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...

Saturday, March 31, 2007

It is about to happen

The readings today, on the last day before Holy Week, are full of expectation.

The first reading (Ezekiel 37:21-28) overflows with prophecies of messianic salvation: unity, deliverance from sin, harmony, peace, and the intimate presence of God.

It was thought by some that this prophecy would be fulfilled in a militaristic but cosmic fashion: with the superhuman Anointed One with all the power and glory of the Lord of Hosts sweeping away all evil with a single almighty blow.

That is not how it happened.

In today’s Gospel (John 11:45-56) the stage is set for the central events of God’s saving plan. The people are indeed full of expectation and the Sanhedrin deep in their evil plots.

We know what will happen, but this Holy Week we have the opportunity to experience it anew: the sorrow, the pain, the darkness, and then the light and joy – all part of God’s wonderful plan to bring us out of the slavery of this world into the eternal light and freedom of his everlasting life through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It is an opportunity to feel more deeply the reality of God’s love and the power of his salvation and to come closer to him.

It is about to happen.

Let’s go.

Friday, March 30, 2007

We’re being attacked!!

It is easy to see parallels between today’s world and the experience of Jeremiah in today’s first reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13), especially as the Church, Christians, and other people of faith are subjected to incessant denunciations by the media and cultural elites.

I hear the whisperings of many:
“Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!”

Likewise in today’s Gospel (John 10:31-42) the leaders of the people seek Christ’s destruction.

How should we respond to such attacks?

Some people try to ignore them. Others fixate on them to the point of distraction.

Our Lord addresses the attack briefly, reasserts the truth of his teaching, and moves on.

Jeremiah calls upon the help of God, knowing that he will ultimately rejoice in God’s mercy and justice no matter what happens.

As we prepare to celebrate the central events of salvation, may we do likewise.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Exceedingly fertile

That is what Abraham will be, as God tells him in today’s first reading (Genesis 17:3-19): “exceedingly fertile” and “father of a host of nations.”

While Abraham would indeed have biological descendents, who today number in the millions, the complete fulfillment of this promise would not come through biological means alone, as St. Paul reminds us in places such as Romans 4:16-17a and Galatians 3:29:

That is why it depends on faith,
in order that the promise may rest on grace
and be guaranteed to all his descendants
-- not only to the adherents of the law
but also to those who share the faith of Abraham,
for he is the father of us all,
as it is written,
"I have made you the father of many nations"


And if you are Christ's,
then you are Abraham's offspring,
heirs according to promise.

In a similar way you and I can be exceedingly fertile: by generously sharing seeds of faith.

Thus through faith and by the grace of God may you and I – anonymous or popular, powerful or oppressed, well-placed or mostly ignored - make an impact that will continue to spread and grow in this world and into eternity.


In today’s Gospel (Jn. 8:51-59), our Lord messes with the minds of his opponents in a big way:

“Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day;
he saw it and was glad.”

So the
Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?”

Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.”

Part of what blows their minds is the glimpse our Lord gives of what eternity is.

Eternity, of course, is not just the name of a cheap cologne.

Nor is eternity just an infinite continuation of Time.

God does not continue: God is -- God exists in what some call "the eternal Now."

Augustine puts it nicely

"For He does not pass from this to that
by transition of thought,
but beholds all things
with absolute unchangeableness;
so that of those things which emerge in time,
the future, indeed, are not yet,
and the present are now,
and the past no longer are;
but all of these
are by Him comprehended
in His stable and eternal presence."

Ille quippe non ex hoc in illud
cogitatione mutata,
sed omnino
incommutabiliter uidet;
ita ut illa quidem, quae temporaliter fiunt,
et futura nondum sint
et praesentia iam sint
et praeterita iam non sint,
ipse uero haec omnia
stabili ac sempiterna praesentia
The City of God, Book XI, chapter 21

For believers, this glimpse of eternity doesn't mess with our minds: quite the contrary.

When we struggle with the innumerable little things of life,
with the slow pace of progress,
with the rapidity of deterioration,
or with the stresses of change,
we have comfort and even joy
in the hope that comes from faith
in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
who is preparing for his faithful servants
a dwelling place with the Blessed
in Eternity

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The quagmire of lies

On a fundamental level, sin is based on a lie: a perception or a choosing of something evil as something good to do.

Thus today’s world is piled deep with lies and filled with sin, making it an exceedingly difficult for people of faith and virtue to navigate.

In the midst of this quagmire, the words of our Lord in today’s Gospel (John 8:31-42) illuminate a safe path for us to embrace and follow.

If you remain in my word,
you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

You will die in your sins

The words are brutal: crushing all hope with a foreshadowing of eternal pain.

Yet our Lord says them not just once or twice but three times in today’s Gospel (John 8:21-30).

I am going away
and you will look for me,
but you will die in your sin.

Where I am going
you cannot come.

You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.
That is why I told you
that you will die in your sins.

For if you do not believe that I AM,
you will die in your sins.

They are words of warning, not only to the Pharisees, but to us as well.

Why would we die in our sins?

We would die in our sins if we bind ourselves to the things of this world: binding our pursuit of happiness to earthly pleasures that will die with our death (and usually long before that) and turning ourselves away from the beatitude that is everlasting.

You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.
That is why I told you
that you will die in your sins.

We would die in our sins if we – individually or collectively - rely only on our own wisdom, willpower, virtue, or any human quality or indeed anything that is not of Christ: the true and infinite embodiment of God’s saving power.

For if you do not believe that I AM,
you will die in your sins.

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

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at Catholic Convert from Church of the Nazarene.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The will of God and the body of Christ

Very recently there was a TV show that packaged bad archeology (widely denounced by scholars) with misleading (if not deceitful) inferences to make untrue allegations about Christ.

Those involved with the TV show speciously denied that their nonsense should have any negative effect on the Christian faith. They did this by denying the core Christian belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ or denying that it is a core belief.

St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:17-20) and all of Christendom, of course, see it differently.

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile
and you are still in your sins.
Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ
have perished.
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are of all men most to be pitied.

But in fact
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

The reality of Christ and the paschal mystery is of course transcendent and spiritual but it is also inescapably corporeal: the salvific will of God accomplished in and through the body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It is not just the teaching of Christ or the spirit of Christ, it is in and through the body of Christ that God’s will - our salvation – is accomplished.

Today’s readings and today’s solemnity of the Annunciation focus precisely on this reality. In this feast we celebrate the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary, Mary’s acceptance of God’s will, and the Incarnation of Christ – son of God and son of Mary, true God and true man.

We find this theme of the will of God and the Body of Christ most explicitly in the second reading (Hebrews 10:4-10):

For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
behold, I come to do your will, O God.’”

The salvific will of God is accomplished in and through the body of Christ.

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

once for all.

We find something very similar in the Gospel account of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38). Mary, of course, is the means through which the body of Christ is prepared, but the critical moment for this is her acceptance of God’s will.

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.

Indeed, very much the same as

Behold, I come to do your will, O God

On the contrary, King Ahaz in today’s first reading (Isaiah 7:10-14) is so focused on his own will and selfish desires that he tries to block the will of God (of course, he is not successful).

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel…

Today’s celebration of the Annunciation not only reminds us of the reality of the Incarnation, it challenges us to set aside our selfishness and error, to unite our will ever more closely with the will of God, and to manifest that will in our own lives corporeally – not just in what we think and say but also in what we do, especially in what we do for the true good of others and for the greater glory of God.

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae

The Annunciation by Luca GiordanoEt concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

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

Ecce ancilla Domini,
Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Ave Maria...

Et Verbum caro factum est.
Et habitavit in nobis.

Ave Maria...

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

Hail Mary...

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

Hail Mary...

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

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

Today (the 25th of March being a Sunday of Lent)
the Church celebrates
the Solemnity of the Annunciation

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sin and light

In today’s Gospel (John 8:1-11) we have the familiar story of the woman caught in adultery and our Lord’s famous saying,

Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.

This passage ends with our Lord telling the woman

Neither do I condemn you.
(and) from now on
do not sin any more

In the verse that follows this passage, our Lord says

I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.

Judgment belongs to God alone and comes only at the end.

Yet while we live in this world, we are to walk in the light of the Lord.

That means that we ourselves must not walk in the ways of sin and darkness.

In doing so, of course, we let our light shine before all, including those who prefer to wallow in sin and darkness.

May we not let ourselves be pulled down to their level, but may we walk always in light and in the true love of God that comes to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tyranny of the elites

In today’s Gospel (John 7:40-53), cultural elites try to prevent people from believing in Christ.

The Pharisees answered them,
“Have you also been deceived?
Have any of the authorities

or the Pharisees believed in him?
But this crowd,

which does not know the law,
is accursed.”

This resonates well with the experience of believers in many places today where cultural elites – in academia, in the media, and in government – denigrate people of faith (sometimes more subtly than the Pharisees of old, sometimes not so subtly).

As it was in that time as well as in the time of the Prophet (Jeremiah 11:18-20) and the Psalmist (Psalm 7:2-3, 9bc-12), may we not be intimidated by the pseudo-intellectual bullying of the self-styled elites but may we always find strength, light, and love in the truth and grace of God.

O LORD, my God, in you I take refuge…

Friday, March 23, 2007

Pamphlets' views "contrary to the Church's faith"

'The document Statement Concerning Two Pamphlets Published by Professor Daniel Maguire was developed by the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It was approved by the Administrative Committee of the USCCB at its March 2007 meeting as a statement of the Committee and has been authorized for publication by the undersigned.'

Msgr. David J. Malloy, STD
General Secretary, USCCB

Statement Concerning
Two Pamphlets
Published by Professor Daniel Maguire

Committee on Doctrine
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

'On June 19, 2006, Professor Daniel Maguire of Marquette University sent two pamphlets to all of the Catholic Bishops in the United States, one entitled The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion and the other A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage. These pamphlets do not present Catholic teaching. His views about contraception, abortion, same sex "marriage", as well as the very nature of Church teaching and its authoritative character, cross the legitimate lines of theological reflection and simply enter into the area of false teaching. Such mistaken views should not be confused with the faith and moral teaching of the Catholic Church. Since it is apparent that considerable efforts have been made to give these views the widest possible distribution as if they were a valid alternative to the teaching of the Catholic Church, the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops considers it important to offer a public correction of the erroneous views proposed in these pamphlets. At the same time, the Committee on Doctrine calls attention to the Catechism of the Catholic Church where correct and authentic teaching can be found. This readily available source of the faith and moral teaching of the Catholic Church clearly demonstrates the mistaken character of the positions found in the two pamphlets and their unreliability as a guide for Catholics seeking to know and live their Catholic faith.

'Church Teaching

'The fundamental error in these pamphlets concerns the nature of Church teaching. In the first pamphlet Professor Maguire argues that there is "no one position on contraception and abortion" that can be called "Catholic," and thus that there is no authentic Church teaching that is binding on all the members of the Catholic Church.[1] He argues that there is the "extremely conservative view," held by conservative theologians and by the Pope and the bishops, a position that opposes contraception and abortion, as well as the "moderate and sensible view," held by other theologians, which endorses contraception and abortion, at least under certain circumstances.[2] He concludes that "the Roman Catholic position on abortion is pluralistic. It has a strong 'pro-choice' tradition and a conservative anti-choice tradition. Neither is official, and neither is more Catholic than the other."[3] 'In the second pamphlet Professor Maguire argues that there is no one position that can be called "Catholic" concerning the morality of homosexual acts and same-sex "marriages." "In Catholicism" he writes, "there are three sources of truth, (or three 'magisteria'): the hierarchy, the theologians, and the wisdom and experience of the laity (called in Latin
sensus fidelium)."[4] Because there is, according to Professor Maguire, no consensus at this time among these "three sources of truth," he concludes that "Catholic teaching is in transition on this subject and Catholics are free to let their consciences decide either for or against same sex marriages. Both views — for or against homosexual marriage — are at home in the Catholic world and neither one of them can be called more orthodox or more official or more Catholic than the other."[5]

'From the earliest days of the Church, it has been clear that the bishops have a unique role in passing on the faith and applying the teaching of Christ to the circumstances of the day. Catholic teaching is authenticated by the Church's teaching office that mirrors and transmits the revelation of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. While there may be individuals who disagree with the teaching of the Church, such divergent views cannot be considered authentic Catholic teaching or the basis for reliable guidance regarding faithful Catholic moral life.

'It is a serious error, therefore, to claim that the teaching of the Pope and the bishops represents merely one voice among many legitimate voices within the Catholic Church, all of which are vying to be heard and accepted. The bishops are the successors of the apostles, who were given the authority to proclaim the teaching of Jesus Christ.[6] Jesus himself commissioned the apostles to preach the Gospel in his name.[7] The apostles in turn appointed trusted men to succeed them in this ministry. These successors, the bishops, have thus been authorized to preach and teach in the name of Christ himself.[8] The bishops, therefore, have a responsibility to foster among the faithful those actions that promote holiness and are in accord with the Gospel as well as a duty to condemn those actions which are evil and so are incompatible with living a holy life.[9]

'Thus, when the bishops together with the head of the college of bishops, the Pope, invoke the authority given to them by Christ to proclaim that one moral position is correct and another erroneous, this teaching is binding in conscience on all who hold the Catholic faith. It is not one of many possible "Catholic" positions proposed by and debated among various theologians.[10] There is but one Gospel of salvation which has been revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ and which continues to be authoritatively taught within the Catholic Church. Laity and clergy embody and express the sense of the faith precisely when they conform their consciences to what the Church authentically professes and teaches.[11]

'Therefore, it is illegitimate to set in opposition the belief of some of the faithful and the teaching of the bishops and the Pope. Professor Maguire misrepresents the nature of the relationship between bishops and theologians. The reality is that "the Church cannot exist without the office of bishop nor thrive without the sound scholarship of the theologian. Bishops and theologians are in a collaborative relationship."[12] While theologians, along with the rest of the faithful, receive from the bishops the authentic teaching passed down from the apostles, the theologians study that teaching in order to come to a deeper and more systematic understanding, which benefits the bishops and the whole Church. Thus, both bishops and theologians teach, but they do so in different ways. They have different gifts and functions, but they have the same goal: "preserving the People of God in the truth which sets free and thereby making them 'a light to the nations.'"[13] Professor Maguire's conception of the role of the theologian, instead of elevating it, actually diminishes it, for it prevents the theologian from serving this goal.

'Contraception, Abortion and Same-sex "Marriage"

'While this is not the place for an exhaustive treatment of Church teaching on these important issues, we would like to give a brief account of that teaching and to indicate some sources where more complete presentations may be found.


'According to Professor Maguire, a minority of "conservative" Catholic theologians, along with the Pope and the bishops, argues that contraception is morally wrong; at the same time "there exists in the Roman Catholic tradition and faith the view that contraception is not only permissible but that the use of contraceptives is morally mandatory in many situations."[14] In his view, since the theologians and the bishops are all equally authorities and these authorities do not agree, the individual would be free to follow the opinion that least restricts one's freedom of action.[15]

'What Professor Maguire does not report is the fact that Pope Paul VI entered into a thorough study of this issue precisely in order to produce a definitive judgment that would bring to an end the disputes among theologians.

'In the end he upheld the teaching, consistently taught within the Christian tradition, that contraception is intrinsically wrong, for it is not in accord with the purposes of marital sexual intercourse, that is, to express and foster love in a manner that is open to new life.[16]

'His successor, Pope John Paul II, strongly and repeatedly reaffirmed this teaching.[17]


'Here, too, Professor Maguire argues that because some Catholic theologians do not consider abortion to be always wrong there is no unitary Catholic position on abortion. In fact, he argues that the dominant current of Catholic tradition supports early abortion because some eminent theologians of the past, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, did not believe that a fetus becomes a human person until several weeks after conception. Such judgments about the status of the fetus were based on the relatively primitive biology of the ancient and medieval periods. More importantly, these theologians never drew the conclusion that abortion was morally justified. Since modern biology provides clear evidence of the humanness of the embryo from the moment of conception, today there can be no reason that can justify the taking of innocent human life that occurs in abortion.

'Contrary to what Professor Maguire asserts, the Catholic tradition has never supported abortion. The Second Vatican Council clearly stated that "[l]ife must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes."[18] Furthermore, the intrinsic immorality of abortion has been repeatedly and forcefully emphasized by the popes, particularly by Pope John Paul II.[19]

'Same-Sex "Marriage"

'In addition to the argument that the Pope and bishops represent just another voice alongside those of theologians in determining what constitutes the "Catholic" position, Professor Maguire's analysis of same-sex "marriage" contains errors that warrant particular attention. First he argues that God has created some people to be "gay." Thus he concludes, "who could imagine God creating people who are gay and then denying them the right to express their sincere and honest love in the holy sacrament of matrimony!"[20]

'In her teaching on the correct definition and true meaning of marriage the Church presents God's plan as found both in revelation and in the natural moral order. Her teaching concerning the errors involved in same-sex "marriage" does not negate the recognition that we are made in the image and likeness of God, nor does it diminish the dignity of each human being, but rather calls attention to the proper use of sexuality within marriage. God created men and women for one another, that, in marriage, they might sexually give themselves to one another for the procreation of children.

'Moreover, Professor Maguire states that "homosexuality is not a sin."[21] If, by this, Professor Maguire means that the homosexual inclination is not sinful in itself, then this is true. However, if this is interpreted to mean that homosexual acts are not sinful, then this is erroneous. Because such acts do not result in the loving union of a man and a woman nor are they ordered to the procreation of children they are intrinsically disordered.[22] It is this intrinsically disordered nature of homosexual acts that prevents a "same-sex" union from expressing an authentic Christian understanding of marriage.[23]


'The Archbishop of Milwaukee, exercising his pastoral responsibilities as teacher and shepherd, has made public statements affirming that the views expressed by Professor Maguire in his two pamphlets are erroneous and incompatible with the Church's teaching.[24]

'We the Committee on Doctrine of the USCCB concur that, despite his claims to authority as a Catholic theologian, the views of Professor Maguire on contraception, abortion, and same-sex "marriage" are not those of the Catholic Church and indeed are contrary to the Church's faith.

'We deplore as irresponsible his public advocacy of his views as authentic Catholic teaching. Lastly, we trust that this statement will clarify the Church's faith and teaching for all of the Catholic faithful throughout the United States. '

Most Rev. William E. Lori, Chairman
Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair
Most Rev. Edward W. Clark
Most Rev. José H. Gomez
Most Rev. Robert J. McManus
Most Rev. Arthur J. Serratelli
Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl
His Eminence Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, Consultant
His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Consultant


[1] Daniel Maguire, The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion, p. 1.

[2] Maguire, The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion, p. 2.

[3] Maguire, The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion, p. 6.

[4] Daniel Maguire, A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage, p. 4.

[5] Maguire, A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage, p. 5.

[6] The Second Vatican Council clearly enunciates the Church's teaching: "The sacred synod consequently teaches that the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church" (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church [Lumen Gentium], no. 20, in Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. [Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1992]; see also Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. [Washington, DC: Libreria Editrice Vaticana—USCCB, 2000], nos. 861-62).

[7] See Mt 16:17-20, 28:18-20; Jn 21:15-19.

[8] See Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), nos. 18-19 and Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum), nos. 7-10.

[9] See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian (May 24, 1990), nos. 16 and 19, www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19900524_theologian-vocation_en.html.

[10] The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian is very clear on this issue. Some theologians falsely argue for a "theological pluralism" that ultimately undermines "the integrity of the faith." In such a case the teaching of the bishops would become "one theology among many theologies, while no particular theology, however, could presume to claim universal normative status" (no. 34).

[11] The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states that the sense of the faith "implies then by its nature a profound agreement of spirit and heart with the Church" (Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, no. 35). See also Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), no. 12, Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum), no. 10, and Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 889.

[12] National Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Teaching Ministry of the Diocesan Bishop: A Pastoral Reflection, (Washington, D.C.: USCCB, 1992), p. 10. The document continues by stating that there is, nonetheless, "only one authoritative ecclesiastical magisterium that can call for the obedience of faith or religious assent of mind and will, and this pertains to the office of bishops" (Ibid.). See also the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, nos. 21-31; Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum), nos. 23-24, and Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), no. 62.

[13] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, no. 21.

[14] Maguire, The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion, p. 1.

[15] See Maguire, The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion, p. 10. See also Maguire, A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage, p. 5.

[16] See Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter on the Regulation of Birth (Humanae Vitae) (July 25, 1968), and Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2370.

[17] See his Apostolic Exhortation on the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World (Familiaris Consortio,), (November 22, 1981), no. 32. See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2370.

[18] Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), no. 51, in Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1992).

[19] See Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter on the Value and Inviolability of Human Life (Evangelium Vitae) (March 25, 1995), nos. 58-63; and Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2270-75.

[20] Maguire, A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage, p. 2.

[21] Maguire, A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage, p. 7.

[22] See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics (Persona Humana) (December 29, 1975), no. 8, www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19751229_persona-humana_en.html, and Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2357.

[23] See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (June 3, 2003), www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html.

[24] See the Archbishop's weekly column "Herald of Hope" in The Catholic Herald, August 24, 2006.


The New York Times reports that 'Marquette University, responding to questions from a reporter, issued a statement saying that the university “agrees with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine that the views outlined by Daniel Maguire in pamphlets he circulated to the hierarchy earlier this year do not represent the teachings of the Catholic Church.”'

(hat tip: The Cafeteria is Closed)

Outside the box

In today’s Gospel (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30), people are confused about Christ because he does not seem to fit the “box” into which they have placed him.

“But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”

So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
“You know me
and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me,
whom you do not know,
is true.
I know him,
because I am from him,
and he sent me.”

In today’s world, there are many who seek to lock people of faith into such boxes: rigid categories that conform more to their simplistic viewpoints rather than to reality.

We don’t have to play that game.

As people of faith, loyal to the truth that comes from God, we may have much in common with “conservatives”, yet also with “liberals.”

We should not let other people pigeonhole us or oversimplify us, our faith, or our Church.

We should think and live and act outside the boxes of this world, but totally and purely within the truth and love of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Delayed vocation

He wasn't ordained a priest until he was forty, but he would accomplish much in the years of ministry that followed: including establishing the first seminary in the Western hemisphere, fighting for the rights of native Americans, and becoming an Archbishop.

St. Turibius de Mongrovejo - Archbishop of Lima, Peru - died 401 years ago today.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Parent paradigm

There are those who reject the concept of God as Father, claiming that the very notion of Father has been irreparably damaged by bad experiences of earthly fathers. Instead, they may speak of God as “mother” or use the sterile and impersonal term “parent.”

Today’s first reading (Isaiah 49:8-15) gives wonderful perspective to this issue, while expressing beautifully the unfailing love God has for his people.

Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Whenever we have received true love and care from our earthly fathers, mothers or any caregiver, we have learned a little about who God is and how God loves us, but even if all human love should vanish and we receive great harm from those who should have cared for us, yet God’s love remains and can heal all our hurts and fill up every emptiness in our heart.

New Archbishop of Edmonton

The Holy Father has named as the new Archbishop of Edmonton the Most Reverend Richard William Smith, up to now Bishop of Pembroke. He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1959, where he also went to school, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and a Master of Divinity. He was ordained a priest in 1985 and subsequently obtained License and Doctorate degrees in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He served in parochial ministry as well as (at different times) serving as chaplain to the French-speaking community and teaching theology at the major seminary in London, Ontario. He was Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Halifax from 2001 until 2002 when he was named Bishop of Pembroke.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bach's Birthday

"For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: 'Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true.'

"The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer's inspiration."

From a message by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) to a meeting of Communion and Liberation in August 2002.

I do not seek my own will

But the will of him who sent me.

Thus says the Lord in today’s Gospel (John 5:17-30).

As Christians, we too should have this as our motto and as the touchstone for our decisions.

Am I really just seeking my own will? Am I just trying to satisfy my selfish needs? Am I just making it easier for myself?

Or am I truly seeking the will of God? Am I focused on what is truly good and not just what feels good? Am I taking the way of grace?

Fiat voluntas Dei.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at To Jesus Through Mary.

The wonderful water

Today’s first reading (Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12) is a prophecy about a wondrous river that flows from the temple of God.

Of course, in the time and place in which this prophecy was first set down, water was a precious commodity and flowing water would often fail in that arid climate.

That is why the idea of a river that gets deeper and stronger as it flows would be very much appreciated by the people of that time and place.

For us, this image is a reminder that the wonder of God only gets only deeper and stronger the further we journey in him.

This Lent and always, may you and I be continuously immersed in the love and the Spirit and the wonder of God.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hoping against hope

During the past week or so, two very well-known people, who brought good feelings to many, each took their own lives: one a comedian, the other a singer.

Each in their own way had lost hope of healing their personal pain.

Only God knows what was in the mind of these individuals and so only God can judge their souls, even as we and their loved ones are left with the aftermath of the terrible objective evil of suicide.

We pray for God's mercy on the dead and their loved ones and we also pray for all who feel the loss of hope.

There are many today who have trouble finding hope: some are unemployed, some have been diagnosed with a serious illness, some feel they have complicated their lives beyond repair.

Even people of faith may sometimes feel a loss of hope: sometimes a loss of hope in their personal lives, perhaps with some of the problems just mentioned, and sometimes a loss of hope in a world in which cultures and even governments seek to indoctrinate children in immorality and some seek to punish the teaching of truth.

As an example of someone who hoped beyond hope, today’s second reading (from Romans 4) gives us Abraham.

He is our father in the sight of God,
in whom he believed,
who gives life to the dead
and calls into being
what does not exist.

He believed,
hoping against hope,
that he would become "the father of many nations,"
according to what was said,
"Thus shall your descendants be."

He did not weaken in faith
when he considered
his own body as (already) dead
(for he was almost a hundred years old)
and the dead womb of Sarah.

He did not doubt God's promise in unbelief;
rather, he was empowered by faith
and gave glory to God
and was fully convinced
that what he had promised
he was also able to do.

That is why "it was credited to him
as righteousness."

Obviously it is good to do things that are good and even better to persevere in doing them and better still to persevere against external opposition, but often the greatest value comes when one perseveres in hope and righteousness against the internal opposition of "rational" analysis and emotional despair.

Thus did Abraham persevere, so did many of the greatest saints throughout history, and so do many people around the world today by the grace of God.

May we always continue to walk forward through this world in faith and in hope, trusting in the never-failing love of our Eternal Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

“She’s pregnant.”

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

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

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

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

"I just can't..."

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

"I... what...?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But she doesn't get hurt."

"No, she doesn't get hurt."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The ministry of reconciliation

The journey of Lent is a path for bringing ourselves closer to God by his grace.

It is a time for reconciliation.

Today’s second reading (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) reminds us that this work of reconciliation should not be just our reconciliation with God but our being agents of reconciliation for others as well.

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

And all this is from God,
who has reconciled us to himself through Christ
and given us the ministry of reconciliation,
namely, God was reconciling the world to himself
in Christ,
not counting their trespasses against them
and entrusting to us
the message of reconciliation.

So we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.

We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.

For our sake
he made him to be sin
who did not know sin,
so that we might become
the righteousness of God
in him.

May we not be like the ostensibly obedient yet self-centered son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son in today’s Gospel (from Luke 15), but may we stand eagerly and joyfully at the Father’s side, looking for those who have gone astray and rejoicing as they return home.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Which of these two men is more like us?

(Jesus) also told this parable
to some

who trusted in themselves
that they were righteous
and despised others:

"Two men
went up into the temple

to pray,
one a Pharisee
and the other a tax collector.

The Pharisee stood
and prayed thus with himself,
`God, I thank thee
that I am not like other men,
or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week,
I give tithes of all that I get.'

But the tax collector,
standing far off,
would not even
lift up his eyes to heaven,

but beat his breast, saying,
`God, be merciful to me a sinner!'

I tell you,
this man went down to his house justified
rather than the other;

for every one who exalts himself
will be humbled,
but he who humbles himself
will be exalted."

(today's Gospel - Luke 18:9-14)

I arise today

Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength
of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength
of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength
of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength
of His descent for the judgment of doom.

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

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

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

I summon today all these powers
between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power
that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells
of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge
that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me,
Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

(St. Patrick's Breastplate)

He was a middle class kid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sinners stumble

Let him who is wise understand these things;
let him who is prudent know them.
Straight are the paths of the LORD,
in them the just walk,
but sinners stumble in them.

So ends today’s first reading (Hosea 14:2-10).

Indeed, it makes perfect sense that sinners should stumble on the paths of righteousness, that those who seek their own selfish purposes should have trouble following the ways of the Lord, and that those who disdain the Creator ultimately should not have a successful passage through creation.

Of course, in this imperfect world, sinners often appear to remain on their feet quite a long time while it seems that every day another exalted religious leader stumbles grievously and another natural disaster somewhere smites impoverished people of faith.

This is not a new phenomenon. The ancient wisdom of Psalm 73:12-19 still rings true.

Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.

All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken,
and chastened every morning.

If I had said, "I will speak thus,"
I would have been untrue to the generation of thy children.

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I perceived their end.

Truly thou dost set them in slippery places;
thou dost make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!

The truth is that the ways of the Creator, although they may be partly discerned by natural reason, are ultimately mysterious: all human beings stumble and rain falls upon both the just and the unjust.

Because they seek the will of the Creator, however, the just will avoid many of the stumbles to which self-centered people will succumb, but while troubles beset both the just and the unjust in this world, what makes smooth the path of the just is not the lack of obstacles but rather that the just walk hand in hand with the Lord.

For the one who shuns God, the troubles of life bring only pain and greater emptiness and will end in terrifying oblivion.

For those who seek always the will of God, even with all its troubles life is like a child and parent going swiftly together down a path: as long as their hands stay together, the child comes safely and indeed laughingly through anything that may come along.

Let him who is wise understand these things;
let him who is prudent know them.
Straight are the paths of the LORD,
in them the just walk,
but sinners stumble in them.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Don't know the meaning of the word

Agent: I don't know the meaning of the word ‘fear.’

Chief: You'll parachute from six thousand feet.

Agent: I think I just learned it.

This dialogue from a classic television show, in which the protagonist protests he does not know the meaning of fear, is intentionally comical.

It is deeply tragic, however, that too many of us in this world today seem not to know the meaning of the word “faithfulness.”

The prophet Jeremiah says it in today’s first reading (Jeremiah 7:23-28) and it could also be said of ourselves today.

But they obeyed not,
nor did they pay heed.

They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts
and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.

From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt
even to this day,
I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets.
Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed;
they have stiffened their necks
and done worse than their fathers.

When you speak all these words to them,
they will not listen to you either;
when you call to them,
they will not answer you.

Say to them:
This is the nation that does not listen
to the voice of the LORD, its God,
or take correction.

Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech.

Lord God, forgive me my sin
and by your grace restore in me a spirit of faithfulness
in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

“The old that is strong does not wither”

The sentiment expressed by these words of J.R.R. Tolkien are not always universally embraced.

Even while Christ walked on this earth, there were some who thought that he would establish such a radically different relationship between God and humanity that all of what had come before would be irrelevant.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:17-19), our Lord sets them straight.

Do not think that I have come
to abolish the law or the prophets.

I have come not to abolish
but to fulfill.

Amen, I say to you,
until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter
or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.

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

But whoever obeys
and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.

There is a tendency in every generation for some to think that their qualities and situation are so unique and radically new that they can discount the wisdom of the past. Usually they discover their mistake only too late (and are frustrated when they fail in convincing the following generation to avoid this same mistake).

Some in the Church, even priests and theologians, also sometimes make this mistake: giving primacy to their own environment and their personal creative resources over that which has been received from of old.

In a Notification published this morning, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reminds us about the relationship between the fonts of “newness” and that which has been received.

"Theology arises from obedience to the impulse of truth which seeks to be communicated, and from the love that desires to know ever better the One who loves – God himself - whose goodness we have recognized in the act of faith. For this reason, theological reflection cannot have a foundation other than the faith of the Church. Only starting from ecclesial faith, in communion with the Magisterium, can the theologian acquire a deeper understanding of the Word of God contained in Scripture and transmitted by the living Tradition of the Church.

"Thus the truth revealed by God himself in Jesus Christ, and transmitted by the Church, constitutes the ultimate normative principle of theology. Nothing else may surpass it. In its constant reference to this perennial spring, theology is a font of authentic newness and light for people of good will.

"Theological investigation will bear ever more abundant fruit for the good of the whole People of God and all humanity, the more it draws from the living stream which – thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit – proceeds from the Apostles and has been enriched by the faithful reflection of past generations."

The challenges of our lives here and now may give us great incentive to (as Lincoln put it) “think anew and act anew” but if we cut ourselves off from Christ our source, we will actually be intellectually and spiritually disemboweling ourselves and will lose everything.

Thus Moses says in today’s first reading (Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9):

However, take care
and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things
which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory
as long as you live,
but teach them to your children
and to your children’s children.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at just another day of Catholic pondering.

The sacrament of charity

The text of Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI's "Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission", is available online at the Vatican web site.

Forgive... or else!

We know how we have fallen short.

We know that we have sinned.

We know that we desperately need the mercy and forgiveness of God.

So we join with the prayer of Azariah from today’s first reading (preserved in the Greek text of Daniel – 3:25, 34-43)

But with contrite heart and humble spirit
let us be received;
As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks,
or thousands of fat lambs,
So let our sacrifice be in your presence today
as we follow you unreservedly;
for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.
And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we fear you and we pray to you.
Do not let us be put to shame,
but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.

But if we want forgiveness, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ reminds us in today’s Gospel (Matthew 18:21-35) that we ourselves must forgive those who sin against us.

’You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt
because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger
his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you
forgives your brother from your heart.”

Forgiveness cannot be received unless it is shared.

May we forgive each other always.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The simple things

In today’s first reading (2 Kings 5:1-15ab), a powerful man has a difficult problem but refuses the most simple and mundane steps to solve it: washing seven times in the Jordan to be cleansed of leprosy.

How often do we seek to solve our problems and find happiness through elaborate programs, a wonder drug, or a greatly desired person or thing (none of which provides true, complete, and lasting happiness) while neglecting the classic, simple, and mundane steps laid out for us by God: praying regularly, living morally, receiving the Sacraments, studying and spreading the truth, and sharing the love of God with others?

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Farming, like the spiritual life, is not a matter of instant gratification: it requires diligence and care.

This is a key message from today’s Gospel (Luke 13:1-9).

There once was a person
who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it

but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now

I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it

and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’

As we continue our journey of Lent, may we invest time, care and diligence in the cultivation of a spiritual life that by the grace of God will flourish for eternity.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Ready, willing and able to forgive

Some of us have led very faithful lives, although none of us are totally free of sin.

Some of us have squandered our God-given gifts for short-lived, selfish pleasures.

Some of us may have strayed into a life that seems very far from God.

The message of today’s readings – the familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son (from Luke 15) and the prophecy of Micah (7:14-15, 18-20) – remind us that, no matter what we have done or how far we have strayed, God is even now ready, willing and able to forgive.

Who is there like you,
the God who removes guilt
and pardons sin
for the remnant of his inheritance;
Who does not persist in anger forever,
but delights rather in clemency,
And will again have compassion on us,
treading underfoot our guilt?

You will cast into the depths of the sea
all our sins...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Envy and resentment

Some people in this world have many good things happen to them, others have fewer good things.

Tragically, many often focus on the good things enjoyed by others: wishing that they had these things too and even hating those who have them.

Today’s readings – the story of Joseph and his brothers (from Genesis 37) and the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46) – warn us about envy and resentment, which lead people to evil deeds and ultimately to their own doom.

Envy and resentment are traps.

True freedom may be found in our Lord’s words to St. Peter at the end of John’s Gospel (21:22):

What is that to thee?
Follow thou me.

We should let nothing distract us.

Our focus should be on the Lord and on being faithful to his will.

Thus we may avoid the peril of envy and resentment and fully attain the blessings the Lord wishes to share with us, not just in this world but more gloriously and completely in the world without end.

Her father insisted that she get married

...when she was 12!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What are you looking for?

In today’s Gospel (Luke 16:19-31), we hear the familiar story of Lazarus and the rich man.

At the end of the story, the rich man insists that if he were to come back from the dead to warn his brothers, that miracle would move them to repentance.

Abraham the patriarch disagrees.

If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.

Of course, there are people who say in their hearts (or more loudly) that they are looking for a miracle to reaffirm their faith or some other explicit sign from God to bring them to faith.

History, however, is on Abraham’s side. While miracles can be occasions of grace, from the apostasy of the Israelites in Sinai to the scandals among some miracle workers today, miracles have also been demonstrated to be no guarantees for those who behold them.

Part of the reason for this is that, although we may say we want them, miracles in themselves may amaze the mind and spirit but usually provide little direct substance for the human heart.

What satisfies the human heart is addressed more directly in today’s first reading (Jeremiah 17:5-10).

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

The human heart craves not miracles, but rather companionship and the living water of love.

Tragically, many of us try to satisfy these cravings the wrong way.

Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.

The pursuits of the flesh do not answer the true need of the human heart: they only bring distraction and, in the end, even more emptiness.

He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.

Even the most wonderful human companion cannot alone fill the need of the human heart. Augustine, of course, put it best.

O Lord.... thou hast made us for thyself
and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.
(Confessions I,1)

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.

Only the grace and love of God can satisfy fully the cravings of our human hearts.

Only the grace and love of God will sustain us when our life seems an empty waste and human companionship has failed.

Only the grace and love of God will carry us all the way through on the journey on which the Lord has put us in this world and bring us, in his own time and wonderful way, to the happiness and contentment that will never end.

May we keep our hearts open to our Lord and God, Jesus Christ our Savior.

Extreme measures

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

John ran away and joined the army.

After his first tour, the marriage proposal was repeated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This last incident broke his health entirely. John died shortly thereafter on his 55th birthday, 457 years ago today. St. John of God was canonized in 1690 and is a patron saint for hospitals and for the dying.

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

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Catholic Carnival

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

Eviscerating religion

In today’s first reading (Jeremiah 18:18-20), the people of Judah think that they can hold onto the benefits of their religion while doing away with its challenges: specifically, by doing away with the prophet Jeremiah.

This attempted evisceration of religion led to their doom.

This calls to mind certain politicians – on the left and on the right – who try to derive benefits from their religious affiliation while disavowing any tenet of faith that might challenge their political base.

Likewise you and I may sometimes seek to retain the comforts of our faith while giving short shrift to its obligations: embracing our favorite aspects of prayer and worship while eschewing the weightier matters of morality, justice, charity, and suffering.

We need to embrace our faith and all its challenges in its entirety, so that we may be embraced completely and forever by the Lord.

We need to follow the path our Lord marks out for us in today’s Gospel (Matthew 20:17-28):

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

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

Perpetual Felicity

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

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

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

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

She did not.

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

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

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

Now they live with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ - eternally happy.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Think you’re pretty important?

Our Lord gives us a big reality check in today’s Gospel (Matthew 23:1-12):

Whoever exalts himself
will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself
will be exalted.

False modesty, of course, is just another form of pride, aggravated by dishonesty.

We need to be honest about ourselves, but also honest and clear in our perspective.

No matter how powerful or intelligent we may be, we are but a passing wisp of smoke when compared to the infinity and eternity that yawns around us.

No matter how beautiful our bodies, true spiritual beauty will always be more compelling and lasting and all things pale in comparison to the glory which is God.

No matter how meritorious our deeds, we are not worthy to unfasten the sandal of the sinless One who died for the sins of the world.

Yet if we are honest about our strengths and weaknesses, our gifts and our needs, and if we humbly bind ourselves to the Lord and his Will by his grace...

...no matter how we have failed and fallen short, he will raise us up;

...no matter how wretched and unlovable we may feel, he will love us with a passion most tender and intense;

...and no matter who we are, we find exaltation and vindication through the infinite love and merits of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

New Bishops down south

The Holy Father today has named the Most Reverend Kevin Joseph Farrell as Bishop of Dallas, having accepted the retirement of the Most Reverend Charles Victor Grahmann. Up to now, Bishop Farrell has been an Auxiliary Bishop of Washington. Bishop Farrell was born in 1947 in Dublin, Ireland. He studied at the University of Salamanca (Spain) and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He obtained degrees in Philosophy and Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He also received an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.

He joined the Legionaries of Christ in 1966 and was ordained a priest December 24, 1978. After ordination, he served in the following positions: Chaplain at the University of Monterrey in Mexico, Professor of Economics, and Administrator General with responsibility for the seminaries and schools of the Legionaries of Christ in Italy, Spain and Ireland.

Beginning in 1983 he exercised pastoral ministry at the parish of St. Bartholomew in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1984 he was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Washington. He subsequently served in the following positions: Assistant Pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle parish, Director of the Spanish Catholic Center, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, Secretary for Financial Affairs, and Pastor of Annunciation parish.

He was named Auxiliary Bishop in 2001 and consecrated February 11, 2002. He was also appointed Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia.

In addition to English, Bishop Farrell knows Spanish and Italian.

The Holy Father today also named Monsignor Glen John Provost as Bishop of Lake Charles, Louisiana (which has been a vacant see for some time). Bishop-elect Provost is a priest of the nearby Diocese of Lafayette and up to now has been Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima parish. He was born in 1949 in Lafayette and went to school there. He studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and obtained his Theology degree from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (a good day for the Angelicum). He also obtained a Masters of Science in English Literature from the University of South Louisiana.

Bishop-elect Provost was ordained a priest June 29, 1975 in St. Peter’s Basilica. He subsequently served as Assistant Pastor at St. Mary Magdalene parish in Abbeville and then Pastor of St. Leo IV parish in Roberts Cove, the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Lafayette, and then Our Lady of Fatima (since 1998). He has also served as Judge on the Diocesan Tribunal, member of the Diocesan School Board, President of the Presbyteral Council, Dean of the West Lafayette Deanery, member of the College of Consultors, member of the Diocesan Building Committee, Board Member for the Lafayette Catholic Service Center/Opelousas Housing Corporation, and Chaplain for the Lafayette Serra Club. He was made a monsignor in 1988.

In addition to English, Bishop-elect Provost knows French, Italian, and Spanish.

Monday, March 05, 2007

"Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Discovered?"

According to an editorial by the Archaeological Institute of America:

"A reasoned look at the evidence, instead of a media circus, yields an answer of NO!"

(Hat tip: Amy)

Merciful, not stupid

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose, wrote Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene 3).

Indeed, defenders of immorality sometimes put forward this simple statement by our Lord in today’s Gospel (Luke 6:36-38) for their own purposes:

Judge not: and you shall not be judged.

The full context of what our Lord says in this chapter, however, makes clear that we are being commanded to be merciful and self-aware, not stupid or blind to the reality of evil.

"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

"Stop judging and you will not be judged.

"Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.

"Forgive and you will be forgiven.

"Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together,
shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.

"For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.

And he told them a parable,
"Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?

"No disciple is superior to the teacher;
but when fully trained,
every disciple will be like his teacher.

"Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?

"How can you say to your brother,
'Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,'
when you do not even notice

the wooden beam in your own eye?

"You hypocrite!
Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother's eye.

"A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.

"For every tree is known by its own fruit."

We need to be exceedingly generous in mercy and in forgiveness, yet always keenly aware of the reality of evil – within ourselves and beyond ourselves – and diligent in overcoming evil – within ourselves and beyond ourselves – through the grace and truth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The shadow of the cloud

Some people are afraid of the dark. Some people are afraid of fog. They feel secure only when the world of their senses is clear.

Indeed, many people in the world today seek security and happiness through the world of their senses, such as St. Paul says in the long form of today’s second reading (Philippians 3:17-4:1):

Their God is their stomach;
their glory is in their “shame.”
Their minds are occupied with earthly things.

In contrast, both today’s first reading (Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18) and today’s Gospel (Luke 9:28b-36) feature personal and powerful encounters with God in a “deep, terrifying darkness” or frightening, overshadowing cloud.

But for the people who seek security and happiness through the things of this world, St. Paul has a very clear message: Their end is destruction.

The truth is that the world of our senses offers no real security and only diminishing flashes of quasi-happiness: no matter what we see or do not see, we are going to die, and in the end, earthly pleasure will always disappoint.

But our citizenship is in heaven, where we will be eternally secure and continuously fulfilled in the light and the love of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

And so we must not be afraid of the cloud of God’s mysterious will and presence and cast away our foolish reliance on the treachery of this world’s “sensibilities.”

Our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will change our lowly body
to conform with his glorified body
by the power that enables him also
to bring all things into subjection to himself.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,
in this way stand firm in the Lord, beloved.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Golden perfection

Many of us operate by the not-quite-golden rule: do unto others as others do unto you.

How we treat other people is often reflexive: an almost biological reaction to stimuli.

The true Golden Rule, of course, given by our Lord himself, is Do unto others as you would have others do unto you (Matthew 7:12).

The difference between these two perspectives is explained by our Lord in today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:43-48):

You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor
and hate your enemy.

But I say to you,
love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise
on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall
on the just and the unjust.

For if you love those who love you,
what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?

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

May we rise above our impulses
and may the perfection of God flow within us
and through us to everyone we meet.

A very, very rich girl

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

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

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

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

The Pope suggested that she become a missionary.

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Be reconciled... now!

For too many of us, Lent is just a time of abstaining from meat on Fridays, giving up candy, or perhaps even going to Mass everyday (a very good thing to do).

Today’s readings (Ezekiel 18:21-28 and Matthew 5:20-26) remind us that Lent is also an important opportunity for reconciliation - reconciliation with God and reconciliation with each other – before it is too late.

If the wicked,
turning from the wickedness he has committed,
does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away
from all the sins that he committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.


If you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly
while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released
until you have paid the last penny.

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

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Help me,
who am alone
and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.

Most of us will rarely face the kind of deadly physical peril that Queen Esther faced, but all of us should find resonance in her prayer from today’s first reading (Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25 – not extant in Hebrew).

Although we are members of the Body of Christ and united with the Communion of Saints, when we pray privately (as we must regularly do so) we too very much stand alone before God: naked in the presence of Infinity, on the edge of utter oblivion with our eyes fixed on the utterly Transcendent.

Help me,
who am alone
and have no help but you…

We may not have to contemplate walking into near-certain death, but everyday you and I must walk into deadly spiritual peril: facing the temptations of the flesh that suffocate our life in the Spirit and the temptations of convenience that cripple our walking in the Truth.

And so we must pray…

Help me,
who am alone
and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.

And in today’s Gospel (Matthew 7:7-12), our Lord answers,

and it will be given to you;
and you will find;
and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks,
and the one who seeks,
and to the one who knocks,
the door will be opened.

And so this Lent we pray, we ask, we seek, we knock, for we are alone before God and are taking our life in our hands.

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

What shall we pray for this month?

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

"That the Word of God may be ever more listened to, contemplated, loved and lived"

His missionary intention is:

"That the training of catechists, organizers and lay people, committed in the service of the Gospel, may be the constant concern of those responsible for the young Churches."