27 February 2007

The contemplation of Christ

During the Angelus address earlier this week the Holy Father offered for the faithful yet another brilliant, dazzling gem for prayerful reflection:

Contemplating the Crucified with the eyes of faith, we can understand profoundly what sin is, its tragic gravity, and at the same time the incommensurable power of the Lord's forgiveness and mercy. During these days of Lent, let us not distance our hearts from this mystery of profound humanity and lofty spirituality.

On contemplating Christ, let us feel at the same time that we are contemplated by him. He whom we ourselves have pierced with our faults does not cease to shed over the world an inexhaustible torrent of merciful love. May humanity understand that only from this source is it possible to draw the spiritual energy indisepensable to build that peace and happiness for which every human being is ceaselessly searching.

His Holiness has a unique gift for offering profound truth in just a few sentences. May the Lord bless him with many years to come!

Of dwarves and hobbits

Fr. Dwight Longenecker has an interesting Lenten post relating dwarves and hobbits.

Clericus Cup

Ah, it looks likes Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone may be closer to getting his wish of a Vatican Soccer Team than anybody thought as the Clericus Cup opened today under the shadow of the dome of St. Peter's basilica:

Rome, Feb. 26, 2007 (CWNews.com) - A team from the Legionaries of Christ bested a Jesuit-sponsored squad in the February 25 opening contest of the Vatican-sponsored Clericus Cup soccer tournament.
The Mater Ecclesiae seminary, run by the Legionaries, beat the Greogian University by a score of 6-0, in a game played on artificial turf before a crowd of hundreds of spectators.

Present at the game were TV camera crews from Latin America and Germany, as well as photographers from around the world. Among the spectators in the crowd was Cardinal Pio Laghi, a former prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, which oversees seminaries.
The Clericus Cup is being contested by 16 teams from the pontifical seminaries, universities, and clerical residences around Rome. The participants include young priests and seminarians from all around the world. The tournament’s final game will played at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.
More here via Amy. Pictures here, also via Amy.

Lord I am not worthy

This evening during a Holy Hour I delivered a talk that I titled, "Lord, I Am Not Worthy: Tried and True Methods to Experience the Eucharist More Profoundly." Thirty minutes of private adoration took place prior to the Holy Hour which ended up being really more a Holy Forty-five Minutes. I suppose my sense of time is not quite as good as I should like to think.

I was surprised and delighted to see fifty to sixty people present when the servers and I entered at the beginning of the Holy Hour.

I have posted the more interesting first half of my talk below:


So often in our lives we feel distracted at Mass, preoccupied and busy elsewhere. We have a difficult time keeping our focus and concentration on the “here and now” of the Eucharistic Celebration and thus we do not feel that we “get anything” out of the Mass. In reality, we receive the greatest gift that could be given us: Jesus Christ himself. We receive the pledge and foretaste of everlasting life. The trouble is this: we do not recognize his presence, more often than not because we have not prepared ourselves to welcome him into hearts with love.

Just before we receive Holy Communion, we repeat the words of the Centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8). We have adapted the words a bit in our English translation, but nonetheless the meaning is the same. The first step to experiencing the Holy Mass more profoundly, more deeply, is to recognize that we are, in fact, not worthy to be here, to be in the Lord’s presence. “Because of our own human sinfulness none of us is worthy of so great a gift. Yet Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist to give us a share in his divine life.”
[1] Is this not the greatest wonder of them all? Christ Himself reminds us: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mark 2:17). He Who love us first longs for our love in return (cf. John 4:10).

The Lord loves us so profoundly that he calls us to be with him forever. More than this, God himself has come to us in Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in his Message for Lent that “On the Cross, it is God Himself who begs the love of His creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us.”
[2]

As we gaze upon the Eucharistic Lord here before us on the altar, He continually calls out, “I thirst” (John 19:28). “I thirst for your love.” What, then, will our response to His thirst be? In the Gospel this morning, Jesus said to the righteous sheep, “I was thirsty and you gave me drink” and to the sinful goats he said, “I was thirsty and you gave me no drink” (Matthew 25:35, 42). The drink that Christ Jesus so earnestly desires and for which He thirsts is none other than the cup of our love.

To James and John as they argued over the place of honor, Jesus asked, “Can you drink the cup that I drink” (Mark 10:38)? That cup is the cup of divine love, the love that offers itself completely, holding nothing back, the love that He shares with the entire world. This is the love that loves “to the end.”

It is this same cup that we are to take up ourselves and offer to the Lord and to our brothers and sisters in Christ, with whom we are one. The Holy Father put it this way:


The response that the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to Him. Accepting His love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and devote ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ “draws me to Himself” in order to unite Himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with His own love.[3]
We are called to be the source of love to quench the thirst of the Lord Himself and of our brothers and sisters. “Yet to become such a source, one must constantly drink anew from the original source [of love], which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (cf. John 19:34).”[4] How, then, are to take up this cup of love? How are we to allow this cup to overflow in every area of our lives? We must come to the Eucharist. “Above all, the Eucharist is the great school of love. When we participate regularly and with devotion in Holy Mass, when we spend a sustained time of adoration in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, it is easier to understand the length, breadth, height and depth of his love that goes beyond all knowledge (cf. Ephesians 3:17-18).”[5]

[1] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist (14 November 2006).
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2007.
[3] Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2007.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 7).
[5] Pope Benedict XVI, Message to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the 22nd World Youth Day, 2007.

24 February 2007

Breadalive.com

Justin sent me a link to www.BreadAlive.com.

It is a new web site that offers daily reflections for Catholics who are living the vocation of married family life in today's world and thought you might be interested in looking into it.

Check it out!

Homily - 25 February 2007

Says Moses to the people of Israel: “The priest shall receive the basket from you and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God” (Deuteronomy 26:4). As we hear these words we recall the words of Jesus: “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

Saint Jerome notes that Jesus “did not say, ‘If you have anything against your brother’ but ‘If your brother has anything against you,’ so that a greater need for reconciliation is imposed on you.”
[1] We must, then, do all that we can to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Notice here, if you will, that Jesus does not say to be reconciled after we make our offering, but before we offer the sacrifice.
[2] Whenever we come to the Holy Mass, then, we should first strive to be reconciled with those who have grudges and hurt feelings toward us, otherwise our offering may be in vain and this is no small matter.

Do not counter with “He offended me; I didn’t offend him. He ought to square up with me, and not I with him.” If for the sake of your salvation the Lord orders you to make friends, though you are the one who has been more offended, you must apologize, that you may have double credit: first, because you have been offended and, second, because you were the first to apologize. For if you have offended someone and then ask pardon of him, the Lord will forgive you for your offense because you were the first to ask pardon. You will have no reward, however, if you are the guilty person and have asked pardon. But if one has done wrong by you and you are the first to apologize, you will have a great reward. Hurry therefore to be the first one to make friends. Otherwise, if you should delay, he may be the first to apologize and may snatch from your hands the reward of love.[3]

We ought to compete with each other not for place of rank or honor, not to outdo each other in athletic contests or the pursuit of money, but to outdo each other in love. The love we see in each other should spur us on to love all the more! How can we seek to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters? How can we grow in this love?

On Ash Wednesday I spoke briefly about keeping custody of the senses as a way to grow in love. We must keep custody of the eyes lest we see something that leads us to sin. We must keep custody of the ears lest we hear something that leads us to sin. We must keep custody of the mouth lest we lead others to sin. The well-known phrase, “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is quite poignant, even today. Those monkeys know what they are doing.

Keeping custody of the tongue is, perhaps, the most difficult of the senses to control, but at the same time it is the one that does the most harm. When we are tempted to gossip about someone or some situation – as each of us is - we would do well to remember the words of Jesus: “What comes out of a person, that is what defiles” (Mark 7:20).

Very often it happens that our brother has something against us not so much because of what we have done, but because of what we have said. If we love with the love of Christ Jesus – as indeed we are called to do – we should desire to remove all possible reasons for our brothers and sisters to hold anything against us, either in act or speech.

We all know the childhood line: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Nothing could be farther from the truth, and the evil of gossip is perhaps the most damaging and hurtful of all words. Let me illustrate my point.

Shortly after I arrived at this parish twenty months ago, a friend told me a rumor was circulating concerning my parents. Apparently someone heard that my parents are both deceased having died when I was a young boy, but apparently the circumstances concerning their deaths were not being told. Instead, someone decided that my parents must have died in a car accident – what other reason could there be? - and began telling others this as fact, or at least it was heard as fact.

When this gossip was first brought to my attention I was very offended, angry and deeply hurt. Not only did this gossip demonstrate a clear lack of love, but it also demonstrated a lack of respect because not one person spreading this gossip had the decency to inquire about my parents. They did not die in a car accident. My father died of alcoholism twenty-one years last week ago and my mother died of a brain tumor nineteen years ago last month.

The evil of gossip is insidious and immensely poisonous to the soul. You know as well as I do how prevalent it is in this community and it is not simply because Effingham “is a small town”. Gossip has no place in the Christian life because it violates love and spreads lies. Gossip betrays a certain arrogance and pride of both the one who speaks and the one who listens to it. Gossip encompasses a great many sins.

Gossip must stop and in order for it to stop each of us must first recognize that we all gossip, although some of us more frequently than others. With this in mind, I suggest three ways to know if one is a gossip:

1. If you have ever begun a sentence saying, “I’m not a gossip but…” you are indeed a gossip. If you were not one there would be no reason to preface your sentence.

2. If you find that you talk about other people more than your family and dear friends, you are a gossip.

3. If you talk with people about things that have nothing to do with either of you, you are a gossip.
If we do not know the facts we should not speculate because someone will think we are speaking the facts. Before we open our mouths, we ought to ask this question: “Will what I am about to say be helpful in the journey to heaven?” If it will, good, say it. If not, keep your mouth closed and your brother will not have anything to hold against you and you will not have to be reconciled to him.

Why do we gossip and talk about each other in such ways? Why do we hold our grudges so tightly and close to us? Why do we so enjoy focusing on the faults of others and shy away from examining our own faults?

None of us wakes up in the morning thinking, “Who’s life can I make miserable today? What can I say to so-and-so to make her mad today?” Each of us wakes up with the desire to do good, but because of sin we fall short of our goals and we fail to love as we should. Each of us does; anyone who says otherwise is a liar.

Rather than condemning each other and spreading such gossip, rumors and lies, we ought to help each other follow after Jesus Christ. Love should flow out of our lips, not hate and deceit. Let us, then, be reconciled with each other this Lenten season so that coming before the Lord, we can offer the gift of our lives in faith and love and “bow down in his presence” (Deuteronomy 26:10). Amen.

[1] Saint Jerome, CCL 77:28.
[2] Saint John Chrysostom, PG 57:250.
[3] Anonymous, Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 11.

Everybody likes a raffle

If you would like a ticket, contact me:

2007 Effingham Catholic Schools Educational Fund Raiser
CHOICE OF
CASH PRIZE of $20,000 or Choice of One:
Ultimate “Game Room” w/furn. & acc. - W.S. Broom & Co.
30’ Trail Cruiser travel trailer w/2 slideouts - Crossroads RV
Harley Davidson Motorcycle - Legacy Harley Davidson
Crownline 180 BR - Lake Sara Marina
14x30 Blue Hawaiian Fiberglass inground pool package - W.E.T. Pools & Spas
30x40 Outbuilding package w/concrete floor - Niebrugge Lumber Co.
Big Game Trip - Cabella
Kubota Tractor & Lawn Package - Bahrns Eq.
2007 Toyota Camry LE - Dan Hecht Chevrolet-Toyota
2007 Chrysler Sebring - Goeckner Brothers Chrysler
2007 Pontiac G5 Coupe - Poland Pontiac-Buick
2007 Ford Fusion - Northside Automotive
2007 GMC Sierra - Russ Braunecker Cadillac & GMC Truck
All Inclusive trip for 2 to Jamaica - Effingham Travel
- Plus - (4) $500 Prizes (donated by Effingham Knights - Columbus),
(2) $250 Prizes & (15) $100 Prizes
St. Patrick’s Dinner/Dance
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Car Raffle Grand Prize Drawing @ 9PM
Entertainment by Fanfare - www.fanfareband.com
Tickets Available from Fr. Daren
Car Raffle Tickets $50
Sacred Heart Grade School 342-4060 • www.sheff.org
St. Anthony Grade School 347-0419 • www.stanthony.com
St. Anthony High School 342-6969 • www.stanthony.com

23 February 2007

A new coat of arms

Some months back I contacted Father Guy Selvester about designing a new coat of arms. The image to the left is the result of our conversations. I am very pleased with it!The blazon (heralidc description) and explanation of the coat of arms that Fr. Selvester provided reads as follows:

"Blazon: Vert, on a cross raguly Or five drops of blood, one each at the extremities of the cross and at the fess point all Gules; in dexter chief a lamb’s head erased Argent and in sinister base a garb of wheat Or. The shield is ensigned by a priest’s galero with cords and one tassel pendant on either side of the shield all Sable. On a scroll below the shield the motto: “Levate Crucem Sublime”.

"Explanation: The coat of arms of the Reverend Daren Zehnle of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois reflects his personal preferences, spirituality and devotions.The main tincture of the field is green, the armiger’s personal favorite. The main charge is the cross of Christ in the form known as raguly. This is a stylized depiction of the so-called rugged cross. That is to say, the cross as it actually is: an instrument of suffering and the tree of life. The cross is decorated with five red drops of blood at its center and extremities. These drops of blood allude to the five wounds of Christ. However, they are placed here as a reference to St. Francis of Assisi to whom the armiger is devoted. St. Francis bore the stigmata in his body while he lived here on Earth.

The basis of the armiger’s life and priestly ministry is the Paschal Mystery: the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God. In the upper left is a silver (white) lamb’s head representing the Christ and in the lower right a gold (yellow) garb of wheat alluding to the bread of life, the Eucharist, in which Catholic Christians participate in the Paschal Mystery.

"In place of the rather martial helmet, mantling and crest Fr. Zehnle’s arms are ensigned by the black ecclesiastical hat called a galero. The hats differ in color and number of tassels depending on the rank of the armiger. A priest’s hat is always black with one tassel pendant on either side of the shield. The motto, 'Levate Crucem Sublime' is translated, 'Lift High the Cross'."

I might add that the cross raguly represents difficulties that have been encountered and the lamb also serves to represent patience and gentleness in suffering. The garb of wheat also recalls John 12:24. The vert (green) represents hope, joy and loyalty in love. The or (gold) represents the generosity of Christ displayed on the Cross.

21 February 2007

Homily - Ash Wednesday

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today we are gathered to “work out [our] salvation in fear and trembling” as the Apostle Paul exhorts us (Philippians 2:12). We come before the Lord today – conscious of our sinfulness - and we cry out to him: “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:3-4).

Why are we so drawn to Mass today? What is the significance of the blessing and imposition of ashes? “It is certainly not merely ritualistic, but something very deep that touches our hearts.”
[1] As the ashes are imposed on our foreheads the words of the prophet Joel resonate in our ears: “Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God” (Joel 2:13).

His words remind us that the simple act of receiving the ashes is not enough. An interior conversion - indeed, a detestation of sin – must mirror our external actions. This Jesus makes abundantly clear. The condition of the human heart cannot be easily seen on the outside. This is why the Savior says, “And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you” (Matthew 6:18).
Even so, we are well aware of Jesus’ words: “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites” (Matthew 6:16). Yet the mark of the ashes makes it clear to all that we are fasting this day. Why, then, do we do this?

Very often we need physical reminders of our spiritual state. As we feel the ashes placed on our forehead we are reminded of our sinfulness and of our own mortality. There is something rather uncomfortable about the ashes. We feel dirty. We feel self-conscious. We feel shame. The very mark of the ashes calls us to repentance and through them we can say: “For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:5).

The stark reality of our sin should move us to a deep aversion of sin, even to a hatred of it. The very thought of sin should make us shudder and should direct our eyes to the crucified Christ “who begs love of His creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us.”
[2]

Gazing upon “Him whom they have pierced” (John 19:37) we come to know this fundamental truth:

The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to Him. Accepting His love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and devote ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ “draws me to Himself” in order to unite Himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with His own love.[3]
Throughout this penitential season, then, we must constantly return to two key questions: Do I welcome the love of Christ? And, Do I share the love of Christ?

One sure way that we can both welcome the love of Christ and share it is to keep “custody of the senses.” We must keep custody of the eyes lest we see something that leads us to sin. We must keep custody of the ears lest we hear something that leads us to sin. We must keep custody of the mouth lest we lead others to sin. The well-known phrase, “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is quite poignant, even today.

Keeping custody of the tongue is, perhaps, the most difficult to control but at the same time it is the one that does the most harm. When we are tempted to gossip about someone or some situation, we would do well to remember the words of Jesus: “What comes out of a person, that is what defiles” (Mark 7:20).

Let us make a concerted effort this Lent to root out the evil of gossip from our lives. Let us not only refuse to listen to it or to read it, but also and especially let us refuse to speak it.
Let us pray not only for ourselves but for each other that sin may be removed from our lives. Let this be our prayer: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew with me… Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit to sustain me” (Psalm 51:12, 14). Amen.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily for Ash Wednesday, 1 March 2006.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2007.
[3] Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2007.

To the war room

Today I traveled to Springfield for a meeting of the Personnel Board for the Diocese. Together with my brother priests who were elected to this board we help advise the Bishop on the assignment of priests. I am still trying to determine why I was elected as I've not even been ordained two years yet...

There is certainly an overwhelming number of circumstances to take into consideration with each possible assignment and, being much more of a visual guy in these areas, I suggested something perhaps a bit new: a big map of the Diocese with plastic churches and figures of all of the priests.

I think it would be immensely helpful in keeping the different possibilities straight.


The Vicar General, however, did not seem to agree with me, saying it would be too much like Hitler's war room. He might be right.

Dueling priests

Saturday evening, after celebrating Mass at our mission church and rushing back to baptize the last three people from our parish to be baptized before Lent, I attended a "Variety Show" held by our grade and high school.

I very much enjoyed the evening! We have such talented students and I only wish we would give the opportunity to share their gifts more often. The overwhelming majority of the acts were musical in nature, although they were a number of dance pieces, as well.

The second to the last act was put on by two surprise guests: the Pastor I. We sat down opposite each other at two different clavinova keyboards and, under the direction of our parish music director, we played the theme from Deliverance, otherwise known as "Dueling banjoes." Although rather silly and corny, it was a big hit!

Someone took a picture of the two of us in action and if the picture happens to come my way I'll be sure to post it.

19 February 2007

The first black priest in America

As the United States celebrates "Black History Month" I am rather surprised at how little I have heard about Fr. Augustine Tolton, the first black priest in America.

In all actuality, I have heard nothing about him this month. His life is very interesting and would make for an excellent video to show on, I don't know, EWTN? Let's get to work!

Through the generosity of the good citizens of Quincy, Illinois - my home - Fr. Tolton was sent to study at the Propaganda in Rome before returning to the United States to serve in Quincy and in Chicago. His life is intimately woven into the history of America and the struggle with slavery and civil rights.

Last week I had my students read two synopses of Fr. Tolton's life and write a reflection on them. One of the students said, "As the first black Catholic priest [in the United States], Tolton should receive more textbook space." I couldn't agree more!

You can learn more about Fr. Tolton here. Fr. Roy Bauer has an excellent biography of the priest here.

Sr. Caroline Hemesath published a biography of Fr. Tolton several decades ago which is now being republished by Ignatius Press.
Fr. Augustine Tolton, pray for us!

18 February 2007

An exciting announcement

The Pastor presided at and celebrated each of the four Masses celebrated in the parish this weekend because he wanted to make an exciting announcement to the parishioners. I was happy because this allowed me to only celebrated one Mass today :)

His announcement is as follows:

Today I have the pleasure of announcing some exciting news relative to this strategic objective. We have had a committee working on a specific renovation plan [of the current grade school facility] that would address the expansion of our administration area, updated classrooms, handicap accessibility and the needs of 21st century education. This team was early in the process when the private St. Anthony Educational Trust intervened with a new plan. The Trust will provide the funding for an entirely new facility to be built on the current site of St. Anthony grade school. The general plan is to build a new building on non used portion of the property (parking, playground, etc.) and then tear down the old school once completed. Goff gymnasium would remain a part of the new facility and would not be torn down.

I have to admit that I was stunned when presented with this information and once again amazed with the commitment by the St. Anthony parish community to catholic education[emphasis mine]. [
more]

A Lenten challenge

During his homily this weekend my pastor challenged his parishioners to put one dollar in the rice bowl every time they found themselves gossiping, judging others or failing to forgive others.

One parishioner said, "We'll either stop gossiping or all be broke." Another parishioner said, "Father, I don't think the rice bowl is big enough."

Even so, it's a magnificent idea.

17 February 2007

Homily - 18 February 2007

With the Lenten season only days away – though the snow makes it seem more like Advent – Jesus exhorts us strongly to model our lives on His own. Today He is blunt, direct, and straight to the point: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

Who among us lives up to this challenge? Who among us keeps faithfully this command? Although “merciful and gracious is the Lord,” we, all too often, are not (Psalm 103:8). We hold our grudges, we talk behind each other’s backs, we spread gossip, slander, lie and cheat. We murder each other in our hearts and think ourselves better than others.

We, like Abishai, too often whisper to our friends and to ourselves: “God has delivered your enemy into your grasp this day. Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I will not need a second thrust!” (I Samuel 26:8). But even as we think this thought the words of Jesus resound in our ears like a clanging gong: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you” (Luke 27-28).

We know that we are very much like Adam who did not truly love the Lord, and that we are not always like Jesus Christ, the second Adam. We also know, though, that Jesus Christ does not act as the first Adam does; He does not deal with us as we deal with those who do not love us, because He Himself is Love. Indeed, the words of the Psalmist are true: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13).

The fullness of His compassion – of His great love for us and of His desire to suffer with us – is made manifest in Jesus Christ, “who gives flesh and blood to those concepts in an unprecedented realism” (Deus caritas est, 12).

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI recently wrote to the youth of the world:

The manifestation of divine love is total and perfect in the Cross where, we are told by Saint Paul, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Therefore, each one of us can truly say: “Christ loved me and gave himself up for me” (cf. Ephesians 5:2). Redeemed by His blood, no human life is useless or of little value, because each of us is loved personally by Him with a passionate and faithful love, a love without limits.
Today, Jesus offers to us an invitation to follow in His way of being, to follow in His way of loving, to love each other as He loves us.

In his Message for Lent, Pope Benedict XVI reminds everyone that through the extension of this gracious invitation,

the Almighty awaits the “yes” of His creatures as a bridegroom that of his bride. Unfortunately, from its very origins, mankind, seduced by the lies of the Evil One, rejected God’s love in the illusion of a self-sufficiency that is impossible (cf. Genesis 3:1-7). Turning in on himself, Adam withdrew from that source of life who is God Himself, and became the first of “those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Hebrews 2:15). God, however, did not give up. On the contrary, man’s “no” was the decisive impulse that moved Him to manifest His love in all its redeeming strength.

It is in the mystery of the Cross that the overwhelming power of the heavenly Father’s mercy is revealed in all of its fullness. In order to win back the love of His creature, He accepted to pay a very high price: the blood of His only begotten Son. Death, which for the first Adam was an extreme sign of loneliness and powerlessness, was thus transformed in the supreme act of love and freedom of the new Adam.
Through this transformation of death Christ has redeemed us and made us members of the household of God. Through His death, we are given the promise of eternal life, joy and peace. “Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one,” says Saint Paul, “we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one” (I Corinthians 15:49). We bear the image of Jesus Christ when we do as he has already done for us and as he continues to do for us: when we love to the point of death, when we forgive those who have wronged us and when we give to those in need.

This is why Holy Mother Church proposes for us the three-fold Lenten practices of increased prayer, fasting and alms giving. It is through prayer that we learn to love authentically and selflessly. It is through fasting that we learn to forgive and grow in love. It is through alms giving that we give to the poor and share the love of Christ.

The Holy Father is praying that the coming season of Lent “be for every Christian a renewed experience of God’s love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must “regive” to our neighbor, especially to the one who suffers most in need”.

As we reflect today, then, on the admonitions of the Savior, we must prayerfully consider these questions: First, do I know the transforming of his love? If not, am I willing to allow myself to experience it? Second, do I share the love of Christ with everyone around me? These two questions should be the springboard from which we choose our Lenten practices.

Whatever we choose to do this Lent should help to conform us ever more closely to Christ. Whatever penance we take up should help us to grow in faith, in hope and in love.

Ultimately it comes down to our response to the invitation of the Lord to love as he loves us. Will you accept his invitation? Will you politely decline until another day? Will you simply refuse his invitation to love?

The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to Him. Accepting His love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and devote ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ “draws me to Himself” in order to unite Himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with His own love (Message for Lent 2007).
In his Message to the youth of the world, the Holy Father said:

My dear young friends, I want to invite you to “dare to love.” Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful undertaking of giving yourselves as a gift to God and your brothers and sisters, in imitation of the One who vanquished hatred forever through love (cf. Revelation 5:13).
I, too, wish to extend this invitation, not only to the youth, but to every member of the Body of Christ.

An interesting question and a good one, maybe

Yesterday in class, one of my sophomore students posed this interesting question:

If you could walk on water could you swim?
I'm not sure. Any thoughts?

The weather outside is frightful...

Several more inches of snow fell overnight, and the snow continues to gently fall as I type. On the positive side, it is 26 degrees outside.

Oh what a night...

This should be an interesting evening.

After a brief bite to eat after attending a reception to honor our seventh and eighth grade basketball teams, I will head off to the high school for the varsity basketball game.

Before the game the senior players will be honored and during the half-time our Illinois State Scholars will be honored.

Following the game, a "fifth quarter" will be held to provide some good entertainment for the high school students. Fifth quarters in the past have taken the form of a "game night" where students bring in their favorite board games, movie nights, even a video game night has been suggested. Tonight's fifth quarter will be a "casino night."

I have been asked not only to chaperone the event - which I am happy to do - but also to deal one of the games. I'm afraid I'm going to have to be taught how to, though, by a high schooler. And I'm supposed to be teaching them... Oh, well! It should be fun! Well...minus the basketball...

A Tribute to diehards

Fr. Jay Toborowsky over at Young Fogeys has a fine tribute to those whom he calls the "diehard Mass-goers."

I wish to echo his sentiments. The blizzard that swept through Effingham reduced the attendance at the 6:30 a.m. Mass from its usual 65-80 people to only 15. The usual attendance at the 8:30 a.m. Mass is about 55; the morning after the blizzard it was 20.

I think the diehard Mass-goers try harder than the United States Postal service...

16 February 2007

The organizing principle

Amy has a most excellent post on her theory of everything. Her theory is this:

Everything will eventually go haywire.

Therefore, it is safest to have deeply-rooted, concrete, content-rich, standards and reference points expressive of tradition as our framework in order to keep us even within shouting distance of the original vision, aka The Truth.
I think she is quite. You should read her post in its entirety; it will surely provide much fodder for Lenten prayer.

Family Night, Cavins style

Emily Cavis, wife of Jeff Cavins, is offering a weekly publication called "Family Night." It is designed to be used by family who want to spend time each week praying together. In each issue she offers devotions to pray and activities to use as a family. It looks very promising!

Be sure to take a look!

iPod shuffle

Once again, here it is: the iPod shuffle!

1. "Concerto for 4 harpsichords in A minor," by J.S. Bach
2. "Knowing You," by Kathy Troccoli
3. "Concerto Grosso in A Major," by George Frederick Handel
4. "If I Could Make It Work," by Kevin Smith
5. "Double Trouble," by John Williams
6. "Confessor dei nicholaus," by Anonymous 4
7. "Quintet in E flat," by L. von Beethoven
8. "O Waly Waly," by John Rutter
9. "The Asteroid Field," by John Williams
10. "Sainte nicholaes," by Anonymous 4

Their testimony cannot be forgotten...

So said His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, during the General Wednesday Audience.

It is the desire of the Lord Jesus that the example of the "feminine figures" of early Christianity, "these figures who have made their contribution so that faith in him would grow, to be known and their memory to remain alive in the Church."

"In the ambit of the early Church the feminine presence was in no way secondary," the Pontiff remarked as mentioning a lengthly list of early women who followed Jesus. The role of women in the life of the Church is such that "the history of Christianity would have developed very differently if the generous contribution of many women had not taken place."

The Holy Father united his gratitude for the contribution of women in the ecclesial life to that of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, "giving thanks to the Lord because he leads his Church, from generation to generation, making use distinctively of men and women, who are able to make their faith and baptism fruitful for the good of teh whole ecclesial Body for the greater glory of God.

Bishop Lucas on Lent

Jesus is to be our focus this Lenten season, says Bishop Lucas of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, because "He draws us out of ourselves and out of the immediate effects of sin into an understanding of our participation in the history of salvation."

In his weekly
column in the Catholic Times, he further said:

When we can admit from the beginning of Lent that we are powerless to transform ourselves, then we can allow the grace of God to lift us beyond our limitations and to incorporate us more fully into the mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection.

It is in baptism that a Christian is first plunged into the death of Christ and reborn in the household of faith by the power of his resurrection. From the earliest days of celebrating the liturgical season of Lent, the church has asked her members to focus on baptism. In our parishes, we offer prayer and encouragement to those who are preparing to be baptized at the Easter vigil. Those of us already baptized prepare to renew the profession of faith and promises of baptism at Easter.

During our 40-day retreat with the Lord, we meditate on the essential difference that baptism has made for this life and the next. We pray that, as Easter approaches, our own baptismal vocation and its corresponding mission will become more clear to us. We pray as well that our response to this call from the Lord will become more wholehearted, more free.

This wholehearted response requires an ongoing conversion of heart. Traditional Lenten practices of the church help us to accept the challenge of conversion from selfishness in practical ways. The Gospel of Ash Wednesday cautions that our Lenten observance must begin and end in the heart. During these final days before Lent begins, we can decide what our own personal Lenten observance will entail, beyond the minimum asked by the church. This gives us a few days to pray about what we propose to do, making sure that the heart is in the right place.
As we consider the Lenten practices that we will take up next week, His Excellency reminded the faithful that "It is important that our Lenten prayers include intercessions for each other, that we will be renewed in the blessings of faith, hope and love which were first given to us in baptism."

Bishop Lucas on prayer

In last week's issue of the Catholic Times, His Excellency, the Most Reverend George J. Lucas offered a few thoughts on prayer:

By developing a discipline of daily prayer, we find a space in which it is possible to hear the voice of Jesus more clearly. We pray to be preserved from harm, and we intercede for those in harm’s way. More importantly, however, in prayerful moments we grow in confidence that the Lord is with us and that it is possible to live and proclaim the Gospel in every circumstance.

A prayerful attitude in the face of factors that are out of our control will lead us to rely more consciously on the providence of God. Not one breath of ours, not one drop of the ocean, not one germ is beyond God’s loving care. It helps us face the uncertainties of each day to put ourselves willingly in the hands of God, which is where we are in any case.

When I was young, we were taught to make a “morning offering” every day. This is a prayer in which one offers God everything that will be part of the day — the joys and sorrows, the successes and setbacks — in union with the perfect offering of Jesus. This reminds us that the mission of a Christian is not to have a nice day, but rather to learn and follow the will of God, in union with Jesus Christ.

Nothing enriches this day-by-day living in and with Jesus like the frequent celebration of the sacraments. The Lord gives us what we need to live faithfully in a sometimes hostile world. In particular, the weekly participation in Sunday Mass and the frequent use of the sacrament of reconciliation keep our hearts and our feet solidly on the path to full life, despite the perils of this life. The sacraments do not remove daily anxieties as if they were magic pills. They do help us to remain anchored in Christ and to long for the security that we will know completely only in God’s kingdom.
We might well use his reflections as we consider what Lenten practice(s) we will take up next week.

Curious news

Interesting, and promising, news from the (London) Times:

Roman Catholicism is set to become the dominant religion in Britain for the first time since the Reformation because of massive migration from Catholic countries across the world.

Catholic parishes will swell by hundreds of thousands over the next few years after managing years of decline, according to a new report, as both legal and illegal migrants enter the country.

It says that the influx of migrants could be the Catholic community’s “greatest threat” or its “greatest opportunity”.

While in some places the Catholic Church has responded positively, in others it has been “overwhelmed” by the scale of the challenge. The growth of Catholicism in Britain comes as the established Church of England and the Anglican provinces in Scotland, Wales and Ireland face continuing, if slow, decline. [more]

15 February 2007

Alright, let's go

The snow was nice, the two snow days were great, but I'm ready nor for April...

For your reading pleasure

The response to my letter to the editor has been so good both in the physical realm and the virtual that I thought I would post what I wrote in the parish bulletin last Sunday in the absence of the Pastor:

My dear friends in Christ,

It is my pleasure to write to you again in the absence of Msgr. Enlow. As I write this column he is – I pray – enjoying a short time of rest in Florida.

After hearing the homilies that Msgr. Enlow and I preached this past weekend, several people have asked how and when I knew that the Lord was calling me to the priesthood. Sadly, there is not space to tell the tale here this weekend, but it can be read on my web site at:
www.servantandsteward.org/priesthood.html.

Today the Church celebrates the World Day of the Sick, a day given us by the Servant of God Pope John Paul II in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes as a day to pray especially with and for the sick. Holy Mother Church will grant to the faithful a Plenary Indulgence under the usual conditions (Sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Holy Father). This indulgence will be granted to those who offer, “at least for a few hours, their charitable assistance to the sick as if they were tending to Christ the Lord Himself, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin, and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the conditions required for obtaining the Plenary Indulgence… The faithful … may obtain the Plenary Indulgence if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the conditions required, they spiritually participate together with the Holy Father in the aforesaid ceremony [in Seoul, South Korea], pray devotedly for the sick, and offer - through the Virgin Mary 'Health of the Sick' - their physical and spiritual sufferings to God" (Apostolic Penitentiary, Decree for the World Day of the Sick 2007).

As you know, the season of Lent is quickly approaching; within a fortnight it shall be upon us. Will we be ready for Lent this year?

It is always a good idea to spend time in the days before Lent to reflect on the ways that we will live this penitential season in preparation for Easter. What will you give up this Lent? How, where and when will you pray this Lent? How will you come to know Christ crucified more deeply so that you might share more fully in the joy of his Resurrection? These are questions to be considered before Ash Wednesday. Do not wait, else the time will pass you by!

Pledge yourself today to read at least one chapter of the Bible every day during Lent. We cannot know Jesus Christ if we do not read the Scriptures. Pray the Rosary together as a family at least once a week during Lent. Look to Mary’s Seven Sorrows and journey with the Lord in the Stations of the Cross. Hide the remote control throughout Lent. Pray each day for someone about whom you have gossiped. If you haven’t yet done so, read the Holy Father’s Encyclical, God is Love. If you have read it, read it again.

The practices that we voluntarily take up during Lent are not meant to be simple deprivations of what we enjoy, of what brings us pleasure; they are not to make us miserable. What we do during Lent is to be done so that we might be changed and transformed, that we might be conformed more closely to the image of Christ. These acts of increased prayer, fasting and alms giving are to take root within us so that we might more readily undertake them throughout the year. The goal of Lent is to grow in holiness, to grow in faith, hope and love.

I wish to remind the parents of children who will be receiving the Sacrament of Penance for the first time this year that there will be a meeting at 6:30 p.m. on February 14th in the parish center. Please make plans – if you have not already done so - to attend this important meeting.

A book for Lent: If you are looking for spiritual reading during Lent, I recommend reading The King, Crucified and Risen: Meditations on the Passion and Glory of Christ by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Charis Books/Servant Publications, 2002). Fr. Groeschel offers a short reflection and prayer for each day of Lent through Divine Mercy Sunday.

Another book to consider is Pope Benedict XVI’s, Journey to Easter: Spiritual Reflections for the Lenten Season (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1987). This book contains a series of homilies preached by the Holy Father on Jesus Christ.

A web site to visit:
www.catholic.com. This site, maintained by Catholic Answers, is a treasure trove of solid answers to questions about the faith.

St. Anthony of Padua says: Confession is also called ‘the gate of heaven’. Truly, truly it is the gate of heaven! Truly it is the gate of paradise! Through it, as through a gate, the penitent is led in to kiss the feet of divine mercy; to be raised up and kiss the hands of heavenly grace; and to be accepted with the kiss on the mouth of fatherly reconciliation. O house of God! O gate of heaven! O confession of sin! Blessed is he who dwells in you! Blessed is he who enters by you! Blessed is he who humbles himself in you! My beloved brothers, be humbled and enter by the gate of confession. As you have been taught, confess your sins and their circumstances, because now is the acceptable time for confession, now is the day of salvation for making amends (II Corinthians 6:2). [First Sunday of Lent 2.19]

Letter to the Editor

In the Saturday, 3 February 2007 issue of the Effingham Daily News a Letter to the Editor was titled, "Don't publicize your faith, live your faith," to which I promptly wrote a reply.

The initial letter reads as follows:

In a recent letter in the Letters to the Editor of the Effingham Daily News there have been many issues raised about public display of the Ten Commandments and Prayer in Schools. While I do agree that religion in this country is under fire by the ACLU and our judicial system, I have a hard time understanding why there is such uproar about these two issues.
1. Why are we so "up in arms" about displaying the Ten Commandments? The Ten Commandments were given only to the House of Israel - to the Jews, Exodus 34:27-28. The Ten Commandments were never given to Christians. Isn't Effingham County predominantly a "Christian" county? Although there may be some Jews in this community - I do not know of any personally. These commandments were never given to Catholics, Protestant [sic] or Christians. And according to Colossians 2:8-14 the "commandments wiritten in stone" were nailed to the Cross of Christ. In II Corinthians 3:1-18 we are to turn away from the "ordinance written on stone" to be servants of a new covenant. Some other passages in reference to the abolishing of the old law are Eph. 2:15, Gal 3:19-29, and Heb. 9:1-17. If you seek to be justified by the Ten Commandments you have been severed from Christ - Galatians 5:2-6. It doesn't get much plainer than that.
As for there being a difference between the Catholic and Protestant Ten Commandments, the commandments are listed in Exodus 20:1-17 in plain English. There is no excuse for there being two different lists.
2. As for prayer in school - the attack is against open public prayers. There is no attack against our private prayers. A Christian can pray anytime, anywhere to God the Father without open public gatherings or openly praying in classes. The Scriptures teach us how to pray in secret Matthew 6:5-8. We will get no attack from the ACLU for praying in secret. The Scriptures actually teach many warnings against open public prayers because it can be so easily misused (Matt. 6:7, 23:14, Mark 12:40, and many others). There are many ways to pray. I am praying right now as I work on this letter and no one around me even knows.
So I guess all the uproar is about hanging on to an old abolished law on some plaques on the courthouse wall and our need to have public prayers so that others will see how religious we are. A practicing Christian with the proper knowledge of the Scriptures can show the world their conviction, their faith, by their daily conduct and way of life (and it doesn't require wall plagues [sic] and public prayer meetings to prove who they are). Their manner of life will be their testimony - I Corinthians 7:12-17, Romans 8:1-17. Christ asks us to show our faith by - living the life and walking the walk. Pray with your children before you send them to school. Pray with them when they get back home. Teach them how to pray on the run if they have to [sic]. Teach them not to put their faith in religious symblos, but more importantly, teach them how to live righteously in this world.
Michael Antrim
Watson
The editor titled my letter in response, "A history of the Ten Commandments." It reads as follows:

In his Letter to the Editor published in the 3 February 2007 issue of the Effingham Daily News, Mr. Michael Antrim said, “As for there being a difference between the Catholic and Protestant Ten Commandments, the commandments are listed in Exodus 20:1-17 in plain English. There is no excuse for there being two different lists.”

Mr. Antrim is not entirely correct in his assessment. First, the Book of Exodus was not given to the Jews in English, but in Hebrew. The “plain English” to which Mr. Antrim refers is not always the same. One need only pick up three or four different Bibles to realize that not all publishers translate the Hebrew in the same way.

Second, Mr. Antrim is correct that the Ten Commandments are listed in Exodus 20:1-17. However, there is also a second listing of the Ten Commandments given in Deuteronomy 5:6-12. A simple and thorough reading will reveal that the two lists, although they contain the same Commandments, are not identical in wording.

Third, even though the Ten Commandments are listed in both Exodus and Deuteronomy, they are numbered in neither of the two accounts; they are given, not numerated.

The “Catholic” numbering of the Ten Commandments is as follows, and has been since at least the time of Saint Augustine (354-430) and company:

1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
4. Honor your father and mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

The Church Fathers formulated the commandments in this fashion, focusing primarily on the Decalogue as given in Deuteronomy. This Catholic - a word which means “universal” - version of the Ten Commandments was used until the time of John Calvin (1509-1564) and continues to be used by Catholic the world over. In fact, even Martin Luther (1483-1546) supported the use of the Catholic version.

Calvin and other reformers revised the ordering of the Ten Commandments – especially to support their attack on statues – as follows:

1. I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make graven images.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. You shall not kill.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness.
10. You shall not covet.

The reformers formulated this second version of the commandments, focusing primarily on the Decalogue as given in Exodus.

The difference in the two renderings lies in the split of the traditional rendering of the first commandment into two different commandments and the combination of the traditional ninth and tenth commandments into a single commandment. The typical Protestant formulation of the Ten Commandments is, then, not even five centuries old.

Mr. Antrim’s assertion that “these commandments were never given to the Catholics, Protestant [sic] or Christians” is also not entirely correct. The passages he cites are true, but he fails to take into account the words of the Savior himself: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place” (Matthew 5:17-18).

Furthermore, when the rich young man asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”, Jesus answered, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:16-17). The Ten Commandments are, therefore, essential to Christian discipleship. Entering into eternal life requires the keeping of the commandments, while becoming perfect requires that you “sell what you have and give to [the] poor” (Matthew 19:21). Christians live out their baptism by keeping the Ten Commandments because they show us the way to life.

It should also be noted that Christians can be divided into a number of groups: Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. Anyone who claims to be a Christian but not a Catholic or an Orthodox is a Protestant; the category of “Christian”, as Mr. Antrim seems to suggest, cannot stand beside that of “Catholic” or “Protestant”, for both Catholics and Protestants are Christians.

It is true, as Mr. Antrim says, that “a practicing Christian with the proper knowledge of the Scriptures can show the world their conviction, their faith, by their daily conduct and way of life.” If you have doubts, simply read James 2:14-26. Mr. Antrim is also quite right to encourage increased prayer at home and away, and to this encouragement I add my support.

The Rev. Daren J. Zehnle, S.T.B., M.Div.
Effingham
We'll see what kind of a response I get.

14 February 2007

Wahoo!

I am pleased to announce that school has been cancelled for yet another day :)

13 February 2007

As of 1:53 p.m.

Here are some pictures of the parish as of 1:53 p.m. today.




Why decorate a room when you can decorate a church?

Over at The New Liturgical Movement, Shawn has a wonderful new idea. He is accepting pictures from "plain" churches that need some sprucing up and help in looking like Catholic churches. So far he has posted on two churches: here and here.

His suggestions are tasteful and are designed so as not to break the parish budget. It's well worth a look.

This about sums it up

As I flip through the television channels late at night or in between Masses on Sundays as I take a brief respite, I will occassional stop and listen to one of the evangelical style non-denominational preachers that are so easily found these days.

What always strikes me about them is one thing: I never hear them talk about Jesus...or the Father...or the Holy Spirit. After this I usually remember that their "ministries" are typically named after themselvse... It really does say something quite profound about their message.

Amy gives a link to thoughts of Melton Duncan who spent an evening with Joel Osteen learning about him and his message. He says this:

Joel’s own sermons are not like those of his fathers (the late John Osteen). They strike me as the next generation of the Charismatic movement. They aren’t about experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in your life; they are just about encountering your feelings. He talks over and over again about your relationships with other people and in the end he doesn’t really ask you to do anything - except try to change. His language is a mix of manifest destiny and late night infomercial. If I had to characterize the 600 words “sermonettes” I heard I would say “Charismatic emergent, non-threatening, non-spritualized therapeutic language.” Maybe American Idol with Paula as the lone judge.
Never once did I hear the words Gospel, Jesus Christ, Trinity, Sin, Cross (except in Scripture songs sung by performers and in a video testimony played before the Osteens arrived in arena).
It really makes me wonder why people even go to listen to Joel or stop and listen to him on the television. The focus is not on God but on man, and this is true of so many others around today. Sadly, it is true even within Catholic preachers.

I think this new style of "preaching the Gospel" really demonstrates a deep absence of maturity on the part of many in Western socieyt today that we need someone to continually tell us how to get along with our family, friends and society as a whole. We need far less focus on individualism than we have today.

At the same time, this style also demonstrates an obsession with humanity at the expense of the divine. If a noted Christian preacher can give several "sermons" without ever speaking of the God or the Gospel or salvation, something is very seriously wrong with both the preacher and with those who tune in for the message.

I am not saying that these people have nothing valuble or insightful to offer. What I am saying is that this does not deserve to be called "evangelism" or "preaching" and that the amphitheatres where these talks are delivered do not deserve to be called "churches." Maybe one large dysfunctional self-help group would be more fitting.

What's Obama really like?

As Barack Obama begins the attempt to liken himself to President Abraham Lincoln, one might wish to consider Obama's voting record on the most basic of rights, that of the right to life:

As an Illinois Senator Obama had the unstinting approval of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council for his dependable support of pro-abortion legislation. Now, after a short two years in the U.S. Senate, Obama has earned 100% ratings from pro-abortion groups across the board, including NARAL Pro-Choice America and the National Organization for Women.

In 2002 he voted against a bill to protect or offer medical care to babies that survive botched abortions. Prior to that he opposed an Illinois State ban on partial-birth abortion, and refused his vote to a bill mandating internet pornography filters in schools.

In 2006, Obama cast his vote against the Federal Marriage Amendment. “Personally, I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said the day he voted against defining marriage as between a man and a woman. [more]

As he announced his bid for the presidency of the United States in Springfield, Illinois, the presidential hopeful said:

It was here we learned to disagree without being disagreeable - that it's possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised; and that so long as we're willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst.
I'm not entirely sure that makes a great deal of sense. If you cannot compromise the principles, is it really possible to have a campromise at all?

Obama went on to admit: "I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness - a certain audacity - to this announcement." He's certianly correct here. "I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington," he continued, and what amazes me is that even with this in mind a great number of Americans will cast their vote for him.

The young senator speaks well and holds himself well. He has charisma and charm and knows the words to speak. The troubling part is this: the words he speaks denies the truth that he will let a newborn child die because an abortion attempt failed.

Papal message for Lent 2007

The Holy Father's Message for Lent 2007 has been made public. Be sure to read it and pray with it; it is excellent!

12 February 2007

Vote now!

The polls are now open for the 2007 Catholic Blog Awards. Hurry in to vote; the polls close at week's end.

Vocations retreat

The Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George in Alton, Illinois are holding a vocations retreat for single Catholic women aged 17-30 March 9th - 11th.

10 February 2007

Homily - 11 February 2007

What is the meaning of suffering? Why must we suffer at all? Jesus calls those who are poor, hungry, weeping and hated “blessed” and those who are rich, satisfied, laughing and praised he calls wretched (Luke 6:20-26). Why must he do this? Why condemn everything that we hold in honor and praise everything we despise?

Through these beatitudes, Jesus calls us to embrace suffering as the only way to attain riches, satisfaction, joy and eternal reward. It seems so absurd and therefore, when suffering comes, we all too often turn our hearts “away from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5). When we turn away from Jesus and try to run from suffering, we become “like a barren bush in the desert” (Jeremiah 17:6) or the “chaff which the wind drives away” (Psalm 1:4).

But if, on the other hand, we willingly accept suffering and offer our sufferings in union with Christ crucified, then we become “like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream” (Jeremiah 17:8) “that yields its fruit in due season” (Psalm 1:3). What is this fruit? Spiritual treasure, contentment, joy and eternal life. When we willingly accept our sufferings, we can say with Saint Paul: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).

Holy Mother Church invites us to reflect deeply on the mystery of human suffering today as we observe the Fifteenth World Day of the Sick. The Servant of God, Pope John Paul II inaugurated this day to focus the attention of the faithful on the needs of the sick, to make us aware of our duty to assist them by our loving care, attention and prayers. Visiting the sick is, of course, one of those corporal works of mercy to which we are to devote ourselves as a why of caring for Christ himself, as a way of growing in holiness and in love.

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in his Message for this day, that

Sickness inevitably brings with it a moment of crisis and sober confrontation with one’s own personal situation. Advances in the health sciences often provide the means necessary to meet this challenge, at least with regard to its physical aspects. Human life, however, has intrinsic limitations, and sooner or later it ends in death. This is an experience to which each human being is called, and for which he or she must be prepared.
In times of misery and pain, the soul cannot help but ask the essential questions: What is the purpose of my life? Why am I suffering? Where is God in this? Have a lived well? What will happen to me after death?

Very often we tend to shy away from these questions, thinking them somehow too complicated and beyond our reach. They often provide more questions than they do answers, and we are faced with our own inadequacy and inability to answer even the most basic questions of life. We are faced also with our own sin and our lack of love.

We run from these questions and push them aside because we cannot bring ourselves to face the fact that we are not entirely self-sufficient and independent. We do not want to face the fact that we are sinners and do not love as we know we should. At the same time, these questions make us realize the frailty of human life; with these questions comes the realization that I, too, will die, which brings with it a whole host of other questions. Are you ready for death? Are you prepared to stand before the judgment seat of the Lord?

We do all that we can today to deny the reality of death because it makes us uncomfortable. Our sick loved ones who stand on the threshold of death we send off to hospitals and nursing homes, and we visit them when it doesn’t conflict with athletic events or television shows. We visit them only rarely so as not to consider their death or our own death.

We spend countless hours and money on products to make wrinkles disappear, to color our hair, to lose weight, to look, feel and dress younger than we are. We pretend that we will live forever, that somehow death will not catch us. This is all such a ridiculous game and we will lose! Those who honestly confront their situation know this well, regardless of whether they are sick or not.

Those who are seriously ill know what true suffering is and, if they have suffered well – that is, if they suffer with patience in love - and have placed their trust in the Lord, they are blessed and have found their hope (cf. Jeremiah 17:). Indeed, all who suffer - not just the sick - who place their trust in the Lord will be blessed and find hope, for “Christ has been raised, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Corinthians 15:20). This is why Jesus pronounces those who suffer “blessed.”

The sick have access to a great treasure that is hidden from those who do not suffer so, because to them is given the opportunity to trust fully in Jesus Christ, sharing in his sufferings. They are able to realize that they will not live forever, that death is near. Seeing the end of their life, they come to realize that nothing else matters except Jesus Christ!

Let us not run from suffering! The many forms of suffering that come our way are invitations to a relationship of intimacy with Christ the Lord. This intimacy is granted to those who embrace their sufferings and offer them with the sufferings of Jesus Christ for their own salvation and the salvation of all mankind.

Pope Benedict XVI invites us today to join the sick in prayer and trust. He says:

I now turn to you, my dear brothers and sisters suffering from incurable and terminal diseases. I encourage you to contemplate the sufferings of Christ crucified, and, in union with him, to turn to the Father with complete trust that all life, and your lives in particular are in his hands. Trust that your sufferings, united to those of Christ, will prove fruitful for the needs of the Church and the world. I ask the Lord to strengthen your faith in his love, especially during these trials that you are experiencing. It is my hope that, wherever you are, you will always find the spiritual encouragement and strength needed to nourish your faith and bring you closer to the Father of Life.
Let us, then, gaze upon the Cross, asking the Lord to help us unite our suffering to his.

More from More

I finished reading Saint Thomas More's Utopia this morning and wanted to leave this for you:

...the Utopians fail to understand why anyone should be so fascinated by the dull gleam of a tiny bit of stone, when he has all the stars in the sky to look at - or how anyone can be silly enough to think himself better than other people, because his clothes are made of finer wollen thread than theirs. After all, those fine clothes were once worn by a sheep, and they never turned it into anything better than a sheep.
Nor can they understand why a totally useless substance like gold should now, all over the world, be considered far more important than human beings, who give it such value as it has, purely for their own convenience. The result is that a man with about as much mental agility as a lump of lead or a block of wood, a man whose utter stupidity is paralleled only by his immorality, can have lots of good, intelligent people at his beck and call, just because he happens to possess a large pile of gold coins. And if by some freak of fortune or trick of the law - two equally effective methods of turning things upside down - the said coins were suddenly transferred to the most worthless member of his domestic staff, you'd soon see the present owner trotting after his money, like an extra piece of currency, and becoming his own servant's servant. Btu what puzzles and disgusts the Utopians even more is the idiotic way some people have of practically worshipping a rich man, not because they owe him money or are otherwise in his power, but simply because he's rich - although they know perfectly well that he's far too mean to let a single penny come their way, so long as he's alive to stop it...

Just a little something to ponder.