A Penitent Blogger

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

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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Words to consider

The long form of today’s second reading (and it really isn't that long – Philippians 3:17-4:1) is a passage of Scripture that is especially worthy of repeated reflection and consideration during this season of Lent.

Indeed, it is a passage where almost every phrase can be a fruitful point for reflection and renewal.

For example...

Their end is destruction.

Many people today, consciously or otherwise, are nihilists: from the atheistic anarchist, to the “devout” suicide bomber, to the fatalistic hedonist.

Their God is their stomach...

Many people today are focused on personal consumption and gratification.

...their glory is in their "shame."

For every single one of the Ten Commandments, there are "lifestyles" that are centered on violating it and on doing things that society once considered shameful (and which God still does).

But of course our focus should never stay with negating or avoiding the bad, but on embodying the good by the grace of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

But our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior,
the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will change our lowly body
to conform with his glorified body
by the power that enables him also
to bring all things into subjection to himself.

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

This week, may we re-read this passage again and again, considering each phrase and asking ourselves these questions:

  • How do we see this – or do not see this – in the world today?
  • How do I see this – or do not see this – in myself?
  • How can I learn from this to come closer to living more fully in Christ?

Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,
in this way stand firm in the Lord.

The Church of St. Mary in Domnica

Today's Station Church.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Basilica of Saint Peter

Today's Station Church.

(www.saintpetersbasilica.org is a wonderful site for fantastic pictures and an abundance of information about the Basilica. The website of the Pontifical North American College also has great pictures of a recent diaconate ordination at the Basilica's Altar of the Chair)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Grace and Consequences

Taken together, today’s readings (Ezekiel 18:21-28 and Matthew 5:20-26) have these important messages:

Actions have consequences.

By the grace of God, repentance brings forgiveness and salvation.

Christ calls us to a higher standard, but His grace is infinitely greater as well.

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

The Church of the Twelve Apostles

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"...who am alone and have no help but You"

Sometimes we feel alone.

Sometimes we feel helpless.

Sometimes we feel doomed.

The young lady in today’s first reading (Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25) feels that way and so she pours out her heart to God in prayer.

God answers her prayer and in today’s Gospel (Matthew 7:7-12), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the eternally begotten Son of God, invites all of us to pray.

Ask and it will be given to you;
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.

We may not always receive or find what we want when we want it, but if we are faithful in prayer, we will never be alone and God will reward us beyond our dreams forever.

The Church of St. Lawrence in Panisperna

Today's Station Church.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Small things

In today’s first reading (Jonah 3:1-10), the prophet Jonah gets amazing results while doing very little.

He says only a few words and goes only a short distance, but the result is the conversion of one of the mightiest cities on earth.

It is a clear demonstration of the power of God’s grace working through even the smallest things.

By the grace of God, may you and I be faithful to Him in the small things and may we witness the grace of God do the mightiest of things.

The Basilica of Saint Mary Major

Today's Station Church.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A living link

He was over eighty years old,
but he was still physically agile and mentally sharp.

What made him interesting, however,
was not so much how well he had aged,
but rather how much he had experienced
and how much good he had done for so long.

The young people could only marvel
as he spoke of things
that seemed to them ancient history
but that he himself had lived through.

He was a living link to the past:
a link that reached back even beyond his lifespan,
for when the old man was young,
he himself had learned much from the old men of that day,
especially one very special old man.

Thus when young people gathered
around the old man now in their midst,
he could tell them of things
that had happened more than a century before
and that he himself had heard
from that other very special old man:
someone who had actually been there,
someone who spoke of amazing events
with simple, wonderful words...

This is what we proclaim to you:
what was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked upon,
and our hands have touched

-- we speak of the word of life.

(1 John 1:1)

Saint Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna
and disciple of Saint John the Apostle,
was martyred for the faith
on this day in the year 155 at the age of 86.

(from an earlier post)

The Church of Saint Anastasia

Today's Station Church.

Monday, February 22, 2010

One man

Some historians in the 20th century advanced the idea that history follows from the dynamism of the masses, from widespread and long-running tendencies that develop in humanity as a whole.

This is a deliberate revolt against a more traditional “great man” view of history, which focuses on a series of important leaders and the decisions they make.

There is truth in both schools of thought, but there is to history than what either propose.

Today’s Gospel (Matthew 16:13-19) reminds us of two other critical factors that affect human history.

One is the most important and powerful: the action of God – in the unfolding of His plan of Creation, in the omnipotent subtlety of His continued providence, and in the direct action of His revelation and salvation (most perfectly in the person, life, words, and deeds of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ).

The other critical factor is the human individual: not just a “great man” or a billionth of humanity, but the human individual.

One person can change history: even someone lowly-born, poorly-situated, and totally forgettable.

Peter, an undistinguished fisherman from a provincial backwater, would work hard and accomplish amazing things by God’s grace, but his life would touch an infinitesimal percentage of the other people who lived in the world in his time and his death would immediately cause barely a ripple.

But upon this Rock, Christ built His Church.

From the simple, bold statement of Peter in today’s Gospel, the faith of billions would flower.

Weak, undistinguished, and overlooked as you and I may be, may we always seek the grace of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so that we may be faithful and be effective instruments of the grace, love, and truth of God.

The Chair of Peter

The Altar of the Chair of Peter - St. Peter's Basilica

"Today we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of Peter. It is an ancient feast, dating back to the fourth century, which gives thanks to God for the mission entrusted to the Apostle Peter and to his successors.

"The first ‘seat’ of the Church was the Cenacle where, in all probability, there was a special place reserved for Simon Peter. From there the ‘seat’ of Peter moved to Antioch where he became its first Bishop, and from there, Providence led Peter to Rome where his service to the Gospel was crowned with martyrdom.

"In this way Rome came to be known as the ‘See’ of the successor of Peter and the ‘cathedra’ of its Bishop, as representing the mission entrusted to him by Christ to shepherd his entire flock. In celebrating the ‘Chair’ of Peter we thus recognize its spiritual significance: it is a special sign of the love of God - the good and eternal shepherd - who guides the whole Church along the way of salvation. In the words of Saint Jerome, 'I follow no leader save Christ so I consult the chair of Peter, for this I know is the rock upon which the Church is built!'"

Pope Benedict XVI
from his General Audience - February 22, 2006

(from an earlier post)

The Church of Saint Peter in Chains

Today's Station Church, where may be found relics of chains that once bound St. Peter...
...and where also may be found Michelangelo's statue of Moses.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Basilica of Saint John Lateran

Today's Station Church. Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. Head and Mother of all Churches. Figured prominently in a dream by Innocent III shortly after he was first visited by Saint Francis of Assisi.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reaching out to sinners

In today’s Gospel (Luke 5:27-32), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is questioned about having dinner with public sinners.

Jesus said to them in reply,
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician,
but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance
but sinners.”

On the one hand, this reading reminds us that we are all sinners in need of repentance and the grace of Christ.

On the other hand, this reading reminds us that, as followers and imitators of Christ, we need to reach out to sinners as He did.

Of course, it is very important for us to be prudent, especially as individuals. Unrepentant or half-repentant sinners cane bring with them temptations, peer pressure, and occasions of sin. We must always remain careful and faithful.

During this season of Lent, as we ourselves seek to turn further away from sin and grow spiritually by the grace of Christ, we should also consider how we – especially as parishes, dioceses, and groups – can reach out to sinners with the loving truth and the true love of Jesus Christ.

The Church of Saint Augustine

Today's Station Church. Burial place of Saint Augustine's mother Saint Monica (above) and location of Caravaggio's Madonna di Loreto (below).

Friday, February 19, 2010

It's sin...

Years ago, a team of politicians won an election while using among themselves the following catchphrase:

It’s the economy, stupid!

This kept them from being distracted by all sorts of issues that, while important, might keep them from focusing on the most important issue.

Today’s first reading (Isaiah 58:1-9a) takes a somewhat similar tack, albeit in matters infinitely more important than politics.

The people knew they needed to get right with God and they tried all the usual pious actions and devotions without success (much as we too often do).

The Lord’s response is clear.

It’s sin, stupid.

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”
Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.

The answer is also clear: repentance, grace, reform, and right action.

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed...

By the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may we truly turn away from sin and be focused on true repentance and true charity.

Basilica of Saints John and Paul

(Today's Station Church)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I need a life!

That is what many people say, often as they lament their day-to-day existence.

A life.

That is exactly what God offers us in today’s readings.

A life... and more.

All we have to do is choose.

But we also have to open our eyes: for the life that God offers is real life, eternal life, life totally fulfilled.

What the world offers is death and distraction.

Thus says the Lord in today’s first reading (Deuteronomy 30:15-20):

Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom.

If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him,
and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live and grow numerous,
and the LORD, your God,
will bless you...


I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life...!

We cannot let the world fool us with the emptiness that it calls life. We must turn from that “life” and embrace in this world the life that God offers us in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as He Himself tells us in today’s Gospel (Luke 9:22-25):

If anyone wishes to come after me,
he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily
and follow me.

For whoever wishes to save his life
will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
will save it.

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?

We need a life.

And Christ has it.

May we choose life and follow Christ.

San Giorgio in Velabro

(Today's Station Church)

Santa Sabina

(The Station Church for yesterday, Ash Wednesday)

Station Churches

The people of the Diocese of Rome have a wonderful tradition known as the Station Churches, in which people gather at a different church in the diocese each day of Lent.

The Pontifical North American College, where diocesan seminarians from the United States and Canada live when studying in Rome, has a wonderful guide to the Station Churches, which can be found on their website: www.pnac.org.

Although I missed yesterday (mea maxima culpa), I will try as last year to follow in the footsteps of these pilgrims during this season of Lent.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It is not too late

Perhaps we have built our entire lives away from God.

Perhaps we have lived many years with scarcely a thought about faith or religion.

Perhaps we are moving steadily in well-worn ruts of sin.

Perhaps we have done terrible, terrible things.

Perhaps we have made our lives and thought process so complex that we feel stuck.

But we do not need to be stuck.

Mental, emotional, and practical entanglements can be loosed.

We can be forgiven.

We can be pulled out of our ruts.

Faith and the ways of God can be ours.

It is not too late.

In today’s first reading (Joel 2:12-18), God says this:

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.

For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.

May God give us the grace that frees us from the traps we have made and the obstacles that the world sets before us.

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

Free me, Lord.

Make me walk through this world in Your path.

Even now.

Ash Wednesday

Remember, man, that you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es,
et in pulverem reverteris.

(from an earlier post)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Where it comes from

There are good things on this earth and there are also good people.

But we can often get confused about where to get that which is truly and fully good.

Temptation gives us the lie that the things or people we desire will be the answer to all our needs and will be truly and fully good.

The world gives us the lie that its cleverness and convenience can answer all our needs and questions and will be truly and fully good.

In today’s first reading (James 1:12-18), Saint James remind us where Truth and ultimate goodness comes from.

All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration
or shadow caused by change.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Life is not going well

Money is a problem.

Careers are going nowhere.

Relationships are a mess.

The way forward is a terrifying blank.

For some of us, life is not going well.

For them and for all of us, the words of today’s first reading (James 1:1-11) are truly words of wisdom.

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters,
when you encounter various trials,
for you know that the testing of your faith
produces perseverance.

And let perseverance be perfect,
so that you may be perfect
and complete, lacking in nothing.

But if any of you lacks wisdom,
he should ask God
who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly,
and he will be given it.

But he should ask in faith,
not doubting,
for the one who doubts
is like a wave of the sea
that is driven and tossed about by the wind.

In our need, we might want to ask God for many things.

May we ask first and ask continually for faith
in ever greater abundance and strength
in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

On this day

Today, many people are celebrating Valentine’s Day.

For some, it is a day to celebrate true love: a love that is shared and blessed in God.

For others, it is a day of lower quality pursuits.

For all of us, the words of today’s first reading (Jeremiah 17:5-8) – chosen not for February 14 but for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – are of deadly importance.

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.

On Valentine’s Day and on other days, too many people are putting too much trust in human relationships (current or hoped for).

Too many people are seeking happiness in flesh.

Too many people are turning their hearts to all sorts of things in this world.

Sooner or later, sometimes bitterly, we learn how shallow, fleeting, and empty all of these things are.

He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
but stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.

God is the infallible source of strength, of happiness, and of love: strength, happiness, and love that last forever.

Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
it fears not the heat when it comes;
its leaves stay green;
in the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.

May we seek God above all things, above all relationships, and above all loves.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What it is all about

For some ambitious people, religion is a tool for self-advancement by manipulating and exerting control over other people.

For them, religion is all about power.

So it is in today’s first reading (1 Kings 12:26-32; 13:33-34), as the King of Israel, for political reasons, establishes a pagan alternative to the true worship of God.

For some people who are perhaps not so ambitious, religion is a tool for building self-esteem.

For them, religion is all about “me.”

So it is also in today’s first reading that priesthood is conferred by the corrupt King on anyone who desires it, without regard to the call and the commandments of God.

The truth seems obvious: religion is not about power or self-advancement or self-esteem.

Religion – true religion, real religion – is all about God.

May you and I live that way.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Divisiveness and faithfulness

In today’s first reading (1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19), a prophet foretells the division of the People of God: that 10 of the 12 tribes will separate themselves from the house of King David.

This division was a very bad thing, caused by the mistakes of Solomon and by the ambitions of others.

The People of God would survive, of course, often as a remnant, while the kingdom of the rebellious northern tribes would be swept away by history.

We should always work to avoid divisions in the first place and to heal divisions when they arise.

We should also work hard to maintain and even expand the ranks of God’s faithful people.

Above all, however, even at the risk of rebellion or numerical diminution, we must be faithful to God and His truth in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In mysterious ways and grungy ones

There is word that comes to mind when many hear today’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37):

The word is Yuck.

He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue.

Our Lord in his earthly ministry heals other people with just a word (sometimes from a great distance) or with a touch of his cloak.

Why does he go through these strange and unsanitary actions here?

One aspect of this is that our Lord is essentially adapting the language of gesture from that time and place, for this is how faith healers often sought to heal their patients.

Undoubtedly our Lord had a special reason to use these familiar gestures. Indeed, his use of these gestures had an effect: not just on the man who was healed, but also on the crowd.

They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The Lord works in mysterious ways, it is said, but sometimes he also works in familiar and even grungy ways.

So too we may find the Lord working in our life.

So too may the Lord work through us, who may not be skilled or glamorous, but who by his grace are faithful to his truth, his work and his love.

(adapted from a previous post)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Even the best and the smartest

In one of the Gospels last week, we heard about a terrible thing done by a man because of his relationships and his desires.

That was King Herod Antipas and it easy to say, “Well, he was a bad man.”

In today’s first reading (1 Kings 11:4-13), we hear about a terrible thing done by a GOOD man (indeed, a very wise man) because of his relationships and his desires.

That was King Solomon: leader of the People of God and builder of the Temple of the Lord.

Even he fell.

We sin, but God forgives and His forgiveness through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is infinite.

As we confront our sinful selves, we should neither despair nor be presumptuous.

Rather we must always keep watch over our own hearts, minds, words, and actions, asking God for the grace to keep us from any step that would divert us from following Him and that would take us down the path of sin.

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

"I had gone down one day...

with two other girls to the bank of the river Gave when suddenly I heard a kind of rustling sound. I turned my head toward the field by the side of the river, but the trees seemed quite still and the noise was evidently not from them.

"Then I looked up and caught sight of the cave where I saw a lady wearing a lovely white dress with a bright belt. On top of each of her feet was a pale yellow rose, the same color as her rosary beads...

"I asked the girls with me if they had noticed anything, but they said no. Of course, they wanted to know what I was doing, and I told them that I had seen a lady wearing a nice white dress, though I didn't know who she was.

"I told them not to say anything about it, and they said I was silly to have anything to do with it. I said they were wrong, and I came back next Sunday, feeling myself drawn to the place....

"The third time I went, the lady spoke to me and asked me to come every day for fifteen days. I said I would and then she said that she wanted me to tell the priests to build a chapel there.

"She also told me to drink from the stream. I went to the river Gave, the only stream I could see. Then she made me realize she was not speaking of the river Gave, and she showed me a little trickle of water close by. When I got to it, I could only find a few drops: mostly mud. I cupped my hands to catch some liquid without success, and then I started to scrape the ground. I managed to find a few drops of water, but only at the fourth attempt was there enough for any kind of a drink. The lady then vanished and I went back home.

"I went back each day for fifteen days, and each time, except one Monday and one Friday, the lady appeared and told me to look for a stream and wash in it and to see that the priests build a chapel there.

"I must also pray, she said, for 'the conversion of sinners.' I asked her many times what she meant by that, but she only smiled. Finally, with outstretched arms and eyes looking up to heaven, she told me she was 'the Immaculate Conception.'"


The above account is from a letter by SaintBernadette describing her first vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at Lourdes, France - 152 years ago today, when Bernadette was only 14. Since then, over two hundred million people have come to pray at the spot and many have been miraculously cured.

Today the Church celebrates Our Lady of Lourdes.

(from a previous post)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When people speak well of you

In today’s first reading (1 Kings 10:1-10), the Queen of Sheba showers King Solomon with praise (and much more).

In the midst of such praise, the words of our Lord come to mind (Luke 6:26):

Woe to you, when all men speak well of you.

As we will hear in tomorrow’s first reading, wise King Solomon – even he! – would end up being led astray.

It feels good to be praised and we should feel good (to the level appropriate) about the good we do.

But we must beware the traps of the world and of those who would manipulate us with praise (false and otherwise).

We must beware the praise of men and the enticements of this world.

We must instead be realistic, humble, and focused on the glory of God.

She used to visit her brother once a year

"He would come down to meet her at a place on the monastery property, not far outside the gate.

"One day she came as usual and her saintly brother went with some of his disciples; they spent the whole day praising God and talking of sacred things. As night fell, they had supper together.

"Their spiritual conversation went on and the hour grew late. The holy nun said to her brother, 'Please do not leave me tonight; let us go on until morning talking about the delights of the spiritual life.'

'Sister,' he replied, 'What are you saying? I simply cannot stay outside my cell.'

"When she heard her brother refuse her request, the holy woman joined her hands on the table, laid her head on them and began to pray.

"As she raised her head from the table, there were such brilliant flashes of lightning, such great peals of thunder and such a heavy downpour of rain that neither Benedict nor his brethren could stir across the threshold of the place where they had been seated. Sadly, he began to complain.

"'May God forgive you, sister. What have you done?'

"'Well,' she answered, 'I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.'

"So it came about that they stayed awake the whole night, engrossed in their conversation about the spiritual life.

"Three days later, Benedict was in his cell. Looking up to the sky, he saw his the soul of his sister Scholastica leave her body in the form of a dove, and fly up to the secret places of heaven. Rejoicing in her great glory, he thanked almighty God with hymns and words of praise. He then sent his brethren to bring her body to the monastery and lay it in the tomb he had prepared for himself."

Saint Scholastica, sister of the great Saint Benedict, died in 543 and her memory is celebrated on this day.

Benedict would die in 547. The above account would be set down a few decades later by Pope Saint Gregory the Great.

(from a previous post)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

God is everywhere and...

If the heavens and the highest heavens
cannot contain you,
how much less this temple which I have built!

So says King Solomon in today’s first reading (1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30).

God is omnipresent. God is everywhere.

God is also Other. God is beyond the Universe.

Yet God in His love and mercy also makes Himself truly present in special times and spaces.

In His Revelation.

In the Temple of old.

In the Blessed Sacrament.

God also entered space and time in an infinitely special and unique way through the hypostatic union and the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain God.

Yet God in His love and mercy is with us.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Spread the word

Celebrity spotted. Rumors fly. Crowds gather.

On one level, that is part of what is happening in today’s Gospel (Mark 6:53-56).

But, of course, this is infinitely more important and meaningful than any celebrity.

People recognize Christ, word of his location spreads, and multitudes seek him out.

How good are you and I in passing on the truth about Christ and about where he is truly to be found?

Sudanese girl sold into slavery

Nine-year-old Josephine’s family was not badly off, but that did not protect her from being kidnapped. She would be sold a number of times and physically abused quite often.

While she was still a teenager, she had a master who relocated to Europe and took her along. It was there that she learned about Christ and was baptized. Later, when her master wanted to take her back to Sudan, she refused. The Italian authorities granted her asylum and several years later she entered the convent of the Canossian Daughters of Charity where she would live decades of quiet humble service even as fame of her sufferings and her sanctity spread.

Saint Josephine Bakhita died 63 years ago today and was canonized on October 1, 2000 by the great Pope John Paul II.

(from a previous post)

From POW to...

He was born to upper class parents and as a young man began a career track in the military.

He served in combat and was even a prisoner of war.

He was subsequently appointed to positions of authority and seemed destined for great things.

Then, he chose to be a priest, to care for the sick and for orphans, giving away everything he had: forsaking earthly glory and comfort for the glory of God.

While caring for plague victims, Saint Jerome Emiliani died of plague himself on this very day in 1537.

(from a previous post)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The vision

The slow and soaring beat of the great wings of the Seraphim as they hold themselves aloft before the throne of God and proclaim with mighty voices,




That vision comes to my mind as I think of today’s first reading (from the beginning of Isaiah 6) and of the powerful music inspired by it in Bach’s B Minor Mass.


The vision described in today’s first reading is the vision that impelled Isaiah to be one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament.

May we ask the Lord Jesus Christ to give us the true spiritual experiences that will impel us to be powerful proclaimers of His truth in the world in which we live.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Ready for the big weekend

This is the weekend!

This is the weekend for the big game.

This is the weekend for that long-planned getaway.

This is the weekend to curl up in a blanket, watch the snow outside, and “veg”.

We deserve to rest. We deserve to relax.

In today’s Gospel (Mark 6:30-34), the Apostles have worked hard and the Lord knows they need rest and relaxation.

He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place
and rest a while.”

But even in that time and place of rest and relaxation, Christ and the Apostles found people in need and opportunities for ministry.

May you and I find the rest and relaxation we truly need, but at every moment may we also be listening for the call of the Lord Jesus Christ to reach out with His love and truth to those close at hand who need it – even in times and places of rest and relaxation.

Important news from Japan

It was a rich and powerful family.

They were very close to the Jesuits and even as a young boy their son Paul wanted to become a Jesuit himself. So it was no surprise that he entered the order as soon as he was old enough.

Paul proved to be an excellent student and a powerful speaker.

But then, the government, which had been friendly toward the Christian faith, turned against it with extreme violence.

Paul and many others were rounded up and sentenced to death by crucifixion.

The date was February 5, 1597 and the place was Nagasaki, Japan.

For young Paul Miki, it was more than an opportunity to die in the same way as Christ. As he looked at the crowd that had gathered to watch, he realized that this cross was the most powerful pulpit of his life.

And so, using his strong voice for the very last time, he spoke to the crowd.

"All of you who are here, please, listen to me.

"...I am Japanese by birth, and a brother of the Society of Jesus.

"I have committed no crime, and the only reason why I am put to death is that I have been teaching the doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

"I am very happy to die for such a cause, and see my death as a great blessing from the Lord.

"As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way.

"My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death.

"I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves."

Thirty years later, in 1627, Paul Miki and his fellow martyrs were beatified by Pope Urban VIII. They were canonized in 1862 by Blessed Pope Pius IX.

Their memory is celebrated on this day.

(adapted from a previous post)

Friday, February 05, 2010

What he did for lust

In today's Gospel (Mark 14-29), we hear again of King Herod Antipas, who makes extremely bad decisions because of women he desires.

He marries his brother’s wife (after divorcing his own).

He gets so excited by the dance of his step-daughter / niece that he promises her anything she wants and ends up executing John the Baptist.

Many of us sometimes make bad decisions in our lives because of relationships.

Sometimes we make bad decisions because of lust.

Sometimes we make bad decisions because of loneliness.

Sometimes we make immoral decisions because of misplaced deference or not wanting to disturb the status quo.

May we make all our decisions based on truth and the ways of God by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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

The Sicilians killed her

She was a Sicilian too: and a beautiful one as well.

But she would not go along with them. She was intent on following Christ.

That is why they killed her.

Who were they? Their names are mostly forgotten.

But the name of Agatha, virgin and martyr, would be remembered far and wide, even in what is today called Eucharistic Prayer I, and her memory is celebrated on this day.

(from a previous post)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The way of lasting success

In today’s first reading (1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12), King David tells his son Solomon of two paths.

The first path is “the way of all flesh”: in other words, death.

The second path is the way of true and lasting success.

Keep the mandate of the Lord, your God,
following his ways
and observing his statutes,
commands, ordinances, and decrees
as they are written in the law of Moses,
that you may succeed
in whatever you do,
wherever you turn,
and the Lord may fulfill
the promise he made on my behalf when he said,
‘If your sons so conduct themselves
that they remain faithful to me
with their whole heart
and with their whole soul,
you shall always have someone of your line
on the throne of Israel.’

Which path shall we follow?

May we not follow the way of the flesh, which leads to death.

May we follow the way of true and lasting success (lasting even through eternity): the way of faithfulness to God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Who's in charge

Human beings are often arrogant. Their leaders can be especially so.

And so it was in today’s first reading (2 Samuel 24:2, 9-17), as King David decides to inventory the People of God as if they were goods stored in his warehouse.

God teaches David a lesson with irony, giving David a no-win choice. But God then mitigates the effects of that choice by His own mercy.

We all must make choices, as individuals and as societies.

May we rely on God’s grace and guidance for all our choices, for God is the Lord and ultimately it is only God who is in charge.

A dark and violent place

That is the way the world was and he left it behind to enter a monastery and devote his life to Christ.

He was so devoted that he was sent back into the world to preach the Gospel.

In fact, he was sent to the edge of civilization, to a place that was – in many ways – darker and more violent than any place on earth.

He worked for many years and met with some success, but when he died, darkness and violence nearly wiped the Christian faith off the map.

Yet he was remembered and when the faith took hold again, he was remembered with honor.

Saint Ansgar, apostle to the Vikings and the lands of the north, died on this very day in the year 865.

(from a previous post)

Through the intercession of Saint Blaise

bishop and martyr,
may God deliver you
from every disease of the throat
and from every other illness:
In the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.

Per intercessionem sancti Blasii,
Episcopi et Martyris,
liberet te Deus a malo gutturis,

et a quolibet alio malo.
In nomine Patris,

et Filii,
et Spiritus sancti.

(formula for the Blessing of Throats on Saint Blaise Day)

They say he was once a doctor

but that caring for souls attracted him more.

In time, he came to be a bishop.

This doctor-turned-bishop, however, was still a healer. They said that he once even miraculously cured a boy who was choking to death.

But the bishop cared little for his own neck.

Blaise, Bishop of the Armenian town of Sebaste (in modern-day Turkey), was martyred near the beginning of the 4th century.

He is remembered every year on this day by the blessing of throats.

(from a previous post)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Presentation of the Lord

Today's Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple is a significant touchstone and moment of transition regarding the Old and New Covenants.

It is more, however, than just a theological mystery or cosmic turning point - it is also a story about old people: Simeon and Anna, who are allowed to hold and see the baby Jesus and who go on to proclaim the salvation he brings.

Today's youth-obsessed culture often denigrates older people and isolates them from the mainstream of activity.

For young people today, the Gospel account of the Presentation of the Lord presents Mary and Joseph as examples of being open to the involvement of old people in their lives, even in the most important things they are doing.

For older people, this event presents Simeon and Anna as examples of remaining involved, active, and making a difference in the world, no matter how late it may seem.

Young or old, may we all learn from the lessons of today's Feast.

(from a previous post)

Monday, February 01, 2010


Imagine that you are confronting something evil and it turns to you and says

"My name is Legion: for we are many."

These chilling words are spoken by the Gadarene demoniac in today's Gospel (Mark 5:1-20).

The first reading (2 Samuel 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13) is disturbing in its own way, as the great King David must flee for his life from his own son and also endure the stones and insults thrown at him as goes.

But there is also a powerfully encouraging message in these readings, much more powerful than the legions of evils, for the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is infinitely greater than the hosts of darkness and the grace that Christ gives us will wipe away any pain or loss that we may suffer by living out our faith and doing the right things.

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

We need to place ourselves in the hands of Christ who will keep his faithful ones safe - no matter what may happen or what we may suffer.

Our troubles may be many,
our opponents may be legion,
but Jesus is Lord.

(adapted from a previous post)

What shall we pray for this month?

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for February is for Scholars:

"That scholars and intellectuals, by sincere search for the truth, may come to know the one true God."

His mission intention is for the Church's Missionary Identity:

"That the Church, aware of its missionary identity, may strive to follow Christ faithfully and to proclaim his gospel to all peoples."

A pillar of iron and love

The world does not like us.

Some people actively hate those who take their Christian faith seriously.

Yesterday’s readings (sorry for the delay in posting) told us how to live in such a world.

In the Gospel (Luke 4:21-30), Jesus’ friends and neighbors turn murderously against him but He walks steadily on the path God has set for Him.

In the first reading (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19), God sends the prophet Jeremiah forth with powerful words.

But do you gird your loins;
stand up and tell them
all that I command you.

Be not crushed on their account,
as though I would leave you crushed before them;
for it is I this day
who have made you
a fortified city,
a pillar of iron,
a wall of brass,
against the whole land:
against Judah’s kings and princes,
against its priests and people.

They will fight against you
but not prevail over you,
for I am with you
to deliver you,
says the LORD.

These words of power are for us as well.

God is with us, no matter what bad things may happen, if we are faithful.

But we are not to stand against the world simply as a battlement of stone and iron.

While we must be faithful and true to God, we must also stand with love in our hearts.

Not simply the emotional love of greeting cards and silly stories, but the real love that Christ showed on the cross and that Saint Paul describes in the second reading (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13).

Love is patient,
love is kind.

It is not jealous,
it is not pompous,
it is not inflated,
it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

Love never fails.

May we be faithful, may we be strong, and may we truly love.