Saturday, December 31, 2005
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
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.
What a great thought--Christ is on board. He's with us. Are we with him?
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
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
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
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Mary's example helps us to be open to whatever God is asking of us.
What does God want of me today?
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
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.
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.
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
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
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?
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
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;
Jesus, life of our bodies and souls,
--by your coming let us be immersed in the mystery of your incarnation.
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
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
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?
"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
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
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
Monday, December 05, 2005
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.
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
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
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
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
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
Unofficial translation from Italian by Robert Mickens, THE TABLETThis text was received by the Italian news agency, ADISTA
CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION
INSTRUCTIONCONCERNING THE CRITERIA OF VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT REGARDING PERSONS WITH HOMOSEXUAL TENDENCIES IN VIEW OF THEIR ADMISSION TO SEMINARIES AND HOLY ORDERS
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
Monday, November 21, 2005
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
She had a very peaceful death and was serene. She slipped away into the loving arms of Jesus.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Friday, October 28, 2005
"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...."
"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
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!"
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.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Monday, October 10, 2005
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
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
"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
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
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
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...
Friday, September 30, 2005
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
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
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!
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
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."
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Friday, September 09, 2005
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
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."
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?
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
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
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
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
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
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
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!
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
"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
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?
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.
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.
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
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
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
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.
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
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
"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?