Thursday, March 31, 2005

Keeping Our Papa in My Prayers

The Pope's condition

Fox News is reporting that an Italian news agency has said that the Pope’s condition has taken a turn for the worse. I don’t have any more information than that and am waiting for our Rome correspondent to notify us if there’s any real information. Until you can verify such things from two or more sources in Rome, I suggest you treat it as the rumor that it is.

That said, a few prayers for the Holy Father would not be out of order.

Update: CNN is reporting that he has received the last rites. Other sources say he’s had a urinary tract infection and is receiving antibiotics. Stay tuned.
Dom Bettinelli at BettNet

Thou Shalt Not Be Overcome

I know that many people are heartsick over Terri. Someone said that she saw George Felos on television trashing Fr. Frank Pavone who has a long history of fighting for life. We are not even allowed to lick our wounds and mourn our dead before the attack presses on.

GetReligion's story, "Sneer-quoting culture of life," tells about a new order of priests being founded by Pavone to fight against abortion and euthanasia ... and the sneering reactions of Planned Parenthood. This is the trend we can expect as this struggle between the cultures of life and death continue. Evil is not happy about this turn of events, that this very visible struggle has alerted us all to the dangers at hand ... and evil does not give up easily. It fights back.

We must not forget that this was a battle, not the war. If ever there was a time for "onward Christian soldiers" and "the Church militant" then this is that time. This quote has been running through my head all day. It applies to right here and right now.
He said not:
Thou shalt be troubled, thou shalt not be tempted, thou shalt not be distressed,
but He said:
thou shalt not be overcome.
Julian of Norwich

Keep the faith. Hold the line. Wipe your tears and straighten your shoulders and press on in the good fight. He has promised it and Our Father keeps His promises. We shall not be overcome.

Terri is Dead

Schiavo, 41, died quietly in a Pinellas Park hospice 13 days after her feeding tube was removed despite extraordinary intervention by Florida lawmakers, Congress and President Bush - efforts that were rebuffed at every turn by the courts.

Her death was confirmed to The Associated Press by Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, and announced to reporters outside her hospice by a family adviser.

May God give support and comfort to all those who loved her and will miss her ... and may He have mercy on those who killed her.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Lot of Hot Air

This was a wonderfully animated and otherwise dreadfully dull movie that is not worth the time I am taking type this mini-review. I do so only in the hope of saving others from a similar terrible fate. Therefore, I will pass on the two nuggets of wisdom that comprised the movie's entire message which took them two hours to communicate sufficiently to make sure that we'd really get it.
  1. War is bad.
  2. Science should not be used to make weapons because ... (see message 1).

Taking My Hat Off to "A Rational LIberal"

My dear friend, Toby, is a liberal with whom anyone in St. Blogs would enjoy crossing swords. She is open minded to others' reasoning, truly tolerant, and can hold her own intelligently but without heat in any verbal debate. One of the many things I admire about Toby so much is that she thinks for herself and never stops examining issues until she has considered every side of an argument. She also is the friend who spurred my thinking about federal involvement in Terri Schiavo's case.

Toby was so outraged over the federal government trying to step in that we "agreed to disagree" and stepped away from the discussion. However, that was not enough for Toby who hadn't heard of some of the information I had heard ... y'all would have laughed to hear us talking because we were both being so careful about qualifying our lack of documentation for much of what we had "heard." She's been out of town and I've had other things on my mind so I had forgotten all about our conversation. I was really surprised to find this comment from her this morning ... but I shouldn't have been. She's been busy thinking and investigating and isn't afraid to admit a change in position based on new information.
I have been surprised at the level of my ambivalence over this tragedy. I would call myself a "rational liberal" (stop laughing!) ...and am seriously conflicted over how much I want the government in my life. We always want it to be consistent with our selfish desires, don't we?

I freely admit that I formed an opinion before learning the details. Some of the "details" are fraught with hyperbole and difficult to believe. Motives are questionable, emotions are high. But the primary issue that has moved me from "let her go" to "examine more" is the absence of CURRENT testing.

We have a friend that has recovered from a devastating lack of oxygen to her brain ...she was diagnosed as having only "brain stem" activity, and would be unable to regain any kind of awareness. Today she is verbal, functional and taking vocational rehabilitation. She even remembers her friends and family from before the incident. She will never be "her old self", but she has become a welcomed and cherished member of her assisted living home. She is a loving, supporting and truly caring friend to her fellow residents.

It can happen ...everything should be done to give Terri a chance.

How's that for a 180, Julie!
I'm just sorry that y'all don't have a chance to get to know Toby. She's one in a million!

"The First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Lawyers"

Henry VI, Shakespeare

Remember that traffic ticket that Tom got? We paid it and then forgot it but about two days before the final due date he got three (three!) letters from lawyers all telling him that they could get it reduced to $75 whether he had done it or not. His comment? "Who are the real criminals here?" I think we all know the answer to that one.

In the same set of mail we got our tax return from our accountant. We keep our business as separate as possible from our home finances but sometimes an intermingling is unavoidable and I rarely have any idea how we will come out tax-wise. Woohoo! Not only are we getting money back but it is about twice what I would have hoped for. There is nothing like that feeling of relief!

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Beatitudes: Happiness on a Higher Level

Those who heard Him preach the Beatitudes were invited to stretch themselves out on a cross, to find happiness on a higher level by death to a lower order, to despise all the world holds sacred, and to venerate as sacred all the world regards as an ideal. Heaven is happiness; but it is too much for man to have two heavens, an ersatz one below, and a real one above. Hence the four "woes" He immediately added to the Beatitudes.
But alas for you who are rich; you have had your time of happiness.
Alas for you who are well-fed now; you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now; you shall mourn and weep.
Alas for you when all speak well of you; just so did their fathers treat the false prophets.
Luke 6:24-26
Crucifixion cannot be far away when a Teacher says "woe" to the rich, the satiated, the gay and the popular. Truth is not in the Sermon on the Mount alone; it is in the One Who lived our the Sermon on the Mount on Golgotha. The four woes would have been ethical condemnations, if He had not died full of the opposite of the four woes: poor, abandoned, sorrowful, and despised. On the Mount of the Beatitudes, He bade men hurl themselves on the cross of self-denial; on the Mount of Calvary, He embraced that very cross. Though the shadow of the Cross would not fall across the place of the skull until three years later, it was already in His Heart the day He preached on "How to be Happy."
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Beatitudes: Lessons in Self-Crucifixion

The Beatitudes cannot be taken alone: they are not ideals; they are hard facts and realities inseparable from the Cross of Calvary. What He taught was self-crucifixion: to love those who hate us; to pluck out eyes and cut off arms in order to prevent sinning; to be clean on the inside when the passions clamor for satisfaction on the outside; to forgive those who would put us to death; to overcome evil with good; to bless those who curse us; to stop mouthing freedom until we have justice, truth and love of God in our hearts as the condition of freedom; to live in the world and still keep oneself unpolluted from it; to deny ourselves sometimes legitimate pleasures in order the better to crucify our egotism -- all this is to sentence the old man in us to death.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Beatitudes: The Peacemakers and Those Reviled

Let Him come into a world which believes that one must resort to every manner of chicanery and duplicity in order to conquer the world, carrying doves of peace with stomachs full of bombs, say to them, "Blessed are the peacemakers," or "Blessed are they who eradicate sin that there may be peace"; and He will find Himself surrounded by men engaged in the silliest of all wars -- a war against the Son of God; making violence with steel and wood, pinions and gall and then setting a watch over His grave that He who lost the battle might not win the day.

Let Him come into a world that believes that our whole life should be geared to flattering and influencing people for the sake of utility and popularity, and say to them: "Blessed are you when men hate, persecute, and revile you"; and He will find Himself without a friend in the world, an outcast on a hill, with mobs shouting His death, and His flesh hanging from Him like purple rags.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Beatitudes: The Holy, The Merciful, and The Pure

Let Him come into the world which denies Absolute Truth, which says that right and wrong are only questions of point of view, that we must be broadminded about virtue and vice, and let Him say to them, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after holiness," that is, after the Absolute, after the Truth which "I am"; and they will in their broadmindedness give the mob the choice of Him or Barabbas, they will crucify Him with thieves, and try to make the world believe that God is no different from a batch of robbers who are His bedfellows in death.

Let Him come into a world which says that "my neighbor is hell," that all which is opposite me is nothing, that the ego alone matters, that my will is supreme law, that what I decide is good, that I must forget others and think only of myself, and say to them, "Blessed are the merciful." He will find that He will receive no mercy; they will open five streams of blood out of His Body; they will pour vinegar and gall into His thirsting mouth; and, even after His death, be so merciless as to plunge a spear into His Sacred Heart.

Let Him come into a world which tries to interpret man in terms of sex; which regards purity as coldness, chastity as frustrated sex, self-containment as abnormality, and the union of husband and wife until death as boredom; which says that a marriage endures only so long as the glands endure, that one may unbind what God binds and unseal what God seals. Say to them, "Blessed are the pure"; and He will find Himself hanging naked on a Cross, made a spectacle to men and angels in a last wild crazy affirmation that purity is abnormal, that the virgins are neurotics, and that carnality is right.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Beatitudes: The Poor in Spirit, The Patient, and They Who Mourn

The Sermon on the Mount is so much at variance with all that the world holds dear that the world will crucify anyone who tries to live up to its values. Because Christ preached them, He had to die. Calvary was the price He paid for the Sermon on the Mount. Only mediocrity survives. Those who call black black, and white white are sentenced for intolerance. Only the grays live.

The Lord Who says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," comes into the world that believes in the primacy of the economic; let Him stand in the market place where some men live for collective profit, or where others say men live for individual profit, and see what happens. He will be so poor that during life He will have nowhere to lay His head; a day will come when He will die without anything of economic worth. In His last hour He will be so impoverished that they will strip Him of His garments and even give Him a stranger's grave for His burial, as He had a stranger's stable for His birth.

Let Him come into the world which proclaims the gospel of the strong, which advocates hating our enemies, which condemns Christian virtues as the "soft" virtues, and say to that world, "Blessed are the patient," and He will one day feel the scourges of the strong barbarians laid across His back; He will be struck on the cheek by a mocking fist during one of His trials; He will see men take a sickle and cut the grass from a hill on Calvary, and then use a hammer to pinion Him to a Cross to test the patience of One Who endures the worst that evil has to offer, that having exhausted itself it might eventually turn to Love.

Let Him come into our world which ridicules the idea of sin as morbidity, considers reparation for past guilt as a guilt complex and preach to that world, "Blessed are they who mourn" for their sins, and He will be blindfolded and mocked as a fool. They will take His Body and scourge it, until His bones can be numbered; they will crown His head with thorns, until He begins to weep not salt tears but crimson beads of blood, as they laugh at the weakness of Him Who will not come down from the Cross.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Cure for Cynicism

Chances are that you haven't heard of this documentary . I'll write more about it later but Rose has really been wanting to see it so I took her this afternoon. Bottom line: see it. And if you have kids who understand what the Holocaust is, have them see it also. It is rated G and, although there are moments that bring tears on there is nothing graphic about the Holocaust itself. As a person in the movie said, when you get older you start to think that there is nothing good in the world. This is the cure for that cynicism.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Beatitudes: The Key

The key to the Sermon on the Mount is the way He used two expressions: one was, "You have heard"; the other was the short, emphatic word, "But." When He said, "You have heard," He reached back to what human ears had heard for centuries and still hear from ethical reformers -- all those rules and codes and precepts which are half measures between instinct and reason, between local customs and the highest ideals. When He said, "You have heard," He included the Mosaic Law, Buddha with his eightfold way, Confucius with his rules for being a gentleman, Aristotle with his natural happiness, the broadness of the Hindus, and all the humanitarian groups of our day, who would translate some of the old codes into their own language and call them a new way of life. Of all these compromises, He said, "You have heard."
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Beatitudes: Taking On the World

The fascinating thing about this passage and the ones I will post over the next few days is that Sheen wrote this in 1958. 1958! I think of that as being an innocent, happy time where these problems had nothing like the emphasis they have in our modern lives. However, we can easily see from what Sheen says that was not case. His words could have been written today.
In the Beatitudes, Our Divine Lord takes those eight flimsy catch-words of the world -- "Security," "Revenge," "Laughter," "Popularity," "Getting Even," "Sex," "Armed Might," and "Comfort" -- and turns them upside down. To those who say, "You cannot be happy unless you are rich," He says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." To those who say, "Don't let him get away with it," He says, "Blessed are the patient." To those who say, "Laugh and the world laughs with you," He says, "Blessed are those who mourn." To those who say: "If nature gave you sex instincts you ought to give them free expression, otherwise you will become frustrated," He says, "Blessed are the clean of heart." To those who say, "Seek to be popular and well known," He says, "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and speak all manner of evil against you falsely because of Me." To those who say, "In time of peace prepare for war," He says, "Blessed are the peacemakers."

The cheap clich├ęs around which movies are written and novels composed, He scorns. He proposes to burn what they worship; to conquer errant sex instincts instead of allowing them to make slaves of man; to tame economic conquests instead of making happiness consist in an abundance of things external to the soul. All false beatitudes which make happiness depend on self-expression, license, having a good time, or "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die," He scorns because they bring mental disorders, unhappiness, false hopes, fears, and anxieties.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

My Bellwether for the Culture of Death

Pronunciation: 'bel-'we-[th]&r, -"we-
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, leading sheep of a flock, leader, from belle bell + wether; from the practice of belling the leader of a flock
: one that takes the lead or initiative : LEADER; also : an indicator of trends
I was talking to my mother on the phone last night and realized just how far I'd come in not thinking like the rest of our society. I can't remember why this came up but she suddenly was laughing and saying, "Why won't the pope just quit? That stubborn old guy ... what is his problem?" I was shocked into silence.

I stammered, "But we love our Papa," thinking to myself, "can I sound any lamer or more sentimental or more Catholic?" Because I knew that wasn't going to get me anywhere with my mom. "He can't even talk." was her reply. I pulled myself together and pointed out that he was showing our society a wonderful example of how old age or sickness didn't mean you had to be shoved into a corner ... and then dropped the big bomb, "like Terri Schiavo down in Florida. Her husband's trying to kill her and no one's stopping him."

Her tone grew cold. "She's been in a coma for twelve years."
"She isn't in a coma, Mom."
"Well, she's in a vegetative state."
"No, she's not. I've seen videos of her responding to her mother and people around her."
"Well," my mother said dismissively, "I don't agree with you."
"But it's a video. You don't agree or disagree with it. It shows you what it shows you."

And then, because we love each other and didn't want to go past the point of no return, we changed the subject.

So, you probably can understand why, when my mother brought up how curious she was to see Million Dollar Baby, I just told her about how all the movie critics liked it too. There wasn't any point in bringing up the whole euthanasia issue ... we were already running on pure luck in that conversation.

My mother is a wonderful person, kind and good to anyone she meets, and would never knowingly harm anyone. She also is an atheist and, consequently, much of the time has no reason to question what modern culture holds to be "good." She truly believes that we are simply very intelligent animals and when we die ... poof ... we disappear. That's it.

I can't be upset with what she thinks. A few years ago I would have agreed with my mother on every point except the atheism. She gets her news from television and The New York Times. She is only saying what a lot of people think, a bellwether in essence for which way the wind is blowing on current issues. However, it makes two things perfectly clear to me.

The first is that we truly are those bits of yeast Jesus spoke of, the light that can change the world. If my mother doesn't hear a different viewpoint from me, where will she hear it? She may not agree but at least someone has mentioned a few facts from the opposite point of view. Without Christians who hold the line against the culture of death, there is no one to say anything or stop anyone.

The second realization was connected to Million Dollar Baby. I have watched with great interest as Barbara Nicolosi at Church of the Masses and Jeffrey Overstreet at Looking Closer Journal have traded viewpoints about this movie. Nicolosi maintains that the overwhelmingly negative presentation of Christians and support for euthanasia make the movie dangerous; that it validates euthanasia as an option of love. Overstreet holds that the movie presents both sides in an issue that we must examine and that to suppress the other point of view is dangerous censorship.

I haven't seen the movie so couldn't really come down on one side or the other until that conversation with my mother. I realized that even if Million Dollar Baby was very fair presenting euthanasia pros and cons, Barbara Nicolosi was right. My mother has no reason to think that there is such a thing as a soul or believe in the sanctity of life itself as a gift from God. She would take that movie as affirmation of her viewpoint. She doesn't care about the cons of the argument because she thinks they are based on stupidity, not compassion or love. It would take a truly passionate and intelligent presentation of the opposite side to make her begin to rethink it. She has not had any reason to go through the process that I have of reexamining all my beliefs against what the Catholic Church teaches; an examination was often painful and forced me to abandon long-held "truths" for a much brighter light that called "black black and white white" as Fulton Sheen says in Life of Christ.

What this says about society as a whole, if my mother is truly the bellwether I believe her to be, is a very scary proposition. If a 70 year old grandmother holds these views and thinks them perfectly reasonable we are much closer to the sort of situation that exists in Holland today than I realized. I do not know what the answer is and, truth be told, there is undoubtedly not merely one answer at all. Again, we are back to Jesus' analogy of the yeast. Each of us holds a bit of the key, even if it is only a daughter forcing herself to talk about the tough stuff with her mother on the phone and both of them tolerating, in love, hearing what the other side thinks. It's a start anyway.
Once people stop believing in God, the problem is not that they will believe in nothing; rather, the problem is that they will believe anything.
C.S. Lewis

Why Twelve Apostles?

The number twelve is symbolic. The Book of the Apocalypse speaks of the twelve foundations of the Church. There were twelve patriarchs in the Old Testament, and also twelve tribes in Israel; there were twelve spies who explored the promised land; there were twelve stones on the breast of the High Priest; when Judas failed, a twelfth Apostle had to be named. The Apostles are most often referred to in the Gospels as "the twelve," that title being attributed to them thirty-two times. In choosing these twelve, it was evident that Our Lord was preparing them for a work after His Ascension; that the Kingdom He came to found was not only invisible but visible; not only Divine but human. But they had so much to learn before they could be the twelve gates of the Kingdom of God. Their first lesson would be the Beatitudes.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

I will be following up this with several excerpts about the Beatitudes also as Sheen presents them in a way that I really never had thought of and y'all may like it also.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Way I Feel Right Now

Last year I had a really wonderful Holy Week. Rose and I together wound up traveling a parallel spiritual journey that made Easter the most joyous ever. I told all this to a friend who loves Lent. She said that she couldn't believe I was someone who had to be practically forced into looking forward to Lent this year. The funny thing is that I dove into Lent but once the discipline of limiting blogging time set in, it has been a relatively smooth, unemotional ride. I did have an exceptional time during the last week of being allowed to see the "design on the embroidery" in many situations. What a blessing and one that never came without selfless service, which I am not usually involved in very much. (Ahem. We will talk about that some other time.) However, those incidents were not particularly connected to Lent.

In one way I have surprised myself. I've had the opportunity for adoration over the last two weekends, pretty much any time I'd like ... yet I haven't been moved to take advantage of it. And, let me tell you, adoration opportunities are very rare in our parish and I'm one of a relatively small group of people who have access to this opportunity over these weekends. Usually I'm on this like a chicken on a June bug. Still I didn't go. No particular reason; just didn't feel like it. At the same time I've been watching myself, observing this as if from a distance. I think that sometimes we are drawn to Him and other times, well I don't know, it just isn't how He is going to reach us, or at least me at this moment.

So I've been thinking about this some, the missed opportunities and my lack of reaction, just riding along in my head wondering what this Holy Week will be like. I'm planning on making time to watch The Passion of the Christ next weekend (if every other Christian in town hasn't rented it first, in which case I suppose I'll be forced to buy it). I'll go to Mass for Holy Thursday and Good Friday. I skip the vigil services on Holy Saturday. Not only are they packed and lengthy but I like to find the open tomb the way the women did, on Sunday morning. (Also, I keep a special place in my heart for the Vigil Saturday in 2000 when I came home to the Church.)

Waiting up for Hannah to come back on Saturday night I was typing in posts about the beatitudes that went perfectly with Holy Week (y'all will just have to keep coming back to see them, won't you?). Looking at these readings I wasn't amazed, just matter-of-fact in my acceptance that they mirrored Holy Week so perfectly and came up at just the right time to end on Good Friday. The fact that they were the perfect preparation for me didn't escape me either.

Then, Sunday morning, I realized that I'd better have some things to post for Easter itself. Kind of like a forgotten homework assignment I just remembered, this made me tired. Surely every other blog I knew would have something great for Easter. Right? But it doesn't hurt just to see if anything hits me right (which is the only way that anything winds up on this blog). I turned to my "go-to" devotional, In Conversation with God ... and I found where Jesus was waiting to touch my heart. He had the prep work done and was ready to make His point. As I slowly turned the pages for Holy Week, phrases leapt out at me, perfectly speaking to my heart, bringing tears to my eyes as I thought of what Jesus endured ... for me. That was when I knew that I don't have to wonder about what this Holy Week and Easter will be like. They will be perfect for me because God is waiting for me there ... in the right time, Holy Week itself.

Who could ever figure out the Holy Spirit? I am so thankful that I wasn't trying to "force" anything because, naturally, He has this Easter all planned for me. I just haven't gotten there yet. And what did He did to make this point to me? This blog. Kinda funny, huh? But then He works in ironic ways too, doesn't He?
There's a woman who is embroidering. Her son, seated on a low stool, sees her work, but in reverse. He sees the knots of the embroidery, the tangled threads. He says, "Mother, what are you doing? I can't make out what you are doing!" Then mother lowers the embroidery hoop and shows the good part of the work. Each color is in place that the various threads form a harmonious design. So, we see the reverse side of the embroidery because we are seated on the low stool.
Saint Pio

The Twelve: Simon

Simon the Zealot is one of the twelve Apostles about whom we know the least. His Aramaic name meaning "Zealot" suggests that he was a partisan to a sect which would use violence to overthrow the foreign yoke. This name had been given to him before his conversion. He belonged to a band of patriots who were so zealous for the overthrow of Roman rule that they revolted against Caesar. Perhaps the Lord chose him because of his wholehearted enthusiasm for a cause; but a Niagara of purification would be needed before he would understand the Kingdom in terms of a Cross instead of a sword. Imagine Simon the Zealot, an Apostle with Matthew the publican! One was an extreme nationalist, while the other was by profession virtually a traitor to his own people. And yet both were made one by Christ, and later on they would both be martyrs for His Kindgom. The twelfth Apostle was Judas, "the son of perdition," who will be treated later.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Twelve: Jude and James

Two of the Apostles were relatives of Our Lord, namely James and Jude. They are called "brethren" of Our Lord, but in Aramaic and Hebrew this word often means cousins or distant relatives ... These two Apostles, James the Less and Jude, were probably the sons of Cleophas, who was married to Our Lady's sister.

Jude had three names. Having the same name as Judas the traitor, he is always described negatively as "not the Iscariot." The night of the Last Supper, he questioned Our Lord about the Holy Spirit, or how He would be invisible and yet manifest Himself after His Resurrection. There had always been lurking in the minds of many of the Apostles a desire to see some great flashing Messianic glory that would open blind eyes and capture every intelligence.
Judas asked him -- the other Judas, not Iscariot -- Lord, what can have happened, that you mean to disclose yourself to us alone and not to the world? John 14:22
The answer of Our Lord to Jude was that when our responsive love melts into obedience, then God makes His dwelling within us. Late on, Jude, sometimes called Thaddeus, wrote an Epistle beginning with words which reflected the answer he received on Holy Thursday night.
From Jude, servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those whom God has called, who live in the love of God the Father and in the safe keeping of Jesus Christ.
Mercy, peace, and love be yours in fullest measure. Jude 1:1-3

Another Apostle was James the Just, also called James the Less, to distinguish him from the son of Zebedee. We know he had a good mother for she was one of the women who stood at the foot of the Cross. Like his brother Jude he wrote an Epistle which was addressed to the twelve tribes of the dispersion, that is, to the Jewish Christians who were scattered throughout the Roman world. It began:
From James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Greetings to the Twelve Tribes dispersed throughout the world. James 1:1

James, who like all the other Apostles failed to understand the Cross when Our Lord foretold it, afterward came like the others to make the Cross the condition of glory.
My brothers, whenever you have to face trials of many kinds, count yourselves supremely happy ... Happy the man who remains steadfast under trial, for having passed that test he will receive for his prize the gift of life promised to those who love God. James 1:2, 12
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

A Layman's Litany of Humility

A litany is a well-known and much appreciated form of responsive petition, used in public liturgical services, and in private devotions, for common necessities of the Church, or in calamities — to implore God's aid or to appease His just wrath. (From Mary at Ever New.)

From feeling and acting like I have the answer, deliver me, Jesus.
From feeling and acting like my way is best, deliver me, Jesus.
From feeling and acting like I am right, deliver me, Jesus.
From feeling and acting like I should be the leader, deliver me, Jesus.
From feeling and acting like I'm better than someone else, deliver me, Jesus.
From feeling and acting like someone else is wrong, deliver me, Jesus.
From feeling and acting like I know more than others, deliver me, Jesus.
From feeling and acting overly sensitive, deliver me, Jesus.
From feeling and acting defensively, deliver me, Jesus.

From finding it difficult to deny myself for the good of others, deliver me, Jesus.
From finding it difficult to pray for my 'enemies,' deliver me, Jesus.
From finding it difficult to leave my comfort zone, deliver me, Jesus.
From finding it difficult to set aside my personal preferences, deliver me, Jesus.
From finding it difficult to trust others, deliver me, Jesus.
From finding it difficult to submit to others, deliver me, Jesus.
From finding it difficult to defer to others, deliver me, Jesus.
From finding it difficult to allow others to serve me, deliver me, Jesus.
From finding it difficult to rejoice in the success of others, deliver me, Jesus.
From finding it difficult to be totally open and honest with others, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being vulnerable to others, deliver me, Jesus.
From thinking less of those who are different from me, deliver me, Jesus.
From judging others, deliver me, Jesus.
From becoming envious of others, deliver me, Jesus.
From being critical of others, deliver me, Jesus.
From speaking to others in a degrading way, deliver me, Jesus.
From desiring to be the center of attention, deliver me, Jesus.
From the compulsion to make my opinion known, deliver me, Jesus.
From wanting to make others aware of how much I am suffering, deliver me, Jesus.
From wanting to make others aware of how much I've been persecuted, deliver me, Jesus.
From doing things so others will think I am holy, deliver me, Jesus.
From being afraid, ashamed or embarrassed to publicly acknowledge the Lord, deliver me, Jesus.
From neglecting to acknowledge my total dependence on the Lord, deliver me, Jesus.
From regarding myself as more important than anyone else, deliver me, Jesus.

That I would never make myself anything but the lowest priority for anyone, especially in my own household, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how displeasing even the least of my sins is to God, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I neglect God, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how little time I actually take to ask God for his help with the needs in my life, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I plunge into a project without imploring God's assistance, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of the magnitude of my weakness, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how stupid I've proven that I can be, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how selfish I can be, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I have been proven wrong, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I've done selfish or sinful things, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I forget to express gratitude, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I stop listening and form my own opinion, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I feel worthy or deserving, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I pursue my own will without considering what God's will might be, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I rely on my own knowledge without seeking the wisdom of God, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I blame others, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I have hurt others, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I fail to extend mercy, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily my behavior is dictated by what others will think of me, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how easily I lose my joy when things don't come to pass as I had hoped, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how difficult it is for me to ask others for help, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how difficult it is for me to ask forgiveness, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how difficult it is for me to accept correction, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how frequently I first see the faults, rather than the good in others, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of the effort I put into concealing my weaknesses from others, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always be aware of how often I impose my will upon others unnecessarily, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always remember to allow others to go before me, Jesus, grant me the grace.
That I could always remember to imitate you, Jesus, our perfect model of humility, Jesus, grant me the grace.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Twelve: Thomas

Thomas was the pessimist of the Apostles, and probably his pessimism had something to do with his scepticism. When Our Lord tried to console His Apostles, on the night of the Last Supper by assuring them that He would prepare the way for them in heaven, Thomas responded by saying that he wanted to believe but could not. Later on, when the news was brought to Our Lord that Lazarus was dead:
Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. John 11:16
Thomas was called Didymus, which is merely the Greek translation of a Hebrew name and means "twin"; Thomas was a twin in another sense, for in him lived side-by-side the twins of unbelief and faith, each contending for mastery. There was faith, because he believed it was better to die with the Lord than to forsake Him; there was unbelief, for he could not help believing that death would be the end of whatever work the Lord had a mind to accomplish.

Chrysostom says of him that while he would hardly venture to go with Jesus as far as the neighboring town of Bethany, Thomas would travel without Him after Pentecost, to farthest India to implant the Faith; even to this day, the faithful in India still call themselves "St. Thomas Christians."
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

The Twelve: Matthew

Of Matthew or Levi, the publican, there is a record of his vocation and how he responded to it. The great and imperishable glory of Matthew is his Gospel. Matthew was a publican under the government of Herod, a vassal of Rome. A publican was one who sold out his own people and collected taxes for the invader, retaining for himself a fairly large percentage. Very understandably, because a publican was a kind of Quisling, he was held in contempt by his fellow men; yet he knew at the same time that he had the power and legal authority of the Roman government behind him. The particular place where we first meet Matthew is at the head of the lake, near Capharnaum where he was gathering in the taxes. His calling demanded that he should be a careful recorder of the accounts. His submission to the Savior was immediate. The Gospel relates:
As he passed on from there Jesus saw a man named Matthew at his seat in the custom-house, and said to him, Follow me; and Matthew rose and followed him.
Matthew 9:9
He who had been wealthy would now have nothing to look forward to but poverty and persecution; and yet, he accepted this condition at the first summons. "Come," says the Savior to a despised man, and he follows immediately. His response was all the more remarkable because he had been immersed in a trade which attracted mostly the unscrupulous and the unethical. It was bad enough that the tribute of homage from Israel should be collected by a Roman, but for it to be collected by a Jew was to make him one of the most despised of men. And yet, this Quisling who had forfeited all love of country, and who had completely suffocated the virtue of patriotism in his lust for gain, ended by becoming one of the most patriotic of his own people. The Gospel he wrote might be described as the gospel of patriotism. A hundred times in his Gospel, he goes back into the history of the past, quoting from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micheas, David, Daniel and all the prophets; after piling them one upon the other in a great cumulative argument, he says to his people in effect: "This is the glory of Israel, this is our hope, we have begotten the Son of the Living God; we have given to the world the Messiah." His country, which had yesterday meant nothing at all to him, became in his Gospel of the highest importance. He was declaring himself a son of Israel, ready to lavish on her all his praise. As men love God, they will also love their country.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

The Twelve: Bartholomew (Nathanael)

Philip brought Bartholomew, or Nathanael as he was also called, to Our Blessed Lord. As soon as He saw him, Our Divine Savior read his soul and described him as follows:
Here is an Israelite worthy of the name; there is nothing false in him. Nathanael asked him, How do you come to know me? Jesus replied, I saw you under the fig-tree before Philip spoke to you.
John 1:47, 48
Then Nathanael answered Him:
Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are king of Israel. Jesus answered, Is this the ground of your faith, that I told you I saw you under the fig-tree? You shall see greater things than that. Then he added, In truth, in very truth I tell you all, you shall see heaven wide open, and God's angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
John 1:49-51
When Our Lord told him that He had seen him under a fig tree, Bartholomew was willing immediately to make the affirmation that Christ was the Son of God. His first contact with Our Lord had already lighted the lamp of faith within him, but Our Lord quickly assured him that there would be greater experiences in store; in particular, the great vision which had come to Jacob would be realized in Him.

Our Lord said that Nathanael belonged to the true Israel. Israel was the name given to Jacob. He, however, was very shrewd, and full of guile. Nathanael is characterized as a true Israelite, or one without guile. A sudden transition from the plural to the singular happens when Our Lord says: "You will see heaven opening"; Jacob had seen the heavens opened and angels ascending and descending on the ladder, bringing the things of man to God and the things of God to men. Jesus was now telling Nathanael that he would see even greater things. The implication was that He Himself would henceforth be the Mediator between heaven and earth, God and man; in Him, all the traffic between time and eternity would meet as at a crossroad.

The prophecy of Our Lord to Bartholomew shows that the incarnation of the Son of God would be the basis of communion between man and God. Nathanael had called Him the "Son of God"; Our Lord called Himself the "Son of Man"; "Son of God" because He is eternally Divine; "Son of Man" because He is related humbly to all humanity. This title, used in close relationship with another title that had been given to Our Lord, namely, the "King of Israel," still carried with it a Messianic meaning; but it took it out of the limited context of one people and one race, into the sphere of universal humanity.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Monday, March 7, 2005

The Twelve: Philip

The Apostle Philip came from Bethsaida and was a fellow townsman of Andrew and Peter. Philip was the curious enquirer; and his enquiry was crowned by the joy of discovery when he found Christ.
Philip went to find Nathanael and told him, We have met the man spoken of by Moses in the Law, and by the prophets: It is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth. Nazareth! Nathanael exclaimed; can anything good come from Nazareth? Philip said, Come and see.
John 1, 45, 46
Philip declined all controversy with a man who was so prejudiced as to believe that a prophet could not come out of a despised village. Philip is not met again until the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, and again he was enquiring:
Twenty pounds would not buy enough bread for every one of them to have a little. John 6:7
Philip made a last enquiry on the night of the Last Supper, when he asked Our Lord to show him the Father.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Friday, March 4, 2005

The Twelve: James and John

Like Peter and Andrew, James and John were brothers and fishermen. They worked together for their father Zebedee. Their mother Salome was apparently not lacking in ambition; for it was she who, one day, thinking that the Kingdom that Our Blessed Lord had come to establish would be without a Cross, asked that her two sons be picked to sit at the left and right side of Our Lord in His Kingdom. To her credit, however, it must be added that we find her again on Calvary, at the foot of the Cross. Our Blessed Lord gave her sons a nickname -- Boanerges or "sons of thunder." This happened when the Samaritans refused to receive Our Blessed Lord because He had set His Face towards Jerusalem and His death. The two Apostles, discovering this, manifested their intolerance to Our Lord:
Lord, may we call down fire from heaven to burn them up? But he turned and rebuked them, and they went on to another village.
Luke 9:54-56
The two "sons of thunder" did not fail to drink deeply of the chalice of suffering. John was later plunged in boiling oil, which he survived only through a miracle. James was the first of all of the Apostles to suffer martyrdom for Christ. John described himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved," and to him was accorded the guardianship of the mother of Our Lord after the Crucifixion. John was known to the High Priest probably because of his cultural refinement which justified is name, which in the original Hebrew means "favored of God." His Gospel revealed him truly as an eagle who soared to heaven to understand the mysteries of the word. No one better understood the heart of Christ; no one penetrated more deeply into the significance of His words. He too was the only one of the Apostles to be found at the foot of Christ; he is the one who tells us that "Jesus wept," and he gives the New Testament definition of God as "Love." James his brother, who is called "the Greater" belonged, together with Peter and John, to that "special committee" which witnessed the Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead, and the agony of Gethsemane.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Thursday, March 3, 2005

The Twelve: Andrew

Andrew, the brother of Peter, is referred to eight times in the New Testament. After being called from his nets and his boats to be a "fisher of men" along with his brother Peter, Andrew is seen next on the occasion of the feeding of the five thousand, telling Our Lord that there was a boy present with five loaves and two fishes. Toward the end of the public ministry, Andrew is met with again when some Gentiles, probably Greeks, came to Philip asking to see Our Lord. Philip then consulted Andrew and they both came to the Lord. At the very first meeting of Andrew and Our Blessed Lord, Jesus asked him:
What are you looking for? John 1:38
Andrew had been a friend of John the Baptist. When he met Our Lord, to whom John the Baptist had pointed, he immediately went and told Peter that he had found the Messiah. Andrew is always spoken of as Simon Peter's brother. He was an "introducer" because he brought his brother Peter to Our Lord; he introduced the lad with the barley loaves and fishes to Our Lord; and finally with Philip, came to introduce the Greeks to Our Lord. When it is a question of dispensing some benefits of the Lord or bringing others to the Lord, Philip and Andrew are mentioned together. Andrew was rather silent, being overshadowed by his brother Peter, but apparently he was never jealous. There was room for envy when Peter, James, and John were selected on three occasions for intimacy with the Divine Master, but he accepted his humble place; sufficient it was to him to have found the Christ.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

The Twelve: Peter

The night before the choice He spent praying on the mountainside that they who were in the heart of the Father would also be in His own. When morning broke, He came down to where His disciples were gathered and, man by man, called those whom He had chosen. Of Peter the most is known. Peter is mentioned 195 times; the rest of the Apostles only 130 times. The one mentioned next in frequency to Peter is John, to whom there are 29 references. Peter's original name was Simon, but it was changed by our Blessed Lord to Cephas. When he was brought to Our Blessed Lord:
He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, You are Simon son of John. You shall be called Cephas (that is, Peter, the Rock). John 1:42
The word Cephas meant "rock"; we do not get the full flavor of it in English, because Peter, the proper name, is not the same as our word "rock." The words were identical in the Aramaic which Our Blessed Lord spoke, just as they are in French, where the proper name Pierre is the same as pierre, or rock. In Scripture, whenever God changed the name of a man, it was to raise him to a higher dignity and role in the community to which he belonged. Our Lord might have been saying to Peter, "you are impulsive and fickle and unreliable, but one day all this will be changed; you will be called by a name that no one would dare give you now -- Rock Man." Whenever he is called "Simon" in the Gospels, it is a reminder of the Apostle's uninspired and unregenerate humanity; for example, when he was sleeping in the garden, Our Blessed Lord addressed him:
Asleep, Simon? Mark 14:37
Peter had by nature great qualities of leadership. For example, after the Resurrection when he said, "I go a fishing," the other Apostles followed suit. His moral courage was manifested when he left his business and his home for the Master; that same courage, expressed impetuously, made him smite off the ear of Malchus when the leaders came to arrest Our Lord. He was boastful too, for he swore that though others would betray the Master, he would not. He had a deep sense of sin, and he begged the Lord to depart from him because of his unworthiness. His very faults endear him. He was deeply attached to his Divine Master. When other disciples left, he maintained there was no one else to whom they could go. He had courage, for he left his wife and his business to follow Our Lord. To the credit of his mother-in-law, it must be said that Peter showed no regret when Our Lord cured her of a serious illness. He was impulsive to an extreme degree, guided more by feeling than by reason. He wanted to walk on the waters, and given the power, became frightened and screamed in fear -- he a man of the sea. He was an emphatic man, swinging swords, cursing, protesting against the Savior washing his feet; though named head of the Church, he had none of the ambition of James and John. But through the power of his Divine Master this impetuous man, as fluid as water, was turned into the rock on which Christ built His Church. The Divine Savior constantly linked Himself verbally with His Heavenly Father; but the only human being He ever united with Hmself and spoke of Himself and that one as "we," was Peter. From that day on, Peter and his successors have always used "we" to indicate the unity between the invisible Head of the church and its visible head ...
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

The Choosing of the Twelve

It is evident that from the beginning, Our Blessed Lord intended to prolong His teaching, and His reign and His very life "unto the consummation of the world;" but in order to do this He had to call to Himself a body of men to whom He would communicate certain powers that He had brought with Him to earth. This body would not be a social body such as a club, united only for the sake of pleasure and convenience; nor would it be a political body, held together by common material interests; it would be truly spiritual, the cement of which would be charity and love and the possession of His Spirit. If the society or Mystical Body Our lord wanted to found was to have continuity, it would need a head and members. If it was a vineyard, as He declared in one of His parables, it would need laborers; if it was a net, it would need fishermen; if it was a field, it would need sowers and reapers; if it was a herd, or a flock, it would need shepherds.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

I found Sheen had such wonderful insight into the characters of Jesus' disciples, that I will be posting his commentary about each person here in the next few days.