Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tragic news from up north

Someone sent me this; I can't resist posting it....

Friday, December 19, 2008

"They will all come true in due season."

In today's Gospel, the angel Gabriel tells Zechariah the priest about the upcoming miraculous birth of his son-to-be, John the Baptist. Zechariah is skeptical, but Gabriel says that his words "will all come true in due season."

Those words struck me. Often it can seem like God's promises are "pie in the sky." When we're stuck in the ordinariness of life, dealing with problems, God's promises seem so remote. It's easy to slip into bad habits, to forget about praying and to lose sight of the spiritual realities of life. Jesus talks about this in another Gospel passage, when he says that if the servants knew when the master of the house would return, they would stay alert. But if he delays, they start to carouse, get drunk, neglect their work...and then the owner shows up when they least expect it and they're out of their jobs!
Advent is all about waiting. So often, God seems to delay. But his words "will all come true in due season." This is even true in regard to our physical health. We can go for a long time and indulge in over-eating, or load up on greasy fries and trans-fats, while never exercising, etc. And for a while everything seems OK, and we seem healthy. But inside our bodies, the plaque is building up in our arteries and one day a stroke or heart attack will take us by surprise. But is it really so surprising? (With this I'm not trying to blame anyone for their health problems, because many things are due to genetic or other factors beyond our control. I'm just saying that some things we do can be harmful over time.)
Spiritually, it's similar. Little things add up over time. Every time we make a choice to pray, or to participate in the Mass, or go out of our way to help someone, we're building spiritual muscles. As St Paul says, "Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due time we will reap our reward."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"swaddling clothes"

I hope your Advent is going well! Today something struck me that I never thought about before. Sometimes a word that we hear so often strikes us in a new way. Today, that word for me is "swaddling." The phrase "swaddling clothes" used at Christmas is so familiar. But the thought struck me, "What does swaddling really mean?" So I looked it up in the dictionary, and it comes from an Old English word meaning to wrap a baby up in bands. By extension, another meaning is to refer to limitations or restrictions placed on someone, especially an immature person. Only Luke uses the Greek word sparganoo and this means "to wrap in baby clothes."
So Mary wrapped Jesus up in baby clothes. It reminded me of the part in Genesis, shortly after the fall, when God made clothes for Adam and Eve. It's a very tender detail; even after they sinned, God still took care of little things like that for them!
The idea of being wrapped up is a symbol, perhaps, of the limitations that the Word of God took on at the Incarnation. As Paul says so beautifully in Philippians, Jesus humbled himself, emptied himself, gave up everything out of love for us. In Jesus' being bound in swaddling clothes, perhaps we can see a hint of how he would later be bound for our sins.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Immaculate Conception of Mary

Today is a wonderful Marian feast--the Immaculate Conception of Mary. (It's also my birthday--I've always liked having my birthday on this feastday!)
Sometimes this feast is confused with the virgin birth, but they are two different things. The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's own conception as being free of original sin. In other words, Mary had the special privilege of always being free of sin, and she was full of grace. The virgin birth, instead, refers to how Mary conceived and bore Jesus while remaining a virgin.

This is a great feast because it anticipates what we will one day be: free of sin and confirmed in grace--when we reach heaven. So today holds out for us the hope of eternal life. Unlike us, Mary always said yes to God. That didn't mean she had an easy life. She certainly had much suffering, especially when she saw Jesus die such a painful death.
Today's Gospel is Luke's account of the annunciation. It ends with Mary's beautiful words, "Let it be done to me according to your word." The Greek verb used there for "let it be done" (genoito) is a rare form of the verb. It's in the optative mood, which expresses a strong desire to do something. The grammar involved shows that Mary expressed not only a desire, but a joyful desire. Mary did not say "yes" reluctantly, worrying about what it would mean in her life and how she would explain things to Joseph. Instead, she was eager to do what God was asking of her. Mary's "yes" is a willing yes, an eager yes, a yes that overflows with her love. This isn't just a pious thought, but is based on the actual Scriptural text.

May we too, like Mary, be as eager and joyful in our service of God.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

A thought for the day from St. Paul:

"Give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!" (Eph 5:20)

May God bless you and may you have a happy Thanksgiving day!

Friday, November 21, 2008

St. Thomas converts abortionist

Have you seen the story about the Serbian doctor who did thousands of abortions and was converted by St. Thomas Aquinas? It's amazing. I copied it below.
Even though it occurred through dreams, it sounds very Thomistic. I mean that St. Thomas always tried to bring people to knowledge of the truth in a gentle way, appealing to their reason and asking questions. He didn't come at the doctor with fire and brimstone. Instead, at first he didn't say anything at all in the dreams, and then asked the doctor, "Why don't you ask me who these children are?"
Even though this wasn't really a vision, God can certainly work through such things. The fact that the doctor was converted by it was surely a work of God's grace!
Here's the story:

Madrid, Nov 12, 2008 / 09:21 pm (CNA).- The Spanish daily “La Razon” has published an article on the pro-life conversion of a former “champion of abortion.” Stojan Adasevic, who performed 48,000 abortions, sometimes up to 35 per day, is now the most important pro-life leader in Serbia, after 26 years as the most renowned abortion doctor in the country.

“The medical textbooks of the Communist regime said abortion was simply the removal of a blob of tissue,” the newspaper reported. “Ultrasounds allowing the fetus to be seen did not arrive until the 80s, but they did not change his opinion. Nevertheless, he began to have nightmares.”

In describing his conversion, Adasevic “dreamed about a beautiful field full of children and young people who were playing and laughing, from 4 to 24 years of age, but who ran away from him in fear. A man dressed in a black and white habit stared at him in silence. The dream was repeated each night and he would wake up in a cold sweat. One night he asked the man in black and white who he was. ‘My name is Thomas Aquinas,’ the man in his dream responded. Adasevic, educated in communist schools, had never heard of the Dominican genius saint. He didn’t recognize the name”

“Why don’t you ask me who these children are?” St. Thomas asked Adasevic in his dream.

“They are the ones you killed with your abortions,’ St. Thomas told him.

“Adasevic awoke in amazement and decided not to perform any more abortions,” the article stated.

“That same day a cousin came to the hospital with his four months-pregnant girlfriend, who wanted to get her ninth abortion—something quite frequent in the countries of the Soviet bloc. The doctor agreed. Instead of removing the fetus piece by piece, he decided to chop it up and remove it as a mass. However, the baby’s heart came out still beating. Adasevic realized then that he had killed a human being,”

After this experience, Adasevic “told the hospital he would no longer perform abortions. Never before had a doctor in Communist Yugoslavia refused to do so. They cut his salary in half, fired his daughter from her job, and did not allow his son to enter the university.”

After years of pressure and on the verge of giving up, he had another dream about St. Thomas.

“You are my good friend, keep going,’ the man in black and white told him. Adasevic became involved in the pro-life movement and was able to get Yugoslav television to air the film ‘The Silent Scream,’ by Doctor Bernard Nathanson, two times.”

Adasevic has told his story in magazines and newspapers throughout Eastern Europe. He has returned to the Orthodox faith of his childhood and has studied the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"For those who love God..."

St. Paul wrote: "For those who love God, all things work together unto good."
I thought of this today as I was the recipient of a random act of kindness. Last evening I stopped at our local car repair station to get a burned out headlight and brake light replaced. As luck would have it, the usual guy wasn't there and the service area had just closed. The attendant informed me I couldn't have it done just then. So I just drove back home in the dark with only one headlight. Anyway, I stopped back this afternoon and got it done. A lady who was there paid for the three bulbs that had to be replaced. It was a "random act of kindness" and I thanked her and it gave me something extra to be grateful about today. This morning's Gospel was about the ten lepers, and only one returned to thank Jesus, so it all fit in.

If things had gone my way last night, I wouldn't have been there today and it wouldn't have happened. It reminded me that it doesn't pay to get upset when things seem to go wrong, because I don't know the final outcome.

There are much bigger things going on in our country than a burned out headlight. So I started thinking about the election last week. I was very disappointed with the outcome because of Obama's deplorable record and positions on abortion. Before the election, I felt a very strong impulse from the Holy Spirit to intercede about it, much more than I've felt in any previous election. So I kept on praying the rosary, and I know that many other people were doing that too. Yes, I'm disappointed, but I also know that ultimately God rules over all, and divine Providence can bring good out of anything. I don't know how God will do that in regard to pro-life issues, but I know that he can and will, in his own good time.

In one way, the election itself gives hope for that. In what way? A little over 100 years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt invited a black man, Booker T. Washington, to dinner at the White House. Afterward, a storm of criticism, much of it very hateful, was poured on Roosevelt. He defended his actions, but never again invited a black man to dinner at the White House. Now, just a century later, we have a black president.

Truly, that is a sea change. 100 years ago, the thought of a black president was completely unimaginable. In a climate where even having a black person to dinner provoked hatred and disgust in large parts of the country, who would have even dreamed of a black president? Yet it has happened, and it is remarkable.

So this gives me hope for the pro-life movement. Today, with abortion so entrenched in our society, it is hard to imagine that our country could be free of the killing of innocent babies. Perhaps it will take another hundred years, but God hears and answers prayers. The pro-life movement will ultimately be victorious. Don't think it can happen? Get into a time capsule and go back 100 years and try telling the people of 1908 what would happen in 2008!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Priests for Life election info

The Priests for Life website has good info on Catholic principles about voting info here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Please pray for these children

This news item reports about the FBI's rescue of 47 children who had been forced into prostitution. Thank God they are now safe, but the emotional scars they will carry are horrendous.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Obama's abortion extremism

That's the title of this article, which is a great look at Obama's radical views on abortion. Obama has said that if elected, his first act would be to sign the so-called "Freedom of Choice Act," which would remove any restriction at all to abortion. In a stroke it would obliterate all the laws that pro-lifers have managed to get enacted at the state level. This includes parental consent laws, etc.

Some people are saying that voting for Obama is a pro-life vote. Don't believe that lie for a minute!

The "Freedom of Choice Act" so dear to Obama's heart would also strike down conscience-protection laws. Under FOCA, Catholic doctors and hospitals, and other medical personnel who conscientiously object to abortion, would be forced to cooperate in the killing.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The bailout

This quote from a website called "The Daily Reckoning" puts the bailout in perspective:

"To put this amount into perspective: if you had spent $1,000,000 a day, from the birth of Christ until today, you would have only spent about 732 billion dollars."

Wow, I never thought of it like that!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Financial crisis

The news about the nation's current financial crisis has been very critical. I'm not an economist so I don't pretend to understand everything that's going on. But I've been praying for people who are most affected by it, especially those who have lost their homes or their jobs and are facing an uncertain economic future.
St. Joseph, the saint of divine providence and friend of workers, pray for us!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Triumph of the Cross

"How radiant is that precious cross, which brought us our salvation!
In the cross we are victorious,
through the cross we shall reign,
by the cross all evil is destroyed!"

From the liturgy

This feast comes so soon after 9/11. Recalling the horror of that day, this striking image captures the reality that God always brings good out of evil.
I pray for all those who suffered that day and for all those who are still suffering from its effects, especially the loss of loved ones.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Latest banned book: Paul, Least of the Apostles!

Our best-selling life of St. Paul has been banned from at least one Catholic bookstore! Considering that banned books usually sell quite well, I anticipate a brisk rise in sales.

More seriously, though, here's the story:

Last Monday an email was forwarded to me from another department in our publishing house. It was from the bookstore Aquinas and More, and contained some questions about one of our publications: Paul, Least of the Apostles." The bookstore manager thinks that the book is problematic and withdrew it from their shelves.
In case anyone reading this has heard of this controversy, I am posting here my reply which will hopefully clarify things. The 5 points I am responding to are taken directly from the email.

Thank you for your note concerning the book Paul, Least of the Apostles. We are always happy to receive feedback from our readers. I can understand your concern that the books that you promote will be faithful to Church teaching. We also have this at heart and make great efforts to insure that our books present the Catholic faith accurately. That is why we are taking your concerns seriously. I am presenting each of your points in what follows:

1. Are you aware that Mr. Decaux's sources are overwhelmingly Protestant/Calvinist? 11 of the 13 books in his bibliography are such.

I’m assuming that your concern here is that Protestant authors would be misleading. I can understand this, and it is important to read such works with a critical eye. Yet, as I’m sure you will agree, scholars need to be aware of a wide variety of works in writing about their chosen field. To list a book in the bibliography does not necessarily imply agreement with everything in that work. It is simply meant to show that the author has done his homework, so to speak. The list of sources for each chapter gives more details about the wider works cited. Many of these are Catholic authors. Because the book was written in French, of course, quite a few of the works are from French authors.

Actually, three of the thirteen titles listed in the bibliography are by Catholic authors, and one is a collection of the works of Josephus, an ancient source. The Protestant authors of the other works are generally regarded as reliable mainstream authors. James Dunn, for example, has done quite an exhaustive study on St. Paul. The work by E. P. Sanders is regarded as ground-breaking in terms of his study of Paul’s relationship with Judaism. Granted, not everything that writers say may be acceptable to Catholics. But scholars do need to be aware of the wide range of work being done in a field. [A note I'm adding now: Pope Benedict lists the works of several Protestant, Jewish and Orthodox authors in his book on Jesus. This includes the very liberal writers Harnack and Bultmann. Surely this doesn't make the Pope suspect of unorthodoxy, does it?]

2. Are you aware that the author says St. Paul was neurotic?

Can you clarify what you are referencing here with the exact quotation?

3. Are you aware that the author quotes Nietzsche, the great atheist philosopher, in giving opinions about St. Paul?

I am assuming that you are referring to this section: Some have recalled the conversion of Saint Augustine who felt the need of “stopping time” to put order in the “tumult”—he too—of his thoughts and feelings. Nietzsche said: “Whoever would be some day the bearer of an important message remains quiet for a long time; whoever wants to produce lightening must for a long time be a cloud.”

The context refers to Paul’s three years in the desert before he started his mission. The quote from Nietzsche brings out that point in a rather striking manner, it is not meant as an endorsement of Nietzsche’s philosophy in any way. Rather, it seems quite apropos to the context.

In his recent encyclical Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI draws on the work of seven non-Catholic philosophers. In doing this he is not endorsing whatever errors may be in their writings, but he is expressing a typically Catholic readiness to rejoice in truth wherever it is found. The sisters and staff at Pauline Books and Media also wish to follow our Pope in this attitude.

4. Are you aware, in a lengthy section around page 106, that the author denies the Petrine ministry and distorts Paul's letters to "prove it?"

Could you clarify with quotations the exact material that you find problematic here? This section of the book deals with the controversy surrounding the question of Jewish Christians in the early church and the use of Jewish customs. It is a point of history that Paul did in fact oppose Peter on some aspects of this issue, as Paul says in Galatians, so the disagreement between Peter and Paul is a matter of the Scriptural record. It would seem far-reaching to conclude that the author has Paul rejecting the Petrine ministry. Decuaux is dealing with the situation as it was at the time. It took hundreds of years for the question of the Petrine ministry to be worked out in practice. As I’m sure you know, papal infallibility wasn’t defined until 1870.

5. The final chapter of the book uses the apocryphal "Acts of Paul" and includes a lengthy excerpt. The Church has never recognized this work as legitimate.

It is true that the Church has not accepted the Acts of Paul as a canonical work. However, that is not how our book is presenting it. The introduction to this section clearly states that the Acts of Paul is an apocryphal work. The author points this out, along with some reasons for caution concerning it. It is not presented as if it had Scriptural authority. Nevertheless, it is an ancient work that is of interest to those studying the life of Paul. We thought that some readers might like to read an ancient text about Paul’s martyrdom. The introductory information provided about it should alert them to the nature of the work and what to expect from it.

The Church has sometimes used elements from apocryphal works even though they are not canonical. For example, the liturgical feast of St. Joachim and Ann uses the names for Mary’s parents that are found in the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal gospel. But information from it has found its way into the liturgy. So, it seems that the Church might be telling us that we can learn something from apocryphal works, even if it is nothing more than a snapshot of how some early Christians thought about these matters.

Hopefully these responses will help to resolve some of your concerns about this book, Mr. Davis, and serve to indicate our own concern for a correct presentation of Catholic teaching while leaving room for an author’s opinion on non-dogmatic matters. To this purpose, in our publishing apostolate we do our best to take to heart the words of St. Paul to the Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (4:8)

If I can be of any further assistance in this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Praying for God’s blessing upon you and your family, I remain,


Sr. Marianne Lorraine, FSP

Order your banned book here


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Seek God, not the works of God"

The quote is from the late, saintly Cardinal van Thuan. He suffered for 13 years in Communist prisons in North Vietnam, including many years in solitary confinement. Once he was regretting how he was unable to carry out his ministry for his people. Suddenly in his heart he heard the words, "Seek God, not the works of God." He realized he was feeling bad because he couldn't do works for God. But God was telling him that he didn't need those works; he needed to seek God.

I like to think about it on those days when it seems like frustrations bedevil everything I do! God doesn't need me to do great works. He needs me to love him and his people.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Thoughts on Paul

For the year of St. Paul, I'll be posting some thoughts on St. Paul by our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. They were collected by Sr Susan Helen Wallace, FSP

Saul Becomes Paul

“St. Paul – at first Saul, the enemy of Jesus – becomes his close friend, to the point of living of him: ‘Christ … lives in me’ (Gal 2:20).”

“All of St. Paul’s power is in Jesus Christ.

As in his life, so it was in prayer.

He affirms, ‘… It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me’ (Gal 2:20) and ‘For to me, living is Christ….’ (Phil 1:21). He only knows Jesus, and of Jesus his preaching is full.”

Palin and apostasy

This is not a political blog and I usually don't write about politics. But yesterday I saw this post at America magazine saying that Palin is guilty of apostasy! The reason? Apparently she was baptized in the Catholic Church. When she was 12 her parents left the Church and brought her with them.

If you think it odd that America would be discussing apostasy, consider the conclusion drawn:
"For the rest of us, it is beyond hypocritical for certain conservative Catholics to denounce Joe Biden because he is Catholic and does not support making abortion illegal while applauding a self-described 'hockey Mom' who is skating close to apostasy. The Church's sacramental traditions and beliefs are as worthy of respect and defense as our moral traditions and beliefs.”

OK, now I get it. We have to be concerned about Palin's supposed "apostasy" because this supposedly levels the playing field in regard to what other Catholic politicians do about abortion. In other words, there's no moral difference between a 12-year old following what her parents tell her about religion, and an adult senator supporting abortion rights, thus cooperating in that evil.

To be sure, I hope and pray that one day Governor Palin will return to the fullness of the faith. But her unfortunate departure from the Catholic faith is totally irrelevant to the question of voting.

Yes, the Church's "sacramental traditions and beliefs are as worthy of respect and defense as our moral traditions and beliefs.” But there's a difference between them when it comes to public policy.
The state has an obligation to protect and defend human life, including the life of the innocent unborn. When it fails, politicians need to act to insure life is protected. That is why the question of a politician's stand on abortion is so important to consider when voting.
But whether or not a politician believes in the Real Presence, or the infallibility of the Pope, or any other article of the Creed, is not relevant to public policy. I don't foresee Congress voting to define any dogmas, do you? Are we supposed to give politicians a test on the Catholic Catechism before we cast our vote? If that were the case, there would be no one at all to vote for!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Busy summer

I haven't posted in about a month. I've been on retreat and had to go to some meetings, plus had a week of vacation. I also went to the Courage Conference where we had a book exhibit and recorded the talks (available on CD through our website

The Courage Conference was really great. I'm always really impressed and amazed by all these people who are trying to live a chaste life and accept the Church's teachings on sexual morality. I have to give them a lot of credit. They're an inspiration to all of us. In today's world it's not so easy to find people like this, but they are there, quietly leading their hidden lives. May God bless them in their struggles. Today they are really counter-cultural since our society is so inundated by sexual license and promiscuity. But despite it all, many people are making living heroic lives of virtue.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reparation for desecration of Eucharist

Recently a professor at the University of Minnesota desecrated the Holy Eucharist in a very sacrilegious way. He obtained a consecrated host and then pierced it with a rusty nail and threw it in the trash. It was all done with the intention of desecration, in order to show his disdain for Catholic belief. Full details are here.

Some priests are urging Catholics to make a holy hour in reparation for this offense, preferably on August 1, but if not then, whatever time one can.

While Jesus cannot suffer physical pain anymore, even if the Holy Eucharist is desecrated in such a manner, it is an insult to his dignity and something that should cause all Catholics to feel sorrow over. In the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus wants only to show us his love. How sad it is that some people are unable to receive that love. Please pray for them that their eyes may be opened to the depth and the wonders of the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for all of us poor sinful humans.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Just finished retreat

I just returned from retreat and I prayed for the people who visit my blog. I haven't posted a lot lately since things have been kind of hectic lately.

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Ignatius. Imagine what it would be like to have him as a retreat director! His "Spiritual Exercises" still remain a wonderful way to deepen one's relationship with Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Pictures at St. Paul Basilica in Rome

Our sisters in Italy have posted photos here of the opening of the year of St. Paul at his basilica in Rome. They were present when Pope Benedict went there for the solemn opening.

Year of St. Paul

Here is a great resource for the year of St. Paul: The Society of St Paul has put up a You Tube site that will offer various things throughout the year. Fr Jeffrey of the SSP explains it:

"In light of Pope Benedict's declaration that June 28th 2008 until June 29th 2009 will be a year dedicated to reflecting of the life and influence of St. Paul, the Society of St.Paul has launched a new family friendly ecumenical video sharing site, . It will be a family friendly site devoid of vulgarity, violence, and bigotry. Registration is free and easy. People can share video and audio clips, upload photos, start their own blogs and build a social network of friends from around the world. The feeling for the site will be laid back and homey. Please take a moment to visit the site and send the priests and brothers your feedback."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Christians in Iraq facing persecution

The Christians in Iraq, many of whom are Catholics (of the Chaldean rite) are facing persecution from Islamist extremists. This article gives details about their fate.
Christians have been in Iraq for 2000 years but are now facing extinction. Many are fleeing the country. Please keep them in your prayers.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Our Lady of Sheshan

Pope Benedict recently made public a prayer he composed for Catholics in China. There is a shrine to Our Lady of Sheshan. This prayer is interesting because the Pope refers to Mary's cooperation in the work of redemption:

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians," the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection. We come before you today to implore your protection. Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth, you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption. You willingly and generously co-operated in that work, allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul, until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary, standing beside your Son, Who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way, the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross. Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter. Grant that your children may discern at all times, even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China, who, amid their daily trails, continue to believe, to hope, to love. May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world, and of the world to Jesus. In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high, offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love. Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love, ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built. Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Our Lady of Laus

I just saw a news item that the Church has given official approval to an apparition site in southern France, in the Alps. The shrine is at Laus, and the apparitions occurred in the late 1600's. (Which goes to show you that the Church often moves very slowly when it comes to these things!)

The basic message is a familiar one, though, and it's the message of the Gospel: conversion, prayer, penance. I had never heard of this apparition before. The Blessed Mother appeared to a young shepherd girl, Benoite Rencurel. This link has an English version of the story.

Benoite had the gift of being able to read people's hearts, so that she could call them to conversion. Apparently she didn't relish this and sometimes delayed in exhorting them, and Mary would then urge her to do it. I can't blame Benoite for finding this difficult!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Papal visit

This is a link to a website that has complete coverage of the papal visit.

Pope Benedict XVI at White House

Here is an excerpt from the Pope's address at the White House:

"The Church, for her part, wishes to contribute to building a world ever more worthy of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God. She is convinced that faith sheds new light on all things, and that the Gospel reveals the noble vocation and sublime destiny of every man and woman. Faith also gives us the strength to respond to our high calling, and the hope that inspires us to work for an ever more just and fraternal society. Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation."

My comment: Note how the Pope stresses that democracy requires that leaders be guided by truth. This is an important theme for Benedict, who has often spoken against the relativism that afflicts modern societies.

How to profit from the Pope's visit

The best way to profit from the Pope's visit is to listen to or read what he actually says. Pope Benedict is a profound thinker, and his words need to be pondered carefully. Don't depend on sound bites from the media to interpret it for you. He's here as a pastor speaking to his flock.

Pope Benedict XVI Interview yesterday

Yesterday John Allen and other reporters asked the pope some questions. Here is the pope's response to Allen's question about the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. He mentioned three things: 1) absolutely excluding pedophiles from the priesthood 2) the urgent pastoral work of healing for the victims and indeed all Catholics 3) cleaning up the seminaries The Pope:

Benedict XVI:
It is a great suffering for the church in the United States, for the church in general, and for me personally that this could happen. If I read the histories of these victims, it’s difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way their mission to give healing and to give the love of God to these children. We are deeply ashamed, and we will do all that is possible that this cannot happen in the future.
I think we have to act on three levels.
The first is the level of justice, the juridical level. We now have also norms to react in a just way. I would not speak in this moment about homosexuality, but pedophilia, [which] is another thing. We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry, this is absolutely incompatible. And who is really guilty of being a pedophile cannot be a priest. So the first level is, as we can do justice and help clearly the victims, because they are deeply touched. So [there are] two sides of justice, on the one hand that pedophiles cannot be priests; on the other hand, to help in all the possible ways to the victims.
The second level is the pastoral level, the level of healing and help of assistance and of reconciliation. This is a big pastoral engagement, and I know that the bishops and the priests and all the Catholic people in the United States will do all possible to help assist and to heal, and to help that in the future these things cannot happen.
The third point [is that] we have made a visitation in the seminaries to also do what is possible in the education of seminarians for a deep, spiritual, human and intellectual formation –with discernment so that only sound persons can be admitted to the priesthood, only persons with a deep personal love for Christ and a deep sacramental love, to exclude that this can happen [again]. I know that the bishops and the rectors of seminarians will do all that is possible so that we have a strong discernment, because it’s more important to have good priests than to have many priests. This is also our third level, and we hope that we can do, and we have done, and we will do in the future, all that is possible to heal this wound.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Welcome, Pope Benedict!

It's great to have the pope in the USA--welcome, Holy Father!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Offering it up

I've been rereading Pope Benedict's encyclical on hope. He mentions a practice that used to be quite common among Catholics, but seems to have fallen by the wayside. It is the practice of "offering it up."

While major sufferings can and do come into our lives--tragedies and severe things that are hard to bear--most of our everyday sufferings are small things that can cause annoyance and discomfort. These things can be turned into opportunities to join our sufferings to those of Jesus for the salvation of the world.

The Pope's words made me reflect on this more. Sometimes I forget and waste these chances to offer everything to the Lord. But in some mysterious way that we can't fully understand, I can offer to God through Jesus my aches and pains, a cutting remark from someone, some extra work I didn't want to do, bad weath, or whatever it might be, and God can use that to bring grace to someone anywhere in the world.

Benedict says: "What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ's great 'com-passion' so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Anniversary of John Paul's death

Today is the third anniversary of Pope John Paul's death. Recently I read an account of what happened the day when he was shot. It was truly a miracle that he survived, because clinically he was in such grave condition that he very nearly died. Thank God that he survived for another 24 years. During that time he gave the Church a marvelous wealth of teaching, especially with his theology of the body. It will take a long time to unpack it all. The Church will be blessed for many years to come with his lucid explanations of man and woman and the meaning of the gift of self.

Nun pleads guilty to theft

I haven't been blogging about scandals in the Church, since there has been so much commentary, what more could I add? But I found myself thinking a lot since yesterday about this story concerning a nun, Barbara Markey, who embezzled over 300,000 from the diocese of Omaha. She pleaded guilty, will be sentenced in July, and could get up to 20 years in prison.

First, I have to think, "There but for the grace of God go I," so I'm not writing this in any kind of self-righteous way. But I have to wonder how it happened that someone who at an earlier point in her life wanted to give up all worldly goods and follow the poor Christ, and made a vow of poverty, could have gotten to this point.

Whatever happened--and I presume she has a gambling addiction because most of the money was spent in casinos--it must have happened little by little. Someone doesn't start out stealing 300,000. It must have happened with little concessions here and there, perhaps thinking "No one will notice this little bit of money is gone" etc., etc., But once a person is on that slippery slope, she can plunge downhill pretty fast.

The three vows--poverty, chastity, and obedience--are the opposite of three of the capital sins: avarice, lust and pride. Money and sex seem to be the two biggest trouble spots in human life.

Thankfully, stories like this about nuns are rare; the vast majority of sisters are quietly living out heroic lives of dedication. But it's easy to go astray, and religious life is no exception. Perhaps the take-home lesson here is that we religious have to make choices that are consistent with the vows we have made. Over time, routine and the tediousness of everyday life can cause us to forget our reasons for wanting to follow Jesus and how we fell in love with him. It can happen in marriage too, which is why divorces are unfortunately common. But it all starts with little things. Prayer is the indispensable means to keep on going day in and day out, like St Paul says, "Do not grow weary of doing good."

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Annunciation

This year the Annunciation was moved from its usual date (March 25) because that fell during the octave of Easter, and Easter supersedes all other feasts.
It was fortuitous, though, because the Annunciation was celebrated the day after Divine Mercy Sunday. The special grace of the Divine Mercy feast is not only the forgiveness of sins, but the grace of conversion in particular--to turn from sin and live a new life. It's an Easter grace, because through his death and resurrection Jesus merited for us the grace to die to sin and rise to new life with him.

Mary has a special place in all this. There's a great book called Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant by Fr. Ignace de la Potterie. He explains that when Mary said "yes" to God at the Annunciation, she was saying it in a wholehearted, enthusiastic way. That's not just a pious thought, but backed up by some good Scriptural scholarship. Potterie tells us that the Greek form of the verb used when Mary says, "Let it be done to me.." is an optative. It's a form used only rarely in the New Testament, and it is used to express a joyous desire to do something. The "yes" of Mary was a joyous "yes," one that she said with an eagerness to do what God was asking of her.

Mary, obtain for us, too, your eagerness and joy in doing God's will!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Sacred Triduum

This evening the Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord's Supper.
We ponder in awe and love the incredible gift of the Eucharist that Jesus gave us at the Last Supper--his own Body and Blood.
Tonight we receive it with some sorrow and unease, knowing what Good Friday will bring. That is why the Church also has another feast of the Eucharist, Corpus Christi, celebrated after the Easter season, when a more joyful atmostphere is possible.

Today is a good day to re-read all or part of Pope John Paul's encyclical on the Eucharist. He wrote: "The saving efficacy of the [Eucharistic] sacrifice is fully realized when the Lord's body and blood are received in Communion. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is intrinsically directed to the inward union of the faithful with Christ through communion; we receive the very One who offered himself for us, we receive his body which he gave up for us on the cross, and his blood which he 'poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'"

Friday, March 14, 2008

Persecution of Christians in Iraq

The murder of the Catholic bishop in Iraq is a grim reminder of the persecution being carried on against Christians by militant Muslim groups. This article has details. Among other facts, it notes:

"Sunni militants from a mosque in Baghdad’s religiously integrated Dora neighborhood issued a fatwa specifically commanding the 2,000 Christian families residing there to convert or be killed."

The Christian community in Iraq is being forced to flee into exile. May the sacrifice of Bishop Paulos Rahho, who is surely a martyr, be the seed that grows into a flowering of Christianity.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pakistan bombing

We heard some news from our sisters in Pakistan. Thanks be to God, none of the sisters were injured, nor were any of the people who were in the bookcenter at the time. But there was extensive damage to the building. One wall was blown out and part of the roof came down.

The sisters are going to repair the damage and keep on doing their mission.

Another martyr

The Catholic archbishop in Iraq who was kidnapped has been found dead.
He is another martyr, bearing witness to Christ in the face of violence against Christians and Catholics.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bombing in Pakistan near our bookcenter

We just got word that a suicide bombing in Pakistan hit several Catholic buildings, including our bookcenter (the St. Paul Communication Center). As of now we do not have word on the extent of the damage. Thank you for your prayers for everyone involved, especially our sisters. Here is the release from NC News Service:

By Catholic News Service

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNS) -- A massive suicide bomb targeting a government building killed 23 people and badly damaged Catholic buildings in Lahore.

The bomb exploded at 9:30 a.m. March 11 outside the Federal Investigation Agency office, causing serious damage to nearby Sacred Heart Cathedral, Sacred Heart Cathedral High School, St. Anthony's College, St. Paul Communication Center, the Caritas Pakistan building, a Catholic press building, a convent and catechists' house, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

How's your Lent going?

This morning I happened to pick up a personal notebook that I had kept about 14 years ago. In it I had written some resolutions and ways I could grow spiritually, along with behaviors I wanted to avoid.

Not much has changed in 14 years! I had to laugh at myself because I realized that despite all my plans and good intentions, I still have to work on a lot of the same areas that I was working on back then. I'm pretty much the same person.

I suppose I could get discouraged at that. But in reality it's probably the same for most people. We do grow, change and mature, and I believe I have in many ways. But we also have our same personality, genetic makeup and personal background that greatly influence us throughout our lives. I'll probably have the same faults until the day I die. If I live that long, I'll probably be writing the same resolutions for Lent when I'm in my 80's or beyond.

And that's OK. God doesn't expect us to be perfect in the sense of not having any faults. He just expects us to keep on trying, to never give up the fight and to keep on plodding along in our spiritual life. The line in the Gospel that says we "must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect" is not meant in the sense of flawlessness. The Greek word used there for "perfect" (teleios) really means tending to grow to maturity. God wants us not to BE perfect as if it's some static state, to be arrived at once and for all, but to strive for growth. That can happen for our whole lives. The best way to strive for it is to be loving.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley

Yesterday I was saddened to hear about the death of Bill Buckley. Whether or not you agreed with his positions, he was a most articulate man with a razor-sharp intellect.

I first heard of Bill Buckley as a youngster by watching Firing Line with my father and older brother. My father would encourage me to study hard so that I could acquire a vocabulary like Mr. Buckley’s. We also subscribed to National Review, and reading that through high school gave me an anchor of sanity in turbulent times (ie., the late 60s and early 70s). His work in journalism was extremely important and shows the incredible influence that one person can have.

The following words of Bl. James Alberione, a priest who dedicated his life to using the media to evangelize, could well be applied to Mr. Buckley:

“Keep before you, also, the example of St. Paul working so hard and suffering so much in the exercise of his mission. In the face of everything, he remained tireless, up to the time when he declared: ‘I have finished my course.’ You, too, if you have exercised your mission with faith and zeal, will be able to say at the end of your life: ‘I have accomplished the noble work assigned to me, and now I await the reward.’”

Monday, February 25, 2008

Jesus the Prophet

In today's Gospel Jesus says that no prophet is accepted in his native place. Then he refers to the story of Naaman the leper, the Syrian who was cured of leprosy by the prophet Elisha. Jesus said there were many lepers in Israel, but they weren't cured, only the foreigner.

Jesus' audience got so enraged at him that they wanted to kill him. But it wasn't his hour so he walked away.

Sometimes people might think that to be Christians we have to be "nice." But Jesus had no qualms about telling people what they didn't want to hear. He didn't mind offending his audience when he had to tell them the truth. In today's politically correct climate that's something to think about.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Prayer request

I received a prayer request for a young 24 year old woman named Melissa Hackeny who has a form of leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. See this blog for full details.

May God give Melissa back her health.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Here is a good thought for today from St John of the Cross:

"In the evening of life we will be judged on love."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Our Lady of Lourds

Here is a prayer from Pope John Paul at Lourdes:

Hail Mary,
poor and humble Woman,
Blessed by the Most High!
Virgin of hope,
dawn of a new era,
we join in your song of praise,
to celebrate the Lord’s mercy,
to proclaim the coming of
the Kingdom
and the full liberation
of humanity.

Hail Mary,
lowly handmaid of the Lord,
Glorious Mother of Christ!
Faithful Virgin,
holy dwelling-place of the Word,
Teach us to persevere
in listening
to the Word,
and to be docile
to the voice of the Spirit,
attentive to his promptings in the
depths of our conscience
and to his manifestations in the
events of history.

Hail Mary, Woman of Sorrows,
Mother of the living!
Virgin spouse beneath the Cross,
the new Eve,
Be our guide along the paths of
the world.
Teach us to experience and to
spread the love of Christ,
to stand with you before
the innumerable crosses
on which your Son
is still crucified.

Hail Mary, Woman of faith,
First of the disciples!
Virgin Mother of the Church,
help us always
to account for the hope
that is in us,
with trust in human goodness
and the Father’s love.
Teach us to build up the world
beginning from within:
In the depths of silence
and prayer,
in the joy of fraternal love,
in the unique fruitfulness
of the Cross.

Holy Mary, Mother of believers,
Our Lady of Lourdes,
pray for us.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Fr Dan Kennedy, RIP

Tragically, a Boston priest who was ordained last May died suddenly of a heart attack. He was only 34 years old. I didn't know him personally, but I knew him because I sometimes went to Mass at a parish where he helped while a deacon. He was very enthusiastic about being a priest and loved his vocation. He will be greatly missed here!

Here he is on his ordination day with Cardinal O'Malley.

Monday, January 28, 2008

St. Thomas Aquinas

Happy feast day of St. Thomas! I've always loved St. Thomas, not just because he was brilliant but because he was a saint. The Church canonized him because of his holiness.

Yet certainly his great intellectual ability was a wonderful way that Thomas used to get to know and understand God more. Thomas spent his whole life passing that wisdom on to others.

The web has many resources on St. Thomas. Here is one page, that has links to other useful sites (although some of the links don't work).

Friday, January 25, 2008

Conversion of St. Paul

Today is the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. He's the only saint who has a special feast dedicated to his conversion.He was the great persecutor of Christians who became the great apostle and evangelizer.

Paul gives us hope. No matter how messed up our lives may be, God's grace always pursues us and even at times knocks us off our feet so that we may see the light.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

March for Life

Today is the 35th anniversary of the awful Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Tens of thousands of people will march on Washington. They are telling our lawmakers that the state must protect human life at all stages.

In the years since Roe v. Wade, pro-lifers have made great efforts to limit abortions and the harm they do. Those efforts have borne fruit. For example, the number of abortions has decreased by 25% since 1990, according to statistics from the pro-abortion Guttmacher institute. (See here for info.)

35 years ago, who would have thought that abortion would be the issue that would never go away? Perhaps people took it for granted that after the Supreme Court decision, there was no hope to get it changed. But the law of unintended consequences has been at work. Many women who have had abortions have become pro-life after dealing with the deep grief and loss that their abortions brought to them.

It may take years and years, but life always wins out. The gospel of life is our only hope for overcoming the culture of death.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What do I desire?

This morning a line from a psalm really struck me. It asked, "who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?" Part of the answer said it is the one "who desires not worthless things."

That phrase really made me pause. Do I desire worthless things? Are the things that I desire really worthwhile? What are the deepest desires of my heart?

St Ignatius used that last question in helping people to see how God was speaking to them and working in their hearts. I can tell what I really and truly desire by looking at the choices I make each day.

Lord, help me to have holy desires and not to waste my desires on worthless things!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

God's incredible love for us

The readings at Mass this week help us meditate on Epiphany and prepare for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Today's first reading states:

"In this is love, not that we have loved God,
but that he loved us,
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10)

God's love for us is incredible and can be hard to fathom. God doesn't love us because we're good, but we're good because God loves us.

God loves us first, and we don't have the power to make him stop loving us, no matter what we do.

Of course, that doesn't mean that we can sin with abandon, or that sin doesn't matter. It certainly matters. It matters because even though sin can't make God stop loving us, it can make us stop loving God. And that is deadly. That is what can destroy our spiritual life and lead to unhappiness and tragic ends. God loves us so that we might love him in return. The more we do, the happier we are. Sin brings sadness because we know that we have rejected God's love, told him we don't want him in our lives. But as John says in another place in his letter, even if we sin, we have an advocate who intercedes for us with the Father: Jesus the Christ.

Friday, January 04, 2008

What are your favorite Catholic hymns?

Last summer our sisters' choir recorded an album of favorite Catholic hymns with these titles:

1. O God of Loveliness

2. Magnificat

3. Come, Holy Ghost

4. Ave Maria

5. Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
6. Pan de Vida

7. Holy, Holy, Holy

8. Amazing Grace

9. Ave Maria (There is a Heart)

10. Gift of Finest Wheat

11. O Sanctissima

12. The King of Love My Shepherd Is

13. Table of Plenty

14. I Am the Bread of Life

It will be released soon. Now the sisters are planning a second album of favorite hymns, and are taking suggestions for hymns to be included. What hymns would you like?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's goals

Many people make resolutions for the new year, and I think it's a good practice. I recently read that about 85% of those who make resolutions don't keep them. But that means that 15% do, and their lives are changed as a result.

Personally, I like to think in terms of goals, not resolutions. The reason is that at least in my mind, the word "resolution" seems to suggest something already accomplished. A goal, instead, is something that a person can work toward. Resolutions might at times make a person feel guilty for breaking them. But with a goal, I have a vision to work for. If at times I slip back and stop working toward my goal, I can always get going again.

This year I have one simple goal for my spiritual life: to give more time to prayer and make it my highest priority. There are certain times of prayer that I am obligated to do as a religious sister. For example, in my congregation each sister makes an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament every day, along with Mass, meditation and some community prayers. When this is part of your life every day, it is easy at times for it to become routine. So my goal is to revitalize these times of prayer by making them a real time of visiting with the Lord.

Whatever your goals, one good strategy to help reach them is to write down the goal in a place where you can see it every day, to keep it before your mind. It also helps to imagine yourself already doing it.

What kind of goals do you have for this new year?

Online school of evangelization

I just found out that the Daughters of St. Paul in South Africa have an online school of evangelization. It is for those who are serious about studying the topic of evangelization in today's world. The course lasts two years and requires about 3 to 4 hours of study per week.

From what I could tell, it looks like there is no fee.

Here is the link.

Happy New Year!

I pray for everyone who visits this blog, that God will give them abundant graces and blessings in this new year!

May Mary our Mother intercede with her Son for us.