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...

Friday, October 31, 2008

On All Hallow’s Eve

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)

“This is my prayer”

In these days of economic troubles and as many prepare to vote in important elections, my prayer for each of you is the prayer of Saint Paul in today’s first reading (Philippians 1:1-11);

This is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more
in knowledge
and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value,
so that you may be pure
and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ
for the glory and praise of God.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Courage against evil

People are afraid.

They are afraid of economic and financial disasters, afraid of the results of elections, afraid of terrorism, afraid of the degradation of society, and afraid of many other things.

Some of these things, as Saint Paul relates in today’s first reading (Ephesians 6:10-20) are more powerful and subtle than we can imagine or hope to deal with.

But infinitely more powerful is the strength and the wisdom that comes from God and with which Saint Paul encourages us:

Draw your strength from the Lord
and from his mighty power.

Put on the armor of God
so that you may be able to stand firm
against the tactics of the Devil.

For our struggle is not with flesh and blood
but with the principalities, with the powers,
with the world rulers of this present darkness,
with the evil spirits in the heavens.

Therefore, put on the armor of God,
that you may be able to resist on the evil day
and, having done everything,
to hold your ground.

So stand fast
with your loins girded in truth,
clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,
and your feet shod in readiness for the Gospel of peace.

In all circumstances,
hold faith as a shield,
to quench all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.
And take the helmet of salvation
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God.

With all prayer and supplication,
pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.

To that end,
be watchful with all perseverance
and supplication for all the holy ones and also for me,
that speech may be given me to open my mouth,
to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel
for which I am an ambassador in chains,
so that I may have the courage to speak as I must.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Do it

Christianity in the time of Saint Paul was in no position to challenge the horrific injustice of slavery, so in today’s first reading (Ephesians 6:1-9), rather than denounce that evil outright, he challenges individuals on both sides of that divide to think in a radically different way: both slaves and masters need to live as slaves of Christ.

We in our time must do the same and more: doing what we can – prudently and prayerfully -- to challenge the evil of our age with the power of the love and the truth that comes from God in Christ: on the global, national, and structural levels as well as in the small and near things of our daily lives.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fitting in

One of the greatest challenges for young people is that the desire to “fit in” can lead them to do things that are deeply harmful.

Even “adults”, of course, are not immune from the dangers of “peer pressure”: tempted to do something wrong because of friends, relatives, polls, etc.

In today’s first reading (Ephesians 2:19-22), Saint Paul tells us of a better way: a place where we can fit in, be accepted, and be loved and experience peer pressure to do what is right.

You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.
Through him the whole structure is held together
and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;
in him you also are being built together
into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

May we always live within the embrace of the Church as members of God’s household and building blocks of God’s temple in the name and power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The other ones

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

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

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

They were the other ones.

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

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

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

(adapted from an earlier post)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Let no one deceive you

People have always engaged in rationalization for their favorite sins, from sins of greed and violence to sins of the flesh, but Saint Paul’s words in today’s first reading (Ephesians 4:32-5:8) are especially relevant for the days in which we now live:

Be sure of this,
that no immoral or impure or greedy person,
that is, an idolater,
has any inheritance
in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no one deceive you with empty arguments,
for because of these things
the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.

So do not be associated with them.

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

Live as children of light.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The coming wrath

There have been dire warnings about what will take place if this or that happens in next week’s election.

There have also been many dire warnings about what will take place if the current financial and economic crisis continues to get worse.

None of the things foretold by any of these dire warnings, however, can compare to what Saint Paul foretells in the last words of today’s second reading (1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10):

The coming wrath.

This wrath is not God having a temper tantrum: it is simply and purely the accumulation of the evil that you, I, and the rest of humanity have committed over the millennia and that must inevitably rebound back to us.

What goes around comes around and we cannot slide away forever.

Against such an overwhelming accumulation of wrath we can be saved only the infinite merits of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Today’s other readings remind us that there are indeed good things we can and must do - love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40) as well as be just and compassionate to the poor, to immigrants, and to widows and orphans (Exodus 22:20-26) – but as we do these good things we must do, we must always remain close and faithful to Christ who alone can deliver us from the coming wrath that we ourselves have stored up.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Truth for our time (and for all)

In these days of debate, crisis and uncertainty, the words of today’s first reading (Ephesians 4:7-16) offer strength and comfort, especially as so famously and wonderfully discussed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger at that Votive Mass before the conclave that would elect him Pope Benedict XVI.

“In (this) reading, the letter to the Ephesians, we see basically three aspects:

“First, the ministries and charisms in the Church, as gifts of the Lord risen and ascended into heaven.

“Then there is the maturing of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, as a condition and essence of unity in the body of Christ.

“Finally, there is the common participation in the growth of the body of Christ - of the transformation of the world into communion with the Lord.

“Let us dwell on only two points.

“The first is the journey towards ‘the maturity of Christ’ as it is said in the Italian text, simplifying it a bit. More precisely, according to the Greek text, we should speak of the ‘measure of the fullness of Christ’, to which we are called to reach in order to be true adults in the faith.

"We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority.

“And what does it mean to be an infant in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means ‘tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery’ (
Ephesians 4:14).

“This description is very relevant today!

“How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking… The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth.

“Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Ephesians 4:14).

“Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism.

“Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching’, looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards.

“We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.

“However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man.

“He is the measure of true humanism.

“Being an ‘Adult’ means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature.

“It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth.

“We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith.

“And it is this faith – only faith – which creates unity and takes form in love.

“On this theme, Saint Paul offers us some beautiful words - in contrast to the continual ups and downs of those were are like infants, tossed about by the waves: (he says) make ‘truth in love’, as the basic formula of Christian existence.

“In Christ, truth and love coincide.”

Friday, October 24, 2008

In a time of division

As has been mentioned before, these can be divisive times.

Yet while we may have different political leanings and different practical ideas, within the Church itself we must always strive for unity. As Saint Paul pleads in today’s first reading (Ephesians 4:1-6):

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


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 138 years ago today.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

To unite and to divide

There is divisiveness in these days of intense politics and crisis.

Our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel (Luke 12:49-53) address the inevitability of division, even when it comes to the truth that He Himself brings.

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

There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!

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.

But, as Saint Paul reminds us in today’s first reading (Ephesians 3:14-21) humanity has potential for unity in the power of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power

through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

May you and I never be divisive except when required by the truth and in the love of Christ.

May we never seek unity that opposes the truth and the love of Christ.

Impressive governor deserves higher honor

John had been so successful as a lawyer, he had 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 552 years ago today. St. John Capistrano was canonized in 1724.

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

(adapted from an earlier post)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A time to speak

It is easy to be fearful of speaking in these days of vehement politics and totalitarian political correctness.

To be sure, we must be prudent, but in today’s first reading (Ephesians 3:2-12) Saint Paul stands as an example for us all, by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

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

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

Sorry for the interruption

A brief illness prevented my blogging recently

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A time to render

There are important words in today’s readings as the citizens of the United States prepare to elect a new President and to elect or reelect many legislators and other officeholders.

The Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21) contains our Lord’s famous saying:

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's,
and unto God the things that are God's.

In a democracy, “Caesar” is a popularly elected government and citizens therefore owe “Caesar” more than just taxes: citizens must render “Caesar” their opinions and their votes, carefully and prayerfully considered.

The first reading (Isaiah 45:1, 4-6) addresses a famous pagan emperor:

I am the LORD and there is no other,
there is no God besides me.
It is I who arm you, though you know me not,
so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun
people may know that there is none besides me.
I am the LORD, there is no other.

Although we must do everything we lawfully can to elect the best people, the people who are elected will always be imperfect.

We must therefore also pray that whoever is elected, the will of God be done, whether the people or the leaders know it or not.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Enamored of the present world?

Recent polls in the United States and elsewhere, even before the current economic and financial disasters, have indicated that a majority of people do not think their country is “on the right track.”

In a sense, they are not enamored of the present world.

Yet many of these same people think that a particular politician, government program, job, or drug will put them on “the right track” and make life lovable again.

They are tragically mistaken.

They may not have been enamored of their present situation, but they remain enamored of the present world, as if this world is capable of providing the true and everlasting happiness which they deeply need.

In today’s first reading (2 Timothy 4:10-17b), Saint Paul writes of a colleague of his who, “enamored of the present world, deserted me” and by implication not just Saint Paul but also the very Gospel itself.

May we never become enamored of the present world or even of a mythical earthly existence where all will be well and happy if we can just get “on the right track.”

May we fulfill our godly responsibilities in this world but may we be enamored only of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who alone, in the mystery of God’s will and the power of His cross, can bring the true and everlasting happiness you and I deeply need.

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?

Of... no...no, 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 to do. 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 universe, but I do what I can: I write, I gather things together. I'm just doin my little part to help people learn 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

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, October 17, 2008

It will work out

Sometimes life can be very challenging.

Sometimes life can seem hopeless.

In today’s first reading (Ephesians 1:11-14), Saint Paul reminds us that God, infinite and omniscient beyond human understanding or imagination, has a plan that is ultimately directed toward our salvation.

We may not always understand God’s plan and there is likely to be suffering and disappointment along the way, but our hope is omnipotent by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In Christ we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things
according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.

In him you also,
who have heard the word of truth,
the Gospel of your salvation,
and have believed in him,
were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
which is the first installment of our inheritance
toward redemption as God’s possession,
to the praise of his glory.

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)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Beyond discouragement

Life may not be going very well right now.

In today’s first reading (Ephesians 1:1-10), Saint Paul reminds us of the blessings that are ours and God’s unstoppable plan for our salvation: untouchable by any discouragement or problem.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him,
before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.

In love he destined us
for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.

In Christ we have redemption by his Blood,
the forgiveness of transgressions,
in accord with the riches of his grace
that he lavished upon us.

In all wisdom and insight,
he has made known to us
the mystery of his will in accord with his favor
that he set forth in him
as a plan for the fullness of times,
to sum up all things in Christ,
in heaven and on earth.

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)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Behavior matters

You are not under the law.

So says Saint Paul at the beginning of today’s first reading (Galatians 5:18-25). Indeed, he is quite clear throughout this entire epistle and elsewhere that physical adherence to the Law given through Moses is in many ways opposed to the true salvation that comes by grace through faith in Christ.

Some people wrongly think that all this means that behavior does not matter: that it does not matter what you do as long as you have faith.

Saint Paul makes it clear: behavior matters.

Now the works of the flesh are obvious:
immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry,
sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy,
outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness,
dissensions, factions, occasions of envy,
drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.

I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things
will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

In contrast,
the fruit of the Spirit is
Against such there is no law.

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus
have crucified their flesh
with its passions and desires.

If we live in the Spirit,
let us also follow the Spirit.

The Ecstasy of Saint 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. Her memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The wrong externals

Both of today’s readings address people who focus on the wrong external actions for their salvation.

Salvation comes from Christ, not from purely external adherence to rituals and legalistic codes, as Saint Paul reminds in today’s first reading (Galatians 5:1-6).

Our Lord himself in today’s Gospel (Luke 11:37-41) likewise warns us about focusing on the externals

You cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.

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

CEO fled country after bank failure

He finagled his way out of prison and got a high-profile job.

How? Some said it was bribery.

What was certain was that he knew where all the bodies were buried (he ran a cemetery).

He had been born a slave. He died a Pope.

Many terrible things were said about Callistus, mostly by his enemies whom Callistus fought for their pushing unorthodox ideas about Christ and his divinity.

No matter what was said about Callistus and what obstacles he had to overcome in life, the people he shepherded - the church of 3rd century Rome - remembered him kindly: remembered that he fought and died for the faith and celebrated him as a saint and a martyr.

The memory of Saint Callistus I, pope and martyr, is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Monday, October 13, 2008

The yoke of slavery

Today’s first reading (Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1) ends with this warning:

Do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

Saint Paul primarily means here slavery to a system that bases salvation on human accomplishments rather than God’s grace.

This warning also applies to slavery to sin in general and even to sins of addiction in particular.

May you and I become ever more free of these different kinds of slavery by the truth, love and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Clergy Appreciation Day

Today many Christian communities in the United States celebrate Clergy Appreciation Day.

May the Lord Jesus bless all who serve him in ministry and may they receive the appreciation of Christ’s faithful.

Living through the ups and downs

In the last decade or so, many have enjoyed delightful prosperity.

In the last year or so, and especially in the last few weeks, many have been afflicted or frightened by the specter of economic and financial disaster.

The words of Saint Paul in today’s second reading (Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20) speak powerfully to us in these times.

I know how to live in humble circumstances;

I know also how to live with abundance.

In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed
and of going hungry,
of living in abundance
and of being in need.

I can do all things
in him who strengthens me.

Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

To our God and Father,
glory forever and ever.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

“There is not male and female”

Taken out of context, this sentence in today’s first reading (Galatians 3:22-29) might be interpreted by some as obliterating any difference or distinction regarding gender.

This has even been used by some (wrongly) to argue in favor of things such as women priests and same-sex marriage.

The full verse is this:

There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free person,
there is not male and female;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Saint Paul’s point is that there is no division or stratification in salvation or in the unity of the Church based on these categories. Being one of these things or the other does not make you greater or lesser a member of Christ’s body or make you holier or less holy. Indeed, the greatest of Saints was a woman (the Blessed Mother) and the most revered of the 20th century Blessed was a woman (Mother Teresa).

No matter who we are, we are called to live faithfully in accordance with the truth of God the Creator, the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the purity of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A house divided

Today’s Gospel (Luke 11:15-26) presents us with one of our Lord’s variations of a phrase famously borrowed and injected into American politics by Abraham Lincoln:

Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste...

Ironically, in the central contest of American politics today, even though the two major Presidential nominees both present themselves as unifiers and paragons of bipartisanship, there is a divisiveness that seems to be rising in viciousness.

Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste...

By the grace of God and in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may we all find unity and true peace in our world, in our families, and in our hearts.

Catholic Carnival

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

Thursday, October 09, 2008

How could we have been so stupid?

The word “stupid” has been used frequently lately as people have looked back at what led to the financial and economic crises of these days.

How could lenders have been so stupid as to make all those bad loans? How could people have been so stupid as to take out mortgages they would not be able to afford? How could governments been so stupid as to do (or not do) what they did (or did not do)?

There is worse stupidity than all of this, of course.

In today’s first reading (Galatians 3:1-5), the Holy Apostle Paul calls people stupid for thinking their own good behavior can get them into heaven rather than faith and grace through Christ.

We can be that stupid too.

We can also be stupid enough to think that certain kinds of sinful behavior are “no big deal” and will not affect our eternal salvation.

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

Let’s stop being stupid.

Let us open ourselves more and more fully to the truth and the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Disagreeing with the Pope

He was not wrong in his teaching regarding faith and morals, rather Saint Peter was denounced by Saint Paul – as he relates in today’s first reading (Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14) – for a practical decision taken for pastoral reasons in the midst of a controversy.

At different times, Saint Paul himself would make similar decisions (going so far as to have his young protégé circumcised).

The important lesson of this incident for us, however, is not on a papal level (dissent on matters of faith and morals is wrong, of course, and few of us are on a level with Saint Paul the Apostle), but on a personal level.

We need always to consider ways in which we can present the Faith more effectively in the midst of controversy and ways in which we can make things easier for us to do the greater good, but we must also check ourselves constantly to make sure that the practical decisions we may make for “pastoral” reasons do not send a message contrary to the Truth.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Anxious and worried about many things

In these days of financial and economic turmoil, our Lord’s words to Martha in today’s Gospel (Luke 10:38-42) resonate strongly:

“Martha, Martha,
you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.”

In times of anxiety, may the Lord Jesus Christ give us the grace to recognize what is truly necessary and to live our lives in peace and in ever greater communion with Him.

Meditative repetition

Our Lord’s warning against “vain repetitions” in prayer (Matthew 6:7) might seem to be a real problem for the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary celebrated today. What could be more repetitious than the Rosary?

But as I have said previously, repetition in prayer is not uncommon for any Christian.

Consider how repetitious so many extemporaneous prayers are. Consider also how many times we pray for the exact same thing: from world peace to healing for a particular illness.

The real problem is not so much the repetition but the intention: the idea that multiplying words will change God’s mind.

We cannot change God
in se through our prayer. Rather, it is God who changes us through our prayer and who makes us his instruments of change through our prayer.

Extended and repeated prayer may have many effects on us. Sometimes it is like the old practice of writing repeated sentences in school, drumming important things into our brain.

The Rosary is particularly relevant in this regard, as it is built around meditation on the mysteries of our salvation in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Traditionally, these mysteries have included the Joyful Mysteries, beginning with the Annunciation...

...the Sorrowful Mysteries, beginning with the Agony in the Garden….

…and the Glorious Mysteries, beginning with the Resurrection.

Now, thanks to the great Pope John Paul II, the Rosary also includes meditation on the Luminous Mysteries: beginning with the Baptism of our Lord

...the wedding Feast at Cana...

...the Proclamation of the Kingdom...

...the Transfiguration...

...and the Institution of the Eucharist.

Truly mysteries worthy of repeated meditation.

(from an previous post)

The invaders

were unstoppable, subjugating the people and even impeding the free practice of the Christian faith.

As October began, forces began to come together for one last battle against the invaders. The people prayed long and hard: the saints on earth joining their prayers with those of the saints already in heaven, especially with Mary the mother of Jesus.

On this very day in 1571, in the waters off the Greek city of Navpaktos, the Turkish invaders were decisively defeated in what would be remembered as the Battle of Lepanto. Ever since then, October 7 has been a day of prayer and thanksgiving: known today as the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.

(from a previous post)

Monday, October 06, 2008

This is not our idea

Some people, liberals and conservatives, twist the Gospel to suit their ideology or personal preferences, as if it were just a human idea.

In today’s first reading (Galatians 1:6-12), Saint Paul gives us clear warnings.

There are some who are disturbing you
and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ.

But even if we or an angel from heaven
should preach to you a gospel
other than the one that we preached to you,
let that one be accursed!
As we have said before, and now I say again,
if anyone preaches to you a gospel
other than the one that you received,
let that one be accursed!

Am I now currying favor with human beings or God?
Or am I seeking to please people?
If I were still trying to please people,
I would not be a slave of Christ.

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,
that the Gospel preached by me is not of human origin.

For I did not receive it from a human being,
nor was I taught it,
but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

May we always embrace the truth that comes from Christ.

Superheroes of prayer

Each of us can be a hero for Christ in our own way, but there are also some incredible superheroes among us.

Martyrs are obvious superheroes for Christ: women and men who endure incredible ridicule, torture and death for the sake of Christ.

For me, the Carthusians are another kind of superhero for Christ: men and women who embrace a radical simplicity and an absolute immersion in silence and prayer.

"What benefits and divine exaltation the silence and solitude of the desert hold in store for those who love it, only those who have experienced it can know.

"For here men of strong will can enter into themselves and remain there as much as they like, diligently cultivating the seeds of virtue and eating the fruits of paradise with joy.

"Here they can acquire the visage that wounds (Christ) the Bridegroom with love, by the limpidity of its gaze, and whose purity allows them to see God himself.

"Here they can observe a busy leisure and rest in quiet activity.

"Here also God crowns his athletes for their stern struggle with the hoped-for reward: a peace unknown to the world and joy in the Holy Spirit. "

From a letter
by St. Bruno

The Carthusian website, www.chartreux.org, is a wonderful place to explore: with extensive information about their very special contemplative lifestyle (including their rigorous daily schedule); about their houses - for men and for women - in France, the United States and elsewhere (with beautiful pictures); and about vocations.

(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, who was 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 (including the United States.)

(adapted from an earlier post)

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.

(from an earlier post)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Peace in times of anxiety

In these days of financial crises, political uncertainties, and perhaps even personal troubles, the words of today’s second reading (Philippians 4:6-9) are truly heaven-sent and worthy of constant reflection:

Have no anxiety at all,
but in everything,
by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.

Then the peace of God
that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.

Keep on doing
what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.

Then the God of peace will be with you.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival - a sollection of posts from various Catholic blogs - is online atOur God is an Awesome God.

Repentance and restoration

He was rich, then lost everything, then repented, and then was rich again.

This tale of riches to rags to riches seems to resonate with the financial and economic roller coasters of the past two decades (and most especially the turmoil of recent days, although restoration may seem far away).

In today’s first reading (Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17), Job – a rich man who lost everything – repents and then gets his riches back.

This should not be taken as a guarantee of earthly prosperity as a result of repentance.

Earthly riches are temporary and often come with great temptations and other evils.

What God offers to the repentant is not temporary but eternal. It is pure goodness that enables us to survive a world of evil. It is restoration of innocence and even more: a sharing in God’s own life through grace.

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

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 782 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)

Friday, October 03, 2008


In today’s Gospel (Luke 10:13-16), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives dire warnings to those who have seen him, heard him, and yet refuse to repent.

You and I have been blessed to hear our Lord so many times in the Gospels and to encounter him so intimately and powerfully in the Eucharist and the Sacraments.

May you and I never fail to repent and to experience his mercy.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Words to live by

His life has taken such a catastrophic turn that he feels targeted by God himself.

His so-called friends give him no comfort – quite the opposite.

And yet his hope is undying and so are his words, preserved in today’s famous first reading (Job 19:21-27):

Pity me, pity me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has struck me!
Why do you hound me as though you were divine,
and insatiably prey upon me?

Oh, would that my words were written down!
Would that they were inscribed in a record:
That with an iron chisel and with lead
they were cut in the rock forever!

But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives,
and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust;
Whom I myself shall see:
my own eyes, not another’s, shall behold him,
And from my flesh I shall see God;
my inmost being is consumed with longing.

Even more so may you and I find secure and eternal hope, no matter what, in the name and the power of our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ.

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)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Over my head

Those of us who learned about God when we were children often have a childish conception of God, intellectually or at least emotionally. Our conception of God is therefore sometimes vulnerable to the specious arguments of atheists or other cultists.

Today’s first reading (Job 9:1-12, 14-16) reminds us that God, infinite and omnipotent, is over our head and ultimately beyond our grasp.

Even so, God’s gift of intellect can point us to God and his gift of revelation gives us true knowledge of his unknowable self.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus
reple tuorum corda fidelium,
et tui amoris in eis accende.

V. Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur.
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.


qui corda fidelium
Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti.
Da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere,
et de eius semper consolatione gaudere.
Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

Come, Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of Thy faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray:
Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful
by the light of the Holy Spirit,
grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise,
and ever rejoice in His consolation.
Through Christ our Lord.

A nun for only 9 years

She had 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 eleven years ago last night. Her memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

What shall we pray for this month?

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for October is:

That the Synod of Bishops may help all those engaged in the service of the Word of God to transmit the truth of faith courageously in communion with the entire Church.

His missionary intention is:

That in this month dedicated to the missions, every Christian community may feel the need to participate in the universal mission with prayer, sacrifice, and concrete help.