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...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Continuity and call

Today’s Gospel (Matthew 4:18-22) presents us with the call of the first disciples by our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, including that of Saint Andrew, whose feast we celebrate today.

The Gospel makes clear that the call of the Lord involves a dramatic change in life: these disciples had to leave behind their livelihoods and even their parents.

But there is also an element of continuity in the call of the Lord, as he says to fisherman: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Peter, Andrew and the others would bring to their discipleship and to their ministry the virtuous attitudes, disciplines, and skills of fishermen, such as extreme patience, perseverance, readiness for quick and hard work, and willingness to explore.

Our Lord Jesus Christ says to us: Come after me.

What virtuous attitudes, disciplines, and skills can we bring?

Wanting more and having it all

Andrew did not have much free time. He and his brother ran a small business together and the work kept him pretty busy.

Yet he felt the need for more.

He was a devout young man, whose interest in religion extended beyond the weekend, yet he felt the need for more.

For one thing, there was a decided lack of good preaching in the area where he lived.

Then one day he heard preaching like he had never heard before, from a man whose holiness and fervor for God blazed like fire. Andrew went to listen to him every chance he had.

Now Andrew felt that he was on track: he no longer felt the need for more.

Or did he?

The question stuck somewhere in the back of his brain, but he put it away and continued to drink in the marvelous preaching of God's word.

One day they both happened to be standing outside with one or two others. Andrew couldn't remember much about what they were doing, but suddenly the marvelous preacher, whom the whole country knew as John the Baptist, pointed and said:

"Behold the Lamb of God!"

Almost without thinking, Andrew walked over to the man to whom John was pointing.

"What are you looking for?" the man asked.

Andrew didn't know what to say, but he knew he wanted more.

"Teacher, where do you live?"

The teacher said, "Come and see."

Andrew went and saw. He and his brother Simon eventually left their fishing business and followed Jesus of Nazareth, all the way to their own deaths on their own crosses.

Saint Andrew, Apostle and Martyr of Jesus Christ, had it all.

The Feast of Saint Andrew is celebrated on this day.

(from a previous post)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

An Advent project

On Thanksgiving Day in the United States, extended families traditionally gather for a big dinner.

Sometimes these gatherings can be tense. Sometimes they can even end in arguments that strain relationships so much that it may take another year (or longer) to heal.

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

Today’s Gospel (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36), a prophecy of the world’s end, reminds us that life is short: too short for relatively trivial disagreements or emotional injuries to sever our godly relationships.

Today’s second reading (1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2) not only gives us critical advice in preparing for the world’s end (or our individual deaths, whichever comes first), this reading also proposes for us a project for us to accomplish during this season of Advent.

May the Lord make you
increase and abound in love
for one another and for all
just as we have for you,
so as to strengthen your hearts,
to be blameless in holiness
before our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus
with all his holy ones.

Happy Advent

It is the beginning of the season
in which we prepare for the coming of Christ
and the celebration of Christmas.

It is the beginning of another year of worship.

"Come, God-with-us!
Free your captive people
That mourns in exile,
Deprived of God's Son.

"Rejoice! Rejoice!
shall be born for you,
O People of God!

"Come, O Wisdom!
Who sets in place all things thus;
Come, so you may teach the path
of prudence and of glory.

"Rejoice! Rejoice!
Shall be born for you,
O People of God!

"Come! Come, Israel's Lord,
Who from atop Sinai
Gave people the law
In glorious majesty.

"Rejoice! Rejoice!
Shall be born for you,
O People of God!

Veni veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

Veni, O Sapientia,
quae hic disponis omnia,
veni, viam prudentiae
ut doceas et gloriae.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

Veni, veni, Adonai,
qui populo in Sinai
legem dedisti vertice
in maiestate gloriae.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

(from a previous post)

"Drowsy from... the anxieties of daily life"

Thus says the Lord Jesus:

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing
and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that Day catch you by surprise like a trap.

For that Day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.

Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.

(yesterday's Gospel: Luke 21:34-36)

Friday, November 27, 2009

"...and a mouth that spoke arrogantly"

The apocalyptic imagery of today’s first reading (Daniel 7:2-14) is vivid and complex.

Adding to the complexity is the fact that the imagery applied in a fundamental way to the geopolitical and historical context of the time in which it was first set down thousands of years ago.

Moreover, the messianic prophecies in this reading are fulfilled perfectly in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who se dominion is everlasting and who will come again on the clouds of heaven.

Yet, the imagery and the prophecies of today’s first reading have also been applicable in different ways to the times in which God’s people have lived throughout the millennia.

There is much relevance for us today even the bizarre image of the beast with multiple horns – one of which has “eyes like a man, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly.”

We no longer live in an age of empires in the same way the people of old did, yet there are many powers exercised by people in this world over people in this world that are not in accord with the ways of God.

To be sure, some structures of knowledge and governance are more good and just than others and there are many in government and various field of endeavor who by the grace of God are righteous and faithful.

But there are also people and powers – in government, in the media, in science, and so forth – that are little horns with eyes like a man and mouths that speak arrogantly.

May God strengthen us in the truth and may you and I live in accord with the words of another of God’s prophets (Micah 6:8):

You have been told, O man,
what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do the right
and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving and disaster

Masses on Thanksgiving Day can use a number of different Scripture readings with the specific theme of giving thanks to God. It is easy to make good comments about Thanksgiving based on those readings.

The readings for this particular day in the Liturgical calendar are a bit different.

In the first reading (Daniel 6:12-28), a man is seized by the government just for praying privately in his home and sentenced to death.

In the Gospel (Luke 21:20-28), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ foretells terrible calamities in vivid detail.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

But seriously, Thanksgiving is not a time simply to attempt recreations of Norman Rockwell moments of familial bliss.

It is a day to give thanks to God for the good things we have, for the bad things we have been spared, and for the strength God has given us to endure.

That was the context of the first Thanksgiving Day: celebrated by people who had been blessed with good things but also who had endured much hardship and whose future security was not assured.

Yet they gave thanks.

So also must we.

Thanks be to Thee, O Lord.

Happy Thanksgiving

And looking up to heaven,
to You, His Almighty Father,
He gave You thanks...

Et elevatis oculis in caelum
ad te Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem,
tibi gratias agens...

(from a previous post)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Speaking the truth to power

“Speaking the truth to power” is an expression that is over-used, but also used too narrowly.

Today’s readings give us other examples of truly speaking the truth to power in situations of deadly consequence.

In the first reading (Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28), we hear of the famous “writing on the wall”.

It is a familiar story, which we have heard since childhood, but it did not take place in a fairy tale kingdom, but in a real kingdom with real and deadly oppression.

Daniel speaks the truth to this deadly oppressive power.

In the Gospel (Luke 21:12-19), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ warn of persecution that will befall those who live and speak the truth.

These dangers and risks do not belong only to ancient times or alien lands.

In different ways – some subtle, some not so subtle – the same risks and dangers face us too when we strive to live and speak the truth of Jesus Christ to the powers in this world, in our countries, and even in our neighborhoods.

They will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.

you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless
to resist or refute.

You will even be handed over by parents,
brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.

You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.

By your perseverance you will secure your lives.

May God give us the grace to stand strong in the love and truth of Christ

Cracking down in Egypt

A young woman in Egypt named Catherine accepted Christ as her savior, entered the Church, and spoke to people about Jesus.

The government frowned on that, so she was arrested and eventually executed.

That was over 1500 years ago.

The memory of St. Catherine of Alexandria is celebrated on this day.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Too big to fail.

Financially solid.

Overflowing with success.

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said,

“All that you see here –
the days will come
when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone
that will not be thrown down.”

These verses from the beginning of today’s Gospel (Luke 21:5-11) resonate well with our experience of the past year or so as we have seen rich and powerful corporations collapse into nothingness and the lives of many successful people fall apart with almost literally not one stone left upon another.

Life is fragile, no matter how rich, powerful, connected, or smart we may be.

God is forever.

May we ask Him for the faith that will see us through all of the ups and downs of this life and bring us safe to eternal happiness through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Vietnam veterans

Andrew Dung Lac An Tran, 54, priest

Anthony Quynh Nam, 72, doctor

Dominic Henares, 83, bishop

Francis Trung Von Tran, 33, soldier

John Charles Cornay, 26, priest

Joseph Uen, 52, priest

Paul Le Bao Tinh, priest

Peter Thi Van Truong Pham, 76, priest

There were many more: well over a hundred
- missionaries and natives,
priests, bishops, catechists,
farmers, doctors, soldiers,
husbands and fathers -
martyred for the Christian faith in Vietnam
in various ways and in various locations over the centuries,
canonized in 1988 as the Martyrs of Vietnam
and memorialized on this day.

(from a previous post)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Generosity in poverty

Many today are struggling financially.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 21:1-4), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ points to the example of a poor widow who is heroically generous in making a donation.

We need to be prudent with what we have, most especially if we have responsibility for the welfare of others.

If we have been blessed with more than the average person, we need to be that much more generous than the average person and more beyond that.

Yet even if we have little, none of us are excused from the deadly serious obligation of generosity.

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

The bishop had problems

His was a rather new diocese (it was only about half a century old and there had been only three bishops before him) but there was no shortage of problems.

One of the diocese’s main problems was that its bishops kept getting killed.

The problems in his own diocese did not blind him to the problems of the Church elsewhere. In fact, he was so moved by the plight of one diocese that he wrote them a letter, even though they were many hundreds of miles away and had already received letters and personal visits from the most exalted authorities in the Church.

The bishop's letter turned out to be truly magnificent. Copies were made and it would be read throughout the world.

As for the letter writer himself, this good bishop would indeed be killed, as had been the three bishops before him: his friends and mentors Cletus, Linus, and Peter - the fisherman from Galilee who had been named by Christ himself.

The letter that Saint Clement, martyr and fourth bishop of Rome, had written to the Corinthians remains widely read still and his memory is celebrated on this day.

(from a previous post)

He was a good-looking Irish lad

who made the women swoon.

Those who didn't swoon chased him.

He was flattered and very much tempted, but his heart belonged to God, so he decided to become a monk (over the energetic objections of his mother).

For many years he devoted himself completely to prayer, reflection, and spiritual writing.

Then, he felt God call him to leave his refuge and to become a missionary. When he was sure that it was the Lord’s will, he and several of his fellow monks left Ireland to preach Christ in foreign lands.

The foreign lands were not happy to receive them. In fact, the Church was already there (although the fire of Christian devotion was not what it once was) and local clergy grumbled about the Irishmen. But, here and there, the monks were able to establish small monasteries from which they could work to evangelize the people anew.

Toward the end of his life, he retired to a small cave where he had built a chapel high above a river amid beautiful snowcapped mountains.

There, in the mountains of northern Italy, Saint Columbanus, son of Ireland and re-evangelist of Europe, died on November 21, 615. His memory is celebrated on this day.

(from a previous post)

Arrested as a terrorist

He was a religious zealot who had received special training overseas.

He often used disguises.

He was sentenced to death for attempting to murder a former president with a bomb.

He was executed by the lawful authorities...

...eighty-two years ago today - right after this picture was taken.

The charges were false.

Father Miguel Agustin Pro's real "crime" was to be zealous in administering the Sacraments during a time when Mexican authorities were viciously persecuting the Church.

In 1988, he was beatified by the great Pope John II.

(from a previous post)

Who is your false king?

Jesus answered,
"You say I am a king.
For this I was born
and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth
listens to my voice."

One of the things one hears on the Solemnity of Christ the King, celebrated yesterday, is that kingship is not a meaningful concept for people in today’s world.

It is a rather condescending and very erroneous criticism: everyone knows the basic idea of kingship.

What people fail to recognize are the de facto kings in their own modern lives.

These are false kings, leading them in directions that are ultimately destructive.

Many are ruled by the false king of pleasure.

Some are ruled by the false king of ambition and worldly achievement.

Some are ruled by the false king of distorted science.

Some are ruled by more than one false king.

In the Gospel for yesterday’s Solemnity of Christ the King (John18:33b-37), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ affirms that His kingship is exercised in testifying to the Truth.

May you and I be good subjects of Christ: the one true King, the King of Truth itself.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

“The nations are sunk in the pit they have made”

Why is everything so wrong?

Why is the world having all of the problems it has?

Why do we have so much difficulty in this life?

Today’s readings tell us why.

In today’s first reading (1 Maccabees 6:1-13), a powerful king dies in frustration, anxiety, and regret: realizing too late that his evil deeds have brought evil upon him.

I know that this is why these evils have overtaken me;
and now I am dying, in bitter grief, in a foreign land.

The Responsorial (Psalm 9:2-3, 4, 6, 16, and 19) also makes clear the cause of worldwide trouble.

The nations are sunk in the pit they have made;
in the snare they set, their foot is caught.

And in the Gospel (Luke 20:27-40), a group of wise men is befuddled because they are clueless about the life of the world to come.

Life in this world is troubled because so many people in this world, especially so many of those who are powerful in this world, have been too narrow in their understanding – failing to recognize the fullness of reality, let alone the truth of God – and have been misguided, selfish and sometimes outright evil in their actions.

We are all caught in this tangled morass of intellectual darkness and piled-up sin, even those among us who by the grace of Christ are relatively pure of heart, enlightened in spirit, sinless in thought and deed.

Yet, by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we can not only endure all the troubles of this world but even in world that seems to be sinking into a soulless twilight and confused frustration, we can shine like the angels of heaven.

A nice Jewish girl

Today's memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple, like all Marian celebrations, is ultimately about Christ her Son, the Savior of all. It reminds us that our Lord’s coming was a culmination of a long history of God’s relationship with his chosen people, that our Lord was born into that unique tradition and covenant with God, and that He was born into the very best of that tradition: of a woman specially devoted and dedicated to the Lord from the very beginning.

May we give thanks for the long history of God’s salvation among us and may we ourselves become ever more devoted and dedicated to the Lord through the power of His grace.

(from a previous post)

Friday, November 20, 2009


We made choices.

We made accommodations.

We made compromises.

We made mistakes.

Today’s readings invite us to be cleansed and to rededicate ourselves and our lives to God.

In the first reading (1 Maccabees 4:36-27,52-59), Judas Maccabees and his brothers rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem after it had been desecrated by enemies of God and their collaborators.

We too can be rededicated.

In the Gospel (Luke 19:45-48), our Lord cleanses the Temple after it had been encroached upon by convenience and commercialism.

We too can be cleansed.

No matter what we have done, no matter what bad choices or compromises we have made, we can be forgiven, cleansed, and rededicated by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"If this day you only knew what makes for peace"

The words our Lord speaks to Jerusalem in today’s Gospel (Luke 19:41-44) he speaks also to us.

If this day you only knew what makes for peace–
but now it is hidden from your eyes.

For the days are coming upon you
when your enemies will raise a palisade against you;
they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.

They will smash you to the ground
and your children within you,
and they will not leave one stone upon another within you
because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.

What makes for peace is fully recognizing and embracing Christ.

Bad things happen in life, no matter what we do, but if we are united with Christ as we go through life in this world, then we have a deep peace that nothing in the world can take away.

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


Irreligious people sometimes call people who take their faith seriously “religious fanatics,” mindlessly lump them all together with suicide bombers, and falsely blame religion for causing more deaths than any other manmade cause throughout history.

Irreligious people have avoidance issues with the facts: the substantial differences between serious adherents and fanatics of a particular viewpoint (religious and irreligious), the abundance of suicide-murderers from various social and other contexts (not just theistic), and that history’s greatest murderers by far – whose death counts run well into the millions – were irreligious men: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, et al.

Today’s first reading, however, (1 Maccabees 2:15-19) may seem to be a problem for our apologia, for in this passage a hero of our Judeo-Christian faith slays a fellow Jew for religious reasons. This is the beginning of an exceptionally violent campaign that soon sweeps the nation: inflicting death on many more of his fellow Jews and forcing young men and boys to undergo very painful procedures.

The end result of this bloody campaign was the first Hanukah.

But while these events had a strong religious element, the bottom line was really just power and control: religion was just a tool cynically wielded by the Hellenistic empire to consolidate its control over the diverse people under its rule.

Jews who remained faithful were executed. The people and their faith were going to be exterminated.

It was truly a matter of survival and self defense in extremis.

But what does this all mean to us?

First, that sinful humanity is violent (with or without religion). True religion mitigates this bloodthirstiness, but even true religion can be perverted into a weapon.

Second, that the world can be a dangerous place for people who take their faith seriously.

Third, that we should do everything we can to avoid the state of affairs in today’s first reading: so that none of us should ever have to defend ourselves and our faith with extreme measures.

People who take their Christian faith seriously have too often been complacent in this modern age of religious liberty. Irreligious people try to chase people of faith out of the public square. Expressions of faith are prosecuted: from the display of a crèche to the teaching of the Bible itself.

Inexorably, some fear, people of faith are being pushed into the corners of society. When that is done, what would follow then is too terrible to contemplate.

We can avoid this state of affairs, with God’s help: by being attentive and thinking ahead, by asserting ourselves peacefully and reasonably, by avoiding internecine squabbles, and by holding firm to the faith and the love God has given us.

(from a previous post)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Family values

The term “family values” has taken much abuse over the years: used by politicians and others as a vague expression for self-promotion (“I’m the ‘Family Values’ candidate”) or a specific socio-political agenda (often incomplete).

We have also seen in recent decades many people – even our own children – reject the family values of faith that we have tried to pass on.

Today’s first reading (2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31) presents us with an extreme example of faith being successfully passed on within a family even in the most horrific circumstances.

Why was this mother successful?

First, it must be deeply and seriously recognized that faith is ultimately a gift from God. We must do all we can to share the faith and to raise our children in the faith, but ultimately it is God’s work through grace – not ours.

Second, the faith that we pass on must be a real family value: a value reflected in everything we say, do, and feel. If our children do not see the value of the faith reflected in our own words, thoughts, and feelings – if they do not feel that our faith makes a strong and positive impact on our lives and in our hearts – we may not less effective witnesses of the faith to our children.

We need to pray for the children among us and pray for ourselves, that the value of our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and in His Church may be fully reflected in what we say, do, and feel and that all our children may embrace it fully by the grace of God.

Basilicas and Apostles

Today's optional memorial of the Dedication of the Basilicas of the Apostles Peter and Paul is first and foremost yet another opportunity to celebrate the great faith of these two men and their special roles in Christ as foundation stones of the Church.

It is also an opportunity to appreciate the Basilicas themselves.

One of my favorite parts of Saint Peter’s Basilica is the Altar of the Chair, dominated by Bernini's magnificent sculpture group towering above it: the Cathedra Petri – the “Chair of Peter.”

Four great Fathers of the Church – Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Athanasius, and Saint John Chrysostom – each extend a single finger to hold a majestic chair aloft; on the back of the chair is an image of Christ entrusting the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to St. Peter; inside the chair are the venerated remnants of an ancient chair said to have been used by Saint Peter himself; atop the chair two cherubs hold a papal tiara; and above it all is the glory of the Holy Spirit.

In this recent picture, the Successor of Peter sits beneath the “Chair of Peter.”

One of the most interesting features of the Basilica of Saint Paul’s "Outside the Walls" is the atrium: a common feature of ancient basilicas (an opportunity to “decompress” after walking in off the street and to prepare for entering a very special building).

Here, the gentle garden and covered walkways are centered on a statue of Saint Paul wielding the sword of God’s word.

Places of worship can be lesson books in themselves: witnessing both to the details and to the power of faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

(from a previous post)

In 1818, she took a little trip...

...a little-known Frenchwoman, up the mighty Mississippi river.

She had nearly died from disease during the long ocean crossing. Now this petite 49-year-old would barely survive this hazardous river voyage.

But she would recover, settle in the Missouri territory, and would start teaching school out of a log cabin.

It was not exactly a complete success: her teaching style was foreign and her English was terrible.

In the end, however, most people recognized that the children were getting a good education and that the Frenchwoman's heart was in the right place.

She would establish convents and schools up and down the Mississippi. She also worked to help Native Americans. After 34 years of serving God on the American frontier, she would die at the age of 83 on this very day in 1852 in Saint Charles, Missouri.

Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne was canonized by the great Pope John Paul II on the 3rd of July 1988.

(from a previous post)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Faithfulness - no matter what

In today’s first reading (2 Maccabees 6:18-31), an old man suffers a painful death rather than even appear to violate God’s covenant.

It is very unlikely that you or I would ever face torture of such a horrific intensity and magnitude or even its "modern" equivalents.

We may thank God that we may not be put to such a test, and yet we should take the opportunity of this reading to reflect on the challenges to our faith that we ourselves face.

Sadly, whereas the faithful men and women of old so often remained true to the law of God despite the most painful of tortures, you and I too often choose to break the rules of God rather than endure a little discomfort: from the discomfort of resisting the temptations of the flesh to the discomfort of being unpopular.

It is just a little thing, we rationalize, it doesn’t really mean anything – I still love God and that won’t change just because I... (fill in the blank).

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

The old man in today’s first reading died a slow, painful death rather than eat pork in violation of the law God gave to Moses and he did not even have the example of Christ, as you and I have.

May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – who suffered, died, and rose again for our sakes – give us the grace and the strength to be absolutely faithful to him and his truth, no matter what pain, discomfort, or loss we may fear or endure.

(adapted from a previous post)

Sold into a loving marriage

When she was four years old, Elizabeth was essentially sold to a rich family.

When one of the family's sons reached manhood, Elizabeth was given to him for his wife, even though she was only 14.

As it turned out, the young man truly loved Elizabeth and she loved him. They became partners in life, prayer, and even work. When work called her husband away, Elizabeth would run the family business - thus great power and riches were placed in the hands of a still young girl.

Tragically, on one of those trips, Elizabeth’s husband would die, making her a widow at the young age of 20.

Powerful people quickly plotted against her. Elizabeth fled and devoted herself to the care of the sick. In a few years, Elizabeth would herself be overcome by sickness and weariness in the service of the Lord, dying on this very day at the age of 24.

Very soon, sick people would visit her grave and be healed. News quickly spread throughout the Church. Within four years, in 1235, Elizabeth of Hungary – wife, mother, princess, and servant of the wretched – was declared a saint.

(from a previous post)

Monday, November 16, 2009

"He kept calling out all the more"

Some of those who say they want to protect “freedom of choice” want to give us no choice.

Some of the promoters of “embracing diversity” want us to be silent.

Today’s Gospel (Luke 18:35-43) offers us an example to follow in these days.

The people walking in front rebuked him,
telling him to be silent,
but he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me!”

We need to be prudent in what we say and do and we need to be properly respectful of every human being, but we also need to be faithful, repent and be purified by the grace of Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit speak out all the more

"Everlasting horror and disgrace"

I’m sorry I failed to post anything yesterday.

Sunday’s readings reminded us about the end of the world, which many fear.

The readings may also have reminded us of things in ourselves and in our lives about which we are not proud, especially this phrase from the first reading (Daniel 12:1-3): “everlasting horror and disgrace.”

Yet, no matter what we have done and no matter what we may fear, the grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is infinitely more powerful.

May we pray always for that grace and that mercy.

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

After the death of Macbeth

One of the gems of the English language, this short speech by Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play captures powerfully the darkness of godless despair.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth was a great warrior who consulted with pagan witches and murdered his way to the throne of Scotland, stabbing to death his liege lord Duncan while he slept in Macbeth’s own house.

In time, Duncan’s son Malcolm would return to claim his father’s throne and Macbeth would die in battle.

There would be many more changes.

After Malcolm’s first wife died, he married an Anglo Saxon princess, whose family had just been exiled by the Norman Conquest. Malcolm was devoted to her and Margaret bore him several children.

From Margaret would descend nearly all of the subsequent kings of Scotland and also – beginning with the famous King James – all of the kings and queens of the United Kingdom to this day.

Margaret was also a strong woman with an intense Christian faith. Through Christ, she knew the true significance of life, with all of its sound and fury.

She worked with Malcolm to drive out paganism and to expand and reform the life of the Church in Scotland. She was generous to the poor, loving to her family, and deeply devout in her prayer (she had once hoped to be a nun).

Margaret, woman of faith and mother of kings, died in Edinburgh on this very day in 1093.

Saint Margaret of Scotland was canonized in 1251.

(from a previous post)

Lonely never again

Nobody knows what happened to the little girl’s parents. Nobody is even sure where they were from.

She was five years old and absolutely alone in the world.

The Benedictine nuns who ran a local school took the little girl into their care and named her after their abbess Gertrude. The abbess’ biological sister (also a member of the abbey) ran the school and took special care of little Gertrude.

With such special care, little Gertrude truly grew in wisdom and grace. She would join the abbey, would be blessed with amazing visions and would write tremendous works of spirituality.

Saint Gertrude died in her mid-forties on November 17 at the very start of the 14th century. Today, November 16, the Church throughout the world celebrates the memory of this saint who had once been a lonely little girl.

(from a previous post)

Saturday, November 14, 2009


In today’s Gospel (Luke 18:1-8), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tells a story about a woman who is persistent in seeking justice.

This reminds us of our need to be persistent in prayer as well as persistent in seeking true justice and peace in the world.

But our Lord adds to the end of this story the following question:

But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

This reminds us to be persistent in our faith.

It also reminds us that none of this persistence is easy for human beings.

We need to pray always for the grace of persistence in faith, persistence in justice, and persistence in prayer itself.

Friday, November 13, 2009

God through Science

Today’s first reading (Wisdom 13:1-9), written thousands of years ago, speaks perfectly of many in this most modern of ages.

Indeed, there are many people who embrace Science as a rejection of God, effectively setting up Science as an idol – a false God that they worship and obey.

Today’s first reading reminds us that true Science is a way to know the Creator, if we do not close our minds and hearts.

All men were by nature foolish
who were in ignorance of God,
and who from the good things seen
did not succeed in knowing him who is,
and from studying the works
did not discern the artisan....

For from the greatness
and the beauty
of created things
their original author,
by analogy, is seen.

But.... they search busily among his works,
but are distracted by what they see,
because the things seen are fair.

But again, not even these are pardonable.
For if they so far succeeded in knowledge
that they could speculate about the world,
how did they not more quickly find its Lord?

Many children

Frances' parents had thirteen children in all, but education was very important to them, so they had Frances go to school at a convent.

When she came of age, she wanted to become a nun herself, but she was rejected for health issues.

A priest suggested that she try teaching at an orphanage.

She proved to be wildly successful, caring for many children. In fact, when the orphanage closed several years later, the local bishop asked Frances to found a new religious order to care for poor children.

Her reputation continued to spread so much that the Pope himself soon asked her and her order to serve as missionaries.

That is how Frances found herself, around fifty years old, with six other nuns in a very strange land, working among the poor and displaced. The girl who had been rejected as a nun and went on to start her own order established as many as 67 school, hospitals, and orphanages on three continents.

Still working in her mid-sixties, Frances contracted malaria and then died in that strange land to which the Holy Father had personally sent her: dying in Chicago on December 22, 1917 and being buried in New York City.

Just over twenty years later, on this very day, Frances was beatified. When she was canonized in 1946, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first American citizen to be formally declared a saint.

(from a previous post)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Do not run in pursuit"

In today’s Gospel (Luke 17:20-25), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says important things about the end of the world, about His Kingdom, and about the conduct of our lives.

We all have heard of people who speculate or make definitive-sounding statements about the imminent return of Christ. Sometimes these people attract followers and create their own cult: with tragic results to those who did not heed our Lord’s warnings in today’s Gospel:

There will be those who will say to you,
‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’
Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.

But this warning is not only for those looking for the second coming of Christ (which all Christians are), but also for those who are looking here, there, and everywhere for the person, place, or thing they think will give them perfect happiness or be the Answer to their lives.

For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.

The Answer is Christ. Perfect happiness comes only in and through Christ.

And we as Christians, as members of His Church, have Christ among us, by the gift of His grace.

But, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we do not always recognize His presence fully.

We need to pray for a greater outpouring of His grace in our lives, for by His grace we can fully recognize – intellectually, emotionally, spiritually – the presence of Christ.

Perhaps this grace will come after a long journey, perhaps it will come quickly, but when it comes, when we fully recognize the presence of Christ, it will be illuminating beyond imagining.

For just as lightning flashes
and lights up the sky from one side to the other,
so will the Son of Man be in his day.

Dad was a businessman turned politician

John followed in his father's footsteps into the business world, but then decided to take another path.

He would not be a businessman and a politician like his father.

At the age of 24, John decided to become a monk.

Even as a student monk, John’s talent and piety made a tremendous impact, as he provided spiritual counsel to leading citizens.

Not long after he was ordained a priest, John was put in charge of several monasteries.

He became an archbishop before he was 40.

John’s ministry was very successful: promoting reform, spiritual renewal, and Church unity. His work for unity, however, had many enemies.

On the sixth anniversary of his becoming a bishop, a mob broke into his house. John Josaphat Kuncevyc was beaten, axed, and thrown into the river on this very day in 1623. His body was found 5 years later – miraculously incorrupt. Saint Josaphat, Archbishop of Polotsk (Lithuania) in the Byzantine Ruthenian rite of the Roman Catholic Church was canonized in 1876.

(from a previous post)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A message to the President

It is also a message to all Senators and members of Congress.

It is a message to Justices, judges, Cabinet Secretaries, and all high-level officials.

It is a message to heads of state and government and to legislators everywhere.

It is a message to all public servants who exercise authority over others.

It is a message to every one of us who has some role in government or who are exalted in any way: in society, in business, in the Church, or in a family.

It is a message from God in today’s first reading (Wisdom 6:1-11): a message to all of us.

Hear, O kings, and understand;
learn, you magistrates of the earth’s expanse!
Hearken, you who are in power over the multitude
and lord it over throngs of peoples!

Because authority was given you by the Lord
and sovereignty by the Most High,
who shall probe your works
and scrutinize your counsels.

Because, though you were ministers of his kingdom,
you judged not rightly,
and did not keep the law,
nor walk according to the will of God,
Terribly and swiftly shall he come against you,
because judgment is stern for the exalted–
For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy
but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test.

For the Lord of all shows no partiality,
nor does he fear greatness,
Because he himself made the great as well as the small,
and he provides for all alike;
but for those in power
a rigorous scrutiny impends.

To you, therefore, O princes,
are my words addressed
that you may learn wisdom
and that you may not sin.

For those who keep the holy precepts hallowed
shall be found holy,
and those learned in them
will have ready a response.

Desire therefore my words;
long for them and you shall be instructed.

Thanks to those who serve

Today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, commemorates the end of the First World War. It is a day of remembrance of and appreciation for the sacrifices of all veterans who fought for peace and freedom.

We remember in prayer those who have died in military service.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace.

I would like to extend my personal appreciation to all those who have served and most especially to all those who now serve.

May God watch over you
with his unconquerable mercy.
May the Lord bring true peace and freedom
to the places where you serve
and to the people you protect.
(from a previous post)

Army brat makes good

Martin was what is affectionately known as a "military brat."

His dad was an army officer and the family moved around a lot, depending upon where his father was assigned.

It was no surprise that when he was old enough, Martin joined the army too.

Martin's unit was eventually deployed far from his family. During that deployment, Martin became interested in the Church.

One day, he found a half-naked beggar shivering beside the road. Martin tore his weather gear in half and gave it to the man.

After Martin was honorably discharged, he embraced a life of prayerful solitude. He developed a reputation for holiness and a community of monks gathered around him.

When the bishop of a nearby city died, Martin was asked to replace him (they had to beg him to accept).

Martin proved to be a very effective shepherd: ministering to the needs of the people, aiding Churches in other areas, and yet retaining the ascetic lifestyle of a monk - living in a small cell just outside of town.

Martin died an old man after a long life of service to God and his people and was buried on this very day in the year 397.

His reputation continued to spread even after his death and Saint Martin of Tours would be one of France’s most venerated men of God.

(from a previous post)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Useless servant and hero

“I was just doing my job.”

That is what heroes often say: especially firefighters, police officers, and soldiers who risk their lives to save others.

True, it is their job, but even fulfilling one’s job seems unusual in this world of instant gratification and self-centeredness, let alone risking death or injury.

Likewise, as the Lord tells us in today’s Gospel (Luke 17:7-10), we are totally insignificant in the shadow of Almighty God and obeying His Commandments, while necessary, is nothing to boast of.

Yet, against the backdrop of this world of selfishness, even being an obedient useless servant can be heroic.

Attila confronts Leo and friends

This 17th century bas relief marble altarpiece by Alessandro Algardi in St. Peter's Basilica portrays Pope St. Leo the Great repelling Attila the Hun from his attack on Rome in 452. Attila raises his arm in fear as the Apostles Peter and Paul appear with swords in the sky.

(from a previous post)

The "go to" guy

He wasn't from the big city, he was relatively young, and he was only a deacon, but Leo was the bishop's "go-to" guy.

Leo could do it all: helping with thorny theological problems, administering church matters, and even traveling to aid churches in strife-torn lands.

Leo was on one of those trips when the bishop died. It was no surprise that Leo was chosen to be the new bishop.

Leo faced a number of challenges, inside and outside the Church. Yet he always remembered his primary duty was pastor.

He improved the organization of the Church and continued to help churches in strife-torn lands.

At one point, strife seemed about to spread to Leo's own city.

At the center of the strife was an exceptionally violent man: the epitome of barbarism. The government went to Leo to help.

Leo went out and talked to the man face-to-face. The man who was terrorizing the civilized world turned away and spared Leo's city.

Leo's sermons were so magnificent, they became widely published.

When he was unable to attend an ecumenical council, he sent a letter that clearly set out the truth of the Christian faith. When the letter was read, the bishops at the council stood up and exclaimed, "Peter has spoken through Leo!"

Leo died on this very day in the year 461, having proved to be a very worthy successor of St. Peter as Bishop of Rome: a great teacher of Christian truth and pastor of souls, who successfully faced down heretics and even Attila the Hun.

Later centuries would refer to him as Pope St. Leo the Great.

(from a previous post)

Monday, November 09, 2009

"Anglicanorum coetibus"

Anglicanorum coetibus - the Apostolic Constitution regarding Anglican converts is now online

Churches and Money

It was not the first brouhaha about places of worship and financial shenanigans and it would certainly not be the last.

In today’s Gospel (John 2:13-22), our Lord forcibly ejects moneychangers and other commercial operations out of the Temple.

Many people often criticize the financial operations of churches and many of these people invoke this famous incident from the Gospel.

For many, these disagreements about churches and money are really struggles for power.

Some even look upon Churches and religious institutions like any business in the marketplace.

Our Lord’s focus, however, was much different: his focus was prayer, not power, and he was very much opposed to confusing the house of God with a marketplace.

Yes, like a business or a family, Churches and religious institutions need resources in order to maintain themselves and to advance their God-given mission. Moreover, these resources need to be obtained and utilized prudently and with a certain accountability.

But we dare not let ourselves slip down the slippery slope of treating the Church like a marketplace or only like a business.

Whether we are the official stewards of the Church’s resources or simply concerned parishioners, our primary focus must be on the mission Christ gave the Church: to proclaim the Gospel and to make his loving and sanctifying presence felt.

(adapted from a previous post)

Confiscated by the government

Plautius was a conspirator against the infamous Emperor Nero.

The conspiracy would fail. Plautius would be executed and all of his family’s property would be confiscated by the government.

The name of Plautius is remembered by few today, but the confiscation of his family’s property would keep the family name in the memory of hundreds of millions even to this day.

Less than three centuries after Plautius’ death, his family’s estate would be donated by the government to the newly legalized Christian church and its buildings converted into the cathedral church of the city of Rome.

The cathedral would be dedicated to the memory of Saint John the Baptist, but the people of Rome still remembered the family of Plautius, the family that had made that place their home so many years before: the Laterani family.

Today the Church worldwide celebrates the anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral of Rome, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, the Cathedral Church of the Bishop of Rome - the Pope - and therefore the Head and Mother of all Churches.

(adapted from an earlier post)

Sunday, November 08, 2009


Today’s readings present us with two women in the most dire poverty with two very different approaches.

The woman in the first reading (1 Kings 17:10-16) is trapped in despair and sees only death in her future.

The woman in the Gospel (Mark 12:38-44) knows her situation, but remains faithful and generous.

In the case of the first woman, the prophet Elijah invites her to an act of generosity that ultimately saves her life and the life of her child.

Rich or poor, we always need to be prudent, especially when we have responsibility for family members, but we also need to be generous and faithful , no matter what.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Dishonest wealth

This expression that we hear in today’s Gospel (Luke 16:9-15) resonates strongly with the news of the past year or so, as the world in the recent recession has suffered from the aftereffects of the financial overreaching of many: from executives who are paid more than the value they provide, to financial wizards hawking diabolical concoctions, to simple people seduced by the siren song of unethical mortgage companies.

But what our Lord says about “dishonest wealth” in today’s Gospel may sound different from what many might expect.

Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails,

you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

And then later…

If, therefore,
you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth,
who will trust you with true wealth?

These exhortations, as translated in the U.S. Lectionary, might raise some questions in the minds of some: Why should we have anything at all to do with “dishonest wealth”? Why would our Lord tell us to use it and to be trustworthy with it? Isn’t it a bit of an oxymoron to be “trustworthy” with “dishonest wealth”?

The term translated here as “dishonest wealth” has traditionally been translated as “unrighteous mammon”.

The bottom line (so to speak) is that this term refers to riches tied to this world ("mammon"): riches that are not even truly real (hence, "dishonest"), for true riches are eternal and come from God.

If we are focused on money for its own sake or for the pleasures it can obtain for us, then we have turned away from God as our source and goal. As our Lord says later in this passage:

You cannot serve God and mammon.

If, however, we are truly conscientious in using the things of this world in ethical ways and for ethical purposes, keeping our focus on God and opening ourselves to be filled with His grace, then we can be welcomed into eternal dwellings by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

(adapted from a previous post)

Now that's a way to close a letter!

to Him who can strengthen you,
according to my Gospel
and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation
of the mystery kept secret for long ages
but now manifested
through the prophetic writings
according to the command of the eternal God,
made known to all nations
to bring about the obedience of faith,
to the only wise God,
through Jesus Christ
be glory forever and ever.

(Romans 16:25-27 - from today's 1st reading)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Prudent and proactive with the things of God

As believers, we recognize the absolute necessity of God's grace.

We also recognize the critical role of God's providence.

What we sometimes fail to recognize is the vital importance of prudence.

That is the moral of the strange parable our Lord gives us in today's Gospel (Luke 16:1-8): a parable that almost seems to endorse unethical behavior.

And the master commended that dishonest steward
for acting prudently.

For the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than the children of light.

Our Lord here is not endorsing dishonesty, skimming, kickbacks, or crooked accounting.

The point of our Lord's parable is that whereas the children of this world are prudent and proactive with the things of this world, we as children of the light need to be prudent and proactive with the things of God.

We need to let the grace of God and his gift of faith be more fully manifested in our lives.

We rely on God's grace and providence, but we also need to pray continually for discernment and to use the intelligence we have received from God, so that God's grace and providence may find prudent and useful instruments in us.

(adapted from a previous post)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Looking down on sinners

There is a line in decades-old movie where an officer in the armed forces of a violently oppressive regime – one that slaughters millions of people and commits all kinds of evil – speaks disapprovingly of bounty hunters, saying, “We don’t need their scum.”

We too can often look down on people, especially people who do sinful things that we find repugnant.

But we are all sinners.

That is not to say that we all might as well as be murderers and hedonists. We need to avoid all kinds of evil, especially matters that are more grave.

But we need to be careful about looking down on or judging the souls of other people, as St. Paul tells us in today’s first reading (Romans 14:7-12):

Why then do you judge your brother or sister?

Or you, why do you look down on your brother or sister?

For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God;
for it is written:

As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.

So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.

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

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Love and hate

In today’s first reading (Romans 13:8-10), Saint Paul says Christ’s followers must love.

Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
The commandments, You shall not commit adultery;
you shall not kill;
you shall not steal;
you shall not covet
and whatever other commandment there may be,
are summed up in this saying, namely,
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Love does no evil to the neighbor;
hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 14:25-33), Christ Himself says His followers must hate.

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them,
“If anyone comes to me
without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.”

A large part of the confusion comes from misunderstandings of what love really is and what our Lord means here by hate.

Love is not a mere emotion. Nor is it to be confused with desire. Love is intending the good of another: the true good – not a selfish good.

The world – especially today – twists the concept of love into a myriad of selfish forms.

We must love truly and the Commandments and the teaching of Christ guide us in true love.

But what our Lord means by “hate” in today’s Gospel is by no means the opposite of what Saint Paul means by love: Christ does not call us to intend evil for others, but rather to prefer Him radically above all things: above self, above father, above mother, and so forth.

We must love – we must intend the true good of others – and we must fulfill our godly responsibilities- especially toward those close to us – but Christ must come above all and before all.

Actually, this makes our love for others even more powerful and effective, for we will not see others as objects for our own good but as ones loved by God and whom we must love with Christ’s pure and true love.

The abbot had a speech impediment

Some people thought he was mentally challenged.

He was hardly ever at the abbey.

He was also just a bit young to be the abbot of a large monastery.

In fact, he was twelve!

Obviously, there were some "issues."

The nasty fact was that young Charles belonged to a very rich and very powerful family that had an inordinate amount of influence in Church affairs.

Sad to say, this kind of thing was the cause of scandal more than once in the history of the Church.

But not in this case, for Charles was more than just a scion of money and power: he was also tremendously brilliant, extraordinarily capable, and deeply pious.

He used all of his gifts to bring about reform throughout the Church, beginning with the monastery "left" to him by one uncle and extending all the way to an ecumenical council that reformed the Church at every level (with the help of yet another uncle, Pope Pius IV).

And he did all this - and much, much more - before dying at the age of 46, on November 3, 1584.

The memory of St. Charles Borromeo, Cardinal Archbishop of Milan (among other jobs), who was known as the "Apostle to the Council of Trent," is celebrated on this day.

(from a previous post)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

How to live as a member of the Church

The path for becoming a member of the Church is straightforward: accept Christ and the Faith and receive Baptism.

After that, we know we must obey the Commandments, live the Faith, and receive the Sacraments.

But what else? How do we live as members of the Church? How do we really live as followers of Christ in communion with one another?

Today’s readings remind us of important details for how we are to live as members of Christ’s Church.

The parable of the banquet in today’s Gospel (Luke 14:15-24) reminds us that we must extensive in our outreach, paying particular attention to those in greatest need:

Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town
and bring in here the poor and the crippled,
the blind and the lame....

Go out to the highways and hedgerows
and make people come in
that my home may be filled.

Today’s first reading (Romans 12:5-16ab) is a magnificent and detailed set of guideline for us to follow as members of the Church and disciples of Christ.

We, though many, are one Body in Christ
and individually parts of one another.

Since we have gifts
that differ according to the grace given to us,
let us exercise them:
if prophecy, in proportion to the faith;
if ministry, in ministering;
if one is a teacher, in teaching;
if one exhorts, in exhortation;
if one contributes, in generosity;
if one is over others, with diligence;
if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
anticipate one another in showing honor.

Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.

Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you,
bless and do not curse them.

Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.

Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty
but associate with the lowly.

Yet even with our outreach, our fervor, our common worship, and our charity, we must never neglect our lives of personal prayer, of being alone with the Lord (if only for a moment or two each day), resting in the presence of the Lord as in the words of today’s Responsorial (Psalm 131):

O LORD, my heart is not proud,
nor are my eyes haughty;
I busy not myself with great things,
nor with things too sublime for me.

Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted
my soul like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
so is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD,
both now and forever.

One parent was white, the other was black

His father was a rich white man

His mother was a poor unwed black girl.

Martin grew up in poverty.

When he was eleven, he started doing menial jobs for the Dominican fathers.

Later, they received Martin into the order.

He helped establish an orphanage, a hospital for the poor, and even an animal shelter. He also was devoted to constant prayer and penance.

St. Martin de Porres died on this very day in 1639 and was canonized by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.

(from a previous post)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Letting go of the dead

It is one of the things people sometimes say to someone grief-stricken at the death of loved ones:

"You have to let them go."

They mean well in saying this (usually) and it makes sense in some ways, psychologically.

But, taken by themselves, these words may be far from comforting.

"Let them go? Someone who has filled my life and my heart? You want me to rip them out of my chest and 'let them go' into oblivion? And when it's my turn, there will be someone else saying the exact same thing - 'You have to let them go' and then I get pushed off into the darkness: unremembered forever."

Our faith says something different: different meaning and different words.

We must let go, but we do not let our loved ones go into dark oblivion and unremembrance.

Today's Commemoration of All Souls and the readings provided for Masses for the Dead remind us of what is true and what gives comfort.

We let our loved ones go into the hands of a loving God by the power and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The souls of the just
are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.

They seemed,
in the view of the foolish,
to be dead;
and their passing away
was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us,
utter destruction.
But they are in peace....

Those who trust in him
shall understand truth,
and the faithful
shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy
are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.
(Wisdom 3:1-3, 9)

Everything that the Father gives me
will come to me,
and I will not reject

anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven

not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.

And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything
of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.

For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son
and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.

(John 6:37-40)

Dear Lord Jesus, give them rest.
Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem.

(adapted from an earlier post)

All Souls Day

"Indeed, on the day after the feast of All Saints, when the Church joyfully celebrates the communion of saints and human salvation, St Odilo (abbot of the monastery of Cluny) urged his monks to say special prayers for all the dead, thus mysteriously contributing to their entry into beatitude; the custom of solemnly interceding for the dead in a celebration which St Odilo called All Souls Day gradually spread from the Abbey of Cluny and is now the practice throughout the universal Church.

"In praying for the dead, the Church above all contemplates the mystery of the Resurrection of Christ, who obtains salvation and eternal life for us through his Cross."

The great John Paul II
Message for Millenium of All Souls Day, 1-2 (excerpt)
June 2, 1998

(adapted from a previous post on Toward Contemplation)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

In union with the whole Church we honor

One of the things that makes the first Eucharistic Prayer special is its listing of saints.

Often, however, we hear these names rattled off like reading a telephone directory or priests taking the option of not reading all of them.

And yet each name is deep with meaning, for each was chosen by the early Church in the city of Rome, whose memory of these holy people was especially dear and in some ways still very fresh.

As the Christians of Rome heard these names, these blessed memories came back and as they gathered before the table of the Lord on earth, they felt specially united with these brothers and sisters who were already gathered before the throne of God in heaven.

These names also brought them courage, for many of these saints were marytrs, who endured great suffering rather than turn away from Christ.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints today, it is good for us to take a little time to go beyond just the names from the first Eucharistic Prayer and to look more closely at each of these heroes of our faith, our brothers and sisters who already stand before the throne of God.

* * * * *

First and foremost of these believers in Christ was

...Mary, the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God....

And, after Christ, closest to her would be...

...Joseph, her husband...

And then...
the apostles and martyrs...

beginning with the princes of the Apostles...

...Peter and Paul...

(and then the rest of the Eleven)

(brother of Simon Peter, crucified on an X-shaped cross)

(brother of John)

(the beloved disciple, entrusted with Christ’s mother)



(first bishop of Jerusalem)


(the disciple of John the Baptist who brought Bartholomew to Christ)

(reportedly martyred by being skinned alive)

(the tax collector called to become an apostle and evangelist)

(reportedly martyred by being sawed alive)

...and Jude
(like his brother James, a relative of Christ, and who reportedly resembled the Lord)

(After the Apostles, the early Church in Rome remembered Peter’s immediate successors as their bishop: all of whom also followed him in martyrdom for Christ.)


(Peter’s immediate successor as Bishop of Rome – mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21)


(the 3rd Pope -- also known as Anacletus – converted by St. Peter himself)


(the 4th Pope - wrote an important post-Apostolic letter to the Corinthians)


(Pope less than a year in the 3rd century – affirmed that baptism does not depend on virtue of minister)


(the 21st Pope – who reconciled the “fallen away”)

(...and then other martyrs whose memory was especially beloved by the Christians of Rome)


(North African bishop and theologian who worked with Cornelius)


(deacon of the Church of Rome under Sixtus – martyred by burning)


(an early 4th century martyr and patron of an ancient church)

...John and Paul...

(brothers and imperial servants martyred by a 4th century apostate emperor, patrons of a Roman basilica)

...Cosmas and Damian...

(twins and physicians martyred in the 4th century)]

...and all the saints.

* * *

Then, later...

For ourselves, too, we ask some share in the fellowship of your apostles and martyrs...

with John the Baptist...


(the first Christian martyr)


(chosen to replace Judas as an Apostle)


(companion of St. Paul)


(bishop of Antioch, mauled by animals in the 2nd century)


(martyred with his brothers and mother in 2nd century)

...Marcellinus, Peter...

(a priest and an exorcist of the Church in Rome, martyed in the early 4th century)

...Felicity, Perpetua...

(maid and noblewoman in north Africa, mauled by beasts and then beheaded)


(virgin martyr - disfigured and tortured)


(virgin martyr - blinded then martyred - patron saint of eyes)


(virgin martyr - martyred around the age of 12)


(virgin martyr - patron of music)


(wife of a pagan - martyred in the early 4th century)

...and all the saints.

Happy All Saints Day!

(from a previous post)

What shall we pray for this month?

Pope Benedict XVI's general prayer intention for November is:

"That all people of good will, especially those who make political and economic policies, may commit themselves to care for all creation."

His mission intention is:

"That believers of every religion may witness through their lives and through dialogue that the Name of God brings peace."