31 December 2007

Homily - 1 January 2008 - The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

As the secular world begins a new year, Holy Mother Church concludes her celebration of Christmas Day by reflecting upon Mary and her role as the Mother of God.

As the world calls us to revelry and drunkenness, the Church calls us to contemplate the “King of heaven and earth” who is born in Bethlehem and adored by the shepherds.[1] With Mary, we, too, are called to “[keep] all these things, reflecting on them in [our] hearts” (Luke 2:19).

The Church honors Mary in a special way today at the conclusion of the eight-day celebration of Christmas because it is through her Son, Jesus, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, that the Lord has had pity on us and blessed us (cf. Psalm 67:2). It is through the Virgin Mary’s Child that “the Lord has let his face shine upon [us]” (Numbers 6:25). It is through the Son of God and the Son of Mary that the Lord looks upon us kindly and gives us peace (cf. Numbers 6:26). It is through Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, “born of a woman,” that the blessing of Aaron – so loved by Saint Francis of Assisi – is fulfilled (Galatians 4:4).

We turn, then, to Mary today, giving thanks to God for giving Jesus – and us – so holy, so beautiful, so lovely a Mother. And as we look to Mary, she directs our gaze to her Son “lying in the manger” (Luke 2:16). Yet why is this holy Child found in a cave used as a stable? The “Bread of Life” (John 6:48) is laid in the trough “because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

“When the fullness of time had come” (Galatians 4:4), the Son of God chose to be born of a Virgin Mother so that the nations might “be glad and exult” (Psalm 67:5). The birth of the Christ Child was

the moment that Israel had been awaiting for centuries, through many dark hours – the moment that all mankind was somehow awaiting, in terms as yet undefined: when God would take care of us, when he would step outside of his concealment, when the world would be saved and God would renew all things.[2]
Is it any different today?

Are not countless people searching for God, even without knowing it? It takes but a glance around to see that people today continually search for happiness, for peace, for joy but never arrive at it.

A great many will be looking for such happiness tonight in their revelry. They will look around and search, but they will not look to the Child “wrapped in swaddling clothes” and so they will not find that which they seek because they have no room for him (Luke 2:7).

What joy must have filled Mary’s heart as she prepared to give birth to the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32), the One whom Elizabeth recognized as the Lord (cf. Luke 1:43).

The questions and concerns she first raised to Gabriel at the announcement of so marvelous a birth have given way to a holy joy, a joy that was the preparation to welcome her Child. We see that

The swaddling clothes were ready, so that the child could be given a fitting welcome. Yet there is no room at the inn. In some way, mankind is awaiting God, waiting for him to draw near. But when the moment comes, there is no room for him. Man is so preoccupied with himself, he has such urgent need of all the space and all the time for his own things, that nothing remains open for others – for his neighbor, for the poor, for God. And the richer men become, the more they fill up all the space by themselves. And the less room there is for others.[3]
Mary stands before us today as the one completely open to God’s will and for this reason she is the Mother of God and Mother of the Church.

The Mother of Jesus and our Mother points us always to her Son lying in the manger. In doing so, she reminds us that “God does not allow himself to be shut out. He finds a space, even if it means entering through the stable; there are people who see his light and pass it on.”[4]

At the threshold of this new solar year, Mary invites and encourages us to enter it meditating upon the birth of the Savior, of the One who brings true and lasting peace. She directs our gaze to the face of God and asks us: “Will you make room for my Son?”

Together with the shepherds, let us go “in haste to Bethlehem” to find the Holy Family (Luke 2:16). Let us, too, listen to the proclamation of the angels: “a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Luke 2:11). Let us beg the Son of Mary and the Son of God to bless us in this new year with his peace. Let us say to him: “May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the people’s praise you!” (Psalm 67:6). “Bless us, O newborn King. Let your face shine upon us and be gracious to us. Amen!”

[1] Introit of the day.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 25 December 2007.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

Around the blogosphere

A Catholic Mom in Hawaii reminds us to get ready for the Epiphany blessing of homes and she even provides the Order of Blessing.

Fr. Selvester has a nice post reflecting on the recent liturgical changes at the Vatican.

Fr. V. at Adam's Ale has an interesting post on New Year's and time.

Matthew of the Shrine of the Holy Whapping posts a query from a gentleman on the proper use and etiquette of walking canes. If you have any input be sure to leave a comment.

I've done it again

It seems that I have a knack for angering a few parishioners every few months simply because I speak the truth, which I guess isn't necessarily a bad thing.

After the Masses this past weekend, I made a few annoucements and reminders:

This coming Tuesday, January 1st, is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, and is a Holy Day of Obligation. Masses will be celebrated on Monday at 5:30 p.m. at both St. Anthony's and at Shumway and on Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. at St. Anthony's.

I would remind you that to purposely miss Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day is a mortal sin. Furthermore, receiving Holy Communion after missing Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day without first confessing the sin is also mortally sinful.

If you need to go to confession you can always contact a priest and ask him to meet you anonymously in the confessional at a certain time on a certain day if you don't want him to know who you are.

With the coming New Year's festivities, there is another sin of which I must remind you: that of drunkenness. To purposely get drunk is always mortally sinful and must be confessed before receiving Holy Communion. If you feel yourself getting tipsy, it's time to stop drinking; it's that simple.

Drinking itself, of course, is not sinful, provided it is done in moderation. Remember what the Psalmist says: "Wine gladdens the heart" (Psalm 104:15), but also remember the words of St. Paul: "Do not get drunk" (Ephesians 5:18).

Next Sunday, January 6th, the parish kicks off a yearlong celebration of it's own: the sesquicentennial year. To help us celebrate 150 years as a parish under the patronage of St. Anthony of Padua, Bishop Lucas will be present to celebrate a special Mass at 2:00 p.m. Many priests and sisters who have served at St. Anthony's over the years will also be returning for the festivities. A reception will follow the Mass.

We warmly invite everyone to attend to begin celebrating 150 years of Catholic faith here in Effingham, a celebration that will continue in various ways over the next twelve months.
Now, I'm sure that my words about missing Mass raised a bit of ire, but what seems to have angered some to move to mockery were my words about drunkenness (not that I'm too surprised at this).

Apparently not a few people remarked that they weren't going to get drunk but were going to get "hammered" instead. I knew I should have asked my high school students for synonyms for "drunk" so as to speak to the maturity level of not a few people.

I pray that what the Lord said to the rich man he will not say to these drunkards: "You fool, this very night your life will be demanded of you" (12:20).

I have said what I needed to say. Now may they cooperate with the grace the Lord gives them.

I shouldn't be surprised anymore at how speaking the truth so angers people, but I am. Kyrie, eleison!

World Day of Peace

I've just finished reading the Holy Father's Message for the World Day of Peace to be observed January 1st. I wish I had read it before the weekend Masses, though I doubt my mind was in any state to digest it. Be sure to read it. It is a brilliant reflection on both the family and on peace.

In this message, His Holiness offers a few very observant points about families being "the first and indispensable teacher of peace" (3) and moves from them to reflect upon peace within the entire human family, showing how families can teach all peoples the ways of peace, which leads to this excellent point:
Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace. This point merits special reflection: everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace (5).
Pope Benedict XVI also spends a bit of time talking about the environment, cautioning that "respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man" (7). The teacher within him then clarifies what respecting the environment means:

Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves (7).
He even manages to talk a bit about the natural law "which must be the rule for decisions of conscience and the guide for all human behavior" (12). He reminds us, too, that "knowledge of the natural moral norm is not inaccessible to those who, in reflecting on themselves and their destiny, strive to understand the inner logic of the deepest inclinations present in their being" (13).

The Holy Father has outdone himself with this Message. It is one that takes several reads to digest, but is well worth the effort.

This just occured to me

I'm going to be in Rome during the Pauline year proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI during the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, which I will celebrate in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

Ah, the hand of Providence continually moves us along.
This is beginning to look more and more like a perfect opportunity for a little pilgrimage, not just a vacation.

29 December 2007

That battle wages on

Some days ago the Pastor fell ill with a severe cold, a cold which I seemed to develop on Christmas day and isn't yet getting any better.

Yesterday evening I went to the pharmacy to pick up more of my favorite Sudafed; it may render me all but useless while I'm on it but it does work wonders. Taking the advice of the pharmacist, I picked up the 24-hour Sudafed. That seems to have been a mistake. I think I'd rather take regular every six hour doses because the keep a constant stream of medicine in the system.

I first noticed the medicine begin to wear off about two and a half hours ago and now I can really feel that it is wearing off. I still have three and a half hours until I am to take another does, per the instructions on the box.

The homily, you may have noticed, is shorter than normal because I simply can't talk too much and still be able to say the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass (the congregation here isn't quite ready for the Eucharistic Prayer in "quiet voice"). I've also largely lifted the homily from the Holy Father because I can't quite seem to keep my thoughts together to prepare a proper homily today. I can function well enough to get by and to clean up my desk, but not much else.

I'll be sure to get to bed early tonight.

Homily - 30 December 2007 - The Feast of the Holy Family

This homily is largely based upon the Angelus Address given by Pope Benedict XVI on 31 December 2006. It has been modified to fit more closely the readings of the day.

As we celebrate today the Feast of the Holy Family, we learn the great importance of the family precisely in that God wanted to be born and to grow up in a human family. In this way he consecrated the family as the first and ordinary means of his encounter with humanity.

In his life spent at Nazareth, Jesus honored the Virgin Mary and the righteous Joseph, remaining under their authority throughout the period of his childhood and his adolescence (cf. Luke 2: 41-52). In this way he followed the wisdom of Sirach and shed light on the primary value of the family in the education of the person (cf. Sirach 3:1).

Today’s Liturgy presents for us the image of the Holy Family as a family of protective care. Joseph takes his wife and his adopted son and flees to Egypt; he leaves everything his family knows behind in order to guard those most dear to him and keep them safe.

Joseph reminds all parents that it is their sacred duty before God to do all they can to safeguard and protect their children who are also God’s children. This is not to be done so as to stifle the growth of the children but rather to keep the promise they made on the day their children were baptized.

On that day the priest said to them – and to the godparents, whose sacred duty this also is:

On your part, you must make it your constant care to bring them up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life which God gives them is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in their hearts.[1]
After agreeing to these words and promising to fulfill them, the children were baptized and the priest said to the parents and godparents, handing them the baptismal candle:

This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. These children of yours have been enlightened by Christ. They are to walk always as children of the light. May they keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts. When the Lord comes, may they go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.[2]
Every parent, both individually and together, must daily seek to protect their children from dangers to the faith until the child is mature enough in faith to face such dangers, together with God’s grace and the intercession of the Saints.

At the close of each day, every parent must examine their parenting to see if they truly are safeguarding the faith, helping to fan into flame the light of that baptismal candle. The tiny light must be shielded so as not to be snuffed out.

The Gospel presented to us today reveals the most authentic and profound vocation of the family: that is, to accompany each of its members on the path of the discovery of God and of the plan that he has prepared for him or her. Parents then ought not ask, “What do I want for my child’s future?” but rather, “What does God want for my child?” Children ought to ask this same question: “What does God want for me?” Discerning together the will of the Lord, parents should show their children – as Mary and Joseph showed Jesus – how to follow the divine will, seeking first to follow it themselves.

Mary and Joseph taught Jesus primarily by their example: in his parents he came to know the full beauty of faith, of love for God and for his Law, as well as the demands of justice, which is totally fulfilled in love (cf. Rom 13: 10). From them he learned that it is necessary first of all to do God's will, and that the spiritual bond is worth more than the bond of kinship.

Parents must daily consider the example of faith they give to their children. Does daily prayer occur in the home? How can children be expected to know how to pray unless they learn it first from mom and dad? How can they be expected to know the Lord unless introduced to him by their parents? This, of course, requires that parents be of deep faith and prayer, looking always to the example of Joseph and Mary.

The Holy Family of Nazareth is truly the "prototype" of every Christian family which, united in the Sacrament of Marriage and nourished by the Word and the Eucharist, is called to carry out the wonderful vocation and mission of being the living cell not only of society but also of the Church, a sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race.

The family is not lightly called the “domestic Church,” for it is “the privileged setting where every person learns to give and receive love.”[3] Let all families, then, look to the example of the Holy Family and seek to model their homes upon the home of Nazareth.

[1] Rite of Baptism for Several Children, 56.
[2] Ibid., 64.
[3] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 8 July 2006.

Grace Before Meals

You’ve probably already heard about this national movement but in case you haven’t, let me tell you a little something about it.

There is a growing movement called Grace Before Meals. It was started by Fr. Leo Patalinghug and aims to help families unite around the dinner table for stronger families and better food.

Fr. Leo sends out a free weekly e-mail that you can sign up to receive. The Grace Before Meals web sites offers a few simply suggestions that every family can undertake to strengthen the bonds of the family:

  • Eat meals with my family at least five days per week (or as many as possible)
  • Say Grace before each meal, no matter where I am
  • Turn off the TV while eating dinner
  • Introduce interesting topics for the family to discuss at mealtime
  • Engage the family in preparing meals

Be sure to check it out!

26 December 2007

Merry Christmas!

A happy and blessed Christmas to you all!


-Stained glass window detail, St. John the Baptist church,
Quincy, Illinois

25 December 2007

A Christmas gift

The Vatican translators must have been working overtime: the Holy Father's homily from Christmas Midnight Mass and his Urbi et Orbi are both already up on the Vatican web site.

24 December 2007

Christmas Mass Schedule

For those who might happen to stumble upon this looking for the Christmas Mass schedule for St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham, Illinois, Masses will be celebrated as follows:

Christmas Eve:

4:00 p.m.

7:00 p.m.

12:00 a.m. (Midnight)
Christmas Day:

8:00 a.m.

10:00 a.m.
N.B.: Mass will be celebrated at Annunciation Parish (St. Mary's) in Shumway, Illinois at 10:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Homily - 25 December 2007 - Nativity of the Lord

Few of us could imagine celebrating Christmas without a Christmas crèche, a Nativity scene, displayed prominently in our home or in our church. What would you think, upon entering this church this day, if the Nativity display was absent? The Christmas crèche has become part and parcel of our Christmas celebrations, a most beloved set of figures.

The crèche comes today in countless styles, models and sizes and has even become a collector’s item for those who so enjoy them, but we must not lose sight of the purpose of these sacred sets. What happens to you as you gaze upon the crèche?

It was Saint Francis of Assisi who first gave us the crèche on Christmas Eve in 1223 in the Italian village of Greccio. He was so moved by the humanity of Jesus that he said to a man named John who, we are told, “had a good reputation and even better life”:

If you would like us to celebrate this feast day of the Lord in Greccio, then go there ahead of me and prepare what I tell you. I would like to portray the Child born in Bethlehem and to see somehow with my bodily eyes the hardship he underwent because he lacked all a newborn’s needs, the way he was placed in a manger and how he lay on the hay between the ox and the [donkey].[1]
Everything, of course, was prepared as the Poverello requested and he celebrated Christmas that year at Greccio.

When Saint Francis arrived that Christmas Eve night, everyone present was

gladdened with new joy over the renewed mystery… The brothers sang the Lord’s praise and the entire night was spent in celebration. Sighing, the Saint of God stood before the crèche, filled with sighs, contrite in piety and overcome with ineffable joy.[2]
Francis stood before the crèche, before the manger filled only with hay, flanked by the ox and the donkey, and was filled with sorrow for his sins and with joy at the humility and love of the Child of Bethlehem. Does the same happen to you when you gaze upon a Nativity set?

Why did Saint Francis insist on having an ox and a donkey present that night in Greccio? Looking through the Gospels we find mention of sheep, but not a single ox or donkey is named as being present at the manger by Matthew or Luke. They are found, rather, in the prophecies of Isaiah.

The Lord God says through his prophet: “The ox knows its owner, and the [donkey] its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand” (Isaiah 1:3). Looking upon the manger scene, upon these two animals found in every Nativity set, do you - like the ox - know your Owner? Like the donkey, do you know your Master’s crib? Or are you like Israel who neither know your Master nor understand his love?

Saint Francis wanted the ox and ass present to remind us that we too often do not know our Creator, our Master, our Lord, nor do we understand the depths of his love.

Looking upon the crèche we see the tremendous love of God for us, who have wandered far from him. In the Child of Bethlehem we see not only the love of God, but also his great power.

God is so great that he can become small. God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenceless child, so that we can love him. God is so good that he can give up his divine splendor and come down to a stable, so that we might find him, so that his goodness might touch us, give itself to us and continue to work through us.[3]
God who is love comes to us in the Child of Bethlehem and invites us to love him.

He opens himself to be loved by us, but at the same time, an openness to be loved is always an openness also to be rejected. Such is the wonder of God’s love, the love that we often do not understand, the love that the ox and donkey want us to understand.

Standing today before the crèche, the ox and the donkey look at us with a question:

My people does not understand, but do you perceive the voice of your Lord? Do you know your Master? Do you know his love? Will you love him?
If we open our hearts to God’s love, if we make room for him in our lives, if we welcome the Child of Bethlehem in the manger of our hearts, then what happened to those present in Greccio in 1223 will happen to us as well: we leave “gladdened with new joy at the renewal of the mystery” of Emmanuel, of God with us.

[1] Tomaso de Celano, First Life, XXX.84 in Brother Thomas of Celano: The Life of St. Francis of Assisi and The Treatise of Miracles, trans. Catherine Bolton (Assisi, Italy: Editrice Minerva, ), 80-81.
[2] Ibid., XXX.85.
[3] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 24 December 2005.

Ah, the joys of the telephone

As you can imagine this holy season brings with it many joys for a priest as well as a few irritations (as it does, no doubt, for everyone).

Now that the vestments are prepared, the homily nearly finished, the prayers and chants prepared, comes the joy of the all-important telephone (because nobody wants to keep their bulletins or swing by the unlocked church to pick one up).

Ringing incessantly with callers seeking the times of the Christmas Masses, some of these callers are prepared to speak to a person and others are not. Some are prepared to listen to the answers given and some are not. Some know what to say, and others do not. Some are thinking as they speak and some are not. (I've just answered three calls in the last minute alone. It's hard to get anything done around here.)

Now don't get me wrong. Of course I'm happy they are calling and are seeking to attend the Holy Mass, but a bit of common sense is always helpful. For example:
  • If you are calling to find out all of the Mass times, be sure to have a piece of paper handy and a pen or a pencil (or a marker, crayon, tube of lipstick, chalk, etc.) in hand when you call so that you can jot down the times as Father gives them.
  • Please don't stammer away because you expected a recording. While the thought of not disturbing Father is kind, the thought that he might not answer his phone is a bit insulting, even if not intended. Father doesn't call your house not expecting you to answer.
  • Don't call them "services." They are "Masses," or maybe even "Liturgies."
  • Don't question the times of the Masses that Father gives you; he knows what he's talking about.

And perhaps most important of all, remember how a clock works and that there are twenty-four hours in a day. What do I mean? Take this conversational gem from yesterday afternoon:

Caller: What time are your services on Christmas Eve?

Me: Mass is at four, seven, and midnight.

Caller: That's twelve, right?

Me (quite shocked and baffled): Yes...

Another bizarre call just came in: What time should I come for the four o'clock Mass to get a seat? I'm sure the same applies in every church in the United States today: the church will be full at least twenty minutes before Mass begins. If you want your favorite seat come an hour early and prayer. That's really a good idea for everybody.

23 December 2007

Arthritis index

In an attempt to see how much snow to expect to fall today I went to http://www.accuweather.com/.


Despite the fact that snow is currently falling - and has been for twenty minutes - and my arthritis seems to be telling me more is on the way, no snow seems to be in the forecast.

Maybe we won't get much snow and my arthritis is acting up because of a forecasted 48 degrees on Christmas Day.


Nevertheless, my visit to http://www.accuweather.com/ was not a complete waste of time. I discovered their new Arthritis Index.

Today's arthritis index is "extreme" (though I knew that as soon as I awoke). I'm not sure this index will be terribly helpful, but it is interesting.


The index includes the categories: Low, Moderate, High, Very High and Extreme.


Just out of curiosity I checked Honolulu's arthritis index: LOW... You can be sure I'll be checking this one every other day or so...


They have lots of indices (the plurual of index is not indexes, but indices) there (with today's rankings for Effingham):
  • Air Quality: Good
  • UV: Low
  • Pollen: High (I didn't realize pollen was around in the winter)
  • Barbeque: Poor (do we really need an index for this?)
  • Mosquito: Low (always good to know)
  • Dog Walking: Fair
  • Running: Poor (it's too windy, though I don't know why that doesn't make dog walking poor, too)

As the snow falls I dream of sunny skies, warm breezes and the scent of the ocean...

22 December 2007

Homily - 23 December 2007

At the beginning of Advent, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI published his second Encyclical letter. It is called Spe salvi, “Saved By Hope,” and is a reflection on the nature of Christian hope in a way most fitting for the season of Advent. The Holy Father reminds us that:

Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope.[1]
Today the Liturgy presents to us just such a light in the figure of Saint Joseph, “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:19).

Consider, if you will, the situation in which Joseph found himself.

His young wife, Mary, is evidently pregnant, even prior to their living together. Betrothal, for the ancient Jews, was not like our modern period of engagement prior to marriage. Engagement, for us, carries with it no legal status and be canceled by either party at any time prior to the marriage for any reason. Betrothal, on the other hand, was a period lasting up to a year in which couples were legally married but were not yet living together. The only way to end a betrothal was through death or divorce.

Because Mary was pregnant without having had relations with Joseph, it seemed to many that Mary had been unfaithful. Others – Joseph among them - knew she remained faithful for “she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18).

But if Joseph knew Mary had remained faithful, if Joseph knew the child that Mary carried was of the Holy Spirit, why would he seek to divorce her? Why not keep her as his wife?

Being a just and righteous man, Joseph knew his unworthiness to be involved in such a masterful and sacred situation. Because of his reverence toward the fulfillment of the prophecy given to King Ahaz, Joseph wished not to separate Mary from himself, but he from her.

The phrase that we have translated as “expose her to shame” means something much less in the original Greek. It means not so much to expose as it does to exhibit. This righteous man wanted to keep the divine secret with Mary; by not putting her in the spotlight, as it were, he acted both with discretion and reverence. Joseph also sought to separate himself from Mary – and to do this quietly – so as not to draw any undue attention to him. Out of his deep humility and piety Joseph wished to excuse himself.

In doing so Joseph would inadvertently place Mary and the child she carried within her womb in a precarious situation, thus making the message of the “angel of the Lord” most urgent (Matthew 1:20).

The angel comes to Joseph in his dream because his cooperation is needed so that the Messiah would be “descended from David” (Romans 1:3). Joseph must cast aside his own fears of unworthiness in order to become the legal father of the Son of God.

But why did the Lord choose Joseph as the father for Jesus? Surely there was another more powerful, more influential, than Joseph? God chose Joseph because his heart was clean and because he did not desire what was vain (cf. Psalm 24:4). Because he lived righteously, he received “a blessing from the Lord” in this sacred and most important mission (Psalm 24:5).

The angel counseled Joseph with words that must have echoed in his ears until his death: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife, into your home” (Matthew 1:20). Joseph “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home” (Matthew 1:24). He did so because he learned what Saint Paul calls “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5).

What is the obedience of faith? It is an act of faith by which “man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.”[2] This obedience of faith is a human response to God by which we “submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself.”[3]

This listening to the Word of God, as Joseph clearly did, is not merely a passive activity; it requires our own desire to grow in union with the Lord. It requires that we actively seek his will in prayer by being attentive to what the Lord speaks to us in whatever way he wishes to reveal it. This obedience of faith is “the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child.”[4] Both of these we see modeled in Saint Joseph.

He does not question the word of the angel for he knows it to be true and he trusts in the Lord’s will for him, taking Mary and the child who is God-with-us into his home. Only the loving commitment of a child, only “a loyalty that is deeper than mere sentiment,” could allow Joseph to do so.[5] In this act of humble obedience we see that Joseph is indeed a righteous man; his righteous came from his obedience.

The light of his holiness shines before us, calling us to live righteously, to live obediently, as he lived. Saint Joseph says to us:

“Let the Lord enter” your life, your heart, your mind (Psalm 24:7). Do not weary the Lord, your God (cf. Isaiah 7:13). You, too, are unworthy of his call, but you are still “called to belong to Jesus Christ,” you are “called to be holy” (Romans 1:6-7). He will save you from your sins (cf. Matthew 1:21). Do not be afraid! Let the Lord enter, that you may know grace and peace.
[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 49.
[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 143.
[3] Ibid., 144.
[4] Ibid., 2716.
[5] Rich Mullins, “If I Stand,” Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth (Edward Grant, Inc., 1985).

Romeward bound!

You might have noticed that I haven't been around the blogosphere much lately. For that I do apologize and hope you've managed to entertain yourself with Christmas preparations.

It's been a busy week, with final exams and Christmas preparations and the day-to-day work of a priest. Suffice it to say that I'm worn out, though I should be able to get a good night's rest tonight, and even sleep in a bit in the morning.


Blogging will continue to be sparse until the weekend and Christmas homilies are written, presents are wrapped and cards addressed. I'm happy to say that most of my presents are wrapped, though my cards have a long way to go (I count on those Twelve Days every year). The homilies are - thanks be to God - finally beginning to take shape in my mind so they can be put forth on paper.



In the midst of all this a priest friend called the other day and invited me to go to Rome with him one month from today. He found a steal of a deal online that simply was too good to pass up. We'll spend seven days in Rome and will be there for the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. When last I was in Rome I had a profound experience in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls on this same Feast. I'll blog about this closer to the Feast.



Until I blog again, I live you with this image of the Holy Father:




Let us, with Pope Benedict XVI, turn our gaze to Christ who made himself small to raise us to greatness.

17 December 2007

A prayer to Mary from the Pope

Teach us, Mary,
to believe, to hope, to love with you;
show us the way that leads to peace,
the way to the Kingdom of Jesus.
You, Star of Hope,
who wait for us anxiously in the everlasting light
of the eternal Homeland,
shine upon us and guide us through daily events,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen!


- Address, 8 December 2007

If you haven't yet read the address he gave on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, you really should. It is an excellenct reflection on the Blessed Mother, as is the Angelus Address he gave that same day.

An Advent meditation from the Pope

And it is today, in the present, that our future destiny is being played out. It is our actual conduct in this life that decides our eternal fate. At the end of our days on earth, at the moment of death, we will be evaluated on the basis of our likeness - or lack of it - to the Child who is about to be born in the poor grotto of Bethlehem, because he is the criterion of the measure that God has given to humanity. The Heavenly Father, who expressed his merciful love to us through the birth of his Only-Begotten Son, calls us to follow in his footsteps, making our existence, as he did, a gift of love. And the fruit of love is that fruit which "befits repentance", to which John the Baptist refers while he addresses cutting words to the Pharisees and Sadduccees among the crowds who had come for Baptism.

- Angelus Address, 9 December 2007

16 December 2007

A few links

Thom at Ad Dominum has a very fine meditation on Advent as contradiction.

Fr. Selvester at Shouts in the Piazza has a very find post on the papal cross, clarifying several misconceptions, some of which I, too, had.

Fr. Finigan of The Hermeneutic of Continuity has a fine post on the manifold benefits of the Mass.

Umm...what's he doing?

Now, it's been a while since I've attended the dedication of a church or the consecration of an altar, so I'm a bit baffled by this photograph taken earlier today in Rome at the church of St. Mary of the Rosary:
What is His Holiness doing?

A vesting Pontiff

Today the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI consecrated an altar at St. Mary of the Rosary church in Rome. Some pictures of the Pontiff re-vesting after the consecration are coming across the wires:


And here's one just for fun:

Curious...

Update: Fr. Schofield of Roman Miscellany has his comments on this "news" item.

Franco Zeffirelli claims that Pope Benedict XVI "still has a cold way of communicating, little suited to what is happening around him."

Now, tell me, does this look like a cold way of communicating?

I don't think so, either.

What about this one? Is this ill suited to what's happening around him?


Perhaps Mr. Zeffirelli is mistaken. His Holiness looks quite as easy, warm and pleasant.

Ponderables from the Poverello

This son of yours wants to serve God, and you shouldn't be sad about that; you ought to be happy about it. Not only in the eyes of God, but in the eyes of the world as well it will be looked upon as an honor for you and a good thing for your souls and bodies, because God is being honored by your flesh and blood, and all our brothers will be your sons and brothers.

15 December 2007

Homily - 16 December 2007

The question John the Baptist poses to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” is a question laden with hope (Matthew 11:3). This question is predicated by a deep faith in the one “who comes to save you” (Isaiah 35:4).

We have before us in today’s readings two questions central to the faith of Jesus Christ: in what do we hope and what is salvation?

If we look down into the depths of our souls we will find there a deep longing for one thing. Some will fully recognize this deep longing for what it is, others will dimly recognize it and others will reject it forthwith. What is this one thing for which we long? It is the blessed life, the happy life.

When the Forerunner of the Lord sent his disciples to Jesus asking, “Are you the one?” John wanted to know, more so for us than for himself, that Jesus is the one in whom this blessed life, this happy life, is to be found. He wanted to hear that Christ Jesus is salvation and hope.

But what is this happy life? If we look more closely at what we mean by it we find that

we have no idea what we ultimately desire, what we would really like. We do not know this reality at all; even in those moments when we think we can reach out and touch it, it eludes us… All we know is that it is not this [life]. Yet in not knowing, we know that this reality must exist.[1]
What do I mean?

As we draw closer to the celebration of the Lord’s birth, the readings from the prophet Isaiah grow ever more stirring. Today he says, “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song” (Isaiah 35:1-2). Who can hear these words and not be moved with hope?

Or what about Jesus’ answer to John’s disciples? Jesus told them to look and listen and report to John what they saw and heard. They returned to him, saying, “The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Matthew 11:5). Can anyone who truly listens to the voice of the prophet not be roused?

Deep within us is the certain hope that our desire for the happy life can be fulfilled, otherwise we could not hope for it in the first place. This is why our spirits lift when hearing these passages: we know them to be true.

For centuries the peopled cried out, “Lord, come and save us,” a cry that we repeat today because of our hope (Responsorial antiphon). In the words and deeds of Jesus the words of the psalmist are fulfilled. Jesus says to the disciples of the Baptist, “Yes, I am the one who is to come. I have come to save you. I am he.”

This then is our hope, born of faith, and our salvation: it is nothing less than Jesus Christ. It is he who is the happy life, it is he for whom our hearts yearn. Remember the words of Saint Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Everyday of our lives we look for something or someone to satisfy this deep longing that we cannot fill, but how often do we turn to the Lord to quench this holy thirst? We go off in all directions – each leading away from him - and as we do we, too, wander off into the desert, and how many deserts there are!

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.[2]
Yet it is precisely in the midst of the desert that Jesus speaks to us: “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? … Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet” (Matthew 11:7, 9).

The people went out to the desert seeking the one who would save them. They found John the Baptist and he pointed them to Jesus. They found what they sought. They found the happy and blessed life, they found the Messiah, they found their God. Some accepted him and others rejected him. The choice was theirs as it is ours.

How do we know that salvation is found in Christ, that he is the source and foundation of our hope? How do we know that Christ Jesus is salvation and hope? We know this because in him we learn in a profound way that

Man is worth so much to God that he himself became man in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way – in flesh and blood – as is revealed to us in the account of Jesus’ Passion. Hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence consolatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God’s compassionate love – and so that star of hope rises.[3]
This star of hope was the same star that the Magi saw at the birth of Jesus so many years ago. The light of this star, the light of hope, continues to shine upon us in the darkness of this world leading us ever closer to the Crucified and Risen Lord who is near and who is coming to us.

His parousia, his Second Coming, is not something for us to fear, but is rather the very thing for which we hope. This is why Isaiah tells us to “strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God” (Isaiah 35:3-4).

We know that when he comes again all will be made right; justice and mercy will triumph. We know that “the Lord is near,” (Introit) that “the Judge is standing before the gates” (James 5:9).
Let us then turn our gaze toward him who is our hope and our salvation, for when he comes, “those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee” (Isaiah 35:10). Amen.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Spe salvi, 11.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Inaugural Homily, 24 April 2005.
[3] Spe salvi, 39.

What do you get your priest?

Inevitably it happens at this time of year that people ask me what they should get their priest for Christmas. Everybody wants to give their priest a gift but seem uncertain as to what to get him.

(I am not writing this post as an attempt to receive gifts but as a way of trying to assist people in choosing gifts for their local priest).

I will first offer some thoughts and then make a few suggestions.

First, you have to keep the personality of the priest in mind; not every priest is the same. For example, if you want to give your priest a gift certificate to a restaurant, first ask yourself if he goes out to eat. Personally, I rarely go out to eat, both because we have a cook and because it is often difficult to find the time to go out (that, and I like to stay at home, anyway) and, consequently, still have a few certificates given me last year at this time. The same might be said with vestments. There are vestments that my pastor wears that I'll never touch and there are some vestments that I wear that he'll never touch.

Second, various artworks and knick-knacks are always nice but keep in mind that the rectory only has so many shelves and blank spots on a wall. At the same time, the more things a priest collects the more things he has to move. Some things priests don't mind moving, other things they do.

Third, homemade holiday treats (cookies, pies, cakes, fruits, etc.) are delicious and always welcome, but check with the secretaries to see how much has come in. At this time of the year the kitchen counter is most always overflowing with goodies that cannot be eaten because of the sheer quantity.

Now to the suggestions. Some of these are things that I wouldn't mind having myself and some have come from conversations with others priests (I won't tell you which is which):
  • Gas cards and oil changes
  • Gift certificates to book stores (Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Ignatius Press, etc.)
  • Gift certificates to religious goods stores (both local and on-line)
  • Gift certificates to his favorite restaurant
  • Car wash tokens
  • See if the priest has a wishlist on Amazon.com, Ignatius.com, or other web sites
  • Make a donation in the priest's name to Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, or Peter's Pence
  • Offer a gift for a particular situation in the parish
  • Cash never hurts, either

The above list is certainly not exhaustive and is not meant to discourage you from giving your priest a physical gift. If the list is helpful, use it; if not, ignore it :)

When still in doubt, always check with the secretary to see if she has any ideas. Priests often comment to their secretaries on a variety of issues and you never know what he might have mentioned quite in passing the other day. Astute secretaries are aware of these things.

Grieving at Christmastide

In his weekly column in the Catholic Times, Fr. Donald Meehling offers some thoughts about grieving during the Christmas season.

Bishop Lucas on Mary

In his weekly column for the Catholic Times, Bishop Lucas reminds us that "Mary remained steadfast in faith, and so was a beacon of hope to the other disciples of Jesus. This Advent, she lights a hope-filled path for us contemporary disciples of her Son."

His Excellency emphasized Mary's role as a guide to us and the example of faithful discipleship. "As you and I struggle along on our pilgrim way," Bishop Lucas said, "Mary helps us keep the end of the journey in mind. The first and finest disciple of Jesus encourages us to hold fast to the hope of seeing her Son and of living forever with our sins forgiven."

Speaking of vestments

...here is the rose vestment that I will wear this weekend for Gaudete Sunday:


What think you?

The other day I read a chapter of Adrian Fortescue entitled "The Vestments of the Roman Rite" that I found online.



I agreed with much of he says and would like to ask your thought about one of his comments. He writes:
And do not think that a beautiful vestment must be covered with embroidery. Embroidery may be most beautiful. But nearly all now is very bad; not because it is badly worked, but because it is badly designed. If you want embroidery you must get an artist, a real artist, to design it. Plenty of people can work it. But, meanwhile, you can make most beautiful vestments with no embroidery at all. A fine, rich, heavy silk of good colour, well shaped and falling into massive folds, will make as splendid a vestment as one could see.

I think I agree with him, but I'm not quite sure.



Take this vestment, for example, from the Holy Rood Guild:



I've often thought about purchasing it, but I'm not sure if, 1) I would wear it much or 2) if the people would appreciate it. What do you think?

14 December 2007

My top ten posts

A Catholic Mom in Hawaii has tagged me for a most difficult meme: the "My Top Ten" Meme. Those chosen are to select their ten best posts. My selections, in no particular order, are:
  1. Spending your life
  2. The Hand of Providence?
  3. What does it mean to 'subsistit in'?
  4. Are you a Kingdom or a Communion Catholic?
  5. The call of the Lord came to me thus
  6. Ingredients symbolize divine blessing
  7. Cinematic wisdom
  8. Homily, 26 August 2007
  9. Ponderables from the Poverello (series)
  10. Where have all the copes gone?

If you want to do this meme, but consider yourself tagged. I do warn you, however, that it is more difficult than even the book meme.

I realize that my readers might well have chosen other posts for my top ten; I'd be interested in learning what posts you might propose for my top ten.

The glory of claymation

Mulier Fortis posted this most excellent of videos from my childhood days:



I loved it then and I still do now.

13 December 2007

First Lay President of Q.U. Named

The Board of Trustees of Quincy University has appointed Dr. Robert Gervasi as the first lay president of the liberal arts institution in its 147 year history.

As a son of Quincy University, I am pleased to welcome Dr. Gervasi to the Q.U. family and I hope to meet him when he officialy takes the helm.

By all accounts, Dr. Gervasi has a deep admiration for Saint Francis of Assisi. I hope he will be able to rejuvenate the Catholic aspect of both the academic and student life of the University.

I'm not so much concerned at Gervasi's appointment as I am at some of the comments made by one of the members of the Board, who also happened to chair the search committee for a new president.

Brian Belobradic, commenting on Gervasi's appointment, said:
What really resonated was his charisma. He can really grab people's attentions in a room. He's very energetic, and he speaks six languages, but what jumped out with his was, well, his 'Franciscan-ism.' I don't know if that's a word, but boy, he's the real deal.
First, this doesn't come across as too professional but as rather flippant. Second, how can you be a member of the Board of Trustees of a Franciscan liberal arts college and not know if "Franciscanism" is a word? Of course it is! Maybe it's time to develop a basic knowledge quiz for potential Board members.

For more information:

Quincy University press release and more
The Quincy Herald-Whig and again
WGEM TV (with a video)
KHQA TV

Good news

...via Amy: Our Sunday Visitor is preparing to publish Questions and Answers by Pope Benedict XVI in February. The book will be a collection of the questions the Holy Father has answered in various audiences since ascending the Chair of Peter.

It looks like you can get quite a deal through Amazon.com if you pre-order it.

Greetings and salutations!

I've noticed quite a jump in traffic here over the last day or so, thanks to a kind reference from Ask Sister Mary Martha, whose blog I very much enjoy (and who is also a native of the Gem City).

Before I head out in a few minutes to hear confessions, I wanted to extend a word of welcome to our many new visitors: welcome!

12 December 2007

This pleases me

Your Christmas is Most Like: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Each year, you really get into the spirit of Christmas.Which is much more important to you than nifty presents.
What Movie Is Your Christmas Most Like?

A tip of the capello to Ellen From Across the Net.

Lot's wife has nothing on this

In less than one week's time 900 tons of salt have been placed on the streets of the Gem City to combat the winter ice storms that have been hammering the city one after another. That's a lot of salt...

11 December 2007

An Advent and Christmas tradition

Listening to the first reading these past few days - and especially today - I am reminded of a little Advent and Christmas tradition I have: listening to Handel's Messiah.

Everybody knows Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" but not too many have listened to his Messiah in its entirety. I would encourage you to do so; its what I'll be listening to as I drive to the See City and back today.

Looking for a good gift?

All eight episodes of That Catholic Show is now available on DVD. If you haven't yet seen That Catholic Show you can watch them via their podcast.

The episodes are short, informative and very humorous and would be very good to use in PSR classes, RCIA classes, high school or even grade school classes.

Ponderables from the Poverello

The devil is sly and clever. Thanks to God's mercy and grace he hasn't the power to harm my soul. to attack me, he hampers the doings of my body. He keeps me from sleeping and then won't let me stay up to pray either. This is his way of hindering my devotion and stifling the joy of my heart, and getting me to complain about my ailments.

10 December 2007

Book Meme

Thom at Ad Dominum has tagged me a book meme. He likes to tag me for the ones that take some time to answer… Here goes:

One book that changed your life:
The First Life [of Saint Francis of Assisi] by Tomaso de Celano. If you haven’t read it yet you really should. It would make for a great Lenten read, as would Celano’s The Life of St. Clare, Virgin.

One book that you’ve read more than once:
Man at Play: Or Did You Ever Practice Eutrapelia? by Hugo Rahner (Karl’s older – and more easily understood – brother). This is a fantastic look at the theological and philosophical realities of play. Josef Pieper’s In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity goes right along these same lines, and is one I’ve read more than once.

One book you’d want on a desert island:
Given the usual wording is missing (“you can have only one”) this one isn’t so difficult to answer. Among the books I would have with me on said desert island would be Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. You have to have something to pass the time.

One book that made you laugh:
In Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus. There’s nothing finer than a dry, sarcastic wit!

One book that made you cry:
I can’t think of one, really. I think I almost cried when reading Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven by James Bryan Smith.

One book that you wish had been written:
Night Truly Blest: Reflections of the Exultet, so I would already be finished with it.

One book that you wish had never been written:
Oh, pick one by Martin Luther. Incidentally, if you haven’t read him yet you ought too, even if only to realize how very illogical and contradictory his argumentation is.

One book you’re currently reading:
The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. I saw it in the store one day and realized I’d never actually read them and thought I should.

One book you’ve been meaning to read:
The Fulfillment of All Desire by Ralph Martin. You can also pick a great many of the literary classics to answer this question.

Now tag five people:
Ellen, From Across the Net;
Esther, A Catholic Mom in Hawaii;
Peter at Utter Muttering;
Sr. Mary Martha of Ask Sister Mary Matha (who, by the way, now wears a Santa hat);
and Daniel at Ride of Rohirrim (maybe this will get him back to blogging again).

Those silly reporters

In his Reuters article "'Golden Compass' disappoints at box office," about the movie's less than expected weekend revenues, Dean Goodman writes:

Even though the film downplays the religious aspect, it has been savaged by such groups as the Catholic League and the U.S. Conference of Bishops

Until today I wasn't aware that "savage" could be used as a verb. Were you? I did check it out; the dictionary says it is. Now we know.

But more than that, what strikes me is how Goodman sets the Catholic League and the USCCB in the same camp regarding their toward the movie.

You might recall that the Catholic League called for a boycott of the film while the USCCB's Office for Film and Broadcast gave the movie a decent review. This is hardly to sides of the same camp, something that New Line Cinema picked up on.

This reporter might want to doublecheck his facts the next time he writes such an article.

09 December 2007

The last of the prophets

It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: "A voice of one crying out in the desert, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'" John wore clothing made of camel's hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins (Matthew 3:3-6).

Ponderables from the Poverello

There are many who busy themselves solely with advancing their learning and are concerned with that and that only. If they preach to the people and then learn that some of them have been edified or converted to penitence, they get puffed up, or they flatter themselves because of the works which actually others have done. Because of the prayers of the holy brothers, the Lord had done the work of edifying and converting to penitence which these men think they had done by their words. Those holy brothers don’t know what they have accomplished, because it is God’s will that they remain unaware of it, lest they become proud. These are my Knights of the Round Table! They are the brothers who go and hide themselves in the wilderness or in secluded places so that they can give themselves the more assiduously to prayer, and weep for their own sins and the sins of others.

08 December 2007

Homily - 9 December 2007

The opening prayer of today’s Mass, which collects together our individual prayers and offers them to the Father, begs the Lord to “remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy.” We see, then, that the faithful Christian receives Christ with a joyful heart.

My brothers and sisters, when was the last time you welcomed Christ Jesus into your heart with joy? As your head hit the pillow last night, did you joyfully recall his kindnesses throughout the day? Did you recall the sufferings he allowed to come your way with joy, grateful to be able to unite yourself to his Cross? Did you recall his mercy toward you as you awoke this morning, grateful for the gift of a new day, thus rising in joy?

My dear friends, if you live in this way the words of the Prophet Isaiah will be fulfilled for you:

The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2-3).

If you live your life in this way, ever grateful to the Lord for his infinite goodness, you will be found faithful at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. You shall see “the joy that is coming to you from God” (Baruch 4:36).

If you have not recently welcomed the Lord with joy, when was the last time you did so? Some have greeted Christ with joy in life’s happiest moments, while others have done so in the midst of life’s sorrows and tragedies, both of which are necessary.

Did you receive the Lord joyfully when your children were born or when you wedded your spouse? Did you look to him with joy when you were promoted or moved into a new house, grateful for his manifest blessings? Did you look to him with joy at the death of a child or parent, grateful for the time you shared with them? Did you welcome Christ with joy at the loss of a job, grateful to live as he lived during his public ministry, dependent upon the generosity of others? Did you welcome Christ with joy in moments of depression or loneliness, grateful to share in his sufferings? Have you welcomed Christ with joy when his Gospel reached your hearts or when he came to you in the Sacraments?

Some will have come today to welcome Christ Jesus, our Eucharistic King, with great joy and others will have come simply to be here. Some are among us mindlessly while others are here with a great interior devotion. We are grateful for the presence of both. We are grateful for those who have come in love for the example of faith, hope and love they give to us. We are grateful for those who are simply hear, that the Lord might open their hearts to his word.

Today we must hear the words of the Prophet Isaiah afresh: “Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide” (Isaiah 11:3). The fact that we have come today is not enough, it will not bring us to salvation. The Lord knows our thoughts and he knows whether or not we sincerely seek to follow him. It is upon this interior disposition that he will judge us, not on our external appearance.

John the Baptist, the last of the Prophets, condemns the Pharisees today for thinking they could come to salvation simply by coming to be baptized. The Pharisees believed they could enter the Kingdom of God simply by going through the motions of believers, by merely acting as people of faith. To them and to us, John directs his words:

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance… Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 3:7-10).

His words sting for we know them to be true.

Isaiah, too, directs a harsh warning to us: “He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4).

Who, then, are the ruthless and the wicked? They are those who live only for themselves, with no concern for the poor and the needy. They are those who ignore God’s will for them and live their life autonomously and who seek the pleasures of this world above all else. They are those who lie to themselves and say, “I am not a sinner. I have not sinned. I am a good person. That’s all God wants.” They are those who never open their hearts to Christ in joy. These are the ruthless and the wicked whom the Lord will destroy with the breath of his lips.

Yet we are not without hope, for the John the Baptist proclaims there still is time to welcome the Lord Jesus, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). He reminds us, too, that if we are to welcome the Lord with joy, we must first ready ourselves to do so, saying: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Matthew 3:3).

For this reason Saint Paul calls the Lord “the God of endurance and encouragement” (Romans 15:5). The Lord does not desire that we be “cut down and thrown in the fire” but he will have it done if we do not avoid “the coming wrath” by seeking his mercy and preparing ourselves for his coming. It is his desire that we be ushered into his kingdom where “there shall be no harm or ruin on all [his] holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:9).

To enter into his Kingdom we must open our hearts and ears “to hear his majestic voice” for when we do our “hearts will exult” (Introit, Second Sunday of Advent).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us beg the Lord to give us the grace to welcome Christ with joy so that we may “become one with him when he comes in glory” (Collect, Second Sunday of Advent). May he take us home to his Father’s house, for his “dwelling shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10). Amen.

In honor of the day

The Imaculata is the Patroness of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. This image is the central mosaic in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

07 December 2007

In honor of the day


Ponderables from the Poverello

Each should take stock of his own nature, and provide his body with what it needs. Just as we must be careful to avoid overeating, for this would be bad for both body and soul, so we must be careful about excessive fasting, and particularly because the Lord wills mercy and not sacrifice.

- Saint Francis of Assisi

Praised be Jesus Christ!

The snow is falling! And it's building up nicely.

Those are words I didn't think I would happily exclaim for quite a long time, but the scenario is different at the moment than I envisioned it.

As the snow falls, the swelling in my wrists and in my fingers is decreasing and slowly returning my appendages to their normal state. Consequently, the falling snow is the happiest site I've seen in a couple of weeks.

If at all possible don't develop arthritis, or at least not a rare form of a rare form of it; it's a miserable thing.

Yesterday I e-mailed my doctor in St. Louis - who happens to be the chair of the departments of rhuematology and pediatrics at both Cardinal Glennon and St. Louis University - to request an increase in my medicine and to make an appointment to see him (it's been more than a year). The secretary made an appointment for me for April 15th!

He has increased my medicine from 3x daily to 4x daily, which should help signifantly; I'll know for sure by Monday. I also bumped my appointment up to February 26th, so as to not to keep from my possibly seeing the Holy Father in Washington, D.C. May God bless him!

Tree up in St. Peter's Square

Workers erect a 26-meter-high (85 ft.) Christmas tree in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican December 5, 2007.The tree was donated to the Vatican by the northern Italy's city of San Vigilio. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli (VATICAN)

Prince Caspian - 16 May 2008!

Attention Crayola

It's time for a new crayon color: Vaticanmystic white finish.

Mercedes-Benz donated a new Pope mobile to the Holy See, describing it's color as "Vaticanmystic white finish." It might catch on.

Hat tip to the American Papist.

06 December 2007

Pleasant surprises of retail

One of the joys of working with Ignatius Press and their I'm Dreaming of a Catholic Christmas Campaign is being the happy priest who opens the boxes of ordered items upon their arrival. This provides the opportunity to explore some of their items I might not otherwise see. There have been several books to come through that I am very much impressed with and plan to order (I can't mention them yet because some have been ordered as gifts for people who may read this blog and I don't want to spoil the surprise).

Incidentally, if you have a few things you want to order from Ignatius Press, you can contact, I can place the order and arrange for the items to reach you, and you can help send my group of pilgrims to WYD 2008.

05 December 2007

Treasures of the Triduum

The Liturgical Institute of the University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary will present a workshop entitled "Treasures of the Triduum" on Friday, 18 January 2008.

Ponderables from the Poverello

Learning puffs up, but charity builds up.

Two links

A wise word

Today I returned to the War Room for the meeting of the Priests Personnel Board meeting. You can never quite be sure what will be said at these meetings, which makes it imperative to pay attention lest you miss something worthwhile.

Today at said meeting we were all counseled with this bit of wisdom:
We're all just a blood clot away from a catastrophe.
It's quite true, really, and something well worth meditating upon in your Advent prayers as you await the coming of our glorious King.

03 December 2007

Life in Illinois

At this same time yesterday morning (6:49 a.m.), while Chicago rose to find itself all but shut down because of an onslaught of ice and snow, Effingham arose to temperatures in the upper sixties, 67 to be precise.

The day prior in Effingham at the same time it was 32.

Today it is 20. Why did the Lord have me born in Illinois?

02 December 2007

Around the blogosphere

These should keep you busy for a while:

  • In preparation for his feast later this week, Thom at Ad Dominum has a post about St. Nicholas. He also has a post about the sounds of various goats and helps to distinguish these from the sound of a sheep (I'm not really sure why).
  • Fr. V. at Adam's Ale has a post about the Advent wreath. He also has a humorous - and yet insightful - post about that "nerdy Advent kid."
  • Fr. Benjamin at Holy Priesthood has a nice post reflecting on the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
  • Amy of Charlotte Was Both lets us know that the U.S. Bishop's new document on sacred music is finished. Remember, it wasn't voted on the by the full Conference or sent to the Holy See for a recognitio so, like that dreaded Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, it is not binding.
  • Jimmy Akin has a helpful post on Philip Pullman.
  • Fr. Stephanos at Me Monk. Me Meander has a post on Advent highlighting its dual nature.
  • Jeff Cavins has a post on Advent and offers two questions for our pondering.
  • The Curt Jester has the Holy Father's recent Encyclical Spe salvi available as a speech file.
  • Fr. Toborowsky at Young Fogeys has an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI.

Another place for Christmas cards

Beth posted a link to a company her family started: True Christmas Cards. They have a good selection of beautiful cards, many of which can include a family picture. Do have a look.

01 December 2007

Homily - 2 December 2007

This post is my 1,oo1st post!

As we begin the Advent watch awaiting the coming of Christ our King in glory, the Savior tells us to be prudent and vigilant as we await his return.

A new movie will be released next weekend in the nation’s theatres: The Golden Compass. It is a movie based on Philip Pullman’s book of the same name, the first of the His Dark Materials Trilogy. Many in the news media have been comparing this trilogy to C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Lewis wrote his Chronicles of Narnia as an allegory for the Christian faith. It was his attempt to tell the Gospel in another form, and he has proved rather successful at it. While Tolkien himself did not like Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and wrote his Lord of the Rings trilogy in response to it, Tolkien’s characters provide a strong example of both Christian virtue and the Catholic worldview. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, on the other hand, stands in stark contradiction to Christianity and to the beliefs and virtues that both Lewis and Tolkien sought to instill in their readers.

It is an odd comparison to make, that of Pullman to Lewis and Tolkien, especially considering that Pullman has said, “I hate the Narnia books, and I hate them with a deep and bitter passion;” he also has called Tolkien’s books “infantile.”[1] “New Line Cinema may not realize it, but Tolkien and Pullman are not peas in a pod. In fact, they aren't even Jacob and Esau. They are more like Gandalf and Sauron, more like Aslan and Jadis.”[2]

In 2001, Pullman told the Washington Post, “I am trying to undermine the basis of Christian beliefs.” He has also said, “The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all.” Pullman knows the power of books and the influence they have on unguarded minds.

J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has taken much criticism from Christians over the years. Pullman himself admits, “Harry Potter’s been taking all the flak. Meanwhile I’ve been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said.”[3] This brings me to the point in talking about The Golden Compass.

While the movie based upon the book of the same name does not quite follow the book chapter by chapter – leaving out much of the book’s anti-Catholicism, it still poses a danger. The danger lies in that the movie will inevitably lead many children to read the books, which their parents will not likely have read beforehand and cannot help guide them through the books.

If parents were to read these books they would find continual reference to the Catholic Church and her priests, bishops, nuns and Magisterium. All the religious people and figures portrayed in the books are murderers, assassins, liars and more. The Church is never referred to in a kind light; rather, it is all but demonized and vilified. What is more, God – who is called “the Authority” and stands against human freedom - is always portrayed negatively and is killed in the third book.

This is the danger of these books: by putting utterly false information and ideas into the minds of young children, Pullman hopes to turn out an entire generation of atheists, and is already on his way.

To read these books then without proper formation and education in the faith poses a great danger to the faith of children and even of adults, as we have seen with books like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. To read books such as these, to watch movies such as these, without proper formation and education – without remaining alert, awake and vigilant – is to allow the thief to break into our house and to steal away what is most valuable: our faith and hope in Christ (see Matthew 24:43).

Knowing that it would be counterproductive to urge you to boycott the movie and the books, I will not do so. I also know that not everyone who sees this movie and reads these books will lose their faith. Nonetheless, parents have a sacred duty to raise their children in the faith of Jesus Christ and to guard them against anything that might hinder that faith. I urge you, therefore, to be wise about what you let your children watch and read – about what you watch and read - knowing that what is seen and read does indeed help shape our thoughts, beliefs and worldview. To say otherwise is to deny reality.

Even so, we are not without hope, “for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). Advent is the season of waiting and watching because it is also the great season of hope.

The hope of Christians is not the same hope as that of everyday life. It is something far more profound, far more beautiful. It is something Philip Pullman and company fail to see because they fail to acknowledge the fact that there is life after death, that this life is not all there is.

It sometimes happens that we, too, live as though there were no Judgment or that God does not care how we act. On the day of the Lord’s return we will learn otherwise. On that day “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples” (Isaiah 2:4).

Saint Paul admonishes us: “Let us then throw off the works of the darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day” (Romans 13:12-13) because when Christ comes again, if we are found worthy of him and the house of our soul has been kept secure, we will “walk in the light of the Lord,” in whose presence there can be no darkness (Isaiah 2:5).

Knowing full well that “the night is advanced, [that] the day is at hand,” Holy Mother Church gives the Advent season to us as a time to cast off the works of darkness, to secure our home, and to await with eager expectation him who is the fulfillment of our hope.

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob” (Isaiah 2:3). Let us “stay awake” and “be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Matthew 24:44).

[1] In Sandra Miesel, “Misleading ‘Compass,’” Our Sunday Visitor, (96:31) 2 December 2007, 13.
[2] Thomas Peters, “U.S. Bishops give Golden Compass a pass and why we shouldn’t”. http://www.americanpapist.com/2007/11/us-bishops-give-golden-compass-pass.html. Accessed 1 December 2007.
[3] Ibid., 14.