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, June 30, 2006

Christian Carnival

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

Domine, si vis...

Today's Gospel (Matthew 8:1-4) contains one of the most perfect prayers ever said by someone other than our Lord.

Lord, if you wish,
you can make me clean.

Domine, si vis,
potes me mundare.

Our Lord's response is quick (and even quicker in Latin):

I will do it. Be made clean.

Volo, mundare!

It foreshadows the prayer our Lord himself would speak in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39):

My Father, if it is possible,
let this cup pass from me;
yet, not as I will,
but as you will.

Pater mi, si possibile est,
transeat a me calix iste;
verumtamen non sicut ego volo,
sed sicut tu.

Whenever we pray, whenever we feel the need for something, may our own prayer be ever thus.

Domine, si vis....

...non sicut ego volo,
sed sicut tu.

At first, they were not really noticed

but soon there were more and more of them.

At first, they all looked like the other immigrants from the Middle East, but soon normal-looking people were found to have converted to this religion and were setting themselves apart from the mainstream of society.

They became the subject of rumors, ridicule, and investigations.

Then, a horrific criminal act laid waste to the center of the great city, killing many.

The focus quickly fell upon these outsiders.

They and their leaders were rounded up. Many were tortured and many were killed.

These first Christian martyrs of the Church of Rome remained true to their faith, rejoicing to share in the salvific sufferings of Christ, and helped stoke the fires of a spiritual awakening that would flourish when the empire that had sought to crush them was itself dust.

Today the Church celebrates the memory of the first martyrs of the Church of Rome.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Not prevail

The Church's message: disregarded by most people.

The Church's reputation: a morass of immorality.

The Church's ministers: hiding from the public.

The Church's followers: often indistinguishable from pagans.

The Church's worldwide leader: being tortured at the Vatican.

That was the state of the Church barely thirty years after our Lord said that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," as we hear in today's Gospel (Matthew 16:13-19).

It was indeed a dark time for the Body of Christ: Christians were relatively few, the Christian message was not well known or understood, Christians were accused of everything from cannibalism to arson, Christians and their leaders often had to hide from murderous prosecution, some Christians returned in fear to their pagan ways, and Saint Peter himself was being hung upside down on a cross on the Vatican hill.

At that moment, it would have been very easy to think that the gates of hell were indeed prevailing against the Church.

But the gates of hell did not prevail at that darkest of moments in the life of the Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail now nor in the future.

The words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God, remain true.

And I say also unto thee,
That thou art Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church;
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

And I will give unto thee
the keys of the kingdom of heaven:
and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth
shall be bound in heaven:
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth
shall be loosed in heaven.

We as a Church may experience dark times. Like Saint Paul in today's second reading (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18) we may be "poured out like a libation," but if we remain faithful, by God's grace, like Paul we will be able to say

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me
the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion's mouth.

The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

The ancient Latin phrase resonates in magnificence, with a feeling of awe and power like the majestic columns of a mighty cathedral: Sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Paulum - the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

Their origins were humble and they were slaughtered by the ruling regime almost as an afterthought, their deaths scarcely noted by the chroniclers of the day, but their work, their words, their blood, and their lives -- by the power of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ shining through them -- became the foundation of Christendom itself. Now the city that had crushed them is dominated by their monuments.

O Roma felix! Duorum Principum es consecrata sanguine!

God would raise up other great saints, and He continues to do so, but even the greatest but stand on the shoulders of these giants. There would have been no Gregory the Great or John Paul the second without Peter the Rock. There would have been no Thomas Aquinas without Saul of Tarsus.

They were human beings like us and not without flaws, but none could be mightier. They held nothing back: once they were sent forth, they laid everything on the line for Christ, every day of their lives – all their hearts, all their strength, all their talents, their freedom, and even their life's blood – everything went for Christ. They were exalted, yes, but only because they served humbly, lovingly, and forcefully.

If we’re looking for role models in our lives as we seek to make a difference in this world, we could not do better that the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


In today's first reading (2 Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3), the book of the Law is rediscovered in the Temple of the Lord.

Would not these first days of summer (winter) be a good time to rediscover a book of faith (or even two)? To re-read (at a single sitting) an entire Gospel or epistle? To study a classic book of Christian faith?

Tolle et legge.

Turkish Religious Leader in France

The city of Lyons experienced a great influx of immigrants from what we call Turkey. They brought their religion with them and caused a great deal of suspicion and friction.

The authorities cracked down and many were martyred, including the man who had led them for a quarter of a century.

He was the bishop. His name was Irenaeus.

He had served well, rebuilding the local church community and writing powerfully against the recycled pagan mysticism known as Gnosticism that was enjoying popularity inside and outside the Church.

Irenaeus' greatest work Adversus Haereses is still widely read. He also played a critical role in Scripture scholarship.

St. Irenaeus died in 202 and his memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at Kicking Over My Traces.

Giving it to the dogs

Some Christians are optimists: wanting to share openly with everybody about everything in our Christian faith, trusting that this openhearted sharing will always be well received.

Some Christians are zealous: wanting to promote the faith everywhere and to defend the faith against anyone who would question it or attack it, trusting always in the protective and confirming power of the Holy Spirit.

To optimists and zealots alike, our Lord gives the following warning in today's Gospel (Matthew 7:6, 12-14):

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs,
neither cast ye your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them under their feet,
and turn again and rend you.

It is a wonderful thing to be optimistic and it is an even more wonderful thing to be zealous, but the ranks of Christian martyrs are full of optimists and zealots.

Not that there's anything wrong with that - indeed, martyrdom is a blessed destiny (not that self-centered and homicidal martyrdom of gullible terrorist lackeys, but rather that ultimate self-giving which focuses purely on the spread of Gospel and on the good of those to whom it is preached - even the good of those who kill the martyr).

Furthermore, there may seem to be a certain tension between Matthew 7:6 (Give not that which is holy unto the dogs) and Mark 16:15:

Go ye into all the world,
and preach the gospel to every creature.

As is often the case, the proper living out of these Scriptures is accomplished with the help of prudence.

The example of the Apostles and martyrs should remind us always that the protective and confirming power of the Holy Spirit will not save us from failure or even death.

As the love of Christ impels us to proclaim his gospel to every creature, we need to draw always upon the discerning power of the Holy Spirit in determining the times and places as well as the means and the methods of fully and faithfully proclaiming the truth of God.

It is good to be optimistic, it is blessed to be zealous, it is imperative that we proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and it is important that we do all this with prudence and discernment.

The new bishop was greeted with protests

Many were upset with this African gentleman becoming the bishop and the disagreements grew very heated.

The bishop's earliest decisions did not help matters. One of the decisions he made in the interests of protecting his flock would be denounced as a gross violation of justice.

He was personally a holy man. He was also very intelligent and he meant well, but his impulsiveness sometimes betrayed him.

Nonetheless, the Pope thought he was just the man to handle a very high-profile controversy. Sure enough, the controversy was not resolved pleasantly, but the bishop's dramatic defense of the faith was admired by the Church everywhere.

Cyril, bishop of Alexandria in Egypt and Doctor of the Church, is said to have died on this very day in the year 444.

(from an earlier post)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Disasters during worship

The blogsphere is full of accounts of disasters during worship: liberals who disregard rubrics and a sense of the sacred, conservatives who make unauthorized "corrections" to translations and do nothing for the congregation, preachers who do little but repeat their favorite topics over and over again, well-meaning but stressed-out priests who stumble through the rites, mediocre musicians, cranky ushers, etc. etc. etc.

Today's first reading (from 2 Kings 17) tells of the punishment meted out to the children of Israel who "followed the rites of the nations" and not the ways of the Lord.

Yet in today's Gospel (Matthew 7:1-5) our Lord reminds us:

Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure

will be measured out to you.

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,'
while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite,

remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother's eye.

Yes, we should do what we can to help improve how we worship as a community, but too many of us allow ourselves to be distracted by the imperfections of others and pay too little attention to our own deficiencies in our prayer.

May we always seek the mercy of the Lord, to heal what is broken and build up what is lacking among us and within us, that we may worship our God, by his grace, with holiness and righteousness all the days of our life.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Who do you think you are?

We human beings think we are pretty smart.

We think that we can take care of ourselves and that we can control our own destiny.

Sometimes indeed we can.

Sometimes, however, the world reminds us that we cannot.

There are many things we human beings cannot fully understand and many things we cannot control.

We may often be amazed at (or smug about) the marvels wrought by our human intellect and technology.

But sooner or later it will be all wiped away.

Perhaps it will be an asteroid, perhaps an unstoppable pandemic, or perhaps a catastrophe totally unforeseen.

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:
"Who is this that darkens counsel

by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
Where were you

when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding."

These words from God's mighty speech at the end of the book of Job (38:1-4), from which today's first reading comes (verses 1, 8-11), are a classic reminder that we are but small and fragile beings in the vastness of the universe: a universe that ultimately and completely lies in the hand of God.

This truth is reinforced in today's Gospel (Mark 4:35-41) as the disciples give in to despair in the face of forces far beyond their control.

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind,
and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”

The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”

They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

There are many things in this world we can understand and control.

And there are mysteries and forces in the universe that can always elude us and crush us.

But God is always there, greater than the Universe, knowing all things and encompassing all things in infinite mystery.

We cannot always figure everything out. There are things that happen that we cannot understand and dangers that we cannot always prevent.

But above and beyond all things, comprehensible and incomprehensible, God is there: God knows and understands, but more importantly, God cares and loves.

Our Lord speaks, "Quiet. Be still.

"I hold you in the palm of my hand.

"Have faith."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

And they made signs to his father...

...inquiring what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, "His name is John."

And they all marveled.

And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God....

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people,
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke
by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies,
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to perform the mercy promised to our fathers,
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath which he swore to our father Abraham,
to grant us that we,
being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him
all the days of our life.

And you, child,
will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord
to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
through the tender mercy of our God,
when the day shall dawn upon us from on high
to give light
to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace."

(Luke 1:62-64, 67-79)

Today the Church celebrates the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

What, then, will this child be?

So ask the people in today's Gospel (Luke 1:57-66, 80) on today's Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

The answer would be something wonderful. As our Lord himself would say, "Among those born of women, no one is greater than John." (Luke 7:28)

Tragically, the attitude of too many people in our modern world toward the prospect of children is more dread than expectation.

Children are contemplated as costs and inconveniences rather than long-term producers of great benefit and channels of blessings.

In the modern mind, the gift of new life is a problem to be limited, controlled, and even prevented.

Having and raising a child is a challenge, but the alternative may be far worse.

A recent scientific study published in the U.K. this past week opined how in vitro fertilization might be worth the cost because of the child's long-term benefits to society.

Its results also showed that society derives even more net benefit from children that are conceived naturally (without, I would respectfully add, the tinkering that conceives children in glass dishes and thereafter condemns most of them to death by deep-freeze or by abortion - using the euphemism of "selective reduction").

Societies that had embraced the contraceptive mentality are now looking at a darkening future. Those who minimized the value of children in the past may have no one to care for them in the future.

Life is a gift. To withhold that gift can be deadly.

We need to embrace God's gift of life - not recklessly, but lovingly - and rededicate ourselves to welcoming and caring for children as much as we can, so that we ourselves may be able to enjoy God's gift of life in the years, decades, and eternity to come.

What, then, will this child be?

What, thereafter, shall our future be?

Friday, June 23, 2006

What wondrous love

It's all about love: today's celebration - the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus - and the readings made available for this day.

The first reading (from Hosea 11) beautifully expresses God's parental love:

When Israel was a child I loved him,
out of Egypt I called my son.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
who took them in my arms;
I drew them with human cords,
with bands of love;
I fostered them like one
who raises an infant to his cheeks;
Yet, though I stooped to feed my child,
they did not know that I was their healer.

My heart is overwhelmed,
my pity is stirred.

In the second reading (from Ephesians 3) shares with us this rapturous prayer:

...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

And then in the Gospel (John 19:31-37),
we see this love in its infinite perfection,
as the Sacred Heart of Jesus
is literally opened up for us
in the ultimate act of God's love for us,
for you and for me.

What wondrous love is this.

Have we really and fully opened ourselves to that love?

Do we really and fully let that love flow through us to the people around us?

...look upon him whom they have pierced.

Love one another as I have loved you, says the Lord.
(John 13:34)

Pray for your priests

Today, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is the World Day of Prayer for the Santification of Priests.

"My brothers and sisters, pray for your priests.
Ask the Lord to bless them with the fullness of His love,
to help them be faithful ministers of Christ the High Priest,
so that they will be able to lead you to Him,
the fountain of your salvation."

Text from the Mass of Chrism

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I implore

that I may ever love Thee more and more

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sodano replaced by Bertone

It is official: the Holy Father has accepted the retirement of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Holy See's Secretary of State, effective September 15. His replacement is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Archbishop of Genoa. At an audience for Secretariat officials, the Holy Father will thank Cardinal Sodano for his long and generous service and present the new Secretary.

The Holy Father has also accepted the retirement of Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, effective September 15. His replacement is Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, currently Secretary of the Section for Relations with States at the Secretariat of State.

Do we forgive enough?

Are we meeting the challenge our Lord sets before us in today's Gospel (Matthew 6:7-15)?

If you forgive others their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.

But if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

Do we forgive enough?

The face of the man

We know the faces of very few saints.

The images we have of the saints of old are often generic: the generic image of a young girl, the generic image of a monk, the generic image of a man with a beard, etc.

"True likenesses" exist for a few saints prior to the modern era, but most of these images were made by artists of average skill (at best).

Even in the age of photography, there are few high-quality portraits of canonized saints.

St. Thomas More is thus something of a rarity: a canonized saint who happened to have had his portrait done by a first class artist: indeed, one of the most famous portraitists of all time - Hans Holbein the younger.

And so we know the face of St. Thomas More.
It is the face of a man in the full bloom of middle age: possessing both wisdom and vigor.

It is the face of a man with firm will and keen intellect. His was one of the great minds of his century and his works are still read today.

It is the face of a man who is looking at a great future. Within two years he would become chancellor of England.

It is the face of a man who would give it all up for God.

St. Thomas More was beheaded by the order of King Henry VIII 471 years ago because he would not agree to the King's divorce nor to the King's takeover of the Church in England.

The memory of St. Thomas More is celebrated on this day.

The star of Cambridge

John received his Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctorate degrees from the University of Cambridge. He would be elected to high positions within the University and would hold prestigious professorships. Rich and powerful people would chose him to tutor their children.

John would stay close to many of his students, giving them guidance in their careers and even their personal lives.

When one of his brightest students had a crisis in his marriage, John did his best to help.

Sadly, his former student was already set on divorce... and more.

John remained true to his beliefs and continued to speak about these beliefs openly.

His former pupil was not amused.

He had John killed.

St. John Fisher, formerly of Cambridge University and later Bishop of Rochester (and Cardinal), was executed 471 years ago today by his former pupil King Henry VIII.

(adapted from an earlier post)

The baby died

He was only several days old and he was the parents' only child.

The loss was devastating.

The father and mother decided to dedicate themselves totally to God. They gave away their wealth and withdrew to the monastic life.

The father, however, was not destined for a quiet life of prayer and solitude. He was pressured to become a priest and later to became a bishop.

As bishop he would serve the people of his diocese for more than 20 years. He became known for his writing, for his holiness, and for his devotion to the saints.

It was no surprise that when he died, he was recognized as a saint himself by everyone, including his sometime pen pal, St. Augustine.

St. Paulinus, native of Bordeaux, died in his adopted town and diocese of Nola (near Naples) 1575 years ago today.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Why is she smiling?

"Because she was recently voted upon to receive the Holy Habit and begin her novitiate!!! As you can easily imagine, Sr. Greta is counting the weeks, the days, the hours, the minutes, the seconds, and the nano-seconds until the big day of her vesitition on August 2, the feast of Blessed Jane of Aza, mother of St. Dominic (affectionately known by us as 'Grandma'!). Sr. Greta's joy is of a very bubbling and effusive nature, so much so that even the mere mention of her vestition will make her giggle! Her excitement and anticipation brings smiles to our faces and memories to our minds....

"Please keep Sr. Greta in your prayers as she prepares, temporally and spiritually, for this beautiful monastic 'rite of passage.'"

from the Vocations blog Moniales OP
of the Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey

Stem cell healing "we can all live with"

As the U.S. Congress considers proposals for funding stem cell research, four people came to Capitol Hill today, each of whom had been treated successfully with morally obtained stem cells.

Catholic News Service has a full article online.

For the RIGHT reason

As human beings, most of us want to receive a certain amount of attention, especially for good things we do.

In today's Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18), however, our Lord warns us to be very careful about doing things for the purpose of getting positive attention.

Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.

When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

This is not to say that we should not be doing good things, but that we must be very honest and clear about our motives and do whatever we can to keep them as pure as possible.

Now is my way clear
now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.
(Thomas Becket in "Murder in the Cathedral" by T. S. Eliot)

We need to keep our focus not on ourselves, but on the needs of others and on the honor and glory of God.

We need to do the right things
for the right reason:
the love 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 The Bible Archive.

The young man was truly gifted

His family was well connected. He himself was very bright and highly motivated.

A successful career in the military and politics seemed assured (when he was four, they said, he was sometimes found already marching in uniform).

And then God touched his life.

From the age of seven onward, he devoted himself to the Lord. Even when he was bedridden by kidney disease a few years later, he considered it a blessing because it enabled him to concentrate even more on prayer.

Despite his father's opposition, he renounced his worldly goods and entered the Jesuits. He excelled at his studies and was considered one of the order's most exemplary young men.

In his fourth year of theological studies, an epidemic struck the city. Even though his own health was not the best, the young man was tireless in caring for the stricken.

Sure enough, his own health failed. He lingered on for three months before the Lord finally called him home at the age of 23.

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga died around midnight 415 years ago today.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collections of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at Part-Time Pundit.

Dogs shall lick thy blood

Today's readings appear to offer two very different views of God and justice.

The Gospel (Matthew 5:43-48) has some of the most beautiful expressions of God's universal love: a love that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ calls us to manifest in our own lives:

Love your enemies,
bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you,
and pray

for them which despitefully use you
and persecute you;
That ye may be

the children of your Father which is in heaven:
for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,
and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you,

what reward have ye?
do not even the publicans the same?

And if ye salute your brethren only,

what do ye more than others?
do not even the publicans so?

Be ye therefore perfect,
even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

On the other hand, the first reading (1 Kings 21:17-29) contains extremely vivid expressions of God's justice, beginning with this cheery prophecy:

Thus saith the LORD,
In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth
shall dogs lick thy blood...

The recipient of this warning is the notorious King Ahab. Despite, however, his recourse to fasting, sackcloth, and the Lord's forbearance, the prophecy eventually comes true (1 Kings 22:37-38):

So the king died, and was brought to Samaria;
and they buried the king in Samaria.
And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria;
and the dogs licked up his blood...

(Literature fans may remember this vivid image being recalled in Moby Dick [chapter 16]: "Oh! he ain't Captain Bildad; no, and he ain't Captain Peleg; he's Ahab, boy; and Ahab of old, thou knowest, was a crowned king!" "And a very vile one. When that wicked king was slain, the dogs, did they not lick his blood?")

Although few reach the rhetorical intensity of "dogs shall lick thy blood," some Christians seem to do nothing but splash endlessly in the dramatic denunciation of evil.

Other Christians seem to do nothing but soak endlessly in a soft rain shower of nonjudgmental mercy.

Sadly, each extreme tends to dwell on the parts of Scripture that support their approach while minimizing the parts of Scripture that go against their preferences.

We must embrace all of God's teaching, not only the parts that suit our particular tastes or particular situations.

We must not filter God.

Rather, you and I need to be transparent vessels of the Lord.

We must be truthful and we must be clear - as we look within our own hearts and as we give witness to others - about what is right and what is wrong, drawing not upon the current whims of culture but upon the eternal truth of God.

Likewise, as we look within ourselves and as we reach out to others, we must be open and boundless as channels of the indescribable mercy of God's universal love.

Mercy and justice, clarity and love - such is our God; so must we be.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Dark accusations and hard questions

In today's first reading (1 Kings 21:1-16), a man in a prominent position is falsely accused by two witnesses. The people turn against the man and put him to death.

There are some questions that are difficult in every age: Who is guilty? Who is innocent? Who is a victim? Who is a false accuser? What if that happened to me? Who is at fault? How can we be sure? How can the helpless be protected? How can the innocent be protected? How can people be healed?

It is important for us - as moral human beings and most especially as Christians - to be thoughtful, diligent, and firm in asking these questions and in always seeking the help of God who is infinitely merciful and inescapably just.

Archbishop of the capital city

The Holy Father has accepted the retirement of Archbishop Francis P. Carroll as Archbishop of Canberra (Australia's national capital).

The Holy Father has appointed as the new Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge, 57, up to now Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne. Archbishop-elect Coleridge was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 1974 and worked in several parishes before being sent for studies in Rome in 1980. He studied at the Pontifical Biblical Institute until 1984 and obtained a License in Sacred Scripture. He then taught Scripture at Melbourne's Catholic Theological College (CTC) until 1988 when he returned to the Biblicum in Rome to earn his Doctorate degree. With that degree in hand, he returned to the CTC before being summoned back again to Rome in 1998 to work in the General Affairs section of the Secretariat of State. In 2002, he was named and consecrated Auxiliary Bishop for Melbourne. In 2004 he was appointed Chairman of the Roman Missal Editorial Committee of the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL).

Hard time for murder

His job was to be the lookout when the other man was being murdered, but he never forgot the sight of the dead man’s body and he felt the blood on his own hands.

He walked away from his life of easy pleasures and sought balance in a hard life of prayer.

Other men with blood on their hands would be moved to join him in this most austere monasticism, including a very high-profile politician and even his own father.

St. Romuald, Benedictine monk and founder of monasteries, died of natural causes 979 years ago today.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Much of modern society is squeamish about blood.

To be sure, in some senses, the modern age has been the bloodiest of all: consider the millions of people slaughtered in modern wars and the popularity of "slasher" movies and of television shows that wallow in Luminol.

But it is also a society that shies away from blood: television cameras rarely show the bodies of the slain, animal meat is packaged bloodlessly in clear plastic, and phlebotomists are feared by many.

We live in a culture that strives to be bloodless.

Yet the readings of this day - the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ - are overflowing with blood.

And this is supposed to be a good thing - indeed, a very good thing.

In dictionaries, the word "bloodless" has both literal and metaphorical meanings.

The literal meaning of "bloodless" is obvious, but the metaphorical meanings of "bloodless" are meaningful indeed: "lacking in spirit or vitality... lacking in human feeling."

Today's readings and today's celebration remind us that Christianity is not a bloodless faith: it is full of spirit, full of vitality, and full of feeling.

In our dichotomously bloodless culture, we sometimes try to water down these elements of our faith (and indeed of our humanity). Representations of the crucifixion thus become almost cartoon-like: bloodless in more ways than one.

By celebrating the most holy Body and the most precious Blood of Christ, we are celebrating that ultimate gift of God's spirit, God's vitality, and God's passion that has come to us in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Today's readings (especially the first reading - Exodus 24:3-8 - and the Gospel - Mark 14:12-16, 22-26) also remind us of blood as a sign and instrument of commitment.

This is the blood of the covenant
that the LORD has made with you...

This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many.

And so we take solace and joy in Christ, in his covenant, in his passion, in his vitality, in his Spirit, in his Blood.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds, hide me.
Do not let me be separated from Thee .
From the malignant enemy, defend me.
At the hour of death, call me.
And bid me come unto Thee
That with Thy Saints I may praise Thee
through ages of ages.

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
O bone Iesu, exaudi me.
Intra tua vulnera absconde me.
Ne permittas me separari a te.
Ab hoste maligno defende me.
In hora mortis meae voca me.
Et iube me venire ad te,
Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te
in saecula saeculorum.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Mantle

In today's first reading (1 Kings 19:19-21), the prophet Elijah casts his mantle upon the young Elisha.

It is no mere gift of a cloak or exchange of ponchos: it is a classic symbolic action of passing on authority, wisdom and power.

Elijah's rhetorical question to Elisha is therefore ironic: Have I done anything to you?

Indeed he has done something to Elisha - or rather, God has.

We as Christians, by virtue of our baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit, have had a mantle cast upon us.

It has indeed done something to us, and like Elisha, we must respond.

Like Elisha, we must attend to our responsibilities.

Like Elisha, we must follow and we must serve.

And then, when the opportunities present themselves, like Elisha and like Elijah, humbly bearing the mantle given us by God, we must make present the truth, the love, and the power of the Lord.

Friday, June 16, 2006

All Catholic young men... ask themselves...

"All Catholic young men who are serious about their faith ask themselves at some point: Is God calling me to be a priest? They see in the priest one who has dedicated his life in a particular way to Christ and to the service of His People. The priesthood is Christ's gift to the world. Nothing is more natural than for a young man to think: Is Christ offering this gift to me?

"The ministry of the priest in the Church is vital and irreplaceable. He preaches God’s word to the people of our time so that they may find true freedom in Christ. He offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the salvation of the world and gives to the faithful the Body and Blood of Christ to strengthen and heal them. He exercises leadership under the Bishop so that our communities may enjoy unity. He works with lay people, building them up through his ministry and in turn experiencing support from them.

"A sign that God is calling a man to serve Him as a priest is that the thought keeps returning to his mind. This is because the Holy Spirit is at work within his depths, gently but urgently prompting him to discover God's will. These web pages are designed for men in the Diocese of Leeds who feel that God may be calling them in this way."

Rev Paul Grogan
Vocations Director

(from the website of the Diocese of Leeds)

Beyond the noisy things

In today's first reading (from 1 Kings 19), Elijah is not intimidated by rock-shattering winds. Nor is he intimidated by an earthquake or by a terrific fire (even though he is inside a cave).

What intimidates Elijah is "a tiny whispering sound" - for he recognizes it as the presence of God.

People in the world may be distracted and even terrified by loud and destructive things such as storms, fires and earthquakes, but all these things are temporary - even the things they may destroy are temporary.

What is not temporary is God.

When all things pass away, God will still be there. Without God, there is only eternally excruciating oblivion.

We need to attune ourselves to reach beyond the noisy things of this world and to listen quietly for the voice and the presence of God: a voice and a presence that brings peace, joy, and happiness, even when all things pass away.

Be still... pray in the name of Jesus... and listen.

(adapted from an earlier post)

The body part that causes sin

You know which one it is.

Every man has one.

Every woman has one too.

It is right between our ears.

Yes, we may have physiological impulses to do this or that, but the cause of sin is ultimately in the mind, for it is the mind that chooses to sin.

People sometimes forget this when they hear our Lord's words in today's Gospel (Matthew 5:27-32).

If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.

It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.

And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.

It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

But it is never one's eye that causes sin nor does a hand cause sin, nor even a particular lobe of the brain: sin in caused in the mind of the sinner.

Our Lord is not saying here that eyes and hands cause sin: what he is saying is that our response to sin in our lives must be as drastic as ripping out one’s eye or chopping off one’s hand.

We must look at ourselves and our lives with great precision and clarity.

What habits of thought, habits of speech or habits of action lead us astray or cause us to fall?

Tear them off, cut them out, and throw them away.

If emotional, intellectual or lifestyle changes - even drastic ones - are necessary to pull us out of spiritually unhealthy places, then we should do them (mindful of our solemn responsibilities).

It is better that than the alternative.

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

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I received... what I also handed on to you

"I cannot help but think that what is being asked of us bishops today is no less vital than what was being asked of Paul when, in the face of the cacophonous Church at Corinth, he wrote:

"'For I received from the Lord
what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus
on the night when he was betrayed
took a loaf of bread,
and when he had given thanks,
broke it and said,

"This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me."'

(1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

"So many people with so many ideas, but in the end it is we bishops, in union with our Holy Father, who have the responsibility of faithfully handing on to them what we have received from the Lord. Paul returned to that theme once again, when writing to Timothy:

"'Remind them of this,
and charge them before the Lord
to avoid disputing about words,
which does no good,
but only ruins the hearers.
Do your best to present yourself to God
as one approved,
a workman who has no need to be ashamed,
rightly handling the word of truth.'
(2 Timothy 2:14-15)

"The version of Mass that we currently use is clearly far from perfect. Those of you who celebrate Mass in both Spanish and English will know only too well the difference in richness between the two texts. The then bishops of ICEL recognised that from the beginning, and they knew that a revision would be needed. There was an urgent feeling in the early 1970s that the liturgy should be made available to the people as soon as possible, and the work was rushed. The revisiting of this was delayed for practical reasons, but also for ideological ones that caused many bishops grave concern, and that is sometimes forgotten. The chief preoccupation in many minds was, of course, that the liturgy be brought closer to the people. This aim could, and sometimes did, obscure the other aim, which was to preserve and transmit our inherited liturgical tradition and bring our people closer to that. During the initial stages of consultation on the third edition of the Missale Romanum, two theologians wrote to me, quite independently, and shared with me their belief that the Mass texts we currently use had severely diminished our appreciation of the richness of Eucharistic theology. This is clearly something to which we, as bishops, should be sensitive. The Holy Father said something similar during the course of last year’s Synod of Bishops. Of course, if you try to carry a cup of coffee across a room too quickly, much of the contents may spill. This time, we have tried to keep the coffee in the cup.

"We are at a very important moment in the whole of this process. If the bishops of the English-speaking countries can agree on a single version of the Mass, what a sign of catholicity that will be. But more than that, it will be a guarantee of catholicity for the future, not only in our own time, and not only in our own countries. Clearly I, and all my brother bishops of ICEL, believe that you, the bishops of the United States, have a most important role of leadership to play in just that. Thank you for giving me your attention."

(The conclusion of an address given this morning to the Bishops of the United States by the Right Reverend Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds, Chairman of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy [ICEL])

The little things

Today's readings remind us of the power of the little things.

In the first reading (1 Kings 18:41-46), "a cloud as small as a man's hand" becomes a great storm (an interesting image at the start of hurricane season).

In the Gospel (Matthew 5:20-26), our Lord warns how small words can have dreadful consequences:

But whosoever shall say, Thou fool,
shall be in danger of hell fire.

We must take care to avoid doing the little things that are evil nonetheless.

We must never tire of the little things - a few good words or a tiny good deed - that may be the seeds of God's mighty grace.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Christian Carnival

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

How long will you straddle the issue?

Today's first reading (1 Kings 18:20-39) opens with a dramatic challenge and ends with a dramatic result.

Elijah appealed to all the people and said,
"How long will you straddle the issue?
If the LORD is God, follow him;
if Baal, follow him."

The people, however, did not answer him.

* * * * *

The LORD’s fire came down
and consumed the burnt offering,
wood, stones, and dust,
and it lapped up the water in the trench.

Seeing this,
all the people fell prostrate and said,
"The LORD is God! The LORD is God!"

Sometimes I would like to shout that same challenge at a number of people in our world and in our Church today - people who straddle the fence between the truth of universal faith and the demands of a particular culture.

But Christ did not hand the keys of the kingdom of heaven to me.

Moreover, if I consider things honestly, I am a straddler myself.

May God have mercy on me - a sinner.

May the fire of God's love and truth come down from heaven and fill my heart and mind.

May I become a truly worthy offering to my Lord and God.

May anything within me that is not of God be burnt and purged away.

May I be filled and may I overflow to others with the life-giving water of Christ.

The Lord is God.

The Lord is God.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Catholic Carnival

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

Be peculiar

A strange local television host used to wear a button that said, "Be peculiar."

Peculiar this onscreen character certainly was (may he rest in peace), but his peculiarity was built around puns and bad movies, leaving this persona little more than an oddity doomed to obscurity.

In today's Gospel (Matthew 5:13-16), our Lord calls us to be peculiar, but it is not the humdrum peculiarity of eccentricity or of bizarreness for its own sake, rather it is the bold peculiarity of fidelity to truth in the midst of a world that has turned against both faith and truth.

Ultimately, everything in this world is temporary.

Lasting happiness and truly endless love comes only from God, not from this passing world.

And so, we must be different. Otherwise we are just sand.

Ye are the salt of the earth:
but if the salt have lost his savour,
wherewith shall it be salted?
it is thenceforth good for nothing,
but to be cast out,
and to be trodden under foot of men.

We must stand out. Otherwise we slip into the Darkness.

Ye are the light of the world.

A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Neither do men light a candle,
and put it under a bushel,
but on a candlestick;
and it giveth light
unto all that are in the house.

Let your light so shine before men,
that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

We must stand out.

We must be different.

We must be peculiar.

We must be Christ's.

The toughest crowd for a preacher...

...is a crowd of other preachers.

A good number of priests were present that day. Many of them were very educated.

But nobody had been assigned to preach the sermon and now that they were all gathered together, nobody wanted to preach. "I haven't anything prepared," was the common excuse.

No doubt many of them felt intimidated at the thought of speaking off-the-cuff in front of such a highly educated (and likely critical) assembly.

Embarrassed and desperate, the organizer turned to a quiet young priest who had recently come from Portugal.

The young man was so quiet, they were not sure how intelligent he was (besides, he was a foreigner).

But there was a holiness about him, so the organizer took a gamble and told him to preach whatever the Spirit of God might put into his mouth.

Very soon, everyone else's mouths would be hanging open in astonishment.

Word quickly reached the founder of Anthony's religious community (the community was very new - less than 20 years old at the time) who then assigned Anthony to teaching and preaching.

Anthony would become widely known as a powerful preacher, a worker of miracles, and even a Doctor of the Church - fulfilling very well the assignment that had been personally given him by St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Anthony died in Padua, Italy, at the age of 36 on this very day in 1231.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Monday, June 12, 2006


The words of today's Gospel (Matthew 5:1-12), the Beatitudes, are exceedingly familiar, but they are also exceedingly challenging.

Many of us live in relatively affluent cultures where people have many personal and family crises but where these crises almost never involve danger of imminent death by starvation.

On some level, therefore, it may be difficult for us to grasp both of today's readings: not only the Gospel in which our Lord speaks of "the poor in spirit" but also in the first reading (1 Kings 17:1-6) where the prophet Elijah avoids dying of hunger and thirst through miraculous means.

Yet even the poorest of the poor in this world may not be able to grasp fully what our Lord means in his wonderful words "Blessed are the poor of spirit."

Indeed, sometimes the poor man may be tempted to treasure and to clutch even the little he has in this world more than the things of heaven.

As for those among us who have more of this world's goods, we have greater opportunities for temptation and also greater expectations for doing good with the things we have been given.

For unto whomsoever much is given,
of him shall be much required.

(Luke 12:48b)

The Beatitudes have been called the new Decalogue, paralleling the Decalogue (the ten "words") of Moses. We can and should also consider them questions:

  • Are we truly poor in spirit? Or are we building our own little kingdoms in our small parts of the world?
  • Do we mourn? Do we feel the losses we have incurred through sin? Or do we wallow in the world's comforts?
  • Are we meek? Or do we make more of ourselves than we should?
  • Do we hunger and thirst for righteousness? Or are we content with muddling?
  • Are we merciful? When we deal with others, do we forget the mercy God shows us? Or do we take inappropriate pride or pleasure in presenting things hard and clear?
  • Are we clean of heart? Is our heart set on God or is it cluttered with various desires?
  • Are we peacemakers? Do we seek to make real peace or do we paper-over? Or do we go out of our way to antagonize?
  • Are we persecuted for the sake of righteousness? Or do we compromise, evade, and dissemble? Or do we try to cover our own faults and failures with specious cries of "Help! I'm being oppressed!"
  • Do we grumble, mope, or mourn when things turn against us? Or do we rejoice and are glad for being faithful to the truth and the love of Christ.

However well or however poorly we may answer these questions, our Lord extends to us his grace so that we may rise to his challenges.

May we continue to rise.

May we be blessed.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Go forth in power

The name "Trinity" nowadays is tacked onto many different things, from movie characters to subdivisions.

But in truth it is the name of God.

And it is more than just a label: "Trinity" expresses who God is - beyond the ken of human imagination, the most intimate reality of infinite Omnipotence.

It therefore than just a name, more than just a ritual.

The Trinity is Power.

Hence our Lord in today's Gospel (Matthew 28:16-20) sends his disciples forth not in his own name nor in the generic name of God.

Go, therefore,
and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit...

As we go forth from our celebrations this Trinity Sunday and continue through the rest of our week, we do well to keep in mind the power of the name of God entrusted to us.

An excellent way to do this is to begin every day this week with that classic invocation of Trinitarian might known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate:

I arise today
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.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

What to do

The world today sometimes does not feel like a comfortable place for Christians who take their faith seriously.

This was understood by St. Paul in his own time and in today's first reading (2 Timothy 4:1-8) he tells us what to do about it.

I charge you in the presence of God
and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and by his appearing and his kingly power:

proclaim the word;
be persistent
whether it is convenient or inconvenient;
through all patience and teaching.

For the time will come
when people will not tolerate sound doctrine
but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity,
will accumulate teachers
and will stop listening to the truth
and will be diverted to myths.

But you,
be self-possessed in all circumstances;
put up with hardship;
perform the work of an evangelist;
fulfill your ministry.

Friday, June 09, 2006

My son

It is not an uncommon "bit" in television commercials for health-related products for the ad to have people saying something like this:

"My doctor recommended it."

"My doctor said I should try it."

"My doctor gave it to me."

"My son told me to use it."

"Your son?" an off-camera voice asks in surprise. The woman then beams with pride.

"My son the doctor."

In today's Gospel (Mark 12:35-37), our Lord "messes with the heads" of the scribes:

"How do the scribes claim
that the Christ is the son of David?
David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said:
The Lord said to my lord,
'Sit at my right hand
until I place your enemies under your feet.'
David himself calls him 'lord';
so how is he his son?"
The great crowd heard this with delight.

The ultimate answer to our Lord's rhetorical question, of course, lies in the mystery of the Incarnation and the hypostatic union. This mystery gives rise to a similar paradoxical statement in the Marian antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater, which says to the mother of Jesus:

"To the wonderment of nature
you bore your Creator..."

(The wonder of it all is accented more dramatically in the original Latin, in which the word translated as "you bore" is genuisti" and the word translated as "Creator" is Genitorem.)

tu quae genuisti,
natura mirante,
tuum sanctum Genitorem

But this is more than just an opportunity to reflect upon the mystery of the Incarnation. It is also a reminder of how our children, students, or protégés can turn out to be greater than ourselves.

And that is the way it should be.

We need to keep this in mind when dealing with our children or with anyone who may be younger or less knowledgeable:
how glorious it can be
for them to be greater than we.

The Syrians slipped across the border...

...escaping from the authorities and establishing themselves in places they could quietly continue the work they said God wanted them to do.

One of them would be scarcely seen by the local population, but he was always hard at work to spread his doctrine: writing poetry, establishing a school, and writing about the truths of the Christian faith.

St. Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor of the Church, is said to have died on this very day in the year 373.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Contend not in words

Of these things put them in mind
charging them before the Lord.

Contend not in words:
for it is to no profit,
but to the subverting of the hearers.

haec commone testificans
coram Domino

noli verbis contendere
in nihil utile
ad subversionem audientium

(2 Timothy 2:14 - from today's first reading)

Philadelphia to Raleigh

The Holy Father has accepted the retirement of the Most Reverend Francis Joseph Gossman as Bishop of Raleigh.

He has named as the new Bishop of Raleigh, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, 48, up to now Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia. Bishop Burbidge was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1984 and has a Doctorate degree in Education. Prior to his being named auxiliary bishop in 2002, he served in a number of educational posts, including Rector of St. Charles Seminary.

The Holy Father has named Msgr. Daniel Edward Thomas, 46, as an Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia. Bishop-elect Thomas was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese in 1985, serving in a parish and the Catholic Youth Organization before being sent to Rome for further studies. He received a License in Theology in 1989 from the Pontifical Gregorian University and then worked at the Congregation for Bishops from 1990 to 2005 while providing Spiritual Direction at the Pontifical North American College. For the past year he has been Pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Strafford, Pennsylvania.

A single verse

Even a single verse of Scripture can be rich in wisdom and guidance for our lives.

So it is especially in today's first reading (2 Timothy 2:8-15):

Be eager
to present yourself
as acceptable to God,
a workman
who causes no disgrace,
imparting the word of truth
without deviation.

How fruitful these words can be for our prayer and for our lives.

May we be eager.

May we offer ourselves to God.

May God make us acceptable to him.

May we – male or female – be workmen for the Lord: humble and diligent.

May no one stumble because of us.

May we always focus on sharing the truth of Christ.

May we never deviate from that truth, either in word or deed.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.

Christian Carnival

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

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Carmelite podcasts

The Order of Carmel Discalced Secular in St. Louis, Missouri has just launched a new website with downloadable Podcasts at www.stl-ocds.org.

The weekly podcasts will include short meditations they have put together directly from the treasury of writings of the great Carmelite Saints including St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, St. Teresa of the Andes, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, St. Teresa Benedicta and many more.

The site also has an RSS link.

"The Order of Carmel Discalced Secular is a community of Lay Roman Catholics who wish to live in the world while centering themselves on God and serving Him through the spirit of Carmel."

"I knew that God wanted me to be a Sister"

"I just had that innate sense... as I live out my vocation the more I see how important community really is. That's one of the things that drew me here."
- Sister Anne Marie Selinsky

"The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity live whole-heartedly the loving spirit of their foundresses. They strive to live the Gospel in simplicity, built on faith in a loving God; joyful acceptance of poverty; love for the Church and selfless dedication to the service of others.

"The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity welcome young women, high school graduates to age 35, caught by the spirit of St. Francis and fired with a burning love for Jesus, to join them."

They also have a new blog: www.fscc-calledtobe.org/blog/

Questioning cowardice

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power
and love
and self-control.

So do not be ashamed
of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

St. Paul writes these things to St. Timothy in today's first reading (2 Timothy 1:1-3,6-12) and he says these same things to us.

We might then ask ourselves some important questions:
  • Do you and I draw upon "strength that comes from God"?
  • Do we embrace our share of hardship for the sake of the Gospel?
  • Or do we let the world afflict us with a spirit of cowardice?
  • Are we concerned with self-love and the control of others?
  • Or are we concerned with self-control and the godly love of others?

Most probably, we have been far from perfect and few of us have not been tainted with the spirit of cowardice, but no matter how imperfect we may be or have been, we can move beyond it, through the power and strength of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us
in Christ Jesus
before time began...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The elements shall melt

In the wake of a disaster, there are always reporters who seek out people standing by the ruins of buildings, stick cameras into their tear-streaked faces, and ask some variation on the question "How do you feel?"

If the people can say anything at all in their grief, they often say something like this:

"Everything we had, everything we ever worked for, is gone."

This feeling of loss is bitter and the victims of disasters deserve our help (not just the voyeuristic interest of the media), but it also reminds us of a very important truth:

Everything we have on this earth, every worldly thing we work for, will someday be gone (perhaps sooner rather than later).

St. Peter reminds us of this quite vividly in today's first reading (from the end of his second epistle).

"...the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved,
and the elements shall melt with fervent heat."

This vivid imagery would be reflected in one of Christendom's most classic hymns: a profound plea for God's mercy from the deepest pit of man's fear:

Dies irae, dies illa
solvet saeclum in favilla...

A day of wrath, that day --
The world will dissolve in ashes...

Everything we see, everything we touch, everything we walk upon, will one day cease to exist.

Some people think of these things and despair.

Peters counsels us to look ahead and to be diligent.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved,
what manner of persons ought ye to be
in all holy conversation and godliness....

we, according to his promise,
look for new heavens and a new earth,
wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Wherefore, beloved,
seeing that ye look for such things,
be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace,
without spot, and blameless.

Storms and volcanoes may wipe away our earthly dwellings and may even take our lives, but the grace that God builds up in our lives of faith is eternal.

May we always seek our security not in the mistaken hopes and foolish pursuits of this passing world, but in living according to the way of the Lord.

Ye therefore, beloved,
seeing ye know these things before,
beware lest ye also,
being led away with the error of the wicked,
fall from your own stedfastness.

But grow in grace,
and in the knowledge

of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

To him be glory both now and for ever.

Catholic Carnival

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

A trio in Brooklyn

The Holy Father has named three priests of the Diocese of Brooklyn as auxiliary bishops:

  • Msgr. Octavio Cisneros, born 1945 in Cuba
  • Msgr. Guy Sansaricq, born 1934 in Haiti
  • Msgr. Frank J. Caggiano, born 1959 in Brooklyn

Render to Caesar

the things that are Caesar's

and to God
the things that are God's.

(Mark 12:17 - from today's Gospel)

The easy path

There were not many opportunities for a young man in that time and place, but church affiliation often seemed the easiest path to a comfortable life.

That was the path Norbert took. He hooked up with a local church community, obtained a cushy position, associated himself with people in important positions, and proceeded to enjoy all the pleasures he could get his hands on.

That was when the lightning struck.


It was the nearest of misses and Norbert lay flat on his back for nearly an hour by the side of the road.

When he recovered, he realized that that he needed to change his ways. He devoted himself to prayer and penance. Finally, he became a priest.

It was not an easy path. Some were skeptical of his "conversion." Others were contemptuous and spit in his face at his first Mass.

Nevertheless, Norbert stuck to this path. He founded religious communities and eventually became a bishop. He worked diligently not only to reform his own life but also to help other churchmen become more faithful to their own vocations, even in the highest corridors of power in Rome.

Norbert died on this very day in 1134 at the age of 53. He was canonized in 1582.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Monday, June 05, 2006

I want you

"During times of war in the United States, recruiting posters depicted Uncle Sam pointing a menacing finger while the caption declared, '(I want) you!'

"Many young people felt a need to respond to the challenge....

"Anyone who could not respond to the call had to make an examination of conscience and question why he was not joining the effort.

"In the Catholic Church, the Holy Spirit... plants the grace of a vocation in each person's heart:

"'Christ wants you!'"

(From an article on Vocations by Sean Cardinal O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, in last month's edition of the Knights of Columbus' magazine Columbia. Hat tip: www.ncdvd.org)

Secrets of Self-Improvement

At the beginning of every calendar year, many people go through the ritual of a "New Year's Resolution" - a resolution that sometimes barely survives New Year's Day.

Why do these resolutions so often fail? Usually because they attempt to fix only one thing in life and to do it by strength of will alone.

(I don't want to even begin to tell you how often I have failed.)

In today's first reading (2 Peter 1:2-7), St. Peter gives us secrets for successful self-improvement.

The first secret is that full self-improvement cannot be done by oneself: it is ultimately the work of grace:

May grace and peace be yours in abundance
through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has bestowed on us
everything that makes for life and devotion,
through the knowledge of him
who called us by his own glory and power.

Through these, he has bestowed on us
the precious and very great promises,
so that through them
you may come to share in the divine nature...

The second secret is to avoid being dragged down by the desires that are inflamed by this world.

...you may come to share in the divine nature,
after escaping from the corruption that is in the world
because of evil desire.

And the third secret is that improvement is most successful when it is comprehensive: advancing on a number of fronts all at once - not just fixing one thing in our lives, but growing in Christ so that all things in our lives progress together.

For this very reason,
make every effort to supplement
your faith with virtue,
virtue with knowledge,
knowledge with self-control,
self-control with endurance,
endurance with devotion,
devotion with mutual affection,
mutual affection with love.

The mighty oak and the god of thunder

The great tree was sacred to Thor and the people regarded it with awe and great reverence.

Then it was chopped down.

The man responsible was a Bishop: personally sent by the Pope to bring the German people to Christ.

He used the wood to build a chapel, where a cathedral now stands.

Boniface worked tirelessly, preaching the Gospel and organizing the Church.

Then, while administering Confirmation in what is now Holland, Boniface was murdered by pagans just over 1250 years ago on this very day.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Call upon the Spirit

Miracles, speaking in tongues, prophecy... these are what many Christians think of when they think of the Holy Spirit - and with good reason.

But in one of the second readings available for today's celebration of Pentecost (Galatians 5:16-25), St. Paul reminds us of how the Holy Spirit can make a difference in our lives in less spectacular yet deeply powerful ways as he contrasts the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit.

As human beings, we are too often ensnared by the things of the flesh. This reading gives us a way out: by seeking and cultivating the fruits of the Holy Spirit by the power and grace of God.

Now the works of the flesh are obvious:
immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry,
sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy,
outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness,
dissensions, factions, occasions of envy,
drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.

I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things
will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is










Against such there is no law.

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus
have crucified their flesh
with its passions and desires.

If we live in the Spirit,
let us also follow the Spirit.


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

V. Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur.
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.


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

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

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

Let us pray:
Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful
by the light of the Holy Spirit,
grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise,
and ever rejoice in His consolation.
Through Christ our Lord.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

But wait! There's more!

Today's readings, coming at the very end of the Easter season, give us the end of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 28:16-20, 30-31) and the end of the Gospel of John (John 21:20-25).

The endings for these books, however, are somehow incomplete.

This remind us that what is contained in these books - the teaching and the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ - continues on in the life of the Church.

May you and I always be faithful in continuing that work and sharing in that life.

He had a thing for teenage boys

And since he was in a position of authority and great respect, he was accustomed to having his way with the boys and young men under his "protection."

One of his assistants protested and tried to save the young men: he was gotten rid of.

Charles took his place, knowing full well what had happened to his predecessor, but he too stood firm.

He told the young men about the truth of the Christian faith and that they should not give in.

The king went out of control with rage. He ordered the deaths of Charles and the others who resisted his advances and embraced Christ.

The memory of St. Charles Lwanga and the other martyrs of Uganda is celebrated on this day.

Friday, June 02, 2006


In today's first reading (Acts 25:13b-21), the Roman governor tells some important guests why St. Paul is being sent to Rome.

But the governor does not know the whole story: this was more than just Paul's use of a legal right of Roman citizens to appeal to the Emperor. It also turned out to be the occasion and the means by which St. Paul was able to bring the message of Christ to the one of the most powerful hubs of communication, culture, and governance in the world at that time.

It reminds of how we should take full advantage of the opportunities and technologies available to us in spreading the message of Christ.

The Internet is obviously one of the most powerful opportunities for us: an opportunity we need to use well.

Not all of us have the mega-readership of the most popular bloggers, but it is amazing how frequently people from all over the world, even in countries where Christian evangelism is a crime, can come across a short post on a humble blog and thus make it an opportunity for evangelization.

Like St. Paul, we need to look for opportunities and take advantage of these opportunities to spread the truth and the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to a world that desperately needs to know it.

Do you love me?

Peter never forgot that question: the question we hear in today's Gospel (John 21:15-19).

In his heart, Peter would hear our Lord asking him this question again and again... and for the rest of his life Peter would never stop answering.

Yes, Lord, he thought on the day of Pentecost, you know that I love you.

And then Peter, the fisherman from Galilee, stood in front of thousands of people and brought them to accept Christ.

Do you love me?

Yes, Lord, Peter thought, you know that I love you.

And then Peter left his homeland forever so that he might preach Christ to other lands.

Do you love me?

Yes, Lord, Peter smiled, you know that I love you.

And then Peter stretched out his arms and was hung upside down on a cross.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Into the woods

Some said that the two ministers were taken into woods outside the city, that it was there that they were told that they would be killed, and that they accepted their deaths with joyful faith.

The exact details may never be known with certainty, but the faith and the martyrdom of these two men, named Marcellinus and Peter, would be celebrated from the beginning of the fourth century to this very day.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

He's really into you

Deep down, all of us want to be loved.

Many of us long to fill an empty place within our hearts that we sometimes keenly feel but never seem to be able to touch.

Yet often we are confused: seeking sensual pleasure and excitement yet never being fully satisfied or laying our deepest hopes on human shoulders that can never bear that burden.

Perhaps no one has expressed this desperate quest of the heart as well as St. Augustine: "Unlovely I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things..." (Confessions X,27)

Nor perhaps has anyone expressed as well as Augustine the ultimate answer to this quest: "...O Lord.... thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee." (Confessions I,1)

Yet the actual fulfillment of this quest of the heart has never been more wonderfully expressed as in today's Gospel (John 17:20-26), when we hear from the very lips of the One in whom we find that perfect fulfillment, that absolute contentment, that complete communion, that infinitely intense love, and deepest ecstasy: Jesus our Lord, our Savior, and our Lover.

"I pray not only for these,
but also for those
who will believe in me through their word,

so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me
and I in you,
that they also may be in us,

that the world may believe that you sent me.

"And I have given them
the glory you gave me,

so that they may be one,
as we are one,
I in them
and you in me,
that they
may be brought to perfection as one,

that the world may know
that you sent me,
and that you loved them
even as you loved me.

they are your gift to me.

I wish that where I am
they also may be with me,

that they may see
my glory that you gave me,

because you loved me
before the foundation of the world.

"Righteous Father,
the world also does not know you,
but I know you,
and they know that you sent me.

"I made known to them your name
and I will make it known,

that the love with which you loved me
may be in them
and I in them."

What shall we pray for this month?

The Holy Father's general prayer intention for June is:

"That Christian families may lovingly welcome every child who comes into existence and surround the sick and the aged, who need care and assistance, with affection."

His mission intention is:

"That pastors and the Christian faithful may consider inter-religious dialogue and the work of acculturation of the Gospel as a daily service to promote the cause of the evangelization of peoples."

(Source: V.I.S. -Vatican Information Service)

Christian Carnival

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

He was a Palestinian...

...born in the West Bank town of Nablus. He went to a number of different schools, but remained dissatisfied.

Then one day he found himself walking on the beach and talking with an old man who spoke about God, about prophets, and about the Holy Spirit.

The young man came to accept Christ and to be baptized. He subsequently used his wide-ranging education to defend Christianity forcefully against a skeptical and decadent world, becoming one of the most widely read Christian writers of the century.

His reputation would catch up with him, however. He was arrested, tortured, and executed in Rome around the year 165.

Justin, one of Christianity's first and greatest apologists, would thus become known as St. Justin Martyr. His memory is celebrated on this day.

(Adapted from an earlier post)