Friday, May 22, 2009

Not a pamphlet but a person...

New beginnings, both at home & abroad. Congratulations to Fathers David, Christian, & Johnathan Orr on their new assignments. It's a little sad to say goodbye to familiar places & to leave old friends, but we are always called to new places to make new friends.

The new Archbishop of Westminster & primate of England & Wales, Vincent Nichols, was enthroned in his see yesterday. The homily is amazing - please read it if you have a chance.
Westminster Cathedral is an amazing & enchanting place, alive with the history of the Church in England. It's choirs are simply the finest in the world. But it is really the massive Byzantine crucifix over the sanctuary that really focuses one's attention amongst the music & mosaics: Christ & him crucified. May God bless the new archbishop, & all our priests, & increase their tribes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Looking out the window

Some days, you just want to go outside & play.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The sun rose today.

The President came & spoke, & the world didn't end.
Still, we can't say that nothing has changed, can we? There is much fall-out yet to come. It will be interesting to see what the bishops do from here. They have certainly made their voices heard with a clarity & unity that is rarely ever seen. Yet, both the media & many voices within the Church (are they within the Church?) have dismissed them as hopelessly irrelevant & painted them as cranks. Which brings me to...
There is a theory circulating that Obama has played a masterful hand in this matter by using the occasion of his speaking at Notre Dame to capitalize on the ongoing strife within American Catholicism itself by driving a wedge between the smaller group of so-called orthodox Catholics & the masses of liberal-leaning Catholics. Of course those sorts of categories are ultimately not very accurate or helpful to clarifying the issues involved. Still, there are definitely 2 sorts of minds in the Church, & this occassion has polarized them even further.
Consider these images: one priest was being dragged off by police with hands tied behind his back singing Immaculate Mary, Thy Praises We Sing (as we sang at our May Crowning), & another priest on stage in scholarly regalia, chumming it up with the President amidst waves of applause.
I remember reading this somewhere: Beware when the world applauds you!
. . .
In other matters...
If anyone has lost their 20' tall, metal chicken-peacock-bird windmill thingy, it's in Rockford, Tennessee. Just so you know.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

City of God

The Church stands at a crossroads, the intersection of the way to the city of man & the way to the City of God. Perhaps it is always so, but some events focus it more clearly. The Gospel of today’s Mass could not be there by accident:

“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belong to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. John 15:18-19

I discovered all sorts of resonance in the Rosary today:

Credo - What I believe influences my thoughts, changes my view, drives my actions. What I believe determines what I live for. Belief is ultimately not a subjective reponse, but a Truth, an overriding fact that cannot & will not be denied. There is really only one belief. There is only one Creed. This is because there is only one God. And he has spoken to us.

Pater noster… sanctificetur nomen tuum – God’s name revealed in Jesus; Jesus name covered up at Georgetown by Obama. God’s name prayed outside abortuaries all across the world. Adveniat regnum tuum – the kingdom comes with violence; a priest’s consecrated hands tied behind his back as he is forcibly carried off. Fiat voluntas tua – bishops speaking the Truth with conviction, doing God’s will - surely not without a massive backlash. Dimitte nobis debita nostra – for when we choose to not seek, not to know, not do your will: when acts of violence are committed against those made & those being made in your image; when we sin by compromise our beliefs for the glory of the city of man over that of the City of God. Sed libera nos a Malo -Today, he prowls….

Ave Maria… benedicta tu in mulieribus – women are God’s chosen bearers of life into the world; blessed are they who choose to accept this glorious burden. Benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus – the Lord resting in the waters of creation in the womb of the Blessed Mother, a silent sanctuary, waiting to draw the first “pneuma,” the first breath of life. Ora pro nobis – Queen Mother, we beg you to present our petition to the King, for he will not refuse you. Nunc – the battle is engaged. Et in hora mortis nostrae – Everyone dies. And everyone lives - forever. We are immortal. Only those who the Lord knows will be welcome in the Kingdom. He said he would know us by our works. May the moment of death for many be a moment of repentance, conversion, & acceptance; a moment of knowing.

O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

God through beauty

"If I am right in saying that the religious instinct is strong in man & can easilly be awakened, & if one of its constituents is wonderment stimulated by aesthetic experience, then we are justified in underlining a particular aspect of the liturgy - & it is only one aspect.

"The liturgy should always contain within it the beautiful, because beauty is one of the means by which we are led to God. A beautiful thing speaks to us of God. What we love in any creature is only what is a reflection of God. It is the beautiful that can arouse in us wonder, can lead us to a response which is not exclusively rational - & rightly so, in that we are not simply rational beings, but much more.

"The liturgy therefore should... deliberately speak to us of God through beauty. "

- The Intentional Life, Cardinal Basil Hume, O.S.B., p.6
Update: Immediately after posting, I found a related, interesting article at New Liturgical Movement, one of my favorite blogs. It's all worth a read, but scroll down to A Hermeneutic of Rupture? by Arlene Oost-Zinner on reflections on the Cathedral of Light in Oakland, CA. It illustrates very well the interaction between surroundings & faith - both our individual faith & the Catholic Faith.


If asked how your sins are forgiven, most Catholics are likely to say, "By going to Confession." That is right, of course. But is it a secondary reality to what empowers the sacrament to forgive men's sins in the first place. The "psalm" from last night's Magnificat evening prayer:

He chose us in [Christ], before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us. - Ephesians 1:4-8

Never forget: Our sins are forgiven through the bloody, sacrificial death of Jesus in the Roman province of Judea about the year 30 A.D. And it was us that killed him. Yet despite what we deserve, God still offers us forgiveness if we are truly sorry for what we've done, confess our sins, & seek to amend our lives. How could we ever make ammends for the great mercy of God, other than to give thanks by receiving his overwhelming love & radiating it to others!?!

I will try to remember that next time I go to Confession.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Basil Hume, OSB - monk, abbot, priest, archbishop, cardinal - must have been an amazing man. I have just completed a book by the former Abbot of Ampleforth Abbey & Archbishop of Westminster called The Intentional Life: The Making of a Monastic Vocation (found, incidentally, on the 50% off cart at the Paraclete). I would characterize his reflections in the book as Profound & Elegant Simplicity. And certainly worthy of reading & reflection by every committed Christian.

He returns again & again to the vows common to all religious: poverty, chastity, obedience, & two that are unique to Benedictines (though we all need a measure of them, too): stability & conversio morum, which he translates as "conversion of manner," but explains is more akin to an on-going conversion of heart, of purpose, of seeking God.

Regarding a recent letter in the East Tennessee Catholic in which the commentor seemed to define a new obedience of women's religious - namely, going where one wants to go to do what they want to do - empowered, naturally - rather than going where the Church sends you to do the work she asks you to do - I offer the following excerpts from Card. Hume's book:

"My obedience is a sign of my availability, not necessarily in terms only of action, of doing - which the words "sharing" & "giving" connotate - but also in terms of accepting, of being prepared to accept God's will even if it means being passed over, being asked to relinquish some responsibility, or just being forgotten. Obedience viewed form this angle is also the constant corrective to my non-availability. What is it that makes me hesistate to share, hesitate to give, hesistate to open? What is it that makes me hesistate to allow myself to be loved? Often it is our inhibitions, which can hide selfishness, self-centeredness, self-seeking. Obedience can be my liberation: it can free me from self & make me available to others.

"Obedience (in the sense in which I am thinking of it now) is not confined to the precepts of Superiors or the prescriptions of Constitutions or the like. I am thinking in terms of day-to-day circumstances - the class to be taken, the presiding I am called upon to do, the sick-call, the committee meeting - all demands requiring me to be ready, to be available. The doorbell of a presbytery & the bell ringing in the cloister: these are the voice of God summoning us to be available to another..." (p.87)

And later...

"Obedience is central to the monstic life... [It] is the outward sign of my determination to dedicate my whole life to God my Father; it is an expression of my love for Christ, my desire to follow him. It is a freeing, so that I can be a true instrument of the Spirit." (p.125)

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Collect

I think as one opens himself to God, various parts of the liturgy - the privileged meeting place of the faithful with God - begin to open up like a blossom revealing all its color, life, & fruitfulness. Every action of the Mass is carefully considered & full of meaning, though exactly what that is may not be immediately apparent. It takes a bit of pondering.

{As an aside, I would add this is why no new psuedo-rituals should be added to the Mass, even if they seem pious. New & often barely considered themes & messages can be introduced that compete, detract, or clash with the idea of worship as the Latin Church understands it. New things can only be introduced only after great pondering & only when it harmonizes with the apostolic faith to the ends of the glory of God & sanctification of the people. Be very careful...}

Of late, I have made a habit of pondering the Collect & post-Communion prayers at Mass. The Collect prayer, now basely called the “opening” prayer” is the one that the priest reads at the end of the introductory rites before everyone sits for the readings. With all the various readings, psalms, & antiphons that occur during any day’s Mass, it seems to be the Collect that gives them all a common theme. It generally pleads to God for what we hope to receive from the Mass, how we hope to be changed. Yesterday’s Collect for the 5th Sunday of Easter from the Ordinary Form was this:

“God our Father, look upon us with love. You redeem us & make us your children in Christ. Give us true freedom & bring us to the inheritance you promised…”

The first part of the prayer may seem redundant – God always loves us with the greatest possible love. He cannot love us any more than he already does. We pray this to remind ourselves of this gift & empty ourselves to receive it. This emptying is the work of the Spirit.

Passing over the second part, the words freedom & inheritance stuck with me. What is true freedom? What is false freedom, & how can we know one from the other? The world is full of false freedoms - things that promise much, but leave us more bound & weighed down than before. Taking it in a slightly different direction, what keeps us from being free to be the reflected image of God, from being transparent enough to allow the light of the Christ Jesus to radiate to those around us? Father spoke of this image of light in his homily. What keeps us from being the Light of the World?

I suppose there are many reasons, but I concluded that it is mostly our own problems that keep us from being involved in other people’s problems. This is certainly a form of self-absorption, of the prominence of the Me over the Other. Ultimately, this is an aspect of pride. There are many other kinds, but I think that dwelling on one’s own problems is the prominent one these days. But this is a very, very small & dark box in which to lock one’s self. There is no room to grow in this cell, only despair, really. It can be very difficult to cultivate enough faith to burst it open. Yet, the glory of God is so much greater, & the power of the Spirit of God – if even given the tiniest opening - can work great miracles.

God himself is our inheritance. But as long as we cling to our own misery & self-pity as to a life-preserver, we cannot claim it. God never coerces; he only invites. But as long as we are willing to accept less, his hands are tied. What a dreadful power we have over God! The power to destroy ourselves! Yet, his invitations are incredibly persistent, eventually just short of irresistible.

Fortunately, it is not completely up to us to spring ourselves from this self-made prison. God regularly sends people our way that need our help more than we need to wallow in self-pity. The more we open ourselves to others - who participate in the Other that is God himself - the more our own problems shrink & recede in comparison. We have to get busy; even if we don’t want to, we just have to begin. That is the crack that the Spirit needs to begin his work. We also have a host of people on the same journey & even those who have completed the journey to help pull down those prison gates & help remind us of who we really – sons of God & citizens of heaven, & what are really made to inherit – eternal joy in God.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Since there's been a lot of heavy stuff in the news (& on the blog) lately, I think we need a break. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

When Fr. Corapi gets into the ring... know things are getting serious! Please watch his message & pass it on.

Naturally, I also encourage you to go to to sign the petition.


Everyone loves a good one. The real "scandal" here is that over 354,000 Catholics can agree on anything, esp. when Faith & politics clash (click on either picture to add your name to the petition). As I mentioned in my last post, when the "spiritual" & the "practical" collide, that's when we really find out what's what in our priorities.

Catholics are something like 20% of the American population. Even even half of Catholics would allow themselves to be formed by Christ speaking through the Church, instead of by CNN or Fox News, how different the moral landscape of this country & the world would be!

Why all the fuss? He is the president, after all, right? Well here is the all-to-clear statement of the U.S. bishops, who rarely speak with clarity on anything:

“The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” - “Catholics in Political Life”, U.S. Bishops, 2004.

Even the president does not have the right to use a Catholic institution to advance an agenda that patently against Church teaching & universal natural law. Given the gravity of the offense against human life he has personally perpetrated, it must be denied. American Papist counts 66 bishops of the U.S.'s 195 diocese have publicly spoken out against the president giving the commencement address & receiving an honorary law degree. Fr. Jenkins, however, persists in disobedience.

If you think this is all just partison bickering of no real point or consequence, click here for a personal story of a Notre Dame alumnus & her encounter with "choice." Notre Dame, ora pro nobis!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stormy Times

Last night at the parish mission, Fr. Mueller talked about St. Paul's ability to remain joyful in spite, even because(!), of the suffering he had to endure for his mission for Christ Jesus.

Are we able to do the same amidst the storms that come our way, both within & without? Or does our real lack of faith & self-reliance start showing through our thread-bare piety?

Something I've been thinking about lately: What are the limits of our belief in a good & loving God who spares nothing for our salvation & eternal joy? What are our limits of our acceptance & reliance on his loving providence? I only ask because, despite profession to the contrary, I see myself & others throw in the towel of faith & begin to rely on self all the time.

In my experience, recommending the use of the tools of faith - such as prayer, fasting, & works of charity - to a "real" problem like a dying loved one, a broken marriage, or a lost job is usually to invite dismissal, ridicule, scorn, or even anger - even from those who call themselves Christians.

Perhaps some use religion as a sort of escape from the "real world" & its difficulties - a kind of quiet sanctuary; however, it seems woefully inadequate if it is left there. Are we not called to live our faith in the Christ Jesus crucified & risen out in the world? To be Christ in the world? To find Christ in the world? Ite missa est. If Jesus is truly Lord of All, this must include our All, even the gritty, broken world most of us live in daily.

Gaudete in Domino semper; iterum dico: gaudete! 1 Tim 4:4

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Hammer of Heretics

Saturday was the feast of an amazing, & still oft-invoked, saint of the chaotic Nicean era: St. Athanasius.
Click on the picture for Fr. Longenecker's interesting discourse on this saint & an interesting twist on the Incarnation.

Here is lastest entry in the Called to Holiness series I write for the church bulletin:

St. Athanasius († 373) – May 2

Once the Roman emperor Constantine ended the persecutions of Christians, surely the Church would enter a new era of peace, right? Well, it didn’t turn out that way, especially for the bishop of Alexandria.

The Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ Jesus, grew rapidly during that time & threatened to rip the Church apart. Even many bishops became part of this movement; & clashes between the heretics & those adhering to the orthodox faith were often violent. Athanasius defended the faith vigorously against the heretics, but suffered repeated exile from his diocese & threats on his life. The emperor Valens ultimately restored Athanasius to his see, where he continued to denounce heresy & zealously preach the true Christian faith.

May his intercession lead us to be faithful witnesses in word & deed to the Church’s One, Holy, Catholic, & Apostolic faith in Christ Jesus, no matter the cost.

Fr. Orr mentioned him in his homily at the Sunday E.F. Mass, using this expression, "the hammer of heretics." I thought that was interesting, since - although I know Father in no way intended it this way - the SSPX & other super-trad schismatics hold up Anathasius as a champion, & there are a least a few SSPX-types in the congregation who refuse to attend an Ordinary Form Mass whatsoever, deeming it an invalid ceremony. Because Athanasius was oft at odds with the local civil & ecclesial authorities, many of whom were given over to the Arian heresey, the SSPX'ers often invoke his name as they clamor about a "state of emergency" in the Church (which may be true; it may also be perpetually true), which makes them the de facto keeper of Sacred Tradition, which they claim packed it's bags & left Rome after the Second Vatican Council. Interesting that the neo-Donatists would enlist the Hammer of Heretics to their cause.
To paraphrase Fr. Corapi, "You can fall off the boat either port of starboard; either way, your in the water with the sharks." Ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia, I always say! After all, Jesus stood in his boat, right?

Monday, May 4, 2009

O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today...

Could the Crowning of Mary have been any sweeter? Maybe if I hadn't sung so much! Still, besides this being the first attempt at a May Crowning in recent memory - mostly with & for the Religious Ed students - it was glorious. My heartfelt appreciation goes out to all who helped make it possible.

The students brought flowers to place before the statue of Our Lady, & those with excellent attendance were also given images of the Blessed Mother to carry. The procession was supposed to begin outdoors at the lower level & progress around the building & up to the courtyard. The downpour outside convinced the organizers otherwise. I still wanted it outside, however, reasoning that the Lord had simply provided a over-abundance of holy water for his Mother's procession. More rational heads prevailed, I suppose, & we began in the entry hall of the Family Life Center.

Father did a brilliant job of leading us in prayer to God & asking for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thanks also to Deacon Sean who always lends his gravitas to the occasion. Having the crowning in the church instead of the courtyard really gave the sense of something "official" happening, something important - that is, important to our faith, important to our salvation. Perhaps that something was simply the worship of God by the honoring of Mary.

I can't begin to get into the meaning of Mary's presence in my life, other than to say that it has been life-changing. If the primary purpose of catechesis is to prepare the way for an encounter with Christ Jesus, then I have tried to do my part in sharing with my students my love of the Blessed Mother, who always leads us faithfully to the Son. I commend to her care for the summer all of my departing students, all those who she will send my way in the Fall, & all the children in the Religious Ed program. With her guidance, I confidently pray to the Lord, "Let it be done to me according to Thy will." Happy Mothers Day, Blessed Mother.