A Penitent Blogger

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

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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

You are the man

We can all be moralistic spectators sometimes: people who sit back and denounce the evil we see.

It is easy for us to do that when we have dedicated ourselves to God and when we have educated ourselves in what is right and what is wrong.

King David does the same in today’s first reading (2 Samuel 12:1-7a, 10-17).

David of course has a very special relationship with God and knows much of God’s ways, so he would seem even better qualified to denounce the man in the story.

Then Nathan said to David:
You are the man!

In saying “You are the man” Nathan the prophet, of course, is not acclaiming David’s greatness in the way some use that phrase today (or its abbreviated form: “You da man”).

He means that the man whom David had denounced is really David himself.

So too God may say to us when we denounce someone who is a sinner.

You are the man!

You are that sinner.

(Miserere mei, Domine)

It is easy to see the sins and faults of others, but it is a matter of life and death that in doing so we not overlook our own sins and faults.

It is likewise easy to quickly assume that a particular denunciation or warning in Scripture does not apply to us (because of our different circumstances, yadda yadda yadda), but we always run the deadly serious risk of overlooking how the denunciation, warning, or prohibition does apply to us.

You are the man!

This is not to say that we should not be honest about evil or that we should not try to help people turn from evil to good.

We are all imperfect, but we must all be honest and must all seek forgiveness, repentance, and to do what is truly good (all of which ultimately comes through faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ).

Our imperfections do not excuse us from our duty to walk toward perfection while helping others advance along the same path in Christ.

The work of God on this earth is not the task only of the sinless.

The work of God on this earth is the task also of the man (male or female) who, through the grace of Christ, faithfully struggles

And you are the man!

(adapted from a previous post)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Abuse of power

He was a good guy, truly devoted to the Lord and to the people entrusted to his care.

But he did some very bad things, including adultery, murder, and abuse of power.

Today’s first reading (2 Samuel 11:1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17) presents us with an unflattering account of the great King David committing adultery and using his power to bring about the death of a loyal soldier.

You and I may not be kings or commanders. We may feel we have very little power indeed.

But we do have some power or at least some qualities that enable us to have at least some effectiveness in our day-to-day life.

Today’s first reading warns us against using our abilities – no matter how great or how puny they may be – for selfish or ungodly purposes.

May we use everything we have for truly good purposes in accordance with the will and the love of God.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Generous measures

Take care what you hear.
The measure with which you measure
will be measured out to you,
and still more will be given to you.
To the one who has,
more will be given;
from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.

Thus says our Lord in today’s Gospel (Mark 4:21-25).

What do these somewhat cryptic parallelisms mean?

For one thing, these verses apply to the quality of generosity.

If we are generous with others, God will be generous with us.

If we are not generous with what we have, we will lose what we have.

We need to be generous with our time, with our material resources, and with the love of Christ.

When he was 5, his parents sent him away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from a previous post)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blog! Tweet! Friend!

A few days ago, the Holy Father issued his Message for World Communications Day 2010, which included a call for priests "to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites)..."

All of us as believers in the Lord Jesus should do the same, to the extent we can.

But some may ask, what good would my puny efforts be in the vast ocean of verbiage which is the World Wide Web?

Today’s Gospel (Mark 4:1-20) gives us an answer in the Parable of the Sower: the sower who scattered the seed widely, even in directions that may not seem likely to bear fruit.

Likewise, if we are absolutely faithful to the Word of God in what we say online, our efforts can bear amazing fruit by the grace of God (even if we do not realize it).

To be sure, we must be prudent: in what we say, in protecting ourselves, and in avoiding debates with those who would drag us down to their level.

Likewise, we must not let our digital life and ministry impair our non-digital life and ministry.

In all the aspects of our lives, online and otherwise, we need to spread the Word of God and the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Both of her parents were dead...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from a previous post)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Family ties

In today’s Gospel (Mark 3:31-35), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ reminds us that very special family ties can be ours if we truly live our faith.

For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.

In that same spirit, Saint Paul in his letters to Timothy and Titus (provided as options for today’s first reading – 2 Timothy 1:1-8 or Titus 1:1-5) calls them his children.

How well are you and I living our faith?

How well are you and I behaving as a family with our brothers and sisters in Christ?

The coworkers

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

(adapted from a previous post)

Monday, January 25, 2010


Today's first reading (whichever one is selected - Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22) and today's feast give us one of the most dramatic examples of God’s power to change hearts: as a man who is "breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord" becomes himself a devout disciple and indeed one of the greatest Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It gives us hope and reason to pray for the conversion even of the most obstinate opponents of the Faith: from the most strident promoter of abortion to the most vociferous of atheists.

It also gives us hope and reason to pray for our continued conversion: that you and I may be freed from the sinful habits or even ungodly situations in which we may feel trapped and that we may go forward in this life faithful and powerful in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Conversion of Saint Paul

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

And I answered, Who art thou, Lord?

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

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

And I said,
What shall I do, Lord?

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

The Church celebrates the Conversion of Saint Paul on this day.

(adapted from a previous post)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pope: Priests and believers to witness online

"Priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different 'voices' provided by the digital marketplace.

"Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.

"Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ.


"The development of the new technologies and the larger digital world represents a great resource for humanity as a whole and for every individual, and it can act as a stimulus to encounter and dialogue.

"But this development likewise represents a great opportunity for believers.

"No door can or should be closed to those who, in the name of the risen Christ, are committed to drawing near to others.

"To priests in particular the new media offer ever new and far-reaching pastoral possibilities, encouraging them to embody the universality of the Church’s mission, to build a vast and real fellowship, and to testify in today’s world to the new life which comes from hearing the Gospel of Jesus, the eternal Son who came among us for our salvation.

"At the same time, priests must always bear in mind that the ultimate fruitfulness of their ministry comes from Christ himself, encountered and listened to in prayer; proclaimed in preaching and lived witness; and known, loved and celebrated in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.

"To my dear brother priests, then, I renew the invitation to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications."

Pope Benedict XVI
from his Message for World Communications Day 2010
(celebrated Sunday, May 16, but issued today)

Why they wept

All the people were weeping
as they heard the words of the law

Thus we hear in today’s first reading (Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10).

Why did they weep? One reason may be that as they heard the words of the law, they realized how far they had strayed from the ways of God.

Likewise, there may be times in our lives when we may realize how far WE have strayed from the ways of God.

We must have sorrow for our sins, yet we must not despair nor should we wallow endlessly.

We must seek forgiveness from God, by His grace, with the firm purpose of amending our lives, by His grace, and move on to do the work and live the life on this earth that God wants us to do, by His grace.

As we do that, rejoicing in the Lord will be our strength.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Just because you can...

... does not mean you should.

Many people forget that and much trouble follows.

In today’s first reading (1 Samuel 24:3-21), David is given a nearly perfect opportunity to kill the man who is trying to kill him.

David could have done it, but he knew that he should not and so he did not do it.

In all of the decisions we make – as individuals, as groups, as organizations, as nations, and as a world – may we not do things just because we can, but may we do the things we should in accordance with the law of God.

A day of penance and prayer

In the United States, today is a "day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life."

The bishop’s speech impediment

was a bit of a problem.

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

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

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

(from a previous post)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Serve safely

We must help other people: that is a critical part of our duty as followers of Christ.

However, the needs of people in this world are truly overwhelming. This is seen quite dramatically in places like the earthquake-ravaged land of Haiti, but we can also experience encounter a tsunami of need close to home (we must help in both places, of course).

In today’s Gospel (Mark 3:7-12), our Lord attends to the needs of the multitude, but also takes prudent precautions.

He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him.

The needs of people are great. Our obligation to help is certain.

We must serve, with our whole hearts and with prudence.

Agnes was a little girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saint Agnes is especially remembered every year on this day.

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

(from a previous post)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

David and Goliath

Today’s first reading (1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51) presents us with the account of the battle between David and Goliath.

In today’s world, we might sometimes feel intimidated by a selfish and secularizing culture that wields so many social, cultural, and even governmental weapons against the faithful.

No matter what we may face, we may find courage in David’s words to Goliath:

You come against me
with sword and spear and scimitar,
but I come against you

in the name of the LORD of hosts...

"The mightiest man...

"...may be slain by a single arrow…”

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

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

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

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

(from a previous post)

How Fabian was discovered

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from a previous post)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

As God sees

We human beings are often swayed by appearances.

We often chose leaders, employees, and even friends based on physical appearance: usually choosing the better-looking (although occasionally taking the opposite track – “he’s so sloppy, he must be a genius”).

The words of the Lord in today’s first reading (1 Samuel 16:1-13) are critical words to live by.

Not as man sees does God see,
because he sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.

By the grace of the Holy Spirit, may we always strive to see as God sees.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Obedience is better

When it comes to religious devotions, some of us are very, well, devoted.

But devotion to religious practices is not enough.

In today’s first reading (1 Samuel 15:16-23), the King of Israel has offered extra sacrifices to the Lord, but to do that, he had to break the Lord’s own command.

The words of Samuel are clear.

Does the LORD so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as in obedience to the command of the LORD?

Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission than the fat of rams.

We need to be faithful in our worship, devotions, and other religious practices.

But most importantly, we need to be obedient to the Lord in everything we do and say.

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

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The way toward hope

Today’s first reading (Isaiah 62:1-5) is a prophecy for the restoration of Israel, and yet as we continue to see the horrific images of the already-impoverished but now earthquake-ravaged land of Haiti, it is hard not to think also of that place and of the hope that still burns in the hearts of many.

No more shall people call you "Forsaken,"
or your land "Desolate"...

To be sure, the immediate tragedy is far, far from over – people are still buried in rubble and more will still die from lack of water and medical treatment – but responding to the tragedy and building for the future are not disconnected.

What can be done to save these people and to cure that country of its perennial desolation?

First of all, the grace of God can do great miracles, not the least of which is to turn to productive action the hearts of those who oppress and of those who despair.

As Christ turned water into wine in today’s Gospel (John 2:1-11), so may He also change the hearts of all the people who can change the fate of Haiti.

Also, as we hear in today’s second reading (1 Corinthians 12:4-11), the Holy Spirit can and deos work in many diverse and wonderful ways.

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

To each individual
the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.
To one is given through the Spirit
the expression of wisdom;
to another, the expression of knowledge
according to the same Spirit;
to another, faith by the same Spirit;
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another, mighty deeds;
to another, prophecy;
to another, discernment of spirits;
to another, varieties of tongues;
to another, interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these,
distributing them individually to each person
as he wishes.

May we pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and may we act as the Spirit wishes.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hope and leadership

In today’s first reading (1 Samuel 9:1-4, 17-19; 10:1), a tall and handsome young man is singled out to be the leader of a nation.

It is a moment of hope: a moment when people have a sense that this man has been chosen by God for the good of the people.

We know, of course, that all of this hope would eventually be crushed. The young man would turn out to be corrupt and impious. He would ultimately fail in his duties and die by his own hand.

Many times in history has this pattern been repeated: the hopes of the people are placed on a new leader and those hopes are cruelly destroyed.

The leaders among us can indeed be instruments of God and reasons for hope, but success comes from the people themselves and ultimately from God.

It is good for people to hope, but it is essential that people are vigilant, active, and – most importantly – faithful to God and God’s ways.

National Vocations Awareness Week

has been held this week in the United States: a time especially set aside for more focused prayer for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

May we all increase our efforts to help those whom the Lord is choosing to share His mission in this unique way, to discover and be faithful to their particular vocations in Christ.

The concept of vocation, of being called by Christ, was depicted most wonderfully by the great Italian painter Caravaggio in his "La Vocazione di San Matteo" which hangs in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.

Many of us can imagine ourselves in Matthew's place as he hears Christ calling him.

"Who? Me?"

Christ says, "Yes, you!"

May we hear Christ clearly and follow His call faithfully.

(adapted from a previous post and an announcement by the Diocese of Arlington)

Friday, January 15, 2010

What we can do

Television news right now is filled with horrific images of the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.

The news has also shown instances of heroism, especially as ordinary people dig with their bare hands, risk their own lives, and use their own ingenuity to rescue neighbors and strangers out of the rubble of their houses.

In today’s Gospel (Mark 2:1-12), a similar group of individuals use ingenuity and their own hands to rescue a paralyzed man: except in this case, they bring the man inside a house, because that is where Christ is.

Sometimes, like the people in the first reading (1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22a), we want someone else (such as the government) to do what needs to be done. Sometimes we are disappointed.

The example of the men in today’s Gospel and of the heroes on the broken ground of Haiti should inspire us to consider afresh what we ourselves, as individuals and as small groups of individuals, can do to help others: with our own ingenuity, with our own efforts, with our own risk, and – most importantly – with the grace and the guidance of God.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


These words from today’s Responsorial Psalm (44:10-11,14-15,24-25) resonate bitterly with the horrible tragedy being suffered by the people of Haiti in these days following a terrible earthquake.

Why do you hide your face,
forgetting our woe and our oppression?
For our souls are bowed down to the dust,
our bodies are pressed to the earth.

Why does God let this happen?

The short and simple (but perhaps in some ways unsatisfying) answer is that we do not know: we are not God, we do not have His infinite understanding or the perspective of Eternity.

However, as believers, we have faith in the infinite wisdom and mercy of God and must do the very best we can to be instruments of that mercy for all those who suffer.

Superstition will not save you

In the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark an aged academician solemnly declares that "An Army that carries the Ark before it... is invincible."

It would seem that he (or more likely the talented but fallible screenwriter) never read today’s first reading (1 Samuel 4:1-11).

The scene presented by this reading would readily lend itself to cinematic spectacle: a cast of thousands in colorful battle array, the Israelites the classic heroes on the edge of defeat against the classic Philistine villains, the Ark of the Covenant brought forward with swirling incense and gleaming gold, the Israelites cheering like an earthquake and the Philistines cowering as the great climactic battle begins.

And then the Israelites lose.

What is worse, the sacred Ark is captured and carried away with the other spoils of war.

What happened? The people of Israel in that battle were being led by the despicable sons of Eli, young men who wallowed in theft, debauchery, and sacrilege.

Even at this moment of crisis, however, they chose not repentance but superstition: using the Ark of the Covenant as if it were a magic talisman.

Superstition operates only on the level of externals. True faith and true religion goes to and comes from the heart.

Superstition is focused on tangible outcomes. True faith and religion focuses on a relationship that is to extend through eternity: a personal relationship with God.

Superstition is a common human impulse, often associated with religion, but not exclusively (if I only wear black this week, my favorite sports team will win their next game).

Statistically, superstition will always eventually fail.

Only true faith and religion – by the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ – can save any of us in the long run, especially in the eternally long run.

As little children, it was especially easy to think of religion in superstitious ways. Sadly, some of us never totally grew out of that mindset: some who still practice their religion and some who have rejected all religion.

When I was a child,
I used to talk as a child,
think as a child,
reason as a child;
when I became a man,
I put aside childish things.
(1 Corinthians 13:11)

Sacred objects and sacred places are not magic things, even those things that are explicitly part of salvation history: they are to point us to God and to affirm the truth of God’s action in our world, all to help build up our relationship with God in faith by his grace.

It is important to stay out of the trap of superstition – both real superstition and the slander that all faith is superstition – and to grow by grace through true interior faith and true exterior religion together into the fullness of our eternal relationship with God.

(adapted from a previous post)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pray for the people of Haiti

Please pray for the people of Haiti, one of the most impoverished places on earth, devastated by an earhtquake yesterday. Death and destruction have fallen upon the masses of the anonymous poor and even upon individuals of prominence and influence.

Catholic News Service quotes this morning's L'Osservatore Romano with this news:

"The lifeless body of Archbishop Joseph Miot of Port-au-Prince was found this morning under the rubble of the archbishops' residence."

May God grant peace to the dead and comfort to the suffering.

May we rise to their aid.

Discern and listen

What happens in today’s first reading (1 Samuel 3:1-10,19-20) is very familiar and very instructive: a young man comes to recognize the voice of God and positions himself to follow it.

As ancient as this event is, the situation was not unlike our own time, especially in this respect: “a revelation of the LORD was uncommon and vision infrequent.”

Samuel discerns the voice of God, in no small part thanks to the advice of a very imperfect religious man who is slow to stumble upon the famous wisdom he shares with Samuel.

Then Eli understood
that the LORD was calling the youth.
So Eli said to Samuel,
“Go to sleep,
and if you are called, reply,
‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’”

There are two critical lessons for us in this reading: lessons to be remembered and put into practice each and every day.

Discern and listen.

There are many voices that we can hear – voices in the world that we see, voices from places we cannot see, and voices within ourselves.

It is a matter of life and death that we discern correctly the voice of God and filter out the ungodly voices around us and within us.

We do this by the grace of God and using the instrumentality God gives us: most especially, the deposit of faith (Scripture and the Magisterium) and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

But of course, in order to discern, we must first listen: taking the time to carve out quiet places in our schedule and in our thoughts, reaching beyond ourselves, our preferences, our plans, and what we call our lives.

May God give us the grace to listen, discern, and respond – in attitude, word, and action.

Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.


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

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

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

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

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

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

This likewise echoes another Gospel scene:

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

or should we look for another?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then will the rightful faith be known.

(from a previous post)

Saint Hilary

Everyone knows about Hilary's spouse, of course.

Everyone also knows about those who had been against Hilary, most of them men - including the most powerful man in the world.

People were upset when Hilary was ordained a bishop.

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

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

(adapted from a previous post)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Making a fool of oneself

Drunk! Wacko!

"How long will you make a drunken show of yourself? Sober up...!"

How often have you and I thought badly of particular people?

In today’s first reading (1 Samuel 1:9-20), a wise old man makes a snap judgment about someone and is proven to be terribly, terribly wrong: denouncing as a drunk a holy woman who is being powerfully blessed by God.

Let’s not be fools.

May you and I see as God sees.

Monday, January 11, 2010


By today, the eleventh day of the new year, some New Year’s resolutions have already been tested: some have held, some have bent, and some have failed.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm (116:12-13,14-17,18-19) and Gospel (Mark 1:14-20) share the theme of fulfillment.

My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.

Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The Kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

May the Lord Jesus give us the grace, wisdom, strength, and courage to fulfill our godly promises, vows, and commitments – most especially our vocation to live truly as His followers in our daily lives.

O LORD, I am your servant....

Sunday, January 03, 2010


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

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Who Christ is

Today’s readings, together with today’s memorial of one of the great ancient theologians of the Church, bring a special focus on the question of who Christ is.

In the Gospel (John 1:19-28), John the Baptist makes it clear from the very beginning that he is NOT the Christ.

In the first reading (1 John 2:22-28) Saint John uses very strong language to make clear that Jesus is the Christ.

Who is the liar?
Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ.

Whoever denies the Father and the Son,
this is the antichrist.

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

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

Saint Gregory Nazianzen, whose memory we celebrate today (together with his brother Saint Basil the Great) was a powerful voice in reaffirming this truth, especially in the full reality of the divine and human natures in Christ as well as in the unity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

These are critical truths, with deep meaning for our daily lives and for the salvation of the world.

Among other things, the full reality of Christ’s human nature (united with His divine nature) confers an infinitely higher significance on what we humans do (insignificant as we would otherwise be in a vast universe, let alone in comparison to Infinity Himself).

Moreover, as ultimately mysterious as these truths may be, the unity of the human and divine natures of Christ and the unity of the Person of Christ with the Father and Holy Spirit in One God makes possible the hope for eternal happiness and fulfillment that is extended to all people through that one man who walked for a brief time on this earth in a small land two hundred decades years ago.

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

He was head of the law school

He was very successful on the speaking circuit.

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

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

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

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

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

(from a previous post)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

The LORD bless you and keep you!

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

The LORD look upon you kindly
and give you peace!

(from today's first reading - Numbers 6:22-27)

Mother of WHAT?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from a previous post)