Lord?

Lonely never again

Nobody knows what happened to the little girl’s parents. Nobody is even sure where they were from.

She was five years old and absolutely alone in the world.

The Benedictine nuns who ran a local school took the little girl into their care and named her after their abbess Gertrude. The abbess’ biological sister (also a member of the abbey) ran the school and took special care of little Gertrude.

With such special care, little Gertrude truly grew in wisdom and grace. She would join the abbey, would be blessed with amazing visions and would write tremendous works of spirituality.

St. Gertrude died in her mid-forties on November 17 at the very start of the 14th century. Today, November 16, the Church throughout the world celebrates the memory of this saint who had once been a lonely little girl.

(from an earlier post)

After the death of Macbeth

One of the gems of the English language, this short speech by Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play captures powerfully the darkness of godless despair.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth was a great warrior who consulted with pagan witches and murdered his way to the throne of Scotland, stabbing to death his liege lord Duncan while he slept in Macbeth’s own house.

In time, Duncan’s son Malcolm would return to claim his father’s throne and Macbeth would die in battle.

There would be many more changes.

After Malcolm’s first wife died, he married an Anglo Saxon princess, whose family had just been exiled by the Norman Conquest. Malcolm was devoted to her and Margaret bore him several children.

From Margaret would descend nearly all of the subsequent kings of Scotland and also – beginning with the famous King James – all of the kings and queens of the United Kingdom to this day (not to mention other illustrious descendants).

Margaret was also a strong woman with an intense Christian faith. Through Christ, she knew the true significance of life, with all its sound and fury.

She worked with Malcolm to drive out paganism and to expand and reform the life of the Church in Scotland. She was generous to the poor, loving to her family, and deeply devout in her prayer (she had once hoped to be a nun).

Margaret, woman of faith and mother of kings, died in Edinburgh on this very day in 1093.

St. Margaret of Scotland was canonized in 1251.

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Be a law-abiding do-gooder

Sometimes being a Christian is not that complicated.

Yes, sometimes there is a direct, explicit, and unavoidable conflict between God’s law and the laws of particular governments or between what is truly good and what popular opinion feels is good.

When those conflicts arise, we must certainly cling to God and his truth.

But most of the time, in most places, we can and should obey lawful authorities and go along with people doing "good work" even if these authorities and people do not believe as we do. Among other things, it is part of our being good witnesses.

By the grace of God, we have been blessed with the true faith (yet that should not be a cause for smugness on our part).

If St. Paul in today's first reading (Titus 3:1-7) could write to Christians living in a thoroughly pagan society, how much more do these words speak to us, even as we strive to remain faithful to Christ in a culture that seems increasingly "post Christian":

Admonish them to be subject to princes and powers,
to obey at a word, to be ready to every good work.
To speak evil of no man, not to be litigious but gentle:
shewing all mildness towards all men.

For we ourselves also were some time unwise,
incredulous, erring,
slaves to divers desires and pleasures,
living in malice and envy,
hateful and hating one another.

But when the goodness and kindness
of God our Saviour appeared:
Not by the works of justice which we have done,
but according to his mercy,
he saved us,
by the laver of regeneration
and renovation of the Holy Ghost.

A gift used well, then taken

His father was well off, so Albert could go to the best schools - which he did.

While he was in college, however, he happened to hear a powerful preacher who was in town.

It changed Albert's life...

...at least partly: Albert would stay in school, but he would soon be begging in the streets as well: renouncing his inheritance in imitation of Christ’s poverty.

Albert's mind was powerful and wide-ranging. He not only became an authoritative theologian and philosopher, but eventually one of the most famous scientists in the world. He also mentored a young man who would become one of the most famous theologians and philosophers of all time. Albert would also be the bishop of a diocese.

Then, toward the end of his life, having given up everything to follow Christ, Albert lost his most treasured possession: that amazing gift God had given him.

Although a clinical diagnosis would not be possible, Alzheimer's disease (or something very much like it) took away Albert's incredible intellect.

Yet nothing could take away what this friar had accomplished, and history would remember him well, even after he could remember nothing, as "Albert the Great."

St. Albert the Great - Dominican friar, bishop of Cologne, doctor of the Church, and mentor of St. Thomas Aquinas - died on this very day in 1280.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, November 14, 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.

Everyone be sober!

In traditional translations of today's first reading (Titus 2:1-14), St. Paul exhorts Titus to pass on various exhortations to various kinds of people.

In some traditional translations, an exhortation that is common to all the different kinds of people is to "be sober."

Sadly, in the impoverished lexicon of contemporary culture, being "sober" means only to be free of the influence of alcohol and drugs.

To be sure, that meaning is not alien to Paul's intent here, but to be "sober" means so much more: to be dignified, steady, clear-eyed, rational.

These qualities of life and behavior are consistent with our Christian faith (they "become sound doctrine"). We should carry ourselves with the dignity of being children of God. We remain steady when our lives, hearts, and minds are grounded firmly in the truth of faith, which also enables us to see clearly amid the fog of this world's deceptions and allurements. We are totally rational when we conform our minds to the mind of Christ, the eternal Wisdom of God through whom all things were made.

For the grace of God
that bringeth salvation
hath appeared to all men,
Teaching us that,
denying ungodliness and worldly lusts,
we should live soberly,
righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Looking for that blessed hope,
and the glorious appearing
of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Who gave himself for us,
that he might redeem us from all iniquity,
and purify unto himself a peculiar people,
zealous of good works.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Repentant Recidivist?

In today’s Gospel (Luke 17:1-6), our Lord commands us to forgive endlessly.

If your brother sins, rebuke him;
and if he repents, forgive him.
And if he wrongs you seven times in one day
and returns to you seven times saying, 'I am sorry,'
you should forgive him.

A question comes to mind, however, that would be particularly sensitive for many:

What about the repentant abuser (spouse, teacher, priest, etc)?

Given the likelihood and dangers of recidivism is endless forgiveness appropriate?

The answer is "yes," of course (our Lord did not indicate exceptions), but forgiveness in our human sphere does not automatically include the total establishment or restoration of trust. Nor does it remove the offender's obligation (where possible) to contribute to healing. Forgiveness, however, makes it possible to start healing and perhaps even to build trust. Indeed, our Lord's mandate of continual forgiveness makes these processes more effective.

That being said, there are certainly situations in which a lifetime may not be enough to rebuild enough trust to overcome the applicable risks and dangers. This judgment, of course, should not be made rashly, but sometimes it must be made.

Yet even where trust cannot prudently be restored in this life and where protective measures must remain firmly in place, we must still forgive - in our hearts and in our souls - for our own sakes.

Child care

Frances' parents had thirteen children in all, but education was very important to them, so they had Frances go to school at a convent.

When she came of age, she wanted to become a nun herself, but she had health issues. A priest suggested that she try teaching at an orphanage.

She proved to be wildly successful. In fact, when the orphanage closed several years later, the local bishop asked Frances to found a new religious order to care for poor children.

Her reputation continued to spread so much that the Pope himself soon asked her and her order to serve as missionaries.

That is how Frances found herself, around fifty years old, with six other nuns in a very strange land, working among the poor and displaced. The girl who had been rejected as a nun and went on to start her own order established as many as 67 school, hospitals, and orphanages on three continents.

Still working in her mid-sixties, Frances contracted malaria and then died in that strange land to which the Holy Father had personally sent her: dying in Chicago on December 22, 1917 and being buried in New York City.

Just over twenty years later, on this very day, Frances was beatified. When she was canonized in 1946, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first American citizen to be formally declared a saint.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The poor and the abandoned

Poor widows figure prominently in today's readings.

In today's first reading (1 Kings 17:10-16), a poor widow - a single parent struggling to care for her son in a time and place where many are starving - is preparing to the last bit of food that stands between them and death.

In the long form of today's Gospel (Mark 12:38-44), poor widows are being victimized by religious scholars even as at least one of them outshines the rich in true generosity.

Poor widows were perhaps the most neglected individuals in many ancient cultures, yet God is depicted as looking out for their interests, as we hear in the first reading, the Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 146:7-10), and many other places.

The LORD raises up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD protects the stranger,
sustains the orphan and the widow,
but thwarts the way of the wicked.

When we are prosperous and popular, life seems good and too often we are disdainful of those who are poor and abandoned.

Too often we are also forgetful of God, relying instead on our material and social blessings (forgetting God who made all things possible).

We dare not forget God.

We dare not disdain or ignore the poor and the abandoned.

Otherwise, when the things of this world pass away - as they surely shall - we will find ourselves poor and abandoned for eternity.

May the Lord Jesus have mercy on us.

May we share with others the mercy and the blessings we have received, most especially the poor and abandoned.

May God be with us all.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The experience of a vocation

"The experience of a vocation is unique and indescribable, and is only perceived as a gentle breeze of the clarifying touch of grace. A vocation is a breathing of the Holy Spirit, who, at the same time as he genuinely shapes our fragile human realities, shines a new light into our hearts. The Spirit instills an extraordinary power that merges our existence into the divine enterprise."
Pope John Paul II

from the vocations page of
the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA

"The first and foremost thing a Catholic chaplain in any branch of the service needs is a deep passion for Catholicism and a strong desire to bring that faith and the sacraments to the people and families in the military. You must also have a love for the priesthood and ministry.

"In the service, our work is very much a ministry of presence, a real 24-hour job. One of the unique qualities of being a priest in the military is that this is such a large piece of the vineyard in which to get your hands dirty. There are no boundaries that delineate where your ministry should begin or end. You can be as creative as you want and use your gifts and talents every day."
Fr. Michael Biewend, USAF

"There are a number of special summer programs for young men in Catholic seminaries who wish to explore a call to serve as a military chaplain." Click here for more information

"A Catholic priest seeking to serve in the US military as a chaplain, whether on active duty, the Reserve or in the National Guard, or to serve as a chaplain at a VA facility, must first obtain written permission from his Ordinary or Religious Superior." Click here for more information.

Thanks to those who serve

Today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, commemorates the end of the First World War. It is a day of remembrance of and appreciation for the sacrifices of all veterans who fought for peace and freedom (since this day falls on a weekend this year, some celebrated yesterday).

We remember in prayer those who have died in military service.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace.

I would like to extend my personal appreciation to all those who have served and most especially to all those who now serve.

May God watch over you
with his unconquerable mercy.
May the Lord bring true peace and freedom
to the places where you serve
and to the people you protect.
(adapted from an earlier post)

All things through him

The world is a terribly uncertain place and sometimes it seems impossible to prepare for, let alone endure, the unpredictable ups and downs that life throws at us.

In today's first reading (Philippians 4:10-19), St. Paul reveals his experience of life's challenging ups and downs as well as the secret of his success.

I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.

In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed
and of going hungry,
of living in abundance
and of being in need.

I have the strength for everything
through him who empowers me.

The one who empowers St. Paul, of course, is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: the same Lord who can and will empower us in all of our successes and all of our challenges - if only we remain rooted in him.

Army brat makes good

Martin was what is affectionately known as a "military brat."

His dad was an army officer and the family moved around a lot, depending upon where his father was assigned.

It was no surprise that when he was old enough, Martin joined the army too.

Martin's unit was eventually deployed far from his family. During that deployment, Martin became interested in the Church.

One day, he found a half-naked beggar shivering beside the road. Martin tore his weather gear in half and gave it to tAChe man.

After Martin was honorably discharged, he embraced a life of prayerful solitude. He developed a reputation for holiness and a community of monks gathered around him.

When the bishop of a nearby city died, Martin was asked to replace him (they had to beg him to accept).

Martin proved to be a very effective shepherd: ministering to the needs of the people, aiding Churches in other areas, and yet retaining the ascetic lifestyle of a monk - living in a small cell just outside of town.

Martin died an old man after a long life of service to God and his people and was buried on this very day in the year 397.

His reputation continued to spread even after his death and St. Martin of Tours would be one of France’s most venerated men of God.

(from an earlier post)

Friday, November 10, 2006

We shall cast into the deep




(pictures from last month's diaconate ordination
at St. Peter's Basilica
for the Pontifical North American College)

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee
has many excellent discernment opportunities
for men in high school, college, and after college at



As believers, we recognize the absolute necessity of God's grace.

We also recognize the critical role of God's providence.

What we sometimes fail to recognize is the vital importance of prudence.

That is the moral of the strange parable our Lord gives us in today's Gospel (Luke 16:1-8): a parable that almost seems to endorse unethical behavior.

And the master commended that dishonest steward
for acting prudently.

For the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than the children of light.

Our Lord here is not endorsing dishonesty, skimming, kickbacks, or crooked accounting.

Our ways are not to be the ways of this world, as St. Paul reminds us in today's first reading (Philippians 3:17-4:1):

Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers,
and observe those who thus conduct themselves
according to the model you have in us.

For many, as I have often told you
and now tell you even in tears,
conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.

Their end is destruction.
Their God is their stomach;
their glory is in their shame.

Their minds are occupied with earthly things.

But our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior,
the Lord Jesus Christ.

He will change our lowly body
to conform with his glorified Body
by the power that enables him also
to bring all things into subjection to himself.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for,
my joy and crown,
in this way stand firm in the Lord,

The point of our Lord's parable is that whereas the children of this world are prudent and proactive with the things of this world, we as children of the light need to be prudent and proactive with the things of God.

We need to let the grace of God and his gift of faith be more fully manifested in our lives.

We rely on God's grace and providence, but we also need to pray continually for discernment and to use the intelligence we have received from God, so that God's grace and providence may find prudent and useful instruments in us.

Attila confronts Leo and friends

This 17th century bas relief marble altarpiece by Alessandro Algardi in St. Peter's Basilica portrays Pope St. Leo the Great repelling Attila the Hun from his attack on Rome in 452. Attila raises his arm in fear as the Apostles Peter and Paul appear with swords in the sky.

The "go to" guy

He wasn't from the big city, he was relatively young, and he was only a deacon, but Leo was the bishop's "go-to" guy.

Leo could do it all: helping with thorny theological problems, administering church matters, and even traveling to aid churches in strife-torn lands.

Leo was on one of those trips when the bishop died. It was no surprise that Leo was chosen to be the new bishop.

Leo faced a number of challenges, inside and outside the Church. Yet he always remembered his primary duty was pastor.

He improved the organization of the Church and continued to help churches in strife-torn lands.

At one point, strife seemed about to spread to Leo's own city.

At the center of the strife was an exceptionally violent man: the epitome of barbarism. The government went to Leo to help.

Leo went out and talked to the man face-to-face. The man who was terrorizing the civilized world turned away and spared Leo's city.

Leo's sermons were so magnificent, they became widely published.

When he was unable to attend an ecumenical council, he sent a letter that clearly set out the truth of the Christian faith. When the letter was read, the bishops at the council stood up and exclaimed, "Peter has spoken through Leo!"

Leo died on this very day in the year 461, having proved to be a very worthy successor of St. Peter as Bishop of Rome: a great teacher of Christian truth and pastor of souls, who successfully faced down heretics and even Attila the Hun.

Later centuries would refer to him as Pope St. Leo the Great.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Remember where you are

In today's Gospel (John 2:13-22) we hear an account of our Lord's “Cleansing of the Temple.”

He found in the temple area
those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money-changers seated there.

He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area,
with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money-changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
"Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father's house a marketplace."

His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.

Why were they changing money and selling animals there? Simple practicality: animal sacrifices were essential in the worship of God in the temple at that time and people could generally not use the currency they carried with them (especially since they were coming from all parts of the known world).

Likewise when you and I enter our places of worship, there are often many practical and social necessities that rightfully require our attention.

Our Lord's admonition to the moneychangers is a challenge also to us: to focus as much as possible on the worship of God when we are in our places of worship and to avoid making our Father's house a marketplace or a chat room or just a normal place for everyday life.

Whenever we come before the Lord to worship may we always be mindful of our being in the holy dwelling of the Most High.

Conspiracies and confiscations

"A man of high character, free from self-seeking aims, and solely anxious to rid his country of a tyrant who was humiliating and ruining it."

So wrote Alfred J. Church of a man named Plautius in his book Pictures from Roman Life and Story, echoing Shakespeare’s eulogy of Brutus:

This was the noblest Roman of them all:
All the conspirators, save only he,
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
He only, in a general-honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.

(Julius Caesar, Act V, Scene 5)

Brutus was one of the conspirators who killed Julius Caesar.

Plautius was a conspirator against the infamous Emperor Nero.

The conspiracy to kill Julius Caesar succeeded in the short term, but was crushed by the imperial backlash. Brutus would fall on his sword, but his name would be widely remembered in honor and dishonor down through the ages.

The conspiracy to kill Nero would fail. Plautius would be executed and all of his family’s property would be confiscated by the government.

The name of Plautius is remembered by few today, but the confiscation of his family's property would keep the family name in the memory of hundreds of millions even to this day.

Less than three centuries after Plautius' death, his family's estate would be donated by the government to the newly legalized Christian church and its buildings converted into the cathedral church of the city of Rome.

The cathedral would be dedicated to the memory of St. John the Baptist, but the people of Rome also remembered the family of Plautius, the family that had made that place their home so many years before: the Laterani family.

Today the Church worldwide celebrates the anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral of Rome, St. John Lateran.

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Christian Carnival

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

Not happy about the election?

Do everything without grumbling or questioning,
that you may be blameless and innocent,
children of God without blemish
in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
among whom you shine like lights in the world,
as you hold on to the word of life,
so that my boast for the day of Christ may be
that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

(from today's first reading - Philippians 2:12-18)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Today is election day in the United States: a critical opportunity for citizens who are serious about their faith to make a difference in this world.

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at "...and if not..."

Beat the bushes

Inertia is a law of motion and a fact of human life.

We get in our little ruts and follow them pretty much indefinitely.

In today's Gospel (Luke 14:15-24), our Lord challenges us to go beyond the well-worn paths we have trodden in our Christian walk.

Our Lord calls us to be his witnesses and to proclaim his Gospel to every creature.

He calls us particularly to reach out to those who are physically and spiritually needy (even though they may not realize their infirmities).

Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city,
and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed,
and the halt, and the blind.

We need to reach out beyond the walls of our churches and beyond the circles of like-minded to which we cling in our daily lives and in cyberspace.

And the lord said unto the servant,
Go out into the highways and hedges,
and compel them to come in,
that my house may be filled.

We need to get out of our ruts and beat the bushes to bring people the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so that they may enter into his truth.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Don't just write a check

There are people today acclaimed as great humanitarians who write checks for millions of dollars to worthy causes or who make highly publicized photo ops at soup kitchens and orphanages (in between movie sets, concert tours or big business deals).

Even those of us who are not rich and famous often show our generosity by donating old clothes, responding to direct mail charity solicitations, or putting a few dollars in the second collection for the missions.

These are good things in themselves.

But in today's Gospel (Luke 14:12-14), our Lord challenges us to be more up-close and personal in our generosity: not just writing a check or redirecting hand-me-downs, but as intimate as breaking bread with those the world considers wretched refuse.

When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends
or your brothers or sisters
or your relatives
or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back
and you have repayment.

Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled,
the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be
because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid
at the resurrection of the righteous.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Deal or no deal?

There is an instinctive idea that good things should happen to people who do good things. This seems reaffirmed by the beginning of today's first reading (Deuteronomy 6:2-6):

Fear the LORD, your God,
and keep,
throughout the days of your lives,
all his statutes and commandments
which I enjoin on you,
and thus have long life.

Hear then, Israel,
and be careful to observe them,
that you may grow and prosper the more,
in keeping with the promise of the LORD,
the God of your fathers,
to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.

It sounds like a good deal.

History and personal experience, however, teach that good and bad things often happen to people irrespective of their moral state: good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, and most people experience an uncertain mix of good and bad in their lives.

On balance, over the long-term, good things follow from moral actions and bad things follow from immoral actions (which is why good business ethics always makes good long-term business sense), but the cognitive dissonance of bad things happening to good people can still be hard to deal with (especially if you are the afflicted good person).

The classic response to this apparent quandary is that the apparently good person was not perfectly good. Indeed, we are all sinners - we all fall short somehow - and indeed the people of Israel to whom the words of today's reading were addressed would go on to violate quite a number of the statutes and commandments that the Lord had enjoined upon them.

The simple truth is that evil actions always have evil results, even when those evil results are not immediately apparent.

The scary truth is that evil actions always have evil results even when there was not evil intent or when there was an impeccable excuse.

It should therefore be no surprise that the world around us is piled high with the evil effects of innumerable evil deeds - ours and others. Both the deliberate and the well-intentioned evils of humanity have woven a web of evil consequences that a thousand years of altruism alone could not undo.

Not a very pretty picture or pleasant future.

What then of the promises of the Lord we hear in today's first reading? Was this really good-sounding deal really no deal at all?

Knowing our sinful nature, was God making cruel taunts under the guise of a fair-sounding covenant, offering a tantalizing paradise that we would never be able to attain?

No, the promises are true, just as the statutes and commandments of the Lord offer a sure path for doing good and avoiding evil, but the fulfillment of the promises becomes possible only through the infinite merits of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: a fulfillment, in fact, more wonderful and glorious than anything possible by human perfection alone – a "long life" that is eternal bliss, a land flowing with the milk of God's never-ending love and the honey of his inexhaustible Truth.

As we await the total realization of that fulfillment, there is no greater preparation than the Great Commandment set forth in the first reading and repeated in today's Gospel (Mark 12:28b-34):

Sh'ma Yisrael
Adonai Elohaynu
Adonai Echad

V-ahavta et Adonai Elohecha
b-chol l'vavcha
u-v-chol naf'sh'cha
u-v-chol m'odecha.

Hear, O Israel!
The LORD is our God,
the LORD alone!

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.

No matter what, may everything we do be filled with the love of the Lord.

May everything we feel be filled with the love of the Lord.

May our every thought and word be filled with the love of the Lord.

Now and in the world without end.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thoughts about vocations

(by Father Philip N. Powell, OP)
"I've been thinking about vocations a lot lately. My province—Province of St Martin de Porres—is having a vocations weekend at the priory on Nov 10-12th. I’ve invited several young men from the university to attend and most of them have accepted. We’re expecting between 10 and 12 retreatants.

"I wanted to suggest the following about vocations:

"1). There is no vocations crisis. God is calling more than enough men to the priesthood to cover the needs of the Church. The real crisis is twofold: a). crisis of commitment and b). crisis of encouragement...."

(for more, read the full entry in Father's blog Domine, da mihi hanc aquam!


Here are some reflections on discernment from the website of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia Congregation (the Nashville Dominicans).

It is safe to say they know what they are talking about: in August of this year (as pictured below), the sisters welcomed over a dozen postulants, eleven others took first vows, and six others took final vows.

"Discernment often begins with the question, 'How do I know what God wants me to do with my life?' The answer lies in growing closer to Christ, listening to Him and thus being open to discovering His unique call to each of us.
"As we open ourselves to this discovery, Christ extends an invitation. We can choose to spend our time ignoring it, or we can freely respond with love.

"Fear is very often the first emotion experienced in the process we call 'discernment.' That is because we spend so much time planning our own lives, with the idea that we are in ultimate control of our future.

"But vocation means that Someone is calling you, and that your future will have to include an answer to that call. When Christ calls and we find ourselves saying 'Who? Me?', we may also have a long list of concerns and objections, such as: 'But I’m not good enough!' and 'What if …I make a mistake?' Instead of turning (inward on) ourselves, we need to turn the questions into a conversation, directing them to God Himself – asking them honestly in silence and prayer and seeking to listen to Him.

"If one is called to the religious life, God’s grace transforms fear into conviction, and we begin the first steps to finding and accepting His will. It is there that we find peace and joy that nothing else can match."


Not entirely pure motives

Today's first reading (Philippians 1:18b-26) begins with the punch line at the end of a very interesting observation by St. Paul about his imprisonment.

I want you to know, brothers,
that my situation has turned out rather

to advance the gospel,
so that my imprisonment has become well known in Christ
throughout the whole praetorium and to all the rest,
and so that the majority of the brothers,
having taken encouragement in the Lord

from my imprisonment,
dare more than ever to proclaim the word fearlessly.

Of course, some preach Christ from envy and rivalry,
others from good will.

The latter act out of love,
aware that I am here for the defense of the gospel;
the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition,
not from pure motives,
thinking that they will cause me trouble

in my imprisonment.

What difference does it make,
as long as in every way,
whether in pretense or in truth,
Christ is being proclaimed?

And in that I rejoice.

Many people find the less-than-pure motives of some Christian preachers to be a stumbling block, but St. Paul does not: not even when these less-than-pure motives are directed at him personally.

His focus is on the message of Christ.

Yes, motives could be better - and we should all strive for greater purity and selflessness in what we do for Christ (our impure hearts cannot escape the scrutiny of God) - but the message of Christ is desperately needed in this world of violence, darkness, and selfish noise.

We are called to perfection and we strive for perfection, but none of us on this earth have yet attained perfection.

Even so, Christ still calls us - imperfect instruments though we are - to proclaim his message and teach all nations.

We must proclaim the truth of Christ, even as we repent our sins and seek to grow in God’s grace, for the message is the Lord's and he alone is the Holy One.

Quoniam tu solus Sanctus.
Tu solus Dominus,
Tu solus Altissimus,
Jesu Christe,
Cum Sancto Spíritu
in gloria Dei Patris.

The abbot had a speech impediment

Some people thought he was mentally challenged.

He was hardly ever at the abbey.

He was also just a bit young to be the abbot of a large monastery.

In fact, he was twelve!

Obviously, there were some "issues."

The nasty fact was that young Charles belonged to a very rich and very powerful family that had an inordinate amount of influence in Church affairs.

Sad to say, this kind of thing was the cause of scandal more than once in the history of the Church.

But not in this case, for Charles was more than just a scion of money and power: he was also tremendously brilliant, extraordinarily capable, and deeply pious.

He used all of his gifts to bring about reform throughout the Church, beginning with the monastery "left" to him by one uncle and extending all the way to an ecumenical council that reformed the Church at every level (with the help of yet another uncle, Pope Pius IV).

And he did all this - and much, much more - before dying at the age of 46, on November 3, 1584.

The memory of St. Charles Borromeo, Cardinal Archbishop of Milan (among other jobs), who was known as the "Apostle to the Council of Trent," is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Readers,this is what I REALLY think of you!

I give thanks to my God
at every remembrance of you,
praying always with joy
in my every prayer for all of you,
because of your partnership for the Gospel
from the first day until now.

I am confident of this,
that the one who began a good work in you
will continue to complete it
until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right that I should think this way
about all of you,
because I hold you in my heart,
you who are all partners with me in grace,
both in my imprisonment
and in the defense
and confirmation
of the Gospel.

For God is my witness,
how I long for all of you
with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase
ever more and more
in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value,
so that you may be pure and blameless
for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ
for the glory and praise of God.

(from today's first reading Philippians 1:1-11)

His father was a rich white man

His mother was a poor unwed black girl.

Martin grew up in poverty.

When he was eleven, he started doing menial jobs for the Dominican fathers.

Later, they received Martin into the order.

He helped establish an orphanage, a hospital for the poor, and even an animal shelter. He also was devoted to constant prayer and penance.

St. Martin de Porres died on this very day in 1639 and was canonized by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Do not lose me

Stepping into utter oblivion.

Passing into the irrevocable unknown.

Slipping into the darkness of forever.

That is the human view of death.

Quite often, we try not to think about it: we try to distract ourselves, one way or another.

All Souls Day reminds us: someday, perhaps soon, you and I are going to be dead - just like those people who were once part of our lives and then were suddenly swallowed up by the abyss of death.

All Souls Day also reminds us of this core tenet of our faith: that Christ came to conquer death for our sake.

The words of the Dies Irae come to mind:

"Recordare Jesu pie,
quod sum causa tuae viae:
ne me perdas illa die."

"Remember, O dear Jesus,
That I am the cause of your journey:
Do not lose me on that day. "

And our Lord Jesus gives us his answer in one of the Gospels available for use at Masses today (John 6:37-40):

Haec est autem voluntas eius qui misit me Patris
ut omne quod dedit mihi
non perdam ex eo
sed resuscitem illum novissimo die

And this is the will of him who sent me, of the Father:
that of all that he has given me,
I should not lose one from among them;
but should raise that one up on the last day.

By the grace of the Holy Spirit and the love of our heavenly Father, in our humble but heartfelt prayers, we faithfully place ourselves and everyone we have ever loved into the hands of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

He will not lose us.

Embracing fear of death with faith

Some Latin chants comfort; some chants inspire.

The Dies Irae frightens.

And yet on All Souls Day, even in the post-Vatican II Church, the Dies Irae remains an official liturgical option.

Of course, it could be pastorally reckless to unleash this ominous chant on an unprepared congregation, especially when congregants may be emotionally vulnerable as they commemorate their departed loved ones.

What then is the value of the Dies Irae?

People often tend to cover over unpleasant things with euphemisms and platitudes.

In the Dies Irae, all euphemisms and platitudes are swept away and we stand in a dark and open valley to face the reality of death and the damage of sin.

There we stand, but not alone, for in that lonely and frightening place we are even more keenly aware of the presence of Christ, of the greatness of his mercy, and of our desperate need for it.

Our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ enables us to walk through the darkest of valleys and to find strength and joy in his grace and mercy.

Dies irae, dies illa
solvet saeclum in favilla,
teste David cum Sybilla.
A day of wrath, that day --
The world will dissolve in ashes,
As David and the Sibyl testify.

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

Tuba mirum spargens sonum
per sepulchra regionum,
coget omnes ante thronum.
A trumpet, spreading a wondrous sound
Through the graves of all lands,
Will bring all before the throne.

Mors stupebit et natura,
cum resurget creatura,
judicanti responsura.
Death and Nature shall be astonished
When all creation rises again
To answer to the Judge.

Liber scriptus proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur.
The written book will be brought forth,
In which all things are contained,
From which the world shall be judged.

Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet apparebit,
nil inultum remanebit.
When therefore the judge will take his seat
Whatever is hidden will reveal itself --
Nothing will remain unpunished.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
cum vix justus sit securus?
What then shall I say, wretch that I am,
What advocate entreat to speak for me,
When even the righteous may hardly be secure?

Rex tremendae majestatis,
qui salvandos salvas gratis,
salva me, fons pietatis.
King of awful majesty.
Who freely savest the redeemed,
Save me, O fount of goodness.

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

Quaerens me sedisti lassus,
redemisti crucem passus,
tantus labor non sit cassus.
Seeking me Thou didst sit down weary,
Didst redeem me, dying on the cross.
Let not such toil be in vain.

Juste judex ultionis,
donum fac remissionis
ante diem rationis.
Just judge of punishment,
Grant forgiveness
Before the day of reckoning.

Ingemisco tanquam reus,
culpa rubet vultus meus,
supplicanti parce, Deus.
I groan like a guilty man.
My face blushes from my sin;
Spare a supplicant, O God.

Qui Mariam absolvisti,
et latronem exaudisti,
mihi quoque spem dedisti.
Thou who didst absolve Mary (Magdalene)
And hearken to the thief,
To me also hast given hope.

Preces meae non sunt dignae,
sed tu, bonus, fac benigne,
ne perenni cremer igne.
My prayers are not worthy,
But Thou in Thy merciful goodness grant
That I burn not in everlasting fire.

Inter oves locum praeta,
et ab hoedis me sequestra,
statuens in parte dextra.
Place me among Thy sheep
And separate me from the goats,
Setting me at Thy right hand.

Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis,
voca me cum benedictis.
When the accursed have been confounded
And given over to the bitter flames.
call me to be with the blessed.

Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis,
gere curam mei finis.
I pray in supplication on my knees,
My heart contrite as the dust,
Take care of my end.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.
Mournful that day
When from the dust shall rise
Guilty man to be judged.

Huic ergo parce, Deus.
Pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem.
Therefore, spare them O God.
Dear Lord Jesus
give them rest.


(from a previous post)