Saturday, December 31, 2011

How Can I See Jesus in Others?

I was reading Randy Hain's The Catholic Briefcase last night and found myself uncomfortable with a line: "I must learn to always see Christ in [others]." 

Why the discomfort?  I knew he was right.  Instead of just reading on, I stopped and acknowledged my reaction.  As I searched my memory I recognized that this sentiment had evoked a twinge of discomfort on other occasions. I myself had voiced Randy's same point in retreat talks; but if I am completely honest with myself, I did so more out of correctness than personal conviction.  I know it is part of our Faith, that it is something we are called to do.  It's just that . . . I'm pretty bad at it.  

No, I take that back.  I have no difficulty seeing Christ in people who treat me kindly.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God works through friends and members of my family to love and care for me every day.  It's the rude folks that I cannot see Jesus in - the co-worker who perpetually criticizes the performance of another, with never a thought of how to help lighten that person's load; the person who steals my parking place right out from under me; or the relative whose preferred interaction is the argument.  After 25 years of trying to be a disciple, it still doesn't even occur to me, when someone offends me, to "see" Jesus in them.  After all, Jesus wouldn't act like that!!    How can I even make a start at seeing Him in the person who aggravates or hurts me?

And that was where grace intervened last night.  Instead of glossing over my inability to see Jesus in those who frustrate me, I had the inclination to pray.  "Holy Spirit, please give me wisdom.  What does it mean to see Jesus in others, to see Him in those who treat me badly?"  And within a few seconds my thoughts began to coalesce around a point:  It is a matter of faith.  Do I believe that God is at work in that person's life, trying to form him/her in the image of Jesus?  Yes, I believe that.  Then I can begin to see Jesus in them by reminding myself of this.  He is present to, and at work in, imperfect-them just as He is at work in imperfect-me.  It's a start.  I can do that.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Wedding" Etiquitte

I just read today's Gospel and was especially struck at the context Jesus chose for recommending humility: "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet . . . go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, 'My friend, move up to a higher position.' Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." 

I have spent the past two weeks (and plan on spending the next two) gearing up to give a morning of talks (Nov.12), a "guided tour" if you will, of the Book of Revelation.  And our arrival at a wedding banquet is the goal of Revelation!  We already participate in the banquet at Mass, "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Happy are those who are called to His supper" (Rev.19:9).  Jesus' words in the Gospel address how we should relate to one another within the Church!  It is not a venue for trying to win esteem or propping up our egos; woe be to us, if we ever catch ourselves feeling superior to someone in the congregation.  Each of us is loved by our Father, each of us living temples of the Holy Spirit - what higher "status" is possible?  So however many hours we pray, studies on Revelation we lead, or Sunday morning donut socials we organize; we are all infinitely loved children with nothing to prove to one another, save our ability to look past our needy selves and appreciate the beautiful people who surround us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Special Education - "Spirituality" in Public Schools?

I heard a fantastic homily awhile back – well, the first part of it anyway.  Father’s initial comments set me on a train of thought I will pass along in the body of the article.  Father asked us to contemplate the incredible gifts that God has given us.  He pointed out that we humans are the most complex life form on earth, and that it is our ability to think that gives us that position.  He pointed out what a quantum leap human intelligence was.  Other animals have "intelligence;" they can be trained.  Other animals display emotions; my dog will whimper when he’s denied a treat.  But only we human beings have the ability to step back and reflect upon our actions and words – and even our thoughts and emotions!  And then Father said something that really jumped out at me:  “We have a responsibility to develop our thinking powers, to grow our God-given intelligence.  That’s true whether you are in MENSA or a special education classroom.”  With that, my own mind was off to the races; I've had the privilege of working in special education. 

Father’s words got me thinking about the downright “spiritual” quality to human intelligence.  What do I mean by that?  Well, we invest a lot of time thinking about things that are not composed of molecules, that cannot be investigated or confirmed in a laboratory.  I’m referring to “things” like fairness and human rights.  As my friend Michael Vento likes to point out, “Has someone ever seen a human right?  How many inches long is it?”  We take other nations, such as China, to task for their human rights violations.  We expect a nation, a completely different culture on the far side of the world, to recognize them.  We’re absolutely convinced these things exist, constructing our whole legal system upon them; and yet they are non-physical.

Our federal and state governments are convinced that every student, no matter how severe his or her disability, has the right to a “free and appropriate education” (FAPE in educational parlance), “in the least restrictive environment possible” (LRE).  Interpretation:  School districts must provide whatever staff and materials are necessary to make sure that every child can take part in the education process, and that the child should be educated alongside his/her regular education peers whenever possible.  Speech-language, occupational, and physical therapists are there to facilitate that.  For some medically fragile students this means hiring a personal nurse to accompany the student throughout his/her day.   Children's educational rights have to be a substantive reality for the federal and state governments to devote so much money to them, don't they?  The right to an education, like every right, is something immaterial; and yet we fight legal battles based upon our convictions that they are in fact real.

Can’t you hear someone coming at this completely from the outside though?  “Shane, some of the children serviced in special education have conditions that will probably never allow them to progress past the age of three cognitively.  Some children have conditions that will prevent them from living to adulthood.  You want us to continue allocating millions and millions of dollars to this based upon something called a ‘right’?  I don’t believe there is any such thing; you can’t show it to me!  Don’t try to impose your beliefs (you can also read 'spiritual tenets' or 'religion') on me.  We have a separation of church and state in this country.”

And what I would respond with, and I think the federal and state governments would have to as well, are the words Thomas Jefferson placed in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  Government does not exist to create laws or legislate morality, but to safeguard people’s rights – the opportunities and treatment to which they are objectively due.  “But how do you come up with these rights?” our objector might respond.

Wonderful question – like Jefferson, we are falling back on what at an earlier point in the Western world was called Natural Law.  ( C.S. Lewis called it the Tao.)  They are the truths that are self-evident to us simply from observation and the use of our reason, our power to reflect upon actions, words, thoughts, and attitudes.  How did we arrive at a child who has a severe disability having the right to a “free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment possible?”  Because we can see that this is a child, and we know that children have a right to be loved.  Part of loving them is giving instruction and welcoming them into the community.  And so, we must do this.

No one religion is being forced upon people, but there is this implicit understanding that there is an objective order, a standard of right and wrong, to which we human beings are expected to adhere.  It doesn’t matter that someone feels an “overwhelming urge” toward a behavior the Natural Law recognizes as “wrong” –ask any person sitting in jail!  The Natural Law - and the desire to pretend that it doesn't exist -  is at the root of many of the social battles going on in our country.  We'll look at a couple of those in upcoming posts.    

Monday, October 10, 2011

Small Religious Communities for Individuals with Down Syndrome

The internet is always a mystery to me.  Somehow, my little post titled Down Syndrome, Dignity, and Abortion was seen by a parent whose son is involved in a fraternity, a life lived in communion, with other young men who have Down Syndrome!  It is based in France but is spreading to other countries as well.  The community's name is Fraternites Notre-Dame de l'Etiole (The Fraternity of Our Lady of the Star)If you click on that link you can watch a 5 min. video showing a day in these young men's lives as well as read a description of the fraternity in English.  I see something like this and all I can say is "Praise God!"

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Catholic - the Toughest Way to be Christian

My post is simply to pass along a great insight from Kevin Lowry over at his Grateful Convert blog.  I highly encourage you to check out his "The Toughest Way to Be a Christian."  It, in absolutely no way, belittles other Christian groups.  Rather, it witnesses to Kevin's experience as a convert that Catholicism - with its insistence on an objective body of Truth, the Pope's final authority in teaching doctrine and morals, and the ongoing insistence that Jesus calls us to change, to become perfect reflections of Him (Mt.5:48) - demanded that he renounce more of himself than did any other Christian community.  And from my own experience of progressively embracing more and more of the Catholic Faith, I respond with a fat "Amen."  

When I was in my early teens it was tempting to find a church I felt comfortable in, that appealed to my personal tastes.  What a mistake!  This God we are seeking tells us that His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways (Is.55:8).  It can be tempting to "create" our own worship routine (I put "create" in quotes because we're really just isolating elements that already exist in the Mass, to the exclusion of others.); but the truth is, Jesus asked us to worship in one specific way, "This is My Body . . . This is My Blood . . .Do THIS as a remembrance of Me."  Before I start going on let me come back to my original point - click the link above and read a good post.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Down Syndrome, Dignity, and Abortion

My aunt Sheila with 9 of her brothers and sisters.
As a speech-language pathologist working in a school, 10% of the students I see were born with Down Syndrome.  I love the kids, and I love their parents.  My aunt Sheila, now in her forties, was born with Down Syndrome too.  One of twelve kids, my grandparents, dad, aunts and uncles, recognized Sheila for who she was, and is - another indispensable member of our family, with her own inborn set of strengths and weaknesses.  Sheila is adored by our family, as are the kids I work with who have Down Syndrome by theirs.  Why do I even feel the need to write that out?  Shouldn't it be a given?  It should, but in Europe and the United States, when a prenatal screening identifies a child as having Down Syndrome, that child is aborted 92% of the time!  Now believe me, I have an idea of the unique challenges parents and families of kids and adults with Down Syndrome face; but we're talking about human beings - my aunt, the little boy I'm building sentences with, the girl who is now communicating with her mom through sign language.  These people that I love are survivors of a genocide, a silent genocide taking place all around us.  We need to speak up and expose it for the atrocity it is.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Word of God on 9/11

It's mornings like this that I'm reminded how awesome the Holy Spirit's timing is.  The lectionary, the cycle of readings used at Masses throughout the entire world, was established long before terrorists launched their attack upon the United States, and yet the readings that fall on the 10th Anniversary of the attacks could not speak more deeply.  There is something supernatural about the liturgical calendar:  It floors me how my life as an individual, as well as the life of a nation, can coincide with it.:

Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the LORD'S vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail . . .
If he who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; of the Most High's covenant, and overlook fault (Sirach 27:30-28:7).

None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living (Romans 14:7-9).

His master summoned him and said to him, "You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?"
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart" (Mt.18:33-35).

Hard words to hear as we remember such a grave crime, and yet, necessary words.  Jesus does not ask more of us than He did of Himself and His Mother there on Calvary; and as with Mary, He gives us the grace necessary.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Star Sighting

"Glorious" is the only word I have.  The kids and I were walking through the Mills Mall in Hazelwood, MO, when we saw police and a long line of people.  (The police car parked along the curb is a fairly regular sight; it bespoke nothing of the date with destiny that awaited us.)  We just went by on the outside of the line, not really interested.  But then . . . as we passed the window of CitiTrends we saw him. . . St. Louis/ Western Civilzation / and tite (yeah, that's how you spell it) rhymes all rolled into one - NELLY himself.  Doesn't get much better than that my friends.  (If you've ever checked my profile you know it lists my residence as "Nellyville, MO.")  Came home and slipped into my AirForce Ones.

"But how can I be holy?"

St. Francis de Sales has some real words of wisdom in his, Introduction to the Devout Life:
"The practice of devotion must differ for the gentleman, the artisan, the servant and the prince, for widow, young girl or wife. Further, it must be adapted to their muscular strength, circumstances and duties... Is the solitary life of a Carthusian suited to a bishop? Should those who are married practise the poverty of a Capuchin? If workmen spent as much time in church as religious, if religious were exposed to the same pastoral calls as a bishop, such devotion would be ridiculous and cause intolerable disorder. Yet this foolish mistake is often made...True devotion never causes harm, but rather perfects everything we do... 'The bee sucks honey from the flowers without injuring them,' wrote Aristotle, leaving them as whole and fresh as when it found them. Devotion goes further, not only is it unharmful to any state of life, it adorns and beautifies it... It makes the care of family peaceful, the love of husband and wife more sincere, the service of one's king more faithful, and every task more pleasant and a joy."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Last Supper Mysteries

On the way into work I was meditating on the Fifth Luminous Mystery, Jesus' institution of the Eucharist.  I found myself thinking about the worthiness of the Apostles to receive Communion.  Jesus gave Himself to them and ordained them as priests knowing that they would abandon and pretend not to know Him only hours later.  Its a sobering realization for you and me:  Jesus does not withhold Himself from anyone.  He does not look into the future, see the poor use we will make of His grace, and then decide we're not worth the effort.  His "default disposition" is to give Himself away (that's Trinitarian through and through).  On one hand that gives us great confidence in His mercy toward us.  On the other hand, it keeps us from being overconfident; the fact that we have experienced moments of intense intimacy with the Lord does not mean we are immune from a serious future fall.

When I finally drove home tonight, I had the urge to stop at the nearby Eucharistic Adoration chapel.  Because it is perpetual adoration (24/7), I knew there would be another believer there praying.  What really thrilled me was to enter the chapel at 9:20 on a Thursday night and find four other people there!  We all came, knowing we would find Jesus there - the real Jesus, the whole Jesus.  How mind-boggling is that?!

Monday, August 22, 2011

God's Gag Reflex

Yesterday's readings at Mass inspired me to recycle a past post.  Hope you enjoy:

Papal infallibility = God's Gag Reflex. Irreverent of me? Don't cry "blasphemy" just yet; all will be explained.

That picture is awesome though. begin writing. Alright, lets establish what the Church means by papal infallibility. Bottom line - the pope is protected from teaching something that is false, WHEN a very specific set of criteria is met:
  1. He speaks as the Successor of Peter, Head of the Apostles
  2. upon a matter of faith or morals,
  3. with the intention of instructing the entire Church
So the Catholic Church is NOT claiming that the Pope:
  • is infallible when he reflects on the readings during a Sunday homily
  • speaks infallibly on matters of science, mathematics, economic policy, politics, etc.
  • will speak out when he should (cowardice could keep him from speaking at all)
  • will enunciate the truth as clearly as is possible
  • doesn't sin (that would be impeccability, not infalliblity; and the Church has NEVER claimed impeccability for the Pope.)
The Church's ONLY claim regarding papal infallibility is that when three criteria are met, God will RESTRAIN the Pope from saying something FALSE. (Yeah, when I called it the "Divine Gag Reflex," I was talking about a different kind of "gag" - the kind you stuff in a mouth. I know, I'm horrible. Got you reading though, didn't I?) Infallibility is a completely negative gift; God will not allow the Pope to insert something false into the official body of Truth entrusted by Jesus to the Church. God would "reflexively" act to stop such an attempt.

Where do we Catholics come up with this belief? Like everything else, we trace it back to Jesus. He made some pretty startling promises to those Apostles:
“He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me” (Luke 10:16)
"[The Holy Spirit] will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. . .He will guide you into all the truth” (John 14:26; 16:13)
Paul the Apostle, knowing Jesus' teaching, and himself moved by the Holy Spirit, wrote of "the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). WOW - Jesus' intent was for the Church to be the place that the world could turn to hear the Truth, to get a reality check. And what measures did He, does He, take to guarantee this?

He called a fisherman named Simon, and after changing his name to Peter (Rock), Jesus told him, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). The Jewish mind of the first century, hearing those words, would have immediately shot back to the Israelite monarchy. Jesus was adopting the terminology used to refer to the Master of the Palace, or vizier - what we today would call the "Prime Minister." He was second in command after the king (2 Kings 18:18; 15:5), and as such held "the keys of the kingdom." Flip to Isaiah 22:21-23 and examine how Jesus made use of the same vocabulary in speaking to Simon-Peter.

Jesus, in announcing the Kingdom of God, was announcing that all of the promises God had made to King David about an everlasting kingdom, were about to be fulfilled. Jesus, the descendant of David, was the long-awaited Messiah; and He was renewing Israel. Israel had begun with the 12 sons of Jacob - its renewal with the 12 Apostles of King (Christ) Jesus. And Peter was to be the Prime Minister, using the power of the keys to bind God's people to Truth and the way of Love. It would be meaningless to speak of the authority of other ministers to bind and loose apart from their unity with Peter. Jesus' purpose wasn't to make Peter some type of dictator in regard to the other Apostles; in Christ’s Kingdom the greatest is meant to serve the rest. Part of Peter's service, and that of the Popes who have succeeded him in office, is to speak the final word when matters are in dispute, thus maintaining the unity of the Church/Kingdom. This service is especially important when the ones arguing are fellow shepherds.

And so we have Jesus' words to Peter, "You are Rock, and on this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt.16:17-19). What is the power of hell? Deception. The devil deceives; that's always been his M.O. And to combat this Jesus gave Peter the keys - authority to speak out, definitively binding the Church to Truth and loosing it from deception.

Now, Jesus can't mean that Peter gets to flip a coin, decide what is true, and God will magically rearrange spiritual and temporal realities to make it so. God isn't manipulated! No, Peter is simply a minister in Another's Kingdom. Peter speaks to the Church and world on behalf of the King (Who has ascended into Heaven). To use the power of the keys demands a reflexive action on God's part - "gagging" Peter, preventing him in some way, if he ever attempted to teach something that was false. At the same time, when God allows Peter to teach the Church, He expects it to be adhered to. Ignoring Peter? Well, remember what Jesus had said, "“He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me” (Luke 10:16). Whenever the pope speaks in his official capacity (remember those 3 criteria I started with?) as Successor to Peter, Prime Minister of the Kingdom, the same is true.

Oh hey, I do recall Jesus talking about having a gag reflex - yes, a true, biological gag reflex. After His resurrection He told the Apostle John to write a letter to the church in Laodicea, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16).

Before I wrap up I need to give a shout-out to Duran Duran for their song The Reflex. I think we can all agree that that's a gift that keeps on giving.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mama Said

My children's mother would have a heart attack if I ever said this to them, but St. Louis' (King of France and patron of my hometown) mother, Blanche of Castille, use to tell him, "Never forget that sin is the only great evil in the world. No mother could love her son more than I love you. But I would rather see you lying dead at my feet than know that you had offended God by one mortal sin."  That's harsh by modern standards, but I can't help but feel that Blanche knew the score . . . her boy grew up to not just lead a country and engage in international politics but to do so as a SAINT.  And as we know from watching the evening news, that's nothing short of miraculous!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Policies - Why Won't the Church Just Change Them?

New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan ( a St. Louis native), offered a great explanation on why the Church doesn't change its policy on matters that the majority of western Catholics disagree with - the indissolubility of marriage, same-sex marriage, ordaining only men, etc., etc.:

At times it – “the Vatican,” “Rome,” “the Pope,” “the Holy See,” “the Magisterium” — might even wish it could change certain teachings.  For instance, I would wager most bishops, priests, deacons, pastoral leaders, and maybe even the Holy Father himself has, at one time or another wished the Church could alter the teaching of Jesus that marriage is forever, and that one cannot break that sacred bond asunder.
But it can’t, because it didn’t make up the teaching to begin with.
So, plug in whatever word you want in the boilerplate headline: “Group Challenges Vatican on its Policy of __________________” — abortion, marriage, euthanasia, lying, stealing, artificial contraception, sexual acts outside of marriage, ordination of women — fill in the “flavor of the day,” but the headline is still inaccurate: these are not “policies” decided by some person in the Vatican; these are not “bans” put out by some committee.  These are doctrines, timeless teachings not ours to alter.

It sometimes seems as if many view the Church as a political institution, with a new pope or new bishop able to set out his own positions and priorities the way an incoming president or governor would.  Back in 2009, for instance, when I was appointed Archbishop of New York, I was asked by a reporter how my “policy” on gay “marriage” would differ from the “policy” of Cardinal Egan.  I tried to explain, as gently as I could, that the responsibility of any bishop is to clearly and charitably articulate the teaching of the Church, not to establish “policy” on which teaching he will follow and which teaching he will change.


I have an article on the Transfiguration running over at Catholic Lane today.  My comments cannot compete with St. John's below though.  Thanks again to the Daily Gospel for this great commentary:

Saint John Damascene (c.675-749), monk, theologian, Doctor of the Church
Homily on the Transfiguration ; PG 96, 545

Today we see the depths of inaccessible light. Today the unending outpouring of the divine radiance shines out before the apostles. Today Jesus Christ reveals himself as Lord of both Old and New Covenants... On Mount Tabor today, Moses, God's lawgiver, leader of the Old Covenant, giver of the Law, stands beside Christ his master as a servant. He recognises the destiny into which he was initiated in times past by its foreshadowings – which is what, in my opinion, the words «to see God from behind» mean (Ex 33,23). Now he sees in all clarity the glory of the godhead «hidden in the shadow of the rock» (Ex 33,22) but «this rock was Christ» (1Cor 10,4), as Paul expressly teaches: God incarnate, the Word and Lord...

Today the leader of the New Covenant, who had proclaimed... Christ to be the Son of God when he said: «You are the Christ, the Son of the living God» (Mt 16,16), sees the head of the Old Covenant standing beside the giver of both the one and the other and saying to him: «Behold He who Is. Behold him of whom I said there would arise a prophet like myself (Ex 3,14; Dt 18,15; Acts 3,22) – like myself in that he is man and leader of the new people but above both me and every other creature in that the two Covenants, both the Old and the New, are disposed by him for my sake and for yours»...

Come, then, let us obey the prophet David! Let us sing praise to our God, to our king; let us sing! «He is king over all the earth» (Ps 47[46],7-8). Let us sing with wisdom, with joy... Sing also the Spirit «who scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God» (1Cor 2,10), seeing in that light of the Father who is the Spirit who enlightens all things, the inaccessible light of the Son of God. Today is manifested what our fleshly eyes cannot see: an earthly body shining with the divine splendor, the glory of the godhead overflowing from a body that is mortal... What is human becomes God's and the divine becomes human.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

60 Former Anglicans Becoming Catholic Priests

Pope Benedict's outstretched hand is bearing incredible fruit.  This Pentecost weekend will see the ordination of 60 new Catholic priests for the Church in England - all of them having formerly served as priests in the Anglican Church. I have no doubt that the intercession of Saints like Thomas More, Thomas Becket, John Fisher, and Blessed John Henry Newman helped obtain this incredible work of the Spirit.  See Rome Reports for more info.

Vatican Council II to Youth

Another fantastic commentary from the Daily Gospel Apostolate:
Vatican Council II, Message to Youth
It is to you, young men and women of the world, that the Council wishes to address its final message. For it is you who are to receive the torch from the hands of your elders and to live in the world at the period of the most gigantic transformations ever realized in its history. It is you who receiving the best of the example of the teaching of your parents and your teachers, are to form the society of tomorrow. You will either save yourselves or you will perish with it.

For four years the Church has been working to rejuvenate her image in order to respond the better to the design of her Founder, the great Living One, the Christ who is eternally young. At the term of this imposing re-examination of life, she now turns to you. It is for you, youth, especially for you that the Church now comes through her Council to enkindle your light, the light which illuminates the future, your future.

The Church is anxious that this society that you are going to build up should respect the dignity, the liberty, and the rights of individuals. These individuals are you. The Church is particularly anxious that this society should allow free expansion to her treasure ever ancient and ever new, namely faith, and that your souls may be able to bask freely in its helpful light. She has confidence that you will find such strength and such joy that you will not be tempted, as were some of your elders, to yield to the seductions of egoistic or hedonistic philosophies or to those of despair and annihilation, and that in the face of atheism, a phenomenon of lassitude and old age, you will know how to affirm your faith in life and what gives meaning to it, that is to say, the certitude of the existence of a just and good God.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What a Surprise!

For several months now I have been praying for the success of a book scheduled to come out this fall, Tending The Temple: 365 Days of Spiritual & Physical Devotions, from Dr. Kevin Vost and Peggy Bowes.  Kevin is a good friend, and I've really enjoyed corresponding with Peggy these past few months.  During that same period I became serious about implementing the points made by Kevin in his Fit for Eternal Life, and have shed 52 lbs.  Well last week, completely out of the blue, I was invited to come on board as a third author.  I feel so incredibly blessed to be working with them; this is a project I will definitely learn a lot on!  My thanks to Kevin, Peggy, Bezalel Books, and its wonderful editor-in-chief, Cheryl Dickow.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

John Paul II - A Good Word

Another great commentary on today's readings, courtesy of the Daily Gospel:

Commentary of the day
John-Paul II, Pope from 1978 to 2005
Apostolic Letter « Novo millennio ineunte », § 58 (© Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

"Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature"
Duc in altum! «let us cast out into deep waters!» (Lk 5,4). Let us go forward in hope! A new millennium is opening before the Church like a vast ocean upon which we shall venture, relying on the help of Christ. The Son of God, who became incarnate two thousand years ago out of love for humanity, is at work even today: we need discerning eyes to see this and, above all, a generous heart to become the instruments of his work... "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19). The missionary mandate accompanies us into the Third Millennium and urges us to share the enthusiasm of the very first Christians: we can count on the power of the same Spirit who was poured out at Pentecost and who impels us still today to start out anew, sustained by the hope "which does not disappoint" (Rom 5:5).

At the beginning of this new century, our steps must quicken as we travel the highways of the world. Many are the paths on which each one of us and each of our Churches must travel, but there is no distance between those who are united in the same communion, the communion which is daily nourished at the table of the Eucharistic Bread and the Word of Life. Every Sunday, the Risen Christ asks us to meet him as it were once more in the Upper Room where, on the evening of "the first day of the week" (Jn 20:19) he appeared to his disciples in order to "breathe" on them his life-giving Spirit and launch them on the great adventure of proclaiming the Gospel.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rosary during the Week of Easter

Easter is such a tremendous Mystery that the Church actually takes eight days to unpack it.  That's right, liturgically, Easter continues through next Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday.  When I prayed the Rosary today I devoted all five of the mysteries to different aspects of the Resurrection accounts:

1.  The earthquake and descent of an angel to roll back the stone.  The Roman soldiers flee.  The women come to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body and are told of the Resurrection by the angel (Matthew)
2.  Peter and John, told of the empty tomb by the women, race to investigate it.  John looks in and believes, but Peter goes away wondering (John's Gospel).
3.  Mary Magdalene weeping at the tomb, asks the "gardener" where he has moved Jesus' body.  Jesus reveals Himself by speaking her name (John).
4.  On the road to Emmaus, Jesus opens the Scriptures to Cleopas and another disciple.  He opens their eyes to recognize Him in the Breaking of the Bread (Luke).
5.  When those two disciples return to tell the apostles that Jesus has been raised, the Lord then appears to the whole group (Luke).  He breathes on them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  Anyone whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.  Anyone whose sins you hold bound are held bound" (John).

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Luminous Mysteries for Holy Week

I usually pray the Rosary on the way to work in the morning, and these were the Scriptures that came to mind. As so many times before, the Holy Spirit surprised me:

Jesus' Baptism
Shortly before Palm Sunday, James and John asked to sit at the Lord's right and left hands.  His response: "You do not know whay you are asking.  Can you drink of the same cup I shall drink or be baptized in the same bath of pain as I?. . .From the cup I drink you shall drink; the bath I am immersed in you shall share..." (Mk.10:38-39).

The Wedding Feast at Cana
As we pass through trial, as we endure pain, suffering, we bring our needs to the Lord - just as Mary did for the bride and groom at Cana.  Jesus' response to Mary: "How does this concern of yours involve me?" (Jn.2:4) evokes that feeling we have that Heaven is closed to our petitions.  In those moments, Mary's advice is best, "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn.2:5).  We have to continue to live with faith in God's complete and total love for us, in fidelity to all He has asked of us.  When speaking about the End, Jesus told the Apostles, "Because of the increase of evil, the love of most will grow cold.  The man who holds out to the end, however, is the one who will see salvation" (Matt.24:12-13).  And like the Blessed Mother we will ultimately see the Lord reverse the situation; the Cross will yield to the Resurrection.  "What you have done is keep the choice wine until now!" (Jn.2:10).

Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom and Call to Repentance
Jesus moved immediately from Simon-Peter's profession of Faith and His appointment of Simon as "Rock," to the teaching that, "The Son of Man must first endure many sufferings, be rejected by the elders, the high priests and the scribes, and be put to death, and then be raised on the third day.  WHOEVER WISHES TO BE MY FOLLOWER MUST DENY HIS VERY SELF, TAKE UP HIS CROSS EACH DAY, AND FOLLOW IN MY STEPS!" (Lk.9:22-23).  All of the Apostles knew how the carrying of a cross ended.

The Transfiguration
It was "about eight days after" those words that He gave Peter, James, and John a preview of His resurrected glory (Lk.9:28). "His face changed in appearance and his clothes became dazzlingly white," and they heard the Father, "This is my Son, My Chosen One.  LISTEN TO HIM."  What does our Lord say afterward?  "Do not tell anyone of the vision until the Son of Man rises from the dead. . .The Son of Man will suffer. . ." (Mt.17:9,12).

The Institution of the Eucharist
"I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Lk.22:14).  As the Lord did so, John and James drank of The Cup that united them to Jesus' baptism of pain, "This cup is the new covenant in My Blood, which will be shed for you" (Lk.22:20).  When we share the cup we participate in Jesus' offering (1 Cor.10:16); and because of that, with St. Paul we can say, "Even now I find joy in the suffering I endure for you.  In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church" (Col.1:24).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Eucharist, Mary, and Redemptive Suffering

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Colossians 1:24).  It is a mysterious but incredible reality:  the suffering God allows into our lives, when accepted and lived with trust in his Love, become an actual participation in the sufferings of the Crucified, allowing us to be formed more truly his image – the very goal of our Faith.  And, as Paul said above, because we are "members of one another" (Rom.12:5; Eph.5:25), this grace is of benefit not just to us, but to the entire Body.  This teaching, far from casting aspersions on the efficacy of Jesus’sacrifice, proclaims its superabundance.  We believe that his sacrifice redeems us so profoundly that it transforms us from mere creatures of God into sons and daughters.  It transforms us into cells of Jesus’ Mystical Body, inserting us into the Life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the only Son. This reality is there in the theology of Paul, and unpacked for us in the teaching of the saints and doctors.  What I had never recognized before was how it was contained in Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist.

 "This is My Body …. This is My Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many."  This Body and Blood — Jesus received them from his mother Mary.  He clothed himself with her flesh, her blood, and offered Himself to the Father "in" them.  That is the mystery of redemptive suffering that the Lord wants to continue in you and me — to clothe himself with our very persons and lift our sufferings up into his own, making them part of his eternal offering to the Father (Heb.9:14).  As with Mary, he requires our consent to bring about this supernatural reality, "I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

We see Mary, fully engaged in this Mystery, there at the foot of her Son’s Cross.  Which of us parents haven’t imagined looking up and seeing our own children hanging there in the sun — their bodies ripped, blood flowing down their limbs, suffocating under their own weight.  It is the most monstrous suffering imaginable, but God allowed it into the life of his beloved Mary.  Her Son was dying to redeem the world, and her heart was pierced right along with His (Jn.19:34; Lk.2:35). Jesus was suffering there before her eyes, in the flesh he took from her; but through the chords of grace he was suffering in and through her person, gazing up at him, as well.  Through it all, the Holy Spirit maintained Mary in her fiat , "let it be to me according to your word."  The mystery of redemptive suffering spoken of by Paul in Colossians 1:24 is graphically manifested by Mary at the Cross.

I don’t see any romance in pain, and I don’t desire it; but part of reality is recognizing that God allows me to pass through it.  It is not an end in itself, but a potentially powerful means: "For Jesus’ sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Phil.3:8-11).  So I need to call out for the grace to unite my sufferings to those of Jesus, to allow him to lift me up toward his Father, "This is My Body…This is My Blood."  I need to pray each day for the grace to persevere through suffering; Jesus told us the stakes are high, "Because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end will be saved" (Mt.24:12-13).

Friday, April 15, 2011

"End Times" Recommended Reading

We're entering into Holy Week, and in the middle of it I'll be chatting with Relevant Radio's "On Call" about the End Times and a Catholic way of reading the Book of Revelation (Chapter 8 of The God Who is Love).  Why talk about the End Times during Holy Week you ask?  The Catechism explains it well:

Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. . .The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection (CCC 675-677).

In history's final days, the Church will corporately manifest Jesus' Passion before the world!  And then will come the Resurrection of the Dead.  There are some wonderful resources out there to assist us in our study:

Fr. John Tickle's The Book of Revelation: A Catholic Interpretation of the Apocalypse
Scott Hahn's CD-series The End: The Book of Revelations
Fr. George Montague's The Apocalypse and the Third Millennium: Today's Guide to the Book of Revelation

Of these final three, David Currie's book is exceptionally thorough.  It's title is Rapture, but it explores what Daniel, Zechariah, Jesus' Olivet Discourse, the Epistles of Paul, and the Book of Revelation all have to say regarding "The End."