31 August 2008

Judge not?

Adoro brought up an interesting topic in her comments on the homily I preached today that I’m sure she won’t mind us discussing in a separate post. She said:

The problem is that so many are attached to their own ideologies and haven't thought their way out of them, no matter how much good information is provided to them.

You cited one of the objections: "Church and State."

And don't forget "We can't judge"And "What would Jesus do?"

That last was trotted out just after the one on judging. (Just happened today.)

The person in question suggested that the only important thing is that "Jesus is loving" and "What would Jesus do"?

It completely ignores reality in favor of feel-good fuzzies, never mind the horror of what abortion really is.

She also has a post on this topic – which is well worth a read - in which she discusses it thoroughly and well.

Responding to the statements often pronounced by would-be theologians, “What would Jesus do?” and “We can’t judge,” Adoro says, “Because, of course, we all know that Jesus was a warm fuzzy teddy bear that just made everyone feel good about themselves.” She hit the nail right on the head!

This is a prevalent misconception about Jesus and it doesn’t appear that it will be going away anytime soon. From where did this pathetic – and sadly all too common – view of the Divine Master come?

I can’t help but think it stems from a lack of knowledge of the Scriptures, both from the actual reading of the Scriptures and from preachers preaching the fullness of the Scriptures, which is also connected to the loss of the sense of sin, which ties in here, too. Goofy pictures of Jesus with baseball bats (or soccer balls) surely don’t help, either.

When confronted with the ridiculous comment, “What would Jesus do?,” (as if that solved everything) we should actually show them what Jesus would do.

We should remind them of the many times that Jesus said, “Woe to you…” (cf. Luke 6:24-26). Nice guys don’t say such things. And what of his conversation with the Canaanite woman (cf. Mark 7:27)? Is he nice with her? Hardly. What of his rebuke to Peter (cf. Matthew 16:23)? Again, far from nice.

We seem to have forgotten that there is a great difference between a man who is nice and a man who is kind, or even a man who is compassionate. A man who is nice is nothing more than a pushover.

Is Jesus a nice guy? No. Is he kind and compassionate? Yes.

Many also seem to have forgotten that we are not, in fact, Jesus and so the question “What would Jesus do?” is somewhat irrelevant and trite. The question should rather be, “What would Jesus have me do?” But again, this can only be discerned from a true knowledge of the Scriptures, all of them, not just the ones I like.

We always remember – and remind others of – the words of Saint Jerome: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

Eureka!

That is, I've found it!

One of my favorite artists is the Englishman Sir Edward Burne Jones, one of the Pre-Raphaelite artists. He worked with tapestries, paintings, mosaics and even stained glass. I especially admire his work relating to the legends of King Arthur.

Here is his Annunciation:
When Edward Clifford went to Moloka’i to visit Father Damien in, I believe, 1888, he brought with him “a water-color painting of the Vision of St. Francis, by Mr. Burne Jones, sent by the painter.”

It took quite a bit of googling but I've finally managed to find a copy of it at the quotes page at the shrine and museum of Blessed Marianne Cope. I presume the painting is now located there.

Here it is:


S & S Tip

Fill up on gas before Gustav hits shore.

Two surprises

This evening after Mass I received a little pleasant surprise.

A gentleman complimented me on my homily saying it was well thought out, but there was more to Faithful Citizenship than abortion.

I was stunned. He might be the first layman I have met that has read the document.

It turns out he's from Missouri and was in politics for twenty (or thirty, I can't remember) years.

When I returned to Effingham I went out for supper at Steak 'N Shake. I had a little surprise there, too.

It seemed that young families with no fewer than three children kept coming in. Two families with four children left as we placed our orders. As we ate three other families came in, one with five children and two with four children. It was delightful.

It has me wondering if there isn't a young family with several children conference in town or if Steak 'N Shake has become the place for young families.

30 August 2008

Homily - 31 August 2008

The prophet Jeremiah is often called the “reluctant prophet.” He has received this unpleasant epithet because, though he does perform the task given him by the Lord, he does so with great hesitation.

He is reluctant because, as he says, “everyone mocks me” and he has become “an object of laughter” (Jeremiah 20:7). The prophet is mocked because his words – the very words the Lord gave him to speak – concern “violence and outrage” against Israel (Jeremiah 20:8).

Naturally, Jeremiah did not want to speak this message; no one enjoys being a messenger of doom, yet such messages must sometimes be spoken for the good of all.

Jeremiah tried not to speak the word of the Lord but found that he could not hold it in. He said, “I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9). And so he spoke out against the evils of his day. This task the Church shares with the prophets of old.

Speaking from within the Church, the Apostle Paul says to us, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

The words of the Divine Master himself today are not very different than these. He says to us, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Matthew 16:23). We must then think with Jesus, not with the world, and act in accord with the will of Christ.

Today it is my turn to speak a word that will likely bring mockery and even anger, yet it must be spoken nonetheless.

Several prominent Catholic politicians have recently claimed that the Church’s teaching on abortion is unclear and uncertain. Consequently, these same politicians have claimed it is permissible to be a Catholic and still support abortion. Nothing could be further from the truth!

From the very beginning of the Church down to the present day, the Church has always condemned the evil act of abortion as a grave offense against the fifth commandment: “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:31; Deuteronomy 5:17). This teaching has never changed; it has never wavered; it remains firm.

We know that of all of the choices we make in life that not every decision is of equal importance or of equal consequence. Whether I have cereal or fruit for breakfast is not as important as whether or not I am faithful to my spouse. Clearly, marital fidelity comes first, for the good of the spouses; for the good of the children; for the good of the Church; indeed, even for the good of the world.

We also know that “there are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor.”[1] Such actions are intrinsically evil and must “always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned.”[2] One example – sadly becoming ever more frequent – is adultery. It is never permissible to be unfaithful to the marriage covenant and society can never condone adultery because it – in and of itself – is evil, wrong and immoral, always and everywhere.

When it comes to the voting booth it is the same: some issues carry greater weight than others and some can never be performed. We call this the hierarchy of values.

The first among these is the protection of human life, which includes abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and many others. The Church has always taught that

the direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.”[3]

Every Catholic, therefore, has a moral obligation to do what he or she can to protect every human life because “a legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.”[4] Such a political system is flawed because “the right to life implies and is linked to other human rights – to the basic goods that every human person needs to live and thrive.”[5]

Consequently, it is not possible – nor has it even been - for a Catholic to support abortion, euthanasia or other things that are contrary to life and the divine will. Nor is it permissible for a Catholic to vote in favor of a politician because of his or her positions on these “issues.” To support such policies places one outside the Church, outside of the communion of the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Any Catholic – politician or not – who refuses to accept a central tenet of the Christian faith must not present him or herself for Holy Communion. To do so would be one great lie, for when we say, “Amen,” to “the Body of Christ,” we say that we not only believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and not just a mere symbolic one, we also say that we believe all of the teachings of the Church or that we at least give the assent of faith to them.

In insisting upon this the Church is not using the Eucharist as a political tool; rather, she seeks to stop one of her children from committing a sacrilege by receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord unworthily thereby bringing death upon themselves (cf. I Corinthians 11:27). Withholding Holy Communion is not a punishment but a medicinal discipline to lead the one who has sinned in such a grave manner back to the fold of Christ.

Some will undoubtedly say, “Father, you’re crossing the line of separation of Church and State.” Such is not the case for what we are discussing is not a matter of Church and State but of faith and politics.

Faith requires something of us. It requires that we love both God and neighbor and that every decision we make, every word we speak and action we perform, be in keeping with the love of God and of neighbor, even in the voting booth. Faith can never be laid aside.

At the recent World Youth Day 2008, the Holy Father told us, “Life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose.”[6]

We know this to be true, for if we consider our own individual existence we know that none of us chose to be born. Exploring the depths of our hearts we know ourselves to be creatures and that there is therefore a Creator, the Creator who knows us, loves us and wants us. We know that “each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”[7]

It is precisely because we are creatures that we cannot claim a right to end the life of any man, woman or child. We are not the Creator.

In speaking these words some will praise me and others condemn me. I speak these not for praise or condemnation, because they are the truth, the truth of the Gospel. And because these words are truth I must speak them.

Today, therefore, I make my own the words of Saint Paul: “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (I Corinthians 9:16)!

[1] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, 22.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., 28.
[4] Ibid., 22.
[5] Ibid., 25.
[6] Pope Benedict XVI, Address at Welcoming Ceremony, 17 July 2008.
[7] Ibid., Homily, 24 April 2005.

I knew she would

Once again The Crescat has come through with a series of posts in honor of the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist. Do take a stop over there and view some of the splendid paintings she has posted.

Emboldened

It is no secret that over the past many years some priests and bishops have been negligent in preaching and teaching certain aspects of the faith.

Part of the explanation – a rather small part, I think – stems from an outright rejection of Catholic teaching in certain areas. But it seems to me that the overwhelming reason as to the great silence is a result of cowardice.

Many priests and bishops have remained silent because of the fear of losing parishioners, donations, respect, or any other number of things.

As a recently ordained priest, I, too, have perhaps not spoken out as loudly at certain times as I should have, though I certainly have never shied away from private or small group conversations, as my high school students – and soccer team especially – will attest.

But I wonder, especially during this Memorial of the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist, if many of these fears are without foundation.

The Evangelist Mark tells us that when King Herod heard John the Baptist preach that “was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him” (Mark 6:20). But just a moment prior to this Matthew tells us that “Herod feared John, knowing him to be a holy and righteous man” (Mark 6:20). How could Herod both fear John and want to listen to him?

He felt both because John spoke the truth, boldly and with no thought for his own life or safety. John knew the truth and the truth had to be spoken. There was no fear in John.

Even though speaking the truth brought about the Forerunner’s death, it also drew sinners to hear him. This is precisely what we priests and bishops need to remember. The truth is not repulsive, it is attractive.

We have seen this especially these past few days as Bishop after Bishop boldly spoke out and corrected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Even the secular press has given the Bishops good coverage and has not reported in their usual fashion. The truth was boldly proclaimed and people listened.

We have seen it also these past several years in the words of Pope Benedict XVI. The more boldly he speaks, the more intently people listen, especially the youth of the world.

I have seen it over the past couple of years with the high school students. The more I spoke the truth of the Church, the more they continue to come to me with questions.

I have seen it this past year as I continue to write Letters to the Editor correctly false arguments against the faith and truth of the Church as more and more people thank me for the letters.

Over these past few days I have been feeling more and more emboldened to speak the truth of the Gospel, the truth of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

People today, young and old, are hungering deeply for the truth. Nobody wants to be lied too; everyone wants to hear the truth, even if, as it was for Herod, painful.

Today, perhaps more than ever before, we priests and bishops must boldly teach the truth of the Catholic Church with no fear for what may come.

29 August 2008

In honor of the day

John saw a man that was a tyrant overthrowing the divine commands on marriage. With boldness, he proclaimed in the midst of the forum, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother Philip's wife" (Mark 6:18). So we learn from him to admonish our fellow servant as an equal. Do not shrink from the duty of chastising a brother, even though one may be required to die for it.

Now do not make this cold reply: "What does it matter to me? I have nothing in common with him." With the devil alone we have nothing in common, but with all humanity we have many things in common. All partake of the same nature as us. They inhabit the same earth. They are nourished with the same food. They have the same Lord. They have received the same laws. They are invited to the same blessings with ourselves. Let us not say then that we have nothing in common with them.

- Saint John Chrysostom

Check it out

The Knights of Columbus have launched a new news service (I wasn't sure how else to say it): Headline Bistro.

The bistro has sections for Church, national, and world news, with additional sections on the faith and one for opinions. You can even sign up to receive a daily e-mail of the news.
It looks to be a very promising site.

Victory!

The St. Anthony High School Bulldog soccer team is off to a good start with a 3-0 win against the Effingham High School Hearts in their first junior varsity game of the season.

The boys played very well this evening, keeping most of the action in the far side of the field. The Bulldogs took 25 shots on goal, so we need to do a bit of work on our accuracy, but nonetheless it's a good way to begin.

Congratulations, boys!

The game was followed by our first "pasta night" of the season. Each season the parents divide themselves up into hosting the team for pasta and fun. Tonight it was pasta and a pool.

There was much tossing of players into the pool, and even a few launches. They tired to lure me close to the pool so they could toss me in, telling me they saw Jesus on the bottom of the pool. (Somewhere I saw today someone says they saw Jesus in a moth, so why not?) When I opened the door to go outside and saw a clear path from the door to the pool with boys on either side, it didn't take long to figure out what was up. After pleading my cassock and my cell phone, they decided not to throw me in. That might have been too much excitement for one day.

At the varsity practice, one of the boys decided he could jump over me (when I was standing), by launching himself into the air with my shoulders. He asked if he could try and I - not being very keen on the idea - said I'd have to think about it. That didn't dissuade him and he kept pressuring me to let him try. I did, standing very still, with my head slightly pulled down. He tried, and succeeded. I was impressed.

At any rate, a good time was had by all this evening and I think we're in good shape for our tournament this weekend, beginning tomorrow afternoon.

28 August 2008

This should be fun

Sr. Mary Martha has issued a call for pictures of your favorite nuns doing what they do. The deadline for submission is All Hallow's Eve (31 October).

I expect The Crescat will have several submissions by days' end.

I'm stunned

The American Papist points us to an article from the Associated Press that actually clearly puts forth Catholic teaching, and not in a negative way. The article is titled, "Pelosi gets unwanted lesson in Catholic thoelogy."

The author, Rachel Zoll, has done a fine job. Thanks, Rachel; keep it up!

Is this the beginning of a turn for the AP? Let us hope and pray it is.

On Saint Augustine

Today Mother Church celebrates the life of one of her present Holy Father's favorite saints, Saint Augustine of Hippo, the Doctor of Grace.

In his weekly Wednesday General Audiences, Pope Benedict XVI has devoted five separate catecheses to Saint Augustine:
  1. on his life;
  2. on his last days;
  3. on his search for the truth;
  4. on his writings; and
  5. and on his conversion.

The Holy Father also devoted a large part of his address to the youth of the world at the World Youth Day 2008 Vigil to Saint Augustine's understanding of the Holy Spirit.

Benedict XVI also made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Augustine in Pavia, Italy.

The writings of the Doctor of Grace are also interspersed by the Holy Father throughout his writings, both as a Cardinal and as Supreme Pontiff.

If you haven't yet read Saint Augustine's Confessions it really is time to do so. Pope Benedict said of the words of Saint Augustine:

Indeed, it would have been wonderful to listen to him when he was alive. But he truly lives in his works, he is present with us, and this is how we see the permanent vitality of his faith to which he had dedicated all his life.

Now, go, read his Confessions.

Joan Lewis on Moloka'i

Reader Dallas told us that EWTN's Joan Lewis is visiting the leper colonies on the Kalaupapa penninsula of Molokai. She's posting on her pilgrimage and even gives some photos. Go have a look.

Joan had the same driver and guide that I had; how I wish I were there with her!

Thanks for the tip, Dallas!

A Papal promise

The Holy Father resumed today his Wednesday General Audieces after a two month recess of sorts, reflecting on the life of the Apostle Paul. I don't know about you, but I have missed these catecheses and am glad to have the teaching Pope back in his chair.

Pope Benedict XVI will devote a series of catecheses to the Apostle to the Gentiles during this Pauline Year, focusing next week on Paul's experience on the road to Damascus.

In keeping with his usual custom, the Pontiff concluded today's catechesis reflecting on what the life of Saint Paul says to each of us:

This I think is what stays with us from this brief account of St. Paul's journeys: to see his passion for the Gospel, and thus intuit the grandeur, the beauty, and even more, the deep need that all of us have of the Gospel. Let us pray so that the Lord, who made Paul see his light and hear his word and touched his heart profoundly, make us also see his light, so that our hearts will also be touched by his word and so that we too will be able to give today's world, which thirsts for it, the light of the Gospel and the truth of Christ.
These catecheses will make planning for the Dead Theologians Society much easier. Thanks, Holy Father!

Wow, is this good!

You should try this recipe: rotini with salsi di limone. I'm impressed. And satisfied.

27 August 2008

How does this happen?

Tomorrow evening promises to be an interesting one.

I have on my calendar the following appointments:

3:14 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. - Varisty soccer practice
4:30 p.m. - Junior Varsity soccer warm up
5:00 p.m. - Junior Varsity soccer match
5:15 p.m. - Ladies of Charity dinner
6:00 p.m. - R.C.I.A. planning meeting
6:30 p.m. - Soccer team pasta night
I'm not sure how this is going to work. I really wish people wouldn't schedule everything on the same day.

Biden corrected

In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Senator Joseph Biden claims to be "totally consistent with Catholic social doctrine."

The ever astute Carl Olson at Ignatius Insight corrects Senator Biden's assumption by pointing Senator Biden to the Compedium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (no. 155).

Keep it up, Carl!

Capello tip to the American Papist.

More on the issue

Update: Typographical errors corrected.

The Most Reverend Michael Saltarelli, Bishop of Wilmington, will not permit Senator Joseph Biden - even elected as Vice President of the United States of America - to speak in Catholic schools in his Diocese. The Diocese of Wilmington is Senator Biden's home Diocese.

Back in 2004, His Excellency wrote, "Our Catholic institutions will not honor Catholic politicians who take pro-abortion legislative positions or invite them to speak at our functions or schools." He has not changed his mind and does not intend to do so.

You will remember Bishop Saltarelli for giving us the Litany of Saint Thomas More, which we might well begin praying for our Catholic politicians.

The Most Reverend W. Francis Malooly will become the Bishop of Wilmington on 8 September 2008. I doubt he would change this stance.

The Most Reverend George Niederauer, Archbishop of San Francisco, will address Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's comments made on Meet the Press August 24th in his column in Catholic San Francisco on September 5th. The delay seems to me quite unnecessary and even inoportune, but His Excellency will, at least, address the Speaker's remarks. The Archdiocese has posted the statement of the USCCB on its homepage.

As I watch these developments, I cannot help but wonder if we aren't witnessing a rebirth of Catholic life and culture. I certainly hope we are.

Comment moderation enabled

Over the years I have considered enabling comment moderation but decided against it, trusting in the decency and kindness of my readers to follow the Christian law of charity in their posts.

My frequent readers have done this very well and for this I thank them.

However, there have been - on occassion - a commenter or two who has been less than kind, though they never quite "crossed the line" to require moderation. Last night, however, a commenter's words were simply obscene. Consequently, comment moderation has been enabled.

For those of you who have exercised charity in your comments, I regret this necessity.

Due to the sometimes bizarre daily activities and routine of a parish priest, I cannot promise your comments will always be approved in a timely fashion, but I will do what I can.

Pelosi's spokesman responds

Fr. Zuhlsdorf, at What Does the Prayer Really Say?, noticed at Amy's Charlotte was Both that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's spokesman has issued a statement regarding her recent comments made on Meet the Press with Tom Brokaw.

The statement reads:


The Speaker is the mother of five children and seven grandchildren and fully appreciates the sanctity of family. She was raised in a devout Catholic family who often disagreed with her pro-choice views.

After she was elected to Congress, and the choice issue became more public as she would have to vote on it, she studied the matter more closely. Her views on when life begins were informed by the views of Saint Augustine, who said: "…the law does not provide that the act [abortion] pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation…" (Saint Augustine, On Exodus 21.22)

While Catholic teaching is clear that life begins at conception, many Catholics do not ascribe to that view. The Speaker agrees with the Church that we should reduce the number of abortions. She believes that can be done by making family planning more available, as well as by increasing the number of comprehensive age-appropriate sex education and caring adoption programs.

The Speaker has a long, proud record of working with the Catholic Church on many issues, including alleviating poverty and promoting social justice and peace.
Let's use a little logic here, shall we?

First, we cannot possibly suggest that someone "fully appreciates the sanctity of family life" when one knowingly allows the killing of innocent children, which are part of that sacred familial life.

Second, were we to use the Doctor of Grace's explanation, given what we now know about the pain a fetus experiences I daresay Saint Augustine would vehemently disagree with Speaker Pelosi's use of his writings. At the same time, even if we do not call abortion "homicide," it is still evil; there is nothing in Augustine's words that even weakly imply the contrary.

Third, just because some Catholics disagree with the Church's teaching does not make the teaching of the Church wrong. As then Cardinal Ratzinger famously said, "Truth is not decided by a majority vote." As Supreme Pontiff, he recently phrased it thus: "What was true yesterday is true also today."

Fourth, Speaker Pelosi might well consider that there can be no greater way to promote social justice and peace than by defending the unborn child. There can be no true justice in a land where abortion remains legal for it denies the most basic, inherent right of every human being: life.

Fr. Z. offers his own comments and even offers Speaker Pelosi Saint Augustine's own understanding of abortion, since she claims to follow his thinking though she does not seem to grasp it.

Naturally, Thomas, the American Papist, has his own excellent comments on the statement.

Warning

My good friend Sharon alerted me to a new study about which, at first glance, some of my parishioners might be concerned.

It would seem that a prolonged use of incense can the risk of cancer. Curiously, the risk of cancers of the respiratory tract is increased but not of the lungs.

The author of the study, Dr. Jeppe Friborg, said, "frequent use in rooms where people live should be minimized, or at least sufficient ventilation should be secured."

Now, before you get all up in a panic, the study concerned incense as used in Singapore and, as anyone who has paid any attention will know, asian incense seems quite different than the incense used in the Catholic Church.

I'd like to ask the scientists involved in this study if they examined the particular varieties of incense. For example, most oriental incense I have seen comes in the form of sticks. Church incense, however, comes in other a rocky substance or a plant-like substance (some of us like to mix the two together, but the sensory outcome can be risky if you aren't careful).

Moreover, does a particular "flavor" affect the risk for cancer more than another (I have at least eight different flavors in the sacristy at this moment)? What about incense from different manufacturers (I have incense from at least four different places right now)?

Oh, and don't forget: I highly doubt that you can call the use of incense at Mass and other liturgies "long-term" or ever "frequent." It certainly isn't daily, which is the use with which the study concerned itself. And your church is more than likely ventilated well enough. If it isn't, open the door or a window.

Societal curiosities

The Compare People Facebook application sent an updated list of my strengths and weaknesses, as voted by my friends who use the application:

STRENGTHS:

  • most powerful
  • best to hang out with for a day
  • toughest

WEAKNESSES:

  • most punctual
  • most loyal
    While I'm thrilled to consider a good person to hang with for the day, I still fail to see how being loyal is a weakness. Can anyone enlighten me on this?

    26 August 2008

    Card. Egan responds to Pelosi

    One of our anonymous readers kindly alerted me Edward Cardinal Egan's response to the recent statements of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the teachings of the Catholic Church on abortion.

    His Emminence was "shocked" to learn of Pelosi's words and said they were "misinformed" and "utterly incredible."

    Cardinal Egan further said:

    We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.

    Prayer of Pope John Paul II

    Blessed Damien,
    you left yourself to be guided by the Holy Spirit,
    like a son who obeys the will of the Father.

    With your life and your missionary activities,
    you express the kindness and mercy of Christ for every man,
    waking the beauty of the interior being,
    that no disease, no deformity and no weakness can disfigure completely.

    With your work and your preaching,
    you recall that Jesus made His the poverty and the suffering of men,
    and that he revealed the mysterious value of it.

    Intercede with Christ
    medic of the body and of the soul,
    for our sick brothers and sisters,
    in order that in the anguish and the pain,
    they won’t feel abandoned but,
    united to the Risen Lord and to His Church,
    they discover that the Holy Spirit descends upon them
    and they can obtain this way the consolation promised to the afflicted.

    From the homily delivered at the Beatification Mass for Damien of Molokai. Translated by Jay.

    The Apostle to the Lepers

    Jay, the lover of cheese, very kindly translated for me the homily delivered by the Servant of God Pope John Paul II on Pentecost 1995 at the Mass of beatification for Father Damien of Molokai.

    I am very grateful to Jay for his good - and swift - work and ask you to remember him in your prayers for his kindness.

    What follow are excerpts of the homily that concern the "apostle to lepers":

    ....Today, through my words, the Church recognises and confirms the exemplary value of Father Damien, on his walk to holiness, giving thanks to God for having guided him right to the end of his existence, a long walk, often difficult. She looks with joy at what God can achieve through human fragility, since “it is He that gives holiness, and man who receives it (Origen, Homily on Samuel, l 11, 11).

    Father Damien lived a particular type of holiness in the course of his ministry; he was at the same time Priest, Religious and Missionary. Through these three qualities, he has revealed the face of Christ, showing the path of salvation, teaching the Gospel and being an inexhaustible agent of development. He organised religious life, social and fraternal of of Malokai, islands of exile from society at that time; with him, everyone had his place, everyone came to be known and loved by his own brothers.

    ....Dear brothers and sister of Belgium, everyone of us is called to holiness; put your talent at the service of Christ, of the Church and of your brothers; let yourselves be moulded with humility and patience by the Spirit! Holiness is not perfection according to human criteria; it is not reserved for a select few of exceptional individuals. It is for all; it is the Lord that gives us access to holiness, when we accept to collaborate for the glory of God in the salvation of the world, in spite of our sinfulness and our sometimes rebellious temperament. In our daily lives we are called to make choices that are sometimes an uncommon sacrifice (Veritatis Splendor, 102). True happiness has this price. The apostle of the lepers is testimony to this.

    Today’s celebration is also a call to solidarity. While Damien was among the sick, he could say in his heart: "Our Lord will give me the graces I need to carry my cross and follow him, even to our special Calvary at Kalawao". The certainty that the only things that count are love and the gift of self was his inspiration and the source of his happiness. The apostle of the lepers is a shining example of how the love of God does not take us away from the world. Far from it: the love of Christ makes us love our brothers and sisters even to the point of giving up our lives for them.

    ...Dear brothers and sisters of Belgium, today it is your turn to take back the torch of Father Damien. His testimony is an appeal to you, above all for the youth, so that you can all know him, and, through his sacrifice, grow in your desire to love God, the fountain of true love and a happy life, and grow in the desire to make your life an authentic offering.

    My heart turns to how many still today suffer from leprosy. In Damien, they now have an intercessor, though, before he became ill, he was already identified with them, often saying “We others, lepers”.

    ....This faith in the divinty of Christ, Father Damien, in a certain manner, sucked with the maternal milk, in his family in Flanders. It grew with him and he took it with him to his brothers and sisters in the far away islands of Molokai. To confirm right to the end the truth of his testimony, he offered his life with them. What else could he offer to the lepers, condemned to a slow death, if not his faith and that truth which is Christ is Lord and God is love? He became leper amongst the lepers, and he became leper for the lepers. He suffered and died as they did, believing in the resurrection of Christ, since Christ is Lord!

    ....The expression of Paul is universal [cf. I Corinthians 12:4-7], and, in this universal expression, we find certainly a part of the life of our blessed: his charisma, his vocation and his ministry. In all this, the Holy Spirit is manifested for the good of all. The beatification of Father Damien brings benefit to all the Church. It redresses a particular importance for the Church in Belgium, and also for the Church in the Oceanic Isles.

    ....May the glory of the Lord endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works; (Psalm 104 v31) With these words of the Psalmist I wish to conclude our meditation, in this solemn much awaited day, during which the mature fruit of holiness – Father Damien de Veuster – receives the glory of the altars of his native land. Brothers and sisters, be open to the Holy Spirit, in order that through your life men can discover God from whom comes every perfect gift!

    The Spirit breathes afresh

    I must say that I am delighted - surprised, but delighted -at the overwhelming response to Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi's outrageous false claims about the stance of the Catholic Church toward abortion over the years.

    If you are yet unaware of what she said in a interview with Tom Brokaw on NBC's Meet the Press, you must be living under a larger rock than I.

    As if in answer to Amy Welborn's impassioned plea to use her words as a teaching moment, the Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Denver, and the Most Reverend James D. Conley, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, responded to Speaker Pelosi.

    The Most Rev. Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. responded to her comments.

    Ten Catholic legislators have responded to her words, distancing themselves from her.

    And what is more - and, sadly, the most surprising of all - the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops itself has responded! (I daresay this would never have happened without the publication of the excellent article on canon 915 by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, the recently appointed Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.)

    In what, so far as I can recall, is a first, Justin Cardinal Regali, Chairman of the Committee on Pro-life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, Chairman of the Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practices, issued a joint statement corrected Pelosi's blatantly false depiction of the teachings of the Church's teachings.

    Thomas Peters, the American Papist, who, as always, is well on top of these matters, summarizes well Speaker Pelosi's current situation:


    Where does that leave her? In the position of having lied either about the actual position of the Church, or about her claim that her position is a legitimate one within the teachings of the Catholic church.
    This should get most interesting indeed.

    On the duties of parents

    Not every day do you find a good king, good not in terms of ability to fulfill his duties but good in the moral sense. It is even rarer that you find a saintly king, but in King Louis IX of France we find both.

    Born in 1214, Louis was crowned King in 1226 at the tender age of twelve. His mother governed as Regent until Louis attained the age of twenty-two. He and his wife, Queen Margaret, had eleven children (five boys and two girls). Saint Louis died while on Crusade near Carthage in northern Africa in 1270.

    Much could be said of King Louis' life, but I want to focus only on a few lines the saintly king left for his son. He wrote,

    My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation. Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin.
    One might well expect a reigning monarch's first advice to his son to be something concerning the governance of the realm. One might even expect it to concern ruling beside other kingdoms or even living alongside and with a queen.

    None of these valid and worthy - even necessary - concerns are Louis' first concern for his son. His first concern, his first instruction, is that his son live the faith of Jesus Christ. Would that every parent felt this way!

    Too often parents are concerned first with worldly affairs, be they sports, academics, work, etc. All of these concerns are good in and of themselves, but they should never receive priority among what we hand on to children.

    The Rite of Baptism reminds us that parents are "the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith" (105). Too many have forgotten this and have neglected this sacred duty.

    Let us implore the prayers of King Saint Louis IX, that he might show parents how to have as their first instruction, their first concern, for their children the ways of faith.

    25 August 2008

    A Poem in Honor Father Damien

    While visiting the island of Molokai and the leper colonies of Kalaupapa and Kalawao I visited the little museum of Father Damien behind the church of St. Francis of Assisi.

    Hanging inside on one of the walls was the following poem by Earl W. Gomez in 1960 entitled, "Kamiano," the Hawaiian name for Damien:

    Upon the shores of this forgotten place,
    A little boat did land,
    And from this craft he stepped with haste,
    To meet a wretched band.

    His eyes did meet an unusual sight,
    Fear came upon his face,
    So he brushed aside all signs of fright,
    And vowed to serve this race.

    At first they scorned the sight of him,
    This stranger that had come,
    For all their souls were touched with sin,
    And unkowns they would shun.

    But soon they learned to love this priest,
    Who toiled by their side,
    From sun to sun he did not cease,
    And buried those who died.

    He cleansed their souls and dressed their sores,
    With love and gentle care,
    And they in turn with open door,
    Would have their food to share.

    Of course in time this saintly man,
    Like a wind blown tree did bend,
    For this cursed disease did grasp his hand,
    And he was one of them.

    This did not stop or cause any shame,
    For much still had to be done,
    He served and blessed and eased much pain,
    Far past each setting sun.

    But then alas came that sorrowful day,
    When lepers bowed and cried,
    This message came and what did it say,
    Dear Father Damien had died.

    Just for fun


    Benedict XVI asks your prayers

    Before reciting the Angelus this afternoon at Castel Gandalfo, the Holy Father Benedict XVI requested the prayers of the faithful.

    Commenting on the Gospel of the day Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the mission of Saint Peter and successors, the ministry of making "sure that the Church never identifies herself with any particular nation or culture, but that she be the Church of all peoples, to make present among men -- who are marked by countless divisions and contrasts -- the peace of God, the unity of those who have become brothers and sisters in Christ."

    His Holiness is very much aware of this mission. He said,

    I feel more and more the obligation and importance of the service to the Church and the world that has been entrusted to me. Because of this I ask you dear brothers and sisters to support me with your prayer, so that, faithful to Christ, together we can announce and bear witness to his presence in our time. May Mary, whom we confidently invoke as Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization, obtain this grace for us.
    Let each of us offer our sufferings this day for the Holy Father.

    Homily on Blessed Marianne Cope

    One of Blessed Father Damien's closest collaborators in his ministry at the leper colony of Kalawao was Blessed Marianne Cope.

    She was beatified on the Vigil of Pentecost in Rome at St. Peter's Basilica. The Mass of Beatification was celebrated by Jose Saraiva Cardinal Martins.

    In his homily he called Mother Marianne "a true Franciscan" because "she left everything, and abandoned herself completely to the will of God, to the call of the Church and to the demands of her new brothers and sisters."

    His Emminence recalled a very profound statement of Mother Marianne: "I do not expect a high place in heaven. I will be very grateful to have a little corner where I can love God for all eternity."

    I desire nothing more.
    The Shrine and Museum of Blessed Marianne Cope has a page of quotes from Blessed Marianne. It also has a chasuble and cane that belonged to Father Damien. It looks like I now have to make my way to Syracuse, New York...

    Italian help needed

    This evening I decided to read the homily delivered by the Servant of God Pope John Paul II at the Mass of Beatification of Damien de Vuester, more commonly known as Damien of Moloka'i.

    I was very upset - though not terribly surprised - to find that it has not yet been translated from the Italian to English.

    Are any of you kind readers knowledgeable in Italian? If so, would you be so kind as to devote your attention to this homily toward an English translation? I would be most grateful!

    This settles it: I think later this week I will order the Italian version of the Rosetta Stone.

    The knighted priest

    When we think of the Saints we often enough think of knights. We think, for example, of Saint Francis of Assisi who sought to become a knight prior to his conversion. We think also of Saint Ignatius of Loyola who was a soldier until his leg was hit by cannon ball. We might even think of Saint Joan of Arc who led the forces of the Dauphin in battle. There are, of course, numerous other Saints we associate with knighthood.

    When we think of knightly Saints we think of those who were knights first and Saints later. Each experienced a conversion of one kind or another after which their chivalric ideals took on a deep, spiritual dimension.

    But in the case of Blessed Damien of Moloka’i we find the reverse; he received the honor of knighthood because of the sanctity of his life.

    In September of 1881 the Princess Regent Lili’uokalani arrived on the island of Moloka’i for an official visitation of the leper colony of Kalawao on the Kalaupapa peninsula.

    So impressed was she at the work of Father Damien, work that no Protestant minister would undertake – in part, because of concern for their families – that Her Highness sought to honor the leper priest.

    After returning to the ‘Iolani Palace in Honolulu – and after consulting with the cabinet of the king - Princess Lili’uokalani sent the following letter to Father Damien:

    Reverend Sir:
    It is my desire to express to you my great appreciation of your heroic and self-denying labors, among the most unfortunate of the subjects of this Realm, and in some public manner to testify to the fidelity and patient, loving care with which you labor for the physical and spiritual good of those who are necessarily shut off from the tender ministrations of relatives and friends. I am aware that your labors and sacrifices are dictated solely by a desire to benefit your unfortunate fellow men, and that you look for your reward and inspiration to the divine Father and Ruler of us all, - nevertheless, in furtherance of my desire, I ask you, Reverend Father, to accept the Order of Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Kalakaua in testimony of my sincere appreciation of your efforts in alleviating the distresses and mitigating in many ways the sorrows of the unfortunate lepers of Kalawao, as I had occasion to observe during my recent visit to that place.
    The princess, being so moved by what she experienced and being so impressed with the work of Father Damien, signed her letter, “I am your friend.”

    By raising him to this Order, Princess Lili’uokalani bestowed upon Father Damien the highest honor the Crown could give.

    The princess sent Bishop Hermann Koeckemann with the medal of honor to Father Damien. His Excellency pinned the medal on Father Damien’s cassock over his heart. Makua Kamiano, as the Hawaiian’s called Father Damien, tried to remove the medal after the ceremony but the Bishop would not let him. Father Damien never wore the medal after the day on which he received it.

    Later in his life, commenting on this honor bestowed upon him, Father Damien said, “The Lord decorated me with his own particular cross – leprosy.”

    23 August 2008

    Homily - 24 August 2008

    Today, Peter confesses Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” and Jesus gives him “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” with the power to “bind” and to “loose” (Matthew 16:16, 19-20).

    To recognize Jesus as the Messiah is to acknowledge the truth of the words announced to Mary:

    He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:32-33).
    Jesus’ kingdom, then, is the Kingdom of David, Israel.

    In the first reading the Lord says to Shebna, then Master of the Palace, “I will throw you down from your office” because he has become a “disgrace to [his] master’s house” (Isaiah 22:19, 18).

    The Master of the Palace was the highest official in the Kingdom of Israel. He served in the capacity of what might be called a Regent, a Prime Minister, or a Vizier, as Joseph was in the land of Egypt (cf. Genesis 41:40). There was no one above the Master of the Palace but the King himself.

    The King entrusted his own authority to his Master of the Palace, which is why “when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open” (Isaiah 22:22). The Master of the Palace acted in the name of the King and possessed the King’s authority. To disobey him was to disobey the King.

    The Lord God pulled Shebna down from his office as Master of the Palace (cf. Isaiah 22:19) because he looked to the Pharaoh of Egypt for deliverance from Sennacherib, King of Assyria. Shebna trusted in mere men and did not rely on the help of the Lord God; this is his disgrace.

    Taking from Shebna his robe, his sash and his authority the Lord God entrusted them to Eliakim, making him the new Master of the Palace. The Lord further placed upon Eliakim “the key of the House of David” (Isaiah 22:22).

    But what has this to do with Peter? Jesus himself told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (John 18:36). Yet, he sent the Apostles in his name, telling them to announce, “The kingdom of God is at hand for you” (Luke 10:9).

    Yes, the kingdom of Jesus is not an earthly, temporal kingdom. It is an eternal kingdom, a kingdom without end, one not bound by time and place. His kingdom, his reign, extends beyond that of Israel.

    The Lord first made his covenant with Israel to foreshadow the covenant he would make with all of humanity. In the fullness of time, the Son of God sealed “the new and everlasting covenant” with the new Israel in his own blood. Through his appointment of the Twelve Apostles, Jesus makes clear that “the definitive time has arrived in which to constitute the new People of God, the people of the twelve tribes, which now becomes a universal people, his Church.”[1] It is the Church, founded upon the rock of Peter, which is the new Israel.

    We see, then, in this passage from Saint Matthew’s Gospel, that Jesus uses three symbols regarding his Church:

    Peter will be the rocky foundation on which he will build the edifice of the Church; he will have the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to open or close it to people as he sees fit; lastly, he will be able to bind or to loose, in the sense of establishing or prohibiting whatever he deems necessary for the life of the Church. It is always Christ’s Church, not Peter’s.[2]
    Peter did not make the Church; he received it from Christ Jesus. Peter did not create his faith; he received it from the Father. Peter is not free to do with the Church whatever he wishes, but only what is the will of the Lord. Peter is, as it were, not the King but the Master of the Palace; Peter speaks not in his own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ.

    It was always thus with Peter and it has been thus with his successors, the Bishops of Rome, down to our present Holy Father, gloriously reigning, Pope Benedict XVI. As it is for the Popes, so it is for the Bishops and priests, as well. We speak not in our name, but in the name of Jesus Christ.

    There is a valuable lesson for us in this: the Church is not ours to fashion as we wish, nor is the faith ours from which we can pick and choose. The Church is Christ’s and the task of the Pope, together with the Bishops and their priests, is to preserve the Church and to hand on the faith received from the Father. We see this symbolized in the vestments a priest wears for the celebration of the Holy Mass. Just as the Master of Palace was clothed in robes and girded with a sash, so are the priests of the New Covenant (cf. Isaiah 22:21).

    A priest first puts on an amice, a rectangular cloth that covers the collar of his shirt or cassock. It hides his “street clothes” and symbolizes the helmet of salvation (cf. Ephesians 6:17). It reminds him that what he is about is not ordinary and is far from routine.

    A priest then puts on an alb, a long, white robe that covers his body from his neck to his feet. It symbolizes the garment first received in Baptism when each of the baptized is made a new creation and is welcomed into the life of the Church. When putting on the alb, the priest recalls that he, with all of the baptized, has been clothed in Christ (cf. Galatians 3:27).

    Next he wraps a cincture around his waist, a rope, the symbol of celibacy, freely accepted for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.

    He then places a stole around his neck, the symbol of his authority as a priest of Jesus Christ, as one who speaks in his name and acts in his person.

    Over all these vestments he places the chasuble, the symbol of the love of Christ which is to cover all things (cf. Colossians 3:14).

    All of these sacred vestments serve to depersonalize the priest; it is not the individual priest that matters, but Christ. By diminishing his personality we see not the individual priest but Christ, who is sacramentally present in him.

    Through the sacred vestments we are reminded that it is not my Church or our Church, but Christ’s Church, which he entrusted to Peter and to his successors. Let each of us, then, humbly look to the Successor of Saint Peter and hear in his voice the voice of Christ. Amen.

    [1] Pope Benedict XVI, Wednesday Audience, 15 March 2006.
    [2] Ibid., 7 June 2006.

    On stillness

    Have you ever paid attention to the various stillnesses to be found in this world?

    I have just returned from the hospital after attending a family whose loved one died early this morning.

    In the presence of the family, in the presence of the body, was a terrible stillness, the stillness of death and grief. It was – and often is – a stillness that even the cries of the grieving cannot disturb. Everything is still, almost as if time itself had stopped.

    Outside, in the early hours of morning before the rising of the sun, is another stillness, one that calm and almost burgeoning with the promise of the life of a new day. It is a hopeful stillness.

    Inside the church is another stillness, entirely different and distinct from these other two stillnesses. This stillness – emanating forth from the Eucharistic King – is peaceful. Indeed, it is peace itself.

    One of the couples in our RCIA repeatedly tell us the first time they entered a Catholic church was the first time they experienced true peace in a church, after spending years in evangelical circles. It is this peace they treasure most, the peace of God.

    Dona nobis pacem!

    22 August 2008

    An old favorite

    A frog goes into a bank and approaches the teller. He can see from her nameplate that her name is Patricia Whack.

    "Miss Whack, I'd like to get a $30,000 loan to take a holiday."

    Patty looks at the frog in disbelief and asks his name. The frog says his name is Kermit Jagger, his dad is Mick Jagger, and that it's okay, he knows the bank manager.

    Patty explains that he will need to secure the loan with some collateral.

    The frog says, "Sure. I have this," and produces a tiny porcelain elephant, about an inch tall, bright pink and perfectly formed.

    Very confused, Patty explains that she'll have to consult with the bank manager and disappears into a back office.

    She finds the manager and says, "There's a frog called Kermit Jagger out there who claims to know you and wants to borrow $30,000, and he wants to use this as collateral."

    She holds up the tiny pink elephant. "I mean, what in the world is this?"

    The bank manager looks back at her and says, "It's a knickknack, Patty Whack. Give the frog a loan, His old man's a Rolling Stone."

    Kudos to Bishop Lucas

    Writing in his weekly column in the Catholic Times, "Grace and Mercy," the Most Rev. George J. Lucas, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, has both strong and encouraging words for the faithful.

    There should always be "the expectation that some students in every school, in every religious education program and in every youth group are being called to the priesthood or religious life," he said.

    Bishop Lucas gathered with his seminarians last week just a few days before he joined the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George as ten young women were either received into the novitiate or made their first profession.

    Reflecting on these experiences, Bishop Lucas asks:
    How many men and women in our diocese are being called by God to the priesthood and the religious life, do you suppose? It is difficult to know for sure, but I see no reason to think small. Given our rich history of faith, and given the need for the light of the Gospel to be offered in a clear and visible way, I believe that God is offering many vocations in our diocesan church. Our challenge is to both learn and teach an openness to God's plan.
    His Excellency further said that every Catholic grade school and high school in the Diocese "should be first and foremost a 'vocation school.'"


    The focus of every teacher, not only religion teachers, should be to help our students understand that God has a life-giving plan for each of them. If our schools are not explicitly teaching our young people to know God, to express love for God and to determine how to serve God with their lives, then the schools are not fulfilling their mission.
    He also reminded parents that they "have the primary responsibility to educate their children in the ways of faith." He suggested that parents speak often with their children "about their hopes for their children to fulfil God's loving plan in their own lives."

    But he also noted that many parents neglect this sacred duty. "Unfortunately these days," he said, "the hopes of parents do not often explicitly include the possibility of priesthood or religious life for their children."

    Even so, the Bishop of Springfield in Illinois is not without hope.

    Reminding the faithful that the Director of the Office for Vocations, the Rev. Christopher House, is "anxious to help parishes and schools integrate an attentiveness to the call of God," Bishop Lucas expressed hope that "many will take advantage of his desire to assist in this essential work for the life of the church.

    In honor of the day



    To lighten things up

    Taken on a water taxi in Sydney's Darling Harbour.

    21 August 2008

    Fingerprinted

    Today the staff of the parish and schools are being fingerprinted, by order of the Diocese following the directives of the Dallas Charter.

    The workers doing the fingerprinting are some of the most unfriendly people imaginable.

    The whole notion of mandated fingerprinting strikes me as a presumption of guilt on the part of everyone, with innocence needing to be proven later if an accusation should ever be made, be it against a priest or a layperson.

    There's nothing quite like being treated like a criminal to lift your spirits.

    Go have a read

    I've just posted quite a few new quotes over at A Beggar for Love, my blog archive of my favorite words of Pope Benedict XVI.

    Traditio

    The word "tradition" comes from the Latin traditio, meaning "to hand on."

    This morning I was able to hand on a practical gem to the servers relating to things liturgical.

    I have always been both practical [when first typing "practical" I missed the first "c" and spell check suggested "piratical;" that might also fit] and cautious, which is often a good combination, but not always.

    When I first learned to serve Mass back in fifth grade there were two things that I did not want to do: carry the processional crucifix (which was at least twice my height) and light the candles.

    Being cautious by nature, I was always worried about burning my thumb as I attempted (ever in vain) to light a match by striking it along that little strip of whatever it is on the back of the match booklet. (For this same reason I don't use cigarette lighters.)

    Observing me one day, my Pastor, Fr. John, of whom I cannot speak highly enough, taught me a little trick about lighting matches. It was this trick I handed on this morning; a little traditio in action (albeit with a small "t").

    The trick is this: fold the cover of the match booklet over so that you can place a match in between the striking strip and the cover. like a little sandwich. Press the three together and pull the match out. Voila! One easily lit match without any burns or fear of them whatever. It's very handy, though I doubt many moms would appreciate me sharing this. I did mention that this morning to the boys. Oh, they liked the trick.

    But that's part of the joy of serving, isn't it? At church you get to do what you don't always get to do at home, like playing with fire.

    The boys then laughed at me a bit as they saw my attempt to leave their sacristy for the priests', not once but three times. First, I forgot my paper with a little note for the homily (which you'll see momentarily). Second, I forgot to grab the chasuble I used at the nursing home yesterday which needed to be put away. Third, I forgot my little glass of water that I need half-way through Mass because of these nasty allergies. They're getting better, but still. If the day keeps on like this, it's going to be a long one!

    And now, a thought for the day, from the Saint of the Day, Pope Saint Pius X:

    Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven. There are others: innocence, but that is for little children; penance, but we are afraid of it; generous endurance of trials of life, but when they come we weep and ask to be spared. The surest, easiest, shortest way is the Eucharist.

    Around the blogosphere

    Either Fr. V.'s been busy lately over at Adam's Ale or I'm behind on my linking (it's probably more of the latter). He has a good post on the effects of the scandal on priests and another one on the "last rites".

    The American Papist is conducting a poll about a pro-choice vice presidential candidate. He also has a post on Senator Obama's recent lie (and a very serious one at that). Really, he lots of good posts up now that are well worth reading.

    Fr. Longenecker at Standing On Your Head wants to know if you prefer your priest in cassock or clerical shirt and suit jacket.

    The Crescat gives us a prayer from a five year old boy.

    The Curt Jester offers his own two cents on Obabma's recent lie.

    At What Does the Prayer Really Say, Fr. Z. passes on information about a CD set of Pope Benedict XVI praying the rosary and a book for every sacristan should have.

    On priestly joys

    One of the great joys of a priest is hearing confessions and absolving sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just a few days ago I heard the confession of someone who had been away from the Church for a very long time. The tears of such a penitent bring joy to a priest because he is able to impart the Lord's forgiveness and reconcile the penitent. This is why the Sacrament of Penance is the priest's second primary duty after the celebration of the Holy Mass.

    Sadly, confessions are heard on a "scheduled" basis only to rarely in most parishes these days, most typically being heard on a Saturday afternoon when very few people can actually come.

    This raises an interesting question: what would be an ideal regularly scheduled time for a priest to hear confessions? What "works best" for people's schedules today? (I really would like serious suggestions for this.)

    Out on the soccer field conversations range from the very holy to the rather profane and everything in between, as often happens with high school boys. Today was no different.

    Somehow the topic of confession entered the conversation (it often does) and I had to remind the players that if they want to go to confession all they have to do is call for an anonymous appointment (most of them cannot come on Saturday afternoons). Simply ask a priest to meet you in the confessional on a certain day at a certain time; you don't even have to give your name (you could also have somebody else call for you). I'll even be sure to be in the confessional ten minutes early so you can really confess anonymously if you wish.

    I also had to remind them of something perhaps more important about the Sacrament of Penance, something of which many people today seem rather unaware. I reminded them that if they even need to go to Confession and they see me (on the soccer field, for example, or in the grocery store, or on a sidewalk, etc.) all they have to do is ask me to hear their confession. I - and all priests - am bound by Canon Law to hear their confession, then and there, unless a justifiable reason should prevent me (such as a necessary visit to the hospital or some other truly serious reason [such as a player trying to avoid running a few laps]).

    Of course, when ever someone goes to the hospital they should also ask to go to Confession, either before entering the hospital or while there. Sins should also be confessed during the Anointing of the Sick.

    This brings me to a second joy of a priest, one that I received this evening.

    I went to the hospital this evening to visit a patient in the ICU. I was able to give her the apostolic pardon for the dying.

    There are two possible formulae a priest may use to give this pardon:

    Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy;
    or,

    By the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you a full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
    I have only had th occassion to give the apostolic pardon on a few occassions.

    Too often families wait too long to call for a priest. It is never too early to call. I would rather visit a person seventeen times before a person is on the verge of death than arrive too late to give the pardon, to hear their confession or to give then Viaticum.

    19 August 2008

    When in Rome

    ...what should you see?

    I have two parishioners who are going to Rome to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary this November.

    They're going on a tour but will some free time and have asked for suggestions as to what they should see.

    I've already suggested the following:

    You must visit the Basilica of San Clemente. There's also Santa Maria della Concezione de Cappucini, aka "the Bone Church." And don't forget Santa Maria in Trestevere.

    You must have gelato. Every day.
    What am I missing?

    The church builder

    When Blessed Father Damien arrived in Hawaii he was appalled at the state of the churches and chapels he found. Many of them were built as the Hawaiian huts were made, with sticks and thatch. As such, they didn't stand up to heavy winds and rains and many had collapsed.

    Being a carpenter by trade Father Damien quickly set to work building wooden churches and chapels in the European fashion, seemingly everywhere he went.

    In a letter he wrote to his family in 1874, he said:

    During the summer I worked for four months in another part of the island [Molokai] building a new church ... I am not ashamed to transform myself into a mason or carpenter, since it is all for the glory of God. For the ten years I have been at the mission I have built a church or chapel every year.
    Father Damien continued building churches and chapels after he wrote this letter. He died in 1889.

    I do not know the number of chapels or churches built by Father Damien, but you can see that the numbers are rather staggering (for the work of one man). He would occassionally have help in the construction, but often enough not.

    During a conversation with Dr. G. W. Woods in 1876, Father Damien told him that upon arriving at the leper settlement his "first duty was to transform the rude chapel into a worthy place of worship."

    Father Damien seemed certain that the effort he put into constructing and maintaining beatiful churches and chapels was an essential part of his minstry.

    I cannot help but wonder what graces would flow if more priests dedicated more time and energy into the maintenance and construction of churches, ensuring that they be truly worthy places of worship.

    People are naturally attracted to beauty and, as Pope Benedict XVI recently reminded us, beautiful things lead us to God, who is Beauty itself.

    In his diligent care for churches, Blessed Damien stands with Saint Francis of Assisi, who was often found sweeping churches because the priests did not. He would also order his friars to tidy up messy churches and he asked Saint Clare's Sisters to make worthy linens and altar cloths to be given to poor churches.

    We priests would do well to make our first priority the care and adornment of our churches. From this, every other part of our ministry will flow.

    Blogger's block

    It's been quiet here on the blog lately, at least from my end.

    I've stumbled upon a bit of what might well be called Blogger's Block. I simply don't know what to blog about. I've even looked at how people stumble upon this simply blog for suggestions (but given that most of you are either looking for a novena to Fr. Damien or for homilies that wasn't very helpful).

    Things are rather quiet this week, and - God willing - will remain so this week. As such, I don't really have much to say, which brings me to the point of this post.

    What would you, my kind readers, like me to blog about? Name a topic and I'll see I can do.

    16 August 2008

    Homily - 17 August 2008

    It seems that most everywhere you turn these days it is said, “Jesus would not turn anyone away.” Others will say something similar: “I don’t think Jesus would care about x, y or z.” These are the people who present Jesus not as he is, but as they imagine and want him to be. They present him as nothing more than a nice guy, as one teacher among many, as one who makes no demands of his followers.

    The words of Jesus which we have heard today stand in stark contradiction to what many say Jesus is like. This passage is a constant reminder to us that – to quote Saint Jerome – “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

    In his encounter with this Canaanite woman, Jesus certainly does not appear to be a nice guy; in point of fact, he comes across as being rather harsh. Why does he say what he does?

    The woman to whom he at last speaks is a Canaanite woman. She is a descendant of Gentiles, a Gentile herself, one who does not worship the God of Israel. Even so, she must have been attracted to the faith of Israel, to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for she recognized Jesus as the “Son of David” (Matthew 15:22). She saw the truth of Jesus where so many others should have recognized him as such but did not.

    Her faith led her to cry out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon” (Matthew 15:22). What was the Lord’s response to her petition? It looked as though he ignored her cry and kept walking. Why? We shall see in a moment.

    Though seemingly ignored by Jesus, this woman did not give up. She kept following him, crying out all the while. If she were silent the disciples would not have said to Jesus, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us” (Matthew 15:23).

    But Jesus did not send her away; rather, he said to the disciples, to the crowds, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). She is not of the house of Israel and does not therefore fall within the context of his ministry.

    Does this mean, then, that Jesus did not come to save all mankind? Of course not! He came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to those bound by the Law but who lost sight of the purpose of the Law. He certainly desired that his gospel, the gift of redemption and salvation, should be extended also to the Gentiles, but this was to be done not by him but by his Church, founded upon the rock of Peter (cf. Matthew 16:18).

    If we were met with this response of Jesus, I daresay we would have given up and left. Yet this woman does not give up; she perseveres in her faith and says to him, simply and humbly, “Lord, help me” (Matthew 15:25).

    At these words of pure faith the Lord Jesus said directly to her, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26). The children of whom Jesus speaks are the Jews, those to whom he has been sent; the dogs are the Gentiles, those who do not know the God of Israel.

    This great woman of faith does not object or refute Jesus’ insult; she accepts it and acknowledges it as true, saying to him, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters” (Matthew 15:27).

    She saw that the lost sheep did not accept Jesus, that they did not recognize him as the Messiah and Lord, and she asked to be given the gift they refused. What boldness of faith! At this, Jesus exclaimed, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” (Matthew 15:28).

    Why does Jesus make her go through so much? Consider her embarrassment and the ridicule that must have been directed at her. She willingly humiliated herself in front of the crowds simply to beg Jesus to listen to her plea. Why did he not answer her request the first time?

    Jesus waited so that the depth of the woman’s faith might be revealed to her, that she might hear from him, “great is your faith!” He has seen the “lack of faith” in his family at Nazareth (Matthew 13:58); he has seen the “little faith” of the disciples (Matthew 14:31); now he finds a woman of “great faith.”

    It is in this act, in answering the prayer of this Gentile woman, that the Lord brings forth his salvation and reveals his justice (cf. Isaiah 56:1). The promise made through the prophet Isaiah is fulfilled:

    The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming his servants – all who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer (Isaiah 56:6-7).
    This woman’s faith, then, becomes for us a measuring rod, a litmus test, as it were, for our own faith, for our perseverance and our trust in the Lord’s merciful love.

    Let us briefly examine this woman’s prayer. She comes to the Lord not seeking a favor for herself, but for her daughter. “My daughter is tormented by a demon,” she says. It is her love for her daughter – not for herself – that brings her to Jesus, that leads her to beg, “Lord, help me.”

    When it seems that the Lord has turned a deaf ear to our prayer we must consider the example of this woman of faith. Have we persevered in our petition, or have we simply given up? Is our petition a selfish one, or one of authentic love, one that seeks the good of another?

    This Canaanite woman knew that we must be bold in our prayer, that we must hold fast to the words of the Savior: “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith you will receive it” (Matthew 21:22).

    Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace of perseverance in prayer that following after this Canaanite woman, our faith, too, may increase.

    Let each of us, with this woman, boldly raise our prayers to the Lord, begging always for the good of others. Amen.

    A little update

    Soccer practice has been going well thus far. The team is energetic and they're practicing well. It seems to me that they will play well together, overall.

    The majority of our games this season are away and travelling with the team is always a great deal of fun. I'm looking forward to the conversations that we'll have, both at the bench and on the bus. I'm not so much there to coach as I am for moral support, sort of an unofficial mascot, if you will. I know that, and they know that.

    One of our soccer players, Craig, who blogs at Argyle socs n' mocs, shared a few reflections on the benefits of playing soccer.

    Today they had an easy practice painting the goal posts, benches and fields. When it was announced at the end of practice yesterday that we'd be painting the field, not a few of us were a little concerned. We've made several 10' x 10' boxes for practice and these boxes have not been very straight at all. It seems that most of us aren't really capable of walking in a straight line, myself included. Happily, though, the lines today turned out mostly straight.

    At Mass this morning I preached the homily given last year on this day by Pope Benedict XVI. As I read through it looking for ideas for my own homily I really liked what he said and decided it would be just as easy to preach as it was than to rework it. It worked rather well.

    Aside from soccer practice, it's been a quiet day. I've been rather tired all day today, probably because the weather seems to be up to something. I've heard it's supposed to storm, but we'll see what happens.

    I've spent a good part of the day simply resting - always a good thing to do on a holyday - and reading. Right now I'm working my way through Leper Priest of Molokai: The Father Damien Story. The book is authored by a professor of medicine and, despite a few inaccuracies (minor theological ones, mostly) it is a gripping tale. I don't really want to put it down.

    Nevertheless I have put it down a few times, but only to work on Sunday's homily. The Gospel passage is one of the more difficult ones to preach on, so I've gotten to work early and, by the grace of God, I think it's nearly finished.

    Let each of us continue to rejoice in this festal day as we celebrated the Assumption of our Blessed Mother!