30 April 2009

In honor of the day

The dying words of Pope Saint Pius V were these: "Lord, increase my sufferings but also my patience."

His words are a reminder to us of the redemptive power of suffering, both for ourselves and for others, if suffered well. For this reason he asked for an increase of patience.

So often we - or at least I - only want to ask the Lord for an increase of patience (which, experience has shown, can often be a dangerous request in and of itself), but to ask for an increase of sufferings? This seems contrary to reason. It is the foolishness of the Cross that is wiser than human wisdom.

To utter these words of Saint Pius takes great faith, humility and courage. May this holy Pastor obtain for us an increase in these virtues so that we might say with him, "Lord, increase my sufferings but also my patience."

Sometimes you just need a good laugh

...and that's why I like my friends.

I slept little through the night, in no small part because I was reading a book about Father Damien until midnight (I couldn't put it down). I awoke at 6:20 to a telephone call that should not have been made so early in the day.

The lack of sleep, combined with the heavy rain and resulting weak hips, finds me a bit irritable today, which I hope will soon pass now that the sun has peaked through the clouds and the birds are chirping.

At any rate, before I left my office to celebrate Mass, I left my Facebook status as, "Daren is celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass."

When I returned to my office a few moments ago, I saw that one of my friends commented on my status, saying, "While on Facebook? I don't think the pope would like that very much." Hilarious! And probably true :)

29 April 2009

You don't see this everyday

Yesterday's track meet lasted three and a half hours - for two teams - because only one event was done at a time. It was bizarre and cold.

Once the meet finally ended we drove from Shelbyville to Mattoon to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings before returning to Effingham. It's a bit out of the way, but the food is good and it's become a bit of a Tuesday tradition.

As you drive bewteen Shelbyville and Mattoon on Highway 16 you pass through Gays, Illinois, a very small town of just over 25o inhabitatns, with a peculiar landmark: the nation's first two-story outhouse (there are apparently others):

It even has an activity sign for tourists on the side of the highway that reads, "Historical Two Story Outhouse 1872." Seeing the sign, we simply had to stop by and take a look.

I suppose the Diocese has one claim to fame that few others have.

Around the blogosphere

Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI prayed at the tomb of his predecessor, Pope Celestine V. Father Toborowsky tells us a bit about this Bishop of Rome. Meanwhile, Father Selvester comments on the Holy Father’s visit to l’Aquila.

In advance of tomorrow’s memorial of Pope Saint Pius V, Godz Dogz has a post about him.

As we enter into spring and gear up for summer, Father Benjamin Sember reflects on modesty.

28 April 2009

In honor of the day

Saint Peter Chanel - whose memorial we celebrate today - is known as the Proto-martyr of Oceania and the Apostle of the South Seas for his missionary efforts on the island of Futuna.(McNamara has a post on him today).

The night before he died, aware of King Niuliki's orders for him to be killed, Peter said, "It does not matter whether or not I am killed; the religion has taken root on the island; it will not be destroyed by my death, since it comes not from men but from God."

His words are a reminder to us that the world does not rest on our shoulders. All that matters in the end is whether or not the faith remains, whether we have strengthed the faith.

This is, perhaps, something that priests especially must remember. A certain priest may reach a certain segment of the population better than others. A certain priest may have been at a parish for a good length of time and done much good work there, such that priests before him were unable to do. But that priest is not necessary; he is the instrument of the Lord and it matters not whether he lives or dies.

Let each of us ask the Lord this day for the humility of Saint Peter Chanel.

Bright moments

It is a cool sixty-three degrees here in Effingham, with low, grey clouds and a good dose of humidity. The air feels thick and stuffy.

Hence, the weather has most of us around the office and high school feeling a bit sluggish, though our humor remains. Even in the midst of a gloomy and dismal day, there are always bright moments:
The dogwood looks far more impressive and bright in person than this picture shows. The picture is taken across the street from the rectory, looking to the rear of the church. The tree covers the front entryway.

This afternoon we are supposed to have a track meet in Shelbyville, and none of us seem to keen on going. We're hoping for it to be rained out, but there is only a 30% of rain for the duration of the meet.

We will go and, in the end, we will have a good time and I'm sure our kids will compete well.

After the meet there will be another bright moment: dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. If you haven't tried that parmesan garlic chicken flatbread, you should.

On another bright note, yesterday I ordered a pair of swimming goggles that have some sort of optical strength to them; they arrived today. They aren't perfect for my vision, but, though are a bit blurry, the diopters are such that I will now at least be able to see both faces and even read some signs. Perhaps these will help spur me back into the pool and get back to exercising. I've grown a bit lazy lately.

What does it mean to be a postulant?

Sr. M. Benedicta of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George disucsses postulancy within her order:

Be sure to watch the video, if only for the pictures.

Around the blogosphere

Jimmy Akin has an informative post on Genesis and the Big Bang theory. I didn’t know that the author of the theory of the Big Bang was a Belgian priest, Father Georges Lemaitre. Thanks, Jimmy!

Catholic World News carries a story quoting Cardinal George saying President Obama is “on the wrong side of history” when it comes to abortion. Catholic World News also carries the story.

Hearing that some in the Israeli government are urging Pope Benedict XVI not to bring the “Popemobile” with him for his pilgrimage next month, the Curt Jester has drawn up a new Popemobile for the trip.

Father Selvester discusses the value – or lack thereof – of shops that promise to give a detailed description of your "family coat of arms".

27 April 2009

Message for the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations

To borrow a phrase from America's favorite pastime (one that I find very dull), in his Message for the World Youth Day 2009, Pope Benedict XVI hit one out of the ballpark. He's done it again with his Message for the Forty-sixth World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

Here is the Message in full, with my comments and emphases, a la Fr. Z.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,Brothers and Sisters,

On the occasion of the next World Day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life, which will be celebrated on 3 May 2009, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, I want to invite all the People of God to reflect on the theme: Faith in the divine initiative - the human response. [So often we hear of a so-called "vocations shortage," as though the Lord somehow stopped calling men to his service as priests and men and women to consecrate themselves to him. The Holy Father is right to focus instead on the human response, which sadly so often is lacking today in the West.]The exhortation of Jesus to his disciples: “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38) has a constant resonance in the Church. Pray! The urgent call of the Lord stresses that prayer for vocations should be continuous and trusting. The Christian community can only really “have ever greater faith and hope in God's providence” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 26) if it is enlivened by prayer.

The vocation to the priesthood and to the consecrated life constitutes a special gift of God which becomes part of the great plan of love and salvation that God has for every man and woman and for the whole of humanity [none of us is saved alone]. The Apostle Paul, whom we remember in a special way during this Pauline Year dedicated to the Two-thousandth anniversary of his birth, writing to the Ephesians says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ef 1:3-4). In the universal call to holiness, of particular relevance is God’s initiative of choosing some to follow his Son Jesus Christ more closely, and to be his privileged ministers and witnesses [we didn't make this up]. The divine Master personally called the Apostles “to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mk 3:14-15); they, in turn, gathered other disciples around them as faithful collaborators in this mission. In this way, responding to the Lord’s call and docile to the movement of the Holy Spirit, over the centuries, countless ranks of priests and consecrated persons placed themselves totally at the service of the Gospel in the Church. Let us give thanks to God, because even today he continues to call together workers into his vineyard. While it is undoubtedly true that a worrisome shortage of priests is evident in some regions of the world, and that the Church encounters difficulties and obstacles along the way, we are sustained by the unshakable certitude that the one who firmly guides her in the pathways of time towards the definitive fulfilment of the Kingdom is he, the Lord, who freely chooses persons of every culture and of every age and invites them to follow him according to the mysterious plans of his merciful love [The current situation will improve, for the Lord will always give us the ministers we need].

Our first duty, therefore, is to keep alive in families and in parishes, in movements and in apostolic associations, in religious communities and in all the sectors of diocesan life this appeal to the divine initiative with unceasing prayer [Sadly, this is often the first thing we fail to do, though it is the first thing commended by the Lord]. We must pray that the whole Christian people grows in its trust in God, convinced that the “Lord of the harvest” does not cease to ask some to place their entire existence freely at his service so as to work with him more closely in the mission of salvation [again, the Lord has not stopped calling]. What is asked of those who are called, for their part, is careful listening and prudent discernment, a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan, and a serious study of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations, so as to be able to respond responsibly and with conviction.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly reminds us that God’s free initiative requires a free response on the part of men and women; a positive response which always presupposes acceptance of and identification with the plan that God has for everyone; a response which welcomes the Lord’s loving initiative and becomes, for the one who is called, a binding moral imperative, an offering of thanksgiving to God and a total cooperation with the plan which God carries out in history (cf. n. 2062).

Contemplating the mystery of the Eucharist, which expresses in a sublime way the free gift of the Father in the Person of his Only Begotten Son for the salvation of mankind, and the full and docile readiness of Christ to drink to the dregs the “cup” of the will of God (cf. Mt 26:39), we can more readily understand how “faith in the divine initiative” models and gives value to the “human response”. In the Eucharist, that perfect gift which brings to fulfilment the plan of love for the redemption of the world, Jesus offers himself freely for the salvation of mankind. “The Church”, my beloved predecessor John Paul II wrote, “has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as a gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11).

It is priests who are called to perpetuate this salvific mystery from century to century until the Lord’s glorious return, for they can contemplate, precisely in the Eucharistic Christ, the eminent model of a “vocational dialogue” between the free initiative of the Father and the faithful response of Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist it is Christ himself who acts in those whom he chooses as his ministers; he supports them so that their response develops in a dimension of trust and gratitude that removes all fear, even when they experience more acutely their own weakness (cf. Rm 8:26-28), or indeed when the experience of misunderstanding or even of persecution is most bitter (cf. Rm 8:35-39).

The awareness of being saved by the love of Christ, which every Mass nourishes in the faithful and especially in priests, cannot but arouse within them a trusting self-abandonment to Christ who gave his life for us. To believe in the Lord and to accept his gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to his plan of salvation [this is the key]. When this does happen, the one who is “called” voluntarily leaves everything and submits himself to the teaching of the divine Master; hence a fruitful dialogue between God and man begins, a mysterious encounter between the love of the Lord who calls and the freedom of man who responds in love, hearing the words of Jesus echoing in his soul, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:16) [Go ahead, read that paragraph again].

This intertwining of love between the divine initiative and the human response is present also, in a wonderful way, in the vocation to the consecrated life. The Second Vatican Council recalls, “The evangelical counsels of chastity dedicated to God, poverty and obedience are based upon the words and examples of the Lord. They were further commanded by the apostles and Fathers of the Church, as well as by the doctors and pastors of souls. The counsels are a divine gift, which the Church received from its Lord and which it always safeguards with the help of His grace” (Lumen Gentium, 43).

Once more, Jesus is the model of complete and trusting adherence to the will of the Father, to whom every consecrated person must look. Attracted by him, from the very first centuries of Christianity, many men and women have left families, possessions, material riches and all that is humanly desirable in order to follow Christ generously and live the Gospel without compromise, which had become for them a school of deeply rooted holiness. Today too, many undertake this same demanding journey of evangelical perfection and realise their vocation in the profession of the evangelical counsels. The witness of these our brothers and sisters, in contemplative monasteries, religious institutes and congregations of apostolic life, reminds the people of God of “that mystery of the Kingdom of God is already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven” (Vita Consecrata, 1).

Who can consider himself worthy to approach the priestly ministry? Who can embrace the consecrated life relying only on his or her own human powers? [No one, of course.] Once again, it is useful to reiterate that the response of men and women to the divine call, whenever they are aware that it is God who takes the initiative and brings His plan of salvation to fulfilment, is never patterned after the timid self-interest of the worthless servant who, out of fear, hid the talent entrusted to him in the ground (cf. Mt 25:14-30), but rather expresses itself in a ready adherence to the Lord’s invitation, as in the case of Peter who, trusting in the Lord’ word, did not hesitate to let down the net once more even after having toiled all night and catching nothing (cf. Lk 5:5). Without in any sense renouncing personal responsibility, the free human response to God thus becomes “co-responsibility”, responsibility in and with Christ, through the action of his Holy Spirit; it becomes communion with the One who makes it possible for us to bear much fruit (cf. Jn 15:5).

An emblematic human response, full of trust in God’s initiative, is the generous and unmitigated “Amen” of the Virgin of Nazareth, uttered with humble and decisive adherence to the plan of the Most High announced to her by God’s messenger (cf. Lk 1:38). Her prompt “Yes” allowed Her to become the Mother of God, the Mother of our Saviour. Mary, after this first “fiat”, had to repeat it many times, even up to the culminating moment of the crucifixion of Jesus, when “standing by the cross of Jesus” as the Evangelist John notes, she participated in the dreadful suffering of her innocent Son [our "Yes" must also be repeated many times]. And it was from the cross, that Jesus, while dying, gave her to us as Mother and entrusted us to her as sons and daughters (cf. Jn 19:26-27); she is especially the Mother of priests and consecrated persons. I want to entrust to her all those who are aware of God’s call to set out on the road of the ministerial priesthood or consecrated life.

Dear friends, do not become discouraged in the face of difficulties and doubts; trust in God and follow Jesus faithfully and you will be witnesses of the joy that flows from intimate union with him. Imitating the Virgin Mary whom all generations proclaim as blessed because she believed (cf. Lk 1:48), commit yourselves with every spiritual energy, to realise the heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, cultivating in your heart, like her, the ability to be astonished and to adore him who is mighty and does “great things”, for Holy is his name (cf. Lk 1:49).

What to preach

This coming Sunday is the forty-sixth World Day of Prayer for Vocations and I cannot decide what to preach for the occassion. So far as I can tell, I have three options:
  1. Go the usual way and preach simply from the assigned readings for the day;
  2. Preach from Pope Benedict XVI's Message for the day; or
  3. Share my own vocation story.

I don't know that I have a preference for any one option, so I'd like your input. What should I do? Simply leave a comment and, if you wouldn't mind, your rationale.

Two years ago I shared the story of my vocation on the occassion of the forty-fourth World Day of Prayer for Vocations. How often is too often? Is it too soon to share it again? Have I waited too long? Incidentally, I preached it two years ago at the same Masses (time wise) I will celebrate this weekend, so the same people might hear it again, or maybe not.

Please, what do you think?

26 April 2009

Don't forget

You have until Friday to submit your nominations for the 2009 Carolina Cannonball Blog Awards for the "little guys" in the Catholic blogging world.

A number of nominees have already been submitted. Be sure to have a look at the nominees and nominate your favorite blogs in the appropriate categories.

A heart stolen by Christ

In the April 2009 issue of First Things, the late Father Richard John Neuhaus offers a quote by Henri de Lubac regarding what Neuhaus calls being an “ecclesiastical Christian” (93). In The Splendor of the Church, de Lubac writes:

Anyone who is possessed by a similar desire will not find it enough to be loyal or obedient to perform exactly everything demanded by his profession of the Catholic faith. Such a man will have fallen in love with the beauty of the house of God; the Church will have stolen his heart.
“Which is to say,” says Neuhaus, “that Christ has stolen his heart.”

Friday afternoon I celebrated Mass in the church for the high school students. It was a beautiful day Friday and the students walked the three blocks from the high school to the church at 2:00 p.m. Perhaps not the best idea before Mass.

I remember being in high school, which may have something to do with why I get along so well with the high school students. I remember the excitement of a Friday afternoon, especially so close to the end of the school day. I remember the restlessness of a beautiful spring day. But I also remember knowing the proper attitude of one inside a church in the presence of God.

Upon entering the church most of the students apparently failed to remember not only what building they had entered but also whose presence they had entered. The talked loudly, few genuflected and even fewer seemed to pray.

My blood, one might say, began to boil. I reminded them that ought to be quiet in a church, both to pray and, even should they not wish to pray, to allow others the opportunity to pray. It was an admonition that fell apparently on deaf ears.

In that moment I realized I was angry because of the tremendous lack of respect shown to the Eucharistic Lord. I was angry because of the offense given him.

I could have been angry because the students had failed to listen to or take to heart what I have so often said to them in other contexts, but I was not. I was angry on behalf of the Lord, because, as Neuhaus says, he had stolen my heart.

This afternoon before Mass in which our second graders received the Precious Body and Blood of the Lord for the first time, the situation was much the same as Friday afternoon. People were visiting loudly and the noise level was such that anyone who was able to stay focused in prayer must surely already be a Saint.

I was angry once again on behalf of the Lord.

How is this lamentable and dangerous situation to be righted when the children learn it from their parents? We try to impress upon the children – both younger and older – the great importance of the Eucharist, that the Lord is truly Risen and present among us – and the adults treat the church as a theatre, as though God were absent and irrelevant.

This morning at Mass, a young lady approached to receive Holy Communion. “The Body of Christ,” I said to her. She simply looked at me, with hands outstretched to receive the Lord. I said, “Amen?” She whispered it back and so I gave her Holy Communion. She started to walk, apparently with no intention of consuming the Eucharist. I abandoned my post in pursuit and grabbed her elbow. “Are you going to consume it,” I asked. She did so.

I realized at that moment that I would gladly give my life in defense of the Holy Eucharist. Yes, Christ has stolen my heart, and I am glad to me an ecclesiastical Christian.

From a very young age I fell in love with the beauty of the house of God. How do I help others do the same? How do I show them the beauty of the Church? How can I help them experience the wondrous love of Christ?

Homily - 26 April 2009

The Third Sunday of Easter (B)

“Lord, let your face shine on us” (Psalm 4:7).

With these words the Psalmist expresses the primordial longing of every human heart to see God. Can this desire be fulfilled? Is it possible for us to see God? Yes, it is possible, because he has shown himself to us.

The disciples first followed Jesus when he said to them, “Follow me,” because they were seeking the face of God (Matthew 4:19). Little did they know that when they looked upon Jesus they looked upon the face of God. If we have not come here today seeking the face of God, I do not know why we have come.

The human longing to see the face of God “recognizes God as a person, a being concerned about us, who hears and sees us, speaks to us, and can love us and be angry at us – as the God who is above all and yet still has a face.”[1] It is the recognition of a relationship that we long to have with him and he with us.

It is a bold request we make today with the Psalmist, asking to see the face of God, a request that even Moses was refused.

Moses said to God, “I beg you, show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). The Lord answered his request, saying, “I will make my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim my name “The Lord”… But…you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:19-20).

As he passed by, the Lord said, “I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:22-23). So great is the Lord’s love for us that he shields us from the light of his face that burns whatever is not pure.

And yet, is this not precisely what we want, to pull back the veil, as it were, to see his glory, to see God as he really is, face to face? For this reason the Psalmist sings, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God” (Psalm 42:2)?

To look upon the face of God is to experience absolute and perfect happiness, for he is Goodness, Beauty and Truth. To see his face is to look upon “the Author of life” (Acts 3:11).

Every member of the Church must live his or her life as one "in love with Christ, attracted by him and determined to make [his or her] own life a continuous quest for his Holy Face."[2]

Is this not, ultimately, what Saint Peter means when he says, "Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away" (Acts 3:19)?

Saint Peter knew well the face of Christ, having lived with him for three years, and he knew well the grace of repentance.

After having thrice denied knowing him, "Jesus turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord...and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:61-62). What did he see in that face?

When Peter, at that moment, looked into the eyes of Jesus, he knew that, as Saint John says, "He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world" (I John 2:2).

In that moment, Peter must have begun to realize - if only in an impartial way - the words Jesus said only the night before: "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

Is this not why we so often seek to hide from Jesus? We do not want to acknowledge our sins. We do not want to weep bitterly. Yet it was precisely this that Saint Peter found necessary to follow Jesus faithfully and receive his peace. For this reason he says to us, “Repent, and be converted!”

The Lord let his countenance – the light of his face - shine upon Peter and he knew the forgiveness of Jesus, the mercy for which the Lord would soon die to give to him (cf. Psalm 4:7). This is why the Risen Savior stood today in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you" (John 24:37). If we seek his face he will let the light of his face shine upon us, too, and he will say to us, “Peace be with you.”

The disciples stood before him "startled and terrified" because – although their sins were forgiven – they knew how greatly their sins had offended God and how greatly they had failed him (Luke 24:38). Even so, they did not hide from his face, but looked upon it in love and fear, and thus, contemplating his face they knew peace.

My brothers and sisters, each of us must seek his face. King David tells us that the “generation” who seeks “the face of the God of Jacob” lives rightly (Psalm 24:6). Who is the one who seeks his face? It is “he who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully” (Psalm 24:3-4). In short, the one who seeks his face keeps his commandments and “the love of God is perfected in him” (I John 2:5). We could say, “seeing happens through a manner of living that we call following after.”[3]

This afternoon I was driving back to Effingham from a track meet in Robinson. I have never been very good with directions. I recognized little of my surroundings as I drove away from Robinson, so I asked my passengers, “Are we on the right road?” They assured me we were.

This is a good question, is it not? It presupposes that we know the destination. Are we, my friends, on the right road? Are we on the way that leads to the face of God, to the satisfaction of the deepest longing of every heart? Have we set ourselves firmly behind Jesus Christ?

“This is the path of Christ, the way of total love that overcomes death” that leads to the light of his face.[4]

When the Lord turns his face toward us, he puts gladness into our hearts (cf. Psalm 4:8). For this reason, the Psalmist sings, “As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep, for you alone, O Lord, bring security to my dwelling” (Psalm 4:9).

He speaks here not of the common sleep, but of the sleep of death. He knows that the Lord will answer his deepest longing, that having sought the face of God he will behold it.

The lives of the saints “assure us that if we follow this path, the way of love, with fidelity, we too, with the Psalmist, will be satisfied with God’s presence.”[5] Let us, too, seek his face. Amen!

[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, On the Way to Jesus Christ, Michael J. Miller, trans. (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2004), 20.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 1 September 2006.
[3] Ratzinger, 16.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 1 September 2006.
[5] Ibid.

24 April 2009

In honor of the day

Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1577-1622), whose memorial we may celebrate today, was baptized Mark Roy and was known as the “poor man’s lawyer” before he entered the Capuchin Order.

He was appalled by the actions of his fellow lawyers and sought to leave their society in search of holiness. Before he entered the Order, he said, “Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain.” It is as if he said, “Gather the fragments [of my life] leftover, so that nothing will be wasted” (John 6:12).

He would not allow himself to be apathetic or complacement in the faith, but would give himself wholeheartedly to the Lord. For this reason he took the name Fidelis (faithful) when he received the Fanciscan habit. Would that each of us followed his example!

Let us beg his intercession this day, that we, too, may be found wholehearted soldiers in the service of our thorn-crowned Captain. Let us heed well his advice:

We must be convinced of the necessity of havng a living, authentic, and active faith. That is all the more true today, when we face so many difficulties. It is not enough to have a vague, weak, or uncertain faith.

In the end, he was found as one "worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name" and received the martyr's crown (Acts 5:41). Let us follow him, that we may "dwell in the house of the Lord" with him (Psalm 27:4).

Two things

Fr. Longenecker has a good post asking, "resurrection or reincarnation?"

Brother Lawrence has a great post on Julian of Norwich over at Godz Dogz.

23 April 2009

A little Catholic humor

State - and maybe federal - law requires the placement of signs in every classroom describing what actions should be taken in the event of a disaster.

For example, we have the following signs in the chapel at the high school:

EARTHQUAKE: Drop to the floor, seek shelter, cover your head

FIRE ESCAPE: Go up the north stairs, exit the building - walk to the track, stay with your teacher

TORNADO: Proceed to the north corridor, stand facing the wall
But also in the chapel is a sign that is found in no other room, which may even have been my idea (I can't quite remember), but I only noticed it this morning after Mass:

In the event of the Second Coming... Drop to your knees and beg God's mercy.

22 April 2009

Track meets and homilizing

This past Saturday I travelled with the track team to a meet in Pana, Illinois. We left Effingham about 7:30 a.m. (I think) and I returned to Effingham right about 4:00 p.m.

The track at the Pana high school is surrounded by a field of grass where the various teams set up camp, as it were, with tents and blankets. The whole scene reminded me of a fair, or a battle field (I often think in medieval terms).

The whole day proved to be a most enjoyable one. There is something about simply camping out all day that adds a light-hearted feel to the day.

The tent we had could be raised to two levels, one being half-way (about 3 feet high) and the other fully extended (high enough to walk under the tent). Naturally, we initially set it up high, but about an hour later one of the boys said something to the effect that it would be more fort-like if we lowered it, so we did. It was actually a pretty good idea because it also helped keep the sun out. I didn't think to take a picture of the tent, but this gives you a pretty good idea of what we did:

I always bring a camera to long events such as this because it adds one more distraction for the boys and another way to keep occupied.

I spent a good part of the day under the tent working on my homily for the Sunday Mass. It's a process that typically takes anywhere from two to five hours, depending on the readings and when or how thoughts occur to me for it.

The work usually begins on the preceeding Sunday afternoon. I read the coming Sunday's readings and then on Monday I read them again. The readings sort of perculate in my mind for a few days as I wait for some form of inspiration to hit me as I read through a few commentaries and other books.

This particular Saturday nothing really came to mind until I was sitting under that tent. Fortunately I brought my pad with me to start writing. As I wrote the notepad was passed around a few times and the boys offered their suggestions (all of which, I think, were rejected; they kept saying something about making it shorter, and shorter, and shorter).

I usually start out jotting down a few thoughts on paper, which at some point turn into sentences and a few paragraphs. Once I have my thoughts flowing I hop onto a computer and type what I've written, adding thoughts here and there.

Once the typed version nears completion I print it out and scribble all over it. After typing the new scribbles, I print it and scribble again, which then usually leads to the final version.

Delectable news

When I was in Quincy a couple of weeks ago for the inagauguration of Dr. Gervasi as the President of Quincy University I brought back with me ten pounds of sour balls. Tomorrow I will undoubtedly run out of sour balls.

Knowing that I won't get back to Quincy for some time I e-mailed a friend of mine who works for the company where I buy the sour balls (Kirlins) and asked if they might ship the sour balls to the store in Effingham because it doesn't carry them.

A few hours later I received the happy reply in the affirmative. This will not only keep the high school students happy, but the principal, guidance counselor and dean of students, as well.

21 April 2009

A day of surprises

The weather over the course of the evening hours took a bit of a downward turn, I'm afraid, with the current only forty-six. Yesterday many of the high schoolers told me it would be in the 80s for the weekend, a claim which I don't believe and my bones don't seem to indicate.

We've had a few track meets over the past week. Saturday we were in Pana and I had a great time with them; I have a few pictures from the day that I'll share tomorrow, I think.

Yesterday, we had a meet here in Effingham. We have a meet today in Cumberland, Thursday in Taylorville and Saturday in Robinson.

With the weather today, I'm not sure if any of our athletes want to go to the meet, but since rain doesn't seem to be in the forecast, we'll be leaving within the hour.

As I went to the rectory a short time ago for lunch I wanted a vegetable soup (a stew, really). Knowing that there is precious little food in the refrigerator today, I opened it up to see what might be inside (we all do that don't we, thinking food will somehow materialize?).

Imagine my surprise when I looked and found a large of a thick vegetable soup with beef that our housekeeper brought in! Now if only the Lord will do something about that weather...

Before we leave for the meet I have a couple of errands to run yet, chief among which is paying the bill for my cell phone.

On opening the bill I was surprised to see that it was a bit higher than it typically and wondered what might be the cause. Apparently last month I sent 415 text messages - imagine my surprise - and my limit is 250. Oops.

The majority of the text messages I send are to the high school students, who text me with requests to retrieve books from the school over the weekend, to be let in to the weight room, asking about Mass times, and even with general questions about the faith (two such questions came in last during the painfully long board of education meeting).

I don't expect the students' texting will decrease and the opportunity for catechesis and ministry is too good here to miss, so I suppose it's time to upgrade my plan to unlimited texting. I never thought I would do that. Of course, there was a day that I never thought I would use text messaging.

In honor of the day

I received my copy of the current issue of Inside the Vatican and found Saint Anslem of Canterbury's Prayer to Saint Mary Magdalene. Given his feast day today, I thought it would be appropriate to post it:

But You, most holy Lord,
why do You ask her why she weeps?
Surely You can see;her heart, the dear life of her soul, is cruelly slain.
O love to be wondered at;
O evil to be shuddered at;
You hung on the wood, pierced by iron nails,
stretched out like a thief for the mockery of wicked men;
and yet, "Woman," You say, "why are you weeping?"
She had not been able to prevent them from kiling You,
but at least she longed to keep Your body for a while
with ointments lest it decay.
No longer able to speak with You living,
at least she could mourn for You dead.
So, near to death and hating her own life,
she prepeats in broken tones the words of life
which she had heard from the living.
And now, besides all this,
even the body which she was glad, in a way, to have kept,
she believes to have gone.
And can You ask her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"
Had she not reason to weep?
For she had seen with her own eyes
if she could be to look
what cruel men cruelly did to You;
and now all that was left of You from their hands
she thinks she has lost.
All hope of You has fled,
for now she has not even Your lifeless body
to remind her of You.
And someone asks,
"Whom are you looking for? Why are you weeping?"
You, her sole joy,
should be the last thus to increase her sorrow.
But You know it all well, and thus You wish it to be,
for only in such broken words and sighs
can she convey a cause of grief as great as hers.
The love You have inspired You do not ignore,
And indeed You know her well,
the gardener, who planted her soul in his garden.
What You plant, I think You also water.
Do You water, I wonder, or do You test her?
In fact, You are both watering and putting to the test.

A new category

Acceding to the request of her readers, the Carolina Cannonball has added a new category to the 2009 Cannonball Catholic Blog Awards: the Susan Boyle Award, "for character and the ability surprise."

She has created a post listing the nominees thus far, and invites your nominations for other blogs, as well.

Do take a look at the current nominees and add a few more.

New Archbishop of St. Louis

The Holy Father has appointed the Most Reverend Robert Carlson, until now Bishop of Saginaw, as the Archbishop of St. Louis.

Fr. Selvester at Shouts in the Piazza has more details about the appointment.

20 April 2009

Prayers for Vocations

A Prayer for Parents

Loving God,

You have given us the privilege, as well as the responsibility, of being loving parents. In the name of Jesus, we ask you to guide us as we invite our children to hear your call to service and leadership in our Church as a priest, brother or sister.

May our children respond with deep faith and generosity to the needs of God’s people.

Help us to be a source of encouragement to our children by our own desire to be committed people who serve with love and enthusiasm.


A Prayer to Follow My Vocation

My Lord and My God,

You have created me out of love to know you, love you, and serve you in a way no one else can do. Your plans for me are far greater than any I might dare to dream for myself.

Lord, grant that I might be open to your grace to know the next good step in your plan for my life. Give me the courage and the generosity to say, “Yes!”

Show me your will for me, O Lord, and help me to say with Mary, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word!”


A Prayer for Vocations

Lord Jesus,

Fill the hearts and minds of your young people with the power of the Holy Spirit, so that with courage and generosity they might answer your call to serve the church in the priesthood and religious life.

Give parents the faith, love, and spirit of sacrifice which will inspire them to rejoice when a child of theirs is called to a church vocation.

May the intercession the blessed Mother and St. Joseph, your Holy Family, help us to pray: “Let not my will, but yours be done.”


The second two prayers were written by Bishop George J. Lucas. The first prayer might have also been written by His Excellency; I cannot recall where I found it.

The Cannonball Awards

The Crescat is now accepting nominations for the 2009 Carolina Cannonball Awards for Catholic blogs, because "even the little guy needs recognition."

The awards are given in a number of categories:

Best Blog By a Religious Who Is Not Fr. Z

Best "More Catholic Than the Pope" Blog

Best Blog By a Heretic

Best Armchair Theologian Blog

Best Under Appreciated Catholic Blog

Best "Visual Treat" Blog

Best "Spiritual Treat" Blog

Best Bat Shit Crazy Blog

Best Church Militant Blog

Best Potpourri of Popery

Snarkiest Catholic Blog

Best New Kid On the Block (less than 12 mos old)
You can submit your nominations to The Crestcat by leaving or comment here or by sending her an e-mail.

I am delighted to say that last year I was the happy recipient - together with the no longer updated Hallowed Ground - of the Best Under Appreciated Blog.

Out of touch

Sometimes I have to wonder which reality some people live in. I found myself wondering this again this morning as I read Catholic World New's story concerning the University of Notre Dame's 2009 valedictorian.

Debra Haight not only sees President Obama as a "great leader," but she also finds it "unbelievable and incredible" that the university should "have the opportunity for the president of the United States to speak here."

Let's ignore the fact that unbelievable and incredible have the same meaning and focus on Ms. Haight's apparent lack of historical knowledge.

Can it really be said to be "unbelievable" and "incredible" for the President of the United States to speak at the commencement exercises for the University of Notre Dame when four Presidents have already done so? Presidents Eisenhower, Carter, Reagan and Bush have done so.

Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy and Ford also spoke at the University of Notre Dame, although not at the commencement exercises.

Statistically speaking, Ms. Haight's surprise baffles the mind. Not counting President Obama, 9% of the Presidents spoke at Notre Dame's commencement exercises; 16% of the Presidents have spoken at Notre Dame at one occassion or another. Including President Obama, these statistics will rise to 12% and 18%, respectively.

When seven Presidents have already spoken at the University of Notre Dame, it really should not come as a surprise than an eighth President should speak at the same University. In what reality does Ms. Haight find herself?

19 April 2009

Interview questions

Way back in January, Ellen, From Across the Net, gave me five interview questions to answer, which, I regret to say, I am only now getting around to answering. Sorry, Ellen!

And now, the questions:

1. What are five things that you couldn't do with out on a daily basis?

This is a tricky question and depends on how your interpret "couldn't do without." On a daily basis, I couldn't do without Dr Pepper (naturally), my Breviary, a computer (I suppose I could survive without one, if I had to), sunshine and prayer.

2. What is your favorite store to shop at and why?

The House of Hansen. They make very fine vestments. If we're looking for a more common store, I've always liked candy stores and toy stores (I worked in one for seven years).

3. What would your favorite meal consist of?

That's an easy one! Anything with pasta, bread and tomatoes. And a Dr Pepper, with good friends, of course.

4. Which two of your blogging friends would you want to meet and why?

Esther, A Catholic Mom in Hawaii, because I would be in Hawaii (and I've happily already met her. As I type this, I'm watching an episode of The Antiques Roadshow, from Hawaii). I'd also like to meet you, Ellen, because we've been blogging friends for a while now.

5. If someone gave you $100,000 to spend on yourself, how would spend it?

I would begin construction of either a castle or a Roman villa. And, if possible, I'd build it in Hawaii.

St. Anthony of the Five Holy Wounds

"It seems to me that there are four reasons why the Lord showed the Apostles his hands, side and feet. First, to show that he had truly risen, and to take away from us all doubtfulness. Second, so that the dove (the Church or the faithful soul) might build her nest in his wounds, as in the clefts of the rock, and hide from the eyes of the hawk that schemes to catch her. Third, to print the signs of his Passion as seals upon our hearts. Fourth, to ask us to share in sufferings, and never again to crucify him with the nails of sin. So he shows us his hands and his side, saying: Here are the hands you wounded by fastening them with nails. Here is the side fom which you, the faithful, my Church, were born, as Eve was created from the side of Adam. This side was opened by the lanc, so that it might open for you the gate of Paradise, closed by the cherubim and the flaming sword. The power of the blood flowing from the side of Christ removed the angel and blunted the sword, while the water quenched the fire. Do not crucify me again. Do not pollute the blood of the covenant in which you have been sanctified. Do not shame the spirit of grace. If you listen and pay careful attention, O man, you will have peace within yourself. And so, after the Lord showed them his hands and his side, he said again: Peace be to you. As the Father sent me to sufferings, even though he loved me: so I send you to endure evils, with the same love wherewith the Father sent me."
- Sermon for the First Sunday after Easter, 8

Homily, 19 April 2009

The Second Sunday of Easter (B)
Divine Mercy Sunday

“Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:26).

My brothers and sisters, how often do we find ourselves behind locked doors? How often do we lock the mental, emotional or spiritual doors of our lives? The doors of the Upper Room symbolically represent these doors to our minds and hearts.

Far too often do we close these doors, both to others and to God. Those early witnesses of the Risen Lord had locked the doors for fear for their lives; we lock the doors for fear of rejection and change.

Many times we are afraid to open the doors of our lives to others, hence we neither let them enter our lives nor enter into theirs, all for fear of rejection. In this way, we become all the more isolated and less at peace.

At the same time, we are afraid to open the doors of our lives to God because we know that he will require a change in our lives as he calls us to an ever deeper and more profound conversion. Hence, we never receive the peace that he came to give us. In this way,
we continually close our doors; we continually want to feel secure and do not want to be disturbed by others and by God. And so, we can continually implore the Lord just for this, that he come to us, overcoming our closure, to bring to us his greeting: “Peace be with you.”[1]
The Lord said to the Apostles, “Peace be with you,” three separate times in this passage of the Gospel alone, highlighting his desire to impart this gift to us (John 20:19, 21 and 26). Is this not the gift for which our hearts long so intently, peace with our neighbor, peace within our soul, and peace with God? It is this gift – this three-fold peace – which the Lord Jesus wishes us to have.

It was this gift that Thomas, too, desired. For this reason, the Lord said to him, as he extended his hands toward him with his grace and mercy, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (John 20:27).

It was an invitation for Thomas to open wide the door of his heart and mind to Christ. It was an invitation for Thomas to plunge himself into the sacred wounds of Christ, to immerse himself in Divine Mercy, which we celebrate in a particular way today.

The Lord continually shows his five holy wounds to us, as well, and invites us, with Thomas, to plunge ourselves into his great love.

In order to extend the outward signs of his love for us, Jesus “stands in the midst of every heart. He stands in the midst, so that from him as from a centre, all the lines of grace might radiate to us who are at the circumference, surrounding and moving around him.”[2]

It is the Lord himself who stands in our midst, in the center of our minds and hearts. If we quiet ourselves and are still, we, too, will hear him say to us, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and it put into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

If we center our thoughts and hearts on him – as if he were the axle of all that we are and do – then we will know the depths of his Divine Mercy, and we will be at peace.

Stand, then, in the midst, and you will have peace with your neighbor [and with God]. If you do not stand in the midst you cannot have peace. There is no peace or tranquility on the circumference, only movement and noise.”[3]
It is only at the center of the wheel that there is stillness and peace. We will only know true and lasting peace when our lives revolve not around me and what I want, but around Christ and what he wants of - and for - me.

The Lord Jesus not only invites us to touch his wounds, to see and believe, but to explore the depths of these wounds that we might enter into them and abide in them. For by exploring the wounds of the Savior we find our own wounds and sufferings and are able then to unite them to his. By doing so, our own sufferings, our own wounds, receive purpose and beauty and become for us a source of peace in the same way that the five holy wounds radiate peace to us.

If we are to explore his wounds in such a manner, then we must follow the wisdom of Saint Faustina Kowalska, who said, “Jesus, I trust in you.” The more we say, “Jesus, I trust in you,” the wider we open the doors of our heart and mind.

We must not be afraid to open these doors to him, for as the Psalmist sings, “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior” (Psalm 118:14). By opening the doors to him we will come to know that “this is the day the Lord has made” and we will “be glad and rejoice in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI as the Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the Universal Church. In his inaugural homily, he asked:

Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? …If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.[4]
Let us fling wide the doors of our lives to Christ in loving and confident trust, that we might cry out with Thomas, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 15 May 2005.
[2] Saint Anthony of Padua, Homily for the First Sunday after Easter, 6. In Sermons for Sundays and Festivals, Vol. I: General Prologue, Sundays from Septuagesima to Pentecost, Pauls Spilsbury, trans. (Padua, Italy: Messaggero di Sant’ Antonio, 2007), 259.
[3] Ibid., 7. In Sermons for Sundays and Festivals, 260.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, April 2005.

Four years ago today

Four years ago today, the Cardinal-electors chose Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the self-described "simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord," as the 265th Successor to the See of Saint Peter.

It was a moment that filled me with great joy. I was in the seminary at the time and posted about the election here.

Let us ask Almighty God to pour forth the riches of his Divine Mercy upon the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI and bless him with good health and length of days. Ad multos annos!

Happy anniversary, Your Holiness!

Around the blogosphere

Over at Adam’s Ale, Fr. V. explores some of the symbolism found in Catholic funerals.

While he stands on his head, Fr. Longenecker offers a few reflections on celibacy today and how it might be different from, say, fifty years ago that is well worth a read. And the comments are good, too.

Jonathan, over at Vinum Novum (where I really need post something soon) considers the possibility of a Divine Butler.

Over at the Hermeneutic of Continuity, Fr. Tim Finigan points us to a new blog concerning the Blesseds and Saints of the Middle Ages, with a special focus on those from England: Saints and Blesseds.

The Hawaii Catholic Herald has an article about a new book published about Blessed Father Damien of Molokai using information and stories from those who knew him. The book is called, Father Damien … ‘a Bit of Taro, a Piece of Fish, and a Glass of Water. Capello tip to A Catholic Mom in Hawaii.

17 April 2009

Faith Database?

Has anyone used the Faith Database? If so, what are your thoughts concerning it?

I have heard it advertised on Catholic Answers Live and I see that Ignatius Press now carries it.

Bishop Lucas "disturbed" by ND decision

This morning I read with great pride Bishop Lucas' column, "Grace and Mercy," in today's issue of the Catholic Times. This week he addresses the University of Notre Dame's decision to invite President Obama as their commencement speaker and the recent decision by the Iowa Supreme Court in favor of so-called same-sex marriage.

Let me give you his article in full, with my comments and emphases:

From East to West, we must witness to the truth
19 April 2009

In the third Eucharistic prayer of the Mass, poetic language is used to express the hope that the whole human family will give right worship to God through Jesus Christ: “From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name" [you'll love what he does with this].”

Our hope is founded in the power of the Lord’s death and resurrection. Until the Lord returns and final justice is established, it is the work of the church to worship God in the risen Christ on behalf of all humanity. In season and out, from east to west, we are called to witness to hope in the face of a culture that in important ways is not ordered to the justice of God.

During this Easter season here in Illinois, we have a couple of instances of the need for witness to God’s right ordering of things, as it happens, one to our east and the other to our west [a masterful play!].

All are aware by now of the invitation given by the University of Notre Dame in Indiana to President Obama to speak at the commencement later this spring and to receive the honor of a ceremonial doctoral degree. Normally the graduation program of a university in another diocese and another state will not get much attention here. But many have told me how disturbed they are at the confusion caused by a Catholic university honoring a man who as an Illinois state senator and now as president has promoted an active role for government in the destruction of innocent human life and blocked reasonable qualifications on the practice of abortion.

I am disturbed, too, at this decision by Notre Dame to sow confusion where there is clarity in Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life and the evil of abortion. For some this may be one political issue among many. For Catholics it is a matter of worshiping God by the proclamation of the truth. Many students and faculty at Notre Dame know this. The university’s administration thinks it knows better. It is hard to imagine the university honoring someone, no matter his office, who had consistently spoken against the value of football [sadly, I suspect he's quite right here]. We are not being unreasonable when we expect the value of human life to be a central focus of a Catholic university.

To our west, the Supreme Court in Iowa recently nullified the age-old understanding in law of marriage as a union of one man and one woman. The court’s decision has opened the door to the legal practice in Iowa of so-called same-sex marriage. We are reminded again of the importance of the appointment of good judges at all levels of the court system. We see clearly the need for witness to the right ordering that God has inscribed in the nature of human persons and relationships. No matter what human laws say about what is permissible, our neighbors need to hear from us, as well as see in our actions, the path that offers true hope for a rightly ordered life with God, that is eternal life.

The nature and purposes of marriage have been established by God. Marriage is regulated by civil laws and church laws, but it did not originate from the church or the state, but from God. So neither the church nor the state has the jurisdiction over marriage to alter its meaning and purpose [he is a fine teacher, clear, obvious and right to the point]. It is proper for the church, for Catholics, to articulate and support the true nature of this union designed by God.

Only a union of male and female can express the sexual complimentarity willed by God for marriage. The permanent and exclusive commitment of marriage is the necessary context for the expression of sexual love intended by God both to serve the transmission of life and to build up the bond between husband and wife. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1639-40.) By proclaiming this truth and by the lived witness of faithful marriages, the church participates in the just ordering of the human family and helps consecrate the world in worship of God.
Thank you, Your Excellency!

16 April 2009

Pope Addresses Youth of the World

This may be a little late, but the Holy Father's Message for World Youth Day 2009 (this past Palm Sunday) is too good not to post:

We have set our hope on the living God” (1 Tim 4:10)

My dear friends,
Next Palm Sunday we shall celebrate the twenty-fourth World Youth Day at the diocesan level. As we prepare for this annual event, I recall with deep gratitude to the Lord the meeting held in Sydney in July last year. It was a most memorable encounter, during which the Holy Spirit renewed the lives of countless young people who had come together from all over the world [you can say that again!]. The joy of celebration and spiritual enthusiasm experienced during those few days was an eloquent sign of the presence of the Spirit of Christ. Now we are journeying towards the international gathering due to take place in Madrid in 2011, which will have as its theme the words of the Apostle Paul: “Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7). As we look forward to that global youth meeting, let us undertake a path of preparation together. We take as our text for the year 2009 a saying of Saint Paul: “We have set our hope on the living God” (1 Tim 4:10), while in 2010 we will reflect on the question put to Jesus by the rich young man: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17)
Youth, a time of hope
In Sydney, our attention was focussed upon what the Holy Spirit is saying to believers today, and in particular to you, my dear young people. During the closing Mass, I urged you to let yourselves be shaped by him in order to be messengers of divine love, capable of building a future of hope for all humanity [This message really, it seems to me, is at the heart of his entire pontificate]. The question of hope is truly central to our lives as human beings and our mission as Christians, especially in these times. We are all aware of the need for hope, not just any kind of hope, but a firm and reliable hope, as I wanted to emphasize in the Encyclical Spe Salvi. Youth is a special time of hope because it looks to the future with a whole range of expectations. When we are young we cherish ideals, dreams and plans. Youth is the time when decisive choices concerning the rest of our lives come to fruition. Perhaps this is why it is the time of life when fundamental questions assert themselves strongly: Why am I here on earth? What is the meaning of life? What will my life be like? And again: How can I attain happiness? Why is there suffering, illness and death? What lies beyond death? These are questions that become insistent when we are faced with obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable: difficulties with studies, unemployment, family arguments, crises in friendships or in building good loving relationships, illness or disability, lack of adequate resources as a result of the present widespread economic and social crisis. We then ask ourselves: where can I obtain and how can I keep alive the flame of hope burning in my heart? [How can anyone really believe that this Pope doesn't get it? He does. He understands humanity far better than many of us, and he is not afraid to address the difficult and painful questions of life that so many others do not touch. Too many youth ministers today are content with "fluff;" not Pope Benedict.]
In search of “the great hope”

Experience shows that personal qualities and material goods are not enough to guarantee the hope which the human spirit is constantly seeking. As I wrote in the Encyclical Spe Salvi, politics, science, technology, economics and all other material resources are not of themselves sufficient to provide the great hope to which we all aspire. This hope “can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain” (no. 31). This is why one of the main consequences of ignoring God is the evident loss of direction that marks our societies, resulting in loneliness and violence, discontent and loss of confidence that can often lead to despair. The word of God issues a warning that is loud and clear: “Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes” (Jer 17:5-6).
The crisis of hope is more likely to affect the younger generations. [Notice that the Holy Father clearly sets forth the danger here for the youth, but in what is to come he offers the solution to the dilemna. Only a person with authentic love for the youth would lay out the danger so clearly.] In socio-cultural environments with few certainties, values or firm points of reference, they find themselves facing difficulties that seem beyond their strength. My dear young friends, I have in mind so many of your contemporaries who have been wounded by life. They often suffer from personal immaturity caused by dysfunctional family situations, by permissive and libertarian elements in their education, and by difficult and traumatic experience. For some – unfortunately a significant number – the almost unavoidable way out involves an alienating escape into dangerous and violent behaviour, dependence on drugs and alcohol, and many other such traps for the unwary. Yet, even for those who find themselves in difficult situations, having been led astray by bad role models, the desire for true love and authentic happiness is not extinguished [Indeed, it is usually this desire for true love and authentic happiness that leads them astray. Thinking they will find love and happiness in these things, they never do. They fall for the lies that others tell them.]. But how can we speak of this hope to those young people? We know that it is in God alone that a human person finds true fulfilment [Here, then, lies the answer to the difficulty]. The main task for us all is that of a new evangelization aimed at helping younger generations to rediscover the true face of God, who is Love. To you young people, who are in search of a firm hope, I address the very words that Saint Paul wrote to the persecuted Christians in Rome at that time: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13). During this Jubilee Year dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles on the occasion of the two thousandth anniversary of his birth, let us learn from him how to become credible witnesses of Christian hope.
Saint Paul, witness of hope
When Paul found himself immersed in difficulties and trials of various kinds, he wrote to his faithful disciple Timothy: “We have set our hope on the living God” (1 Tim 4:10). How did this hope take root in him? In order to answer that question we must go back to his encounter with the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. At that time, Saul was a young person like you in his early twenties, a follower of the Law of Moses and determined to fight with every means, and even to kill those he regarded as God’s enemies (cf. Acts 9:1). While on his way to Damascus to arrest the followers of Christ, he was blinded by a mysterious light and he heard himself called by name: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He fell to the ground, and asked: “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:3-5). After that encounter, Paul’s life changed radically. He received Baptism and became an Apostle of the Gospel. On the road to Damascus, he was inwardly transformed by the Divine Love he had met in the person of Jesus Christ. He would later write: “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). From being a persecutor, he became a witness and a missionary. He founded Christian communities in Asia Minor and Greece, and travelled thousands of miles amid all kinds of perils, culminating in his martyrdom in Rome. All this for love of Christ. [He will use the Apostle to the Gentiles as a model for the youth.]
The great hope is in Christ

For Paul, hope is not simply an ideal or sentiment, but a living person: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Profoundly imbued with this certainty, he could write to Timothy: “We have set our hope on the living God” (1 Tim 4:10). The “living God” is the Risen Christ present in our world. He is the true hope: the Christ who lives with us and in us and who calls us to share in his eternal life. If we are not alone, if he is with us, even more, if he is our present and our future, why be afraid? A Christian’s hope is therefore to desire “the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817).
The way towards the great hope
Just as he once encountered the young Paul, Jesus also wants to encounter each one of you, my dear young people. Indeed, even before we desire it, such an encounter is ardently desired by Jesus Christ. But perhaps some of you might ask me: How can I meet him today? Or rather, in what way does he approach me? The Church teaches us that the desire to encounter the Lord is already a fruit of his grace. When we express our faith in prayer, we find him even in times of darkness because he offers himself to us. Persevering prayer opens the heart to receive him, as Saint Augustine explains: “Our Lord and God … wants our desire to be exercised in prayer, thus enabling us to grasp what he is preparing to give” (Letter 130:8,17). Prayer is the gift of the Spirit that makes us men and women of hope, and our prayer keeps the world open to God (cf. Spe Salvi, 34).
Make space for prayer in your lives! To pray alone is good, although it is even more beautiful and fruitful to pray together, because the Lord assured us he would be present wherever two or three are gathered in his name (cf. Mt 18:20). There are many ways to become acquainted with him. There are experiences, groups and movements, encounters and courses in which to learn to pray and thus grow in the experience of faith. Take part in your parish liturgies and be abundantly nourished by the word of God and your active participation in the Sacraments. As you know, the summit and centre of the life and mission of every believer and every Christian community is the Eucharist, the sacrament of salvation in which Christ becomes present and gives his Body and Blood as spiritual food for eternal life. A truly ineffable mystery! It is around the Eucharist that the Church comes to birth and grows – that great family of Christians which we enter through Baptism, and in which we are constantly renewed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The baptised, through Confirmation, are then confirmed in the Holy Spirit so as to live as authentic friends and witnesses of Christ. The Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony enable them to accomplish their apostolic duties in the Church and in the world. Finally, the Sacrament of the Sick grants us an experience of divine consolation in illness and suffering.
Acting in accordance with Christian hope
If you find your sustenance in Christ, my dear young people, and if you live profoundly in him as did the Apostle Paul, you will not be able to resist speaking about him and making him known and loved by many of your friends and contemporaries. Be his faithful disciples, and in that way you will be able to help form Christian communities that are filled with love, like those described in the Acts of the Apostles. The Church depends on you for this demanding mission. [Remember his Message for the World Communications Day in which he entrusted the use of the new media to the youth to proclaim the Gospel.] Do not be discouraged by the difficulties and trials you encounter. Be patient and persevering so as to overcome the natural youthful tendency to rush ahead and to want everything immediately.
My dear friends, follow the example of Paul and be witnesses to the Risen Christ! Make Christ known, among your own age group and beyond, to those who are in search of “the great hope” that would give meaning to their lives. If Jesus has become your hope, communicate this to others with your joy and your spiritual, apostolic and social engagement. Let Christ dwell within you, and having placed all your faith and trust in him, spread this hope around you. Make choices that demonstrate your faith. Show that you understand the risks of idolizing money, material goods, career and success, and do not allow yourselves to be attracted by these false illusions. Do not yield to the rationale of selfish interests. Cultivate love of neighbour and try to put yourselves and your human talents and professional abilities at the service of the common good and of truth, always prepared to “make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15). True Christians are never sad, even if they have to face trials of various kinds, because the presence of Jesus is the secret of their joy and peace.

Mary, Mother of hope
May Saint Paul be your example on this path of apostolic life. He nourished his life of constant faith and hope by looking to Abraham, of whom he wrote in the Letter to the Romans: “Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become the father of many nations” (Rom 4:18). Following in the footsteps of the people of hope – composed of prophets and saints of every age – we continue to advance towards the fulfilment of the Kingdom, and on this spiritual path we are accompanied by the Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope. She who incarnated the hope of Israel, who gave the world its Saviour, and who remained at the foot of the Cross with steadfast hope, is our model and our support. Most of all, Mary intercedes for us and leads us through the darkness of our trials to the radiant dawn of an encounter with the Risen Christ. I would like to conclude this message, my dear young friends, with a beautiful and well-known prayer by Saint Bernard that was inspired by one of Mary’s titles, Stella Maris, Star of the Sea: “You who amid the constant upheavals of this life find yourself more often tossed about by storms than standing on firm ground, do not turn your eyes from the brightness of this Star, if you would not be overwhelmed by boisterous waves. If the winds of temptations rise, if you fall among the rocks of tribulations, look up at the Star, call on Mary … In dangers, in distress, in perplexities, think on Mary, call on Mary … Following her, you will never go astray; when you implore her aid, you will never yield to despair; thinking on her, you will not err; under her patronage you will never wander; beneath her protection you will not fear; she being your guide, you will not weary; with her assistance, you will arrive safely in the port” (Homilies in Praise of the Virgin Mother, 2:17).
Mary, Star of the Sea, we ask you to guide the young people of the whole world to an encounter with your Divine Son Jesus. Be the celestial guardian of their fidelity to the Gospel and of their hope.
Dear young friends, be assured that I remember all of you every day in my prayers. I give my heartfelt blessing to you and to all who are dear to you.

From the Vatican, 22 February 2009

A timely post

Last month a mom's group began meeting here at the parish. They kindly invite me to their monthly meeting for a short time to teach them a little something and to answer some of their questions. They're a fantastic group of women and I'm very excited to see how the group will grow and foster holiness and prayer in our families.

One of the moms last night asked me why we recall our sins at the beginning of Mass. Fr. Schnippel, over at Called By Name, has kindly posted an excellent answer to the question as his 900th post.

Thanks, Father!

Ad multos annos!

Today, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI celebrates his eighty-second birthday.
In the charity of your prayers, please offer a prayer for the Holy Father today, and encourage your children to do the same:

Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto.

May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed on the earth, and not hand him over to the will of his enemies.

May your hand be on the man at your right hand.

And over the son of man whom you have chosen for yourself.

Let us pray.

God our Father, Shepherd and Guide, look with love on Benedict your servant, the pastor of your Church. May his word and example inspire and guide the Church, and may he, and all those entrusted to his care, come to the joy of everlasting life. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Happy birthday, Holy Father! Ad multos annos, gloriosque annos, vivas, vivas, vivas!