Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I love my community!

Several years ago one of our sisters from Italy was spending some time in Boston. One day she was telling us about her community in Italy, and she said enthusiastically, "I love my community!"

I thought of that today and I suddenly felt a wonderful feeling of gratitude, and I too could say, I love my community!
Living in a religious community is very challenging. It can be quite difficult at times. Here we are, brought together by the call of God, and sometimes it seems like a strange mix of people. We can annoy each other and get in each other's way--it's all those little things that can cause the most trouble.

But today I had a wonderful experience of support from another sister, in the form of a great conversation that helped me reflect on a painful episode of mis-communication caused by an error. That kind of wonderful reflecting together--just by talking about something in a caring way--helps me to learn and grow, and also helps me in turn to do what I can to build up the community in love.

I've so often taken these wonderful sisters for granted, just like family members can easily do. But these "stronger" moments remind me of something more: when beyond the ordinary tasks of the day something happens that removes the veil from our eyes and we see the holiness of those around us. I live with many holy sisters and it is such a great privilege. Even those who are broken in some way still bear Jesus inside them. Yes indeed, I love my community and thank God for the grace to be a member!

Sr. Helen Rita

After 17 years in the publishing house, Sr Helen Rita, a good friend of mine, has been transferred to a small community (she'll be the superior). Since sometime in 1996, we have faithfully taken a long walk together once a week, with few exceptions. She's been such a great exercising partner. Sr. Helen ran a marathon this past May in Burlington, Vermont, where she clocked a time good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon (about 3 hours and 50 minutes; 26 miles). I'm sure she'll make a great superior, but we'll sure miss her here in Boston. She's been our main (and often only) designer and has amazed everyone with her endless supply of creative ideas for gorgeous book covers.

word spreading about St. Blog's

This week the Our Sunday Visitor newspaper has an extensive article on the world of Catholic blogs. It gives a good overview of what's going on in the Catholic corner of the blogosphere. The article made the point that blogs can have different effects: on the one hand, they're a decentralizing force that can keep individuals isolated and focused only on their own points of view; and on the other hand, they can build virtual communities and draw people together.
The bonds created on blogs are rather unique. People can be anonymous and faceless, yet they can draw people together in a common interest and love for the faith. It can make people feel they're not alone in practicing their faith in a secular world. It would be great to hear how you feel about blogs and what you get out of them.

The pearl of great price

The Gospel for today's Mass is about the pearl of great price. What's the most important thing in my life? Do I really live my life according to those values?

Money is such a strange thing, because it gets its value from the fact that people value it and believe it has value. In an economics class I once took, the teacher explained that our system of paper money only works because people have faith in it. When the point comes when people no longer believe in it, the system will break down (it's only a matter of time until the dollar suffers the same fate as every previous system of paper money).

But the values of the kingdom are still real no matter if people value them or not. The virtues, all of them, from charity to justice to chastity to honesty, matter to God even if not to all people. They always retain their value.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Islamic group growing in Mexico

This article is about an Islamic group getting converts among the indigenous people in Mexico. Most of them were Presbyterians, having converted to that from Catholicism. Now they've become Islamic.

The sisters in Pakistan

Zenit had an interview that dealt with the situation in Pakistan and mentioned the Daughters of St. Paul bookshop there. It said:
"In the specific instance of the Daughters of St Paul bookshop, there was an elaborate plan to trap the institution and lay a frenzy of charges against it ranging from blasphemy to copyright violation, promotion of illegal screening of biblical films to active proselytizing. But the plan came to naught because the accusers could not prove that the sisters were producing biblical movies in large quantities, or selling them under the counter and out in the street. Clearly that was not the case. It would be a punishable offense had it been the case. "

The situation is tense but fortunately nothing more has happened. Please pray for them.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Pope writing new book

The news services have reported that Pope Benedict is writing a book while on vacation in the mountains. The topic of the book has not been made public, nor has the release date.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Miracle of the snowfall

From the Vatican Information Service:

The Basilica of St. Mary Major will hold its traditional triduum from August 1 to 3 and two days of celebration on August 4 and 5, in commemoration of the miracle of the snowfall that occurred during the night of August 4-5 in the year 358 on the site where the basilica now stands.

According to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared in a dream to two faithful Roman Christians, the patrician John and his wife, as well as to Pope Liberius (352-366), asking that a church be built in her honor on the site where snow would fall on the night of August 4-5. Pope Liberius traced the outlines of the church in the snow and the first basilica was built on that site. It was completed about a century later by Pope Sixtus III (432-440), after the Council of Ephesus in 431 during which Mary was declared to be the Mother of God.

Good article on jihadism

The above link is to a document of about 9 pages which gives a good historical overview of where the current jihad is coming from. It clearly shows the difference between Muslims in general and the minority of the jihadists. Their real goal is to re-establish the caliphate.
This is very helpful to know, because in the aftermath of terrorist bombings, some people are saying that this is because of US policy in Iraq, or the Mideast in general, etc., etc. In reality the jihadists would still want a jihad even if US policy was different, because this is a war that goes back centuries.

The horrible reality of abortion

The Dawn Patrol has a great post on a young doctor aspiring to be an abortionist. (Is "aspiring" really the right word? How can anyone aspire to an evil?) It's a chilling read. It makes me think of a poem--I'm not sure of the author but it may be Walter Raleigh:

"Vice is a monster of such frightful mien,
as to be hated, needs but to be seen.
But seen too oft,
familiar with its face,
we first endure,
then pity,
then embrace."

Bye, bye, secularism?

After the bombings in London, I saw a picture of a large group of young Muslim men in London praying outside in their neighborhood. It triggered some thoughts about secularism.
Modern Europe has pretty much eliminated Christianity from the public square and established secularism instead. So it's very ironic that religion is coming back with a vengeance, but in this case the religion is Islam. Secularists thought they had gotten rid of the--to them--evil demon of religion. But for various reasons the rise of Islam in Europe is a very real phenomenon. Right now, Mohammed is the most popular name for newborns in Europe. And when the Islamic population reaches a critical mass, they will not want to live in a secular society but in a religious one, that is, an Islamic one.

I don't know how this will all play out, the bombings in London now are only the beginning. Think about the irony, though, that in England for many years after the Reformation it was illegal to be a Catholic. Catholics were persecuted and had no freedom of religion. What would those Englishmen have thought if they had known that their descendants would be living in an Islamic country?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

St. Augustine on the parable of the sower

St Augustine:

"Be you changed while you may: turn up with the plow the hard ground, cast the stones out of the field, pluck up the thorns out of it. Be loathe to retain that hard heart, from which the word of God may quickly pass away and be lost. Be loathe to have that lightness of soil, where the root of charity can take no deep hold. Be loathe to choke the good seed which is sown in you by my labors, with the lusts and the cares of this world. For it is the Lord who sows; and we are only His labourers. But be you the 'good ground.'"

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Mary

I just came across this great quote about Mary from John Paul II:

"Having become pure capacity for God, Mary made her life constant cooperation with the saving work carried out by her Son, Jesus." (Message for World Day of the Sick, 1998)

Wow! What would my life look like if I too was a "pure capacity for God!"

The family of Jesus

In today's Gospel, Jesus says that whoever does the will of God is his mother, brother or sister. Sometimes this text is seen as putting Mary in a negative light. Actually Matthew has softened it a bit from the way it occurs in Mark, who puts it right after the incident where Jesus' family says he is mad. (Luke changes the context even more; along with John, his is the most Marian Gospel.)
Jesus does draw a line between his relatives and his new family of disciples. He's really widening it, by including all those who believe in him and follow him. So all of us can belong to his family too. But this is no putdown of Mary, because who did the will of God better than Mary? No one! She's part of Jesus' family in both ways: as a relative and as a disciple.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Statue of Mary desecrated in New York

A mentally unstable man desecrated a statue of Mary and St. Anne, and in the shootout that followed wounded some police officers. This happened in Queens Village, NY, which is just over the county line from Elmont, where I grew up.
A few years ago on Long Island a priest was shot while celebrating Mass. It was covered in the local media, but not too much was made over it.
In both cases, the perpetrator was obviously deranged. But somehow, the fact that their derangement centered on hatred of Catholicism was not an issue. I can't help but wonder if the media would treat these incidents differently if another religion were involved.

The weeds among the wheat

This Sunday's Gospel is about the weeds growing among the wheat. One commentary I looked at said that the Greek word used for "weeds" refers to a plant that looks a lot like wheat, especially when young. It puts an interesting twist on the parable, because it makes it harder to tell the good plants from the bad.
You could say a lot about this parable, so here's just one thought that came to mind. It reminds me that life isn't perfect, and the people I live with aren't perfect, and I'm not perfect either. We all have to put up with a lot of inconvenience and hassle from other people. The weeds are out there growing in the church and everywhere else. That doesn't mean we should be complacent about evil (especially when it comes to very serious evils) but we shouldn't be surprised by it.
I think Jesus was telling us to be realistic and expect that we'll have to deal with a lot of evil in life. Don't expect the Church to be a group of saints.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The scapular--a garment of grace

July 16 is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, associated with the brown scapular. This feast can help us reflect on the Biblical theme concerning garments of salvation. The German word for scapular (Gnadenkleid) literally means “grace-garment.” Many references to garments and clothes are scattered throughout the Bible, beginning in Genesis: “And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them” (Gen 3:21). The need for clothing was an effect of their sin. God’s tender action can perhaps be seen as symbolizing the garments of grace that he would bestow through Jesus Christ. Yet God drove them from the garden and blocked the way to the tree of life. In the Book of Revelation, we find Jesus has reversed this: “Blessed are those who wash their robes [in the blood of the Lamb] so that they will have the right to the tree of life” (Rv 22:14)
And in Isaiah:
"I rejoice heartily in the Lord,
in my God is the joy of my soul.
For he has clothed me in a robe of salvation,
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,...
like a bride bedecked with her jewels."

What's your favorite Catholic novel?

Amy Welborn is having a discussion of Catholic novels on her blog. Which one is your favorite? I think mine is Kristin Lavransdatter, which I first read many years ago. It's a great story of sin and redemption. What about yours?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

An American Hiroshima?

The story on World Net Daily claims that Al-Quaida has already smuggled nuclear bombs into the US and is planning to coordinate an attack in which they will simultaneously explode in several cities, making 9/11 look like kindergarten stuff. Reportedly they're hoping to kill at least 4 million Americans in the attack.
I don't know if this is actually true or not, but it certainly would be a good idea to pray the rosary to avert more terrorism attacks and for peace in the world.
Some people just dismiss the possibility, saying it could never happen, just like before 9/11 people often didn't take terrorist threats seriously. Then after 9/11, the government convened the commission to look at why the threats were dismissed. If this nuclear threat is real, and it actually happens, it won't do much good to have a commission after the fact discussing how it could have been averted, if anyone's left to discuss anything.
What's your take on this?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The prodigal sower

The parable of the sower is in the Mass readings these days. I was reading a commentary by Fr. Harrington, SJ, and he made a good point about the sower. The sower sowed the seed in some places that seemed quite unlikely: the path, the brambles, the rocky ground. Is there any point to this? Father didn't go into it too much, but it got me thinking.
Maybe it's meant to indicate God's lavish way of bestowing graces on us. He gives grace everywhere, to all of us, even when it seems like he's just wasting it. Why throw seed on a thorn patch? Why lavish graces on sinners? Yet, God does it. He's always giving us a chance, even when we seem to not want it and are more likely to reject it than accept it.
The prodigal sower is a good figure for the God who gives and gives, and--let's be honest--gets very little response in return.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Thomas Tuesday

During the year of the Eucharist, Thomas can shed some light on how the Eucharist makes us holy:

"The effects of this sacrament ought to be considered, first of all and principally, from what is contained in this sacrament, which is Christ: who, just as by coming into the world, he visibly bestowed the life of grace upon the world, according to John 1:17: 'Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.' So also, by coming sacramentally into man, he causes the life of grace: 'He who eats me, the same shall live by me.' (Jn 6:58)"

Turmeric helps prevent cancer

Some recent studies have pointed to turmeric, an active ingredient in curry powder, as a potent anti-cancer agent. In March 2003, the Reuters News Agency reported on a study done by Dr. Bharat B. Aggarwal of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Using human cancer cells infected with multiple myeloma, he found that the spice stopped the cancer from spreading. Other studies have reported success in slowing down the recurrence rate of breast cancer cells in mice.As always, don’t use turmeric in place of the medications your doctor wants you to take. But it can certainly be a helpful and tasty way to add a little cancer prevention to your diet.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Document on the Eucharist

The Vatican has released a document on the Eucharist in preparation for the Synof of Bishops next October. The Synod will be on the Eucharist. This document is called a "lineamenta," which is a kind of working document used to prepare for the meeting. It's mainly intended for the bishops who will go to the meeting, but anyone can read it.
Sometime after the Synod, the Pope will gather its fruits and publish a document summing it all up.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Doing the ordinary tasks of each day

Robin from Texas left a wonderful comment on the post below about action and feelings. I'd like to post it as its own entry to draw more attention to it:

"I have always hated domestic work, especially cooking and cleaning the kitchen. The kitchen is where I most felt like an unappreciated martyr. I started by bringing it to the confessional, and that helped some. But the greatest graces came when I offered up cooking more often and focussing on the kitchen for my lenten offerings. I began by placing a Crucifix on the window above the sink, so that whenever I felt like a martyr, I would remember what Jesus did for me. My husband tells me my kitchen is turning into a church, but he doesn't complain about the meals and cleanliness there now. As for me, I really enjoy cooking and cleaning for my family now--I offer a lot of it up for them and feel joyfully buoyant doing it! As for the idea of acting our way into feelings, I think that this is why we talk about love being an act of the will. Too many people divorce when the feeling of love first deserts us. They never make it to the stage where you have to think about why you first loved your spouse, and then take the initiative to treat him with the same joyful, loving spirit you did in the beginning, even if the feeling isn't yet there. Nagging and complaining will never bring the love back, but loving him usually will. The fact that the love is greater and stronger than ever is something too few couples realize anymore. God is good and blesses us when we live by His Laws."

Thanks, Robin, for this great insight.

"Go to Joseph!"

In these days the first reading at Mass is from Genesis, and currently the story is about Joseph and his brothers. Catholics have always seen this Joseph as a "type" or kind of forerunner of St. Joseph. One small connection is that both their fathers were named Jacob.
During the famine in Egypt, people were told "Go to Joseph!" He was a wise man who knew how to provide for his people. In a similar way, St. Joseph provided for Jesus and Mary, and so has become known as the saint of divine Providence. For people who have special needs for material goods, Joseph is still a great provider.
Fr. Alberione, our founder, had a great devotion to Joseph and we carry on that tradition. Joseph helps out in unexpected ways. A few weeks ago, one of the sisters who was out on an errand happened to bump into a man who knew us from somewhere. He told her that a nearby warehouse that was closing down was giving away their stock to local charities. So we went and were able to pick up some supplies. It was a big help and we took it as an answer to our prayers to St. Joseph.

Robert E. Hall, RIP

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Robert E. Hall, an Army reservist killed in Iraq last Friday. He was guarding the gate at the base and was killed by a car bomb. He was the cousin of Sr. Mary Augustine, a Daughter of St. Paul currently serving in the missions in Africa. Robert leaves his wife and a 3-year old girl.

With daily reports of death and destruction from war and terrorism, what can we do? Pray the rosary for peace. Pope John Paul urged this in his letter on the rosary in 2002:

"The Rosary has many times been proposed by my predecessors and myself as a prayer for peace. At the start of a millennium which began with the terrifying attacks of 11 September 2001, a millennium which witnesses every day innumerous parts of the world fresh scenes of bloodshed and violence, to rediscover the Rosary means to immerse oneself in contemplation of the mystery of Christ who "is our peace", since he made "the two of us one, and broke down the dividing wall of hostility" (Eph 2:14). Consequently, one cannot recite the Rosary without feeling caught up in a clear commitment to advancing peace, especially in the land of Jesus, still so sorely afflicted and so close to the heart of every Christian."

Pope to visit Israel

Pope Benedict has accepted an invitation to visit Israel, but the date has not been set.
Pope John Paul went to the Holy Land and visited many of the sacred places. He also put a note in the wailing wall asking forgiveness for the ways Christians have sinned against the Jews.

I think this is a sign that Pope Benedict will want to continue making progress in dialogue with the Jews.

Pope's message on London bombings

Pope Benedict wrote:

"Deeply saddened by the news of the terrorist attacks in central London the Holy Father offers fervent prayers for the victims and for all those who mourn. While he deplores these barbaric acts against humanity he asks you to convey to the families of the injured his spiritual closeness at this time of grief. Upon the people of Great Britain he invokes the consolation that only God can give in such circumstances."

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Motivation for holiness

I happened to read something put out by a motivational company. It stressed a sound psychological principle, that we can often act ourselves into feelings, rather than the other way around. If I'm feeling blah, getting involved in some activity can help to make me feel interested and excited.
It also talked about putting pictures of success into our minds, like visualizing. I think there's something to that. But because this was secular, it was talking about even using pictures outside of ourselves of things we'd like to get, like houses and cars, etc.
Those things are only consumer goods and aren't the really important things in life. But I was thinking about how the Church has always used that principle to motivate people to think of God and heaven.
Using religious images in our homes and offices is a way of keeping God in mind. I know that after a while I can get used to them and not really notice them any more. That's why praying with icons or other images is helpful, since it gives us a chance to focus more closely on that image. Thinking about our ultimate goal tends to generate thoughts and actions that lead us to it.
What do you think about this?

Crossroads Initiative

Yesterday I received an email from Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, who runs this website called the Crossroads Initiative. It's worth checking out. Back around 1987, he had recorded an album with a group called Crossroads that Pauline Music recorded and sold. But he later hung up his guitar and switched to philosophy. He writes great articles for Our Sunday Visitor and teaches philosophy.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Thomas Tuesday

Last night I heard on the radio that a man won a hot dog eating contest by downing 49 hot dogs. It brought to mind something St. Thomas wrote about gluttony:

"Gluttony denotes inordinate concupiscence in eating. Two things are to be considerred in eating, namely the food we eat, and the eating thereof.... one fails to observe the due manner of eating by eating greedily."

I don't know what Thomas would have said about such a contest, but to eat that many hot dogs at once is surely harming one's health. Using the info from Nathan's Famous, that would come to 735 grams of fat, 23,030 mg of sodium, and 8330 calories--in one sitting!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Happy 4th of July

I'm not going to blog over the weekend.

I hope you all have a great holiday--enjoy your picnics, barbecues, fireworks or whatever you do to celebrate.

Freedom is a great gift to celebrate!

Feast of the Precious Blood

July 1 is the feast of the Precious Blood. Established by Pope Pius IX, it was taken off the calendar after Vatican II. The new edition of the sacramentary has it again, but the revised missal will not go into effect in the USA until the translation is approved.

This day is special to me because it is the anniversary of my first profession of vows (26 years).

"The blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin" (1 Jn 1:7).

The Pope's prayer intention for July

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for the month of July is: "That Christians be sensitive to the needs of everyone, without ever hiding the radical requirements of the Gospel message."

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