30 November 2011

Remember Advent!

As seen on a friend's Facebook profile:

A girl who gets it

From the banks of the Mississippi River comes a heart-warming story of a girl seeking to improve the lives of others through the gift of books:

When St. Peter's 6th grader, Kristin Martin, heard about Cheerful Home's shortage of kids books, she decided to take matters into her own hands and organize a book drive.
Kristin's goal is to collect 500 books. She says her love of reading combined with the mission of her school, inspired her to make a difference

"I think reading is a great way to get away and just be in your little quiet zone and go on adventures without having to go anywhere...Our motto here at St. Peter's in go make a difference so I thought I would go make a difference," says St. Peter's School 6th Grader Kristin Martin.

If you would like to donate new or gently used books suitable for ages infant to 12, you can drop them off at St. Peters School, Cheerful Home Child Care Center or in the St. Peter's Cafeteria when the church has coffee and donuts this Sunday. Any cash donations will be used to buy new books [more].
If you can, please help her in her efforts to provide more books.

28 November 2011

Cheer on the Holy Goalie

His Excellency the Most Revered Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, will tend the goal in a hockey match to raise funds for Catholic Charities.

The game will be played at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 7th at the Nelson Center in Springfield.  Tickets for the game are $3:00 and also gain you admittance to the Sacred Heart Griffin match that follows at 8:30 p.m.

For tickets or more information, contact Julie at (217) 523-9201 ext. 311.

26 November 2011

The most wonderful time of the year?

This year Black Friday has certainly lived up to its name.  When considering the woman who assaulted her fellow shoppers with pepper spray, the man who was all but ignored when he collapsed to the ground and later died, and the attack of shoppers returning to their cars, to name just a few instances, the Associated Press is left asking how much crazier can Black Friday get?

Prior to the opening of stores on Thanskgiving evening, some began to question the morality - or at least the appropriateness - of businesses requiring their employees to be separated from their families on such an important national holiday for such a mundane purpose of shopping.  One might have hoped that shoppers might not arrive at the stores until Friday, but such proved not to be the case at all.

Remember: if customers did not go to the stores the stores would not be open.  It is that simple.

This situation will only likely grow worse in coming years as our nation becomes ever more secular.  Indeed, many who call themselves Christians are more attuned to a secularist lifestyle than they are a Christian one.  Considering all of this, one could hardly call this "the hap-happiest season of all."  Yet for those who realize what began this evening, they know this to be truly "the most wonderful time of the year."

When Edward Pola and George Wyle composed that song in 1963, they sang of the pleasant and cherised memories "and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago."  It was, perhaps, a simpler and more focused time than the present day, yet it may also have been their attempt to reclaim and restore such glories to their own day.  Their day, after all, led to the state in which we now find ourselves when Christmas is more about a boost to the economy than it is about the Savior of the world who is largely ignored in his manger or even about spending time simply enjoying the company of family and friends.

This is because - I would argue - we have largely forgotten the most wonderful time of the year, the great season of Advent.  Advent is composed of two principle parts, the second of which is the proximate preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ; the first consists of the preparation for the Second Coming of Christ when he will judge the living and the dead.  With its conclusion with the Nativity of the Lord, the season of Advent reminds us that the judgment of God is love.

This profound and life-altering judgment is lost in the inhuman mess of corporate and invidual greed; some Black Friday shoppers were indeed thinking of others and completing their Christmas shopping, but many others were shopping simply for themselves.

I urge you: recover the season of Advent!  Do not give in to the secularist push to ignore the Second Coming of the Lord!  It is high time that Catholics lived like Catholics!

To help you in this noble effort, I offer the following suggestions as possible ways to keep the Advent focus:
  • Wait to put up your Christmas tree until December 17th, when the Church turns her focus from the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time to his First Coming in Bethlehem.
  • Keep the Christmas music for the season of Christmas, from December 25th through at least January 6th.  Some music we typically associate with Christmas could be easily described as holiday music.  Songs such as Jingle Bells (which is actually a Thanksgiving song), Frosty the Snowman, etc. are what I have in mind.
  • Spend a few minutes in prayer each day by reading the daily Mass readings.
  • Set up an advent wreath in your home and Jesse tree.
  • Ask the Lord for the grace of a happy death and seek to ensure that you live in a such a way that when he comes again the Lord will recognize you as one of his own.
If you endeavor to experience the beauty of thes holy days filled with great hope, the Lord will bless you with a truly happy celebration of his birth.

Yes, their are many details that need attending, but if we focus first on Christ all of these other things will fall together.  Time spent with Jesus is aways time well spent; it is never time wasted, especially during Advent, the most wonderful time of the year.

24 November 2011

Our smallness is reason enough to give thanks

On this day on which we give thanks to God for his many blessings and benefits to us, it is good to remember the words of King David:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established; what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that  you care for him (Psalm 8:3-4)?
This question is especially poignant when one considers the sheer scope of the cosmos:

As small as the earth is compared to the stars, we - you and I - are that much smaller than the earth!  We are not - I am not - the center of the universe, yet the Lord loves us nonetheless and desires our friendship.

This King David realized and so could go on to say, after contemplating his own smallness:
Yet you have made him little less than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the the paths of the sea (Psalm 8:5-8).
This is reason alone to give thanks to God. As small and seemingly insignificant as we are, still he loves.

Tonight, then, if the stars shine brightly where you are, take a few moments to stand beneath and contemplate the vastness of all of creation and remember your own littleness.  Then, call to mind the words of Meister Eckhart so fitting this day: "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough."

Happy Thanksgiving!

23 November 2011

A thanksgiving round up

As the nation's Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaches, it is good to spend a bit of time considering what is to be thankful (otherwise tomorrow's festivities are just about good food).

Writing on his blog, Shepherd of Fort Worth, His Excellency Bishop Kevin Vann - a priest of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois - calls all Christians to, in the words of Pope St. Gregory the Great, "remember your dignity" and to act as leaven in the world because "Thanksgiving is a time for us to reflect seriously and joyfully on God's grace."

Thanksgiving, says His Excellency Archbishop Dolan, "is bittersweet—especially this year. The need for an annual distribution of meals at Thanksgiving reminds us that all is not right with our nation—and world."

And in Crisis magazine, Father Dwight Longenecker explores the theology of thanksgiving, both in the Old Testament and in the Eucharist.

Group marriage?

Writing in the Huffington Post, Elizabeth Marquardt suggests now is the time to get ready for group marriage, by which she means a marriage between more than two people:
Is the prospect of group marriage far-fetched? Probably not. There are several avenues that could soon lead to legal recognition of unions involving three or more people. The efforts come from the fringes of the left, from the darkest corners of the fundamentalist right, and from the laboratories of fertility clinics and hard scientists around the world [more].
Capello tip to Joe Carter.

22 November 2011

A 51st State? And not Puerto Rico?

I've been suggesting this for years, but now it seems - according to the State Journal-Register - a couple of Illinois legislators have the same idea:
DECATUR — Two Republican Illinois lawmakers say Chicago-style politics are dominating the state and they have a solution. 
State Reps. Bill Mitchell of Forsyth and Adam Brown of Decatur have proposed separating Cook County from Illinois and creating a 51st state [more].
Even so, I don't expect this will get very far.

A clever gift idea

Today has been largely a quiet and uneventful day, in no small part due to the weather; if I walk or lie on my stomach, I feel decent enough; if I simply stand or sit, it's another matter altogether.  I'll be very happy to see the rain and the fog gone.

Now this isn't to say that today has been altogether unpleasant.  A friend was kind enough to send me a link to a toy I wouldn't mind having in my arsenal (if, that is, I have to stay in a climate where snow falls): a Snowball Launching Crossbow.

I think the seminarians at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary could especially use a small stock of these.  They do live in a castle, after all.

But fear not, you esteemed Hawaiians!  There are snoballs you can use, too:

I hate coconut, too.

Coming soon: Vianney!

The Curé of Ars will soon visit the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois to help renew the heart of the Church.

Mr. Leonardo Defilipis, of St. Luke Productions, will present his one man stage production Vianney across the Diocese the week of December 4:
This performance demonstrates the extraordinary life of Saint John Vianney, the patron saint of priests:

When Bishop Paprocki saw this performance, he described it as
A very moving performance of Vianney by Leonardo Defilippis… God has provided a great blessing and inspiration for this production, which I am sure [will] inspire young men to enter the priesthood and seminary and I also strengthen and inspire priests to follow their vocation by the example of the great Curé of Ars.
No registration is needed for the performances and free will offerings will be taken.  Come and experience this powerful drama!

Persecution Watch

New report provides positive and negative statistics

Marco Tosatti has a brief post on a new study released by Analasis Digirtal which examines the state of the Church today.

The report shows that the Catholic population of the world today numbers some 1,160,000,000 and is growing by some 34,000 people every day.  This is certainly good news and something to remember when we hear of the decline of the Church; it may be declining in the West, but in the East and the South it is booming.

The report also showed that there were some 1,600 Protestant denominations at the start of the twentieth century; in 2011, only a century later, there are some 42,000.  So much for Jesus' prayer that "they might all be one."

Will theatre-style churches be a thing of the past?

You may remember a post from my last visit to Hawai'i in which I noticed a strange similarity between Byron's Drive-In (a restaurant) and a church in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.  If word from Andrea Tornielli is true - and it likely is - such similarities may soon be relegated to the past (and with good riddance):
A team has been set up, to put a stop to garage style churches, boldly shaped structures that risk denaturing modern places for Catholic worship. Its task is also to promote singing that really helps the celebration of mass. The “Liturgical art and sacred music commission” will be established by the Congregation for Divine Worship over the coming weeks. This will not be just any office, but a true and proper team, whose task will be to collaborate with the commissions in charge of evaluating construction projects for churches of various dioceses. The team will also be responsible for the further study of music and singing that accompany the celebration of mass.

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Benedict XVI, consider this work as “very urgent”. The reality is staring everyone in the eyes: in recent decades, churches have been substituted by buildings that resemble multi purpose halls. Too often, architects, even the more famous ones, do not use the Catholic liturgy as a starting point and thus end up producing avant-garde constructions that look like anything but a church. These buildings composed of cement cubes, glass boxes, crazy shapes and confused spaces, remind people of anything but the mystery and sacredness of a church. Tabernacles are semi hidden, leading faithful on a real treasure hunt and sacred images are almost inexistent. The new commission’s regulations will be written up over the next few days and will give precise instructions to dioceses. It will only be responsible for liturgical art, not for sacred art in general; and this also goes for liturgical music and singing too. The judicial powers of the Congregation for Divine Worship will have the power to act [more].

21 November 2011

Persecution Watch

Suffering with the King

Yesterday’s Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King calls our attention to that moment, at the close of our lives, when we will each stand before the King of the Universe to give an accounting of our lives. 

To some he will say, “Come,  you are who blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).  To others he will say, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).  What determines in which direction the Son of Man will send us? What determines whether we will be counted among the sheep or among the goats? The measure of our love.

As such, yesterday’s feast calls to mind the day of our own individual deaths.  Earlier this month, on the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, Saint Ambrose said to us,

We should have a daily familiarity with death, a daily desire for death.  By this kind of detachment our soul must learn to free itself from the desires of the body.  It must soar above earthly lusts to a place where they cannot come near, to hold it fast.  It must take on the likeness of death, to avoid the punishment of death.

Enlightened as we often like to think we are, these words of Saint Ambrose strike us as harsh, even morbid.
We push death far from our consciousness.  In so doing we fail to realize that, in the words of Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, “when one faces death, the supporting foundations of one’s life come to light” (Happiness, God and Man, 97).

Knowing the difficulty of this necessary task, he asks, “What is the remedy?”

The remedy is Jesus Christ, he who “has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Corinthians 15:20).  By virtue of our baptism into Christ, of our baptism into his death (cf. Romans 6:4).  Saint Paul goes on to say that “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5).  For this reason, we must, as Saint Ambrose says, take on the likeness of death.

If we live with a daily desire for death then the supporting foundations of our lives will come to light.  The measure of our love will be revealed and we will learn – if only slowly – the truth of the Lord’s words: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

Of course, part of the measure of our love is seen in the manner in which we carry the cross as it comes to us, keeping in mind the words of Saint Paul: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 1:24).

As the winter months set in, my arthritis is afflicting me all the more, focusing on the backs of my hips.  My energy is low once again, especially in the mornings, and I will admit it is difficult to find joy in it.  Yet that is what I must do.  If only I would suffer it well, my arthritis can be a true path to holiness.  It would be easier if I didn’t know that the arthritis would all but disappear if I simply switched climates, but that might be part of the beauty of it.

As I pondered this yesterday, I found myself reading Basil Cardinal Hume’s Hope from the Cross: Reflections on Jesus’ Seven Last Words (which I highly recommend).  In it, he addresses the question of rejoicing in one’s sufferings:

If we kiss the crucifix, we shall discover him who suffered like us and for us.  That kissing can, sometimes, more easily be done when words seem empty and meaningless.  It is a way of saying, “Into your hands I commit my spirit,” and often it is the best way, perhaps the only way.  Relief from pain and sorrow may not be immediate; indeed, we may be called to walk further carrying our cross, but the yoke will be sweeter and the burden lighter.  Of course we cannot, and must not, rejoice in the pain.  That would be doing violence to our instincts and to our nature.  We are not made for pain; we are made for happiness.  But recoiling from the cross, as it natural, we can yet rejoice in the carrying of it, but it must be for his sake, I mean, to be like Christ, and so we with him, he in us and we in him (71).

The cross, he says, has something to teach each of us.

All of us experience moments of despair and suffering.  We may be sick or handicapped; we may realize that we are old and unloved; we may have been deserted or let down; we may be out of work and losing our pride.  At times of great distress and confusion, thinking may only add to the pain, and praying will be impossible.  Then the only helpful thing, the only possible thing, is to sit or to kneel looking at the crucifix, the image of Christ dying on the cross.  We may indeed have to share the darkness that was in Christ when he prayed that psalm from the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  We can do no more than just look at the crucifix – but we can do no better, for then it will give up its “secret.”  It will speak to us – in our misery – of hope and of encouragement.  There is no tidy, rational explanation for the crushing burden of suffering. We cannot work out easy answers about why it should be.  God gave us instead not an answer but a way to find the answer.  It is the cross that will reveal it, but it has to be a personal discovery.  You cannot begin to see pattern and purpose unless you have known the cross and blindly let Jesus lead you from despair into hope (42-43).

The secret of the cross is that it is the way to eternal life, for by sharing in the cross we will also share in the resurrection of the Lord.  Let us, then, implore Christ our King to strengthen us with his grace so that each of us may carry our cross – in whatever form it comes – out of love for him and for our fellow sheep.

19 November 2011

Blessed are those who mourn?

Passages such as this from his Happiness, God, and Man are why I enjoy reading the books of Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna:
In places where the desolation of ruined churches does not yet prevail, where the church is still a house that welcomes the visitor with a warming fire, where Jesus is still in the tabernacle, the expectation of all our grief, the acceptance of all our tears, in places where the churches are not yet closed, where we can enter into the space that breathes silence and bow before him who mysteriously dwells therein: this can become a moment of intense experience in which someone who is mourning is in fact comforted and our churches are once again that sublime refuge of the blessedness of tears that have been consoled.  Yet in order for that to happen, we must do everything possible to keep them open, so that we can entrust our sufferings to him, Jesus, who is really present there.  And what happens is to pour out tears in his presence; to encounter him whose glance so unsettled Peter after he had denied him!  The tears of Peter, elicited by the unspeakable acceptance in Jesus’ glance – therein lies, does it not, the happiness that Jesus promised!

18 November 2011

More on the Maspero Massacre

On October 9, 2011, the Egyptian military opened fire upon a group of peaceful and unarmed Coptic Christians who were protesting the lack of religious freedom afforded them by the government.  After opening fire, military vehicles drove into the protesters, running over many - purpsefully and cometimes repeatedly - leaving at least thirty dead.  One one Eyptian soldier was killed in the brutal chaos, contrary to initial - false - State claims of seven.

My friend and fellow blogger Brian, sent to me today an article he found written by an Egyptian journalist - Youssef Rakha - who reflects on the sequence of that day's events.  He says, in part:
But what was really happening as I sat here watching my Twitter timeline? A pro-Coptic march had set out to Maspero from the nearby neighborhood of Shubra, then? 
Then the march was subjected to stone and Molotov cocktail attacks from mobs of Muslims, where practically all-Muslim Central Security and, especially, Military Police troops—aided not only by misinformed “honorable citizens” (as the military has taken to putting it) but apparently also by baltagiyya or the hired thugs deployed by the authorities against protesters since January—proceeded to massacre “the Copts” by every means available, not excluding live ammunition and at least one armored vehicle purposefully crushing heads. The carnage, widely recorded in downtown hospitals, was horrendous.
And why were Copts protesting in such numbers? Because, during a TV appearance, the governor of Aswan (a Muslim and a retired military general, by default) commended the burning of a church under his jurisdiction on the pretext that it was not officially registered as a place of worship (hundreds of functional churches across Egypt are not registered because of official—Muslim—reluctance to give Christians the right to practice their faith).
He goes on to note the unexpected response from many in the Muslim community:
So … It has been nearly three weeks since Sunday 9 October and I am astonished. Not so much by the war crimes of the army or the actions of the mob that so readily “came to its aid”; I am astonished, rather, by the responses of educated Muslims, including allegedly secular intellectuals. 
Condemnation of the massacre has not been nearly as vociferous or as unanimous as you would expect. With very few exceptions (notably the human rights activist Hossam Bahgat), the discourse has centered not on the Council’s sectarianism as an unchanged wing of the Mubarak (and by extension the July 1952) regime, but on the Council itself –the the regime—as a conventional object of dissent in conveniently dire straits. Evidenced by the indubitable fact that the instigators of protests on 25 January were neither traditional dissidents (left-wing or Islamist) nor politically organized except on the Internet, such dissent (exemplified most clearly by the Muslim Brothers) seems in retrospect to be not only opportunistic and rhetorical but also futile by default.
Rakha comes to a striking conclusion and comparison:
In much the same way as the British Empire ruled over subjects it deemed not fully human, Egyptian patriotism involves an individual and national self-definition that places non-Muslims in subjugation with impunity; and once again reflecting colonialism, the most disturbing part is how people are capable of perpetuating such thinking without even realizing, let alone admitting they are doing anything wrong. 

A journey worth undertaking: Hobbiton

Eric Vespe has written a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of The Hobbit to movies which are set to be released over the next two years.

When Hobbiton was built for the filming of the Trilogy, it was a temporary settlement.  Not so this time around:
That doesn’t even count the construction crews that actually built the Hobbit holes, the stone bridge and The Green Dragon. And built them to stay, I should add. 
The last time out they built the Hobbit holes and structures like most movie sets. They were temporary, not functional past the time the crew needed them to work. This time out they made a deal with the landowner to make this site an official and long lasting attraction for fans of the movies. 
Forty-Four Hobbit holes were built to be permanent, with retaining walls, waterproofed roofs, etc. The stone bridge was constructed with a steel superstructure covered with real stone cladding. The Green Dragon is the most impressive of them all because it was built with a functioning fireplace, plumbing, water pipes and the works. 
Hennah said the plans were to actually turn The Green Dragon into a real, working pub, but that’s all on the landowners at this point, I believe.
How awesome is that?! There's even a web site to help with the tour.

Persecution Watch

Around the blogosphere

Paprocki to preside at prayer for those harmed in the Church

From the Catholic Times:
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Springfield diocese will preside at an "Evening of Repentance and Prayer for Those Harmed in the Church" at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Sixth and Lawrence streets in Springfield.
Simultaneously, identical services will be held in each of the six other deaneries, or districts of the diocese, to accommodate those from outlying areas:
  • In the Alton Deanery, at St. Boniface Church in Edwardsville;
  • In the Decatur Deanery, at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Mt. Zion;
  • In the Effingham Deanery, at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Teutopolis;
  • In the Jacksonville Deanery, at Our Saviour Church in Jacksonville;
  • In the Litchfield Deanery, at St. Agnes Church in Hillsboro;
  • In the Quincy Deanery, at Blessed Sacrament Church in Quincy.
"It is my desire near the beginning of my pastoral ministry as bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois to express our repentance and seek God's pardon for the sins of the past, that God's grace may bring us healing for the faith to flourish," said Bishop Paprocki.

Patricia Kornfeld, victim assistance coordinator for the Springfield diocese, said that the prayer service is meant to reach out in a special and individual way to anyone abused by a cleric within the Springfield diocese and also to anyone who may have been hurt in other ways by someone in the church.

"We also invite others who may wish to join in this prayer for those harmed in the church," Kornfeld said. "We encourage those harmed in the church to come and find rest, pray together united with others who have also experienced harm in the church, pray for those who could not speak for themselves or pray for those that are absent from our gathering. At this solemn service, we will pray for repentance for sins committed, ask for support for those harmed, seek understanding of the harm caused, and ask for God's forgiveness, healing grace and peace."

Kornfeld said no reservations are necessary and family members are welcome.
For more information about the Evening of Repentance and Prayer for Those Harmed in the Church, contact Kornfeld at (217) 321-1155 or email pkornfeld@dio.org This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Archbishop Carlson silence as key to youth ministry

Writing in his column in the St. Louis Review, the Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis describes silence as "a necessary condition for discernment and reflection, for meditation and prayer."

What is more, he proposes silence as the key to leading young people to a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ:
If we want to reach out to members of the young Church and encourage them to welcome God's word in their lives, we need to help them discover what it means to be silent. If we want to foster vocations to ordained ministry, to consecrated life, to marriage and to the dedicated single life, we must help young men and women discover times and places where they can turn off the noise of modern life and tune in to the grand silence of God's holy peace.
To do so, he suggests we look to the example of St. Joseph.

Governor Quinn to meet with Illinois Bishops

The Chicago Tribune reports today that His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, has written to Governor Pat Quinn (D), a Catholic, requesting to discuss with him several issues of concern.  The first of which is, as Cardinal George wrote, "your personal approval of laws permitting the killing of unborn children."  The Governor's support of civil unions is also a topic the Bishops would like to discuss with him.

17 November 2011

A little excessive?

This past weekend I served as the Spiritual Director for Great River Teens Encounter Christ #276.  It was an uplifting experience and I am already looking forward to serving as the Spiritual Director for Great River TEC #281 in July.

Sunday morning I awoke early and when I was ready to begin the day I thought I would make a quick visit to the chapel to check and see if everything there was prepared for the day.  As I turned the corner into a long hallway, I saw three of the service team members on their way to wake the candidates and team with drums from a marching band.

With tongue in cheek, I asked the leader of the makeshift drum core, "Isn't that a little excessive?"  With a grin, he answered, "Nope" (or something very close to it).  I laughed and continued on my way, but not before hearing the wakeup call (it was actually pretty good).

I've spent much of this week reflecting on those few words exchanged between us, particularly in light of the first readings at Mass this week from the Books of Maccabbees which largely concern compromising religious faith and life.

There is a growing tendency today for people of faith - who actually live it out publicly and allow it to shape and inform every part of their lives - if it isn't just a little excessive:
  • Isn't your insistence on the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death a little excessive?
  • Isn't your insistence that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman a little excessive?
  • Isn't your insistence on the immorality of pre-marital sex, cohabitation and the use of contraception a little excessive?
  • Isn't your insistence on the dignity of immigrants a little excessive?
The list could go on and on, but you get the idea.

To live out one's faith is not a matter of being excessive, but rather of living in accord with the truth.

Let us beg the Lord to strengthen us with his grace so as not to compromise our faith simply to "fit in" or "not rock the boat," but to live as his faithful followers, regardless of what it will cost.

16 November 2011

Star Trek to film in Hawaii?

I'm not one that could be called a Trekkie.  The Star Trek movies and shows all seem to me to have basically the same plot, but with slightly differently looking humanoid figures.

Be that as it may, Bishop Paprocki sent to me this afternoon a bit of information that just might make me watch the forthcoming Star Trek movie (with my emphases:
Other pieces of news run the gamut from sets (production designer Scott Chambliss is returning, construction has started for new sets, many of the old sets will be used again), effects work (ILM is on board again), locations (Abrams is reportedly scouting Hawaii to stand in for a “jungle planet” and other scenes will be filmed at a Los Angeles museum and on the Paramount lot), and casting (the main cast is all back on board and all new roles are currently being cast).
 If they film in Hawaii, it can't be all bad, right?

Incidentally, Jurassic Park was on television last night and I watched it just for the view of the island of Molokai (though I do enjoy the movie itself).

09 November 2011

Persecution Watch: Nigeria

From the Associated Press:
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Residents have begun to flee a northeast Nigerian city where a radical Muslim sect launched attacks that killed more than 100 people [more].

Persecution Watch: Nigeria

From The Moment:
Kaduna — KADUNA State is under tension over fears of reprisal attack, following the murder of two Christian women worshippers inside a church by unknown gunmen.

The attack by the gunmen also left 11 critically injured in Zonkwa village in Zangon Kataf Local Government in the state. The women were said to have gone for vigil [more].

Persecution Watch: Nigeria: 60 dead

From La Stampa:
A Catholic Church was also destroyed in a series of attacks in Damataru, in North-East Nigeria, which have led to 60 deaths, according to provisional estimates, as well as numerous injuries.


Yesterday’s series of co-ordinated bombings with explosive charges, Fides explained, targeted the polices’ general headquarters, a number of police stations and six churches in the Christian quarter, Jerusalem. Other bombings had previously shaken Maiduguri and other neighbouring areas

The attacks have been attributed to militants of Boko Haram, an Islamic sect, which according to various sources, has supposedly forged an alliance with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [more].

08 November 2011

Unprofitable servants

Today Christ Jesus says to us: "When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we  have done what we were obliged to do'" (Luke 17:10).

His command to us is simple, yet it is not easy: "Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another" (John 13:34).

In the Christian life there is no room for grumbling to the Lord, the no room for whining or complaining about what we have done for him or for others.  We are his servants; he is the Master and Teacher (cf. John 13:13).

We ought to serve him by serving and loving one another not because of what can gain by doing so, but simply because he has loved us.  The true and faithful servant of a master serves without expecting something back; he serves the master out of loyalty and trust.

May the same be said of us.

07 November 2011

My name is Daren, and I'm an introvert

Over the weekend I saw the following picture and caption on a friend's Facebook page:
Imagine what life would be like if we could see each other's souls
instead of what's on the outside.
The point made by the image is one that hits home to me, an introvert.

Introverts are very often much misunderstood in today's extroverted world.

The image reminded me an article I've been meaning to share with you for several weeks now but for whatever reason have not yet gotten around to sharing: "Caring for Your Introvert: The habits and needs of a little understood group."

Written for The Atlantic by Jonathan Raunch, the article describes the differences between the orientations of extroverts and introverts from an introvert's perspective, with the witty humor customary among introverts.

Reading the article it almost seems as Raunch has followed me around for a couple of days taking tedious notes.  He begins asking a series of questions:
Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice? 
If so, do you tell this person he is "too serious," or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out? 
If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren't caring for him properly.
I don't do a lot of growling or grunting - at least not audibly - but otherwise the questions are straight to the point.  I hate small talk and do need to time alone to recover from "public" activity, which is what I'll largely be doing the first part of this morning.

If you find yourself with such a person, an introvert, what are you to do with them?  How should care for him?

Before answering this question, Raunch describes introversion at its most basic level:
Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring. 
Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses." 
How, then, do you care for your introvert?  Raunch gives three simple ways:
First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation
Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?" 
Third, don't say anything else, either. 
Be sure to read the entire article; it is both insightful and humorous and may well help a few of you extroverts to understand us introverts a bit more. If you do read it, you may well understand why we sometimes want to say to you, "I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."  We don't say this because society says it is rude.

Anti-Catholicism is alive and well

The Creative Minority Report points out the obvious anti-Catholic bias of the USA Today in it's headline regarding this morning's news of Penn State that in no way involves the Catholic Church.

I've been complaining about this bias for a long time and calling for the media to report accurately, as they claim to do.

Perhaps Matthew Archibold puts it best when he asks, "Why report facts when Catholic-bashing is so much easier?"

06 November 2011

Sexual abuse in Great Britain's Islamic schools

Marco Tosati has written a piece examing child sexual abuse in the Islamic community in Great Britain, a topic that is receiving little attention by society as a whole.

The current situation is not insignificant:
Islamic schools in Britain, known as “madrasas” are faced with more than 400 allegations of sexual abuse over the past three years, according to a survey performed by the BBC, but only a very small number of these led to a successful formal legal inquiry. The situation brought about the need for a statute to formally regulate the activities of these schools, which greet approximately 250 thousand Muslim children every day for lessons on the Koran. The situation is so serious that the President of the Commission of Mosques and National Council of Imams stated that he would address the issue as a matter of urgency [emphases original].
Note well: that's 400+ cases in only the past three years.

Of a total 421 cases of abuse, only 10 were presented in court.  In 2009, there were 89 cases of sexual abuse; in 2010, there were 178 cases; in 2011 (which has, obviously, not yet come to a close), there have been 146 cases and may reach 200 by the end of the year.

With so many cases, one might well think this would merit the attention and coverage of the media.

It might be argued that this situation is in Britain so the American media wouldn't cover it.  By the American media did cover the abuse crisis in Ireland so that argument doesn't hold much water.

Could the media have covered the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church so thoroughly because of the cover up by some bishops and priests?  Perhaps, but there also seems to be some level of a cover up here:
A problem within the problem is the behaviour of the communities and families of children that are victims of the abuse. Very often, families were strongly pressured not to file claims to the Courts, or even to lodge protests or formal complaints at schools. And according to a judge the numbers only represent the tip of the iceberg of a problem that is in fact much greater.
We even know who seems largely responsible for encouraging victims not to present their claims: Mohammed Hanif Khanm.

Where is the media?  Where is society's concern for the safety of the children?  Where is the same anger and outrage hurled at the Catholic Church?

04 November 2011

The Hobbit: Production Video #4

Over at the blog for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson and company have posted a fourth Production Video in which they discuss the use of 3-D filming.  It's a very interesting video and gives great glimpses into the glories that await our eyes in just a year's time.

03 November 2011

A heroic priest in Egypt

In the midst of what has been dubbed the Maspero Massacre in Egypt when the military used great and excessive force against unarmed protesting Copts who simply demanded the right to practice their faith publicly, we learn of a heroic priest who saved one of the soldiers lives:
Early that evening of 9 October at 6:26pm, political activist Lobna Darwish wrote on Twitter (then Facebook), “Sons of dogs! Opening fire on a march full of children!”—as two armored vehicles moved insanely into the crowd, running over people to-and-fro. Darwish described the horrific scene further: “The vehicle would chase a group of people trying to run away, go over the street pavement, crush them, then see other people on the other side, so chase them until they too ran them down. It was moving in a zig-zag. Then, two armored vehicles were replaced by another two, each pair doing the same zig-zag chase. It was unbelievable. I was terrified. People were running everywhere... There were two young kids between fourteen and fifteen years of age hiding behind a car. The armored vehicle spotted them and ran over the car, destroying it and running over one of the kids.” 
Three armored vehicles disappeared into the night, whereas a fourth suddenly slowed down. People gathered around it, showering it with stones. They stopped it by throwing a broken traffic light that was on fire at that moment. The vehicle caught fire too, and a soldier inside tried to get out. Some people shouted, “Stop the stones! Let him out!” So, protestors stopped until the soldier made it out. Then, they viciously attacked him. “This soldier just killed our brothers, heartlessly running over them!” people cried. On a video circulated on YouTube, a Coptic priest was the one who intervened to protect the soldier, taking blows instead of him. Were it not for this priest, this soldier might have been killed.
The soldier whose life the priest saved seems to have run over at least 15 Copts just before his vehicle caught fire.

Please, stop right now and say a prayer for this priest, that the Lord will strengthen him for the struggles that remain ahead.

When one part of the body suffers, all suffer

Readers of this blog are no doubt aware of my concern for our brothers and sisters who suffer daily because of their faith in Jesus Christ.  It was this concern - particularly for those Christians in the Holy Land - that led me to accept my nomination to join the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

It was also this concern that led me to write to Represtantive Aaron Shock (R-IL, 18th District) after the recent brutal assault of the Egyptian military on peaceful protesting Copts.  When the U.S. State Department failed to mention on its web site (at least not where I could find it) the violence in which military vehicles simply ran over Christians and soldiers opened fire upon them, and when President Obama simply called for "restraint" on both sides, I asked to meet with Mr. Shock when he is next in Springfield to discuss the plight of persecuted Christians throughout the world and the lack of adequate responses from the various governments of the world.

I was contacted earlier this week by Mr. Schock's staff and met with one of them this morning.  I am deeply grateful to Mr. Shock for his willingness to meet with me.  When we meet I will ask him to see what Congress can do to alleviate their plight.

Shortly after I wrote to him the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation met and released the following statement today on The Plight of Churches in the Middle East (with my emphases):
The “Arab Spring” is unleashing forces that are having a devastating effect on the Christian communities of the Middle East. Our Churches in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine report disturbing developments such as destruction of churches and massacres of innocent civilians that cause us grave concern. Many of our church leaders are calling Christians and all people of good will to stand in solidarity with the members of these ancient indigenous communities. In unity with them and each other, we the members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, gathered October 27-29, 2011, add our voice to their call. 
We are concerned for our fellow Christians who, in the face of daunting challenges, struggle to maintain a necessary witness to Christ in their homelands. United with them in prayer and solidarity, we ask our fellow Christians living in the West to take time to develop a more realistic appreciation of their predicament. We ask our political leaders to exert more pressure where it can protect these Churches, many of which have survived centuries of hardship but now stand on the verge of disappearing completely. 
When one part of the body suffers, all suffer (cf. 1 Cor. 12:26). As Christians in the West, we therefore have the vital responsibility to respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters who live in fear for their lives and communities at this moment. As Orthodox and Catholic Christians we share this responsibility and this concern together.
 Please, I beg you, do what you can to help our brothers and sisters who suffer because of their faith every day.

The Lord himself warned us, "You will be hated by all because of my name, but he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:22).  Pray for those who are persecuted, that they might not lose faith.

Jake Shimabukuro to perform in Springfield

When I was last in Hawaii I was introduced the music of Jake Shimabukuro, a virtuoso of the ukelele.  His music is astounding and he will perform in Springfield Tuesday evening.

The State Journal-Register has a lengthy article about the concert and Shimabukuro.

I haven't seen him perform, but I have two of his CDs and highly recommend his music.  If you can go, I think you should.  Here's one of my favorite pieces he plays:

Pope: The road of death, in reality, is a way hope

Throughout the month of November it has long been customary to visit the graves of loved ones and to pray for their salvation.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke of these visits in his General Audience Address Wednesday.  His text follows, with my emphases:
Dear brothers and sisters,

After celebrating the Solemnity of All Saints, the Church today invites us to commemorate all the faithful departed, to turn our gaze to so many faces that have gone before us and that have completed their earthly journey. In today's Audience, then, I would like to offer a few simple thoughts on the reality of death, which for us as Christians is illumined by Christ's resurrection, in order to renew our faith in eternal life.

As I said at yesterday's Angelus, during these days we visit the cemetery to pray for our dear departed ones; we go to visit them, as it were, in order to express our affection for them once more, to feel them still close to us; and in so doing, we also remember an article of the Creed: In the communion of saints there is a close bond between us who still journey on this earth and so many brothers and sisters who have already reached eternity.

Man has always been concerned for his loved ones who have died, and he has sought to give them a kind of second life through his attention, care and affection. In a certain way, we want to hold on to their experience of life; and paradoxically, we discover how they lived, what they loved, what they feared, what they hoped in and what they hated precisely at their graves, which we crowd with mementos. They are, as it were, a mirror of their world.

Why is this? Because -- although death is often treated as an almost prohibited subject of discussion in our society, and there is a continual attempt to remove the mere thought of death from our minds -- it regards us all, it regards men of every time and in every place. And before this mystery we all, even unconsciously, seek something that invites us to hope, a sign that brings us consolation, that opens a horizon before us, that offers us a future. The road of death, in reality, is a way of hope -- and to visit our cemeteries, and to read the inscriptions on graves, is to make a journey marked by hope in eternity.

But we ask ourselves: Why do we experience fear in the face of death? Why has humanity, to a large extent, never resigned itself to believing that beyond death there is only nothingness?  I would say that there are a variety of reasons: We fear death because we fear emptiness; we fear departing for something unfamiliar to us, for something unknown to us. And then, there is in us a sense of refusal, for we cannot accept that all the beauty and greatness realized during a lifetime is suddenly blotted out, that it is cast into the abyss of nothingness. Above all, we feel that love requires and asks for eternity -- and it is impossible to accept that love is destroyed by death in a single moment.

Again, we fear death because -- when we find ourselves approaching the end of life -- we perceive that there will be a judgment of our actions, of how we led our lives, especially of those shadowy points that we often skillfully know how to remove -- or attempt to remove -- from our consciences. I would say that the question of judgment is what often underlies the care men of all times have for the departed, and the attention a man gives to persons who were significant to him and who are no longer beside him on the journey of earthly life. In a certain sense, the acts of affection and love that surround the departed loved one are a way of protecting him -- in the belief that these acts are not without effect on judgment. We can see this in the majority of cultures, which make up human history.

Today the world has become, at least apparently, much more rational -- or better, there is a widespread tendency to think that every reality has to be confronted with the criteria of experimental science, and that we must respond even to the great question of death not so much with faith, but by departing from experiential, empirical knowledge. We do not sufficiently realize, however, that this way ends in falling into forms of spiritism in the attempt to have some contact with the world beyond death, imagining as it were that there exists a reality that in the end is a copy of the present one.

Dear friends, the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of the faithful departed tell us that only he who is able to recognize a great hope in death is able also to live a life that springs from hope. If we reduce man exclusively to his horizontal dimension, to what can be perceived empirically, life itself loses its profound meaning. Man needs eternity -- and every other hope, for him, is all too brief, is all too limited. Man is explainable only if there is a Love that overcomes all isolation -- even that of death -- in a totality that transcends even space and time. Man is explainable -- he finds his deepest meaning -- only if God is. And we know that God has gone forth from the distance and has made Himself close; He has entered into our lives and He tells us: "I am the Resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26).

Let us think for a moment of the scene at Calvary and let us listen once again to the words that Jesus addressed on the Cross to the robber crucified at his right: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). Let us think of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, when -- after having travelled a stretch of road with the Risen Jesus -- they recognize Him and quickly set out toward Jerusalem to announce the Lord's resurrection (cf. Luke 24:13-35). The Master's words come to mind with renewed clarity: "Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:1-2).

God has truly appeared; He has become accessible; He has so loved the world "that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16), and in the supreme act of love -- in the Cross -- plunging into the abyss of death, He conquered it, He rose and He opened the doors of eternity also to us. Christ sustains us through the night of death, which He himself traversed: He is the Good Shepherd, in whose guidance we can trust without any fear, since He knows well the road, even in obscurity.

Each Sunday, in reciting the Creed, we reaffirm this truth. And in visiting cemeteries to pray with affection and love for our dear departed ones, we are invited once again to renew with courage and with strength our faith in eternal life; indeed, we are invited to live out this great hope and to give witness to it in the world: Nothingness is not behind this present moment. And it is precisely faith in eternal life that gives the Christian the courage to love our world even more intensely, and to work to build a future for it, to give it a true and lasting hope. Thank you.
Capello tip to Zenit.

Soulmate vs. Helper

When a priest is asked to witness the wedding of a couple he can usually guess on the spot which passages from the Scriptures the couple will choose to have read at the wedding.  Certain readings have - I think sadly - become rather standard, the reading from Genesis and the reading from I Corinthians, in particular.

Writing On the Square today, Joe Carter takes a close look at the creation of woman whom God created because it was not good for man to be alone.  Carter says:
I had probably read that verse hundreds of times without grasping its full significance. Almost every time, I read my own preconceived meaning into the text, rather than trying to grasp what is actually said. Now it seems rather clear, even obvious. Adam didnt need a soulmate," for he already had the most perfect lover of his soul already in his Creator. What he needed was a helper," someone like himself who could share his burdens, his joys, his humanity. Gods immanent nature was a presence that provided all the love that Adam needed. But Gods transcendent nature prevented him from being the type of companion that the first man would need to fulfill his role in the Garden. Adam needed someone both enough like himself to share a mutual understanding and different enough to provide a degree of uniqueness and mystery.
 Be sure to read what he means by a helper.

Persecution Watch

Questions about Purgatory

Over at The New Theological Movement, Father Ryan Erlenbush has a fine post in which he answers several questions about Purgatory.  During this month of November, I encourage you to read it.

Paprocki to speak on exorcism

The St. Louis Review reports that Bishop Paprocki will speak on the topic of "Exorcism in Law and Practice" at the Christ the King dinner held on November 20th in St. Louis, Missouri.

A regrettable decision

The Catholic Conference of Illinois issued yesterday a Statement of the Illinois Bishops Regarding Governor Quinn's Decision to Present Personal PACs Pro-Choice Leadership Award.

I want a new governor.

02 November 2011

Study: The Pope was right about condoms

Edward C. Green, the former director of Harvard University's AIDS Prevention Research Project has written a new book - Broken Promises: How the AIDS Establishment Has Betrayed the Developing World - that he says vindicates the claims of Pope Benedict XVI about condoms, reports the National Review.

Kathryn Jean Lopez asked Green: "Does this recent study even the New York Times noticed vindicate Pope Benedict with science?"  He answered:
Yes, and Broken Promises is an extended vindication of Pope Benedict, at least as far as the so-called generalized HIV epidemics of Africa are concerned. And this is in fact what the Pope was talking about [more].

Persecution Watch: Egypt

17-year old Ayman Nabil Labib was murdered in a classroom in the Egyptian city of Malawi because the Coptic Christian student refused to cover the cross tattoo on his wrist and to remove a cross he wore around his neck, reports the International Assyrian News Agency:
Both parents confirmed that Ayman's classmates, who were present during the assault and whom they met at the hospital and during the funeral, said that while Ayman was in the classroom he was told to cover up his tattooed wrist cross. He refused and defiantly got out the second cross which he wore under his shirt. "The teacher nearly chocked by son and some Muslim students joined in the beating," said his mother. 
According to Ayman's father, eyewitnesses told him that his son was not beaten up in the school yard as per the official story, but in the classroom. "They beat my son so much in the classroom that he fled to the lavatory on the ground floor, but they followed him and continued their assault. When one of the supervisors took him to his room, Ayman was still breathing. The ambulance transported him from there dead, one hour later."
 After his funeral, 5,000 Christians marched through the streets of Malawi in protest of the continuing persecution of Copts in Egypt.

There is in this brutal act a glimmer of hope:
Prominent columnist Farida El-Shobashy wrote in independent newspaper Masry Youm "I was shaken to the bones when I read the news that a teacher forced a student to take off the crucifix he wore, and when the Christian student stood firm for his rights, the teacher quarreled with him, joined by some of the students; he was beastly assaulted until his last breath left him." She wondered if the situation was reversed and a Muslim was killed for not removing the Koran he wore, what would have been the reaction.

01 November 2011

The Office, Chancery Style

On this Solemnity of All Saints, Holy Mother Church wishes to remind us that each of us is called by Jesus Christ to be saints.  Some days it's easier to be saintly than others, which is he Holy Mother Church gives us tomorrow's feast of All Souls.

In the work room across the hallway from my office in the chancery is a refrigerator.  This fridge is kept generally well-stocked with sodas of various kinds, including - naturally enough - Dr Pepper, the mother of all sodas (it was the first one invented, after all).

There is a very simple system to this fridge. You pay $0.40 for a can of soda and when you take a can out you are to replace it with another can of the same kind of soda (there are boxes of various sodas next to the fridge).  It isn't a hard system and ensures cold sodas for everyone, but with as simple a system as it is there is always one or two people who don't follow it.  Why, no one seems to know.

A week or so ago I came into the office and opened the fridge to grab a Dr Pepper.  You can imagine my horror when there was not a single Dr Pepper in the fridge.  My fellow Peppers had clearly not been restocking the fridge!  I restocked the fridge and later returned for a cool Dr Pepper.

This morning when I opened the fridge there were only two Dr Peppers in the fridge.  I took out a cold one and filled the row for Dr Pepper to the customary five cans.  This afternoon when I returned to the fridge for a Dr Pepper there were four Dr Peppers in the row.  A Pepper hadn't restocked...

Now, I realize that this really isn't a big deal but it's always the little things that irritate and frustrate us the most.  It could well be argued that it is a virtuous thing to restock the fridge because it can keep others from sin (venial sin, to be sure, but sin nonetheless).

It was, then, with some hope that I posted the following sign on the fridge:

We'll see if this works.

You should have seen me holding a can of Dr Pepper to the monitor trying to match the color.