Saturday, December 31, 2005

Mary, Mother of God

January 1 is the feast of Mary, the Mother of God.

This title was officially given to Mary at the Council of Ephesus in 431. A bishop named Nestorius, who was patriarch of Constantinople, had been teaching false ideas about Jesus. Nestorius said that Jesus was, in effect, two persons, a human person and a divine person. This is different from the Church's teaching that Jesus is one person, the divine person, with two natures: human and divine.
A consequence of Nestorius' teaching is that Mary can't be the Mother of God, but only of the human Jesus.
The ordinary Catholics of his day may not have followed the theological subtleties of the debate, but they knew that they had always honored Mary as the Mother of God, and whoever denied that had to be wrong. After the bishops at the Council of Ephesus declared Mary is truly the Mother of God, the faithful to the streets and had a great procession in her honor.

This shows how what the Church teaches about Mary is important because it safeguards the true teaching about Jesus.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Where are these thoughts coming from?

This morning I was feeling disturbed about something that had happened, and I was thinking some dark, negative thoughts. Then suddenly a question popped into my head, "Are these thoughts coming from God?"
I had to say no, they weren't coming from God, and I had to pray to the Holy Spirit for help to replace them with better ones.

It made me reflect on how easy it is to get carried away by negative thoughts, which can often come from a lack of faith or of charity, and how often I've done that. This morning's experience gave me something to aim at in the new year: to be more aware of what I'm thinking and to ask myself where those thoughts are coming from.

Bl. James Alberione, our founder, liked to talk about what he called "the sanctification of the mind." I think this is what he meant.

Christ is on board

Today's office of readings has a meditation by St. Thomas Becket (the saint of the day). In it he reminds us to think about all the storms that the ship of Peter, the Church, has successfully weathered, because "Christ is on board."

What a great thought--Christ is on board. He's with us. Are we with him?

Christmas continues

The secular world starts Christmas early--even before Thanksgiving nowadays--and ends it just as early. By the day after Christmas, regular programming resumes and Christmas carols are hard to find. Trees are thrown out on the curbside awaiting pickup.

But the Church's liturgy is just the opposite. Advent is a time of waiting and expectation. Once Christmas arrives, the liturgy celebrates the Christmas season. During these two to three weeks the Church offers us the opportunity to ponder the meaning of Christ's birth in peace and quiet.

The great thing about the liturgy is that it actually makes present the grace of the feast. It doesn't simply recall it, like we recall the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4. The liturgy brings us into a real contact with Christ and the grace of salvation that he offers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Happy feast of St. John the Evangelist

If any one theme stands out in the letters of St. John, it's the theme of God's love for us.

God loves us. To really take that in, understand it and live by it would make us all saints. When we know that we are loved, it is easier to love other people.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

God became man

At the heart of Christmas is the deepest mystery: God became man.
It could seem like blasphemy but it's at the heart of our faith: God became man.
All the Christmas presents, all the rushing around, the shopping, the baking, the cooking, the parties, laughing, fun and get-togethers only make sense if we remember: God became man.

God became one of us! How can we fathom the mystery?

In the Office of Readings for Christmas, the Church gives us a wonderful homily by St. Leo the Great, entitled, "Christian, remember your dignity!"
Because God became man, and through baptism we are made one with him, we have a tremendous dignity that no one can take away.
St. Leo reminds us of this and urges us now that we have been cleansed, not to return by sin to our former base condition.
He says that the mystery of Christmas is meant for everyone, no one is shut out from the rejoicing for this feast: let the saint rejoice as he receives the palm of victory, and let the sinner rejoice as he hears the call to conversion. Everyone has a reason to rejoice.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Come, O King of all nations!

O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mary in Advent

The Mass for today, Dec. 20, has been called the "Golden Mass" in honor of the Blessed Virgin. The readings for this Mass center on Mary; the Gospel is the Annunciation.

Mary's example helps us to be open to whatever God is asking of us.

What does God want of me today?

Thomas Tuesday

The other day I happened to look at the very first article in the Summa, and St. Thomas mentions an interesting thing. He just says it almost "by the way," as an example in a reply to an objection. He mentions that the earth is round. His reference makes it clear that educated people in the Middle Ages knew that.

I remember growing up hearing the story that Christopher Columbus was the first person to discover the earth was round. But St. Thomas knew it, and so did the ancient Greeks. Although scientists in our times have made astounding discoveries, the people in the Middle Ages knew more than we might suppose.

Monday, December 19, 2005

US National Debt over 8 Trillion Dollars

This link brings you to the US national debt clock, which tracks the national debt and breaks it down.
Right now the debt is over 8 trillion dollars.
The government keeps ahead of this debt by selling treasury bills. But that only postpones the debt to the future. It also is dangerous because it makes the economy depend on whether or not investory buy those treasury bills. Right now, more than 50 % of them are owned by people in other countries. That makes our national economy depend on decision makers in those countries; but is it a good thing to make our economy so dependent on them?

This is not a political blog, but sound economic policies should be the concern of every American, regardless of political ties.

Chronicles of Narnia

Yesterday I went to see the movie Chronicles of Narnia. I like it a lot. It's been a long time since I read the book so I didn't remember that much from it, but I thought they did a great job with the movie.
If you've seen it, what was your reaction?
One thing that struck me was how easy it is to run into voices of discouragement. For example, in the scene when Peter had to kill the wolf, Susan told him he couldn't do it and urged him to put down his sword--in other words, she was telling Peter he was no good. That's the voice of discouragement, the voice of the tempter, the voice of Satan. Satan always tries to get us to think we're no good--because if we think that, we'll live up to that idea.
Instead, Aslan calls forth the good in people. That's what Jesus does. He tells us the truth, which is that God loves us and his love creates goodness in us. Look deep into your heart and discover the greatness that God has put there. In fact, St. Thomas says that the sin of acedia or spiritual apathy is the refusal of one's own greatness.

Come, O Root of Jesse!

O root of Jesse, standing an ensign of the people, before whom even kings silent will remain, whom the Gentiles, too, shall beseech, come now to deliver us all; delay no longer (cf. Is 11).

Christmas Novena: Day Four

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord" (Lk 1:5-14).


The infant king will stand as a sign in full view of all the nations. This king will be a sign not only for the Israelites, but also for the Gentiles. All people shall come to him. Our hearts call out, "Come Lord, save your people, do not delay, for we are ready to receive you; we desire to see you face to face."

O root of Jesse, standing an ensign of the people, before whom even kings silent will remain, whom the Gentiles, too, shall beseech, come now to deliver us all; delay no longer (cf. Is 11).

Son of Man, may we celebrate your birth, you who are the Lamb of God;
--you take away our sins and the sins of the world.
Son of Mary, while in your Mother's womb you were welcomed by Elizabeth and her infant son, John;
--though hidden, may we always recognize you and welcome you into our hearts.
God our Counselor, come; tell us that your kingdom is at hand;
--protect the Church and the Pope. Keep the Church as your spotless bride.
Root of Jesse, you humbled yourself to share our human nature;
--come and save us without delay.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Come, O Lord!

O Lord and leader of the house of Israel, who once appeared to Moses and spoke to him from a bush aflame, and on the peak of Sinai gave him the law; come now, bring us your redemption with your mighty outstretched arm (cf. Ex 3, 15, 24; Deut 5).

Christmas Novena: Day 3

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness." Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, "As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt," but "As the Lord lives who brought out and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them." Then they shall live in their own land (Jer 23:5-8).


God of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the burning bush. You delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt by parting the sea, and blessed your people with a covenant as a bridegroom marries his bride. Redeeming Lord, come to save us from the folly of our sins. Give us the blessing of a new covenant written in our hearts for all times. Rescue us with your mighty power!

O Lord and leader of the house of Israel, who once appeared to Moses and spoke to him from a bush aflame, and on the peak of Sinai gave him the law; come now, bring us your redemption with your mighty outstretched arm (cf. Ex 3, 15, 24; Deut 5).

Light of the world, dispel our darkness,
--and make us worthy of your coming.
Key of David, unlock the mystery of your incarnation for all people,
--so that all humanity may praise you together in loving joy.
Eternal Son, let your face shine upon the sick,
--so they may serve you worthily in their infirmity.
Son of David, remember all those who are to die today,
--and bring them into your perfect light

(Novena is taken from Favorite Prayers and Novenas (Pauline Books & Media)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Come, O Wisdom!

"O Wisdom,
who proceeds from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching out mightily from end to end,
and sweetly arranging all things:
come to teach us the way of prudence."

The O Antiphons

Starting on Dec. 17, the Church uses seven special antiphons in her liturgy. Called the "O" Antiphons (because each one starts out with "O"), they were written in Latin by an unknown author during the Middle Ages. Each one of them uses a special title for Christ and expresses the Church's longing for a Savior.

They are:

O Wisdom (sapientia in Latin)
O Lord (Adonai)
O Root of Jesse (radix)
O Key of David (clavis)
O Radiant Dawn (orient)
O King (rex)
O Emmanuel (Emmanuel)

The first letter of the Latin terms forms SARCORE, and read backward, it reads "ero cras," which in Latin means "tomorrow I will be!"

I'll post the full text of the expanded antiphon each day, because the current ones are a bit abbreviated.

Did you notice that our Advent hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is actually based on these antiphons?

Christmas Novena: Day Two

Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob; listen to Israel your father. Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He crouches down, he stretches out like a lion, like a lioness--who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and the obedience of the peoples is his (Gen 49:2, 8-10).


When we read Scripture and yearn for the coming of the divine, powerful Wisdom who will teach us how to live throughout our life, we think of Mary, the humble Mother of God who always waited upon the Lord as his handmaid.
Let us pray: Father, you spoke, and your Word became man, born of the Virgin Mary. Christ humbled himself to share our human nature. We humble ourselves before the child and ask for faith and love.

O Wisdom eternal, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, you reach from end to end and order all things mightily and sweetly; come now to direct us in the way of holy prudence (cf. Sir 24; Wis 6-9).

Christ our Redeemer, your law is a light to our path;
--teach us always to walk in the light of your law.
Coming Savior, dawn on us in radiant beauty,
--so that we may receive you with loving devotion at your birth.
God of Jacob, you desire that all might be saved;
--bring all people safely into the kingdom of heaven.
Lord of nations, show us your glory and give us true faith and love;
--protect us from harm and let us live in peace with each other.
Lord of ages, you desired to become one like us;
--may the revelation of your humanity free us from our sinfulness.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas Novena Day One

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant--these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples (Is 56:6-7).

Advent prepares our minds and hearts for the coming of the Word of God. It is a gentle time, a time to watch that the word of Scripture does not fall on the rocky ground of distraction, nor by the wayside with our many cares, nor among thorns, caught up in flashy advertisements. It is to fall upon the rich soil of our minds and hearts where the Word of God can bury itself deep and bring forth fruit. The Lord is already near! Let us admit that we need his power and help. Come, Lord Jesus! Give us the gift of yourself.

Behold the king will come, the Lord of the earth, and he will remove from us the yoke of our captivity (cf. Hab 2:3; 1 Cor 4:5).

Jesus, light of the world, we wait in darkness, but also in hope for your coming;
--show yourself to us in mercy and love.
Lord of Israel, you showed yourself to Moses in a burning bush;
--stretch forth your mighty arm and come to save us.
Jesus, born of Mary, we pray with joyful hearts and wait with her in prayer;
--come, Adonai!
Jesus, life of our bodies and souls,
--by your coming let us be immersed in the mystery of your incarnation.

Closing Prayer
Christ goes before us. He is the Lamb without sin who will open to us the gates of heaven. He is the high priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech. He is the king of justice and his reign is eternal.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Take a look at these...

Real panda cubs in China

Christmas novena starts tomorrow

December 16 begins the Christmas novena. I'll post some prayers and antiphons for it.

"The Lord is coming and will not delay; he will bring evey hidden thing to light and reveal himself to every nation."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Changing genes to extend lifespan

The above link is to a scientific article--the gist of it is that removing a certain gene from yeast cells increased their life span about six-fold. Scientists speculate that a similar effect could be obtained in people.

Even if you take 50 as an average life span, increasing it six times would mean living to be 300! I don't know about you, but I'd rather go to heaven than stay on earth, this "vale of tears," 6 times longer than I'd otherwise have to!

It seems that today scientists will do whatever they are able to technologically. But who's asking questions if this is a good thing or not? Is it really a good thing to artificially prolong human life by genetic manipulation? It seems to me that only people who don't believe in eternal life with God would want to do that.

Even apart from that, imagine the problems that would plague a society full of 100, 200 and even 300 year olds! Even if they managed to physically live that long, would they really have optimal health? Would it become a society with a huge overpopulation of elderly persons who need critical care, without enough younger people to provide it? Who would regulate retirement age? Would it make euthanasia compulsory? Would it create a new class of elites who could afford such technology?

What's your take on this?

Feast of St. Lucy

From today's Office of Readings by St. Ambrose:

"The Word of God moves swiftly; he is not won by the lukewarm, nor held fast by the negligent. let your soul be attentive to his word; follow carefully the path God tells you to take, for he is swift in his passing."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Our Lady of Guadalupe

I didn't post much last week since a lot of other things were going on. Thanks to everyone who left me a birthday wish!

Today's feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe comes just a few days after the Immaculate Conception. Of the two, the Immaculate Conception is the more important feast since it's based on one of the four great Marian dogmas (the others being Mary's divine motherhood, her perpetual virginity, and her Assumption). But somehow Guadalupe has captured the popular imagination more because of the story surrounding the apparition. It really is a lovely story and one thing that always moved me about it was what Mary said to Juan Diego: "Am I not your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?" Then she added, "Is there anything else you need?"

If there's anything else we need, Mary will help us get it!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Happy feast of the Immaculate Conception

The feast of the Immaculate Conception is my favorite Marian feast--and not only because it's my birthday. (I'm turning 50 today--tempus fugit!)
It's a great feast because Mary, the sinless one, is a model of what we will one day be. She was preserved from original sin; we were born with it. She never sinned during her life; we sin all too often. But Mary's freedom from sin makes her sympathetic to us who are trapped in its web. She offers us the hope that Jesus brought in redeeming us from sin and death.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


"St. Thomas is right. The essential prayer is the prayer of petition." (Fr Vincent McNabb, OP)

Keep on asking!

Pope Benedict and Vatican II

This link is to an interesting article about the Pope and Vatican II.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas concert

On Sunday I went with the sisters from our Staten Island community to St. Paul's Church in Princeton, NJ, where we had one of our Christmas concerts. It was awesome! Sr Anne Joan was there and did a solo of "O Holy Night." She hit all those high notes! check her blog for more info on the concert.

In Princeton we met Lisa Burke, a fellow blogger! It's the first time that I met someone whom I first met through my blog. If you haven't already visited her blog, please check it out. She posts great commentary and thoughtful reflections.

Manhattan at Christmas

Over the weekend I went to a family reunion in NY. My brother organized it and he and my sisters and I met several of our cousins in Manhattan whom we haven't seen for a long time. We had a great time! It was a lot of fun to get together for a happy occasion instead of a funeral.
There's something really special and exciting about Manhattan, especially at Christmas time. We stopped at St. Patrick's, Rockefeller Center, saw the Christmas tree and the show at Radio City, then we had dinner together.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Good commentary on Vatican document

In today's issue of Zenit, Fr. Harvey, founder of Courage, has some good comments on the new Vatican document on the priesthood and homosexuality.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Feast of St. Andrew

Today is the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. We have him to thank for introducting his brother Simon Peter to Jesus.

Here is the text of a Christmas novena prayer that in our Catholic tradition has often been recited from the feast of St. Andrew to Christmas:

St. Andrew Christmas Novena Prayer
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Joyous Expectation by Sr Jean Frisk

Advent - Joyous Expectation

If you're looking for a great book to read this Advent, try Joyous Expectation by Sr Jean Frisk.
Sr Jean is a wonderful writer and in her warm style she provides a spiritual path through Advent. The book contains reflections for each day, along with a prayer and suggested way to grow spiritually while preparing for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The simple question that can transform your life

It's a question that's helped me a lot, especially when I was afraid to do something. I'm basically an introvert and when I was growing up I was quite shy. With time I've lost a lot of that, but whenever I was in a situation when I had to deal with conflict involving another person, I was often afraid to do it. So very often I didn't, but then I would feel dissatisfied with the situation.
So once I was telling my director about this and she asked a simple question: "What would happen?"
What would happen? What would happen if I actually did go to this person and bring up a difficult subject? Realistically, what would happen? Most of the time, the worst that would happen is that the other person would get angry at me, dislike me and possibly reject me. Or perhaps the person would humiliate me in public, call me names or then spread rumors about me. And if that did happen, so what? Would it really matter? For the moment it would hurt, but if someone really treated me like that would I want her for a friend?
I realized that 9 times out of 10 the worst doesn't happen. Perhaps there's a disagreement and a few sharp words, but then it's over. And then a funny thing starts to happen: when I deal with issues I used to avoid, I feel better about myself, the situation, and the other person. And if something bad does happen, I find out I can deal with it.

It's a simple but great question: what would happen?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New document unofficial translation

This is the new document on homosexuality in the priesthood in an unofficial English translation:

Unofficial translation from Italian by Robert Mickens, THE TABLETThis text was received by the Italian news agency, ADISTA
INTRODUCTIONIn continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and, in particular, with the decree Optatam totius on priestly formation, the Congregation for Catholic Education has published various documents to promote an adequate integral formation of future priests, offering guidelines and precise norms concerning its different aspects. The Synod of Bishops in 1990 also reflected on priestly formation in the current circumstances, with the intention of complementing the conciliar teaching on this issue and make it more explicit and incisive in the contemporary world. Following this Synod, Pope John Paul II published the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis. In light of this rich teaching, the present Instruction does not intend to dwell on all the issues in the affective or sexual realm that require attentive discernment throughout the entire period of formation. It contains norms regarding a particular issue, made more urgent by the current situation, and that is the admission or not to Seminaries and Holy Orders of candidates that have deep-seated homosexual tendencies.
1. Affective maturity and spiritual fatherhood (paternity)According to the constant Tradition of the Church, only baptised males validly receive sacred Ordination. Through the sacrament of Orders the Holy Spirit configures the candidate, with a new and specific designation, to Jesus Christ: the priest, in fact, sacramentally represents Christ, Head, Shepherd, and Spouse of the Church. Because of this configuration to Christ, the entire life of the sacred minister must be animated by the gift of his entire person to the Church and by authentic pastoral charity.The candidate for ordained ministry, therefore, must attain affective maturity. Such maturity will allow him to relate properly with men and women, developing in him a true sense of spiritual fatherhood for the ecclesial community that will be entrusted to him.
2. Homosexuality and Ordained MinistrySince the Second Vatican Council up until today, various documents from the Magisterium – especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church – have confirmed the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. The Catechism distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies.Regarding acts, it teaches that, in Sacred Scripture, these are presented grave sins. Tradition has always considered them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. As a consequence, they can never be approved under any circumstance.As regards to deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are present in a certain number of men and women, these also are objectively disordered and are often a trial for such people. They must be accepted with respect and sensitivity; every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfil God’s will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter.In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, together with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, deems it necessary to clearly affirm that the Church, even while deeply respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to Seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.Such people, in fact, find themselves in a situation that seriously obstructs them from properly relating to men and women. The negative consequences that can result from the Ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not be obscured.When dealing, instead, with homosexual tendencies that might only be a manifestation of a transitory problem, as, for example, delayed adolescence, these must be clearly overcome at least three years before diaconal Ordination.
3. The Church’s discernment of the suitability of candidatesThere are two inseparable aspects of every vocation: the free gift of God and the responsible freedom of man. The vocation is a gift of divine grace, received through the Church, in the Church, and for service of the Church. By responding to the call of God, man offers himself freely to Him in love. The mere desire to become a priest is not sufficient and there is no right to receive sacred Ordination. It rests with the Church – in her responsibility to define the necessary requirements for reception of the Sacraments instituted by Christ – to discern the suitability of the one who wishes to enter the Seminary, to accompany him during the years of formation, and to call him to Holy Orders, if he is judged to possess the required qualities.The formation of the future priest must articulate, in an essential complementarity, the four dimensions of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. In this context, it is important to recall the particular importance of human formation as the necessary foundation of all formation. To admit a candidate to diaconal Ordination, the Church must verify, among other things, that the candidate for priesthood has attained affective maturity.The call to Orders is the personal responsibility of the Bishop or the General Superior. Keeping in mind the view of those to whom they entrusted the responsibility of formation, the Bishop or General Superior, before admitting the candidate to Ordination, must arrive at a morally certain judgment regarding his qualities. In the case of a serious doubt, he must not admit him to Ordination.The discernment of the vocation and the maturity of the candidate is also the grave duty of the rector and other formators in the Seminary. Before every Ordination, the rector must give his judgment on the qualities of the candidate required by the Church.In discernment of the suitability for Ordination, the spiritual director has an important task. Even though he his bound by secrecy, he represents the Church in the internal forum. In meetings with the candidate, the spiritual director must clearly recall the Church’s demands regarding priestly chastity and the specific affective maturity of the priest, as well as help him discern if he has the necessary qualities. He has the obligation to evaluate all the qualities of the personality and assure that the candidate does not have sexual disorders that are incompatible with priesthood. If a candidate is actively homosexual or shows deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director, as well as his confessor, has the duty to dissuade him, in conscience, from proceeding towards Ordination.It remains understood that the candidate himself is primarily responsible for his own formation. He must offer himself in trust to the discernment of the Church, of the Bishop that calls him to Orders, of the rector of the Seminary, of the spiritual director, and of any other educator in the Seminary to which the Bishop or General Superior has given the task of forming future priests. It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality, regardless of everything, to arrive at ordination. Such an inauthentic attitude does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty, and availability that must characterise the personality of one who considers himself called to serve Christ and his Church in the ministerial priesthood.
CONCLUSIONThis Congregation reaffirms the necessity that Bishops, Superior Generals, and all those responsible carry out an attentive discernment regarding the suitability of candidates to Holy Orders, from the admission to Seminary to Ordination. This discernment must be done in light of a concept of ministerial priesthood that is in conformity with the teaching of the Church. Bishops, Episcopal Conferences, and Superior Generals should assure that the norms of this instruction are faithfully observed for the good of the candidates themselves and to always assure for the Church suitable priests, true shepherds according to the heart of Christ.The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, on 31 August 2005, approved this Instruction and ordered its publication.Rome, 4 November 2005, Memorial of St Charles Borromeo, Patron of Seminaries.Zenon Card. GrocholewskiPrefect+ J. Michael Miller, C.S.B.Titular Arch. of VertaraSecretary
___________________________________________Unofficial translation from Italian by Robert Mickens, THE TABLET

Feast of St. Cecilia

Lisa over at her blog "From Where I Write" is posting a question about your favorite liturgical music since this is the feast of St. Cecilia, patroness of music.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Presentation of Mary

Today's feast of the Presentation was taken out of the Church calendar by Pope St. Pius V, the great reforming Pope who is famous for the Tridentine Mass. But Sixtus V put it back in 1585. The Orthodox Church celebrates this feast, and it may have been retained in our calendar as an ecumenical gesture.

It actually originated as a feast of the dedication of the Church of St. Mary in Jerusalem on Nov. 21, 543! Pretty ancient! It may also have some relation to the apocryphal Gospel of St. James. That document relates incidents about the childhood of Mary which are probably not historical but have always been of great interest to Christians. That's where we got the names Joachim and Anne for Mary's parents.

In any case, the feast offers some food for reflection. The Office of Readings for this feast has St. Augustine's famous statement that Mary was more blessed for her faith in Christ than for bearing the flesh of Christ. An encouraging thought for all of us who can imitate Mary by our lives of faith.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sr Aparaceda, RIP

This afternoon around 12:30 Eastern time one of our older sisters died, Sr Aparaceda. She was about 85 and was a real character. Born in Brazil, our co-foundress, Mother Thecla, sent her to the United States "for a year" when she was a young sister. Well, the year never ended! Several times Sr Aparaceda reminded Mother Thecla that the year had passed, but Mother Thecla just smiled and asked her to stay on.
She had a very peaceful death and was serene. She slipped away into the loving arms of Jesus.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hazardous waste day

Today the city of Boston had one of its semi-annual household hazardous waste day, when city residents can drop off their hazardous waste at a special collection site. So I loaded our van with some hazardous items that were hanging around the convent. It wasn't all that much but I always like to get rid of things like that. I love getting rid of any kind of garbage, actually.
We have a joke around the convent that there are basically two types of nuns: those who think it's practicing poverty by saving every scrap of anything that might possibly be useful even a hundred years from now, and those who practice poverty by not hanging on to things and throwing away all the junk the others collect (like me). Once I found a pair of boots in our supply closet that fit me, so I thought I could use them. The first time I put them on, though, water oozed through them and soaked my feet. So I tossed them into the dumpster, muttering about people who can't bring themselves to throw out junk....

Anyway, I was thinking that going to confession is a lot like getting rid of hazardous waste. Nothing is more hazardous than sin. Confession gets rid of it. In the Church, every day is a hazardous waste disposal day.

Christ the King

The feast of Christ the King is the last one before the new liturgical year begins next Sunday with Advent. It's hard to believe that Advent starts in a week!
The idea of kingship is a bit foreign to us today, at least to people who live in democracies.
Pope John Paul liked to link the idea of kingship with service. In his first encyclical, the Redeemer of Man, he spoke of the kingly service of Christ, as the Gospel says: "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve."

To think of Christ the King reminds us that we too are called to live lives of service to others. Pope John Paul liked to call that "the law of the gift." He said we only find fulfillment to the extent that we make a gift of ourselves to God and to other people.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Thomas Tuesday

Recently I found out about a fairly new book on St. Thomas called "Holy Teaching." It's an introduction to the Summa and contains a selection of questions from the Summa. And it has wonderful footnotes. They're quite extensive and give the reader a very good background on what Thomas was saying.

One point that came up is about creation. Thomas says that creation resembles its Creator. Human beings are made in God's image, because as persons we are intelligent and free and can form relationships. But Thomas even sees ways in which matter has some resemblance to God. He speaks about God's image, in rational creatures like us, and his imprint, so to speak, in the rest of creation. It can be very faint but in some way all of creation bears the mark of its Creator.
He says insofar as things are substances, they resemble the Father, the source of all being. Insofar as they have a certain organization and design about them, they resemble the Son, the Word of the Father through whom creation came about. And insofar as they are ordered to other things, they are related to them and in some faint way they resemble the Holy Spirit, Love.

Monday, November 14, 2005

What would you ask Jesus for?

Today's Gospel: Luke 18:35–43

Imagine you are the blind beggar and picture the scene of this Gospel:

You are sitting by the side of the road begging, and you hear a lot of commotion. It’s more than the usual bustle of people trudging down the dusty road. Excitement buzzes through the air, so much so that you can feel it. What’s going on? You shout out the question. People ignore you, but you do it again and someone finally says, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by!”
Jesus of Nazareth! You had heard stories about this young preacher. A miracle man! Reports said that he could heal illness and disease. A spark of hope lights up your heart. Maybe he can heal me of my blindness!
“Son of David, have pity on me!” you cry out. People around you try to shut you up. But you cry out even louder, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Jesus stops. He stands still, almost as if to listen more closely to your voice. He orders you to come, and some people lead you to where he waits.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks. What a question! Imagine having Jesus himself, the Son of God, ask what you want. The blind man asked for his sight, but what would you ask for? What is the deepest desire of your heart? What would you ask Jesus to do for you, if he was standing before you right now?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

New audio feature!

this is an audio post - click to play

St. Martin of Tours

November 11 is the feast of St. Martin of Tours. He was a pagan Roman who was converted and baptized. Martin went on to become a bishop and he did much to evangelize the countryside of France. Certainly he must be interceding for France today, which has largely abandoned the Catholic faith.

You probably remember the famous story of Martin meeting a beggar who was freezing cold. Martin cut his own cloak in two, and gave half to the beggar. Later on, Jesus appeared to him and told Martin that he was the beggar. "Whatever you do to one of these, the least of my brethren, you do unto me."

A practical way to honor St .Martin today would be to make a donation to the poor.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Feast of St John Lateran

Today is the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. It's the Pope's cathedral. Sometimes people are surprised to hear that, because they tend to think that St. Peter's is the Pope's cathedral. But as the Bishop of the diocese of Rome, the pope has his own cathedral, which is St. John's.

During our pilgrimage to Rome I was privileged to visit there. It's a beautiful church. It's right next to the church that has the Holy Stairs, which according to tradition are the steps that Jesus walked up to see Pilate. Those pilgrims who are able to climb the stairs on their knees as a form of penance.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Mary Leads Us to Jesus

I've been thinking about what direction to take this blog, and I decided that from now on I will focus more on Mary, our Blessed Mother.
For one thing, this is an area that I've studied more (I did some graduate studies at the Marian Research Institute in Dayton). But more importantly, I believe that this is truly an "age of Mary," as St. Louis de Montfort spoke of. Certainly she is present in every age, but it seems that in some ways Mary is more present to us now than ever.
And why shouldn't she be? Isn't a mother more present to her children when they are in trouble or ill? The problems in the world today must certainly draw Mary to us all the more.
I would very much like to hear some of your own thoughts on Mary today, and what areas about her in particular that interest you.

Thomas Tuesday

Well, it's really Monday but that's OK--I'm a day early.
Over the weekend I read something that St. Thomas says about faith. It was almost a "by the way" comment in a response to an objection. He said that the merit of faith is increased by difficulties against it, and he gave two examples: persecution, and specious arguments against faith. People who hold fast to faith in the midst of persecution are martyrs. Those who hold fast to faith in the face of other kinds of opposition are martyrs of a different type, in a sense.

Thomas lived in a time when the whole culture was basically Catholic. So believers at that time had a whole network of support for their faith, in every aspect of their lives. That is long gone today.
Believers now hold fast to faith in a secular culture that offers no support for a life of faith. So to be a believer today is more difficult and more meritorious.
What ways have you found to support your faith in a secular society?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

All Souls Day

Starting on November 3 we have a novena of Masses in our chapel for the souls of our beloved dead.
Please feel free to write down the names of your own deceased relatives and friends, and I'll put them in the chapel.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Great quote from Benedict

He told a group of German pilgrims shortly after he was elected Pope, in relation to the struggle he felt about accepting:

"The ways of the Lord are not comfortable, but we are not created for comfort but for great things, for the sake of the good. So, in the end, I could do nothing other than say yes...."

Pope Benedict speaks to the Pauline Family

On October 1 Pope Benedict met with some Paulines in Rome. Part of what he said:

"Gospel proclamation through the modern media...primarily requires, in addition to the necssary and proper professional training, a firm attachment to the divine Teacher. Ever aware of the importance of this ascetical and spiritual requirement, it was your Founder [Fr. Alberione] who, for this very reason, placed the Eucharist, with listening to the Word and a deeply prayerful spirit, at the very heart of every institution and house of your Institute. In love with God as he was, Fr Alberione asked his disciples, priests and lay people to cultivate a vigorous inner life, rich in balance and discernment."

What really struck me here was his emphasis on listening to the Word. Fr. Alberione saw the Visit before the Blessed Sacrament as a special time to converse with the Lord, to hear what he is saying and take it to heart.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Is she right?

The above link is to a somber column by Peggy Noonan reflecting on the state of our society. Her main point is that many signs are out there that the country is heading into serious times.

How do you feel about this? What she say resonates with me. I've felt this way since 9/11. Then after that the Church scandal broke. We've been living in very serious times. I don't want to be pessimistic because there are always reasons for hope. But some times are more difficult than others. There's also economic uncertainty, serious problems in the American economy like the ever-increasing trade deficit that requires an infusion of 2 billion dollars every day from foreigners to support our spending habits. When will they finally stop lending us the money? How long can the government spend money it doesn't have? Then there are the natural disasters like Katrina and the tsunami. Even the world's weather seems to be headed for tumultuous times.

Before the French Revolution, the nobility carried on their lives oblivious of the coming storm. But the signs were there for those could read them. I can't predict the future. But some of these indications make me think that we just might be living in the calm before the storm. Katrina has shown how things can change overnight. In all of this, though, God is the only real source of security. "Blessed be the Lord, my rock!"

More travels around the pond

Here's another story about someone I met walking around the pond a couple weeks ago.
I noticed a short distance ahead of me a man walking his toddler in a stroller. He had stopped for a moment to give her a drink of water from a bottle, and he also had a little fluffy dog on a leash. There was something about the gentle way he was taking care of his little girl, along with the dog looking at them, patiently waiting, that was very touching.
As I walked closer and was going past I smiled at them, and he said, "Sister, will you bless my baby?" So I stopped and said a spontaneous prayer asking God to bless her and her family. I think he was Catholic because he mentioned something about Pope John Paul, but he may have been from the Eastern rite. He had an accent but spoke very good English, in a slow and deliberate way. Then he asked me if I knew this particular prayer before a crucifix written by St. Francis. It was a beautiful prayer that he then recited, asking for the three virtues of faith, hope and charity. Then he also prayed the more familiar prayer of St. Francis, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace."
His faith was so evident that I felt very blessed to have met him, even if only for a few brief moments. It was like meeting Christ along the way. God puts different people along our path, some to encourage us, some because they may need our help, and some just as a gift.

Congratulations, Chicago!

Congratulations to all the White Sox fans--great going!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Travels around the pond

I like to take walks and often do so around nearby Jamaica Pond. I've met some interesting people there.
When I first started blogging I wrote about a man who called me a child molester (because I wear a habit so it's obvious I'm Catholic.) That was about 6 months ago and I haven't seen him since, until I took a walk there recently. He walked past me and as I passed, still within earshot, he said "Child molester!" I realized it was the same guy. Because we were walking in opposite directions, I figured I would probably pass him again. So I debated about what, if anything, I should do when I saw him.

He could be mentally ill, he could be a victim of abuse, or he could just be another run-of-the mill anti-Catholic bigot. He could also be dangerous so I didn't think it was safe to confront him. But something inside me didn't just want to ignore it all if I saw him again. So it came to me: pray!
I said the prayer to St. Michael as I was walking, in case he was involved in some kind of Satanic activity (not unusual today, unfortunately). I had a rosary ring with me (I had left my rosary at home) so when I saw him coming I held up the rosary ring with its image of Mary, and as soon as I was close enough for him to hear I started praying the Hail Mary out loud, very loud. I think it took him by surprise. This time he just kept repeating, "shame, shame, shame." Who knows, but if he's a fallen-away Catholic he may not have heard the words "Hail, Mary" for a very long time. So I'm glad he heard them from me.

Pray for him.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Mary, a Woman of Jubilee

On Saturday I went to the meeting of the Mariological Society of New England, held at Providence College. The main talk was very good, given by one of the Dominicans, a Fr. Wagner from Cincinnati. His topic was "Mary, Mirror of Justice." He related it to the new compendium of social teaching that was released recently. He talked about the idea of the covenant and connected with that, the jubilee year. Then he went through each of the joyful mysteries and tied those topics together. He said the Jubilee was designed to assure the salvific event of the Exodus. In Jesus' life there is a constant jubilee, lived through his whole life. Jesus continually lived on the Father's Providence. And Mary's whole life, too, was lived in jubilee.

In the Annunciation Mary inaugurated the new covenant. Her fiat was not simply a surrender but a full, human, free act. This reveals the covenant relationship God always sought with us. Mary responds to this by immediately going to help Elizabeth, thus sharing God's love.

In the Nativity we see the census, Rome numbering its subjects with an idea to exploit them. Instead, God takes note of Mary and her family in a loving way. Everyone involved is keeping Jubilee--the shepherds leave their flock to see what God has brought about. The Magi represent the jubilee of the Gentiles.

In the Presentation Jesus reveals the futility of human power before God. Mary gives her Son in the pattern of the Church who must present Jesus' teaching. Finally, in the Finding in the Temple, we see Mary pondering all this in her heart.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Jesuit martyrs

Today is the feast of the Jesuit martyrs of North America. These heroic missionaries came to the New World from France and gave their lives witnessing to Jesus Christ.
I've visited their shrines both at Auriesville and Midland, Ontario. A few miles from the Midland shrine is the site where Saints John de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lallemant were martyred. They suffered terrible tortures. Now the spot is one of the most peaceful, haunting places I've ever visited. A simple marble altar stands in a grassy clearing, surrounded by a forest of pine trees. The silence is punctuated only by the wind whistling through the trees.
The courage of these martyrs was incredible. After severe torture and more than a year of being held captive, St Isaac Jogues escaped and found his back to France. But all he wanted to do was go back and bring the Gospel to the Indians. He did, and that eventually led to his martyrdom.
If you ever go to Auriesville, don't miss the ravine, where Jogues looked for the body of St Rene Goupil.

Great book!

Last night I read about a third of the new book by George Wiegel. It's a great book! The first part of it is like a sequel to Witness to Hope, his biography of Pope John Paul. It covers the last part of John Paul's pontificate and especially his last days and final illness. It was truly extraordinary to live through that time. Many people, including myself, felt bereft, like we had lost a dearly beloved father. John Paul was so focused on the person that he was able to somehow forge a personal bond with millions of people, many of whom never met him. He was truly a charismatic leader.
One point that impressed me is that Pope John Paul wanted the church to fully be what Jesus meant it to be: an evangelical community of witnesses who proclaim the Gospel. That's what the Church is fundamentally all about. It's made me reflect on the way I attempt to do that in my own vocation, and ways to do it better.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

God's Choice

God's Choice is the title of a new book by George Wiegel on Pope Benedict. It just came in (one of the benefits of working in a publishing house is the availability of books!)
It looks good. After I read it I'll blog about it. It starts out with a summary of the last years of Pope John Paul and the state of the Church, goes into a biography of Benedict, and ends with reflections on the future of the Church.

So many books, so little time....

Friday, October 14, 2005

Cardinal Avery Dulles at Boston College

This past Wednesday evening I went with some other sisters to hear Cardinal Dulles speak at Boston College. His topic was about handing on the faith, and he had a lot of good things to say. He spoke about some reasons why it is harder today to hand on the faith, especially at Catholic universities. Among some of the reasons he listed are these:

1. Americans tend to be more pragmatic than theoretical, and aren't as interested in abstract theological reasoning. He quoted William James about the "cash value of theory," meaning that in general, Americans look more to the bottom line.

2. The flight from metaphysics. This has led weakened philosophical thinking.

3. A critical spirit, derived from the philosophies of skepticism. This view holds that we can't know objective truth anyway.

4. A widespread rejection of authority. Religious authority, especially in the Catholic Church, no longer has the same command it used to, in the sense that many people today freely reject it.

5. Cultural and moral relativism.

6. A diverse student body in many Catholic colleges, meaning that many students are not Catholic. This has led to a trend to substitute religious studies for theology. The difference is that religious studies looks at all religions from a neutral standpoint, whereas theology presupposes faith: faith seeking understanding.

He mentioned a couple more things but I didn't take notes, so this is just from my memory.

Lest this seem too negative, he also commented on positive things like the many excellent students who are studying Catholic theology and making contributions. All in all, it was a great talk and discussion afterward.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Dead zone in ocean

Someone recently told me about this phenomenon that's going on in the ocean. It involves a large "dead zone" where marine life is dying. There's a large area in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida.
I don't know what the cause is; some claim it's from pollution, but possibly it's part of the cycle of nature. Another possibility is warming of the ocean. Recently I was reading an interesting theory about that, namely, that underwater volcanic activity is responsible for warming the ocean. Well, last year's tsunami certainly showed that there's volcanic activity in the ocean.
Despite all our technological achievements, when it comes to nature, there are forces that we can't control. Ultimately God is in control.

Photos from Katrina

Here are some photos of the damage in New Orleans from hurricane Katrina. Sr Julia, one of our sisters down there now, took the photos. Even these pictures can't really convey the extent of the damage, which the sisters said is extremely impressive to see in person. As I mentioned in a previous post, luckily our convent escaped any major damage.

More on the synod

The page above has links to news about the synod and statements of the bishops. Here is an interesting thought from the patriarch of Jerusalem. He makes a great connection between Eucharistic adoration and the way we are to live:

Re-education in the Eucharist is necessary, to tell the Christian in the Holy Land that adoration, mass and communion, are not exercises in piety, but a way of communion with the parish and, beyond the parish, with the whole city or village and with the whole country. A re-education that helps Christians, who are in a minority, come out of their complex of smallness and of being minoritary, and to move from a piety of refuge to a piety that sends out on the mission. Adorers are needed, that re-enter the world to contribute to its construction, to become the builders, not remaining as weak people, full of only protests and complaints and miners asking for protection.By the Eucharist and adoration, Christians achieve the “measure of Christ” and in being true adorers they take a place no other can give them. By their adoration and their faith in the real presence, Christians make God present in his society and where there is conflict.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Why was this man ever ordained?

I don't know if you saw this sad story about a priest accused of murdering two people in Wisconsin. The priest committed suicide recently. From this story, however, it is very apparent that he had major problems. My question: Why was he ever ordained? Why wasn't he screened out? Certainly there had to have been indications that he had problems. Hopefully the seminary visitation process now going on will do something to help assure that candidates are chosen more carefully.

Monday, October 10, 2005

More "typical" events

Today our local superior came back, so I'm no longer the "contact person." That's a great relief! Over the weekend the fire alarm went off at 2:38 AM Sunday morning, due to heavy rains. Water leaked into one of the smoke detectors and set it off. Two fire trucks came very quickly, so I brought them to the panel and they found out the problem. When I called the alarm service company, I got a recorded message. That was strange because they are supposed to have a 24 /7 live answering service. So I left a message and went back to bed. About half an hour later it went off again. I got up and one of the sisters told me "there's a man outside with a flashlight trying to get in." Turned out that he was from the alarm company. The fire department had called them in the meantime. He detached the faulty alarm and by the time he left it was 4:33 AM.

Then this morning I got a call that one of the sisters got stuck with a car in Sullivan Square, right in the rotary. The car died, or at least it wouldn't start. Smoke was coming out of it! It was also raining. A couple of men tried to help her but they couldn't get it started so I had to call AAA and go out to pick her up. On my way there I got a beep that our phone operator was calling in sick again....

Well, now I can get back to editing.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Will the blessed in heaven be happier after resurrection?

I was thinking about this question: if the blessed in heaven are already perfectly happy because they are enjoying the vision of God, will the resurrection of their bodies make them happier?
It's a problem because it's like saying that God alone isn't enough to make them happier, but that happiness somehow depends on a created thing like a body. Isn't God enough?

The Church teaches, of course, that on the last day our bodies will be resurrected. It's also true that the human being is a very close union of body and soul. Catholics don't think that the body is unimportant because it's made of lowly matter. Through the ages there has always been a current of thought that would look down on matter as being less important that spirit. But that's not the Catholic way.

St. Thomas takes up this question in his Summa, and he says that in heaven the soul already posseses the highest good, in the vision of God. But it doesn't possess it in every possible way until body and soul are united. He's basically turning the question around and looking at it from another angle. God is our absolute source of happiness. But on our part, we're not fully complete until the body and soul will be reunited in the resurrection. So it's not that anything is lacking in God, but we're lacking something until the final resurrection. In the meantime the saints in heaven are happy, but they'll be more completely able to enjoy that happiness after the resurrection.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Pope Benedict to the Pauline Family

In a recent address, the Pope spoke to some members of the Pauline Family. He said in part,

"Enamored of God as Don Alberione was, he asked his disciples, priests and lay people to cultivate a robust interior life, rich in balance and discernment," the Pope recalled."To all he presented the Apostle Paul as model, who in the Areopagus of Athens, led by the Holy Spirit, was able to adapt his proclamation to the cultural context in which he found himself, but at the same time he did not cease to present with courageous frankness the absolute novelty that is Christ," added the Holy Father."May each one of you make his own the spirit and style that characterized the Apostle of the Gentiles, updating the missionary endeavor in our postmodern age, […] sharing with the Successor of Peter and the pastors of the particular Churches the incessant yearning to make the Redeemer's salvific message reach the hearts of so many of our contemporaries," Benedict XVI concluded.

Friday, October 07, 2005

More on the synod

This is a very moving testimony by a bishop from Romania:

ARCHBISHOP LUCIAN MURESAN OF FAGARAS AND ALBA IULIA OF THE ROMANIANS, ROMANIA. "In Romania the communists tried to give man material bread alone, and sought to expel 'the bread of God' from society and from the human heart. ... Priests were imprisoned simply for being Catholic, so they could not celebrate or speak about God. Even lay people who participated in clandestine Masses suffered the same fate. In the famous period of 're-education' and 'brainwashing' in the Romanian prisons, to compromise priests, to ridicule the Eucharist and to destroy human dignity, the persecutors made them celebrate with excrement, but they never succeeded in destroying their faith. ... How many humiliations, when during winters at minus 30 degrees they were undressed for body searches; how many days spent in the famous 'black room' as a punishment for having been caught in prayer? No one will ever know, ever. These modern martyrs of the 20th Century offered all their suffering to the Lord for dignity and human freedom. ... There is no lack of hope, and I think first of all of the deep religious sense of our people, the deep devotion with which they approach liturgical celebrations and the Eucharist."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Synod on Eucharist

I haven't been able to blog much this week because of my other duties.

But one of the sisters told me she was reading about some of the things coming out of the Synod on the Eucharist. It sounds almost like the Vatican Council must have been, with bishops feeling very free to discuss ideas. It doesn't mean that every suggestion will be adopted, of course. Zenit has had some links to some of the ideas if you would like to follow some of the discussion.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A few typical days in the convent

Our local superior left for her vacation until next Sunday, and while she's gone I'm the "contact person." It hasn't been that bad, but if strange things happen, it's always when the superior's gone. The first thing was the power outage on Thursday afternoon. We had a very bad windstorm, and around 2 PM the electricity went out. Of course, one of the sisters was stuck in the elevator. Luckily, our maintenance man was still here so he got her out.
Friday wasn't bad--just an ordinary day, thankfully. Saturday was pretty good too. I kept getting beeped for little things, but nothing major. In the afternoon I was working in the garden a little. I got beeped that the relatives of one of the sisters had arrived--I didn't know they were coming! She was at the hospital for dialysis so they just had to wait until she got home. In the evening one of the older sisters told me she didn't have her medication---in the end she really did.
The phone operator called to say she couldn't come in Monday or Tuesday, so I had to find replacements. Then on Monday morning I got a call from one of the sisters that the battery had died in one of the cars. A typical Monday morning...

word verification comments

Lately I've been getting spam comments, so I decided to turn on the word verification option for comments. In a way I'm sorry to do this because it's an extra step for those who would like to leave comments. But the spam comments are annoying and this is the only way I can stop them.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Mother Thecla Merlo

Mother Thecla prayer

Most Holy Trinity, we thank you for the singular gifts of light, grace, and virtue which you granted to Sister Thecla Merlo, and we thank you for having chosen and constituted her the wise mother and sure guide of the Daughters of St. Paul.
Through her intercession, grant that we may live of her great loves: Jesus Master in the Holy Eucharist, the Church, the Gospel and souls--souls sought and served through evangelization with the instruments of social communication--to the point of total sacrifice.
O Lord, if it be in the designs of your divine wisdom, carry out even on this earth, for this very devoted Daughter of St. Paul, your divine promise: "If anyone serves me, my Father will honor him."
Exalt this faithful Servant to the joy of the Church and the good of many souls, and grant us, through her intercession, the favor we ask of you. Amen.
Glory Be...Hail Mary...
With ecclesiastical approval

Mother Thecla comes through again!

The sisters from our convent in Metairie (right next to New Orleans in Jefferson parish) had to evacuate when Katrina hit. This week was the first time we were able to go back and inspect the convent. It was like a miracle because there was hardly any damage at all. In fact, the bookcenter was perfectly preserved and there was no flooding at all inside the building.
This was a big relief because we had feared the worst. However, the area surrounding it had a lot of damage and many stores had broken windows and torn roofs, etc.

Before the sisters left, they put pictures of Mother Thecla all over the place, especially on the windows. One lady whom the sisters just met while they were down there said, "Mother Thecla is better than Our Lady of Prompt Succor!" She said that because many of the Catholic schools and churches had damage. I'm sure that Our Blessed Mother won't mind if Mother Thecla takes some credit, although this is in no way to deny the powerful intercession of Mary.

Things like this always raise questions--why do some people get hurt and not others? In some mysterious reason it's all part of God's plan. It's not that those who got hurt were less good, not at all. After all, Jesus died on the cross. Perhaps God preserved us from major damage so that we would be able to do more good for the people who are there. Please pray right now as we discern the best course of action to take in this situation.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Feast of the Angels

Today is the feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
Jesus says, "You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man" (John 1:51). This rather cryptic saying seems to be linked to Jacob's ladder in Genesis. Jacob had a dream of a ladder that went from earth to heaven, and angels going up and down on it (Gen 7:16, 17). Then Jacob woke up and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!" So in some way the angels indicate the presence of God.

The French Jesuit Jean Galot says, "In the Gospels, this manifestation is no longer seen veiled ina dream but is conveyed through the development of a human life. Jesus fulfills in himself what Jacob's ladder had symbolized: the Son of Man stands on the earth as One who se head touches heaven. The angels going up and down enable us to understand the continuous exchange between heaven and earth that is fulfilled in the mystery of the Incarnation."

Today I've been praying to St. Michael for someone who is suffering from harassment and in some way there is evil involved. It's not pleasant to think of the existence of evil, but it is very real and causes a lot of suffering. This week Scott Peck died, and in his book "People of the Lie" he wrote about cases where some kind of evil influence was at work.
Thankfully Jesus has won the victory already and the power of his cross will overcome all!

The sign of the cross

At the Angelus on Sept. 11, Pope Benedict talked about how the Mass is linked to the sacrifice of the cross. "The Cross is the moving manifestation of the act of infinite love with which the Son of God saved humankind and the world from sin and death. For this reason, the sign of the Cross is the fundamental act of our prayer, of Christian prayer. Making the sign of the Cross...means saying a visible and public 'yes' to the One who died and rose for us."

I have to admit that sometimes I just make the sign of the cross in a hurried way, without really reflecting on it. Yet the pope calls it the fundamental act of Christian prayer. That's a good reminder for me!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Thomas Tuesday

Recently when I was out taking a walk, I met an older man I sometimes see. I think he's an atheist. Usually he doesn't say too much but that day he started to tell me why prayer is useless. He thinks that religious people think they should just pray for things and expect God to do everything for them instead of working.
In the past I usually just listened to him, but I felt that the time had come to respond in some way. After he finished, I tried to respond but he immediately cut me off and said I didn't understand (I don't know how he could say that since he didn't listen to my response). After going through this three times, I just bid him good day since he didn't want to discuss it, but just harangue me.
Anyway I went back to see what Thomas says about prayer. He says that Divine Providence disposes not only what effects will take place, but what causes will bring about those effects. In God's plan, our prayers are an important "cause" that God wills to use in order that certain other things should happen. (Summa, I, q. 83, a. 2).
Prayer doesn't mean that we just sit back and expect God to do everything without our efforts. Instead, prayer is something we need to do along with our own efforts. That saying which I think comes from St. Ignatius says it all: "Pray as if everything depends on God; work as if everything depends on you."

My visit with Sylvia

Over the weekend when I was in NY I happened to meet an older lady named Sylvia. She lives next door to the friend I was staying with.
Sylvia was a real character--very typically New York--and wanted to show me all around her house. It's like a museum--lots of interesting things! Just by observing some of the signs on her walls (like "Bush Lies," "I vote pro-choice," etc.) it was obvious what her political views are. She pointed to the pro-choice sign and just said, "I know you don't agree with that!" She didn't want to argue the subject, but I was happy that she knew I would be opposed to abortion just because I'm a nun.
After the tour she showed me a picture of her daughter who went to Asia to adopt a little girl. Sylvia then said that her daughter wanted to adopt an American child but it's too hard because there are so few available. She didn't seem to make a connection between all the abortions we have and how hard it is to adopt because there aren't enough children.
I was glad I met Sylvia because she is a charming old lady. It also gave me an insight into why some people support abortion. While I totally abhor their views, they are people too whom Jesus came to save. I don't understand how they could support abortion if they realized what it really is. Perhaps in some way God in time will touch their hearts to see the truth about life. In the meantime I can pray for Sylvia and everyone like her.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Going back to one's old neighborhood

Have you ever gone back to the old neighborhood where you grew up? Over the weekend I did. I had an opportunity to visit my hometown of Elmont, Long Island (NY). It's a strange experience because it's an odd combination of how life always changes and how time seems to stand still.
Some things are still the same--the church building, certain stores, street names, some landmarks--while others are very different: different people, new stores, new buildings, more cars (a lot more cars!) and other things. Those are only the surface things that are very visible. Underneath there's changing social relationships and dynamics and even cultural values. The world is very different and changing rapidly.
I saw a review of a book called Bowling Alone, which is about the fraying of social ties in American communities. I'd like to read it. If anyone has already read it, please let us know what you think of it. It sounds quite intriguing because the author uses bowling as a metaphor for what's happening in society. Whereas years ago many people enjoyed the social ties of bowling leagues, today people are more likely to bowl alone. That's one small example of how social ties have become less cohesive in the US today.

What's in a name?

This link is to a story about the popularity of certain baby names that come from celebrities.

Once at a talk on Mary, the speaker said we'll know that Marian devotion is really on the upswing when people start naming their girls "Mary" again. I checked the list of the 50 most popular names from 2004, and "Maria" is number 45.

Although this isn't a scientific study, the popularity of celebrity names as opposed to saints' names does give a sort of rough idea of where popular culture is trending. One interesting note is that the name John Paul jumped from 888 in 1978 to 647 in 1979 (Pope John Paul was elected in October, 1978).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Is my life worthwhile?

The other day I was looking at a biography of St. Dominic. Much to my surprise, I found out that he started the Dominican Order only 5 years before he died. He had been out preaching for 12 years before that. By today's standards he died young--about 51. But few people have left such an enduring legacy. For almost eight centuries the Dominicans have been a vital force in the Church, preaching, teaching and bringing people to God.

Who would have thought that a mere five years of effort would have borne so much fruit? It happened not so much because of Dominic's own efforts but the grace of God. Dominic spent most of his life growing in holiness, so that when the time came to start his order, he did it out of real love for God. He wasn't after personal advancement. His holiness bore fruit in his work. Like St Paul said, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Thomas Tuesday

I just started reading a new book called "Holy Teaching." It's a collection of some articles of the Summa with a lot of good explanatory footnotes. It's meant to give an overview of Thomas' teaching in certain key areas.

The "holy teaching" comes from the very first question of the Summa, where Thomas explores the nature of this holy teaching or sacred doctrine. The interesting thing is that for Thomas, holy teaching was the same as the study of Sacred Scripture. Thankfully in recent years, before Vatican II and after, the importance of Scripture has been restored to its rightful place in Catholic theology. Not that it was ever absent, but there was a time when the focus was on a more abstract kind of theology that was more like a textbook approach.

The author of this book says that Thomas used the word "teaching" in a dynamic sense, like a verb, and not just as a noun indicating a body of teaching. In other words, in divine revelation God is our teacher. He comes into relationship with us. Revelation isn't just handing down a pre-printed book we just have to read. In this sense God as revealer is like a teacher who interacts with his or her students in a dynamic way, coaching them, encouraging them, inspiring them and leading them.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Parable of the good employer

The Sunday Gospel for this week was the parable of the workers in the vineyard, which could also be called the parable of the good employer. This is one of those puzzling parables that can strike us as being unfair. Based on this parable, no labor union would endorse Jesus if he were running for some office!
I was looking at Daniel Harrington's commentary on Matthew to help me understand it better. He pointed out that the story right before this--about the rich young man and how difficult it is for rich people to enter the kingdom--ends with the line, "Thus the first shall be last, and the last shall be first." It's almost as if Jesus then went on to tell this story to illustrate that.
The point I took away from it is that I can't look on my service to God as something that "entitles" me to a reward. If I"m giving my life freely to God out of love, I'm doing it out of love, and I shouldn't be doing it in hopes of getting some reward. If God wants to give me something out of his generosity, great. But if not, and if other people seem to be getting just as much as me even though they came late to the vineyard, that's great too.
Entitlement is the key issue here. That's what goes against the grain for us Americans, because entitlements are woven into our whole way of life. But before God, we're not entitled to anything. If I think I am, I need to remind myself who's the Creator and who's the created.

Immediately after this parable, Jesus talks about the suffering that awaits him and the scandal of the cross. He ends by saying that the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve. Jesus' own attitude shows that he was more than willing to work all day in the vineyard, bearing the heat of the sun all day, and not expect a reward. He came to serve and to suffer.

What are your thoughts about this puzzling parable?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Stories from the World Trade Center

Last week on the anniversary of 9/11 I watched a TV program about the World Trade Center. The program focused on the recovery of some personal effects from the ruins that were later returned to the families of some of the victims.
These families had such an unbearable sorrow--and to make it worse in most cases they didn't even have the closure of getting back the bodies of their loved ones. Among the stories was that of Michelle Henrique, a 27-year-old who worked on the 97th floor of one of the towers. She was a Catholic who was involved with her parish church and had run some charity events sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. Her fiancee was planning to propose to her on her birthday that December. Although her body was never found, amazingly her credit card survived and it was brought back to her parents. It was still intact although bent and damaged from the rubble. That credit card was the last link connecting her to her family in her last moments. It's something they will always cherish.
It got me thinking that that's what relics are all about. The Church has always revered the memories of its saints and heroes, and relics are a way of preserving that link. Something that belonged to that person, or a bit of bone preserved from a body, connects us to that person in some way. We don't honor the object itself for what it is, but because it became special in some way since it belonged to someone we love.
Modern-day relics: a credit card, a fireman's helmet salvaged from the rubble, a paper or photo. Some will get put in museums so people not yet born will one day look at them and feel some kind of connection with what happend on 9/11.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The virtue of chastity

This morning the news carried a story about the results of a new survey on young people and sexual activity. It showed what you might expect--that it's on the increase and certain types of activity that used to be considered on the fringe are getting more mainstream.
I remember once reading something by the English writer Ronald Knox who said that chastity, as a virtue, is something to be proud of. He said it should be like a parade going down the street. Today, instead, it's the other way around.
But it's worthwhile to think about chastity as a virtue, as something that ennobles human life. It's a way of valuing God's gift of sexuality by using it the way God intended--in marriage. Chastity brings an inner freedom and a joy that is never found in promiscuity and casual "hookups." Chastity values the dignity of each human person by acknowledging their value as persons, never as objects to be used.
The virtue of chastity--pray for it, value it, practice it, teach it.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Our Lady of Sorrows

At the cross her station keeping
stood the mournful Mother weeping
close to Jesus to the last.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Welcome to the sisters from New Orleans

We have a convent in New Orleans and the sisters had to evacuate. Luckily they were able to get to Baton Rouge and stayed in the home of a kind woman who put them up. She had other people too so they slept on the couch and the floor, but were very grateful for it.
We don't know when they'll be able to get back to New Orleans (actually the convent is in Metairie, just west of Orleans Parish). So for now they were able to come back to our motherhouse in Boston and "rest awhile" after their ordeal. They arrived yesterday and have been telling us stories of things they saw and heard. Of course they were lucky in comparison to others who were stranded on roofs and attics. But just the emotional impact of the evacuation and seeing their city destroyed was quite a trial.
I was stationed in New Orleans for a year back in the late 80's, and I loved the place. It has such a unique flavor with its Cajun culture. We used to go down to the bayou and the people were very receptive to our mission. I once spent a week doing evangelization on Grand Isle with another sister, and it was a wonderful time. One kind older married couple invited us over to dinner one night for a fish dinner. The man said that the trout was so fresh "it slept in the Gulf last night." I feel so bad now to think of all those wonderful people who have been dealt such a harsh blow. May God be with them and may Mary obtain many graces for them.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Happy birthday, Mary!

September 8 is the feast of the birth of Mary. We don't know much about her early life that can be historically verified. But there's an interesting document called the Gospel of James that gives details about Mary's birth. This book is not one of the canonical Gospels, so it's not a source of faith and we can't rely on it for history. But it dates to around the early second century, and it shows that even then, people were interested in finding out about Mary. This book is where we get some of the details about Mary's life that have been part of tradition, such as the names of her parents (Joachim and Anne). This book also has a strong emphasis on Mary's virginity. Again, this shows how ancient this belief is.

In his homily on the recent feast of the Assumption, Pope Benedict said, "Mary lived on the Word of God, she was imbued with the Word of God. ... Whoever thinks with God thinks well, and whoever speaks to God speaks well."

Out of gas?

Everyone who's filled up on gas recently got a sticker shock on seeing how fast the price went up after Katrina. When the Gulf's production was shut down, there were 2 million less barrels available to the US every day.
The bigger problem is that the world's oil supply is stretched to its limit right now, with no excess production. Any disruption like a hurricane is enough to send prices zooming.
About a year ago I became interested in the problem of oil and did some reading about it. If you do a search for "Hubbert's peak" you'll find many websites about it. Many good geologists are saying that the world is almost at the point of peak oil--when we will have used half of all the world's easy-t0-get oil. There will still be a lot left, but the supply will be shrinking. Demand goes up all the time, so the price will, too.
Some of the out-of-oil scenarios are scary and perhaps too alarmist. But there is a real problem and the sooner we start to conserve oil and develop alternate energy sources, the better. Oil burned is gone forever and it takes the earth millions of years to produce it. In about 125 years we've used up half of all the oil--what about people in the centuries to come?

Katrina people finder

Rae Stabosz sent this link to one of the sisters--it's a way to help locate people after the hurricane and they can use some volunteers to enter data. It's a concrete and easy way to help in relief efforts without leaving your home.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

After Katrina

Check out the new blog (link above) from the editors at Pauline Books & Media. Sr Kathryn has posted a number of great posts on the hurricane.

I was on vacation last week and spent a lot of time watching the news coverage. It was so devastating, to see a city almost wiped out in such a short time. All I could do was pray.
It brought back that strange feeling I had on 9/11, when I watched the towers collapse. There we were in the comfort of our living room, watching the TV as the buildings fell and thousands of people died--and being completely powerless to stop it. Now we watched as thousands of people waited on rooftops to be rescued or were stranded in the cesspool of filth called the Superdome.

But I was also amazed at the resilience of the human spirit. There was the woman from Pass Christian, Ms, who walked back into town a day and a half after the hurricane to get back to her house. She found it sitting on another neighbor's lot, and someone else's house was on her property. But she was determined to rebuild and not let this devastation beat her down.
There was the woman in the wheelchair with a black dress, who looked about 80 but was actually 105! She seemed to be taking it all in stride. After living for more than a century, she certainly knows how to deal with the blows life has dealt her. How great it would be to talk to her and get her reactions to it all.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

blogging break

I'll be away through September 5 and won't be able to blog until then.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

September 11 archive

The fourth anniversary of 9/11 is only a few weeks away. The Smithsonian has a digital archive where anyone can submit their memories of 9/11. It's for anyone, not just for those who were in NY and Washington when the planes hit. You can become part of the historical record for future generations.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Catholic Recycle

I found this link to a site called Catholic Recycle from the blog "A Catholic Life." It looks like a sort of Craig's list for Catholics. If you haven't been to Craig's list, it's an online place where people can give things away and get things too, for free or to sell. It's a great idea, to get things from the people who want to give them away to those who need them.
It seems that Catholic Recycle isn't widely known yet so there's not a lot on the site, but maybe in time it will grow and be a useful place to give and get Catholic items.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pope Benedict on current issues

I'm reading a talk that the pope gave to parish priests in Italy last month. He answered several questions that they put to him. I'm very impressed at his pastoral response to these issues, including divorce and remarriage. Toward the beginning of the talk he said, "I share with you these questions, these queries. I also suffer. However, let us on the one hand suffer all together for these problems, and let us also suffer in transforming the problems. For suffering itself is the way to transformation, and without suffering nothing is transformed." (My italics)

This thought really struck me: let us also suffer in transforming the problems.
He's reminding us that difficult problems don't have easy solutions. Sometimes we can't just solve a problem; we have to suffer through the problem until we finally reach a solution. Take something like illness. If a person gets something serious like cancer, they can get treated for it and often recover. But the process causes suffering. Chemo can cause nausea, hair loss, and many other uncomfortable side effects. The anxiety that goes along with it causes the person to suffer mental distress.
Or take problems in family relationships. A parent often has to suffer through the problem of a wayward child. Or a spouse has to suffer through the problem of alcoholism, drug addiction or some other painful situations that afflict their spouse.
The usual way God works with us is to bring fruit out of our troubles by helping us suffer through the problem. God usually doesn't take it all away miraculously; that would be the "cheap grace" that Bonhoeffer spoke of. The "expensive grace" is the one that Jesus gives us to suffer through something. But the good news is that we don't have to do it alone--he's with us all through it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Nuts to cancer!

In December 2004, a team of scientists at Purdue University led by Qing Jiang released the results of a study on Vitamin E and cancer. They showed that human cancer cells—from both prostate and lung cancers—were prevented from spreading by gamma-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E. Jiang said, “This is the first time gamma-tocopherol has been shown to induce death in lab-grown human cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone."
Vitamin E has several forms, with the gamma form being one of them. However, most supplements contain the alpha form. The gamma form is found abundantly in nuts, especially walnuts and pecans. So eating nuts may be a good way of avoiding some types of cancer.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Wandering shepherd

Today on the news I heard that an elderly Jesuit priest from Campion Center, a retirement center near Boston, wandered off the grounds and was lost from Thursday to Saturday. Luckily he was found today about a half-mile away from the retreat house. Father has dementia and somehow "escaped" unnoticed. I haven't heard more details, but I'm wondering how he survived for two nights in the woods. The Center is surrounded by woods. Luckily he was in good shape when he was found.
This brings up the problems that people have in taking care of the elderly who have Alzheimer's or simple dementia. Many people are so heroic in the love and attention they give to their parents, etc. If any of you have stories about this it would be great to hear about them!

The virtual rosary

The above link is to a great site on the rosary! The virtual rosary can be downloaded for free and you can pray the rosary on your computer.
Thanks to Karen from Missouri for pointing this out to me!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Bumper sticker prevents abortion

The link above is to a story about a girl who decided not to have an abortion after reading a pro-life bumper sticker: Abortion stops a beating heart.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Brother Roger of Taize murdered

From Zenit:
"The founder of the French religious Taizé Community, Brother Roger, was attacked and killed by a mentally disturbed man during vespers, his community said. Roger, 90, was attacked, probably with a knife, during evening prayer today at Taizé, near Cluny, in the eastern Burgundy region, a member of the community told Agence France-Presse. The Taizé movement started during World War II, when Swiss-born monk Roger Schutz, living in Taizé, provided a refuge for those fleeing the conflict, irrespective of their religion. Roger, a Protestant with a degree in theology, devoted his life to the reconciliation between Christian denominations. "

May he rest in peace.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Abortion pill controversy

The deaths of four women who took the abortion pill are being investigated as the above news story notes. If you read the story you will see there is a certain protocol for taking the drug. The Massachusetts legislature recently passed a bill that would allow some pharmacists to dispense this drug without a prescription. Governor Romney vetoed it.
Is this how the abortion industry treats the health of women? To allow a dangerous drug--one that is being investigated as the cause of death for some women--to be given without a prescription?

How little choices can have major effects

On the post below I wrote about my father getting blown out of his plane during World War II. The ironic part of it is that he never wore his parachute--except on that flight. For some reason, he put it on that day and it saved his life.

It might seem like such a little decision--to wear a parachute or not, like wearing a seat belt or not. Most of the time the choice might be incidental. How many times we wear them and nothing happens, so it really didn't make any difference. But that day for my dad, his decision to put on the parachute was a life or death decision. Of course he didn't know that at the time. But it was. And it had so many consequences. If he had died then, me and my brothers and sisters would never have been born. My mother's life would have been very different. But the reality is that I'm sitting here typing this today because on Dec. 11, 1943, my dad put on a parachute.

On earth we can never know all the consequences of the decisions that we make. But every time we make a decision to do something evil, something sinful, bad consequences follow. On the other hand, every time we make a decision to do something good, to do some act of charity or some other virtuous thing, good consequences follow. Some of those choices might seem so little, but in reality they could be a life or death decision for someone. We may never know on earth what those consequences are. But at the final judgment we'll see our whole life in the wider scheme of things, and how everything we do has ripple effects of good or evil.

The Assumption--a feast of reunions

This morning I was looking at an icon of the Assumption outside our chapel. It shows Mary embracing Jesus in heaven, and it made me think that Mary's Assumption into heaven must have been the greatest reunion of all time.
Ironically, today I got a letter from an aunt whom I probably haven't seen in about 20 years. It was such a pleasant surprise to hear from her. Someone life just keeps us busy and we go our separate ways, so our paths don't cross for a long time. She contacted me because she came across a message I had left on a World War II site almost 3 years ago when I was looking up information about my father's experiences in the war. After I posted that, someone kindly sent me a list of the missions my father had flown in Europe. That's when I found out he had bombed Rome, besides about 20 other cities! He also spent about a year and a half in a prisoner of war camp in Germany, Stalag Luft One. He was blown out of the plane when it got hit by German fire that opened a large hole. The plane didn't go down, though, and made it back to base.

All this had made me think about my family a little more and relatives that I haven't seen in a while. These kinds of reunions are just preludes to the great reunion that awaits us in heaven, when we will be reunited with Jesus and Mary and the saints, and the other people we've known in our lives.


As always, the experience of the Courage Conference was truly wonderful. We recorded and duplicated on-the-spot 15 talks, including the keynote presentations and some of the workshops that were given. The people purchased quite a few of them, along with many books and other AV's.
I am always so edified and impressed by the Courage members. They are really going against the current today, in a society that thinks nothing of people indulging in any kind of sexual behavior they want. The Courage members are trying their best to live a chaste life according to the teachings of the Church. They're real heroes.
What struck me too is that they're happy people. They have their crosses to bear and struggles to deal with, like all of us do. But they radiate a certain peace and happiness, the kind that comes from living a good life. In the next few days I'll blog more about some particular things from the conference.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Courage Conference

Tomorrow through Sunday I'll be away at the Courage Conference with a couple other sisters. For many years now we have recorded the talks at the conference and made them available, along with having a book display. I've gone to it several other times and it's been a wonderful experience to meet with the members of Courage and be of some service through our media apostolate. This year it will be at the seminary in Douglaston, NY, on Long Island, not so far from where I grew up.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

St. Edith Stein

Today is the feast of St. Edith Stein. Pope John Paul not only canonized her but proclaimed her a co-patroness of Europe. Born Jewish, she became an atheist and eventually converted to the Catholic Church, became a Carmelite, and was murdered by the Nazis in a concentration camp.
Here is a saint who experienced in her own life and death the depths to which Europe had sunk. She is a great patron to pray too that Europe may rediscover its Christian roots.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Prayer of petition and doing God's will

Leanne Payne is one of my favorite authors, and I was recently reading her book Listening Prayer. She said something really wonderful about prayer of petition. Of course it means placing our petitions before God, but she suggested something else as part of it: to receive God's answer. She recommends doing this by simply picturing in our imagination the thing we've asked for, and then placing that image before God in prayer and letting him speak to us about it. Very often, the picture will change to bring it more in accord with God's will. This listening to God in prayer will help us receive in our lives what God wants to do.

There's so much wisdom in that. It's easy to think that when I ask for something, God should give it to me exactly as I asked for it. If it doesn't happen, I can think my prayer wasn't answered. But if I wasn't asking according to God's will, God will answer it in a different way. By using the imagination to picture the desired result, and then let God shape it, we can find that our desires will be more in line with what God wants.

I tried this with a couple petitions I was praying for, and I was amazed at how well it worked. I found that God showed me what I should really be asking for. Holding the picture in our imagination also taps into the psychological reality that we tend to strive toward goals we can picture.

Pain is temporary; victory is forever!

Today at Mass the priest used this saying in his homily. He said how in sports, enduring temporary pain often leads to victory. Basking in victory, the pain is forgotten.
It's like that in the spiritual life too. It's hard to practice virtue, to deny ourselves things, to put others' needs before our own. Jesus said it too in the Gospel, "How rough the road that leads to life!" But to keep the goal in mind makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Ancient Bible text going online

The Codex Sinaiticus is a very ancient copy of the entire Bible, written in Greek. A project is underway to make the text available online, which will be finished in about four years.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Thomas Tuesday

The Exodus reading today is about envy directed at Moses. St. Thomas deals with envy in the Summa, q. 36 of part II-II:

"Charity rejoices in our neighbor's good, while envy grieves over it...." Then he lists some of the things that envy brings along:
"tale-bearing, detraction, joy at another's misfortune, grief at another's prosperity" and finally this all leads to hatred.

Envy is one of those sins that few people like to admit to, because it seems like we fall into it because we think we're inferior in some way. St. Thomas' reflections on it make me ask myself today: if I say something negative about someone else, is envy at the root of it?