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, October 31, 2009

On All Hallow’s Eve

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


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

(adapted from a previous post)

How to get ahead

Self-promotion is the way to get ahead, they say.

The result is that the world is very often cursed by people who are good at self-promotion and no so good at the job they are supposed to do.

More important for true success in this world are real accomplishments together with clear and honest communication about them.

As for eternal success, the words of our Lord in today’s Gospel (Luke 14:1, 7-11) are truly words to live by:

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

Humility before God is honesty, for we are infinitesimal before the Infinite, powerless before the Omnipotent.

Only by grace can we mortals attain eternity.

Thus, in and through Christ…

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

Friday, October 30, 2009

No right to be closed

Both of today’s readings touch on the relationship of the Jewish people to Christ the Savior, albeit in different ways.

In the first reading (Romans 9:1-5), Saint Paul extols the gifts of God given to the Jewish people. On the other hand, in the Gospel (Luke 14:1-6), a particular group of Jewish people refuses to engage in dialogue with the Lord Jesus.

We must respect the Jewish people and the gifts of God given to them, even as we must remain faithful to carrying on Christ’s mission of speaking the truth and doing what is good.

Today’s readings also should remind us that we too have been given gifts by God and that we too must be careful about closing our minds and hearts to greater knowledge of and greater unity with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nothing will get in our way

We face many obstacles in life: they can feel overwhelming and some of them can seem impossible.

Life does not always go well, even for Christ’s faithful, yet as Saint Paul reminds us in today's first reading (Romans 8:31b-39), we ultimately have undefeatable security in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, no matter what bad things may happen along the way.

If God is for us,
who can be against us?

He did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also
give us everything else
along with him?

Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us.

Who will condemn?
It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised,
who also is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.

What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish,
or distress,
or persecution,
or famine,
or nakedness,
or peril,
or the sword?

As it is written:
For your sake we are being slain all the day;
we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.

in all these things
we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.

For I am convinced
that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers,
nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature
will be able to separate us
from the love of God
in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pray first. Pray hard. Pray long.

Today’s Gospel (Luke 6:12-16) includes the call of the Twelve Apostles, which is why it was selected for today’s Feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude.

But we should consider well what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ does just before choosing the Apostles.

He went up to the mountain to pray,
and He spent the night in prayer to God.

He prayed first.

He prayed hard, isolating Himself from everything.

He prayed long.

We should do the same when we face momentous decisions in our own lives (or even at times when we feel adrift).

Pray first. Pray hard. Pray long.

The other ones

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

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

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

They were the other ones.

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

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

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

(from a previous post)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Having a bad day?

Here is what Saint Paul says in today's first reading (Romans 8:18-25):

I consider that the sufferings of this present time
are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.

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

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains
even until now;
and not only that,
but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption,
the redemption of our bodies.

For in hope we were saved.
Now hope that sees for itself is not hope.
For who hopes for what one sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see,
we wait with endurance.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Not a spirit of fear

A dear old friend of mine told me that when he was a boy he and his father were once in a boat during a storm. He became frightened and asked his father to “Make it stop.”

As fine a fellow as his dad was, of course, he could not make the storm stop.

God our Father, of course, can.

But it is not always better that the storm stop.

Indeed, while prudence is always important, fear can be more dangerous than any storm.

Fear of failure, fear of pain, fear of discomfort, fear of embarrassment, fear of loss, fear of loneliness – these are all fears that we can face.

These are all fears which, by the grace of God our heavenly Father in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we can overcome, as Saint Paul reminds us in today’s first reading (Romans 8:12-17).

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery
to fall back into fear,
but you received a spirit of adoption,
through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”

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

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I want to see

There are many kinds of blindness.

Physical blindness is perhaps the least insidious.

There are many other kinds of blindness: kinds of blindness both insidious and deadly.

The blindness of selfishness.

The blindness of lust, of gluttony, and of other fleshy desires.

The blindness of hate and of anger.

The blindness of depression.

The blindness of this world’s propaganda.

There are many, many more blind people in the world than we might think.

Indeed, we ourselves can be and are blind.

No matter what kind of blindness afflicts us, we can put ourselves in the place of the blind man in today’s Gospel (Mark 10:46-52).

"Master, I want to see."

Jesus told him,
"Go your way;
your faith has saved you."
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.

No matter what kind of blindness afflicts us, may we say to Jesus, “Lord, I want to see.”

May He heal us of our blindness and may we follow Him on His way.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Time and manure

The last part of today’s Gospel (Luke 13:1-9) is a parable about God’s judgment (illustrated by the owner) and mercy (illustrated by the gardner).

There once was a person
who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it
but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come
in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’

He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it
and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’

God will judge. God will set all things right. Wickedness will not continue.

But God is merciful and gives time for repentance.

We sinners are beneficiaries of God’s forbearance.

By God’s grace, we need to use that time well and repent.

But in this parable, the unfruitful tree is given more than just time: it is given care and fertilizer.

Fertilizer is a slight euphemism, of course: the actual substance is manure.

Grace sometimes comes in strange forms: even some of the things we may perceive as manure.

No matter what, we need to pray that God will give us the grace to use well the time we have: to repent and draw close to Him.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Anthony Claret, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba and founder of the Claretians, died 139 years ago today.

(from an earlier post)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Responding to the time

There are two things that our Lord Jesus Christ tells us to do in today’s Gospel (Luke 12:54-59): we need to “interpret the present time” and we need to “settle the matter on the way”.

Many have interpreted this passage as warning us to look for signs of the world’s ending and to make ourselves right with God while we still have time.

There is much truth in that interpretation, although too many spend too much time trying to match current events to Biblical prophecies and forecast the manner, day, and hour of the world’s ending and not enough time in repentance and in deepening their relationship with God.

Interpreting the present time also means recognizing the will of God for us each day and even each hour.

Yet, even if we recognize God’s will, we do not always do it.

That sad and frustrating situation we all experience (I know I do) is described simply yet powerfully by Saint Paul in today’s first reading (Romans 7:18-25a):

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

What is the solution?

How do we interpret the present time and respond to God’s will?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The answer, the solution, and the only way is grace.

In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, we must pray for the grace of understanding and the gift of interpretation.

In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, we must pray for the grace of repentance.

In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, we must pray for the grace to respond to His will and to carry it out.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

From governor to prisoner to...

John had been so successful as a lawyer, he had became a governor.

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

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

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

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

When he was 70, he was called to rally the people to repel a massive invasion. The invaders were turned back, but John died of natural causes near the field of battle 553 years ago today. Saint John Capistrano was canonized in 1724.

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

(adapted from an earlier post)

Thursday, October 22, 2009


The Lord Jesus prayed that His disciples “may all be one” (John 17:21), but not all who profess faith in Christ are united. Indeed, the divisions among believers in Christ are a bitter scandal.

This week, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI took an important step in promoting that unity, as a new provision was announced for Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.

As wonderful as this provision is, tragically, it will not end all division.

The truth is that while our Lord wishes unity among His disciples, as today’s Gospel reminds us (Luke 12:49-53) our Lord is realistic about division.

Do you think that I have come
to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.

We need to be charitable.

We need to be prudent.

We need to reach out.

Yet we too must be realistic.

Truth will cause division with those who prefer lies.

Love will cause division with those who prefer hate and selfishness.

Yet we must love and we must be true.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Much will be required

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

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

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

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

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

We have been entrusted with much.

We need to fulfill God’s expectations of us.


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

(from a previous post)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Girding and reclining

In today’s Gospel (Luke 12:35-38), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ uses expressions that may sound a bit strange to many of us who may be unfamiliar to things that were very familiar in the time and place when He walked on this earth.

In those days, in the brutally hot climate of that land, men and women wore loose-fitting clothing, but when it was necessary to be ready for quick action or hard physical labor, it would be necessary to comport oneself differently, including the adjustment of clothing close to the body.

Thus when our Lord says, “Gird your loins,” he is telling us to be ready for quick action and hard work.

Also, in that time and place, the custom was to recline to eat, much as one might see Bedouins eating today.

Thus our Lord speaks of the Master rewarding his servants by letting them “recline at table” while he himself girds himself and does the work of waiting on them.

What our Lord is telling us in this passage is to be always watching (“light your lamps”) for signs of God and ready to take quick action and do hard work (“gird your loins”) in response to God’s call.

While we must be prudent stewards of our health, relaxation is not the summit and purpose of our lives in this world: our purpose in this world is to serve God and others, each in the ways God calls us.

Then, as we have been faithful servants, when God Himself calls us home, then He Himself will do the work, with the Infinite power of His mercy and love, and we will recline in the Kingdom of Heaven in eternal relaxation, excitement, and happiness.


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

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

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

But Paul's eyes were fixed elsewhere.

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

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

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

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

(adapted from an earlier post)

Monday, October 19, 2009

This night your life will be demanded of you

These words from the parable in today’s Gospel (Luke 12:13-21) are chilling.

This night your life will be demanded of you.

What if indeed this very night our lives will be required of us?

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

May God give us the grace of full repentance in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whether God calls us to continue our service on this earth or calls us home to Himself.

There is a valley

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

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

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

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

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

(from a previous post)

Sunday, October 18, 2009


The once strong and prosperous nation has fallen on hard times.

The livelihoods of many have been destroyed; the fortunes of war have turned badly; and the real power over the nation’s fate rests in the hands of an ambitious, dictatorial regime in Asia.

Indeed, most of the Jewish nation was forcibly relocated to serve their masters in the southwestern Asian empire of Babylon.

That is the context, scholars say, of today’s first reading (Isaiah 53:10-11).

On a basic level, this prophecy answers the vexing questions of the Jewish people in those days:

If they are the Chosen People, servants of the true God who created the heavens and the earth, why have they been crushed as a nation? Why are they so afflicted? Why do they suffer? Is it only because of their mistakes and their sins as well as those of their fathers?

The prophecy was not entirely clear in its answer. The gist of it seemed to be that this temporary crushing of the Chosen People – the only explicit servant of the true God among all the nations of the world – was part of God’s plan, that it would bring spiritual benefit to others in the world, and that it would ultimately end in happiness.

The LORD was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD
shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness
of days;
through his suffering,
my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.

Again, it was not immediately clear how this worked: not for hundreds of years, during which time other interpretations would be suggested.

And then... the prophecy would be fulfilled perfectly... in the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Christ gave His life as an offering for sin and we are his beneficiaries, his descendants.

The LORD was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD
shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness
of days;
through his suffering,
my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.

We, as followers of Christ, may not only share in His blessings, we may also share in His work.

Suffering is a part of life: some of it is due to our own sins and mistakes, some of it is due to the sins and mistakes of others, and some of it defies easy explanation.

As followers of Christ, we strive to avoid sin and to alleviate suffering: especially the suffering of others.

As followers of Christ, we are also enabled by His grace to join our relatively infinitesimal sufferings with the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, the suffering servant of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Thus says the Lord to us in today’s Gospel (Mark 10:35-45):

Whoever wishes to be great among you
will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you
will be the slave of all.

For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Whoever denies Me before others
will be denied before the angels of God.

Thus says the Lord Jesus at the beginning of today’s Gospel (Luke 12:8-12).

Chilling words. Eternally chilling.

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

The question posed to us by these words is this:

Have I denied Christ before others?

Denying Christ does not require a formal, public act of apostasy.

Actually, denying Christ is much simpler and easier than that, especially in this politically correct world where references to faith and to God are openly or implicitly declared inappropriate: in politics, in the workplace, in schools, in hospitals or even among friends.

It is so easy just to get along, even if it means never letting the name of God pass our lips except as a curse or as an unconscious and unreligious utterance; even if it means only mentioning religious practices as anthropological or sociological phenomena; even if it means laughing along with blasphemy and sacrilege; even if it means downplaying or denying the full meaning of faith in our life; even if it means sinning.

Does that mean we should always brandish our faith like a crusader’s sword, eager to drive it into the bowels of an infidel at every chance?


Faith is to be lived and shared: not brandished and never forced.

As in most things, discernment is critical.

Also, faith is to be lived, shared, and spoken with true charity – not “do-gooder” charity, not feelings-based charity, not “whatever you want” charity, but the kind of charity exemplified by Christ dying on the cross and rising in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I tell you,
everyone who acknowledges Me before others
the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.


In today's Gospel (Luke 12:8-12), our Lord speaks of an unforgivable sin: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Why would that be unforgivable? Because it is precisely through the power of the Holy Spirit that we as individuals receive God's forgiveness, In fact, it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we even ask for that forgiveness!

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cuts off the very channel that makes forgiveness possible.

Now, it is rather unlikely that even a nominal Christian would ever commit formal blasphemy against the Holy Spirit with sufficient reflection and full consent of the will. Just to be safe, however, we should be careful to practice discernment, determining prayerfully what is of God and what is not, lest we follow the path of the Pharisees in this chapter.

Yet there are other ways by which we may cut ourselves off from God's forgiveness in the Holy Spirit.

One great sin against the Holy Spirit by which we might cut ourselves off from God's forgiveness is called Presumption: for example, when a person treats God's forgiveness as so automatic that they contemptuously go ahead with their evil plans.

Some people hear about presumption, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and unforgivable sins and they instantly worry that they may have committed or might commit one of these unforgivable sins.

Actually, the ability to worry about this, to feel remorse, and to ask for God's help is in and of itself a sign that the channel of grace is still open.

In fact, if one takes that worry too far, one risks the other classic unforgivable sin: Despair - specifically, despairing of God's forgiveness.

We should be careful not to blaspheme. We should be careful not to presume upon the grace of forgiveness nor should we ever despair of God's forgiveness.

We should remain focused on always trying to know and do the right thing, with humble penitence and faith in God.

(from a previous post)

He wanted to die

But he was not going to commit suicide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Be afraid of that One

Many of us are afraid of many things.

We are afraid of losing our jobs.

We are afraid of losing our homes.

We are afraid of terrorists.

We are afraid of certain kinds of people.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 12:1-7), Christ the Lord says this:

Be afraid of the One
Who after killing
has the power to cast into Gehenna;
yes, I tell you,
be afraid of that One.

"That One", of course, is God (even though we are really the ones who bring Gehenna upon ourselves).

Yet, God is also infinitely merciful and loves us more than anything.

Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins?
Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.
Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.
Do not be afraid.
You are worth more than many sparrows.

Thus we can confidently ask God for forgiveness through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, echoing the words of today’s Psalm (32:1b-2, 5, 11):

I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.

Vision of Jesus

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

"From this divine heart three streams flow endlessly.

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

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

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

from Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque's vision of Jesus

(from an earlier post)

A loving God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Busy wife and mother

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

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

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

Her memory is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

We are not worthy

In today’s first reading (Romans 3:21-30), Saint Paul reminds us of how we are “justified by faith, apart from works of the law.”

While our faith needs to be reflected in what we do and say, we are saved by the free gift of God in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through faith.

We are sinners. We are imperfect. We are finite.

Human beings can do wonderful things, but infinity and eternity are beyond the capabilities of finite beings, no matter how capable they are.

But, thanks be to God, who extends to us freely the gift of Infinity and Eternity and true happiness through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

All have sinned
and are deprived of the glory of God.

They are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption in Christ Jesus,
whom God set forth as an expiation,
through faith, by his Blood,
to prove his righteousness
because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed,
through the forbearance of God–
to prove his righteousness in the present time,
that he might be righteous
and justify the one who has faith in Jesus.

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Avila

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

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

(from a previous post)

She didn’t feel God’s presence

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

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

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

St. Teresa of Jesus, born in Avila, founder of the Discalced Carmelites and Doctor of the Church, died in October of 1582 and was canonized forty years later. Her memory is celebrated on this day.

(from a previous post)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Warnings for "good" people

Yesterday’s first reading was from the first chapter of Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, in which he denounces the terrible sins committed by people in the world (then and now).

Today’s readings, on the other hand, are a warning for "good" people.

In today’s first reading (Romans 2:1-11), Saint Paul gives very strong warnings to those who passes judgment on others (which includes those who denounce others as "judgmental").

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

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

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

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

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

We need to be clear about what is right and what is wrong and we must make prudential judgments when it comes to matters of safety and welfare, but we must be very careful about passing judgment on another person’s soul.

We too are sinners. We too are in absolute and desperate need of the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Our Lord Himself in today's Gospel (Luke 11:42-46) also gives warnings to those who consider themselves good but give little consideration to anything or anyone else.

People who focus on their favorite details of religion but neglect discernment and love.

People want to be noticed for their religiosity.

People who dump the truth on other people without really helping people understand and follow the truth.

Yes, affliction and distress will come
upon everyone who does evil...
But there will be glory, honor, and peace

for everyone who does good...
There is no partiality with God.

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

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, help me serve others.

CEO fled country after bank failure

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

How? Some said it was bribery.

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

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

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

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

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

(from a previous post)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Exchanging the truth of God for a lie

Saint Paul pulls no punches in today’s first reading (Romans 1:16-25).

Ever since the creation of the world,
(God’s) invisible attributes

of eternal power and divinity
have been able to be understood and perceived

in what he has made.

As a result, they have no excuse;
for although they knew God
they did not accord him glory as God

or give him thanks.

Instead, they became vain in their reasoning,
and their senseless minds were darkened.


They exchanged the truth of God for a lie
and revered and worshiped the creature
rather than the creator,
who is blessed forever. Amen.

As we listen to what Saint Paul says here, we dare not hold ourselves aloof. We may believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy undeservedly his grace, but we are sinners and strive by the grace of Christ for ever greater perfection. Thus we should let Saint Paul’s challenging words challenge us and help us check our own consciences.

Saint Paul does not relent in the rest of this chapter, following after the passage given in the Lectionary today. Indeed, Saint Paul becomes extremely frank.

As we read these words, it is critically important that none of us become distracted by any one thing that Saint Paul specifies here. Saint Paul may begin by addressing homosexual activity, but he speaks of many sins and we are all sinners, no matter what our particular temptations may or may not be. It is spiritually deadly to dismiss Saint Paul’s warnings and rationalize our own behavior, no matter what it may be. It is also foolish to think that Saint Paul’s words apply only to “those other people.”

Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.

Again, Saint Paul has begun by addressing homosexual activity, but he speaks of many sins in this passage and we are all sinners, no matter what our particular temptations may or may not be. It is spiritually deadly to dismiss Saint Paul’s warnings and rationalize our own behavior, no matter what it may be. It is also foolish to think that Saint Paul’s words apply only to “those other people.”

Saint Paul’s words here can apply to all of us.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper.

They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite.

They are gossips and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents.

They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

No matter who we are, no matter what we do or what we have done, no matter what our temptations or preferences, God loves us and calls us to strive, by the grace of Christ, to live according to the truth He gives us and to follow Him faithfully, charitably, and persistently in this world on paths that lead to the eternal life of the world to come.

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

Monday, October 12, 2009

The sign of Jonah

In today’s Gospel (Luke 11:29-32), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says this:

This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign,
but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

What is “the sign of Jonah”? In the parallel to this passage in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, our Lord says that it is “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:40)

The fact that our Lord does not give this explanation in the Lucan passage reminds us that Jonah may be a symbol in more ways than one.

How else was Jonah a sign? He proclaimed simply a message that had a powerful effect to led to repentance.

Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day's walk announcing,
"Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,"
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small,
put on sackcloth.
(Jonah 3:4-5)

Christ too simply proclaimed the Kingdom of God, with even more powerful effect: Jonah converted thousands; Christ has won the hearts of billions and took away the sins of the world.

The power of true repentance is a sign of Jonah.

And of course, even in the time of Jonah as it is in our own time, the power of true repentance is the grace of Christ, the eternal Son of the Father.

May we be simple in our proclamation of the truth that comes from God.

By the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may we and all who witness our words and deeds repent and come ever closer to God.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Clergy Appreciation Day

Today some places and people are celebrating "Clergy Appreciation Day".

May we all express our appreciation to those who serve us in the name of Jesus.

Give it all away

Most of us are far from rich, but most of us also live fairly comfortable lives (especially in comparison to the billions of poor people in the world).

Would we give it all up?

Would we give up our comforts? Our TV? Our computers? Our phones? Our dinners out?

Would we do that if Jesus Christ looked us in the eye and said,

Go, sell what you have,
and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven;
then come, follow me.

Honestly. What would we do?

That is the challenge offered by our Lord in today’s Gospel (Mark 10:17-30).

Does that mean that Christ is today telling all of us to give away everything we have right now? Not exactly.

Christ invited the young man to give away everything and follow Him.

Christ also invites many among us to give away everything and follow Him, especially in the call to religious life as Dominicans, Franciscans, Missionaries of Charity, et cetera.

Many others among us are responsible for using our possessions for the care of children and for the good of others who need us.

But all of us – every one of us – priest or parent, rich or struggling, young or old, professed religious or professional success – every one of us must live our lives with detachment: keeping our hearts set on the things of heaven and ready (really ready) to give up the things of this world when the need arises and when God calls.

Friday, October 09, 2009

"Whoever is not with me is against me"

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

To this day, that politician is derided in many circles for being so simplistic (if not paranoid) in making such a statement.

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

Whoever is not with me is against me.

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

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

Of course, context is everything.

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

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

If it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone,
it roams through arid regions searching for rest
but, finding none, it says,
‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’
But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order.
Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits
more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there,
and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(adapted from a previous post)

How to deal with disaster

Horrific disaster - that is what today's first reading describes (Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2).

The words of the prophet Joel were first spoken in a day of terrible calamity.

These words also foreshadow a day when all things on this earth will end.

For those of us who live somewhere in between those two days of Doom, these words give us lessons of guidance and hope in the disasters that we ourselves may sometime face.

The first lesson is that it is okay to feel bad when things are bad, but that it is even more important to turn to God.

Gird yourselves and weep, O priests!
wail, O ministers of the altar!
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
O ministers of my God!
The house of your God is deprived
of offering and libation.

Proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the elders,
all who dwell in the land,
Into the house of the LORD, your God,
and cry to the LORD!

The second lesson is that even in the worst calamities, God is still present and no matter what we may have to suffer he makes all things work for the good of those who love him.

Alas, the day!
for near is the day of the LORD,
and it comes as ruin from the Almighty.

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all who dwell in the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming;
Yes, it is near, a day of darkness and of gloom,
a day of clouds and somberness!

Sinners that we are, living in a twisted world, there will indeed be much dread when we stand before the infinite perfection and goodness of God.

These words of the prophet would be echoed centuries later in the classic chant Dies Irae

Dies irae, dies illa
solvet saeclum in favilla,
teste David cum Sybilla.

A day of wrath, that day --
The world will dissolve in ashes,
As David and the Sibyl testify.

Quantus tremor est futurus,
quando judex est venturus,
cuncta stricte discussurus.

What dread there will be
When the judge shall come
To judge all things strictly.

* * * * *

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
cum vix justus sit securus?

What then shall I say, wretch that I am,
What advocate entreat to speak for me,
When even the righteous may hardly be secure?


Recordare Jesu pie,
quod sum causa tuae viae,
ne me perdas illa die.

Remember, O dear Jesus,
That I am the cause of Thy pilgrimage.
Do not forsake me on that day.

No matter how bad things may be - in the world or in our lives - our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will remain true to those who cling to him in faith, hope, and love.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, be merciful to me - a sinner.
(adapted from an earlier post)

John was a pharmacy technician

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

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

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

(adapted from an earlier post)

Fearing no menance

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

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

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

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

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

(updated from an earlier post)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Persistence in prayer

In today’s Gospel (Luke 11:5-13), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ encourages his disciples to be persistent and confident in prayer.

And I tell you,
ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks,
the door will be opened.

What father among you
would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion
when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit
to those who ask him?

God knows what is good for us without our asking, of course: better than we know ourselves.

Persistence in prayer is necessary, however, not because it changes God’s mind, but because through our honest prayer God changes US.

Also, God gives us what is good, even when we ask for what is bad. To extend our Lord’s metaphor, if a child asks for a scorpion, the father will not give it to him, but rather things that will really benefit him.

Ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

"I would be better off dead than alive"

In today’s first reading (Jonah 4:1-11), the prophet Jonah is feeling very down and sorry for himself: so much so that he wishes he were dead.

God does not answer his request; in fact, he does not even address it directly.

Instead, God goes straight to what the real problem is and puts Jonah’s so-called problems into perspective.

Whatever our problems are, they are really very small in this great big universe.

Yet as small as we may feel ourselves to be, God loves each of us individually and completely and He calls us to share that love with others.

We may feel bad about ourselves, but with the mercy of God, we can gain a better perspective about ourselves, our problems, and our place in the universe by being channels of God’s love.

Meditative repetition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and the Glorious Mysteries, beginning with the Resurrection.

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

...the wedding Feast at Cana...

...the Proclamation of the Kingdom...

...the Transfiguration...

...and the Institution of the Eucharist.

Truly mysteries worthy of repeated meditation.

(from an previous post)

The invaders

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

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

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

(from a previous post)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The better portion

Today’s Gospel account of the sisters Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) is often used to illustrate two different paths that followers of our Lord may take: the path of active service demonstrated by Martha and the path of active contemplation demonstrated by Mary.

Coincidentally, this reading falls of the day when, in the United States and elsewhere, the memorials of two very different holy people are celebrated: the memorial of Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher, foundress of the service-oriented Sisters of the Holy Names, and the memorial of Saint Bruno, founder of the super-contemplative Carthusian order.

Is contemplation “the better portion” as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ implies in today’s Gospel? On many levels, yes. True contemplation of God on earth through Christ foreshadows contemplation of God in heaven, raises us above the clutter of earthly life, and focuses us on Eternity: where joy and love reigns.

Yet while we should each pursue contemplation in some way, not all are called to the kind of contemplative lives exemplified by people such as Mary and the Carthusians.

Most of us – celibate, married, or single – are called to be more like Martha: to serve God and His people faithfully through practical actions.

The bottom line is this: faithfully fulfilling the life in Christ to which you and I are truly called is the better portion.

Superheroes of prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From a letter
by St. Bruno

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

(from an earlier post)

Quiet hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

The girl who was rejected

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

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

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

The girl who had been rejected was now the foundress.

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Monday, October 05, 2009

Those people we dislike

They say they are like us, but we know they are not.

It is not that every one of them does immoral actions, it is simply that their whole background and everything about them as a group is such that we and they cannot get along.

So thought the Jews about the Samaritans in the time of Christ.

So dramatic therefore was our Lord’s choice in today's Gospel (Luke 10:25-37) of a Samaritan as an exemplar for the second greatest commandment: love your neighbor as yourself.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says, “Go and do likewise.”

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Even the people we dislike or the people who dislike us.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Arrogance and ideals

Arrogance is a common thing, especially in our modern age.

Arrogance is also a dangerous thing, especially in our modern age.

Arrogance cuts us off from reality, setting us behind the walls of knowledge and so-called wisdom we have built up for ourselves (and indeed modern science has built these walls very high and very deep), but as we have seen again and again, reality inevitably breaks through these walls.

Reality inevitably tramples the arrogant.

Arrogance also walls us off from faith. Arrogance cuts us off from recognizing the limits of our understanding and our need to rely on the wisdom of God.

This truth is beautifully illustrated at the end of the long form of today's Gospel (Mark 10:2-16):

And people were bringing children to him
that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.

When Jesus saw this
he became indignant and said to them,
"Let the children come to me;
do not prevent them,
for the kingdom of God
belongs to such as these.

Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the kingdom of God
like a child
will not enter it."

Then he embraced them
and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.

Are we like the arrogant disciples or are we like the children?


It is easy for us, of course, to say that we are like the children, but many of us may be tested in this assertion by the first part of today's Gospel, especially by our Lord's politically incorrect words:

"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery."

Many of us might get more than a little bit upset at these words. All of us know people - good people, moral people, devout people - who have divorced and remarried. Indeed, some of us have been divorced and remarried ourselves. The appellation of adulterer seems over-the-top, if not cruel.

But they are the words of Christ, our loving savior.

Are we reacting to our Lord's words like the arrogant disciples or like children of the kingdom of heaven?

The question of the divorced and remarried is indeed a sensitive topic and the subject of much arrogance, from more than one side: the arrogance of those who exalt the norms of modern society above the teaching of Christ, the arrogance of those who defend their own self-esteem at the expense of objective truth, and the arrogance of those who blithely condemn the sins of others while quietly passing over the sins to which they themselves tend.

Are we arrogant disciples or children of the kingdom of heaven?

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

Arrogance cuts us off from truth and from our need for growth.

We need to be like little children accepting the kingdom of heaven.

We need to step down from our perches of defensiveness or self-righteousness.

We all fall short of the ideal: we dare not damn those who fall short (neither ourselves nor others), nor dare we turn the ideal on its head in order to stoke our self-esteem, nor dare we despair of the ideal.

The ideal remains true. We may live in a messy world, "but from the beginning it was not so" (Matthew 19:8b).

But from the beginning of creation,
God made them male and female.

For this reason
a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

So they are no longer two but one flesh.

Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.

May we not be arrogant, but may we always help each other - as best as we can and relying on the grace of Christ - strive toward the ideal, ask for God's mercy when we fall short, grow more fully in the truth, and become more and more like children in the kingdom of heaven.

(from a previous post)

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Because you angered God

The words of today’s first reading (Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29) are clear:

It was because you angered God
that you were handed over to your foes.

The passage goes on to reaffirm that it was God who brought calamity upon His people on account of their sin.

We should be careful in how we interpret this, neither to assume, on the one hand, that God works in the same way as human vengeance, or, on the other hand, to dismiss as obsolete those parts of this Old Testament passage we do not like.

First of all, it is clear that it is our own sin and disobedience (as individuals and as a world) that is the ultimate cause of our calamities.

Second, we live in a universe of consequences: consequences that are natural and intrinsic, even though human intelligence does not always perceive them.

Third, when God lets these calamities befall us, it is both His “follow-through” on the gift of Free Will that He gave us and also His providing us opportunities to grow in charity and spiritual strength.

Finally, the main intent of the passage is that although we brought these things upon ourselves by our sins (we as individuals and we as a world) and God let these things happen, He is right there at our side with His all-powerful promise of mercy, healing, and eternal joy.

Fear not, my children;
call out to God!

He who brought this upon you
will remember you.

As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God,
turn now ten times the more to seek him;
For he who has brought disaster upon you
will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.

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

Friday, October 02, 2009


In today’s Gospel (Matthew 18:1-5, 10), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tells us to “become like children.”

What does that mean?

Children who need constant care and diapers?

Toddlers who, when they don’t get what they want, cry and scream like they’re being dismembered?

Older children who get into all sorts of trouble every chance they can get?

Cynics denounce the whole idea of child-like faith as a brainwashing technique wielded by religious leaders: infantilized people are easier to control.

The irony is that these cynics are rather juvenile themselves.

Juveniles think they’re smarter than they are and immortal when they’re not.

Children – the children about whom our Lord speaks – know they are children and are happily dependent and trusting.

As knowledgeable and accomplished as human beings are and can be, we inhabit a very, very big universe – far, far beyond any capability we have or could ever hope to have in a million millennia.

No matter what, we are very small children in the very deadly universe.

But we are also children of a loving God, who is greater than the universe He Himself created and who loves us more than everything in it.

Angel of God...

my guardian dear,
To whom His love commits me here;
Ever this day (ever this night) be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.

Angele Dei,
qui custos es mei,
Me tibi commissum pietate superna;
Hodie (
Hac nocte
illumina, custodi, rege, et guberna.

Memorial of the Guardian Angels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from an earlier post)

Thursday, October 01, 2009


The health care debate in the United States has reached the point where politicians on each side are claiming that politicians on the opposite side (at least implicitly) wish to facilitate the deaths of their constituents.

Today’s Gospel (Luke 10:1-12) has many valuable guidelines for disciples of Christ. Here are just three that are especially valuable for people interested in speaking truth in an uncertain world.

First, begin by wishing people well.

Into whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.

Second, while most people are more-or-less open to what we have to say, there are extremists who are not: people who will not listen at all.

We should say the Truth that must be said and then move on.

Whatever town you enter
and they do not receive you,
go out into the streets and say,
‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet,
even that we shake off against you.
Yet know this: the Kingdom of God is at hand.’

Finally, we cannot do everything: we need to pray for help.

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

What shall we pray for this month?

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for October is focused on the Sunday Eucharist:

That Sundays may be lived as the day on which Christians gather to celebrate the Risen Lord in the table of the Eucharist.

His missionary intention focuses on the Spirit of Mission:

That all the people of God, whom Christ has commanded to go and preach the Gospel to every creature, may diligently fulfill their missionary responsibility

A nun for only 9 years

She had entered the convent when she was 15.

Then, she died before her 25th birthday.

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

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

(from an earlier post)