A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

“Do you not care that we are perishing?”

The storm in today’s Gospel (Mark 4:35-41) is a powerful metaphor for the lives of many in these difficult times.

In this storm, some of us might wonder as the disciples did: “Do you not care that we are perishing?”

In that ancient storm, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ showed his mastery of the frightening things of this world.

As it was then, so it is now and forever.

And even if it be his will that the storm overwhelm us, if we should say “Do you not care that we are perishing?” the Lord will again speak to us.

From the cross.

And he will say,

“Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”

And by his grace we will know the eternal joy of his resurrection.

His "terrible twos" were terrible indeed

for that was when John’s father died.

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Friday, January 30, 2009

A happy ending

There is a school of thought that associates God’s blessings with earthly prosperity.

This school of thought glosses over the theology of the Cross and the suffering of the Saints throughout the millennia.

This school of thought may also not resonate well with faithful Christians in a time of economic troubles.

To be sure, all that is truly good comes from God and God will reward those who, by his grace, are faithful to him.

But this does not mean that faithful Christians are guaranteed an unbroken string of happy endings in their earthly lives.

Faithful Christians may even have lives that appear like earthly failures.

Yet, God bestows precious and powerful blessings even in earthly failures and earthly trouble can be endured with the sure, grace-given hope of eternal happiness in heaven.

Today’s first reading (Hebrews 10:32-39) reminds us of these truths:

Remember the days past
when, after you had been enlightened,
you endured a great contest of suffering.

At times
you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction;
at other times
you associated yourselves with those so treated.

You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison
and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.

You need endurance to do the will of God
and receive what he has promised.

For, after just a brief moment,
he who is to come shall come;
he shall not delay.

But my just one shall live by faith,
and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him.

We are not among those who draw back and perish,
but among those who have faith
and will possess life.

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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What are your plans?

What are your plans for today?

What are your plans for the weekend?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

These are questions people ask.

These are things people consider.

Today’s first reading (Hebrews 10:19-25) tells us to consider other things:

We must consider how to rouse one another
to love and good works.

What are you and I going to do to rouse particular people to love God and to love with God’s love?

What are you and I going to do to rouse particular people to good works?

Consider these things.

Pray about them.

Make plans.

Continue to pray.

And start rousing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Where to spread

The parables of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ are interpreted in many ways. Often, they are understood as allegory. Our Lord Himself provides just such an interpretation for the Parable of the Sower in today’s Gospel (Mark 4:1-20).

But there is another way of understanding parables, a way that our Lord would have not needed to explain to those who heard Him. Every parable features at least one point that would strike the listener in that time and place as odd, as being different from the usual way of things. Considering this oddity is a way to understand an important message of the parable.

What is odd in the Parable of the Sower? The oddest aspect of the parable is the behavior of the Sower. Very few farmers in those days could afford to be wasteful, so when they went out to sow, they sowed the seed in the field – not on paths, not in the rocks, not into thorns – in the field.

But that is exactly the way God works, but in His infinite and merciful plan it is not wasteful. God gives His Word and plants the seeds of faith everywhere, not just among the “good” people: people raised in religious households, etc. As St. Paul says, God wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Of course, it doesn’t always work out, people chose to go other directions, but still God gives the grace they would need to come to Him.

So too we must be in our living and sharing the Gospel of Christ. We can and should exercise a certain amount of prudence, but we should always remember that we have been commanded to “preach the Gospel to every creature.” The Word of God and the Truth of Jesus Christ must ultimately be spread freely and universally.

Finite human beings that we are, we may not always see where all the “good soil” is: the people who we ourselves may not recognize as people who will embrace the Truth and produce grace-filled results beyond our wildest expectations.

Spread the Word!

(adapted from an earlier post)

The Dominican is dedicated to truth

"The Dominican is dedicated to truth, for God is truth.

"It is sacred truth, saving truth, that primarily concerns us here.

"God has called us into the intimacy of his own Trinitarian life, so that as sons in the Son we can cry out Abba, Father.

"And we are meant one day to see the glory, the power, the love, beauty, wisdom of God face to face.

"While we are on pilgrimage, we share in God’s own self-knowledge through faith in Him, as He reveals Himself in the Word made flesh and the Word as preached. The truth convicts, the truth redeems, the truth saves.

"The Dominican is to live in that truth, to be converted and sanctified by it, and to preach it."

from the Vocations website of the Order of Preachers Province of Saint Joseph

(from an earlier post)

When he was 5, his parents sent him away

Why? Partly for his education, partly because of his parents’ ambition, and also perhaps partly out of guilt.

Then, when he went to college, the young man rejected the plans of his rich, ambitious parents and joined a new religious group of panhandlers.

His parents had him kidnapped and attempted to “deprogram” him. After a couple of years, they gave up. He went back to college and his religious “family” of beggars.

He eventually got a teaching position and his entire life became devoted to teaching, writing, and praying.

Then suddenly, one day in his late forties, he gave up everything except prayer. He died the next year.

In his relatively short life, however, the little rich boy turned beggar and teacher had already made quite a name for himself.

In his short life, Kings and Popes had sought his advice, so great was his reputation for wisdom.

Even after his short life, religious orders fought over his body, so great was his reputation for holiness.

The body of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, perhaps the greatest of all Christian theologians and philosophers, was finally interred in a church belonging to his fellow Dominicans on this very day in 1369, 94 years after his death and 42 years after his canonization.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Worthless sacrifices

Today’s first reading (Hebrews 10:1-10) speaks of how worthless the sacrifices of the old covenant were: they may have had temporary utility, but no eternal effect.

Only the offering by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is eternally effective: only his sacrifice.

Most of us undertake sacrifices of some sort in our lives, striving for particular earthly goals that we may or may not attain.

Today’s first reading reminds us that only Christ’s sacrifice can give eternal worth to us and our sacrifices.

Only in Christ can we truly stand before God and say, “Behold, I come to do your will.”

His mother and brothers

Today’s Gospel (Mark 3:31-35) and its parallels usually strike cradle Catholics as strange. We have been raised to venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary, but today’s Gospel speaks of Jesus’ brothers and seems to depict Jesus as speaking almost dismissively of his mother and family.

The part about the “brothers and sisters” is relatively easy to deal with: in the usage of that time and place, that included close relatives who were not necessarily children of the same parents.

More difficult to deal with perhaps is our Lord's reaction to hearing that his mother and brothers are outside. Instead of going out to see them, he says,

But he said to them in reply,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?”
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother."

This may not only disturb our long-nurtured Marian devotion, it may even make Jesus look like a rude child (“I don’t need my parents, I’ve got my friends”), and may seem to clash with the wonderful depiction of Mary elsewhere in the Gospels.

But in the Gospel of Luke we find the key to understanding what our Lord is saying, most specifically in one of the things Elizabeth says upon her Visitation by Mary.

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

And in what Mary says at the Annunciation.

“Be it done to me according to your word.”

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Both of her parents were dead...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Monday, January 26, 2009

“As my ancestors did”

In one of the passages provided for today’s first reading (2 Timothy 1:1-8), Saint Paul writes of the continuity of faith from generation to generation: how he worships God with a clear conscience as his Jewish ancestors did and how Timothy shares the faith of his Christian mother and grandmother.

This passage reminds us of the critical role that families have in the nurturing and transmission of the faith.

Of course, faith is ultimately the gift and work of God: a gift for which we must always pray and a work in which we are called to share.

For this reason,
I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God
that you have through the imposition of my hands.

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.

So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

Timothy and Titus

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

(from an earlier post)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Conversion of St. Paul

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

And I answered, Who art thou, Lord?

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

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

And I said,
What shall I do, Lord?

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

Although it is a Sunday, during this Pauline year, the Church today also celebrates The Conversion of Saint Paul

(adapted from an earlier post)

A lone voice in the sinful city

The world seems awash with greed, perversion, and murder - sometimes covered over by euphemisms, sometimes not.

Selfish and wayward people seem to outnumber those who hold firmly to the truth that comes from God.

The example of the prophet Jonah, which we hear in today’s first reading (Jonah 3:1-5, 10), gives us hope.

One man speaks the truth loudly and clearly in the midst of a large and sinful city.

And the city repents, by the grace and power of God.

May God give us the grace, the wisdom, and the strength to be as effective as Jonah in the large and sinful cities through which we walk.

The Holy Father's YouTube channel

"This channel offers news coverage of the main activities of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI and of relevant Vatican events.

"It is updated daily.

"Video images are produced by Centro Televisio Vaticano (CTV), texts by Vatican Radio (RV) and CTV.

"This video-news presents the Catholic Church's position regarding the principal issues of the world today.

"Links give access to the full and official texts of cited documents."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Then he took a cup...

"...gave thanks,
and gave it to them, saying,
'Drink from it, all of you,
for this is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed on behalf of many
for the forgiveness of sins.'"

(Matthew 26:27-28)

Not all blood is equal

Blood has many physiological properties and effects: the most important of which is its necessity for life.

Blood has had many symbolic meanings throughout human history: most importantly symbolism of life, of death, and of shared commitment.

Today’s first reading (Hebrews 9:2-3, 11-14) reminds us that not all blood is equal: contrasting the blood of goats and calves with the most precious blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The difference is not just that the blood of animals is infinitely less valuable than the blood of the incarnate Son of God, for when we speak of the blood of Christ, we speak not simply of the fluid that coursed through his veins in the years he walked this earth: we speak specifically of the blood He shed on Good Friday, as He offered Himself for us in the greatest possible act of sacrificial love.

How much more will the Blood of Christ,
who through the eternal spirit
offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from dead works
to worship the living God.

In a less ecumenical time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The orders that look to him as their spiritual father (e.g., the Sisters of the Visitation, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales) continue to this day.

(from an earlier post)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Laws written upon the heart

Today’s first reading (Hebrews 8:6-13) quotes the prophet Jeremiah in speaking of a new covenant in which God will write His laws upon people’s hearts.

A critical point to remember is that these laws are not written BY the heart, but rather are written by GOD upon the heart.

The point is not for us to do what we feel like, but rather for us to open ourselves to God’s grace, will, and love so that our feelings may reflect no longer our own will or the world’s idea of love but rather God’s will, God’s, love, and God’s law.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

“The law appoints men subject to weakness”

This phrase from today’s first reading (Hebrews 7:25-8:6) resonates in very special ways on this day: two days after an historic transfer of earthly power in Washington, DC, and 26 years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared that women have a “right” to kill their own children in the womb.

As citizens, subject ourselves to weakness, we have an obligation to do whatever we can to help make up for the weaknesses of those in high earthly office: pushing politically for what is true and for the rights of the defenseless, working practically for the aid of those tempted by abortion, et cetera.

As Christians we have an obligation to be especially mindful of our own weaknesses and to beg the mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our all-perfect and all-powerful High Priest: “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens.”

Day of prayer and penance

The bishops of the United States have declared today, the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, to be a day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.

The bishop’s speech impediment

was a bit of a problem.

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Sorry, we’re closed."

Those words are posted in countless store windows after business hours.

Those words were once used by a comedian to illustrate his close-mindedness (together with the sound effect of a large door slamming shut).

Such close-mindedness (without comedy or apology) is found in tragic abundance in the Pharisees in today’s Gospel (Mark 3:1-6) when our Lord tries to engage them in dialogue.

He said to the Pharisees,
“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”

But they remained silent.
Looking around at them with anger
and grieved at their hardness of heart,
Jesus said to the man,
“Stretch out your hand.”
He stretched it out and his hand was restored.

The Pharisees went out

and immediately took counsel
with the Herodians against him
to put him to death.

It is easy for us to condemn the Pharisees and to laugh at comedians.

It is less easy for you and I to recognize the ways in which we still close our minds and hearts to Christ.

May we open ourselves to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that he may open us even more to His truth and love.

Agnes was a little girl

Her faith was pure as snow
And everywhere that Jesus went
Agnes was sure to go.

Christians were being grabbed in the streets or dragged from their homes. Some had their heads cut off. Others weren’t so lucky: they were cruelly tortured before they were killed.

The ones who were left found comfort in their faith and in the grace of Christ. They also told each other about the heroism of those who had already died for the faith.

Many talked about a little girl named Agnes, whose name meant “lamb.”

The brutes had taken her too, but she refused to give up her faith, so they killed her.

If that little girl could be so brave for Christ, Christians told each other, we can be too.

Agnes’ name would be remembered every time they gathered and, seventeen hundred years later, Agnes’ name is still included in the Roman Canon, the first Eucharistic Prayer.

St. Agnes is especially remembered every year on this day.

(In Rome on this day every year there is a special blessing of lambs. Wool from these lambs is later made into ceremonial cloths [pallia or palliums] that are placed by the tomb of St. Peter and then worn by archbishops throughout the world.)

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An oath

Today, a new American President takes the oath of office.

Coincidentally, today’s first reading, which continues a journey through the Letter to the Hebrews (6:10-20), has this to say about oaths:

Men swear by someone greater than themselves;
for them an oath serves as a guarantee
and puts an end to all argument.

The main point of the passage, of course, is to reaffirm the firmness of our hope in God, who is greater than all.

So when God wanted to give the heirs of his promise
an even clearer demonstration

of the immutability of his purpose,
he intervened with an oath,
so that by two immutable things,
in which it was impossible for God to lie,
we who have taken refuge

might be strongly encouraged
to hold fast to the hope that lies before us.

This we have as an anchor of the soul,
sure and firm...

Words to live by in an uncertain world.

"The mightiest man...

"...may be slain by a single arrow…”

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

How Fabian was discovered

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Monday, January 19, 2009

“He himself is beset by weakness”

In yesterday’s first reading, we heard the high priest Eli give Samuel advice that would bring him closer to the Lord: “Reply, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Eli gave effective spiritual advice, but he himself was not a moral and spiritual superman. What the Lord would tell Samuel is that Eli and his family had earned condemnation.

Today’s first reading (Hebrews 5:1-10) reminds us of the limitations of the high priests:

He himself is beset by weakness
and so, for this reason,

must make sin offerings for himself...

As was the case then, so is the case now for you and me (and especially me).

We are beset by weakness and so must continually turn to God for forgiveness and aid.

We may make sacrifices and may learn from our mistakes and sufferings, but ultimately it is only by the grace of God that any of us can be saved: by the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and his one, true, and perfect sacrifice.

We are beset with weakness.

May we humbly and penitentially rely on Christ.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Words to decide by

The day after tomorrow, a young man - not yet fifty - will become the most powerful man in the world.

The decisions that he makes will affect everyone in some way, great or small.

You and I also have decisions to make - big decisions and small.

In making these decisions, no one could have better advice than the words of the old priest in today's first reading (Samuel 3:3b-10, 19):

If you are called, reply,
"Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening."

Before any of us make any decisions, great or small, we should always turn to God and open our minds, hearts and souls and say,

"Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

How to Discover God's Plan for You

8 Steps for Discernment

  1. "Be Quiet in order to hear the Lord's voice calling. Take time to pray and meditate in silence about your vocation, especially in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

  2. "Find a spiritual director - somebody you can be open with - who can help you to develop your relationship with God and to know yourself better.

  3. "Ask a priest, brother or sister in your parish to put you in touch with a vocation director.

  4. "Read up on religious and priestly life. Look at a good periodical on vocations and check out the ads.

  5. "Write to the communities that interest you.

  6. "Visit the ones you feel called to.

  7. "Build a relationship with the one where you have a sense of coming home. Get involved in its summer or monthly programs. Don't just talk the talk - walk the walk with them as well.

  8. "Wait for the Lord. Discerning your vocation is a process. God's timing is always perfect - but seldom seems soon enough!

"Remember, if you ASK, SEEK, KNOCK, you may not find the vocation you thought you would, but by trying you'll have found out one of the most important things in life - self-knowledge."

"The Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal was begun in 1987 by eight Capuchin friars desiring to work more definitively for personal and communal reform within the Catholic Church. The life and apostolate of the friars are rooted in the ideals and spirit of the Capuchin reform born in the early 16th century."

Since then, this community has continued to grow and expand. The picture at the right shows some of the most recently professed brothers.

"These capable young friars testify that God is still calling young people to make a generous gift of themselves in poverty, chastity, and obedience."

(from the website of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal: www.franciscanfriars.com)

(from an earlier post)

Happy National Vocation Awareness Week!

Inescapable justice, infinite mercy

The readings for Mass, each following their separate paths through their respective books, come together on this day at the juxtaposition of two wondrous aspects of God: God’s inescapable justice and God’s infinite mercy.

The first reading (Hebrews 4:12-16) reminds us clearly that no matter what evasions or pretense we can muster, God sees through everything and will hold us inescapably to account.

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

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

But immediately we are also reminded of God’s infinite mercy that comes through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Since we have a great high priest
who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.

For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy
and to find grace for timely help.

And our Lord Himself, in today’s Gospel (Mark 2:13-17) exemplifies this: seeing clearly the sinfulness of men, but mercifully calling them to discipleship.

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

After his father died, he began to rethink

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

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

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

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

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

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

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, January 16, 2009

To the next generation

48 years ago, a new American president spoke at his inauguration of a torch being passed to a new generation.

This, of course, is the task of every generation: to pass on and to receive responsibility and knowledge from generation to generation.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm (78:3 and 4bc, 6c-7, 8) reminds us that what we should passing on is truth and not bad example.

What we have heard and know,
and what our fathers have declared to us,
we will declare to the generation to come
The glorious deeds of the LORD and his strength.

That they too may rise and declare to their sons
that they should put their hope in God,
And not forget the deeds of God
but keep his commands.

And not be like their fathers,
a generation wayward and rebellious,
A generation that kept not its heart steadfast
nor its spirit faithful toward God.

By the grace of God, may you and I live and pass on the truth.

What do you desire?

"Deep inside every man is a desire to do something important with his life, to be a hero, and to change the world.

"The Father has put this desire in your heart and He wants to fulfill that call in you.

"Listen to His voice in prayer. "

"He is speaking in the depths of your heart right now. He is calling you to do something important with your life. He is calling you to give your life to Him. He is calling you to fulfill your call, your vocation.

"Jesus Christ is calling you to holiness and wants to help you get there."

—Pope Benedict XVI

(from the Vocations pages of the Diocese of Harrisburg)

Happy Vocations Awareness Week!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Take care, brothers and sisters..."

"...that none of you may have
an evil and unfaithful heart,
so as to forsake the living God.

"Encourage yourselves daily
while it is still “today,”
so that none of you
may grow hardened by the deceit of sin.

"We have become partners of Christ
if only we hold the beginning of the reality
firm until the end."

(From today's first reading - Hebrews 3:7-14)

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

Are we afraid?

"If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?

"Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom?

"No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great.

"No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation.

"And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ!

"He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return.

"Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life."

- Pope Benedict XVI
April 24, 2005

(from the Vocations website of the Diocese of St. Petersburg)
Happy National Vocations Awareness Week!

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Let yourself be summoned...

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

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

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

Pope John Paul II

(from the Vocations page of the Diocese of Charlotte)

(from an earlier post)

Happy National Vocation Awareness Week!


Because he himself was tested through what he suffered,
he is able to help those who are being tested.

Thus ends today’s first reading (Hebrews 2:14-18).

Important words of comfort: reminding us in difficult times that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ suffered greatly for us and is therefore abundantly merciful.

Important words also of invitation: inviting us to use our own sufferings to help others by the power of the grace of Christ.


When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill
or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn,
he left and went off to a deserted place,
where he prayed.
Mark 1:32-35

This scene from today's Gospel (Mark 1:29-39) was echoed in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King - the third volume of The Lord of the Rings:

"At the doors of the Houses many were already gathered to see Aragorn, and they followed after him; and when at last he had supped, men came and prayed that he would heal their kinsmen or their friends whose lives were in peril through hurt or wound, or who lay under the Black Shadow. And Aragorn arose and went out, and... laboured far into the night. And word went through the City: ' The King is come again indeed....'

"And when he could labour no more, he cast his cloak about him, and slipped out of the City, and went to his tent just ere dawn and slept for a little."
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King, p. 147.

The identification of a kingly figure as a healer is set up by Tolkien earlier in the chapter.

"'"The hands of the king are the hands of a healer." And so the rightful king could ever be known.'"
Ibid, p.136

This likewise echoes another Gospel scene:

"John (the Baptist) summoned two of his disciples
and sent them to the Lord to ask,
'Are you the one who is to come,

or should we look for another?'

"....And (Jesus) said to them in reply,

'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:
the blind regain their sight, the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear..."
Luke 7:18a-19,22a

The Lord of the Rings is not an allegory (a genre Tolkien "cordially" disliked), but Tolkien encouraged readers to explore the "applicability" of what he wrote. He also once described The Lord of the Rings as a "Catholic" work.

Thus readers have seen Christ-like qualities not only in Aragorn (as above), but also in Frodo (the suffering one upon whom the salvation of the world depends) and Gandalf (resurrection).

(Many such nuances, unfortunately, were lost in the recent Lord of the Rings films.)

The most important echoes of this Gospel, however, are not literary echoes in famous books - no matter how wonderful the books may be.

The most important echoes of this Gospel, in which the Lord labors long and hard to bring healing, should be found in our own lives: by our laboring long and hard to bring true healing by the grace of Christ.

Then will the rightful faith be known.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Unquestionable authority

In today's Gospel (Mark 1:21-28), Christ's authority is questioned.

By a demon.

Our Lord does not answer the question, but instead demonstrates his power.

May we accept the authority of Christ in our lives and humbly rely on his power.

Saint Hilary

Everyone knows about Hilary's spouse, of course.

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

People were upset when Hilary was ordained a bishop.

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Repent, and believe in the Gospel:

Today, on the first day of Ordinary Time, the daily cycle of Gospel readings begins with the beginning of our Lord’s public ministry in the Gospel according to Saint Mark (1:14-20).

Our Lord’s exhortation is simple:

Repent, and believe in the Gospel.

We have heard this before, of course, but it is important for us to really hear it again, especially at the beginning of the year.

I mean, REALLY hear it.

Over time, it is easy to drift a little: to let peer pressure, inertia, and a series of small compromises move us away from fully embracing and living the Truth.

May our Lord Jesus Christ give us the grace NOW to repent and to believe even more fully in His Gospel.

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

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I have grasped you by the hand

These are difficult days for many.

The Lord’s words in the prophecy of Isaiah (42:1-4, 6-7) – one of the selections available for today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord – are words of comfort, courage and strength in difficult times, for as unworthy as we are, we are His servants, by the power of His grace.

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit...

I, the LORD,
have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon,
those who live in darkness.

The Lord is grasping us by the hand.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The whole world

Violence and terror.

Shameless greed and hopeless poverty.

Perversion of minds and bodies.

These things seem to be on the rise in the world.

The truth of Saint John’s words in today’s first reading (1 John 5:14-21) seems more and more obvious.

The whole world is under the power of the Evil One.

But that is not the whole story:

We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment
to know the one who is true.

And we are in the one who is true,
in his Son Jesus Christ.

He is the true God
and eternal life.

The whole world may seem dark, but Christ is a light that shines unconquerably against the darkness.

We are not alone.

We have this confidence in him
that if we ask anything according to his will,
he hears us.

Friday, January 09, 2009

“But he would withdraw to deserted places to pray”

Our Lord is very busy in today’s Gospel (Luke 5:12-16), with many people coming to him with pressing needs.

The Gospel ends by saying “but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.”

Many of us live very busy lives (even the unemployed are very busy – looking for work is hard work, especially nowadays), but the example of our Lord in today’s Gospel is desperately important.

He worked hard, he addressed the needs before him, “but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.”

May you and I always remember every day to take at least a few moments by ourselves to pray.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


It easy to be worried and afraid in these difficult times.

Today’s first reading (1 John 4:19-5:4) gives us hope and courage:

Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.

And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Courage in the storm

Today’s Gospel (Mark 6:45-52) presents us with an account of our Lord walking on the water.

This miracle comes at a difficult moment for the disciples: they had been rowing all night against a strong headwind.

It was dark. They were tired and perhaps worried.

Then they became terrified.

We know how all of that feels.

It is at that moment that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says,

“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”

And then Jesus was with them.

In the storms of our own lives, may we hear the voice of Jesus say,

“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”

Lawyer and beggar

Raymond was a brilliant student. By the time he was 20 he was already teaching canon law and philosophy. In his thirties, he went away to further his canon law studies.

During these latter studies, he had significant contact with a religious order that had just been started a few years before: derided by some as “the beggar monks.” Already a priest, Raymond decided to join them.

The order decided to make full use of his abilities and had him write a book on canon law that became one of the most important books on canon law throughout the Church. Eventually his reputation as a canon lawyer grew so great that the Pope asked Raymond to help revise the entirety of canon law (which had become very disorganized over the years).

The Pope wanted to make Raymond an Archbishop, but he declined. However, he could not keep his order from electing him their new head.

He served only two years before stepping down, but during that time he used his talents well by revising the order’s constitutions. He also asked one of the other members of his very young order (a fellow named Thomas whose intellect was also being widely praised) to write a book to explain the faith to unbelievers. St. Thomas Aquinas’ book would be known as the Summa Contra Gentiles – one of the most important works of theology ever.

St. Raymond of Peñafort, one of history’s greatest canon lawyers and the third Master General of the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans), after a hundred years of devout and active life, died seven hundred and thirty-four years ago yesterday and his memory is celebrated on this day.

from a earlier post)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What love is

Some of the biggest mistakes that people make in their lives are made because of what they think is “love”.

Today’s first reading (1 John 4:7-10) reminds us of what love REALLY is.

let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves
is begotten by God
and knows God.

Whoever is without love
does not know God,
for God is love.

In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only-begotten Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.

In this is love:
not that we have loved God,
but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

He couldn't hold a job

Alfred started life behind: orphaned by age 12 and having to work hard for his food and lodging on his uncle's farm.

He went on to spend time in jobs as a shoemaker, a baker, a blacksmith, a factory worker, and even a simple manual laborer - all before he was 25.

He then applied to join a religious community and was turned down.

Eventually, however, the community was talked into accepting him.

Alfred was given the job of watching the door (in addition to janitor, sacristan, laundry, messenger, and other duties as assigned). He stayed in that job for 40 years.

People found Alfred a wonderful man to talk to, and most especially, to pray with.

In fact, sick people who came to Alfred would many times be cured. Word spread and eventually many, many people would want to receive healing from God at the prayer of Alfred (some years, he would receive 80,000 letters).

Alfred had a devotion to St. Joseph and wanted to build a chapel on the hill behind the place where he lived and worked. It was a very large hill, dominating the city, and land for a chapel could not be obtained.

Alfred walked up the steep hill with his confreres, leaving mementoes of St. Joseph.

Very quickly thereafter the landowners relented and sold the land to Alfred’s congregation. Alfred got to build his chapel, but it quickly became too small for the crowds that flocked to pray with him. It was expanded and then replaced with a space for a thousand people, but that also proved too small. They then began to build a larger space: a veritable basilica.

Alfred, once turned down by the Holy Cross order for poor health, died at the age of 92 seventy-two years ago today. More than a million people came to pay their respects for the holy man they knew by his religious name, Brother André.

The Oratory of Saint Joseph on Mount Royal in Montreal today rises 97 meters from the ground to the tip of the cross atop its great dome and seats 2,200 in the upper basilica section.

Brother André Bessette was beatified by the great Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982.

(from an earlier post)

Monday, January 05, 2009

"Do not trust every spirit"

For many people, today is the first work day of the year.

It is fitting that the first reading on this first day (1 John 3:22-4:6) remind us of the necessity for exercising discernment.

Beloved, do not trust every spirit
but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God,
because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

In this world of confusion and conflict, may we always seek the truth that comes from God.

You belong to God, children,
and you have conquered them,
for the one who is in you
is greater than the one who is in the world.

He was a Bohemian & they wouldn't ordain him

So, John went overseas and dropped in unannounced on a local bishop.

The bishop was so desperate and John presented himself so well that he ordained John a priest 25 days later and assigned him to work alone on the outskirts of the diocese.

Four years later, John left the diocese to join a religious order. Once again, he presented himself so well that within ten years he was the Provincial.

Five years after that, John was named bishop of one of the largest cities in the country.

He ended up doing very well as bishop: building up the flock as well as building nearly 100 schools and 50 parishes.

Then, eight years after being ordained bishop, on this very day 149 years ago, John Neumann dropped dead at the age of 48 on a snowy street near the new cathedral he had been building in Philadelphia.

St. John Neumann, native of Bohemia, was the first male American citizen ever to be canonized, on June 19, 1977.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Riches and wealth

In a time of economic and financial distress, these words from today’s first reading (Isaiah 60:1-6) leaps off the page with powerful attraction and hopefulness.

The riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.

Wow, give me some of that,” we might say.

This prophecy, of course, is addressed to Jerusalem – not as a municipality, but as the center and summit of the worship of God.

What this prophecy reminds us is that all of the things of this world – all of its riches and wealth – ultimately belong to God.

Likewise, each of us, rich or poor or muddling through, need to align ourselves and all we have with the will and the glory of God.


They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
(from today's Gospel - Matthew 2:1-12)

Saturday, January 03, 2009


The news lately has focused on bad things and bad people.

The first verse of today’s first reading (1 John 2:29-3:6) reminds us of the good.

If you consider that God is righteous,
you also know
that everyone who acts in righteousness
is begotten by him.

There are at least two different levels to this.

On one level, it reminds us that God is involved in any righteous act: whether the person who performs the act knows it or not.

On a more fundamental and complete level, righteousness is possible only by the gift of God.

May we always strive to act rightly and righteously and may we always humbly pray for the undeserved gift of God’s righteousness.

The Name of Jesus

Jesus, Son of the living God,
Jesus, splendour of the Father,
Jesus, brightness of eternal light,
Jesus, king of glory,
Jesus, sun of justice,
Jesus, son of the Virgin Mary,
Jesus, most amiable,
Jesus, most admirable,
Jesus, mighty God,
Jesus, father of the world to come,
Jesus, angel of great counsel,
Jesus, most powerful,
Jesus, most patient,
Jesus, most obedient,
Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
Jesus, lover of chastity,
Jesus, lover of us,
Jesus, God of peace,
Jesus, author of life,
Jesus, example of virtues,
Jesus, zealous lover of souls,
Jesus, our God,
Jesus, our refuge,
Jesus, father of the poor,
Jesus, treasure of the faithful,
Jesus, good shepherd,
Jesus, true light,
Jesus, eternal wisdom,
Jesus, infinite goodness,
Jesus, our way and our life,
Jesus, joy of angels,
Jesus, king of patriarchs,
Jesus, master of apostles,
Jesus, teacher of evangelists,
Jesus, strength of martyrs,
Jesus, light of confessors,
Jesus, purity of virgins,
Jesus, crown of all saints...

Iesu, Fili Dei vivi,
Iesu, splendor Patris,
Iesu, candor lucis aeternae,
Iesu, rex gloriae,
Iesu, sol iustitiae,
Iesu, Fili Mariae Virginis,
Iesu amabilis,
Iesu admirabilis,
Iesu, Deus fortis,
Iesu, pater futuri saeculi,
Iesu, magni consilii angele,
Iesu, potentissime,
Iesu, patientissime,
Iesu, obedientissime,
lesu, mitis et humilis corde,
lesu, amator castitatis,
Iesu, amator noster,
Iesu, Deus pacis,
lesu, auctor vitae,
lesu, exemplar virtutum,
lesu, zelator animarum,
Iesu, Deus noster,
Iesu, refugium nostrum,
Iesu, pater pauperum,
Iesu, thesaure fidelium,
lesu, bone pastor,
Iesu, lux vera,
Iesu, sapientia aeterna,
Iesu, bonitas infinita,
Iesu, via et vita nostra,
Iesu, gaudium Angelorum,
Iesu, rex Patriarcharum,
Iesu, magister Apostolorum,
Iesu, doctor Evangelistarum,
lesu, fortitudo Martyrum,
Iesu, lumen Confessorum,
lesu, puritas Virginum,
Iesu, corona Sanctorum omnium...

(from the Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus)

Today the Church celebrates in a special way
the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

(from a previous post)

Friday, January 02, 2009

Whom they do not recognize

For many, Christmas is over.

Decorations are being discarded and people are focusing on the next things in their lives.

The timeless words of the classic carols are forgotten.

The nativity scene goes back on a shelf.

Little do people seem to recognize the One whose birth is celebrated.

Some even deny the reality that Jesus, the Child born in Bethlehem, is the Messiah: the Son of God, consubstantial with the Father.

We dare not think or live that way, as Saint John reminds us in today’s first reading(1 John 2:22-28):

Who is the liar?
Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ.
Whoever denies the Father and the Son,
this is the antichrist.

Anyone who denies the Son
does not have the Father,
but whoever confesses the Son
has the Father as well.

Let what you heard from the beginning
remain in you.
If what you heard from the beginning
remains in you,
then you will remain in the Son
and in the Father.

And this is the promise that he made us:
eternal life.

I write you these things
about those who would deceive you.

As for you,
the anointing that you received from him
remains in you,
so that you do not need anyone to teach you.

But his anointing teaches you about everything
and is true and not false;
just as it taught you,
remain in him.

And now, children, remain in him,
so that when he appears
we may have confidence
and not be put to shame by him at his coming.

He was head of the law school

He was very successful on the speaking circuit.

But he felt the money and fame threatening his spiritual life, so he gave it all away, went into the desert and became a monk.

He was joined by his friend and schoolmate Gregory and many others.

Both he and Gregory would become famous bishops who fought hard to defend the truth of Christ.

Basil would found many monasteries and become known as the Father of Eastern Monasticism.

Today the Church celebrates the memory of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzen, 4th century bishops and venerated as Fathers of the Church.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Let His face shine upon you

Today’s first reading (Numbers 6:22-27) gives us perhaps the most famous words of blessing ever:

The LORD said to Moses:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons
and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:

The LORD bless you and keep you!

The LORD let his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you!

The LORD look upon you kindly
and give you peace!

The shining face of the Lord, of course, is a face that is smiling: beaming with love and joy.

That is how God looks upon us, no matter how many clouds of doubt and sin we may wrap around us.

That is why God sent His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

That is why Christ suffered and died for us.

God looks on us with love and joy.

The face of God shines on us.

May you and I let our faces shine back at God, with love and joy and repentence.

May you and I also let our faces shine at those around us with the pure love and joy of God.

Mother of WHAT?!

Some people are taken aback when they hear Mary described as “Mother of God.”

The purpose of this title is to express a critically important truth about Jesus, not simply to say nice things about his mother.

Some people used to say that Mary was only the mother of Christ’s human nature, making it seem almost as if there were two Christs: one human, one divine.

In fact, there is only one Lord Jesus Christ. Mary gave birth to Jesus: a single person fully human and fully divine. In that sense Mary can thus be called Mother of God (Mother in the sense of giving birth to One who is God, not in the sense that she was the cause of God).

The expression “Mother of God” is therefore primarily an affirmation of the unity of the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, exactly one week after the Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Church celebrates his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

(from an earlier post)

Happy New Year

May this be a time of blessings for all of us in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.