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...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Catholic Carnivals

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

The Catholic Carnival was held last week at Ho Kait Paulos and the previous week at Frank, in a Sense, & Mirth.

My apologies for not linking to them promptly.


God has given us the gift of free will, involving a certain ability to shape our own destiny.

And yet we know that we, our lives, and our destiny are very often affected by events and the world around us.

Today’s reading (Jeremiah 18:1-6) reminds us of the far greater effect that God can have in our lives.

Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter,
so are you in my hand...

May we keep our focus on God, open ourselves to his grace, and let ourselves be molded by the Lord.


Iñigo had been religious as a small boy, but he was soon sucked into the sordid lifestyle that surrounded him.

In his twenties, he turned his life around: joining the army and embracing its discipline and stoicism.

Then Iñigo was severely wounded in battle and captured. The medical treatment he received was primitive to the point of brutality and he was confined to bed for months.

Bored and seeking distraction from his pain, Iñigo asked his caregivers for adventure books to read, but all they had to loan him were books about religious people. He decided to work with what he had and read the books as if they were adventure stories.

In those months of reading and thinking, Iñigo came to understand how a life of faith could be the greatest adventure, the greatest heroism, and the greatest glory. It proved to be an intense conversion experience, in which he learned much about himself, about God, and about the spiritual life.

It was the greatest turnaround of his life.

When he was finally able to get up and around, Iñigo spent some time alone, and then made a difficult pilgrimage to the Holy Land before devoting himself to study and to helping others reform their lives. His efforts were often met with opposition that sometimes turned violent. Eventually he left the country.

As Iñigo continued his studies, a small group of followers gathered around him. He began to see them as a company of soldiers: a company belonging to Jesus. They soon became known as the Jesuits.

Iñigo, also known as Ignatius of Loyola, came to be one of the great figures in the renewal of the Church. He also developed a book of Spiritual Exercises that remains not only a guide for life-changing spiritual retreats, but also for spiritual discernment and growth. He died in his mid sixties in Rome 452 years ago today.

(from a previous post)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Why is my pain continuous,
my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?

So says the prophet Jeremiah in today’s first reading (Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21).

So too may we say at different times in our lives, because of physical or other personal afflictions.

What God says is that if we draw closer to him, we have undefeatable hope.

Thus the LORD answered me:
If you repent, so that I restore you,
in my presence you shall stand;
If you bring forth the precious without the vile,
you shall be my mouthpiece.
Then it shall be they who turn to you,
and you shall not turn to them;
And I will make you toward this people
a solid wall of brass.
Though they fight against you,
they shall not prevail,
For I am with you,
to deliver and rescue you, says the LORD.

A way with words

Words came easily to Peter: words that made people feel good, words that changed people’s lives.

It was no surprise that he found himself in the ministry and that he was eventually named bishop of what was becoming one of the most important city in the country.

People came from all over the world to hear him and spoke of his “golden speech.” Compilations of his homilies would be published widely.

St. Peter Chrysologus shepherded the people of Ravenna for more than 25 years before his death in the year 450. His memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cry for the country

It is important to keep focused on the good that exists and on the good that must be done.

But every once in a while we should pause for a moment – only a moment - and look realistically at what things are not good.

Perversion and promiscuity seem to grow in popular acceptance every day, with little heed paid to the obvious practical, moral, and long term problems that accompany these things.

The Church, founded on rock by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, seems almost always buffeted by divisions, quasi-apostasy, scandal, regulatory oppression, and popular disaffection.

Nations seem governed by politicians and bureaucrats with agendas hidden in nearly all aspects but one: insatiable ambition and lust for power.

Thus we may find great resonance in the words of today’s first reading (Jeremiah 14:17-22) as a great prophet mourns his country:

Let my eyes stream with tears
day and night, without rest,
Over the great destruction
which overwhelms
the virgin daughter of my people,
over her incurable wound.

If I walk out into the field,
look! those slain by the sword;
If I enter the city,
look! those consumed by hunger.

Even the prophet and the priest
forage in a land they know not.

Have you cast Judah off completely?
Is Zion loathsome to you?
Why have you struck us a blow
that cannot be healed?

We wait for peace, to no avail;
for a time of healing, but terror comes instead.

We recognize, O LORD, our wickedness,
the guilt of our fathers;
that we have sinned against you.

For your name’s sake spurn us not...

Pray for our country.

Pray for our world.

Pray for ourselves.

And then take up the crosses God has given us to bear, as individuals and as a Church, and in the midst of a troubled world go forward in the hope and the power and the love and the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


The sisters were very different and yet they were also much alike.

One way in which they were different was in that one was practical, while the other was not.

One way in which they were very much alike was attentiveness.

Martha was attentive to Christ in the practical details of hospitality.

Mary was attentive to Christ in the words he spoke.

May you and I be always attentive to Christ both in the practical details of our lives and also in our prayerful reflection on his word.
'Christ in the House of Martha and Mary' by Johannes Vermeer - National Gallery of Scotland, EdinburghOn this day the Church celebrates the memory of St. Martha.

(from a previous post)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Earthy revelation

In ancient times, hereditary priests, learned scribes, and Gnostic cults tried to make knowledge of God something above the reach of ordinary human beings.

Many theologians over the centuries have seemed to try to do the same: making knowledge of God seem esoteric and light years beyond the level of ordinary life

In today’s readings, God reveals himself through the most simple and earthy things of human experience: in the Gospel (Matthew 13:31-35), a common food ingredient and a small seed, and in the first reading (Jeremiah 13:1-11), a rotting loincloth.

In and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may you and I seek the wisdom of God in all the things of our life: great and small.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ask God for wisdom

We pray for many different things.

In today's first reading (1 Kings 3:5, 7-12), Solomon asks simply for wisdom.

This should be our prayer too, every morning and every day.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

He was a very rich man

who would come before the Lord with double the required offerings.

Joachim said, that which is the offering to the Lord for my forgiveness shall be a mercy offering for me, and that which is over and above shall be for the whole people.

As the great feast of the Lord drew near and the men of Israel were bringing their offerings, a particular man confronted Joachim and said, It is not right for you to bring your offerings first, because you have produced no children for Israel.

Joachim learned that all the righteous men of Israel had children.

He was heartbroken. He refused to go near his wife, but went out into the desert and fasted there for forty days and forty nights.

His wife Anna mourned doubly and lamented doubly, saying: I shall grieve my childlessness and now I shall grieve my widowhood.

She then saw a laurel tree, and sat under it, and prayed to the Lord, saying:
O God of our fathers,
bless me and hear my prayer,
as you blessed the womb of Sarah
and gave her a son, Isaac.

Gazing upward, she saw a sparrow's nest in the tree and wept to herself:

Alas! Who fathered me? And what womb bore me? I have been reproached and have become a curse in Israel, and in derision they have driven me out of the temple of the Lord.

Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the birds of the sky, because even they are fruitful before you, O Lord.

Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the beasts of the earth, because even the beasts of the earth are fruitful before you, O Lord.

Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like these waters, because even these waters are fruitful before you, O Lord.

Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like this earth, because even the earth brings forth its fruits in season, and blesses you, O Lord.

Suddenly Anna saw an angel of the Lord standing there and saying:

Anna, Anna,
the Lord has heard your prayer.
You shall conceive and give birth
and your offspring shall be spoken of
throughout the world.

Anna said: As the Lord my God lives, whether I have either a boy or a girl, I will bring that child as a gift to the Lord my God; and that child shall minister to Him all the days of its life.

Then she saw two angels who said: Look! Joachim, your husband, is approaching.

For an angel of the Lord had gone to Joachim in the desert, saying:
Joachim, Joachim,
the Lord God has heard your prayer.
Go down from here,

for your wife Anna shall conceive.

Anna was standing by the gate and saw Joachim approaching with his flocks. She ran to him and hung upon his neck, saying:
Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly;
Look! The widow is no longer a widow,

and I the childless shall conceive.

And Joachim rested the first day in his house.

And in the ninth month Anna gave birth. She asked the midwife whether it was a boy or a girl. A girl, said the midwife.

My soul has been magnified this day, said Anna.

And when the time came, Anna nursed the child and named her Mary.

(Adapted in a previous post from the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James.)

On this day the Church celebrates Saint Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus. 'The Virgin and Child with St Anne' by Leonardo da Vinci - National Gallery, London

(My apologies for the infrequent posting this week)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

There was something about Mary

something very wrong.

The very best medical care available seemed unable to help her and she went from place to place with no relief.

Finally, she found someone who was able to cure her. She was so grateful that she went to work for him, learning everything she could from him.

Then, in a terrible turn of events, the man who had cured her was arrested on trumped-up charges, found guilty, and executed.

Mary watched him die, one of the few who stayed by him to the end.

Two days later, still overcome with grief, she went to visit his grave, but the body was gone.

Mary ran in panic to her coworkers, but they just came, looked, and left.

Grief now totally overwhelmed Mary and she sobbed uncontrollably.

Through her tears, she saw people around her and she heard them ask why she was crying. One of them seemed to be a landscaper. She hardly knew what to say to them.

Then the "landscaper" called her by her name, "Mary."

Now she saw clearly.

It was him.

It was Jesus.

It was the Lord. He was risen as he had said.

Mary Magdalene was thus the first to see the risen Lord and would be the one to bring the news to the Apostles.

Much later, many strange stories would be told about Mary, but what always remains clear is that she was faithful to the Lord even in the most horrible of circumstances and that she was the first to tell the news of Christ’s resurrection.

The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Preacher

Lawrence was a famous preacher, with a deep knowledge of Scripture in its original languages, who performed miracles and was often (as popularly described today) "slain in the Spirit."

He was so well respected that he was invited to speak at churches and great events even before he was ordained a priest. He converted many.

Not just a "talker," he was a capable administrator and would serve in the highest offices of his Capuchin order. He was also skilled in diplomacy and geopolitics.

Perhaps the most cinematic moment of his career was when he personally led an army against a host of invaders, riding in his Capuchin habit on horseback and armed with only a crucifix.

He was also a deep contemplative, falling regularly into ecstasy during the celebration of Mass.

When he was old and sick, he was begged to leave his monastery in his native Italy for an important diplomatic mission. He performed the mission, but was too sick to return. St. Lawrence of Brindisi died in Lisbon July 22, 1619 and his memory is celebated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Plant God’s seeds

The long form of today’s Gospel (Matthew 13:24-43) provides us with different parables involving seeds: the parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (traditionally, the What and the Tares) and the parable of the Mustard Seed.

This week, may we remember to sow God’s seeds: the seeds of his word, the seeds of faith and right teaching, the seeds of true charity.

If we do, our smallest efforts, by the power of God’s grace, can do amazing things, for his glory and the salvation of souls.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

They cheated homeowners

In this time of economic challenges, it sometimes seems as if some of the ones who contributed to some of the financial troubles of these days – especially some of the richer and greedier ones who helped create the foreclosure crisis from which many suffer – are walking away with a tidy profit and their wicked heads held up high.

The word of the Lord speaks of them in today’s first reading (Micah 2:1-5):

Woe to those who plan iniquity,
and work out evil on their couches;
In the morning light they accomplish it
when it lies within their power.
They covet fields, and seize them;
houses, and they take them;
They cheat an owner of his house,
a man of his inheritance.
Therefore thus says the LORD:
Behold, I am planning against this race an evil
from which you shall not withdraw your necks;
Nor shall you walk with head high,
for it will be a time of evil.

May you and I always work for true justice and live with perfect charity in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Friday, July 18, 2008

After the service, life went downhill and then...

He had picked up the gambling habit when he was in the service. After his unit disbanded and he exited the service, gambling caused him to lose everything he had.

He tried different things, but nothing worked. When war broke out again, he went back into the military and served until the war was over.

After the war, he was out on the street again. He was hanging out with some other homeless men when a rich man came by and offered him a job, working on construction for a new monastery the man was building for the local Capuchins.

The ex-soldier accepted the offer and, after one last struggle with his temptations, took the job.

He worked diligently and came close to becoming a Capuchin himself. A chronic physical ailment, however, came back in force and so instead of a Capuchin friary, he found himself in a big city hospital.

While he was at the hospital, he did what he could to help out, no matter how menial the task. In time, this six-foot-six former soldier would become a nurse.

Eventually, he would become a priest and founder of a religious order devoted to the sick: the Order of St. Camillus, which continues to this day.

Camillus de Lellis died at the age of 64 on July 14, 1614 and was canonized in 1746. His memory is celebrated in the United States on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Come to me...

"...all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you
and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy,
and my burden light.

(Matthew 11:28-30 - today's Gospel)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Arrogance and power

Today’s first reading (Isaiah 10:5-7, 13b-16) tells of an ancient superpower that has unknowingly served as an instrument of God, but was arrogant and genocidally excessive.

This superpower would shortly be seen on the ash heap of history.

Superpowers, of course, are not alone in arrogance and excess. Individual human beings can be that way too.

The ash heap of history awaits us all.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 11:25-27), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speaks joyfully of another way, another path, not of arrogance and flashes of power, but of humility and the power of eternity.

I give praise to you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.

Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.

All things have been handed over to me by my Father.

No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

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

Mount Carmel

In the Holy Land, high above the waters of the Mediterranean rises Mount Carmel, a special place of spirituality and contemplation since the time of the prophet Elijah.

This tradition flowered powerfully in the 12th century A.D. A small band of hermits developed into a thriving group of monasteries.

The Carmelites eventually established monasteries throughout Europe and eventually around the world. Living out the Gospel in both active and contemplative ways, the Carmelites hold as their exemplars both the prophet Elijah and the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus – remembering her under the title of "Our Lady of Mount Carmel", celebrated on this very day: the Feast day for all Carmelites.

(adapted from a previous post)

New Auxiliaries for Sault Sainte Marie

The Holy Father has named two new Auxiliary Bishops for the Diocese of Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario:

Father Brian Joseph Dunn, a priest of the Diocese of Grand Falls, Newfoundland, up to now Professor of Canon Law at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario.

Father Noel Simard, a priest of the Archdiocese of Quebec, up to now Professor of Theology at St. Paul University in Ottawa.

Bishop-elect Dunn was born in Saint John’s, Newfoundland, in 1955. He entered St. Peter’s Seminary where he earned a a Bachelor of Arts in 1976 and a Master of Divinity in 1979 from the University of Western Ontario. He was ordained a priest August 28 1980 for the Diocese Grand Falls. In 1991 he completed a Doctorate in Canon Law at St. Paul University in Ottawa and in 2006 a Masters degree in Liturgy at Notre Dame University in Indiana. He has held the following positions: Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral in Grand Falls (1980-1985), Vice Chancellor (1980-1996), Pastor of St. Gabriel Parish in St. Brendan’s (1985-1988), Rector of the Grand Falls Cathedral (1991-1996), Member of the College of Consultors (1991-2002), Pastor of St. Joseph’s parish in Harbour Breton (1996-1999), Pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Holyrood and Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Harbour Main (1999-2002). He has also been Judge at the Tribunal since 1990, Vice Chancellor since 1996, and Adjunct Judicial Vicar since 2002. Also since 2002 he has taught Canon Law at St. Peter’s Seminary, where he has also been Dean of Students since 2005.

Bishop-elect Simard was born in Charlevoix, Québec, in 1947. He studied first at the Minor Seminar then the Major Seminary in Quebec, earning a Bachelor’s degree, and then a Masters in Theology at Laval University. He would later earn a Doctorate degree in Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1984. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Quebec. After ordination, he served in the following positions: Parochial Vicar of St-Félix parish in Cap-Rouge (1972-1975), Director of the Primary Schools department for the Diocesan Education Office (1976-1980),Diocesan Representative of the Catholic Bible Society (1975-1979); Advisor to the Association of Catholic School Commissions in Quebec (1979-1980); Secretary-organizer of the Laurentides Pastoral Region (1984-1986), Pastor of the parish of Saint-Zéphyrin (1986-1988), Teacher of Moral Theology at Laval University in Quebec and at the University of Toronto (1984-1988); teacher of Moral Theology at the University of Sudbury (1988-2000); Member of the Administrative Council for the Catholic Organization for Life and Families (2001-2007). Since 2000, he has taught Moral Theology and Bioethics at St. Paul University where he has also been the Director of the Center for Ethics. Since 2004 he has been a correspondent member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

We knew better

We have been blessed by the revelation of God in his only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We have been blessed by our Lord’s presence, in word and most especially in Sacrament.

The people of Capernaum and the other places in today’s Gospel (Matthew 11:20-24) were blessed by the Lord’s physical presence in their midst and blessed to hear, for hours and hours and hours, the words of Christ from his own sacred lips.

But where much is given, much is required, and so our Lord calls these places to account:

Woe to you, Chorazin!
Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented
in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you,
it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon
on the day of judgment
than for you.

And as for you, Capernaum:
Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the nether world.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you,
it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom
on the day of judgment
than for you.

The ancient cities of legendary evils, while culpable, did not know as much of God and the ways of goodness as those who have heard our Lord.

We have heard. We have known. And yet we have sinned, even though we knew better.

May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ give us the grace to repent more fully and to follow his word more perfectly in everything we say and everything we do.

Controversial religious order

John joined that relatively new and controversial religious order while he was a young man. The order sent him to Paris for his studies and eventually he obtained a teaching position there.

Several years later, serious accusations were lodged against his religious order and he was forced to stop teaching.

Shortly after that, at the age of 36, he was elected head of the order.

John defended the order against its detractors, dealt with serious divisions within the order, and made important changes within it.

After about ten years, the Pope vindicated John’s order and formally condemned its greatest critic.

The Pope would eventually force John to become a Bishop and then a Cardinal.

John became widely known for his theological wisdom and personal holiness (there were many stories of miracles). He went on to have a great influence on the Universal Church: advising Popes and acting as the guiding force of an Ecumenical Council.

Suddenly, while the Council was still in session, John died, still in his early 50's. He may have been poisoned by his enemies, but they could not conquer him: his order - the Franciscans - would continue and his theological writings would be venerated as among the best of all time.

But John's name would not be remembered, for he had stopped being known by his baptismal name.

There were many different stories about where he got the new name. One story says that when John was a little boy, his parents had brought him to the great St. Francis, not long before his death, and that St. Francis himself was the origin of John’s new name: Bonaventure.

Bonaventure was recognized as a saint with little delay. In due course, he was listed as a "Doctor of the Church."

His memory is celebrated on this day - the anniversary of his death in 1274.

(Adapted from an earlier post)

Monday, July 14, 2008

God's tough words and God's hope

Today’s readings have many tough things to say. In the first reading (Isaiah 1:10-17), God gives an unhappy answer to certain people who are praying hard (albeit with blood on their hands and hearts).

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

In the Gospel (Matthew 10:34-11:1), our Lord warns of family strife and personal sacrifice.

Do not think that I have come
to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s enemies will be those of his household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me
is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me

is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me

is not worthy of me.

But these readings also bring hope.

In the first reading, God invites people to wash themselves clean of their sinfulness and to embrace justice and charity.

Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil;

learn to do good.
Make justice your aim:

redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea,

defend the widow.

In the Gospel, our Lord not only invites us to take up our own crosses, but he also assures us that even small acts of goodness are meaningful.

And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because he is a disciple–
amen, I say to you,
he will surely not lose his reward.

At the beginning of this week, by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may put aside the evil we do and may we take up our crosses and follow Christ in the big things and the little things of our lives.

Teenage girl with a ravaged face

Pockmarks scarred her face and her eyesight was bad. Her family tried to hook her up with one young man after another, but to no avail.

It was not simply a matter of her "unattractive" face and poor vision: she herself had something else in mind for her life. Her heart was set on a very special man to whom she had been introduced when she was a little girl: Jesus Christ.

When she turned 18, she was baptized and dedicated herself to a life of holiness. She met with great opposition and eventually had to be taken away from her hometown for her own safety.

She came to live in a Christian house and many came to be impressed by her spiritual beauty.

She would die at the age of 24 and would be instantly revered by all who knew of her.

Three hundred years later, on June 22, 1980, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be proposed for sainthood, was beatified by the great Pope John Paul II. Her memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

New Bishop for New Ulm

The Holy Father has named as the new Bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, Father John LeVoir, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Pastor of St. Michael and Mary parishes in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Bishop-elect LeVoir was born in 1946 in Minneapolis. He compled his studies at La Salle High School, the University of St. Thomas and Dallas University. He earned a diploma in accounting and worked for a while as an Accountant. He entered the Archdiocese’s St. Paul Seminary and earned a Masters degree in Theology.Ordained a priest May 30, 1981 for the Archdiocese, he served in the following positions: Assistant Pastor at St. Charles Borromeo parish (1981-1992); Pastor of Most Holy Trinity parish (1992-2004); Pastor of St. Augustine (2000-2004). He is a member of the International Federation of Priests. He is the co-author of "Covenant of Love: John Paul II on Sexuality, Marriage, and Family in the Modern World" and "Faith for Today". He is also co-author of the catechism series "Image of God", adopted nationally for Catholic religious instruction in primary and secondary schools. He is currently Pastor of the two parishes St. Michael and St. Mary in Stillwater and a regional school.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hope in the wasteland

Today’s Gospel (Matthew 13:1-23) presents us with the familiar Parable of the Sower.

Taken with today’s other readings, this Gospel gives us a great reminder of the power of God’s word in our lives – no matter what.

Consider how the imagery of the Parable may reflect our own lives at different times: the hard, dry, beaten-down and vulnerable path; the rocky places in our lives – painful, treacherous, and with no room to grow; the twisted, confused, and deadly thorns that ensnare and suffocate us.

Yet even in these terrible places, the word of God comes to us – a word that will make a difference, that will have an effect, as today’s first reading (Isaiah 55:10-11) reminds us so beautifully:

For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

One of the reasons God’s word is effective is that it has its own way of finding the “good soil” in which it can take root and flourish where you and I might see only a wasteland of hard ground, rocks, and thorns.

Nonetheless, it is critically important for us to do what we can, by the grace of God, to open up even more “good soil” in our hearts and in our lives: to create more opportunities for reflection and meditation to let God’s word take root deeply within us and, while remaining faithful to our godly responsibilities, to free our minds and hearts from worldly anxiety and the lure of riches.

This can be difficult and it is easy to lose hope, especially in times of hardship, but, as Saint Paul reminds us in today’s second reading (Romans 8:18-23), the power of God’s word will conquer all – no matter how hopeless or futile things may sometimes feel.

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;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord
but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom
of the children of God.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Experiences and mission

Every once in a while (more often perhaps for some, less often for most of us), God blesses us with powerful experiences of his presence and grace.

In today’s first reading (Isaiah 6:1-8), the prophet Isaiah relates one of his own experiences of God, one of the most dramatic of all time – memorialized in the Sanctus.

In the year King Uzziah died,
I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne,
with the train of his garment filling the temple.

Seraphim were stationed above;
each of them had six wings:
with two they veiled their faces,
with two they veiled their feet,
and with two they hovered aloft.

They cried one to the other,
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!
All the earth is filled with his glory!”

At the sound of that cry,
the frame of the door shook
and the house was filled with smoke.

This experience of God makes him keenly aware of his own sinfulness and this in turn opens him to an experience of God forgiveness.

Then I said,
“Woe is me, I am doomed!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
living among a people of unclean lips;
yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me,
holding an ember
that he had taken with tongs from the altar.

He touched my mouth with it and said,
“See, now that this has touched your lips,
your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”

This experience of God – of his presence, of his grace, and of his forgiveness – primes Isaiah to respond instantly to God’s call and to accept the mission with which God presented him.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

May we pray always for deeper experiences of God’s presence, grace, and forgiveness.

May the experiences and graces we have received from God make us eager to listen for his call and to embrace the missions he sets before us.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

Friday, July 11, 2008

Acting like animals

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 10:16-23), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ warns us to be “be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.”

What does our Lord mean by this? For one thing, the world is a complex and dangerous place and we must be careful, clever, and shrewd in dealing with it, but we must be careful that the cleverness with which we deal with the world not infect our own hearts and consciences: that we retain clarity of faith, purity of heart and simplicity of spirit – "shrewd as serpents and simple as doves", prudent but not rationalizing.

May the Lord Jesus guide us always through the traps and perils of this world by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Party house on campus

This was not the higher education that the young man from a small town had expected.

Nobody really cared about studies. All they cared about was partying (and there were more than a few togas).

So the young man left school and went to spend a little quiet time in the country.

He ended up spending a long time there and he became very close to God.

His holiness became so well known that when the abbot of a nearby monastery died, the monks begged him to become their new abbot.

It was not a happy house: some of the monks sometimes acted like animals and they ended up trying to kill him. The young man was saved only by a miracle.

He knew there had to be a better way to run a monastery, so he gathered some likeminded men around him and wrote a rule for monastic living.

It turned out to be a tremendous success.

Many, many more monasteries would be established, following that same rule.

These monasteries would not only become spiritual havens for the monks, but when the civilization of the outside world came crashing down, these monasteries preserved the light of knowledge and education as well as the Gospel of Christ.

The memory of St. Benedict, founder of Western Monasticism and Father of Europe, is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Handling rejection

No one likes to be rejected.

No one likes to be “dissed”.

It makes people angry and even vengeful.

Today’s readings give us different ways to handle rejection.

In the Gospel (Matthew 10:7-15), our Lord’s advice to his disciples is simple: shake the dust from your feet and move on. Let God take care of it with his infinite and all-powerful justice.

The justice of God is referred to in the 11th chapter of Hosea (from which today’s first reading is taken, although those verses are skipped in this selection 11:1-4, 8e-9), but God’s response to Israel’s rejection is also infinite love and mercy.

My heart is overwhelmed,
my pity is stirred.
I will not give vent to my blazing anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again;
For I am God and not man,
the Holy One present among you;
I will not let the flames consume you.

When it comes to rejection, God is just, but he is also merciful and loving as he opens his arms to the repentant.

As for ourselves, we are human, not God. When it comes to rejection, we need to be prudent and careful, but most importantly we need to put those who reject us into the hands of God by our prayers, trusting in his infinite power to judge, to bring justice, to show mercy, and to bring to repentance.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Catholic Carnival

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

What we did with success

Today’s first reading (Hosea 10:1-3, 7-8, 12) is a poetic prophecy about what Israel did with success: apostasy.

Israel is a luxuriant vine
whose fruit matches its growth.
The more abundant his fruit,
the more altars he built;
The more productive his land,
the more sacred pillars he set up.
Their heart is false,
now they pay for their guilt;
God shall break down their altars
and destroy their sacred pillars.
(And) thorns and thistles shall overgrow their altars.

What have we done with success in our own lives?

Have we simply built more altars to this world’s false gods of materialism and selfish pleasures?

Sow for yourselves justice,
reap the fruit of piety;
break up for yourselves a new field,
for it is time to seek the LORD,
till he come and rain down justice upon you.


The Holy Father has named as Bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Most Reverend David L. Ricken, up to now Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Bishop Ricken was born in Dodge City, Kansas, in 1952. He attended Sacred Heart Cathedral Grade School in Dodge City and Saint Francis Seminary High School in Victoria. After studying Philosophy at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Missouri, he complete his theological studies at the American College in Louvain, Belgium. He was ordained a priest September 12, 1980 for the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado. He served as Assistant Pastor at Sacred Heart Cathedral from 1980 to 1985 and Vice Chancellor of the Diocese and Administrator of Holy Rosary Parish in Pueblo from 1985 to 1987. He studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome from 1987 to 1989 where he earned a License in Canon Law. Returning to Pueblo, he served in the following positions: Diocesan Vocations Director (1989-1996), Epsicipal Vicar for Ministerial Formation (1989-1992), Director of the Office for Deacons (1990-1996), and Chancellor (1992-1996). He also served as Defender of the Bond and Promoter of Justice for the Diocesan Tribunal and was a member of the Presbyteral Council and College of Consultors. He then served at the Congregation for the Clergy from 1996 to 1999.

He was named Coadjutor Bishop of Cheyenne December 14, 1999, consecrated January 6, 2000, and succeeded as Ordinary September 26,2001. At the Bishops’ Conference he served as President of the Committee on the American College of Louvain (Region XIII) and member of the Committee of Catechesis and Committee on Protection of Children and Young People.

In addition to English, he knows Spanish, Italian, and German.


The Holy Father also today accepted the retirement of Cardinal José Saraiva Martins as Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints and has named as the new prefect Archbishop Angelo Amato up to now Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (where he served under the Holy Father prior to his election as Pontiff).

The Holy Father also named as Archbishop Amato’s replacement Father Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., conferring upon him the dignity of Archbishop. Archbishop-elect Ferrer was born in Manacor, in the diocese of Mallorca, in 1944; was ordained a priest in 1973; studied in Spain, Germany, and Rome; taught several years in Madrid and then at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he served as Vice Rector from 1986 to 1994. He has been working at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1995 (when the Holy Father was then Prefect).

Priest dies in Chinese prison

Augustine Zhao Rong a former soldier later ordained Catholic priest, died of mistreatment in a prison, caught up in a crackdown by Chinese authorities... one hundred and ninety-three years ago.

Eight years ago, he became one of 120 victims of that crackdown to be canonized by the great Pope John Paul II (to the indignation of the current Chinese authorities).

The memorial of the Chinese Martyrs is celebrated today.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Self-inflicted catastrophes and God’s antidote

The world today is very much like that depicted in today’s first reading (Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13): facing all manner of catastrophes because of its perversion of authority and de facto worship of self-made “gods” – e.g., power, pleasure, convenience, money.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 9:32-38) our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ presents us with an antidote to the world’s self-destructive selfishness: vocations to selfless service of God and man.

Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is abundant

but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Monday, July 07, 2008

Ridiculing Christ

Several days ago, a famous comedian, who had rejected and ridiculed God, learned the truth.

One can only hope that, by the grace of God, he repented and opened himself to God’s forgiveness in the moments before his death.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 9:18-26) a crowd of people ridicule Christ to his face.

Then they learned the truth: the one they had ridiculed was the Holy One, with power over life and death.

You and I may not be the sort to ridicule Christ, certainly not to his face (even though we might have once or twice smiled or even laughed with those who do).

But how often do we silently ridicule Christ by our cowardly acquiescence to this world’s insults against him, against the goodness of his plan in creation, and against his truth?

May we hear Christ words spoken to us:

Your faith has saved you.

Baltimore-born Bishops to other places

The Holy Father has accepted the retirement of the Most Reverend Michael A. Saltarelli as Bishop of Wilmington, Delaware, and has named as the new Bishop the Most Reverend William Francis Malooly, up to now Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore.

Bishop Malooly was born in 1944 in Baltimore, Maryland, and there attended Saint Ursula Parochial School, Saint Charles Minor Seminary, and Saint Mary's Seminary (where he completed his philosophical and theological studies. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Baltimore on May 7 1970 by his maternal uncle the Most Reverend T. Austin Murphy, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore.
He served as Assistant Pastor at Saint Joseph’s Parish in the town of Texas, Maryland, from 1970 to 1976 and then at Saint Anthony of Padua Parish in Baltimore from 1976 to 1981. In 1978 the priests of the Archdiocese elected him to the Priest Personnel Board, for which he was chosen as Vice President. He served as Associate Administrator and then Administrator of the Archdiocesan Youth Retreat Center from 1981 to 1984. In 1984 he was named Director of the Office for Clergy. In 1989 he was chosen as Chancellor and Vicar General of the Archdiocese. He also directed of the Archdiocese’s preparations for the Holy Father’s pastoral visit to Baltimore in 1995. He was named Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore December 12, 2000 and consecrated the following March.


The Holy Father has named as Bishop of Saint Thomas, Virginia Islands, Monsignor Herbert A. Bevard, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, up to now Pastor of Saint Athanasius Parish in Philadelphia.

Bishop-elect Bevard was born in Baltimore in 1946. He attended Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia where he earned a Masterr of Divinity. He was ordained a priest May 20, 1972. He served as Parochial Vicar of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish and Chaplain at Penn State University from 1972 to 1973 and then Parochial Vicar of Saint Robert Parish and Chaplain at Widener University from 1978 to 1983. He then served as Parochial Vicar of Saint Richard Parish in Bensalem from 1983 to 1989 and at the Metropolitan Tribunal from 1985 to 1989. His last stint as Parochial Vicar was at Saint Anastasia in Newtown Square from 1989 to 1994. He has been Pastor of Saint Athanasius Parish in Philadelphia since 1994. He is a member of the Interparochial Cooperation Commission, the Pastors’ Review Board, the College of Consultors and the Presbyteral Council.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Some decades ago, a popular music composer opened a song with these words:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

The naiveté is tragic: “people living for today”, without hope for heaven or fear of hell, include the decadent, the irresponsible, suicidal spree killers, and the list goes on and on.

The composer himself would be shot dead on a sidewalk by a “fan.”

May God have mercy on all our souls.

Saint Paul gives us a very different roadmap in today’s second reading (Romans 8:9, 11-13):

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.

Imagine all the people
living for ever
because they live today in Christ
because they do today what is truly good

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Catholic Carnival

This past week's Catholic Carnival - a collection of posts from various Catholic blogs - was at Building the Ark.

Instant gratification is too slow

Today’s first reading (Amos 9:11-15) contains this intriguing prophecy of a messianic future:

Yes, days are coming,
says the LORD,
When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
and the vintager, him who sows the seed.

Shallow and stupid people in today’s world look for instant gratification.

“Wiser” people in today’s world know that the quest for instant gratification is a destructive trap.

People of faith know that all the gratifications of this world are destructive traps and that even the allurements that bait these traps are ultimately unsatisfying and tepid in comparison to the glory God prepares for his faithful ones by his grace.

The metaphor of Amos’ prophecy reminds us that the infinite satisfaction, joy, and contentment of God’s grace is faster and greater than anything the world can offer.

In heaven, glory upon glory will be given to us, faster than we can imagine.

The worldly phenomenon of instant gratification will seem laughably slow and horrifically inadequate.

In and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, God extends to us now the gift of his grace, so that we may be faithful to him in all of the ups and downs of our life in this world and that when he himself calls us home we may enjoy the infinite and eternal happiness he prepares for us.

The cure

Young Doctor Zaccaria was bright – he became a doctor at the age of 22 – but he quickly saw that even his state-of-the-art medical training was useless in the face of what was afflicting his patients and the community where they lived.

He realized that the only real cure, the only real answer to the people’s deepest affliction, was Jesus Christ crucified and risen.

He entered the seminary and became a priest. He did more than just preach to the people who came to church. He walked through the streets of the nearest large city, crucifix in hand, and preached Christ to the people.

He spent himself thoroughly and quickly in the service of Christ and died at the age of 37 on this very day in 1539. St. Anthony Zaccaria was canonized in 1897.

(from an earlier post)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Taking care of business

In today’s first reading (Amos 8:4-6, 9-12), people are condemned essentially for putting commerce and profit ahead of faith and justice.

In our own day-to-day lives, where do our priorities and loyalties lie?

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

Her husband slept around

Elizabeth knew this, but she was able to take care of herself and she had strong reasons to hope for his conversion and reform. So she stayed, maintaining a life of prayer, of service to the needy, and of loving care for their two children.

Sometime after her son was grown, he grew suddenly and violently resentful of his father’s attentiveness to his children from other relationships. A war erupted between them, but Elizabeth put herself in harm’s way and was able to reconcile them.

Shortly thereafter, her husband died, after repenting of his sinful ways. Her children were now grown, so Elizabeth felt able to retire to a life of fulltime prayer and service.

But there would not yet be peace for this peacemaker. Some years later, there came word that her granddaughter was being mistreated and neglected by her husband. Elizabeth’s son, the young lady’s father, again boiled over with rage and came against his son-in-law with great violence.

Now elderly and sick, Elizabeth again put herself in harm’s way and facilitated a peaceful resolution to the situation. In doing so, however, she broke her health entirely and died 672 years ago on this very day.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal, wife and mother of kings, was canonized in 1625.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Believing Farther

We know little of the Apostle Thomas: a few lines in the Gospels and ancient traditions. Much has been made of the incident that led to his being known as "Doubting Thomas". His uncertainties also seem apparent at the Last Supper:

Thomas said to him,
"Lord, we do not know where you are going.
How can we know the way?"

Jesus said to him,
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:5-6

But although he had moments when he wasn't entirely clear about what was happening, Thomas believed – in fact, one could say he believed farther than any of the Twelve.

Peter’s great confession of faith was to say to Jesus,
"You are the Christ! The Son of the living God!"

Thomas’ confession of faith was to say to Jesus,
"My Lord and my God!"

The Apostles preached around the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Far off in India, Christians have persisted for millennia in the faith they hold to have received from Saint Thomas the Apostle, in spite of heresies and invasions, and they venerate his tomb today.

Thomas may have had moments when he wasn't clear, but he found his way, or rather, the Way found him: he believed and he proclaimed Christ to the ends of the earth.

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle.

We ourselves claim to believe as Thomas did. We too say to Christ, "My Lord and my God!"

Why do we not go farther than we do in proclaiming Christ?

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

No justice, no prayer

We cannot pray our way to heaven.

We need God’s grace: the grace of faith – a faith that manifests itself not just in fidelity to the truth, but in charity and justice.

This is the message of today’s first reading (Amos 5:14-15, 21-24):

I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the LORD,
I take no pleasure in your solemnities;
Your cereal offerings I will not accept,
nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings.
Away with your noisy songs!
I will not listen to the melodies of your harps.

But if you would offer me burnt offerings,
then let justice surge like water,
and goodness like an unfailing stream.

We may put great effort into our prayer and great skill in our worship, but without grace, without faith, and without justice, we fall short.

Seek good and not evil,
that you may live;
Then truly will the LORD, the God of hosts,
be with you as you claim!

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

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Punishing the favorites

In today’s first reading (Amos 3:1-8; 4:11-12), God says this to the People of God:

You alone have I favored,
more than all the families of the earth;
Therefore I will punish you
for all your crimes.

It may sounds strange to punish the favored, but it is true on a number of levels.

On one level, it is an instance of “where much is given, much is required.”

On another level, intensity of intimacy means intensity of feeling. The closer we are to God, the greater the joys when we are faithful, but also the greater the hurt when we offend.

May we always ask the Lord Jesus Christ for his grace, so that all hurts and offenses may be healed and that we may draw ever closer to him in faithfulness and love.

He entered the University at 15

Two years later, he became a Franciscan. He would go on to be ordained and to teach philosophy and theology.

But God wanted him to do more.

In his mid-thirties, he volunteered for the Missions. He had barely arrived when he was bit by the wrong mosquito. His leg swelled, giving him a life-long limp. Still, he carried out his duties diligently.

He did so well that when the opportunity came for a renewed missionary effort at the edge of "civilization," he was chosen to lead it: even though he was already in his mid-fifties, lame and suffering from asthma.

He established twenty-one missions in that strange land, converting and educating thousands of people there. He had to work within a cultural and governmental system that was sometimes corrupt and prejudiced, but he himself was faithful, devout, and did great good. More and more people gathered around these missions and some of them became great cities that kept their religious names, such as San Francisco.

Father Junipero Serra died of tuberculosis in 1784 and is buried in Carmel, California. He was beatified by the great Pope John Paul II in 1988 and his memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

What shall we pray for this month?

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for July is:

"That there may be an increase in the number of those who, as volunteers, offer their services to the Christian community with generous and prompt availability".

His mission intention is:

"That the World Youth Day held in Sydney, Australia, may awaken the fire of divine love in young people and make them sowers of hope for a new humanity".