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...

Friday, March 31, 2006

Stand out

In today’s first reading (Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22), we hear what wicked people say about someone who is just:

To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,
Because his life is not like that of others,
and different are his ways.

Do we live lives that stand out?

Do our lives shine with the love and truth of Christ?

Terri Schiavo - rest in peace

Terri Schiavo died a year ago today after being deprived of food and water.

Requiescat in pace.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Those "Others" in the Church

They say they are good Christians or good Catholics, but their faith is quite obviously different from the teaching of Christ.

Their idea of good worship is unnerving.

We are sure that we would be better off without them.

In today’s first reading (Exodus 32:7-14), Moses finds himself alone in fidelity to the truth and the right worship of God. God offers him the option of getting rid of these other people and going on by himself as the pure beginning of a new People of God.

Some of us might jump at the chance.

Moses takes a different path: he prays for the people who have gone so badly astray and asks for God’s continued forbearance.

To be sure, we need to be clear about what is true and right. We muust also realize that there comes a point when people go so far astray that they have cut themselves off from the body of Christ.

God have mercy on us all.

Too many of us, however, too quickly write off other people as "extremists" or as "hopeless."

Too few of us follow the example of Moses and pray for those whose theology and/or practice is off base.

Yes, we need to be clear about what is right and what is true, but we also must pray sincerely and persistently for all those with whom we disagree and those fellow sheep of Christ who have strayed.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - an ecumenical collection of posts from various Christian blogs - is online at The Secret Life of Gary.

Imperfect parents

Some of us have been blessed with great parents, some of us have had parents that were good but not perfect, and some of us have had parents who were absent or abusive.

Today’s first reading (Isaiah 49:8-15) reminds us that no matter how good or bad our lives or our parents have been, we have a Father who loves us perfectly and forever.

Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?

Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Hearing God's call in search for happiness

This morning’s Washington Post has an article on young people and vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The healing waters

For many, Lent is a time of self-examination, of focusing on our sins, and of enabling us through self-denial to strip away those things in our lives that are not of God.

Yet as we do these things, we must keep firmly in our minds and in our hearts that all of this is ultimately and fundamentally the work of grace.

Today’s readings provide us with a most wonderful metaphor for this grace: that of flowing, healing waters.

Today’s Gospel (John 5:1-16) poignantly depicts our spiritual condition without that grace.

In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk,
of blind, halt, withered,
waiting for the moving of the water.

And in the first reading (from Ezekiel 47:1-12) we have that marvelous image of the great, deepening river that flows from the sanctuary of God and brings life and healing everywhere it goes.

We need that flowing, healing water: water whose truest source is Christ himself.

We need that water - that grace - to flow through us and to scour out the Augean stables of our sinful hearts.

We need that water - that grace - to restore vigor to our drooping spirits, as Christ healed the man in today’s Gospel.

We need that water - that grace - to bring forth new and abundant fruit within our souls: fruit that will last and never grow stale.

We need that water – that grace – to flow through us and touch the lives of everyone we meet with the eternal springtime of God’s truth and love.

To be sure, the basic spadework of self-examination and of self-denial are worthy things to do and are in themselves the work of grace.

Yet we must also take the time to set these tasks aside and to let the flowing, healing waters of God’s wonderful grace simply flow within us, wipe away our selfish resistance to his Truth, and fill us to overflowing with the infinite and everlasting love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Catholic Carnival

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

Monday, March 27, 2006

Answering the call

Photo: Sean Stipp/Tribune-ReviewThe Tribune Review has an article about a 61-year-old grandmother who this month made her solemn profession at St. Emma Monastery in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

Believing all the way

There is nothing more desperate than the parent of a dying child.

We hear that desperation in the words of the “royal official” in today’s Gospel (John 4:43-54):

“Sir, come down before my child dies.”

One can imagine the scene at the man’s home: the child lying near death, the mother nearly frantic with helplessness and the first cold touches of grief.

Get that man from Nazareth, was the father’s mission, and bring him back here or our child will die.

But this desperate father of a dying child would walk away from Jesus empty-handed, with nothing more than Jesus’ word that the child would live.

It was an act of great faith indeed and it would be a long road back home.

One can imagine what the man’s traveling companions might have been thinking: they would travel all the way back only to find the child sicker than before or already dead and they shuddered to think of the grief and the fury that would be unleashed.

But the father believed what Jesus said to him and was ready to walk in faith all the way back home.

Fortunately, as we hear in today’s Gospel, this father did not have to wait until he completed his long journey home: he would receive confirmation of his child’s recovery while he was still on the way.

As people of faith, we ourselves are very much like the father of that dying child. In many ways, we go forward in our long walk of life with nothing to show except faith in the word of Jesus. All around us we hear voices of doubt and even ridicule and still we go forward with faith in the word of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It isn’t always easy. Sometimes we are blessed to receive vindication of our faith along the way, such as a “mountaintop experience” or even the confirmation of a miracle as in today’s Gospel. Sometimes the Lord seems to give us little or nothing to hold onto except our faith until he finally brings us to stand before him at the end of our lives – and then, how much greater and more perfect our joy will be!

No matter what happens in our lives (or what doesn’t) we have no greater example than the desperate man in today’s Gospel who walked away with nothing more than the word of Christ and believed all the way.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


God made us for himself, as St. Augustine said, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.

Like the Israelites of old, we are in exile.

Why? Because of sin. Because, as our Lord says in today’s Gospel (John 3:14-21), we have preferred darkness.

We are in exile: languishing in sin like the children of Israel in Babylon, yearning to worship the Lord unencumbered on the everlasting Mount Zion in a heavenly Jerusalem.

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

For there they that carried us away captive
required of us a song;
and they that wasted us
required of us mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

How shall we sing the LORD's song in a strange land?

But God does not wish us to languish in sin.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae

The Annunciation by Luca GiordanoEt concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum; benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Ecce ancilla Domini,
Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Ave Maria...

Et Verbum caro factum est.
Et habitavit in nobis.

Ave Maria...

Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genitrix.
Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Gratiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut, qui, angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem ejus et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.
R. Amen.

* * *

V. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
R. And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.

Hail Mary, full of grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord,
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary...

V. And the Word was made flesh,
R. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary...

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Your Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

Today the Church celebrates
the Solemnity of the Annunciation

Something big

One day I was doing a rather mundane errand when I suddenly saw something very different:

A dozen or more television trucks lined up across the street.

The sign was unmistakable: something big was about to happen.

News of it would go around the world, although it affected the lives of relatively few.

One day a young girl in a small town was doing everyday things when she suddenly saw something very different:

The Archangel Gabriel… and he was talking to her.

The sign was unmistakable: something very big was about to happen.

She was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb

and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.”

News of it would go around the world and would affect the lives of everyone forever.

As you and I go about the mundane things of our day, we too should look for signs. They will probably not involve satellite trucks or archangels or earthshaking events, but because of what happened to that young girl in that small town – what we hear in today's Gospel (Luke 1:26-38) and celebrate today on the Solemnity of the Annunciation – signs of grace are all around us: signs that are unmistakable, signs of God’s grace happening.

And there is nothing bigger or more glorious than the grace of God that comes to us through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Things collapsing?

Sometimes we feel that our lives are collapsing: that everything is falling apart.

And in today’s first reading (Hosea 14:2-10), we hear this:

Thus says the LORD:
Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God;
you have collapsed through your guilt.

This collapse is not due to the subjective feeling of guilt (which may be unjustified on the one hand or suppressed on the other): it is due to real, objective guilt for actual sin.

To be sure, God sends his rain on both the just and the unjust, but if we are totally grounded on Christ, then no matter what happens, we will enjoy a security that reaches deep into our souls and lasts forever

On the other hand, if we are not grounded on Christ, if our hearts are set on the things of this world, if our intentions and actions have departed from the Lord, if we sin, then we lose that security and there is nothing to keep us from collapsing all the way into the abyss.

But God is rich in mercy. He can cleanse us from our sin, wipe away our guilt and restore us by his grace so that we can have that ultimate security that only he can give.

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

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Feeling scattered?

Today's Gospel (Luke 11:14-23) offers a reason:

Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

We need to draw closer to Jesus.

Delayed vocation

He wasn't ordained a priest until he was forty, but he accomplished much: including establishing the first seminary in the Western hemisphere and fighting for the rights of native Americans.

The memory of St. Turibius de Mongrovejo - Archbishop of Lima, Peru - is celebrated on this day.

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - an ecumenical collection of sometimes controversial posts from various Christian blogs - is online at All Kinds of Time.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The little things

Often, when people have been in love a long time and they are asked what makes them love the other person or asked how they know the other person loves them, they respond, "It’s the little things."

So it is also in our relationship with God.

This reality helps gives perspective to today’s readings (Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9; Psalm 147:12-13,15-16,19-20; and Matthew 5:17-19), all of which deal with God’s statutes, decrees and commandments.

It is very easy, especially in today's world, for us to discount the value of specific commandments, especially ones that seem relatively unimportant.

But in any love relationship, it is precisely in the little things that we most often express and live out our love.

whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.

How wonderful it is to love God, even in the little things.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The cost of unforgiveness

And his lord was wroth,
and delivered him to the tormentors,
till he should pay all that was due unto him.

By one estimate, it would have taken the servant in today’s Gospel (Matthew 18:21-35) over TWENTY-SEVEN THOUSAND YEARS to pay off the debt he owed to his lord: a debt reinstated because of the servant’s refusal to forgive another servant’s debt that could have been paid back in a hundred days.

The cost of his unforgiveness was high indeed.

But one of the most disturbing things about today’s Gospel is that the first servant’s enormous debt is insignificant in comparison to the debt we owe to God: God, whose infinite and beautiful love we trash by our sin; God, who gave us our very lives; God, whose Son died on the cross for us.

No, not in 27 times 27 thousand years could we repay God. And yet, by the unearned gift of his love and grace, we are freed from the eternal debt of sin through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

But if we fail to let God’s gift of forgiveness flow through us, if we fail to be forgiving of those around us and those with whom we are estranged, then we risk the death of God’s love and grace within us.

And his lord was wroth,
and delivered him to the tormentors,
till he should pay all that was due unto him.

So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you,
if ye from your hearts
forgive not every one his brother
their trespasses.

The cost of unforgiveness is too high.

You and I must let God’s forgiveness flow.

For our own sakes, you and I desperately need to be faithful conduits of the infinite love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Catholic Carnival

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

Monday, March 20, 2006

Where Christ is

One of the two Gospel passages available for today’s Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the familiar Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-51a).

There is an interesting ambiguity in our Lord’s response to Mary and Joseph. Traditionally, it has been translated:

Did you not know that I must be about my father’s business?

But translations read by many today put it this way:

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?

Both translations have value, not just from the technical standpoint of translation, but also in the spiritual meaning of our Lord’s words.

On one level, the correct sense seems obvious: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was found in the Temple – the special earthly house of God his Father – and it should have been obvious that he would be found there, “in my Father’s house.”

But our Lord spent only a small portion of his earthly life and ministry in his "Father’s house" and so, on another level, the other sense of our Lord’s words seems much more apt: that he is to be found about his “Father’s business.”

And where Christ is, so too must we be: in our Father’s house, about our Father’s business.

The ancient Benedictine phrase expresses it succinctly: ora et labora - prayer and work.

As Christians, we must be about our Father’s business: teaching his truth and sharing his love.

As Christians, we must also spend time in our Father’s house: alone with him in prayer as well as together in prayer and faith with the Church (the house of God, e.g. 1 Timothy 3:5, 15).

As we continue this season of Lent with our self-examination and spiritual growth by the grace of God, we do well to ask ourselves these questions:

How much time do I spend about my Father’s business?

How much time do
I spend in my Father’s house?

How might I better imitate

“She’s pregnant.”

"Pregnant? But, I... I mean, she... I mean, we never..."

"There must be something going on you don't know about."

"I can't believe it. No, she wouldn't."

"Look, she's pregnant. There's no doubt about it. She's pregnant."

"I just can't..."

"Come on! Focus! You've got some decisions to make."

"I... what...?"

"If the child's not yours, that means she cheated on you."

"No, no, she wouldn't..."

"Hey, face reality. If you didn't do it, that means somebody else did. I know you love her, but it's obvious: she cheated on you. And you know what that means."

"I... oh, no. No, not that. I'm not letting that happen to her."

"Listen, it's the way it has to be."

"No! Absolutely not. There's got to be another way."

"Umm.... well... there's a legal thing we can do quietly. That way you can go on with your life and she can go on to... whatever."

"But she doesn't get hurt."

"No, she doesn't get hurt."

"Well, I guess... but, I... I just don't know..."

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying,

"Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

"Behold, a virgin shall be with child,
and shall bring forth a son,
and they shall call his name Emmanuel,
which being interpreted is, 'God with us.'"

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife....
cf Matthew 1:20-24

Today is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph
Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Practical or compromising?

In today’s Gospel (John 2:13-25) we have the familiar account of our Lord driving the moneychangers from the Temple.

Since the temple was the site of pilgrimage for Jews from many parts of the world with many different kinds of money, the moneychangers and other vendors were a practical necessity (as any international traveler can attest).

At some point, however, this practical necessity was made more and more convenient and then at some point crossed the line into sacrilege.

Likewise you and I may make arrangements or do things out of what seems to be practical necessity, but somehow these pragmatic decisions can become or drift into inappropriate compromises of moral truth and our personal integrity.

As we continue our celebration of Lent, we do well to look at ourselves and our lives: to reevaluate our pragmatic positions or accommodations, to see whether we have drifted too far or compromised too much, and to discern how we can be even more faithful to the truth and love of Christ.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Delight in clemency

Today’s Gospel (Luke 15:1-3,11-32) gives us the familiar parable of the Prodigal Son. It ties in quite obviously with the first reading (Micah 7:14-15, 18-20) that acclaims our loving God who “delights in clemency.”

As we hear again this parable, we should ask ourselves the question, “Which of the people in the parable is more like me?”

Am I the rebellious, wandering child?
Am I the child who is obedient but resentful?
Am I the parent who loves and embraces his repentant child?

No matter who we are or what we have done, God calls us to delight in clemency.

Challenges for the bishop

He was a native of the city, a priest of the Diocese, and well thought of by the bishop and others, so it was no surprise that he was picked to be the new bishop upon his mentor’s death.

But he had enemies, who accused him of many things – not the least of which was heresy. He was forced to leave town more than once.

In the end, he ended up on the right side of the many theological and political controversies that were buffeting the Church. Indeed, his writings on theological and liturgical matters would become widely read and treasured.

One of the interesting pastoral problems he faced was an influx of pilgrims that would come into his diocese, more and more every year, especially during the week before Easter.

The reasons for this were twofold:

First of all, his diocese (and hometown) was Jerusalem.

Second, the open practice of Christianity had just been legalized a few decades before by the Emperor Constantine.

Some say that it was Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem during the middle decades of the fourth century, who shaped the celebrations for Holy Week at Jerusalem’s holy sites (e.g., the procession with palms) and that returning pilgrims spread these practices throughout Christendom.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop of the Holy City, great writer of Catecheses, and Doctor of the Church, is said to have died on this very day in the year 386.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, March 17, 2006

I arise today

Saint Patrick (click for hymn tune)
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength

of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength

of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength

of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength

of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun, Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning, Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea, Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers

between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power

that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells

of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge

that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me,

Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,

Christ when I sit down,

in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,

the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation
(St. Patrick's Breastplate)

Prayer for Discernment

"Lord I know that you love me
and that you have great plans for me.
But sometimes
I am overwhelmed by the thought of my future.
Show me how to walk forward one day at a time.

"As I explore the various options which lie before me,
help me to listen openly to others,
and to pay attention
to what is in the depth of my own heart.

"In this way,
may I hear your call to a way of life
which will allow me to love as only I can,
and allow me to serve others
with the special gifts you have given me.

from the website of
the Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors of Ireland


Murderous resentment

In the first reading (from Genesis 37), the sons of Israel plot the death of their brother Joseph because he seems to have more of their father’s love.

In the Gospel (Matthew 21:33-43,45-46), our Lord tells the parable of the wicked tenants who think they can get the landlord’s riches by murdering the landlord’s son. The end result of their murderous resentment is quite simple and quite dark: “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death...

Do we resent others? Do we resent people who are richer, luckier, more talented, and/or better looking?

Let today’s readings serve as warnings.

Some people have more of some things than others, but whether we have little or we have much, each of us must use everything we have as best we can for the glory of God and the aid of our fellow man.

He was a middle class kid

with good parents, but in the place where they lived, civilization itself was coming apart. In fact, when Succat was a teenager, bandits raided the town and kidnapped him. They took him out of the country and sold him into slavery.

Succat found himself watching animals for a local chieftain. He learned his captors’ language as well as their religion, although he held on to his own Christian faith and kept his prayers private.

After six years, he escaped and after many adventures found himself back home.

The experience of captivity, however, had awakened something deep within Succat. He resolved to devote his life to God.

He went to different monasteries to pray and study for some years. A charismatic bishop took Succat under his wing, ordained him a priest and gave him important assignments in teaching people the truth of Christ and his grace.

Yet Succat could not forget the people who had held him captive. He felt called to bring the Gospel of Christ to them. After many consultations, he was consecrated as a bishop and sent as a missionary.

Returning to the land of his captivity, Succat met fierce opposition and endured many trials, but he held firm and many miracles took place at his hands. He baptized thousands, built churches, and established dioceses throughout the land.

Succat, better known by his religious name of Patrick, the great Apostle of Ireland, died in the latter half of the fifth century. His feast is celebrated today around the world.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Are you lonesome tonight?

Thus says the Lord in the first reading (Jeremiah 17:5-10) for yesterday (I had Blogger and other challenges):

More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the LORD, alone probe the mind
and test the heart...

No matter how we may feel, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is there to help us.

Be thou near, Lord.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Christian Carnival

This week's Christian Carnival - an ecumenical collection of posts from various Christian blogs - is online at Light Along the Journey.

Humble service

We want people to like us.
We want people to understand us.
We would like to be well thought of.
We would enjoy a life of ease and privilege.

As we hear in today’s readings, God calls us to something else – something better.

God calls us to humble service.

God calls us to service that is totally for the good, yet is often misinterpreted for ill by a sinful world (as was the case for Jeremiah in today’s first reading – Jeremiah 18:18-20).

God calls us imitate his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Chist, as he tells us in today’s Gospel (Matthew 2:17-28):

Whoever wishes to be great among you
shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you
shall be your slave.

You and I need to think about all the ways in which we could serve more, the ways in which we could become even more humble, and the ways in which we could better reflect Christ in what we do and in what we say.

Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Catholic Carnival

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

Evading justice?

Slobodan Milosevic, called the “Butcher of the Balkans” by many, died recently before an international war crimes tribunal could convict him.

Some writers have said that he therefore escaped justice.

Today’s first reading (Isaiah 1:10, 16-20) says this:

But if ye refuse and rebel,
ye shall be devoured with the sword:
for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

It is not my place to judge the state of anyone’s soul – that judgment belongs to God – yet those who say that anyone can "escape justice" by dying are seriously mistaken.

Each and every one of us will be judged by God: no one can evade God’s justice and nothing we do or think can escape his scrutiny.

Indeed, no earthly tribunal can truly mete out justice except in an analogous sense or for very minor offenses. If a man is guilty of the deaths of thousands, how could any earthly sentence constitute justice? Only in eternity will the scales of justice be leveled out.

To be sure, the processes of earthly justice are valuable and necessary, but while one might be able to escape earthly justice, there is no escaping the justice of God.

And yet God is also infinitely merciful, and no matter what we have done, if we truly repent and call upon the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be saved.

Wash you, make you clean;
put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes;
Cease to do evil; Learn to do well;
Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed,
judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD:
though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool.

If ye be willing and obedient,
ye shall eat the good of the land:

But if ye refuse and rebel,
ye shall be devoured with the sword:
for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

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

Monday, March 13, 2006

Get it all out

Sometimes just saying “I’m sorry” is not enough.

As human beings, we are complex, multi-layered creatures and sometimes as we stand before our simply perfect and infinite God it is good for us to take the time to peel back these layers as we express our sorrow and ask for his mercy.

Today’s first reading (Daniel 9:4b-10) is a long unrelenting cry of contrition.

Lord, great and awesome God,
you who keep your merciful covenant

toward those who love you
and observe your commandments!

We have sinned, been wicked and done evil;
we have rebelled

and departed from your commandments and your laws.
We have not obeyed your servants the prophets,
who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes,
our fathers, and all the people of the land.

Justice, O Lord, is on your side;
we are shamefaced even to this day:
we, the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem,
and all Israel, near and far,
in all the countries to which you have scattered them
because of their treachery toward you.

O LORD, we are shamefaced,

like our kings, our princes, and our fathers,
for having sinned against you.

But yours, O Lord, our God,

are compassion and forgiveness!
Yet we rebelled against you
and paid no heed to your command, O LORD, our God,
to live by the law

you gave us through your servants the prophets.

God is indeed rich in compassion and through his Son our Lord Jesus Christ extends to us the free gift of his perfect forgiveness.

This season of Lent can be a wonderful opportunity for us to deepen our experience of this gift. Perhaps it would be good for us to get beyond our usual expressions of contrition and to set aside special time to make an especially meaningful examination of conscience and perhaps even arranging extra time for an unhurried celebration and experience of God’s grace through the Sacrament of Penance.

God is indeed rich in mercy. We need to peel back all of our mental and emotional layers and let that mercy flow upon us.

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

The process of discerning a vocation

"The two most important signs are:
  • "First, the individual will feel the desire to serve God — a desire which goes beyond mere curiosity.
  • "And secondly, there will be no impediments to pursuing a vocation (such as: having already entered into the married state). If these two signs are present, it could mean that the individual is authentically called to the priesthood or religious life.

"At this point, there are two mistakes someone might make. One would be to rush impulsively into a vocation without a period of discernment. (However, modern religious life is structured to minimize this possibility.) Another mistake would be to wait too long to pursue a vocation, while endlessly debating within oneself and being exposed to the temptations and allurements of the world. Certainly, the devil will try to derail as many true vocations as possible. And often, people have waited so long to answer God's invitation that they lose their opportunity.

"Fortunately, there are constructive things one can do to acquire a greater certainty about one's calling.

  • "The first is to practice the Catholic faith assiduously — with devotion and reverence. Frequent the Sacraments, especially Mass and Confession. And try to remain always in a state of grace. (For how can God speak to you, if you sever communications with Him?)
  • "Secondly, pray for the specific intention of knowing your vocation. Pray after receiving Communion and before the Blessed Sacrament. You might also want to make a novena, or have a Mass offered for your intention.It is particularly beneficial to seek the intercession of the Immaculate Mother of God in order to be more certain about your vocation. For just as she initiated Jesus' public life at the wedding feast of Cana, she is also the Mother of all true callings to the priesthood or religious life.
  • "And lastly, seek the advice of someone who has experience in the discernment of vocations. For example, the vocation director for a religious order, or a diocese, would be experienced in this matter.It can be quite difficult to discover one's calling in life. Yet the struggle is well worth the peace and joy an individual experiences, when they finally know what God wants them to do.

"The Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word would be interested in hearing from Catholic men, 21 to 35 years old, who think they might be called to a life such as ours. Our Vocation Director has helped many young men discern their vocations and he may be able to help you, too. Just click on the "Contact Us" link."

from the website of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Abraham and the Suicide Bombers

Many people have always been disturbed by today’s first reading (from Genesis 22): the account of Abraham nearly killing his son at God’s command.

This incident feels even more disturbing nowadays as men and women around the world are killing themselves and others because they think it is what God wants them to do.

Is Abraham – the great patriarch of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths – therefore the forerunner of today’s suicide bombers?

The answer is no.

To begin with, God had no intention of having Isaac die at Abraham’s hand: this was a special test for a man with a unique place in salvation history - a test that God knew Abraham would pass.

Secondly, Abraham was not getting his orders from a psychotic, self-appointed middleman: Abraham had already been successfully discerning the voice of God in his life for many years.

Of course, people like to twist things for their own purposes. The evil masters of the suicide bombers may cynically and falsely invoke the obedience of Abraham in their indoctrination. Likewise the extremist enemies of religion cynically and falsely try to portray all who are serious about their faith as being just like suicide bombers.

We base our lives on a faith that comes from God, not on decadent materialism or on extremist ideology (religious or otherwise).

Abraham is our father in faith – not our father in extremist ideology, but our father in careful discernment of God’s will and trust in that will.

Abraham was always open and listening for God’s will: ready to respond instantly, “Here I am.”

Even in the very worst seconds of his life, there with his son on Mount Moriah, Abraham was open and listening for God’s will and he was rewarded richly for it: beginning with the life of his son and then so much more.

I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth
shall find blessing—
all this because you obeyed my command.

Like Abraham, we need to be open to, listening for, and discerning continually the will of God. We cannot simply coast. Suicide bombers close themselves off and coast. Ideologues (religious or anti-religious) close themselves off and coast.

If Abraham had coasted, Isaac would have died right then and there. Instead, Abraham kept discerning and was rewarded for it.

We too must keep discerning – both when our path seems clear and when our path seems covered in cloud – listening for the voice and will of God in its ever-greater fullness. And by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we too will be rewarded.

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
"This is my beloved Son.
Listen to him."

Suddenly, looking around,
they no longer saw anyone but Jesus...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Couple of Changes in the Curia

The Holy Father’s spiritual retreat this week with the Curia has concluded. Now come a couple of changes.

The Holy Father has accepted the retirement of Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao as President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and for now has united the leadership of that council with that of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The Holy Father has therefore named the latter council’s president, Cardinal Raffaele Martino, as the new President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

The Holy Father, with the goal of promoting a more intense dialogue between people of culture and supporters of various religions, for now has united the leadership of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue with that of the Pontifical Council for Culture and therefore has named the latter Council’s president, Cardinal Paul Poupard, as the new President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.


It may seem illogical, but perfectionism is generally seen as a bad thing.

Perfectionists are seen as neurotic, anxious people who drive themselves (and everybody else) crazy: pushing to meet an impossibly high standard.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:43-48), our Lord seems to want us all to be perfectionists.

So be perfect,
just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Talk about a high standard!

The perfectionism to which Christ calls us, of course, is very different from the perfectionism of man.

To begin with, the focus of Christian perfectionism is to do what is good more and more fully. To be sure, we are also to avoid doing what is wrong, but if we keep our primary focus on doing more and more of what is good, it becomes easier to move away from things that are wrong.

The biggest difference, however, between the perfectionism of man and the perfectionism of God is grace.

God is not an unrelenting, impossible-to-please coach who shouts at us from the sidelines.

God is right there with us on the road to perfection: helping us with his grace and showering us with his love. We may stumble and we may even slip backwards, but God is always there for us: forgiving us our faults, calling us to perfection and helping us every step of the way.

By his grace and with his love, we can keep moving forward.

So be perfect,
just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Am I forgetting anybody?

At awards shows like last Sunday’s Oscars, the winners often launch into a litany of people they wish to thank. Invariably one or two will come to the end of their mental list of indispensable people and say sotto voce “Am I forgetting anybody?”

It is a question that is very applicable to today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:20-26):

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.

It is a question that we would do well to ask ourselves when we examine our consciences and when we ask God for his mercy.

"Am I forgetting anybody?"

Thursday, March 09, 2006

"Let us then be shepherds like the Lord"

"We must meditate on the Gospel, and as we see in this mirror the example of zeal and loving kindness, we should become thoroughly schooled in these virtues.

"For there, obscurely, in the form of a parable, we see a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. When one of them was separated from the flock and lost its way, that shepherd did not remain with the sheep who kept together at pasture.

"No, he went off to look for the stray. He crossed many valleys and thickets, he climbed great and towering mountains, he spent much time and labor in wandering through solitary places until at last he found his sheep.

"When he found it, he did not chastise it; he did not use rough blows to drive it back, but gently placed it on his own shoulders and carried it back to the flock. He took greater joy in this one sheep, lost and found, than in all the others.

"Let us look more closely at the hidden meaning of this parable.

"The sheep is more than a sheep, the shepherd more than a shepherd. They are examples enshrining holy truths.

"They teach us that we should not look on men as lost or beyond hope; we should not abandon them when they are in danger or be slow to come to their help.

"When they turn away from the right path and wander, we must lead them back, and rejoice at their return, welcoming them back into the company of those who lead good and holy lives."

from a homily by St. Asterius of Amasea, bishop
(today's Office of Readings)

The Station Churches of Lent in Rome

Father Jim Tucker's alma mater has put together a cool interactive guide to Rome's Station Churches: a devotion in which people go to a different church every day during the season of Lent.


(Reverential hat tip to Father Tucker at Dappled Things)

Jesus Decoded

A new website from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops asserting the truth about Christ and Christianity in the face of disinformation currently being promoted by cultural elites:

Picking the right gift

It is one of the most difficult of the common challenges in families and in relationships.

What am I going to get so-and-so for this coming Christmas/birthday/special occasion?

Sometimes, we end up getting our loved one something we would want.

Often, it's not something they want.

What's more, often the thing we think we want turns out not to be good for us.

Fortunately, God knows what is truly good for us - better than we know ourselves, as today's Gospel (Matthew 7:7-12) reminds us:

If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father

give good things to those who ask him.

Let us ask.

Her father insisted that she get married

...when she was 12!

She was very sick for a long time afterwards, but eventually recovered and embraced married life. She and her husband would have a very strong marriage and wonderful children while she continued to pursue a deep spiritual life.

Through no fault of their own, however, their life was not always a happy one. At that time, local politics in their hometown were extremely brutal and their families were caught squarely in the middle. Conflict raged even with in the Church. The local economy also suffered downturn after downturn. Their house was vandalized and nearly destroyed. Her husband and son were both forced out of town.

Through it all she remained devout and worked diligently to help those in worse circumstances than their own. She worked especially hard to rescue unwanted babies.

Over the decades, her spiritual life grew deeper and more amazing. Miracles took place at her hands and she could see her guardian angel with her waking eyes.

She gathered a group of women together to form a community of prayer and devotion. The unmarried ones formed a cloister for contemplative prayer, the married ones joined together in prayer while fulfilling their obligations to their families as well as to the poor.

A few years after her husband died, she had a vision of angels, saints and Christ himself in which she learned that she would die in seven days.

Seven days later, she was reciting Vespers. When she had finished, she said, “The Angel has finished his task; he calls me to follow him.”

St. Frances of Rome died on this very day in 1440.

(adapted from an earlier post)

"The call to the religious life...

"...is a gift whose richness unfolds each day before us.

"Our charism of reparation puts prayer at the center of our day whether we are carrying out our apostolate of teaching or uniting ourselves with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament."

from the website of
the Sisters of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Christian Carnival

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

Penitence for animals?

There is something odd in today’s familiar first reading (Jonah 3:1-10), where the King of Nineveh decrees penitence for his realm.

Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.

Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth
and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.

Fasting and sackcloth for cows and sheep?

Why does the king decree penitence for the animals?

For one thing, what the king is saying is that the penitence is to be absolutely comprehensive, touching every aspect of life: even the practical and economic aspects of life (which would have centered around cattle and sheep in that time and place).

So too we, as part of our continuing conversion and our striving to be more and more like Christ in all things, must not exempt the practical and economic aspects of our lives.

Whether we herd sheep, write code or teach third graders, our attitude and behavior needs to reflect Christ, even on the job.

Extreme measures

Raised out in the country, John was put to work when he was still a boy. When he reached manhood, John’s boss pressured him to marry his daughter.

John ran away and joined the army.

After his first tour, the marriage proposal was repeated.

John volunteered for a regiment being deployed to a combat zone.

During the next few decades, John pretty much drifted from job to job and place to place. Finally, he decided to devote his life to God.

He was not afraid to take his devotion to the edge: he was an early adopter of a recent breakthrough in communications technology, using it to spread religious messages.

He also walked through the city streets, beating his breast and crying aloud for God’s mercy.

He subsequently found himself involved with the public Mental Health system until a priest got John to modify his behavior.

John now focused on caring for the sick and the poor. He got other men to join him in establishing hospitals and helping the destitute.

Still, John retained his inclination for the extreme. If he met a beggar in inclement weather, he would give him the coat off his own back. When a hospital caught on fire, John went through the flames again and again until all the patients were safely out. Finally, when he saw a man drowning, he dove in the water and nearly drowned himself.

This last incident broke his health entirely. John died shortly thereafter on his 55th birthday, 456 years ago today. St. John of God was canonized in 1690 and is a patron saint for hospitals and for the dying.

His followers became known as the Hospitaller Brothers of Saint John of God. "1,448 Brothers of St. John of God continue his mission of caring for the sick and poor in over 360 centers in 46 countries on 5 continents throughout the world."

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Perpetual Felicity

She was young, married, lived in a nice house, did not have to work and had a beautiful child.

Then she accepted Christ and experienced a joy greater than anything and everything else in her life.

Then, everything in her life was taken away from her.

At one point, her father, holding her child in his arms, begged her to change her mind.

She did not.

They threw her into a pit filled with wild animals. The animals mortally wounded both her and another young woman who worked for her (but was also a friend and fellow Christian). They were then finished off with swords.

Stories of these two young women, known as Saints Perpetua and Felicity, spread around the world and their names were even added to the Roman Canon of the Mass.

They are said to have died in North Africa with three other martyrs on this very day in the year 203.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Catholic Carnival

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

Get wet

Perhaps now, part way through its first full week, we may have already fallen off the track of what we had planned to do or to give up for Lent.

Or perhaps Lent does not mean anything to us, but there is a dryness in our lives and in our souls that we feel and that does not seem ever to go away.

Today’s first reading (Isaiah 55:10-11) gives an answer:

For as the rain cometh down,
and the snow from heaven,
and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth,
and maketh it bring forth and bud,
that it may give seed to the sower,
and bread to the eater:

So shall my word be
that goeth forth out of my mouth:
it shall not return unto me void,
but it shall accomplish that which I please,
and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

This passage invites us to “get wet” with the Word of God: to let it soak into us, where it will bear much fruit. We need to take more time to read it, to speak it aloud, and to meditate upon it.

It is a good thing to do during Lent and a very good thing to do in any spiritual desert.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Reproving myself

There are many people in the world who are intent on proving themselves.

My ambition is to be intent on reproving myself.

On one level I mean this as a pun: I have to re-prove myself, for I – to refashion a phrase from the Alma Redemptoris Mater – have fallen, yet strive to rise again and to prove myself again by the grace of God.

On another level, fallen as I am, I have many reasons to reprove myself. Indeed, this season of Lent is a good opportunity for me to focus on my many weaknesses and pray that God’s grace may come to greater fruition in me.

On yet another level, there is the reproving mentioned in today’s first reading (Leviticus 19:1-2,11-18):

You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove him,
do not incur sin because of him.

For those of us who have been undeservedly blessed to have had even a modicum of education in the truths of our faith, it is easy to see how many people fall short of the fullness of that truth and even oppose it.

It is also easy to see the peril those people therefore face and to feel the urgency of helping them to the right path. Indeed, we cannot "stand idly by while (our) neighbor’s life is at stake."

And yet even our efforts to help may themselves be fraught with peril: for example, if we are not careful, our righteous indignation at the offense can easily turn to hatred of the person and our "superior" knowledge can lead to pride and to the overlooking of our own faults.

You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove him,
do not incur sin because of him.

We must remember that we are all sinners and that as we reprove others we must also be reproving ourselves.

Hence the bottom line of today’s first reading:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Get out of jail free

Sometimes we feel trapped.

Sometimes we feel we cannot break a particular bad habit, extract ourselves from a particular immoral situation, or live the kind of saintly life we want to.

In today’s second reading (1 Peter 3:18-22), we hear words of hope in Christ.

...(H)e also went to preach to the spirits in prison,
who had once been disobedient...

No matter what moral, spiritual or emotional prison we may be in, Christ can set us free, if only we open ourselves entirely to him, his grace, and his will.

Come and set us free, Lord.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Have a good Sunday tomorrow

"What are you doing this weekend?" many people ask. The answer usually involves a list of activities, entertainments, errands, or mini-vacations.

Today's first reading (Isaiah 58:9b-14) gives us a better way:

If you hold back your foot on the sabbath
from following your own pursuits on my holy day;
If you call the sabbath a delight,
and the LORD’s holy day honorable;
If you honor it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice—
Then you shall delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth...

(The great Pope John Paul II wrote eloquently of these things in his Apostolic Letter Dies Domini.)

Important things to think about as we make our plans for tomorrow.

Vocations fair

The Archdiocese of Atlanta is having a Vocations Fair March 11 for men and women who are considering the call to the Religious Life, men considering the call to Priesthood, and anyone wishing to support and pray for Vocations.

from the Vocations website, www.calledbychrist.com, of the Archdiocese of Atlanta

He slept on the ground

by his own choice, even though his family was rich and powerful.

He was not interested in power, but in justice. He was not interested in wealth but in caring for people in need. He was not interested in the good things of this life, but in the eternal life of the world to come.

St. Casimir, son of the King of Poland, died of tuberculosis on this very day in 1484. He was canonized in 1522.

(from an earlier post)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Fasting badly

Sometimes we fast or give up things for Lent out of habit or for some other motives: e.g., to lose weight.

Today’s first reading (Isaiah 58:1-9a) warns us against “bad” self-deprivation and encourages us to go the extra mile in our penitence.

Lo, on your fast day
you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.

Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.

Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!

Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call,
and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help,
and he will say: Here I am!

A very, very rich girl

Katherine was born very rich. Her grandfather had founded a legendary financial house. Her uncle was one of the richest and most influential men in the United States. She and her sisters received the best of everything - the best tutors, trips to Europe, etc. – and yet in the midst of all these riches, her parents also passed on to their children a strong and devout faith.

Then, in her twenties, Katherine found herself at a crossroads. Both of her parents were dead. A life of leisure would be easy, thanks to her father’s immense estate, but she felt empty.

She knew that beyond the circle of wealth and privilege in which she had been raised there were many people who were suffering, especially Native Americans and African Americans. She directed funds from her family’s resources to establish various charitable endeavors to help.

She was able to arrange a private audience with the Pope at which she asked him to send missionaries to aid her cause.

The Pope suggested that she become a missionary.

Katherine subsequently became a nun. In fact, she founded her own order. She established many schools for deprived children in the Deep South and the Great Plains.

She worked hard for many decades and when her health began to fail, she devoted herself to a life of prayer.

St. Katherine Drexel, founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, died at the age of 96 51 years ago today. She was canonized in 2000.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Life is full of choices, but ultimately they all add up to one choice, as today’s first reading tells us (Deuteronomy 30:15-20):

Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom.

If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him, and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live and grow numerous,
and the LORD, your God, will bless you
in the land you are entering to occupy.

If, however, you turn away your hearts
and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish...

We need to think about this as we make our choices today.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Christian Carnival

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


Remember, man, that you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es,
et in pulverem reverteris.

New bishop

The Holy Father has named as the new Bishop of Ferns (Ireland) Father Denis Brennan, a priest of the Diocese. Bishop-elect Brennan was born in County Wexford June 20, 1945 and was ordained for the diocese in 1970. He preached parish missions throughout Ireland as well as Great Britain, Canada, and the United States and has been serving most recently as Pastor in Taghmon and Vicar Forane for County Wexford.

The Holy Father has also named Father Raul Martin, 47, as Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires. Bishop-elect Martin is a Buenos Aires native and a priest of the Archdiocese.

In-your-face religion

Every year, it is one of the most public manifestations of religion – and yet also the most personal: people wearing ashes on their foreheads as they go about their normal lives on Ash Wednesday.

But the value of this external sign is very much affected by the value of what is in a person’s heart.

This is not the time to be haughty (“See what a good Catholic I am!”)

As today’s first reading reminds us (Joel 2:12-18), we need to be humble and repentant.

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.

Today’s Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6,16-18) drives the point home even more forcefully that our penitence and devotion must be deep and internal and that we must beware of performing “righteous deeds in order that people might see them.”

Sometimes, of course, our righteous deeds may end up being seen or known by others. Some acts of charity cannot be anonymous. Also, since we are called in varying ways to be “ambassadors for Christ,” there inevitably will be more-or-less public aspects of what we do for Christ.

In such cases, however, we need to scrutinize continually our motives and our impact.

Our goal should not be to show what good people we are.

Our words, gestures, comportment, and actions should communicate that devout Christians are good people and most importantly that the Lord Jesus whom we serve is goodness itself.

"When people see me, they must be able to say, 'Because this man is good, his religion must be good.' If anyone asks me why I am gentle and good, I have to say, 'Because I serve One who is far more 'good' than I am. If only you knew how good Jesus my Master is."
Blessed Charles de Foucauld

"En me voyant, on doit se dire : 'Puisque cet homme est si bon, sa religion doit être bonne.' Et si l'on me demande pourquoi je suis doux et bon, je dois répondre : 'Parce que je suis le serviteur d'un bien plus bon que moi. Si vous saviez combien est bon mon Maître Jésus.'"

Ash Wednesday is a day of witness, but most importantly it is a day of conversion – of renewing our never-ending efforts through God's grace to be more and more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

What shall we pray for this month?

The Holy Father's general prayer intention for this month is:

"That young people, who are looking for the meaning of life, be understood, respected and supported with patience and love."

His missionary intention is:

That Catholics "grow in mission awareness and offer support and collaboration to missionary work."