31 May 2008

In honor of the day

It's been remodeled

The web site of the DrPepper Museum has a new look. Go on, go have a look. You know you want to.

Regretful reading

Do you ever regret something that you read that was truly moving and perfect?

In preparing for Sunday's homily I read a homily the Holy Father preached some time ago about building a house on rock.

This is not an uncommon practice for me. I often read what Pope Benedict XVI has said on passages on which I'll be preaching, with the aim of picking up a nugget or two to expound upon. Sometimes, though, there simply are no nuggets, only one beautifully crafted homily. In such sitations the only option I see is viable is to adapt the Pope's homily to my congregation.

This weekend, this will not be so easy because this weekend is Committment Weekend for the Built on Faith, Renewed in Hope campaign.

Parishioners across the Diocese will be asked to fill out pledge cards for the campaign (I'll blog more about this tomorrow sometime, I hope). Consequently, I wanted to preach a shorter homily than usual, but this homily of the Holy Father has captivated me.

Not only is it a longer homily than I wanted to preach this weekend, it's also a bit longer than my normal homilies, though I doubt anyone will notice (except those who aren't really listening anyway; and they're never happy).

I've tried to return to the homily that I started earlier in the week, but I can't bring myself away to the Pope's homily. Oh, what is a priest to do?

There must be a way to shorten the homily without losing its beauty... Saint Anthony, lend me your tongue!

30 May 2008

Two good reads

Can there be any finer activity on a lovely spring summer evening than reading? The Catholic Education Resource Center provided to excellent articles for my reading enjoyment:
  1. "Prayer and the Grace of God," by Fr. John Hardon, S.J. He reflects on the necessity of prayer. This article should prove useful both for individual reflection and for classes for the RCIA, etc.
  2. "Monasteries and Madrassas: Five Myths About Christianity, Islam and the Middle Ages," by H. W. Crocker III. The title of the article is rather self-explanatory. My favorite line from the article is: "The rough playfulness of the Vikings was not universally admired."

If you haven't yet subscribed to CERC's biweekly (I think) e-mail, you really should. And should you encourage teachers to subscribe as well.

29 May 2008

I like my life

Some days life is fairly miserable, most days it isn't bad, and some days life is simply great! Today is one of those latter days.

I took a little walk to the travel agent (both because it is gorgeous out and to start getting "in shape" for the pilgrimage) who has been helping us with some of the preparations for the World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney. My primary purpose was to confirm with her the hotel reserverations and vehicle rentals, all of which, I'm happy to say, are in order.

After checking on the status of the group I posed a personal question to her. Our return flight from Sydney to Chicago is slated for a short layover in Honolulu before leaving for the Windy City. That would make for something like tweny-four hours in a plane over a thirty hour period. Frankly, that is something I cannot do.

My recent return from Rome showed me that age and arthritis (primarily arthritis) is catching up to me. The eight hour or so flight from the Eternal City to St. Louis through New York was about all that my frail constitution could do. Little more strength do I think I can muster and twenty-some hours would be impossible.

I've been pondering this situation for some months now and today decided to ask about the possibility of my remaining in Honolulu for a few days while still sending my pilgrims - who are stronger than I - to Chicago as scheduled.

The travel agent called the airline and arranged one spectacular bargain: 5 nights in Honolulu for $45.00! Somebody likes me :)

What a nice gift on this, the third anniversary of my first Mass of Thanksgiving.

Why not you?


Three years ago this morning I was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful to the Lord for calling me to his service, frail and weak as I am. When I hold his Body in my hands, I am fully aware of how unworthy I am for such service. Yet, nonetheless, he has chosen me.

Why did the Lord choose me to serve him in this way? I do not know. There is nothing extraordinary about me, nothing so unique. I am a man who prefers the quiet of a library to the bustle of large groups of people. Being an introvert I seem a strange choice for such an extroverted ministry. Yet the Lord chose me.
My life differs from that of others only in that it has been marked with much suffering. Yet even in this I am not alone. Who of us does not suffer in some way? A suffering that is bearable for one is completely unbearable for another. There is nothing too different about me; I am a man like all others. Why should the Lord chose me?
I remember very clearly a conversation I had with a Sister while I was in college. We were discussing my vocation; I had already discerned a call to the priesthood and I accepted it, but still I wondered why the Lord chose me. She simply responded, "Why not you?" And I had no answer.
And so I ask you young men who may be reading this post: Why not you? Why should the Lord not want to use you as his humble instrument? The Lord has great skill at making use of fragile instruments. Won't you let him use you?

27 May 2008

Parish Life: Rarely a Dull Moment

With the Pastor away until this evening things have been rather quiet here, as they usually are when he is away.

Consequently, I intended to spend the day reading, researching and working on a couple of articles. That hasn't happened yet. And it doesn't look like it will because I will soon have to get a few things ready for Confirmation at our mission this evening.

Right about lunch time someone from the Illinois Department of Transportation came to the rectory door and told me that a gas line had been hit by the grade school where workers are preparing for the construction of a new grade school building.

It seems the line was to have been turned off some months back and apparently wasn't. Oops.

Now, three hours later, the situation is resolved, with only a patch of the street needing yet to be finished, and just in time for the storm to roll through.

I spent the afternoon out with the workers from IDOT, Amerin, and a few members of the Effingham Fire Department and the Effingham Police Department. It was, for the most part, rather enjoyable.

I managed to snap several pictures of the work that was done:



The afternoon did provide a fun photo op:

The day in brief

One of the joys of having active high schoolers in the parish is the randomness of their ideas.

This morning three of them served the Mass and a fourth helped lead the singing. We do not normally sing during the weekday Masses (with the exception of the Alleluia [if the lector is comfortable singing] and the Doxology and Amen), but this morning I thought people might expect to sing.

Knowing that we would not have an organist or pianist (the Mass was to be at the cemetery but was moved to the church on account of the weather), I chose songs that are easy to sing, are good, and that people know: "Holy, Holy, Holy," "Where Charity and Love Prevail," "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," and the requisite patriotic song, "America."

I was greatly surprised at both the quality of the singing and the number of singers this morning. You could even hear the men, and more so than the women! It was wonderful! We might not have an accompanist more often.

It just goes to show that, as people remarked after Mass, if you chose songs that are easy to sing, have a good melody and good lyrics, people will join in singing. If the songs resemble waltzes, people are much less likely to join in.

At any rate, after Mass the high schoolers wanted to see the pictures they took from the ordination Saturday. Unfortunately, not many of them turned out too clearly.

After chatting in my office for a bit and helping another understand e-mail, they asked me along on a bike ride around Effingham. I accepted their invitation and rode around town with them for a little more than an hour. We then stopped at the local coffee shop for a late lunch. It was an enjoyable time, but I know I'm going to feel it tomorrow. I already do.

I've just returned from a brief visit with a gentleman that we helped last summer with loding and a bit of food for the night. He was very kind and gracious - and unwilling to ask for and to accept help - and promised to repay us when he was able. I didn't think much of it.

These are words we hear quite often, but almost never see fulfilled. Only once before have I received a thank you note and I can't recall having been repaid, until tonight.

This man remembered his promise and had a few days in Effingham. He called when I was out of town and left a message that he wanted to repay us. True to his word, he did. And then some.

He is a man of very few words but a large and generous heart. May God bless him.

Homily - 25 May 2008 - Corpus Christi

“Do not forget the Lord, your God” (Deuteronomy 8:11). These words of Moses need to resound in our ears every day, for we are often quite forgetful of the Lord.

Remembering the Lord of course entails remembering also everything that he has done for us. To remember the Lord is to keep our hearts and minds fixed upon him, to cry out daily to him, “Alleluia!”

We remember the Lord each time we enter a church and genuflect before our Eucharistic King present in the tabernacle. To bend the knee before the Lord is to adore him in true humility, in faith and in love, believing the words which he himself spoke: “I am the living bread come down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:51).

We must be ever cautious that our external actions are not performed in vain. As we fall down before the Lord externally, we must adore him internally, otherwise our worship is in vain. The Lord seeks those who worship him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). We ought, then, to enter the church quietly and reverently, conscious of whose presence it is that we are entering, and we ought to leave in the same way, grateful for this tremendous gift.

There is no finer way to adore the Lord, to remember him, than to gaze in love upon the Eucharist, his very Body and Blood.

Some count us fools for believing that bread and wine are literally changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and not a mere symbol. Even some among us who have tasted the Bread of Angels have abandoned the Church of Christ and wandered away on paths uncertain.

It has always been thus. Even some who first heard Jesus’ words, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (John 6:53), abandoned him. They thought he was mad and questioned what he meant, thinking he was speaking with exaggeration. But Jesus did not relent.

He did not turn to symbolic language but rather to more vivid, more descriptive language. He insisted upon that which he had spoken: “my flesh is true food and my blood true drink” (John 6:55). Many could not believe this and abandoned him, saying, “This saying is hard; who can accept it” (John 6:60)?

Jesus does not run after them trying to clarify what he meant; he already made it perfectly clear. Instead, he simply asks, “Does this shock you? …The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe”(John 6:61-64).

It has always been thus. Even some in the time of our beloved patron, Saint Anthony of Padua, found these words of Jesus too difficult to believe. When he was preaching in Rimini, there was a certain heretic with whom Saint Anthony spoke about the Eucharist.

The man was impressed by Saint Anthony’s holiness and learning but nonetheless could not believe that what appeared to be bread and wine was, in reality, the true Body and Blood of Christ. At one point the heretic said to the Saint:

Very well, let’s drop the discussion and see the deeds. If you, Anthony, manage to show me through a miracle performed in front of everyone that this is the body of Christ, I will renounce every heresy and submit myself to the obedience of faith.[1]
Saint Anthony promised to do so. The heretic then gave the framework for the miracle, saying:

I will shut up my donkey for three days until it is all but starved. Three days hence I will bring it out in front of all these people. I will show it its fodder. You stand in front of the animal holding what you claim is the body of Christ. If the animal, starving, ignores the fodder and instead approaches that God Who you say is to be adored by every creature, I will truly believe in the faith of the Church.[2]
Saint Anthony agreed to this and on the appointed day the people gathered to see what might take place.

The heretic, true to his word, brought his starved donkey and placed its food near it. After celebrating Mass in a nearby church, Saint Anthony brought the Eucharist before the people and silently placed it before the donkey in the sight of everyone.

He then said to the donkey, so that everyone gathered could hear:

In the virtue and in the name of your Creator, whom I, even though I am so unworthy, truly hold in my hands, I tell and command you, o animal, to immediately and humbly draw near and offer Him the veneration due Him. Thus these evil heretics will be persuaded that every creature is subject to their Creator, and that priests regularly hold Him in their hands upon the altar.[3]
After Saint Anthony said this, the heretic offered the donkey its food, but it would not eat. The donkey, ignoring the food, recognized its Lord – whom we so often ignore – and bent its head and knelt before the Eucharist. After adoring the Body and Blood of the Lord, the donkey ate its food. This donkey recognized the One who rode that other donkey into Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 21:1-11).

Thus, through the prayer of Saint Anthony and through the miracle that the Lord worked through him, the heretic came to believe in the Eucharist, in the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As it was in the time of the Apostles and in the time of Saint Anthony, so it is today. Too many fail to give the Blessed Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, the adoration and veneration it is due. Too often do we fail to be like that donkey!

Too many among us do not believe in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. Too many have tried to tell Jesus what he meant to say rather than take him at his word. Not recognizing what she truly is, too many have abandoned the Church looking for something else that will satisfy their longings, looking for something that will entertain them. They failed to see and to believe that it is the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ himself, that satisfies our deepest longings by uniting us with the Lord.

It must be said that of all of the teachings of Jesus, the Eucharist is perhaps the most difficult to accept. Yet, who am I to judge the words of the Master? Who am I to say that Jesus was mistaken when he spoke so very clearly? Who am I to leave him who died for me? Is it not possible that one who created all things out of nothing by the word he spoke could change something that exists into something else by the words he speaks?

During this Sesquicentennial year, we are given a profound opportunity to renew our faith in the Eucharistic Lord and to approach him in the Sacrament of the Altar with greater vigor and devotion.

When the crowds began to leave, Jesus did not stop them; he did not force them to stay with him but, in his love, he allowed them to choose their way. Afterwards, he gathered the Apostles and asked them, “Do also want to leave” (John 6:68)? Peter answered wisely: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:69).

Jesus, our Master, will feed us and satisfy all of our hunger. He knows the longings of our hearts and so he can satisfy them for it is truly he whom we desire and he gives himself to us as our food and drink! The donkey recognized his Lord in the Eucharist, but how often do we? Let us not forget the Lord, our God!

Let us be like that donkey and come before the Lord with humble hearts. Let us follow after Saint Anthony and see in the Eucharist our Lord and God. Let us ever seek to be worthy of him whom we receive. By receiving with joy the Eucharistic Lord, may we come to live with him forever. Amen.

[1] Arnaldo de Serranno, The Book on St. Anthony’s Miracles, Jude Winkler, OFM Conv., trans. and Virgilio Gamboso, ed. (Padua, Italy: Messaggero Di Sant’ Antonio – Editrice, 2004), I.3.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

22 May 2008

Corpus Christi

As Rome celebrates Corpus Christi today, I give you this picture:

It depicts the miracle of Saint Anthony of Padua and the donkey (sometimes a horse) in Rimini. It will serve as a glimps into Sunday's homily, when we will celebrate Corpus Christi.

21 May 2008

Tagged, again!

A Catholic Mom in Hawaii tagged me with the alphabet meme:

Academic
Bibliophile
Catholic
Daren
Eccentric (more than others, but not as much as others, too)
Friendly
Good natured
Humorous (I think so, anyway)
Introverted
Judging
Knight of Columbus
Low keyed
Meandering
Neat
Organized
Priest
Quiet
Reserved
Sarcastic
Thinking
Understanding
Valorous (what else starts with V?)
Witty
X____ (I'm at a loss here)
Young, and yet old
Zehnle

I tag the returning visitors to this blog. You know who you are.

19 May 2008

I've been tagged

...sort of! A Catholic Mom in Hawaii tagged everyone who read this post. Here goes:

What time is your alarm clock set to? 5:00 (if I have the 6:30 Mass) or 6:00 (if I have the 8:30 Mass).

What is the first thing you notice about the opposite sex? What they look like.

Do you think people talk about you behind your back? I know some do. It's part of being a public person.

What movie do you know every line to? The Princess Bride, Labyrinth, and The Lord of the Rings.

What is your favorite movie? See above.

Is anyone in love with you? I don't know.

Do you eat breakfast daily? Rarely. I just don't think about it.

Do you sleep on your side, stomach or back? Usually on my back, sometimes on my side.

Who was the last person to make you mad? A writer of Letters to the Editor.

Are you a lover or a fighter? I don't think I'm either one, really.

Are you a morning or evening person? Morning.

Are you a cuddler? No.

Are you a perfectionist? In some things.

Have you ever wrote a poem? Yes, and that should be "written" (see above).

Do you have more guy or girl friends? I don't know; I've never thought about it before

Piercings? No.

Do you have a tattoo? No.

Are you patient? No.

Do you miss anyone right now? Of course. Several people, actually.

Tea or coffee? DrPepper?

.Regularly burn incense? Sadly, no.

Ever been in love? Of course.

Best room for a fireplace? The library (away from the books, of course).

What do you do when you're sad or upset? Read. And pray.

Afraid of heights? Yes.

Can you change the oil in your car? No.

Favorite flower? Lilac.

Favorite hangout? I don't really have one.

Middle name? Joseph.

Most romantic sounding language? Italian.

Ever been overseas? Several times.

Tag yourself if you wish.

In the news

One of the many blessings which the Lord sent to me through my first Great River Teens Encounter Christ weekend was the Lunt family.

Over the years the Lunts have become very dear friends and really have become a part of my family.

Today, one of them, Nathan, is in the news. Congratulations, Nathan!

Summer has come

Nothing quite says "summer" to me like the sight of a tomato plant. I have many happy memories of picking tomatoes right off of the vine and biting right into them, always remembering, of course, to suck the juice out on the first bite to avoid making a huge mess (as a boy, this always reminded me of the vampire bunny, Bunnicula [I loved those books]).

Every summer at home we filled several five-gallon buckets with tomatoes. We always had far more than we could eat and we ate them every night. I never tire of tomatoes, the most splendid fruit of them all!

Last week the Pastor set about the backyard again. He loves to play in it, planting flowers, arranging fountains, etc. and has made it a very nice place to sit and read or talk. For my part, I'm happy to let him play all he likes and enjoy the benefits of his labor.

Just the other day he added something new to the back yard, and something I didn't expect: tomatoes! (I've been suggesting a lilac bush for three years, but that hasn't happened yet).

But one of the tomato plants he planted is no ordinary plant; it seems to have special, gravity-defying powers. Behold:

I've seen these contraptions on television before and have my doubts about them, but if they do work they are truly wonderful! I'll keep you posted :)

Did they read the book?

This afternoon I went to see the recently released Prince Caspian, after having finished reading the book just a few hours before.

I don't believe that I've wanted to walk out of a movie in the past ten years, but today I very much wanted to, and would have if there weren't people sitting on either side of me whom I would have to disturb upon my exit.

For those who have not read C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian, the movie will probably be rather enjoyable, though there not a few scenes that seem very like something from such movies as The Lord of the Rings (all three of them) and Gladiator (a couple of others also came to mind at the time that now escape me, and I don't see many movies).

For those who have recently read Prince Caspian, I expect the film will prove quite disappointing. It seems that at least half of the film has been made up. Peter and Caspian were turned into rivals, Peter seems to have become an arrogant jerk, and Caspian and Lucy apparently had a thing for each other. The little of the movie that resembled the book was rearranged in such a way (chronologically) so as to make those scenes not quite recognizable.

I left the movie theatre very disappointed indeed.

I very much enjoyed the film The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and was very much looking forward to seeing Prince Caspian. My favorite of Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia has always been The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. After seeing Walden Media's adaptation of Prince Caspian, I'm not sure I'll bother to see their future adaptation of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

18 May 2008

Lest we forget

And for you lovers of Latin:
The homily for this Sunday will be posted, but a bit later today; it's been a long, tiring week, and the manuscript needs a bit of tweaking yet before it goes public.

17 May 2008

Please don't do this at home

...or anywhere else:
As far as home-made art styled after the recent few decades goes, it's better than most.
There was certainly great care and attention given to this piece. Even so, I'm not sure how this will help lead the faithful ever deeper in prayer.
I'm also not quite sure what this says about the power and majesty of the Resurrection or how this could possible draw men back to church.
I have lots of other things to say about this but they aren't very charitable so, funny as they are, I'm afraid I must refrain.

15 May 2008

I'm felling better now

I'm happy to say that I'm feeling better now, though I'm still not up to speed. The weather broke and the clouds have begun to clear. Thank you for your prayers! Presuming a good night's rest tonight I should be back to normal tomorrow.

I've just returned from our mission parish after meeting with the kids who will be confirmed in a couple of weeks. I thought I was going out for a practice, but I must have looked at the wrong week. Tonight's topic was simply a conversation with me and this, that, and whatever else.

We talked about the Bishop's vesture, his role in Confirmation, the uses of oil and even how to discern God's will in your life. They were a quiet group, but it was an enjoyable hour even so.

The vocation director for the Diocese - who is also a good friend - is coming tomorrow to take two of our high school students out to dinner, and to talk about their future. I'll of course join them for dinner.

I'll also be making plans tomorrow to see the upcoming Prince Caspian and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I told the students tonight that these will be the two movies I see this year; I don't get out much, but there isn't much to see, either.

14 May 2008

To raise one's head?

Yesterday morning as I walked to the high school to speak with one of our teachers, I was “greeted” by one of our high students as we walked toward each other. The greeting I received from him was the now common raise-of-the-head-in-your-direction.

This acknowledgment of the presence of another has been with us for some time now. I remember its use when I was in high school – it may have originated well before my time – but even then it was a form of greeting I simply couldn’t bring myself to use; nor can I now.

I can understand not wanting to stop and have a conversation with another person, either because of attendant duties or, in this case, tiredness. Yet to raise your head toward another person seems to me a very arrogant expression (by saying this I certainly don’t mean to imply that I am without arrogance, nor do I intend anything against this particular student).

To raise one’s head toward another person is to look down upon them. In some way it says, “I’m more important than you,” even if this is not the intention of the one who raises his or her head.

It seems to me that a much better form of greeting is to lower your head toward another person, a nod of the head. It is a form of deference to another and seems more Christian, and more civil.

What are your thoughts? Does this bother anyone else or do I simply think too much?

I'm worn out

Yesterday late morning I began the rather dull drive through lots of rain to St. Louis for a routine appointment with my rheumatologist.

The drive itself takes – each way – about ninety minutes, sometimes a bit more depending on traffic and construction. Apparently I wasn’t paying attention when I got to St. Louis and so I missed my exit (which I’d not done before). St. Louis is thankfully laid out on roughly a grid and so I easily found my way to St. Louis University Hospital from the next exit without any real difficulty, though I did find numerous one way streets one after another all going the opposite way I needed.

After checking in at the registration desk, I made my way to the waiting room of the doctor’s office and said, “Daren Zehnle, for a 2:30 appointment,” to which the secretary replied, “I have you for a 3:30 appointment.” I wasn’t happy. I must not have written the appointment in the wrong time slot in my calendar. Oops.

Now, I always bring a book with me - in this case Efraim Karsh’s Islamic Imperialism: A History - when I travel in case of times like this, but the prospect of sitting in a doctor’s waiting room for an hour didn’t please me.

I moved to the chairs, sat down, and looked around the waiting room, quite surprised to see how empty it was of people. Ordinarily, the waiting room is at least half-full, but yesterday afternoon I was the only one there; apparently a great number of people canceled their appointments on account of the rain, which I, too, thought about doing.

I opened my book and read no more than three sentences when the door to the office opened and I was called back. The nurse checked my weight and then my blood pressure, which is still higher than it should be but not as high as it was the last time she checked it.

The doctor came in momentarily and checked the movement of my joints, inquired as to any swollenness, stiffness, soreness, fevers, tiredness, etc. and gave me another medicine to take each day because of an antibody I’ve developed that causes dry eyes and mouth (this explains why I simply couldn’t tolerate contact lenses last summer). I’m now up to seven pills a day. Being all of thirty years old, it seems rather excessive but the medicines do seem to do the trick.

After not more than fifteen minutes in the doctor’s office building, I was on my way back to Effingham.

As anyone with arthritis can tell you, there’s nothing quite like spending a good amount of time in car to aggravate arthritis considerably, especially when the driving is done entirely under mist and rain.

Being quite worn out when I arrived back at the rectory I laid down for a nap, which I never do. I woke after an hour, feeling just as bad – if not worse – than before I went to bed. This is nothing new; I’ve never been able to nap, as much as I might like too.

I was a groggy zombie for the rest of the evening and when I went to bed for the night I simply couldn’t sleep because I had messed with my system. Finally around midnight I fell asleep and must have slept through my alarm this morning.

I awoke at 6:05 a.m., giving me just enough time for a quick shower before turning the lights on in the church before too many people would know I overslept. I’m afraid the sisters who come to the 6:30 a.m. Mass were unable to pray their Office in the church before Mass this morning as they normally do. Sorry, Sisters! Nonetheless, Mass started at 6:30 a.m.

After Mass I went over to the office to check my calendar and e-mail, which was a huge mistake. To get from the rectory to the church I do not have to go out of doors, but to get from the rectory or church to the office I do. Something in the air went straight to my joints and sapped what little strength I had left from yesterday.

Thankfully there isn’t much on the calendar today so I’ve cancelled everything except for a meeting tonight which I simply can’t get out of, returned to the rectory where I can stay protected from the elements and stay lying down (which is the only way on days such as this that I feel rather decent and am able to get something done; standing and sitting simply makes the arthritis worse). I don’t intend on stepping foot outside again today until I must leave for my meeting, by which time I hope the weather breaks. Don’t get old; it isn’t worth it. Fortunately, days such as this are rare.

As you might then expect today will be a day for reading and maybe even a bit of writing.

13 May 2008

In the news

On a bizarre and sad note, two "crackpots" in Milwaukee, one who claims to be a bishop and one who claims to be none, are accused of keeping the body of a 90 year-old woman in their home because would restore her to life, all the while cashing her social security checks.

On a happier note, the director of the Vatican newspaper, L Osservatore Romano, explains why Pope Benedict XVI has been speaking so much about the Church Fathers. Surprise, surprise! It's to keep tradition alive and going.

12 May 2008

Look East, young man!

Fr. Longenecker has a post describing a conversation he had with several high school boys after celebrating Mass ad orientem.

I've celebrated Mass ad orientem with high school students twice and I never had a single complaint or question about it. It was obvious to all that the room we were in didn't have space for me to stand "on the other side of the altar" (if I did they would have been right up to the altar).

I said nothing at the time, nor afterwards, and gave no indication it was "big deal," so to speak.

Not a one of them questioned it afterwards.

I've also celebrated Mass ad orientem in our mission parish now three times, also without any mention of it from me. The only comments I've heard regarding it are positive and appreciative.

I can't argue this

Your Thinking is Concrete and Sequential
You are precise, orderly, and realistic.
You tend to get to the point and get things done.

Difficult, detailed work is easy for you. You take things step by step.
Time limits aren't a problem for you either. You work well with deadlines.

What does drive you crazy is any sort of task that isn't precisely laid out.
You don't like anything to be ambiguous. You prefer to deal with the facts at hand.
What Kind of Thinker Are You?

Capell tip to Craig at Argyle Socs 'n Mocs.

On the 1960s

George Weigel takes a critical look at one of the most peculiar decades in the history of man in his article, “The Sixties, Again and Again,” published in the April 2008 issue of First Things (I’m still catching up on my reading).

Weigel explores six “crucial movements in the Sixties with an eye to how they reshaped American political culture, with effects still being felt today” (32). The six movements are: the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963; Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965; the Tet Offensive in 1968; the Kerner Commission in 1968; The Secular City, published in 1965; and the rise of Environmentalism in 1969.

As he always does, Weigel applies his sharp intellect and good common sense to each of these movements and concludes that the Sixties are “a decade still much with us” (39).

He says, and quite rightly, that in the Sixties:

A politics of reason gave way to a politics of emotion and flirted with the politics of irrationality; the claims of moral reason were displaced by moralism; the notion that all men and women were called to live lives of responsibility was displaced by the notion that some people were, by reason of birth, victims; patriotism became suspect, to be replaced by a vague internationalism; democratic persuasion was displaced by judicial activism (39).
How these shall be remedied is yet to be seen, but may it be done soon.

11 May 2008

In honor of the day

HAPPY PENTECOST!

A religion of peace?

On 2 May 2008, Ali Al-Faqir, former Minister of Religious Endowment for Jordan, said during a televised speech:

Islamic lands that were occupied by the enemies will once again become Islamic. Furthermore, we will reach beyond these countries, which are lost at one point. We proclaim that we will conquer Rome, like Constantinople was conquered once, and as it will be conquered again.
One of these "Islamic lands" is Spain, despite the fact that Christians were in Spain before Muslims, as they were in Constantinople and in every other "Islamic land."

These words are very troubling, though not surprising.

The Catholic News Agency has more on the story. Not surprisingly, I found no mention of this in the "mainstream" news media.

10 May 2008

The Life of St. Anthony of Padua

Browsing around this afternoon I stumbled upon the web site of Edizioni Messagero in Padua, Italy.

From the web site you can order the Assidua, the Life of St. Anthony written by a Franciscan who was a contemporary of the Evangelic Doctor.

To my knowledge, this is the only English translation of the life of the Saint. I finally found it this past January when in the Vatican bookstore. It is very good.
You can also order several other books concerning the Saint of Padua, most notably his Sermsons for Sundays and Festivals two volumes, one for Sundays from Septuagesima to Pentecost and the other From the First Sunday after Pentecost to the Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost.
There are a few other books whose titles are in English but whose descriptions are not. I may order or two and let you know what I think of them.
Unfortunately, the web site seems only to be in Italian so you'll have to guess your way around.

Homily - 10 May 2008 - The Vigil of Pentecost

As America celebrates this weekend Mother’s Day, the Church, too, celebrates Mother’s Day in a way more particular and more profound. This evening we await the great Solemnity of Pentecost, the day on which the Lord Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and on which Holy Mother Church was born from the pierced side of Christ.

When the Holy Father Benedict XVI visited this nation only a few weeks ago, he prayed repeatedly and incessantly for a new a new Pentecost, a new springtime. He said, “I have come to repeat the Apostle’s urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country.”[1]

The action of the Holy Spirit is intimately connected with the grace of sincere repentance and conversion. Indeed, the Holy Spirit, “the Lord and giver of life” is given to us so that me might live new lives in Christ. We must then remain open to His promptings to conversion. A genuine renewal of faith will only occur if we recover the awareness of sin and of the consequences of sin, if we return to the Lord in the sacrament of Penance, seeking his mercy that is our salvation and our life.

Who could deny that we need a new outpouring of the gifts of the Spirit? How many today are unaware that “the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5)? How many today live as though the new life given them by the Holy Spirit means nothing? How many are unaware of the great dignity and holiness to which they are called by virtue of their Baptism?

So many today live in darkness, unable or unwilling to see that Christ is “the light of life” (John 8:12). They live their lives either in gloom and despair or in apathy and indifference. They fill their days with so many things, all in the vain attempt to find the life for which they yearn. Yes, Lord, “send out your Spirit … and renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:30)!

It takes only a moment’s glance around us to see how deeply we need to be renewed by the Spirit.

Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads… It is a time of great promise, as we see the human family in many ways drawing closer together and becoming ever more interdependent. Yet at the same time we see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: signs of alienation, anger and polarization on the part of many of our contemporaries; increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of Christ and God. The Church, too, sees signs of immense promise in her many strong parishes and vital movements, in the enthusiasm for the faith shown by so many young people, in the number of those who each year embrace the Catholic faith, and in a greater interest in prayer and catechesis. At the same time she senses, often painfully, the presence of division and polarization in her midst, as well as the troubling realization that many of the baptized, rather than acting as spiritual leaven in the world, are inclined to embrace attitudes contrary to the truth of the Gospel.[2]
Yes, we are at a crossroads, both individually and collectively, and there are two ways we can turn, either towards the Lord or away from him.

As we stand at this crossroads, are we not aware that “all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23)?

These interior groanings come from a desire for life, for abundant life! We are all thirsting for life, thirsting for joy and peace, thirsting for God himself, even if we are unaware of the cause of our thirst. Jesus speaks to our groanings, to our thirsting: “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink” (John 7:37).

Too many people today do not recognize these groanings and this thirst for what it truly is and so do not go to Christ. It is the desire for God that causes them to groan and thirst, and they seek to satisfy it with everything but God! And because they – even some among us today - live without God and do not sincerely and continually seek him - they say, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off” (Ezekiel 37:11). Not so! The Lord says to them and to us: “I will put my spirit in you that you may live” (Ezekiel 37:14).

This life, true life and life in abundance, is the heart of the Gospel! This life is given to the world through the Church, our Mother, through the Sacraments entrusted to her. It is the mission of the Church to proclaim this life anew to every generation. It is the mission of Holy Mother Church not only to proclaim this life, but also to lead all people to this life and to bring all people together in the Church, the Body of Christ.

Let each of us then approach the Church to receive the grace of Christ given through the Sacraments, which have origin in the pierced side of Christ.

For true life – our salvation – can only be found in the reconciliation, freedom and love which are God’s gracious gift. This is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centeredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people’s hearts.[3]
We must beg the Holy Spirit to awaken in our hearts and greater awareness of this truth. We must follow his promptings to be reconciled with God and so be filled with his joy and love. We must beg the Lord to pour upon us anew the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we received in Baptism and in Confirmation. Not only this, but we must open ourselves to these gifts and cooperate with the grace the Lord gives us.

The power of the Holy Spirit will help us to live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Let us follow the example of Holy Mary and wait in prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit. With her, let us pray: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love! Amen.”

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 17 April 2008.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., Homily, 19 April 2008.

Christian charity?

Eight times out of ten, when the telephone rings on a Saturday you can be sure the caller wants one of two things: Mass times or money. And sometimes, though very rarely, both.

Now, this is not a post against people calling for either of these, but rather something related to the first.

This morning I received a call from a woman needing help with her rent payment. By Monday morning at eight o'clock. The details of her situation are of no importance here and why she waited to seek help until Saturday is anybody's guess. Why anybody waits to call until Saturday is anybody's guess, but quite a few people do.

Very often, for one reason or another, callers seeking financial assistance are not Catholic. You can always tell when their first words are, "Is this a preacher?" to which I respond, "This is a priest." And we stumble on from there as we did this morning.

I've often wondered why Protestants call the Catholic Church seeking assistance and not their own ecclesial community. One reason, no doubt, is that it is difficult to reach anybody at most Protestant offices on a Saturday while a few priests in the country still answer the telephone. Another reason is that some ecclesial communities will only help a person if they join their denomination. It's very sad.

The Catholic Church gives what it can to whom it can. Period.

The caller this morning assured me that her father will repay the parish for the money we are giving towards her rent, but she would need the address of the parish first.

"The address is in the phone book," I said, not expecting to receive anything since we hear this all the time (only once have I received a "thank you" letter from someone we helped). But I have no reason to doubt her. As she said something after I mentioned the phonebook it occurred to me that something seemed funny with her request for the address.

If she, not being a parishioner, called us she surely used the phone book. It seemed reasonable enough, so I asked, "How did you get our number?"

"The first preacher I called gave it to me," she said. This might well be another reason so many people come to the Catholic Church seeking assistance: other pastors refuse to help those who come to them. Those seeking assistance know the Catholic Church will actually assist them, rather than refer them to others.

Now it's true, I will refer people first to Catholic Charities during the week, but they aren't open on the weekend. And they're still within the Church. I've never sent someone to a Protestant community, not even a Protestant. And if I ever do I will call them first to let them know the situation and why I referred the person. No such call was made to us.

I'm half-tempted to telephone the woman back and ask which preacher sent her to us and call him (or her) to get the story. And to see what they say about the Catholic Church, both in sermons and in conversations.

In honor of the day

Happy Damien Day!
I wish I were in Hawaii to celebrate the day again, as I was a year ago! My thoughts and prayers are with you all. Esther, if you see Bishop Silva today do give him my greetings :)

09 May 2008

I sit corrected

Some of my astute readers questioned whether my characterization of the book Envinronmental Stewardship, published by the Acton Institute, was accurate. It turns out they are correct and I am not.

The book is published as a way to question the underlying assumptions concerning the so-called global warming, with the premise being something like, "Even if...still...," though this could be better clarified in the introduction. The essays in the book are meant to question global warming, not to endorse or support it.

I apologize for the mischaracterization and am grateful for the correction.

Must have music

One of the few pleasures - it was a chilly, windy, rainy day - of arriving early at Yankee Stadium in New York City for the Papal Mass was the pre-Mass Concert of Hope. It was comprised of organ pieces with lots of Handel and various musical groups performing.

I was introduced to a boys' choir from England - it seems the best singers all are - called Libera. They are outstanding!

I had sitting in my desk drawer several coupons for free CDs from a music company - you know, the buy one get ten free kind - so I ordered four of their CDs and have been extremely satisified.
I think this group might even sing a song or two on the soundtrack of the movie Millions (which is also very good), but I haven't checked that yet.

Here is Libera singing my favorite of their songs - Sanctus - in New York City:



Listening to them it's very easy to understand why choirs for the first many centuries of the Church were comprised of only boys. The world needs more choirs of their caliber!

A few links

Saturday is the feast of Blessed Damien of Molokai and A Catholic Mom in Hawaii lets us know of candlelight vigil in his honor.

On his way Ad Dominum, Thom offers his reflections on how to treat a “super freak.”

If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should check out the new blog, Stuff Catholics Like.”

Over at Adam’s Ale, Fr. V. gives his suggestions for “new” sins. I quite agree with #3. He also has ten (more) reasons why he loves the Catholic faith.

Sr. Mary Martha gives some advice to Godparents.

This story comes to you a bit late, but it's a good one nonetheless. The Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George - who's Motherhouse is in our Diocese - staff the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. and some of the sisters prepared the meals for Pope Benedict XVI.

08 May 2008

An update

It's been quite here on the blog for the last twenty-four hours and, as much as I would have liked to blog a bit, for good cause.

Yesterday the priests of the Diocese gathered for our annual "Jubilee Day" to celebrate our silver and golden jubilarians (the day of their ordination almost didn't happen).

Prior to the gathering, the Priests Personnel Board met in a makeshirt "war room." Oddly enough, the room which was utilized has chairs that are far more comfortable than the actual war room.

Our planning concluded just about the tim that the other priests began arriving at the parish.

A priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago offered two reflections, which were followed by Vespers and dinner.

After dinner, I met a few priests at the Cathedral and had an enjoyable few hours visiting more wth them. I left Springfield about 11:30 p.m., which made for a very late night, but it was well worth seeing them again.

Tomorrow evening the World Youth Day 2008 pilgrims and parents will meet to go over the itinerary and other such important details, thus providing much of the day's work. Tomorrow I hope to put some folders together with everything the parents might want (I'm sure I'll forget five or six things, though).

We've had some almost stormy weather here in Effingham the past several days, but still - quite disappointingly - no actual storms have materialized. One of my favorite pasttimes growing up was watching the storms rolling over the Mississippi River. The bigger the storm, the happier I am. There's still hope for tomorrow I'm told.

05 May 2008

Utter nonsense

This morning in the mail I received two copies - I'm not sure why - of Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition: Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant Wisdom on the Environment (with two DVDs) from the Acton Institute (2007).

On the cover the institute boldly proclaims, "OVER 80,000 COPIES IN CIRCULATION." This is largely due, no doubt, to their free and uninvited mailings.

The book is largely concerned with the so-called "global warming" and in the introduction we are asked four questions:
  1. Is the planet warming?
  2. If the planet is warming, is human activity (like CO2 emissions) causing it?
  3. If the planet is warming, and we're causing it, is it bad overall?
  4. If the planet is warming, we're causing it, and it's bad, would the policies commonly advocated (e.g., the Kyoto Protocol, legislative restrictions on CO2 emissions) make any difference, or would their cost exceed their benefit?

This may well be the worst case of presumptive logic I've ever seen! The answer to each question, as you can tell simply from the questions themselves, requires a positive answer to the previous question. Talk about a set up! The good news about this sort of (il)logic is that it is very easy to refute.

The presumed answer to the first question is, "Yes, the planet is warming," which, of course, flies in the face of the scientific data. The planet isn't warming, but cooling. (The archives of the American Papist are an excellent place to browse for more information and good commentary.)

If the basic and primary premise of the book is false it does not bode well for the remainder. I'll read no more of this book.

Certainly we should be concerned about the environment and should do our part to live as good stewards of the part of the earth entrusted to our care, but we should do so based on true morality - remembering that we are stewards who have dominion over the earth - and on scientific fact, not media hype, exaggeration and the latest passing trend.

04 May 2008

The vacationing Pontiff

Some time ago I saw somewhere the Holy Father's public travelling schedule for the summer.

I thought it showed him as arriving in Australia some days before the commencement of World Youth Day 2008 and thought, "Good for him!" It seems what I saw is correct.

Pope Benedict XVI will spend a few days vacationing in Australia prior to World Youth Day.

This should make a nice gift

Orders are being taken for the official commemorative book, Christ Our Hope: Pope Benedict XVI Apostolic Journey to the United States 2008.

The book will be available sometime in June 2008.

Book review

As every good historian does, Brennan Pursell, in his Benedict of Bavaria: An Intimate Portrait of the Pope and His Homeland (Circle Press, 2008), looks to the past in the hopes of glimpsing into the future.

Pursell spends more than half of his book exploring the life of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger summarizing not only the story of his life but the personality of the Holy Father, as well. Using the information gleaned from the life of Pope Benedict XVI up to the point of his writing, Pursell offers several observations about what might be expected in the future of this Pontificate.

By devoting special and careful attention to the attitudes and culture of the people of Bavaria (which comprises by far the best portion of the book), Dr. Pursell offers a compelling biography of Pope Benedict XVI in a manner unlike any other biography of the Supreme Pontiff.

In addition to the biographical sketch he provides, Dr. Pursell also provides summaries of the Holy Father’s major written works, the Apostolic Journeys he has undertaken within and outside Italy, and his two Encyclicals.

Benedict of Bavaria should be the first stop for those who seek to know more about the person of Pope Benedict XVI.

03 May 2008

Saving babies?

Just a short while ago I went about town running a few errands.

On the list was picking up a few cases of Dr Pepper (it's on sale), hangers and a power cord. While checking out, the polite cashier asked, "Would you like to donate to the March of Dimes and help save babies?"

I answered, "No, thank you. They contribute to abortion and that's a strange way to save babies."

Naturally and expectedly, the cashier made no real reply.

While it is true that the March of Dimes "officially" remains "neutral" on the "issue" of abortion - as if such a stance were truly possible - the March of Dimes does support organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, who support abortion and fetal tissue reseach. A simple Google search will provide much more information.

Please, if asked to support the March of Dimes, kindly decline the invitation and donate your money to a more worthy organization that will actually help save babies,

Homily - 4 May 2008 - The Ascension of the Lord

As we celebrate today the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, the readings present to us two principle articles of Christian faith: the divine power and authority of Christ, and the Last Judgment.

The “Lord Jesus, the conqueror of sin and death, ascended to heaven while the angels sang his praises.”[1] Today, Christ Jesus “mounts his throne amide shouts of joy” (Psalm 47:6); the “great king over all the earth” (Psalm 47:3) now “sits upon his holy throne” (Psalm 47:9).

One might say that the Lord returned to the Father in much the same way that he came to the earth: quietly and without much fanfare. He was born of the Virgin Mary under the cover of darkness and under the cover of a cloud he ascended his throne. The angels announced his birth to the shepherds and the angels announced his glorious return to the Apostles.

Before he ascended to the Father, Jesus told the Apostles, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). And yet, Jesus “was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). How are we to make sense of this?

Let us first consider this cloud. This ancient image from the Old Testament

is a sign of the hiddenness of God who, in his very hiddennes, is close to us and exercises his power for us; who is always beyond our reach and yet always in our midst; who eludes our every attempt to lay hold of him and manipulate him, but by that very fact exercises a providential rule over us all.[2]
Is it any wonder, then, that the Apostles simply stood there “looking intently at the sky as he was going” (Acts 1:10)?

In the mystery of the cloud the Lord Jesus revealed the fullness of his divine power, saying to the Apostles, “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

Having ascended to his heavenly throne, the Father “put all things beneath [Jesus’] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way” (Ephesians 1:22-23).

The Eleven were overcome with wonder and awe, with faith and hope. They were overcome with a desire to be with their Lord, to follow him who said, “I am with you always.”

Is this not our desire as well? Do we not wish that we could have been present with the Apostles, to see with them the Risen Lord ascend to his glory? Do we not, too, wish to be with Christ the Lord?

We see, then, that Christ, “the mediator between God and man, judge of the world and Lord of all, has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us but to be our hope!”[3]

Today, with the Apostles, “we rejoice that Christ our Savior has taken his place at the right hand of the Father, because where he has gone, we hope to follow.”[4]

Not only is it our desire to be with the Lord, but it is his desire to be with us! This brings us to the second principle article of the Christian faith revealed in this Solemnity, the Last Judgment, for we know that “this Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

We see in the Ascension of the Lord that our own humanity ascended into heaven. This means that humanity

has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God. Heaven is not a place beyond the stars, but something much greater, something that requires far more audacity to assert: Heaven means that man now has a place in God.[5]
Because of the union with God now possible in Christ, the Lord commissioned the Apostles, saying,

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).
At the moment of our deaths, we will each stand before the throne of God and face our particular and individual judgment, which will be made known at the Resurrection of the Dead. We will be judged both for what we have done and what we have failed to do, all in accord with the double command of love of God and love of neighbor.

The thought of being judged by the Lord often inspires a certain fear in many people as they consider the prospect of their death and the life they have lived. But the image of the Last Judgment

is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope… [I]t is an image that evokes responsibility, an image, therefore, of that fear that … has its place in love. God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace.[6]
When we stand before the throne of God justice and grace will meet in the gaze of Christ Jesus.

Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives becomes evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire” [I Corinthians 3:15]. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the interrelation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us forever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love… At the moment of judgment we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.[7]
We see then that today’s Solemnity is both a most serious one and also one filled with great joy. Man does indeed have a place in God, a place in which all of the deepest yearnings of our hearts will be fulfilled. It is in God alone that we will be satisfied! Amen.

[1] Roman Missal, Preface: Ascension I.
[2] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching, Matthew J. O’Connell, trans. (Chicago, Illinois: Franciscan Herald Press, 1985), 62.
[3] Roman Missal, Preface: Ascension I.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli Address, 21 May 2006.
[5] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching, 62-63.
[6] Pope Benedict XVI, Spe salvi, 44.
[7] Ibid., 47.

A wedding homily

From time to time I see that not a few people stumble upon this blog in search of a wedding homily. I am witnessing a wedding this afternoon and so thought I would post the homily I intend to preach. It seems a bit lengthy and I may try to shorten it up a bit.

My dear friends in Christ, may the Lord give you peace!

We gather this afternoon to witness and celebrate the love that N. and N. share one for the other, a love that ultimately comes from Christ himself. We gather to witness the exchange of their consent to love each other faithfully and exclusively for the rest of their days as they commit themselves to mirror the love of Christ for his Bride, the Church.

I welcome each of you, their family and friends, to share in this solemn celebration, and I greet you with affection. On behalf of N. and N., I thank you for your prayerful support and encouragement; let me also express to you their joy and gratitude at your presence here today.

Of the many blessings with which life is filled, few compare to the great gift of love, this love which N. and N. are about to pledge to each other this day for the rest of their days. Let us now reflect upon the wonder of love. To do so, I ask you to permit me to speak directly to the couple; you are certainly welcome to listen in.

N. and N., you have invited us here to share in your joy, to share in the love you have for each other. This love, we know, ultimately comes from Christ Jesus and is always to mirror and reflect his love for the Church. We, your family and friends, and I, the Church’s minister, are truly happy to be here with you today.

You have chosen for us today the beautiful and moving reading from the Book of Tobit. This short book is a profound example of faithful love. Tobit says he “alone went often to Jerusalem for the feasts, as it is ordained for all Israel by an everlasting decree” (Tobit 1:6); that is, of all Israel most had turned from the Lord, but Tobit remained faithful. He married Anna and she gave birth to their son, Tobias. Tobit was taken into exile in Nineveh, but because he was faithful to the Lord even there he quickly gained favor with the king.

Tobit was a generous man. “I would give my bread to the hungry and my clothing to the naked” he says; “and if I saw any one of my people dead and thrown out behind the wall of Nineveh, I would bury him” (Tobit 1:17). Doing so meant that Tobit disobeyed the orders of the emperor and put his life in jeopardy, but he would not cease doing good. After burying a dead kinsman and being made unclean, Tobit slept outside and was blinded by a bird. He then prayed to the Lord for healing.

Meanwhile, back in Media, Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, was possessed by the demon Asmodeus and unknowingly strangled seven husbands within the bridal chamber. Being her father’s only child she brought disgrace upon him by not giving him an heir. Sarah prayed to the Lord for the birth of a child to give honor to her family.

In answer to their prayers the Lord sent the Archangel Raphael to heal Tobit’s blindness, to give Sarah to Tobias in marriage, and to bind up Asmodeus the demon (cf. Tobit 3:16).

Raphael tells Tobias how to deal with the demon Asmodeus and how to cure his father’s blindness. Tobias follows his instructions and entered Sarah’s room to take her as his wife. After fulfilling the angel’s instructions, Tobias and Sarah offer the beautiful prayer read for us today.

Throughout this inspired book, we learn the great importance of fidelity to God, of praising God, of generous giving and of steadfast prayer. We shall now say a few words about each of these.

First is the importance of fidelity – of faithfulness – to God. In their difficulties and hardships, Tobit, Sarah and Tobias were faithful to the Lord and did not turn their backs on him. Because of their fidelity, the Lord answered their prayers.

Indeed, we know that God’s own love for us is a faithful love, a love that “never fails” (I Corinthians 13:8).

God’s relationship with Israel is described using the metaphors of betrothal and marriage; idolatry is thus adultery and prostitution… The history of the love-relationship between God and Israel … consists in the fact that man, through a life of fidelity to the one God, comes to experience himself as loved by God and discovers joy in truth and in righteousness – a joy in God which becomes his essential happiness.[1]
God “sent his only Son as expiation for our sins” (I John 4:10). “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him” (I John 4:9). Here then we come to realize that

God’s passionate love for his people – for humanity – is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice… so great is God’s love for man that by becoming man he follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and love.[2]
This is faithful love, love that knows no bounds. It is this same love, this same fidelity, that you, N. and N., are to mirror for each other each day of your lives. When you look upon your spouse, you are to see the faithful love of God and you are to extend that love.

Second we see the importance of praising God. The prayers of Tobit, Sarah and Tobias each begin in praise of the Most High, recalling what he has done for them in the past and confident of what he will do in the future.

To be able to praise God we must be in relationship with him so that we can be aware of his goodness towards us. One of God’s greatest gifts to you, N. and N., is that “love between man and woman which is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings” that has drawn the two of you together in love.[3] Give praise to God each day of your lives for this wondrous gift.

Third is the importance of generous giving that we see through the example of Tobit and Tobias. The love that has drawn the two of you to each other is the same love that joins you together so that you “shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). This love that draws you together is the love of Jesus Christ; it is that love that went all the way to the Cross to redeem us; it is this love that knows no end. If this love draws you together today, it must be shared with everyone who comes into contact with you; this love cannot be selfishly hoarded, but must be generously shared.

Fourth is the importance of prayer, of an intimate relationship with the Lord. The Lord has given you to each other so that this relationship may deepen with each passing day. As such, the two of you are taking on a specific duty.

N., your first duty as a husband will be to do all that you can to ensure that N. grows in holiness and is welcomed into the eternal wedding banquet of the Lamb of God. N., your primary duty as a wife will be to do all that you can to ensure that N. grows in holiness and is welcomed into the eternal wedding banquet of the Lamb of God. Together, then, you will love each other as Christ has first loved you, seeking only the good of the other, never thinking of your own good.

Only through prayer will you ever help each other grow daily in holiness and in greater union with the Crucified and Risen Lord. Only when you consider each other’s growth in holiness more important than even your own life will you realize Jesus’ command for you, to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

This is certainly a tall order and a difficult one, and if you attempt to fulfill this duty alone you will fail for Jesus reminds us: “without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Pope Benedict reminds us that in order “to become such a source [of love], one must constantly drink anew from the original source [of love], which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God [cf. John 19:34].”[4] You must daily seek the grace of the Lord to love in this way. You cannot do it alone. If you ask him, you will have the help and support of the Lord. If you ask us, you will have also the help and support of your family and friends. If you ask her, you will have the help and support of holy Mother Church.

Together, then, we will all grow in love of - and in love with - the Lord Jesus Christ, all through the love that we see in you. May your love always bear witness to the love of Christ for his bride, the Church. “May the Lord be with you always and, wherever you are, may you be with Him always. Amen.”[5]

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 9.
[2] Ibid., 10.
[3] Ibid., 3.
[4] Ibid, 7.
[5] Saint Clare of Assisi, Blessing 13.

In honor of the day

As we celebrate today the Apostles Philip and James, be sure to read (again) Pope Benedict XVI's addresses concerning these two Saints.

And, because I forgot to post this yesterday, you can also read the Holy Father's address on Saint Athanasius.

The Holy Father's series of addresses on the figures of the early Church will be of great benefit to homilists for years to come. Thank you, Holy Father!

02 May 2008

Get ready

Apparently Jesus will return somewhere around the year 2015.

Naturally, there are quite a few things wrong with this pastor's idea.

First, that he is so focused on the coincidence of four lunar eclipse with "God's holy days" between 2014 and 2015. We're using the Gregorian calendar. What if we were using a different calendar where this didn't quite match up? We've changed calendars a time or two in the past; what's to say we couldn't do it again soon and so mess up God's signals?

Second, Jesus says: "It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority" (Acts 1:7).

The Lord elsewhere says: "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mark 13:32; see also Matthew 24:36).

Furthermore,

This seems simple enough. If the time is not to be known by the Apostles, how could we think we could know it? It's an arrogant thought, really. We ought not be concerned with trying to determine the exact time of Jesus' return - we can't even do so - but we ought to live ready for his return each day of our lives.

What does Saint Paul say? "Concerning times and seasons, brother, you have no need for anything to be written for you" (I Thessalonians 5:1).

Many have tried to determine the timing of the Second Coming in the past and no good has come of it.

01 May 2008

For your collection

The American Papist has some cool news about Papal memorabilia. Check it out!

Papal recap

The recent Apostolic Journey to the United States of America and the United Nations Organization will remain “firmly etched in my spirit,” said Pope Benedict XVI at his General Audience yesterday in St. Peter’s Square.

Recalling the many events on American soil, His Holiness invited the faithful “to unite yourselves with me in thanksgiving for the encouraging results of this apostolic trip and in the supplication to God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that it produces abundant fruits for the Church in the United States and in all parts of the world.”

While making no mention of the coincidence of his 81st birthday with the visit, Pope Benedict XVI recalled his third anniversary as Supreme Pontiff: “I will never forget the warmth with which they congratulated me for the third anniversary of my election to the See of Peter. It was a moving moment, in which I experienced in a tangible way all of the support of the Church for my ministry.”

The purpose of this Apostolic Journey to this “society marked by many contradictions” was to “confirm the Catholics in their faith, to renew and increase fraternity with all Christians, and to announce to everyone the message of ‘Christ Our Hope.’”

Pope Benedict XVI especially recalled his meeting with young people and seminarians in which he proposed to them the example and witness of some of the Saints who have come from the Americas. “In seeing the darkness that today threatens their lives,” he said, “youth can find in the saints the light that dissipates it: the light of Christ, hope for all men.”

Photo: Giampiero Sposito/Reuters

Linkage

On his way Ad Dominum, Thom is reflecting on vocations.

The ever-astute Sr. Mary Martha offers her thoughts on those depictions of “sports Jesus” and Jesus puppets. (I concur.)

At Shouts in the Piazza, Fr. Selvester – who happily gets to celebrate the Ascension of the Lord tomorrow - has some words of wisdom for those who try to “squeeze in” Mass on their lunch hour on holy days.

Word comes to us from A Catholic Mom in Hawaii that Blessed Damien of Molokai is moving closer toward canonization. Bishop Silva’s statement is here.

Are you saved?

One of our readers asked our thoughts on the ever-popular question, "Are you saved?" (Who needs the royal "we" when you have the editorial "we"?)

It is a question that each of us should be prepared to answer, especially given the frequency of which it is asked.

In addition to what I write below, I would very much recommend that you take a look at Pope Benedict XVI's Encyclical Spe salvi, paragraphs 45-48, and this from Catholic Answers. If you don't subscribe to their magazine, The Catholic Answer, you really should. You should also subscribe to This Rock. You might also this article by Paul Thigpen, or this one (for subscribers of The Catholic Answer).

Are you saved?

Most Catholics grow uncomfortable with this question because they aren’t quite sure what to say, or what the questioner means. It seems to me that many of the people who ask this question understand “salvation” in a different way than does a Catholic.

Catholics see salvation as a process while those who ask the question, “Are you saved?” generally see it more as a one-time event. It is almost as though one person sees the question in full color and another sees it in black and white.

Those who ask this question seem to believe that once you “accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” (to which I’m always tempted to say sarcastically with a maniacal laugh, “Yes, he’s mine, all mine, and you can’t have him!), your place in heaven is assured. Such a presumption rightly makes a Catholic uncomfortable – even confused – because it flatly denies the possibility of sinning mortally, of completely breaking the relationship with God through grave sin.

The Letter to the Hebrews addresses this possibility thus:

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened [Baptized], who have tasted the heavenly gift [Eucharist], and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit [Confirmed], and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt (Hebrews 6:4-6).
Clearly, it is not simply about a one-time event.

A question very much like this was posed to Saint Joan of Arc during her trial. She was asked, “Are you in a state of grace?” Her reply: “If I am, may God keep me so; I am not, may God make me so” (or something very close to that), a brilliant answer, really, and one that may serve as a model for us here.

Whenever I am asked, “Are you saved?” I answer, “I hope so.” This response is usually greeted with a quizzical and unexpected look and the question, “What do you mean?” Well, I say, “Saint Paul says that we should ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12). That’s what I’m trying to do.” If salvation were simply dependant on a decision we made once in our life, the Apostle would have no reason to write this statement to the Church at Philippi. Naturally, all of this presupposes faith in the Paschal Mystery, without which salvation is unattainable.

If this explanation does not satisfy the well-meaning inquirer (the ill-meaning inquirer isn’t worth speaking with because they won’t listen to reason), we can point out further still that salvation is indeed a process by turning to additional writings of Saint Paul and to some of Saint Peter.

The Prince of the Apostles writes:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls (I Peter 1:6-9, emphasis mine).
A little bit further on, he writes. “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (I Peter 2:2-3, emphasis mine).

In the eyes of Saint Peter, salvation is the reward for a persevering faith, a faith that suffers patiently.

To the Church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18, emphasis mine). In his second letter to the Corinthians, he says, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (II Corinthians 2:15-16, emphasis mine). Yet again, Paul says that through the Gospel “you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain” (I Corinthians 15:1-2, emphasis mine).

If your friend says that salvation comes through faith alone, which he or she is likely to do, kindly remind them of what Saint James says:

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works, and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:14-24, emphases mine).

This last verse was the reason why Martin Luther sought to remove the Letter of James from the canon of Sacred Scripture; it flatly contradicts his basic premise, but that is another matter for, perhaps, another day.

Clearly, then, salvation is not assured by faith alone. Even the Lord himself says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Salvation, then, is not a one-time event but a process, for “the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12-13).

We are not certain of our salvation, but we certainly hope for it and pray for it. We who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ strive and pray to remain faithful in order to attain salvation, our faith’s goal.

How, then, ought we to answer the question, “Are you saved?” With Saint Joan of Arc: If I am, may God keep me so; if I’m not, may God make me so.”

Of course, you can also say, “I have been saved. I am being saved. I will be saved.” That works, too; and it’s perfectly Catholic.