Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More on the elderly nuns

I had the opportunity to visit the elderly Dominican nuns again, and they were as lively as ever. The sisters told us some funny stories about some of the nuns who have passed away. One was named Sr. Regina Caeli ("Caeli" for short), and she used to hide her money in unlikely places in her room. So Sr Gerard told her, "Caeli, you'd better tell us where you hide your money because when you die, we're just going to get a dumpster and toss all your junk into it. We don't want to throw out the money by mistake!" So she reluctantly divulged her secret--it was hidden in the bottom of the waste paper basket.

Pope Benedict's homily for Corpus Christi

He has some great points. I especially like his comparison of the Holy Thursday procession (way of the cross) with the Corpus Christi procession (Jesus going before us as we set out to evangelize).

Joan of Arcadia

Karen Hall on her blog Some Have Hats (see link on the sidebar) has some info about Joan of Arcadia. She says it's possible that another network might buy the show, if enough people write in about it.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Congratulations, Victor!

On Saturday my nephew Victor graduated from West Point. I was able to attend the ceremony, which was quite impressive. I had never visited there before. The traditional hat toss at the end was a moment to remember.
This class is called the class of 9/11, since the terrorist attack happened just a few weeks into their first year. The class started out with about 1150 cadets, but through the years some drop out. Victor told us that the actual number of graduates was 911. Make of it what you will!

The article I've linked to above has some good thoughts on the meaning of the ceremony.

France says "no"!

Today French voters rejected the proposed constitution for the European Union.
Pope John Paul had pleaded with Europe that this constitution at least mention Europe's Christian roots. Instead, its authors explicitly rejected any mention of Christianity at all. So, I for one am glad that it's being rejected. The French are not rejecting it for that reason, of course, but for economic motives. Nevertheless, I'm happy to see it go down to defeat.
If the European Union was simply a matter of removing trade barriers and having a uniform currency for economic purposes, I would see no problem. But it's become more than that, as it turns into a force to hasten the de-Christianization of Europe. Perhaps from heaven Pope John Paul is getting his way after all!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Rain, rain and more rain

May in Boston is usually a beautiful month, but this year it's been raining for days and days. The past two nights we even had a nor'easter pounding us. Coming on the heels of an especially cold winter, this wet, cold spring weather has me waiting for summer with great anticipation. Some of the ladies who work in our order department have been playing summer music in hopes of getting in the spirit despite the gloom.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Elderly nuns keeping the faith

A couple weeks ago Barbara Nicolosi over at her blog Church of the Masses had a great post about the demise of religious communities. It highlighted some of the problems that are facing nuns today. I'd like to write about another aspect of it: elderly nuns keeping the faith.

On a recent trip I stayed overnight at a large motherhouse of Dominican nuns and met the most delightful sisters. Several of them were in their nineties and were sharp as a tack. They have reason to worry about their community, since in the last 10 years 95 sisters have died and not one vocation has entered. But these nuns were so joyful, so prayerful and full of faith that I went away feeling that there is reason to hope despite the dark clouds.
Sr. Gerard, 92, looked so serene with her white hair coming out of her veil and her bright, sparkling eyes. When we said goodbye to her, she was watching the Mass on EWTN. After saying goodbye, she turned around with an afterthought and fairly shouted, "Isn't the new pope great!"
Sr Dolorata, 98, was more frail but still insisted on walking down the hallway herself. No wheelchairs for her! She's almost blind. She was sitting at a breakfast table by herself as I stood nearby waiting for the toaster to pop. Suddenly she called out, "Banana!" So I obediently got her a banana and cut it open for her. Another sister said, "She's a powerhouse of prayer. She prays all day and intercedes for everyone."
We also visited several sisters in their Alzheimer's unit. Even though their minds are slipping away, they still radiate a joyful serenity and peace. One was walking around with her rosary beads, praying. She may not know what day it is, but she still remembers those prayers. Even though these sisters know their community faces serious problems and may even be coming to its end, they're still keeping the faith and doing what they can. I believe that God will surely hear their prayers and the sacrifice of their lives will draw down many graces. They're living out the paschal mystery. It's easy see God's grace surrounding religious communities when they're young, vibrant, drawing vocations, and seemingly flourishing. But God's grace is just as present when they're living out their own version of Calvary, even more so than in the "good days." As Mother Teresa once said, God doesn't call us to success but to faithfulness.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Mary's Queenship

I thought the best talk at the meeting was one given on Mary's Queenship by Professor Ted Sri. He teaches at St. Benedict College in Atchison, Kansas.
Prof. Sri said that the idea of Mary's queenship in the past was often explained in political terms. Theologians would look at what political ideas of queenship mean, and apply them to Mary.

But Vatican II called for Marian studies to be more Biblical. So he studied queenship in the Bible and focused on the theme of the Queen Mother found in ancient Israel. The woman who was married to the king wasn't important because he had many wives. But the king's mother--the Queen Mother--was the one who had power and authority. The Hebrew word for her is "Gebirah."
Prof. Sri looked at how St. Luke in his Gospel takes themes around the Davidic kingdom and uses them in the Annunciation and Visitation. For example, when Elizabeth calls Mary "the mother of my Lord," that title reflects the royal title used in 2 Sam. 24:21.

There was a lot more detail, but overall I found his idea of seeing Mary's queenship in these Biblical terms much more meaningful than using political categories.

The Marian meeting

I just returned from the meeting of the Mariological Society, and will be about it this week. There were excellent talks given on the theme of Mary's Assumption and Queenship.

Here's one thought one of the priests mentioned in a homily. He was talking about how Mary symbolizes different things for us, all in a positive sense. The word "symbol" comes from the Greek, "sym" meaning "together," and "ballo" meaning "to throw." A symbol gets its meaning from various aspects "thrown" or gathered together. The word, "dia" means against, and "dia-ballo" --thrown apart--from which we get the word "diabolos" or in English, the devil. The devil is the one who breaks apart and destroys unity. Mary, instead, is the unifier who brings peace and harmony among people.
I like his comparison and it made me reflect on how Mary unites us and how things that divide people really come from the devil. How do you see it?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Marian meeting

Wednesday through Sunday I'll be at the Mariological Society Meeting in Portland, Maine. When I get back I'd like to blog about some Marian topics and report on the meeting. A new document just came out from the Anglican-Catholic ecumenical talks about Mary. So they should be talking about that and other themes.

The Church and drama

The day Pope Benedict was elected, the drama of it all really hit me. First there was the white smoke, then we all ran to the TV to hear the name. But we had to wait a while as the bells kept tolling, people kept pouring into St. Peter's Square, and the tension mounted. As the cameras focused on the balcony, from time to time we could see the curtains moving a bit as if someone inside was peering out. Meantime people around the world were hanging on with great interest.

The Church knows how to do drama. So the other day I came across something in an unexpected source that confirmed this. I happened to be paging through George Burns' biography of his wife, Gracie Allen. Burns was Jewish and Gracie was a devout Catholic. They made a trip to Rome to see Pope Pius (it must have been Pius XII but he didn't specify). Gracie was very excited and nervous to see the Pope, while George took it all in stride. He said, "The Pope's entrance was stunning. Maybe the Catholics know about miracles, and maybe they know about saints, but they've never received enough credit for what they know about show business. In my 85 years in the business, that was easily the greatest entrance I've ever seen. The Catholics know more about backlighting and indirect lighting than any stage manager.... His exit was even more impressive than his entrance."

Monday, May 16, 2005

A few pictures of Mom

Below I've posted a few pictures of my mother at various stages of her life.

Me with Mom in September 2002, at the nursing home

1995, Mom with me (left) and Sr. Mary David

Mom with my brother Louie in 1980. Louie died of leukemia in 1996.

Mom and Dad with Paul, my oldest brother, around 1949

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble....

Right now I'm rather concerned about the economy because of the asset bubbles that exist, especially in the housing market. The link above is to a site called "The Prudent Bear" that has a good presentation of what's wrong with the economy. Americans think they can spend their way to prosperity. But in the long run savings and investment bring about economic growth. I believe there's a connection between the economy and virtue. An excessive thirst for material goods that are not essential can cause people to go into debt and in the end leave them poorer.
Every month the trade balance gets worse because Americans are buying stuff they don't need with money they don't have. It can't go on forever. But if the bubble in the real estate market bursts, then people will face big problems. Consumer spending has been fueled by high housing prices. Bursting bubbles will bring "toil and trouble."

Thrill seeking leads to tragic death

Last week a tragic death occurred: the 13-year-old nephew of one of the sisters killed himself by hanging. It wasn't suicide, though. It was a way of trying to get high: by choking oneself. He had done it before and his mother, when she found out, made him promise never to do it again. But he did, and as he blacked out he fell off a top bunk bed with a noose around his neck.
I was shocked about this tragedy because I had never heard of this practice. Apparently it's been around a while, though, but now it's done with ropes.
This tragedy raises all kinds of questions. Why do kids seek such thrills? What is it that propels them to do such dangerous things? Does it reflect the more extreme aspects of popular culture, like extreme sports, that throw aside safety concerns in order to get high? What does the Gospel of life have to say about such things?

Mom's funeral

Thank you to everyone who offered their prayers for my mother. Her funeral was very beautiful, just how she would have liked it. She had always said she wanted the hymn
"Panis Angelicus" at her funeral, so we had that. The priest who celebrated the Mass was a young priest from Ireland, and he had a wonderful singing voice. At the wake he sang the Irish blessing, "May the road rise to meet you" and at the cemetery he sang the Salve Regina. My mother would have loved it. The homily was wonderful too, about the hope of eternal life.
Even though I miss her, I know she's in a better place and even closer to me now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Mrs. Lorraine Trouve, RIP

I just found out that my mother died somewhat unexpectedly. Needless to say, I won't be blogging for some days.
She was a wonderful person and very devout Catholic, who went to daily Mass for at least 20 years.
This morning at Mass a line from the preface of the Ascension jumped out at me, "The Lord Jesus, the conqueror of sin and death...."
Jesus has conquered death. He's conquered sin. It never seems so real as when a loved one dies. As I grieve for her I can still rejoice that she's with the Lord.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Vatican Radio--a polluter?

In this strange case, an Italian court convicted Cardinal Roberto Tucci and a priest from the Vatican radio over a case brought by environmentalists. They contended that the radio transmissions violated Italy's stringent standards and constituted a form of pollution.

It seems rather strange to me. At least the sentence was suspended so the cardinal didn't have to go to jail for this.

Pope Benedict's homily at St. John Lateran

During this homily he talked about the Ascension:

"The Ascension of Christ means that he no longer belongs to the world of corruption and death, which conditions our life. It means that he belongs completely to God. He, the eternal Son, has taken our human being to the presence of God; he has taken with him flesh and blood in a transfigured form. Man finds a place in God through Christ; the human being has been taken into the very life of God. And, given that God embraces and sustains the whole cosmos, the Lord's Ascension means that Christ has not gone far away from us, but that now, thanks to the fact he is with the Father, he is close to each one of us forever. Each one of us may address him familiarly; each one may turn to him. The Lord always hears our voice. We may distance ourselves inwardly from him. We can live with our backs turned to him, but he always awaits us, and is always close to us."

"He is close to each one of us forever." What a beautiful thought that is, especially in times of loneliness or distress.

For a laugh

Jeff Miller has a funny post about saints and their cars, in light of Cardinal Ratzinger's car being sold.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Holy Trinity

The feast of the Holy Trinity is coming up in two weeks, and right now I'm reading a short work by Rahner on it. He says something that's been repeated a lot: the doctrine of the Trinity doesn't really come alive for most of us. He said that if the Church were to change its teaching and say that there really is no Trinity, most of us wouldn't really have to change very much. We could go right on living and praying just the same.
But that's not a good situation. The Church wants the Trinity to be very real for us. Sometimes I just think of God, without necessarily thinking of the triune God. But God is a Trinity, and to think of him means to think of the Trinity.
Things like the sign of the cross are meant to help us remember the Trinity, but it needs to become living in our minds. It's hard because this teaching is so difficult to understand. We can never comprehend it. But like Frank Sheed used to say, whatever light we can get about the teaching is worth the effort. As I read more about this I'll blog more on it before the feast.

Waiting for the Spirit

Today at Mass the priest said something that got me thinking about this idea of waiting for the Spirit. Right now we're in the original novena of prayer for the Spirit, which started after Ascension Thursday. So we're waiting. The priest said that we all know what the atmosphere in waiting rooms is like. Whether it's at a doctor's office, or the airport, or some other place, hardly anybody enjoys waiting. It's a chore to get through as we expect to reach our goal.
I have to admit that I really hate to wait, especially on lines at the store. I always pick the wrong one, in which someone has a problem and things get held up.
But waiting for the Spirit is a little bit different. It's a time of prayer and reflection, in which the desire we have for the Holy Spirit is stirred up. And God gives us grace in the measure that we desire it. If we really hunger and thirst for it, he bestows it in a greater abundance. I love that line in the Magnificat, "He has filled the hungry with good things." So in this time of waiting for the Holy Spirit to come, the Church is trying to stir up our desire for him and for grace.
How do you feel about waiting for the Spirit?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Mariological Society of America

The Mariological Society will have their annual meeting from May 18-21 in Portland, Maine. If you live in the area you might want to attend. The cost is reasonable and they have excellent speakers on Marian topics. This year's conference will feature several talks on the Assumption, St. Francis and Mary, Mary as Queen-Mother, Mary in John's Gospel and others.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The image of Mary in the Chicago underpass

By now you've probably heard about the image of Mary on the wall of a highway underpass in Chicago (picture below). I would accept the most obvious explanation that the image was formed by natural causes--water and salt runoff from the highway above. While I don't see it as a miraculous image, it's still very interesting because of the way it can speak to us of God.

The people who saw the image recognized something in it that looked like the Blessed Virgin. And they've responded with faith. A sort of makeshift shrine has popped up at the site. So even if the image itself is not miraculous, it's evoked a response of faith. In today's secularized society, that in itself is miraculous in some way. It's a reminder that everything in the world can speak to us of God if we see it through eyes of faith. Just the fact that this image appeared right around the beginning of May, Mary's month, is also significant.

There's an excellent book called Encountering Mary by Sandra Zimdars-Swartz. In it she studies several Marian apparitions, but from a particular point of view. She looks at how the seers' experience of their visions was shaped by the response from the people they shared their story with. At La Salette, for example, Melanie and Maximin said they saw a lady. They didn't identify her as Mary, but the people in the town immediately came to that conclusion. That in turn influenced the way the children experienced their further visions. Even when a vision is authentic, the person who receives it passes that experience through their own mind and draws conclusions about it. They make deductions from what they have seen.

What do you think about the wall in Chicago?

Image of Virgin Mary in Chicago highway underpass

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Which book of the Bible are you?

I'm Ephesians. Yay! It's one of my favorites.
Take the quiz to see what you are!

Feminists for life

Feminists for Life is offering an outreach program for college campuses, as part of their efforts to get out the pro-life message.

A story of forgiveness

A man in Texas this week was executed for a murder, but the family of the victim offered him forgiveness. In turn, he expressed his sorrow for the crime and apologized to the family. The article doesn't say this, but from his last words about being saved he must have had a conversion experience in prison.
It reminds me of the story St. Therese told in her autobiography about a condemned criminal she was praying for. Up until the last moment he had shown no remorse, but finally, at the very end, he asked pardon of his sins and was converted. Therese knew it was the answer to her prayers. Only God knows who was praying for the conversion of the man in Texas. But in some way God always answers our prayers.

Fr. Robert Barron's site

Fr. Barron is the author of several excellent books. On his site this week he has posted two of his homilies about Pope Benedict. (Thanks to Sr. Anna for giving me this link!)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Brief bio of Pope Benedict

You can also find on this page links to some of his writings available on the internet.

St. Thomas on the Ascension

St. Thomas discusses an objection that says Christ should not have ascended to heaven because it would have been better for us if he had stayed on earth. Imagine if Jesus had remained on earth--we would be able to go and talk to him, see him in person, tell him our problems, get his advice. I really like that idea.
But then Thomas gives some reasons why it was more fitting for Christ to leave us and return to the Father. First, to increase our faith: "Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed." Second, to give us the hope of one day joining him in heaven: "I go to prepare a place for you." Third, to kindle charity in us by directing our thoughts to heavenly things: "Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."
What thoughts do you have on this?

Alberione on Mary

It is necessary that our devotions
be always more grafted onto Jesus Master,
the Queen of Apostles and St. Paul, Apostle.
Jesus Christ is the Master;
he is the Apostle of the Father.
We are to know him always better.
The journey to be made is unending:
“Be perfect just as your
heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).
Who will reach such a height?
Who will reach the point of identifying
himself with Christ?
The way to reach this union is Mary.
One who is more devoted to Mary
will unite herself more intimately to Jesus Christ.
Let there be simple and fervent
devotion to Mary.

666 or 616?

Is the number of the beast 666 or 616? Scholars have been deciphering some ancient manuscripts found in Egypt, including a copy of the Book of Revelation. It seems that this particular text has 616. Scholars who study these things (textual critics) compare ancient manuscripts to try and come up with the most accurate readings. While there are many variants in the New Testament manuscripts, very few are significant. But because the number 666 has been so widely known as the number of the beast, it will be interesting to see what the scholarly consensus on this text turns out to be.

Health tip

Don't take vitamin C the day before you go to the dentist. It can make the local anesthetic less effective.
I just read this on a reputable health site and it confirms my own experience. A few months ago I had an old filling replaced, and that morning I took extra vitamin C. The drilling was painful to the point that I had to ask for more novocaine, which I never had to do before. But if you take vitamin C right after the dentist, it will help the novocaine wear off faster.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Adult stem cells

This links to a story about a blind man who was cured using adult stem cells. The Church approves of this form of research. It opposes embryonic stem cell research, since this involves the destruction of human life.
Research with adult stem cells is more advanced and offers greater hope of progress than embryonic research.

abortion "prayer card"

I just found out about a "prayer card" featuring Our Lady of Guadalupe promoted by a Mexican affiliate of Catholics for a Free Choice. Frances Kissling, head of CFFC, says of it, "Does it not make sense that they would, given Mexico’s strong commitment to the Virgin of Guadalupe, invoke her in their decision-making processes? Why would we find that inappropriate?"

It's "inappropriate" because the prayer is intended to guide a woman to decide in favor of abortion. That's the "decision-making process." To invoke Our Lady of Guadalupe's blessing on the killing of a baby is not just inappropriate; it's downright blasphemous. It's also very deceptive because it can confuse the poor women who find it and mislead them into thinking that abortion is OK.

Ebay changes policy

Thanks to all those who wrote and called, ebay has changed its policy and will not allow consecrated hosts to be put up for sale again.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Anglicans and the Catholic Church

A reader tipped me off about this news item concerning Pope Benedict and the Anglicans.

I think it would be a great thing if more Anglicans came into the Catholic Church. In Boston a few years ago, an Anglican congregation came into the Church with their priest, who was then ordained a Catholic priest. The parish name is St. Athanasius, and they follow the Anglican Use rite. I've never been to their church but once at Christmas I went to a service of lessons and carols that they had, and it was very beautiful. One of our convent chaplains, Father (now Bishop) Lennon was the priest who coordinated their entrance into the Church and he would say something about it from time to time. The people wanted to become Catholic because they were disturbed about trends in the Anglican church. It looks like there's a real opportunity here. What's your reaction?

May prayer intention

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for the month of May is: "That those persecuted for the sake of faith and justice may experience the consolation and strength of the Holy Spirit".

Reality TV in monastery

This is about some men who spent time in a monastery for reality TV and ended up changing their lives.

More on the liturgy

The post on the liturgy below generated a lot of comments, so it's a topic people are concerned about. Over the weekend I was at a First Communion Mass on Sunday. The priest was very good with the people and seemed quite pastoral. But he gave the most awful homily I have ever heard on such an occasion. I don't want to be negative and criticize, but just to bring up a point that the homily is an important part of the Mass and it needs to be done well. In this case--at a First Communion--the homily was mostly on the role of the bishop, in particular to how it relates to closing parishes. (This was not in Boston; the particular diocese is not facing major issues around this now). The priest seemed to be mostly rambling, instead of taking advantage of a great catechetical opportunity to focus on the Mass and the Eucharist. It just didn't make sense to me, and I wonder what it meant to the people.
Liturgical reform needs to begin with better training for the priests, especially how they preach the Word of God. In discussing the priesthood, Vatican II emphasized more the aspect of preaching. Prior to the Council, the major emphasis was on the priest's role at Mass. So the Council balanced it off more by considering both aspects and even giving a certain priority to the task of preaching the Word.