Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Feast of St. Andrew

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Joyous Expectation by Sr Jean Frisk

Advent - Joyous Expectation

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The simple question that can transform your life

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New document unofficial translation

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

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

Feast of St. Cecilia

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

Monday, November 21, 2005

Presentation of Mary

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

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

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

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sr Aparaceda, RIP

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

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hazardous waste day

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

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

Christ the King

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Thomas Tuesday

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2005

What would you ask Jesus for?

Today's Gospel: Luke 18:35–43

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2005

New audio feature!

this is an audio post - click to play

St. Martin of Tours

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Feast of St John Lateran

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

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

Monday, November 07, 2005

Mary Leads Us to Jesus

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

Thomas Tuesday

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

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

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

All Souls Day

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