31 March 2008

A book review

Today I received in the mail a great little book: Essentials for Christian Living: Prayers and Truths of the Catholic Church with Space for Personal Reflection published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

I quite like this book.

The book is divided into several categories, including prayers, formulas of Catholic doctrine, what is the faith, what does faith give, and what does the faith require.

With each prayer or formula are references to the Cathechism of the Catholic Church and an historical note or some other note helping the prayer or formula.
This will be a helpful book, both for reference and personal reflection.

Where've I been?

You might have noticed the lack of blog posts these past couple of days. I'm doing well, but the weekend was a particularly busy one with plenty to do and not a great deal of time to properly compose a homily on paper (I won't one but I'm satisfied with it) or to blog.

Saturday morning I had a funeral and in the afternoon, for one reason or another, I simply couldn't focus my energies; my mind kept swirling about all of the things that needed to be finished. In the evening after Mass I attended the Trivia Night sponsored by the parish and had an enjoyable time at it. My team finished neither first nor last but somewhere in between (I don't remember where). We had twenty-seven tables of seven or eight people each!

Sunday morning I woke up exhausted (as I did this morning) and the great amount of rain we have and will yet receive today seems to have had something to do with it as I feel fine now.

I celebrated two Masses and then spent the afternoon preparing for a meeting in the evening and giving some of our high school students a "tour" of my vestments. In the evening we had a meeting of the World Youth Day 2008 pilgrims from my parish and the parishes we are travelling with. Total, we make up 25 pilgrims and I think we'll get along well.

Today has been rather a quiet day since I woke up exhausted. Tomorrow it will be time to get cracking again.

Currently, we're under a flash flood warning and maybe a thunderstorm warning or two.

On a happier note, the cassock arrived today from Rome and fits great! I'll wear it for the first tomorrow at Confirmation.

Bishop Lucas will join my pastor and I and the retired priest living in the parish for dinner tomorrow evening, prepared by one of our school students who's a very fine chef and served by four of his friends. Bishop Lucas will spend the night with us and a good part of the day Wednesday.

This coming weekend I will be both a candidate and the spiritual director on a De Colores weekend, for which I must prepare throughout the week.

With all of this, blogging may be rather sparse this week, but I'll do what I can.

28 March 2008

Another nomination

I just noticed that this blog has been nominated for the 2008 Carolina Cannonball Catholic Blog Awards in the category of "Best Under Appreciated Catholic Blog"

My other blog, A Beggar for Love, in which I place quotations of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has been nominated in the categories of "Best Under Appreciated Catholic Blog," "Best 'Spiritual Treat' Blog," and "Best Potpouri of Popery."

I happily accept the nominations.

The Carolina Cannonball Catholic Blog Award is given to honor "the great 'obscure little guy' blogs."

Voting commencing Tuesday, 1 April 2008.

It has shipped

I just received word that a cassock I ordered from Barbiconi in Rome (complete with piping and fascia hoops) shipped yesterday.

This pleases me very much since it should arrive prior to the Bishop's visit on Tuesday - or perhaps that very day - when he will administer the Sacrament of Confirmation.

At 12:54 p.m. today (presumably London time), the cassock departed Heathrow airport, for an unspecified destination.

I've tagged myself

I saw his memem, the name of which I do not know, over at A Catholic Mom in Hawaii and thought it looked like fun.

The rules are:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1. What I was doing ten years ago.

I was half-way through college at Quincy University, having the time of my life (honestly!).

2. Five things on my "to do" list today.
  1. Offer the sacrifice of the Holy Mass
  2. Celebrate Solemn Vespers in the Octave of Easter
  3. Prepare a funeral homily and a Sunday homily
  4. Meet with a couple for marriage preparation
  5. Have supper with a family in the parish
  6. Exercise

3. Snacks I enjoy.

  1. Kettle cooked chips
  2. Salt and vinegar chips
  3. Chocolate (as long as it doesn't have coconut)
  4. Puppy chow
  5. Snack-ens
  6. Sweet Tarts

4. Things I would do if I were a billinonaire.

  1. Pay off my college loans
  2. Pay off my car loans
  3. Buy the rocca majore, the castle that sits above Assisi, fix it up and move in
  4. Build a castle in Hawaii
  5. But all of the books on my wish list
  6. Give a good deal to Peter's Pence

5. Three of my bad habits.

  1. Procrastination
  2. Complaining
  3. Driving quickly

6. Five places I have lived.

  1. My parent's house in Quincy
  2. Quincy University North Campus dorm in Quincy
  3. Rectory of St. John the Baptist / All Saints Parish in Quincy
  4. Mundelein Seminary
  5. St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham

7. Five jobs I've had.

  1. Sales associate at KB Toys
  2. Customer service representative at the Quincy Herald-Whig
  3. Sacristan for the Chalpel at Quincy University
  4. Secretary to the Provincial Minister of the Secular Franciscan Order of the Province of the Sacred Heart
  5. Secretary to the Director of the Liturgical Institute

If you'd like to do this, feel free.

27 March 2008


Adam’s Ale discusses the sacred oils that are used within the Church, as well as the Chrism Mass. He also has a good post on the four marks of the Church and the Liturgy.

Peter at Utter Muttering is wondering what the posture the angel took upon the stone.

Whapster Drew has a humorous post about cows and religious orders.

Whapster Matthew has an interesting – and potentially hilarious – photo request.

An unexpected encounter

Yesterday afternoon I went to the gym later than my usual time becuase of a whole host of things. I didn't think anything of it, really, but it ended up affording a very pleasant and unexpected encounter.

I hopped on one of the elipitical machines - on doctor's orders - and opened up Christoph Cardinal Schonborn's Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith and read all of the first paragraph when a man hopped on the elipitical machine next to the one I was on.

As he started he asked me, "You're a priest, aren't you" (I wasn't in my collar)?

A bit surprised, I answered, "Yes, I am," and thought I would get back to the book. But the man continued talking, for the full thirty minutes we were on the elipiticals.

It turns out he is a Buddhist from Viet Nam who works in the mall. He said he remembered seeing me one day in my collar in the mall, which must have been back before Christmas since I can't remember going to the mall since.

He was very friendly and we had a most enjoyable conversation, talking about family, Effingham, our faiths and even telling a couple of jokes. I am grateful to the Lord for the encounter and wish all people could be so friendly, even with greatly differing beliefs. I hope to talk with him again some day.

26 March 2008

Another meme

A Catholic Mom in Hawaii tagged me for the 7 Non-important things/habits/quirks Meme.

The rules are simple:

1. When tagged place the name and URL on your blog.
2. Post rules on your blog.
3. Write 7 non-important things/habit/quirks about yourself.
4. Name 7 of your favorite blogs.
5. Send an email/comment on their blog letting them know they have been tagged.
Here we go:

1. I drink a lot of DrPepper.
2. I sometimes talk to myself while walking down the sidewalk.
3. I almost always forget something when leaving, often having to return inside twice before I’m ready to go.
4. I often play with pens/ pencils/knives/forks/spoons/salt and pepper shakers/etc. by spinning them on a table without realizing it, thus driving my family crazy to the point that they clear the table off when they know I’m coming.
5. I can read a book and watch television at the same time and still know what’s going on in both.
6. I can’t enter a bookstore without buying something.
7. I’m very easily distracted and led off on tangents.
I tag: Ad Dominum, From Across the Net, The Crescat, Adam’s Ale, Unam Sanctam, Ma Beck, and Mulier Fortis.

I'm quite surprised

I've just finished speaking with the Editor (the publisher is on vacation) of the Effingham Daily News.

I called to discuss last night's Letter to the Editor. I view this letter as libelous against me and against the Catholic Church and everyone that I have spoken with and read the letter views it in the same letter.

The Editor strongly denies and when asked if I were to write a similar letter regarding a Protestant denomination, she would not say if she would publish the letter, skirting around it by saying the letters are "opinions."

At one point she told me if I wanted to pursue the libel I would have to do so in a different way. I asked that way would be and she told me I should speak with a lawyer.

Very well. I will.

I'm quite shocked she actually told me to call a lawyer. And I don't expect she'll publish my response.

If you're in the area reading this and think Mr. N.'s most recent letter was indeed libelous, would you mind dropping a note to the Editor at:

Effingham Daily News
201 North Banker Street
Effingham, Illinois 62401

25 March 2008

EDN allows anti-Catholic to speak again

Demonstrating once again its anti-Catholic bias, the Effingham Daily News published tonight another letter attacking the Catholic Church and me:

Where is the authority?
A recent EDN letter by Daren Zehnle [sic] (Feb. 27) claims I made several errors regarding fasting, even suggesting I claim fasting is sin and that Jesus is a liar. Obviously he did not read my entire letter. In the Feb. 6, 2008, EDN [sic] an article titled “Today is start of Lenten season …” Zehnle states “It’s a time we focus on our sins to prepare for Easter. …Ash Wednesday is a day Catholics fast, abstain from meat …” It appears many area churchgoers do observe holy or non-holy special days, weeks and seasons, even suggesting the Holy Spirit directs their hearts and minds to follow these observances.

First of all, the Holy Spirit does not direct us to appose [sic] Scripture (Galatians 4:1-10) but to remember them (John 14:23-26). Those lead [sic] by the Spirit are lead [sic] to obey the words of God (Acts 7:51-53, I Thess. 4:1-8, I John 3:24). If you hear a voice that instructs you to do things not authorized by God, that voice is not the Holy Spirit.

Zehnle suggests that I Timothy 4:1-5 is talking about “the dietary laws of Judaism.” I agree the “dietary laws of Judaism” would be included in the category of “foods created by God.” So under the new covenant there is no restriction that binds any Christian from eating any “foods created by God.” Celibacy and restricting foods on certain days are manmade traditions. But notice in verse 1 who is giving the warning to those who want to abstain. It is the Holy Spirit.

There is no command in Scripture for everyone to fast, just as there in [sic] no command for everyone to be married. However, should one decide to fast (or become married) there are restrictions and examples for us to use. In Matthew 6:16-18, fasting is a secret thing between you and God. You are not to be noticed by others. In Mathew 9:14-15, the disciples did not fast while Jesus was with them. Fasting is not a commandment or Jesus would not have excused them from it. Jesus says they will someday but, once again, does not command them to do so.

Zehnle states Catholic rules for fasting as: “Those between the ages of 18 and 59 are supposed to eat only one full meal, which can be supplemented by two smaller meals. However the smaller meals should be less than the full meal… Wednesdays and Fridays only and not Tuesdays and Thursdays.” [Here, Mr. Antrim has combined two very separate quotes.]

Fasting is not eating a different meal today than yesterday, rearranging meals, restricting ages or restricting certain days. If fasting consists of these things, then Jesus himself violated them. How did Jesus fast? In Luke 4:1-2, “Jesus ate nothing during those days.”

The scriptures are completely silent in establishing a resurrection feast for Christians. A point in which Zehnle suggests is “simply false.” Read the observance written in Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25 and Luke 22:14-29. Now look at Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. It is a remembrance of “the Lord’s death,” of Christ’s sacrifice. Not one of the accounts even mentions the resurrection, including the references listed by Zehnle.

Zehnle notes: “The reason Jesus said the Pharisees worshipped in “vain” [sic] was not because they followed the law but because they did not follow the law in their hearts (Mk 7:1-13). We know this because elsewhere he commands the Pharisees be listened to (cf. Mt 23:2).”

Read the entire chapters of Mark 7 and Matthew 23. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for adding their traditions to the law. Where is the proviso for ceremonially washing your hands, sitting at places of honor, widening collars and putting tassels on their robes, callings themselves Father or Reverend or even leader (for there is only one leader and that is Christ)? All of these things would be a signs [sic] of the apostate (those who have fallen away). Jesus taught the Jews to listen to the Pharisees as long as they where [sic] teaching the word of God and not to accept the traditions of the Pharisees. The same applies to us today (Romans 13:1-13). We are not subject to those things which are not written in, modified or have been added to the word of God. (Deuteronomy 4:2, Revelation 22:18-19).

But that brings up once again the intent of my letter. Where is your authority for the special days, weeks or seasons? It is the total and blatant disregard of the word of God and the outright observance of manmade traditions and celebrations Jesus speaks out against (Matthew 15:7-9). Do you then say Jesus was “spouting off”?
My response follows:

Another response to Antrim
In his recent Letter to Editor, “Where is the authority?”, published in the Effingham Daily News 25 March 2008, Mr. N. – whom the EDN routinely allows to attack the Catholic Church through his libelous - is correct on one point: his issues with the Catholic Church rest upon the question of authority.

Mr. N. believes it rests with his own interpretation of the Scriptures (since he shows that he believes no one else has an authentic interpretation of the Scriptures). Of such personal interpretation, Peter says, “there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation” (II Peter 1:21). Mr. N. even suggests that he knows how the Holy Spirit directs the hearts and minds of believers; apparently the Holy Spirit will not inspire believers to fast even though he inspired Paul and the disciples to fast.

A sincere investigation will find that Jesus Christ gave his authority to the Twelve Apostles who entrusted this authority to their chosen successors, who entrusted it to their successors and so on until today.

This authority is found in the Catholic Church, which alone can claim its historical and theological roots in Jesus Christ and the Apostles, to whom he entrusted the power of binding and loosing, and hence his own authority and, hence, his own authority (Matthew 16:19 and 18:18. See also John 20:23 and Luke 13:20).

Mr. N. claims that Catholics have a “blatant disregard of the word of God.” Seeing that I have given Scriptural supports for the claims of the Catholic Church he has wrongly attacked, there is no credence in his claim.

In his most recent letter, Mr. N. fails to refute our supports for fasting, so I will simply direct him again to our previous letter on this topic and will say nothing more on this topic, other than to point out that the “rules” for fasting are a “minimum standard.” The faithful are encouraged to fast as did Paul and the disciples, as we pointed out in our recent letter.

Mr. N. claims that “under the new covenant there is no restriction that binds any Christian from eating any ‘foods created by God.’” He is incorrect. The Council of Jerusalem forbids “the meat of strangled animals” (Acts 15:20).

He then somehow connects celibacy with fasting, saying, “Celibacy and restricting foods on certain days are manmade traditions.” Again, he is incorrect. If all of Scripture is written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit then fasting must also be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

What is more, Paul, a celibate, says of sexuality, “I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God” (I Corinthians 7:8). Jesus himself says that some “have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12). Clearly, celibacy comes from God.

Mr. N. wrongly asserts the Scriptures do not establish a memorial of the Resurrection. Paul says of the Eucharist, “you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” (I Corinthians 11:26). If the Lord is not risen from the dead he cannot come again.

Now to his new attack (I wondered when this one would come): If Jesus intended his warning to “call no man father” (or teacher) as a literal absolute then anyone who calls their male progenitor “dad” also violates this command. Furthermore, if Jesus had forbidden all use of the word “father” as an address to a man he would have stripped the same word as applied to God of all meaning.

But this cannot be the case, for the word “father” is applied to several men in the New Testament as, for example, when Stephen calls Abraham “our father” (Acts 7:2) and Paul says the same of Isaac (Romans 9:10). Did Stephen and Paul violate Christ’s command?

Likewise, Paul says Jesus appointed him “a teacher” (I Timothy 2:7) and that Christ designated teachers in the Church (cf. I Corinthians 12:28). Did Jesus violate his own command?

Taking Jesus’ words in this regard absolutely literally would even mean that we could call no one “Doctor” (the Latin word for “teacher”) or Mister [Mr.] or Mistress [Mrs.] (a form of “master”).

Jesus’ condemnation is not of titles but of arrogance, which is always demonstrated by anyone who refuses to listen to another. Jesus used strong exaggeration to make his point, as he did when he command, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” (Matthew 5:29).

Paul repeatedly shows his spiritual fatherhood of those under his spiritual guidance, most notably of Timothy (cf. I Corinthians 4:17; I Timothy 1:2, 18; II Timothy 1:2, 2:1; Philippians 2:22; and Titus 1:2). He says of Onesimus, “whose father I have become” (Philemon 10). To the Corinthians he says, “I have become your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (I Corinthians 4:14-15). Peter calls Mark “my son” (I Peter 5:13) and John calls the Christians to whom he writes, “dear little children” (I John 2:1) and he writes “to you, fathers” (I John 2:13).

Catholics recognize the importance and value of spiritual fatherhood and so address priests as “Father.” No amount of anti-Catholic bigotry can change the reality of spiritual fatherhood as attested to in the Scriptures under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

If Mr. N. disagrees with me he should write to me personally, not to the local newspaper. I answer his letters publicly because a public attack must, in justice, be publicly repudiated.
This is the same Mr. N. who has written several letters attacking the Catholic faith on saints (my response), Ash Wednesday and Lent (my response included in link), and salvation and succession (my response included in link).

Tomorrow, the publisher of the Effingham Daily News will hear from me. Two months ago, I wrote to him once and left three voice messages asking him to contact me. He has yet to call or write. He had best contact me by the end of the week.

How this particular writer's letter is not libelous against me or the Church is beyond me.

Your comments are welcome.

24 March 2008

Happy Easter!

Where, O death, is thy victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?

The Lord is risen from the grave!


A riddle for you

Here's a completely random Anglo-Saxon riddle for you:

Multicolored in hue,
I flee the sky and the deep earth.
There is no place for me on the ground,
nor in any part of the poles.
No one fears an exile as cruel as mine,
But I make the world grow green with my rainy tears.
Leave your answers in the combox and when we have a correct answer, I'll post another riddle.

Joseph and Chico

I read today Joseph and Chico: The Life of Pope Benedict XVI as Told by a Cat, by Jeanne Perego with an introduction by Msgr. Georg Ganswein, the Holy Father's private secretary.

I highly recommend this book to you and encourage to consider giving a copy of it to your local parochial grade school.
It is a fine - and short - biography of Pope Benedict XVI through his election as Pontiff, seemingly focusing on the many moves that he and his family throughout his life.
Chico, our narrator cat, offers several key insights into humanity, not to mention a few insights into the feline world. Chico even gives us the Latin words for mouse, cat and food bowl.
This charmingly written and illustrated little book will be enjoyed by everyone who wants to know more about the Holy Father.

Another Letter to the Editor

The Effingham Daily News published the following Letter to the Editor in Saturday's edition:
Cardboard Christians

Easter. The churches are celebrating Easter this weekend, four weeks before God said to celebrate it. Once again, the church is following the doctrines of men rather than the commands of God. Passover is always on the 15th day of the first month of Nissan, that is Sunday, April 20, this year. Easter, the Feast of First Fruits,” begins that evening. The religious will say, what’s the difference? It’s a big difference to God. Yeshua (Jesus) tells the church leaders in Matt. 15:3, “And why do you yourselves reject the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” He goes on to say in verses 7-9, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. For they worship me in vain, rejecting God’s commands and replacing them with the doctrines of men.”

The Lord says in John 4:23, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be his worshippers.”

God said through His prophet Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Churches, now you know, so if you continue to follow the doctrines of men rather than the commands of God, you are knowingly and willingly disobeying God. The choice is yours. These are not my words, I am only repeating God’s words. At the Messiah Training Center, we are dedicated to teaching the way, the truth and the life as the Lord taught His disciples, teaching the “SECRETS” of the Kingdom of God. We welcome all questions and comments. You can contact us at therevelationarythevoiceofthelord@hotmail.com.
You'll recall that I've addressed similar questions here. My reply to this particular letter follows:

The Date of Easter

In a recent letter to the Effingham Daily News published 21 March 2008, Mr. N. incorrectly suggests Easter is celebrated “four weeks before God said to celebrate it” and that “the church is following the doctrines of men rather the commands of God.”

In the first few centuries Easter was celebrated the day after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, the fourteenth day of the month of Nisan, close to the celebration of Passover but not coinciding with it, following the lunar calendar of Judaism. The presence of the full moon on this night was seen as symbolic of Christ, the light of the world, whom the darkness has not overcome (see John 8:12 and 1:5).

Naturally, the fourteenth of Nisan usually fell on a weekday. This bothered some who knew that the tomb in which Jesus was laid was found empty “on the first day of the week” (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).

The first day of the week is the day we know as Sunday, the day on which we celebrate Easter, following a decision of the Church in a.d. 325, which in no way contradicts Scripture, but sought the unity of Christians in the celebration of the Resurrection.

Furthermore, the year that Jesus died, the Passover occurred on a Friday (see Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54 and John 19:31). Jesus rose from the dead – according to the Jewish way of reckoning a day beginning at sunset – on Sunday. Therefore the celebration of Easter is not the same as Passover but is its fulfillment for “our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed” (I Corinthians 5:7).

When Jesus condemns the Pharisees – not the “church leaders” as Mr. N. claims – he is not speaking of the celebration of Passover or of Easter but of the practice of claiming to give all of one’s property to the Temple to avoid caring for elderly parents (see Matthew 15:5-9; Exodus 20:12, 21:17; and Deuteronomy 5:16).

The Messiah Training Center purports to teach the “secrets” of the Kingdom of God. Whatever these “secrets” may be, they should be viewed with great suspicion for Jesus says: “I have spoken publicly to the world…and in secret I have said nothing” (John 18:20). Before attempting to discover hidden knowledge historic fact should be sought.

I'm not sure what a "cardboard" Christian is or what it has to do with anything in the letter, but I'll leave that alone.

This Mr. N. is not the same as the last Mr. N., but I suspect they are connected.

22 March 2008

Homily - 22 March 2008 - Holy Saturday

Dear brothers and sisters, this night we have begun in darkness, but “the darkness has not overcome” the light (John 1:5)! He who is “the light of the world,” Christ the Lord, has not been extinguished (John 8:12)! Though yesterday it seemed this light had been snuffed out by death, his light still shines brightly, “dispelling the darkness of this night!”[1] This is the night!

This is the night of our salvation “when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.”[2] For this reason the angel says to us, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:5)!

Do not be afraid, for Christ our light shines brightly within our midst. Christ our Light shines brightly upon the path before us, illuminating the way in which we are to walk and live. Christ our light shines brightly, having “destroyed the darkness of sin!”[3]

All of this we proclaim this night with the great Paschal candle, symbol of the Risen Lord among us.

This candle was lit at the beginning of our festivities from the newly blessed fire. Then, I proclaimed:

Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to him, and all the ages, to him be glory and power through every age for ever. Amen.
As I proclaimed Christ the Lord of time and history, I traced the Cross – the sign of death but also of victory - upon the candle, as well as the Alpha and Omega and the year two thousand and eight. These words and actions give to this candle the symbolism of the power and lordship of Jesus Christ.

Next I prayed, as I inserted five grains of incense into the candle – one for each of Jesus’ sacred wounds:

By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ our Lord guard us and keep us. Amen.
The grains of incense I inserted in the form of the Cross, marking the candle with the glorious wounds of the Savior by which we are saved and in which we find refuge.

Then we entered the Church, following the Light of the World as the Israelites followed the pillar of fire in the desert.

Leading and shepherding the pilgrim Church, I held aloft the light of Christ to which you exclaimed, “Thanks be to God!”

Yes, thanks be to God! Thanks be to God for this glorious night when Jesus Christ, the “Morning Star, who came back from the dead, [sheds] his peaceful light on all mankind![4]

Whenever we look, then, upon this candle we see Christ our light and recall his glorious death and resurrection and the wounds he still bears for us.

Yes, Christ is risen! He does indeed go before us and he meets us on the way. We are not alone! We do not walk in darkness! Christ is with us “always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)!

Yes, this is the night! This is the night when all things are changed and the long reign of sin and death is ended.

Rejoice, all you who walk in the light of faith! “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice” (Philippians 4:4)! Christ “has been raised just as he said” (Matthew 28:6)! Amen! Alleluia!

[1] The Exultet.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

21 March 2008

Follow the Holy Father's example

[photo source]

Homily - 21 March 2008 - Good Friday

We know that Christ Jesus is “the light of the world” and that wherever there is light there is warmth (John 8:12). The warmth of Christ emanates from the fire of his love. Therefore, whoever is in Christ is warm and knows love, and whoever is not in Christ is cold and is without love.

After the arrest of Jesus, “Simon Peter and another disciple [whom tradition says is John] followed Jesus” (John 18:15). John must have followed Jesus more closely, for he sent the maid outside the gate to let Peter inside (cf. John 18:16).

Upon entering the courtyard, Peter declares, “I am not” one of Jesus’ disciples. Immediately thereafter, we are told, “Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire that they had made, because it was cold, and were warming themselves. Peter was also standing there keeping warm” (John 18:18). Why is Peter standing at the fire and where is John?

Peter remains at the fire and there denies knowing Jesus twice more. Now he feels the cold of the night air because, like the slaves and the guards, he has extinguished the fire of God’s love through his three-fold denial.

John, though, did not deny Christ and so he did not stay with the others at the fire; his heart was not cold but was warm with the love of – and for – the Lord. John follows Jesus so closely that he is present with Mary and the other women at the foot of the Cross. So intently did the fire of divine love burn in him that he would not be separated from his Master and Teacher (cf. John 13:13).

What, then, became of Peter after “the cock crowed” (John 18:27)? “Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the cock crows you will deny me three times’” (Matthew 26:75). He then “went out” (Luke 22:62) and “broke down and wept” (Mark 14:72) “bitterly” (Matthew 26:75).

Only minutes before, Peter adamantly proclaimed, “I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37). Then, in the garden, Peter seemed willing indeed to lay down his life for Jesus. When Judas arrived with the “band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and Pharisees” (John 18:3), Peter took his sword, defending not himself but his Master (cf. John 18:10).

What did Peter see when the cock crowed that made him weep bitterly? He is a man of action, not tears. What did he see?

He must have recalled that day when Jesus first called him. Peter said to him that day, “at your command I will lower the nets” (Luke 5:5). After the very large catch, Peter “fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). To his humble and honest admission, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10).

Peter recalled the many times he failed to serve and follow his Master and he knew, in that instant, the depth of his sin.

He realized, too, that Jesus “was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Peter knew that “we had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

This is what Peter saw: he saw his sin and he saw the response of Christ Jesus, the judgment of love and mercy. He saw that Jesus went to his death by his own power. Before such tremendous love what else can one do but weep bitterly?

Peter could not bring himself to look upon Jesus but fell to the ground weeping in fear and love. In that moment the fire of divine love was rekindled in him and he was no longer cold but warm.

You need not live in cold and darkness any longer. Come to the Cross and see your salvation! Come to the Cross and see what Peter saw: the face of God, the face of love. Come to the Cross and weep bitterly for your sins, that you, too, may have the fire of divine love rekindled in you. Amen.


I always am very happy when I wake up in the morning full of excitement because of the homily the Lord is leading me to preach. Today, I had planned to preach on one particular verse of the Passion narrative, asking the question, "What did Peter see?"

Only a few minutes ago I discovered that that one particular verse is found in Matthew's Gospel and not in John's?

I'm off now to work on an entirely different homily.

Letter from Bishop Braxton

Southern Illinois Catholic has published Bishop Braxton's recent letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Belleville. It is well worth a read.

The situation there is as bad as I thought and not worse; I have known about this incident for some time, now. Please, offer your sufferings for the Bishop and his priests.

Beyond this, I will not comment.

Homily - 20 March 2008 - Holy Thursday

As we enter the Sacred Triduum – the three days celebrated as one – we celebrate the great truth that Jesus “loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

Through the institution of the Eucharist, Christ the Lord revealed his love “when he was about to die and commanded us to celebrate it as the new and eternal covenant.”[1]

In the Incarnation – which we celebrate each Christmas – the only Son of God abandoned the glory of heaven and took upon himself our frail humanity “not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28).

At his Last Supper, Jesus revealed himself as both Lord and Servant, as Master and slave.

“Fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power,” (John 13:3) Christ Jesus allowed himself to be sold for “thirty pieces of silver” (Matthew 26:15), the price of a slave set down by Moses (cf. Exodus 21:32).

The Lord Jesus showed the depth of his loving service by washing the feet of the Apostles. Rising from the table,

He who is “clothed in light as in a robe” was clad in a cloak (cf. Psalm 104:2). He who wraps the heavens in clouds wrapped round himself a towel. He who pours the water into rivers and pools tipped some water into a basin. And he before whom every knee bends in heaven and on earth and under the earth knelt to wash the feet of his disciples.[2]
Such is the wonder of the Master who makes himself the Servant!

He stoops down to wash away the filth that has gathered on their feet, and how much filth there is! There is the filth of disbelief, of greed, of jealousy and anger. There is the filth of laziness and fear, and even of self-love and betrayal. Nonetheless, the Lord of heaven and earth knelt down to wash away their filth, the very same filth that is on our feet!

Even today the Lord stoops down to wash away the filth of our sin through the Sacraments that he has entrusted to his Church. He washes our feet in Baptism and he nourishes us with the Eucharist. Christ Jesus continues to recline with us and to serve us through the ministry of his priests.

The washing of feet requires humility both from him who washes and from him who is washed. To kneel before another is no simple thing, for in our pride we think someone else should be kneeling before us. But when God himself kneels before us, this seems all the more unbearable. Yet, it is for this purpose that he has come.

What response can be made to the generous and humble love that the Lord lavishes upon us? Nothing more than a humble heart, open and ready to receive and give love.

As Jesus associated the Apostles with himself and made them his priests through the washing of feet, so he wishes to associate men with himself in the same way today. Through his chosen men, Jesus wants to wash the feet of sinful and suffering humanity and to nourish us with his own Body and Blood in every time and place.

There are some young men today – perhaps even here with us tonight – who feel within their soul the words of the Psalmist:

How shall I make a return to the Lord
For all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
And I will upon the name of the Lord (Psalm 116:12-13).
To these men the command of Jesus, “Do this … in remembrance of me,” resonates particularly strongly (I Corinthians 11:25).

The mission of the priest is simple. He is to be always in the presence of the Lord handing on to others what he himself receives from the Lord (cf. I Corinthians 11:23).

The priest must therefore be a man of humility, one who is not afraid to wash away the filth of his sins and the sins of others.

The Church needs such men of strong and humble heart to carry out her mission to proclaim the Gospel to every nation.

So intimately is the priesthood and the Eucharist united, that there can be no priesthood without the Eucharist, just as there can be no Eucharist without the priesthood.

At the altar of the Lord, every priest acts in persona Christi. That is, he stands “in the person of Christ” in such a way that it is not so much the priest who consecrates but Christ himself. This is why the priest speaks in the first person, saying, “This is my Body…This is the cup of my Blood.” The priest must be humble and allow Christ to use him as his instrument.

The priest, like Christ, must lay aside his “outer garment” of pride and personal ambition and stoop down to serve the Church, the Body of Christ.

But if this life of humble service is expected of his priests, it is also expected of all who are part of the Church, his Body, of which Christ himself is the head. Jesus says to his priests and to each of us, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:15).

So highly must the faithful value Jesus Christ that must be willing to sacrifice everything for him, each according to the way of life to which they are called.

Judas, the Iscariot, valued Christ Jesus very little, seeing only in him a servant, a means to attain a greater life on earth. Thirty pieces of silver was all he valued him for and so he betrayed him.

But there is another who valued him greatly, Mary. The one who previously sat at his feet while her sister served (cf. Luke 10:38-42), anointed the feet of Jesus with an oil worth “three hundred days’ wages” (John 12:5).

The question then comes to us: how highly do I value Jesus Christ? In what do I see in him? Is he worth giving my life to, or is he worth only thirty pieces of silver?

Look upon him and see in his humility. Look upon his humility and see his love. Do not turn him away when he bends down low to you, but accept his service in humble love, that you, too, may bend down low in humble service. Amen.

[1] Collect of the day.
[2] Severian of Gabala, Homily on the Washing of Feet in Thomas C. Oden et al, Ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament Vol. IVb John 11-21 (Downers Grove, Illinois, Inter Varsity Press, 2007), 86.

19 March 2008

Holy Week Schedule

St. Anthony of Padua Parish
Effingham, Illinois

Holy Thursday
Confessions, 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Mass of the Lord's Supper, 7:00 p.m.

Good Friday
Confessions, 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
The Lord's Passion, 1:00 p.m.

Holy Saturday
Confessions, 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter, 8:00 p.m.

Easter Sunday
Mass, 7:30 a.m., 9:15 a.m. & 11:00 a.m.

Annunication Parish (St. Mary's)
Shumway, Illinois

Holy Thursday
Mass of the Lord's Supper, 7:00 p.m.

Good Friday
The Lord's Passion, 7:00 p.m.

Holy Saturday
Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter, 8:30 p.m.

Easter Sunday
Mass, 8:30 a.m.

18 March 2008

A caution for parents

Yesterday afternoon, before departing for the See City for the Chrism Mass, I visited with our second grade students and read a book to them, with necessary editing.

One of their teachers asked me to read Benjamin's Box: A Resurrection Story. In the story, Benjamin is given a wooden box, his "treasure box," that has only a few pieces of straw in it. His grandfather, a shepherd, took the straw from the stable in Bethlehem. Benjamin and his friend Eli are present in Jerusalem when Jesus makes his triumphant entry into the city and follow Jesus and the disciples, collecting various items which Benjamin places in his treasure box.

For the most part the story is fine, but there was a particular section where my attention was peaked; it concerned the Last Supper. The narrator tells us:

Soon Jesus arrived, and the supper began. If Benjamin listened carefully he could hear some of their words. But what did Jesus mean when he said the wine was like his blood and would be spilled, and the bread was to be broken like his body. It made no sense (11).
I'm not concerned because young Benjamin didn't understand what Jesus meant. I'm concerned because the narrator is lying to young children.

Jesus did not say the bread and wine were "like" his Body and Blood; he said the bread "is" his Body and the wine "is" his Blood.

The danger of stories such as these which employ the same or similar language is that they implant false teachings and ideas into the minds of young children. These ideas slowly take hold over time and then when someone tries to teach the truth to them some years later they will not believe it becuase, "that's not what they told me when I was a kid." How many times have I heard that phrase over the last three years?

Parents, beware of the wording of the stories that your children read.

17 March 2008

Trouble to the south

You've probably heard by now that a large number of the priests of the Diocese of Belleville - my neighbors to the south - have written a statement asking His Excellency Bishop Edward Braxton to resign his post because they are "increasingly frustrated by the lack of collaborative and consultative leadership" on his part.

I'll wager His Excellency can echo those very same words and address them to the same priests who signed the letter.

These priests must have forgotten that it is not the Bishop who must collaborate with them but they that must collaborate with their Bishop. Canon law obliges the Bishop to "hear" the priests - through the Presbyteral Council - on certain matters, but the Bishop is not obliged to do as his priests suggest.

The Second Vatican Council teaches that
Priests, never losing sight of the fullness of the priesthood which the bishops enjoy, must respect in them the authority of Christ, the Supreme Shepherd. They must therefore stand by their bishops in sincere charity and obedience (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 7).
I've had conversations with some of the priests who have been involved in such matters in the past and they have not spoken one kind word of their Bishop.

Readers of my blog will know that I disagree very strongly with my Bishop over the closing of my home parish and other parishes in Quincy; this I have made known to the Bishop through two letters and two personal meetings. Though I have shared my pain - and even anger - over the situation on my blog - in public - I have not criticized my Bishop publicly, nor will I. I respect him and value his ministry - in which I share - even if I do not always agree with him.

It is not my place to publicly tell the Bishop when he is wrong. I do have an obligation to speak with my Bishop if I sincerely think something is not right, but this must be done privately and not publicly, remembering in the end that he is the Bishop and I am not.

My pain and anger over the closing of my home has not created harsh feelings between me and the Bishop. I know his position and he knows mine. We do not agree with each other. So be it. I am still his priest.

I am particularly saddened by this letter, especially because of its timing; it was written only a few days ago on 12 March 2008 after a meeting of the priests that same day.

In the very season when priests exhort the faithful to forgive others, to let go of past wrongs, to be reconciled with God and neighbor, the priests met together to plot against their Bishop. What a very sad day in the history of the Diocese.

How can these same priests concelebrate this week the Chrism Mass with Bishop Braxton and say, "I am," when Bishop Braxton will ask them, "are you ready to renew your own dedication to Christ as priests of his new covenant?"

They would do well to remember that an essential character of priests of Jesus Christ is respect and obedience to those entrusted with the fullness of the priesthood, the Bishops.

The priests also sent the statement to His Emminence Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago (who, as I understand it, has no jurisdiction in Belleville to intervene) and to His Excellency Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Aposotolic Nuncio.

The priests' statement concludes, saying, "We will continue to work and pray for healing and reconciliation in our Diocese." Asking your Bishop to resign is one thing. Making your request public not even two days later is another thing. I fail to see how such methods help attain reconciliation.

I find it curious that the statement of the priests has been made public but not the names of the signers. These are very sad times for the Diocese of Belleville. We have no way to know if what the statement says is true or not. There is no integrity here. I do hope they sent their names to the Nuncio.

The group Call to Action has called the priests "courageous." If these men were courageous they would allow their names to be known; they are cowards. God help them all.

Be sure to remember Bishop Braxton and his priests in your prayers.

The Belleville News Democrat has the story.

16 March 2008

Holy Week Resources

As Holy Week progresses and I find additional resources I will continue to update this post. A link has been placed in the side bar.
It is my hope that these resources will be of help both to priests and deacons preparing homilies as well as for the laity seeking to deepen their faith.
If you know of resources that should be added please do let me know.

Passion Sunday at the Mass

General Audiences of Wednesday in Holy Week

Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass

Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord's Supper
At the Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter

Passion Sunday at the Blessing of Palms

Passion Sunday at the Mass

Holy Thursday - Mass of the Lord's Supper

Good Friday of the Lord's Passion

At the Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter




From the Knights of Columbus

New Haven, CT - March 16, 2008 - Pope Benedict XVI Saturday approved a decree recognizing the heroic virtue of Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. The pope's declaration significantly advances the priest's process toward sainthood and gives the parish priest the distinction of "Venerable Servant of God." If canonized, Fr. McGivney would be the first American born priest to be so honored.

A good book for your prayer group

Father Joseph Langford, M.C.’s book, Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady, Sharing Mother Teresa’s Mystical Relationship with Mary, is worth more than its small size would seem to suggest.

Langford introduces us to Mother Teresa’s relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who said to the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity: “Take care of them – they are mine. – Bring them to Jesus – carry Jesus to them. – Fear not. Teach them to say the Rosary – the family Rosary and all will be well. - Fear not – Jesus and I will be with you and your children” (20).

From that initial vision on the train to Darjeeling in 1946, Mother Teresa remained close to Our Lady and encouraged her spiritual children to do the same.

Langford explores the way that Mother Teresa’s example leads us to imitate her love of and devotion to the Mother of God so that we might come to know what Mother Teresa knew so well: “In the silence of the heart God speaks” (57).

This short book, composed of eight chapters, would be ideal for a book club or a prayer group to read and discuss together. It will be a helpful read for those who are interested in Marian spiritual and for those well familiar with the teachings of St. Louis de Montfort. There is something is this little book for everyone.

The book also has several very useful appendices exploring Mary’s role in the New and Old Testaments, as well as the first narration of the apparitions of Our Lady at Guadalupe.

In honor of the day

I wondered if Pope Benedict XVI might ever carry a different pastoral staff. No I wonder if he'll keep using this one of if he'll keep switching them now and again. I might be tempted to switch them around, just to keep people guessing.

Video hunt

I wasn't able - prudently - to rise early enough this morning to catch the Palm Sunday Mass from St. Peter's in Rome and I won't be able to catch it when EWTN airs it again. My VCR is not really working - nor my television for that matter, but that's another story all together.

Does anyone know if a video of the Mass is available online?

15 March 2008

Homily - 16 March 2008 Passion Sunday at the Blessing of Palms

Today Christ our King comes to us, “meek and riding upon an ass” (Zechariah 9:9).

This seems a rather strange way for a king to enter his city, to enter without pomp or fanfare, without armies or trophies of victory. Why does Jesus enter in this humble way?

He comes to us, meek and humble, “that he may be loved rather than feared for his power.”[1] Christ comes to us as our humble Redeemer-King, “taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).

Why does this great King of heaven and earth come as a servant? “Because Adam, in Paradise, would not serve the Lord, the Lord took the form of a servant, to serve the servant, so that henceforth the servant might not be ashamed to serve the Lord.”[2]

Let us, then, not be ashamed to serve our Lord with our cries of gladness. Let us, rather, cry out to him, “Blessed are you who have come to us rich in love and mercy!”[3]

[1] Saint Anthony of Padua, Sermon for Palm Sunday, 9, in Saint Anthony of Padua, Sermons for Sundays and Festivals, Vol. I: General Prologue, Sundays from Septuagesima to Pentecost, Paul Spilsbury, trans. (Padua, Italy: Edizioni Messaggero Padova, 2007), 218.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Introit of the day.

Homily - 16 March 2008 - Passion Sunday at the Mass

Bringing the two prisoners before the people, Pontius Pilate asks them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ” (Matthew 27:15)? This very same question is posed to each of us: which man do we want, Barabbas or Jesus?

Barabbas was a “notorious prisoner” (Matthew 27:16), a murderer (cf. Mark 15:7) who took part in an insurrection (Luke 23:19). He was known as a “robber,” a code word for a resistance fighter (John 18:40). Some saw in Barabbas – and he in himself - a messianic figure, one who would deliver the people from Roman occupation. His name is composed of two parts, Bar Abbas. Bar means “son of” and Abbas means “father;” he is the son of the father.

The choice between Barabbas and Jesus is no mere coincidence; trough Pilate, the tempter forces the people to choose between messiahs. The one promises freedom from foreign powers and the other promises freedom from sin and death.

Up until the third century, this Barabbas was referred to as “Jesus son of the father” in the Gospel manuscripts. We see, then, that

Barabbas figures here as a sort of alter ego of Jesus, who makes the same claim but understands it in a completely different way. So the choice is between a Messiah who leads an armed struggle, promises freedom and a kingdom of one’s own, and this mysterious Jesus who proclaims that losing oneself is the way to life. Is it any wonder that the crowds prefer Barabbas? …If we had to choose today, would Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary, the Son of the Father, have a chance? Do we really know Jesus at all? Do we understand him? Do we not perhaps have to make an effort, today as always, to get to know him all over again? The tempter is not so crude as to suggest to us directly that we should worship the devil. He merely suggests that we opt for the reasonable decision, that we choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organized world, where God may have his place as a private concern but must not interfere in our essential purposes.[1]
We have a choice, then, between two sons of the father. Which one will we choose?

Through Barabbas, the tempter offers us a life and world fashioned after our own designs; Barabbas promises what so many others promise: peace, prosperity and a brighter future. But “what did Jesus bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought? The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God.”[2]

He has brought us God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this too little…. To the tempter’s lying divinization of power and prosperity, to his lying promise of a future that offers all things to men through power and wealth – he responds with the fact God is God, that God is man’s true Good.[3]
[1] Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, Adrian J. Walker, trans. (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 41.
[2] Ibid., 44.
[3] Ibid., 44, 45.

St. Joseph's Day

On this Solmenity of Saint Joseph I celebrate my name day, together with His Holiness, my Bishop and my pastor.

A very happy name day to each of you who celebrate your name day today!

In honor of the day

As I celebrated the Mass for the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary this morning, I became very aware of a powerful reality as I spoke the words of consecration.

At Bethlehem, Joseph must have helped deliver Jesus, receiving him into his hands. As a priest, in a similar way, I, too, receive Jesus in my hands, as he comes not from the womb but from his throne in heaven. What a great joy this is!

I think Joseph has much to teach us about Lent and for this reason his Solemnity falling just before the start of Holy Week is rather providential.

Joseph’s name means an “increase of faith.” If we consider his life, we can see that Joseph’s faith must have been continually increasing. How?

In the few times that Joseph appears in the Gospels he says not one word. He is silent before the Divine Majesty, listening always and doing always as “the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Matthew 1:24).

As we prepare to celebrate the Easter feasts let us imitate this holy man, this “just man, that wise and loyal servant” and remain silent before the Lord (Preface for the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary).

By following the example of Saint Joseph may our faith also increase.

14 March 2008

The American Papist comments on CNN’s “news” story titled, “Forgive us father [sic], we’d rather go online.” The media simply cannot report properly about the Catholic Church. Yesterday I had an e-mail conversation with a reporter which gave insight into this and I may blog about this later.

Fr. Z. also has commented on this story.

Thomas also has – not for the faint of hear or those versed in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal – video footage of the LA’s closing Mass for the Religious Education Congress.

Sister Mary Martha fields a question about what to cover during a Confirmation retreat. My favorite line: “But by the time a person is old enough to take the Catholic Pledge, so to speak, the gloves are off. You're in the Army, now, sons and daughters. Welcome to Boot Camp. I think I scared some kids. Oh well.”

She also has a post on what to – and what not to – believe. She also has a post regarding St. Patrick’s Day.


You Are Basil

You are quite popular and loved by post people.

You have a mild temperament, but your style is definitely distinctive.

You are sweet, attractive, and you often smell good.

Well, I'm not sure about the smelling good part - not that I stink - but the rest seems fair.

Capello tip to Utter Muttering.

A new toy?

Saturday evening I called my cousin - who is only seventeen days older than I - a belated happy birthday because she had just turned thirty.

I wish we lived closer together because she is always a great deal of fun to be with.

As we talked, I mentioned my latest health fun with my blood pressure. At the same time she mentioned she just bought a new video game that sounded really fun (I received my first job in high school because I played video games).

I still love to play video games, mostly role-playing or medieval strategy games, but don't very often because I can play from 7:00 a.m. to Midnight without really stopping and not really notice how long I've played. Honestly, I haven't played one in about a year. Maybe even more.

I mentioned I'd been using an eliptical machine at the local gym, where I also swim, (I haven't been this week because of the mission) and that I read a book at the same time (right now it's Saint Thomas More's A Man Born Again). She suggested I get a Nintendo DS, that way I can play a video game while I exercise. A stroke of genius!

One of my students saw me reading on the eliptical machine last week and can't quite fathom how I can read and "run" at the same time. I can't fathom how he can't. Playing a video game and running at the same time ought to really baffle him.

I like her suggestion both because it would limit the time I could play each day and would be very enjoyable at the same time. It wouldn't surprise me if a bit of gaming each day would help lower my blood pressure.

And so I have this question: do any of you - or your children - have a Nintendo DS? If so, what do you think of it?

Now that I think about it, my blood pressure wasn't this high when I was playing video games...

13 March 2008

Tagged again

Fr. V. at Adam's Ale tagged me for the Favorite Parable Meme. I've answered it here.

Requiescat in pace

Please remember in the charity of your prayers Archbishop Raho, who was taken hostage on February 29th. From Catholic World News:

Mosul, Mar. 13, 2008 (CWNews.com) - Archbishop Bishop Paulos Faraj Raho of Mosul, the Iraqi prelate who was kidnapped by gunmen on February 29, is dead.

The kidnappers of the Chaldean Catholic archbishop, who had been demanding a heavy ransom, told Church officials that the archbishop was dead, AsiaNews reports. The kidnappers reportedly gave instructions on how Church officials could recover the archbishop's body.

Archbishop Raho was seized outside the Holy Spirit cathedral in Mosul after conducting a Stations of the Cross service on Friday, February 29. His driver and two bodyguards were killed by the gunmen who abducted the archbishop.

In the days since the kidnapping, Church leaders had pleaded in vain for some clear evidence that Archbishop Raho was alive and well. The archbishop, who was 69, suffered from a serious heart condition and needed daily medication. It remains unclear whether Archbishop Raho died of that heart ailment or was killed by his abductors.

Informed of the prelate's death, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) issued a statement condemning "an act of inhuman violence that offends the dignity of the human being."

The identity of the kidnappers remains unknown. Although Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki had ordered an all-out effort to locate the archbishop and secure his release, troops were unsuccessful in their search around Mosul-- a city dominated by insurgents and terrorists.

While the kidnappers did ask for a large money ransom, they were evidently not motivated solely by the desire for financial gain. Church spokesmen said that their demands included political conditions-- an indication that the archbishop's abduction was arranged by a terrorist group rather than simply a criminal gang.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.

09 March 2008

Parish mission begins tonight

Tonight the parish begins its Lenten mission and I'm happy to welcome a classmate of mine, Fr. Kris McKusky, to preach the mission.

Fr. Kris will preach each evening at 7:00 p.m. in the church. His preaching will be followed by a reception each evening in the parish center. If you're free and in the area, do join us.

We'll also be hearing confessions Monday through Thursday from 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

The schedule for the mission follows:

Sunday, March 9th Who Needs the Church?

Tonight Fr. McKusky will offer an overview of the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist, briefly exploring how and why Jesus has given them to us. Through his reflections he will help us understand the role those two Sacraments play in our lives as disciples seeking to remain faithful to Christ Jesus.

Monday, March 10th Jesus Wants Me to Do What? Why?

What are the Scriptural foundations for the Sacrament of Penance? Where did this Sacrament come from and why must I go to confess my sins a priest? By reflecting on the will of Christ for us in this Sacrament, Fr. McKusky will help lead us to a renewed desire to meet the Lord in this Sacrament of merciful healing.

Following the 8:30 a.m. Mass, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for adoration in the church. All are invited to adore our Eucharistic Lord throughout the day. Fr. McKusky will conclude his preaching this evening with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Tuesday, March 11th The Bible as Guide: Praying Better at Mass

Many people today desire to “get more out of Mass.” By understanding the Scriptural basis of much of the Mass it is possible to come to a deeper and more profound understanding of the Mass. Fr. McKusky will take us on a tour of the Biblical texts at play at the Mass to give us greater insight into our worship of God.

Wednesday, March 12th Gestures, Vestments, Prayers and More!

The Mass does not ordinarily resemble too much in our everyday lives. Just why does the priest gesture the way he does and why does he wear the vestments he wears? Where did all of this come from and what does it mean? Fr. McKusky will answer these questions and more!

Thursday, March 13th You Believe What?

Perhaps no question is more frequently and routinely asked of Catholics than one relating to the Real Presence of the Eucharist. Fr. McKusky will help us understand better the abiding presence of our Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar by exploring Jesus’ words in the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel.

In honor of the day

My response

What follows is my response to yesterday's Letter to the Editor published in the Effingham Daily News.

What Beatification and Canonization Really Mean
Mr. Michael Antrim’s most recent letter, “Let us speak where the Bible speaks,” published in the Effingham Daily News 8 March 2008 demonstrates a tremendous lack of understanding in Catholic belief. Why the EDN continues to publish such libelous letters is beyond me. Let us clarify a few things for those who are confused.

The word “saint” is derived from the Latin sanctus, meaning “holy;” the word in Greek is hagios. We speak, then, for example, of “holy” Anthony of Padua.

Saint Paul addresses himself “to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy,” making the distinction that not all of the beloved of God are saints yet (Romans 1:7). Simply because we are called to be holy does not mean that each of us lives a holy life. To call a member of the baptized who does not faithfully follow the Gospel a “saint,” that is, “holy,” would be false. Nevertheless, such a person is still called to be a saint.

This distinction is neglected in the letter. Consider someone who believes in and confesses Christ, repents of his sins, is baptized, but does not always walk in the newness of life, but returns to his sins. Though such a person could once have been called holy, can one still be called holy if living in deep sin?

To help inspire us to live holy lives, the Church holds up the example of men and women whom she has canonized and officially declared “Saints,” having found them to have lived holy lives. The lives of these men and women from every way of life show us the many ways that the Gospel can be lived in fidelity; they show us that living the Gospel is possible, even for us.

The word “canonization” comes from the Greek kanon, meaning, “measuring rod.” When the Church proposes a member of the faithful for beatification or canonization, their life is measured against that of Christ. If the person is found to have a lived a holy life then they progress through the various stages of beatification and canonization to be officially declared a Saint and held up as a model for all, following the words of Saint Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).

Certainly there are countless men and women who have lived holy lives but have not been officially canonized, measured by the Church against the life of Christ. For this reason the Church celebrates All Saints Day. Nevertheless, the Church recognizes the need for examples of faith and so she proposes certain members of the faithful as true and authentic guides to the Christian life and faith.

The official process of beatification has been tightened, so to speak, to ensure that the men and women who are proposed for beatification did indeed live holy lives and are worthy of imitation. Canonization does not say that the Church makes a saint out of a person who was not already a saint at death. The Church requires a person be dead before the inquiry into their sanctity precisely so the person does not lapse into sin after the process has begun. This is a simple matter of caution.

The letter claims that the Church’s “foundation is Christ (and not Peter and those who follow the teachings of Judaism).” Here is displayed an ignorance of the Catholic Church and a sheer unwillingness to listen to another person, for we have been through this with him before.

The Church was founded by Christ upon Peter; this cannot be refuted (Matthew 16:18).

It ought to be considered that the Church with two thousand years of consistent teaching might know more than one individual. The author of the letter would do well to learn the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church, not what others claim the Church teaches.

If the Bible does not contain the process for canonization as the letter asserts, then the author should follow his own advice and be silent.

A anti-Catholic speaks again

Just when I was beginning to wonder what I might speak about on the radio Monday morning, an item just dropped in my lap.

A man with much presumed knowledge - which is, nonetheless, quite lacking - has taken it upon himself again to write another Letter to the Editor against the Catholic Church.

The letter, filled with falsehoods and libel, was published in yesterday's edition of the Effingham Daily News, showing, yet again, the newspapers anti-Catholic bias.

The letter, titled "Let us speak where the Bible speaks," reads as follows:

In the Feb. 19 edition of the EDN , [sic] the article titled “Sainthood” from the AP in Vatican City announced “the Vatican is making it tougher to become a saint.” Of course, like much of the teachings of the Vatican, the “beatification” process for sainthood is not found in the Holy Bible.

The term “saint” as used in the New Covenant of Christ (the New Testament) refers simply to all Christians. Those who have separated themselves from the world, those who believe in Christ (see Acts9:13, Romans 15:26, Philippians 4:21, 1 [sic] Timothy 5:10 and many more). It refers to both those who are alive and to those who died as Christians.

The Bible never once refers to “saints” as those who have passed the Vatican’s test of sainthood. To be a saint, one must simply believe (Mark 16:16) and confess Christ is the Son of God (Matthew 10:32-33), repent (turn away from) your sins (Luke 13:3) and walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-4), according to the New Covenant of Christ (Jude 3 :3 [sic]).

According to the article the Vatican’s definition of saint must require you already be dead. The scriptures are quite plain in teaching that if you are not a saint when you pass away that you certainly are not going to become one later (Hebrews 6:4-8).

If you do not believe the “Universal Church of the Vatican” has a problem with adding or taking away from the word of God the “Sainthood” article refers to the “new procedures announced Monday …” [sic]. I fail to correlate these new revelations from Vatican City with the New Covenant pronouncement in Jude 1:3, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (2 [sic] Thessalonians 2 [sic]).

It is my duty, as well as the duty of the church, whose foundation is Christ (not Peter and those who follow the teachings of Judaism) (I Corinthians 3 :11 [sic], “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”) to point out things that would be observed and established by those who have turned away. Many people who want to be among the saved at the Judgment are simply not aware of these things.

Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. But do not take my word for it – read the Bible for yourselves.
Currently, I am praying for the intercession of Saint Jerome because all I want to do is lash out with one ad hominem attack after another, which would be most easy and irrefutable. However, knowing that is not that the charitably road to walk, I am also praying for the intercession of Saint Thomas More, that I might respond both intelligently and humorously.

I had hoped to have my response finished before Mass this morning, but it I will not be able to finish it until later this afternoon. My current response is already two pages long and I haven't addressed each of his issues; it needs to be condensed.

Rest assured that I will be speaking with the Editor about this tomorrow and I will demand to speak with the Publishers (who, after two months now, still has not returned a letter I wrote to him or three voice messages I left for him).

08 March 2008

A spiritual gem for Lent

One day last week I randomly picked a book from my shelves that I’ve always meant to read but haven’t yet (there are many such books): A Man Born Again by Saint Thomas More.

More wrote this book while locked in the Tower as an autobiography. I am half-way through the book and have greatly enjoyed it. It has proved useful while exercising on the elliptical machine and as meditative reading before bed.

Today I read this magnificent passage, written just after the death of his wife:

Memory fixed on the first day at the Charterhouse. I would be a saint? Men would revere my memory? How pleasant the prospect! How easy the path before me! I had not counted the cost. I did not consider that sanctification of man is not the work of man but the work of God. I had contemplated that God would work that sanctification only in those obedient to Him unto death – even to the death of the cross. No thought of Christ’s Passion had disturbed my dreams. I would be a saint! How mockingly the words must have ascended before the throne of my crucified God.

My cross pressed heavily as I sat there. I could thrust it aside. I could obscure it by any of a hundred pleasures. Or I could bend forward submissively, lift my arms, as Christ did, to steady that cross, and begin the weary march to Calvary.

I had not the strength. I could not bear the burden. I could not submit. I slumped on the bench and looked vacantly at the altar. I had not even sufficient courage to ask for strength.

“Then pray only for courage!”

I stiffened, so clearly had I heard the words. They had been as loud and clear as though someone had spoken them. I glanced at my father beside me but he had not noticed my movement. He knelt straight and motionless. Pray for courage? - I had no desire to pray even for that.

“Then pray for the desire!” The voice was louder and clearer, more insistent than before; yet there was no sound. The voice was within me, urgent and compelling.

I could not pray. Sorrow – self-pity – numbed my mind and heart. I pushed myself forward and knelt beside my father. I could not pray. Let my action answer the insistent voice! Let the voice pray for me!

In what manner does God not work within the soul, yet credit the work as merit to man? I offered no prayer – I had no prayer to offer. I could do no more than push my body mutely forward and kneel, more the token than the substance of prayer. Love impelled me and God accepted that love however poorly I expressed it.

Homily - 9 March 2008 - The Fifth Sunday of Lent

As Jesus said to Martha so he says to each of us: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)? [1]

When a person comes to the Church seeking Baptism, the question is asked of them, “What do you ask of God’s Church?” “Faith,” they answer. The priest then asks, “What does faith offer you?” “Eternal life.”[2]

This is what Baptism is all about. It is the gift of faith – which necessarily entails the Church and the Sacraments - that gives eternal life. But do we really want this life?

We know that many people today reject the fullness of the faith of Jesus Christ. How many of our relatives and friends – who once filled these pews – have abandoned the Church?

This is a cause of great concern and of deep pain. Why have they left?

Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. What they desire is not eternal life at all, but this present life… To continue living forever — endlessly — appears more like a curse than a gift. Death, admittedly, one would wish to postpone for as long as possible. But to live always, without end — this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable.

Eternal life, then, for many, seems something very much like a fairy tale, an impossible reality. But is this what we mean when we speak of eternal life?
As he preached his homily at the funeral of his brother, Saint Ambrose of Milan addressed this very topic. He said,

Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life, because of sin ... began to experience the burden of wretchedness in unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing.

Thanks be to God, the life that Jesus offers us is very different from this life, and for this reason Saint Ambrose could also say, “Death is, then, no cause for mourning, for it is the cause of mankind's salvation.”

We know that at times we wish death would come and at other times we keep it as far away as possible.

Obviously there is a contradiction in our attitude, which points to an inner contradiction in our very existence. On the one hand, we do not want to die; above all, those who love us do not want us to die. Yet on the other hand, neither do we want to continue living indefinitely.

What is it, then, that we really want?

We say that we want to live, but what does this mean? What is this life that we want? What we really mean is that we want the happy life, the blessed life. In our prayer we ask for nothing more than happiness.

We do not really know what this means, what happiness is. Simply try to describe it. But we do know that this life is not it; our hearts yearn for something far greater.

In some way we want life itself, true life, untouched even by death; yet at the same time we do not know the thing towards which we feel driven. We cannot stop reaching out for it, and yet we know that all we can experience or accomplish is not what we yearn for. This unknown “thing” is the true “hope” which drives us, and at the same time the fact that it is unknown is the cause of all forms of despair...

What then is the eternal life that Jesus promises? This is the question before us today.

We speak of “eternal life” in reference to this happiness to which we are drawn but cannot fully be known now. Eternal often sounds as though something interminable,

and this frightens us; “life” makes us think of the life that we know and love and do not want to lose, even though very often it brings more toil than satisfaction, so that while on the one hand we desire it, on the other hand we do not want it.

All of this can lead to a false sense of the eternal life that is ours in Jesus Christ.

The eternal life which is the resurrection of the body is difficult – if not possible - to describe. Eternal life is not a mere ticking off of endless days, but is

something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction… It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time — the before and after — no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy. This is how Jesus expresses it in Saint John's Gospel: “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (16:22).

This joy can still be ours these remaining days of Lent if we “trust in his word” and “wait for the Lord” (Psalm 130:5-6).

The Holy Father has urged us to use these days of Lent “for a fast of words and images. We need a little silence,” he reminds us, “we need room where we are not constantly bombarded by images… [We should] create spaces of silence even without images in order to reopen our hearts to the true image and the true word,” Jesus Christ.[4]

How often do we stifle the voice of God with our cell phones, iPods, computers, televisions, radios and any form of “background noise”? We drown out the voice of God and never give him a chance to speak and so we do not understand his life.

If we wait silently for the Lord each day we will come to know that “with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption” (Psalm 130:7). The Lord will lead us to confess our sins and he will say, “Untie him and let him go” (John 11:44). We will experience peace and life.

Let us allow the Lord to speak to us, that we might know him and be known by him. Amen.

[1] This homily largely based on Pope Benedict XVI’s Spe salvi, 10-12.
[2] Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 51.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with the parish priests and the clergy of the Diocese of Rome, 7 February 2008.