30 November 2010

Welcome to Congress

...where five year olds might do better:

Are you extraordinary? Maybe you should be.

It's been quite a while since I've linked to one of Sr. Mary Martha's posts. There isn't any real reason for that and today seems like a good day to link her as she digresses and writes about a false American mantra that I've often bemoaned, though not on these pages.

Here's a snippet, with my emphases:
How about a little palette cleanser after yesterday's donnybrook? Our readers have weighed in heavily on their grade school experiences. Let's just say, "That which does not kill you, makes you stronger."

Or not. I think that only works if you are a relatively strong person in the first place. I remember hearing an African American professor bemoan the bemoaning of the welfare state and the state of America's poor. What he said has always stayed with me. I can't quote him, but his point was that our "anyone can grow up to be president in the US if they just work hard enough" mantra is a fallacy that asks every single person to be extraordinary. Oh, sure, we hear about people who were able to rise from horrible backgrounds and extreme poverty. But no one seems to take into account that these people were exceptional, extraordinary people.

Of course, as Catholics, we constantly ask ourselves to be extraordinary, to strive for sainthood. Heroic virtue is our goal. And, of course, the last people to claim any heroism or extraordinary virtue are the saints themselves because to do so would lack the necessary humility.
If you read more of her post, you can learn the history of "Silent Night."

Bishop Wester: I encourage you to remain faithful to the celebration of the four weeks of Advent

The Most Reverend John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, has published a pastoral letter on the season of Advent. Be sure to read it, and do what he suggests.

The text of his letter follows, with my emphases:


My dear brother priests and deacons, my dear religious, and my dear sisters and
brothers in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Few would disagree that we live in a busy and rushed society. We rush from one thing to the next; in the end, many of us are restless and tired, yearning for stability and peace in our community and family. You may have noticed that in our hurried society many stores have already decorated for Christmas, radio stations are sneaking in a Christmas song here and there, and even some of our own parishes have begun preparing for Christmas parties for early December. In the midst of all this hurry, the Church teaches us to slow down, to be patient, and to wait.

What is the rush? Are we really so eager to get all the decorations up, celebrate the event, and quickly dismantle all the decorations so we can move on to the next event? If we truly believe the Church is the sacrament of Christ in the world (Lumen Gentium, sections 1, 9, and 48), then we must authentically celebrate the story of salvation as it unfolds in the liturgical year so that we can witness God’s profound love and mercy to the world. In these final days of Ordinary Time, I want to take an opportunity to write to you about our celebration of the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

The Church’s year begins with the season of Advent. Advent is a season of preparation, although it has come to be neglected in many places. Too often, the season of Advent is overshadowed by the “holiday season” as we move too quickly into celebrating Christmas. By the time that the actual solemnity of Christmas arrives, many of us are burned out. We are already tired of all the “Christmas hype.” Christmas has become anticlimactic.

The word advent comes from the Latin for “coming” or “arrival”. What arrival are we waiting for? The General Norms for the Liturgical Year helps us understand the season a little bit better by explaining:


The season of Advent has a twofold character: It is a time of preparation for Christmas when the first coming of God’s Son . . . is recalled. It is also a season when minds are directed by this memorial to Christ’s second coming at the end of time. It is thus a season of joyful and spiritual expectation. (General Norms for the Liturgical Year, 39).


You will notice that this is not a penitential season. It is a season of joyful hope, a time of preparation and waiting. “Thus the Sundays of Advent, while commemorating [Christ’s] birth and anticipating his return, celebrate in word and sacrament his coming now in the midst of this world.” (Normand Bonneau, The Sunday Lectionary: Ritual Word, Paschal Shape, Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1998, 131.) This season is not just about preparing for the birth of Christ at Christmas, but for the Christ who is continually being born in our midst and transforming the Church ever more into his body in the world.

In the late autumn of the year, as the world darkens, the Church is called to gather and quietly wait in hope for the coming of Christ, her bridegroom, the Light of the World. I am reminded of a song by Marty Haugen: “For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits, truly my hope is in you.” (Marty Haugen, “My Soul in Stillness Waits,” © 1982, GIA Publications, Inc. The line is a translation of Psalm 62:2) Is our hope really in Christ? Have we really allowed ourselves to wait in silence and ponder the great mystery of salvation? Have we been changed by our reflection on this mystery so that we live differently as our relationship with the risen Christ deepens? In the darkness, we watch for the coming Lord. We must not let our busyness distract us from that, lest we be caught unawares like the foolish virgins in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 25:1-13). The season calls us to be attentive to our preparations for the final day and attentive to the quality of our life in union with Christ.

The liturgies for the Sundays of Advent are intended to focus our attention on these realities and to guide our preparation for Christ’s coming. The theme for the first Sunday of Advent “speaks of the Lord’s return and urges watchfulness. (Adolf Adam, The Liturgical Year, Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990, 134.) On the second Sunday of Advent, we hear John the Baptist’s call to repentance and preparation. The Baptizer is calling us to be prepared and vigilant as we invite Christ into our hearts, but also as we await that final judgment. The third Sunday, or Gaudete Sunday, introduces Jesus as the one who will fulfill the covenant and bring forth the kingdom. On the final Sunday, we hear the gospel stories that immediately precede Christ’s birth. During these four weeks, we prepare for the Light, which comes into the world, both in Christ’s birth, and as we await his final return in glory. “In Advent, then, the church is called to be more vigilant in discovering the role of the Spirit in humanity in general and in the life of the church in particular.” (Martin Connell, Eternity Today On the Liturgical Year, vol. I, (New York: Continuum, 2006, 75)

As we renew our sense of the liturgical celebration of time, I encourage you to remain faithful to the celebration of the four weeks of Advent. As I mentioned earlier, it is so easy to be consumed by the hype of the “holiday season:” to decorate our churches and houses for Christmas, to spend more time shopping than in prayer, and to host Christmas parties before the season has arrived. I know it is an enormous challenge to remain faithful to the Advent season when we are surrounded by a society which, while claiming to be Christian, does not take the time to reflect and prepare as the church calls us to do.

As Catholics, we must celebrate Advent differently. Our reckoning of time is itself a sacramental witness to the fullness of the paschal mystery. If we were to skip the Advent season or any other season, we would impoverish that witness. We are very lucky to have a Church who has provided us with seasons to bear witness to the great mysteries of our faith. As Christians, these celebrations and our observance of time help us witness the truth and beauty of the risen Christ.

This Advent, I call on every Catholic in the diocese of Salt Lake City to strive to enter into the spirit of the season. As we move forward, I strongly encourage our schools, parishes, and each individual household to celebrate the four weeks of Advent with rich prayer. We must practice and model what we preach in order to instill the rich traditions of our faith in young and old alike.

Here are some particular examples of what this will entail. Schools should not decorate for Christmas, but can decorate with simple wreaths and greenery. They might celebrate “Gaudete parties” before departing for Christmas break. I encourage each home to display and bless an Advent wreath where the family can gather for prayer either in the morning, at dinner, or some other practical time. I urge you to hold-off on displaying a decorated Christmas tree until the season of Christmas begins. You may want to incorporate a Jesse Tree in your family’s observance of the season. (More information on Jesse Trees can be found at:


http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=545 or http://www.loyolapress.com/our-jesse-tree-advent-activity.htm.)


As the season draws to its close, I also invite you to discover the beauty of the O Antiphons, which are sung as part of evening prayer from December 17th to 23rd, and are most familiar to most of us in the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Once Christmas comes, the season stretches far beyond the 25th of December. It continues until the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord on January 9, 2011. We should leave the decorations which are testimonies to our joy up for the entire season. There is plenty of time for us to celebrate our joy at Christ’s birth and we should make the most of it. You might consider having a Christmas gathering in the parish, or at home with family and friends during this time.

First, though, before we celebrate, comes a necessary time of waiting and of preparation. The season of Advent refocuses us and reminds us that Christ has changed the world. Darkness has covered this hemisphere, and the world itself is quiet. Because we know that Christ reigns over all of creation, we strain in the darkness to see the light of Christ, our coming King. May our observance of this season renew us and be an example of patience, silence, and joy to our hurried and anxious society.

With profound gratitude for your service in this local Church and with my promise of prayer as we enter into this holy season of Advent, I remain,

Yours in Christ Jesus,
The Most Reverend John C. Wester
Bishop of Salt Lake City

Given on November 24, 2010
Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, Martyr, and His Companions, Martyrs


Kudos to Bishop Wester!

The Ironic Catholic: Christmas music in November is intrinsically disordered

The Ironic Catholic has written an 0p-ed piece in which he says: "Listening to Christmas music in November is like having premarital sex."

With my emphases:

God bless you merry gentlemen, my aunt Fanny.

Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year (stop singing that!). Yes, it's ...advent. A blessed, quiet time of waiting, repentance, and hope. So once again, I'm walking into the grocery store all ahush with pure anticipation, and bombarded by Christmas muzak. It makes me feel like a sleazy liturgical strumpet, when all I wanted to do was buy some wholesome organic milk and bread, dang it.

Why am I so in the bleak midwinter about this (stop singing that!!!)? See, some of us like advent. The hush and quiet of it. O Come Emmanuel, Maranatha, etc. But more to the point, some of us like Christmas! On Christmas Day! And for the next 12 days! Celebrating with abandon the Incarnation! Hark the Herald...(STOP IT!).

Christmas is just wrong without the anticipation. It's cheap grace. Christmas music in November is intrinsically disordered.

To that end, I encourage everyone to go tell it on the mountain (STOP! STOP! STOP singing that!) that intentional listening to Christmas music in November is the liturgical equivalent of premarital sex. Tempting stuff but bad news.

It's a slippery slope, dashing through this snow (AUGHHHHH! STTTTTOPPPPPP ITTTT!). But if we don't nip this temptation in the bud, the next thing you know, your parish plays "Jingle Rock Rock" at midnight mass. Drastic times call for drastic measures. Listening to Christmas music before Christmas Day is like engaging in premarital sex. You will regret it.

Peace and blessings. And I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus.
Inside Catholic has a list of twelve common - and false - claims that every Catholic ought to be able to refute. And they give the knowledge to do so.

29 November 2010

A beautiful moment

For more 3,201st post, a great moment from Saturday's Vigil for All Nascent Human Life in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome:

A minor friar: Prayer is the Lord's Nativity in us

A Minor Friar has this to say about this season of Advent (with my emphases):

On a deeper level, though, I find Advent to be among the most mystical times in the year. It is a time for us who stand in between. On the one hand we celebrate as we recall with joy the first coming of Christ, a coming that was humble, and, as we sometimes forget, secret. On the other hand, we look forward with wonder to the second coming of Christ in full and public glory, when he will bring the whole creation to its final destiny.

What's mystical to me about the season is the way in which it seems to emphasize the two comings of Christ in the reverse of their logical and temporal order: The liturgy of the early days, especially the first Sunday, focuses us on the end times, but as we go forward, and certainly by the time we arrive at the 'pre-octave' of the Nativity on December 17, we are fully into a celebration of the first coming of Christ.

We begin at the end times and proceed backwards to the dawn of our salvation in the Nativity of the Lord. We then notice how our own lives are moving in the course of a return from this recollection: the secret intimacies of grace and prayer in our own lives, in which the presence of Christ is conceived and carried in our own hearts, are moving toward a full and public harvest in the communion of the saints in heaven. Christ's movement from his conception by the Virgin to his ministry and passion and final glorification is also the journey of each Christian soul con-formed to Christ by Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Each secret and humble moment of prayer we experience in this life is destined for the final joy of heaven. Prayer is the Lord's Nativity in us, and it will become our Resurrection in Him as well.

For all teachers and catechists

On the Square at First Things David Mills has an interesting and informative post titled, "I was ignorant, and you taught me," that is well worth a read. His text follows, with my emphases and comments:

Over the years, I have learned five things about the sort of people who write strangers to ask religious questions: 1) even a question about an apparently trivial matter or a wildly unfair criticism may reflect a real spiritual struggle; 2) most inquirers are looking more for confirmation or consolation than engagement and teaching; 3) many of those who honestly want to be taught do not want to be taught that much, beyond a “yes” or a “no” and a two sentence explanation; 4) many who ask your advice believe they know as much as you even though they have never read more than three pages on the subject; and 5) few will read you closely and will instead often misread what you’ve written as agreement or approval because that is what they really want.

Here are ten rules developed from my experiences writing people I don't know, for those who find them helpful.

They also apply to the kinds of discussions any Christian whose faith is known will get into, with the curious neighbor, the office atheist (usually a relative of the village atheist), the spouse's most annoying uncle, even the skeptic in the next pew on Sunday mornings. You may know almost nothing, and feel hopelessly inadequate, but they asked you and you must give them a reason for the hope that is within you [If you don't know your faith well, then pick up a good book, ask someone who knows, listen to a good podcast, and learn something. We do not love what we do not know].

First, not all questions need or deserve an answer, but you can only sometimes discern the cases in which a tactful silence, a gentle non-answer, or a rebuke is best. Sometimes rudeness masks a serious search and wide-eyed openness hides a desire only for endless discussion or for trapping you into writing something on which they can leap. One learns to recognize the types with practice, but never with much assurance.

For this reason, never rebuke or confront even the most obnoxious inquirer [I need to work on this one], unless you know him well enough to judge that you can fruitfully do so. Many people often write (or speak) much more rudely than they mean to because they have no idea how their words sound to others, and those who mean to be rude will not respond well to being rebuked. Answer them as if they had written politely. If they didn't mean to be rude, this will encourage them to keep talking. If they meant to be rude, this will either convert them or annoy them. Both have their uses.

Second, assume the inquirer may be suffering a real spiritual struggle, and that he might actually do what you say or, if you offend him, the opposite. Therefore do not treat the question as the invitation to a battle of wits, but as a request to be heard and taken seriously. Often you will begin by asking questions and encouraging him to talk things out, and sometimes you will never get to the point of answering the original question at all.

The manner of your answer will affect your inquirer more than its content. You are often, as far as you can tell, trying only to encourage him to hear the answer, to open a crack in his defenses that might over time open into a door. Hope and pray that you are only one—perhaps the first, but perhaps not—in a series of encounters that will bring him to see the truth. You do not need to win the argument to change his life.

Third, concede as much as you can, particularly about the practical matters. Many people seem to think that if they have found an example of failure or hypocrisy they have proved whatever point they are making and disproved yours. Admitting that the Church has failed directs the writer back to the more crucial questions of principle.

Similarly, respond to an angry or wild statement with the practical evidence against it, not with an argument. You want to present the inquirer with facts he cannot deny [it's amazing, though, how people will still deny the undeniable], which may then allow you both to examine his statement more calmly. If you examine his logic [I need to work on this one, too; I frequently question people's logic, or lack thereof; he's right: it doesn't often get very far, even if you've clearly shown the fallacy of their logic], you will find him either refusing to speak to you again, making more angry statements, or enmeshing you in increasingly complicated arguments. Facts speak louder than words, so to speak.

Fourth, assume the inquirer has seen something of the truth and build your answer on it. If his question is simply heretical, for example, try to discern which orthodox teaching he has over-emphasized and begin by affirming the truth he has seen, but then share the truth he has lost by over-emphasizing the first. You are trying to find a common ground without implying that you agree with him.

Fifth, avoid qualifying your answer more than absolutely necessary, because your subtle distinctions will confuse many of your inquirers and they may well wind up thinking you’ve said the opposite of what you said [I really need to work on this one; I love nuances and distinctions and I cannot understand why so many people seem utterly unable to make either]. (This has happened to me a lot.) To do this, you must accept the fact that most people are never going to want to know the answer as deeply as you think they ought to [that's not easy to accept!]. Learn to be satisfied with painting a reasonably good portrait using a one-inch brush.

Sixth, remember that most people want short answers, even though they ask questions that cannot be answered in fewer than 500 pages [I hate that!]. This means that you have to give an effective answer (one that will answer the inquirer’s question clearly, avoid misinterpretation, and anticipate your inquirer’s obvious responses so he doesn’t think you are an idiot) and do all this in a few words. You can but try. [One of my friends likes to ask me a question and, once I've begun to answer it, say, with just a tint of sacrasm, "Here comes another homily."]

Seventh, in most cases do not challenge sweeping generalizations, no matter how daft [But it's so fun!]. This will be a constant problem, because so many people think in generalizations and some of them are daft [Well said!]. Most popular generalizations are true enough that you cannot easily disprove them or even qualify them, and anything you say against it will be met either by more generalizations or by mountains of evidence for it, much of it dubious but also very hard to disprove.

If you do challenge a generalization, treat it as an over-statement, asking for example “Do you think that’s quite fair?” or “Is it always true that . . .?” or “But on the other hand we see . . .”. All you want is to help the writer see that his generalization does not cover all cases, in the hope that he will come to see that it doesn't cover the relevant cases.

Eighth, speak personally when you can, but speak personally about the impersonal (meaning objective) truth. Share from your own experiences and feelings, and admit your difficulties and doubts, but do not even hint that the point you are making is only the truth that works for you. This is an out upon which the average skeptic will seize, either with relief or in vindication. Speaking personally is especially useful if you have to say something to which the inquirer might take offense.

Always close with a reason for the inquirer to write back. If you have only just started writing each other, you may only need to say simply “Please write. I’m very interested in your thoughts,” or offer particular kinds of help. If you have gotten farther in a discussion, ask specific questions that will help your inquirer engage your arguments. Write as if you are beginning a conversation.

Ninth, point to the Church’s teachings whenever you can [Again, this requires that you first know the Church's teachings; they aren't hard to find]. People often assume that you are either making up your assertions or that you believe them because you want to. You want them to know you are bound by an authority, not saying what you like. But do not appeal to the letter of the law without trying to convey something of its spirit: do not say only “believe this because the Church says so” but also “the Church says so because it knows . . .”.

And always present the Church’s teaching as good news, even though the element of liberation in some of the doctrines and especially in some of the moral teachings cannot easily be conveyed.

But do not quote the obvious sources, like C.S. Lewis, when your correspondent knows them well enough to click off when he hears their names. Never appeal to them as authorities. Examples and arguments from more obscure figures are often more effective, perhaps simply because they appear fresh and don’t look like a cliché. Christians known for their achievements in other fields can often be quoted fruitfully. Invoking non- or anti-Christian sources is the best tactic of all.

Tenth, pray for the person who has asked you for help, especially before writing your answer and before mailing it, and then read it over one last time before mailing. For one thing, the prayer may help you respond with more patience, for many inquirers can be extraordinarily annoying, and even if they are kindness itself their serious questions may expose to you your own ignorance and sins, which is also annoying even if it's also good for you.

Pope: "every human life has an incomparable, a most elevated dignity"

On Saturday evening, Pope Benedict XVI opened the season of Advent with a solemn evening prayer and a Vigil for All Nascent Human Life.

The text of the Holy Father's homily follows, with my emphases:

Dear brothers and sisters,

With this evening's celebration, the Lord gives us the grace and joy of opening the new liturgical year beginning with its first stage: Advent, the period that commemorates the coming of God among us. Every beginning brings a special grace, because it is blessed by the Lord. In this Advent period we will once again experience the closeness of the One who created the world, who guides history and cared for us to the point of becoming a man. This great and fascinating mystery of God with us, moreover of God who becomes one of us, is what we celebrate in the coming weeks journeying towards holy Christmas. During the season of Advent we feel the Church that takes us by the hand and - in the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary - expresses her motherhood allowing us to experience the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord, who embraces us all in his love that saves and consoles.

While our hearts reach out towards the annual celebration of the birth of Christ, the Church's liturgy directs our gaze to the final goal: our encounter with the Lord in the splendour of glory. This is why we, in every Eucharist, "announce his death, proclaim his resurrection until he comes again" we hold vigil in prayer. The liturgy does not cease to encourage and support us, putting on our lips, in the days of Advent, the cry with which the whole Bible concludes, the last page of the Revelation of Saint John: "Come, Lord Jesus "(22:20).

Dear brothers and sisters, our coming together this evening to begin the Advent journey is enriched by another important reason: with the entire Church, we want to solemnly celebrate a prayer vigil for unborn life. I wish to express my thanks to all who have taken up this invitation and those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in different situations of fragility, especially in its early days and in its early stages. The beginning of the liturgical year helps us to relive the expectation of God made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, God who makes himself small, He becomes a child, it speaks to us of the coming of a God who is near, who wanted to experience the life of man, from the very beginning, to save it completely, fully. And so the mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord and the beginning of human life are intimately connected and in harmony with each other within the one saving plan of God, the Lord of life of each and every one of us. The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in an amazing way, that every human life has an incomparable, a most elevated dignity.

Man has an unmistakable originality compared to all other living beings that inhabit the earth. He presents himself as a unique and singular entity, endowed with intelligence and free will, as well as being composed of a material reality. He lives simultaneously and inseparably in the spiritual dimension and the corporal dimension. This is also suggested in the text of the First letter to the Thessalonians which was just proclaimed: "May the God of peace himself - St. Paul writes - make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ "(5:23). Therefore, we are spirit, soul and body. We are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limits of our material condition, at the same time we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome Him in us. We operate in earthly realities and through them we can perceive the presence of God and seek Him, truth, goodness and absolute beauty. We savour fragments of life and happiness and we long for total fulfilment.

God loves us so deeply, totally, without distinction, He calls us to friendship with him, He makes us part of a reality beyond all imagination, thought and word; His own divine life. With emotion and gratitude we acknowledge the value of the incomparable dignity of every human person and the great responsibility we have toward all. " Christ, the final Adam, - says the Second Vatican Council - by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.... by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. "(Gaudium et Spes, 22).

Believing in Jesus Christ also means having a new outlook on man, a look of trust and hope. Moreover, experience itself and reason show that the human being is a subject capable of discernment, self-conscious and free, unique and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly things, that must be recognized in his innate value and always accepted with respect and love. He has the right not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will, not to be reduced to a mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests. The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought. Love for all, if it is sincere, naturally tends to become a preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. In this vein we find the Church's concern for the unborn, the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the darkening of consciences. The Church continually reiterates what was declared by the Second Vatican Council against abortion and all violations of unborn life: "from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care " (ibid., n. 51).

There are cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations. With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being. So was Jesus in Mary's womb, so it was for all of us in our mother’s womb. With the ancient Christian writer Tertullian we can say: "he who will be a man is already one" (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception.

Unfortunately, even after birth, the lives of children continue to be exposed to abandonment, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence or exploitation. The many violations of their rights that are committed in the world sorely hurt the conscience of every man of good will. Before the sad landscape of the injustices committed against human life, before and after birth, I make mine Pope John Paul II’s passionate appeal to the responsibility of each and every individual: " respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!"(Encyclical Evangelium vitae, 5). I urge the protagonists of politics, economic and social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture which respects human life, to provide favorable conditions and support networks for the reception and development of life.

To the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Son of God made man with faith, with her maternal womb, with loving care, with nurturing support and vibrant with love, we entrust our commitment and prayer in favour of unborn life . We do in the liturgy - which is the place where we live the truth and where truth lives with us - worshiping the divine Eucharist, we contemplate Christ's body, that body who took flesh from Mary by the Holy Spirit, and from her was born in Bethlehem for our salvation. Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!

28 November 2010

Pope: While man waits his heart is alive

During his Angelus Address today in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father Benedict XVI reflected on what it means to wait (with my emphases):

Waiting -- standing by -- is a dimension that crosses all of our existence: personal, family and social. This waiting is found in a thousand situations, from those little, everyday ones all the way to the most important things, those which completely, deeply, wrap us up. Among these, let us think of the waiting for a child by a couple; those of a relative or friend who comes to visit us from afar; let us think, for a young person, of the waiting for the result of an important test, or a job interview; in emotional relationships, of the waiting for one's encounter with their beloved, of the response to a letter, or the acceptance of an apology... It could be said that man is alive while he waits, that in his heart hope is alive. And from these waitings man comes to know himself: our moral and spiritual "stature" can be measured by that for which we wait, by that in which we hope.

Each of us, then, especially in this time that prepares us for Christmas, can ask ourselves: what am I waiting for? What, in this moment of my life, reaches out of my heart? This same question can place itself in the context of family, of community, of nation. What do we wait for, together? What unites our hopes, what do we share? In the time preceding the birth of Jesus, so strong in Israel was the anticipation of the Messiah, of the Sacred One, descendant of King David, who would finally liberate the people from their moral and political slavery and inaugurate the Kingdom of God. But no one would ever have imagined that the Messiah could be born of a humble girl like Mary, betrothed to the just man Joseph. Neither had she thought of it, though in her heart the waiting for the Savior was so great, her faith and her hope so ardent, that He could find in her a worthy mother. From the first, God himself prepared her, even from before the ages. There is a mysterious correspondence between the waiting of God and that of Mary, the creature "full of grace," totally transparent to the design of the Most High's love. Let us learn from her, the Lady of Advent, to live our daily duties with a new spirit, with the sense of a profound waiting, one only the coming of God can quench.
Capello tip to Rocco.

Results from stem cell research

Despite what you might hear in the media and from various celebrities and politicians embryonic stem cell reseach has to date yielded no results. It's a curious thing to consider, given the all of the "potential" that embryonic stem cell research is said to hold and the millions of dollars that have been poured into it.

Adult stem cell research, on the other hand, continues to yield positive medical advances, including these two passed along by Fr. John Molloy, S.D.B.:

Using adult stem cells for this research not only poses no moral dilemna - embryonic stem cells are obtained by the destruction of innocent human life - and actually yields results.

This fact has not yet been accepted by many politicians, scientists and various groups offering grants for scientific research.

Pontiff's Prayer for All Nascent Nascent Life

With a capello tip to Rocco:

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you:

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of a mother's womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.

Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
make fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognise and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Gift creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realise and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children

Console married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Love,
the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.
Amen.

27 November 2010

Hmm...

A moment ago I logged onto the web site of Merriam-Webster, to look up the pronunciation of the word, "nascent." The way I keep hearing it said just does not sound correct to me; it seems there are two correct ways to pronounce it.

At any rate, I noticed an advertisment on the front page for the top ten frequently searched words.

The most searched word is prententious. I couldn't help but think, "Really? People don't know what that means?"

Does that make me pretentious?

Homily, 28 November 2010

The First Sunday of Advent

On The Yule Blog of the State Journal-Register we find these incomprehensible words from two Black Friday shoppers:
“I live for this day. I don’t care about Christmas or Thanksgiving. I love Black Friday,” she said.

Miller agreed.

“This is our holiday,” she added.
These words are truly sad and what more can we do when we hear them than cry out, “Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation” (Psalm 85:8)!

The women’s words come at the end of a post that stops just shy of praising those brave souls who battle the cold and the crowds, who so live for Black Friday that they happily admit to skipping Thanksgiving dinner.

When I was younger and working in a toy store, the day after Thanksgiving was called Green Friday. It was called green because on that day we took in half of all sales for the year. I dare say I do not miss retail on this day that we now more fittingly call black.

Perhaps these women’s words are mere hyperbole – nothing but an exaggeration. But, I wonder: could one who cares even slightly about Christmas have uttered such a sentence? Could one who has experienced the love of the Christ-Child and who lives in expectation of his coming ever say, “I don’t care about Christmas?”

Surely such a mindset shows a refusal to follow the warning of Saint Paul to make no provision for the sinful desires of the flesh (cf. Romans 13:14). How can one who does not care about the birth of the Savior sing with the Psalmist, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” (cf. Psalm 122:1)? How can one who does not care about Christmas climb the mountain of the Lord to be taught by him and walk in his ways (cf. Isaiah 2:3)?

Such a person would do well to listen carefully to the words of Jesus:


Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the
thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken
into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the
Son of Man will come (Matthew 24:43-44).
Together with thousands of others, those two women prepared well for their shopping expedition, making thorough arrangements and plans, even going so far as to download a special application on their phones to be instantly alerted of new deals. Nothing would stand in the way of their shopping; no thief would come and snatch their deal away from them.

But, I wonder: are they prepared for that other thief will come who will steal their life away? Are they prepared for the coming of the Son of Man who “shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples” (Isaiah 2:4)?

As I say, these two women are not alone in their efforts and there are, perhaps, several such shoppers here among us now. Others among us are not altogether unlike them, though perhaps our excesses are not so great; nevertheless, our focus is not where it ought to be. Who among us can say that we have fully thrown off the works of darkness (cf. Romans 13:12)?

Reflecting on this passage of Saint Paul written to the Romans, Saint Augustine corrects each of us with these words:


Provision for the flesh is not to be condemned if it has to do with the needs of
bodily health. But if it is a question of unnecessary delights or luxuries, a
person who enjoys the delights of the flesh is rightly chastised. For in that
case he makes provision for the desires of the flesh, and “he who sows in the
flesh will reap corruption in the flesh” (Galatians 6:8) [Saint Augustine of Hippo, On Romans 77].
As we enter into this holy season each of us must prayerfully consider if - knowing we have made provisions for the good desires of the flesh and, regretfully, also for the sinful ones – we have likewise made provisions for the desires of the spirit.

Have we truly endeavored, with the Lord’s grace, to grow in faith, hope and love? Do we truly seek to live the faith of Jesus Christ in the totality of our daily lives? Do we truly intend to enter into the beauty and stillness of these days of Advent?

Dear brothers and sisters, in the opening prayer we prayed that Christ may find in us an eager welcome at his coming. Is this really what we desire, knowing that when at last he comes he will take his seat upon his throne of judgment?

Christian discipleship requires that we live in the world, preparing it for the Lord and opening hearts to him until he should call us to himself, but that we not be of the world. The Christian life stands in stark contradiction to the ways of the world.

One who follows Christ must stand in contradiction to the rampant individualism of the present age that knows no concern for another. One who follows Christ must stand in contradiction to the materialistic and hedonistic pursuits of the present age, conscious that our true home is not here. One who follows Christ must stand in contradiction to the culture of death and defend the rights and dignity of all people. For the Christian lives waiting in joyful hope for the coming of Christ, and “the one who has hope lives differently”(Pope Benedict XVI, Spe salvi 2)!

I ask you then: Are you prepared for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ?


If you have done everything that was asked of you and are prepared for it, then
you have nothing to fear, but if you have not, then look out! Paul is not trying
to frighten his hearers but to encourage them, so as to detach them from their
love of the things of this world (Saint John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 23).
These days of Advent are given us a brief time to refocus our lives on Christ that he might not catch us off guard.

We know neither when each of our lives will end, nor when the Lord will appear in his glory. He himself says to us, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37).

In the days of Noah, the righteous were saved on the ark, because they listened to the Lord and sought his face. Those who neither listened to him nor sought his face were swept away in the destructive waters of the flood. When the waters receded, all that was left was good.

So will it be when the Lord comes. Those who are wicked and are unprepared for his coming will be taken away, and the ones who remain will be those who sought his face and watched eagerly for his coming.

If you wish to be found ready when the Lord comes, then awake now from your sleep of apathy to the faith (cf. Romans 13:11)! Rise up now, put on the armor of light, and walk in the light of the Lord (cf. Romans 13:12; Isaiah 2:5)! Amen.

26 November 2010

An interesting connection

Writing for The Catholic Thing, Father Bevil Bramwell, O.M.I. comments on "Advent and the Curse of Midas" (with my emphases):

The Opening Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent, which will be this weekend, asks that we might “take the Lord’s coming seriously.” To speak of the coming of the Lord in such a way means that he is not already here in this specific form. He is outside of us. Now, if we are to take something from outside of us seriously then we cannot already be complete and self-sufficient. As the great modern theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar noted: “the subject that already contained the whole reservoir of its truth in itself would be struck with the curse of Midas.” He goes on to explain: “wherever it turned, it could find only itself and its own truth.”

We already have here the first glimmerings of what we understand as Hell. In the ancient story, Midas turned everything he touched into the gold that he coveted. The Catholic who operates in this way cannot receive anything from outside of himself. He believes that he is already self-sufficient and has all truth. Looking at the Church, for example, he would only see his own truth. There cannot be something new, something that he had not thought of or perceived before, something to be learned from the teaching of the Church.

Advent means recognizing that we do not have it all together on our own. We are indeed waiting for the truth to come from outside. Hence the Advent calls to conversion.

Practically speaking, are Jesus Christ and his Church products that we peddle or are they our very life? As long as the truth of Jesus and his Church remains outside us, we are only seeing ourselves in a mirror when we speak of the Church. Avoiding issues such as abortion, divorce, and other intrinsically evil acts, or when we get together with other Catholics and discuss anything but Jesus Christ and his Church, we hold the reality of Christ at arm’s length. Jesus Christ is a wonder who wants to speak, but he cannot if he is shut out. When the material preparations for a wedding, for example, get a hundred times more attention and effort than the spiritual preparations, we are just seeing ourselves in the mirror of events. The same, sadly, often happens with ordinations. Such marriages and ordinations seem to be about affirming ourselves rather than encountering the vast spiritual realities that accompany our meager actions.

The Midas phenomenon is cultural as well. There are university professors who still dream of American universities providing an alternative magisterium that reflects American liberal culture rather than theological absolutes. But as Joseph Ratzinger has observed, “a faith one makes up for oneself is not a faith at all.” It lacks the openness to the other outside myself, in this case, to the Magisterium of the Church of Jesus Christ. Then there are bishops who do not want to correct priests out of a misplaced sense of tolerance or, worse, out of an anxiety about their next appointment. There are religious who turn religious vocation into a life of travel and ease instead of prayer and service. The self just keeps coming to the fore, as if we are already perfect, as if we are already complete, as if we do not need correction.

The Midas touch lies behind using political labels – liberal and conservative – for doctrinal matters. The individual is mirrored in the labels he uses and remains safely sheltered and unchallenged. Political labels suggest, incorrectly, that the content of doctrines can be modified. Changing a doctrine one way makes one a liberal and in another way makes one a conservative. But at the heart of the matter, what’s needed is honesty and a recognition that dogmas that can change put in doubt their very truth.

There is a reason for the application of political terms to discussions about the Church. In politics, if a majority holds something then it is considered right. To illustrate: most Catholics in America are pro-abortion. Calling this position “liberal” lets them off the hook, at least in their own minds. They are in a large company on this issue and take comfort in that. Nevertheless, in the real world, something is true if it is true. It does not matter how many people hold a certain view or the opposite. The truth simply stands – if necessary, in judgment. Whether people wish it were not true, or are more comfortable if it is not true, does not enter into the real point a wit. The truth is still the truth. What is true does not arise out of the selfishness of individuals or their need to avoid changing their minds.

The story of Midas does not end there. He starved because the food he touched turned to gold. The gold of self-sufficiency, of imagining that what one thinks is automatically unchallengeable, means a life starved of truth. There is no space for the real Christ or his Church. Time for conversion. Time for Advent.

Meet my friend, the Pope

The previous two book-length interviews then-Cardinal Ratzinger granted to Peter Seewald have provided a profound look not only into the mind and faith of the man who now occupies the See of Saint Peter, but also an intimate look into his personality.

I have long said there is something inexplicable about Pope Benedict XVI that draws me to him. His gracious smile, his genuine warmth, his visible shyness and his strong intellect and deep faith have endeared me to him.

Naturally, I greatly admire the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, but there is something about Pope Benedict XVI that I find particularly appealing.

I have found in his writings the heart of a poet and a man who - at least in the written page - has become my friend and travelling companion on the journey of faith. Page after page I have made myself his student and look forward to learning from him and growing deeper in faith through his subtle and profound insights.

In the book-length interview Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times: A Conversation with Peter Seewald, we are given a deeper glimpse into the thought and personality of this Pope.

At one point Seewald reflected on the draw Pope John Paul II exercised on the world by the force of his personality and noted that Pope Benedict's personality is markedly different. "Was that a problem for you?" he asked. The reply was straightforward:
I simply told myself that I am who I am. I don't try to be someone else. What I can give I give, and what I can't give I don't try to give, either. I don't try to make myself into something I am not. I am the person who happens to have been chosen - the cardinals are also to blame for that - and I do what I can (p. 112).

Earlier in the interview, Seewald noted that Ratzinger "did not want to become a bishop, you did not want to become Prefect, you did not want to become Pope. Isn't it frightening," he asked, "when things repeatedly happen quite against your own will?" The Pope answered:
It is like this: When a man says Yes during his priestly ordination, he may have some idea of what his own charism could be, but he also knows: I have placed myself into the hands of the bishop and ultimately of the Lord. I cannot pick and choose what I want. In the end I must allow myself to be led. I had in fact the notion that being a theology professor was my charism, and I was very happy when my idea became a reality. But it was also clear to me: I am always in the Lord's hands, and I must also be prepared for things that I do not want. In this sense it was certainly surprising
suddenly to be snatched away and no longer to be able to follow my own path. But as I said, the fundamental Yes also contained the thought that I remain at the Lord's disposal and perhaps will also have to do things someday that I myself would not like (p. 5-6).

Standing in the "Room of Tears" after his election, Pope Benedict said, "...all I wa able to say to the Lord was simply: 'What are you doing with me? Now the responsibility is yours. You must lead me! I can't do it. If you wanted me, then you must also help me!'" (p. 4).

I have said before the Pope Benedict thinks not in phrases, but in paragraphs; though typically true, this is not always the case. When Seewald asked, "Are you afraid of an assassination attempt?" the Pope answered simply and directly, "No" (p. 73).

If you want to know that mind and heart of this Pope, read these interviews. Besides, it isn' t every day that a Pope references The Little Prince.

25 November 2010

ACTION ALERT

Here follows an important press release from the Illinois Catholic Conference (with my emphases):

The Catholic Conference of Illinois (CCI), on behalf of Cardinal Francis George, OMI, and all the Bishops of Illinois, call upon the Illinois General Assembly to reject Senate Bill 1716, the civil union legislation.

Everyone has a right to marry, but no one has the right to change the nature of marriage. Marriage is what it is and always has been, no matter what a legislature decides to do; however, the public understanding of marriage will be negatively affected by passage of a bill that ignores the natural fact that sexual complementarity is at the core of marriage,” said Cardinal George. “Moreover, the impact of this legislation on the Church’s social service ministries remains an important and thus far unanswered concern. This important legislation is being put before a lame-duck General Assembly and more should be done to engage the people in public debate.”

Marriage was not invented by either the state or the Church, and neither can change its nature. However, laws structure society, and they influence patterns of behavior and thought. In our country, as in most others, marriage is granted unique protections and benefits under the law because marriage is the foundation of family and society. The proposed legislation would further weaken an already fragile institution.

There is an inherent conflict between this legislation and religious liberty. Language in the bill offers little protection in the context of litigation that religious institutions and individuals will face if this bill is adopted. With no explicit protections for religious liberties, it will not take long before the General Assembly or the courts:

 Mandate that faith-based institutions providing adoption or foster care services be required to place adoptive or foster children with couples who have entered into a same-sex civil union.

 Require that Catholic parishes or Catholic agencies providing social services (including retreats, religious camps, homeless shelters, senior care centers and community centers) be compelled to provide these services to individuals who are in a same-sex civil union.

 Refuse to protect small employers who do not wish to extend family benefits to employees in a same sex civil union.

The enactment of marriage-like benefits in civil union legislation will intensify the legal attack on marriage. It will not appease those who wish to redefine the institution of marriage. We need only look to California, Connecticut and other states where nearly identical legislation was passed. In every state where citizens have had the right to vote on marriage, they consistently express their support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Senate Bill 1716 seeks to afford all the “legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits” of marriage to individuals in a civil union. There are literally hundreds of references to married “spouses” throughout Illinois’ law to which parties to a civil union will now be included. These references are not limited to hospital visitation rights (which are already afforded same sex couples via Presidential Executive Order) or property rights (which can be provided for through legal arrangements). They include benefits from the state Pension Code, the legal guardianship of children and other provisions that govern married life in Illinois.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” Accordingly, we stand ready to work with the legislature and other agencies of state government to prevent unjust discrimination and to provide benefits to people judged by the civic authority as deserving – as long as such provision does not include the attempted redefinition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman for the sake of family.

24 November 2010

Where am I when these happen?

I'm in. Are you?

Weigel weighs in

George Weigel weighs in the recent condom controversy, with my emphases:

As misleading as the Times story was, it was hardly the worst of the maelstrom of media misrepresentation, which was initiated by the once-authoritative Associated Press. This latest example of pack journalism was a disservice in itself; it also highlighted several false assumptions that continually bedevil coverage of the Catholic Church and the Vatican and one specific media obsession that is, to be brutally frank, lethal in its consequences.

The first false assumption beneath the latest round of media condomania is that the Church's settled teaching on sexual morality is a policy or a position that can change, as tax rates can be changed or one's position on whether India should be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council can change. To be sure, the theological articulation of the Catholic ethic of sexual love has been refined over centuries; it has come to an interesting point of explication in recent years in John Paul II's "theology of the body." But it has not changed and it will not change because it cannot be changed. And it cannot change or be changed because the Catholic ethic of sexual love is an expression of fundamental moral truths that can be known by reason and are illuminated by revelation.

The second false assumption beneath the condom story is that all papal statements of whatever sort are equal, such that an interview is an exercise of the papal teaching magisterium. That wasn't true of John Paul II's international bestseller, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, in which the late pope replied to questions posed by Italian journalist Vittorio Messori. It wasn't true of the first volume of Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth, in which the pope made clear at the outset that he was speaking personally as a theologian and biblical scholar, not as the authoritative teacher of the Church. And it isn't true of Light of the World. Reporters who insist on parsing every papal utterance as if each were equally authoritative – and who often do so in pursuit of a gotcha moment – do no good service to their readers.

The third false assumption was that a "historic change" in Catholic teaching of the sort that was misreported to have taken place would be announced through the medium of an interview. It will perhaps come as a blow to the self-esteem of the fourth estate to recognize an elementary fact of Catholic life, but the truth of the matter is that no pope with his wits about him would use the vehicle of an interview with a journalist to discuss a new initiative, lay out a pastoral program, or explicate a development of doctrine. Light of the World is chock-full of interesting material, explaining this or that facet of Catholic faith, reflecting on the successes, challenges, and communications errors of the pontificate to date, even pondering personal questions such as the possibility of a papal retirement. But such interviews never are going to be used for the most serious exercises of papal authority.

As for the media obsession, it is, of course, with the notion of Salvation by Latex. Shortly after the pope's visit to Africa, where he was hammered by the press for alleged insensitivity to AIDS victims because of his reiteration of the Catholic sexual ethic, a distinguished student of these matters, Dr. Edward Green, published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post with the striking title, "The Pope May Be Right." Green, who is not a Catholic, made a powerful case that abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage are, empirically, the genuine AIDS-preventers. He was right, according to every thorough study of this terrible plague. But you would never know that by the coverage of Catholics and condoms – just as you would likely never learn that, as a global institution, the Catholic Church serves more AIDS sufferers than any other similarly situated community.

What humane purpose is served by this media obsession with condoms? What happens to the press's vaunted willingness to challenge conventional wisdom when the issue at hand is anything touching on sexual license? It seems to disappear. And one fears that a lot of people are seriously hurt – and die – as at least an indirect result. Consciences indeed need to be examined in the matter of condoms, Catholics, and AIDS. But the consciences in question are those of the press [more].
Biretta tip to CERC.

Bishop Paprocki: "Going to confession...is more powerful than an exorcism!"

In his current column in the Catholic Times, the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki takes a look at exorcisms.

His text follows, with my emphases:

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Greetings from Baltimore, where I am attending the annual meetings of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Prior to our general meetings of all the bishops of our country, I participated in a seminar on “The Liturgical and Pastoral Practice of Exorcism.” I actually helped to organize this seminar acting in my capacity as chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance. The reason that this comes under the purview of our committee is the requirement that a priest needs the permission of his diocesan bishop before he can perform the rite of exorcism. The purpose of the seminar then was to provide some guidance for bishops to assist in their determination of when such permission should or should not be given.

There has been a great deal of interest in this seminar. Over one hundred bishops and priests attended. I have received numerous media inquiries about the exorcism seminar and have done interviews with Catholic News Service, Our Sunday Visitor, Associated Press, The New York Times, Good Morning America, the British Broadcasting Company, Relevant Radio, Ave Maria/EWTN Radio, and the National Catholic Register. So what is going on here?

First of all, this is not some emergency or crisis of a surge in cases of people being possessed by the demons. The fact is that I cannot recall any official training being offered to bishops or priests here in the United States on this topic. There are conferences offered occasionally in Rome, but it is not practical or easy for large numbers of priests to travel to Italy to attend such conferences. The result is that there is only a small number of priests in the United States who have any expertise in this subject matter, so they wind up getting inquiries from all over the country. In fairness, every diocese should have its own expertise in this area, so I brought with me some priests from our Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. It is important that we work together as a team on these matters since it is never prudent to face the Devil alone.

What, or who, precisely is the Devil? A devil is a fallen angel, that is, a spiritual being created by God with a free will who has freely chosen to reject God and to embrace evil. The Devil, Satan or Lucifer, is the leader of other fallen angels who are known as devils or demons.

What is demonic or diabolical possession? Well, it’s not contagious! You don’t have to worry about being invaded and taken over by a devil against your will. But that is the key: possession is a relationship between a human being and a devil or demons to which the human person has opened a door through freely embracing evil, dabbling in the occult, or participating in satanic rituals and the like. The remedy for diabolical possession is an exorcism. Since diabolical possession is rare, the remedy of a solemn rite of exorcism is also rare.

We need to keep in mind that diabolical possession is not the only work of the Devil. Since it is extraordinary and rare, we must recognize the ordinary and usual way that the Devil operates, namely, by temptation. We face the Devil’s temptations everyday when confronted with choices between doing good or evil, right or wrong. The remedy for this ordinary activity of the Devil is the ordinary spiritual means offered by the church, namely, the sacraments, especially reconciliation and holy Communion, prayers, fasting, charitable works, devotions, rosaries and blessings. Going to confession and receiving sacramental absolution from a priest is more powerful than an exorcism!

Determining whether a person is actually subject to the extraordinary activity of the Devil through possession is a process called discernment. Before resorting to the supernatural remedy of exorcism, it is necessary to eliminate all natural explanations for the problematic behavior or activity. What this means is that the person in need of assistance should undergo a complete medical examination and a psychiatric or psychological evaluation. Prayers of deliverance from evil can also be very beneficial in helping people who are struggling with evil influences but who may not actually be possessed. Those who wish more information about this ministry in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois can contact Msgr. Carl Kemme, Vicar General.

Pope Paul VI gave an address to a General Audience on Nov. 15, 1972, in which he said, “What are the church’s greatest needs at the present time? Don’t be surprised at our answer and don’t write it off as simplistic or even superstitious: one of the church’s greatest needs is to be defended against the evil we call the Devil. … It is a departure from the picture provided by biblical church teaching to refuse to acknowledge the Devil’s existence; to regard him as a self-sustaining principle who, unlike other creatures, does not owe his origin to God; or to explain the Devil as a pseudo-reality, a conceptual, fanciful personification of the unknown causes of our misfortunes.”

One of the most powerful spiritual weapons that we have in our battle with the Devil is the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. I encourage its frequent use: “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all other evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

May God give us this grace. Amen.

Hockey with Bishop Paprocki

A Charity Hockey Game with Bishop Thomas John Paprocki - a.k.a. the Holy Goalie - will be played at the Nelson Center in Springfield at 7:00 p.m. on December 6th.

The teams are comprised of adult hockey players from the Springfield area, with Bishop Paprocki alternating as goalie between the two teams.

Admission is $3.00 for adults and $2.00 for students. The admission fee will also allow you to watch the Sacred Heart Griffin High School vs. Glenwood High School game that immediately follows.

All proceeds from the game will go to Catholic Charities.

For more information call (217) 525-0500 or email zellers_spfld[at]cc[dot]dio[dot]org.

The Holy See clarifies the Pope's condom remarks

Yesterday Father Federico Lomardi, Spokesman of the Holy See, issued the following clarification on the words of the Pope that have recently been twisted and greatly misunderstood and taken well out of context (with my emphases):

At the end of chapter eleven of the book 'Light of the World' the Pope responds to two questions about the battle against AIDS and the use of condoms, questions that reconnect with the discussions that arose in the wake of certain statements the Pope made on this subject during the course of his 2009 trip to Africa.

The Pope again makes it clear that his intention was not to take up a position on the problem of condoms in general; his aim, rather was to reaffirm with force that the problem of AIDS cannot be solved simply by distributing condoms, because much more needs to be done: prevention, education, help, advice, accompaniment, both to prevent people from falling ill and to help them if they do.

The Pope observes that even in the non-ecclesial context an analogous awareness has developed, as is apparent in the so-called ABC theory (Abstinence - Be Faithful - Condom), in which the first two elements (abstinence and fidelity) are more decisive and fundamental in the battle against AIDS, while condoms take last place, as a way out when the other two are absent. It should thus be clear that condoms are not the solution to the problem.

The Pope then broadens his perspective and insists that focusing only on condoms is equivalent to trivialising sexuality, which thus loses its meaning as an expression of love between persons and becomes a 'drug'. This struggle against the trivialisation of sexuality is 'part of the great effort to ensure that sexuality is positively valued and is able to exercise a positive effect on man in his entirety'.

In the light of this broad and profound vision of human sexuality and the problems it currently faces, the Pope reaffirms that 'the Church does not of course consider condoms to be the authentic and moral solution' to the problem of AIDS.

In this the Pope does not reform or change Church teaching, but reaffirms it, placing it in the perspective of the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of love and responsibility.

At the same time the Pope considers an exceptional circumstance in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real threat to another person's life. In such a case, the Pope does not morally justify the disordered practice of sexuality but maintains that the use of a condom to reduce the danger of infection can be 'a first act of responsibility', 'a first step on the road toward a more human sexuality', rather than not using it and exposing the other person to a mortal risk.

In this, the reasoning of the Pope certainly cannot be defined as a revolutionary change.

Many moral theologians and authoritative ecclesiastical figures have supported and support similar positions; it is nevertheless true that we have not heard this with such clarity from the mouth of the Pope, even in an informal and non-magisterial form.

Thus Benedict XVI courageously makes an important contribution to help us clarify and more deeply understand a long-debated question. His is an original contribution, because, on the one hand, it remains faithful to moral principles and transparently refutes illusory paths such as that of 'faith in condoms'; on the other hand, however, it manifests a comprehensive and farsighted vision, attentive to recognising the small steps (though only initial and still confused) of an often spiritually- and culturally-impoverished humanity, toward a more human and responsible exercise of sexuality.

Nuances and distinctions

The media is - almost always - horrible at noticing nuances and making, and keeping, distinctions, which is they report on topics of morality so very poorly in almost every instance. Once such instance is the Pope's remarks on condoms and male prostitutes.

Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. cuts to the heart of the issue, with my emphases:

It is important to note that there are two very serious mistranslations in the Italian version of the Pope’s remarks, upon which many early reports were based, since the embargo was broken by the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. (That’s another story.) First, the German speak of “ein Prostituierter”, which can only be a male prostitute. The normal German word for prostitute is “ [eine] Prostituierte”, which is feminine and refers only to a woman. The Italian translation “una prostituta” simply reverses what the Pope says.

Equally problematically, “giustificati” = justified, was used in the Italian translation of “begründete”, and arbitrarily resolves the ambiguity one-sidedly.

The Pope responded: “She [the Church] does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality” (italics mine).

In the first place a solution which is not “moral” cannot be “justified”. That is a contradiction and would mean that something in itself morally evil could be “justified” to achieve a good end. Note: the concept of the “lesser evil” is inapplicable here. One may tolerate a lesser evil; one cannot do something which is a lesser evil.

But the crucial distinction here is between the “intention” of the male prostitute, viz. avoiding infecting his client, and the act itself, viz. using a condom. Since this distinction has been missed in almost every report I’ve read, it calls for some elaboration.

This distinction, in moral philosophy, is between the object of an act and the intent of an act. If a man steals in order to fornicate, the intent is to fornicate but the object is the act of theft. There is no necessary connection between stealing and fornicating.

In the case of the Pope’s remark, the intent is preventing infection and the object is use of a condom.
Read his whole commentary here.

23 November 2010

A gold chasuble, the stuff of memories

This past Sunday being the Solemnity of our Jesus Christ the King of the Universe, I thought it would be fitting to wear my gold chasuble.

As I kissed the stole before putting it on Saturday evening I was filled with a flurry of memories connected to the times that I wore that chasuble in the past.

The memories lasted but a brief moment, and it seemed to be a timeless moment, as people and events came rushing back to me.

It was truly a bitter-sweet moment; sweet because of the joys associated with many of these memories, and bitter both because I did not have time then to prayerfully remember these people and events and because the recollection of the past is always somewhat bitter.

Later that evening I thought I might do a photo post of some of the times I have worn this chasuble (I don't have pictures from each of the Masses).

At the Easter Vigil two years ago when I had the pleasure of receiving a woman into the Church:

With one of the first communicants two years ago:

Chatting with one of my students who guessed - rightly - that I was being transferred before the Mass when I made the announcement:




Delivering the news of my first pastorate:


At the Easter Vigil last year in Virden:



I thought, too, of a generous couple - whom I have yet to meet in person - who contributed toward the cost of the chasuble.

Even as I am filled with gratitude for the people, places and celebrations now associated with this chasuble, I cannot help but wonder who and what else will come to be associated with it.

That moment as I kissed the stole was a clear and moving reminder of how we are all bound together in the Lord, especially when gathered around his altar, no matter how great the physical distances that separate us.

22 November 2010

President Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

From President George Washington, with my emphases:

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
You can see the original document here.
Now, what of that supposed separation of Church and State?

21 November 2010

What did the Pope really say about condoms?

As usual, Jimmy Akin has the best commentary yet on the Pope really said about condums - and what he didn't say about them.

Please, go read it, and properly inform those who actually believe what the mainstream media says about the Church.

20 November 2010

Homily - 21 November 2010

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King (C)

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we have come to the celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, and the final Sunday of the year. A week from now we will enter into the season of Advent to experience its joyful anticipation of the two-fold coming of Christ the King, both at the end of time and his birth in Bethlehem.

So often today’s Solemnity brings to our minds images of earthly kingship, of royal pageantry and fanfare. The recent announcement of the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton only helps to bring these images to mind.

Yet the Gospel passage today from the account of Saint Luke shows nothing of the sort. Instead, the Evangelist presents to us one whose kingship is mocked; we see a king who is taunted and quietly suffers sneers and jeers (cf. Luke 23:35-36).

Of this man, who is ridiculed by the crowds, Saint Paul says, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). What does the Apostle see that we do not?

Saint Paul sees in Christ Jesus what that good thief – whom tradition knows by name to be Dismas – saw in his crucified neighbor.

As he looked upon the body of our Lord, this repentant thief “knew that the wounds on the body of Christ were not Christ’s wounds but the thief’s; therefore, after he recognized his own wounds on Christ’s body, he began to love all the more” (Maximus of Turin, Sermon 74.3).

When Saint Paul persecuted the Church and put Christians to death, the Lord cried out to him, saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me” (Acts 9:4). In that encounter on the road to Damascus Saul learned that those who are baptized into Christ are intimately bound to him in his Mystical Body. The good thief knew something of this, but do you and I?

When we look upon the Crucified Lord, what do we see? There are some who see a man of weakness who rightly deserves his punishment and mockery. They see a man who could have saved himself if his claim was true. These are filled with scorn when they look upon him.

There are others who simply pass him by, paying little attention to him. They count him as nothing more than a common criminal, one who would incite violence to achieve his goal. These are moved very little when they look upon him and are filled with indifference; they have other cares about which to worry.

And there are some who, like the good thief, recognize their wounds on his body and are moved to tears and a profound love. These are those who heed the spiritual advice of Saint Clare of Assisi to “look upon Him who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in the world for Him” (The Second Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague, 19).

When you look upon the Crucified Christ, what do you see? Do you see a common man, or do you see the God-man, whose great love for us brought him to the cross for our salvation? Who do you see?

That good thief saw his own wounds – the mark of his sins – of Christ’s body and was moved to a great love of Christ and to a deep sorrow for his sins. Would that each of us would also see our wounds – the mark of our sins – on the body of the Crucified Lord! Would that we were moved to so great a love and so such a sorrow for our sins when we look upon our King who, in his great love, suffered so much for us.

That good thief tried to help the other thief see what he saw; he tried to help him find the same love and the same repentance when he rebuked him for his taunts. But his statement of faith is his greatest testimony and example to us: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).


O how beautiful is this confession! How wise the reasoning and how excellent the thoughts! …You see him crucified and call him a king. You expect the One who bears scorn and suffering to come in godlike glory (Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 153).
The thief recognized in the sufferings of Christ his kingly power and his divine glory, and so, during his last moments on earth, he placed Christ before all else in his life. For this reason, Jesus lovingly assured him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Dear brothers and sisters, when we look to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and see upon its throne Love Crucified, how can we not respond in the same manner as that good thief? Seeing our salvation hung on the wood of the Cross, how can we not be moved to ever greater love and a deeper sorrow for our sins? How can we also not cry out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”?

If we are truly moved to sorrow and to love, if we truly long to be with him in his kingdom, then we will also put him before all else in our lives. Everything, from the more mundane aspects of life to our most serious concerns must be placed after Christ; he is our King. It is only when he is preeminent in our lives that, as Saint Paul says, “all things hold together.”

If your life seems empty of meaning and purpose; if you are heavily burdened, almost to the point of breaking; if you are simply content and long for a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction; if your life could not now be better and you want to share the path to happiness with others, “Stretch out your arms toward the cross, so that the crucified Lord may stretch out his arms toward you” (Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Tatian's Diattessaron, 20.23).

If you entrust yourself to him, you will discover the value and beauty of life. If you entrust your cares to him and offer them in union with his sufferings, you will find his yoke is light. If you place yourself fully at his service, you will find your heart’s every desire. And if you allow him to embrace you, you will be his extension in the world, bringing his joy, love and peace to all you meet.

If we remain close to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will be his faithful subjects, his servants, and will be counted among his friends in his heavenly kingdom. The mystery of his Cross is represented to us in every celebration of the Mass. It is here, then, at his altar, that his faithful gather both to learn how to place him before all else and to be strengthened in their desire to do so.

My friends, as we prepare to enter into the great and holy season of Advent, let us renew our dedication to the Lord. Let us make a serious and prayerful examination of our consciences and confess our sins to him that we may be reconciled to him.

If we truly seek to place him before all else, the example of our lives will shine brightly before others; they will be attracted by our joy and peace and will desire it for themselves.

At the same time, if Christ is first in our lives then everything else will come together. Surely this is what we want, and if we want it for ourselves, why would we not want it for others. I ask you, when was the last time you invited someone to join you at Mass? When was the last time you invited someone to go to confession with you?

We know that over the past several years the parish membership here has decreased; your friends and family, your neighbors and coworkers have drifted away from the practice of the faith. Some of gone to a neighboring parish, but many others have not. They have drifted from the Cross and no longer place Christ before all else in their lives.

I ask you to imitate the good thief, both in rebuking them and in inviting them to witness the splendor of the Crucified Lord. Invite them to return to the Church, to make a good confession of their sins and then to receive again the Body and Blood of the Lord. What greater gift could you give them than an invitation to return home for Christmas? Encourage them to return home to the Church that Christ may say to them as well, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Amen.