Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Give us this day our daily bread..."

Michael Crosby, writing about the petition in the Our Father in which we ask, "Give us this day our daily bread," says:

"To ask with such confidence implies a relationship of trust. If we have problems trusting in God , it's not likely we'll be able to pray this petition from our heart. It's not likely, either, that we will have much of a personal relationship with our God" (Michael Crosby from The Prayer That Jesus Taught Us). The Father offers us friendship through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Friendship is always a matter of the heart, not to mention a matter of obedience, perhaps better denoted as faithfulness. The Old Testament Canticle for Morning Prayer this Saturday after Ash Wednesday is Ezekiel 36:24-28. In this passage God, speaking through his prophet, says to his exiled people, who, like us have been unfaithful to their covenant, "I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts." It always amazes me that Ezekiel does not say God will give them supernatural, but natural, hearts. In my own midrash, I think this refers to the state of original grace, the original state of harmony, or communion, the state in which all things, including human beings, originally shared, a state that was lost through disobedience. This is the kind of renewal God seeks, a complete transformation. The transformation God seeks, which always requires our cooperation because God does not force us, is to become who we are, who God, out of love, created, redeemed us, and now sanctifies us to be. Lent is the Church's springtime. Hence, it is a season when what appears to be dead comes to back to life.

At the heart of the covenant is, "you shall be my people and I will be your God" (Ezk. 36:28). This is the only covenant God has ever sought with humankind, who He made in His image and likeness, from the beginning, even before the fall. This is why God's covenant with Israel is not superceded. Rather, through Christ, as St. Paul seeks to point out again and again, we merely come to share in this covenant, all are invited to share in the wedding feast, the marriage of Christ with humanity.

We know that we cannot live by bread alone (Luke 4:4). The Word of God is what sustains us and all things. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, is the Bread of Life. Unless "you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you" (Jn 6:53). After all, as our Lord himself points out, those who ate manna in the desert eventually died (Jn. 6:49). He is "the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die" (Jn. 6:50). At each celebration of the Eucharist, our covenant is renewed.

It is not only possible, but necessary, to ask in our fasting "give us this day our daily bread" and then intensify our Scripture reading and praying. In this way, we will be filled, not only with what we truly need, but with what we most desire. In this way we will develop the kind of personal relationship with God, a relationship in which we come to trust God and so be able to pray this petition with the kind of confidence necessary to help usher in God's kingdom.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Larry H. Miller, rest in peace

Tomorrow we lay to rest a good man, a great Utahn, Larry H. Miller, who died a week ago today. There is an article in today's Salt Lake Tribune by Gordon Monson about Karl Malone's last conversations with Miller, who, in addition to being his boss, was his mentor, and a father-figure. It is really a beautiful piece on friendship and love. The Mailman recounts how sitting by "Miller's bedside, day after day... it pained him to see his friend's condition.

'It hurt me all day to sit there and watch him suffer... When I heard [about Larry's death], I thought, 'He's not suffering anymore.'

'Not one time did I hear him complain or say, 'Why me?' Not one time did he say that.

'Larry Miller was my hero. Looking into his eyes, I said all the things I wanted to say to him.'"

During one of their last encounters, according to Malone, Miller said to him, "When the end comes, I do not want to see you crying. I want you to smile. When I met you, you were smiling, and, if this is your last time seeing me, I want you to smile... That's what I want from you. Is that asking too much?"

If there were more owners of professional sports franchises like Larry H. Miller the landscape of professional sports would be much different, that is to say, much better. To us here in Utah Larry Miller was so much more than just than a rich car dealer and the owner of the Utah Jazz, or even a benefactor of many good causes, to end he was one of us. Last year at a Jazz-Lakers game, my Dad and I had the chance to sit a few seats down from him. He was just watching the game, talking to us all, commiserating about the favorable treatment Kobe Bryant was getting from the refs, etc. If you didn't know who he was, you would have never guessed he owned the team! He put on no airs! His marketing slogan for his car dealerships for most of the past several years was, "Hey, you know this guy". It is because we all, in a way, knew "this guy" that we will miss him.

I am a sports fan, but I try not to inundate my blog with it. I love the Utes and the Jazz. The Jazz are currently on a six-game winning streak, going 3-0 since Larry's passing. They have also won nine of their last ten games. All of this, under the steady hand of Jerry Sloane, comes just in time for a nice play-off push, despite a season during which injuries have been significant. Go, Jazz!

"Faith comes from God and every word that He breathes..."

Our late brother, Rich Mullins and his band of Ragamuffins, remind us on this first Friday of Lent that "there's a difference... 'tween having faith and playing make believe".

The IC puts some meat on the bones, linking faith to practice, with her Friday QOTD.

Rich, pray for us and ask Francis and Clare to remember us, too.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lenten fasting

I held off reading the Holy Father's Message for Lent until yesterday. I am glad I waited until Ash Wednesday to read it. Sadly, it is one of those that will go largely ignored. He focuses his reflection on the spiritual benefits to be derived from practicing the spiritual discipline of fasting. While it is good to take breaks from things that consume too much of our time and attention, those things to which we may have an inordinate attachment, like television, Internet, to include blogging, and, indeed, all material goods, voluntarily abstaining from food is a truly biblical fast. As His Holiness writes:
"The Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it. For this reason, the history of salvation is replete with occasions that invite fasting. In the very first pages of Sacred Scripture, the Lord commands man to abstain from partaking of the prohibited fruit: 'You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die' (Gn 2, 16-17). Commenting on the divine injunction, Saint Basil observes that 'fasting was ordained in Paradise,' and 'the first commandment in this sense was delivered to Adam.' He thus concludes: '"You shall not eat" is a law of fasting and abstinence' (cf. Sermo de jejunio: PG 31, 163, 98). Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God."
Fasting aids us in both avoiding sin and in repairing our relationship with God, which we break through sin. Frankly, I do not see how anyone is able to spiritually discern anything of any consequence without fasting about it. In order to fast, is has to be a discipline. For most people going 24 hours drinking only water, or with nothing at all, is just not possible if you are not used to it. Therefore, one has to start reasonably, fast for 12 hours, then 18, then 24, and even beyond. Of course, people who have health conditions, like hypoglycemia, are exempt from fasting. After all, we do not fast to harm ourselves. Fasting is a discipline, a practice, like prayer. Face it, if you only prayed when you felt like it, how often would you pray? Or, maybe more accurately, how often do you pray? Is it as often as you think you should? If not, why?

Pope Benedict states forthrightly that in our day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning." While fasting does benefit our health, the primary reason we fast is as "a 'therapy' to heal all that prevents [us] from conformity to the will of God." Along with prayer and alms-giving, fasting is one of "three penitential practices that are very dear to the biblical and Christian tradition." Because they are practices modelled and taught to us by our Lord, there is a unity and integrity to doing all three. Fasting without prayer and deliberate and intentional acts of charity is a healthful body purge. Charity without fasting and prayer is welfare that fails to take into account what the human person needs most, the sustaining love of God. Prayer without fasting and charity all too easily descends into a dry monologue, a grocery list, or even silliness. On the unity of these spiritual disciplines, the Holy Father quotes Saint Peter Chrysologus: "Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself."

Fasting is a penitential act by which, to quote St. Augustine, as Benedict does, "I will certainly impose privation, but it is so that he will forgive me, to be pleasing in his eyes, that I may enjoy his delightfulness." So, think about the practice of fasting during Lent. Perhaps, fast each week on Friday. Start out by not eating from supper on Thursday to lunch on Friday, eat a very slim lunch, and a minimal supper, then build from there. During your fasting set aside more time to pray, and make plans to do something good, even if it is to merely give what it would have cost you to eat to a good cause, especially if you are in the habit of eating lunch out at work. Be generous, donate the $10 or $15 you would really spend and not the $2 you give in a stingy manner as conscience money. Another way to do this is whenever you would otherwise buy a snack or a soda during Lent, make a note and give that money to a good cause. Perhaps you can put all of this money in your Lenten Rice Bowl. If you did this, you'd be amazed at how much you give. So, instead of getting fat on snacks and sodas, give the money you would spend to someone who daily struggles to eat her/his caloric and nutritional minimums.

As more food for thought for Lenten observance and even beyond, I draw attention an older post: I'll have the filet o' fish with no tartar sauce, please.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Our Great Lent Begins

It is important for us today to remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. Also remember that today is one of only two obligatory fast days in the Church, the other being Good Friday.

Psalm 90 captures well the spirit of Ash Wednesday:

"Lord, you have been our refuge through all generations. Before the mountains were born, the earth and the world brought forth, from eternity to eternity you are God. A thousand years in your eyes are merely a yesterday,

But humans you return to dust, saying, 'Return, you mortals!' Before a watch passes in the night, you have brought them to their end; They disappear like sleep at dawn; they are like grass that dies. It sprouts green in the morning; by evening it is dry and withered.

Truly we are consumed by your anger, filled with terror by your wrath. You have kept our faults before you, our hidden sins exposed to your sight. Our life ebbs away under your wrath; our years end like a sigh. Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty, if we are strong; Most of them are sorrow and toil; they pass quickly, we are all but gone.

Who comprehends your terrible anger? Your wrath matches the fear it inspires. Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. Relent, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!

Fill us at daybreak with your love, that all our days we may sing for joy. Make us glad as many days as you humbled us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. Show your deeds to your servants, your glory to their children.

May the favor of the Lord our God be ours. Prosper the work of our hands! Prosper the work of our hands!"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Metanoia sin destroyah

There are two items I want to draw attention to on this eve of Lent. These items are two things I stumbled across in my daily ramblings. I had planned to write this big post on/about/for Lent, but these will more than suffice. The first is a quote from then-Monsignor Timothy Dolan from a book he wrote, entitled The New Men, about his time as a seminary rector. It is on discernment and was posted by my brother deacon, Greg Kandra, over on The Deacon's Bench. The money quote is: "If anyone said to me, 'Yes, I’ve heard the voice of Christ directly telling me to be a priest,' well, he might as well not even unpack. I’d put him on the next plane home." Take away: discernment happens through experience, which is a far cry from saying it is accidental.

The second item is about actor Mickey Rourke and how his Catholic faith has literally saved him. Rourke, who has had some serious ups and downs, says, "I've talked to my priest a lot. I used to have to call him or the shrink when there was an explosion, because I was really good at not talking to anybody until there was an explosion." This is instructive because it is not good to wait to talk until you are in the midst of a fight and getting your ass kicked to ask for help. The second thing he says worth noting here is "If I wasn't Catholic I would have blown my brains out. I would pray to God." In further discussing his lows, he "would say 'Please can you send me just a little bit of daylight.'" The daylight for Rourke is Fr. Pete. He first spoke with this priest when he was seriously considering suicide. It is an event that became and contiues to be an encounter for Mickey. I am glad the great film, The Wrestler, has resurrected his career. I still love his movie The Pope of Greenwich Village, which has nothing to do with the pope. As a matter of fact, I believe the line in which the phrase "the pope of Greenwich village" is used is the last line of the film. I thank Suzanne for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wither my last post?

I decided to make it my first post over on la nouvelle théologie.

Hierarchy update

The worst kept secret in the world was finally made public today, His Excellency, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, was named by the Holy Father to succeed His Eminence, Edward Cardinal Egan, as archbishop of New York. Someone who was charged with keeping a pontifical secret on this one surely earned the penalty of excommunication! Archbishop Dolan is an outstanding choice for what is truly one of the most important bishoprics in the world. The 59 year-old Dolan, is a native of St. Louis, the diocese for which he was ordained a priest and where he was made an auxiliary bishop to then-archbishop of St. Louis, Justin Rigali, before being installed as the tenth archbishop of Milwaukee in 2002. He is also the former rector of the North American College in Rome.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Dolan is a gregarious man, like the late, great John Cardinal O'Connor. While a very charismatic, smart, and media-friendly prelate (much like JPII), O'Connor was not much of an administrator (also like JPII). So, when O'Connor passed away, the archdiocese was in serious debt and running unsustainable annual deficits. Cardinal Egan deserves a lot of credit for his years in New York, appreciation that he is not likely to receive. Given the situation he inherited, Cardinal Egan did the necessary work of eliminating the deficits and paying down the debt. This meant making many difficult and unpopular decisions. His Eminence did not shrink from the task. As a result, he took many spears and arrows. Most of these he absorbed without complaint. The only time he expressed himself publicly was when an anonymous open letter written by some disgruntled priests created a huge public flap. Understandably, he had to assert himself against what can only be described as calumny. To his credit, he did not try to be John O'Connor. Cardinal Egan's successor will reap many benefits from his completion of many thankless tasks.

With the appointment of Archbishop Dolan, there are now five vacant dioceses in the U.S.: Biloxi, Mississippi; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Duluth, Minnesota; Oakland, California; Owensboro, Kentucky. There are also two vacant archdioceses, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and St. Louis, Missouri.

With the Holy Father's acceptance of Cardinal Egan's resignation, the number of archbishops and bishops currently serving beyond the mandatory retirement age (i.e., bishops whose resignations the Holy Father has not accepted) remains at eleven:

Archbishops Hughes of New Orleans, LA; Curtiss of Omaha, NE; Brunett of Seattle, WA.

Bishops: D'Arcy of Ft. Wayne/South Bend, IN; Murray of Kalamazoo, MI; Moynihan of Syracuse, NY; Tafoya of Pueblo, CO; Cullen of Allentown, PA: Higi of Lafayette in Indiana, Carmody of Corpus Christi, TX; Peña of Brownsville, TX.

The spiritual discipline of fasting

I continually find interesting things in unexpected places, like this post by Pastor Mark Driscoll on his blog, The Resurgence, Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting. I recommend reading it before Ash Wednesday.

Over the life of this blog, I have posted extensively on fasting, which is in danger of becoming a forgotten spiritual discipline, at least among Catholics. I find it oddly encouraging that many Evangelicals are discovering first-hand the fruits of the spiritual disciplines, the disciplines that we, as disciples, have received from our Master, Jesus Christ. I don't mind sharing that I first became serious about fasting after reading Richard Foster's timeless classic, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. Foster is a Quaker.

I will post something more on Lent tomorrow. Let's not forget up-front that Lent is not some generically spiritual time. The origins of Lent in the Christian tradition are bound up with the final stage of preparation for adults who are in the process of being initiated into the church. Stated more clearly, it is a time to intensify prayer, fasting, and charity as ways of drawing closer to Jesus Christ, as ways of imitating Him. To wit: the disciplines are means to an end, the only end that matters in the end, friendship with Jesus Christ, and not ends in and of themselves.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Don Giussani, pray for us

Monsignor Luigi Giussani
15 October 1922-22 February 2005

"We can only know God if He reveals Himself."

God reveals Himself "in a precise way: it's called Christ."

"Christ is the answer to all humanity's questions."

All quotes from Is It Possible to Live This Way?: An Unusual Approach to Christian Existence, Vol. 2 Hope (pgs. 77-78).

In his homily at the funeral liturgy for Don Giussani, then-Cardinal Ratzinger speaking about CL, said:
"Communion and Liberation brings to mind immediately this discovery proper of the modern era, freedom. It also brings to mind St Ambrose’s phrase, 'Ubi fides est libertas.' Cardinal Biffi drew our attention to the near coincidence of this phrase of St Ambrose with the foundation of Communion and Liberation. Focusing on freedom as a gift proper of faith, he also told us that freedom, in order to be true, human freedom, freedom in truth, needs communion. An isolated freedom, a freedom only for the 'I,' would be a lie, and would destroy human communion. In order to be true, and therefore in order to be efficient, freedom needs communion, and not just any kind of communion, but ultimately communion with truth itself, with love itself, with Christ, with the Trinitarian God. Thus is built community that creates freedom and gives joy."

I encourage to also read Sharon's post, Fr. Giussani's Ongoing Friendship, on this fourth anniversary of Giussani's death.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

He is present

I was very moved by the quote from Don Giussani that appeared on the video of the New York City Way of the Cross, shown at the end of Chris Bacich's appearance on Life On The Rock. It is a good thought for this last weekend before what our Eastern Christian sisters and brothers call the Great Lent:

"He mounted the Cross to free us from the fascination with nothingness, to free us from the fascination with appearances, with the ephemeral."

These words were like a punch in the chest for me. It dawned on me that, for me, life without Christ is not life, it is nothingness. I had an encounter today with a woman whose love for Jesus and desire to serve Him are indescribable. She had an encounter with Christ, an event that became an encounter, a liberating experience that freed her from drug addiction over two years ago. She spoke about how Christ is tangible, a Presence in her life. This encounter moved me beyond that for which I can find words. I was struck silent before the Presence. I mean, I went to Mass twice today, once for the institution of those preparing to be ordained permanent deacons as acolytes, and once to celebrate the sixteenth anniversary of the re-dedication of the Cathedral. Both were moving, but my hour-long encounter with this person who understands that Christ found her was a step beyond both, a true encounter by means of a witness, who did nothing except tell me what Christ means to her, how the love the Father gives us in Christ has been verified through what she has experienced. She understands that "[i]n this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 Jn 4:10).

God is moving and asking me to follow. I am like the ones written of by the Psalmist, who at Meribah and Massah challenged and provoked God, even though they had seen all His works. I am grateful for both these experiences and for the ones whose witness attested to the Presence.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Something good to watch

Chris Bacich is the National Director for Communion & Liberation in the United States. I urge you to watch his appearance last night on EWTN's Life on the Rock, especially if you are curious about CL. Forward to about 16 minutes into the program to start watching when Chris' portion begins.

UPDATE: Suzanne posts something else that I find hopeful and sad. It is about Fr. Aldo Trento, a priest of the Missionary Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo, who is a part of the great charism that is Communion & Liberation. It is people, like Fr. Trento, who bear witness that "[t]he presence of Christ is the only fact that can give meaning to pain and to injustice."

Wither Israel? III

Benyamin Netanyahu

Beginning today, Likud has six weeks to form a governing coalition. Israeli President, Shimon Peres, gave them the head nod today over Kadima. The nod was likely the result of Yisrael Beitneu announcing their support for Netanyahu and Likud. To date, no other party has announced that they are with Kadima. There are three items of interest:

1) Will Likud be able to form a coalition?

2) Will Kadima become the opposition, or join in coalition with Likud and Yisrael Beitneu?

3) What will Labor, with its 13 seats, do?

"You think that you the only one that got to suffer ??"

Rapper Fr. Stan Fortuna, CFR is a Franciscan friar who belongs to the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. He is a fairly well-known rapper, who lives and serves in their friary in the South Bronx. This number is Everybody Got 2 Suffer. It is our Friday traditio, the last Friday before Lent. So, in the most sincere way, offer it up!

"Pray to abstain from the lie sustain the truth
We got to come together y’all we loosin mad youth
Pain is a part of life its somethin we all feel
Give your time and your money to the needy keep it real
Sufferin is like a good thief it gives no warnin
Let’s stop playin the game, fa real, God is callin"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wither Israel? II

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the far right, yet very secular, Yisrael Beitneu party, has cast his lot with Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud. This puts Likud in the driver's seat to form the next government of Israel. Kadima, having won the popular vote and the most seats of any single party in the Knesset, has stated unequivocally that they will not participate in any coalition in which their leader, Tzipi Livni, is not is not Prime Minister.

Likud and Yisrael Beitneu together have 42 seats, 19 short of the 61 needed for a coalition. I suppose if there is good news, the orthodox Sephardic party, known as Shas, wants nothing to do with Yisrael Beitneu. There is no word on any potential Kadima coalition, which would likely need both Labor and Shas on board to form a government. The key to lasting peace in the Middle East is resolving the Israel/Palestinian issue. None of these developments bode well for moving forward.

Hope can only be borne through experience

"Whatever the crisis the first question that arises is: 'Who are you,'" observed Bernard Scholz, President of the Companionship of Works Association (Traces, No. 1 2009, page 1). Everything that happens to us is full of meaning because the human person is a direct relationship with the Mystery and even "the hairs of your head are all numbered" (Luke 12:7). "Experience is the place where this is tested" (ibid). Hence, "a person is truly competent if he can face up to life, if he witnesses to a more human way of facing up to tough situations" (ibid). These words are hopeful, as opposed to optimistic, because they are difficult and cause us to doubt ourselves, to doubt that we are truly competent. Stated simply, on our own we are not. We need Christ and we need each other. We need companions.

Hope is a difficult concept. It is an even more difficult object. In order for it to become concrete we have to, as Giussani urged, "look it in the face," continually. What does it mean to look it in the face continually in order for it to become, not merely comprehensible to my intellect, but concrete? It means asking another to "explain this to me. Re-explain this thing. What does this thing mean for you? Why is this thing concrete? For example, now, why is it concrete" (Is It Possible?, vol. 2, pg. 68)? This is the purpose of School of Community. It is the place where we share our experiences in order to help each other. As companions we share with each other our daily bread and help each other to become truly competent.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Time for a new post

There is not too much happening with me these days, apart from my daily life, which continues apace. Of course, the pace of my life is quite busy. I am grateful that my father-in-law is back home and resting while they're monitoring and determining whether open-heart surgery is required. I have no doubt that the prayers of all of us have helped him tremendously.

Our former next-door-neighbor, who was truly a neighbor, Bessy, passed away a few days ago. Her husband preceded her into eternity by two and-a-half years. We loved our old neighborhood and still stay in contact with many of our former neighbors, who, like us, have moved away. Bessy was the anchor of the neighborhood, having lived there her whole life. In fact, she lived in the house in which she was born. She was unable to have children, but loved ours like they were her own. So, in 2009, the river of time continues to drain into the sea of eternity. We will miss her greatly. Our three oldest children were trying to make sense of her passing last night. She was in her eighties and had not been well for quite awhile.

We all long for that life that is, to paraphrase St. Augustine, simply life. It can be a bit elusive, but it is obtainable and cannot be separated from the One who gives it, who makes it possible. Adhering to the Lord without distraction is all we need to do, as St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Yeah, I know, all we need to do...

Also, during a restless night, I remembered a walk through the West Village while I was in New York last month. I was walking with friends, one of whom is a professor of medieval English literature and the other, my friend Greg, with whom I am now friends on Facebook, who publishes the journal Image. As we walked and talked, Greg was asked what genre he worked in, taught, published, etc. He replied that he worked in creative non-fiction and then said something like, "Sometimes uncreative non-fiction". I knew then that I identified my blogging genre.

Time is a function of change. I mean what is a second to us? It is the time it takes the second hand to move from one dash to the next, or, digitally, from one number to next. Philosophers have puzzled over the notion of now, which is now...I missed it... it recedes into the past. Wait! Here comes another one. Oops, missed it, too... and so it goes.
In the words of an old Smothers Brothers song:

Whatever happened to time? It doesn't come around anymore. The last time that I saw time, it was walkin' out the door..."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Prayers needed

Please put my father-in-law, Al, in your prayers. He is in ICU in Columbus, Ohio, the nearest city to where he lives. He suffered two heart attacks, the second one yesterday. Being the stubborn old farmer that he is, he did not seek help until the second attack, but just kept working. It looks like he is out-of-the-woods this morning, but he needs all the prayers he can get.

"The Church is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism"

An excerpt of the speech given by the His Holiness, Benedict XVI, to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Thursday, 12 February 2009:

"The two-thousand-year history of the relationship between Judaism and the Church has passed through many different phases, some of them painful to recall. Now that we are able to meet in a spirit of reconciliation, we must not allow past difficulties to hold us back from extending to one another the hand of friendship. Indeed, what family is there that has not been troubled by tensions of one kind or another? The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate marked a milestone in the journey towards reconciliation, and clearly outlined the principles that have governed the Church’s approach to Christian-Jewish relations ever since.

"The Church is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism and to continue to build good and lasting relations between our two communities. If there is one particular image which encapsulates this commitment, it is the moment when my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II stood at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, pleading for God’s forgiveness after all the injustice that the Jewish people have had to suffer. I now make his prayer my own: 'God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the Nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant' (26 March 2000).

"The hatred and contempt for men, women and children that was manifested in the Shoah was a crime against God and against humanity. This should be clear to everyone, especially to those standing in the tradition of the Holy Scriptures, according to which every human being is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27). It is beyond question that any denial or minimization of this terrible crime is intolerable and altogether unacceptable. Recently, in a public audience, I reaffirmed that the Shoah must be 'a warning for all against forgetfulness, denial or reductionism, because violence committed against one single human being is violence against all' (January 28, 2009).

"This terrible chapter in our history must never be forgotten. Remembrance – it is rightly said – is 'memoria futuri', a warning to us for the future, and a summons to strive for reconciliation. To remember is to do everything in our power to prevent any recurrence of such a catastrophe within the human family by building bridges of lasting friendship. It is my fervent prayer that the memory of this appalling crime will strengthen our determination to heal the wounds that for too long have sullied relations between Christians and Jews. It is my heartfelt desire that the friendship we now enjoy will grow ever stronger, so that the Church’s irrevocable commitment to respectful and harmonious relations with the people of the Covenant will bear fruit in abundance."

I would also like to take this opportunity to draw attention, once again, to a recent homily, the one for Year A 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. It is also a good time and place to recommend a book I read some years ago, written by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, entitled Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and the World.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel alright"

This is a week late. I have been so busy. Last Friday was Bob Marley's birthday. His religious journey is a bit more nuanced than usually noted. In any case, he would have been 64 last week. Besides, he asks the question on all our minds, "Is there a place for the hopeless sinner/Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?" In the Lord Jesus we know the answer is Yes. Now, if we can just humbly accept it and live in gratitude. One Love is today's traditio from a Rasta brother.

You, too, can read the best biography of Bob Marley, Bob Marley: Spirit Dancer . You can also listen to this nice piece on PRI's The World. Roger Steffans, one of the co-authors of the bio, is featured.

One Love. Love is the answer to the question posed so succinctly by Heidegger, Why are there things instead of nothing? Love is also the answer to Camus' and Hamlet's query about whether life is or is not worth living. The love the Father of all creation has for us, his wayward creatures, whom he wants to make his daughters and sons, is revealed in a human face, the face of his Son and in those who follow him now, his disciples. To that end, here is an excerpt from the statement of CL in Italy on the death of Eluana, who died 72-hours after her feeding tube was removed and hydration stopped: "Benedict XVI reminded us that to hope, 'The human being needs unconditional love. He needs the certainty which makes him say: "neither death, nor life … will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38- 39). If this absolute love exists, with its absolute certainty, then—only then—is man 'redeemed', whatever should happen to him in his particular circumstances." (Spe salvi 26). So, my sisters and brothers, give thanks and praise to the Lord and we won't just feel alright, we'll be alright. After all, isn't giving praise and thanks in all we say and do the very purpose for which we are made, our loving response to our lovely and loving God, who asks us to call him Father?

A diaconal bow to my sister, Sharon, for the quote from the CL statement.

Wither Israel?

Now that the dust has settled a little, it is good to note that Israel had a general election this week, on Tuesday to be exact. The results of the election clearly show that while Israelis feel very threatened by the current situation and recognize the need to be tough, they are not ready to throw in the towel as far as working towards a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians, which will eventually result in an independent Palestinian state.

Like most Western democracies, Israel’s form of national government is a parliamentary. The Israeli parliament, which is unicameral, is called the Knesset. Whoever has a majority in the Knesset runs the country, which does have a president. The President of Israel , while not exclusively ceremonial, wields no real clout. So, the prime minister, who, along with her or his fellow cabinet ministers, is a member of the Knesset, is the chief executive of the state. No single party in the recent past has succeeded in capturing 61 of the 120 Knesset seats needed to rule by themselves. Hence, the leader of the party that wins the most seats is given the first opportunity to form a government by entering into a coalition with other parties. Tuesday’s election had the surprising result of the Kadima Party, led by a woman, Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister in the last government, winning the most seats. Established in 2006 by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon as a moderate and pragmatic alternative to the hard-line Likud Party and the softer Labor Party, which has been the dominant party throughout Israel’s modern history, Kadima is made up primarily of prominent former members of both parties, like Sharon from Likud and current Israeli President, Shimon Peres, from Labor.

Tzipi Livni

Kadima won 28 seats with Likud likely winning 27. So, Kadima enters into coalition talks. The complication is that the party that finished with the third largest number of seats is the newly formed Yisrael Beitneu party, led by hard-liner Avigdor Lieberman, who appears to be in the role of coalition-maker or breaker. Lieberman is much more likely to cast his lot with Likud than with Kadima, which means that Kadima will have to make a very sweet deal that appeals to Yisrael Beitneu demands, one of which is requiring an oath of loyalty from Israeli citizens who are Arab. Labor cannot be utterly dismissed, having 13 seats. In fact, Labor is a much more likely coalition partner for Kadima than Yisrael Beitneu. If you are familiar with the saying that politics makes strange bedfellows, forming governing coalitions in parliamentary democracies, especially in times of national crisis, can be more unpredictable than a swingers’ shindig. I am not certain that a Kadima/Likud coalotion is out of the question. However, while unlikely, such a coalition would not last long and would result in early general elections, again.

Doing the math, you may be thinking, that all the seats I have mentioned only add up to 83. The Shas Party, a political party comprised of observant Sephardic Jews (i.e., Jews from the Middle East, as opposed to Ashkenazi Jews, who come from Europe), won 11 seats. Shas has been and continues to exercise political clout quite disproportionate to their numbers. After that, we are only at 94 seats. The other 26 seats are divided among seven parties, with the United Torah Judaism Party claiming the most at 5. As for me and my house, we will root for Ms. Livni and Kadima.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Abraham Lincoln's 200th

Following the day after the birthday of the one for whom I am most thankful, my lovely wife, who was born on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, a day that also marks the fall of the Shah of Iran from power and the ascendency of the ayatollahs, comes the birthday of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln, who were born on the same day in the same year. Without a doubt, along with Washington, Lincoln remains the greatest president of these United States. Arguably, there would be no United States had this great man not arisen among our people. It is easily forgotten that during his presidency he was very unpopular, not just in the states that seceded, but in what then remained of the United States. This is really what makes him great, proving, somewhat ironically, Thoreau's dictum, as set forth in Resistance to Civil Government, written in 1849, that "any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already". For most of his presidency, Lincoln was a majority of one, a majority sufficient to preserve our nation "brought forth" by "our fathers," a nation "conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

It seems to me that Abraham Lincoln, who clearly arose within and was nurtured by the best tradition of U.S. Protestantism, a venerable and healthy Christian tradition, if one that is currently in deep crisis, is someone who bore something of an apostolic commission. I make this connection because just prior to composing this, I read another excellent post by Fred over on la nouvelle, I'm Like Paul, and You're Like Timothy. Like St. Paul, Lincoln fought hard against the all-too human tendency to split apart.

Abraham Lincoln, by Jean Louis Gerome, 1908

Given the centrality that current events are giving to the federal government, not to mention all the promises of hope made during the last election by our current president, it seems appropriate to look at one of President Lincoln's earliest published speeches, a speech he gave in Springfield, Illinois when he was twenty-eight years old, known as The Lyceum Address. Subsequent events proved this address to be predictive, as Lincoln preserved our union against great odds and was a martyr for the cause of the United States of America:

"I do not mean to say, that the scenes of the [American] revolution are now or ever will be entirely forgotten; but that like every thing else, they must fade upon the memory of the world, and grow more and more dim by the lapse of time. In history, we hope, they will be read of, and recounted, so long as the bible shall be read;-- but even granting that they will, their influence cannot be what it heretofore has been. Even then, they cannot be so universally known, nor so vividly felt, as they were by the generation just gone to rest. At the close of that struggle, nearly every adult male had been a participator in some of its scenes. The consequence was, that of those scenes, in the form of a husband, a father, a son or brother, a living history was to be found in every family-- a history bearing the indubitable testimonies of its own authenticity, in the limbs mangled, in the scars of wounds received, in the midst of the very scenes related--a history, too, that could be read and understood alike by all, the wise and the ignorant, the learned and the unlearned.--But those histories are gone. They can be read no more forever. They were a fortress of strength; but, what invading foeman could never do, the silent artillery of time has done; the leveling of its walls. They are gone.--They were a forest of giant oaks; but the all-resistless hurricane has swept over them, and left only, here and there, a lonely trunk, despoiled of its verdure, shorn of its foliage; unshading and unshaded, to murmur in a few gentle breezes, and to combat with its mutilated limbs, a few more ruder storms, then to sink, and be no more.

"They were the pillars of the temple of liberty; and now, that they have crumbled away, that temple must fall, unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason. Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence.--Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws: and, that we improved to the last; that we remained free to the last; that we revered his name to the last; that, during his long sleep, we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place; shall be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our WASHINGTON.

"Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis; and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.'"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Who will serve the Vicar of Christ?

I have disagreed passionately with George Weigel on a number of things, namely his belief in the moral justification for pre-emptive war and his analysis of the last election, for which Ross Douthat took him to task, but I agree with him on something: what the recent SSPX fiasco and the recent admission by the Legion of Christ concerning the sexual shenanigans of Fr. Marcial Maciel, their founder, shenanigans that include fathering a daughter and sexually molesting young men seeking to join the order, reveals about the Roman Curia. He gives some very salient analysis writing in First Things.

In the case of Maciel, the Roman Curia investigated these allegations, which we know now are true, for years while allowing him to continue his ministry uninhibited, despite the massive scandal going on in U.S. over this same issue, and never arriving at a judgment. It was not until 2006 that Pope Benedict XVI, in an act of courage and conviction typical of this great man, that Maciel was finally forced give up his public ministry as a priest, to resign as head of the Legion, and to retire and devote the remainder of his life to prayer and penance. Maciel died in 2008, let us sincerely hope and pray that he used his time well. It must be noted that he appears never to have personally acknowledged, either publicly or to his victims, his sinful behavior. Rather, he insisted to the end that he was the victim, patiently bearing the cross of Christ- this is but a slight paraphrase of his public statement after the Holy Father's sanctions were announced. Knowing what we know now, this seems to me outrageous; arrogance under the guise of humility.

To my mind, what all of this demonstrates is that the Roman Curia is in need of reform and a thorough house-cleaning. Surely there are people in the world-wide Church possessed of courage, conviction, theological acumen, who also have well-developed pastoral and political (in the best sense of that word) sensibility, people like the Holy Father himself. If the Church wishes to engage the world, then the Roman Curia needs to engage the world, which means doing things more transparently. I disagree with Fr. Lombardi, head of the Vatican Press Office, who, in an act of sincere humility and devotion to the Holy Father, accepted responsibility for the the tumult caused by the Holy Father's lifting the excommunications of the Lefebvre four, by saying it was a public relations failure. Rest easy Fr. Lombardi, you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear.

As Weigel asks with regard to the decree lifting the excommunications, did no one in the curia, especially in the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which was established in 1988 following the schism caused by Marcel Lebfebvre with his unauthorized ordination of these four, for the specific purpose of healing the schism, think "to Google 'Richard Williamson'"? Did "no subordinate [have]the nerve or capacity to compel the superiors to pay attention to a potential landmine?" In other words, what were they thinking? The Holy Father did not know that Williamson is a denier of the mass, systematic, murder of Jews by the German National Socialist regime. This is made even more delicate by the fact that the Holy Father is German. Had he known, I seriously doubt that the excommunications would have been lifted. It seems, as one can easily find out by visting various websites, that the whole of the SSPX is infected with anti-Semitism, of which the Church of Christ has repented and disavowed. This is a matter of being or not being in communion.

On a personal note, I am already tired of the revisionists who claim that people like me are overreacting. After all, what's a little Holocaust denial among friends? I stick by my words: not forgetting means actively remembering and actively remembering forms and informs how we live together, how we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, foster tolerance and peace between peoples. One cannot dismiss the implications of so public an act as the lifting of these excommunications in light of what has surfaced.

So, whose job was it to tell the Holy Father? Once this is determined that individual should be looking for a new way to serve God's people, perferably outside the Vatican in a position that requires no serious work. As one who is in the business of passing along information with analysis and recommending courses of action based on what I know, the worst thing in the world is to not have thought through the most obvious questions, or to have anticipated the questions of the boss, who one has to know in order to serve well. Failure to do that is failure to do my job. Let's be bold and name names, the head of Ecclesia Dei, from whom nothing public has been heard, is the Columbian cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos. Too bad Cardinal Law already has the sinecure at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

Fred, writing once again on la nouvelle, draws our attention to an article about courage in adversity, something that is encouraging, the story about a man who saved 20,000 Jews from the Nazis, The Ambassador.

It is heartening to learn this morning that, according to the Catholic News Agency, Pope Benedict's trip Israel in the Spring is a go!

A diaconal bow to my brother deacon, Greg Kandra, for bringing Weigel's piece, the CNS story, and the picture of the Pope to my attention. He provides Weigel's money quote.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What is a charism?

I remember last fall walking with my friend Greg down a Seattle street on a lovely evening. Even though we are not friends on Facebook, we are companions and so our discussion turned to charisms in the church. The context of the topic of charisms was our talking about the charism given by the Holy Spirit to Msgr. Luigi Giussani, which is known as Communion & Liberation, or CL. CL is the umbrella for the manifold dimensions of his charism; it includes GA- the Adult Group, GS- the high school students, CLU- the university students and, of course, Memores Domini- an order of men and women who live vowed lives of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but in the world, usually in Memores Domini houses. Finally, there is the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, a religious order of men. Giussani was also the co-founder of the Sisters of Charity of the Assumption. Part of the nature of the charism shared by members of the Fraternity of CL is to use words and terms that are familiar to people in these late modern times. For example, instead of using charism to describe what has been vouchsafed to us by the Holy Spirit through Msgr. Giussani, we often use the term method. We use method because the charism is about answering the question Is It Possible to Live This Way? in the affirmative; "this way" meaning in the Christian way, living intentional lives of discipleship which arises from our own personal encounter with the risen Lord. Living this way does not permit us to exclude any part of our experience. Hence, experience is the method we use to verify the Christian fact, which is nothing other than the Paschal Mystery of Christ's Incarnation through the Blessed Virgin Mary, his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Spirit. Living "this way" requires the recognition up-front that I cannot do it alone, even that I do not want to do it alone. So, I seek companionship along the road to destiny. CL is a companionship.

We talked about the fact that so few people know what a charism is, how they have operated in the church, and the relevancy of certain charisms in the church and for the world today. This represents no defect in any body's person, it is a matter of education, or lack of it. This is why I really like what Fred has posted over on la nouvelle théologie: What Do We Mean when We Refer to Charisms of Orders or Movements in the Church?, which consists of a few salient parts of a conversation that took place between the late Hans Urs Von Balthasar and Angelo Scola, who has since gone on to become the cardinal Patriarch of Venice. It is a good catechesis on charisms.

I would also draw your attention to another post by Fred on la nouvelle, in which he develops something I briefly alluded to in my homily last week, virtue and the role that habit plays in acquiring them: Habit of Awareness I.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hierarchy update

In his fifth U.S. episcopal appointment of the new year, the Holy Father appointed Fr. James Wall of the Diocese of Phoenix as the bishop of the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico. Bishop-elect Wall is 45 years old and was ordained a priest in 1998.

With the appointment of Wall there are now six vacant dioceses in the U.S.: Biloxi, Mississippi; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Duluth, Minnesota; Oakland, California; Owensboro, Kentucky; St. Louis, Missouri.

One final note on a troublesome matter

Mauthausen Concentration Camp

It seems somehow appropriate on a day in which the Secretariat of State of the Holy See declared that Richard Williamson, in order "to be admitted to episcopal functions in the Church, must also distance himself in an absolutely unmistakable and public way from his position on the Shoah, which was unknown to the Holy Father in the moment of the lifting of the excommunication" that we learned about the fate of Dr. Aribert Heim, known more accurately as "Dr. Death".

What might interest Williamson is what this man, who died in 1992 in Egypt under the name Tarek Hussein Farid, was guilty of, among other atrocities, "performing operations on prisoners without anesthesia; removing organs from healthy inmates, then leaving them to die on the operating table; injecting poison, including gasoline, into the hearts of others; and taking the skull of at least one victim as a souvenir." Of course, most, if not all of these prisoners were Jewish, imprisoned and tortured for no other reason than being Jewish.

According the twisted rationale of that walking contradiction, known as the Christian anti-Semite, the Jews are God's enemies, guilty of deicide, and opposed to God. According to the SSPX, "the status of this opposition must be universal, inevitable, and terrible." What is terrible are atrocities committed by people who hold such evil beliefs. It is important to take note of what the Lord says himself: "No one takes it [his life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father" (Jn 10:18 ESV). He laid down his life of his own free will in obedience to the Father, whose love for us caused him to not spare his only begotten Son (Jn 3:16). Through his only begotten Son, by means of our rebirth through the waters of baptism, we are adopted daughters and sons of God, children of Abraham, our father in the faith because his trust in God's promise and ours. To paraphrase Pope Pius XI, the Jews are our elder brothers in the faith and, spiritually, we are all Semites. This is more consistent with what St. Paul writes in those vital of chapters of his Letter to the Romans, chapters 8-11.

I have to be honest, I dislike the terms Holocaust and Shoah, using these terms give this horror a certain theological legitimacy and/or mystical credibility. I prefer to call it what it is, to face reality squarely, it was mass murder. Given certain situations in the world today (i.e., Darfur), this shows forth the hollowness of our recitation of the slogan Never again!.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Statement of Cardinal Francis George, President USCCB, on recent SSPX events

Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the personal penalty of excommunication incurred by four schismatic bishops belonging to the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. This gesture on the part of the Holy Father was an act of mercy and personal concern for the ordained and lay members of this Society and was meant to coincide with the fiftieth commemoration of the convening of the Second Vatican Council.

The Holy Father's lifting of the excommunications is but a first step toward receiving these four bishops, and the priests who serve under them, back into full communion with the Catholic Church. If these bishops are to exercise their ministry as true teachers and pastors of the Catholic Church, they, like all Catholic bishops, will have to give their assent to all that the Church professes, including the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

As is now widely known, one of the four bishops, Richard Williamson, has recently made some deeply offensive and utterly false statements about the Holocaust of the Second World War. Bishop Williamson has denied historical facts about the Shoah, in which six million Jews were cruelly annihilated, innocent victims of blind racial and religious hatred. These comments have evoked understandable outrage from within the Jewish community and also from among our own Catholic people. No Catholic, whether lay person, priest or bishop can ever negate the memory of the Shoah, just as no Catholic should ever tolerate expressions of anti-Semitism and religious bigotry.

I make my own the words of the Holy Father spoken at the General Audience on January 28, 2009: "[May] the Shoah show both old and new generations that only the arduous path of listening and dialogue, of love and forgiveness, can lead peoples, cultures and religions of the world to the longed-for goal of fraternity and peace, in truth. May violence never again humiliate man's dignity." We Catholic bishops in the United States are as committed as ever to building bonds of trust and mutual understanding with our elder brothers and sisters, the Jewish people, so that together with them we may be a blessing to the world.

Francis Cardinal George

Monday, February 2, 2009

Acedia, me, and Kathleen Norris

It is no secret to people who know me that the end of last year was a struggle for me. I owe writer Kathleen Norris, and deceased poet W.H.Auden, enormous debts of gratitude for helping to rescue me from myself. I posted something from Auden that so beautifully captures the anti-climactic feeling that end of the Christmas holiday always brings, even from the time of being very young.

More than Auden's poetry, Norris' book Acedia & Me was a life raft. At a very human level it helped to me to realize, yet again, that my situation is not as unique as I like to flatter myself by thinking that it is. I was familiar with some of her other books, like Cloister Walk and Amazing Grace. I have not read either book. I almost read Cloister Walk after reading about it in Donald Miller's lovely book Blue Like Jazz, but did not. I still have a copy on my shelf. I came across Acedia & Me quite providentially.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon I was listening to the radio, to the program To The Best of Our Knowledge. The title of this installment is Alone Time. It was a remarkable show and I especially liked the interview with John Cacioppo, author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, wherein he explores how prevalent loneliness has become in the U.S. In the interview he discussed the distinction between solitude and loneliness.

The program also includes an interview with Kathleen Norris about acedia, which is well worth your time. It is in Realplayer format.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Year B 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My homily this week is the synthesis of number of things I have posted over on Is It Possible?. What prompted this synthesis was a phrase from the second reading, taken from 1 Corinthians 7:35 wherein St. Paul is instructs the Corinthians about the necessity of "adherence to the Lord without distraction".

Readings: Deut. 18:15-20; Ps. 95:1-2.6-7.9; 1 Cor. 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28

In our second reading today, St. Paul gives to the church at Corinth what might seem to us at first glance some very odd advice. Of course, the primitive church lived in the expectation of Christ’s imminent return. It is important to understand this in order for what Paul wrote to make sense to us. This understanding does not mean that what the apostle wrote is rendered meaningless to us who are still awaiting the Lord’s return in glory some 2,000 years later. What we have to attend to in this reading is why, even when understood in context, he wrote this advice, which he gave "not impose restraint" (1 Cor. 7:35). He wrote it in order to communicate the importance of adhering "to the Lord without distraction" (1 Cor 7:35).

To adhere means, literally, to stick to. Stated more clearly, and perhaps a bit more theologically, it means to bind oneself to observance. We, every bit as much as members of the ancient Corinthian community, need to adhere to Christ without distraction. We all know from our personal experience that this is no small task because we live in a world that is full of distractions, or so it seems.

Being a Christian does not allow us to live as if our faith is something added on to life, that extra little something that gives us a sentimental and religious basis for being nice. Rather, to have faith means to recognize our destiny in the person of Jesus Christ, to recognize the very reason that we exist, as well as for whom we exist. If faith is to recognize our destiny in Christ Jesus, then hope is the result of this recognition. Hope is nothing less than certainty about our future, a certainty that arises from our recognition of the Lord’s all-pervasive presence, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the circumstances of life. In other words, faith and hope are experiences before they become theological ideas.

It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to understand that the circumstances of our lives are not distractions. Hence, it is in everyday experience, in all our actions and inter-actions that our adhering to the Lord is made real. This not only includes trials and difficulties, but is really verified through trials, as gold and silver are refined by fire. However, we must remember that life’s trials are means, not an end. If we permit trials to define life, then life becomes just one damn thing after another. Our destiny, the reason we exist, is what defines life. When we lose sight of this fact, the whole of reality becomes distorted.

The Holy Spirit, who is the way that the resurrected Christ remains present to us, is "always present on the path through all our trials" (Is It Possible To Live This Way: An Unusual Approach to Christian Existence, Vol. 2 Hope, pg. 32). It is the Spirit, observed Msgr. Luigi Giussani, who "teaches us the great word on the road of hope: patience"” (ibid). Our word patience comes from the Latin word, patior, meaning "to carry" (ibid). Enduring trials requires patience. Being patient in trial is an indispensable part of what it means to adhere to the Lord. It is certainly what it means to trust him.

Patience, being a natural virtue, is acquired through habit and habit, in turn, requires experience. We have experiences every day, all day long. Patience requires the cultivation of another virtue, courage. Courage is what enables us to reject nothing from our experience, including our failures, defeats, humiliations, and insecurities It is important to note that virtue, even natural virtues, like patience and courage, in addition to our indispensable efforts, are aided by grace. The grace involved here, again, is the theological virtue of hope. Therefore, certainty about the future does not mean the ability to predict, or even to anticipate, what will happen to us next. Rather, it is to have faith in Christ and to face every circumstance confident that he is with us. In this way, circumstances become secondary.

It is important for us to come to the realization that Christian hope, which is certainty about the future, does not permit us to either duck or jump over experience, to evade or avoid trials. After all, we are saved through our humanity and not despite it. The hope, borne from our faith in Christ, enables us to face reality in a new way, as new people, recreated by our rebirth in baptism. Rejecting no aspect of reality is what enables us to verify the presence of Christ in all the circumstances of our lives. Adhering to the Lord means nothing other than to live in the awareness of the fact that he is always present to us in every circumstance, no matter how painful or threatening. Certainly there are times when we have a hard time discerning his presence, but we have to come to know that he is there and that his presence is not dependent on our perception. Otherwise, he becomes a genie, someone we conjure up from our imagination, a fantasy.

Jesus Christ is real. He is the fulfillment of the prophecy given by Moses in our first reading today. He is not merely the one into whose mouth God put his words; he is the very Word of God, the sole Mediator between God and humanity. Jesus is also the “kin” of those who were led out of bondage in Egypt. So, in his humanity, which can neither be divided nor separated from his divinity, the Lord is indisputably Jewish. The realization of and adherence to this fact makes any form of Christian anti-Semitism, of which we have heard far too much this past week, not only incomprehensible, but a denial of the humanity of Jesus Christ, as well as a repudiation of the indispensable role of Israel in God's plan to reconcile to the world to himself.

In order to adhere to the Lord we must believe his promise that he is with us always and not view our lives, the things that happen to us, as distractions. Believing in a promise requires trusting the one who makes it. Trust only comes through the experience of the reliability of another. In today’s Gospel, those who witness the casting out of the unclean spirit ask, "What is this?" only to answer their own question with the words, "A new teaching with authority" (Mark 1:27). It is possible to give all kinds of examples of God's trustworthiness, but in order to really believe his promise, we, too, must experience his goodness, his power, his authority, which are all made manifest through his self-emptying love in and through the ordinary and every day circumstances of our lives, which constitute our unique path to destiny.

More from the anti-Semites

I wish had seen this item posted by Deacon Greg Kandra over on The Deacon's Bench before my post yesterday. I remain dismayed and a bit distraught over what seems to be a much too hasty reconciliation. Deacon Greg's post is SSPX website: "Judaism is inimical to all nations in general". From this article, entitled The Mystery of the Jewish People in History, which is still posted as of this morning on the SSPX's American website: "If the unrepentant Jewish people are disposed by God to be a theological enemy, the status of this opposition must be universal, inevitable, and terrible."

If the Jewish people, even the so-called "unrepentant" ones, have been "disposed by God to be a theological enemy," then God is capricious and unreliable, which, of course, He is not. One cannot twist what St. Paul writes to mean that God has disposed the Jewish people to oppose him. Anti-Semitism inevitably leads to theological error, known as heresy, as the quote above indicates, but more troubling is that it is simply racist, which is gravely sinful.

Seán Cardinal O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston and a Catholic blogger, puts this controversy in proper perspective in his post It is never too late to Arise!

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Hosea 2:16.17c.18.21-22; Ps 145:2-9; Matthew 9:18-26 Our Gospel today is Saint Matthew’s version of events first written about ...