A Penitent Blogger

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

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Saint Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel
defend us in battle;
be our protection
against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, thrust into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.


Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli
esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum
pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in infernum detrude.

(adapted from a previous post)

We few

Today, many, many people - including many, many children - are going to celebrate witches, demons and many evil things.

Today, many people are planning to vote on behalf of the destruction of human life or against the protection of moral values.

Today, the airwaves, the media, and the Internet seem to overflow with people who reject God or any objective morality.

We seem to be outnumbered.

Yet in today's Gospel (Luke 13:18-21), our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us of the even more overwhelming power that small, outnumbered things can have through the grace of God.

Then said he,
Unto what is the kingdom of God like?
and whereunto shall I resemble it?

It is like a grain of mustard seed,
which a man took, and cast into his garden;
and it grew, and waxed a great tree;
and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.

And again he said,
hereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God?
It is like leaven,
which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal,
till the whole was leavened.

No matter what we may face, "we few, we happy few," may we plant seeds faithfully and may God's grace make us his leaven for the world.

Catholic Carnival

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

Appointments and resignations

The Holy Father today...

  • "Accepted the resignation from the office of Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, presented by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, upon having reached the age limit.
  • "Appointed Cardinal Claudio Hummes O.F.M., archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil, as prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.
  • "Accepted the resignation from the office of archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, presented by Cardinal Francesco Marchisano. He is succeeded by his coadjutor, Archbishop Angelo Comastri, prelate emeritus of Loreto, Italy,vicar general for Vatican City State, president of the Fabric of St Peter's.

  • "Accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of New York, U.S.A., presented by Bishop Robert A. Brucato, upon having reached the age limit.

  • "Appointed Fr. Thomas Chung An-zu of the clergy of Tainan, Taiwan, chaplain of the Fu Jen Catholic University, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Taipei... Taiwan. The bishop-elect was born in Yunlin, Taiwan, in 1952 and ordained a priest in 1981.
  • "Appointed Fr. Fausto Gaibor Garcia, chancellor and pastor of the cathedral of Guaranda, Ecuador, as auxiliary of the diocese of Riobamba... Ecuador. The bishop-elect was born in Gauranda in 1952 and ordained a priest in 1981."
Source: Vatican Information Service

Monday, October 30, 2006

Do not be deceived

Most of us have become very good at rationalizing (God have mercy on me).

Our sinful inclinations so easily take advantage of human reason, especially when such rationalization is supported by the smooth words of "experts" - on television, in academia, and sometimes even within the Church.

Today's first reading (Ephesians 4:32-5:8) reminds us that we need to follow Christ and his ways of truth and love and that we should not be dissuaded by the vain words and empty arguments of those who would tempt us to pleasurable paths that ultimately and inevitably end in futility and pain.

Be ye therefore followers of God,
as most dear children:
And walk in love,
as Christ also hath loved us
and hath delivered himself for us,
an oblation and a sacrifice to God
for an odour of sweetness.

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness,
let it not so much as be named among you,
as becometh saints:
Or obscenity or foolish talking or scurrility,
which is to no purpose:
but rather giving of thanks.

For know you this and understand:
That no fornicator
or unclean or covetous person
(which is a serving of idols)
hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no man deceive you with vain words.
For because of these things
cometh the anger of God
upon the children of unbelief.
Be ye not therefore partakers with them.

For you were heretofore darkness,
but now light in the Lord.

Walk then as children of the light.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Way of Life and Mystery

"A vocation to religious life is always a mystery. Even more of a mystery when this call is a call to leave the world and join a Cloistered, Contemplative Community. It is as real and needed today as it was centuries past.

"There is a magnetic beauty about Contemplative Life which whets the human appetite for God. Contemplatives witness to the holiness of God and the unfathomable love which lies behind the story of Jesus. He is our Way; our Truth; and our Life. This truth has so captured our hearts that we are willing to leave the material world and vow ourselves to live our Baptismal Life to the full.

"This is how the Passionist Nuns of today take the pains and sufferings of this world seriously. In other words, we go to the heart of the mystery of God's love, Jesus Crucified and Risen. By our apostolate of prayer, Contemplatives constantly challenge the Church and the World with Christ's Story. We proclaim who Jesus is and what the Kingdom of God means.

"Christ is always young in the heart of a Contemplative!"

from the website of
the Passionists Nuns of Whitesville, Kentucky


Bring them back

In some places, our churches are quite full.

In some places, our churches are quite empty: cavernous museum pieces where multitudes once worshipped.

Even where our churches are full, there are often many people who have fallen away from the Church and the practice of the faith.

Today's readings give us a trumpet call of hope and a clear path to follow.

The first reading (Jeremiah 31:7-9) sounds the trumpet call and follows at once with the beginning of our path:

Behold, I will bring them back
from the land of the north;
I will gather them from the ends of the world,
with the blind and the lame in their midst,
the mothers and those with child;
they shall return as an immense throng.

The path begins with recognition of people's many desperate needs. People today are indeed hurting - inside and outside the Church - but the deepest hurts and the most fundamental needs are often the least recognized.

Why are these needs unrecognized? We find answers in today's Gospel (Mark 10:46-52) where a blind man cries out for help, only to be silenced by other people.

Our Lord calls the blind man, asks him a question, and cures the man of his blindness, but not before adding a particularly interesting statement.

Jesus told him,
"Go your way; your faith has saved you."

Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.

On one level, the crying need of the blind man was being drowned out by the louder voices around him: people with agendas that did not include compassion for a beggar by the side of the road. They were marching with Christ to Jerusalem: something much more important than a loudmouthed panhandler.

So too we can get so caught up in the important things we are doing that we can neglect to listen to the crying needs, the aching hurts, and the withering emptiness afflicting the people around us, most especially those who have left the faith.

Sometimes we can even neglect to listen to the needs, the hurts and the emptiness within ourselves.

Indeed, on another level, the most desperate need in this Gospel is not the crying need of the blind man, for he has faith (as our Lord tells him, "Your faith has saved you").

Indeed, more truly wretched than the blind man begging on the side of a dusty road are the people around him: people who are gung-ho for the Jesus Road Show but who lack compassion, who lack faith, and who even lack the awareness that they are lacking these things.

Our path therefore begins in recognizing need - not the just the loud and obvious needs, but even more importantly the stealthy yet deadlier needs among us and within us: especially in those who have left the faith and most especially our own deficiencies of faith, compassion, and awareness.


From that beginning, the next step in the path follows quickly:

They departed in tears,
but I will console them...

And so we go from recognition and awareness to sympathy, sympathy exemplified in today's second reading (Hebrews 5:1-6)

He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring,
for he himself is beset by weakness.

This is in imitation of Christ the true High Priest, as we know from the previous chapter (Hebrews 4:15-16).

For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy
and to find grace for timely help.

And so, when we encounter those who have left the faith or other people suffering from hurts and weaknesses, as Christians we must have and show sympathy (while avoiding sin).

Many people have blamed rude, unsympathetic, or uncaring clergy or laypeople for their departure from the faith. Of course, there is almost always a deeper reason, a deeper hurt, but it is important for us as followers of Christ to listen for hurts and needs - both the loud ones and the hidden ones - and to be truly sympathetic while remaining ourselves faithful to the truth.


Our sympathy must indeed be true - true to the hurt but also true to reality and most of all true to reality as revealed by faith.

We must sympathize but we cannot just leave these people to wallow in their needs, especially in their spiritual needs. We must take the next step, as the first reading tells us:

They departed in tears,
but I will console them
and guide them;
I will lead them
to brooks of water,
on a level road,
so that none shall stumble.

By the grace of God we can help bring people into the practice of the faith not just by awareness of their needs and by sincere sympathy, but also by taking the next step... and the next step... and the next step: walking with them, guiding them, and leading them with the help of the Holy Spirit on the road that leads to the fullness of the life-giving waters that flow from Christ - waters that heal every hurt and fulfill every need.

As you and I continue our walk with Christ, we must imitate Christ: listening for both the loud and the silent cries of need around us, reaching out with our hearts with sympathy and truth, and helping those we meet walk more fully in the light and the spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Take courage;
get up,
Jesus is calling you.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A model for Vocation Discernment

"Announcing a new model and opportunity for Vocation Discernment! Are you trying to figure out what God is asking of you? Have you considered the possibility of the sacred priesthood? Would you benefit from an opportunity every month to pray, reflect, and get your questions answered? If so then Animae Via is exactly for you!


I. Dinner in Rectory

II. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament

III. Quiet Meditation/Adoration

III. Evening Prayer

IV. Reflection from Priest

V. Benediction

VI. Discussion time with Q & A

"'The Eucharist is at the centre of all prayer initiatives. The sacrament of the Altar holds a decisive value for the birth of vocations and for their perseverance, because from Christ's redemptive sacrifice those called are able to draw strength to dedicate themselves entirely to the proclamation of the Gospel. It is good that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament goes hand-in-hand with the Eucharistic Celebration, thus prolonging, in a certain sense, the mystery of the Holy Mass. Contemplating Christ, truly and substantially present under the species of bread and wine, can give rise in the heart of the person called to the priesthood or to a particular mission in the Church the same enthusiasm that led Peter to exclaim on the mount of the Transfiguration: "Lord, it is good that we are here! "'
- Pope John Paul II"

from the Vocations website of the Diocese of St. Petersburg

click here for more information.

"What does it mean to be called?"

"It means knowing oneself as infinitely loved,
discovering within yourself a desire to give everything.
It is the assurance that God is enough
and everything else is not enough.

"To be called is to receive a gift that surpasses
all understanding. A gift that is nothing
less than God himself.
A gift he longs to give.

"God calls each one uniquely.
For some, His call is heard at a very young age
and for others later in life.
He may make His voice heard
at a moment of prayer
or in the midst of an amusement
that suddenly becomes meaningless.

"It can be dramatic,
so that one can point to the exact instant
of His invitation,
or it can come as a gradual realization
over the course of years.

"God is a lover who respects our freedom.
He does not overwhelm or coerce.
His voice is soft
and we can ignore it
or drown it out
with the noise of the world."

from the website of
the Bethlehem Monastery of the Poor Clares
Barhamsville, Virginia


(They also have a blog at

New Auxiliary for Detroit

The Holy Father today has named as Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit Msgr. Daniel E. Flores, a priest of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Rector of the Cathedral in Corpus Christi and Vice Rector of St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston. Bishop-elect Flores was born August 28, 1961 in Palacios, Texas. He attended public school and then went to the University of Texas for two years before entering Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, Texas, where he studied Philosophy and Theology. He was ordained a priest for Corpus Christi June 30, 1988, and was assigned Parochial Vicar for the Cathedral, Secretary to the Bishop, Vice-Chancellor, and Master of Ceremonies. From 1989 to 1997 he was Rector of the St. John Vianney House of Studies. From 1992 to 1997 he was also Episcopal Vicar for Priestly Formation and Education (Director of Priestly Vocations). Sent to Rome’s North American College, he studied theology at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, obtaining his S.T.L. in 1997 and his doctorate in 2000. Returning from Rome, he was named Chancellor of the Diocese of Corpus Christi. Since 2001 he has been Adjunct Professor of the Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Thomas for St. Mary’s Seminary. From 2002 until today he has been Vice Rector of the seminary. Since 2006 he has been Rector of the Cathedral of Corpus Christi. In addition to English, he knows Spanish, Italian, and Latin.

In other bishop news, the Holy Father has also today accepted the retirement of the Most Rev. Medardo Joseph Mazombwe, Archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia. He is succeeded by the Coadjutor of the Archdiocese, the Most Rev. Telesphore George Mpundu.

Tidings of carpet and joist

We are all familiar with the idea that we are members of the Body of Christ.

In today's first reading (Ephesians 2:19-22) we hear again a different way of understanding the same reality.

You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.

Through him the whole structure is held together
and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;
in him you also are being built together
into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Each of us - you and I - are pieces being put together into the most magnificent work of construction the universe has ever seen: "a temple sacred in the Lord… a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."

Most of us - including me particularly - are very small and insignificant pieces in that glorious edifice. Some of us may be floor joists; some of us may be carpet nails.

Sometimes we may not be able at all to figure out where or how we could fit into something so wonderful and glorious.

But God is the builder: he knows perfectly that blueprint of incomprehensible majesty and he also knows perfectly, lovingly, each piece of the building - you and me.

May we let ourselves be grasped by the Lord so that through his will and in his grace we may fully and totally fit in: that we may find our destiny, comfort, and eternal joy as pieces fit together by the Lord's own design into the dwelling place of God himself.

The other ones

His name was Simon, but he wasn't THE Simon.

His name was Judas, but he wasn't THE Judas.

They were each one of the twelve, specially chosen by Christ himself, and yet both of them shared names with colleagues who would be much more famous (or infamous).

They were the other ones.

Thus "other" Simon is often called Simon the Zealot, to distinguish him from Simon Peter, and the "other" Judas is called Judas the son of James or Jude or Jude Thaddeus.

But the only name that really mattered for them was the name of Jesus: a name that they exalted and spread everywhere they could, a name for which they both died.

The Feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Priesthood vocations blog

Southwark Vocations is a "Blog for promoting priesthood in the Archdiocese of Southwark (UK). Here you will find information about vocations activities in Southwark as well as information of interest to anyone considering diocesan priesthood."

That which unites us

There are many things on which we may disagree, sometimes quite legitimately, even within our churches and our families.

But St. Paul reminds us in today's first reading (Ephesians 4:1-6) of those things which can and should bring us together: things to remember the next time we find ourselves sliding into a fight with those to whom we should be closer than we are.

I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner
worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit
through the bond of peace;
one Body and one Spirit,
as you were also called
to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all
and through all
and in all.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Division and truth

"That they may be one" is the prayer of Christ and it is the prayer of many of us Christians.

We hear something that sounds a little different, however, in today's Gospel (Luke 12:49-53):

Do you think that I have come
to establish peace on the earth?

No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five
will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

Our Lord indeed prays for unity, but it is a unity based on truth, against which the world rebels - and therein lies the source of the division (as we hear in the Gospel passage in which Christ prays "that they may be one").

I have given them thy word;
and the world has hated them
because they are not of the world,
even as I am not of the world.

I do not pray
that thou shouldst take them out of the world,
but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one.

They are not of the world,
even as I am not of the world.

Sanctify them in the truth;
thy word is truth.

As thou didst send me into the world,
so I have sent them into the world.

And for their sake I consecrate myself,
that they also may be consecrated in truth.

I do not pray for these only,
but also for those who believe in me
through their word,
that they may all be one;
even as thou, Father, art in me,
and I in thee,
that they also may be in us,
so that the world may believe
that thou hast sent me.

The glory which thou hast given me
I have given to them,
that they may be one even as we are one,
I in them and thou in me,
that they may become perfectly one,
so that the world may know
that thou hast sent me
and hast loved them
even as thou hast loved me.

As St. Paul does in today's first reading (Ephesians 3:14-21), may we work and pray for perfect unity through the truth of Christ.

I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power
through his Spirit in the inner self,
and 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 that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him
who is able to accomplish far more
than all we ask or imagine,
by the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus
to all generations, forever and ever.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Christian Carnival

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

Good news, challenging news

Today's first reading (Ephesians 3:2-12) reminds us of the wonder and the glory of our being humble channels of the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ - in whatever way he has called us to serve.

I became a minister
by the gift of God's grace
that was granted me
in accord with the exercise of his power.

To me,
the very least of all the holy ones,
this grace was given,
to preach to the Gentiles
the inscrutable riches of Christ,
and to bring to light for all
what is the plan of the mystery
hidden from ages past
in God who created all things,
so that the manifold wisdom of God
might now be made known through the Church
to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.

This was according to the eternal purpose
that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
in whom we have boldness of speech
and confidence of access through faith in him.

Today's Gospel (Luke 12:39-48) reminds us of the challenge that comes with our being given knowledge of that good news.

That servant who knew his master's will
but did not make preparations
nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master's will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly.

Much will be required
of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded
of the person entrusted with more.

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

God, give me the strength to do your will ever more fully in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stem cells

(with apologies to Robert Bolt and St. Thomas More)

"I have one question which I’d like to ask the witness. That’s a scientific study you are holding, Richard. May I see it?

"'These data also mandate caution in the clinical application of HES cell–derived grafts, given their potential for phenotypic instability and undifferentiated expansion.' What is this?"

"Embryonic stem cells might cause brain tumors"

"Tumors? Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world....But for tumors?"

Tear down this wall

In today's first reading (Ephesians 2:12-22), St. Paul writes of how Christ has broken down the "middle wall of partition" between Jews and Gentiles and how those "who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ."

Tragically, in the years and centuries since St. Paul wrote those words, some people have worked very hard to rebuild that wall.

Not only that, over the centuries, even more walls have been erected: walls between those who accept Christ but who do not accept each other.

But the separation between Christians and Jews will not stand forever (as St. Paul writes in Romans 11).

Likewise, the walls that Christians have built up among themselves will not and cannot stand.

Sadly, over the past few decades, many of the efforts to bring down these walls through ecumenical dialogue have been unsuccessful. In some instances, the walls have gotten thicker and the distances between some Christians even greater.

We need to do what we can to continue this dialogue, with humble honesty, heartfelt charity, deep concern for the true common good, absolute devotion to the truth of Christ, and (most importantly) unceasing prayer: that the Lord Jesus Christ may tear down the walls between us and within us so that we may be one in him.

For through him
we both have access
by one Spirit
unto the Father.

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners,
but fellowcitizens with the saints,
and of the household of God;
And are built

upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
In whom all the building fitly framed together
groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
In whom ye also are builded together
for an habitation of God
through the Spirit.

Catholic Carnival

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


He started working at the age of twelve as a weaver in his native village.

A little over 30 years later, he would be an Archbishop and the founder of a religious order. He would go on to be an advisor to a Queen and a trusted ally of the Pope.

Throughout the many phases of his ministry, his zeal was uncontainable, even though it earned him so much opposition that he was the object of rumor-mongering and even assassination attempts. But it did not deter him.

"The love of Christ arouses us, urges us to run, and to fly, lifted on the wings of holy zeal.

"The man who truly loves God also loves his neighbor. The truly zealous man is also one who loves, but he stands on a higher plane of love so that the more he is inflamed by love, the more urgently zeal drives him on. But if anyone lacks this zeal, then it is evident that love and charity have been extinguished in his heart.

"The zealous man desires and achieves all great things and he labors strenuously so that God may always be better known, loved and served in this world and in the life to come, for this holy love is without end....

"For myself, I say this to you: The man who burns with the fire of divine love is a son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and wherever he goes, he enkindles that flame; he desires and works with all his strength to inflame all men with the fire of God’s love.

"Nothing deters him:
he rejoices in poverty;
he labors strenuously;
he welcomes hardships;
he laughs off false accusations;
he rejoices in anguish.
He thinks only
of how he might follow Jesus Christ
and imitate him by his prayers,
his labors,
his sufferings,
and by caring always and only
for the glory of God
and the salvation of souls."

St. Anthony Claret, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba and founder of the Claretians, died 136 years ago today.

(from an earlier post)

Monday, October 23, 2006

The ruler of the power of the air

In today's first reading (Ephesians 2:1-10), St. Paul refers to Satan in a way that may sound strange to us.

You were dead
in your transgressions and sins
in which you once lived
following the age of this world,
following the ruler of the power of the air,
the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient.

Among the explanations that scholars give for this reference is an ancient Jewish conception of the atmosphere as a place where evil spirits flit unseen about us.

For many of us, this may sound like something out of a silly horror movie.

And yet the concept of Satan as "ruler of the power of the air" has more than a little resonance with our experience of the world today, for indeed modern culture often seems an atmosphere thick with messages of selfishness, slams against religion, and the exaltation of self-serving subjectivity over God-created reality.

The effects of this poisonous atmosphere are painfully easy to see, from the violence and depravity we see in the news to the brokenness in our families and our lives.

Yet the "ruler of the power of the air" cannot prevail against the Lord of heaven and earth.

We may have been led astray, but God can bring us back and keep us on the course that leads into the fullness of joy by the power of his grace.

All of us once lived among them
in the desires of our flesh,
following the wishes of the flesh and the impulses,
and we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest.

But God, who is rich in mercy,
because of the great love he had for us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions,
brought us to life with Christ
(by grace you have been saved),
raised us up with him,
and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,
that in the ages to come
he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace
in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.


John was so successful as a lawyer, he became a governor.

He was so impressive as a governor that he was chosen to carry out a critical diplomatic assignment in a time of war.

That particular assignment didn't go well: John ended up in prison.

While in prison, John decided to dedicate his life to Christ. He joined the Franciscans and became a traveling preacher.

John was so successful as a preacher, that when he came to preach in a town, all the stores would close and the people would come to hear him.

When he was 70, he was called to rally the people to repel a massive invasion. The invaders were turned back, but John died of natural causes near the field of battle 550 years ago today. St. John Capistrano was canonized in 1724.

A little over fifty years later, another Franciscan friar would name a new Mission Church after John, calling it in Spanish "San Juan Capistrano."

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Three S's

"The three R's" are often called the foundation of basic education: reading, writing, and arithmetic (ironically misspelling the words).

Today's readings talk about three S's, which should be the foundation of living the Christian life and which are also opposed to the ways of today's world: suffering, sympathy, and service.


Today's first reading (Isaiah 53:10-11) speaks of the "Suffering Servant": a prophecy that applied in some ways to ancient Israel but that would apply most perfectly to our suffering Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The LORD was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD
shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light
in fullness of days;

through his suffering,
my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.

Suffering is something that the modern world always wants to avoid. The world encourages us to fill our lives with as much comfort and pleasure as possible and to fill ourselves with drugs and alcohol when any amount of pain and suffering might threaten.

The way of the world is a way that wallows in selfishness and drowns us with addictions.

The way of the world is a very attractive but very deadly trap, that leads ultimately to oblivion.

The way of Christ, on the other hand, is the way of the cross, the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering.

The way of Christ is a hard road, but it is a road that leads to greater good and ultimately to eternal life.

We must not be afraid of embracing suffering, for there are many ills in this world that cannot be cured without hard work and suffering. Moreover, it is impossible to follow in the footsteps of Christ if we refuse to embrace and carry the crosses that he offers us.


In the second reading (Hebrews 4:14-16), we see that the way of Christ is also that of sympathy.

For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy
and to find grace for timely help.

The sympathy of Christ is not the sympathy of this world.

There are some in this world who reject sympathy as a weakness, something that would cause them to veer from the way of strength to which they aspire. As we have seen far too often over the centuries, a strength that is heartless leads quickly to great evil.

There are others in this world who promote a kind of sympathy that is intrinsically empty: an absolute surrender to the dictatorship of emotions - to an empathy with no anchor in objective truth.

The sympathy of Christ is the sympathy of one who has suffered, but who also knows the meaning of suffering.

The sympathy of Christ is the sympathy of one who encounters temptation, but who rejects sin in favor of the truth.

Moreover, the sympathy of the Christian is the sympathy of a sinner who knows what it is like to succumb to temptation but who also knows the depth of God's forgiveness and the greater peace of the sinless way.

Sadly, some of us are not always filled with this kind of Christian sympathy: we are either unsympathetic with sinners (especially those whose particular sins we find repugnant) or we embrace sinners with an empty empathy that pulls them and us away from the life-giving truth.

We need to live the sympathy of Christ.


And finally, we have these wonderful words from our Lord himself in today's Gospel (Mark 10:35-45):

Whoever wishes to be great among you
will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you
will be the slave of all.

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

These words of Christ are very much opposed to the way of the world: a world that sees everything in terms of a struggle for power. Anyone who volunteers to be a servant or to act like a slave is seen as lacking self-esteem at best or as a chump at worst.

Even within the Church there are many who view everything through the prism of a struggle for power.

The chastising words of our Lord could not be more clear.

You know
that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones

make their authority over them felt.

But it shall not be so among you.

Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you

will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you

will be the slave of all.

No matter what function we may exercise within the Body of Christ, each of us must be servants of each other and each of us must also be servants of the truth.

Our model must not be the political systems of this world but rather the life, ministry and teaching of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who "did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."


We Christians are called to follow Christ:
that means we are called to suffer,
we are called to sympathize,
and we are called to serve
in the name of Jesus.

World Mission Sunday

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "World Mission Sunday, which we will be celebrating on Sunday, 22 October, is an opportunity to reflect this year on the theme: 'Charity: soul of the mission'.

"Unless the mission is oriented by charity, that is, unless it springs from a profound act of divine love, it risks being reduced to mere philanthropic and social activity. In fact, God's love for every person constitutes the heart of the experience and proclamation of the Gospel, and those who welcome it in turn become its witnesses.

"God's love, which gives life to the world, is the love that was given to us in Jesus, the Word of salvation, perfect icon of the Heavenly Father's mercy.

"The saving message can be summed up well, therefore, in the words of John the Evangelist: 'In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him '(I Jn 4: 9).

"It was after his Resurrection that Jesus gave the Apostles the mandate to proclaim the news of this love, and the Apostles, inwardly transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, began to bear witness to the Lord who had died and was risen. Ever since, the Church has continued this same mission, which is an indispensable and ongoing commitment for all believers.

2. "Every Christian community is therefore called to make known God who is Love. In my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I wanted to pause and reflect on this fundamental mystery of our faith. God imbues the entire creation and human history with his love.

"In the beginning, man came from the Creator's hands as the fruit of an initiative of love. Later, sin obscured the impression of the divine within him.

"Deceived by the Evil One, Adam and Eve, our first parents, failed to live up to the relationship of trust with their Lord, succumbing to the temptation of the Evil One who instilled in them the suspicion that the Lord was a rival and wanted to limit their freedom.

"So it was that they preferred themselves to divine love freely given, convinced that in this way they were asserting their own free will. They consequently ended by losing their original happiness and they tasted the bitter sorrow of sin and death.

"However, God did not abandon them. He promised salvation to them and to their descendents, announcing in advance that he would send his Only-begotten Son, Jesus, who in the fullness of time was to reveal his love as Father, a love capable of redeeming every human creature from the slavery of evil and death.

"In Christ, therefore, immortal life was communicated to us, the very life of the Trinity. Thanks to Christ, the Good Shepherd who did not abandon the lost sheep, human beings of all time were granted the possibility of entering into communion with God, the Merciful Father who was prepared to welcome home the Prodigal Son.

"An astonishing sign of this love is the Cross. Christ's death on the Cross, I wrote in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, is 'the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him.... This is love in its most radical form.... It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move' (n. 12).

3. "On the eve of his Passion, Jesus bequeathed as a testament to his disciples, who had gathered in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover, the 'new commandment of love - mandatum novum': 'This I command you, to love one another' (Jn 15: 17). The brotherly love that the Lord asked of his 'friends' originates in the fatherly love of God.

"The Apostle John noted: 'He who loves is born of God and knows God' (I Jn 4: 7). Therefore, to love according to God it is necessary to live in him and of him: God is the first 'home' of human beings, and only by dwelling in God do men and women burn with a flame of divine love that can set the world 'on fire'.

"It is not difficult, then, to understand that authentic missionary concern, the priority commitment of the Ecclesial Community, is linked to faithfulness to divine love, and this is true for every individual Christian, for every local community, for the particular Churches and for the entire People of God.

"The generous readiness of disciples of Christ to undertake works of human and spiritual advancement draws vigour literally from the awareness of this common mission. These works, as the beloved John Paul II wrote in the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, witness to 'the soul of all missionary activity: love, which has been and remains the driving force of mission, and is also "the sole criterion for judging what is to be done or not done, changed or not changed. It is the principle which must direct every action, and the end to which that action must be directed. When we act with a view to charity, or are inspired by charity, nothing is unseemly and everything is good."' (n. 60).

"Consequently, being missionaries means loving God with all one's heart, even to the point, if necessary, of dying for him. How many priests, men and women Religious and lay people, have borne the supreme witness of love with martyrdom even in our times!

"Being missionaries means stooping down to the needs of all, like the Good Samaritan, especially those of the poorest and most destitute people, because those who love with Christ's Heart do not seek their own interests but the glory of the Father and the good of their neighbour alone.
Here lies the secret of the apostolic fruitfulness of missionary action that crosses frontiers and cultures, reaches peoples and spreads to the extreme boundaries of the world.

4. "Dear brothers and sisters, may the World Missionary Day be a useful opportunity to understand ever better that the witness of love, the soul of the mission, concerns everyone. Indeed, serving the Gospel should not be considered a solitary adventure but a commitment to be shared by every community.

"As well as those who are in the front line on the frontiers of evangelization - and I am thinking here with gratitude of the men and women missionaries - many others, children, young people and adults, with their prayers and cooperation, contribute in various ways to spreading the Kingdom of God on earth. It is to be hoped that this participation will continue to grow, thanks to the contribution of one and all.

"I willingly take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and to the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), which are dedicated to coordinating the efforts made in every part of the world to support the activity of those on the front lines on the missionary frontiers.

"May the Virgin Mary, who collaborated actively in the beginning of the Church's mission with her presence beneath the Cross and her prayers in the Upper Room, sustain their action and help believers in Christ to be ever more capable of true love, so that they become sources of living water in a spiritually thirsting world. I wish this with all my heart, as I impart my Blessing to you all."

From the Vatican, 29 April 2006


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Stepping out

On August 28, the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, welcomed fifteen postulants to the their community: "15 young women who have courageously stepped out of the boat of the world to walk on the waters of faith in the convent."

"Young women (from high school age on up!) who are single and desirous of furthering their spiritual life and who may, or may not have an interest in looking more closely into Religious Life, are invited to attend the following retreats:

Nov. 04-05, 2006
Feb. 24-25, 2007
May. 26-27, 2007

"Registration is capped at 100, so register early to researve your spot! Click here for more information & directions! "

(from a retreat last year)

from the website for Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, in Ann Arbor, Michigan: www.sistersofmary.org

Ordination for former Episcopal priest

Pontifications blogger Al Kimel, who served as a parish priest in the Episcopal church for 25 years and who entered into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2005, has announced that Deo volente he will be ordained to the Priesthood by Archbishop John Myers on Sunday, December 3rd, at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in South Orange, New Jersey. (Ordination to the diaconate will be in November)

Ad multos annos!


In a world where faithful Christians are attacked simply for what they say (usually by people twisting our words to portray themselves as victims and advance their political power), the last verse and a half of today's Gospel (Luke 12:8-12) are particularly comforting:

...do not worry about how or what your defense will be
or about what you are to say.
For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment
what you should say.

Sometimes it can feel like we are walking through a minefield, even in casual conversations, but if we always focus on being faithful and humble servants of God's truth, then with the grace of God we will have the comfort, guidance, and strength that only God can give and that nothing can overcome.

In that same spirit St. Paul's prayer in today's first reading (Ephesians 1:15-23) is for us as well.

Hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus
and of your love for all the holy ones,
I do not cease giving thanks for you,
remembering you in my prayers,
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know

what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above

every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.

And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the Church,
which is his Body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.


In today's Gospel (Luke 12:8-12), our Lord speaks of an unforgivable sin: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Why would that be unforgivable? Because it is precisely through the power of the Holy Spirit that we as individuals receive God's forgiveness, In fact, it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we even ask for that forgiveness!

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cuts off the very channel that makes forgiveness possible.

Now, it is rather unlikely that even a nominal Christian would ever commit formal blasphemy against the Holy Spirit with sufficient reflection and full consent of the will. Just to be safe, however, we should be careful to practice discernment, determining prayerfully what is of God and what is not, lest we follow the path of the Pharisees in this chapter.

Yet there are other ways by which we may cut ourselves off from God's forgiveness in the Holy Spirit.

One great sin against the Holy Spirit by which we might cut ourselves off from God's forgiveness is called Presumption: for example, when a person treats God's forgiveness as so automatic that they contemptuously go ahead with their evil plans.

Some people hear about presumption, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and unforgivable sins and they instantly worry that they may have committed or might commit one of these unforgivable sins.

Actually, the ability to worry about this, to feel remorse, and to ask for God's help is in and of itself a sign that the channel of grace is still open.

In fact, if one takes that worry too far, one risks the other classic unforgivable sin: Despair - specifically, despairing of God's forgiveness.

We should be careful not to blaspheme. We should be careful not to presume upon the grace of forgiveness nor should we ever despair of God's forgiveness.

We should remain focused on always trying to know and do the right thing, with humble penitence and faith in God.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Your secret is coming out

There is nothing concealed
that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.

whatever you have said in the darkness
will be heard in the light,
and what you have whispered behind closed doors
will be proclaimed on the housetops.

For some of us, these words from today's Gospel (Luke 12:1-7) may be especially disturbing, if we allow ourselves to think about it. We may think that we have successfully covered our tracks and that the bad things we have done will never see the light of day.

But God knows.

Even if we are successful in hiding the truth from everyone else in the world (and that seems increasingly difficult over time), even if we have escaped the shame and the punishments that we have feared in this world, what lies ahead is truly fearsome and inescapable.

I tell you, my friends,
do not be afraid of those who kill the body
but after that can do no more.

I shall show you whom to fear.

Be afraid of the one who after killing
has the power to cast into Gehenna;
yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.

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

When it comes to our own sin, secrecy can be comforting and, depending on the sin, we can rationalize that we are protecting others by keeping quiet, but secrecy about our own sin can also be a trap that drags us into more and more sin.

When it comes to our own sin, our priority should be getting right with God, not on maintaining our own cover-up.

And even if there are no big skeletons in our personal closets, today's Gospel reminds us to be attentive to our words and deeds, even when we are alone or "just among friends", for Christ calls us to let his light shine in everything we say and everything we do.


In his father's eyes, Paul was bright and devout and would make a good businessman - like himself.

In his uncle's eyes, Paul was bright and devout and would make a good priest - like himself.

In the eyes of a certain young lady, Paul was bright and devout and would make a good husband for some lucky girl - like herself.

But Paul's eyes were fixed elsewhere.

From the time he was a young boy, he had always been amazed by and attracted to the image of Christ on the crucifix. He was overwhelmed by the great love of God he saw there: love for the world and love even for a small boy like himself, love in Christ’s eyes and love in Christ’s heart, love even in every drop of blood and in every moment of pain.

"The world lives unmindful of the sufferings of Jesus which are the miracle of miracles of the love of God. We must arouse the world from its slumber," he would write.

A community of like-minded souls would gather around Paul and his quest to proclaim the Passsion of Christ to the world. They would become known as the Passionists and Paul would become known as Paul of the Cross.

St. Paul of the Cross died 231 years ago this month and his memory is celebrated on this day.

More than two thousand Passionists in 52 nations remind people to keep their eyes fixed on Christ and the love of his cross.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Persecute then canonize?

Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets
whom your fathers killed.
Consequently, you bear witness and give consent
to the deeds of your ancestors,
for they killed them
and you do the building.

So says our Lord in today's Gospel (Luke 11:47-54).

It is an old accusation that the Church persecutes saints while they are alive only to canonize them after they are dead.

Often, this is said by people who feel they are being persecuted by the Church, as if this proves their eventual vindication.

In truth, the overwhelming majority of those individuals whose words or actions were opposed by the Church were never rehabilitated, let alone canonized. Their words and deeds were in error and remain so.

May God have mercy on us all.

To be sure, men and women who take bold stands and bold actions in this world, even if their cause is holy, usually meet with resistance, even from those who ostensibly share their faith.

Many times this resistance is simply the caution of discernment. Over the millennia, many people have been put forward as messengers of God and many of them have been false prophets who have led other people to ruin. Sometimes this discernment can take a long time, after the fruits of their words and deeds can be fully examined.

Sometimes, of course, this resistance is the stubbornness of entrenched sin and selfishness on the part of individuals, even individuals in high positions.

So, how do we avoid falling under the condemnation our Lord pronounces in today's Gospel?

By focusing always on discernment: both discernment of those around us and discernment of ourselves.

If we focus continually on discerning the truth of God more fully and on purifying ourselves by the light of God's truth and God's grace, then we will be better able to recognize the true prophets and the true saints, the living and the dead, and by the grace of God become true saints and true prophets in our own lives.

There is a valley

that runs from the northwest down to the Hudson River just above Albany, New York. It is wide and deep and green in the summer and glows with brilliant colors of red and orange in the fall.

Isaac loved looking out over that valley. Even more, he loved the people there. But it was a never-ending pain in his heart that so many of them did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Indeed, there were some men whose hatred of Christ was terrifying. These men kidnapped Isaac and tortured him, going so far as to bite and burn off some of his fingers. His comrade Rene was killed before his eyes.

Isaac himself was held captive for over a year and was just about to be killed when he was finally rescued.

Isaac made his way home, where he was acclaimed as a living martyr for Christ.

But Isaac could not forget the people of the valley. Disregarding all warnings, he returned there less than three years later.

He was stripped naked, beaten, slashed, and finally killed in October 1646.

Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil, and other members of the Society of Jesus who came to be known as the North American Martyrs were canonized in 1930 and are celebrated on this day.

(Adapted from an earlier post)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The watch list

The New Testament is often characterized as being full of nothing but love and peace and universal acceptance.

However, in today's first reading (2 Timothy 4:10-17b), we hear St. Paul writing to St. Timothy about something that may seem to sound like a "watch list."

Alexander the coppersmith did me a great deal of harm;
the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.

You too be on guard against him,
for he has strongly resisted our preaching.

As followers of Christ, we must indeed follow the ways of true peace and true love, yet we must also be prudent as we go through the world spreading this Gospel of love, peace, and truth.

Not everyone will heed or even respect our message and some will even try to sabotage us.

We need to be on our guard: using well the gifts of intellect and spirit God gave us, placing opponents in the hands of our just and merciful God, and going forward in obedience to the Lord who watches over us with his love.

Luke alone is with me


Did you get that, Luke?

Yes, Paul, I wrote it down just as you dictated: "Luke alone is with me."

No, I mean, did you GET that?


And... you have nothing to say?




Fine! Let's continue... Get Mark and bring him with you...


Luke, I just can't believe you're not bothered by this.

Why should I be bothered?

Well, some people might hear this and take it in a bad way.

How so?

They might think I'm not happy to have you as the only other person around.

Why would that be?

I don't know... maybe it's because you don't have much of a personality.

No, that's right. I don't.


Did you want me to write that down?

I'm sorry. Look, Luke, you work hard, and you're incredibly loyal, and you and I have gone through a lot together. I really didn't mean anything bad.

Paul, it's okay. I'm really just thrilled to be a part of this. I mean, you're doing the work that the Lord Jesus himself gave you. It's the work of God: it's bringing the Gospel to the world. I know I'm not the most exciting person in the world, but I do what I can: I write, I gather things together. I just do my little part in helping people learn about the good news of the Lord Jesus.

You do a lot, Luke... and you do it well. Thank you. And again, I'm sorry.

Not a problem. Shall we continue?

Yes... for he is very useful in serving me.

* * * * *

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Catholic Carnival

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


The Holy Father has named Msgr. Stephen Brislin as the new Bishop of Kroonstad, South Africa. Bishop-elect Brislin was born in that diocese in 1956 and ordained a priest there in 1983. He was named Vicar General in 1990 and has served as Diocesan Administrator since 2003.

The Holy Father has named the Most Rev. Leonardo Yuson Medroso, up to now Bishop of Borongan in the Philippines, as the new Bishop of Tagbilaran. Bishop Medroso was born in the Archdiocese of Palo in 1938 and ordained a priest there in 1963. He was named Bishop of Borongan in 1986.

The Holy Father has named Father Abdo Arbach, B.C., as Apostolic Exarch for the Greek-Melkite faithful residing in Argentina. He was born in Syria in 1952, ordained a priest in 1980 and has served in Argentina and Lebanon.

The Holy Father has named the Most Rev. William Kenney, C.P., up to now Auxiliary Bishop of Stockholm, Sweden, as Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, England. Bishop Kenney was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, in 1946, entered the Passionists in 1963, was ordained a priest in 1969, sent to Sweden in 1970 to study religious sociology. He remained in Sweden, pasturing a parish in Växjö and teaching at the University of Göteborg. He was named Auxiliary Bishop of Stockholm in 1987.

Inside and outside

In today's Gospel (Luke 11:37-41), our Lord once again chastises the Pharisees:

Ye Pharisees make clean
the outside of the cup and the platter;
but your inward part

is full of ravening and wickedness.

This recalls a similar albeit more dramatic expression in Matthew 23:27:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
for ye are like unto whited sepulchres,
which indeed appear beautiful outward,
but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

Internal realities and external realities are also the focus of today's first reading (Galatians 5:1-6):

We through the Spirit
wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

For in Jesus Christ
neither circumcision availeth anything,
nor uncircumcision;
but faith
which worketh by love.

"Faith which worketh by love" is what ties inside and outside together: the internal and the external in our relationship with God. Nor is it simply intellectual faith and emotional love, but a unified, concrete reality enabled by grace.

Rather give alms of such things as ye have;
and, behold, all things are clean unto you.

Our churches are full of people who are like "whited sepulchers", who boast of their adherence to moral law, while they "are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness".

Our world is also full of people who don't even bother to clean up their externals or whose faith "is dead" (cf James 2:14-26) and does not "worketh by love."

May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ come within us and flow out from us, empowering within us the gift of faith that reaches beyond ourselves in love and truth.

He wanted to die

But he was not going to commit suicide.

Actually, he didn't really want to die: his goal was eternal life with Christ and faithfulness was the path.

The problem was that he was going to be forced to choose between faithfulness and death.

Needless to say, he was more than a little nervous.

In fact, he was afraid that he would fail, that he would deny his faith in order to save himself from a horrible death.

So, he prayed incessantly and also psyched himself up to stand firm. He wrote to the people he knew, telling them about the path he was on and asking them not to try to save him even if he should momentarily crack and beg them to intervene on his behalf.

As it turned out, he kept the faith and was strong to the end, even when he was fed alive to wild animals.

Ignatius, bishop of Antioch and faithful martyr for Christ, died horribly at the beginning of the second century A.D. and his memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Vision of Jesus

"The sacred heart of Christ is an inexhaustible fountain and its sole desire is to pour itself out into the hearts of the humble so as to free them and prepare them to lead lives according to his good pleasure.

"From this divine heart three streams flow endlessly.

"The first is the stream of mercy for sinners; it pours into their hearts sentiments of contrition and repentance.

"The second is the stream of charity which helps all in need and especially aids those seeking perfection in order to find the means of surmounting their difficulties.

"From the third stream flow love and light for the benefit of his friends who have attained perfection; these he wishes to unit to himself so that they may share his knowledge and commandments and, in their individual ways, devote themselves wholly to advancing his glory."

from Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque's vision of Jesus

(adapted from an earlier post)

The religions

Strangely enough, today's first reading (Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1) contains connections to the three great monotheistic religions of the world: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

On the allegorical level, St. Paul associates the sons of Abraham - Isaac and Ishmael - with Christians and Jews, respectively. On a non-allegorical level, Isaac is the ancestor of the Jews and Ishmael the ancestor of the Arabs (according to both Biblical and Qur'anic traditions).

Yet when it comes to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, an earlier verse in Galatians (3:7) is even more important:

Realize then
that it is those who have faith
who are children of Abraham.


This verse reminds us that
by the grace of God
through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
we have this gift of faith:
a gift about which we must not be smug,
a gift for which we must be grateful,
a gift that we must let shine before men,
a gift which we must pray that others will receive.

A loving God?

Few things cause more people to doubt the existence of a loving God more than a child who is chronically, critically ill.

Yet little Margaret knew that there was a God and that He loved her. Even as she lay in her sickbed, unable to move, year after year after year, she know that Jesus loved her.

Then, according to the mysterious plan of God, the moment came when Margaret was miraculously cured. She resolved to dedicate her life to God and, as soon as she was old enough, she became a nun: a Sister of the Visitation, consecrated to life of a loving, prayerful union with Jesus her Savior.

One day as she was praying in the chapel on the steps of the altar she saw the Lord Jesus with her own eyes. He was robed in light and she saw a great beautiful light streaming from his chest and she knew that that was his Most Sacred Heart, overflowing with love for her and for all humanity.

Margaret learned much from the Lord that day and she shared this wondrous knowledge with others.

In time, millions throughout the world would enjoy a deeper relationship with God through a better understanding of and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The tragically sick child had become a woman who would help people reconnect with the reality of our loving God.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque died at the age of 43 in 1690. She was canonized in 1920. Her memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Busy wife and mother

Henry's wife was wonderful. She helped him with the family business, took care of the children (they had 7), and even found time (as did he) to help the church and various charitable institutions.

When they were in middle age, they decided to dedicate themselves more closely to God, embracing chastity and as much of a monastic lifestyle as their family obligations would permit. After Henry died, she began to live in a convent fulltime, while continuing her outside charity work.

Hedwig, mother, philanthropist, duchess of Silesia (present-day Poland) and wife of Henry the Duke, died in her late sixties in October 1243. St. Hedwig was canonized 24 years later.

Her memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rich people are going to hell

That is what it sounds like in today's Gospel (Mark 10:17-30).

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

But as I have often said, it is dangerous for us to think that any warning in Scripture applies only to people other than ourselves: in this case, those rich people over there, not me.

The truth is that even poor people are not free from danger: even someone who has few possessions might be more focused on them than focused on what is right and godly.

Rich or poor, we are all at risk.

To be sure, we must be prudent when it comes to material possessions and if we are personally responsible for the welfare of particular individuals, we cannot shirk that responsibility, but we must be very careful not to rationalize selfishness.

Moreover, the maxim "where much is given, much is required" (Luke 12:48) should be a serious warning for all of us blessed with material goods.

And for those who are not personally responsible for the welfare of particular individuals, it would be good to listen whether the Lord is calling us to the powerful witness of evangelical poverty, as he does in today’s Gospel.

Jesus, looking at him,
loved him
and said to him,
"You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven;

then come, follow me."

....Peter began to say to him,
"We have given up everything and followed you."

Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up

house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more
now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions,
and eternal life in the age to come."

Saturday, October 14, 2006


The Lectionary translation of today's first reading (Galatians 3:22-29) uses a rather unusual word

The law was our disciplinarian for Christ...

With all due respect to the translators, it is an unfortunate choice.

Strangely enough, the original Greek word has come down to us through the millennia virtually unchanged in the English word "pedagogue" (in fact, this is the word given in the Douay-Rheims translation).

Unfortunately, both words may be unfamiliar to many people, who might half-hear them and misunderstand (for that reason, other translations have used words such as tutor, teacher, or schoolmaster [the usually reliable RSV has the unfortunate choice of "custodian"]).

In ancient times, the pedagogue was a slave who walked everywhere the pupil went, teaching him as they walked.

With this understanding, Paul's words become somewhat clearer.

But now that faith has come,
we are no longer under a pedagogue.
For through faith
you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.

Christ Jesus is our pedagogue.

Christ Jesus is now the one with whom we walk and in whom we walk.

May we always walk closely with Christ.

Pope denounced by leading theologians

They not only ridiculed his theology, but also spread dark rumors about his past.

Some said that he was too "soft."

Some said he was out-of-sync with the wider culture's views on marriage.

For his part, he continued faithfully with his work and some say he was actually killed for his faithfulness... back in the third century A.D.

Today, the Church celebrates the memory of Pope St. Callistus.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Everything right

"If I do everything right, I will be loved."

That is the basic assumption upon which many of us build our lives and our relationships, often from our childhood.

Usually, it doesn't work: either we fail in what we do or we fail for some other reason to get the love we sought.

Many of us operate under this same assumption in our relationship with God.

"If I do everything right, God will love me."

And the flip side: "If I fail to do everything right, God will hate me."

This idea may appear to resonate with Deuteronomy 27:26, as quoted by St. Paul in today's first reading (Galatians 3:7-14):

Cursed be everyone
who does not persevere in doing all the things
written in the book of the law.

The reality is, however, that it is practically impossible to persevere always in doing all the right things and in avoiding all the bad things. We are all sinners.

And so, St. Paul says,

All who depend on works of the law are under a curse.

St. Paul writes about this in the context of his teaching on justification through faith. This is an important but often challenging subject.

Unfortunately, it has been a theological battleground within Christendom for millennia.

It has also been used for millennia as theological cover for immorality: "It doesn't matter what I do, God loves me unconditionally."

God does indeed love us unconditionally, as we should love him, and we are absolutely dependent upon his grace, but what we do does matter.

Our faith must be more than words and feelings: it must live in our lives, as we read in James 2:17-19:

Even so faith,
if it hath not works,
is dead,
being alone.

Yea, a man may say,
Thou hast faith, and I have works:
shew me thy faith without thy works,
and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

Thou believest that there is one God;
thou doest well:
the devils also believe,
and tremble.

God loves us: we cannot earn that love - it is his free gift - yet he also calls us to live that love in our lives of faith, while he remains ever close to us with the power of his grace.

By his grace, we are truly loved.

By his grace, may we be ever faithful.

By his grace, may we love truly.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New Bishops

Today the Holy Father...

  • "Appointed Bishop Martin J. Amos, auxiliary of the diocese of Cleveland,
    U.S.A., as bishop of Davenport (Iowa)... U.S.A. He succeeds Bishop William Edwin Franklin, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
  • "Accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of Boston, presented by Bishop John P. Boles, upon having reached the age limit.
  • "Appointed Fr. John A. Dooher of the clergy of the archdiocese of Boston,
    U.S.A., pastor of the parish of St. Mary in Dedham, and Fr. Robert F. Hennessey of the clergy of the archdiocese of Boston, pastor of the parish of the Most Holy Redeemer in East Boston, as auxiliaries of the archdiocese of Boston...

    Bishop-elect Dooher was born in Dorchester in 1943 and ordained a priest in 1969.

    Bishop-elect Hennessey was born in Boston in 1952 and ordained a priest in 1978. "

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

Hey, stupid!

In today's first reading (Galatians 3:1-5), Saint Paul gives the good people of Galatia a vigorous slap in the face (emphasized by the use of a politically incorrect word in the Lectionary translation):

O stupid Galatians!

Who has bewitched you,
before whose eyes Jesus Christ
was publicly portrayed as crucified?
I want to learn only this from you:
did you receive the Spirit from works of the law,
or from faith in what you heard?

Are you so stupid?

The bottom-line message for us is simple: don't be stupid.

We need to cultivate the habit of double-checking ourselves from time to time, touching base with the sources of our faith and the truth we have received from Christ, so that we may not - by sloppy syllogisms, cumulative incremental compromises, or the silken whispers of temptation - drift away from what is true and right.

That would be stupid.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


On the one hand...


"When Cephas came to Antioch,
I opposed him to his face

because he clearly was wrong.
For, until some people came from James,
he used to eat with the Gentiles;
but when they came,

he began to draw back and separated himself,
because he was afraid of the circumcised....
But when I saw

that they were not on the right road
in line with the truth of the Gospel,
I said to Cephas in front of all,
"If you, though a Jew,
are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew,
how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?"

I'm Paul of Tarsus
and I approved this message.


And on the other hand...


Paul of Tarsus is saying that Peter of Galilee was hypocritical on the issue of Jews and Gentiles.

Let's see what the record REALLY says.

This is what Paul of Tarsus said about himself (1 Cor. 9:20a, 21a, 22b):

"To the Jews I became as a Jew....
To those outside the law

I became as one outside the law....
I have become all things to all men."

"All things to all men"?

Is THIS the kind of leadership we need today?

I'm Peter of Galilee
and I approved this message.


Of course, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul did not really behave like squabbling politicians.

There is always a need for proper fraternal correction, to be exercised with charity and a focus on building people up in the truth.

But there is also a great need for us to work together: as the Apostles did in today's first reading (Galatians 1-2, 7-14), to give each other our "right hands in partnership" for the spread of the Gospel, for the common good and for the greater glory of God.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Perhaps the most spectacular conversion of all time was that of Saul of Tarsus, who went from being a persecutor of the Church at its most vulnerable to becoming Paul, one of the most powerfully effective Apostles.

The wonder of this turnaround spread quickly and widely, as we hear in today's first reading (Galatians 1:13-24):

But they had heard only,
That he which persecuted us in times past
now preacheth the faith
which once he destroyed.
And they glorified God in me.

This was a turnaround not only for Saul but also for the Church: for Saul had helped drive that first murderous persecution when the total number of believers in Christ was only in the thousands and primarily confined to a small part of the world, but then he become one of the most effective instruments by which God spread the faith across a vast empire to people who had not even heard of Jerusalem.

Such is the power of God's grace: in those days and in our own time.

Whenever we feel vulnerable, whenever we despair, whenever we are afraid, we need to remember the power of God's grace in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We may endure sorrows and times of darkness, following in the footsteps of our Lord himself, and sometimes that darkness may seem too great, but greater still is the wondrous love and mighty power of God's grace and greatest of all will be the turnaround God has prepared for those who love him.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven,
Now is come salvation, and strength,
and the kingdom of our God,
and the power of his Christ...

(Revelation 12:10a)

Catholic Carnival

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

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Gospel other than...

The two readings for weekday Masses during Ordinary Time are not generally chosen to link up with each other, so they can sometimes intersect in interesting ways.

In today's first reading (Galatians 1:6-12), St. Paul warns the Galatians against "a different Gospel" - in quite dramatic language.

But even if we
or an angel from heaven
should preach to you a gospel
other than the one that we preached to you,
let that one be accursed!

As we have said before,
and now I say again,
if anyone preaches to you a gospel
other than the one that you received,
let that one be accursed!

But then, in today's Gospel (Luke 10:25-37), our Lord himself depicts a follower of a somewhat different religion (a Samaritan) as an example of godly virtue.

It is a reminder that although we must hold fast to the truth that we have received, we can learn from others (as long as there is no contradiction with the truth we have received).

This is especially the case when the actions of others so perfectly exemplify what we believe, even when not everything they believe is fully correct, as in the case of the Samaritan.

Last week the world was amazed by the forgiveness shown by the Amish families of murdered schoolgirls toward the family of their killer. It was a powerful and explicit imitation of Christ.

Perhaps even more so were the words of one of the murdered girls, 13-year-old Marian Fisher, who is quoted as saying to the gunman, "Shoot me and leave the other ones loose."

Jesus answered,
"I told you that I am he;
so, if you seek me,
let these men go."
(John 18:8)

It is safe to say that none of us in this online environment are Amish, and yet in these instances most of us have much to learn.

These actions which have astounded the world challenge us to manifest our faith to that same level: even to the point of forgiving what seems unforgivable or giving one's life for one's friends.

In this pluralistic world, may we rise to the challenges of fidelity to the true Gospel we have received and of manifesting that true Gospel with the intensity we may witness in others.

John was a pharmacy technician

but he felt called to help people as a priest. Once he was ordained, he was particularly interested in ministering to the sick and to prisoners.

John realized in time that more needed to be done to educate people in the faith. He formed an organization (which he called a confraternity) to develop and compile teaching materials and methods to instruct people in Christian doctrine.

Never afraid to minister to the sickest of the sick, even in his sixties, John Leonardi died of plague on this very day in 1609. The very name Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) would become synonymous with teaching within the Church, even to the present time. St. John Leonardi was canonized in 1938.

(from an earlier post)

Fearing no menance

Dennis was a bright young man, full of fervor for Christ and utterly fearless. It seemed obvious that he was called to be a missionary, so he was sent to preach the Gospel at the edge of civilization.

He was powerfully successful. He first established himself on an island on a river close to the strongest concentration of civilization, law and order. From there, he went out and converted many to the Lord and also established new communities of believers in the surrounding regions.

Inevitably, he aroused the wrath of other religions and of the civil authorities. He and his companions were arrested, tortured, and beheaded. Their remains were thrown into the river, but recovered and buried on the island. A small shrine was quietly erected to remember Dennis and the sacrifices he suffered for the love of Christ and his people.

In time, the shrine would be replaced by a large basilica, the place where Dennis worked and suffered in the 3rd century A.D. would be known as Paris, and St. Denis – bishop and martyr – would be venerated as one of the patron saints of France.

His memory and that of the others martyred with him is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Accepting like a child

Arrogance is a common thing, especially in our modern age.

Arrogance is also a dangerous thing, especially in our modern age.

Arrogance cuts us off from reality, setting us behind the walls of knowledge and so-called wisdom we have built up for ourselves (and indeed modern science has built these walls very high and very deep), but as we have seen again and again, reality inevitably breaks through these walls.

Reality inevitably tramples the arrogant.

Arrogance also walls us off from faith. Arrogance cuts us off from recognizing the limits of our understanding and our need to rely on the wisdom of God.

This truth is beautifully illustrated at the end of the long form of today's Gospel (Mark 10:2-16):

And people were bringing children to him
that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.

When Jesus saw this
he became indignant and said to them,
"Let the children come to me;
do not prevent them,
for the kingdom of God
belongs to such as these.

Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the kingdom of God
like a child
will not enter it."

Then he embraced them
and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.

Are we like the arrogant disciples or are we like the children?


It is easy for us, of course, to say that we are like the children, but many of us may be tested in this assertion by the first part of today's Gospel, especially by our Lord's politically incorrect words:

"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery."

Many of us might get more than a little bit upset at these words. All of us know people - good people, moral people, devout people - who have divorced and remarried. Indeed, some of us have been divorced and remarried ourselves. The appellation of adulterer seems over-the-top, if not cruel.

But they are the words of Christ, our loving savior.

Are we reacting to our Lord's words like the arrogant disciples or like children of the kingdom of heaven?

The question of the divorced and remarried is indeed a sensitive topic and the subject of much arrogance, from more than one side: the arrogance of those who exalt the norms of modern society above the teaching of Christ, the arrogance of those who defend their own self-esteem at the expense of objective truth, and the arrogance of those who blithely condemn the sins of others while quietly passing over the sins to which they themselves tend.

Are we arrogant disciples or children of the kingdom of heaven?

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

Arrogance cuts us off from truth and from our need for growth.

We need to be like little children accepting the kingdom of heaven.

We need to step down from our perches of defensiveness or self-righteousness.

We all fall short of the ideal: we dare not damn those who fall short (neither ourselves nor others), nor dare we turn the ideal on its head in order to stoke our self-esteem, nor dare we despair of the ideal.

The ideal remains true. We may live in a messy world, "but from the beginning it was not so" (Matthew 19:8b).

But from the beginning of creation,
God made them male and female.

For this reason
a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

So they are no longer two but one flesh.

Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.

May we not be arrogant, but may we always help each other - as best as we can and relying on the grace of Christ - strive toward the ideal, ask for God's mercy when we fall short, grow more fully in the truth, and become more and more like children in the kingdom of heaven.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Like straw

Near the end of his life, one of the greatest theologians who ever lived had a special vision of God.

He never wrote again, saying that everything he had written was "like straw."

We hear something similar from another wise and holy man in today's first reading (from the last chapter of the book of Job).

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be hindered.

I have dealt with great things that I do not understand;
things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.

I had heard of you by word of mouth,
but now my eye has seen you.

Therefore I disown what I have said,
and repent in dust and ashes.

That is not to say that Job was absolutely wrong in what he had said. Indeed, in a verse from this chapter not included in today's selection (42:7), the Lord himself says that Job has "spoken rightly concerning me."

Yet even the greatest and most perfect of human words fall infinitely short of the full majesty and wonder of God in himself.

We should continue to seek greater knowledge of God and his ways, relying upon the grace and revelation that he himself extends to us, and we should continue to spread that knowledge to others, responding to his grace and his command, yet we must always remain humble, which is to say realistic about who we are and who God is.

Pope Benedict spoke about this in a homily yesterday before the International Theological Commission (translation by Teresa Benedicta; hat tip Amy):

"Job had cried out to God, he had even struggled with God in the face of the evident injustices he had to deal with. And then he is confronted with the greatness of God. And he understands that in the face of the true greatness of God, our words are mere poverty and cannot even remotely approach the greatness of God, and so he says: 'I have spoken twice, I will say no more.'

"Silence before the greatness of God, because our words become too puny. It remainds me of the last weeks of St. Thomas (Aquinas)'s life - when he stopped writing, he stopped speaking. His friends asked him: 'Master, why don't you speak, why don't you write?" And he says, "Before what I have seen, all my words seem to me like straw.'

"The great expert on St.Thomas, Fr. Jean-Pierre Torrel, tells us not to misunderstand these words. Straw is not nothing. Straw carries the grain, and that is its great value. It carries the grain. So even the straw of words remains valid as a bearer of the grain.

"This, I would say, even for us, is a relativization of our work as well as a valuation of it. It is also an indication to us so that the straw of our work should truly carry the grain of God's Word.

"The Gospel (yesterday) ends with, 'Whoever listens to you, listens to me.' What an admonition, what an examination of conscience these words require! Is it true that whoever hears me really hears the Lord?

"Let us pray and work that it may always be true that whoever listens to us, listens to Christ. Amen!"