Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Homily

I can't match everything that Cathy Ward manages to communicate in exquisite brevity ... but will try. You will just have to imagine Fr. L's wonderful oratory style that leaves most people wanting to shout, "Amen" when he is done. Here goes nothing...

"It is not enough to know Jesus if we don't show it in our actions, words, and lives. Go show it."

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Flight 93 Review

From Madeleine comes this review. I have pulled it out of the comments box because she did such a good job of describing the essence of the film and why she liked it ... and she may have convinced me to go see this movie.
I wanted to wait until I saw Flight 93 to weigh in on this discussion. I have just seen it, and it is one of the finest efforts I have seen in years of moviegoing. I am ready to say that this one will be a classic, along with Tora Tora Tora and films of that general type.

I want to say that the key to this film is the unquenchable courage of the human spirit. This is about a battle in the sky - a truly significant battle fought by ordinary American citizens. And of all the documentaries, re-enactments, narrations, etc., that I have seen dealing with that day, this is superior to and unlike any of them. It is gripping and spellbinding, and you will be proud of these people, and also get a good look at "the fog of war" and what the people in the FAA and military were dealing with.

The movie starts so very slowly, capturing the ordinary, familiar, even boring atmosphere perfectly. What we then are treated to is the story of how the ordinary people (just like me, just like you, just like our friends and neighbors) came to grips with a situation that became clearer and more perilous with each bit of gleaned information. I am so proud of those people words can't express it.

Please don't dismiss this movie expecting blood (very little), scenes of slaughter, etc. You won't find them. What you will find is an exceptional group of heroes. And if heroism makes you cry, then yes, you might want to tuck a Kleenex in your pocket. Sorry for the long comment and "mini-review", but as you can tell, I was very impressed. And I still haven't seen Saving Private Ryan, because I can't take violent movies.

Mini-Lit For the Weekend

This is all shamelessly stolen from Cathy Ward who you should all be reading anyway. She has taken the Books-in-a-Minute idea and run with it. She's got a gift for sure.

Mere Christianity
by C.S. Lewis

You can believe Jesus is the Savior of the world or not.
But if you don't, you're dumb.



The Great Divorce

by C. S. Lewis

"Is this Purgatory, or is this Hell?"
Only you can decide.



The Old Testament

by Various

God made it.
Man fouled it up.
God was mad.
And He certainly had a right to be mad.
Lots of turtledoves died.



The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio

By Dante Alighieri

Dante: "You know what, Virgil? You're my best friend.
No - I mean it. I can't imagine being here without you.
I really love you, man. I just - - - - - Woah! Virgil, look over there!
Is that - Beatrice?! Man, she's hot."

Dante: (Turns to Virgil)
"Gotta go, V. Take it easy."


Friday, April 28, 2006

"Jesus is not a zombie!"


I don't know if anyone else out there is watching Bones but we just watched last week's show which took place in New Orleans and was heavily into voodoo.

This show is a good example of what happens if a network leaves a newbie on for more than three episodes so that character development can happen and plotlines can acquire depth (in this case, so that mysteries can actually mislead us, unlike the plots in the beginning of the series).

I find it especially interesting in the contrast between the forensic anthropologist, Dr. Brennan, and her FBI partner, Booth. She looks at practically all human interaction, and practices through an impassionate anthropological lens. Booth is a Christian and occasionally will contradict her to put forward his faith (or that of others) as motivation or cause for events. In this episode we discovered that he is Catholic.

Now none of this has a huge bearing on the overall show. However, in terms of being the direct opposite of the impartial view that Dr. Brennan consistently posits, it is an interesting emphasis to see brought up time and again. I can't remember which episode but it even was the subject of conversation for all the characters at one point: faith versus no faith. This is not the sort of thing that is usually seen on TV and I enjoy it because I think it mirrors real life more than most television shows acknowledge. At least, that is the sort of thing that seems to come up in my daily life more often than not.

(Just FYI, the headline quote was Booth's response to Dr. Brennan making a direct comparison between voodoo and Christianity based on Jesus' resurrection.)

Back to Basics: Transubstantiation

Catholicism professes that during the Consecration, a miracle occurs — the priest consecrates the bread and wine: Just as Jesus did at the Last Supper, the priest takes the bread in the form of a Host and says, "This is My body." Then he elevates the Host for the congregation to see, bells are rung, and he genuflects. Then he takes the chalice (cup) of wine, saying "This is the cup of My blood," elevates the chalice, and genuflects. Now it's the body and blood of Christ — it still looks, feels and tastes like bread and wine, but it's not. This change of bread and wine into the real Body and Blood of Christ is called transubstantiation.

The Bible says that God created merely by speaking: "God said, 'Let there be light' and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). Likewise, by merely speaking the words of Christ over the bread and wine during Holy Communion, the priest changes them into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ through the authority given to him by the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Only an ordained priest has the authority to say Mass and consecrate the bread and wine.

Catholics kneel before the consecrated Host — the Eucharist — because it's not a piece of bread anymore — it truly is Christ. If the Holy Eucharist were just a symbol — such as bread and wine — then kneeling down and adoring it would be considered idolatry, but the Catholic Church has staunchly asserted for 2,000 years that the Holy Eucharist isn't a symbol. The Holy Eucharist is his body and blood. Therefore, the Holy Eucharist is Christ himself present in the consecrated Host...
Catholicism for Dummies by John Trigilio

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Literary Post of the Week

The Confessions of St. Augustine
By St. Augustine

St. Augustine

I was a bad boy. Damn, was I a bad boy. Not anymore, though.


Back to Basics: Prayer and the Mass

Traditionally, Catholicism has four kinds of prayer.
  • Adoration: Praising God.
  • Contrition: Asking for God's forgiveness.
  • Petition: Asking God for a favor.
  • Thanksgiving: Showing God gratitude.
The Church believes that the Mass is the highest and supreme form of prayer, so it has all four elements in it. The Gloria is the adoration part of prayer, whereas the Confiteor and Penitential Rite are the contrition part. Later in the Mass, after the homily (sermon) and the Nicene Creed, comes the Prayer of the Faithful, also known as the General intercessions, which is a prayer of petition. The thanksgiving part comes after Holy Communion, when gratitude is shown for all the graces given at Mass.
Catholicism for Dummies by John Trigilio

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

4th Book Dropped

The Cell by Stephen King

Ok, I can hear it now. Yes, I should have known better. However, I was intrigued by the idea of a cell phone pulse that turns everyone into zombies.

Unfortunately it seemed that King has picked up his sense of timing from Jon Bon Jovi ("don't bore us, get to the chorus"). No character development, just blast us right into the gross horror and never quit. I got as far as the characters noticing a "hive mind" sort of development as well as "flocking behavior" ... got bored and quit.

Guess I'll go back to my usual Stephen King tactics ... keep rereading The Stand and The Shining and ignore his new books.

Love is More Than Feelings

Love for God does not consist in sensible feelings, although these too may be given to us by Our Lord so as to help us to be more generous. It consists essentially in the full identification of our will with that of God ...

Love is repaid with love, but it must be genuine love, which is seen in specific ways in the fulfillment of our duties toward God and towards others, even when our feelings do not incline us in this direction, and it may be for us an uphill struggle. The highest perfection consists not in interior favors or in great raptures, wrote St. Teresa, but in the Will of God that, as soon as we realize that he wills anything, we desire it ourselves with all our might.

In the service of God, a Christian should be guided by faith an in this way overcome the ups and downs of moods. To guide myself by mere sentiment would be like putting a servant in charge of the household and causing the master to relinquish his position. Sentiment is not what is bad, but the importance that is given to it ... In certain souls the emotions constitute all their piety, to such an extent that they are convinced that they have lost it whenever the feeling goes away ... If only these souls could understand that this is precisely the moment in which to begin to have it (J. Tissot, The Interior Life).

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Laura H's Blog

For those of us, and we know who we are, who know Laura H. personally ... here is her blog. It has much to recommend it whether you know Laura or not. I especially was taken by her post today about confession.

Mozart Remix

Papa and his iPod. Via WardWideWeb.

No Man is an Island


It is rare that a movie has the plot synopsis as the very first lines, but the theme is aptly posed by the British "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" game show host, "Who said 'no man is an island?" Fliply answered by Hugh Grant's character, Will, "Jon Bon Jovi," we see another main aspect to the movie. He's shallow, admits it right up front and uses his money and charm to get him what he wants. He maintains that he is an island and that it is the best way to live, unencumbered by problems.

When Will decides that single mums are the best women to date and goes seeking the best venue to meet them, he encounters Marcus, a misfit school boy. Marcus, in turn, tries to recruit Will to date his suicidal mother in an attempt to get "back up" for when things go bad. Ostensibly about Will's attempts to find suitable girl friends, and ultimately love, the story actually is about how both "boys" influence each other to find happiness.

I've seen this movie many times and am struck by how consistently enjoyable it is. Toni Collette is a delight as the suicidal, hippie mom who dresses outlandishly and, in a sudden paroxym of need, shouts across the schoolyard to Marcus, "I love you." Nicholas Hoult is perfect as Marcus who loves his mother and will call, "I love you too, Mum" back across the schoolyard even though he knows exactly the beating this will earn him from all the bullies. Hugh Grant hits the exact right notes as the selfish but charming bachelor who has just enough empathy for an unhappy boy to make a mimimum of effort to help him out.

HC Rating: **** Nine thumbs up.

Sent to Preach

This excerpt is talking about when the twelve disciples were sent out to proclaim "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 10). It never occurred to me to wonder how the apostles felt about it. Jesus spoke and so they did it. But thinking of how reluctant I feel to put myself out there sometimes ... they must have felt much the same, at least at the beginning.
Matthew and John and Peter (whose Gospel Mark wrote) were among the six pairs of apostles sent out on that first mission (Mt 10). No one of them gives us a single detail. Yet it may well have been the most nerve-racking experience any of them had yet had. To begin with, they had been ordered to take the road with no money and no food, wearing nothing but what they stood up in — they went out as mendicant friars would later go. They were to live on what they were given, and for men not rich indeed but respectably brought up, this could have been trying.

Yet it was as nothing to what they had been told they must do. We can imagine the cold pain in the back and the gulp as they steeled themselves to their first miracle — would the disease obey them? Would the devils? Their first sermon might have meant a chiller pain, a more sickening gulp — anyone who remembers his own first speech will know about that. And preaching was such a long way away from fishing, or even tax collecting. Fishermen had no training as prophets, tax collectors still less.

Their instructions were so very exacting (some indeed envisioned a wider apostolate than this first one). They were to be wise as serpents — considering the part that the serpent's cunning had played in the Fall of man, it is interesting that our Lord mentions its wisdom. It is faintly surprising that he offers is apostles the serpent for their imitation at all.

The dove also is held up for their imitation. Yet there is nothing dovelike in what they must do is any house or city will not receive them or hear their words: "Going forth out of that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet" (Mt 10:14). This shaking the dust from the feet was an exclusively Jewish gesture — Jews used it, for instance, when returning to the Holy Land from the lands of the Gentiles. The apostles must have been startled to be instructed to use it against their fellow Jews.
To Know Christ Jesus by Frank Sheed

Monday, April 24, 2006

All the Things I Never Knew About Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

I never knew that it was such a page turner! About halfway through the pace picked up so that I was avidly reading whenever I had a chance to see if George and Eliza would shake off their trackers, Uncle Tom would make it back to his family, what it would take to make Topsy reform and much more. How about that crazy Cassy, hmm? And poor Emmaline ... would someone save her before Simon Legree got his filthy hands on her? Wow!

I never knew that Uncle Tom actually was a Christ-figure, a living saint. No wonder he is misunderstood by so many. They are not getting the whole picture.

I never knew that so many sorts of people were represented throughout the book. The language can be rather stilted due to the style of the times but Stowe did a good job showing many different attitudes toward slavery and how people excused themselves under the flimsiest of excuses. One expects the broadly painted very good and very evil owners but not the more shaded in-between characters.

It was fascinating toward the end of the book to see where many of the slaves wound up. One could discern what Stowe's ideas of a solution for the slavery problem were and, indeed, it was even more interesting to read her afterward where she discusses it specifically.

I thought that Stowe included herself in the book as the maiden aunt from New England who thought she understood the problem until she came up against Topsy who demanded that she put her whole heart and soul into realizing that the slaves were real people. Rose saw her as Mrs. Shelby, the kindly wife of Uncle Tom's original owner, who as soon as she got a chance absolutely did the right thing.

I am quite grateful that Rose read this book and pushed it on me. Highly recommended.

Back to Basics: Uniting Past, Present, and Future

The Catholic Church professes that the Mass isn't just a reenactment of the Last Supper, when Jesus took bread and wine and said the words, "This is My body," and "This is My blood," (Matthew 26:26-29). More than a ceremonial reenactment of an ancient ritual, the Mass combines past, present, and future at the same time.
  • Past: The exact words and elements that Jesus used at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday are used faithfully and precisely.
  • Present: The Mass brings grace, nourishment, and instruction for the people who are present.
  • Future: It foreshadows the sacred banquet in heaven. Jesus often spoke of a heavenly banquet or wedding feast where guests would be well fed, lasting for eternity and surviving well after the world ends.
The Mass is pivotal, because it transports the participants back in time to Christ's Last Supper with his apostles, Christ's Passion and death on the cross, and his Resurrection and the empty tomb on the first Easter Sunday. The same words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper are used to consecrate the same things that Jesus used back then — bread and wine — during the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. The same sacrifice is offered — namely, the Son is sacrificed to the Father on behalf of all humankind. The same risen Christ comes to enter the souls of each person at Holy Communion when the congregation eat and drink his living (risen, not dead) flesh and blood.
Catholicism for Dummies by John Trigilio

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Feast of Divine Mercy

Sunday After Easter Sunday
During the course of Jesus' revelations to Saint Faustina on the Divine Mercy He asked on numerous occasions that a feast day be dedicated to the Divine Mercy and that this feast be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter...

Concerning the Feast of Mercy Jesus said:
Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. (Diary 300)

I want the image solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it. (Diary 341)

This Feast emerged from the very depths of My mercy, and it is confirmed in the vast depths of my tender mercies. (Diary 420)

On one occasion, I heard these words: My daughter, tell the whole world about My Inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.* [our emphasis] On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will I contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy. (Diary 699)

Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it. (Diary 742)

I want to grant complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My mercy. (Diary 1109)
As you can see the Lord's desire for the Feast includes the solemn, public veneration of the Image of Divine Mercy by the Church, as well as personal acts of veneration and mercy. The great promise for the individual soul is that a devotional act of sacramental penance and Communion will obtain for that soul the plenitude of the divine mercy on the Feast.
Really wonderful insights to Divine Mercy can be found in this homily. Via SFO Mom.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Divine Mercy Novena: Day 9

Easter Saturday
"Today bring to Me
the Souls who have become Lukewarm...
...and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: 'Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.' For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy."
Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen.
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy may also be offered each day
for the day's intention, but is not strictly necessary to the Novena.

Friday, April 21, 2006

He Wants to Spend More Time With His Family ...

Dallas' cathedral's pastor has gone and no one's talking. In the diocese of Dallas that usually means only one thing. The law's on the way and the bishop's employing duck and cover tactics.
The pastor of Dallas' Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe suddenly left his high-profile post this week, stunning staff members and leaving fellow clergymen in the dark.

Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann has tightly guarded news about the Rev. Ramon Alvarez's departure, which the priest disclosed to some co-workers Monday. By late this week, many other local clerics didn't know that it had happened, much less why.

Father Alvarez – who is a potential witness in two upcoming child-sex cases and has previously admitted misconduct with an adult – drove away from his mother's home without commenting Friday when reporters asked to speak with him.

Bronson Havard, the bishop's spokesman, wouldn't answer when a reporter asked whether the priest was in trouble. He later released a statement saying that the departure was "not related in any way to inappropriate conduct with a minor."
Full story at Dallas Morning News
(free registration required)
Of course, it is my cynical and suspicious mind that recalls Fr. Alvarez admitting to inappropriate sexual contact with a fully grown man who was not a minor.

I hope this all turns out to be a tempest in a teapot. If so the diocese is choosing an awfully strange way of putting rumors to rest ...

Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!

You mean to tell me that I had to find out it's San Jacinto Day from an emailing pal? (Thanks Don!) It wasn't even in the newspaper (well, ok, the front page of a section of the newspaper which is the stuff I read ... except for the comics ... but now I'm off track...).

Let's all go get a few margaritas and lift them high to the Texian heroes of the decisive battle of the Texas revolution!

Catholic Question of the Day

Here's a good question from a pal...
What the heck is a solemnity?
How handy that I remembered having posted about this ... and found it way back at the beginning of 2005. How time flies!

I'll put it all below as I found it interesting to read through again. NOTE: Fr. Stephanos made some good comments that I am using to amend the excerpt below. His comments are italicized.
We got our new Church calendar a week or so ago. Tom immediately started comparing it to the one he has set up for our church's web site (he's the web servant). Then the question arose as to what all those saint day celebrations actually meant ... solemnity, memorial, optional memorial ... what's the difference?

Here is a great source that answers all those questions. From most important to least here is what all those celebrations are:
A Solemnity of the Roman Catholic Church observes an event in the life of Jesus, Mary, and the saints, beginning on the evening prior to actual date. Solemnity is made up of Latin words solet and annus, meaning a yearly (annual) celebration. They are observed throughout the entire Church.

A solemnity can be observed like a Sunday: it has vigil Mass the evening before. Also, any solemnity that coincides with a Sunday can take the place of the Sunday (but not during Advent and Lent).

Solemnities observed by the Roman Church
  • January 1: Mary, Mother of God (formerly known as the Feast of the Circumcision)
  • Sunday between Jan 2 & 8: Epiphany, in United States only; elsewhere January 6
  • March 19: Joseph, Husband of Mary
  • March 25: Annunciation
  • March/April (varies): Easter Triduum
  • 40 days after Easter: Ascension of the Lord
  • 50 days after Easter: Pentecost
  • Sunday after Pentecost: Holy Trinity
  • Sunday after Holy Trinity: Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
  • Friday after Body & Blood: Sacred Heart
  • June 24: Birth of John the Baptist
  • June 29: Peter and Paul, Apostles
  • August 15: Assumption of Mary
  • November 1: All Saints
  • November (varies, always Sunday): Christ the King
  • December 8: Immaculate Conception
  • December 25: Christmas

Religious feasts celebrate or commemorate certain concepts or events in the history of their respective religion with particular traditions and rituals.

A feast can take the place of a Sunday only if the feast is a feast of the Lord himself. For example, the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (August 6) or the Triumph of the Cross (September 14).

In the Roman Catholic Church, a Memorial is a feast day of relatively low importance. However, all priests must recall the saint commemorated in their Masses and the Liturgy of the Hours.

In the Roman Catholic Church, an optional memorial is the lowest class of the feast day. The priest is permitted to celebrate the feast day or not as he chooses. (See Memorial.) The saints or events celebrated in these feast days are considered to be of less universal importance to the Church. In addition, as long as no feast day of higher rank is foreseen for a particular day, a priest is permitted to celebrate a feast day that does not appear in his local calendar as an optional memorial, normally out of personal devotion to the saint.

Something that I thought was very interesting was that our calendar has on every month in capital red letters FRIDAY REMAINS A SPECIAL DAY OF PENITENTIAL OBSERVANCE. I have read in several places that although there is no stricture specifically against meat on Friday anymore this is merely so that people can put their own memorial penitence into place. As one source said (wish I could remember which), most people will find that the easiest one to implement is abstinence from meat ... and this is true in our household. After Rose suddenly held my feet to the fire about Friday penitence about two months ago we have done our best to just keep meat out of the diet on that day. It's amazing how difficult that can be and also amazing how it does a good job of reminding you why you are observing that penance.

Fear and Loathing ... at the Movies

For those who can't believe that I haven't seen Schindler's List or the The Godfather (or a few others), I must explain that two emotions dominate in my specific avoidance of those movies. Hand in hand with this is my desire to actually enjoy a movie ... which many of these make difficult through subject matter.

Of course, those are fear (of being traumatized) and/or loathing (of a particular subject or actor).

  • Schindler's List - Fear: I still haven't recovered from Sophie's Choice which can make me break down and weep if I think about it too much. The trailers for Schindler's List left me in about the same shape. Sorry but I'm not going there voluntarily.
  • The Godfather - Fear: cold blooded gangster movies, however well done, aren't gonna go down well. Loathing: Marlon Brando. Great actor no doubt but I can't stand him. 'Nuff said.
  • Pulp Fiction - Fear: see notes from The Godfather above.
  • Shawshank Redemption - Loathing: Tim Robbins. (Although I probably will see this movie eventually despite that. I saw Master and Commander despite my loathing for Russell Crowe and enjoyed it.)

Mission Impossible 3 ... Best of the Bunch?

So says Harry at Ain't It Cool.

He mentions two things I didn't know before ... it is directed by J.J. Abrams and has Philip Seymor Hoffman as the villain (second only to Goldfinger, says Harry). He says this movie is the best ever retooling of True Lies (a favorite of mine except for the overlong fight scenes which dominate the end).

Hmmm, I am going to have to rethink my previous disinterest now...

Back to Basics: Penance

Catholics believe that the Holy Mother Church gives birth in the Sacrament of Baptism, nourishes in the Holy Eucharist, helps Catholics grow in Confirmation, and heals in the Sacrament of Penance.

Medicine and therapy can heal a wounded body, but Catholics believe that only God's grace can heal a wounded soul. That's why Jesus left the Sacrament of Penance to heal our spiritual wounds, which we call sin.

Often, people think of sin only as breaking God's laws. Sure, stealing, lying, and murdering break some of the Ten Commandments and are considered sinful. But Catholics believe that God said, "Thou shalt not," because he knew these sinful actions would wound spiritually.

Catholics think of sin like a bacteria or virus to the soul. When a person lies, cheats, steals, or murders, it's like being infected with millions of deadly germs. The longer the infection is left untreated, the more it spreads and worsens. It wounds and can even kill the life of grace that enables entry into heaven.

Just as tumors are benign or malignant, Catholics believe that sins are venial or mortal. In other words, some sins aren't considered as serious as others and merely inflict a slight wound to the soul, but others are so intrinsically evil that they're considered deadly. They're called mortal sins, because they can kill grace.

The Sacrament of Penance (also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession) is for spiritual healing. According to the Gospels, after the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles, breathed on them, and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained," (John 20:22-23).

Because Jesus gave the apostles the power to forgive sins, he must have wanted them to use it. So the Sacrament of Penance has been the very will of Christ from day one.
Catholicism for Dummies by John Trigilio
This was really brought home to me the last time I went to Confession. The priest was giving me several steps to do ... he kept repeating, "to heal your wounded soul." I realized that I had been thinking in terms of having broken a rule but not of the consequence to me. It was very soothing to think of my "wounded soul" being restored.

Divine Mercy Novena: Day 8


Easter Friday
"Today bring to Me the Souls who are in the prison of Purgatory...
...and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice."
Most Merciful Jesus, You Yourself have said that You desire mercy; so I bring into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls in Purgatory, souls who are very dear to You, and yet, who must make retribution to Your justice. May the streams of Blood and Water which gushed forth from Your Heart put out the flames of Purgatory, that there, too, the power of Your mercy may be celebrated.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls suffering in Purgatory, who are enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. I beg You, by the sorrowful Passion of Jesus Your Son, and by all the bitterness with which His most sacred Soul was flooded: Manifest Your mercy to the souls who are under Your just scrutiny. Look upon them in no other way but only through the Wounds of Jesus, Your dearly beloved Son; for we firmly believe that there is no limit to Your goodness and compassion. Amen.
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy may also be offered each day
for the day's intention, but is not strictly necessary to the Novena.

3rd Book Dropped This Year

On the Road with Francis of Assisi : A Timeless Journey Through Umbria and Tuscany, and Beyond

I got about a third of the way through this story of a woman and her husband following St. Francis' trail through Italy and realized what was missing. The passion of personal insight. Yes, they are physically following his trail so we get a fairly good biography of the saint. However, the most we see of the couple themselves is little details such as they had a tough time in Bologna just like St. Francis ... neither could get lodging. Wow, don't knock me over with those personal revelations!

Thanks, but I'd like a little more from the author than that. I am thinking of such books as John Paul the Great, Virgin Trails, or The Miracle Detective. If I wanted to read a straight biography of St. Francis I'd have gone to a different source. And that wasn't my main interest here.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I've Heard of Blood Brothers But This is Ridiculous

Of course, that is often the case with the tortured translations featured at

How Amateurish Am I?

Very. I still haven't stopped laughing over this.

At least I'm in good company. Check out the new additions to Amateur Catholic.

Why Did So Many Love John Paul II?

JOHN PAUL THE GREAT : Remembering a Spiritual Father by Peggy Noonan

If you read this book you will know why.

Peggy Noonan writes with conviction, force and clarity about her own love and respect for John Paul II as our spiritual father. In so doing, she gives us the essence of this great pope's life and faith as distilled through the lens of her own growing return to her Catholic faith and love of God.

I only really paid attention to him after I converted in 2000 so my own experience with JPII was of him as the old pope who showed us how to live, love, and give through suffering. In fact, I was aware of respecting him but didn't realize my own great love until I read the false report of his death (a day before the actual event) on the Drudge Report. I mystified myself by bursting into great, body-shaking sobs that wouldn't stop. When I went into Tom's office, he was alarmed and, after hearing an explanation, he shook his head at me. "You love him," he said, "You just didn't know how much until now."

Perhaps that is why I am finding myself pulled through this book at breakneck speed. I knew the bare bones of many of John Paul's experiences as pope but this book is something like a Weigel-lite (?) biography in some ways. I am learning much about the details of his papacy even as I am brought to tears or smiles again and again by both his experiences as well as Noonan's.

I picked up this book from the library yesterday and am about halfway through. Already, like The March Hare whose review prompted me to request it, I have begun to push it on others. An email here, a strong recommendation to someone there (such as to my husband who never reads "religious" books but is interested in this one).

Part of the fascination for me is Noonan's transparent honesty. She is, in a sense, every modern person who has struggled with belief, honesty, and faith itself. As she intersperses her tale with that of John Paul II, I find myself in agreement with her along the way. Her path is not exactly mine but her sentiments and struggles echo them well enough to resonate. And the resonation already is calling me to reach further in prayer...
So I was thinking about pebbles — the pebbles on the cover of the videotape, the pebbles in the Kevin Orlin Johnson boo, the pebbles I saw on Jones Beach when I went out that summer to see friends.

I thought a lot.

I just didn't say any Rosaries.

I find this to be true of my spiritual life, and maybe it applies to yours as well: I think about things more than I do them; I ponder what seems their goodness more than I perform them. As if my thought alone were enough. But a thought alone isn't quite enough; it's an impulse and not a commitment, a passing thing that doesn't take root unless you plant it and make it grow.

So I just thought about all this. And was very glad other people were saying Rosaries, and when I met them, I always asked that they pray for me.

Meanwhile, the problems I was having were growing more urgent. And I would talk to God about them. But I didn't say the Rosary.

And then I believe I was told to do it.
How was she told? Well, for that I encourage you to read the book (I'm not above dangling a tasty carrot). The problem Noonan details is a problem I have myself. It is so easy to think about something rather than to do it. However, through this passage (and the miracle that follows) John Paul II is reaching me through this book and calling me back to the rosary which I began saying again this morning on my way to work. It was once a steady habit, but fallen by the wayside somehow as things sometimes do.

Perhaps it also helps that Noonan was heavily influenced by Kevin Orlin Johnson's book Rosary, which also pulled me into the rosary soon after my conversion. I have never known anyone else who read it and so that helped get my attention. (Off topic is a question I always have meant to ask: does anyone else have this book and, if so, does their book smell of roses? I assume they somehow put the scent in the paper which is a nice touch but always wondered as I never could find any reference to it in the book credits.)

Noonan also references others who have perspective and personal experiences such as George Wiegel, Michael Novak, Richard Neuhaus, and even actor Jim Caviezel who portrayed Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. The snippets that she quotes have made me interested in reading more indepth about John Paul II.

Do go read The March Hare's review as it tells you much more about the book than I do here (for one thing she waited until she finished it and wrote a proper review). All I can do is shake you with great enthusiasm and tell you to go find this book and read it now!

I have now finished the book and it holds up right through the end. To her credit, Noonan does not skirt the places where John Paul II was not perfect and which contributed to such problems in the American church as a "cardboard" Mass or the sex scandals. She examines the problems and the various degrees of blame which could be attributed to the areas where John Paul's lacked in leadership. I found especially interesting her theory of why the pope was so deficient in handling the sex scandal problem. It was a theory that I hadn't heard and one that some may say is too kind, however, I think it possibly is quite right.

However, this does not diminish his great overall achievements both for Noonan (and many, many others personally) and for the Church as a whole. The book ends on a note of JPII's legacy to Benedict XVI. I will leave it to you to see Noonan's nickname for Pope Benedict which I hadn't heard before but is so apt that I laughed with delight when I read it. Again, this book cannot be more highly recommended.

Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred springboards from this review into a full fledged exposition of just why John Paul was "The Great" to the world. A real treat to read; don't miss it.

Divine Mercy Novena: Day 7


Easter Thursday

"Today bring to Me the Souls who especially venerate and glorify My Mercy...
...and immerse them in My mercy. These souls sorrowed most over my Passion and entered most deeply into My spirit. They are living images of My Compassionate Heart. These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life. Not one of them will go into the fire of hell. I shall particularly defend each one of them at the hour of death."
Most Merciful Jesus, whose Heart is Love Itself, receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who particularly extol and venerate the greatness of Your mercy. These souls are mighty with the very power of God Himself. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident of Your mercy; and united to You, O Jesus, they carry all mankind on their shoulders. These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart from this life.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls who glorify and venerate Your greatest attribute, that of Your fathomless mercy, and who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls are a living Gospel; their hands are full of deeds of mercy, and their hearts, overflowing with joy, sing a canticle of mercy to You, O Most High! I beg You O God:

Show them Your mercy according to the hope and trust they have placed in You. Let there be accomplished in them the promise of Jesus, who said to them that during their life, but especially at the hour of death, the souls who will venerate this fathomless mercy of His, He, Himself, will defend as His glory. Amen.

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy may also be offered each day
for the day's intention, but is not strictly necessary to the Novena.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI - One Year Later

What can I say? I was thrilled when he was chosen ... wanting to jump up and down and clap my hands and drive around honking my horn.

A year afterward ... I love him. I am still thrilled that we have such a shepherd.

More eloquent people than I have said it much better, so I will direct you to:

Casting Out Devils

There are many Christian circles in which even to admit belief that there is a devil makes one an object of curiosity. In such circles Christ's casting out of devils is never mentioned voluntarily at all; if some amused unbeliever raises the matter, the answer is that Jesus himself knew better, but found it saved trouble to use the language of the people of his own day, who, to a man, were confirmed believers in the devil.

But this view can arise only out of a prolonged abstention from Gospel reading. Jesus was not that sort of person. On a matter of no importance he might have used ordinary ways of speech. But he would never have used a way of speech, however ordinary, that was based on a religious error. When his disciples assumed that a man was born blind either because of sins he would one day commit or sins his parents had already committed (Jn 9:2), he told them plainly that neither of them was the cause.

Further, when we come to read some of the accounts of expulsions of demons, we should feel that he would have been carrying the use of popular ideas and popular language rather far, if he did not believe that there were any demons there. For he spoke to them, commanded them, questioned them, granted a request made by them, ordered them to be silent about himself. Further still, when he sent the Twelve out on their first mission without him, he expressly gave them the power to cast out devils (Mt 10:8)...

... there can be similarity between diabolic possession and nervous disease: the Catholic Church makes strenuous efforts to be sure that demons are actually present before she resorts to exorcism: it is possible even for the very skilled to be deceived — to the amusement, perhaps, of such demons as happen to be watching from the sideline. But Jesus could not be mistaken. At times we find him treating deafness, dumbness (Mk 7:32-35), blindness (Mk 8:22-26), with no mention of demons, his commands being addressed only to the afflicted body or the bodily affliction.

I have said that he orders demons out. It is fascinating to compare the speed and almost casualness of his exorcisms with the form prescribed in the Church — which occupies thirty pages of the Rituale Romanum...

He [Jesus] simply ordered the demons out, exactly as he had ordered their leader away after the third temptation. And they had to go. They might plead, they might abuse, but they went. Their inability to resist his word must have convinced them, as no miracle could, that he was something new in the world.
To Know Christ Jesus by Frank Sheed

Divine Mercy Novena: Day 6


Easter Wednesday
" Today bring to Me the Meek and Humble Souls and the Souls of Little Children...
...and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I saw them as earthly Angels, who will keep vigil at My altars. I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace. I favor humble souls with My confidence. "
Most Merciful Jesus, You yourself have said, "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart." Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children. These souls send all heaven into ecstasy and they are the heavenly Father's favorites. They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God; God Himself takes delight in their fragrance. These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon meek souls, upon humble souls, and upon little children who are enfolded in the abode which is the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls bear the closest resemblance to Your Son. Their fragrance rises from the earth and reaches Your very throne. Father of mercy and of all goodness, I beg You by the love You bear these souls and by the delight You take in them: Bless the whole world, that all souls together may sing out the praises of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy may also be offered each day
for the day's intention, but is not strictly necessary to the Novena.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Back to Basics: Receiving Holy Communion

When believers receive Holy Communion, they're intimately united with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. However, Communion isn't limited to the communicant (the one receiving Holy Communion) and Jesus Christ. By taking Holy Communion, the Catholic is also expressing union with all Catholics around the world and at all times who believe the same doctrines, obey the same laws, and follow the same leaders. This is why Catholics (and Eastern Orthodox Christians) have a strict law that only people who are in communion with the Church can receive Holy Communion. In other words, only those who are united in the same beliefs — the seven sacraments, the authority of the pope, and the teachings in the Catechism of the Catholic Church — are allowed to receive Holy Communion.

In Protestant tradition, Communion is often seen as a means of building unity among various denominations, and many have open Communion, meaning that any baptized Christian can take Communion in their services. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, see communion not as the means but as the final fruit of unity. So only those in communion can receive Holy Communion. It has nothing to do with who's worthy...

Similarly, Catholics who don't follow the Church's laws on divorce and remarriage, or who obstinately reject Church teaching, such as the inherent evil of abortions shouldn't go to Communion, because they're no longer in communion. It's not a judgment on their moral or spiritual state, because only God can know that. But receiving Holy Communion is a public act, and therefore, it's an ecclesiastical action requiring those who do it to be united with all that the Church teaches and commands and with all the ways that the Church prays.
Catholicism for Dummies by John Trigilio

Divine Mercy Novena: Day 5


Easter Tuesday
"Today bring to Me the Souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church...
... and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion."
Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son's Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen.
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy may also be offered each day
for the day's intention, but is not strictly necessary to the Novena.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I'm Curious

How many people were in various RCIA classes that were brought into the Church last Saturday?

The reason being that my group in 2000 had about 95 people in it. Around 75 catechumens were confirmed at our parish this year from what I understand.

I thought these were fairly normal numbers. However, I am not getting that impression now after reading people's account of the Easter Vigil. It seems that the average number was much smaller although it could be that these were less populated areas than ours.

Of course, one person entering the Church is reason for great rejoicing. I am definitely not trying to play any sort of comparison game ... I'm just surprised ... and curious ...

The Price of Deregulation: Rolling Blackouts

So now we see the price of deregulating the electric industry. They have to operate closer to the edge than ever. Maintenance overhauls were scheduled at several plants planning on the usual cooler weather that didn't have everyone's air conditioner working overtime. So they were out of the grid when the weather in Dallas hit an unseasonable 101 (I knew it seemed like summer today!) and the electric company had to institute rolling blackouts through the town. Not too long, maybe 15 or 20 minutes at a time. But that's the price we pay ...

Big Buncha Deep Thinkin' on the CCC

Gee whiz, everybody over at Catholic Catechism Dialogue Blog must have been chomping at the bit waiting for Easter to come so they could start posting.

Me? I took yesterday off (gaining compliments from the entire family as I didn't flip on the computer until evening).

As always, I did have a couple of thoughts ... these about the Catechism in general ... so although I'm late to the starting post I have joined the rest of the pack.

What Happened Here?

Ok, no fair Googling ...
What happened in Fairmont, West Virginia, on July 5, 1908?
Aren't y'all glad that we all got these trivia style daily calendars for Christmas?

The answer in "invisi-script"...
A special church service memorialized the fathers among some 350 West Virginia coal miners who had died in an accident the previous December; many consider the observance to have been the first formal celebration of Father's Day. The holiday was not officially established until 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed it into law. (It is observed on the third Sunday in June, however, not in July.)

Back to Basics: The Holy Eucharist

Of all seven sacraments, the Holy Eucharist is the most central and important to Catholicism, because of the staunch belief that the consecrated bread and wine are actually, really, truly, and substantially the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ. For Catholics, the presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist is not just symbolic, allegorical, metaphorical, or merely spiritual. It's real. That's why it's also called the Real Presence —because Christ really is present.
Catholicism for Dummies by John Trigilio

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday: All Is Joy

Women at the Tomb

Maurice Denis. Holy Women Near the Tomb/Saintes Femmes au tombeau. 1894
This is the great truth which fills our faith with meaning. Jesus, who died on the cross, has risen. He has triumphed over death; he has overcome sorrow, anguish and the power of darkness ... In him we find everything. Outside of him our life is empty (J. Escriva, Christ is passing by).
In Conversation With God: Lent and Eastertide


After the somber tone and reflection of Holy Thursday and Good Friday I can hardly wait to get to Mass this morning to hear the joy and triumph of our Easter celebration. May you all have the same delight and joy in your Easter celebrations both in church and at home.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Holy Week - Holy Saturday


The Body of Christ lay in the tomb. The world was in darkness. Mary was the only light still burning on earth. The Mother of Our Lord -- my Mother -- and the women who have followed the Master from Galilee, after taking careful note of everything, also take their leave. Night falls.

Now it is all over. The work of our Redemption has been accomplished. We are now children of God, because Jesus has died for us and his death has ransomed us. "Empti enim estis pretio magno (1 Cor 6:20), you and I have been bought at a great price.

We must bring into our own life, to make them our own, the life and death of Christ. We must die through mortification and penance, so that Christ may live in us through love. And then follow in the footsteps of Christ, with a zeal to co-redeem all mankind. We must give our life for others. That is the only way to live the life of Jesus Christ, and to become one and the same with him (J. Escriva, The Way of the Cross, Fourteenth Station).

In Conversation with God: Lent and Eastertide


Nicolas Poussin. The Lamentation over Christ. 1655-1657.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Mass of the Last Supper

Last night was so solemn, so symbolically rich, so very ... Catholic. And it struck right at my heart.

We had even more priests and seminarians than last year. Reading back over that account, I was struck by just how differently I was impressed with things this year. Just as I needed to be.

For one thing, we were sitting in a different spot altogether, where the scent of the incense was blown over us the entire time by the ventilation. Normally I really don't like the way incense smells. However, this year, for the first (and possibly only?) time it smelled so good to me. I couldn't get enough of it. I had asked God for a word from this Mass. I got also the physical gift of holy scent.

We were sitting right in front of where the Holy Eucharist would be placed for adoration. Normally that is St. Joseph's spot. It is a good thing that he is so humble as whenever something special takes place off of the altar, he is moved away and that alcove is used. However, the votive candles were still burning. Occasionally my eyes would rest on them and I'd reflect on the many prayers that our community was lifting to God. I would send up one for their intentions.

Our priest gave his usual thoughtful, striking homily in ringing tones that also struck at my heart. He spoke of Jesus' power mentioned in the Gospel reading ... and reflected on how much power that we have and how we misuse it. He spoke of Judas, reminding us that while Jesus did the most lowly, shameful task (so shameful that no servant could be asked to do it) ... Jesus knew full well that Judas planned to betray him and still washed his feet. He mentioned later when Jesus, the host of the feast, gave the morsel dipped in the dish (a sign of full honor and respect) to Judas. Giving Judas that last chance, not to save Jesus himself, but for Judas to save himself. How Jesus loved him still. How Jesus gave Judas every chance to turn aside. And how he loves us.

I was struck, as always, by the fact that attending Holy Thursday and Good Friday services makes Easter so much more meaningful because we are walking with Jesus. He is taking us with him on that hard, long road at the end. We feel it, we see it, we understand it just a little more.

Naturally, being me, this meant tears and sniffling several times. Also, naturally, being me, there was not a tissue to be found. Ah, unprepared and inelegant as always!

One interesting thing happened that was a very personal touch. Both species were distributed which is not the norm since we kneel at the altar rail for Communion. We still were kneeling but this meant that it took a bit more time. After a while I was, frankly, a bit bored so thought that I'd profitably use my time praying for general but personal intentions ... our business, our marriage, our daughters' abilities to discern their vocations in life.

Which made me muse about a "thought flash" I'd had several years ago that perhaps Rose would discern the religious life ... an in-the-world, working or teaching nun which would be her style. Of course, who knows how these things will turn out and quite often thoughts are just that and not a message from on high (as we all well know).

As these thoughts idly crossed my mind, what to my wondering eyes should appear but five Missionaries of Charity, saris and all, walking up to the altar rail and kneeling right in front of us. They have a house in Oak Cliff but our church is not near there at all and we never see them. That is the very order which Rose had said once before that would be the one she'd join if she ever became a nun. She leaned over and whispered that again. I told her what I'd been thinking. She looked at me solemnly. I put my arm around her, squeezed her, and said, "No pressure though!" And we both laughed.

So does it mean anything? Only time will tell but it definitely was an interesting addition to Holy Thursday.

Holy Week - Good Friday

The Lord is firmly nailed to the cross. He has waited for this for many years, and this day He is to fulfill his desire to redeem all men ... What until now has been an instrument of infamy and dishonor, has been converted into the tree of life and the stairway of glory. A deep joy fills him as he extends his arms on the cross, for all those sinners who will approach him will now know that he will welcome them with open arms...

He saw -- and this filled him with joy -- how the cross was to be loved and to be adores, because he was going to die on it. He saw the witnessing saints who for love and in defence of the truth were to suffer a similar martyrdom. He saw the love ofhis friends; he saw their tears at the foot of the cross. He saw the triumph and the victories Christians would achieve under the standard of the cross. He saw the great miracles which, with the sign of the cross, would be performed throughout the world. He saw so very many men who, with their lives, were going to be saints, because they would know how to die like him, overcoming sin (L. de la Palma, the Passion of the Lord) ...

It was not necessary for him to undergo so much torment. He could have avoided those trials, those humiliations, that ill-usage, that iniquitous judgement, and the shame of the gallows, and the nails and thelance ... But he wanted to suffer all this for you and for me. And we, are we not going to respond?

Very likely there will be times when, alone in front of a crucifix, you find tears coming to your eyes. Don't try to hold them back ... But try to ensure that those tears give rise to a resolution. (J. Escriva, The Way of the Cross, Eleventh Station).

In Conversation with God: Lent and Eastertide

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Holy Week - Holy Thursday

Singular events took place in that period, which the evangelists have recorded for us; take, for instance, the rivalry between the apostles, who began to discuss who was the greatest; think of Jesus' surprising example of humility and of service when he carried out the menial task of the lowest of the servants -- he began to wash their feet; consider, too, how Jesus went out of his way to show his disciples his love and affection. My little ones, he actually calls them. Christ himself wished to give that gathering such a fullness of significance, so rich in memories, scene of such moving words and sentiments, such new actions and precepts, that we will never come to an end of meditating on them and exploring them. It was, you might say, a testimonial dinner: it was an affectionate and yet a somber occasion, a time mysteriously revealing divine promises and far-reaching visions. On top of that was the sad presentiment of death, with unprecedented omens of treason, of abandonment, of immolation; the conversation dies away, while Jesus' words flow continuously in his gentle and winning voice, though there is an unwonted tension in his grave allusion to profound revelations, the matter of which hovers between life and death (Paul VI, Homily, Holy Thursday).

What Christ did for his own may be summarized in a few words from St. John: he loved them to the end (John 13:1). Today is a particularly appropriate day for mediating on the love Jesus has for each one of us, and how we respond to it; in regular dealings with him, in love for the Church, in acts of atonement and reparation, in charity towards others, in preparation and in thanksgiving for Holy Communion, in our desire to co-redeem with him, in our hunger and thirst for justice ...
In Conversation With God: Lent and Eastertide

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hannah's Patron Saint

Today's her day ... St. Gemma Galgani. Happy Feast Day, St. Gemma!

Holy Week - Wednesday

Carrying Cross

Maurice Denis. The Road to Calvary/Montace au calvaire ou Le Calvaire. 1889.

Forming part of the procession, their presence making his impending death yet more shameful, are two convicted criminals, described as two thieves. A recently-arrived spectator to the scene would see three men, each laden with a cross, walking towards death. But only one is the Saviour of the world. Only one of the crosses is the redeeming Cross.

Today, too, the cross can be carried in different ways. There is the cross carried furiously or sullenly, in a rage; man writhes and squirms, filled with hate, or at least, with a deep and burning resentment. It is a cross without meaning and without any explanation, useless; such a cross may even separate one from God. It is the cross of those in this world who seek comfort and material well-being, who will put up with neither suffering nor setbacks, for they have no wish to understand the supernatural meaning of pain. It is a cross which does not redeem. It is the cross carried by one of the thieves.

On the road to Calvary is a second cross, carried this time with resignation, perhaps even with some dignity, with an acceptance of the situation simply because there is no alternative to it. This is the one carried by the other thief. Little by little he realizes that close by him is the sovereign figure of Christ, who will radically change the final moments of his life on earth, and for eternity; he will be the one converted into the good thief.

There is a third way of carrying the cross. Jesus embraces the saving wood and teaches us how we ought to carry our own cross: with love, co-redeeming all souls with him, making reparation at the same time for our own sins. Our Lord has conferred on human suffering a deep meaning. Being able, as he was, to redeem us in a multitude of ways, he chose to do so through suffering, for greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
In Conversation with God: Lent and Eastertide

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I Really, Really, Really Liked This Book

My review of Faith, Family and Fishing: a 21-Day Devotional by Tony Gerdes.

I Confess ... to Knowing Too Many Monty Python Routines

Our entire family went to confession last night and headed straight for where our favorite confessor was always stationed. There was no line so I popped in first.

When I came out, Rose said, "We could hear both of you laughing in there."

Father O. had said, "Ok, here's what I want you to do. This is a two step process. The first step is for you to put this issue on the back burner in your mind. Just let it sit there and don't worry about it. Then, the second step is ... wait, there are three steps to this process."

I said, "Amongst the many steps in this process ..."

And we both just broke up guffawing.

(Actually, I realized later on ... it is a four-step process ... which made the whole thing even funnier when I was telling the story.)
Peasant: I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

Cardinal Ximinez: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four* *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.

Holy Week - Tuesday

Nikolay Gay. "Quod Est Veritas?" Christ and Pilate. 1890.
(CowPi Journal has a very good reflection about light and dark inspired by this painting.)
The Passion of Our Lord
Thinking that in this way he might placate the hatred of the Jews, Pilate, took Jesus and scourged him (John 19:1). This is the scene we contemplate in the second sorrowful mystery of the Rosary, Bound to the pillar. Covered with wounds.

The blows of the lash sound on his torn flesh, upon his undefiled flesh, which suffers for your sinful flesh. More blows. More fury. Still more ... It is the last extreme of human cruelty.

Finally, exhausted, they untie Jesus. And the body of Christ yields to pain and falls, limp, broken and half-dead.

You and I cannot speak. Words are not needed. Look at him, look at him ... slowly.

After this ... can you ever fear penance? (J. Escriva, Holy Rosary, Second Sorrowful Mystery)

When this has happened, the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe; they came up to him, saying, "Hail King of the Jews!" and struck him with their hands (John 19:4-5). Today as we contemplate Jesus proclaiming his kingship before Pilate, we should also meditate upon that scene contained in the third sorrowful mystery of the Rosary.

The crown of thorns, driven in by blows, makes him a mock king ... And with their blows they wound his head. And they strike him ... and spit on him ...

You and I ... haven't we crowned him anew with thorns and struck him and spat on him?

Never again, Jesus, never again ... (J. Escriva, Holy Rosary, Third Sorrowful Mystery)

In Conversation with God: Lent and Eastertide


Caravaggio. The Flagellation of Christ. 1607.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Holy Week - Monday


Duccio di Buoninsegna. Maestà (back, central panel): Jesus Accused by the Pharisees. 1308-11.

The Passion of Our Lord

Jesus having been much ill-used, is led into one of the courtyards. He then turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:61). Their looks meet. Peter would like to bow his head, but he cannot tear his eyes from Him, Whom he has just denied. He knows the Saviour's looks well; that look that had determined his vocation, he had not been able to resist either its authority or its charm; and that tender look of the Master's on the day He had affirmed, looking at His disciples, "Here are my brethren, my sisters, my mother!" And that look that had made him tremble when he, Simon, had wanted to banish the Cross from Jesus' path! And the affectionately pitying look with which he had invited the too-rich young man to follow him! And His look, clouded with tears, before Lazarus' tomb ... He knows them well, the Saviour's looks.

And yet never, never had he seen on the Saviour's face the expression he sees there at this moment, the eyes marked with sadness but without any severity. A look of reproach without a doubt, but which becomes suppliant at the same time and seems to repeat to him, "Simon, I have prayed for thee!"

This look only rests on him for an instant; Jesus is violently dragged away by the soldiers, but Peter sees Him all the time (G. Chevrot, Simon Peter).
He sees that compassionate look of Jesus fixed upon the deep wound of his guilt. He now understands the enormity of his sin, and the fulfillment of Our Lord's prophecy about his betrayal ...

Contrition gives special strength to the soul; it restores hope, makes the Christian forget himself and draw close to God once more with a deeper act of love. Contrition proves the quality of interior life and always attracts God's mercy; ... this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit ... (Isaiah 66:2)

Christ found no difficulty in building his Church upon a man who was able to fall and who did fall. God also counts on weak instruments, provided they repent, to carry out his big project: the salvation of mankind.
In Conversation with God: Lent and Eastertide

I will never forget when I first read the Gospel where Jesus turns and looks at Peter. I don't know why I never noticed that part before but it is one of the most meaningful to me. What a terrible moment of sudden knowledge that must have been. I know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are "found out" and the remorse and shame that flooded Peter on that instant. How many times have I given Jesus reason to look at me like that?

Beginning Easter Sunday

Catholic catechism dialogue blog, a new group blog, is being launched with the hope of inspiring people to become consistent, daily readers of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You can read all about it here.

I really am honored to be included in the writers of the blog. This will be especially good for me as reading the entire Catechism is something that I've always meant to do. Of course, I never have though I have a great copy of the Catechism sitting on my bookshelves as a reference.

I am so looking forward to printing out that schedule Owen mentions and getting into a daily routine of the CCC to supplement the Bible. Also, there is a crack team of diverse writers assembled. I can't wait to see what insights they have to share. This is definitely gonna keep me on my toes!

Sunday, April 9, 2006

It Really Happened

Mk 11:1-10

When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem
to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives,
he sent two of his disciples and said to them,
“Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately on entering it,
you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat.
Untie it and bring it here.
If anyone should say to you,
‘Why are you doing this?’ reply,
‘The Master has need of it
and will send it back here at once.’”
So they went off
and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street,
and they untied it.
Some of the bystanders said to them,
“What are you doing, untying the colt?”
They answered them just as Jesus had told them to,
and they permitted them to do it.
So they brought the colt to Jesus
and put their cloaks over it.
And he sat on it.
Many people spread their cloaks on the road,
and others spread leafy branches
that they had cut from the fields.
Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
Hosanna in the highest!”
This was the opening Gospel, read when we were all facing the cross in the center of the church.

Our pastor made a brief commentary after it was read before processing behind the cross throughout the rest of the church. He said, "Why is this in the Gospel?" and read this part again.
If anyone should say to you,
‘Why are you doing this?’ reply,
‘The Master has need of it
and will send it back here at once.’”
So they went off
and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street,
and they untied it.
Some of the bystanders said to them,
“What are you doing, untying the colt?”
They answered them just as Jesus had told them to,
and they permitted them to do it.
He said that no scholars have puzzled over the hidden meanings of those simple words. Why were they even included? Because they are the little details that are remembered and told by someone who was there. An eyewitness.

He said, "This really happened. It is not some ancient mythology with which we fool ourselves. It is not made up. It really happened. Jesus really died for our sins to bring us salvation. He is real. It really happened."

That was the first time I cried at today's Mass. The second was when I had to read aloud, "Crucify him!"

Because it really happened.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

My Crush on Cardinal Arinze Continues

Y'all may remember my full-fledged crush.

I see no sign of it abating. In fact, it might be getting worse.
The Mass is the supreme act of adoration, praise and thanksgiving which humanity can offer to God. We owe everything to God: life, family, talents, work, country. Moreover God has sent us his only-begotten Son for our salvation. At Mass we offer God this supreme acknowledgment of his transcendent majesty and thanksgiving for his magnificent goodness towards us. Moreover, at Mass we associate ourselves with all creation in acknowledging the greatness of God. God is not our equal. He is not our colleague. He is our Creator. Without him we would not exist at all. He is the only necessary being. It is normal that we acknowledge this fact. Those who refuse to adore God must not decorate themselves with the apparently nice title of liberal intellectuals.

If we are to call a spade a spade, we shall inform such people that they are unreasonable, ignorant and blind to most obvious facts. A child who refuses to recognise his parents is not a liberal. He is a brat. Would it be wrong to call him stupid, and unaware of common sense, and even of his own best interest? And God is to us much more than parents are to their children. On the other hand, God is not a rival to us human beings. He is not a threat. He is not a killjoy.

God is our loving Father. He is Providence. He takes care of every detail regarding our life. When we adore him, praise him and thank him, we not only do not demean ourselves. Rather we begin to realise our greatness. Our acknowledgment of God's transcendent reality elevates us. The shepherds in Bethlehem and the Magi were all the better because they adore the Child Jesus. St Anselm, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, St Teresa of Avila, St Therese of the Holy Child Jesus, St Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and Albert Einstein were all the greater because they offered the sacrifice of t eir intelligence to God the Creator. Christians must not allow themselves to be misled by the errors of a secularistic mentality which lives as if God did not exist. Man is not the centre of reality. God is. By adoring God through the Holy Eucharist, we pay this due tribute to God's transcendence.
Read the full text of his speech here. Thanks to Fr. Stephanos for the scoop and link.