Monday, September 28, 2009

TOB and how to see people

Our sisters in Chicago have been sponsoring a class on TOB via webcast with Fr Thomas Loya. I've been thinking about one class in particular that he did, in which he spoke about how to look at people. The context had to do with modesty. The problem in our society is that the very idea of modesty has become so foreign that we are often surrounded by images of scantily clad people. Advertising does this a lot in an effort to sell more products. Sometimes these things can be temptations to lust.
Father said that we can't go around with a bag over our heads, so how can we deal with this reality? I'm summing up what he said, which was very rich. The key is not to focus so much on the body images, but to see the person who is there.
So much of pornography is anonymous--the emphasis is just on a body. The person is hidden underneath all the flesh.
But according to TOB, the body reveals the person. The key is to see others as persons. The next time you see one of those less than modest images on a billboard or a TV commercial, in your mind turn the image into a person and usually lust goes away. What if you knew the person depicted? What if she were your sister? Or if he were your brother?
Father said that the way we see comes out of who we are--like Jesus told us in the Gospel, it's what comes out of our minds and hearts that makes us dirty, if those thoughts are not clean.
Fr. Loya was not saying that we should go and deliberately seek out such images, especially if they might be a source of temptation. But in our world we can't avoid them completely. He said if all we're doing is running away, that's not chastity. Chastity makes us free because it gives us real purity of heart.

The angels

Tomorrow Sept. 29 is the feast of the angels--Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.
Gabriel is the angel who named Jesus. He told Mary at the annunciation that she should name her son "Jesus." And Luke notes that when Jesus was circumcised, he received "the name the angel gave him before he was born." So Gabriel would be a good angel to pray to if you're looking for some inspiration on naming a baby.

I'm still collecting stories about angels for the book I'm working on, so if you have any true stories of angelic intervention or answers to prayer, please let me know!
Thanks and God bless you!

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Render to Caesar..."

I just came across St Augustine's interpretation of the famous saying of Jesus, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God, the things that are God's."
Usually this is interpreted in terms of the church and state relationship.
But in his commentary on Psalm 4, St Augustine has a completely different take on it.
He observes that the Roman coin had Caesar's image on it. But we are made in God's image and likeness, and sin defaces that image. Augustine says, "God, like Caesar, demands from you the impression of his own image. Just as you repay his coinage to Caesar, so return your soul to God, shining and stamped with the light of his countenance."
What a beautiful way to think about it. Although sin has made its mark on all of us, through conversion and Christian living God reforms his image in us. That is the work of a lifetime, so that at the end of our days, we can return our soul to God, beautifully made into his shining image.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Choose Life license plate in Massachusetts

People who live in Massachusetts can now register for a "Choose Life" license plate. The details are here. This is one small way to help the prolife cause for those who are able to do it. The proceeds for purchasing a special plate go to charities that help women and children.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Response to an inquiry

The following is a comment that was left in one of the posts:
"Hello, I just came across your blog. I am a spiritual seeker, trying to find my path (I want to know God but have no idea where to start or how to believe, I know it sounds crazy!). So although I'm not a Catholic, I can't help but appreciate the beauty of your faith:-). I have actually considered going to a Catholic church in my area. I would like to take Catechist classes as well. I, too believe we have a culture of death more than a culture of life in America. Take the rate of crime here, and the fact that there are some 32 (average) gun-related deaths here EVERYDAY when England only has about 23 per YEAR! I am draw to the beauty of the Catholic faith, and the peace Christ invokes. I truly believe Love, Compassion, and Peace are much needed in this world. God bless you, the nuns-all the work you do for good! I also in particular love the Fransican covents-as I am an avid animal lover."

Thank you for your beautiful and sincere comment. I certainly will pray for you as you pursue your spiritual journey. Just doing that is a big step in the right direction. The first letter of John says: "We know that we are God's children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ." (1 Jn 5:19-20)
I hope that you do visit a Catholic church in your area. Parishes are different, and some have more active outreach programs than others. Most do have programs of welcome and opportunities for those who are interested to find out more about the Catholic faith.
In the meantime I would encourage you to read the Bible, the Word of God. The Gospels are a good place to start.
If you have any questions please feel free to leave them and I will do my best to answer them as I am able to.
God bless you!

Friday, September 18, 2009

40 days of prayer for life

In a comment, Fr Ben reminded me that the Forty Days of prayer and fasting for life will begin on Sept. 23rd, the Feast of St. Pio of Pietelcina.

The following is taken from the website:

"40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life campaign with a vision to access God’s power through prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil to end abortion in America.

The mission of the campaign is to bring together the body of Christ in a spirit of unity during a focused 40 day campaign of prayer, fasting, and peaceful activism, with the purpose of repentance, to seek God’s favor to turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, thus bringing an end to abortion in America."

As Jesus once said about a certain demon, "This kind can only be driven out by prayer and fasting."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The story of Raoul Wallenberg

Recently I read a book about Raoul Wallenberg. He had an amazing story. He was a Swedish diplomat who saved around 30,000 Hungarian Jews during World War II. Hungary was ruled by a Hungarian who was a puppet of Hitler. But somehow Hungary had avoided Nazi pressure to persecute the Jews--until the spring of 1944. Then, Adolf Eichmann arrived on the scene. He was the "mastermind" behind the killing of the Jews, and probably no one did more than he did to carry out the executions. Within 6 weeks, from mid-May to the end of June 1944, Eichmann had sent almost 450,000 Hungarian Jews to their deaths.
Wallenberg, however, went to Hungary and managed to get many people out on Swedish passports. He gave them out freely, and didn't object when he found out that other people were forging even more Swedish passports. He was very heroic and worked tirelessly that year to save as many people as he could.
What happened to him? When the Soviets rolled into Hungary, they took Wallenberg as a prisoner and he disappeared into the Soviet Gulag. No one knows exactly what his fate was. He was never freed and probably died, deserted and alone, in a Soviet prison or Siberian labor camp. But now he must be in heaven enjoying the vision of God and a great reward for all his work.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11

This image of the cross on 9/11 always impressed me as a visual statement of the paschal mystery: death leads to resurrection.
Here is Pope John Paul II's prayer after 9/11:

One month since the inhumane terrorist attacks that occurred in different parts of the United States of America, we again recommend to the eternal mercy of the God of our Fathers the numerous innocent victims. We ask for consolation and comfort for their family and relatives, burdened by pain; we invoke strength and courage for the many who continue their work in the places struck by this terrible disaster; we implore for tenacity and perseverence by all men of goodwill continuing on the paths of justice and peace. May the Lord remove from the heart of man every trace of resentment, of hostility and of hate, and open him to reconciliation, to solidarity, and to peace. Let us pray, so that the "culture of love" may be established all over the world . . . O God, Almighty and Merciful Father, he who sows discord cannot understand You; he who loves violence cannot welcome You: watch over us in our painful human condition tried by the brutal acts of terrorism and death. Comfort your children and open our hearts to hope, that our time may again know days of serenity and peace, through Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"Put love and you will find love"

I believe this thought is from St John of the Cross: "Where there is no love, put love and you will find love."
The other day I had a good conversation with someone who told me about a painful situation in her family. This person had an abusive mother, and wanted to somehow come to terms with her mother before she died. The daughter went through a journey of forgiveness and was able to confront her mother in love with the pain. She said to me that in order to do something like that, it has to be said out of love, otherwise it doesn't have any effect. It's better to say nothing if we can't say it out of love. I really had to admire her for going through such difficulties and coming out a loving person. Prayer and her deep relationship with Jesus made all the difference.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Happy birthday, Mary!

The Church's liturgical calendar only has three birthday celebrations: for John the Baptist, Mary, and of course Jesus. This departure from the Church's usual custom of celebrating a saint's birth into eternal life can tell us something about Mary. Her whole life was significant in God's plan of salvation. So we can rejoice in the birth of this baby girl who was to play such an important role for us.

The book At Worship with Mary by Christopher O'Donnell, O. Carm., has some other information about this feast. It was probably first celebrated in Jerusalem around the 5th century. Why in September? Of course we don't know the actual date of Mary's birthday. But in Constantinople, as in all the East, the year began on September 1. The 8th was chosen (I'm not sure why that particular day). The date of this feast determined the date of the feast of Mary's Immaculate Conception--December 8, going 9 months backward.

With Mary's feast came the dawn of our salvation.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Final thoughts on the Kennedy funeral

Ted Kennedy had a magnificent funeral, while aborted babies are thrown into dumpsters.

And no one weeps.

Request for angel stories

I'm working on a small book about angels. It will be about how angels help us, what we know about them, and will also contain some stories and prayers.
I could use some help! If you or someone you know have a true story about help you received the intercession of the angels, I would love to hear about it.
Depending on how many stories I received, I will pick the best, most interesting ones to use in the book. You could submit them either by leaving them in the comments, or by emailing them to: (that last part is the number 1 followed by 26)

If you leave a comment, though, please leave your email address so I can contact you. I have to obtain release forms giving us permission to use the story.

Thank you very much! God bless you!

I'm entrusting this project to the intercession of the angels. Today is the first Thursday of the month, and it is a custom in our congregation to dedicate the first Thursday to the angels. This was something handed on to us by our founder, Blessed James Alberione.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

"Plain, Honest Men"

I just finished reading this book which is about the constitutional convention held in 1787. It's quite good and is a thorough account of what happened that fateful summer in Philadelphia when "plain, honest men" hammered out the US Constitution.
While the Founders debated everything, one point in particular that they had a lot of debate about was the role of the president. Having just fought a revolution to throw off the yoke of a king, they were very leery about investing too much authority in one man. They spent days debating it until they finally came to an agreement.
They definitely did not want the president to be anything like a monarch. They felt his authority should be carefully circumscribed.
The story of how they came up with the electoral college is fascinating in itself.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Obama to speak to all students--what's up with this?

I just saw a news item that Obama is planning to speak to all public school students on September 8.

The Dept. of Education has issued a prep sheet for teachers. Among the items are included:

"students can prepare by reading books about presidents and Barack Obama"
My comment: What if George Bush had issued this order that students read books about him?

"Why is it important that we listen to the president and other elected officials?"
My comment: Notice how the wording of the question assumes that it is important to listen to the president. Isn't it the other way around? Aren't our elected officials supposed to be listening to us? The American government is built on the idea of government "of the people, by the people, for the people." Obama is accountable to the American people. He is not supposed to be brainwashing our children to look on him as their "dear leader." We are a free people, and that means we can choose not to listen to the president if we don't want to.

"What is he asking me to do?"
My comment: Why does he think he has the right to demand our children to do anything for him?

This is just another red flag indicating that Obama is trying to accrue more and more power to himself and the federal government. This is not a good direction to be going in. The United States was built on the idea that the people have the right to be free of oppressive government and autocratic civil leaders. We don't need the president to foster a personality cult around himself, especially with children.

A few weeks ago the White House asked people to report emails and other communication from people who were spreading what they called "disinformation" and "fishy" things about the health care plans before Congress. Now they've pulled that down and started a website instead. Can you imagine the uproar that would have ensued if Bush had done anything like that?

I find all this very disturbing and bordering on indoctrination of our children. It's one thing to appeal to love of country, and what we should do for our country. It's quite another to make the appeal to what we should do for the president. Then it becomes a personality cult. As John F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

Media literacy -- from the 4th century!

I happened across a short piece from St. Basil (4th century) called "An Address to Young Men on Reading Greek Literature." In it, he explains how to read the pagan authors with profit from a Christian perspective. I found it interesting because he didn't tell them just to burn those books since they were pagan. Instead, he tells the young men that there are many things they can learn from them, especially various stories of virtue. Of course, there are other things they should ignore since they don't agree with Christian faith.
Today we would call that media literacy. It's a wide field of studies.

This is a summary of his main points:

. Introduction: Out of the abundance of his experience the author will advise young men as to the pagan literature, showing them what to accept, and what to reject.

II. To the Christian the life eternal is the supreme goal, and the guide to this life is the Holy Scriptures; but since young men cannot appreciate the deep thoughts contained therein, they are to study the profane writings, in which truth appears as in a mirror.

III. Profane learning should ornament the mind, as foliage graces the fruit-bearing tree.

IV. In studying pagan lore one must discriminate between the helpful and the injurious, accepting the one, but closing one's ears to the siren song of the other.

V. Since the life to come is to be attained through virtue, chief attention must be paid to those passages in which virtue is praised; such may be found, for example, in Hesiod, Homer, Solon, Theognis, and Prodicus.

VI. Indeed, almost all eminent philosophers have extolled virtue. The words of such men should meet with more than mere theoretical acceptance, for one must try to realize them in his life, remembering that to seem to be good when one is not so is the height of injustice.

VII. But in the pagan literature virtue is lauded in deeds as well as in words, wherefore one should study those acts of noble men which coincide with the teachings of the Scriptures.

VIII. To return to the original thought, young men must distinguish between helpful and injurious knowledge, keeping clearly in mind the Christian's purpose in life. So, like the athlete or the musician, they must bend every energy to one task, the winning of the heavenly crown.

IX. This end is to be compassed by holding the body |100 under, by scorning riches and fame, and by subordinating all else to virtue.

X. While this ideal will be matured later by the study of the Scriptures, it is at present to be fostered by the study of the pagan writers; from them should be stored up knowledge for the future.

Conclusion: The above are some of the more important precepts; others the writer will continue to explain from time to time, trusting that no young man will make the fatal error of disregarding them