31 March 2007

Another classic photo caption

Fr. Jay Toborowsky has done it again with this photo caption. Do have a look.

Bishop Lucas on Holy Week

Reflecting on a recent pastoral visit to Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Alton, Illinois, which happens to also be the former Cathedral of the Diocese, the Most Rev. George J. Lucas reflected on the Stations of the Cross found in the church. He said,

The depiction of each of the stations is large and detailed. A great deal of activity and numerous people are shown at each station. However, it is all done in a very neutral tone. Only the figure of Jesus is shown in color. We meet a number of interesting figures along the way of the cross: Pilate, Simon of Cyrene, Veronica, Mary. The events that lead to Calvary are riveting and horrible. Jesus is not simply another actor being swept along by events. He alone is accomplishing something extraordinary, and our focus is on him.
Bishop Lucas' reflections this week are especially good, so I give the rest of them to you in full:

As we begin the holiest week of the year, the sacred liturgy and our private prayer lead us through the remembrance of dramatic, life-giving events that have meant salvation for us. But, strictly speaking, we have not been saved by events, as if to say that somehow things have worked out well for us. We are saved by a person, Jesus Christ. Holy Week is all about him and his invitation to us to participate here and now in his paschal mystery. The instruction at the beginning of the Palm Sunday Mass says, in part: “Let us remember with devotion this entry which began his saving work and follow him with a lively faith. United with him in his suffering on the cross, may we share his resurrection and new life.”

Jesus had planned his final entry into Jerusalem. Although he had never encouraged efforts to crown him king, he allows himself to receive a royal or messianic welcome. He wants people to know that he will bring about the coming of his kingdom soon. Few are able to imagine that he will accomplish this not with a triumphant takeover, but instead with the new Passover of his death and resurrection. During our participation in the liturgy of Palm Sunday, we acclaim Jesus is our true savior.

As we move through the special liturgies this week, we recall the type of savior that our Lord has chosen to be. He is the true suffering servant, spoken of by the prophet, who bears the sins of the many. He is also the perfect paschal lamb, whose blood will ensure our Passover from slavery and sin, to redemption and life. Jesus is not simply forced to suffer; he willingly empties himself. As we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we recall the humility of our savior, who washed the feet of his apostles, and who turned this meal into a memorial of the offering he was about to make on the cross.

Jesus knows and loves us as he chooses to be enthroned on the cross. We are the focus of his love. Our salvation is the desire of his heart. He invites us to focus on him on Good Friday. We are aware of the bland tones of our sins, but Jesus stands out in full color, fully human as well as fully divine.

An increased awareness of sin helps us look to Jesus for redemption, to put all our hope in him. In keeping the spirit of Lent, we recognize again that without the grace won by the blood of Jesus, we are mostly powerless to make ourselves better. There is power for transformation and new life in the cross of Christ and in his resurrection that we will soon celebrate.

Homily - 1 April 2007 - At the Blessing of Palms

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, at the beginning of this Holy Week, we gather here as if at the walls of Jerusalem itself. We have come “near to Bethpage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives” (Luke 19:29).

As we welcome with great joy and gladness Christ our King, we join in the shout of the people of old: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38).

In the Church, this cry of hope of Israel, this acclamation of Jesus during his entrance into Jerusalem, has with good reason become the acclamation of the One who comes in the Eucharist to meet us in a new way. We greet with the cry of ‘Hosanna!’ the One who brought God’s glory to the earth in flesh and blood.

We greet the One who came yet always remains, the One who is to come. We greet the One who, in the Eucharist, always comes to us again in the name of the Lord, thus joining the ends of the earth in God’s peace (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Palm Sunday, 9 April 2006).

Homily - 1 April 2007 - At the Mass

“If we want to encounter Jesus and then walk with him on his path, we must ask: on what path does he want to lead us? What do we expect of him? What does he expect of us?”[1]

Jesus shows us most clearly the path upon which he wants to lead us: he wants to lead us to the Cross, but this is far too often not what we expect of him.

Too many today expect Jesus to make their lives easy, worry-free and perfect. It frequently is said that if one follows Jesus, there will be no financial needs or burdens and one will be happy, warm and well fed. We expect Jesus to be for us a sort of wish-granting genie. All of this, of course, is sheer rubbish. This is not the Jesus of the Gospels; it is not the God in whose image we are made (cf. Genesis 1:27). It is, rather, the god we make in our own image.

Let me suggest, if you will, that he “colt tethered on which no one has ever sat,” of whom we heard earlier, represents each of us (Luke 19:30).

The colt is tied up and bound; it is not free, but is a slave. Each of us, too, is tethered, in a certain sense. We are bound by our sins and although Christ Jesus comes to free us from the bondage of sin and death, we still choose to live in sin and we give ourselves over to its power. We allow sin to bind us and hold us captive.

“No one has ever sat” upon this colt because it refuses to have a master other than itself. It will not tolerate a rider, thinking itself somehow freer in this way. The colt enslaves itself to its own desires and refuses to be free to fulfill its purpose, to assist those who need its aid. This we also do to ourselves in our sin.

Jesus says to his disciples, “Untie it and bring it here” (Luke 19:30). In other words, “Set it free from its sins and bring it to me so that I may use it.” Jesus then mounts the colt and rides into Jerusalem in humble triumph. As he does so, the colt finds its true and authentic freedom in uniting its will to that of Christ, who is the Mystic Rider.[2]

Today Jesus says to the Church: “Untie them and bring them here.”

How often do we refuse to be mastered by Christ, choosing our own will over and against his, thinking that we know better than him? We refuse to have a yoke placed upon our shoulders to be guided and directed on our pilgrim journey. In our stubbornness, we choose to go it alone, and we make ourselves our own master, thereby becoming the slave of sin.

Today, Jesus, the Mystic Rider, wants to mount us, as it were, if only we will humble ourselves and place ourselves under his gentle mastery.

In the exercise of his Kingship, we learn from Jesus that “we do not find life by possessing it, but by giving it. Love is a gift of oneself, and for this reason it is the way of true life symbolized by the Cross.”[3]Today, let us allow Jesus to “take his seat in an inward possession of the secret places of [of our hearts] … ruling the footprints of the mind and curbing the lusts of the flesh. Those who receive such a Rider in their inmost hearts are happy.”[4] Let us, like Simon of Cyrene, take upon ourselves the “heavenly bridle” of the Cross, to be guided by the Lord on the path to heaven.[5] Amen.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Passion Sunday, 9 April 2006.
[2] See Saint Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 9.9.
[3] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Palm Sunday, 9 April 2006.
[4] Saint Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 9.9.
[5] Ibid.

St. Anthony of Padua Retirement Monastery

Yesterday afternoon I had the great pleasure of visiting a group of retired parishioners who live in one of those "retirement villages." You know, a dormitory for retired people. My grandmother lives in one and she absolutely loves it. They are great ideas, really.

I visited them to hear their confessions and to administer the Anointing of the Sick, my favorite sacrament, if I can choose one over the others. I go to these parishioners on my first Friday calls and once a month for Mass, as well.

One of them told me yesterday that they refer to me as their "child." I am, to be sure, young enough to be their grandchild. One of the gentlemen is 90 years old and one of the women celebrated her 67th wedding anniversary earlier in the week (her husband is - unfortunately - in a nursing home and she visits him when she can).

These are some of the most faithful souls one could ever meet. Some months back they gathered together to pray for one of their grandchildren, and then one of the nurses asked them to pray for someone, and their rather impromptu gathering became a beautiful scheduled time of communal prayer.

Every day - with the possible exception of Sunday (I'm not certain) - they gather in one of the common spaces at 10:30 a.m. to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and pray for each other, their families, the parish, priests, and whatever else comes to their minds and hearts.

They first told me about their shared prayer time and I reminded them of how so many of the early monasteries began. A holy man or woman - say, Augustine, for example, gathered people around him and prayed with them. Before long a house of prayer was established and a Rule was written.

One of the women then said to me, "I always wanted to be a nun."

Now, toward the end of her days, she has joined what I happily refer to as the Saint Anthony of Padua Retirement Monastery.

May their humble and loving prayers bring great and manifold blessings upon the Church! If you have a mind, offer a prayer for these prayerful souls.

30 March 2007

St. Anthony of Padua church

Since I posted a few pictures of Annunciation church, I thought it might also be a good idea to post a picture of St. Anthony of Padua church, the parish to which I am assigned. More pictures of the church are here.

For the extra curious, here are pictures of my office used to look like and pictures of what my suite suite used to like. I'll get more current pictures posted sometime soon.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

I'm glad we in the United States don't have to hear confessions in these oddly shaped contraptions. They look so very uncomfortable! It almost looks as though our dear and beloved Holy Father can barely fit in it, and he isn't a very large man...

I think he's right

The Roving Medievalist has some very nice comments about Annunciation church.

On Saint Ireneus of Lyons

The Holy Father devoted his weekly audience to the personage of Saint Ireneus of Lyons.

Devoting his life "to defend true doctrine from the attacks of the heretics, and to clearly expound the truth of the faith," this "first great theologian of the Church ... established systematic theology."

Together with the early Fathers of the Church, Ireneus held true to the rule of faith. Benedict XVI described it this way:

These men have taught us nothing but the simple faith, which is also the true depth of the revelation of God. Thus, says Ireneus, there is no secret doctrine behind the common creed of the Church. There is no superior Christianity for intellectuals. The faith publicly professed by the Church is the faith common to all. Only this faith is apostolic, coming from the apostles, that is, from Jesus and from God.

To adhere to this faith publicly taught by the apostles to their successors, Christians must observe what the bishops say. They must specifically consider the teaching of the Church of Rome, pre-eminent and ancient. This Church, because of its age, has the greatest apostolicity; in fact its origins come from the columns of the apostolic college, Peter and Paul. All the Churches must be in harmony with the Church of Rome, recognizing in it the measure of the true apostolic tradition and the only faith common to the Church.
This address is well worth a read. It contains the Holy Fathers direct and understandable teaching style, as well as his faith.

The Vicar wins

The Pastor and I had an ongoing argument this afternoon - actually, it goes back some months - about the lack of lilac bushes around the rectory.

I grew up with three lilac bushes right outside of our house, almost strategically placed so as to fill the entire house with the heavenly aroma throughout the spring and summer months whenver the windows were left open. It is a scent I miss greatly.

Lately, I have been asking to plant a lilac bush or two - maybe even seven - underneath windows in rooms that I spend a greater amount of time.

The Pastor has been insisting most strongly all afternoon that there is already a lilac bush underneath the kitchen window, and that it has been there for some years now.

I argued back with an emphatic "NO!" on the simple grounds that I have never smelled the scent of lilac in the rectory. If you grew up with the scent, it is not one that is missed or forgotten.

Our cook, for her part, believing the word of the Pastor, suggested it was a newer, non-smelling, lilac, to which the Pastor seemed to give his approval.

Only moments ago, the Pastor called the housekeeper to his office - she was already here cleaning the parish offices - to ask her about the plant in question. It was she who planted it in the first place.

She stated it is indeed not a lilac, but a forsythia. (It so happens that she, too, grew up with lilacs all around her house.)

Vicar - 1. Pastor - 0.

29 March 2007

Interior of Annunciation Parish

This picture of the sanctuary is a bit blurry and titled - I have must have been tired - but you get the idea. This is the only parish in our Diocese dedicated to the Annunciation.

You cannot tell too easily in this picture, but Our Lady of the Annunciation holds the Holy Spirit in her hands. The six candle sticks are kept on the high altar all year long.

On the left side of the sanctuary is the Sacred Heart and - during Lent - a large cross. There is also usually a smaller statue of Mary where is the cross is outside of Lent.

St. Joseph, the Patron of the Universal Church watches over the baptismal font.

I am told that the church can hold 238, with seating for anotehr 60 people in the choir loft and in the cry room.

This picture doesn't really do justice to the Stations of the Cross.

Exterior of Annunciation Parish


The present church building was completed in 1955 and the first Mass inside the new church was celebrated on Easter Sunday, 10 April 1955.
Our Lady of the Annunciation receives her parishioners as they enter the church.

The present and garage were completed in the spring of 1970.

Classic

Fr. Toborowsky has a classic photo caption. You simply must take a look.

27 March 2007

On those who serve

On June 24th, the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, the Most Rev. George J. Lucas will ordain eighteen permanent deacons for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. This will be the first group of permanent deacons ordained for the Diocese since Pope Paul VI restored it.

Currently, five permanent deacons live in the Diocese, each having moved here after their diaconal ordinations. One comes from Detroit, one from St. Louis, two from Chicago and one from Rockford.

As part of the Diocese's efforts to prepare the presbyterate to receive these new members of the clergy a special meeting is being held today to discuss the training and formation these eighteen men have received.

Personally, I am quite excited with the prospects of having a deacon in our parish, although we do not know yet if we will indeed receive one. Even so, I am hopeful.

Swinging under the magnolia

Yesterday afternoon - after the celebration of First Reconciliation but before the evening Mass - I sat outside on the swing underneath the magnolia tree.

When I opened the windows in my living room that overlook the front yard I couldn't help but notice the beautiful blooms on the tree, and, given the beautiful temperatures, I simply couldn't stay inside in work. Instead I finished reading Sacramentum caritatis on the swing.

As I sat there swinging gently back and forth I couldn't help but see the possibilies for some pictures. I took this facing the grade school and I rather like it.

Patronal Festivities

I am very happy to say that around one hundred people participated in the festivities this evening.

This was, apparently, the first time such festivities were celebrated in the parish to mark its patronal feast. Learning this made me even happier about planting the seed for the celebrations.

It also was a fine way to mark my twenty-ninth birthday.

26 March 2007

Homily - 26 March 2007

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: may the Lord give you peace!

With exultant hearts do we gather today to celebrate this most magnificent of moments in salvation history. Today the Archangel Gabriel announces the Good News of victory:

You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:31-33).
Hearing these blessed words of so worthy a messenger should lift our hearts to heaven with great joy because in these words we know that “God is with us!” (Isaiah 8:10).

In his Angelus Address Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that

The annunciation, narrated at the beginning of the Gospel of St. Luke, is a humble human event, hidden – no one saw it, no one knew about it but Mary – but at the same time decisive for the history of humanity.”[1]
The profound humility of this event is made abundantly clear when we consider the one who brought this announcement to the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth.

The name Gabriel means “Strength of God” and in this way we come to realize that the strength of God is not overwhelming power and force, but is instead humble love. The One who will sit upon the throne of David does not announce his presence with blasts of trumpet or the pounding of the drum. The King of heaven and earth does not arrive with an army of angels to defend him. Rather, he comes quietly and peacefully to a quiet, out of the way village. He invites Mary to receive him and, when she agrees, he dwells within her.

Is this not the beauty of today’s celebration? Out of his supreme and infinite love, God has chosen to do the unimaginable and the unexpected: he has chosen to become man, born of a Virgin. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity humbled himself and took on our flesh, saying to the Father, “Behold, I come to do your will” (Hebrews 10:7). In this way, Mary’s “yes” echoes that of Christ. “The Son’s obedience is reflected in the Mother’s and thus, by the meeting of these two ‘yeses,’ God was able to take on a human face.”
[2]

To the gracious invitation of the Lord given through Gabriel, Mary responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Her fiat, her yes, though, does not end with her some two thousand years ago. “Mary’s reply to the angel is extended in the Church, which is called to make Christ present in history, offering its own availability so that God might continue to visit humanity with his mercy.”
[3]

This, then, brings us to the particular significance of this Solemnity for this parish on this, our patronal feast day. Today, through Mary’s cooperation with the Lord, the Word of God takes flesh within her womb. Thus, “Mary tells us why church buildings exist: they exist so that room may be made within us for the Word of God; so that within us and through us the Word may also be made flesh today.”
[4]

Every parish exists as the primary place to encounter Christ Jesus, in word and in sacrament. Since 1870 the faith has been strong in this area, nourished by the Scriptures and by the Sacramental life of the Church. Here in this parish Jesus invites us to open our hearts to him and to receive him, to make a dwelling within us for the Son of God.

This is the beauty of the love of God: he desires to dwell not only within Mary, but within each of us. He dwells within us when we open ourselves to the Word of God and receive him in the Holy Eucharist, hidden under the appearance of humble bread and wine. In this way we renew the “yes” of Jesus and of Mary. In this way we encounter “him whom they have pierced,” and we become one with him (John 19:37).

As we celebrate today the announcement of salvation to Mary ever Virgin, let us give thanks to Almighty God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon us through this parish. Let us give thanks for the gift of faith that has been handed down through so many generations. Let us give thanks to God for our ancestors who, like Mary, said yes to the Lord and followed after him, giving us an example to follow. As we give thanks, let us invite him into our lives and seek to live always and everywhere for him alone. Amen.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 25 March 2007.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid., Homily, 10 December 2006.

On the Annunciation

The Holy Father used his Angelus Address to offer a few reflections on the Solemnity of the Annunciation:

The annunciation, narrated at the beginning of the Gospel of St. Luke, is a humble human event, hidden -- no one saw it, no one knew about it, but Mary -- but at the same time decisive for the history of humanity. When the Virgin pronounced her "yes" to the angel's announcement, Jesus was conceived and with him the era of history began which would be ratified at Easter as the "new and eternal covenant."

In reality, Mary's "yes" is the reflection of Christ's own "yes" when he entered the world, as is noted in the Letter to the Hebrews in an interpretation of Psalm 39: "As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God" (Hebrews 10:7). The Son's obedience is reflected in the Mother's and thus, by the meeting of these two "yeses," God was able to take on a human face. This is why the annunciation is also a Christological feast, because it celebrates a central mystery of Christ: his incarnation.

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your Word." Mary's reply to the angel is extended in the Church, which is called to make Christ present in history, offering its own availability so that God might continue to visit humanity with his mercy. The "yes" of Jesus and Mary is in this way renewed in the "yes" of the saints, especially the martyrs, who are killed because of the Gospel.

The patronal feast

Annunciation Parish in Shumway attached to my parish and, given that today is their patronal feast, we will celebrate this day in a special way.

This delightful parish has its beginnings in 1870 when the Franciscans first came to celebrate Mass in the area. The parish was founded as a mission in 1879 with twenty-six families. The current church (I hope to get pictures later today) was built in 1955. In 1958 the Bishop established the mission as a parish. In 2001, the parish was placed under the care of the Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua. As his vicar, I am very happy to assist him in the care of these souls. It is no secret that I have dreams of becoming the pastor of Shumway some day, although the Bishop says to me, with a smile on his face and in a joking fashion, whenever I suggest this to him, "Forget it."

Beginning at 3:00 p.m., the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for adoration. The Mass will be celebrated at 6:00 p.m., followed by a catered dinner with fun and goofy games for all ages.

I have been looking forward to this evening for several weeks now. Apparently, I am not the only one. As of last Monday evening, ninety-eight people had already signed up for the dinner, out of a total parish population of 320! This is a great little parish, faithful and dedicated. This is the same parish that has some sixty people coming to a Bible study every other night with me.

The homily for this evening's Mass will be forthcoming.

25 March 2007

Give the angels and saints a party

There is a great celebration in heaven occuring today - if I can put it that way. Remember the words of our Savior: "I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).

We celebrated only moments ago with some of our grade school children their first confession. God has blessed us with a beautiful day for this celebration: 78 degrees, a wonderful breeze, and rather blue skies with lots of clouds.

I ask you today, have you fulfilled the second precept of the Church: "You shall confess your sins at least once a year"? Doing so now will allow you to fulfill worthily the third precept of the Church: "You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season".

If you haven't been to confession in a while, go, I beg you. For what are you waiting? Christ is waiting for you. Let him untie the burdens of your sins and raise you to new life. Give the heavenly host a party today.

More on the 150 significant structures

From the Quincy Herald-Whig:

Three of the state's most meaningful structures are found in Quincy, reports the Illinois Council of the American Institute of Architects.

The AIA released its "150 Most Significant Structures in the State of Illinois" this week. St. Boniface Church, the John Wood Mansion and the East Maine Street area were the three honored.

The 150 "great places" were chosen to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the AIA. The list, which includes historic and modern structures in cities and towns across the state, was compiled through nominations from architects and the general public.

"This puts us on the map again with our architecture," said Holly Cain, director of tourism for the Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "This is really something great, something we can promote. Quincy is very unique because of all its different styles of architecture, and such an abundance of it ... and people here take great pride in that architecture."

Included among the selections were schools, churches, offices, courthouses and museums. Site choices were based on a number of criteria, including public accessibility, design and whether they are pedestrian friendly.

The sites designated will receive a plaque commemorating their impact on the community and will be featured on the organization's Web site at
http://www.aiail.org/. A complete list of the 150 sites, including photographs and historical information, can be found at www.illinoisgreatplaces.com.

Nationally, the top five sites are the Empire State Building in New York City, the White House, Washington National Cathedral, Jefferson Memorial and Golden Gate Bridge.

24 March 2007

150 great places in Illinois

If you get restless for a journey as spring dawn upon us you might want to check out 150 Great Places in Illinois.

The list was put together by the Illinois Association of the American Institute of Architects to commemorate the Institute's sesquicentennial.

Saint Boniface church in my hometown of Quincy is listed.

Hat tip to Eric, who both works for the IA and who sent the link.

Homily - 25 March 2007

The Lord God says to us today: “See, I am doing something new! … I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my people to drink, the people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise” (Isaiah 43:19, 20-21). If we are to say with the Psalmist, “The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad indeed,” we must first recognize that we do indeed wander through the desert today (Psalm 126:3).

In his inaugural Mass as the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said:

…so many people are living in the desert. And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty … of hunger and thirst … of abandonment … of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’ darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast (Homily, Inaugural Mass, April 2005).
If we are honest, each of us will admit that we, too, like the Israelites, wander through a desert and we no longer know where we are going. “We [have] all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).

In our faulty understanding of freedom, we choose our own desires and seek happiness on our own, apart from God and from his will. We have turned true freedom into something rather petty and insignificant, as nothing more than choosing DrPepper or Mr. Pibb, as going for a walk or going for a run. Too often do we forget that freedom must always involve God and his will.

Like Adam and Eve we have each chosen our own way over and against God’s, thinking our way will be for us freedom, peace and joy. We are sadly mistaken, though, as we know all too well. The more I follow my own desires and wishes, the less happy I am; the more my own desires are in line with those of God, the happier I am and the greater peace I feel. Even so, the majority of humanity still refuses to listen to Christ and wanders farther and deeper into the vast desert of isolation and sin. This each of us does, but,

the Son of God will not let this happen; he cannot abandon humanity in so wretched a condition. He leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the Cross. He takes it upon his shoulders and carries our humanity; he carries us all – he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Inaugural Mass, April 2005).
In Christ Jesus, God himself has come to his people, lost and wandering in the desert.

He has established his Cross as “the tree of life that is in the garden of God,” and of its fruit each of us may partake when we relinquish our will and follow Christ (Revelation 3:6). This is why Saint Paul says,

I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him (Philippians 3:8-9).
God has indeed put in our midst “water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for [his] chosen people to drink” (Isaiah 43:20). When the soldier thrust his lance into the side of the Crucified Savior, blood and water flowed forth, symbolizing the Church and her Sacraments. These waters still gush forth from the side of Christ for his people to drink, to be nourished on their pilgrim journey fraught with difficulties.

This water is given first to us in Baptism, when the Lord frees us from sin and death and clothes us with himself. At the beginning of the Rite of Baptism, the priest traced the Cross on our forehead after saying, “…I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of his Cross” (79).

We are longer our own; we belong to Christ. As members of his Body we must seek always to follow wherever he leads, trusting that he knows the way and that he knows what he is doing. He will never lead us astray, nor will he abandon us, even though we stray from him and abandon him. Christ is always faithful!

Saint Paul recognizes that he has been claimed by Christ in Baptism and thus he says:

I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).
The task for us during these remaining days of Lent is to cease our aimless wandering through the desert and turn to Christ. He will put us on the path to heaven, if only we let him. True freedom consists in this: in the choice of in uniting my will with God’s.

Today, the One who is the Living Water bends down to us and whispers our sins to us in the silence of our hearts. As we judge ourselves and condemn ourselves he calls us to meet him in the Sacrament of Penance where his merciful love is constantly offered. Our patron, Saint Anthony of Padua, reminds us:

Confession is also called ‘the gate of heaven’… Through it, as through a gate, the penitent is led in to kiss the feet of divine mercy; to be raised up to kiss the hands of heavenly grace; and to be accepted with the kiss … of fatherly reconciliation… 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]
Let each of us then approach the Lord in the Sacrament of Mercy and hear him say to us: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (John 8:11).

23 March 2007

God give me strength...

Every now and again in the life of a priest - as with everyone else - there come various days that you simply dread, not because anything significantly difficult will occor, but simply because it will take every once of energy - and then some - to make it through the day. Today is one such day.

The day began with Mass at 6:30 a.m. followed by an expected request for the Sacrament of Penance, which is, of course, always a good way to begin the day. Actually, that's two days in a row now that that has happened...I hope it keeps up.

The rest of the day - barring any other unforeseen happenings - looks as follows:


10:08 a.m. - Class with my sophomores, the topic of which is yet to be determined.

11:00 a.m. - Class with my juniors, continuing our discussions on Baptism

12:00 p.m. - Lunch

1:00 p.m. - Meeting with a man to discuss the possibility of electrifying our bells (we have three real bells in the tower named Mary, Gabriel and Aloysius)

2:00 p.m. - Meeting with a parishioner

4:00 p.m. - Meeting with a couple for a wedding

5:30 p.m. - Music boosters association fish fry

7:00 p.m. - Stations of the Cross followed by Benediction

8:30 p.m. - Confessions for a De Colores retreat twenty minutes away from the parish

Each of these appointments is a joy in and of themselves, but all taken together will tax me greatly, both physically and spiritually.

I'm particularly intrigued about the bells. Being rather frightened of heights, I have not been in the bell tower, although I very much want to climb up there today to have a look around. I very well might... And if I don't I'll send a camera up with whoever climbs the fifty-feet vertical ladder.

I humbly ask your prayers for continued energy and stamina...

21 March 2007

The interviewer cometh

This morning a reporter from the Catholic Times will be visiting me to interview for a series of stories they are working on. Bishop Lucas - as I understand it - has asked the Catholic Times to provide a series of stories - interviews of sorts, really - with priests of the Diocese during the month of April as a way to highlight priestly vocations. I think there is also a move to do something of the same for the diaconate, but that will come later.

The reporter called me the other day and we arranged the appointment shortly before I teach class at the high school. After our interview, she wants to take pictures of me teaching my sophomore class. I have asked the class to be on their best behavior - I hope they come through; they can be a rowdy bunch.

I am always a bit leary working with reporters because so many of them seem to the innate ability to simply get the story wrong. I do not say this to disparage all reporters but, as in many things, a few bad reporters leave all of us wondering about the quality of the reporter sitting in front of us.

Even so, I think I'm worried more about my class :c]

Afternoon at the movies

The Afternoon at the Movies was a good success. Some fifty people came out, of all walks of life and all ages, to watch Padre Pio: Miracle Man.

As the intermission started, one of the attendees asked me, "When's the next one, Father?" "We're working on it," I replied.

When all is said and done, I think we'll have raised about $350.00 for our Dead Theologians Society.

A few pictures:



The ball-carrying dog

Saturday evening the pastor and I were both at work in the parish offices, he at his desk and me at mine.

By no means should you think that we spend every Saturday night late at the desk. Our cable (our something like it that I don't really understand) was on the fritz over the weekend so he came to the office because he couldn't watch the NCAA games in his room (but in the office he could); I was in my office because I couldn't watch my beloved British comedy (I don't have a television in my office).

It is not too unusual for the both of us to be working in the evening, as you can imagine (Saturday nights excepted). Very often when we are, the pastor's German Shepherd, Molly, will come into my office and lay at my feet underneath my desk. She certainly gets in the way when she does this, but it is nice.

Saturday evening she came into my office, carrying in her mouth her two trademark tennis balls. She tries to carry three at a time but it just won't work her.

As she came into my office I moved my chair back so she could lay under my desk. She surprised me, though: she walked in front of me, put her chin on the lower desk to my right, sat a tennis ball down there, stepped back a bit and sat down herself, staring all the while at the tennis ball, cleverly placed next to my hand.

It was only a few minutes earlier that Molly and I finished playing a game of fetch for a good thirty minutes. Be that as it may, you can only ignore a dog - looking so cute - staring at a toy across your lap for so many seconds before you simply have to give in.

I accomplished very little on Saturday night, but Molly and I had a lot of fun!

17 March 2007

I'm an expert

You got 100% correct

You are a Church history expert. You know more than the average Catholic. You probably even have a love of Latin. Which your knowledge, you should consider teaching religious education classes, if you don't already.

How well do you know the history of the Catholic Church
Create a Quiz

Hat tip to the Roving Medievalist for this one.

On the Doctor of Unity

The Holy Father dedicated his 14 March 2007 General Audience to Saint Ignatius of Antioch, one of my personal favorites.

Pope Benedict XVI called the letters of the "Doctor of Unity" a "precious treasure" in which "one can feel the freshness of the faith of hte generation that had still known the apostles. We can also feel in these letters the ardent love of a saint."

Noting that it was Ignatius who first called the Church "Catholic", the Holy Father said that "the realism of Ignatius invites the faithful of yesterday and today, invites us all, to a progressive synthesis between configuration to Christ (union with him, life in him) and dedication to his Church (union with the bishop, generous service to the community and the world)."

Homily - 18 March 2007

The two sons in the Gospel today share the very same problem: they are both lacking in love and they fail to see what it is that their father gives them.

The first son sees his father’s love simply as something that is owed to him. He says: “Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me” (Luke 15:12), and off he goes. It requires no response from him whatsoever. The son thinks he is entitled to his father’s love and in this way is more of a thief than a son. He accepts gifts but he loves not.

Even so, upon his return and his desire to confess his sins and his lack of love to and for his father, the father “caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). This father, of course, symbolizes Christ Jesus who runs to us, embraces and kisses us, as when we begin our journey home to him.

As we begin to ponder our own sins and the many ways that we have turned our backs on the Lord and forsaken him, Christ runs to us in his infinite love. Said the great Saint Ambrose:

Christ chooses those who stand. Rise and run to the church… He who hears you pondering in the secret places of the mind runs to you. When you are still far away, he sees you and runs to you. He sees in your heart. He runs, perhaps someone may hinder, and he embraces you. His foreknowledge is in the running, his mercy in the embrace and the disposition of fatherly love. He falls on your neck to raise one prostrate and burdened with sins and bring back one turned aside to the early toward heaven. Christ falls on your neck to free your neck from the yoke of slavery and hang his sweet yoke upon your shoulders.[1]
When Christ comes running toward you as your thoughts slowly begin to turn to him, what will you do? Will run toward him and so embrace him as he embraces you? Will you stand utterly still, frightened of his mercy? Will you turn and walk away, refusing to be humbled by the tremendous gift of his love, though you deserve it not? How will you respond to his love?

The Lord has given to us the awesome gift of the Sacrament of Penance, of Confession, of Reconciliation, as the most wonderful way to return to him and to say, “I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son” (Luke 15:19). As we confess to him he reaches out - through the hands of the priest - and raises us up even as he forgives our sins. As he does to the prodigal son, so he does to us in this great sacrament. When the penitent confesses his sins, God the Father

neither takes him in like a hired servant nor treats him like a stranger. Oh no, he kisses him as a son. He accepts him as a dead man come to life again. He counts him worthy of the divine feast and gives him the precious garment he once wore… Not only does he bring his son back from death, but also through the Spirit he clearly shows his grace. To replace corruption, he clothes him with an incorruptible robe. To satisfy hunger, he kills the fatted calf. The Father provides shoes so that he will not travel far away again. Most wonderful of all, he puts a divine signet ring on his hand. By all these things, he begets him anew in the image of the glory of Christ.[2]
This is why Holy Mother Church today invites us to “Laetare, Jerusalem! Rejoice, Jerusalem!”[3]

The second son thinks he earns his father’s love by always doing the right thing. He says to his father: “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends” (Luke 15:29). He is more of a servant than a son. He follows commands but he does not love.

Both of these sons sought food, nourishment, and sustenance. The younger son looked for his food among the slop of the swine while the older looked for his food among the goats of his father’s flocks. Neither of the sons recognized the true food present among them: the very love of their own father.

My brothers and sisters, the fattened calf who is slaughtered for us is Jesus Christ. “The calf was slain at this command of the Father, because the Christ … could not be slain without the command of the Father.”
[4] Said Paul: “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:21).

Today, as on every Sunday – indeed, as at every celebration of the holy Mass – we celebrate the Passover of the Lord. For this reason the manna of the Israelites has ceased and we are offered instead the Bread of Angels, the Body and Blood of Christ (cf. Joshua 5:11). Here the Lord himself feeds us with the great Sacrament of Love, the Sacrament of Himself.
[5]

As we come before him today, do we, like the younger son, think we are entitled to his love? He loves us, yes; but we are not entitled to his love. Do we, like the older son, think we must earn his love? It is true that we must keep his commandments, but we do so not so that he will love us but because we love him. Why must we remain so very hesitant to humbly accept his love, undeserving though we are?

As Christ gives himself to us today, “there is singing and joy in the father’s home. What happen[s] is the result of the Father’s grace and loving kindness.”
[6]

Standing before you today, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:)! Let us run to the Lord – freely confessing our sins – and allow ourselves to be embraced and fed by him who loved us first (cf. I John 4:10).

[1] Saint Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 7.229-30.
[2] Saint Athanasius, Festal Letter 7.
[3] Introit, Fourth Sunday of Lent.
[4] Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 5.
[5] Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum caritatis.
[6] Ibid.

An afternoon at the movies

Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. the St. Anthony of Padua chapter of the Dead Theologians Society will sponsor an Ignatius Night at the Movies by showing the movie Padre Pio: Miracle Man in the St. Anthony of Padua parish center.
The DTS will have refreshments available and will accept a free will offering to help with their upcoming trip to St. Louis, Missouri.

Books and DVDs about the life of Padre Pio will also be available for purchase and orders will be taken for products offered by Ignatius Press.

If you are free and are a looking for a good movie to watch and for a good Lenten activity, this movie will easily fit both of your desires.

16 March 2007

Surprised?

I'm not. From Diogenes:

What's the most important aspect of the Pope's new apostolic exhortation? A quick Google search brought up 8 different newspaper headlines that gave top billing to the Pope's insistence that Catholic politicians must oppose same-sex marriage.

That topic is not mentioned once in the text of the Sacramentum Caritatis.

Somebody is obsessed with issues of sexuality, and it isn't the Pope.

The word gets out

Diogenes at Catholic World News has - as usual - an excellent post, this time reflecting on the many protesters throughout the world to the teachings of the Church:

The point is that, in terms of communicating the hard teachings, you don't need to have everyone on board. You don't even need a majority. As long as one Catholic bishop remains to point a finger at the immemorial doctrine of the Church and say, "God taught this," the outraged indignation will sprout as fast as the costume miters. Look at it this way: anyone determined to ignore Christian sexual morality in the contemporary West would have to search long and hard before he bumped against a real inconvenience to his lifestyle; he's already gained all the civil liberties worth gaining. What drives him to fury, and chasubles, is the existence of persons who still have the temerity to say: you won, but you're wrong.

Anti-Catholicism in general, like anti-popery in particular, is protean, and changes form according to changing fears of what stands to be lost by the intrusion of Church teaching: in fact, it's a kind of projection of social acrimony onto a recognizable human enemy. Bushido Japan was alarmed by Christian rules of combat, Brahmin India by emancipation of the untouchables, and the contemporary élites ... by what contemporary élites consider indispensable and shudder at the thought of forsaking. As Phil Lawler has said, if you meet some stranger on the street-corner, and he says he's got problems with Church teaching, you know he's not telling you he's a monophysite.

A third letter to the editor

In the 13 March 2007 issue of the Effingham Daily News, a reply from Mr. Michael Antrim to my repsonse to his initial letter was published. Mr. Antrim says:

I thank Mr. [sic] Daren J. Zehnle (Feb. 14) for his response to my Feb. 3 article. These are subjects that need to be addressed.

First, I did not say "the Law was given to the Jews in English" as Mr. [sic] indicated. I did say the "10 Commandments were given only to the House of Israel - to the Jews" and I did say "as for their being a difference between the Catholic and Protestant 10 Commandments, the commandments are listed in Exodus 20:1-17 in plain English." These statements were in two different paragraphs. The EDN is published in English. I believe its readers can also read English translations of the Bible.

Second, Mr. [sic] Zehnle missed the entire point of my letter. I did not write to argue the differences between the two passages (Ex. 20:1-17 and Deut. 5:6-21). I wrote because neither list is labeled "Catholic version" or "Protestant version" in the scriptures. To choose between one list and the other [sic] is a petty argument at best. Are not both lists given by God? Mr. [sic] Zehnle's listings of the Commandments are paraphrased versions of the actual text given to Moses. No wonder people get confused. Does Mr. [sic] Augustine, Mr. Luther, Mr. Calvin or any other man have the right to pick and choose which scriptures to "formulate"? Where do you group those who accept the whole counsel of God? Hence the use of the category "Christian."

The church that Christ died for still exists. It is neither Catholic nor Protestant. It is only Christian. Therefore, those who divide and separate (contrary to God's will - I Cor. 1:10-13) are free to call themselves whatever they wish. They have their reward in full. As for listing Christian as a division "beside" Catholic or Protestant as Mr. [sic] Zehnle suggested, I disagree. The church (the body of Christ) is not a division. Those who divide are either in error or not of the church.

Mr. [sic] Zehnle quoted Christ's words in Matthew 5:17-18 [sic]"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come 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." I question the use of this passage to justify a position that the 10 Commandments are still in effect for Christians today - but I am glad he did.

First of all, in this passage Christ uses the term "law or the prophets." Jesus and others use the same terms in many instances in the scriptures. Here are just a few of the references:
  1. The 10 Commandments (Matt. 22:36-40, 2 Cor. 3:5-16)
  2. The Laws given to Moses - Ex. 20 through Deut. 31
  3. The prophecies of the Prophets i.e. [sic] Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Matt. 22:40, 26:54-56)

Second, the people Jesus addressed here were under the "old" law. The rich young man in (Matthew 19:16-17) [sic] also lived under the "old" law. Jesus himself was born (Gal. 4:4), lived and died under the old covenant. Jesus did not instruct the people to break the "old" law given to them as the "new" covenant did not yet exist. Jesus himself kept the law and kept it perfectly. The new covenant would not come into effect until after "after all things have taken place." Heb. 9:16-17 [sic] "For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. ... it is never in force while the one who made it lives."

Third, Jesus promised that "heaven and earth" would not pass away until after "all things have taken place." Now as to what "all things have taken place" means - I cannot say it better than the [sic] Peter did in Acts 2:14-36 and again in Acts 3:12-26. Paul also tells about it in Acts 13:16-41. We now live in the days after "all things have taken place."

The prophets told of it: Acts 3 :18 [sic] "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled."

The Law of Moses and the prophets told of it: Luke 24:44 [sic] "...all things which we written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."

John 1:45 [sic] "...We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

Christ is the fulfillment and accomplished [sic] what He came for - to establish His Kingdom and Covenant. A simple and thorough reading of Hebrews chapters 8 through 10 will reveal how the New Covenant is now in effect. Mr. [sic] Zehnle's assessment that his chosen verses of scripture can be taken out of context and used to refute the Old Testament is no longer in effect is incorrect [sic somewhere but I'm very confused as to where]. 2 Tim. 3 :16, [sic] "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness."

Gal. 5:4 [sic] "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law [sic], you have fallen from grace."

It's very kind of Mr. Antrim to judge the state of my soul without either knowing me or really understanding anything of what I have written.

My reply to his letter is as follows:

I wish to offer a few points of clarification in reply to the letter of Mr. Michael Antrim published 13 March 2007.

First: the listings of the Ten Commandments are not my own but are those which have been used as a summary of the Decalogue, one for at least fifteen centuries, the other for four. These summaries are not meant to discount the full listings provided in the Scriptures, but are meant to be short and easy ways to memorize the Ten Commandments, given further importance by Christ himself (see Matthew 5). Never did I claim that the Bible records either of the lists as “Catholic” or “Protestant”, nor – to my knowledge – has anyone else who has knowledge in the matter; this claim is Mr. Antrim’s own. I, and others, have simply said that the Catholic Church has used one summary while the Protestant churches, both past and present, have used the other.

Mr. Antrim seems to believe that when I say that the Ten Commandments are still valid for Christians I am also including the levitical laws. I am not. The Catholic Church – following the teachings of Judaism - has always seen a division within the commandments of those laws that are moral and those that are ritual. The ritual laws have ceased, but the moral laws have not, for they are also the natural law that is written in men’s hearts.

Second: Mr. Antrim claims that I listed “Christian as a division ‘beside’ Catholic or Protestant.” A cursory reading of my letter will prove this claim false for I said, “the category of Christian … cannot stand beside that of ‘Catholic’ or Protestant.’” The grouping of “Christian” is today an umbrella term that encompasses Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant. In this Mr. Antrim should see that I agree with him that “the church that Christ died for still exists.” From an historical analysis alone, however, I cannot agree that “It is neither Catholic nor Protestant. It is only Christian.” Mr. Antrim lacks an accurate knowledge of the history of Christianity and of Christian theology.

Despite Mr. Antrim’s claims, there is no group of Christians who can trace themselves back to the Apostles, with the sole exception of the Catholic Church. History itself bears this out. As the brilliant convert to Catholicism, John Henry Cardinal Newman, observed, “To be versed in history is to cease to be Protestant.” Prior to the reformation the only group of Christians faithful to the Old and New Testament were those members of the Catholic Church, even if it was not – at that time - officially titled “Catholic” per se. Mr. Antrim can claim the opposite if he wishes, but history will not support him.

J.M. Carroll, who once strongly supported the notion of Baptist succession of the Apostles, (see his Trail of Blood [Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, 1973]) has since disavowed himself of this claim. In his Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History ([1994], pp. 1-2) Carroll states:

“Extensive graduate study and independent investigation of church history has, however, convinced [the author] that the view he once held so dear has not been, and cannot be, verified. On the contrary, surviving primary documents render the successionist view untenable…. Although free church groups in ancient and medieval times sometimes promoted doctrines and practices agreeable to modern Baptists, when judged by the standards now acknowledged as baptistic, not one of them merits recognition as a Baptist church. Baptists arose in the seventeenth century in Holland and England. They are Protestants, heirs of the reformers.”
While Mr. Antrim may not be Baptist (he has not stated and I have not asked) what Carroll concludes is equally applicable to his claims.

Third: Mr. Antrim intimates that I do not accept the New Covenant sealed in the Blood of Christ, a ridiculous claim, to be sure. Mr. Antrim should know that at every Mass the priest says, in the person of Christ, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it. This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me” (emphasis mine). This does not mean, however, that we are now free to disregard completely the Ten Commandments and go about murdering, committing adultery and stealing from each other as Mr. Antrim’s arguments, logically carried through, would indicate.

Fourth: Mr. Antrim claims (at least I think he does; his grammar is a bit confused) that I take Scripture “out of context.” The same claim can be made against him – and this time justifiably so – in his letter to the editor of 3 February 2007, a point that I charitably left out in my earlier reply.

Fifth: Mr. Antrim wonders about my interpretation of Hebrews 8-10. I suggest he take a careful read of Albert VanHoye’s The Old Testament Priest and the New Priest According to the New Testament (St. Bede’s Publications, 1986) and Our Priest is Christ: The Doctrine of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Loyola Press, 1977). There he will find the answers he seeks.Sixth: I did not respond to Mr. Antrim’s original letter to enter into a debate with him, as he seems keen to have. I responded only to correct blatant historical errors and inaccuracies. The Letters to the Editor section of the local newspaper is neither the proper forum for such a debate, nor to attack liturgical and organized religions, as seems to be Mr. Antrim’s true aim, though he will not say it forthright.

A second letter to the editor

A letter written by the Rev. Stanley E. Wilber of Watson was published in the 12 March 2007 issue of the Effingham Daily News in response to my letter published 14 February 2007. Rev. Wilber writes:

As for there being a difference between the Catholic and Protestant Ten Commandments, it might be pointed out there are Christians who are not Catholics nor [sic] Protestants. This groups [sic] is [sic] to as Anabaptist who go straight back to the Apostles. We are not part of Constantine’s religious government.
Rev. Wilber then gives a lengthy passage from page 61 of the book The Sacred Book of Jews, the author and publication details of which he does not provide. If you want to read the quotation, see his original letter.

My reply to Rev. Wilber is as follows:

In his letter to the editor published under the title “A history of the Ten Commandments” in the 12 March 2007 issue of the Effingham Daily News, the Reverend Stanley E. Wilbur claims, “…it might be pointed out there are Christians who are not Catholics nor Protestants. This groups [sic] is referred to as Anabaptist who go straight back to the Apostles.” This statement is false and lacks authentic historical credibility and verification.

The Anabaptists – the forerunners not of the contemporary Baptists but of the Mennonites [named after Menno Simons (1496-1591)] – were founded as those who rejected infant baptism; their name means “re-baptizers.” They are – quite clearly – a group belonging under the “umbrella term” Protestant, those who protested against the Church of Rome, the Catholic Church. In point of fact, the Anabaptists first appeared in 1521 at Zwickau (modern day Saxony).

The term “Catholic” – catholicos in Greek – means “universal,” as opposed to the many early groups of heretics (the Gnostics, Arians, Donatists, and Montanists, to name a few) who held beliefs incompatible with both the Old and New Testaments. Saint Ireneus (130-202) most appropriately first applied this term to describe the Christian Church. As the late and celebrated historian Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006) has noted,

…the primitive church was not characterized by an explicit unity of doctrine; therefore heresy could sometimes claim greater antiquity than orthodoxy. But what did characterize primitive Christianity was a unity of life, of fidelity to the Old Testament, of devotion, and of loyalty to its Lord, as he was witnessed to in the Old and New Testament. Heresy was a deviation from that unity… (The Christian Tradition: A History and Development of Doctrine, Vol. I: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition [Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1971], 70.)
It was not until the time of the Reformation that the Church officially took upon itself the title “the Catholic Church,” and only then it was done to distinguish itself from the many Protestant groups who where breaking away in protest from the universal Church.

The Rev. Wilbur continues, saying, “We are not part of Constantine’s religious government.” Neither is the Catholic Church. This statement betrays a further lack of historical clarity and assumes that the Catholic Church is Constantine’s church, which simply is not true. What is true is that the Emperor Constantine (ca. 280-337) called the Bishops of the Church together in Council at Nicea in A.D. 325 to condemn the teaching of Arius who claimed that Jesus was not divine. The convocation of the Council of Nicea by the emperor marked a new turn in the relationship between the Church and the emperor, a change that went far deeper in the Byzantine (Orthodox) Church than in the Catholic. Constantine called the Bishops together to establish peace within his Empire, not to dominate and control the Church. As Saint Ambrose (340-397) magnificently put it: “The emperor is in the Church, not over the Church.”
I regret that misspelled his name throughout the letter, an error that I only now noticed. To Rev. Wilber I offer my apologies.

13 March 2007

The long awaited day

At long last, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has published his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exortation Sacramentum Caritatis.

I have not yet had a chance to look at it but I am certain it will be excellent and profound.

11 March 2007

Conclusions and beginnings

Some good news from Rome:

ROME, March 11 (CNA) - The Diocese of Rome has concluded its examination of the life and virtues of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar General for the diocese, announced on Saturday that the important investigation had been concluded and will be marked by a ceremony at Rome’s Cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran on April 2nd, the AP reports.

The study of those who are candidates for being declared “Blesseds” and Saints usually begins at a diocesan level before being passed on to a Vatican congregation which conducts its own study.

Whereas all Popes serve as the Bishop of Rome, the study of John Paul II’s life began both there and in Poland, where the young Karol Wojtyla grew up and served as a priest and bishop before being elected Pope. In January, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the late Pope’s longtime secretary and current Archbishop of Krakow announced that the Polish investigation was nearly complete.

Cardinal Ruini emphasized that diocesan officials investigated “the life, virtues and reputation for holiness” of the late Pope. During the diocesan inquiry, church officials interviewed those who knew the Pope and examined documentation.

Although the conclusions of diocesan investigations are only one step, they are an important one on the way to the beloved Pope’s eventual Beatification and Canonization as a Saint. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints must now conduct a similar investigation and verify miracles attributed to the intercession of Pope John Paul II.

Shortly after John Paul's death, with scores of faithful clamoring for quick canonization, Pope Benedict XVI, the Pontiff's successor, waived the customary five-year waiting period to open the case for possible sainthood.

According to the AP, in addition to the presentation of the Rome Diocese’s study at St. John Lateran, Pope Benedict will preside at a Mass in memory of John Paul in the late afternoon of April 2nd in St. Peter's Basilica. The date marks the 2nd anniversary of Pope John Paul’s death.
Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

10 March 2007

Homily - 11 February 2007 (Year C)

Today we hear of the encounter of Moses with the burning bush. Moses is tending the sheep, looking after them lest one of them stray from the flock, just as Jesus does with us. As he does so Moses sees a most bizarre sight, indeed: “There an angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in fire flaming out of a bush. As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2).

This tells us something about the nature of God: unlike ourselves, he is not competitive. He neither destroys nor rejects whomever comes to him. The fire of God’s love is present, but the bush is not burnt; it continues in its existence because it yields itself to God’s own purposes.

We naturally expect fire to destroy whatever it touches; candles, paper, forests, houses: all of these are destroyed in the encounter with fire. We expect the same to happen with the fire of God – even more so! – and yet his fire does not destroy; it purifies and cleanses.

Moses sees this flaming bush and is attracted by it. His curiosity gets the better of him and he wants to know what is happening. “So Moses decided, ‘I must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned’” (Exodus 3:). Moses goes to learn more of this wonder; he freely chooses to go. As he looks upon the bush Moses do so in control of the situation, or so he thinks. The bush does not draw Moses to itself; Moses draws himself toward it. At this point Moses will not allow himself to be conquered by God.

Do we not try to do the same? We experience God’s presence and love in our lives and we look on from a distance. Slowly and cautiously we begin to walk toward the Lord but we will not relinquish our control. Often enough we circle around the presence of God, never willing to get too close. We refuse to subordinate ourselves to the Creator and Master of all. We, like Moses, do not want to let him be in charge because we are afraid of his power.

As Moses comes toward the bush God yells out to him, “Come no nearer” (Exodus 3:5)! Moses attempted to get too close to the Lord because he did not recognize the holiness of God. This God cannot be manipulated or controlled. The Lord calls us to himself – as he did Moses – but we must always remember who we are and who he is.

Now, we might wonder why the Lord commands Moses to do what no one else had previously been instructed: Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). When we walk about outside with sandals or shoes on our feet we can walk around easily enough; we are still in control. But if we walk around outside without sandals or shoes – especially on rocky and sandy ground – walking becomes much more difficult and we are no longer in full control. So it is in the presence of God.

We have a natural attraction for God because, as Saint Augustine says, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Drawing near to him we come to realize that we cannot be in control of our relationship and encounter with him. How often do we say: “No Lord, it should happen this way;” or “Lord, I want to do this, not that;” or “Lord, this isn’t fair.”

In his encounter at the flaming bush Moses learns that he is not in charge because “the place where you stand is holy ground” and God himself is holy. But Moses also learns that this God who is in charge and is attractive, this God to whom one cannot draw too close, is also relational and not to be feared. Though Moses does not know with whom he speaks, he knows Moses and calls out to him by name (cf. Exodus 3:4). Even when Moses is fearful and hides his face, he does not run away; something keeps him there: it is the attraction of love.

The Lord then says to him, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering” (Exodus 3:7). Although the Lord is supremely holy he also wishes to be among his people because he loves them and has great compassion for them.

The Lord draws each of us to himself during these sacred days. He shows himself to us in unexpected and curious ways and he invites us to approach him. As we do, the fire of his love enlightens the darkness of our sin. The Lord then cries out to us: “If you do not repent, you will all perish” (Luke 13:3).

What is sin if not the deliberate and free choice of my will over God’s? Whenever we sin we reject God’s will and turn our back on the one who first loved us and came among us to tend his vineyard that we might bear good fruit. Through his prophet Isaiah the Lord asks, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done? Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes” (Isaiah 5:4)?

The Lord has given us everything we need to attain salvation, to be holy as he commands us. All we need do is make good use of what he has given us. In these holy days of Lent he calls us to reflect on our sin and on our own coming death that we might turn back to him to live forever with him. In his merciful love, Jesus says to his harvesting angels: “leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down” (Luke 13:8-9).


Through these days of Lent the Lord fertilizes us through our penances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. He wants to make us holy but we must cooperate with his grace. We must recognize that we are not in control of our lives. We must accept this reality, and lovingly entrust every aspect of our life to the Lord alone. Only in this way will grow in love and become perfect. Only in this way can we follow the wisdom of Saint Augustine: “Love God, and do what you will.” Only in this way will we bear good fruit during this Lenten springtime and live.