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...

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Man enough?

If God called,
would you be man enough
to call back?

from the Vocations website of the Archdiocese of New York

What are you giving up?

Many people follow the practice of "giving something up for Lent."

Some people follow the practice of "doing something extra" for Lent: e.g., extra daily time for prayer, Daily Mass, additional charitable service, etc.

Some people do both.

The idea of giving things up has a special prominence in today’s Gospel (Mark 10:28-31):

Then Peter began to say unto him,
Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

As sinful people in a sinful world, there are obviously many things that we have to give up in order to follow Christ: sinful things - directly opposed to the ways of God.

Sometimes there are things that are not evil or sinful in themselves but that we need to give up because they are stumbling blocks for us personally, causing us to sin or to lose focus on the things of heaven.

Likewise, there may be things that neither violate God's law nor otherwise affect us morally or spiritually, but that we may need to give up because they can needlessly cause others to stumble on our account.

Finally, there are things that are neither stumbling blocks nor intrinsically evil, but which we give up as a sign that our ultimate fulfillment is not here in this life and the things of this world, but rather in the eternal blessedness of heaven.

"Giving something up for Lent" generally falls into the latter category: a concrete reminder of our otherworldly destiny.

And yet the beginning of Lent is also an important opportunity to take stock of all the things in our lives and to consider what holy things we need to add and what worldly things we need to remove - an opportunity that can be squandered if we simply do the "usual" things such as giving up candy.

We would do well to take advantage of this opportunity to pray and to discern how we can better fulfill our responsibilities as servants of the Lord: what to leave behind and what to take on in Christ.

And Jesus answered and said,
Verily I say unto you,
There is no man that hath left house, or brethren,
or sisters, or father, or mother,
or wife, or children, or lands,
for my sake, and the gospel's,
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time,
houses, and brethren, and sisters,
and mothers, and children, and lands,
with persecutions;
and in the world to come
eternal life.

Catholic Carnival

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

What an alignment! Catholic Carnival - Mardi Gras - Happy Catholic!

Galveston-Houston Handoff

This morning the Holy Father accepted the retirement of Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza as Archbishop of Galveston-Houston. The Coadjutor, Archbishop Daniel N. DiNardo, now takes over.

Monday, February 27, 2006

What are you looking at?

Why do some priests have big egos?

Perhaps it is because whenever they say Mass, most of the congregation looks at them and says, "...the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory are yours now and forever!"

("That's a joke, son.")


Seriously, there is important symbolic value in where people focus their eyes.

God, of course, is omnipresent, but we reaffirm his transcendence by lifting our eyes upward during at least part of the time we address him in prayer (something to be remembered by celebrants and congregants alike).

Also, when we lift up our eyes in prayer, we reaffirm our being open and directed toward our transcendent God (our God who chooses to be also intimately close to us by his grace).

Of course, when we lift up our eyes in prayer, it is very rare for any person to have any actual vision of God. Yet when we pray, by God's grace, we grow closer to him and his love.

Today's readings in different ways speak eloquently of this experience. St. Peter expresses it wonderfully (1 Peter 1:3-9):

Although you have not seen him you love him;
even though you do not see him now

yet you believe in him,
you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,
as you attain the goal of faith, the salvation of your souls.

And why do we love him? Because as we look to the Lord in faith and prayer, we have the same wonderful opportunity that the man in today's Gospel had (Mark 10:17-27):

Jesus, looking at him, loved him....

It is the most wonderful aspect of prayer: by faith and grace I look at the Lord Jesus and he looks at me in love.

It is an infinitely comforting gaze and yet also deeply challenging.

The man in today's Gospel looked away: his eyes were set on earthly riches.

We need to keep our eyes fixed on Christ and follow him wherever he may lead.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Marry me!

Nearly all of us remember at least one moment in our lives when we came face to face with someone we had adored from afar and we suddenly became stammering, wordless idiots.

That is what today’s first reading (from Hosea 2) does to me.

It is not only because the words are beautiful (they are) - it is because of the reality behind them: the passionate intimacy of the infinite love with which the Lord loves us and by which he calls us to himself.

I will espouse you to me forever:
I will espouse you in right and in justice,
in love and in mercy;
I will espouse you in fidelity,
and you shall know the LORD.

There are no words that I can say: I feel like the most clueless, stammering adolescent.

Perhaps, there are no words that need to be said.

What we must do is open our hearts and minds and souls to the Lord: to his words, to his love.

We must let the Lord lead us into the desert of our innermost emptiness and there let him speak to our hearts.

I will espouse you to me forever:
I will espouse you in right and in justice,
in love and in mercy;
I will espouse you in fidelity,
and you shall know the LORD.


Espouse me, Lord Jesus!

Saturday, February 25, 2006


One of the amazing and wonderful things about God is that he, who is omnipotent and omnipresent, chooses to work through fragile and limited human beings.

This mysterious and glorious reality is depicted in a number of ways in today’s first reading (James 5:13-20) as well as in the Church today.

God of course knows both our needs and our blessings without our needing to tell him (Matthew 6:32) and yet he invites us to tell him.

Is anyone among you suffering?
He should pray.
Is anyone in good spirits?
He should sing a song of praise.

Not only that, but he invites us to pray about other people’s needs.

(P)ray for one another, that you may be healed.

The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.

None of this is to say that our prayer tells God what he does not know or makes God “change his mind.” Rather, by inviting us to pray about these things, God is inviting us to participate – in deeply mysterious ways – in the unfolding of his loving will.

Nor are we to participate in the unfolding of that will and grace solely through the spiritual power of prayer. The grace of God, which comes to us through the Word made flesh, is not something manifested only by amorphous or otherworldly means. Our Lord empowers his body the Church to be channels of his grace through physical actions performed by specific individuals.

Is anyone among you sick?
He should summon the presbyters of the Church,
and they should pray over him
and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.

The prayer of faith will save the sick person,
and the Lord will raise him up.

If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another...

These Sacraments the Lord has given us are truly wonderful gifts and we should rejoice in the opportunities to receive them.

This dynamic of God’s grace working through human means, of course, goes beyond the very special channels of the Sacraments or of intercessory prayer.

We can be instruments of God’s grace through many ways – by our words, by our witness of faith, and by our acts of charity.

We may not always see the effects of what is done through us. Indeed, sometimes we may feel discouraged, not just when the multitudes fail to flock to the cross of Christ at our call but most especially and painfully when we see people close to us fall away from the faith.

But the work of conversion is really the work of God’s grace and this grace, even working through flawed and finite instruments such as ourselves, can work wonders in the lives of others – with effects we may not see until eternity (and then how great our rejoicing will be).

My brothers and sisters,
if anyone among you should stray from the truth
and someone bring him back,
he should know that whoever brings back a sinner
from the error of his way
will save his soul from death
and will cover a multitude of sins.

Friday, February 24, 2006

What he says is unimportant...

...and we do not hear his words.

So said a character once in an old television show, then explaining sotto voce to a colleague that he had just called the other person a liar.

Indeed, when a person is known to be a habitual liar, that person’s words are unimportant: that person's words have lost value.

But lies are not the only things that diminish the value of a person’s words.

I don’t pay attention to him: he’s just a complainer.

She can swear up and down all she wants: she goes back on her word too often.

Thus today’s first reading (James 5:9-12) warns us ominously against complaining and inconstancy.

Do not complain, brothers, about one another,
that you may not be judged.
Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.

Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers,
the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered.
You have heard of the perseverance of Job,
and you have seen the purpose of the Lord,
because the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

But above all, my brothers, do not swear,
either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath,
but let your “Yes” mean “Yes”

and your “No” mean “No,”
that you may not incur condemnation.

In some ways, the three items that St. James mentions here – complaining, perseverance, and oath taking – are very different topics, but a common theme that they share is how they affect the value of a person’s word.

And if our words have lost their value, we are less effective as witnesses to the truth of Christ.

Thus we do well not to be complainers and we do well to be people who are true to our word (making oaths superfluous).

Some of us, of course, have not been perfect in everything we have said. Some of us have complained too much. Some of us over-promise and do not follow through. Some of us have a habit of playing fast and loose with the truth. Some of us have even broken our most solemn words.

Reputation, reputation, reputation!
O, I have lost my reputation!
I have lost the immortal part of myself,
and what remains is bestial.
(Othello, Act II, scene 3)

What then are we to do?

First of all, as St. James says, “the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (thanks ever be to the Lord our Savior). By the grace of God, we can repent and find forgiveness and healing.

The Lord, of course, knows unerringly whether our repentance is sincere and whether we have indeed mended our ways.

It is not so easy to rebuild trust with our fellow human beings and to restore the value of our words with them.

What then are we to do?

Obviously we need to do more than just express contrition and firm purpose of amendment (although we need to do that). We cannot change the past or repair all the damage we may have caused, but while making a good faith effort to do what we can to make up for our past faults, we must also strive to move forward.

We must move forward with humility, diligence, patience and (most importantly) with prayer: praying for the Lord to continue healing us and all those whom we may have hurt, realizing that we are nothing more than humble instruments in the Lord’s hands.

Even if we feel more like wretched instruments than humble, even if we have not been faithful or true in the past, the Lord is eternally faithful and true and his grace can work in us and through us.

Because of our sins and imperfections, our words may be unimportant, but no matter what we have said or what we have done or what we have failed to do, the infinitely good and eternally powerful Word of God – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – can make manifest his saving power, even in us.

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

Thursday, February 23, 2006

God calls each of us

"to the fulfillment of our vocation in a unique way. No two vocation stories are identical. Some desire to live the Religious Life from the early years of their youth, while others discover their vocation after having lived in the world for a few years. Yet, in each of us, God has placed a special call that we are bound to respond to - this is the universal call to holiness.

"Our way of responding to this call as Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration revolves around our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. We begin each day at the foot of His Eucharistic Throne - greeting our Lord and our King with the Church’s official prayer of the Divine Office. This, and a period of silent meditation, prepares our hearts to receive our Lord in Holy Communion at the Sacrifice of the Mass. Strengthened by this great Sacrament, we are able to begin our daily work.

"Our day has all the elements of a normal day in the world - work, meals, recreation - but here we are drawn time and again back to the Chapel. Jesus is the Heart and Center of our lives - and as we turn away from the busyness of our work to spend time with Him, we learn to raise our hearts and minds from the natural to the supernatural.

"'You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you.'

Where To Begin

"'Heavenly Father, I love You.
Help me to know Your will,
and to have the courage to do it;
wherever it is,
whatever it is,
however it is,
through Christ our Lord.


"Do you find yourself asking these questions: How do I know if I have a vocation? How am I supposed to know where to go? Could I really make all those sacrifices and leave my family and friends?

"First of all, know that God works with each of us individually. Each Sister has a different story to tell of how God brought her to her vocation.

"The biggest help in discerning is to be truly open to His will. We can easily tell God what we want, but we have to listen a little harder sometimes to hear what He wants. When we are searching, God puts people in our path at the right time, who by a word or comment may unknowingly guide us where He wants us.

"Pray. Listen. Follow.

"We have to ground ourselves in prayer, listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and follow those inspirations. If God is truly calling you to the Religious Life, He will supply the grace you need to follow Him."

"On November 2, 2002 Mother Dolores Marie & Sr. Imelda Marie left Our Lady of the Angels Monastery founded by Mother Angelica, in Hanceville Alabama to restart the Monastery here in Portsmouth, Ohio. After being here for 3 years we now have 2 novices and 1 postulant with many inquiries from young women. God is so good and we ask you for your prayers that many young women may enter our order so that this Monastery may be a power house of prayer.

"May Jesus truly reign in our Hearts! God bless you!"

from the website of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration
Saint Joseph Adoration Monastery in Portsmouth, Ohio

2006 Catholic Blog Award Winners


Feeling comfortable?

Come now, you rich,
weep and howl
for the miseries that are coming upon you.

Most of us would not consider ourselves rich, so today’s first reading (James 5:1-6) should not apply to us, right?


As I’ve said before, it is dangerous to hear the warnings of Scripture and assume that these warnings apply only to someone else.

Even if we feel that we are not rich or that we are deprived in some way, there are always people whose deprivation is worse.

Compared to others, we may be much richer than we think.

Does that mean we should wallow in guilt for any comfort or that we must throw everything away and afflict ourselves? No.

First of all, we must make sure that our hearts are truly set on the things of heaven, and not on the things of this world.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.
Matthew 6:21

If our hearts and happiness are dependent on the things of this world, then we are in trouble, for the world and its allurements are passing away (1 John 2:17).

Then the warnings of this first reading will come to pass in bitter reality.

Your wealth has rotted away,
your clothes have become moth-eaten,
your gold and silver have corroded,
and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;
it will devour your flesh like a fire.
You have stored up treasure for the last days....

You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.

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

Some people hoard their time and resources for their own selfish pleasure, storing up "treasure" – "treasure" that will stand in accusation against them at the Day of Judgment.

By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we need to store up treasure for eternity.

Again, we should not let these warnings cause us to wallow in guilt or to throw everything away in panic.

Rather we should take these warnings as a reminder to use well whatever time, talent, or treasure we may have – no matter how little – to help people in need and to give glory to God.

Help me, O Lord.
Let me find my true comfort in serving you.

A living link

He was over eighty years old,
but he was still physically agile and mentally sharp.

What made him interesting, however,
was not so much how well he had aged,
but rather how much he had experienced
and how much good he had done for so long.

The young people could only marvel
as he spoke of things
that seemed to them ancient history
but that he himself had lived through.

He was a living link to the past:
a link that reached back even beyond his lifespan,
for when the old man was young,
he himself had learned much from the old men of that day,
especially one very special old man.

Thus when young people gathered
around the old man now in their midst,
he could tell them of things
that had happened more than a century before
and that he himself had heard
from that very special old man:
someone who had actually been there,
someone who spoke of amazing events
with simple, wonderful words...

This is what we proclaim to you:
what was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked upon,
and our hands have touched

-- we speak of the word of life.

(1 John 1:1)

St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna
and disciple of St. John the Apostle,
was martyred for the faith
on this day in the year 155 at the age of 86.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Christian Carnival

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

Yes, your Eminence?

As the Holy Father himself observed, today's Feast of the Chair of Peter was "a particularly appropriate day" for announcing a Consistory because Cardinals "have the duty to help and support Peter's Successor in carrying out the apostolic task entrusted to him in the service of the Church."

One might also observe a certain appropriateness connected with today’s first reading (1 Peter 5:1-4) – and not only because of its Petrine origin.

Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it,
not for shameful profit but eagerly.

Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.

It seems perfect as an exhortation to humility for those soon to be called “Eminence.”

However, these words are not only for the crimson-robed and other lofty ecclesiastical personages.

Many of us may consider ourselves eminent in our own ways – and sometimes not without some justification.

Even those of us who blog should take these words to heart, remembering that what we do in our Christian blogs should be consistent with the right tending of the flock of God in the midst of cyberspace.

Likewise in the real world of our parishes, communities, and families, many of us may be relatively “eminent” by virtue of our additional education, knowledge, experience, devotion, or involvement.

We may not be eminent shepherds, but we may be eminent sheep dogs in our own ways and thus may Peter say to us:

Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it,
not for shameful profit but eagerly.

Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.

And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

New Cardinals

At the end of today's General Audience, on the Feast of the Chair of Peter, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI announced a Consistory to be held March 24, 2006 in which new Cardinals will be created:

  • Archbishop William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Archbishop Franc Rode, C.M., Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Archbishop Agostino Vallini, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
  • Archbishop Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas
  • Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, Archbishop of Manila
  • Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux
  • Archbishop Antonio Canizares Lloveda, Archbishop of Toledo
  • Archbishop Nicholas Cheong Jin-Suk, Archbishop of Seoul
  • Archbishop Sean O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Boston
  • Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow
  • Archbishop Carlo Caffara, Archbishop of Bologna
  • Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, S.D.B., Bishop of Hong Kong

(The following are over 80 and would be ineligible to vote in a papal conclave)

  • Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza de Montezemolo, Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Pauls outside the Walls
  • Archbishop Peter Proeku Dery of Tamale, Archbishop emeritus of Tamale, Ghana
  • Father Albert Vanhoye, S.J., former Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and Secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

The Chair of Peter

The Altar of the Chair of Peter - St. Peter's Basilica
"Today we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of Peter. It is an ancient feast, dating back to the fourth century, which gives thanks to God for the mission entrusted to the Apostle Peter and to his successors.

"The first ‘seat’ of the Church was the Cenacle where, in all probability, there was a special place reserved for Simon Peter. From there the ‘seat’ of Peter moved to Antioch where he became its first Bishop, and from there, Providence led Peter to Rome where his service to the Gospel was crowned with martyrdom.

"In this way Rome came to be known as the ‘See’ of the successor of Peter and the ‘cathedra’ of its Bishop, as representing the mission entrusted to him by Christ to shepherd his entire flock. In celebrating the ‘Chair’ of Peter we thus recognize its spiritual significance: it is a special sign of the love of God - the good and eternal shepherd - who guides the whole Church along the way of salvation. In the words of Saint Jerome, 'I follow no leader save Christ so I consult the chair of Peter, for this I know is the rock upon which the Church is built!'"

Pope Benedict XVI
from today's General Audience

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


The world today is a huge mess.

Why is this? What happened to “progress?”

Our churches today are very often huge messes.

Why is this? What happened to “the body is one?”

Today’s first reading (James 4:1-10) gives us some answers.

From whence come wars and fightings among you?
come they not hence,
even of your lusts that war in your members?

What is meant here by “lust” is not just sexual lust but rather the broader desire for pleasure.

Nor is it simply the desire for pleasure in itself that is bad, but rather the desires for pleasure “that war in your members.” That is one source of conflict.

This does not just mean the “members” of society or of the church. Indeed, the root of all conflict ultimately stems from the conflict within ourselves as individuals.

Different parts of us often want different things: we are full of conflicting desires “that war in (our) members.”

Ye lust, and have not:
ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain:
ye fight and war, yet ye have not,
because ye ask not.
Ye ask, and receive not,
because ye ask amiss,
that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

(This latter point resonates in the old Janis Joplin song “Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?”)

Nor is it simply a matter of conflicting physical desires within us, but also that these desires are not aligned with our true identity as beings created in the image of God and united in the blood of Christ. This is the ultimate source of all conflict - internal and external.

We have been created and redeemed for the purpose of union with God, not for immersion in material things.

When we are ruled by our desires or otherwise wallow in materialism, we are thus unfaithful to our inmost selves as well as being unfaithful to God. That is why St. James uses a very strong name to describe us:

Ye adulterers and adulteresses,
know ye not that the friendship of the world
is enmity with God?
whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world
is the enemy of God.

It is not a pretty picture. Indeed, sometimes there seems little hope for us, for the Church, or for the world.

But he giveth more grace.
Wherefore he saith,
God resisteth the proud,
but giveth grace unto the humble.

Thus St. James shines a light for us on the path out of disorder and conflict, the path to true peace through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – peace within ourselves and peace with all.

Submit yourselves therefore to God.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Draw nigh to God,
and he will draw nigh to you.

Cleanse your hands, ye sinners;
and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

Be afflicted,
and mourn,
and weep:
let your laughter be turned to mourning,
and your joy to heaviness.

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord,
and he shall lift you up.

A very bad childhood

Peter was abused and neglected from the day he was born.

When he was able to go to school, he excelled at his studies, but even there he was afflicted and surrounded by ill will and immorality.

He decided to leave the world behind and be totally alone with God in prayer.

Peter was very successful and ended up inspiring a broad renewal of monastic life.

But God also wanted Peter to be his instrument of peace and truth in the world.

And so Peter ended up spending much time away from the monastery, working hard to reconcile people within a Church that was in tumult and to restore the faith and practice of the clergy.

St. Peter Damian – monk, bishop, and Doctor of the Church – died in his mid-sixties in 1072 and his memory is celebrated on this day.

Prayer of a Single Person

Eternal God,
from my mother's womb
you have known and loved me
more than I can ever know.

I ask for the courage to live a holy life,
that your hand guide my decisions....

I ask for the wisdom
to know your will for me,
and like our Blessed Mother,
I ask for the strength to say yes.

May I find you in every person I meet,
and may my life
so shine forth your goodness and love
that each person may be led to you
through Jesus, your Son,
who is Lord, forever and ever.


from the Vocations pages of the Diocese of Austin

Catholic Carnival

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

Monday, February 20, 2006


We happen to live in the Information Age, with more people having access to more information than ever before in the history of the world.

It is not a total success.

Indeed, people talk about “too much information” and “information overload.”

And too often, people use all this information for selfish and hurtful purposes.

The problem, it is often said, is the difference between information and knowledge on the one hand and wisdom on the other.

We may have terabytes of information and knowledge, but too little wisdom.

But what is wisdom? It is more than just intelligence.

Today’s first reading (James 3:13-18) gives us a wonderful guide for discerning wisdom and experiencing its benefits.

Who among you is wise and understanding?
Let him show his works by a good life
in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Wisdom goes hand-in-hand with a good life. Not only does a good life of good works demonstrate wisdom, wisdom itself moves naturally into good action. Truly knowing the good inexorably draws one to do the good.

One might also see that, in some ways, the reverse is also true: that we, as creatures of flesh and spirit, in some ways can grow in wisdom by good action – by doing good, we grow in our knowing of the good.

Also, true wisdom makes one humble. The wise man knows that his knowledge and his wisdom are limited.

This is definitely not the wisdom we see in the world today (sometimes not even in the Christian blogsphere).

But if you have
bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts,
do not boast and be false to the truth.
Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above
but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.

Instead of wisdom, both on the right and on the left, we too often have isolated bits of information used as weapons - sometimes with a smattering of erudition or the murmuring of the cognoscenti - to advance individuals and causes rather than truth, charity, and the common good.

But the wisdom from above
is first of all pure,
then peaceable,
full of mercy
and (full of) good fruits,
without inconstancy
(without) insincerity.

This is the wisdom that we should seek to have and to share: all of us – bloggers or readers, commenters or lurkers, ministers or laity – in cyberspace, in the workplace, in our homes and in our churches.

This is the wisdom that we should seek to have and to share – the wisdom that comes from above – the wisdom that comes to us by the grace of the Holy Spirit through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This is the wisdom that we should seek to have and to share – the wisdom of God.

And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.

Catholic Blog Awards voting ends soon

Voting will end at Noon CST, Tuesday, February 21.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Something new

Traditional religion is old.

Traditional religion is practiced mostly by old people, who long for the good old days.

Traditional religion bases itself exclusively on things that are old: the Bible, events that happened two thousand years ago, saints that died hundreds of years ago, non-electric music, and dusty books.

Thus do many people regard (and disregard) traditional religion.

It’s OLD.

On the other hand, we as believers embrace the tradition of faith that has come down to us from Christ through the ages.

Yet even for us, sometimes our faith and our practice of the faith can feel old.

The Lord has a special message for us today’s first reading (from Isaiah 43).

See, I am doing something new!

Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

This is not something “new” in the same way that the world calls things “new.”

In the world of marketing, “new” often simply means “repackaged.”

Otherwise, the word “new” often means something “totally different.”

What does God mean by “new?”

The first and most important things to remember is that God himself, as pure act, is eternally new and totally “alive.” There is no “old” in God, for he exists in the eternal NOW.

This eternal newness exists in all of God’s actions, even when our earthbound and time-limited imaginations fail to recognize it.

See, I am doing something new!

Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

To be sure, God comes to us in the earthbound, time-limited reality in which we exist – that is the wonderful mystery of revelation, salvation history, and most spectacularly and perfectly the Incarnation of his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And from all this comes the deposit of faith which we continually cherish and explore within the fellowship of the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is the very heart of the Tradition of our traditional religion.

Indeed, our faith is centered on events, words, and forms that are truly ancient and yet they are really and truly and eternally new – for in them, God is alive and God is at work.

We are the ones who make the things of God seem old.

We are the ones who make the things of God seem old by letting them slip into the realm of lifeless habit.

We are the ones who make the things of God seem old by chasing after the cheap thrill of shallow novelty instead of digging deeper into the truly intoxicating and eternally invigorating newness of what God has given.

We are the ones who make the things of God seem old by failing to let them continue to change us and make us new.

We need to ask the Lord to help us put away the distractions of this passing world and to drink more fully of the eternal newness of our “traditional religion.”

See, I am doing something new!

Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

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

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

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

Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur.
Et renovabis faciem terrae.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The power of what you say

Some of us really like to talk.

Some of us, even some who are quiet in everyday life, overflow with words when we get online: filling up comment boxes, blogs, chat rooms, and other venues throughout cyberspace.

Today’s first reading (James 3:1-10) has important lessons for us.

First, St. James warns of the extra scrutiny that will fall upon those who instruct others by their words:

Not many of you should become teachers,
my brothers and sisters,
for you realize that we will be judged more strictly,
for we all fall short in many respects.

(This warning hits home for me, for I know painfully well how short I fall in many respects.)

Secondly, St. James says, control of one’s tongue is often the last great moral challenge: if we have progressed enough to control our tongues perfectly, we have attained true perfection.

If anyone does not fall short in speech,
he is a perfect man,
able to bridle the whole body also.
If we put bits into the mouths of horses
to make them obey us,
we also guide their whole bodies.

This, of course, does not just mean physical speech. Although “the tongue” is the principal metaphor here, what St. James is referring to here is the power of word and thought: a power of amazingly disproportionate force – within the human person and also in the world.

It is the same with ships:
even though they are so large

and driven by fierce winds,
they are steered by a very small rudder
wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes.
In the same way

the tongue is a small member
and yet has great pretensions.

Consider how small a fire

can set a huge forest ablaze.
The tongue is also a fire.

Our fallen nature in this fallen world makes this power – the power of word and thought – all the more perilous and often untamable.

It exists among our members as a world of malice,
defiling the whole body
and setting the entire course of our lives on fire,
itself set on fire by Gehenna.

For every kind of beast and bird,

of reptile and sea creature,
can be tamed and has been tamed

by the human species,
but no man can tame the tongue.

It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

That is not to say that our power of thought and word is totally bad.

With it we bless the Lord and Father,
and with it we curse men
who are made in the likeness of God.

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.

My brothers and sisters, this need not be so.

Indeed, it should not be so.

We can stop hurting ourselves and hurting others with our tongues and minds.

We can stop mixing good things and bad in what we think and say.

Our thoughts and words can serve God and serve the common good, for that is why God gave us this power.

How can we do this? First of all, we can do this only by the grace of God. Therefore we must pray always for the grace of purity in heart, mind, and speech.

Secondly, on the basic human level, we need to develop good habits of speech and thought while breaking ourselves of older, wrongful habits.

Thirdly, we do well to watch our diet of words, thoughts and images: primarily by filling ourselves more and more with godly words and thoughts – by the reading of Scripture and holy spiritual authors and by taking advantage of the many wonderful Catholic and Christian music, audio, and video offerings available to us today

Finally, the closer we walk with the Lord the more our thoughts and words will be one with the Lord. Therefore we must always seek to draw closer to the Lord in prayer as well as in all the actions of our day.

There is great power in what we say. The Lord invites us to unite that power ever more to him (listening to him, as today's Gospel says - Mark 9:2-13), so that this power may reach perfection and our joy may be complete.

He hardly knew what to say,
they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
then from the cloud came a voice,

"This is my beloved Son.

"Listen to him."

Friday, February 17, 2006

Skiing in Bardonecchia

The 24 year-old raced in the 15-kilometer event while chewing on a cigar.

Within a few months, he would be dead.

Within a few score of years, he would be declared one of the Blessed.

Catholic News Service has an interesting article today about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati of Torino.

No free ride

We are saved by grace.

We are saved through faith.

But if we think we have a free ride, today's readings should slap us back into reality.

This is not just an issue for those with misunderstandings of what "sola fide" means. Many Christians – Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox – have misunderstandings of God’s infinite mercy and unconditional love that lead them to a practical, moral apathy “It doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do – God loves me.”

“Slap!” goes today’s first reading (James 2:14-16):

But wilt thou know, O vain man,
that faith without works is dead?

Nor is it enough to believe and do good works “under the radar,” as our Lord makes brutally clear in today’s Gospel (Mark 8:34-9:1)

Whosoever will come after me,
let him deny himself,
and take up his cross,
and follow me....

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed

of me and of my words
in this adulterous and sinful generation;
of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed,
when he cometh in the glory of his Father

with the holy angels.


Grace is free, but it does not give us a free ride

Our faith is a gift, but it must also be alive.

The grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ must flow within us and through us: in our words, attitudes, and actions.

Whosoever will come after me,
let him deny himself,
and take up his cross,
and follow me.

Rich young men

They made up a very special clique in a very special city.

And they were all interested in the same, very special lady.

Her name was Mary, the mother of Jesus.

These seven young men dedicated themselves completely to the love of God.

In the beginning, they had secluded themselves on a tall hill out in the countryside.

In time, they would be called to spread the message of God out in the world.

Their little religious community would grow. Within fifty years, they would have over ten thousand members.

The memory of the Seven Founders of the Order of Servites is celebrated on this day, when the last of those seven young men from Florence, lay brother Alexis Falconieri, died in 1310.

Today, their followers serve in many places throughout the world, including the United States, South Africa, Australia, and Italy (including the Basilica of Superga outside Torino).

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Judges with evil designs

They do not treat all people as equal.

They are not friends of the poor.

They make their own law.

They are us.

Today’s first reading (James 2:1-9) warns us of becoming "judges with evil designs" – giving preference to those who are rich and well-dressed while disrespecting those who are poor and grungy.

This is a chronic problem for many of us Christians.

Sad to say, I have seen this in too many churches: people who are obviously rich are treated with courtesy while people who are obviously poor are watched with suspicion or totally ignored.

When we do these things, our Lord may say to us as he says to Peter in today’s Gospel (Mark 8:27-33): "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

Nor is cyberspace necessarily egalitarian. The holiest people are not always those with the most sophisticated graphics or the most elegant phrases (nay! 'tis not always so).

Sometimes the most authentic holiness and the deepest insights are to be found in people with poorer skills but richer faith.

To be sure, we should always endeavor – as much as we can - to be good stewards of what we have, to dress nicely (especially in church), to keep up our learning, to create beauty, and to use words well.

Yet we must never let any of these externals distract us from what is the most important: lives of faith and service in and through the grace and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My brothers and sisters,
show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith
in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Visitation Sisters

Sister Anne Francis enjoys her first snowfall
The Monastery of the Visitation in Georgetown has started a blog.

"What would St. Francis de Sales have to say about his Visitation Sisters starting a blog? A great deal, most likely. For it is no accident that he is named the patron saint of journalists. During his time in the Chablais, St. Francis de Sales copied, by hand, many of his sermons and distributed them widely by slipping them under the doors of those who had strayed from the faith. These sermons later became known as 'The Controversies' and, more recently, as 'Meditations on the Church.' His creativity in dissemination of information won him the patronage of journalists. It seems likely then that our Holy Founder would smile upon us beginning a blog. In fact, a modern iconic rendering, depicting him as patron of journalists, shows him seated at a computer with the Holy Spirit perched on his monitor. We may not be slipping sermons under anyone's door, but perhaps we can share our adventures and musings as we strive to Live Jesus in the footsteps of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal."

from the blog Live Jesus!

(tip of the appropriate head covering to Moniales OP)

"Scenery and Critics"

One of the many powerful images in Dante’s Inferno is scenery of barren trees and the horrific creatures who eternally tear off their branches (Canto XIII).

Some of us are sometimes like the barren trees and sometimes some of us are like the creatures.

Indeed, sometimes we are like what the blind man sees in today’s Gospel (Mark 8:22-26): “people looking like trees and walking” - we walk through life and do nothing else, poor witnesses of the living Gospel of Christ.

At other times, some of us can be like the creatures who are always ripping and tearing at others, criticizing intensely with righteous indignation.

There is certainly much cause for righteous indignation and criticism nowadays, but today’s first reading (James 1:19-27) offers prudent guidance.

Know this, my dear brothers:
everyone should be quick to hear,
slow to speak, slow to wrath,
for the wrath of a man

does not accomplish the righteousness of God...

If anyone thinks he is religious
and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart,
his religion is vain.

Religion that is pure
and undefiled before God and the Father
is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

We should be
neither trees that only walk
nor creatures that only tear,
but rather we need to be
humble and faithful servants of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Christian Carnival

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

From the Tiber to the Nile

Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, M. Afr., up to now President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, has been named by the Holy Father as Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt and Delegate to the League of Arab States.

Catholic Carnival

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Catholic Blog Awards - Open for Voting

Voting will end at Noon, Tuesday, February 21. (I'm not sure which time zone)

Domenico Bettinelli gives a little background on these awards (hat tip: Happy Catholic)

My humble thanks to those who nominated this blog.

"God made me this way"

We are all sinners, to one extent or another, and we are all subject to temptations of various kinds.

It is part of who we are as human beings in this world.

Some people, however, apply clumsy pseudo-logic to this fact and come up with the amazing conclusion that God is the cause of their temptation

The pseudo-logic is similar to a famous religious self-esteem slogan for children (and bane of grammarians): “God made me and God don’t make junk!”

For example, some might “reason” that “since God made me and I am a born kleptomaniac, therefore God made me a kleptomaniac. Moreover, since what God creates is good and God made me a kleptomaniac, therefore to be a kleptomaniac is good.”

On the contrary, in today’s first reading (James 1:12-18), St. James says this:

Let no man say when he is tempted,
I am tempted of God:

for God cannot be tempted with evil,
neither tempteth he any man:

But every man is tempted,
when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

Then when lust hath conceived,
it bringeth forth sin:
and sin, when it is finished,
bringeth forth death.

Do not err, my beloved brethren.

None of us are born perfect. We are born into a sinful world, marked with original sin, and limited by finitude.

Nor are we homogenous: every one of us is born and goes through life with a unique combination of imperfections.

None of this is the fault of God.

God did not and does not make us this way.

God simply allows these imperfections so that his grace may shine all the brighter in us as these imperfections are overcome in accordance with his often-mysterious but always loving will.

To be sure, even with these imperfections – whatever they may be – God has also blessed each of us with a unique combination of strengths as well as a fundamental, existential worth - because each of us has been created by him and because his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, died for us.

We do not need the fake self-esteem of empty slogans or theologies that try to cover over moral challenges with smiley faces.

What we need is grace.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation:
for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life,
which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

The brothers came from a political family

but what interested them was the spiritual life, so they left the world behind and entered a monastery.

The world, however, would not leave them alone.

A great need was being felt in many places for the Gospel of Christ, but different problems posed obstacles in various places.

In one distant location, there were simply no teachers well-educated in the faith, so the brothers were called out of their monastery and sent.

In another location, the native people resisted anything not in their language. This was complicated by the fact that they did not have a well-developed written language. Once again, the brothers were chosen. The younger brother actually devised a whole new alphabet, whereupon they translated the Gospels and many prayers into the native people’s language.

Sadly, success sometimes brings new challenges, especially envy, rivalry, and other political problems. People from Western regions attacked them – after all, the brothers were Easterners. They were summoned to Rome where they were not only vindicated but selected to become bishops!

The younger brother, St. Cyril, Apostle to the Slavs and inventor of the Cyrillic alphabet (used to this day), died shortly afterwards on this very day in the year 869. His brother, St. Methodius, Apostle to the Slavs, continued their work and their struggles until his own death in 885.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Monday, February 13, 2006


In events such as freestyle skiing, a successful athlete must "stick the landing" – that is, land squarely on both skis without wavering or losing balance. Failure to "stick the landing" can cause more than just loss of points: it can also cause the athlete to fall and even to suffer injury.

It is a good metaphor for life and also for today's first reading (James 1:1-11).

Like the skier, as we go through life, if we persevere and remain steady – if we "stick the landing" – we will succeed.

The keys to sticking a landing in sports are awareness, control and strength.

Successful athletes know where the ground is, know where their feet are, keep their feet and bodies in the right positions, and have the strength to hold themselves upright against the forces of wind, gravity and momentum.

The key to sticking a landing in life is faith.

A person who doubts, says St. James in today's first reading, is "unstable in all his ways."

People who doubt will not "stick" their landings, but will tumble down the hill.

People who doubt are unsure about objective reality (even as they are about to fall face first into it) and are even unsure about who they really are.

People who doubt are more likely to be controlled by their bodies rather than the other way around.

People who doubt are more likely to be "tossed about by the wind" of other people's opinions and the momentum of events, and thus doomed to be brought crashing down by the gravity of reality.

People of faith, on the other hand, are perfectly aware of reality: reality as God created it to be, reality as broken by sin, and reality as transformed by grace. People of faith know where the ground is, for their ground is Christ: their rock and stronghold. People of faith know where their feet are, through the practice of continual self-examination and the grace of discernment.

People of faith, with the help of God's grace, control themselves and their bodies, rather than let their bodies control them.

And finally, by the unconquerable power of Christ, people of faith have the strength to withstand the shocks of life, the winds of opposition, and the relentless pull of the material world.

By the grace of Christ we can stick our landings.

Doubt, of course, is an insidious thing. Even as we read these words from St. James, doubt may creep up and in our ear may whisper memories of past failures and present imperfections.

Again, the metaphor of the athlete is instructive, for even the greatest of Olympic athletes have fallen – sometimes very seriously.

Successful athletes, however, remain focused on their event, even after a fall. They make the necessary adjustments and move forward. An athlete who remains focused on a fall will never again rise.

Likewise, when we fall, we turn to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for forgiveness, healing, and grace: letting Christ enter more fully into us so that we may not fall again.

People who doubt focus on their falls. People of faith focus on Christ.

Thus, no matter how much or how badly we may have fallen, no matter what troubles or obstacles beset us, by the grace of Christ we can stick our landings.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Prayer for Discernment

I abandon myself

into your hands;
do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do,
I thank you:
I am ready for all,
I accept all.

Let only your will
be done in me,
and in all your creatures.

I wish
no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself to you,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.


Prayer of Abandonment by Blessed Charles de Foucauld

From the Vocations website of the Diocese of Savannah
Priesthood Ordination - Diocese of Savannah - June 5, 2005

"Great" in Torino

Another of the interesting Church buildings that appears during television coverage of the Olympics in Torino is the Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio ("Church of the Great Mother of God").

Ostensibly, the church honors Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Architecturally, the 19th century neo-classicist building honors ancient Rome’s Pantheon.

Historically, the building was built to celebrate the House of Savoy’s return to power in Torino after the Congress of Vienna dismantled the Napoleonic empire.

Avoid giving offense

That is a key message of today’s second reading (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1).

Avoid giving offense.

That is a message being viciously ignored in the world today.

From the pages of a Danish newspaper to the cover of an American music magazine and coming soon to a theater near you, some people in the world these days seem to revel in trashing or lampooning that which is most sacred to others.

This is not just being done by godless secularists. There are pious churchgoers who seem to delight in flinging wit and venom at those with whom they disagree within the Church - not to mention against people of faith outside the Church.

St. Paul makes it very clear that this is not the way we should be.

To be sure, we must be faithful to the truth and speak with integrity at all times, but we must keep our focus on our mission: not to score points, but to save souls (most especially our own).

Avoid giving offense,
whether to the Jews
or Greeks
or the church of God,
just as I try to please everyone in every way,
not seeking my own benefit
but that of the many,
that they may be saved.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

On a hill outside Torino

In 1706, French troops had invaded the area around Torino.

The local ruler, Duke Vittorio Amedeo II of the house of Savoy, went outside the city to do reconnaissance.

Atop the hill of Superga he went inside a small parish church and prayed. He vowed that if they were able to defeat the invaders, he would build a larger church building on that spot.

The French were defeated.

In 1731, a brand-new Basilica opened atop the hill of Superga.

A blessed young man of Torino

The Washington Post has an interesting article about Rebecca Dussault, an American cross-country skier competing in the Torino Olympics who has a very special devotion to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.

Blessed Pier Giorgio, a young man from a rich and powerful Torino family, was a third order Dominican, contracted polio while ministering to the poor, and died in 1925 at the age of 24.

He was beatified by the great Pope John Paul in 1990.

UPDATE: Catholic News Service has its own article about Rebecca Dussault, including a mention of her website www.dussaultskis.com as well as a separate article about Blessed Pier Giorgio.

Have it your way

Jeroboam, the ancient king of Israel who is the focus of today’s first reading (from 1 Kings 12 & 13), is not terribly well known today, but in some ways he is very “now.”

Religion has become inconvenient: it threatens his personal, political and career goals.

And so, he sets up his own religion.

It is almost laughable: he sets up a golden calf and says, “Here is your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”

And the people fell for it.

This, of course, was the beginning of the end for that kingdom.

What Jeroboam did isn’t just something done by kings and political leaders, who may try to alter people’s faith and religious structures to suit their political ends.

Nor is it just something done by disgruntled parishioners or midlevel religious leaders who decide to set up their own churches.

The principles and the practice of our faith can sometimes become inconvenient to all of us and it can be very, very tempting to make “adjustments” to suit our own convenience.

The beginning of the end.

It doesn’t take a prophet to see how ungodly the world is today. It should therefore be no surprise that the ways of God do not fit harmoniously with the ways of the world and that the true principles and practices of faith will be sometimes inconvenient for our lives in this world.

But the things of this world are temporary and the ways of this world are ultimately dead ends. True fulfillment, ultimate happiness, and eternal life can only be found in the ways of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It doesn’t take a saint to realize that we are much better off enduring inconvenience now rather than separation from God in eternity.

So our prayer must be: "Not the world's way, Lord, nor my way, but let it be your way."

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

"I had gone down one day...

with two other girls to the bank of the river Gave when suddenly I heard a kind of rustling sound. I turned my head toward the field by the side of the river, but the trees seemed quite still and the noise was evidently not from them.

"Then I looked up and caught sight of the cave where I saw a lady wearing a lovely white dress with a bright belt. On top of each of her feet was a pale yellow rose, the same color as her rosary beads...

"I asked the girls with me if they had noticed anything, but they said no. Of course, they wanted to know what I was doing, and I told them that I had seen a lady wearing a nice white dress, though I didn't know who she was.

"I told them not to say anything about it, and they said I was silly to have anything to do with it. I said they were wrong, and I came back next Sunday, feeling myself drawn to the place....

"The third time I went, the lady spoke to me and asked me to come every day for fifteen days. I said I would and then she said that she wanted me to tell the priests to build a chapel there.

"She also told me to drink from the stream. I went to the river Gave, the only stream I could see. Then she made me realize she was not speaking of the river Gave, and she showed me a little trickle of water close by. When I got to it, I could only find a few drops: mostly mud. I cupped my hands to catch some liquid without success, and then I started to scrape the ground. I managed to find a few drops of water, but only at the fourth attempt was there enough for any kind of a drink. The lady then vanished and I went back home.

"I went back each day for fifteen days, and each time, except one Monday and one Friday, the lady appeared and told me to look for a stream and wash in it and to see that the priests build a chapel there.

"I must also pray, she said, for 'the conversion of sinners.' I asked her many times what she meant by that, but she only smiled. Finally, with outstretched arms and eyes looking up to heaven, she told me she was 'the Immaculate Conception.'"


The above account is from a letter by St. Bernadette describing her first vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at Lourdes, France - 148 years ago today, when Bernadette was only 14. Since then, over two hundred million people have come to pray at the spot and many have been miraculously cured.

Today the Church celebrates Our Lady of Lourdes.

(adapted from an earlier post)

New Auxiliary Bishops

The Holy Father has named Fathers Lionel Gendrom, P.S.S., and André Gazaille as Auxiliary Bishops of Montreal (accepting the retirement of current Auxiliary Bishop Jude Saint-Antoine).

The Holy Father has also named Father Peter Joseph Hundt as Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto, Monsignor Tadeusz Bronakowski as Auxiliary Bishop of Łomża, Poland (accepting the retirement of the current Auxiliary Bishop Tadeusz Józef Zawistowski), and Fathers Aloísio Jorge Pena Vitral and Joaquim Giovanni Mol Guimarães as Auxiliary Bishops of Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bishop-elect Gendrom, 61, is a native of New Brunswick who moved to Montreal as a young boy. He was studied theology at the Grand Sèminaire de Montréal and was ordained a priest for the Archidiocese in 1969. He served briefly in a Motnreal parish before entering the Sulpician order the following year whereupon he was sent to teach at a seminary in Colombia. From 1972 to 1975 he was in Rome, getting his Doctorate in Theology at the Gregorian University. He then returned to Colombia and served as Professor of Theology at the seminary in Bogota for a year before returning to teach at the Grand Sèminaire de Montréal. He would go on to serve as Director of the Diocesan Student Center for Montreal, Seminary Rector in Montreal and then in Edmonton, Alberta, and finally two terms as Provincial (ending just last month).

Bishop-elect Gazaille, 59, was born and educated in Montreal and ordained a priest for the Archdiocese in 1971. He has served in several parishes as Assistant Pastor and then Pastor as well as a Marriage Encounter Chaplain.

Bishop-elect Hundt, 49, was born in Hanover, Ontario. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Waterloo and then Master of Divinity from St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Hamilton in 1982. He then served as an Assistant Pastor until he was sent to Rome where he got a License in Canon Law in 1987 at the Angelicum. He then returned to Hamilton, serving for 2 years as Vice Chancellor and 5 years as Chancellor. Since 1994 he has served as a Pastor in Georgetown, Ontario and on numerous Diocesan Councils and Committees.

Bishop-elect Bronakowski, 45, was born in the Diocese of Łomża and ordained a priest for the Diocese in 1984. He obtained his Doctorate in Canon Law in 1993 and has served in several positions in parishes as well as the Diocesan Chancery and Tribunal.

Friday, February 10, 2006

In mysterious ways

There is word that comes to mind when many hear today’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37):

The word is Yuck.

He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue.

Our Lord in his earthly ministry heals other people with just a word (sometimes from a great distance) or with a touch of his cloak.

Why does he go through these strange and unsanitary actions here?

One aspect of this is that our Lord is essentially adapting the language of gesture from that time and place, for this is how faith healers often sought to heal their patients.

Undoubtedly our Lord had a special reason to use these familiar gestures. Indeed, his use of these gestures had an effect: not just on the man who was healed, but also on the crowd.

They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The Lord works in mysterious ways, it is said, but sometimes he also works in familiar and even grungy ways.

So too we may find the Lord working in our life.

So too may the Lord work through us, who may not be skilled or glamorous, but who by his grace are faithful to his truth, his work and his love.

She used to visit her brother once a year

"He would come down to meet her at a place on the monastery property, not far outside the gate.

"One day she came as usual and her saintly brother went with some of his disciples; they spent the whole day praising God and talking of sacred things. As night fell, they had supper together.

"Their spiritual conversation went on and the hour grew late. The holy nun said to her brother, 'Please do not leave me tonight; let us go on until morning talking about the delights of the spiritual life.'

'Sister,' he replied, 'What are you saying? I simply cannot stay outside my cell.'

"When she heard her brother refuse her request, the holy woman joined her hands on the table, laid her head on them and began to pray.

"As she raised her head from the table, there were such brilliant flashes of lightning, such great peals of thunder and such a heavy downpour of rain that neither Benedict nor his brethren could stir across the threshold of the place where they had been seated. Sadly, he began to complain.

"'May God forgive you, sister. What have you done?'

"'Well,' she answered, 'I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.'

"So it came about that they stayed awake the whole night, engrossed in their conversation about the spiritual life.

"Three days later, Benedict was in his cell. Looking up to the sky, he saw his the soul of his sister Scholastica leave her body in the form of a dove, and fly up to the secret places of heaven. Rejoicing in her great glory, he thanked almighty God with hymns and words of praise. He then sent his brethren to bring her body to the monastery and lay it in the tomb he had prepared for himself."

St. Scholastica, sister of the great St. Benedict, died in 543 and her memory is celebrated on this day.

Benedict would die in 547. The above account would be set down a few decades later by Pope St. Gregory the Great.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sustained by the love of God

"The mission of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to make the Heart of Christ known, loved and served. Each Apostle, sustained by the 'love of God which has been poured into their hearts,' and following the teachings of the Gospel will dedicate themselves with zeal to the service of their neighbor, not only by providing for their spiritual and material needs but also by offering for them their lives of sacrifice and prayer."
"We are Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, consecrated women of the Church. Impelled by the Spirit active in each of us and faithful to the charism of Clelia Merloni, we seek to make the compassionate Heart of Christ better known, loved and served. We do this by personal and communal witness to the Gospel, commitment to growth in holiness and ministry to the people of God."

from the Vocations website of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

What I did for "love"

I was the smartest man in the world.

I was rich, famous, and powerful.

I wasn’t bad looking.

But that wasn’t enough.

I went all the way and much, much further.

Women literally flocked to me.

And I did anything they wanted.


Suddenly, I had found that I had turned my back on everything that I had once stood for.

I had trashed all the things that had been the most important and most precious in my life.

Now I was old and my riches and power had been taken away from me.

But that wasn’t the worst.

I learned how terrible, how bitter, how devastating it was
to break the heart of God.

(cf today’s first reading: 1 Kings 11:4-13)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Christian Carnival

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

Blessings and warnings

Things are going very, very well for King Solomon in today’s first reading (1 Kings 10:1-10): riches and fame just keep piling up for him, most famously with the visit of the Queen of Sheba and continuing through the rest of the chapter with treasures pouring in from the far corners of the known world.

For Solomon, life is good.

But that is not always a good thing.

But woe to you who are rich
for you have received your consolation....
Woe to you when all speak well of you...

(Luke 6:24, 26a)

Solomon was indeed richly blessed by the Lord, but somewhere in the midst of all those blessings, he lost his connection with the source of these blessings and (as we will hear in tomorrow’s reading) drifted away from the Lord.

Rich or poor, popular or alone, successful or not,
our relationship with the Lord
must always be the most important thing in our lives
and we must not let anything or anyone
– no matter how wonderful or how intimidating –
cause us to fall away from the Lord.


Domine Iesu Christe, Fili Dei vivi,
qui ex voluntate Patris, cooperante Spiritu Sancto,
per mortem tuam mundum vivificasti:
libera me
per hoc sacrosanctum Corpus et Sanguinem tuum
ab omnibus iniquitatibus meis et universis malis:
et fac me tuis semper inhaerere mandatis,
et a te numquam separari permittas.
(Preparatio privata sacerdotis)

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God,
by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit
your death brought life to the world.
By your holy body and blood free me
from all my sins, and from every evil.
Keep me faithful to your teaching,
and never let me be parted from you.

Paths of glory

He was born to upper class parents and as a young man began a career track in the military.

He served in combat and was even a prisoner of war.

He was subsequently appointed to positions of authority and seemed destined for great things.

Then, he chose to be a priest, to care for the sick and for orphans, giving away everything he had: forsaking earthly glory and comfort for the glory of God.

While caring for plague victims, St. Jerome Emiliani died of plague himself on this very day in 1537.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sudanese girl sold into slavery

Nine-year-old Josephine’s family was not badly off, but that did not protect her from being kidnapped. She would be sold a number of times and physically abused quite often.

While she was still a teenager, she had a master who relocated to Europe and took her along. It was there that she learned about Christ and was baptized. Later, when her master wanted to take her back to Sudan, she refused. The Italian authorities granted her asylum and several years later she entered the convent of the Canossian Daughters of Charity where she would live decades of quiet humble service even as fame of her sufferings and her sanctity spread.

St. Josephine Bakhita died 59 years ago today and was canonized on October 1, 2000.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The commandments of men

Our Lord's criticism of the Pharisees' rituals and traditions in today's Gospel (Mark 7:1-13) is sometimes directed by commentators at Christians who are "High Church" and piled high with rituals, traditions and other accretions.

Of course, our Lord's criticism can also be directed at Christians who are "Low Church," whose rituals, traditions, and other accretions may be more subtle, yet still problematic.

Whether we are "High Church" or "Low Church" or "No Church," today's Gospel reminds us first of all to be continually diligent in remaining true to the fundamentals and the source of our faith in Christ.

In fact, if today's Gospel is seen primarily in a "High Church" vs. "Low Church" context, we run the risk of missing one of the most critical dangers facing Christians today.

The most insidious Pharisaism today is to be found not in the "high smells and bells" of some Churches or in the alleged fundamentalism of others.

The most insidious Pharisaism today is to be found in today's modern culture -- most especially where there is still a veneer of Christianity.

He answered and said unto them,
Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites,
as it is written,
This people honoureth me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me.

Howbeit in vain do they worship me,
teaching for doctrines
the commandments of men.

We see this most especially in politicians and preachers and even ordinary people who reduce the entire deposit of faith to a single concept - "love" or "being nice" or "strict justice" or "concern for the poor" or "old-fashioned morality" or something else -- and who then retranslate that concept in accordance with "the commandments of men": mere human precepts such as political correctness, the "modern" point of view, nostalgia, the latest scientific study, what feels good, etc.

That is not to say that there is necessarily anything wrong with love, being nice, strict justice, concern for the poor, old-fashioned morality, nostalgia, science, or any of those things in themselves.

But this Gospel reminds us that we must continually make sure that we are always rooted in truth - the truth that comes from God.

High Church or Low Church, liberal or conservative, it is too easy for us to drift and to find ourselves based more on the commandments, traditions and conventional wisdom of men rather than the true wisdom and revelation of God.

Shew me thy ways, O LORD;
teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me:
for thou art the God of my salvation;
on thee do I wait all the day.

Psalm 25:4-5

Catholic Carnival

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

Monday, February 06, 2006

The cloud

In today’s first reading (from 1 Kings 8), the Ark of the Covenant is transferred with grand ceremony into the magnificent temple that has just been built by King Solomon.

And in the midst of these glorious rituals and this most magnificent of religious buildings, Solomon says,

The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud.

To be sure, this cloud fills the temple of the Lord - the "princely house” built by Solomon – at the conclusion of this great event, but the Lord himself dwells specifically “in the dark cloud."

This is not just poetic hyperbole about incense: this cloud had signified the presence of the Lord among the children of Israel all the way back in the time of the Exodus (e.g., Exodus 13:21-22; 16:10; 19:9; 24:15-18; 33:9-10; 40:34-38; cf Job 22:13-14; Ps. 97:2; etc).

There is tremendous meaning in the fact that God dwells "in the dark cloud" and the most fundamental meaning is the utter mysteriousness of God.

This is an important reality check for many of us: both for believers and for unbelievers.

Unbelievers smugly reject the concept of God, but what they reject is only a concept of God within their own skulls -- a concept that is really just a cartoon or caricature of God, at best.

Likewise, some believers smugly embrace a concept of God that exists only within their own skulls -- often a collage of favorite images and half-remembered dogmas.

That God dwells "in the dark cloud" reminds us of the limits of our human intellect in coming to know the infinite and eternal God in Himself.

But then what is the point of the Temple and the rituals and all these books?

St. Thomas Aquinas (naturally) sums it all up succinctly:

"Therefore the created intellect cannot
see the essence of God,
unless God by His grace
unites Himself to the created intellect
so as to be intelligible to it."
(Summa Theologica, Ia q. 12 a. 4 Respondeo)

"Non igitur potest intellectus creatus
Deum per essentiam videre,
nisi inquantum Deus per suam gratiam
se intellectui creato coniungit,
ut intelligibile ab ipso. "

Thus God makes himself known to us by his grace, including the grace of revelation: most fully and perfectly through his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

That God dwells "in the dark cloud" teaches us humility. Try as we might, we will never be able to wrap our minds completely around God in Himself.

But the fact that this dark cloud "filled the temple of the LORD" reminds us that God does not remain infinitely aloof, but chooses to come to us by his grace.

Thanks to this amazing gift of grace, we do in fact come to know God -- in the Scriptures, in the teaching of the Church, in prayer, and in the Sacraments.

The infinitely mysterious God and Lord of the Universe -- who dwells "in the dark cloud" -- has indeed chosen to come to us, to make himself known to us, and to unite himself to us: most especially, perfectly, powerfully and uniquely in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus, in that wonderful moment of the Transfiguration of our Lord (Matthew 17:5),

While (Peter) was still speaking,
behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
"This is my beloved Son,
with whom I am well pleased.

"Listen to him."

The most powerful pulpit

His father was rich and powerful, so Paul had a nice life growing up.

The family was very close to the Jesuits and even as a young boy Paul wanted to become a Jesuit himself. So it was no surprise that he entered the order as soon as he was old enough.

Paul proved to be an excellent student and a powerful speaker.

But then, the government, which had been friendly toward the Christian faith, turned against it with extreme violence.

Paul and many others were rounded up and sentenced to death by crucifixion.

The date was February 5, 1597 and the place was Nagasaki, Japan.

For young Paul Miki, it was more than an opportunity to die in the same way as Christ. As he looked at the crowd that had gathered to watch, he realized that this cross was the most powerful pulpit of his life.

And so, using his strong voice for the very last time, he spoke to the crowd.

"All of you who are here, please, listen to me.

"...I am Japanese by birth, and a brother of the Society of Jesus.

"I have committed no crime, and the only reason why I am put to death is that I have been teaching the doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

"I am very happy to die for such a cause, and see my death as a great blessing from the Lord.

"As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way.

"My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death.

"I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves."

Thirty years later, in 1627, Paul Miki and his fellow martyrs were beatified by Pope Urban VIII. They were canonized in 1862 by Blessed Pope Pius IX.

Their memory is celebrated on this day.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

"Let yourself be summoned...

by the love of Christ;
recognize his voice
which rings in the temple of your heart.

"Have no fear of the fact
that the response he requires is radical,
because Jesus,
who first loved you,
is ready to give
what he asks of you.

"If he asks much
it is because he knows
that you can give much."

Pope John Paul II

(from the Vocations page of the Diocese of Charlotte)

Holy See RE: Cartoon controversy

The Vatican Information Office has translated the statement issued Saturday by the Holy See Press Office regarding caricatures of the prophet Mohammed that were published in some Western newspapers and the often violent reaction to those images.

"In response to several requests for the Holy See's position vis-à-vis recent representations offensive to the religious sentiments of individuals and entire communities, the Vatican press office states:

"'1. The right to freedom of thought and expression, sanctioned by the Declaration of the Rights of Man, cannot imply the right to offend the religious sentiments of believers. This principle obviously applies for any religion.

"'2. In addition, coexistence calls for a climate of mutual respect favoring peace among men and nations. Moreover, these kinds of exasperated criticisms or derision of others manifest a lack of human sensitivity and may constitute in some cases an inadmissible provocation. A reading of history shows that wounds existing in the life of a people are not healed in this way.

"'3. However, it must be said immediately that the offenses caused by an individual or a member of the press cannot be imputed to the public institutions of the corresponding country, whose authorities might and should intervene eventually, according to the principles of national legislation. Therefore, violent actions of protest are equally deplorable. Reaction in the face of offense cannot fail the true spirit of all religion. Real or verbal intolerance, no matter where it comes from, whether as action or reaction, is always a serious threat to peace.'"


When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill
or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn,
he left and went off to a deserted place,
where he prayed.
Mark 1:32-35

This scene from today's Gospel (Mark 1:29-39) was echoed in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King - the third volume of The Lord of the Rings:

"At the doors of the Houses many were already gathered to see Aragorn, and they followed after him; and when at last he had supped, men came and prayed that he would heal their kinsmen or their friends whose lives were in peril through hurt or wound, or who lay under the Black Shadow. And Aragorn arose and went out, and... laboured far into the night. And word went through the City: ' The King is come again indeed....'

"And when he could labour no more, he cast his cloak about him, and slipped out of the City, and went to his tent just ere dawn and slept for a little."
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King, p. 147.

The identification of a kingly figure as a healer is set up by Tolkien earlier in the chapter.

"'"The hands of the king are the hands of a healer." And so the rightful king could ever be known.'"
Ibid, p.136

This likewise echoes another Gospel scene:

"John (the Baptist) summoned two of his disciples
and sent them to the Lord to ask,
'Are you the one who is to come,

or should we look for another?'

"....And (Jesus) said to them in reply,

'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:
the blind regain their sight, the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear..."
Luke 7:18a-19,22a

The Lord of the Rings is not an allegory (a genre Tolkien "cordially" disliked), but Tolkien encouraged readers to explore the "applicability" of what he wrote. He also once described The Lord of the Rings as a "Catholic" work.

Thus readers have seen Christ-like qualities not only in Aragorn (as above), but also in Frodo (the suffering one upon whom the salvation of the world depends) and Gandalf (resurrection).

(Many such nuances, unfortunately, were lost in the recent Lord of the Rings films.)

The most important echoes of this Gospel, however, are not literary echoes in famous books - no matter how wonderful the books may be.

The most important echoes of this Gospel, in which the Lord labors long and hard to bring healing, should be found in our own lives: by our laboring long and hard to bring true healing by the grace of Christ.

Then will the rightful faith be known.