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, October 31, 2007

Saint Michael the Archangel

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


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

(adapted from a previous post)

Catholic Carnival

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

Walking weakly on a hard road

Our Lord has challenging words for us in today’s Gospel (Luke 13:22-30):

Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.

These words can be especially discouraging for us, especially at those times when we do not feel strong enough, spiritually or otherwise.

But our Lord is not calling us to despair, but to deeper faith.

Indeed, the strength to enter through the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven is beyond the strength of men.

What we need is God’s grace.

St. Paul’s words in today’s first reading (Romans 8:26-30) remind us of the greatness of God’s grace, even in spite of our weakness and all our struggles.

The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes

with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.

We know that all things work for good
for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.

May we strive to continue on the hard road and to enter through the narrow gate by opening ourselves more and more to the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

No matter what our weaknesses or how hard the road, with the strength of his grace, we will succeed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

This is NOTHING!

Context is everything, they say.

Many of us can recall enduring some hardship or difficulty that directly led to something that was so good that it made the bad experience worthwhile, or at least tolerable.

Still, there are some experiences and some calamities that seem so bad that there seem to be no “upside”.

In today’s first reading (Romans 8:18-25), St. Paul reminds us of the ultimate “upside”: eternity and infinity.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time
are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God....

It may be difficult for us to imagine (after all, infinity and eternity are beyond the full grasp of the human mind), but no matter what we are suffering, the glory that awaits us will be infinitely greater and this present suffering will be nothing in comparison.

But this is not just a “pie in the sky” thing. By the grace of God we are to be witnesses of this hope of future glory NOW.

For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God....

He returns again to Milwaukee... as a Bishop

His first assignment was as an Assistant Pastor there. Then he was assigned to a job for his Province and later to parish work in Peoria.

Over a decade later he was back at the same parish in Milwaukee, this time as Rector. He served there for another decade before he was sent to counsel young men studying for the priesthood in Rome.

And now, he's coming back to Milwaukee...

The Holy Father has named Father William Patrick Callahan, O.F.M Conv., to be Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee. He had been serving as a Spiritual Director at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Bishop-elect Callahan was born in June, 1950 in Chicago, where he would attend St. Mary of Perpetual Help elementary school. From 1964 to 1968 he studies at St. Mary Minor Seminary in Crystal Lake, Illinois and then entered the Novitiate for the Conventual Franciscans’ Province of St. Bonaventure in Lake Forest, Illinois. He made his first profession August 11, 1970. From 1970 to 1973 he took courses at Chicago’s Loyola University where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Communication. From 1973 to 1976 he studied at the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto where he obtained a Master of Theology degree.

Bishop-elect Callahan was ordained a priest on April 30, 1977. He then served in the following positions: Parochial Vicar at the Basilica of Saint Josaphat in Milwaukee from 1977 to 1978; Director of Vocations for the Province of St. Bonaventure from 1978 to 1984; Parochial Vicar of Holy Family parish in Peoria, Illinois from 1984 to 1987 and then Pastor of that same parish from 1987 to 1994. In 1994 he returned to Milwaukee’s Basilica of St. Josaphat, this time as Rector, serving until 2005 when he was named to be a Spiritual Director at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Ad multos annos.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Flesh, slavery, and fear

Isn’t ironic?

Those who relish a life of fleshy pleasures are actually locking themselves into a downward spiral into dusty death.

Those who consider themselves free of moral constraints are instead enslaved to their impulses, whims, and desires.

And those who say they do not fear God or anything else are desperately afraid of many things they try to ignore.

In the face of these ironies and all the many challenges of this world, the words of St. Paul in today’s first reading (Romans 8:12-17) truly are words to live by.

We are not debtors to the flesh,
to live according to the flesh.

For if you live according to the flesh,

you will die,
but if by the spirit

you put to death the deeds of the body,
you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God

are sons of God.

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery

to fall back into fear,
but you received a spirit of adoption,
through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The truth, the whole truth...

Today’s Gospel (Luke 18:9-14) is the familiar parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.

Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.

The Pharisee took up his position
and spoke this prayer to himself,
'O God, I thank you
that I am not like the rest of humanity --
greedy, dishonest, adulterous
-- or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week,
and I pay tithes on my whole income.’

But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'

I tell you, the latter went home justified,
not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

But in today’s second reading (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18) St. Paul seems to be quite eloquent in exalting himself.

I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day...

As for us, although we know that the repentant tax collector was justified and the boastful Pharisee was not, those of us who have been taking our faith seriously might find much in common with the Pharisee: he gives thanks to God, he avoids some common sins (although he still wallows in pride and other sins), he fasts twice a week, and he gives away 10 percent of his income for religious and charitable causes.

Indeed, in many ways, the Pharisee is better than many of us are!

So is it better for us to be sinners who feel bad about sinning or good people who feel good about being good?

Today’s first reading (Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18) gives us a good reminder:

The LORD is a God of justice,
who knows no favorites.
Though not unduly partial toward the weak,
yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.

God is all-just and all-knowing. We should therefore come before him with complete and total honesty: neither with false modesty nor with misplaced pride, but rather thankful for the good we have done, repentant for the evil we do and for the good we should have done, and most of all intensely aware of our absolutely dependence on the Lord’s grace.

But the Lord stood by me
and gave me strength,
so that through me

the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion's mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever.


Priesthood Sunday

"Priesthood Sunday, October 28, 2007, is a special day set aside to honor priesthood in the United States. It is a day to reflect upon and affirm the role of the priesthood in the life of the Church as a central one.

"In the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal, there has been concern that the image of all priests has been tainted by the actions of a few. Priesthood Sunday sends a message to all that the sins of a few do not reflect the innocent majority, and that the parish priest, as the instrument of Christ's ministry on earth, is loved and respected by those in the parish community.

"This nationwide event is coordinated by the USA Council of Serra International. It is sponsored by the USA Council of Serra International and the Serra International Foundation."

from the website www.priesthoodsunday.org.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

God and sinners

When disasters strike, there are often religious people who say the disaster is God’s punishment for the sins of those afflicted by the disaster.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speaks against this idea in the first part of today’s Gospel (Luke 13:1-9):

Those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them—
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!

God gives blessings to his faithful and the ways of sin end in death, but God does not always mete out punishments and blessings within this world in the simplistic ways that we human beings might think.

Indeed, as our Lord tells us in the second part of today’s Gospel, God is very patient with sinners, like a gardener with an unproductive fig tree.

We need to heed the warnings of death and destruction in the world around us. We may find ourselves before the Judgment Seat of God at any time, whether by disaster, accident, or illness.

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

Moreover, we must never despair, even if we have long accustomed ourselves to particular sins or walked long down sinful paths.

No matter what, at this moment God gives us the opportunity to turn to him and open ourselves more fully to his grace so that we may bear the fruit of repentance, forgiveness, and eternal life.

We need to let God cultivate us (as well as the ground around us – our lifestyle) so that we may bear the fruit of his grace in truth, love, and joy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I know what is right, but...

Most of the time, you and I know what is right and what is wrong, but sometimes it really doesn’t matter: we fail to do what is right and we end up doing things that are wrong.

We are not alone in this: even one of the greatest of Apostles had the same problem, as we hear in today’s first reading (Romans 7:18-25a):

For I do not do the good I want,
but I do the evil I do not want.

St. Paul goes on to talk about how, in his inner self, he delights in the law of God, but that in the rest of his body, it is a different story.

Yes, we know what that’s like.

Miserable one that I am!

But if we share in St. Paul’s frustration, we can also share in his hope and faith.

Who will deliver me from this mortal body?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Set the earth on fire

Our Lord’s first words in today’s Gospel (Luke 12:49-53) may be a little startling for some in the United States, with the national news being filled with the tragedy of the fires in California.

I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!

Our Lord, of course, is no pyromaniac: the fire of which he speaks is a fire within the heart of believers.

How I wish it were already blazing!

Today’s Gospel also ends on a startling note, especially for those who think of Christ primarily as the Prince of Peace.

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

No, I tell you, but rather division.

From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

On the other hand, this passage could also give fuel to the fire of atheists and others who denounce religion as a dangerous force in the world: fueling divisions among people that so often end in the shedding of blood.

That is nonsense, of course.

While it is true that religion has been involved in some of the blood and oppression in human history, most of the time it has only been used by ambitious men as pious propaganda to build or defend their own power and advance their own agendas.

It is also true that atheistic tyrants have systematically murdered more people, especially in the twentieth century, than tyrants who feigned piety.

The reality is that there is evil within the hearts of men that can use anything for its dark and selfish purposes.

True religion stands against evil, darkness, and selfishness. Therein lies the division of which our Lord speaks.

In a world of selfishness and evil, we as Christians must stand up for what is right and good, even if other people may disagree.

If we just sit back and mind our own business, we let the world slide further into darkness and destruction and we ignore the command of the Lord.

We must stand up, speak up, and take action with the truth and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Much will be required

As a rule, those of us who read and write blogs have access to computers and the Internet. This generally correlates with a degree of prosperity (no matter what our particular financial woes) much greater than enjoyed by billions of others in this world.

Furthermore, as Christians, we are extraordinarily blessed: entrusted with faith and graces that billions of others are not blessed with.

Our Lord’s final words in today’s Gospel (Luke 12:39-48) should therefore give us pause.

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

Tragically, many of us blessed with prosperity and Christian revelation let sin reign over our mortal bodies (as St. Paul says in today’s first reading – Romans 6:12-18) and follow the desires of the flesh.

We have been entrusted with much.

We need to fulfill God’s expectations of us.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Anthony Claret, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba and founder of the Claretians, died 137 years ago today.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at Play the Dad? No, be the Dad!

Be ready

In today’s Gospel (Luke 12:35-38), our Lord warns us to be vigilant.

Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants

who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately

when he comes and knocks.

Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.

Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table,
and proceed to wait on them.

And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.

On one level, of course, he is warning us to be ready for his coming: either at the end of time or at the hour of our death (whichever comes first).

(May the Lord Jesus have mercy on us all.)

There is another level to this advice that we should also keep in mind.

Our Lord tells us to be ready for work (“gird your loins”), to be watchful (“light your lamps”), and to be “ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.”

Our Lord does not come and knock only at the hour of our death or at the end of the world. He also comes and knocks many times in our lives: moments when he wants us to do something, even if it is something relatively small.

Are we ready to respond? Are we watching? Are we ready to open ourselves to him? Are we ready to do his will, to share his love, and to proclaim his truth?

Are we always ready to respond to the Lord? Day or night?

And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.


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

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

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

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

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

When he was 70, he was called to rally the people to repel a massive invasion. The invaders were turned back, but John died of natural causes near the field of battle 551 years ago today. St. John Capistrano was canonized in 1724.

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

(from an earlier post)

Monday, October 22, 2007

What we need

A famous singer once satirized people who ask God for material goods they do not really need (a Mercedes-Benz was the featured item). Within a few days of recording this song, she died of a drug overdose, reputedly upset that her current boyfriend did not show up for a date.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 12:13-21), somebody in the crowd asks our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Messiah and the Eternal Word of the Father, to take his side in a family squabble about an inheritance.

In our day-to-day lives, it is very easy for us to become focused on things that are truly unimportant. We may think they are important and they might be really nice things (e.g., a Mercedes, a date, a windfall) but in the big picture we know that they are not important.

As our Lord says in the parable later in today’s Gospel, we can be materially prosperous and prudent, but we could still die tomorrow and all of these material things will slip from our grasp forever.

As we begin this new week, may we try to keep focused on what is truly important, what we truly need: most especially, becoming better disciples of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by his grace.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Persistence is not always easy, especially today. Despite good intentions and even promises, people fail to be persistent in their diets, their exercise regimens, and even their life commitments.

(God have mercy on us all.)

Persistence is the common theme of all three of today’s readings, from the first reading's account of Moses keeping his hands raised in prayer during a long battle (Exodus 17:8-13) to our Lord’s parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8).

No matter what battles you and I may face or what issues we may have in our lives, the Lord can give us the graces of persistence and perseverance that we need.

Even if we have previously failed in our commitments or have not been persistent, God’s grace of repentance and his power of renewal are all-powerful.

The first thing, of course, is persistence in prayer, which makes all else possible.

The second thing is persistence in faithful action. It is this kind of persistence of which St. Paul speaks in today’s second reading (2 Timothy 3:14-4:2).

What St. Paul said to St. Timothy, he also says to us:

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

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

Saturday, October 20, 2007


In too many circles today, it is politically incorrect to acknowledge belief in Christ and too many of us consequently slink around in fear: not wanting to let people know that we believe in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord.

The words of today’s Gospel (Luke 12:8-12) thus may strike us hard.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you,
everyone who acknowledges me before others
the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.
But whoever denies me before others
will be denied before the angels of God."

Of course, we should be prudent, especially in giving witness to our faith in the most effective ways possible rather than just spieling pious boilerplate indiscriminately.

We need to pray continually for the grace of discernment, that we may know when and how to speak.

When they take you before synagogues
and before rulers and authorities,
do not worry about how or what your defense will be
or about what you are to say.

For the Holy Spirit will teach you

at that moment
what you should say.


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

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

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

But Paul's eyes were fixed elsewhere.

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

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

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

St. Paul of the Cross died 232 years ago this week and his memory is celebrated on this day.

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

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Secrets to be revealed

We all have secrets: you do and I do.

Sometimes these secrets are secrets of the heart and mind: places within ourselves where we may nurture and hold onto prejudices, fantasies, and heterodoxies.

Sometimes these secrets are secret words and deeds: bad things we may do and say, hoping no one will ever find out.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 12:1-7), our Lord reminds us that all of these secrets – and more – will be revealed.

There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness
will be heard in the light,
and what you have whispered behind closed doors
will be proclaimed on the housetops.

No matter what our secrets are, may we open ourselves more fully to the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so that any dark corners in our lives may be cleansed and may shine with his love and truth.

(Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, be merciful to me - a sinner)

There is a valley

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

Isaac loved looking out over that valley. Even more, he loved the people there, but it was a never-ending pain in his heart that so many of them did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Indeed, there were some men whose hatred of Christ was terrifying. These men kidnapped Isaac and tortured him, going so far as to bite and burn off some of his fingers. His comrade Rene was killed before his eyes.

Isaac was held captive for over a year and was about to be killed when he was rescued. He made his way home and was acclaimed as a living martyr for Christ.

But Isaac could not forget the people of the valley. Disregarding all warnings, he returned there less than three years later. He was stripped naked, beaten, slashed, and finally killed in October 1646.

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

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Archbishops for the Far East (of Canada)

The Holy Father has named the most Reverend Anthony Mancini, up to now Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal, as Archbishop of Halifax, Nova Scotia and Apostolic Administrator of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. He was born in Italy in 1945 and his family relocated to Canada in 1947. He entered the major seminary in Montreal in 1966 where he pursued a Doctorate in Pastoral Theology. He was ordained May 23, 1970 for the Archdiocese of Montreal and worked two years in a parish before going to Switzerland to study ecumenism. Returning to Montreal in 1973, he was made Assistant Director at the Diocesan Ecumenism center as well as Chaplain and Professor at Marianapolis College. He worked in parishes from 1977 to 1984 and then in various Archdiocesan positions. He was named and consecrated Auxiliary Bishop in 1999.

The Holy Father has named the Bishop of Grand Falls, Newfoundland, to be Archbishop of St. John’s, Newfoundland: the governance of both jurisdictions to be united “in the person of the bishop.” He was born near Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1943, was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Halifax in 1968, and served in several parishes before being named Vicar General in 1992. He was given the additional office of Chancellor from 1994 to 1998, rector of the Cathedral from 1995 to 1999, administrator of another parish from 1997 to 1999, and pastor of yet another parish from 1999 until 2000. On top of all that, he was named Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese in 1998. He was named Bishop of Grand Falls in December 2000 and consecrated the following month.

Luke alone is with me


Did you get that, Luke?

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

No, I mean, did you GET that?


And... you have nothing to say?




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


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

Why should I be bothered?

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

How so?

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

Why would that be?

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

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


Did you want me to write that down?

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

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

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

Not a problem. Shall we continue?

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

* * * * *

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


“They are so judgmental!” some people say (often referring to churchgoers).

Of course, by making such a statement, they could easily be accused of being judgmental themselves!

Whoever we are, we should seriously and carefully take to heart St. Paul’s words in today’s first reading (Romans 2:1-11): words directed not just to the ancient Roman Christians, but to me and to you.

You, O man, are without excuse,
every one of you who passes judgment.

For by the standard by which you judge another
you condemn yourself,
since you, the judge,
do the very same things.

We know
that the judgment of God on those who do such things
is true.

Do you suppose, then,
you who judge those who engage in such things
and yet do them yourself,
that you will escape the judgment of God?

Or do you hold
his priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience
in low esteem,
unaware that the kindness of God
would lead you to repentance?

By your stubbornness and impenitent heart,
you are storing up wrath for yourself
for the day of wrath and revelation
of the just judgment of God,
who will repay everyone according to his works,
eternal life to those
who seek glory, honor, and immortality
through perseverance in good works,
but wrath and fury to those
who selfishly disobey the truth
and obey wickedness.

St. Paul is not saying that we should stop trying to speak about what is right and what is wrong in the world, but he is telling us desperately to keep an eye on our own imperfections and to be urgent in our own repentance and continuing conversion.

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

New Cardinals

"Following today's general audience, the Holy Father announced the names of 23 prelates who will be created cardinals in a consistory due to be held on November 24, the eve of the Feast of Christ the King. The consistory will be the second of his pontificate.

"Following the November 24 consistory, the College of Cardinals will number 202 members of whom 121, under the age of 80, will be electors.

"Given below is a list of the new cardinal electors:

- Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

- Archbishop John Patrick Foley, pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. (ed - born in the U.S.A.)

- Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and of the Governorate of Vatican City State.

- Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum."

- Archbishop Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the papal basilica of St.Peter's in the Vatican, vicar general of His Holiness for Vatican City and president of the Fabric of St. Peter's.

- Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

- Archbishop Raffaele Farina S.D.B., archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church.

- Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco Vicente of Valencia, Spain.

- Archbishop Sean Baptist Brady of Armagh, Ireland.

- Archbishop Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain.

- Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, France.

- Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, Italy.

- Archbishop Theodore-Adrien Sarr of Dakar, Senegal.

- Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Bombay, India.

- Archbishop Francisco Robles Ortega of Monterrey, Mexico.

- Archbishop Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, U.S.A.

- Archbishop Odilio Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

- Archbishop John Njue of Nairobi, Kenya.

"Having pronounced the names of the new cardinal electors, the Pope then indicated that he had also decided to elevate to the dignity of cardinal 'three venerable prelates and two worthy priests,' all over the age of 80 and hence non-electors, for their 'commitment and service to the Church.' Their names are:

- His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq.

- Archbishop Giovanni Coppa, apostolic nuncio.

- Archbishop Estanislao Esteban Karlic, emeritus of Parana, Argentina.

- Fr. Urbano Navarrete S.J., former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University.

- Fr. Umberto Betti O.F.M., former rector of the Pontifical Lateran University.

The Holy Father "added: 'Among these, I had also intended to confer the dignity of cardinal upon the elderly Bishop Ignacy Jez of Koszalin-Kolobrzeg, Poland, a worthy prelate who died suddenly yesterday. We offer a prayer for the repose of his soul.'

"'The new cardinals come from various parts of the world,' said the Holy Father. 'And the universality of the Church, with the multiplicity of her
ministries, is clearly reflected in them. Alongside deserving prelates who work for the Holy See are pastors who dedicate their energies to direct contact with the faithful.'

"He went on: 'There are other persons, very dear to me who, for their dedication to the service of the Church, well deserve promotion to the dignity of cardinal. In the future I hope to have the opportunity to express, also in this way, my esteem and affection to them and to their countries of origin.'

Pope "Benedict entrusted the future cardinals 'to the protection of Mary Most Holy asking her to help each of them in their new tasks, that they may know
how to bear courageous witness in all circumstances to their love for Christ and for the Church.'"

Source: Vatican Information Service

He wanted to die

But he was not going to commit suicide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at 50 Days After.

Not ashamed of the Gospel

The first words of today’s first reading (Romans 1:16-25) may sound strange to some.

I am not ashamed of the Gospel.

Some Christians, especially those raised in a thoroughly Christian environment, may wonder why anyone could be made to feel ashamed of the Gospel – the truth and reality of salvation in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sadly, all too many of us understand something of what St. Paul is talking about. In his day, Christianity was widely ridiculed and so it is today.

Ridicule and denigration of the Gospel is generally more subtle than it was in St. Paul’s day, but it is increasing.

Glib and angry atheists throw stones at religious belief and believers. People of faith are lumped together with murderous terrorists and with perceived excesses of the “religious right”. “Spirituality” is associated by celebrities and elites with neo-paganism or watered-down Eastern religions instead of the Christian faith which they associate with bad things.

We know our faith and we know the power, peace, love, and joy of Christ. We also know that these attacks and denigrations are really much more about the attackers than the true faith being attacked.

In the face of all this, it is more than appropriate for us to stand firmly with St. Paul and say with him:

I am not ashamed of the Gospel.
It is the power of God
for the salvation of everyone who believes.

While we should always be prudent, we dare not let ourselves as Christians be intimidated by the mocking, denigrating, or oppressive voices of today’s world.

We need to immerse ourselves even more fully in the Gospel, pray even more earnestly for God’s grace, stand up proudly in the public square and the marketplace of ideas, and say with conviction and charity:

I am not ashamed of the Gospel.
It is the power of God
for the salvation of everyone who believes.

Vision of Jesus

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

"From this divine heart three streams flow endlessly.

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

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

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

from Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque's vision of Jesus

(from an earlier post)

A loving God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Busy wife and mother

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

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

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

Her memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Greater than Solomon

In today’s Gospel (Luke 11:29-32), our Lord takes his unbelieving listeners to task.

At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise

with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise

with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.

That “something greater” is Christ himself: the Eternal Word, true God and true Man, the only Son of the Father.

These words of reproach extend to our present generation as well and not only because Christ has come and has been preached to the world.

Indeed, in the millennia since Christ walked among us in the flesh, Christ has raised up among his followers many, many people who, as imitators of Christ, have become individuals greater than Solomon and Jonah. These individuals are the saints and the blessed, both the famous and the virtually unknown.

To be sure, none of these saints were perfect in all respects (who is?) and there have been too many people at even the highest levels of Christendom whose tragic flaws resulted in terrible things.

Human beings, Christian or otherwise, are finite and flawed creatures.

None of this, however, takes away from the greatness and the goodness that has been revealed among the greatest followers of Christ: from the perseverance and the wisdom of Saint Teresa of Avila whose memory we celebrate today to the perseverance and the selflessness of her namesake Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, from the intellectual heft and spiritual insights of Saint Thomas Aquinas to the fervent charity and sacrificial service of the young Saint Aloysius Gonzaga.

The examples of the Saints and all the Blessed speak to all the world, calling all men to turn from evil and to follow Christ.

The examples of the Saints and all the Blessed speak also to us, calling us not only to further repentance and conversion but also to open ourselves even more to the grace of God: a grace that enables his faithful followers to be greater than Solomon, to be greater than Jonah, and to be instruments of that grace in healing a broken world and bringing all people into the fullness of beatitude in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila

Cornaro Chapel, Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria - Rome (Click picture for more info)

Bernini’s masterpiece depicts one of St. Teresa’s spiritual experiences, in which she feels the love of God pierce her heart like an arrow.

(from a previous post)

She didn’t feel God’s presence

She was the most famous nun in the world, but there were times when she did not feel the presence of God: “during which the soul feels as if it has never known God and never will know Him, and as if to hear His Majesty spoken of is like hearing of a person from a great distance away.”

But she persevered and brought new spiritual life to her order and to the Church.

She would also have one of the most famous experiences of ecstatic union with God.

St. Teresa of Jesus, born in Avila, founder of the Discalced Carmelites and Doctor of the Church, died in October of 1582 and was canonized forty years later.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Learning the right thing from the “wrong” people

Today’s Gospel and first reading (Luke 17:11-19 and 2 Kings 5:14-17) both involve non-Jews who are cured of leprosy and who are exemplary in giving thanks to God.

In the Gospel, the Samaritan is the only one of the ten cured lepers to return to Christ and give thanks.

In the first reading, the commander of a foreign army responds to his healing by resolving to worship only Israel’s God, taking actual earth from the Holy Land as a symbolic connection.

In both cases, foreigners with strange religious backgrounds exemplify particular aspects of the right worship of the true God: reminding God’s chosen people of things that they should already be remembering and doing themselves.

These readings remind us of the universalism of God’s action in the world, without taking anything away from the unique role of the Jewish people, the uniquely inspired truth of Judeo-Christian revelation, the unique instrumentality of Christ’s Church, or Christ himself as being the sole source of salvation and the one mediator between God and men.

These readings also remind us of how we ourselves sometimes need to be reminded of the truths we embraced in our baptism, even if those reminders come from unusual people and sources.

This is not to open the doors to relativism: there is only one truth, one Lord and Savior, and one God.

Also, we must be very, very careful not to learn the wrong lessons from other religions, but we should not be afraid to let the faithful of other religions – in whatever good things they may do or say - remind us of the truth we already believe and should already be living in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Be like Mary

Saturdays in Ordinary Time, when not impeded by a Feast or Solemnity, are traditionally devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Today's Gospel (Luke 11:27-28) is simply the passage that follows yesterday's Gospel, but coincidentally it refers to Mary.

While Jesus was speaking,
a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,
“Blessed is the womb that carried you
and the breasts at which you nursed.”
He replied, “Rather, blessed are those
who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Our Lord knew well, of course, that his mother was preeminent in hearing the word of God and observing it, as she exemplified in her response to the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:38):

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

May we be like Mary.

May we hear the word of God continuously and observe it faithfully and lovingly.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Whoever is not with me is against me

A famous politician once said that “Every nation has to either be with us, or against us.”

Another politician shortly thereafter said pretty much the same thing. To this day, he is derided in many circles for being so simplistic (if not paranoid) in making such a statement. As for the first politician, she seems to be increasingly popular, even in some of the same circles that continue to lampoon and denounce the latter one.

With this as a background, one might wonder if some people would take our Lord’s statement in today’s Gospel (Luke 11:15-28) as simplistic and paranoid:

Whoever is not with me is against me.

Of course, in Mark 9:40, our Lord says, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

If he were a politician, some might accuse our Lord of being a “flip-flopper”.

Of course, context is everything.

In today’s Gospel, our Lord is speaking of struggles against powerful forces of evil: struggles that can be permanently won only by the power of one stronger than the strong man of evil.

Our Lord, of course, is that stronger One (indeed, infinitely strong) and our fate is grim if we are not aligned with him.

If it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
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 man is worse than the first.

In a universe of many terrors and evils - seen and unseen, subtle and powerful – we need to stay close to the Lord.

Of course, the dualism of good and evil (or rather, good and the privation of due good) often seems very mixed in our concrete world: sadistic killers are kind to their children and neighbors while peaceable suburbanites commute to their humdrum cubicles and serve as cogs in mechanisms of slaughter.

This is not relativism – objective good and objective evil are real, and every individual will be judged by God whose wisdom will pierce every convoluted veil of rationalization – but it is a reminder of how difficult it can be for mere humans to make these judgments. That is why such “for us or against us” statements – sometimes useful in times of crisis (the politicians’ statements were made in September 2001) – can be so problematic.

Our Lord, of course, knows the heart of every man; he knows the power of evil and he knows his own power which is at work in the world.

That is why he can say in the context of this Gospel (in speaking of his own power against the “strong man”) “Whoever is not with me is against me and whoever does not gather with me scatters” but in the context of Mark 9 (in speaking of a man drawing upon Christ’s power even though he is not one of his official disciples) “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

May we always draw our strength from Christ and help others to understand the power of Christ in their lives (even though they may not recognize him), so that by his grace we may all grow closer to our one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

In the shadow of the weeds

It is not easy to be good in an evil world: to be selfless in a cultural landscape overrun with towering selfishness.

Today’s first reading (Malachi 3:13-20b) begins with the very blunt words of those who have succumbed to the world’s temptations and given up on what is right and good.

It is vain to serve God,
and what do we profit by keeping his command,
And going about in penitential dress
in awe of the LORD of hosts?
Rather must we call the proud blessed;
for indeed evildoers prosper,
and even tempt God with impunity.

Indeed, as ancient as these words are, they speak quite accurately of our world today in which evildoers prosper and tempt God with impunity in almost every media outlet.

But this is not the last word. Indeed, the reading ends with a sylvan metaphor for the Last Judgment.

For lo, the day is coming,
blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers
will be stubble,
And the day that is coming
will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the LORD of hosts.
But for you who fear my name,
there will arise the sun of justice
with its healing rays.

You and I are like small saplings struggling in the shadows of tree-like weeds.

In God’s own time and in God’s own way, there will be a purification and these powerful but loathsome weeds will be ashes, but we – nurtured with the life-giving water of God’s spirit – will survive and flourish in the freedom of God’s light.

May we not envy the weeds.

No matter what shadows may come upon us, may we seek only to drink ever deeper of God’s spirit, truth, and love by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Soto to Sacramento

The Holy Father has named Bishop Jaime Soto, 51, as the new Coadjutor Bishop of Sacramento, California. Up to now, Bishop Soto has been Auxiliary Bishop of Orange, California. He was born in Inglewood, California, and attended seminary in Camarillo. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Orange on June 12, 1982. He served as parochial vicar in Santa Ana for two years before going to the Columbia University School of Social Work where he obtained his Master degree in Social Work in 1986. He then began working as director of Immigration and Citizenship Services for Catholic Charities. In 1989 he was named Episcopal Vicar for the Hispanic Community and in 1999 Episcopal Vicar for Catholic Charities. He was named and consecrated Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Orange in 2000. In the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Soto is Chairman of the Committee for the Church in Latin America, member of the Committee for the Laity, president for the sub-committee on Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

He wants to die

He is angry about events around him.

He is angry about his physical discomfort.

He wants to die.

So goes the not-so-well-known epilogue of the famous story of the prophet Jonah as we hear in today’s first reading (Jonah 4:1-11).

Of course, God gets the last word, beginning with the repeated question “Have you reason to be angry?”

God then sets Jonah straight, reminding him how small his problems are in comparison to greater issues in the world.

That is not to say that Jonah as an individual is worthless weighed against the welfare of multitudes. Indeed, what is unspoken here, but was recounted in the previous chapter, is that this single individual, unmotivated and bumbling, had a key part to play in the salvation of many thousands of people.

May we always look at our lives as God sees them:
how small our individual troubles really are
and how great an effect we can have in our puny lives
by the power of his grace.

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online at Book Reviews and More.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Turnaround in Iraq

In yesterday’s first reading, the prophet Jonah was ordered to go to Iraq (as that part of the world is now called) and tried to desert, only to be captured by the long arm of the Lord.

In today’s first reading (Jonah 3:1-10), the prophet finally obeys orders and meets with spectacular success.

Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small,
put on sackcloth.

Of course, not every act of obedience or every utterance of prophecy will generate such positive results so quickly. Sometimes the good of what we do will be seen only in eternity.

Today’s reading, however, reminds us of what God’s power can do. In this case, a man walking by himself in an enormously large city only has to say one sentence, simple yet enigmatic, and God’s grace of repentance overwhelms every part of the great city.

We ourselves do not know what effect our simple words and acts of obedience may have, but today’s readings reminds us of what can do even with the simplest efforts of his faithful ones.

May we be faithful. May we be never disdainful of doing and saying what seems simple.

May God’s grace flow within us and turn around the hearts of all.

Fearing no menance

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

John was a pharmacy technician

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Tips for travelers

Both of today’s readings involve travelers who encounter unexpected circumstances and must make critical decisions.

In the first reading (Jonah 1:1-2:1-2,11) we have one set of travelers who are trying to discern a way through a dangerous journey as well as a traveler who has deliberately taken the wrong road and ends up in a watery nightmare.

In the Gospel (Luke 10:25-37) we have different travelers confronted with the same life-and-death situation but make different ethical decisions.

Both of these readings demonstrate the absolute necessity of continually exercising discernment as we go through each day and as we go through our lives.

We certainly need to seek God’s guidance when we are floundering in one of the storms that can occur in our lives, but we also need to seek God’s guidance even in the most mundane of times.

Consider that the priest and the Levite in today’s Gospel were almost certainly in the middle of their commute (probably on their way to work) when they were unexpectedly confronted with the situation and that if they had stopped, they would not have been able to go to work at all and there would have been serious consequences.

Likewise, we need to be continually open to the Lord throughout our day, so that we may not ignore the wounded soul in our path for whom God wants us to be instruments of his love and mercy.

Of course, when we are being overwhelmed by storms in our lives or even when we are in the darkest and most horrible place imaginable (even to the point of feeling like we have been buried alive in the belly of a great fish), we must pray even more fervently and continuously, as did Jonah.

When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the LORD;
My prayer reached you in your holy temple.

Those who worship vain idols
forsake their source of mercy.

But I, with resounding praise,

will sacrifice to you;
What I have vowed I will pay:
deliverance is from the LORD.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Instant gratification

There is an increasing tendency in today’s world to seek (if not demand) instant gratification: I want what I want NOW.

Life, of course, does not always provide instant gratification and so people seek gratification artificially through drugs, alcohol, or selfish pleasure.

Such gratification may feel good in the short term but is always empty and very often destructive.

Today’s readings give us a very different perspective.

Indeed, in the Gospel (Luke 17:5-10), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives us what seems the exact opposite of instant gratification or of an entitlement mentality.

When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, 'We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.'

And in the first reading (Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4), God reminds us that even through not everything happens in the way or at the time we want it, his salvation is certain, no matter how much we may need to wait.

For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.
The rash one has no integrity;
but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

And in the second reading (Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14), St. Paul encourages us to “bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”

May God give us the grace to turn away from the slippery and deadly path of instant gratification and to remain faithful on the Lord’s path, which may sometimes seem too long, too hard, or too unrewarding, but is certain to bring us to everlasting and infinite happiness.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Demons and non-gods

Today’s first reading (Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29) condemns Israel for sacrifices to “demons, to no-gods.”

You provoked your Maker
with sacrifices to demons, to no-gods;
You forsook the Eternal God who nourished you...

This raises the politically incorrect idea that those who worship anything other than the God of Judaism and Christianity are actually worshipping demons.

The truth is that God is ever at work in the world and in the hearts of men: reaching out so that human beings may come to know, love and serve him. God’s action in the heart of man from the moment of creation underlies mankind’s natural religious instinct and all human religiosity arises from that instinct (even the forms and direction of that religiosity are not in accord with objective reality). Likewise, God reveals himself in the rest of his Creation, although not everyone may understand clearly this reality and its meaning. Humans are fallible and despite the gifts of God in creation and in the human heart, they too often go astray. Moreover, there are other forces at work besides human and divine action: some good, some evil.

Thus we respect sincere practitioners of other religions as human beings created by the true God with the instinct to seek their true Creator, even though they are fundamentally astray in varying respects. Thus we also affirm what is good and true in what people of other faiths say, even as we stand firmly for the fullness of the truth and the ultimate good and we fight against evil and falsehood in any kind of ideology or behavior.

Meanwhile, we should be mindful of how we ourselves may be worshipping things that are evil and false in our own lives, Christians though we may be: worshipping non-gods of materialism, addiction, and hedonism.

Come, let us worship the true and eternal God.

When God Calls...

"God calls in very different ways. A reliable sign of a vocation is if one feels in his heart God's invitation to surrender himself to God alone. An invitation is not a command! Just as in marriage the decision involves both concerned, so a response to a religious vocation must be made in a spirit of freedom and generosity."

"The Carthusian Order was founded 'to the praise of the glory of God' that He might 'unite us to Himself in intimate love' and so we bear abundant fruit. This is the goal of every Christian life; what makes our Order special is that we have no other goal but this. The entire life in Charterhouse is geared to this one aim, that members might 'the more ardently seek, the more quickly find, the more perfectly possess God himself' and so attain the 'perfection of love' (Rule 1,4). Therefore, we renounce all that does not help us attain that one thing necessary.

Separation from the world

"'Since our Order is totally dedicated to contemplation, it is our duty to maintain strictly our separation from the world; hence, we are freed from all pastoral ministry - no matter how urgent the need for active apostolate is - so that we may fulfill our special role in the Mystical Body of Christ' (Rule 3,9).


"We have no special prayer method, technique or recipe; the only way is Jesus Christ.

"In the contemplative life it is not so much what we do but what God does in us.

"Our task is only to purify our longing of all that is not God, to practice 'to allow God to enter through all doors and passages of the heart' (Rule 4,2) and to permit Him to love us as He wills.


"The holy liberty is characteristic of our vocation. The Orders rule prescribes only few prayer or devotional exercise other than the sacred liturgy, so that each - under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with the help of the superior or spiritual director - may freely choose which means suits him to best attain the goal. On the other hand, whatever might hinder him or prove unprofitable, needs to be let go off, however good and holy it might be in itself.


"The greatest hindrance in the search for God is without doubt one's own will, the individual 'I'. This we attempt to sacrifice with the help of obedience, which must - if it is to be complete - even extend to one's personal judgment. Such a thorough emptying of oneself enables us to open ourselves to the operation of the Holy Spirit with childlike simplicity and abandon; at the same time, this relieves us from all kinds of unrest, distress and worry about self.


"Our life takes place in the darkness and light of Faith. In solitude, we enter the depths of our Faith, which we have received from the Church. With time, the darkness of Faith changes into the light of Faith. We do not see what we believe, although the content of Faith becomes to us so present that we can live from it. When we renounce all that is not in conformity with Faith, we come to know the depth and splendor of that, which lives in our hearts.


"'Only those who have experienced the solitude and silence of the wilderness can tell what benefit and divine joy they bring to those who love them. Here strong men can be recollected as often as they wish, abide within themselves, carefully cultivate the seeds of virtue, and be nourished happily by the fruits of paradise. Here one can acquire that eye which, with its clear vision, wounds the Spouse with love, whose pureness can see God. Here they can dedicate themselves to leisure that is occupied and activity that is tranquil. Here, for their labor in the contest, God gives his athletes the long-desired reward: a peace that the world does not know and joy in the Holy Spirit' (St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusian Order)."

Text from the website of
the Pleterje Charterhouse Carthusian monastery in Slovenia

(from an earlier post on Toward Contemplation)

The girl who was rejected

Eulalie was the youngest of ten children and by no means the most robust. At one point, she tried to become a nun, but she was turned away because her health was too frail. She ended up working as a housekeeper to her brother who was a priest.

Meanwhile, the bishop of the diocese was having a problem. His diocese was, very, very, very large and he could not get enough nuns for the education of the children.

Before long, the providence of God came through. The bishop asked Eulalie to found her own religious order.

The girl who had been rejected was now the foundress.

Within six years, the Sisters of the Holy Names had 30 members teaching nearly four hundred children.

Her congregation now well on its way, Eulalie Durocher, known now as Mother Marie Rose, was called home to the Lord on her 38th birthday on this very day in 1849. She was declared one of the Blessed by the great Pope John Paul II in 1982.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Quiet hero

The world has always been a dangerous place for the devout and sometimes even the Church is no refuge.

The new bishop was a particularly dangerous mix of scandal and ineptitude.

But the chancellor, a friend of the old bishop, proved to be a quiet hero.

Eventually, the new bishop resorted to violence and the chancellor was forced to appeal to Rome. The evil bishop resigned.

The chancellor could have returned home as the new bishop, if he had so desired, but he felt God calling him instead to a different kind of heroism: a life of quiet prayer, absolute simplicity, and shared solitude.

St. Bruno and six companions went up into a high mountain valley and built what would become the first Carthusian Monastery.

He would found other monasteries and would also come quietly to the aid of the Pope himself, besieged both by schismatics and soldiers.

St. Bruno, quiet hero and founder of the Carthusian order, died on this very day in the year 1101. The Carthusians continue to pray and thrive in quiet places throughout the world. (The Carthusian Monastery in the United States has a newly expanded website.)

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Taking responsibility

Many politicians and celebrities today say that they “take full responsibility” for major errors and even crimes they have committed.

Their words, however, are often rather empty: they make few changes in their lives and they try to evade any real consequences for their malefactions.

The people in today’s first reading (Baruch 1:15-22) are heartbreakingly clear about their own responsibility.

By the grace of God, may we be able to take real responsibility for our sins, have true contrition and purpose of amendment, and open ourselves fully to the forgiving love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Justice is with the Lord, our God;
and we today are flushed with shame,
we... have sinned in the Lord’s sight
and disobeyed him.

We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God,
nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us.
From the time the Lord led our ancestors

out of the land of Egypt
until the present day,
we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God,
and only too ready to disregard his voice.

And the evils and the curse
that the Lord enjoined upon Moses, his servant,
at the time he led our ancestors

forth from the land of Egypt
to give us the land flowing with milk and honey,
cling to us even today.

For we did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God,
in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us,
but each one of us went off
after the devices of his own wicked heart,
served other gods,
and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.

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 just another day of Catholic pondering.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Energy crisis

Life sometimes can beat you down.

Sometimes life seems just one long series of troubles.

Sometimes we feel out of energy.

Today’s readings give us answers to our personal energy crises.

We begin with the Gospel (Luke 10:1-12), in which our Lord instructs seventy-two disciples before sending them out on their mission.

One key element of our Lord’s instruction is to travel light: “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals…”

Many of us in this life do not travel light: possessions and emotional neediness weigh us down.

The lighter we travel through life, remaining faithful to our godly obligations, the more energy we will have.

And in the center of today’s first reading (Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10) we have this wonderful exhortation:

Rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!

Whenever we may feel beaten down, may we always seek the presence of the Lord in prayer, for in that presence there is undefeatable joy, and from that joy and God’s grace we will draw the strength to persevere – no matter what.

Tearful return from Iraq

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)

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sydney Auxiliary

The Holy Father has named Father Terence John Gerard Brady, 60, to be Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Australia. Bishop-elect Brady is a native of Sydney, was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese August 20, 1983, and has held a number of parochial and archdiocesan positions. He is currently Pastor of Mosman and Neutral Bay in Sydney.

Failed leadership?

His effort to export his ideology to the Middle East did not meet with the success for which he had hoped.

At home, serious questions were raised about his leadership.

He was isolated and besieged, but he maintained his focus.

In the midst of all his problems, he composed the following brief statement:

"Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

"Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

"Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

"Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

"Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

"Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

"Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

"Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon
for love of You
and bear sickness and trial.

"Blessed are those who endure in peace,
By You Most High, they will be crowned.

"Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.

"Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.

Francis of Assisi would die a little more than a year later on this very day 781 years ago, in his mid-forties. He would be canonized within two years and is one of the most universally loved saints.

(adapted from a previous post)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The elevator speech

An “elevator speech” is a verbal presentation designed to explain and persuade within a very short period of time (e.g., the length of an elevator ride).

The expression evokes the scenario of a corporate underling who finds himself in an elevator with the CEO and has less than a minute to sell her on a business plan.

In today’s first reading (Nehemiah 2:1-8) we have one of the most ancient examples of this kind of interaction, as Nehemiah the functionary finds himself in conversation with the ruler of the empire.

Nehemiah is wildly successful in this forerunner of all “elevator speeches” and this provides good opportunities for our reflection.

Preparing an “elevator speech” is a very good technique not only for business communications or selling, but also for giving witness to our faith.

However, elevator speeches can easily backfire, if not well-prepared or properly presented. We all know fellow Christians and other religious proselytizers who have canned “elevator speeches” to spur conversions but end up being counterproductive.

We would do well to consider the example of Nehemiah’s “elevator speech.”

First of all, Nehemiah prays continuously and fervently, before his encounter with the king and even while he is speaking.

Secondly, Nehemiah is extremely personal, referring to his own experience and feelings.

Perhaps we should think about an elevator speech that we could have ready for the next unexpected occasion for us to share our faith, remembering to pray fervently – beforehand, during, and afterward – so that the grace of God may empower our simple words to move the hearts of men.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

We have heard that God is with you

The last verse of today’s first reading (Zechariah 8:20-23) ends in an intriguing and challenging way:

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
In those days

ten men of every nationality,
speaking different tongues,

shall take hold,
yes, take hold of every Jew by the edge of his garment

and say,
“Let us go with you,

for we have heard that God is with you.”

Here is the challenge: do people say the same of us?

Do we do or say anything that would lead people to believe that God is with us?

Do we do or say anything that would lead people to believe that we can help them draw closer to God?

Perhaps we should do more.

Memorial of the Guardian Angels

"And so, that nothing in heaven should be wanting in your concern for us, You send those blessed spirits to serve us, assigning them as our guardians and our teachers.

"'He has given his angels charge over you
to guard you in all your ways.'

"These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and instill confidence: respect for the presence of angels, devotion because of their loving service, and confidence because of their protection.

"And so the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf. They are here to protect you and to serve you. But even if it is God who has given them this charge, we must nonetheless be grateful to them for the great love with which they obey and come to help us in our great need.

"So let us be devoted and grateful to such great protectors; let us return their love and honor them as much as we can and should.

"Yet all our love and honor must go to Him, for it is from Him that they receive all that makes them worthy of our love and respect.

"We should then, my brothers, show our affection for the angels, for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the Father. We are God’s children although it does not seem so, because we are still but small children under guardians and trustees, and for the present little better than slaves.

"Even though we are children and have a long, a very long and dangerous way to go, with such protectors what have we to fear? They who keep us in all our ways cannot be overpowered or led astray, much less lead us astray. They are loyal, prudent, powerful. Why then are we afraid? We have only to follow them, stay close to them, and we shall dwell under the protection of God’s heaven."
From a sermon by St. Bernard
(Office of the Readings)
(from an earlier post)

Monday, October 01, 2007


The world today is a mess.

Although there have been advances in some things, especially technology, even these advances often come with new troubles and much of what once was good in this world is gone or under attack.

And there is nothing that anyone can do about it.

So it seems now, to many, and so it seemed also in the time of the prophet Zechariah, as we hear in today’s first reading (Zechariah 8:1-8).

There had been an improvement: the People of God, or at least a remnant of them, had been able to return to the Promised Land, but the situation was still bleak and there was no hope of improvement.

An impossible situation, but the power of the Lord is infinite and full and perfect restoration will come.

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Old men and old women,
each with staff in hand because of old age,
shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem.

The city shall be filled
with boys and girls playing in its streets.

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Even if this should seem impossible
in the eyes of the remnant of this people,
shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also,
says the LORD of hosts?

Likewise, when our own situation may seem impossible and even if we seem to be faced with inescapable doom, the power of the Lord is infinite and restoration of goodness shall come: full, perfect, and according to the time and wisdom of our merciful Lord.

What shall we pray for this month?

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

"That Christians who are in minority situations may have strength and courage to live their faith and persevere in bearing witness to it."

His Mission intention is:

"That World Mission Day (October 21) may kindle a greater missionary awareness in every baptized person."

A nun for only 9 years

But she entered the convent when she was 15.

Then, she died before her 25th birthday.

But in the meantime, she had written (at the behest of her spiritual director) a spiritual autobiography that quickly became a classic.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the very young nun who would later be declared a Doctor of the Church, died at the age of 24 one hundred and nine years ago last night. Her memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)