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...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Resistance is fruitful

Often, when we succumb to temptation (God have mercy on us all), we tell ourselves, “I couldn’t help it” or otherwise describe the temptation as irresistible.

The bold statement that begins today’s first reading (Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15) reminds us that we can do much better in resisting sin.

In your struggle against sin
you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.

Rejection of temptation is a kind of martyrdom and is the path to infinite joys.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
Make straight paths for your feet,
that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.

Strive for peace with everyone,
and for that holiness
without which no one will see the Lord.

His "terrible twos" were terrible indeed

for that was when John’s father died.

John would have to work to help support his family while still a boy. The family’s parish priest, however, made sure that John received an education.

It was no surprise, then, that John eventually entered the seminary and still kept working even during his years of study.

During his first assignment, John visited the local prisons and was heartbroken to see so many boys incarcerated, seemingly written off by society. Sometime later, he overheard a sacristan beating a boy off the street who wasn’t capable of serving Mass. He rebuked the sacristan and let the boy go free. The boy came back, bringing other homeless boys with him who needed education, prayer, and kindness. Soon, there were hundreds of them.

Some people thought John was crazy (literally!) but eventually both church and civic leaders saw the value of the work he was doing and supported it. Nearly fifty years after rescuing that first young man, approximately 130,000 children were being cared for by John and his coworkers, in houses dedicated to Mary Help of Christians and St. Francis de Sales.

St. John Bosco, founder of Society of Saint Francis de Sales (who later renamed themselves the Salesians of Don Bosco), died on this very day one hundred and eighteen years ago. He was canonized in 1934.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Sometimes we feel alone.

Today’s first reading (Hebrews 12:1-4) reminds us that we are actually surrounded by many friends and cheerleaders from of old and from on high.

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us
and persevere in running the race that lies before us
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,
the leader and perfecter of faith.

Monday, January 29, 2007

For they are many

Imagine that you are confronting something evil and it turns to you and says

"My name is Legion: for we are many."

These chilling words are spoken by the Gadarene demoniac in today's Gospel (Mark 5:1-20).

The first reading (Hebrews 11:32-40) is chilling in its own way: recounting a legion of bad things that have happened to good people throughout history.

But there is also a powerfully encouraging message in these readings, much more powerful than the legions of evils, for the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is infinitely greater than the hosts of darkness and the grace that Christ gives us will wipe away any pain or loss that we may suffer by living out our faith and doing the right things.

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

We need to take encouragement from the example of the holy men and women of old, especially those proclaimed in today's first reading.

We need to place ourselves in the hands of Christ who will keep his faithful ones safe - no matter what may happen or what we may suffer.

Our troubles may be many,
our opponents may be legion,
but Jesus is Lord.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

You have been chosen

Some of us think about vocation only in terms of particular vocations, such as a vocation to the priesthood, to the consecrated life, to the married life, and so forth.

Today's readings, however, speak eloquently to the reality that each of us one has a fundamental vocation that encompasses, permeates, and (in a sense) transcends whatever our particular vocation may be.

Each one of us needs to come to the awareness that Jeremiah did in the first reading (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19): to feel the Lord's uniquely personal assurance within our heart:

The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

This is the insight that is the foundation for our personal relationship with God: that God reaches out from all eternity and from beyond infinity and loves ME - uniquely, specially, personally - me.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you...

In the same way, yet individually, God reaches out from all eternity and from beyond infinity and loves YOU - uniquely, specially, personally - you.

As I delve deeper into this insight, I also come to realize that God eternal has brought me into existence for a unique purpose - indeed, for a unique set of purposes: all bound together in my fundamental vocation as a child of God in Christ.

...a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

Likewise, God eternal has brought YOU into existence for a unique purpose - indeed, for a unique set of purposes: all bound together in your fundamental vocation as a child of God in Christ.

You are loved.

You are chosen.

There is immense, unassailable comfort in this, yet there are also challenges, for the world hates eternity and tries to sell us instead the false and ever-diminishing happiness of hedonistic moments, a quest for artificial meaning shackled within our individual consciousness, or the empty satisfaction of accomplishments that will be washed away by the river of Time.

Our fundamental vocation - our being loved and called by God - gives us the way to true happiness that will intensify for eternity, an invitation to be a discoverer (and in some ways a co-creator with God) of true meaning that has reality beyond our skulls, and the promise of everlasting satisfaction through grace-blessed, faithful deeds that will shine forever before God.

Yes, the world hates all this and gives us ferocious resistance.

But do you gird your loins;
stand up and tell them
all that I command you.

Be not crushed on their account,
as though I would leave you crushed before them;
for it is I this day
who have made you a fortified city,
a pillar of iron, a wall of brass,
against the whole land:
against Judah's kings and princes,
against its priests and people.

They will fight against you
but not prevail over you,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the LORD.

As is often the case, there is a parallel between today's first reading and today's Gospel (Luke 4:21-30): a beautiful and clear expression of personal vocation (beginning just before today's Gospel begins) followed by opposition from the world (in this case, his friends and neighbors).

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim
liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord."

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.

He said to them,
this scripture passage
is fulfilled in your hearing."

…. When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.

They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.

But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

This sense of being specially loved and chosen by God helped give Jeremiah the strength to stand his ground in speaking unpopular truths. This clarity of identity and mission was part of what enabled our Lord to walk through the murderous mob.

This same awareness can enable us to face the challenges that confront us every day (sometimes every hour): that we are chosen, that we are loved, and that through us must flow the truth of God and through us also must flow (as we hear in today's second reading - 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13)the special love of God which is charity.

But be zealous for the better gifts.

And I shew unto you yet a more excellent way.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
and have not charity,
I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And if I should have prophecy
and should know all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I should have all faith,
so that I could remove mountains,
and have not charity,
I am nothing.

And if I should distribute
all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I should deliver my body
to be burned,
and have not charity,
it profiteth me nothing.

Charity is patient,
is kind:
charity envieth not,
dealeth not perversely,
is not puffed up,
Is not ambitious,
seeketh not her own,
is not provoked to anger,
thinketh no evil:
Rejoiceth not in iniquity,
but rejoiceth with the truth:
Beareth all things,
believeth all things,
hopeth all things,
endureth all things.

Charity never falleth away:
whether prophecies shall be made void
or tongues shall cease
or knowledge shall be destroyed.

For we know in part:
and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come,
that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child,
I spoke as a child,
I understood as a child,
I thought as a child.
But, when I became a man,
I put away the things of a child.

We see now through a glass in a dark manner:
but then face to face.

Now I know in part:
but then I shall know
even as I am known.

And now there remain
faith, hope, and charity,
these three:
but the greatest of these
is charity.

We are chosen.

We are loved.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Emptiness and storms

Sometimes our lives can feel very empty, fruitless, and rootless.

Sometimes our lives feel like cataclysmic storms, certain to destroy us.

Today's readings (Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 and Mark 4:35-41) give us the answer to these challenges: in a word, faith.

The first reading begins with this classic description of what faith is:

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.

It goes on to describe how Abraham persevered by faith, trusting in God despite the apparent lack of a path, a permanent home, or even an heir.

The second reading gives us the well-known account of Christ calming the storm: a vivid metaphor that is most apt for many of us in our lives.

"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?"

May God increase our faith, fill our emptiness, and calm the storms of our lives in the name of Jesus.

Both of her parents were dead...

...by the time Angela was ten. Not long after that, her older sister died suddenly.

Angela was already one of those little girls who seemed to have been born devout, but now she redoubled the intensity of her devotions. At age 15, she formally associated herself with the Franciscans as a tertiary.

Angela had already seen many of the bad things of the world. She resolved to do what she could to make the world a better place. She felt the best way for her to do this was to ensure that little girls were properly educated in the faith so that, as wives and mothers, they could form stronger Christian families, which would in turn improve society.

When she was only 20, she started a school in her own house. She was so successful that she was asked to open another school in a neighboring city.

One of her lifelong goals was to see the Holy Land. About the time she was 50, she had the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage. On the way, however, she was struck blind. She continued with the pilgrimage anyway. On her way back home, her vision returned while she was at prayer. Far from being disappointed, she experienced an even deeper devotion to the Lord.

About ten years later, she chose 12 young women to join her in a new community of devotion to the Lord and dedication to the education of girls. The community would grow and spread across the world.

St. Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursuline Sisters, died on this very day in 1540 in Brescia, Italy. She was canonized in 1807.

(from an earlier post)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Don't be afraid of the small

When we think of evangelizing, some people think big: media blitzes, massive marches, missionary work on the other side of the world, etc.

But in today's Gospel (Mark 4:26-34), our Lord reminds us that, by his grace, the smallest of seeds can produce the most spectacular of results.

To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?

It is like a mustard seed that,
when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.

But once it is sown,
it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.

May we never hesitate to plant seeds of faith at every moment of our day, no matter how small those seeds may seem.

Timothy and Titus

Today is the memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops and apostolic men, coworkers of the great Apostle Saint Paul who wrote letters to each of them that are preserved in the New Testament canon.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

You can go back to faith

Sometimes we can get ourselves in a very bad situation.

Sometimes we have made a series of choices that were not always the best, that may have been at least a little bit immoral or "borderline", and now we are deep in a very immoral situation that is shutting us off from the light of God.

Some may tell us that "you're in this now" or that "it's too late, you're damaged goods already" or "you might as well make the best of it, because you're stuck."

The great message of the conversion of St. Paul, recounted in today's first reading (Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22) is that we do not have to be trapped in sin: we can turn from it NOW.

If Saul, who was murderously persecuting the Holy Ones of God, can be turned from his most evil path and become one of the most righteous of Apostles by the grace of God, then you and I can, by that same grace, be brought out of the immoral box we have built for ourselves and live again as faithful children of God.

Will everything be the same for us in this world as if we had never gone down that evil path? No. In fact, we may have to go through many challenges, but at least we can go forward - no matter what difficulties we may face - with the inner peace and confident assurance of faith by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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

The Conversion of St. Paul

'The Conversion of St. Paul' by Caravaggio - Santa Maria del Popolo (Rome)
And I fell unto the ground,
and heard a voice saying unto me,
Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

And I answered, Who art thou, Lord?

And he said unto me,
I am Jesus of Nazareth,
whom thou persecutest.

(And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.)

And I said,
What shall I do, Lord?

And the Lord said unto me,
Arise, and go into Damascus;
and there it shall be told thee of all things
which are appointed for thee to do.
Acts 22:7-10

(from an earlier post)

Eparchy of Edmonton

The Holy Father today named as Bishop of the Eparchy of Edmonton of the Ukrainians (Canada), the Most Rev. David Motiuk, at present Auxiliary Bishop to the Metropolitan of the Ukrainians at Winnipeg (the previous bishop of the Eparchy was named the Metropolitan Archbishop last year).

Bishop Motiuk was born in 1962 in Vegreville, Alberta. He went to local schools up through the University level, studying at the University of Edmonton. He entered the Holy Spirit Ukrainian Seminary at Ottawa, completing his philosophical theological studies at St. Paul University (also in Ottawa) where in 1989 he obtained a License in Canon Law (while pursuing a Doctorate at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome). He was ordained for the Eparchy of Edmonton in 1988. He was named and consecrated Auxiliary Bishop for Winnipeg in 2002

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Every priest stands daily

They sit through meetings.

They counsel the troubled.

They hear confessions.

They baptize, marry, anoint, and bury.

They teach and preach.

They have strengths and they have flaws.

They sometimes accomplish, sometimes stumble, and sometimes fall.

But the image that begins today's first reading (Hebrews 10:11-18) reminds us what is at the heart of ministerial priesthood.

Every priest stands daily at his ministry,
offering frequently those same sacrifices...

The sacred writer, of course, is referring to the priesthood of the old covenant, commenting on the ineffectiveness of the animal sacrifices celebrated therein.

But (Christ) offered one sacrifice for sins,
and took his seat forever at the right hand of God;
now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.
For by one offering he has made perfect forever
those who are being consecrated.

The role of the ministerial priesthood in Christ, in the new and everlasting covenant, is to make Christ's unique and unrepeatable sacrifice - offered once for all - present anew in a very real and special way, doing what he commanded us to do in remembrance of him.

Thus, every priest stands daily at his ministry, uniting himself and the people by the grace of God with that uniquely perfect offering, that one infinitely efficacious sacrifice, of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that takes away the sins of the world.

Sometimes, amid the mundane details of Church life as well as concerns about many serious matters, we can lose touch with this fundamental reality of ministerial priesthood and of our communal worship.

We need to appreciate this gift and we need to encourage those who serve as priests among us: that they may serve faithfully in their daily work and most especially in their standing at the altar.

We need to pray for our priests and for the communities of faith gathered with them.

We need to encourage and pray for young men to hear and answer the call to join this service of God and his people.

We need to give thanks to God always and everywhere for the gift of his Son whose one sacrifice exceeds the riches of the universe.

We need to give thanks also for the sacrament that makes that one sacrifice present specially present at the hands of a priest - unworthy, as all men are - standing daily at his ministry.

Children and the Media

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "The theme of the Forty-first World Communications Day (May 20, 2007), 'Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education', invites us to reflect on two related topics of immense importance. The formation of children is one. The other, perhaps less obvious but no less important, is the formation of the media.

"The complex challenges facing education today are often linked to the pervasive influence of the media in our world. As an aspect of the phenomenon of globalization, and facilitated by the rapid development of technology, the media profoundly shape the cultural environment (cf. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter The Rapid Development, 3). Indeed, some claim that the formative influence of the media rivals that of the school, the Church, and maybe even the home. 'Reality, for many, is what the media recognize as real' (Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Aetatis novae, 4).

2. "The relationship of children, media, and education can be considered from two perspectives: the formation of children by the media; and the formation of children to respond appropriately to the media. A kind of reciprocity emerges which points to the responsibilities of the media as an industry and to the need for active and critical participation of readers, viewers and listeners. Within this framework, training in the proper use of the media is essential for the cultural, moral and spiritual development of children.

"How is this common good to be protected and promoted? Educating children to be discriminating in their use of the media is a responsibility of parents, Church, and school. The role of parents is of primary importance. They have a right and duty to ensure the prudent use of the media by training the conscience of their children to express sound and objective judgments which will then guide them in choosing or rejecting programmes available (cf. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, 76). In doing so, parents should have the encouragement and assistance of schools and parishes in ensuring that this difficult, though satisfying, aspect of parenting is supported by the wider community.

"Media education should be positive. Children exposed to what is aesthetically and morally excellent are helped to develop appreciation, prudence and the skills of discernment. Here it is important to recognize the fundamental value of parents’ example and the benefits of introducing young people to children's classics in literature, to the fine arts and to uplifting music. While popular literature will always have its place in culture, the temptation to sensationalize should not be passively accepted in places of learning. Beauty, a kind of mirror of the divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behaviour.

"Like education in general, media education requires formation in the exercise of freedom. This is a demanding task. So often freedom is presented as a relentless search for pleasure or new experiences. Yet this is a condemnation not a liberation! True freedom could never condemn the individual – especially a child – to an insatiable quest for novelty. In the light of truth, authentic freedom is experienced as a definitive response to God’s ‘yes’ to humanity, calling us to choose, not indiscriminately but deliberately, all that is good, true and beautiful. Parents, then, as the guardians of that freedom, while gradually giving their children greater freedom, introduce them to the profound joy of life (cf. Address to the Fifth World Meeting of Families, Valencia, 8 July 2006).

3. "This heartfelt wish of parents and teachers to educate children in the ways of beauty, truth and goodness can be supported by the media industry only to the extent that it promotes fundamental human dignity, the true value of marriage and family life, and the positive achievements and goals of humanity. Thus, the need for the media to be committed to effective formation and ethical standards is viewed with particular interest and even urgency not only by parents and teachers but by all who have a sense of civic responsibility.

"While affirming the belief that many people involved in social communications want to do what is right (cf. Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in communications, 4), we must also recognize that those who work in this field confront 'special psychological pressures and ethical dilemmas' (Aetatis novae, 19) which at times see commercial competitiveness compelling communicators to lower standards.

"Any trend to produce programmes and products - including animated films and video games - which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray anti-social behaviour or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion, all the more repulsive when these programmes are directed at children and adolescents.

"How could one explain this ‘entertainment’ to the countless innocent young people who actually suffer violence, exploitation and abuse?

"In this regard, all would do well to reflect on the contrast between Christ who 'put his arms around [the children] laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing' (Mk 10:16) and the one who 'leads astray … these little ones' for whom 'it would be better … if a millstone were hung round his neck' (Luke 17:2).

"Again I appeal to the leaders of the media industry to educate and encourage producers to safeguard the common good, to uphold the truth, to protect individual human dignity and promote respect for the needs of the family.

4. "The Church herself, in the light of the message of salvation entrusted to her, is also a teacher of humanity and welcomes the opportunity to offer assistance to parents, educators, communicators, and young people. Her own parish and school programmes should be in the forefront of media education today. Above all, the Church desires to share a vision of human dignity that is central to all worthy human communication. 'Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave' (Deus caritas est, 18)."

From the Vatican, 24 January 2007, the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.


In a less ecumenical time

Sadly, at different times and places, the relationship between Protestants and Catholics has been a highly belligerent one - sometimes literally!

For example, a fellow by the name of Claude Granier was bishop of a region where Catholic-Protestant relations were very often violent. In parts of his diocese, Catholic worship had been actually outlawed and churches were destroyed or taken over.

When the laws were changed in one of those parts of his diocese, the bishop decided to send there a priest by the name of Father Francis who had been ordained only recently. Father Francis would be physically attacked a number of times and beaten, yet he would persevere with great gentleness, compassion, and success.

Before long, Bishop Granier wanted to make Father Francis his successor. It took a long time for the humble priest to agree, but when the bishop died, Father Francis became the new bishop at the age of 35.

His reputation spread widely and he was invited by religious and secular leaders to preach throughout the country. He was even invited by the Pope to mediate a tricky theological dispute.

His writings were also well regarded. He wrote a series of letters to a cousin of his, giving her pointers in cultivating a more spiritual life, and these letters were eventually compiled into a bestselling book.

He helped found a new order of nuns, the first of a number of orders that would take their inspiration from him.

St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva in Switzerland (where Calvin had made his base and had died but a few score of years before), died in his mid-fifties in 1622, was canonized in 1665, and his memory is celebrated on this day.

The orders that look to him as their spiritual father (e.g., the Sisters of the Visitation, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales) continue to this day. His books are also widely read, especially the one derived from those letters to his cousin: Introduction to the Devout Life.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at DeoOmnisGloria.com. It notes yesterday's terrible anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

Will: yours, mine, and His

Today's first reading (Hebrews 10:1-10) continues the comparing and contrasting of the old and new Covenants. The old covenant, of course, suffers greatly in this comparison. How could anyone or anything compare to the eternal Son of God incarnated, offered, and resurrected?

The old covenant also suffered from the personal failures of its human participants. That is why the rituals mandated by God in the Torah are sometimes denounced by God in other books of the Old Testament. The first chapter of Isaiah expresses this quite forcefully:

Ah! sinful nation,
people laden with wickedness,
evil race, corrupt children!
They have forsaken the LORD,
spurned the Holy One of Israel....

Trample my courts no more!
Bring no more worthless offerings;
your incense is loathsome to me....

When you spread out your hands,
I close my eyes to you;
Though you pray the more,
I will not listen.

Your hands are full of blood!

Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil;
learn to do good.

Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow.

Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be crimson red,
they may become white as wool.

If you are willing, and obey,
you shall eat the good things of the land;
But if you refuse and resist,
the sword shall consume you:
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!

The rituals of the old covenant were tarnished by the evil will of the people. Even their pious prayers were made repulsive by their evil deeds.

This contrasts with the perfection of our Lord, as expressed in today's first reading (quoting Psalm 40:7-9)

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in.
Then I said, 'As is written of me in the scroll,
Behold, I come to do your will, O God.'"

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews goes on to add:

By this "will," we have been consecrated
through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ

once for all.

As for us, it is certainly good and important for us to do the right things - morally, liturgically, and devotionally - but it is a matter of life and death for us to have the right will.

This goes beyond just good deeds and good intentions (which are mandatory), eternal salvation comes from the will of God and our being conformed to that will in Christ.

With Christ and by his grace
(through his sacrifice once for all),
we must be able to say
at every moment of our lives,
"Behold, I come to do your will, O God."

Who are my mother and my brothers?

Today's Gospel (Mark 3:31-35) usually strikes cradle Catholics as strange. We have been raised to venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary and that love of family is a great value, but today's Gospel speaks of Jesus' brothers and seems to depict Jesus as speaking almost dismissively of his mother and family.

The part about the "brothers" is relatively easy to deal with: in the usage of that time and place, the term underlying the Greek word here included close relatives who were not necessarily children of the same parents.

The seeming slight against the Blessed Mother seems more difficult to deal with.

"Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother."

It not only disturbs our long-nurtured Marian devotion, it makes Jesus look like a rude child ("I don’t need my parents, I’ve got my friends").

It is in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke that we find the key to understanding our Lord's words, most specifically in one of the things Elizabeth says upon her Visitation by Mary.

"Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled."

And in what Mary says at the Annunciation.

"Be it done to me according to your word."

Christ's message in this Gospel passage is that a relationship with Him must be based on living faith in God. As we know, and as Luke emphasizes, Mary is first and foremost a woman of faith, who accepts and lives out the will of God - indeed, in a way more profound than our imagination can bear.

If we accept our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, receive his grace and live according to God's will, we are His brothers and sisters, and because of her faith, the greatest of our sisters is Mary (whom our Lord on the cross also presented to us as our Mother).

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, and our Sister in Faith.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Monday, January 22, 2007


There is word of a campaign by a few unbelievers that encourages people to video themselves committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: the sin that our Lord calls unforgivable in today's Gospel (Mark 3:22-30).

Are they really committing an unforgivable sin? Ultimately, that is for God to judge.

On one level, to abuse the Holy Spirit, from whom the graces of repentance and forgiveness come, certainly endangers any hope of those graces

On another level, as eternally dangerous as it is, this "challenge" is silly - plain and simple. It is like a child who thinks he can make things go away by just closing his eyes or who thinks he can destroy a mighty castle by stomping his little feet.


The one enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord derides them...
(Psalm 2:4)

Again, only God can judge whether they have truly committed an unforgivable sin, for only God truly knows what is in their uninformed minds and confused hearts - even better than these "rational" ones know themselves.

For our part, we should continue to hope and pray for their salvation - and for our own - by the mercy of God.

And for this hope and this prayer there are no better words than those of our Lord (Luke 23:34):

Forgive them;
for they know not what they do.

The ultimate strong man

In today's Gospel (Mark 3:22-30), the Lord Jesus, having just spoken about Satan, says

No one can enter a strong man’s house
to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.
Then he can plunder his house.

This metaphor works a couple of ways. Satan is strong and cunning and so Christ would not be able to bring souls back to God (thereby plundering the domain of Satan) if Christ had not already asserted mastery over Satan.

But it also works another way, which we see more clearly in a parallel to this chapter in Luke 11:21-26.

When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.

But when one stronger than he
attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.

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

When an unclean spirit goes out of someone,
it roams through arid regions searching for rest
but, finding none, it says,
"I shall return to my home from which I came."

But upon returning,
it finds it swept clean and put in order.

Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits
more wicked than itself
who move in and dwell there,
and the last condition of that person
is worse than the first.

Sometimes, especially if we have been progressing in the spiritual and moral life for a long time, we can grow complacent. We may become proud of our willpower, our good habits, and our clear intellect.. We may even think that we are immune to temptation and sin.

Our lives may be "swept clean and put in order", but only the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can keep us free from the temptations and sin that can slip quickly past our defenses and cause us to stumble.

Christ is the strong man who cannot be overcome. Only in him, with him, and through him can we be safe.

Whoever does not gather with me scatters.

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

The bishop’s speech impediment

was a bit of a problem.

Vincent was the solution to that problem. The young man was fervent in his faith and stellar in his studies. The bishop ordained him a deacon and commissioned him to preach on his behalf throughout the diocese.

Then the authorities moved in. They deported the bishop and imprisoned Vincent under the most inhumane conditions. There were even stories of his being tortured, both physically and psychologically.

St. Vincent of Zaragoza (Spain) would die in prison, almost exactly seventeen hundred years ago, and his memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Happy to be home again

For some of us, life is a smooth walk of faith.

For some of us, life is a wandering journey of good paths and bad.

For some of us, life knocks us off our feet, throws us down the mountain, and leaves us not knowing where we are.

In today's first reading (Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10), God's chosen people are just getting back on their feet after having experienced the worst calamity in their history up to that point: decades of exile and slavery (in what is now Iraq).

And what do they do? There is much fixing up to do and there are celebrations, of course, but one of most important things they do is what is described in today's reading: they all gather together, even children old enough to understand, and they listen to Ezra read and explain the Law of Moses in its entirety.

Some of us might think that this would be boring, but it was quite the contrary: the people are weeping as they hear the words of God's law.

Why do they weep? They are the tears of homecoming.

They know that God's law is at the heart of their identity as God's chosen people.

The LORD also proclaims his word to Jacob,
decrees and laws to Israel.
God has not done this for other nations;
of such laws they know nothing.

(Psalm 147:19-20)

For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it
as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him?

Or what great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law
which I am setting before you today?
(Deuteronomy 4:7-8)

As they hear the words of God's law, they feel the thrill of returning home to the comforting embrace of God and covenant.

As they hear the words of God's law, they are also reminded of how far and how long they have been away, not just physically but spiritually and morally as well.

But now they are home again. They have another chance to live as they were meant to live: faithfully and peacefully in the presence of God.

We too, you and I, have another chance.

You and I can come back from the spiritual and moral wilderness where our circumstances and our bad decisions have deposited us.

You and I can live as we were meant to be, as all people were created to live: faithfully and peacefully in the presence of God.

You and I can be reconciled and live according to the law of God in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

You and I can be home again.


The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.

The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart.

The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.

The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.

The statutes of the LORD are true,
all of them just;

More desirable than gold,
than a hoard of purest gold,
Sweeter also than honey
or drippings from the comb.

By them your servant is instructed;
obeying them brings much reward.

Who can detect heedless failings?
Cleanse me from my unknown faults.
But from willful sins keep your servant;
let them never control me.
Then shall I be blameless,
innocent of grave sin.

Let the words of my mouth meet with your favor,
keep the thoughts of my heart before you,
LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalm 19:8-15)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Finitude and mentality

Among the very interesting things about the human mind are the implications of its finitude.

To be sure, the human mind is capable of reaching toward infinity, but it cannot fully and truly reach that horizon by its own power alone, so people very often settle for a very narrow finitude: their little corner of narrow interests.

Ironically, in our hyper-specialized world, the most educated and learned among us, especially scientists, are often the most intellectually parochial. Their reality is their field of knowledge (and sometimes just their sub-specialty), period. Anything that does not fit within their worldview is nonsense.

For the less educated, their reality consists wholly of their daily lives and "the way things are done." Anything that does not fit within that universe is just crazy talk.

In today's (Saturday) brief Gospel (Mark 3:20-21), members of our Lord’s extended family are greatly disturbed. It is said that "he is out of his mind."

Why was this being said? Because our Lord’s words and action are detached from "reality" as they have narrowly constructed it.

Their narrowly constructed "reality", of course, was only a small part of true reality (at best). When God enters into their world in the person of Jesus Christ, exposing them to reality in its fullness, they defend their fragile mindsets with the conceit that something is wrong with the mind of Jesus, not theirs.

Now, there are people who say they are in contact with a reality different from that of normal people: some of them are saints, some of them have been constructing a "reality" that only exists inside their own skulls (often with chemical assistance), and some of them are indeed out of their minds.

Is Christ crazy or making it up? No, he verifies himself through his miracles and through the connectedness of his words and actions with the rest of reality as created and revealed by God.

You and I are called to connect with the reality of Christ: the true reality that encompasses, permeates, and transcends the narrow reality of our earthly lives.

People will try to label us as crazy or put us in the category of those with alternative realities inside their skulls, but in Christ we have the truth, which resonates perfectly with this God-created world, with salvation history, and what was placed in our hearts at creation.

With the grace of God we cannot be limited by the finitude of our skulls, of science, or of our mundane world. By the grace we can attain the infinity and perfection for which we were created through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

"The mightiest man...

"...may be slain by a single arrow…”

This line from The Lord of the Rings begins one character's account of a great warrior who struggles to protect those entrusted to his care even as he is shot again and again.

When the first of the recent Lord of the Rings films came out, a number of reviewers took note the film's image of that warrior still standing despite the arrows in his flesh and compared it to a classic image of Christian iconography: the image of St. Sebastian, who is remembered on this day.

All that we really know about Saint Sebastian is that he was a Roman soldier martyred for his Christian faith.

It would be told was that Sebastian was pierced by many arrows and yet continued to wield the sword of God's word and tell the good news of Christ until he was finally beaten to death and received a martyr's crown.

(adapted from an earlier post)

How Fabian was discovered

He was a farmer on a visit to the big city. He decided to join the crowd at a huge event that was going on at the time.

That is what he was doing, completely unnoticed and minding his own business in a large public room, when a bird flew in the window and perched on his head.

Everyone suddenly turned, looked at Fabian and saw the white dove sitting on him.

It's a sign! they said. The Holy Spirit has chosen this man to be the next Pope!

Despite his rustic background and the unusual way he was chosen, Fabian turned out to be a fairly good Bishop of Rome: ministering to the people, improving Church administration, sending out missionaries, and dealing with heresies - all in a time of relative peace for the Church.

That peace would end too soon and St. Fabian was martyred in the year 250 A.D. His memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Lord within

Today's first reading (Hebrews 8:6-13) quotes this beautiful passage from Jeremiah 31:

I will put my laws in their minds
and I will write them upon their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
And they shall not teach,
each one his fellow citizen and kin, saying,
"Know the Lord,"
for all shall know me,
from least to greatest.

Indeed, as baptized and confirmed Christians we have the Holy Spirit within us as our advocate and guide with gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and fear of the Lord.

The challenge, however, is that there is more in the human heart than just the law of the Lord: there are also desires and temptations that are not of God. Indeed, some people use passage such as this to reaffirm their own egocentricism and their own subtle hedonism (for them, they themselves are the lord within).

As always, we need to exercise discernment: to ask the Lord Jesus to help us with the grace of the Holy Spirit so that we may see past the clutter of earthly desires and confused philosophies and may recognize clearly within our hearts the law of the true God and Lord of the Universe.

The Bishop of Venice

The Holy Father today accepted the retirement of the Most Reverend John Nevins as Bishop of Venice in Florida. Bishop Nevins is succeeded by the Most Reverend Frank Dewane, up to now the Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Shadows of perfection

It is sometimes easy to be discouraged about our faith, as individuals and as a Church. Sometimes there seems to be no end to scandals, from the congregation around the corner to church leaders of national stature, and no denomination is immune. As for ourselves as individuals, in our heart of hearts we are often painfully aware of how far we fall short of the perfection to which Christ calls us.

But if we continue to be faithful to Christ and to our journey towards perfection in him, I think we have a hopeful parallel in today's first reading (Hebrews 7:25-8:6).

The ancient Jews worshipped God and sought forgiveness through the gory rituals of animal sacrifice in a temple building that was not always available (and does not exist today). A rather erratic and barbaric path to God, it would seem to our minds, yet even this was "a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary."

But Christ "has obtained
so much more excellent a ministry
as he is mediator of a better covenant,
enacted on better promises

How much more so, if we are faithful to Christ, should our frail strivings be efficacious reflections of perfection, in and through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

You and I and some of our leaders may be bumblers (some better, some worse), but through faith in Christ, we have superabundant hope, for we have

...such a high priest:
holy, innocent,
undefiled, separated from sinners,
higher than the heavens....
who has taken his seat
at the right hand of the throne
of the Majesty in heaven...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

"Tomorrow begins the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Since unity which our Lord wills for all his disciples is ultimately God’s gift, I encourage everyone to join fervently in imploring this great grace. The closer we draw to Christ and the more we are converted by his truth and love, the closer we will draw to one another. In many countries the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is also preceded by a Day of Reflection between Christians and Jews, in order to build greater respect, friendship and cooperation between our two communities.

"The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - 'He even makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak' - is inspired by Saint Mark's account of Jesus' healing a man who was deaf and mute (cf. Mk 7:37). Through Baptism, all Christians have been freed from spiritual deafness, enabled to hear God's word and charged to bear witness to it in word and deed, by the exercise of Christian charity. May our common prayers and our efforts to live fully the grace of our Baptism hasten the day when all Christ’s followers will live in perfect communion."

Pope Benedict XVI
from today's General Audience

Keep going

For many people, religion helps give stability to their lives amidst a chaotic world.

To be sure, faith is a great source of comfort and Scripture tells us in many places that God can be a rock, an unshakeable foundation for our lives. There are even those who take a vow of stability, committing themselves to never leaving the particular monastery they have joined.

But there is also a kind of stability that is deadly to a life of faith: a stability based on the idea that we have already attained perfection, that we do not need to grow anymore.

No matter how spiritually, intellectually, and morally advanced we may be, we are not in heaven and we do not have the fullness of the beatific vision.

We still have room to grow and a long way to go.

And so, God continually calls us to grow and gives us the grace to develop more fully and deeply in him.

However, if we choose to reject God's call to grow, imagining that we can just stick with the way we are, we take a terribly deadly risk.

In today's Gospel (Mark 3:1-6), our Lord tries to reason with the Pharisees, to lead them into a fuller understanding of God’s grace and action in the lives of men, but the Pharisees would not respond.

Our Lord, the Gospel says, looked "around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart."

We need to let our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ more and more fully into our lives, submit ourselves more and more completely to his will, and seek to understand more and more deeply the mysteries of his truth and love.

After his father died, he began to rethink

Actually, it wasn't just his father: his mother too was dead.

He was around 20 years old and now he began to rethink his life.

He chose not to escape into the arms of this world's comforts, but to cling more fervently to Christ.

He sold everything he had, gave the proceeds to the poor (after ensuring for the care and education of his younger sister), went alone into the desert, and devoted himself entirely to prayer and solitude.

It turned out to be a cutting-edge move. Many people came to hear about the radical Christian lifestyle that Anthony was pursuing in the desert and decided to imitate him in his imitation of Christ.

St. Anthony of Egypt came to be known as the Father of Monasticism. He died at the age of 105 in the year 356 and his memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


There are superstars among us in the Church: men and women of faith who do great deeds and proclaim Christ with powerful words, recognized and acclaimed by millions.

We are not they.

Most of us labor in tiny corners of the Lord’s vineyard. What we do and what we say on behalf of the Lord seems invisible and unheeded.

We console ourselves that we are planting seeds, in people and in our communities, which will later bloom gloriously by the grace of God.

But for all the things we do and say for the Lord, we ourselves often see no flowers, no fruits, and perhaps not even any awareness by anyone of what we do for the sake of Christ.

If a Christian labors faithfully in obscurity, does he or she make a difference?

In today's first reading (Hebrews 6:10-20) the answer is an overwhelming YES.

For God is not unrighteous
to forget your work and labour of love,
which ye have shewed toward his name,
in that ye have ministered to the saints,
and do minister.

And we desire that every one of you
do shew the same diligence
to the full assurance of hope
unto the end:
That ye be not slothful,
but followers of them
who through faith and patience
inherit the promises.

Famous or not, we need to keep up the good work: the work of God's grace flowing through us to accomplish his holy will in accordance with his marvelous plan of eternal salvation.

Catholic Carnival

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

Monday, January 15, 2007

I am not perfect

One of the occupational hazards that comes with sharing one's faith publicly and regularly is the implication that the faith-sharer has already attained either perfection or at least a level of moral and spiritual greatness far above the average human being.

That's not me, dude.

I am just another person on the road: not as far up the road as some and stumbling often as I go, yet with my eyes continually drawn to the destination toward which you and I are traveling and, by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, someday will attain.

No, I am not as far on that path as many and yet I cannot help but speak to others on the road of the great goodness and perfection to which we are all called in Christ Jesus - for that is what Christ bids us to do.

I was reminded painfully of this reality by the words of today's first reading (Hebrews 5:1-10):

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

One of the great challenges in speaking about moral and spiritual matters is balancing clarity and patience.

Some people "deal patiently with the ignorant and erring" by essentially acquiescing to ignorance and error, leaving them guideless in the wilderness.

Others emphasize clarity and purity of teaching but have no patience for ignorance and error (often making the error of ignoring their own weaknesses).

We are not perfect. We suffer, we stumble, and we fail.

But with us on the road is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is patient and forgiving and yet who clearly shows us the way of truth and life.

With us on the road is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who suffered and who physically stumbled, taking upon himself the sins of the world in order to become "the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."

No matter what happens, to me or to you, may we never let go of Christ who saves us and loves us, may we never despair of the perfection to which his grace can bring us, and may we never tire of encouraging each other on the road with clear and patient words of truth and hope.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The work of the Spirit

We are all human beings and we act as human beings in everything we do, even in matters of faith and religion.

It is often good to keep this in mind and to bring to our lives of faith and fellowship the very best and highest aspects of our humanity.

But faith is more than an emotion or a theory and the Church is more than an ideological organization.

Indeed, too often many of us plan and evaluate what we do in matters of Church and faith as if they were simply human activities.

Most especially in ecclesial matters, from our local congregations to the highest levels of Church leadership, we might sometimes make observations and decisions as if the Church were simply a corporation, a government, or some kind of club.

Today's second reading (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) reminds us of two very important aspects of Church life that are very different from any corporation, government or club: faith and fellowship in Christ involves the manifestation of the Spirit and a diversity of gifts.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts
but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service
but the same Lord;
there are different workings
but the same God
who produces
all of them
in everyone.

To each individual
the manifestation of the Spirit
is given
for some benefit.

Human ability, education, and processes are important, but what truly empowers the Church and all its parts and all its members is the Holy Spirit of God.

The things of Church and faith are more than can be quantified by psychological, political, or organizational analysis.

That is one reason why St. Paul prefaces his discussion about the different offices within the Church (later in this chapter) with the discussion of diverse charismatic gifts we hear in today's reading.

It was not just that charismatic gifts were a particular focus (and cause for conflict) among the Corinthians: St. Paul's underlying point is that what happens among the People of God involves the activity of God.

...there are different forms of service
but the same Lord;
there are different workings
but the same God
who produces
all of them
in everyone.

The Church is not a democracy, nor is it Microsoft, nor is it the Red Cross: it is the body of believers in Christ, empowered and united by the Holy Spirit.

The charismatic gifts, otherworldly as they are, help remind us that the Church is not just another organization or corporate entity. St. Paul also reminds us that the gifts of God are, well, gifts: given according to the will of God, not by the choice of man.

To one is given through the Spirit
the expression of wisdom;
to another,
the expression of knowledge

according to the same Spirit;
to another, faith by the same Spirit;
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another, mighty deeds;
to another, prophecy;
to another, discernment of spirits;
to another, varieties of tongues;
to another, interpretation of tongues.

But one and the same Spirit

produces all of these,
distributing them individually to each person

as He wishes.

So it is for the charismatic gifts, so too for the other gifts, fruits, and offices bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon the people of his holy Church.

You and I advance more effectively in our faith as individuals and as a body when we take to heart this fundamental reality: it is not about me or you, nor will your effort or my effort make a difference. Church and faith, as a united reality in Christ, is all about God and it is ultimately by God.

We need to avoid the trap of seeing Church and faith as the world sees them. We need to acknowledge in our hearts that we - as individuals and as a Church - are absolutely dependent upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

To be sure, we also need to make the best use of the gifts of God given us in creation - our natural human intellect and perception - but we must always remember that it is the work of the Holy Spirit and so we must pray continually that the Holy Spirit will pour out upon us - as individuals and as Church - an ever greater abundance of the wonderful gifts he gives for the love and the benefit of his people.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Let it rip

Sometimes we read Scripture through clouded lenses: what we read is softened by familiarity or filtered by our personal preferences.

Today's first reading (Hebrews 4:12-16) is itself very familiar, but it should remind us that Scripture consists not just of narratives of salvation history (which are there) nor does Scripture consist merely of comforting spiritual words (which are there also), but rather that the words of Scripture should be and are challenges to our spiritual and moral status quo.

The word of God
is living
and effective,
sharper than any two-edged sword,
even between soul and spirit,
joints and marrow,
and able to discern
reflections and thoughts of the heart.

No creature is concealed from him,
but everything is naked and exposed
to the eyes of him
to whom we must render an account.

We need to look upon Scripture afresh, with the eyes of God's faithful people, wiping away the comfortable haze of "I've heard this before" or "I know what this means."

In our own minds and hearts we need to clean off the sword that is the word of God: wiping off the layers of familiarity and worldly intellectualism, letting it be wielded freely by Christ, letting it slice through the layers of compromise, sloth, and sin that we have let accumulate in our minds, in our hearts, and in the tangle of our lives.

We can fool ourselves for a time and console ourselves with the foggy image of Scripture to which we have grown accustomed.

We may try to flee from reality, but there is no escaping eternity.

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

No creature is concealed from him,
but everything is naked and exposed
to the eyes of him
to whom we must render an account.


"They would be men of study, bound to the liturgy, to vowed life, to monastic discipline, and mobile. The Dominican is dedicated to truth, for God is truth. It is sacred truth, saving truth, that primarily concerns us here. God has called us into the intimacy of his own Trinitarian life, so that as sons in the Son we can cry out Abba, Father. And we are meant one day to see the glory, the power, the love, beauty, wisdom of God face to face. While we are on pilgrimage, we share in God’s own self-knowledge through faith in Him, as He reveals Himself in the Word made flesh and the Word as preached. The truth convicts, the truth redeems, the truth saves. The Dominican is to live in that truth, to be converted and sanctified by it, and to preach it. "

from the Web site www.dominicanfriars.org

Every disciple has a vocation

from the Web site of the Diocese of Bridgeport

Saint Hilary

Everyone knows about Hilary's spouse, of course.

Everyone also knows about Hilary's many enemies, most of them men - including the most powerful man in the world.

People were upset when Hilary was ordained a bishop.

Of course, things were a bit different in the fourth century A.D. and Hilary's wife didn't cause much of a stir (although the Arians against whom Hilary fought did).

Saint Hilary, Doctor of the Church and bishop of his native city of Poitiers, died there of natural causes on this very day in the year 368.

(from an earlier post)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Entering into God's rest

In today's first reading (Hebrews 4:1-5, 11), we hear additional reflections on the last words of Psalm 95: "They shall never enter into my rest."

Two questions are addressed: what is that "rest"? And why could the ancient Israelites not enter into it?

Last things first, disobedience kept the ancient Israelites from entering into God's rest in the Promised Land.

But that place of rest in the land of Canaan was not the full "rest" that God wishes to share with his people.

Scripture scholars point out that it was Joshua who finally led the children of Israel into the Promised Land and that the name we translate as Joshua we also translate as Jesus.

Joshua in some respects foreshadows Jesus: leading God's people into God's rest.

This brings us to the second question: what is that "rest"?

The "rest" into which Christ leads us is far more wonderful and far more restful than simply a land of safety flowing with milk and honey.

In the letter to the Hebrews, this rest is explicitly tied to the rest that God himself took following the creation of the world.

Yet the "rest" into which Christ leads his faithful people is not just a glorified Sabbath at the end of time: it is truly entering into God's own rest, to rest in God and with God - in a peace that surpasses all understanding, for it is a resting in perfect infinity and eternity itself.

Finite beings that we are, we cannot create or enter into that rest ourselves, rather we must open ourselves completely in obedience to the grace of God so that we may be led into that rest and filled with it by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

By the grace of Christ, may we always be open to him and let ourselves by molded by him so that we may enter into God's infinitely delightful rest.

"Our vows free us...

"...to let go of everything except God's word: 'I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours.'

...to interiorize and preserve within the heart the words of Jesus - the words of God - that demand a commitment of service to others as shown in the Gospel.

"...to live in simplicity, by being counter-cultural e.g. putting aside the things needed to have status, power, prestige.

"...to be happy to live among the outcast and despised, among the poor, the weak, the sick, the unwanted, the oppressed and the destitute.

"...to clothe oneself in a habit that is simple, poor and becoming, as a sign of conversion and Gospel consecration.

"...to trust God to fulfill every need.

"...to become aware of one's own weakness and to grow increasingly sensitive to others in their weakness.

"...to go wherever needed.

"....to fill oneself with a loving tenderness for all God's creation and thankful joy."

from the Vocations website of
Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity.

(Check out their Song of the Month and Image of the Month [under "
Franciscanized World"])

Happy National Vocation Awareness Week!


Cardinal Sean - Archbishop of Boston

"Discerning your vocation as a
High School Student:

Mission Possible

"Get started with these...

Seminarian"Pray Daily. Ask God what he needs you to do with your life. Pray with the Church. Go to Mass on Sundays and on Weekday Mornings when possible.

"Go Deeper. Go regularly to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Read the Scriptures. Keep your faith life alive.

"Do Something. Attend a Vocation Event and meet other high school men interested in learning more about priesthood and God’s call. Talk to someone who knows (priest, youth minister, etc.) Get involved in your parish as an acolyte, lector, Eucharistic minister, parish council member, choir member, youth group member or religious education teacher.


"Discerning your vocation as a
College Student:

Mission Possible

"Get started with these...

"Pray Daily. Ask God what he needs you to do with your life. Pray with the Church. Go to Mass on Sundays and on Weekday Mornings when possible.

"Go Deeper. Go regularly to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Read the Scriptures. Investigate the academic requirements of Priesthood. You may be able to meet some of the philosophy and theology prerequisites for the Priestly Formation Program while earning your undergraduate degree.

"Do Something. Attend a Vocation Event and meet other College men interested in learning more about Priesthood and God’s call. Get involved in campus ministry and be of service as a peer leader, bible study facilitator, music minister or liturgical reader. Gather information about the Priesthood. No one can make good decisions without good information. Talk to someone who knows…priest, campus minister, Vocation Director, etc.


"Discerning your vocation as a
Post College/ Young Professional:

Mission Possible

"Get started with these...

"Pray Daily. Ask God what he needs you to do with your life. Pray with the Church. Go to Mass on Sundays and on Weekday Mornings when possible.

"Go Deeper. It is God who calls men to priesthood. Every step along the way involves an invitation from God and your response. Go regularly to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Read the Scriptures. Does priesthood keep coming to mind? What appeals to you about priesthood? Do you have a realistic idea of what a priest does…the rewards and sacrifices?

"Do Something. Attend a Vocation Event and meet other men interested in learning more about Priesthood and God’s call. Get involved in your parish. Get involved in community service. Gather information about the Priesthood. No one can make good decisions without good information. Talk to someone who knows…priest, campus minister, Vocation Director, etc.


"Discerning your vocation as a
man over 40 Years of Age:

Mission Possible

"Get started with these...

"Pray daily.Ask God what he needs you to do with your life. Pray with the Church. Go to Mass on Sundays and on Weekday Mornings when possible.

"Go Deeper. It is God who calls men to priesthood. Every step along the way involves an invitation from God and your response. Go regularly to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Read the Scriptures. Does priesthood keep coming to mind? What appeals to you about priesthood? Do you have a realistic idea of what a priest does…the rewards and sacrifices?

"Do Something. Attend a Vocation Event and meet other men interested in learning more about Priesthood and God’s call. Get involved in your parish. Get involved in community service. Gather information about the Priesthood. No one can make good decisions without good information. Talk to someone who knows…priest, campus minister, Vocation Director, etc."


from the Vocations website of the Archdiocese of Boston

Happy National Vocation Awareness Week!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Exhort one another every day

In our personal walk of faith, we tend very much to rely on the fellowship we share with our fellow believers in Christ: the people who walk with us on the road. Even if there is nothing explicit that they do or say, just their presence with us on the journey gives us comfort.

But such comfort cannot always be guaranteed. Sometimes even those we felt were strong in the Lord may lose fervor, become entangled in sin, or fall away from the faith.

We need to pay close attention to the words of today's first reading (Hebrews 3:7-14):

Take care, brethren,
lest there be in any of you
an evil, unbelieving heart,
leading you to fall away from the living God.

But exhort one another every day,
as long as it is called "today,"
that none of you may be hardened
by the deceitfulness of sin.

The Greek word translated here by "exhort" has a deep richness of meaning, not just to exhort, but to encourage, admonish, comfort, console, entreat, strengthen, and teach.

We should none of our fellowship for granted - not even the "strong" ones - but rather, while we have the opportunity (i.e., "today"), we should every day exhort, encourage, comfort, and instruct our brothers and sisters in the Lord so that by the grace of the Lord we may walk together into the beautiful Kingdom that God is preparing for us.

Exhort one another every day,
as long as it is called "today..."

"Let yourself be summoned...

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

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

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

Pope John Paul II

(from the Vocations page of the Diocese of Charlotte)

(from an earlier post)

Happy National Vocation Awareness Week!

Caring for the incurable

"Our vocation is not a career. It is a way of life, motivated by intense love of God. Our apostolate, caring for incurable cancer patients who cannot afford the care they need, is a reflection of our religious life and a response to Christ's call to serve the poor.

"Our vocation is a way to live out our consecration to God. That is of first importance.

"We are having a Discernment Weekend - February 2-4, 2007 at Rosary Hill in Hawthorne, New York. Its purpose is to help you discover the answer to the question(s) - Is He calling you by name? How will you answer?"

For more information, please contact

Sr. Alma Marie, Vocation Director
Rosary Hill
600 Linda Avenue
Hawthorne, NY 10532
914.769.4794 (0114)

from the Website of the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne

Happy Vocation Awareness Week!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Non-stop service

I love today’s Gospel (Mark 1:29-39):

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus, with James and John,
entered the house of Simon and Andrew.

Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.

He approached, grasped her hand,
and helped her up.

Then the fever left her
and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill
or possessed by demons.

The whole town was gathered at the door.

He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
(not permitting them to speak because they knew him).

Rising very early before dawn,
he left and went off to a deserted place,
where he prayed.

Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said,
"Everyone is looking for you."

He told them,
"Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come."

So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons
throughout the whole of Galilee.

This, my friends, is what you and I are called to.

This Gospel passage expresses beautifully
the kind of life you and I are called to live:
in a mode of continuous service
to other people
and to the spread of the Gospel,
centered upon regular private prayer.

In the first part of the passage, our Lord is simply going about his business: visiting the house of a friend. It would seem a good time to sit back and relax, especially after all that had just happened in the synagogue.

But there is someone in that house who needs help, a woman who needs God’s grace.

Our Lord immediately goes to her and heals her.

Having experienced the healing presence of Christ, the woman immediately devotes herself to the service of others.

But that is not all: even more people come, a literal crowd of people needing help. Our Lord works into the night, healing people of their illnesses and freeing them from their demons.

Son of God, he still takes time to rest, yet he also rises early the next morning and goes off by himself to pray.

He has done great work, but he does not rest on his laurels: he gets going again, bringing many, many more people the truth and the grace that they so desperately need.

Are we continuously attentive, ready at every moment of our day to recognize needs and opportunities for sharing God’s grace?

Or are we focused on ourselves and our agendas?

Are we continuously open conduits of that grace?

Or are we focused on our own strength?

Do we take the time for regular, serious, quiet, private prayer?

Or do we think that we are too busy with our godly pursuits?

May we always look
to the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
and follow in his way.

Apostolate of truth

"The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist is a Roman Catholic community of women religious founded as a response to Pope John Paul II’s call for new religious foundations to embody the graces of the new evangelization of the third millennium Church.

"Through profession of the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, along with a contemplative emphasis on Eucharistic adoration and Marian devotion, the community exists for the salvation of souls and the building up of the Church throughout the world.

"Their apostolate, as spiritual mothers, is the preaching and teaching of Truth."

from the website of
the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist

Happy National Vocation Awareness Week!

Trying to figure out what God is asking?

"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

here for more information.

Happy National Vocation Awareness Week!
(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Catholic Carnival

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

Evil and the authority of Christ

Today's readings both deal in different ways with the authority of Christ in the face of evil.

The first reading (Hebrews 2:5-12) takes a cosmic perspective.

At present we do not see "all things subject to him,"
but we do see Jesus "crowned with glory and honor"

In today's Gospel (Mark 1:21-28) we have our Lord's first face-to-face encounter with evil after his being tempted in the desert.

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers,
and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue
and taught.

The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority
and not as the scribes.

In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out,
"What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are - the Holy One of God!"

Jesus rebuked him and said,
"Quiet! Come out of him!"

The unclean spirit convulsed him
and with a loud cry
came out of him.

All were amazed
and asked one another,
"What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits
and they obey him."

Both of these readings, in some sense, demonstrate the reality of this famous statement in John 1:5:

And the light shines in the darkness
And the darkness grasped it not.

There is much darkness in the world: evil still exists, making noise and causing trouble. "At present we do not see ‘all things subject to him…'"

But we "see Jesus ‘crowned with glory and honor.' "The light shines in darkness." The light, the power and the authority that is Christ cannot be overcome by any darkness, nor can those belonging to darkness even comprehend him.

St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 reminds us that we will indeed see all things subject to Christ.

Then comes the end,
when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign
until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

In the meantime, no matter what darkness, opposition or evil may confront us, you and I must do what we can to let the light of Christ shine forth in our words, attitudes and actions, for that is what he himself, by his infinite authority, has commanded us (Matthew 5:16):

Let your light so shine before men,
that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Blogger issues

Blogger was down much of today. Still, I'm very appreciative of their service.

The Mission of my Life

"God has created me
to do him some definite service.
He has committed some work to me
which he has not committed
to another.

"I have my mission.
I may never know what it is
in this life,
but I shall be told
in the next.

"I am a link in a chain,
a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for nothing.
I shall do good work.
I shall do his work...."

John Henry Cardinal Newman

from the Vocations pages of the Diocese of Austin

Happy National Vocation Awareness Week!

"The essence of what it means...

"...to be a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia is summarized in the community’s Ratio Institutionis, which outlines our program of initial and ongoing formation. Our charism is defined by the following characteristics:

"Contemplative Focus

"An Active Apostolate

"Strong Community Life

"Love of the Church and Traditional Religious Life"

"Several times a year we have Vocation Retreats for those who are discerning their vocation (the next one is May 23-27, 2007).... If you are interested in attending this retreat, contact the Vocation Director to sign up. Call us if you are interested in an informal Weekend Vocation Retreat experience to expose you to our life and prayer."

Vocation Office
801 Dominican Drive
Nashville, TN 37228-1909
(615) 256-0147

from the website of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia, Nashville, Tennessee

Happy National Vocation Awareness Week!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Salt Lake Bishop

The Holy Father has named as the new Bishop of Salt Lake City, Bishop John Charles Wester, who has up to now been Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco (the previous Bishop of Salt Lake City, the Most Reverend George H. Niederauer, is currently Archbishop of San Francisco).

Bishop Wester was born in San Francisco in 1950, attended parochial school and then the Archdiocese’s St. Joseph's High School Seminary. He studied theology at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese in 1976. He served first as Parochial Vicar at St. Raphael's Parish in San Rafael until 1979, then Principal and teacher at Marin Catholic High School until 1986, then Assistant Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese until 1988 when he was named Administrative Assistant to then-Archbishop William Levada (now Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrin of the Faith).

In 1993 Bishop-elect Wester was named Pastor of St. Stephen's parish where he served until 1997 when he was named the Archdiocese's Vicar for Clergy. He retained that position after being named and consecrated Auxiliary Bishop the following year. Within the U.S. Bishop’s Conference he has been involved in Migration, Vocations, and Inter-religious Dialogue.

During his pastoral ministry he also obtained two Master’s degrees: one in Pastoral Counseling from Holy Name College in Oakland and the other in Spirituality from the University of San Francisco.