Saturday, October 31, 2009

On the eve of All Hallows, we turn to the Little Flower

Today marks the day in 1887 when fourteen year-old Thérèse Martin, after asking for and receiving her father's permission to enter the convent, which her three older sisters had already done, that she spoke with Bishop Hugonin to receive his permission. She made an appointment to speak with the bishop after being denied permission by her pastor. Prior to meeting with her parish priest she spoke to the superior of the convent, who told her that she could not enter until she turned twenty-one. The bishop told her that it would be up to the convent's superior, the same one who requested that she wait. Of course, Thérèse died on 30 September 1897 aged 24.

Undaunted, the young Thérèse went to Rome on pilgrimage with her father and during an audience with Pope Leo XIII, received his reluctant blessing to enter. I always find this story remarkable because it is easy to see how those involved probably found this young woman impertinent and annoying. In retrospect, it is clear that God was calling her. She found out that she was granted permission to enter the Carmel on 2 January 1888, her fifteenth birthday. I also find it remarkable that the Little Flower is one of only three women doctors of the Church, along with Sts. Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila- Catherine a third order Dominican and Teresa a Carmelite, responsible for reforming the order to which Thérèse belonged.
apropos of Halloween, St. Thérèse as St. Jean d'Arc
I think this passage from her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, gives great insight into why Pope John Paul II named her a doctor:

"I understand that Our Lord's love is revealed as well in the simplest soul who doesn't resist His grace in anything, as in the most sublime of souls. In fact, since the essence of love is to bring oneself low, if every soul were like the souls of the holy Doctors who have shed light on the Church through the clarity of their doctrine, it seems that God wouldn't come down low enough by coming only as far as great hearts. But He created the child who doesn't know anything and only cries weakly, He created poor primitive persons who only have natural law as a guide - and it is to their hearts that He consents to come down: Here are wildflowers whose simplicity delights Him..."
How can anyone read such words and not be filled gratitude and love? This is why the Little Flower, along with St. Francis, is the most beloved of the saints. In her book, which saved my life last winter, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life, Kathleen Norris mentioned that her late husband intermittently worked on translating the little plays Thérèse wrote for the sisters to perform. How I would love to read these!

Reading from The Story of a Soul last night was all the more powerful for me because I was reading from the book that belonged to my dear friend Sara before she entered to the convent to take the veil as Christ's bride, though she is postulant.

Edith Piaf, the great French singer, whose life was certainly dissolute, largely due to her troubled upbringing, much of which took place in the brothel where her grandmother was madam, was greatly devoted to the Little Flower. At one point in her childhood Piaf became blind due to keratitis. The prostitutes pooled their money to send her on a pilgrimage to St. Thérèse. She was healed, her sight restored. While never a church-goer, in every city she visited, Piaf would seek out a shrine to the Little Flower and ask her for her prayers. I can only imagine the great affection Thérèse has for her dear Edith and the unfailing advocacy of her intercession to Christ and His Blessed Mother for this wayward soul, who was often lost and confused. Our Little Flower understood well that the object of authentic love is "the good of another, the destiny of another," her relationship with Christ, who loves us so much that we are utterly incapable of fathoming it because His love for us is infinite. His infinite love is the only thing capable of satisfying us because our desire, from which arises our great need, is bigger than the world!

Today is All Hallows eve. All Hallows (i.e., All Saints) is the grand feast with which we begin this glorious month on the Christian calendar, dedicated to remembering our beloved dead, which inevitably leads us to consider our own mortality. It is also the month of my own birth. So, along with St. Thérèse, I invoke, as I always do, the intercessions of my two great patrons, Sts. Stephen and Martin, along with my friends St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Gianna Molla, St. Mary Magdalene, Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, who I ask to pray to the Lord our God for me and those who have been placed on my heart.

Even if you've been intermittent, or completely remiss praying the rosary this month, pray it today, the last day of the month of the rosary, meditating on the Joyful mysteries.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"They've got a name for the winners in the world and I want a name when I lose"



Steely Dan's Deacon Blues is our Friday traditio. I also have a fondness for Donald Fagen's solo album Nightfly and I care for Fruit Loops a great deal.

On Fridays, I begin my day with the plea of the psalmist from Psalm 51- "Have mercy on me God, in your kindness. In your compassion blot out my offense."

As we come to the end of the month dedicated to the rosary, let's not abandon praying it daily. My dear friend Sharon, from whose blog of sorts, Quaerere Deum, I get a daily dose of beauty via many lovely photographs, also publishes insights once in awhile. The other day she put up this statement by Fr. Aldo Trento: "I cannot start the day without that Gospel of the poor that is the rosary". Let's not read these words sentimentally, thinking,, "Ah, what a holy little priest clicking his beads," while making some pseudo-pious request, like "Pray for me!" You know what I'm writing about. Instead, take it as a challenge to experience what Fr. Aldo experiences through the unfailing intercession of Our Lady, who gives him a heart for the poor he serves daily in Asunción, Paraguay.

Today we meditate on the Sorrowful mysteries.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Friendship: the fruit of the charism

I am so happy to be reading the third volume of Is It Possible to Live This Way?: An Unusual Approach to Christian Existence. However, it is the first of these volumes I will read without my companion Sara, who is in the cloister. It is funny that receiving the book almost immediately brought me to writing her a letter, in which I ask her to receive permission for me to mail this book to her. I think about how we never got around to discussing the section of poverty in volume two. I know she read it and re-read it, but we never talked about it, even though it was transformative, as they say, for us both.

Anyway, I am happy to have my lovely wife, who is a companion, along with other companions, with whom I have had a fruitful journey so far. I guess my point here is gratitude for the gift of friendship, which is a gift of the gift, a fruit of the charism we share.

True to form, Don Giussani, in his very first words to the aspiring Memores Domini, to whom these presentations were originally given as part of their formation, says: "Man's awareness is his capacity to order all things towards their destiny, towards their origin and their destiny: this awareness unites things, and thus it is the Creator's tool for completing His work." Just think about that for one minute, not just what it means, but what it implies, and the response is calls forth!

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Snow

It's snowing. The landscape is transfigured!



Apropos of certain phenomena forever transpiring in the world, I make the plea of the psalmist in Psalm 43, the opening lines of Morning Prayer today, my own: "Defend me, O God, and plead my cause against a godless nation. From deceitful and cunning men rescue me, O God."

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis



How is praying the rosary daily during this month of the rosary going? Today presents a fresh opportunity to start anew on this last week of the month. On Mondays we are encouraged to meditate on the Joyful Mysteries, events in the great unfolding of the mystery of our redemption in the world.

Deacon Greg Kandra, writing on The Deacon's Bench, posts a story about "pastoral" objections to the new English translation of the Roman Missal, which Bishop Donald Trautman characterizes as "slavish" and "elitist." Therefore, he objects to it because "[t]he vast majority of God's people in the assembly are not familiar with words of the new missal like 'ineffable,' 'consubstantial,' 'incarnate,' 'inviolate,' 'oblation,' 'ignominy' 'precursor,' 'suffused' and 'unvanquished.' The vocabulary is not readily understandable by the average Catholic." Ironically, this strikes me as a bit elitist, not giving many people in the assembly their due. It also presents us with an opportunity to teach the faith by (re)acquainting people with these words, words that are appropriate to use with regard to the mysterium tremendum. Sacred language is always different from everyday, ordinary language. After all, sacred means set apart, consecrated for a religious purpose. In all, I think the reform of the reform is a response to how irrelevant being relevant quickly becomes, especially in worship.

The only part of the retranslation that I really have difficulty with is changing "one in being with the Father" in the Creed to "consubstantial with the Father." My reason for this is that, despite the fact that the latter is a more literal translation of the Latin "consubstantialem Patri," it does not capture the original symbol of faith, which in the original Greek is homoousios, as well as "one in being."

Let's keep our bishops in prayer as they prepare to meet next month and complete their work on the collects for the new translation of missal, the ordinary of which has already been approved by the Holy See. You can see it for yourself here.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Year B 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Jer. 31:7-9; Ps 126:1-6; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52

Whenever we encounter instances of Jesus performing miracles, like his restoring Bartimaeus’ eyesight in today’s Gospel, it is easy to overlook what is really important about these miraculous events, namely that they are meant to reveal him, to open our eyes in order for us to see that it is Jesus Christ who saves, heals, and liberates us from all that binds- the powers of the world, of sickness, and ultimately of death itself. Because it begins with the words, “Thus says the LORD,” our reading from Jeremiah is an oracle of salvation, which invites us to praise God and to proclaim God’s goodness to others, as does the prophet who rejoices in Israel’s return from exile.

Jesus’ restoring the blind man’s sight causes him not only to physically see, but to see things clearly for the first time, which means to see Jesus, who is Christ the Lord. This is indicated by the fact that, upon gaining his sight, Bartimaeus followed Jesus on his way (Mark10:52). It requires no great leap on our part to see that the primary concern in our Gospel today is spiritual blindness. It is important to note that this retelling comes at the end of a section of St. Mark’s Gospel about discipleship that begins in chapter eight with Jesus healing the blind man at Bethsaida. For the disciple, to truly see does not mean to see as Jesus sees, but to see Jesus and to follow him. Like Bartimaeus, in addition to gaining our sight, we must also to throw off the cloak that shields us from the demands of being Christ’s disciples, of not only seeing things in light of the Gospel, but acting in accordance with what we see, which is to act rationally.

In our present situation the blindness that is too pervasive is blindness to our humanity, to what it means to be human. Even in this age of liberation in the western world, we reduce our humanity at every turn. In our blindness we resist this at the level of ideology, which often devolves into many pointless political disputes. Such disputes are quite frequently irresolvable due to the fact that while we argue for the correct position (i.e., what the church teaches), we do so using the same premises as those with whom we dispute. In other words, the real struggle of our current situation is anthropological, it is about what being human means, which cannot be correctly understood apart from the Incarnation of the Son of God, who came to free us and to restore us to our authentic nature.

Liberation in and through Christ Jesus comes at a cost, the cost of following him, which costs nothing less than your whole life. As Bartimaeus and the other disciples discovered, following Jesus on his way means following him to the cross, the destination to which the entirety of the Gospel According Saint Mark leads. It is the cross, as you experience it in and through the circumstances of your life that allows you to emerge from your confusion, your blindness. In the words of the author Juan Manuel de Prada, Jesus shows us that we "do not need to build towers in order to reach heaven, for the simple reason that heaven is already within [us]..."

Our authentic nature as human beings, what constitutes us at our deepest level, is the fact that you and I are a direct relationship with God. It is in and through Christ, who, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, did not glorify “himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him ‘You are my son…’” that we directly come to know our authentic nature, recognizing it first in ourselves and then in others (Heb. 5:5). Stated simply, it is only through Christ that can truly see what it means to be human.

So, today, the Lord’s Day, on which we commemorate and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the one who heals and liberates us from everything that afflicts and binds, even death, along with Bartimaeus and the prophet Jeremiah, we gratefully acknowledge the great things God has done for us through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is why "we are filled with joy." Gaining our spiritual sight means to see that "[t]he eternal revolution," wrought by Christ, "consists in revealing to us "the meaning of life, restoring to us our [authentic] nature; from this discovery is born a joy with no expiration date" (Juan Manuel de Prada). So, like Bartemaeus, take courage because Jesus is calling you to follow him on his way to glory, which is your destiny. After all, he did not come to make our way his way, but to make his way ours.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Friday, October 23, 2009

We are all beggars

Kristin Moulton, a religion reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune writes about panhandling in Salt Lake City. People in need always present us with a challenge that we ignore at the expense of a troubled conscience, but what should we do? Once again, she gave me the opportunity to share a few of my thoughts- Can believers really pass by the beggar?: Panhandling & piety » For clergy and congregants, it's not always an easy call.

While I am on matters of relevance to Utah Catholics, Fr. Erik posts Moulton's balanced and informative Trib article on Judge Memorial's production of the musical Rent. He adds some concise commentary afterwards. I not only agree that what is true is not dependent upon how many people object or approve, we judge by a different criteria, but I take issue with Principal Bartman's statement that he did not receive "one negative comment from students and parents in the Judge community," a tack he also took on Doug Wright's radio show. This not only falls to prey to the idea of truth by committee, but shows an incomplete understanding of what it means to be a Catholic institution, which means to be in communion with the whole church. Let's be clear and, while we're at it, fair: nobody is arguing against the requirement to love, to understand, to serve, or be compassionate toward anyone, let alone those in need. Maybe we need to be clearer on what love concretely demands of us. It seems to me, as Pope Benedict taught in Deus Caritas Est, that charity requires telling the truth, which must be done in love. This is always a challenge. I want to be clear: my objection to Rent is that it is ideology disguised as art, or art reduced to politics, and all the catchy tunes in the world doesn't change that fact.

Apropos to both issues, it was Don Giussani, giving testimony before Pope John Paul II, who said, "Existence expresses itself, as ultimate ideal, in begging. The real protagonist of history is the beggar: Christ who begs for man's heart, and man's heart that begs for Christ."


Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

"If my life is mine what shouldn't I do?"

I have really liked this since I first heard it. So, our Friday traditio is Metric's Help I'm Alive.



"I get wherever I'm going, I get whatever I need." The question posed seems the one everybody asks at some point: If your life is yours, then ...

To whom do you belong? This puts me in mind of something Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, when they were arguing about to whom they belonged, fracturing the community into factions: "'The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.' So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Cor. 3:20b-23).

I think "Help I'm alive" is the cri de coeur of many, which brings me An Unusual Approach to Christian Existence.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Opposing God to nature: the denial of the ontologically obvious

In his work the The Antichrist, Nietzsche correctly observed that "Once the concept of ‘nature’ had been opposed to the concept of ‘God,’ the word ‘natural’ necessarily took on the meaning of ‘abominable’—the whole of that fictitious world has its sources in hatred of the natural (–the real!–), and is no more than evidence of a profound uneasiness in the presence of reality. . . . This explains everything.” It may not explain everything, but it certainly explains a lot, especially about Christianity in its western mode, which opposition probably reached its apex in the nineteenth century. Christianity was the object of Nietzsche's attack.

Overcoming the effects the opposition between nature and God, not just on the concept the feminine, but on women, constitutes the reason for Catherine Breillat's film Anatomy of Hell. Her short interview with Sight and Sound demonstrates this to an extent.

However, it is David Durnell's Woman’s Body as an Anatomy of Hell: Nihilism, Recursion and Tragedy in Breillat’s Anatomy of Hell that really gives insight into her intense and extreme creation. My only criticism of Durnell's analysis of the film is that he mitigates and reduces Breillat's take on male homosexuality. He is correct when he observes that she holds the presupposition "that gay men 'do not like women,'" and that she "is less concerned with the feelings of the homosexual male than she is with the repressed and fragmented 'self' of the female, and the how that female views men –and thus views herself." But he is just plain wrong, veering off into the politically and academically correct, which Breillat rejects at every turn, that the way she depicts "homosexuality is figurative" and that "the man in her film [is] more an Image of [an] alpha-male, religious chauvinism than he is overtly 'gay.'" This is a move that introduces a false distinction into the film, one not made by the author/director. While it may seem a small thing, it disorients her work and compromises the recovery she attempts by way of implication, whether directly intended or not. As a result of making this film, she was denounced as a homophobe. Before we can discuss something intelligently we have to be honest about what we see and judge it accordingly. While still not at all accurate, it is more honest to denounce her as a homophobe than to make the move Durnell makes; both are ideological moves, but Durnell's is artificial, that is, something tacked on afterwards.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cultural crisis=cultural turning point

Part of my fascination with existentialist absurdism (everything must have its ism, after all), something I chronicled a bit in early August when I reengaged Beckett, includes a not entirely unhealthy affinity for French cinema, especially what James Quandt dubbed, back in 2004, the "New French Extremity". In an article in The Independent in the same year, Jonathan Romney picks up Quandt's theme. I want to highlight an aspect of this to bring into better relief something I addressed not in my last homily, but the one before it, something that had the effect of either scaring or baffling those who heard it. On-line, it rated no likes on the Facebook link.

Writing about "The New French Extremity" in film making, Romney quotes Quandt to the effect that extreme sex and violence in many films of this genre is "a narcissistic response to the collapse of ideology in a society traditionally defined by political polarity and theoretical certitude." Romney goes on to observe that it is true that "[s]ome of the[se] films… depict a world in which society has fractured into mutually combative, self-mortifying individuals." This isolation, this collapse into solipsism and even narcissism, is what I wanted to highlight in my preaching. One does not need to be a French auteur to experience this phenomenon, whereas one may need to be in order to express it with any adequacy.

I don't want to sound opportunistic, but I do not want to ignore the reality of western culture in this moment of crisis, which I use in its primary meaning: a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, esp. for better or for worse, is determined, a moment in which there appears to be some space for a deep engagement between the church and culture. The very term and identifiable reality we call post-modernism is descriptive of this crisis. Our engagement must not take the form of moralizing, or be reductive in any way. For Christians , it is never enough to merely denounce, we are called to engage in a serious way, which means in a critical way, which means from our experience, good and bad. After all, everything that disturbs us is not bad! We must remain cognizant that Christianity is not an ideology, this means that we must use words that arise from our experience, not the words of the powers that be, which has always spelled failure for Christianity. Let's be honest, most efforts at evangelization do not rise above propagandizing.

Take the film The Anatomy of Hell by Catherine Breillat. The film has a woman engage a homosexual man to learn what specifically about the female body he finds so repulsive. Such an exploration speaks to our contemporary social, cultural, and political confusion about matters of sexuality. We also need to recognize that the cultural extent of this repulsion stretches back to classical antiquity and has not been completely expunged from Christian anthropology. To my mind it brings up a very politically incorrect question: Is male homosexuality rooted in a negative, a rejection of the female?

Our proposal cannot be one of moving backwards, of retreating to a different and long gone, not to mention highly imaginary, moment of social cohesion and moral agreement, but create the conditions, not for a hopeful future, but a hopeful present. We must not retreat especially in the area of gender, explorations into which constitute a particularly deep engagement with our humanity, even an ontological engagement. In order not to retreat and to move forward we must account for all the factors that constitute our present cultural reality, which means dealing with the same themes as film makers like Breillat, Gaspar Noé, et. al. at a similarly deep level, as well as being loyal to the entire content of Christian faith, which is usually the first casualty of such engagements and the reason they normally fail. The willingness to dismiss structural aspects of the faith arises from a lack of authentic experience on the part of those who profess it and who wade into waters too deep for them. As Von Balthasar observed of his own deep engagement with culture, we must resist the understandable tendency to baptize everything, a tendency that lacks a critical dimension. A grand exemplar of this kind of engagement is Joris Karl Huysmans, an incredible writer who died in the early years of the last century. As Breillat said of Lautréamont's "stylistic radicalism and flights of black fantasy": his "extremely black violence ... is really an incandescent idealism. Better to be a prince of evil than a king of conformity".

Romney makes a curious and fascinating statement in his Independent article: "A no less influential 20th-century figure is Georges Bataille, philosopher and writer of a deliriously sordid brand of literary pornography - whose most famous work The Story of the Eye (1928) stages fantasies of death, mutilation and rampant sex. For Bataille, transgression is all, a quasi-religious yearning towards transcendence, in which abjection and exaltation go hand in hand. Perhaps it takes a lapsed Catholic to get the most out of Bataille." This is indicative of the desire that is at the core of our humanity, our longing for transcendence, which constitutes the ground for the kind of engagement I am proposing, which calls for nothing less than the new humanity brought about by women and men who have encountered the risen One, who is the way to overcoming artificial and exaggerated polarities, as well as achieving transcendence, not despite our humanity, as Pope Benedict said a few years ago in his Christmas Urbi et Orbi address, but through it, an aspect of which is nothing less than a walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

At the beginning of this same address to the city and to the world, the Holy Father said, "This humanity of the twenty-first century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs." These film makers, with us, challenge such theoretical certitude and the ideology that exalts it. Further, they are unsure about and wonder if there is sufficiency for existence, let alone self-sufficiency, as robust existentialist thought would have us believe. As Giussani observed, to say I am is to already recognize that I am made, that I did not create myself. Many of these film makers and others contest these alleged triumphs by exploring the negation of our humanity brought about by the reduction of knowledge to scientific achievement, which is silent on the critical human issue of meaning. In other words, there is agreement with what Benedict pointed out in the address he was unable to give at Rome's ironically named La Sapienza University: "truth is never purely theoretical. In drawing a parallel between the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount and the gifts of the Spirit listed in Isaiah 11, Saint Augustine argued that there is a reciprocity between scientia and tristitia: knowledge on its own, he said, causes sadness. And it is true to say that those who merely see and apprehend all that happens in the world end up being saddened." Most of these films are explorations of meaning, even if they approach meaning from existentialist premises, while rejecting the idea that we can simply create meaning. Even when the possibility of truth is forfeited, there is a recognition that very idea of truth is compromised when reduced to theoretical certitude. Reducing faith to morality is an attempt to reduce faith to a kind of theoretical certitude.

One of our local Catholic high schools is performing the school version of Rent. It goes without saying that this is a controversy. The fact that Rent is not a great work of art is not of secondary importance, it is primary. It is a robust example of the unapologetic reduction of culture to politics, trading on the fallacy of an undisguised appeal to emotion. I have to say that the way it is being done can be described by what I wrote with regard to the willingness to dismiss structural aspects of the faith, a willingness that arises from a lack of authentic experience. In other words, it is not truly educational, but anti-educational in that it fosters confusion and perpetuates polarities, not accounting for the needs of the human heart, least of all those of the students. To be fair, the way it is being opposed by some contributes to this, too, because they seek to reduce faith to morals and give the predictable response, in imitation of the physical law, by being the equal and opposite reaction. All this contributes to the students' exhilaration at merely being transgressive in what they see as a service to justice in the name of a freedom divorced from truth, tilting at the windmill of the parody of faith shown by those on both sides and not a serious engagement with reality, with their own humanity and that of others, which is a matter of love. In the end, it becomes a pointless battle of reductions: sentiment vs. morality. I am indifferent to the outcome of such a struggle.

Between subjectivity (i.e., sentiment) and objectivity (i.e., moralism) lies the “I”-a direct relationship with the Mystery, which resists our many attempts at reduction.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Suffering according St. Paul of the Cross

Today is the Memorial of St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, who died in 1775. He wrote:

"The easiest way to keep your peace of heart is to accept everything as coming directly from the hands of the God who loves you. If you do this, any pain or persecution, anything which is difficult to accept will be transformed into a source of joy, happiness, and peace..."

Again, this can only be verified through your experience. The question is, are you too skeptical, that is, too fearful to subject this to your experience?

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Hierarchy update

October is proving to be a busy month for episcopal appoitments in the U.S. Yesterday, the Holy Father appointed Fr. Paul D. Etienne a priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis as bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The bishop-elect is 50. Bishop-elect Etienne succeeds Bishop David Ricken, who was transferred to the Diocese of Green Bay in July 2008.

With the this appointment eight Latin Rite bishops in the U.S. continue to serve past the canonical retirement age of 75 and 6 Latin Rite dioceses are vacant: Owensboro, KY; Milwaukee, WI; Ogdensburg, NY; Springfield, Il; Austin, TX; Scranton, PA.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday morning miscellania

In light of my last homily, I feel that I need to clarify that God is not the cause of our suffering. I tried to point this out in my homily. Instead, God brings hope from despair and life from death. In other words, God does not inflict suffering on us as a method of perfecting us. Rather, God uses everything that happens to us, which results from the world's being fallen, what Fr. Carrón referred to several times in his Opening Day remarks as "the universal shipwreck," as a means to draw us closer to Him, which is why Dostoevsky's distinction really doesn't matter at the end-of-the-day. God uses your disastrous choices, even the ones you make in freedom and with awareness, to accomplish His purpose, which is your sanctification. St. Paul captures this concisely in his Letter to the Romans, when he writes: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (8:28). Hopefully it stands to reason that we never inflict suffering on ourselves or others, which is not to say we don't perform penitential acts of self-denial. Through such acts we cooperate with God's grace in overcoming all that separates us from Him.

Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene in
The Passion of the Christ
Along these same lines, a friend wondered on Facebook this morning if love really conquers all. I was surprised that a couple of people said "No." If love doesn't conquer all, then what is the point of any of it? How do you get through life, by asserting your will? What a white-knuckle ride! Another person wrote that love could conquer all if it was mutual and strong enough. This strikes me as a contradiction. What makes love strong enough if it is dependent on mutuality? If we wait for reciprocity, we will never truly love. Jesus asks "if you love those who love you, what reward do you have" (Matt. 5:46)? We can only love because we are first loved. In light of yesterday's homily I could only respond by sharing my experience that "In Christ, love has already conquered all, even death. It seems that for those who believe, the question is not whether love conquers all, but what that means in my own life, in my relationships, in the circumstances I face. It is important not to reduce love to a sentiment, to how I feel..."

Here is a link to the Deseret News article on H1N1 for which I was interviewed yesterday. I have not been able to find the video of the 2News interview.


Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Year B 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings: Isa. 53:10-11; Ps 33:4-5.18-20.22; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45

Several centuries before Christ, the Buddha observed that "to live is to suffer." While this is certainly true, suffering is not the final word on human existence. Even though pain and suffering are part and parcel of being human, nobody, not even the Buddha, is content to leave the matter there, to resign himself to endless and pointless suffering. Of course, the Buddhist path to overcoming suffering is the annihilation of the self, which is the overcoming of individual consciousness and melding back into the oneness of the universe. The point of many reincarnations is to achieve that goal. What you are reincarnated as marks either your progress or regress towards the overcoming of your individuality.

If there is no denying that, at least to an extent, that to live is to suffer, it does not take too much awareness to realize that some people suffer far more than others. Too often the basis of our gratitude with regard to suffering is it could always be worse, or, being thankful that I do not have to suffer as much as other people. In other words, we have an understandable fear of suffering that leads us to work hard to avoid it. It was Freud who reduced all human motivation to what we call the pain/pleasure principle. This principle states that all human actions are aimed, in the first instance, at avoiding pain, then to maximizing pleasure. In a more theological mode, Fyodor Dostoevsky made a distinction between redeemed and unredeemed suffering. Redeemed suffering, according to this great Russian author, is when we suffer for reasons beyond our control, whereas unredeemed suffering is made up of the natural consequences of our bad choices.

What is important, however, is not to precisely define and categorize suffering, but to acknowledge the role it plays in helping us to achieve the end for which are made. To acknowledge that suffering happens is to already ask the question about whether suffering has meaning. This is what leads us to consider, not reincarnation, but the Incarnation of the Son of God, who, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, is our “great high priest," who shared fully in our human condition, including suffering, doing so without sinning, thus showing us the meaning of suffering and how to experience it. This is why he can sympathize with our weakness. As this same author writes earlier in Hebrews: "it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist… should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering" (Heb. 2:10). This means that suffering is a means of sanctification, for becoming who God made us to be.

Msgr. Luigi Giussani taught that "[t]o have an experience means to comprehend the meaning" of what happens to you. Indeed, experience is the instrument given to us for our human journey. In a recent correspondence with a friend, who has endured an incomprehensible amount of suffering over the past six months, I told her that what she is experiencing is not a punishment from God because God isn’t like that, God is love.

She responded to my assertion by writing, "[i]f this is all not some divine punishment but is meant to draw me closer to [G]od, I don't like the methods being used." Her response is understandably human, meaning it is limited, as is yours and mine. What you experience, your life, the circumstances you face is the instrument for your journey, your path to destiny. Hence, it is the means God uses to draw you close. Why? It is a great mystery, but it is mystery in the sense that is something known only because God reveals it to us, not something that is ultimately unknowable. It is revealed to us precisely in and through the events of our lives- it is not something tacked on afterwards. The meaning of what happens to you-that which we must come to understand- is contemporaneous with its occurrence. Jesus tells James and John, who have no idea what they are asking, that they will be baptized with same baptism with which Jesus himself is baptized (Mark 10:39). When we are baptized we, too, die and are buried with Christ.

What happens to you, the circumstances you face every day, are the means God uses to draw you close to Him, who is your origin and fulfillment. Therefore, the first step of faith is to recognize that the answer we need won't come from human relationships, or from philosophical or theological discourses, but from faith, which is a form of knowledge because it is rooted in the fact of the Incarnation. In Christ, God gives us everything. In light of his passion and death, of the fact that he is the suffering servant foretold by the prophet Isaiah, the high priest who is like us in all things except sin, the One who "did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many," is present in a special way to and through those who suffer. Christ is compassionate because He suffers with us, which means that we, too, must suffer with each other.

Too often we abandon those who suffer because we are unable to fix them, unable to eliminate the cause of their suffering. By mistaking compassion for problem-solving we bring about disastrous consequences, like seeing abortion or euthanasia as answers to suffering, preferring to eliminate the perceived cause of the suffering to engaging these painful circumstances head-on and remaining present to those to whom it is happening. Far from being compassionate, trying to fix everything is nothing less than a recapitulation of the original sin, a refusal to recognize that you are not God, that you are made and that all people exist for a reason and have a purpose that is revealed in and through what they experience. Compassion is antithetical to problem-solving, it is an acknowledgement of our limitations and, hence, an acknowledgement of our dependence on God, who did not spare his only Son, thus not sparing himself.

All of this can very easily be reduced to a comforting sentiment by someone who is not suffering and who is unacquainted with it. It can also be dismissed as a pious platitude by somebody who is suffering, or one who has a person near and dear to them going through something painful. The only way to verify what I am saying is by living the circumstances of your life, taking our Psalm response to heart and placing your trust in the Lord, recognizing through experience that by his resurrection Christ overcame all suffering. He even destroyed death and because of this, in baptism, we also rise with him. We must live the experience of what happens to us even when we wish reality were otherwise, even when we wish God would choose other means, but we do so in the confidence that, in Christ, victory is always already ours. The only alternative is to assert yourself against reality, which brings no satisfaction.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

A response to the Goldstone Report

In my latest article for Il Sussidiario I look at the Goldstone Report. On the whole, I think such investigations are a good thing. However, when they are unbalanced and fail to account for all the factors that have to be considered the judgment is hightly dubious: UNITED NATIONS/ The Goldstone Report condemns the Israeli "deliberately disproportionate attack" on Gaza. In other words, while it might be reasonable to judge Israel's attack on Gaza as disproportionate, one cannot say it was deliberate or that Israel's objectives were "to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population," especially when the Hamas' terrorist acts, which precipitated the invasion, are not judged. Hence, we are right not to accept the report's conclusions and recommendations.

It is not only Israel that struggles with a proportionate response to terrorist attacks, we do, too.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Msgr. Luigi Giussani



Even if you don't know any Italian, this is worth watching because you get a sense of Don Giussani, of his person, of the charism God imparted to the world through him. Yesterday, 15 October, marked the date of his birth in 1922. I don't mind saying that I pray and look forward to his canonization, which means that I ask for his intercession often.

I value friendship with the saints. I think Giussani is pleased that CL exists, even in our smallness, here in Utah, of all places! When my friend Carlo introduced me to Fr.Carrón in New York, he seemed at once surprised and pleased. I asked him to pray for us. I ask Don Giussani and to guide me because I have never belonged to a CL community I have not led, which is probably not ideal and certainly his experience, too. This clip of dear Don Giussani is our Friday traditio.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hierarchy update

After getting 2009 off to a whirlwind start appointing bishops here in the U.S., appointments slowed down a bit. However, for the second time in a little more than a week, the Holy Father has made an episcopal appointment, actually two. Today it was announced that the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Bishop Arthur Tafoya of Pueblo, Colorado, who reached retirement age more than a year and-a-half ago. He appointed Fr. Fernando Isern, a priest of the Archdiocese of Miami to succeed Bishop Tafoya. Pope Benedict also named Msgr. Paul Sirba, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, as bishop Duluth, Minnesota, replacing His Excellency Dennis Schnurr, who was appointed as coadjutor archbishop of Cincinnati a year ago.

With these appointments there are now eight ordinaries over 75 still serving their dioceses and seven Latin Rite dioceses that are vacant: Cheyenne, WY; Owensboro, KY; Milwaukee, WI; Ogdensburg, NY; Springfield, Il; Austin, TX; Scranton, PA.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Love is the only reason

Thanks to Nick at Nite, I am realizing again what a really incredible show Malcolm in the Middle is/was, especially as a husband and father of five. Last night they aired the episode where Lois thinks she is pregnant again, which causes them to panic, fight, blame, accuse, and then reconcile by recalling when Lois was pregnant with Dewey, their fourth son. At the beginning of her labor, which comes in the middle of chaos, in a rain storm in their backyard, after they are forced to run from their house, due to a chemistry experiment gone bad, Lois makes Hal give her seven reasons why he loves her, seven reasons that make it all worth it:

"Lois: Okay, here's what we're gonna do. You're gonna tell me three, no five, no seven! I want you to tell me seven things you love about me, seven reasons why this is all worthwhile, seven reasons why we're still here.
Hal: Seven?
Lois: Seven. And I have to believe every one of them and you have to say them all right now.
Hal: Seven?!
Lois: Oh, just please, Hal, just do it....
Hal: Oh, okay, okay, okay.... I... I... I love how your neck smells in the morning.
Lois: Okay, that's one.
Hal: I... I love how every one of your toes looks like it came from another person's foot.
Lois: Oh, oh...
Hal: And, and, and, I love how... how you're honest and... and fearless and... and how when I'm sick you treat me like a baby.
Lois: Okay, that last one counts for two. You've got three more to go. I can tell you that I just adore the... the way your forehead gets all crinkly when you're worried.
Hal: And I love the way you cut your crusts off your toast even though you end up eating both anyway.
Lois: I love your loyalty and your kindness and that you still suck in your gut whenever I walk into the room.
Hal: I love how you didn't dump me when you found out that I was in love with you.
Lois: I love that you still married me even after you met my parents!
Hal: And I love that nothing in my life, not cribbage with my dad, not a new Van Halen album, not even an old Van Halen album for that matter, or any of their solo albums...
Lois: Hal. Hal!
Hal: I love that nothing in my life is complete until I've shared it with you.

Hal: I love how you send the boys to their room just so we can have some alone time.
Lois: I just love you."

Wow! That knocks my socks off because it speaks to my life! I don't mind admitting that I was choked up the first time I watched it and while watching it again last night. After all, isn't love the reason there something rather than nothing? Love is certainly what makes the fear, uncertainty, and chaos of raising children worthwhile, what makes it a joy, what turns life's uncertainties into a celebration, a wonderful and awesome adventure!

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Experience: our path to destiny

I am grateful because this morning I am attentive. I am so hungry, so thirsty, so needy, that I am begging for what satisfies. The Lord never disappoints a hungry and thirsty soul. In Morning Prayer this morning I was struck by two things:

1) The reading Deuteronomy 4:39-40a- "Know and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. You must keep his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you today."

2) The prayer: "Father,
keep in mind your holy covenant,
sealed with the blood of the Lamb.
Forgive the sins of your people
and let this new day bring us closer to salvation."

Photograph used under a Creative Common License
Last night a friend posted something on FB, something to which we can all easily relate: that every day is a beautiful day until someone comes along and screws it up. I responded with something that surprised me: No one can screw up beauty. It really did surprise me because my initial impulse was "Yeah, I know what you're talking about!" So, I am not being smug or superior.

So, it is true that every day is a beautiful day, it is all the more beautiful for the challenges we face, the people and circumstances we encounter. It is all a gift, the gift not only of life, but my life, where Christ comes to meet me, my path for today toward my destiny, the specific means used by God, our loving Father, to bring me closer to salvation. So, it is not a question of screwing up beauty, neither is it a problem recognizing beauty, it is delving into experience and not stopping at the mere observation of beauty, but knowing who is the cause of beauty, Beauty itself.

Even writing this is strange because I awoke this morning very down about a couple of things; one is not a big thing at all, the other a big thing, but not terribly crucial right now. I am thankful that I recognize in these the seeds of something great Christ is doing. It remains to be seen how these seeds will blossom, but I move forward in the certainty that they will.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A thought

John Maynard Keynes observed in a letter: "The inevitable never happens. It is the unexpected always." Of course, he was writing about economics, but my experience tells me that it is more widely applicable.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day




Whether you like it or not, today is Columbus Day. I can remember when we observed this day, though it was never more than a minor holiday and never included the downside to sustained European contact for America's native peoples. Despite everything, you can't deny history, nor uncritically celebrate myths. I think by ignoring this day, we erase memory, instead of purifying it, as Pope John Paul II called for us to do with regard to the Nazi murder of 6 million Jews and historical Christian complicity over centuries culminating in that abomination.

Sustained contact between the Americas and Europe was inevitable at some point. Taking place when it did, it was bound to be a messy affair, which, I admit, is stating the matter euphemistically. My friend, Deacon Greg Kandra, writing over on The Deacon's Bench's new on-line home on beliefnet, has an interesting post this morning, St. Columbus. Most of us would agree that this sainthood cause is an overreaction to those who are critical of Columbus and the aftermath of his landing on the island of Hispanola. It seems to me all of the events surrounding the 500th anniversary of Columbus' landing were somewhat cathartic. Even if they seemed overly reactive at the time, they forced us to consider the whole history. As with most historical events, trying to take an objective and comprehensive view often permits us to render only an ambiguous judgment. In the case of the sailor from Genoa, it makes his expedition no less significant. The achievement of Columbus remains a pivotal event in world history.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

More on the Nobel Peace Prize

Ross Douthat's editorial in today's New York Times cuts to the chase about why President Obama's decision to accept the Noble Peace Prize was a bad decision. Douthat, who, along with David Brooks, writes for the Times from a right-of-center viewpoint, observes in Heckuva Job, Barack:

"This was Barack Obama’s chance.

"Here was an opportunity to cut himself free, in a stroke, from the baggage that’s weighed his presidency down — the implausible expectations, the utopian dreams, the messianic hoo-ha.

"Here was a place to draw a clean line between himself and all the overzealous Obamaphiles, at home and abroad, who poured their post-Christian, post-Marxist yearnings into the vessel of his 2008 campaign.

"Here was a chance to establish himself, definitively, as an American president — too self-confident to accept an unearned accolade, and too instinctively democratic to go along with European humbug.

"He didn’t take it. Instead, he took the Nobel Peace Prize.

"Big mistake."

I think it shows that President Obama, who is far too intelligent not to know what the reaction to his acceptance would be, is not really interested in building bridges, but in forcing change, the changes for which, despite a lack of accomplishment, a decidedly left-leaning Nobel committee would also like to see. This was indicated over the weekend when the president promised the Human Rights Campaign to end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, despite that back in August, in a Washington Post oped piece, writing on behalf of more then 1,000 retired general and flag officers, four retired general and flag officers argued forcibly against lifting the ban, which they say will harm military readiness.

Douthat expresses the same concern that Ambassador John Bolton expressed after Pres. Obama's U.N. speech, namely that he seems to value his international stature, what Douthat describes as "European humbug," over furthering U.S. interests, which certainly include advancing peace, but doing so realistically, which means making difficult decisions and being confrontational when necessary. I was happy to learn that the U.S. delegation walked out when Iranian president, Mr. Sabourjian... ah, Ahmadinejad... addressed the U.N. General Assembly. His denial of the Nazi slaughter of European Jews is made even more revolting by the fact that they are likely his own people, as the U.K.'s Telegraph asserts! Such symbolic gestures do nothing to deter Iran's regional aggression and nuclear ambitions, not to mention the aims and objectives of the resurgent Russian bear.

In fairness, I also think it is important to point out, as Douthat does, that "Obama didn’t ask for this. It was obvious, from his halting delivery and slightly shamefaced air last Friday, that he wishes the Nobel committee hadn’t put him in this spot." But still, he could have gracefully declined and enhanced his stature at home and given certain interested parties abroad something to think about. He gained nothing by accepting the prize. Whereas, had he politely declined it, he would have made a statement that resonated. All of this leads me to ask, is he already looking at his legacy, to the time when all the controversy has ceased and being a Nobel laureate is all that is remembered about this episode?

It appears that Fox News, known to my friend (yes I have a few), Fr. John Montag, as Phox Gnus, is viewed by the White House as part of the political opposition. That's okay, because they still have Jon Stewart and MSNBC, the latter of which is the opposite and equal reaction to Phox, in their corner. Maybe the president should just agree to sit down with Chris Wallace and prove that he is peace-maker, just a thought.

Whether you like, love, dislike, despise, or are indifferent to Glenn Back, he's done some impressive muck-raking. Being a muck-raker, as the late, great and all-too-soon-forgotten Jack Anderson, who, like Beck is, was LDS, (though Beck is a convert and, I suspect, a good deal more active than Anderson) showed in his book (which I read at 13), Confessions of a Muckraker: The Inside Story of Life in Washington during the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson Years, is dirty work, but serves its purpose in our democratic system. Despite promises of bold change, Barack Obama, like the much too highly revered Jimmy Carter, is as precitable and partisan as any recent president. Besides, we can bear being reminded often that good intentions do not a moral act make.

Friday's post was picked up by Il Sussidiario as Nobel Prize/Obama Awarded: what were they thinking?

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thoughts after a day of slacking

Have you ever taken a day and just been a slacker? I did yesterday. It is not very satisfying. Balance in life is difficult for me to achieve, there are just too many things to do and once in awhile I just shut down. It is good to know that doing nothing is not a viable alternative. I spent a lot of time on-line and watching baseball. There were two things of note on Facebook, one of which is actually from this morning.

The first one comes from a high school friend, Randy, who wrote (undoubtedly based on an experience he had): "Being happy for others seems to be something we only remember from days gone. We seem only to be happy for ourselves without sharing. Sad! Let's celebrate with others their accomplishments and make this world a better place!" To which I can only say, "Amen". Since this is the month of the rosary, it bears noting that each mystery of the rosary has a fruit, that is a virtue we pray to attain through Mary's intercession. The second joyful mystery is Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer. The fruit of this mystery is love of neighbor, which certainly includes what Randy is advocating: being happy for another person without being jealous or bitter. I think not coveting is also covered here, just in a positive way.

The second very positive thing was posted by my friend Brian, a dear friend from church, who now lives in Ohio. He quotes a line from Boston Legal: "That’s what troubles me. This notion that we have to take sides in this country now, you’re either with us or against us, Republican or Democrat, red state or blue state...No one looks at an issue and struggles over the right position to take... anymore. And yet, our ability to reason is what makes us human"

One of the results of our refusal to grapple with issues is that, along with severing believing from knowing and freedom from truth, we have forgotten how to argue intelligently. Intelligent argument, far from being uncivil, requires us not only to recognize that there is another side of every issue and to be open to what people who hold that position have to say, but to know what we are talking about and arrive at our own judgments on the basis of reason rooted in truth, not emotion, or taking the course of least resistance. In other words, by what criteria do I judge a matter, which is nothing other than making a value judgment? Only in this way can we prevent arguments from deteriorating into two ignoramuses emotionally reacting to what is mutually seen as mean-spirited antagonism in a radically relativistic way. We have become so polarized that even to argue a point is very often seen as impolite. This is what philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre saw as the inevitable result of what he identified as emotivism. To be clear, I am saying that losing our ability to have intelligent arguments makes our society less civil, not more so. There are too many political sacred cows: human rights, marriage, abortion, sexuality, etc!

Another FB observation of note was a comment made by my friend Eric on my post expressing surprise and disturbance at Pres. Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Eric surmised that he may have been given the award because he was not Pres. Bush. If so, it only demonstrates that the phenomenon I am trying to describe is operative at even the highest international levels.

It is precisely here where the two observations connect. Contrary to John Donne's observation, we increasingly believe and live as if each person is an island. We have abstracted community to the point that it either has no meaning, or it is a euphemism for those who share a political agenda. How about real communities, like the one in which I live, or the one at my parish? In other words, a concrete community comprised of real people who know each other and live a life together, with all the joy and misery inherent in such a truly human endeavor. Such a community is naturally diverse, at least to a degree. Natural diversity stands in stark contrast to deliberate efforts at diversity that are rooted in statistics. Somehow, I think the tectonics of our societal and cultural drift will ultimately create a human archipelago, which, while not as physically brutal as the gulag archipelago about which the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote so disturbingly, will be no less dehumanizing. No person is an island unto her/himself and one person is no person.

I want to take note of what the Holy Father wrote in an address he was to give at La Sapienza University in Rome in January 2008. I urge everyone to take time and read what he was going to say, it is important. Strangely, but no less predictably, Pope Benedict was unable to deliver this speech in person at the university due precisely to the kind of intolerance the secularists accuse the church of, not often, but always. I call this illiberal liberalism. In his masterful treatment of the relationship of knowledge to truth, the Holy Father observes:
"Man desires to know – he wants truth. Truth in the first instance is something discerned through seeing, understanding, what Greek tradition calls theoría. Yet truth is never purely theoretical. In drawing a parallel between the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount and the gifts of the Spirit listed in Isaiah 11, Saint Augustine argued that there is a reciprocity between scientia and tristitia: knowledge on its own, he said, causes sadness. And it is true to say that those who merely see and apprehend all that happens in the world end up being saddened. Yet truth means more than knowledge: the purpose of knowing the truth is to know the good. This is also the meaning of Socratic enquiry: What is the good which makes us true? The truth makes us good and the good is true: this is the optimism that shapes the Christian faith, because this faith has been granted the vision of the Logos, of creative Reason which, in God’s incarnation, revealed itself as the Good, as Goodness itself."
Pope Benedict then goes on to point out that "[t]he danger for the western world – to speak only of this – is that today, precisely because of the greatness of his knowledge and power, man will fail to face up to the question of the truth." In other words, the meaning of your life will not be found looking through an electron microscope, or a high-power telescope, though questions of meaning will emerge from such endeavors.

The crisis of love, the crisis of politics, is first of all a crisis of humanity. If common life is not rooted in a true understanding of the human person, it becomes newspeak for the opposite of community- isolation. This is precisely what I tried to articulate in my last homily. Our current situation is often exacerbated by our inordinate desire for cultural, societal, and political approval, as Kenneth Whitehead points out over On the Square in a post entitled Do the Catholic Bishops Really Mean What They Say? In the spirit of intelligent argument, not ugly divisiveness, I would love to read a response to Whitehead's article by Archbishop Sheehan, or any bishop who belongs to the majority Sheehan posits.

Well, with those observations, I am off to get some things done today. While watching my youngest daughter's soccer game this morning, I prayed fifteen decades of the rosary for just these intentions, reserving the Glorious mysteries for tomorrow. I repeat again the cry of the Abitene martyrs, which I make mine in the hope that I, too, through my weaknesses and need more than through my strengths, become a martyr, that is, a witness to Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who is risen and seated at the Father's right hand: "Sine Dominico non possumus!" "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:4-5)?

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Friday, October 9, 2009

More surprising news!

If you thought that today's Nobel Peace Prize announcement was a surprise, that's not all. With a deep diaconal bow to my friend Kim, reason t.v. brings you more breaking news!



He was just kidding about stabilizing Afghanistan by allowing the government, itself tainted by fraudulent elections (which is to our shame), to effectively govern the entire country, which will likely require committing more troops. I know, I know, enough already!

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Nobel Peace Prize conundrum


Okay, I know this will sound harping, but how can Pres. Obama be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, especially for "extraordinary effort promoting diplomacy and nuclear disarmament"? I find myself asking, Really? In the realm of nuclear disarmament what has he done? The citation cites his vision for a world without nuclear weapons. Well, a lot of people, myself included, would like to live in a world without nuclear weapons, and, while we're at it, I also want a world without cancer. Nonetheless, he has put us on a path to accepting Iran as a nuclear power and I am hard-pressed to point to any constructive engagement with North Korea during his months in office, apart from former President Clinton's dramatic rescue of the two reporters back in August. Both countries have multiple, largely successful, missile tests to prove their lack of adherence to whatever it is the Obama Administration is doing diplomatically.

Arguably, with his unilateral decision not to deploy land-based missile defense in Europe, which ticked off our allies, especially Poland and the Czech Republic, where it was to be based (so much for diplomacy), he emboldened Iran. Apparently the Noble committee has a crystal ball, too, because according to them Pres. Obama will usher in an era during which "Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened." You might want to tell that to the democracy protesters in Iran who were given no support and only lukewarm encouragement by our president in their efforts to draw attention to the rigged election that happened there in June. Why? Because the Obama Administration is committed to working with the current Iranian regime and to foster and support discontent in Iran would be a setback. It seems the committee had a hard time dealing in reality, which comes as no surprise to me.

It bears noting again that on his watch the Israeli/Palestinian peace process has actually gone backwards. In all this I am only repeating what I wrote in two recent Il Sussidiario pieces: Foreign Policy after the G-20: A New Naiveté? and Obama, Abbas, and Netanyahu: what about Gaza?

Considering previous recipients, this prize, as do the prizes in literature and economics (the other ones to which I pay close attention), has a mixed record. Looking back over recent years, it bears noting that Paul Krugman is an economic laureate and Elfriede Jelinek is a literature laureate. But then, Edmund Phelps and Orhan Pamuk are also recent recipients of those awards respectively.

On our trip we also discussed politics. My oldest son, 15, said: "Dad, you just don't like anyone who is president." I admitted that there is something to his observation. In the British parliament I would be what they call a career back-bencher. It bears noting that it is the back-benchers who make the PM's Q & A time interesting! In this regard I guess I am a lot like a satrist, just without the humor. However, my overall point is not lost on SNL:



Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hierarchy update

It has been awhile since a new bishop was appointed by Rome here in the U.S. Nonetheless, it has been a busy year for episcopal appointments in this country. Yesterday, the Holy Father named Msgr. Bernard Hebda, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh working in Rome, as the bishop of Gaylord, Michigan. He succeeds Bishop Patrick Cooney, whose resignation was accepted by the Holy Father due to him having reached the age limit.

With this appointment there are now nine ordinaries over 75 still serving their dioceses and eight Latin Rite dioceses that are vacant: Cheyenne, WY; Duluth, MN; Owensboro, KY; Milwaukee, WI; Ogdensburg, NY; Springfield, Il; Austin, TX; Scranton, PA. As you can see, there will be plenty more appointments to follow in the coming months.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Our Lady of the Rosary




Today is the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, but it is an obligatory memorial. I am off to Holy Family Parish to celebrate and to preach. Today we pray the Glorious Mysteries.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What a lot of driving!

We are back from our trip to lovely Carmel-by-the-sea, where my little sister was married on Sunday afternoon. It was a great family adventure. The wedding meal was incredibly beautiful. No expense was spared. Wine was plentiful, no miracles needed! That made the first half of Monday's journey a little rough for me!

We drove the journey: 860 miles one-way. On the way there we spent the night the Sparks, Nevada. Sparks is just east of Reno. We stayed in a little inn just a few blocks away from where my wife lived with her family for quite a few years, when her Dad taught at the University of Nevada.

On the way back, we stayed in Carlin, Nevada, a little town about 20 miles west of Elko. We had good weather all the way and while we were there. I hope to post a few pictures in the coming days.

We prayed a decade of the rosary every 100 miles, which was nice and mercifully easy to get the children to do with us. We even spent discussing the meaning of the Luminous mysteries. We also talked about a fundamental theological matter. My oldest son asked if identical twins, who start out as the same fertilized egg before splitting in two, and who are always the same gender, as opposed to fraternal twins, also share a soul before the split? The answer, of course, is "No," but it was a surprising question and an interesting discussion.

My four year-old had the quote of the trip. He was in the very back of the van with his older brother, when suddenly I hear him ask, "Why don't you want to see my utters!?" He was also concerned as we went into California and we were being asked about produce we had in the car. Being a sometimes cucumber (like Larry), he thought he might be in for a bit of trouble. He also took to calling everyone "my precious" for the better part of a day after listening to an audio book of The Hobbit.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Notes and ramblings for a Sunday morning

Liturgically, Sunday trumps all saints memorials and feasts, but then each Sunday is All Saints. Today is the day on which we memorialize St. Francis of Assisi, a deacon of the church. As my wife and I walked through the mission here in Carmel yesterday afternoon, she purchased a medal of Bl. Junípero Serra, a son of St. Francis, as was Fr. Escalante, who first journeyed through Utah.

I also think of my dear friend Sara, who I miss terribly. She just began her formation to become a Poor Clare. The Poor Clares were founded by St. Clare, Francis' companion and friend. The charism of the Poor Clares is to pray for the apostolate, for the active works of spreading the Gospel in the world.

Mission Carmel by the Sea
From the end of the Prayer of St. Francis.:

"For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."

Easy words to utter, but far more difficult to live. Francis' prayer exemplifies well the exhortation he is credited with giving his friars: "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching." He also said something that forms a deep part of my personal spirituality: "Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self."

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
St. Francis, pray for us
St. Clare, pray for us
St. Anthony of Padua, pray for us
St. Bonaventure, pray for us
Bl. Junípero Serra, pray for us

I seek the intercessions of our Blessed Mother, Mary, along with those of the Franciscan family and for my sister, who is getting married today here in Carmel.

While I am on the subject of spreading the Gospel, I also seek the intercession of Holy Mary and the saints, especially St. Mary Magdalene, along with Sts. Francis and Clare, for Dr.Douglas O’Neill, his wife Dr. Sujin Yoon, and Mr. Hines Vaughn, Jr., who are being received into the Church today at The Cathedral of the Madeleine by His Excellency, Bishop William K. Weigand, formerly the bishop of Salt Lake City, who retired as bishop of Sacramento earlier this year.

How are you doing on praying the rosary so far this month? Sunday is always a good reboot day! Today we pray the Glorious mysteries.

I also want to both congratulate and express my gratitude to my friend, Deacon Greg Kandra, who links to this humble blog from his on-line endeavor The Deacon's Bench, which is now featured on beliefnet.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saints and angels sing

I don't know why, but I deeply feel the need to invoke my friends, the saints who accompany me along my way this morning, my own personal litany:

Holy Mary, Mother of God- pray for us
St. Joseph- pray for us
St. Mary Magdalene- pray for us
St. Stephen- pray for us
St. Martin of Tours- pray for us
St. Benedict- pray for us
St. Bruno- pray for us
Sts. Francis & Clare- pray for us
Sts. Dominic & Catherine of Siena- pray for us
Sts. Perpetua & Felicity- pray for us
St. Thérèse, Little Flower- pray for us
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross- pray for us
St. Gianna Molla- pray for us
All holy men and women- pray for us

Fr. Tonino Lasconi, a parish priest and author of many catechetical works in Italy, made a very important observation a few years ago: "We don’t talk to children anymore about their Guardian Angel, or their patron saint." He continues, "We can’t think that Mass and conventions are enough." His conclusion is all too true: "Without the saints, the faith vanishes." The good news is that these lovely people intercede for us whether we ask them to or not. Nonetheless, they long to be our friends. Yesterday, was the Feast of the Guardian Angels. No less a figure than St. Basil the Great taught that "each and every member of the faithful has a Guardian Angel to protect, guard, guide them through life." This teaching was echoed by St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

I remember of moving passage from Pope John Paul II's book, Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way, about how he powerfully felt the presence of his Guardian Angel the day he was ordained a bishop.

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Karma police, I've given all I can, its not enough"



Radiohead's Karma Police is our Friday traditio. Maybe when you've given all you can and it's not enough is when you turn and look for grace.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October: the month of the rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary

As with May, October is a month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially the rosary. I encourage everyone to pray the rosary everyday, beginning today with the Luminous mysteries



The Luminous mysteries draw attention to significant events in the life our Lord, specifically the

Baptism in the Jordan
The Wedding at Cana
Proclamation of the Kingdom
The Transfiguration
The Institution of the Eucharist

The Luminious mysteries were instituted on 16 October 2002 by the Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, among the many important things the late pontiff wrote about the rosary is his letter is this:

"To pray the Rosary for children, and even more, with children, training them from their earliest years to experience this daily 'pause for prayer' with the family, is admittedly not the solution to every problem, but it is a spiritual aid which should not be underestimated. It could be objected that the Rosary seems hardly suited to the taste of children and young people of today. But perhaps the objection is directed to an impoverished method of praying it. Furthermore, without prejudice to the Rosary's basic structure, there is nothing to stop children and young people from praying it – either within the family or in groups – with appropriate symbolic and practical aids to understanding and appreciation. Why not try it? With God's help, a pastoral approach to youth which is positive, impassioned and creative – as shown by the World Youth Days! – is capable of achieving quite remarkable results. If the Rosary is well presented, I am sure that young people will once more surprise adults by the way they make this prayer their own and recite it with the enthusiasm typical of their age group."

Today also marks the Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a Doctor of the Church and our beloved Little Flower.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.