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...

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Unity in faith.

Unity in charity.

Unity in communion.

Unity in morality.

Unity under just law.

Unity of truth.

But in all else, legitimate diversity.

Thus says Saint Paul in one of the second readings available for today’s Feast of Pentecost (1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13):

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts
but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service
but the same Lord;
there are different workings
but the same God
who produces all of them
in everyone.

To each individual
the manifestation of the Spirit is given
for some benefit.

As a body is one
though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body,
though many, are one body,
so also Christ.

For in one Spirit
we were all baptized
into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks,
slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink
of one Spirit.

In our diversity, may we embrace proper unity.

In our diversity, may we faithfully discern and by the grace of God bring to fruition the benefits for which the one Holy Spirit is given us.


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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

“This beginning”

In the movie Ben-Hur, as our Lord hangs on the cross, one of the wise men tells the title character:

“For this cause, He came into the world.”

“For this death?” asks Ben-Hur.

“For this beginning,” replies the wise man.

Today’s readings, on the last weekday of the Easter season, contain the endings of their respective books: the Acts of the Apostles (16-20, 30-31) and the Gospel according to Saint John (21:20-25).

But both endings seem odd in their incompleteness.

The book of Acts ends with Saint Paul proclaiming Christ in Rome with scarcely any hint that he would be executed there.

The Gospel ends with a frank admission that it is an incomplete telling of Christ’s life.

There are many reasons for the incompleteness of these endings, but a key reason is that what is described in these divinely-inspired books is indeed only the beginning: our Lord would ascend into Heaven and His Apostles would begin the evangelization of the world; the Apostles would extend that evangelization even into the heart of Western pagan civilization, but it would be their successors who would continue that work into all the distant corners or the world.

These endings are beginnings, for the mission of Christ continues on.

These endings remind us that responsibility for carrying on the mission of Christ in our time has passed to us.

And no matter what stage we may be in our lives, this responsibility is still only beginning.

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

Holy Apostles of God, pray for us.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Post-abortion healing

At the new blog Votive, a blogger tells about her abortions, the evil effects of those bad choices, the healing grace she has received from God, and the help that is available to pregnant women tempted by abortion.

“Not Roman practice”

“Ruining people is considered sport”

Thus wrote a politician’s friend in his suicide note.

How true this can often be in today’s world of tabloids, vigilante journalism, blood-sport blogging, politics of personal destruction, and neighborhood gossip.

How different today’s world can often be from the high standard of justice articulated by the governor of an ancient empire in today’s first reading (Acts 25:13b-21):

I answered them that it was not Roman practice
to hand over an accused person
before he has faced his accusers
and had the opportunity

to defend himself against their charge.

How forgetful we all can be of our own imperfections and sinfulness.

How thankful we should be to our forgiving God, as we hear in today’s Responsorial (Psalm 103:1-2, 11-12, 19:20ab):

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.

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

Peter's answer

Peter never forgot that question: the question we hear in today's Gospel (John 21:15-19).

In his heart, Peter would hear our Lord asking him this question again and again... and for the rest of his life Peter would never stop answering.

Yes, Lord, he thought on the day of Pentecost, you know that I love you.

And then Peter, the fisherman from Galilee, stood in front of thousands of people and brought them to accept Christ.

Do you love me?

Yes, Lord, Peter thought, you know that I love you.

And then Peter left his homeland forever, so that he might preach Christ to other lands.

Do you love me?

Yes, Lord, Peter smiled, you know that I love you.

And then Peter stretched out his arms and was hung upside down on a cross.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bear witness

In today’s first reading (Acts 22:30; 23:6-11), the Lord tells Saint Paul:

Take courage.

For just as you have borne witness to my cause
in Jerusalem,
so you must also bear witness

in Rome.

By the grace of God, Saint Paul gave witness to Christ in the heart of the Jewish world and then in the heart of the entire Western world.

What he did, we must also do by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who - in today’s Gospel (John 17:20-26) – prays for us and for those to whom we give witness.

I pray not only for these,
but also for those
who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me
and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe
that you sent me.

And I have given them
the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one,
as we are one,
I in them
and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection
as one,
that the world may know
that you sent me,
and that you loved them
even as you loved me.

they are your gift to me.

I wish that where I am
they also may be with me,
that they may see
my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me
before the foundation of the world.

Righteous Father,
the world also does not know you,
but I know you,
and they know that you sent me.

I made known to them your name
and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them
and I in them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Be vigilant

Pressure is being brought upon the Church in many ways and in many places today.

Even in places where freedom of religion is enshrined in the highest law of the land and where the Church is the largest religious body, pressure is increasing for the Church to condone or even facilitate immorality and outright evil.

And from within the Church, there are many voices perverting the truth.

Thus the words of Saint Paul in today’s first reading (Acts 20:28-38) resonate especially strongly.

I know that after my departure
savage wolves will come among you,
and they will not spare the flock.

And from your own group,
men will come forward perverting the truth
to draw the disciples away after them.

So be vigilant...

He did what the Pope could not

Gregory was not a missionary, he was the Pope, but there was a missionary endeavor that called to his heart.

Augustine was not a missionary, he was a monk, but when the Pope chose him to lead this missionary endeavor in his place, he could not refuse.

In the end, after many adventures and challenges, the missionary effort was successful and this monk became the first bishop of what would become a one of the world’s most famous archbishoprics.

St. Augustine of Canterbury, sent by Pope St. Gregory the Great to be Apostle of England, died 1404 years ago yesterday and his memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Proclaiming the entire plan of God

In today’s first reading (Acts 20:17-27), Saint Paul bids farewell to representatives of the Church at Ephesus, saying

I solemnly declare to you this day
that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you,
for I did not shrink from proclaiming to you
the entire plan of God.

How many of us could say the same?

Do we proclaim the Truth in its fullness or are there some things about the faith we never give witness to?

To be sure, we should be prudent in our proclamation (Saint Paul spent years teaching at Ephesus), but we must always be faithful to the Truth of Christ in its entirety.

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

The teenager came to the city with no cash

Philip had left behind his family, his job, and a promising future.

He got a position as a tutor that included room and board. When he was not tutoring, he spent his time praying, reading, and sharing his faith with people on the street.

Many of those he met on the street would also dedicate themselves to the service of God. Some stayed with him, others entered religious orders. Philip sometimes thought about becoming a missionary or a hermit, but he was convinced that the city itself would be for him both mission territory and a hermitage.

In time, he became a priest and gathered a religious community around him that focused on prayer, preaching, and music. His community was known as the Congregation of the Oratory and would be associated with a form of musical presentation known as the "oratorio."

St. Philip Neri died in Rome 414 years ago tomorrow and his memory is celebrated on this day. Congregations of the Oratory can be found in many places, from Pittsburgh to South Africa and most famously the Oratory that the venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman founded at Birmingham, England.

(from an earlier post)

Monday, May 25, 2009

The breaking of the fellowship

There was a time when it seemed everyone went to Church.

There was a time when faith was an accepted part of society and public policy.

There was a time when “Catholic community” was not just a buzzword in a parish mission statement.

That time seems long past now.

The “Catholic world” sometimes seems to be scattering.

It is not really as bad as it seems, of course, but it is not as good as it once was.

The world seems full of ex-Catholics and many who still attend Mass seem to practice “drive-by” Catholicism.

Society and politics seem to be turning more and more against people of faith (unless they are practitioners of some previously obscure belief systems who pose no threat to the secularists’ stranglehold).

We used to feel safety in numbers.

That is not guaranteed in this world – neither numbers nor safety.

In all of this, the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in today’s Gospel (John 16:29-33) give us courage and comfort:

the hour is coming
and has arrived
when each of you will be scattered to his own home
and you will leave me alone.

But I am not alone,
because the Father is with me.

I have told you this
so that you might have peace in me.

In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage,
I have conquered the world.

Memorial Day

This is a U.S. holiday, but a good opportunity to remember all who have died in war.

Abraham Lincoln gave perhaps the greatest of Memorial Day speeches not given on Memorial Day (at a cemetery dedication on November 19, 1863).

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But in a larger sense we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

"The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.

"It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on.

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

(from an earlier post)

They sent her to a convent

But her parents did not want Catherine to become a nun.

In fact, when she expressed interest in a religious vocation, they pulled her out of the convent.

In the end, her parents relented and she became a Carmelite at the age of 16, taking the name of Sister Mary Magdalen.

She would lead a very quiet life of prayer, away from the eyes of the world, but was an instrument of great grace for the entire Church.

Saint Mary Magdalen de Pazzi died 402 years ago today and would be canonized by the end of the century.

(from a previous post)

The Church was overflowing with scandal

Large numbers of clergy were guilty of financial and sexual corruption and they ridiculed those who sought to change the situation.

The Church was also feeling pressure in the political realm. One of the most powerful men in the world in particular seemed to enjoy bullying the Church.

Through it all, a Benedictine deacon was doing everything he could to turn back the tide.

There were many who listened to him, especially Popes. For twenty years, he was among the loudest and strongest voices promoting internal reform while defending the Church against external threats.

Then, during a papal funeral, after he had refused the position for many years, crowds loudly acclaimed that he must be the new Pope. The cardinals agreed. Despite his protests, he was ordained a priest and bishop. He was now Pope.

He took dramatic action: issuing decrees and dispatching legates to purge scandalous clergy and making authoritative declarations against the government figures that attacked the Church.

The most prominent of these figures, the famous Emperor Henry IV, ended up coming barefoot in the snow to ask the Holy Father’s pardon.

But the politics of the time were treacherous and Pope Gregory VII himself was betrayed by many sides and had to flee into exile where he soon died on this very day in 1085.

Born in poverty and known as Hildebrand, his personal piety and bold struggles for the freedom and purity of the faith would be long remembered and several centuries later he would be canonized as Pope St Gregory VII.

(from an earlier post)

Thus wrote the humble monk

"From the time of my admission to the priesthood to my present fifty-ninth year, I have endeavored for my own use and that of my brethren, to make brief notes upon the holy Scripture, either out of the works of the venerable Fathers or in conformity with their meaning and interpretation."

Thus wrote the humble monk, who spent the whole of his life within the same monastery and who died a few years after he wrote these words on this very day.

This humble monk who made “brief notes” would be recognized as the most learned man of his day and one of the Church’s greatest historians.

Not long after his death, he was known as “the Venerable” and in 1899, more than a thousand years after his death (in 735), Bede the Venerable would be declared a Doctor of the Church.

(from an earlier post)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Goodbye, cruel world?

Finances destroyed.

Reputation trashed.

Relationships painful or nonexistent.

Health doomed.

These are reasons why people think they should kill themselves and leave this world.

These are the words of Jesus in the Gospel of the seventh Sunday of Easter (John 17:11b-19):

I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.

The world IS an evil place, but the will of Christ is not that we be taken out of the world: quite the contrary, He sends us into the world.

Even the most isolated contemplatives and holy hermits are fully engaged in life and fully dedicated to prayer for the Church in the world.

The world is an evil place. Although there is also good in the world and good in people, we must never let ourselves become attached to this world, for it will betray us.

If we identify ourselves with being prosperous or even just comfortable in this world, not only do we diminish our ties to the eternal riches of heaven, we open ourselves to letting financial setbacks threaten our very souls.

If we identify ourselves too much with being loved or even well thought of in this world, not only do we weaken our connection with the true love of God, we open ourselves to letting our souls be threatened by unpopularity or persecution.

We are not the center of the universe.

Our personal comfort or self-esteem is not the most important reality of existence.

What is important is the mission given to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: a mission of love and truth.

Lifting up his eyes to heaven,
Jesus prayed saying:

Holy Father,
keep them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one
just as we are one.

When I was with them
I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them,
and none of them was lost
except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

But now I am coming to you.

I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.

I gave them your word,
and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.

I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the evil one.

They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.

Consecrate them in the truth.

Your word is truth.

As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.

And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

Suicide is not only a repudiation of God by the destruction of His precious gift of life, it is a renunciation of the mission given to us by Christ.

No matter what may afflict us, no matter what our failures may have been, we can go forward in faithfulness to Christ's mission of love and truth, walking hand in hand by His grace with the One who was tortured, rejected, and denounced.

Until Christ Himself calls us home, may we live in this world faithful to Him – no matter what.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What he knew and what he didn’t know

He knew Scripture.

He knew Jesus and proclaimed Him to the world.

But he did not know some very important things of the Faith.

Fortunately, people who possessed the fullness of the Faith took him aside and filled him in on the Truth.

Such was the case with Apollos in today’s first reading (Acts 18:23-28).

Such is the case very often today.

There are even highly-educated people who call themselves Catholic who do not really know or accept elements of the Faith.

They have excuses and sometimes specious arguments.

Sometimes they reject elements of the Faith to ingratiate themselves with others.

Sometimes they reject elements of the Faith to rationalize their own behavior.

God can use us as His instruments to help bring these people into the fullness of the Faith.

Of course, we need to be prudent and few (if any) of us a worthy [Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner].

But as you and I seek continually to immerse ourselves more and more in the Faith, we need to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to reach out to others and bring them along in the gift of Faith with which we have been blessed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The anguish of the flesh

In today’s Gospel (John 16:20-23), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speaks of the disciples’ pain and grief at His parting:

When a woman is in labor,
she is in anguish
because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain
because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.

So you also are now in anguish.

But I will see you again,
and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.

Labor pains and the grief of losing a loved one are natural human feelings. Although the anguish feels bad, however, bringing a child into the world is a good thing in itself and love for another person, when moral, is also good in itself.

There are other human feelings, associated with our fallen human nature, that also cause anguish but are linked with evil – even among believers and servants of Christ.

These evils must be stopped and the Church must do what it can to heal the victims.

Yet it must never be forgotten that the origin of these evils is the flesh – fallen human nature – not to be condoned but to be remedied, by prudent action (always focusing on protection of the defenseless) and most importantly by God’s grace.

Nor can we ever allow the enemies of the Faith – who wallow in the flesh – to use failures of the flesh among believers as a weapon against the Faith.

Sins and crimes of the flesh must be stopped and prevented, but the ultimate answer lies never in the flesh but always in eternity: in the will and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

May we be ever more faithful to Him as we continue our journeys and struggles in this world.

So you also are now in anguish.

But I will see you again,
and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.

A battered wife

Rita got married very young and she had two sons, but it was a far from happy marriage.

Rita's husband was an angry, abusive man and she suffered with him for 18 years.

He was also involved in a situation that was a cross between a long-running political feud and gang warfare, which eventually led to his being murdered.

Death followed soon after for Rita's sons as well.

Rita then entered the religious life, at the age of 36.

She would live a life of penance, prayer, charity and peacemaking for another 40 years.

St. Rita of Cascia died at the Augustinian convent at Cascia, Italy, on this very day 552 years ago.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ascension Thursday wishes

From one of the Epistles available for today's Solemnity (Ephesians 1:17-23):

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know
what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness
of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality,
authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age
but also in the one to come.

And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one
who fills all things in every way.

“...will become joy”

Life is not always happy, especially nowadays.

Tragically, many people seek happiness in immorality and – from the outside – they look like they’re having fun.

We know, of course, that immorality is a deadly trap.

In the Gospel for the Thursday of the sixth week of Easter (John 16:16-20), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says this:

Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve,
but your grief will become joy.

Ascension Thursday

The Ascension of our Lord is celebrated in many places on this day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More of the same

Usually, when people say “more of the same”, they say it with disdain or even boredom.

In today’s Gospel (John 16:12-15), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ essentially tells us that the Holy Spirit will be bringing us “more of the same”.

But this will be far from boring.

I have much more to tell you,
but you cannot bear it now.

But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.

He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you

the things that are coming.

He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.

Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you

that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.

The revelation of God in Jesus Christ is really much more than the human brain can comprehend – not even over a period of years.

The three years of our Lord’s earthly ministry was not enough time for the disciples. The years of religious education we received as children (or as converts) is not be enough for us.

There is infinitely more for us to understand, even of the things that we think we already do.

Indeed, God willing, eternity itself will be a never-ending thrill ride of discovery of the riches and the beauty and the wonder of God.

In the meantime, the Holy Spirit guides us in our earthbound journey of discovery, helping us uncover more and more of who our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is and what He means in our lives.

Always the same – the truth does not change - yet always new and eternally exciting.

May we be faithful and may we be open – in Jesus’ name.

Areopagite Idol

St. Paul the Apostle's voice rose in power and intensity.

"God has overlooked the times of ignorance,
but now he demands
that all people everywhere repent
because he has established
a day on which he will 'judge the world with justice'
through a man he has appointed,
and he has provided confirmation for all
by raising him from the dead."

A man sitting in the front spoke up.

"I dunno, dawg, it was kinda pitchy for me."

A woman seated next to him said, "I think what may be pitchy for you is the essence of who Paul is." (Everyone looked confused for a moment.)

A sour-looking man next to the woman then spoke to Paul brusquely.

"It was ghastly."

A man with a bright smile then walked to Paul and said, "We should like to hear you on this some other time."


St. Paul's preaching to the pagan intellectuals at the Areopagus of Athens, as recounted in today's first reading (Acts 17:15,22-18:1), is sometimes interpreted as less than a complete success, and yet it bore fruit: one of those converted that day, Dionysius, went on to become the bishop of this prestigious city.

It was a daunting task, standing up to an entrenched intelligentsia on their own hallowed ground, but Paul had the courage, the insight, and the grace to do it.

It encourages us not to be afraid to stand up for the faith against the intelligentsia and de facto pagans of our own day (taking care to seek the insight and the grace needed for such opportunities).

An important point to remember is what underlies St. Paul's words to the Athenians: that even the most highly educated and intellectually gifted people may be, on some deep level, essentially ignorant of the true content of faith.

We need to be careful, to develop all the insight we can, to seek the grace from God we need, and to be unafraid in speaking the truth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

(from an earlier post)

Tens of thousands gathered to hear him

As many as 30,000 once gathered to listen to him.

Without a microphone.

He traveled all around the country to preach.

On foot.

Bernadine of Siena, the most powerful preacher of the century, literally wore himself out in the service of God: dropping to the ground and dying on this very day in 1444 (like this year, the vigil of the Ascension). He was canonized six years later.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Perhaps the most fundamental question of human grief is “Why?”

Why did this happen?

Why is this person I loved no longer here?

The answers do not always come quickly or easily.

In today’s Gospel (John 16:5-11), our Lord speaks to His disciples, whose hearts are filled with grief, for they know that He is being taken from them (although they little understand all of what that means).

Our Lord speaks to His disciples in their grief, telling them some of the reasons why it is better for Him to go.

But I tell you the truth,
it is better for you that I go.

For if I do not go,
the Advocate will not come to you.

But if I go,
I will send him to you.

When our Lord speaks of going, this involves more than one level of meaning.

On one level, He is speaking of His death: the first and most grief-filled parting.

But it is that death which restores the relationship of God and man and makes the gift of the Holy Spirit possible.

One another level, He is speaking of His Ascension: His final parting from the disciples.

But it is that parting, removing Christ’s physical presence, that opens the way for His powerful spiritual presence through the Holy Spirit.

No matter what griefs you and I may have, may we find enlightenment and comfort by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Murder and belief

The hour is coming
when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.

These words from today's Gospel (John 15:26-16:4a) are chilling in this post-September 11th world.

Some have seized upon September 11th and other horrific instances of terrorism as a way to impugn all those who take religion seriously.

As baseless and tired a canard as this is, enemies of religion hysterically keep repeating it. Ironically, it is one of atheism's "beliefs", overlooking the tens of millions killed by atheists - motivated by other atheistic beliefs - in the twentieth century alone.

People kill people and they will misuse anything they can to do it: even religion or atheistic ideology.

I have told you this
so that you may not fall away....

I have told you this
so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you.

Our Lord's words in today's Gospel are a reminder for us to be prepared for opposition.

This opposition takes many forms. Sometimes it is explicit, murderous persecution (murdering for God in the sense of killing believers for their faith in God).

Sometimes it is the subtle path of manipulation: to make us forsake, dilute, or misuse the true faith (even to the point of leading people to do terrible things - even murder - for God, however falsely).

How do we prepare for this opposition (for persecution or for manipulation)? Christ tells us how in today's Gospel.

First, we prepare for opposition (for persecution or for manipulation) by remembering what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has told us, that is, by studying the deposit of faith diligently. Vague memories of catechism classes are often insufficient to prepare us for the specious arguments of the glib.

Most importantly, however, we prepare for opposition (for persecution and for manipulation) by the grace of God, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and by staying close to the Lord in prayer and Sacrament.

When the Advocate comes
whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth
who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.

Whether persecution or manipulation of the true Faith, may we be prepared against these things by the wisdom and the grace of God.

(adapted from an earlier post)

He was not exactly a parishioner

But the powerful man thought the bishop would be a good choice for a diplomatic mission.

When the bishop arrived at his assigned destination, he was greeted with reverent enthusiasm by people at the very highest levels.

The bishop returned the favor by giving strong affirmation to his host and, consistent with his mission and his conscience, passed on a message of peace and kindness (while still upholding truth).

After the bishop returned from his mission, the powerful man went into a rage, threw the bishop into prison, and deprived him of food and water.

John, the first Bishop of Rome to use that name, died there on this very day in the year 526.

(from an earlier post)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

True love

People throw around the word love nowadays, often without much meaning and sometimes with a meaning that is the opposite of true love.

Today’s Gospel (John 1:9-17) and second reading (1 John 4:7-10), remind us what true love – everlasting love – really is.

Love comes from God in and through His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We love truly because God loves us.

We can remain in true love as we remain faithful to God.

Love involves sacrifice.

Our Lord says:

As the Father loves me,
so I also love you.

Remain in my love.

If you keep my commandments,
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.

I have told you this
so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.

This is my commandment:
love one another
as I love you.

No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one's life for one's friends.

You are my friends
if you do what I command you.

I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know
what his master is doing.

I have called you friends,
because I have told you
everything I have heard from my Father.

It was not you who chose me,
but I who chose you
and appointed you
to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name
he may give you.

This I command you:
love one another.

And Saint John reminds us:

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 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.

Lord Jesus, give us the grace to love truly.

Faithful Christians are not always popular

Sometimes it seems as if faithful Christians are less and less popular in today’s world.

In yesterday’s Gospel (John 15:18-21 – sorry for being late), who gave His life to take away the sins of the world, says this:

If the world hates you,
realize that it hated me first.

If you belonged to the world,
the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
and I have chosen you out of the world,
the world hates you.

Remember the word I spoke to you,
'No slave is greater than his master.'

If they persecuted me,
they will also persecute you.

If they kept my word,
they will also keep yours.

And they will do all these things to you
on account of my name,
because they do not know the one who sent me.

May we be faithful, no matter what, by the grace of Christ.

Friday, May 15, 2009

“The decision of the Holy Spirit and of us”

Today’s first reading (Acts 15:22-31) gives us the pronouncement of the very first Council of the Church: the Council of Jerusalem – as the Apostles and elders of the Church issue a decision on a matter of controversy.

But they make it clear that it is not their decision:

'It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us...”

Were the Apostles and elders perfect people (saints though they were)? No.

Were they brightest and most intellectual people on the planet? No.

They were collectively the instrument of God the Holy Spirit.

This instrument of the Holy Spirit remains in our midst, even in this world of increasingly hostile voices and subtly oppressive powers.

This instrument of the Holy Spirit remains in our midst, even with the imperfections of ministers and imprudence of individuals.

The Church remains.

The Church speaks.

The Holy Spirit is at work.

May we listen, be open, and follow.

Suspicions about a farm worker

The other farm workers told their boss that Isidro was always late. When confronted, Isidro gave the excuse that he was going to Mass every morning on his way in and insisted that his work was being done.

The boss remained suspicious, so he put him under surveillance.

Sure enough, he saw Isidro going to Mass.

And later, when he looked into the field assigned to Isidro, he saw him working diligently.

But that was not all: the boss saw a second team plowing in Isidro’s field and they glowed with a heavenly light.

Both Isidro and his wife Maria would become well known for their sanctity and charity.

Isidro died on this very day in 1130 and would be canonized nearly 500 years later. His wife died a few years after him and is also venerated as a saint.

The memory of Saint Isidore the farmer (also known as Isidore the laborer and Isidore of Madrid) is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How to remain in love

Some people, it is said, are in love with being in love.

But, so very often, love seems to fade or even die.

In today’s Gospel (John 15:9-17), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives us the answer for love that is truly everlasting:

  • Being loved by God
  • Being faithful to God’s commandments
  • Loving others accordingly

As the Father loves me,
so I also love you.

Remain in my love.

If you keep my commandments,
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.

I have told you this
so that my joy might be in you
and your joy might be complete.

This is my commandment:
love one another as I love you.

No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one's life for one's friends.

You are my friends
if you do what I command you.

I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know
what his master is doing.

I have called you friends,
because I have told you
everything I have heard from my Father.

It was not you who chose me,
but I who chose you
and appointed you
to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name
he may give you.

This I command you:
love one another.

He was not one of the important people

He was not in the inner circle, and that was fine with him: he was thrilled to be involved in any way he could.

Then came the most frightening, confusing, and exhilarating three days of his life.

It wasn’t until weeks later that they realized they needed to fill an opening in the inner circle.

And he was chosen.

Matthias, who had been one of the lesser disciples of Jesus, was selected to replace Judas as one of the Twelve Apostles.

His feast is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bear fruit, be disciples

What’s the point?

What’s our purpose?

What should be our direction?

In today’s Gospel (John 15:1-8), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ answers:

Be His disciples.

Bear fruit.

Glorify God.

No matter where we are in life.

All of this, of course, is the work of God’s grace in us, so we must pray again and again for this grace, so that – as weak and sinful as we may now be – by the power and grace of God we may be faithful disciples, bear good fruit, and give glory to God.

By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit
and become my disciples

What they both knew

Before he had been elected Pope, most of the world had not heard of him.

When she was a little girl, she was known and respected around the world.

Then one day, when thousands of hands were waving and reaching out to the Pope, one man reached out to him with death and the Pope fell.

But the Pope didn't die that day and he knew why.

On that very day, many years before, the little girl had been outside the village with her sister and brother and there they had met a beautiful woman who spoke to them about her son, about love, and about prayer.

She was Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

By the time the Pope was attacked, the little girl was a very old and venerable nun, but after he recovered, he went to meet with her.

And so, the great Pope John Paul and the famous Sister Lucy sat together and spoke of what they knew of God's providence in Christ and about Christ's mother Mary, whom Sister Lucy had met at a place called Fatima.

The first appearance of our Lady of Fatima took place 92 years ago today and this day is celebrated by the Church around the world.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid

As we continue through our Lord’s Farewell Discourse in today's selection from the Gospel according to Saint John (14:27-31a), He repeats to us words of comfort:

Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

We need these words – we need this grace – for the times seem overfull with reasons for trouble and fear.

Many try to escape their fears and troubles in alcohol, drugs, or hedonism.

They are traps.

What Christ offers us is real and eternal.

Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.

Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

Many were killed in that place

There were two men. They had been soldiers – and not just any soldiers: they had been among the elite, standing guard in the highest corridors of power, close by the most powerful man in the world.

But then they heard about Jesus and they walked away from the man of power to follow the Son of God.

For that, they were killed.

There was also a boy, 14 years old, who was an orphan. He had just come to the city and had embraced Christ.

They killed him too.

Yet they would all be remembered by the Christians of that place, the city of Rome, and their victory through Christ celebrated.

The memory of Saints Nereus, Achilleus, and Pancras is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Love and commandments

Today’s Gospel (John 14:21-26) reminds us that the love of God is not just a feeling.

The love of God is bound with eternal truth and with implementing that truth in our daily lives.

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

Whoever has my commandments
and observes them
is the one who loves me.
Whoever loves me

will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him

and reveal myself to him.


Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him

and make our dwelling with him.

Whoever does not love me
does not keep my words;
yet the word you hear is not mine
but that of the Father who sent me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Remain in Christ

There is too much to do.

There is too much going wrong.

We feel overwhelmed.

May God give us the grace to see the root of the problem: that we are not fully rooted in Him.

Thus our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, true God and true man, speaks to us in today’s Gospel (John 15:1-8):

Remain in me,
as I remain in you.

Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you
unless you remain in me.

I am the vine,
you are the branches.

Whoever remains in me
and I in him
will bear much fruit,
because without me
you can do nothing.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


In today’s first reading (Acts 13:44-52), community leaders unleash “violent abuse” upon Saints Paul and Barnabas on account of jealousy.

Nowadays, such violent abuse and jealousy is hurled against the Faith and the faithful from numerous directions.

We hear it in the terrible things said about Pope Benedict by a few religious leaders and their followers even as he gently visits the Middle East and speaks lovingly and truthfully to the people there.

We hear it in the terrible things said about people of faith by irreligious opinion-makers and their followers, even in cartoons and movies for children.

Yet if we remain faithful to Christ, great things can and will happen, as our Lord Himself promises us in today’s Gospel (John 14:7-14):

Do you not believe
that I am in the Father
and the Father is in me?

The words that I speak to you
I do not speak on my own.

The Father who dwells in me
is doing his works.

Believe me
that I am in the Father
and the Father is in me,
or else,
believe because of the works themselves.

Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me
will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.

And whatever you ask in my name,
I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

If you ask anything of me in my name,
I will do it.

Friday, May 08, 2009

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

These are times of trouble.

Many of us are unsure about what we should do or which way we should go.

A few among us even think that suicide may be the way.

It is not.

We cannot come to the peace of our Father’s house by our own hand.

In today’s Gospel (John 14:1-6), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says this to you and me:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God;
have faith also in me.
In my Father's house
there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you
that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again
and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going
you know the way."

Thomas said to him,
"Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?"

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

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What to do

We “vent”.

We do our thing.

Today’s readings invite us to do something different.

Something better.

Today’s readings invite us to receive.

In the first reading (Acts 13:13-25) the leaders of a synagogue are eager to receive what Saint Paul has to say.

In the Gospel (John 13:13-20), our Lord says this:

Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever receives the one I send
receives me,
and whoever receives me
receives the one who sent me.

May we always be ready to receive from Christ.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

“His commandment is eternal life”

“Too authoritarian.”

That is the excuse given by some people who reject, leave, or water down the Faith.

Invariably, these people falls even more deeply under the deadly authoritarianism of their own whims – or even worse things.

In today’s Gospel (John 12:44-50), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ shows us a better way and a better understanding:

The Father who sent me
commanded me what to say and speak.

And I know that his commandment is eternal life.

So what I say, I say as the Father told me.

May you and I, by the grace of Christ, embrace more fully the commandments of God.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Many people feel very insecure nowadays.

The threat of unemployment makes them feel insecure in their jobs.

The threat of foreclosure makes them feel insecure in their homes.

The threats of crime and terrorism makes them feel insecure everywhere.

But no matter what threats may overshadow us or troubles may afflict us, faithful Christians can feel secure, for the Son of God holds us in His hand, as we hear in today’s Gospel (John 10:22-30):

My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.

I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish.

No one can take them out of my hand.

My Father, who has given them to me,
is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father's hand.

The Father and I are one.

Monday, May 04, 2009

“He walks ahead of them”

Sometimes – especially in this world of economic turmoil, unemployment, and foreclosure – we are frightened.

Sometimes – especially in this world of conflicting ideas and authorities – we are not sure what to do.

But in this world and beyond this world, we have Christ – the Good Shepherd – as we hear in today’s Gospel (John 10:1-10):

He walks ahead of them,
and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.

May we not be afraid.

He walks ahead of us.

May we listen to the voice of Christ.

He calls to us.

May we follow Him.

He is our Lord, our Savior, and our Shepherd.

How to be a shepherd

Amen, amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.

These are beautiful words in today's Gospel (John 10:1-10) and yet it is easy to become a little confused about that last part. Is our Lord really saying that all who came before him – e.g., Moses and David and Isaiah - were “thieves and robbers?”

The very first verse of this chapter puts us on the path to clarify what our Lord is saying:

Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber."

The bottom line is that Christ is the shepherd and we are his sheep.

Christ may enable us in different ways to participate in his shepherding of the sheep, but all of us remain forever sheep – we are all Christ’s sheep.

Anyone who tries to shepherd Christ’s sheep apart from Christ – who does not enter through Christ the Gate - is a thief and a robber: even if we are just trying to shepherd ourselves alone, for none of us really belong to ourselves – we are all Christ’s sheep.

It is Christ alone who leads us in infinitely right paths, for he is the gate, the way, the truth and the life.

It is Christ alone who leads us along the blessedly peaceful waters, for from him alone do eternally living waters flow.

It is Christ alone who sets the most wonderful banquet before us, for he is the Bread of Life.

Moses, David, Isaiah, and all the holy leaders of God’s people – insofar as they abided in the Lord and shepherded rightly – participated in God’s shepherding of the sheep in various mysterious ways, but something would remain fundamentally lacking until the Incarnation of Christ in the fullness of time.

In Christ, true God and true man, humanity recognizes the true voice for which it was created and destined to hear.

In our own time, we have shepherds among us – from the Bishop of Rome to the pastor of our local congregation – who participate explicitly in Christ’s shepherding of the flock – insofar as they have received and follow the mandate of Christ and they abide in him.

Sometimes we don’t like our shepherds. Sometimes it’s because some of them shepherd imperfectly and sometimes it’s because we don’t like being sheep, but we are all Christ’s sheep (and the shepherds among us need to be the most “sheepish” of us all).

We need always to appreciate that we are sheep, that we are Christ’s sheep, that Christ calls forth shepherds from among us, and that none of us can rightly shepherd even ourselves apart from Christ.

We need always to listen for the voice of Christ the shepherd and pray for all who in any way share in Christ’s shepherding: for ourselves and those who shepherd us for Christ.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Listen to the One

There are many voices in the world today.

Voices of fear.

Voices of temptation.

Voices of clever-sounding liars.

In today’s Gospel (John 10:11-18), we hear another voice.

The voice of love,

The voice of goodness.

The voice of truth.

I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine
and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep
that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead,
and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock,
one shepherd.


Listen to Jesus.

Listen to the true love of God.

No other name

In today’s first reading (Acts 4:1-12), Peter pulls no punches in talking about Jesus.

There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.

Nothing else is in the same league as God becoming man, dying and rising from the dead.

This reaffirms the necessity of our efforts as Christians to proclaim Christ and to help lead others to Christ.

Even if we believe that Christ’s saving power may be somehow at work in those who - through no fault of their own - do not really know him, we must be diligent in making clear to them and to everyone the truth about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For there is no other name by which we are to be saved.

That at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth
and under the earth,
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:10-11)

(adapted from an earlier post)

World Day of Prayer for Vocations


Theme: Faith in the divine initiative - the human response

"Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,Brothers and Sisters,

"On the occasion of the next World Day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life, which will be celebrated on 3 May 2009, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, I want to invite all the People of God to reflect on the theme: Faith in the divine initiative - the human response.

"The exhortation of Jesus to his disciples: 'Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest' (Mt 9:38) has a constant resonance in the Church.


"The urgent call of the Lord stresses that prayer for vocations should be continuous and trusting. The Christian community can only really 'have ever greater faith and hope in God's providence' (Sacramentum Caritatis, 26) if it is enlivened by prayer.

"The vocation to the priesthood and to the consecrated life constitutes a special gift of God which becomes part of the great plan of love and salvation that God has for every man and woman and for the whole of humanity. The Apostle Paul, whom we remember in a special way during this Pauline Year dedicated to the Two-thousandth anniversary of his birth, writing to the Ephesians says, 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him' (Ef 1:3-4).

"In the universal call to holiness, of particular relevance is God’s initiative of choosing some to follow his Son Jesus Christ more closely, and to be his privileged ministers and witnesses. The divine Master personally called the Apostles 'to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons' (Mk 3:14-15); they, in turn, gathered other disciples around them as faithful collaborators in this mission. In this way, responding to the Lord’s call and docile to the movement of the Holy Spirit, over the centuries, countless ranks of priests and consecrated persons placed themselves totally at the service of the Gospel in the Church.

"Let us give thanks to God, because even today he continues to call together workers into his vineyard. While it is undoubtedly true that a worrisome shortage of priests is evident in some regions of the world, and that the Church encounters difficulties and obstacles along the way, we are sustained by the unshakable certitude that the one who firmly guides her in the pathways of time towards the definitive fulfilment of the Kingdom is he, the Lord, who freely chooses persons of every culture and of every age and invites them to follow him according to the mysterious plans of his merciful love.

"Our first duty, therefore, is to keep alive in families and in parishes, in movements and in apostolic associations, in religious communities and in all the sectors of diocesan life this appeal to the divine initiative with unceasing prayer.

"We must pray that the whole Christian people grows in its trust in God, convinced that the 'Lord of the harvest' does not cease to ask some to place their entire existence freely at his service so as to work with him more closely in the mission of salvation.

"What is asked of those who are called, for their part, is careful listening and prudent discernment, a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan, and a serious study of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations, so as to be able to respond responsibly and with conviction.

"The Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly reminds us that God’s free initiative requires a free response on the part of men and women; a positive response which always presupposes acceptance of and identification with the plan that God has for everyone; a response which welcomes the Lord’s loving initiative and becomes, for the one who is called, a binding moral imperative, an offering of thanksgiving to God and a total cooperation with the plan which God carries out in history (cf. n. 2062).

"Contemplating the mystery of the Eucharist, which expresses in a sublime way the free gift of the Father in the Person of his Only Begotten Son for the salvation of mankind, and the full and docile readiness of Christ to drink to the dregs the 'cup' of the will of God (cf. Mt 26:39), we can more readily understand how 'faith in the divine initiative' models and gives value to the 'human response'. In the Eucharist, that perfect gift which brings to fulfilment the plan of love for the redemption of the world, Jesus offers himself freely for the salvation of mankind.

"'The Church', my beloved predecessor John Paul II wrote, 'has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as a gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work' (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11).

"It is priests who are called to perpetuate this salvific mystery from century to century until the Lord’s glorious return, for they can contemplate, precisely in the Eucharistic Christ, the eminent model of a 'vocational dialogue' between the free initiative of the Father and the faithful response of Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist it is Christ himself who acts in those whom he chooses as his ministers; he supports them so that their response develops in a dimension of trust and gratitude that removes all fear, even when they experience more acutely their own weakness (cf. Rm 8:26-28), or indeed when the experience of misunderstanding or even of persecution is most bitter (cf. Rm 8:35-39).

"The awareness of being saved by the love of Christ, which every Mass nourishes in the faithful and especially in priests, cannot but arouse within them a trusting self-abandonment to Christ who gave his life for us.

"To believe in the Lord and to accept his gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to his plan of salvation.

"When this does happen, the one who is 'called' voluntarily leaves everything and submits himself to the teaching of the divine Master; hence a fruitful dialogue between God and man begins, a mysterious encounter between the love of the Lord who calls and the freedom of man who responds in love, hearing the words of Jesus echoing in his soul, 'You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide' (Jn 15:16).

"This intertwining of love between the divine initiative and the human response is present also, in a wonderful way, in the vocation to the consecrated life. The Second Vatican Council recalls, 'The evangelical counsels of chastity dedicated to God, poverty and obedience are based upon the words and examples of the Lord. They were further commanded by the apostles and Fathers of the Church, as well as by the doctors and pastors of souls. The counsels are a divine gift, which the Church received from its Lord and which it always safeguards with the help of His grace' (Lumen Gentium, 43).

"Once more, Jesus is the model of complete and trusting adherence to the will of the Father, to whom every consecrated person must look.

"Attracted by him, from the very first centuries of Christianity, many men and women have left families, possessions, material riches and all that is humanly desirable in order to follow Christ generously and live the Gospel without compromise, which had become for them a school of deeply rooted holiness.

"Today too, many undertake this same demanding journey of evangelical perfection and realise their vocation in the profession of the evangelical counsels. "

The witness of these our brothers and sisters, in contemplative monasteries, religious institutes and congregations of apostolic life, reminds the people of God of 'that mystery of the Kingdom of God is already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven' (Vita Consecrata, 1).

"Who can consider himself worthy to approach the priestly ministry? Who can embrace the consecrated life relying only on his or her own human powers?

"Once again, it is useful to reiterate that the response of men and women to the divine call, whenever they are aware that it is God who takes the initiative and brings His plan of salvation to fulfilment, is never patterned after the timid self-interest of the worthless servant who, out of fear, hid the talent entrusted to him in the ground (cf. Mt 25:14-30), but rather expresses itself in a ready adherence to the Lord’s invitation, as in the case of Peter who, trusting in the Lord’ word, did not hesitate to let down the net once more even after having toiled all night and catching nothing (cf. Lk 5:5).

"Without in any sense renouncing personal responsibility, the free human response to God thus becomes 'co-responsibility', responsibility in and with Christ, through the action of his Holy Spirit; it becomes communion with the One who makes it possible for us to bear much fruit (cf. Jn 15:5).

"An emblematic human response, full of trust in God’s initiative, is the generous and unmitigated 'Amen' of the Virgin of Nazareth, uttered with humble and decisive adherence to the plan of the Most High announced to her by God’s messenger (cf. Lk 1:38). Her prompt 'Yes' allowed Her to become the Mother of God, the Mother of our Saviour. Mary, after this first 'fiat', had to repeat it many times, even up to the culminating moment of the crucifixion of Jesus, when 'standing by the cross of Jesus' as the Evangelist John notes, she participated in the dreadful suffering of her innocent Son. And it was from the cross, that Jesus, while dying, gave her to us as Mother and entrusted us to her as sons and daughters (cf. Jn 19:26-27); she is especially the Mother of priests and consecrated persons. I want to entrust to her all those who are aware of God’s call to set out on the road of the ministerial priesthood or consecrated life.

"Dear friends, do not become discouraged in the face of difficulties and doubts; trust in God and follow Jesus faithfully and you will be witnesses of the joy that flows from intimate union with him.

"Imitating the Virgin Mary whom all generations proclaim as blessed because she believed (cf. Lk 1:48), commit yourselves with every spiritual energy, to realise the heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, cultivating in your heart, like her, the ability to be astonished and to adore him who is mighty and does 'great things', for Holy is his name (cf. Lk 1:49)."

From the Vatican, 20 January 2009

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Be like Peter

Saint Peter has a truly starring role in both of today’s readings.

In today’s Gospel (John 6:60-69), when many of the disciples are walking away from Christ, Saint Peter is gifted by God to stand strong and to speak with simple and powerful eloquence:

Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.

In today’s first reading (Acts 9:31-42), Saint Peter is gifted by God to be a powerful instrument of Christ’s power and grace: even healing cripples and raising from the dead.

We are not Peter.

But, by the grace of God, we can be instruments of Christ’s love, truth, and grace.

It was a tough place to be a bishop

It was more than a big city: it encompassed one of the greatest centers of intellectual activity in the world.

And most of the intellectuals ridiculed the faith.

Even one of the priests in the diocese gathered worldwide fame and innumerable followers by denying that Jesus was really God.

The rebel priest’s ideas became very popular and the bishop himself was run out of town more than once.

Yet the true faith eventually prevailed, thanks in no small measure to the perseverance and brilliance of the local bishop.

St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, champion of the Council of Nicaea, opponent of Arianism, and Father of Orthodoxy, died peacefully in his own bed on this very day in the year 323.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Friday, May 01, 2009


Sadly, many who speak loudest in favor of a simplistic, verse-by-by verse, literal interpretation of Scripture deny any sort of literal interpretation of today’s Gospel (John 6:52-59) because it offends the particular post-Renaissance reinvention of Christianity to which they subscribe.

For Churches that have continuity with the Church founded by Christ upon Peter and the Apostles, our Lord is most obviously speaking of the great gift of the Eucharist – Holy Communion.

Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his Blood,
you do not have life within you.

Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.

For my Flesh is true food,
and my Blood is true drink.

Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
remains in me and I in him.

Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.

This is the bread that came down from heaven.

Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.

By the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may you and I live worthily and partake reverently of the great and most precious Sacrament of His Body and Blood.

A man of work

illustration by George Becker"The truth that by means of work man participates in the activity of God himself, his Creator, was given particular prominence by Jesus Christ - the Jesus at whom many of his first listeners in Nazareth 'were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him?.. Is not this the carpenter?"'

"For Jesus not only proclaimed but first and foremost fulfilled by his deeds the 'gospel,' the word of eternal Wisdom, that had been entrusted to him.

"Therefore this was also 'the gospel of work,' because he who proclaimed it was himself a man of work, a craftsman like Joseph of Nazareth."

from Laborem Exercens, 26 - by the great Pope John Paul II

Today the Church celebrates the memory of St. Joseph the Worker

(from an earlier post)

What shall we pray for this month?

Pope Benedict XVI's general prayer intention for May is for Lay Vocation Promoters:

That the laity and Christian communities may embrace their responsibility for promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

His missionary intention is for A Missionary Church.

In response to the Lord for the gift of faith, may the younger Catholic communities generously participate in the universal mission of the Church to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth.