Monday, May 13, 2002

A great journal, with an online presence--Mars Hill Review. Dr. Peter Kreeft says about it--"I find the fiction and literary criticism in Mars Hill Review to be especially valuable... I know of no published Christian equivalent."
America Magazine has devoted an issue to Liturgy (May 6th edition). Among other articles is one on Renewal and Renovation: The Politics and Principles of Liturgical Design. An interesting paragraph in this is the following:

Any attempt to design implies an interpretation of these principles. But the texts can be misused and manipulated to justify almost any design based on personal preference and piety. Pastors must guard against people of various interest groups using the texts in this way. Those texts are meant for instruction and guidance, not for weapons for bludgeoning opponents in liturgical warfare.

Since, I perceived that this was the set-up for the renovation that was being guided by a litugical consultant at my parish, I resigned from the committee on Friday after meeting with the Pastor of the parish and sharing my concerns. The consultant no less than four times lied to those on the committee who weren't knowledgeable enough to question her. I questioned her and each time she backed off of her original claim. But I could see that as far as I was concerned this was going to be nothing but a colossal waste of my time.

Words of Pope John Paul II yesterday, encouraging the use of the internet to spread the Gospel:

The most recent advancements in communications and information have put the Church in front of previously unheard-of possibilities for evangelization. That is why this year I thought to present a very-current theme: "Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel."

We must enter into this modern and every more replete communications network with realism and confidence, convinced that, if it is used with competence and conscientious responsibility, it can offer useful opportunities for spreading the Gospel message.

There is no need, therefore, to worry about "putting out to sea" in the vast informational ocean. One can also reach the heart of men and women of the new millennium through the Good News itself.
My wife Amy has linked the parochial vicar (associate pastor) of the Cathedral in Boston who now has his own blog at From the Middle of the Storm. Here is your chance to get all the inside scoop of what is taking place behind the scenes--if he cares to share it with us.
Two new search engines trying to rival Google (which itself was new not so long ago):

Teoma didn't do anything great when I did several sample searchs. In fact, I was disappointed.

Wisenut has a feature which struck me as an improvement, you can preview the site without actually leaving your search results. This is a definite innovation.
From Fool's Folly a nice reflection:

And whenever I’m feeling helpless in the wake of Bishops who won’t lead and priests who prey upon little ones, I need to remember that the good that I do, my prayers, my suffering, my daily offerings, does help the Body. Every step I take towards holiness is a gift to the Church. Living my own quiet little life, loving the people around me, I can help in a way more powerful and more real than anything I can imagine.

And further down she writes:

These priests who substitute their own enlightened faith for the Catholic faith are not all evil. A few probably knowingly do the devil’s work, Paul Shanly for instance. Most, however, are decent, kind men who truly believe they are doing God’s work. But no matter how nice these men are, if they refuse to accept and teach what the Church teaches, they have no business remaining in the clergy. Through their arrogance and ignorance they are allowing rot to fester in the Body of Christ. I can understand why these men refuse to leave the priesthood, refuse to give up their personal crusades. But what I cannot even begin to fathom is why Rome does not shut them up. Why do they still wear collars? Why?

I wonder if Emily knows how many "good" priests have left because they could no longer put up with the hypocrisy, of the very priests (and bishops) that she writes about, that exists and just got tired of fighting it?

From a reader of this blog, concerning Cardinal Law's novena:

While, certainly, there are nine psalms that could do vastly more powerful service together as a novena in the face of such devastation of spirit, critiquing the elements of this particular novena seems pharisaical (i.e., "God, I thank thee that I am not like other men,extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector").

That many bishops are now undergoing the lash is living evidence the Holy Spirit loves his church beyond our capacity to grasp. The power of it we can't know because ultimately it is a call to holiness the likes of which collectively we've never known. Would that we come to know.

But we will all undergo such as this for our sins, whether in this life or the next. We suffer it even now.

Thank you for publishing the Cardinal's novena.
Day #4 of 9to pray a Cardinal Law's Novena during this period between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost, I will post the prayer for the next nine days, to make it easier for you to join in:

''Almighty and merciful God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you raised Jesus Christ, your Son, from death and filled him with new and abundant life.

''Then, in accordance with your loving plan, you sent the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost, that by his mighty gifts they might be joined to the Risen Lord in his Body, the Church.

''By a fresh outpouring of the Spirit's gifts give new life to the Church in the United States this Pentecost.

''We beg that the Spirit will bring healing to the victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families.

''We pray that the Spirit will warm the hearts of those whose faith has been weakened by this scandal.

''We ask that the Spirit will bestow mercy and repentance on the abusers.

''We earnestly desire that the Spirit will renew and reform the whole Church in the likeness of Christ.

''Fill every member of the Church with holiness so that, working together as the Body of Christ, we might be built up in faith, hope and love in order to proclaim the Gospel with joy.

''We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.''

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 25th step:

(25) Not to make a false peace.

This may catch us by surprise. We might reason, wouldn't some semblance of peace be better than war. But, again if we think about the ramifications of someone who we think is at peace with us but really isn't, we can see how damaging this "show" of peace can be in the long run.

St. Benedict isn't saying that we shouldn't be at peace with everyone, he is telling us not to make a "false" peace with anyone.

We are to be honest, as the previous counsel has instructed us. We are to make peace with our brother or sister that is genuine this step counsels us.

But what if we find ourselves incapable of being at peace with someone?

We must bring our warring heart to God.

People, from a distance, often are amazed at how certain groups of the same people can foster hatred toward one another over so many years. Sometimes it is religious belief (in the case of most religions, it is against the very belief that they fight over) that keeps people enemies. Military might is often used, sometimes by a third party to keep the peace. But as history proves time and again such peace is no peace at all. Soon the parties are warring with one another again often with a conflict that has inflamed while it was dormant.

What then?

If we hold peace with each other as a goal, then we must use every means to achieve that goal. Most of the time peace is achieved by simply acknowledging the others right to exist with dignity and to acknowledge their right to believe differently. What this requires for both parties to reach this goal mutually, is for both of their egos to die.

For the follower of Christ this is not an option.

"Love your enemies." "If they press you to go one mile, go two." "If they strike you on one cheek, offer the other." "Forgive seventy times seven."

Amazing how anyone who follows Christ could ever set out to make anything other than true peace.

Our Lord's parting words to His disciples was, "My peace I give you, not as the world gives do I give." He was probably referring to the fact that at the time (and even today in Israel) that people didn't say "Goodbye" but rather they said "Peace." The Romans said Pax Vobiscum, the Israelites said Shalom.

But did they mean it? It was a convention and very well often was said with no conviction.

Our Lord's peace is not a convention, it is true. We should follow His example and make true peace with all we encounter.

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Happy Mother's Day to my mother who has the great fortune of enjoying this day as every in the beautiful State of Florida. Amy's mother is deceased, please remember her in your prayers today.
Day #3 of 9to pray a Cardinal Law's Novena during this period between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost, I will post the prayer for the next nine days, to make it easier for you to join in:

''Almighty and merciful God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you raised Jesus Christ, your Son, from death and filled him with new and abundant life.

''Then, in accordance with your loving plan, you sent the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost, that by his mighty gifts they might be joined to the Risen Lord in his Body, the Church.

''By a fresh outpouring of the Spirit's gifts give new life to the Church in the United States this Pentecost.

''We beg that the Spirit will bring healing to the victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families.

''We pray that the Spirit will warm the hearts of those whose faith has been weakened by this scandal.

''We ask that the Spirit will bestow mercy and repentance on the abusers.

''We earnestly desire that the Spirit will renew and reform the whole Church in the likeness of Christ.

''Fill every member of the Church with holiness so that, working together as the Body of Christ, we might be built up in faith, hope and love in order to proclaim the Gospel with joy.

''We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.''

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 24th step:

(24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.

Our Lord is the way, the truth and the life. Anything that tempts us toward falseness is not of Him. Again, St. Benedict warns us not even to "entertain" the idea of deceit in our emotions, symbolized by the heart.

Everyone deserves the truth. As Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and it shall set you free."

Unfortunately many people do not believe that the truth is helpful to others. To quote a phrase from the movie A Few Good Men, that was a favorite of students that I once taught Ethics to, "You can't handle the truth," seems to be most people's guiding principle.

Doctors are not honest with patients who come to them expecting honesty. Parents, sometimes keep the truth from their children, leading them to search for it elsewhere. Even bishops now are not known for standing for the truth but rather hiding and trying to conceal it.

The result of such deceit lives with us for years. It destroys our capacity to trust. One can see how it could destroy a tight knit community like a monastery, but we should not let that excuse us.

A meditation on the effects of deceit that we have been on the receiving end might help us to appreciate why as St. Benedict counsels us, we should not even entertain the idea of being that way to anyone.

Everyone deserves the truth. The truth is a good and valuable commodity. Whatever perceived good we might think that hiding the truth from someone might bring, usually back fires.

St. Thomas Aquinas argued that the natural purpose of speech is to communicate the truth. Can you imagine a bird warning of an intruder to another bird , if in fact there is no intruder? A dog barking out lies to another dog?

Yet we humans can abuse this gift of speech that we have at our disposal.

Ultimately, it is a choice to reject God and to make something else a god in our lives. Whatever we feel is more important than telling the truth is what we really believe in. Our reputation, our pride or our sins all can keep us from fulfilling this counsel.

The confessional, then is a good place to begin. Opening our hearts to God and not even entertaining the thought of deceiving Him. As St. Paul says, "God will not be mocked."

God not only can handle the truth about us, He can teach us the truth about ourselves. Something usually hidden from the deceitful person.

Saturday, May 11, 2002

Regarding current info that is making the rounds about Communists infiltration into the seminaries sixty or seventy years ago:

First, I do not doubt that such an enterprise was undertaken--most likely in Catholic countries like those in Latin America and in Europe (places like Poland and Italy). In fact those familar with theological trends would not be surprised that the trends in theology in Latin America attempted to mix Marxism and Christianity (Liberation Theology).

Secondly, the current crisis (involving sexuality and Clinton-Nixon like cover-up) seems incredibly American. It is more likely that we have exported and infiltrated seminaries with our "democratic" views of morality throughout the English speaking world. The relativism that has become popular in American seminaries is often traced back to Josef Fuchs (a German Jesuit priest, who I myself was taught by). Fuchs historically was a parish priest in Germany during World War II. He had the sad tasks of trying to make sense of the hiddeous complicity of the German people in Hitler's war and holocaust. In doing so, he greatly questioned the culpability of people in almost any circumstance. But it was Americans like Charles Curran and Richard McCormack who popularized his views and even took them to new depths in this country. None of these people could hardly qualify as communists-rather than bringing people to work for the good of all--they are largely responsible for just the opposite--the rise and glorification of the individualism (which is hardly compatitlbe with the goals of communism).

A mirror is probably a better instrument to analyze the current crisis in the Catholic Church.
Day #2 of 9to pray a Cardinal Law's Novena during this period between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost, I will post the prayer for the next nine days, to make it easier for you to join in:

''Almighty and merciful God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you raised Jesus Christ, your Son, from death and filled him with new and abundant life.

''Then, in accordance with your loving plan, you sent the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost, that by his mighty gifts they might be joined to the Risen Lord in his Body, the Church.

''By a fresh outpouring of the Spirit's gifts give new life to the Church in the United States this Pentecost.

''We beg that the Spirit will bring healing to the victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families.

''We pray that the Spirit will warm the hearts of those whose faith has been weakened by this scandal.

''We ask that the Spirit will bestow mercy and repentance on the abusers.

''We earnestly desire that the Spirit will renew and reform the whole Church in the likeness of Christ.

''Fill every member of the Church with holiness so that, working together as the Body of Christ, we might be built up in faith, hope and love in order to proclaim the Gospel with joy.

''We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.''

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 23rd step:

(23) Not to foster a desire for revenge.

One of the genius' of St. Benedict's steps is that he teaches the monk to pay attention to what it in his heart. In the previous step it was anger that he counseled we should not give "way to, now it is revenge that we should not "foster a desire" for. If you have been hurt by someone you have a choice how you will respond to that hurt. Our Lord counseled us to forgive, forgive, forgive.

Forgiveness is more than just saying, "I pardon you," to those who hurt us. It also requires an act of the heart that we actually wish the best for our enemy--who may very knowingly and willfully have hurt us.

This usually shocks people.

"Why should I?" "Isn't doing so, making what they did to me right?"

No, in doing so you are not making them or what they did "God" in your life.

Too often we are motivated by anger and desires that have nothing to do with God but everything to do with what other people have done to us. We are not free as a result, but merely puppets of those who have hurt or harmed us in the past.

Not fostering a desire for revenge may seem impossible in some cases--but everytime that we are faced with a task that seems impossible to us--there is a new opening to our great need for God.

That's why these are "steps" toward communion with God, because they make us face our great need for Him at every twist and turn of our lives.

In the same way that "lust" can lead one to commit acts of infidelity--so too in this case fostering a desire for revenge can only lead to the victim becoming the perpetrator of an evil act themselves. Better to cut the growth of something evil at the very roots and "fostering the desire" of something evil is the root of an evil act.

Friday, May 10, 2002

Cardinal Law is calling on all Catholics to pray a Novena during this period between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost, I will post the prayer for the next nine days, to make it easier for you to join in:

''Almighty and merciful God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you raised Jesus Christ, your Son, from death and filled him with new and abundant life.

''Then, in accordance with your loving plan, you sent the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost, that by his mighty gifts they might be joined to the Risen Lord in his Body, the Church.

''By a fresh outpouring of the Spirit's gifts give new life to the Church in the United States this Pentecost.

''We beg that the Spirit will bring healing to the victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families.

''We pray that the Spirit will warm the hearts of those whose faith has been weakened by this scandal.

''We ask that the Spirit will bestow mercy and repentance on the abusers.

''We earnestly desire that the Spirit will renew and reform the whole Church in the likeness of Christ.

''Fill every member of the Church with holiness so that, working together as the Body of Christ, we might be built up in faith, hope and love in order to proclaim the Gospel with joy.

''We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.''

I read this some years ago (in 1979). The book claims to be from 1938 and if that could be proved, I think you would definitely have something to look at very seriously. Anyway I offer for your review:

The Confessions of a Communist Agent On The Attempt to Destroy the Roman Catholic Church from Within

I would say that at the time, I felt it was a creation of someone who didn't like the changes in the church.
From another reader:

The "Spirit of St. Francis" award that was to be awarded to Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman
by St. Francis hospital this Saturday has been rescinded. She is the State (NJ) Democratic Chair...endorsed and funded by Planned
Parenthood.She voted 2 times against Parental notification (a parent would have to be notified before their minor daughter went for an abortion...any adult can take a this girl for an abortion)

This campaign to rescind the award reached a national audience...People were outraged and every relevant office in the Diocese of Trenton received emails, letters and phone calls.

Please continue to pray and ask Our Lady of Victory to intercede in this "battle for the dignity, reverence and respect for Life"
Please pray for Bishop John Smith for courage in every situation...."We love him but we love our Church more"

A special thank-you to the "Annunciations" Web Page. He printed our request and received a national audience Check it out...Great!

Larry Cigniano "Catholics we vote" all the emails and especially... to Fr. Peter West "Priests for Life".. St. Francis was
told by Our Lord "rebuild my Church" they have been told "rebuild the culture of Life" no thank-you's could ever be enough...we'll send prayers.

Remember evil happens when a few good people do nothing! Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say..."in the end God is not going to
ask us if we were successful...He's going to ask us if we tried!"

Good to know that items posted here are having a positive effect elsewhere.
From a reader of this blog..and my new book:

As a Catholic for six years now (former atheist, so I'm relatively new to the religion scene) - what's a poor box? I've never seen one in our Church. We do have a large box for St. Vincent de Paul item donations. And we have approximately quarterly donation envelopes for the same charity. And we have various other diocesan appeals for charities. But the idea of a poor box intrigues me! I like the idea of emptying my pockets for the poor before leaving Church. I would feel very good about that, if that's where the money would actually go.

By the way, thank you so much for your book on Archbishop Sheen! I am enjoying it immensely! Although it does cause me some distress - pondering your meditation questions is not an easy exercise. But the exercise is helping me learn and grow in my faith! Another distress is that the secluded life I lead prevents me from getting to Church as often as I would like. I live in the country, so getting to town more often than Sunday is a bit of a problem (and expense with gas prices these days). But the last time I came in, I made a point to go to our Adoration Chapel and pray the rosary and dwell in His Presence for awhile. I couldn't stay a full hour, because my husband was babysitting our pre-schooler, and really needed to be working. And he is still a bitter non-practicing Catholic, and HATES it that I have converted my heart and soul to Jesus! So I have to be careful (and secretive sometimes) about what I do, and how I do it. I am having to temper my zeal - which is hard, because as one priest put it last Pentecost, "I have the flames of Pentecost in my heart and on my head!" The torment in my heart is suffering I lift up to our Lord for the whole world. So I apologize to you and all that I am not able at this time to make a daily hour, or even a weekly hour to the Adoration Chapel. YET!!!!

You and Amy are so blessed to be able to share your faith with each other. I can't say that I am jealous (St. Benedict's rule: don't covet!), but I do pray that before I die, my husband will join me at the foot of the cross, God willing! (Appeals to Sts. Monica, Augustine and Jude!)

Poor boxes, see post below, are small boxes usually at the entrances of churches marked for the purpose of collecting money for St. Vincent de Paul Societies or the parish to help the poor. You have a clothing box, mention the idea of having a poor box to the pastor.
Thanks for your comments!

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the 22nd step:

(22) Not to give way to anger.

Whenever Christians think of anger, they usually think of Jesus cleaning house in the Temple. If Jesus got angry, then why is anger a bad thing, most reason? I could add a few more scenes from the Gospel. When Jesus' disciples awaken him during a storm, he stills the storm and then reacts in anger--rebuking his disciples for their lack of faith (this should not be lost on anyone who has ever been awaken from a sound sleep--which obviously Jesus was enjoying and is a sign of his deep trust in God). When Jesus confronts the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the religious leaders of the time, he does not refrain from reacting angrily to what they say and do.

So it is obvious that anger has a place in the perfect human life of which Our Lord's is an example. There are times when anger is the right reaction. When we see someone being abused or misled it is appropriate and even holy to be angry--as long as we do something about the anger. It should motivate us to act out in a righteous way.

But "to give way" to anger is another way of saying "to let it fester," or "to let it take over". We do nothing about it, but rather let it eat away at us. We allow it to grow into resentment and skepticism. This is neither healthy nor spiritual.

There is a certain school of spirituality that often counsels us to remain silent. Not to speak out but rather suffer silently. Of course, there is some truth to this and Our Lord's example before Pontius Pilate is an example of when such a practice is right. But there are other times when such silence would be sinful, not spiritual.

The early Christians called their movement not Christianity but "the Way." Jesus had given his followers a new path to walk. This path is a way of truthfulness and life. Reflecting on the previous step, "to prefer nothing to the love of Christ," in this step we reject making "anger" the way.

Anger has a place in creation, it was created by God for a purpose, but it's purpose is not to control us but to motivate us to act.

The imitation of Christ is the sure "way" to making sure that we do not give "way" to anger.
From the Tampa Tribune, another priest who once taught at the school where I once taught. Don't know him, though:

Abuse Charges Against Jesuit Teacher `Credible': From The Tampa Tribune

Thursday, May 09, 2002

Former Notre Dame Head Football Coach, Dan Devine has Died
Pipe Bombs Found in Indiana Mailboxes
Lawyers Argue that Shanley's Bail Should be Reduced
An Acid Cloud is Passing Over Grand Rapids, MI
Mail boxes are exploding in the State of Washington, today!
Janet Reno was involved in a car accident today.
This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the 21st step:

(21) To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

This is without a doubt the most quoted counsel of St. Benedict.

It an excellent guide for the spiritual life-- to prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

One might ask, are we to focus on being loved by Christ or the act of loving Him? I think it is both.

In Mark 10:21 we have the account of the rich young man. The Gospel says that Jesus, " looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

Notice that when Christ loves the rich young man, He points out what the young man lacks. It is out of love, that Jesus tells him to get rid of all his possessions.

Being loved by Christ will reveal similar deficiencies in us.

Our Lord looks upon us and recognizes what we really need. We often come to him with our own ideas about what we need.
If we prefer our ideas to the love of Christ, we too will join the rich young man who walks away sad "for his possessions were many." We may possess the world, but without Christ it is nothing!

In John 8:42, Jesus is engaged in a heated argument with those who oppose him. He says to them "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me."

This takes us back to the first counsel of St. Benedict, to love God. Jesus is God and so we should prefer nothing to God and His love that Jesus has revealed to us perfectly.

How do we know if we truly love Our Lord? He addresses this in John 14:23-24 " "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me."

A concrete way to always prefer the love of Christ throughout the day when faced with countless other choices might be to adopt the phrase that Jesus spoke to Peter and to hear it addressed to ourselves--continuously: "Do you love me more than these? (John 21:15)"
Catholic Light (not Catholic Lite) is a very entertaining blog. I especially like his meditation on the size of poor boxes in churches:

My wife had an observation as we left choir rehearsal last night - "Why are the poor boxes here so dinky? You can hardly fit a folded dollar bill in the slot. At St. Mary's in old town, the poor boxes were huge! People were emptying their pockets as they walked out of the church. Our poor boxes look like the brick walls so you can't even see them." and she ended with the Lay Person's Call To Action: "I'm going to write the pastor a letter!"

She's right. The poor boxes at our church look like little bricks. It's certainly not a reminder of our responsibility. And it's particularly fitting the we have options for directed giving that might not necessarily end up applied toward legal fees or court settlements.

From this site:

"Was not Nagasaki the chosen victim," Nagai writes in Bells of Nagasaki, "the lamb without blemish, slain as a whole-burnt offering on an altar of sacrifice, atoning for the sins of all the nations during World War II?"
The Florida Marlins are in first place in the National League East!

Florida 18 15 .545 ---
NY Mets 18 15 .545 ---
Montreal 17 16 .515 1
Atlanta 16 18 .471 2 1/2
Philadelphia 14 19 .424 4
I watched A Hill of Redemption last night on EWTN--a description from the Catholic Treasures site:

This professionally produced video presents not only Our Lady's warning to the world of a coming chastisement, but a complete overview of Japan's Catholic heritage from the missionary activity of St. Francis Xavier through the 200 year persecution and banishment of Catholicism, the work of St. Maximilian Kolbe in the 1930's, and the atomic destruction during World War II of the largest Catholic community in the country. All the main participants in the church approved Marian messages at Akita are on this video, including the Bishop for Akita. English narration with some segments in Japanese with English subtitles.

I fell asleep before the warning of the world wide chastisement so I can't comment on that, but what struck me was talk that Catholic survivors of the the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki saw it as a sacrificial offering that they offered to end the war. I'd like to find a more coherent presentation of this (more coherent then what I remember).

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

More thanks for linking:

The Goliard Blog:Your destination for deep thoughts and alleged insights Kevin James gives us a glimpse of Catholicism in Atlanta. GA
Thanks for the link...

It's a Mystery: Faith Fantasy and Fact James Wood, describes his blog as the latest news from a loud-mouthed schnook, still Catholic after all these years.

Lethargic IITian, the musings of a 20-something lethargic IITian on India, secularism, chess, Catholicism and (occassionally) technology and life.

Welcome, to my international blog!

I often think of this blog as something that people in the United States and a few in Canada read, but alas this is an international blog. This morning I had a letter from Dr. (Father) Emmanuel Gonzalez, who teaches at Strathmore College in Nairobi, Kenya. He has heard one audio tape of Bishop Sheen and would like to know where he can find more. The answer is here--->Keep the Faith Inc.

In the past week, people from Australia, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Spain, Japan, Portugal, Italy, New Zealand, Mexico, Vatican, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Iceland and Kenya have all visited this site.

My cousin Robin, from Vermont wrote me a nice letter today, telling me that she reads this blog. Among other things, she wonders how I have so much time to write all this stuff. The secret, Robin is this--I have a book that was due to the publisher five and half months ago--everytime I think about it, I write more here.
It is sad to see that only 8% of you visited Nancy Nall's site yesterday. She has her take on my post here, plus the whole blogging business in general. I think next to my wife's site, hers is one of the most entertaining. Pay her a visit.
My wife, Amy has uncovered the Anti-Christ in her blog today. God knows how she came across this, but evidently one of the brand names that Coca Cola (I'm a lifetime fan) has branded in Jesus. Now we know that Coke invented the comercialized version of St. Nicholas that we all are presented with each Christmas. What do they have in mind for the Son of God? Will we see posters of Jesus riding an ass into Jerusalem slurping a Coke as his adoring fans let go of their palm branches?
This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the twentieth step:

(20) To hold one's self aloof from worldly ways.

If you are like me, you can readily come up with a list of what "worldly ways" means, but too often this list have very little to do with what most spiritual masters mean when they use the term.

St. Benedict, again is writing these counsels for monks. Monks take a vow of obedience to an abbot. The abbot, a term that could be translated "father", watches over the monks and assigns them various tasks for the good of the monastery.

About a year ago, I visited a monastery where the abbot invited me to join the monks for dinner. During the meal taken in silence, while a monk read from one of the Fathers of the Church, several monks had to kneel in front of the abbot's table. They were being punished for some infraction of the rule that they had committed during the day (one monk told me that he had forgotten to put his napkin back in its holder).

As I sat there, in my forties, and witnessed the grown men who were around sixty years old, I momentarily thought of the ways of the world and how foolish this all seemed. But then, I remembered the counsel of Our Lord, "Unless you become like a child, you can not enter the Kingdom of God."

All of us must be like children in God's kingdom. Worldly ways might best be defined as acting in a way of a "self made man."

There is a story of a man's employer coming to the man's home for dinner one night. The employer was brash, rude and made inappropriate comments throughout the meal. All the while the young son of the employee stared at the man. Finally, the boy spoke, "my dad says that you are a self-made man."

The employer beaming, said, "Well, yes son I am."

"Why did you make yourself so bad?" The young boy asked.

Keeping aloof of worldly ways, means leaving behind any notion that we are ultimately in charge of our lives. It requires total surrender to God.

Jesus lays out the best commentary for this counsel in Matthew's Gospel, "do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and body more than clothing?…So I do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil, (Matthew 6:25, 31-34)."

I like to carry the image of those monks, all dressed in black, sitting and silently eating and drinking while they listen to someone proclaim the Kingdom of God to them, as I go about my dealings everyday--never allowing myself to be drawn away from our true purpose here.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

For those of you who have stumbled on this site unwittingly and wonder what the heck a blog is, check out Jennifer Balderama column on CNET which gives a pretty good explanation of the whole phenomena. She has her own blog called Nonsense Verse here.
I also notice that I do not have a link to Eve Tushnet, who is very gracious toward my posts. Here is a link to her excellent site.
I noticed that I do not have a link on the side to an excellent Catholic blog--Zounds. Well here it is and it will soon appear on the side column too.
A tragedy in our neighborhood occured yesterday, a mother evidently strangled her three month old child. Nancy Nall has a few details, she lives a little closer to the situation, than we do, and has a few of the details from the media coverage angle. You'll have to scroll down from the hilarious quote of Ozzy Osbourne, down from the story of a colleague of Nancy who has gained weight but only in her breasts and forgets to wear bloomers to parties, and above the piece about the coifing of pubic hair, which is above the piece about gay men and their fascination with retro vacuum cleaners and toasters. But trust me the story is there.
This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the ninteenth step:

(19) To console the sorrowing.

Those who sorrow at the loss of a loved one can often seem inconsolable. In fact the Scripture passage related to the slaughter of the innocents comes to mind, "A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more (Matthew 2:18)."

It is important to remember that death is not part of God's original plan. When God creates Adam and Eve, he warns them not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or they will die. Death, is the result of original sin and indeed there is nothing that could console Rachel at her loss when the knowledge that death was eternal separation.

But for the Christian--there is Christ!

Death no longer is the final word. Jesus has overcome death and has opened up the possibility that all of us, if we believe in him, can share in his resurrection. The key, it would seem then to consoling the sorrowing, would be to remind them of the fruit of salvation and to point them to the mercy of God.

Yet having been there, many times, during the sad losses that people suffer--this is seldom the case. Instead, what usually occurs is the arrival of many well meaning people who announce loudly that it was God's will that the child or adult die.

It is never God's will that anyone die! Death entered the world because of sin-separation from God. God desires the salvation of all people. The angel of death that passes over the Egyptians is not a "good" angel but one who reaps the evil crop that had been sown by the Egyptians in the Book of Exodus.

Francis MacNutt and his wife Judith once presented a more accurate picture of God's place in someone's death. Speaking of how to console a sorrowful mother who has lost her child, they counseled the consoler speaking the following truth, "Death has taken your child, but God will take your child from death!"

To console, we need faith. Faith that in Christ, death is not the end.

Old churches still show forth the truth of the communion of saints, those who have died but are still very much alive and present. Most people intuitively grasp that their loved one is still alive, though not physically present. To console is to bring God's truth to the situation, God's message of salvation to the horror of a world steeped in sin.

Monday, May 06, 2002

How Not to Lose Your Faith During the Present Crisis

The items that are filling the newspapers daily now, are the same items that I had to deal with daily almost twenty years ago when I was involved in the daily life of the church. I came very close to losing my faith. I contemplated joining the Orthodox Church among other things, but ultimately through a very trying period, that tested the very core of everything that I had been taught and believed--I have remained a Roman Catholic.

Now, it is like reliving a nightmare, only everyone is in on it this time. I would like to share some points to contemplate on if you, like me, find yourself at a loss in the present situation in the Church. None of them by themself will convince you to stay, but I think if you try most of them you'll find that God has a mission for you; to rebuild and to enliven the Church, that as St. Francis was told years ago by Christ, is falling into ruin.

(1) Do not deny that there is a problem

This is the usually the first sign that someone is losing their faith, when they can't face reality. They want to make believe problems either don't exist or are being made up. Sort of like the famous scene in the Gospels where Peter says after the crucifixion, "I'm going fishing".

Whenever I post anything unpopular on here (like the sins of a founder of a conservative order or the reported homosexuality of a famous bishop), I receive a lot of email from angry readers. Why are they angry? Because they cannot believe that so and so might have sinned and sinned seriously.

Reflect on this:

If we say, "We are free of the guilt of sin," we deceive ourselves; the truth is not to be found in us. But if we acknowledge our sins, he who is just can be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us of every wrong. If we say, "We have never sinned," we make him a liar and his word finds no place in us. 1 John 9-10

We can apply this passage to ourselves, everyone else in the church and indeed the Body of Christ (the Church-minus the head of the Church--Jesus and of course his mother Mary).

We deceive ourselves if we think of anyone besides Christ as sinless and often reveal something of idol worship in the process.

The true apostles whose sins are for all to see in the Gospels, did not for a minute allow the early church to worship them when they carried the healing power of Jesus with them. They reminded the people that they were mortal men just like the rest.

We must remind ourselves that there is only one God and that the founder of a religious order or bishop is not him. Many of the leaders of the Church need to be reminded of that too and not allow people to worship or pay them undue respect which is the command of Christ himself in the Gospel.

Have you worshipped an individual within the church in the past? Has your faith been shaken in that individual? Good--there is one God, him alone shall you worship!

(2) Read the Gospel of Mark

We have a tendency to think of the early Church as a pristine time when everyone believed and their were no problems. Although we may accept the fact that among Jesus' followers there was a traitor--Judas, we often forget how frustrated Jesus was with his Apostles. If it was that way when he was with them physically, why should we expect perfection from the successors to the Apostles today?

The Gospel of Mark brings out the deficiencies of the Apostles in a remarkable way.

Traditionally it has been held that the author of Mark's Gospel was John Mark, who first accompanied Paul and Barnabas, but left them during one of their missionary journeys. Later when John Mark wished to return to the ministry, Paul forbade him. Paul and Barnabas had a falling out over this and tradition has it that John Mark ended up with the Apostle Peter, and served as the Galilean fisherman's interpreter on his journeys. The Gospel of Mark, is then thought to be Peter's remembrance of Jesus' interaction with the Apostles, and has the marks of someone who had failed his Lord at the crucial moment and remembered well that this was not a solitary occurence.

The Gospel of Mark is short and in it we see the Lord who is frustrated time and again with the lack of faith and understanding that he encounters from those closest to him:

(3) Pray Psalm 73

The psalms are prayers that are experiential. They bless and curse, express faith and doubt. They were prayed by Jesus (and are often quoted by Him in the Gospels). Psalm 73 puts everything in perspective, it paints the picture of the world we see but then brings us into the Sanctuary of God's presence and reminds us of the real situation. It is easy to be distracted by the apparent success of the sinful--praying Psalm 73 reminds us to keep the end in mind, when the present seems bleak.

Truly God is good to the upright,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had well nigh slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant,
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pangs;
their bodies are sound and sleek.
They are not in trouble as other men are;
they are not stricken like other men.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out with fatness,
their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.

Therefore the people turn and praise them;
and find no fault in them.
And they say, "How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?"
Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken,
and chastened every morning.

If I had said, "I will speak thus,"
I would have been untrue to the generation of thy children.
But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I perceived their end.
Truly thou dost set them in slippery places;
thou dost make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
They are like a dream when one awakes,
on awaking you despise their phantoms.

When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was stupid and ignorant,
I was like a beast toward thee.
Nevertheless I am continually with thee;
thou dost hold my right hand.
Thou dost guide me with thy counsel,
and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but thee?
And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

For lo, those who are far from thee shall perish;
thou dost put an end to those who are false to thee.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all thy works.

(4) Visit a Catholic Church

Step into the Church at a time when nothing is going on, when you can sit in silence; just you and Our Lord in the Eucharist. Pour out your heart to him, and then sit and listen.

Bishop Sheen once commented, that most of the conversion he was credited with, came about from the practice of pointing people (non-Christians and former Christians) to this practice.

I have a close friend who was born in Jerusalem, and later studied to be a rabbi in Brazil. While engaged in rabbinical studies, he became interested with what he heard from some Christian fundamentalists, that he encountered in the streets of San Paulo, one day. Considering himself a searcher for the truth, he walked into the first Christian Church that he came across on his way home. It happened to be a Catholic Church.

Walking in, he told me, he encountered a huge crucifix. He went up to the front of the church and standing in front of the crucifix he looked up at the image of the crucified Jesus and said, "If it is true, that you are the messiah, tell me."

"What did he tell you?" I would ask my Jewish friend and always receive the same response, from my friend who now is a Catholic priest--"Well, I'm here now."

This same friend who experienced total alienation from his family and friends to follow Jesus, joined the Catholic Church because of what he heard that day alone with Jesus in the Church.

Once when I asked him about the Catholic Church in Brazil, where it was highly rumored that priests openly lived with women and some were even openly married, he replied, "Yes, what you say is true, but in Brazil they say of the United States that the priest live with men."

Neither of these experiences dissuaded my friend, who endured many hardships from within and without the Church before being ordained a priest. His faith was based on the answer God had given him to a simple question and nothing else mattered.

Take your doubts with you into the presence of God and let him answer them.

(5) Practice the Prayer "God Alone"

On the right hand column of this blog is a picture of the entrance to the cloister of Gethsemane, most known by people in this country for having been the monastery where Thomas Merton was a monk. Over the gate are simple words that the monk would encounter as he makes his way into the cloister. They are also words, that the visitor to the chapel also encounters.

They have left a mark in my consciousness. In my better moments they haunt me. It is a good thing.

Too often we create idols that interfere with our worship of God. Often these idols come crashing down around us. Jesus told the rich young man that the greatest commandment was to, "Love God with your whole heart, mind and soul." The rich young man went away sad, because his "possessions" were many.

Our possessions, the things that we either possess or possess us can keep us from God. All it takes is a blow to our health, the suffer of some financial loss, or some other malady to befall us for us to be faced with the truth of which they all are for us--items we own or are owned by.

The practice of keeping "God Alone" always before us, can keep us focused on what really matters. It can help us to treat our fellow human beings with the dignity that they deserve, it can help us to see meaning in what other wise seem meaningless events.

If we focus on the strength of the winds, the enormity of our problems we will sink. If we focus on "God Alone" nothing can defeat us.

(6) Let Go of Your Plan for the Church

In the midst of the current crisis, everyone has a plan. In fact most of us always have a plan for how to make the Church, heaven on earth. Let go of it...

The disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) had just witnessed the crucifixion and now on the third day they had also heard of an empty tomb and the presence of angels. All of this disturbed them a great deal, to such a degree that when the Risen Lord, who they mourned, joined them on the road they did not recognize him.

When they told him what they were discussing, he opened the Scriptures up to them, and told them that all of these things that they had witnessed "had to happen".

Most of us suffer a crisis of faith because we believe just the opposite that "things didn't have to be that way." Jesus comes to us as a stranger in the midst of our lives and tells us just the opposite.

It had to be.

If for a second, you and I stop and think about that, applying it to our lives as they have been lived up to now, how does it make us feel?

Do we not want to protest, no it should have been otherwise?

But it was not and is no other way, than what it has been. Can God save us?

Remember the story of Joseph in Genesis. Joseph has a dream. The dream leads to his persecution. He is sold into slavery. He is falsely accused. He is sent to prison. He is there when two of Pharaoh's servants are arrested. He interprets their dreams. The one who lives some years later remembers the Hebrew slave in prison who interpreted his dream. Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dream correctly. Pharaoh makes Joseph master over his house. Joseph's brothers are sent to Egypt by their father during the famine. Soon his family is reunited. At the end of the story the brothers tell Joseph that their father told them to tell Joseph to forgive them for what they had done to him. He says, "Who am I God? What you did to me you meant for evil, but God meant it for good--for the salvation of the many."

Many people do evil things, but God is all powerful. He can give life to those whose lives are taken from them by evil people. He can bring healing to those who are sinned against.

The lesson for the disciples on the road to Emmaus and the lesson of Joseph in Genesis is to trust in God's plan.

(7) Listen to Talks Given by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

This may seem like a strange suggestion. But actually it was what prompted me to write this piece in the first place. I believe that Bishop Sheen suffered exactly what we all are suffering from now and in fact saw his whole career in the church destroyed by it.

Late in his life, Archbishop Sheen often spoke of ten years of intense suffering, that he endured that greatly tested his faith. During that time he wrote the Life of Christ, reflecting on the life of Jesus, the betrayal of the apostles--helped him to endure this suffering.

Thomas Reeves alludes to this period of suffering in his excellent biography of Fulton Sheen entitled America's Bishop. He relates that suffering that Sheen so often referred to had to do with the bishop's relationship with Cardinal Spellman. Reeves claims that the correspondence between the two was originally proposed by Fulton J. Sheen to be placed in his archives in Rochester, NY. Some on the staff who saw the correspondence did not think this wise because they feared lawsuits arising from the correspondence.

The correspondence, Reeves says, disappeared after that. His attempts to locate the letters were not fruitful. The best that he could determine was that they are in the Vatican and inaccessible to all. Reeves concludes that the correspondence includes fiery letters between two very proud men.

I would reason that "pride" would hardly merit a trip to the Vatican archives. In fact even the questionable financial practices of Cardinal Spellman would not rise to that level of secrecy.

I believe, as has already been reported in the New York Press, that Cardinal Spellman's flagrant homosexuality was the source of all the tension between the two powerful men. I also believe, that this will become even more apparent when Father Paul Shanley goes to trial and reveals that he was abused by Spellman while a seminarian in Boston. (You may recall that it has earlier been reported that Shanley claimed that he had been molested by one of the predecessors of Law or O'Connor--Spellman, a Boston native, would seem the likely candidate).

Sheen, no doubt horrified by what he witnessed of Spellman wanted him to either resign or be removed.

During their lifetime, Spellman won and Sheen ultimately was banished to Rochester, NY.

Several months before his death when Pope John Paul II embraced Sheen in St. Patrick's Cathedral, he praised Sheen for being a "loyal son" of the church.

How come he never spoke out? Why did he stay at a time when everyone was leaving?

The answer is everywhere in the talks that he gave during the last ten years of his life.

Listen to them. Most of them are available in Catholic Bookstores or from Keep the Faith, Inc online.

Bad priests are talked about frequently. They are a reality. Sheen lays out a recipe for not being like them:

Grow closer to Christ.

Make a holy hour everyday. Read the Scriptures. Pray.

This is advice for all of us. The church is changed as we become the good wheat growing amidst the tares.

We need a Fulton Sheen today, to speak out for the truth, but isn't it interesting that if I'm right (and I'm pretty sure that I am) that once the Pope didn't act on Sheen's advice that Sheen suffered quietly and refocused on what his mission in the Church was.

This is what we should do too. But listen to him. Pray that his cause may be furthered, we could use a Saint Fulton J. Sheen! And on that day it will be Sheen who truly won! May we join him!

(8) Meditate on the Work of the Enemy in the Church

Since the devil is hardly ever discussed in the Church, it should not surprise us that we find it so hard to explain blatant evil that exists, when faced with it, as we are in the present situation.

Read the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat in Matthew's Gospel, Chapter13:24-30.

Notice that in Jesus' parable that the Kingdom of Heaven is not exempt from the work of the evil one. As the farmer sows good seed, the enemy sows bad. Both are allowed to grow side by side until the harvest. Contrary to our expectations the master (God) does not have his slaves go out and rip the bad from the good--out of concern for the good. In the end though the bad will suffer eternal fire.

There are two reasons it is good to meditate on this parable. One, it shows that Jesus from the very start knew that the good that he would do, would be matched by the evil that would be worked from within. Secondly, it counsels us to be patient and turn again to God who will take care of them in good time.

We must believe in God and avoid the temptation to search for him elsewhere.

More to come...
This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the eigthteenth step:

(18) To help in trouble.

St. Benedict counsels us to be “helpers” something that no doubt was implanted in most of us from our youth. How can we best help others and what might keep us from reaching out to others?

When Our Lord was thirsty he asked the woman at the well for a drink. Jesus needed help. The woman rather than just giving him a drink gave him a lot of excuses. First it was racial—“You’re a Jew.”

Funny how little our reasons for not helping others changes. Our excuse might be, “You’re not family” or “You’re not Catholic” or “You’re not American” or “You’re not the same race as I.”

If God is “Our Father” who is not our brother and sister?

Saint Benedict’s counsel is simple and indeed it is the Gospel message that we are to help those in trouble. If we use excuses as a buffer to exonerate us from our duty then we risk missing out with an encounter with Our Lord who comes to us often in the guise of the poor.

The Samaritan woman’s excuse, might have kept her from meeting Jesus, had Our Lord not persisted in his desire. If our desire is to help those in need, we will not miss meeting Our Lord throughout the day.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

I am working on How Not to Lose Your Faith During the Present Crisis, I will post part of it later today.

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the seventeenth step:

(17) To bury the dead.

The most vivid memories I have of monastic life are actually those dealing with how the dead our buried. I have witnessed these events at several types of monasteries and while the particulars differ, they all share the common denominator of being terribly comfortable with a dead body.

I remember visiting a Trappist Monastery with a friend once who had never witnessed a dead body before. Somehow she had spent over 40 years on this earth without ever having been to a funeral or grave site. Protected from death by her parents, she had not bothered to confront it as an adult either. Until the fateful day when she stumbled upon it, on a visit for Evening Prayer at the monastery. Talk about shock therapy!

We were sitting toward the back of the Abbey Church with the rest of the non-monks. The monks themselves were gathered at the door awaiting the arrival of the body of their brother monk. Upon its arrival it was placed on a flat surface (no coffin) and brought forward a few feet, with the help of several feeble monks to stop a few inches from where my friend and I stood.

The pallor of the dead body, its lifeless shell spoke of the finality of the event. I’m sure my friend still wakes up in the middle of the night with the vision of that moment.

I had seen death many times before. I had even been blessed to be with several people at the moment of death, hearing their last breath escape, watching their eyes go up and out their head, giving me an understanding of why the ancients believed that the soul came in from the top of the head and when it left a body escaped from the same portal.

In some ways the moment of death can be likened to something of a whimper. It seldom is the drawn out affair of the actor who tries by their exaggerations to communicate the tragedy of what is unfolding. While birth may take hours, death often needs only the hundredth of a second.

The Trappist bury their dead by dumping the body into a grave and throwing some lime over the corpse to aid in the decaying process. The Benedictines that I have known, use a simple pine box. Both end their funeral rites by individually throwing dirt either onto the corpse or coffin—thereby fulfilling this counsel of St. Benedict to bury the dead.

Two images come to mind. The first of my friend who for over forty years had never witnessed a dead body. The second of the monks throwing dirt on the remains of their dead brother. I wonder what is the effect on both.

My friend is symbolic of those who in our present culture seek to keep death at a distance. Someone dies, we cremate the body and someone scatters ashes in the same way that a past generation might have emptied an ashtray.

This same culture visualizes death constantly in its movies and music. It seems that if we do not bury the dead that the effect on us is that we will endlessly be haunted by them.

The monks are not haunted by the dead but they are not abandoned by them either. They see in the brother who has passed from this life leaving behind the shell of their body and example. It reminds them of their purpose and the shortness of the opportunity to fulfill this purpose. They are reminded by death that ultimately all that matters is God!

Burying the dead may be as simple as attending the funerals of our friends and families. Praying for them and asking their prayers. The uneasiness that we feel is due to the inner knowledge that this to will be our end but like every unpleasant truth in life we can either face it or try to ignore it.

If we face it, we will prepare for it. If we ignore it we will be haunted by it. Burying the dead will help to put the ghosts to rest, while at the same time allowing the saints to intercede for us

Saturday, May 04, 2002

From St. Augustine:

The season before Easter signifies the troubles in which we live here and now, while the time after Easter which we are celebrating at the present signifies the happiness that will be ours in the future.

From the Office of Readings for today.

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the sixteenth step:

(16) To visit the sick (cf Mt 25:36).

The difficulty in visiting the sick is usually not their illness but rather something within ourselves that likes to hide from our own mortality. The sick too often remind us of the shortness of our own life and the transitory nature of our pilgrimage on this earth.

I remember as a young man that I would visit a young woman in a nursing home and bring her communion once a week. She was a few years older than I was at the time but was dying of terminal cancer. All of her hair had been shaved and she often wore a wig to hide the fact.

At first the smells of the nursing home and the lingering feeling of death, made the short trip to the nursing home a very difficult one for me to make. I would often speak to the young woman, whose name was Pearl, about the possibility of healing etc.—I realized all of which made me feel better—she just brushed off these comments.

Our conversations were often one sided even though we spoke to each other. She confessed that until she had been ill that she had not thought much about God, and claimed to have been a magnificent sinner. Once she even pulled out a photo of her before the cancer, only a few years before, that showed a vivacious beautiful woman laughing with her friends. Now clutching a crucifix, her constant companion in her bed of pain she smiled and said that she had accepted death.

I will never be able to measure the effect that my weekly visits with Pearl have had on my life or for that matter what continued influence she has on my life even now. Only in Heaven can I hope for a true accounting of this. But I do know that the image of her in her bed of pain clutching that crucifix remains with me even now. Like a mirror held up to the moments of my life—each event is measured by how well I use my time here.

I have visited the sick many times in my life, usually out of obligation. The reluctance, and hesitation to set out on those journeys remains. It seems that we are reluctant to meet a side of the other that we fear to meet within ourselves. We fear seeing ourselves as we really are.

Visiting the sick is a holy activity. We should bring the healing of Christ to those who are ill, and we should commend them to our prayers, as well as asking their prayers.

When I left to go to school, Pearl often wrote to me in the months before she died. She called me her “angel,” saying that I often appeared to her by her bedside. The fact was that she was my angel, a messenger from God pointing to the truth of the fleeting nature of this life and to the crucifix that she clutched to like a life preserver, to the Savior who has the power to save us

Friday, May 03, 2002


The Roman Catholic Faithful have been reporting on these abuses for years. They have tons of material on their website, if you've never been there, it is worth a visit. They are also publishing a book entitled: The U.S. Bishops, Pedophile Scandals and the Homosexual Agenda, by Paul Likoudis.
Prayer of Brother Roger of Taizé

Breath of Christs loving, Holy Spirit,
in the depths of our soul you set faith.
It is like a burst of trusting repeated countless
times in the course of our life.
It can only be a simple act of trust,
so simple that all can welcome it.
Today is the Feast of St. Philip and James. I once visited the ruins of an ancient church dedicated to St. Philip in Heiropolis,Turkey. It was the spot where both St. Philip and his daughter were martyed. It was close to where the ancient church of Laodicea (see Revelation 3:14) was located. Here is a description of the church:

This martyrion, located outside the city wall, is an imposing octagonal building dating to the late 4th or early 5th century. It is built on a square measuring 20 by 20 meters. This monument-tomb was erected in honor of St Philip, who is believed to have been martyred in Hierapolis. After Christianity became the state religion, the site of the saint's martyrdom became a place of pilgrimage. The actual grave of St Philip has not yet been discovered.
This is interesting to me, only because Amy was wondering out loud last night, why certain priests she has know who were obviously homosexual (and seemed generally uninterested in God) would be attracted to the priesthood. Mark Jordan offers his opinion in the Boston Globe today:

What makes the Catholic priesthood or religious life so attractive to gay men? Why makes it easy for them to ''dominate'' in it?

The beginning of an answer is that the Catholic Church is and has long been both loudly homophobic and intensely homoerotic. Our public discussions of priestly sexuality won't make any progress until we can begin to talk about the homoeroticism written into Catholic imagination and its institutions.

Gay friends who are not Catholic often ask how a gay man can remain in the church, which is, as they see it, one of the most dangerous enemies of gay civil rights in the United States. The puzzle is worse than they think. Some of us don't have the excuse of being born Catholic: Like myself, we converted. We were drawn to the church as much through our sexual orientation as through any other natural disposition.

Converts or cradle Catholics, many gay believers further feel a strong calling to priesthood or religious life. The call doesn't seem to deny same-sex desires; it seems instead to complete them. A vocation to the celibate, all-male priesthood is a grace. It is also a call to act out your manhood against social expectations, outside heterosexual marriage and in the company of other unmarried men.

So I tell my friends that my sense of vocation to religious life gave me my first gay identity. Pious young men struggling with homoerotic desires are still attracted to seminaries and religious houses of study. Why? Because they are promised an exchange of their ''disordered'' identity as outsiders for a respected and powerful identity as an insider. Because they want to remain in the beautiful, sexually ambiguous space of the liturgy. Because they are drawn to public celebration of suffering that redeems. Because they want to live in as gay a world as the Catholic Church offers.
This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the fifteenth step:

(15) To clothe the naked...

For some reason the first thing that comes to mind when confronted with this counsel of St. Benedict is something that I read some years ago in a work by Peter Brown in a book entitled The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity -a book that among other things, looks at early Christianity’s view of the body. Brown speculates that the Church’s view of modesty in the Roman World is colored by the fact that nudity was the privilege of the wealthy.

Another thought that comes to mind, is the way in which Baptisms were done in the early church. The catechumen would strip naked leaving the clothing they entered the church with behind, as they entered the Baptismal pool and then as they emerged from the waters and had oil poured over their heads, they would be clothed in a new garment.

The young man in Mark’s Gospel (Mk 14:52) who fleas the scene of the arrest of Jesus naked, is another image that comes to mind. Whereas the apostles had left everything to follow Jesus, now at the crucial moment of decision this young man (thought by some to be the writer of the Gospel--Mark) leaves everything behind to get away from Jesus.

But it could be that this young man’s presence in the Gospel is also an indication of the early Church’s Baptismal practice. When you understand how Baptisms were done, and also what entering the waters of Baptism symbolizes (entering into the Death and Resurrection of Jesus) you will see the connection between the young man leaving his clothes behind and then reappearing after the Passion in the Empty Tomb, (in place of the Angels who are there the other Gospels).

I have worked in a clothing closet before. Handing out clothing to the homeless. They would come in on Saturday mornings about 30 minutes before the soup kitchen would start serving food and would tell you what they needed.

“I need a shirt, extra large. Something in dark colors.”

I would go to the rack of men’s clothing and look for something that fit that description. Often the item would be an expensive shirt donated by someone who no longer felt it fashionable enough for their taste. Hardly ever was the clothing in any form of disrepair.

The poor man would usually snatch the piece of clothing from my hand and look at it before grunting and moving onward toward the kitchen. Some would thank me, many would avoid looking at me in the eye—embarrassed, only once did someone ask for the shirt that I was wearing—which I wish I could say that I had given to them.

None of the people I handed clothing to were ever naked.

So who are these “naked” that we are to clothe?

Are they the rich who in their warmth, security and pleasure filled lives, find in their nudity a way to recreate Eden without God?

Are they the unbaptized, who we are to offer the mantle of salvation?

Are they the poor who need material clothing to survive?

I believe they are all three. To often we neglect the person in our midst, because our focus is on someone not present. Good works are always to be done to the person who is in our midst. Everyone needs Christ and in judgment scene of the Gospel (Matthew 25), everyone is somehow Christ. We dare not let him pass by, without offering him the shirt off our back

Thursday, May 02, 2002


Sean and Cindy Gallagher have a new baby boy, born yesterday afternoon.

From a talk given by Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. about a month ago in Yonkers concerning the present crisis:

Does this shake your faith in the Church? I hope so, because ultimately your faith should not be in the Church, ultimately. Ultimately our faith is in Jesus Christ, and we accept the Church. We support the Church. We belong to the Church because Christ established the Church.

Somebody who belongs to the Church as a big organization, as a great philanthropic thing or the great social catalyst or whatever else you want to think, they’re going to be badly shaken. They may get out.

But we belong to the Church as the crucified body of Jesus Christ. If the Church is the body of Christ, don’t be surprised that it’s crucified. Don’t be surprised that it’s dragged through the streets and spat upon and wounded and crowned with thorns. That’s what’s going on right now.

The Church is the body of Christ, and when you love the Church, you should love it as the body of Christ.

Our dear Holy Father on Good Friday wrote this: “In the acute pain of the suffering servant, we hear already the triumphant cry of the risen Lord.” Christ on the cross is the King of the new people, ransom from the burden of sin and death, however twisted and confused the course of history may appear. We know that by walking in the footsteps of the crucified we shall attain to that goal. Amid the conflicts of a world dominated by selfishness and hatred, we as believers are called to proclaim the victory of love. Today, Good Friday, we testify to the victory of Christ crucified.

Not so long ago, the Catholic Church seemed to be very triumphant. I lived through those days at the end of the council. The Church seemed to be very powerful, and I’ve lived to see the mystical body of Christ crucified, betrayed, attacked, abandoned by the frightened apostles. And we’re all part of it. We’re all part of it. Don’t ever exempt yourself. I reproach myself every day that unwittingly I went along and stupidly I got involved in things that ultimately did not serve the Church or Christ so well.

Turn to Christ.

Places to leave prayer intentions (so that others will pray for you or your intention too) online:

Taize Community or email prayer intentions

Little Flower Society-- Prayer Intentions

St. Anthony Messenger Site--Prayer Intentions

Monastery of the Holy Spirit-- Prayer Requests

Holy Resurrection Monastery--(scroll down) Prayer Intentions

Leave an intention here and the good deacon will forward it to three:

Carmelite Monastery of Our Lady and St. Joseph in Pittsford, NY

Dominican Monastery of Mary the Queen in Elmira, NY

Abbey of the Genesee (Trappist) in Piffard, NY

Thanks to My Virtual Oratory for linking me.
Pope John Paul II has released an Apostolic Letter today entitled MISERICORDIA DEI (The Mercy of God) ON CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE CELEBRATION OF THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE. A definition of "salvation" is given in the first lines:

Salvation is therefore and above all redemption from sin, which hinders friendship with God, a liberation from the state of slavery in which man finds himself ever since he succumbed to the temptation of the Evil One and lost the freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21).

The purpose of the Apostolic Letter:

With these words, I intended, as I do now, to encourage my Brother Bishops and earnestly appeal to them – and, through them, to all priests – to undertake a vigorous revitalization of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is a requirement of genuine charity and true pastoral justice,(5) and we should remember that the faithful, when they have the proper interior dispositions, have the right to receive personally the sacramental gift.

The principle teaching of the letter seems to be--making the sacrament of reconciliation more available, making general absolution less likely, and refusing absolution to "habitual sinners" (see my post below about 'retaining sins'):

It is clear that penitents living in a habitual state of serious sin and who do not intend to change their situation cannot validly receive absolution.
Who moved my "school?"

When Father Matthew Siekierski, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in La Plata, was returning home April 28 and could not see the parish school in the dark, he thought to himself, "Where is my school?" Then he saw most of it -- lying on the ground.

Earlier that evening, around 7 p.m., a deadly tornado ripped through southern Maryland, leaving a trail of destruction in the town of La Plata. It killed three people, injured dozens of others and left Sacred Heart's Archbishop Neale Elementary School seriously damaged.

Many of the school's walls were torn from the building, and roofing and other debris were scattered throughout the classrooms. The twister slammed against the school and then hit its child-care center, leveling it to the ground. Now the center's stairs lead to a mound of rubble.
From CNS
Also from CNS:

National day of prayer and penance on sex abuse likely to be held on June 7, Vatican official says.
From a reader of this blog:

A brief mention of this building crisis on your blog might get just enough people talking about this (see below) where someone would
actually do something about it. It's just the sort of thing that America and other developed nations have proven they're actually able to handle and don't really have any excuse not to. And if we're really Catholic, well... these several million people our our neighbors.

He is referring to this from the Catholic New Service:

LILONGWE, Malawi -- A widespread famine is looming in Malawi due to a chronic shortage of corn, a national staple, Catholic missionaries warned. Unless international aid to the southern African nation is mobilized immediately, fears are growing that up to 4 million people will be at risk of starvation by next August.

Already this year, hundreds of people -- mostly children and elderly -- have died from malnutrition and related diseases. After
initially denying the crisis, the government declared a national emergency and said 80 percent of the country's 10.5 million people were at risk.

With international aid agencies caught unaware, Catholic missionaries have been at the forefront of the relief effort.
Please remember to pray for Sean Gallagher and his wife Cindy who are expecting their first child today (or may have had it already)!
From a reader of this blog:

My prayer life has been telling me for quite awhile that our Church, my diocese and parish, are not functioning as Christ would like. But I figured, what do I know - I've only been a Catholic a short time, and I haven't even read all the way through the Bible yet (I'm almost done, though).

But so many things I notice as "wrong" don't seem to bother anyone else. I come into the Church, and already I am complaining about some of our Catholic school's textbooks and teachers, or the ex-seminarian (who acts gay and boasted about drinking and partying at a CYM meeting), or the music director who jokes and talks behind the priest on the altar as he consecrates the Eucharist. All I know is I try to pray constantly, and keep my chin up, despite persecution at home and elsewhere.

The Eucharist seems to be the only safe haven, as even our bishop and pastor are consumed by clericalism, I'm afraid. I volunteer with a ministry that "Stands and Prays" outside our local Planned Parenthood abortion mill - a block from our public high school. We simply pray for the people on the other side of the iron fence - the babies, their parents, the volunteers and workers, and even the "doctor" who comes on Tuesdays to do from 6 - 20 abortions. We don't scream at anyone, nor throw ourselves in front of cars. We can counsel and hand out info in the rare instance that someone comes over to talk to us.

Many protestant churches help us in our ministry, but our parish is very cold towards the idea, and even downright negative sometimes. Our pastor won't help - wouldn't even let us pass out postcards to the congregation to sign and send to our senators to stop pro-choice legislation. A co-parishioner who is an OB-GYN and is the president of our "Coalition for Life" was kicked out of our Catholic hospital for protesting to our bishop that the hospital was aiding in abortions! (Of course that was not the reason given).

I saw a picture recently on a Latin Mass magazine: it showed Jesus being flogged from the front and the back at the same time. I'm beginning to relate to His suffering!
This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week's archives. Here is the fourteenth step:

(14) To relieve the poor.

I find the wording of this counsel of Saint Benedict rather interesting. In fact I felt that I had better check the translation to see if the one I was using was correct. What I found is that the word Benedict uses, that is translated as “relieve,” is “recreare” which literally means “to create again” or to “revive.”

With that in mind we see that the counsel that Saint Benedict is giving applies to a variety of the poor. The material poor as well as those who are poor in spirit.

While attending school at Saint Meinrad College I worked several work study jobs. One of these jobs was a weekend one where I assisted the Guestmaster at the Guest House. I greeted people who came to the guest house usually to inquire about the Monk’s schedule or the history of the monastery. But another group, that often made their appearance on a regular basis, were those looking for help--the poor.

Some of these were looking for food. The monastery had tickets, that I gave to those who asked for them, and they in turn would go to the monastery kitchen where food would be given to them. No questions were ever asked apart from how many members they had in their family which was a determining factor in how many tickets I would hand them.

A few of these poor souls, I recognized from my visits to the local pub in town. I did not judge them or deny them the tickets even though I knew that they had some money (at least some to buy drinks). One reason for my lack of judgment, was due to the fact that giving the monks food away, did not cost me anything. I wonder though, if the money had been coming out of my pocket, if I would have been as understanding.

Others came to the door looking for food of a different sort.

Thomas Merton in Bread in the Wilderness speaks of the psalms as God’s manna, given to feed the soul in the desert of life. The monk’s prayer, made up almost entirely of praying the psalms, provided that nourishment for many who had suffered loss or hurt from great struggles of faith.

All of us are poor. It is arrogant to think that I am somehow better than anyone else. If there is anything that I have hated throughout my life, it is those who look down on others. Sadly, it is also the part of myself that I hate the most—and the part that I know could ultimately condemn me if I do not let go of it.

Saint Benedict did not leave counsel to “help” the poor, even though we could interpret this counsel as concretely doing this. He told them to breathe life into them.

I could feed the poor with food, but if I made them feel like I was doing them a great service, I could leave them with their bellies full but still feeling very poor. If on the other hand, I fed them in the way I might some friend who I hoped to impress and win favor from, how might that leave them?

The famous, the wealthy and those in power often find that doors are opened for them and everything provided for them, although they usually have done nothing to deserve it. We may not have a “royal” family in this land of ours, but some are treated that way nonetheless. Why should some be treated that way and while others are neglected?

I can not change the way the world around me acts toward the poor, but I can change the way I act. I also cannot tell, from outward appearances, who the poor are by the way they appear. This counsel of Saint Benedict’s does not apply to one or two individuals but rather to everyone that I meet.

The question that I must ask myself is “Do people I meet on lives path, leave meeting me feeling revived in their spirit or drained of spirit?”

“And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward, (Mt. 10:42).” Sometimes what we give, may be insignificant to us, but not to the one who receives, we should be ever conscious of that truth.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Here is a mega list of Christian blogs.

The gospels are filled with Jesus' parables of the message that has been given to his disciples and the importance of what they do with it. Burying the message, hiding it under a bushel basket or abusing "the menservants and servant girls, eating and drinking and getting drunk, (Luke 12:45)" are all soundly condemned. In the parables the King or Master always takes the kingdom away from such servants.

I live in a part of the United States where a short drive will take me to monstrous abandoned houses that once were filled with Catholic religious. They stand as monuments to what happens once the Church (in this case particular religious orders) no longer takes a stand for the truth.

Over the past forty years certain elements of the Church have been unwilling to stand up for the truth. Greed has usually been the motivation and not surprisingly once great institutions have fallen by the wayside as a result.

Catholic social institutions have not stood up for the truth in order to qualify for federal funds. I think it is ironic that the soup kitchen where Venerable Solunus Casey once provided soup (often times in what even the greatest skeptics call miraculous ways) has been torn down to build a multimillion dollar welcome center (minus any soup kitchen).

Catholic hospitals have stopped serving the poor, not been just to their employees and have allowed procedures to be performed that were at odds with the teaching of the Catholic Church. I think it is ironic that Columbus Hospital in Chicago, founded by St. Frances Xavier Cabrini recently closed, her shrine remains open there.

Catholic Schools have not been places of late where Catholics grow in their faith but rather often places where they lose it. Patricia Sodano Ireland has written of her experience at Boston College in "There We Stood, Here We Stand," that left her unsatisfied in the Church because of the constant insistence by some of her professors that women should be ordained. She left the Catholic church and joined the Lutheran Church where she was ordained a Lutheran priest. Years later she has come back to the Catholic Church, leaving behind any possibility of priesthood. Why? Because of the Church's official stand on life.

Behind it all are Bishops, who like the 10 of the Apostles on Easter Sunday are locked behind their chancery offices for fear. Fear of losing money? Fear of public opinion? Fear of saying anything less it hurt their chances for a better position within the church? Who knows, but clearly they have feared "mortal princes" more than the Prince of Peace.

Meanwhile the Judas' and Thomas' have been out and about.

The Judas' seem hell bent on self-destruction. They remove any sign of Christ from their schools, hospitals, and church buildings. They pray to the "four winds" instead of to God. They seem anxious to go over to the rival religions and secular authorities, inquiring how much will you give us, if we hand him over to you? But in the end they leave behind empty churches, closed hospitals, the ruins of monasteries and disgruntled students. They know their time is short, so they speedily plunge toward self-destruction.

The Thomas' meanwhile are out trying to rally the troops. They speak out for the truth, willing to travel with Jesus to Jerusalem and to "die with him." They are truth seekers. They stand up to the Judas' but receive no support from the fearful apostles. In fact the Thomas' are often made to look like the "nuts."

Into all of this, Our Lord now comes showing the wounds to the bishops locked behind chancery doors. Look at the damage you have done to my body the church! He holds up his wounds and says "Peace, be with you! This is what your silence, your inaction, your inability to lead with confidence that I am with you has done!"

A new policy? Lay boards with more lawyers and psychologists? Is this what the Lord gives his Apostles?

No, he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them. "Whoever sins you forgive they are forgiven, who sins you retain they are retained, (John 20:23)."

Retaining sins? This is precisely what the Church has been wont to do in the modern age. It is ready to forgive and forget in nearly every instance, but unwilling to retain in any.

There are certain sins that need to be retained because if you forgive them to easily you end up destroying the body of Christ. Certain people need to be excommunicated for the good of their souls (that they might convert back to the truth) and the good of the church.

How can this message reach the leadership of the Church? Christ appearing to the bishops in the persons of the victims who have been abused? Christ appearing to them in the person of those who hunger for the truth?

In the midst of the failures, the church continues to witness the success of new religious orders, new efforts at evangelization, new social outreaches. What all of these have in common is the "truth." A Mother Angelica does not shy away from the truth and has built a television and radio empire from the humble collections of those who support her. The bishops with tons of money have been unable to replicate her success. She trust in God, who do they trust in?

Ultimately we all need to trust in God. God ultimately will win out. But we need to believe that God does not want us to bury the truth anymore than he wants the Bishops to do so.

Withholding money from the collection plate seems good on the surface because cynically most of us realize this is what motivates the Church these days. Promoting stewardship has become a big business because quite frankly people aren't giving like they used to and for good reason I might add. Would this get the bishop's attention?

Fr. Sean O'Neal in his blog has fretted that this would merely punish the parish because the diocese is going to get their take of the parish's money one way or another. I am sensitive to his plight as a pastor, but I think a national withholding week before the June meeting of the bishops is a good idea. One might even make a proviso that if the bishops act forthrightly (which would entail a number of bishops resigning, taking a strong stand for the truth, taking charge of Catholic Education, social care, the training of priests, and weeding out heretics), that the laity would give three times as much the week after the meeting. This would help good pastors like Father O'Neal but would still make a statement.

If indeed "greed" is what is responsible for the present situation, along with "clericalism." A national boycott as written about by Rod Dreher and others seems a very logical way to speak loudly and clearly to both while remaining loyal to Christ and the Church. Of course adding our prayers to this at the same time.

Failure to do anything because of fear, makes us part of the problem. The only person we should fear is Christ!