Friday, November 30, 2007

"In hope we were saved"

Folks, the Holy Father issued today his latest encyclical letter, Spes Salvi. I'll be reading and talking about it in the next few days.

Jehovah Witnesses suicides set bad example

Folks, I've seen these in the news lately, Judge Allowed 14-Year-Old Jehovah's Witness to Refuse Life Saving Care and Jehovah's Witness mother dies after refusing blood transfusion.

Commentary. This is the thing: these deaths are a waste. The Watchtower (parent corporation of the Jehovah Witnesses) teaching banning the reception of blood transfusions by its subjects is based on a tragic misreading and worse misinterpretation of biblical prohibitions against consuming -- as in eating or drinking -- animal blood. A blood transfusion is not consuming in a literal sense, much less of animal blood. But the Watchtower can be quite literalist when it wants and quite symbolic when it suits its sectarian purposes.

But this goes well beyond a mere quabble regarding competing biblical interpretations. People are dying because of this false teaching and God is grieved. In this instance, there's no difference between a Jehovah Witness who dies refusing a blood transfusion and a jihadist blowing himself up in a crowded market. The media is surely to pick up on both, emboldening others in their own beliefs and therefore, more wasted lives will follow.

Civil authorities have washed out their hands on these suicides by Jehovah Witnesses, reasoning that this is a matter of "freedom of conscience." That may well be under some specious reasoning. We hope that authorities could become as consistently "liberal" before other matters of individual consciences, particularly those that are life-affirming and not life-denying.

- I tackled the same issue in Spanish here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

SperoNews on Dorothy Day's anarcho-Catholicism and the way of love

Folks, SperoNews published today a religious commentary on American Catholic Dorothy Day, the foundress of the Catholic Worker Movement. Ms. Day's beatification cause is moving forward and I have to admit, I find her life and thought quite fascinating - although not necessarily my own call. Nevertheless, I believe we all should get to know her better, hear what she had to say. This is an excerpt:
Dorothy DayNovember 29th marks the anniversary of the passing of Dorothy Day, the foundress of the Catholic Worker Movement. Mark the date on your calendar, because this radical pacifist who had been a member of the I.W.W., met Leon Trotsky, had an abortion, and raised a daughter as a divorced single mother may be the next American canonized a saint in the Catholic Church.

Born in Brooklyn in 1897, she became a Greenwich Village Bohemian by the late 1910s and '20s, and was active in the radical socialist politics of the day, promoting women's rights, free love, and birth control along with the rights of the workingman. After two failed common-law marriages and an abortion, the birth of her daughter Tamar Teresa and the desire to have her baptized led her to formally embrace Catholicism. She converted in 1927.

In 1933, she founded the Catholic Worker movement with the itinerant French illegal immigrant Peter Maurin, a sort of modern Holy Fool in the mode of Saint Francis of Assisi. The Catholic Worker, which still costs one cent, adopted a neutral, pacifist, and anarchist stance as the world's leaders drifted toward war in the 1930s.

By US entry into World War II, there were more than thirty Catholic Worker communities, "houses of hospitality" in cities and communal farms in the countryside. But Miss Day's uncompromising pacifism and opposition to the draft during the war cost her a lot of support as even Americans sympathetic to the work she was doing were caught up in wartime hysteria and jingoism. Subscriptions to the newspaper and support for the communities fell drastically.

By the 1960s, Miss Day was again a figure with whom to be reckoned. Abbie Hoffman called her "the first hippie," a title she gladly accepted. (Another title she never accepted: "Don't make me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed that easily.") She welcomed the antiwar, civil rights, and social justice movements of that decade, but never embraced the sexual revolution, having survived one herself in the 1920s, the period she wrote about in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness.

However politically heterodox Dorothy Day was, she was always religiously orthodox, saying, "When it comes to labor and politics, I am inclined to be sympathetic to the left, but when it comes to the Catholic Church, then I am far to the right." She also said, "If the Chancery ordered me to stop publishing The Catholic Worker tomorrow, I would."
Please, continue reading here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mexico City cathedral re-opens with enhanced security

Folks, this, according CWNews.com:
Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico CityMexico City, Nov. 27, 2007 (CWNews.com) - The Mexico City archdiocese has re-opened the city's cathedral, after securing a government promise of adequate police protection.

The archdiocese had announced on November 18 that the cathedral would be closed for security reasons, after a leftist demonstration disrupted Sunday services. The demonstrators-- who have organized protests outside the cathedral regularly in recent months-- complained that Cardinal Norberto Carrera Rivera has been interfering in national politics.

After angrily protesting the cardinal's decision to close the cathedral, and saying that the building was a national treasure that should not be controlled by a religious body, the government eventually acceded to the cardinal's requests and promised a force of 30 police officers to guard the site. A video surveillance system is now being installed, and visitors to the cathedral will have their bags inspected.

The Mexico City cathedral, which is 400 years old, had not previously been closed since the Cristeros rebellion of 1926-1929.
Commentary. The Latin American left shares a few ideas in common across the continent: they are thoroughly anticlerical which is to say they hate the Catholic Church. You see, these commies can't stand competition from the Church. Their absolutist claims are diametrically opposed to the Gospel and, when lacking the tools of repression that only the posession of political power can grant, they resort to utter vulgarity in order to shock, intimidate, and sow fear. Of course, in this case, the Mexican Leftist demonstrators enjoyed the protection of Mexico City's major, who happens to be the sore loosing presidential candidate Manuel López Obrador, whose "dignity" they supposedly defended when they invaded the Mexican Cathedral in the middle of Holy Mass.

"Dignity" is a buzzword very popular among many dispossed Latin Americans and in a continent with untold resources and vast numbers of poor people, the quest for "dignity" gains a certain urgency. But "dignity" is also an excuse that politicians like López Obrador and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez use for demagogic effect.

The Catholic Church forged Mexico, having been there well before the mob that brought us the Mexican Revolution ever came to monopolize - and then lose - power. Mexico is no longer dominated by a leftist oligarchy; pluralism of ideas is the order of the day. Catholics in Mexico - and elsewhere - have an inalienable right to be full citizens and co-participants in their country's destiny. López Obrador - or to be fair, at least a significant portion of his followers who think they are doing his bidding - wants to turn back the clock and force the Church into hiding again, just like the good old times.

Mexico is slowly, but surely, coming out of its relative poverty. Prosperity is the enemy of the Left. When losing, Leftists desperately look to take a stand, any stand, anywhere and for whatever reason. This is why they invaded the Metropolitan Cathedral because at the very least they knew that Catholic Christians would turn the other cheek. And they did, and they are so much the greater for that, when compared to the invading mob of "socially conscious" people.

¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Put the house in order

by Fr. Nicholas Schwizer

Translated by Carlos Cantú


From time to time one must put the house in order: clean it up, fix it up, take out the trash and the things which are useless and unnecessary. This way, one can live better and happier.

What we say about the material house applies even more so to the Spiritual world. We know that Lent is the proper time for conversion, change, renewal. It is the time to bring order in our life and in our heart.
• Without realizing it, we pay less attention to the Lord, and then our interior life becomes disordered and weak.

• We put prayer aside, that is frequent contact with God, and we become engrossed in personal interests, and the things and worries of the world.

• We do not try to grow, to advance spiritually, and then we become stagnant or even go backwards in our religious life. Then there is the danger of becoming indifferent or spiritually lukewarm.
In this way, it may happen that God becomes second, third or even slowly disappear from our life. Then other gods take their place in our heart.

These are the idols which Holy Scripture speaks to us about: “Do not make idols for yourselves.” They create a growing dependence in us and slowly enslave us.

What idols might they be? There are a great number of idols which can take the place of God in our life. The best known are money and material goods, the desire for power, sex, and all types of unbridled ambition.

But there can also be smaller gods which require our surrender and excessive attention, for example, addiction to work, to food, to drink, to the television, and to consumerism.

Christ invites us today to expel all idols from our heart in order to give Him first place.

Something similar can happen not only in our own interior but also in our family; for example, we do not take time for in-depth dialog and it becomes harder for us to understand each other.

Periods of silence and rough discussions begin. We no longer look with interest for occasions of being together and we begin to feel that we only share superficially and no longer share intimate ideals…..then, evidently, the house must be put in order.

For this reason there is Lent: to put God’s house in order, the Spiritual temple of one’s own heart, the home, the Church. It is a time of purification for the great universal Church and for the small domestic church.

God offers us His word and His grace so that we can well order our lives. He knows our needs and possibilities. He knows our conveniences and the dangers. His commandments are an expression of love, an invaluable help to put into order our lives.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we do not decide to embrace this task with strength and joy, it is possible that God Himself will take care to call it to our attention. His methods can be very persuasive and forceful. His love is so great that He does not hesitate to recover our love and our attention when He sees they are weakening.

Questions for reflection:

1. How could I initiate order in my interior life?
2. What are my idols today?
3. How is my prayer life? Do I have time for prayer?

Fr. Nicholas Schwizer is a Schoenstatt Father and a long time worker in Paraguay, South America. Back in the year 2000, Fr. Schwizer suffered an accident which left him handicapped due to extensive brain damage. His spiritual sons and daughters of Paraguay's Schoenstatt Family Federation have compiled his chats and reflections to share them with others via the 'Net. I have received permission to participate in this effort and share with my readers this invaluable sampling of Schoenstatt spirituality. Fr. Schwizer's writings will appear periodically here in Vivificat!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Today's the Solemnity of Christ the King

Christ the King and High PriestToday is the Solemnity of Christ the King. That the Lord is King is obvious from the Holy Scriptures. He's of Davidic descent (Matt. 1:1) as befits the the Messiah of Israel (1:16); He revealed himself as such before Pilate (John 18:36-37) and the last book of the Bible is a narrative of his Coming Kingdom.

The Eastern and Western Churches portray the Lord's Kingship in similar yet different ways. The Eastern Orthodox icon to the right, written (for icons, like Holy Scripture, are "written," not "painted") by the Monk Michael, pictures Christ both in the garb of an Eastern Archbishop and Byzantine Emperor, whose garb often was identical to those of Eastern hierarchs. The vestments consist of the following elements:

  • The STICHARION or tunic which is worn by all clerics in slightly modified forms. Equivalent to the Roman alb, it may be of any material and color although white is usual.

  • The EPIMANIKIA or cuffs are worn by the deacon and higher ranks of clergy. The priest and bishop wear the cuffs over the sleeves of the STICHARION while the deacon places them underneath his STICHARION's broader sleeve. The cuffs were the symbols of civil authority in the Byzantine Empire.

  • The EPIGONATION is a lozenge shaped vestment suspended by a cord from the left shoulder and hanging.

  • The SACCOS is that vestment proper to Bishops which gradually replaced their use of the PHELONION. Directly copied from late imperial regalia it is a shorter tunic with ample sleeves and marked with a cross on the back. It is worn over the STICHARION or under tunic.

  • The OMOPHORION is probably one of the most ancient of the Bishop's vestments with a strictly symbolic origin. Copied from the scarf of office worn by the Emperor and other officials it identified the Bishop as head of the community. A large, long band of cloth it is marked with crosses and is passed around the neck hanging in front and behind. A "small" OMOPHORION worn simply around the neck and hanging in two pendants on the chest is properly worn in place of the large one after the gospel at the Liturgy. The OMOPHORION is worn by all Byzantine Bishops and corresponds to the Latin pallium.

  • The MITRA or Bishop's crown is equivalent to the Latin mitre as the Bishop's head covering. The crown is embroidered and bears small icons and is surmounted by a cross. Its origin is similar to that of the papal tiara and its use was adopted after the fall of the Byzantine Roman Empire. Certain Archimandrites and Archpriests, although not of episcopal character, have the right to the use of the crown.

  • (Source: Byzantine Vestments)
    The words: "King of Kings" and "Great High Priest" flank the Lord to his left and to his right respectively. He holds his right hand in blessing and in his left he holds the Holy Scriptures, opened, if I'm not mistaken, to the Letter to the Hebrews -- and there my Greek fails me.

    The Latin portrayal of Christ the King also follows closely Western symbols of kingly power. To the left, painted by an unknown artist, we see our Lord portrayed in medieval royal garb, a scepter, and a two-tiered tiara, perhaps symbolizing his two natures (human and divine) or his offices (high priest and king). On his breast we see his Sacred Heart burning with love towards humanity.

    The Lord's right hand is also lifted in a gesture of blessing. Note also how the position of the fingers differ from East and West. In the Greek icon, the Lord's ring finger and thumb touch each other. This pairing symbolizes the two natures of Christ, divine and human, joined together. The remaining three fingers symbolize the Triune Godhead. In the Western portrayal, the ring and "pinky" fingers are flexed and the other three remain standing. The meaning of the gesture remains the same: Christ, True God and True Man, the Trinity, God One and Undivided. To this day, Eastern priests and bishops bless the people using the finger configuration depicted on the icon; sadly, the Latin form has fallen into general disuse.

    The Feast and the Novena

    In the Western Church, the Feast of Christ the King marks the end of the Liturgical Year. Pope Pius XI introduced the feast in 1925 as a response to increasing atheism and secularism in the world. It is then fitting that we finish this presentation with the following Novena Prayer to Christ the King:

    Recite One Our Father, One Hail Mary and One Glory Be per day followed by the Novena Prayer:

    O Lord our God, You alone are the Most Holy King and Ruler of all nations.
    We pray to You, Lord, in the great expectation of receiving from You, O Divine King, mercy, peace, justice and all good things.
    Protect, O Lord our King, our families and the land of our birth.
    Guard us we pray Most Faithful One.
    Protect us from our enemies and from Your Just Judgment
    Forgive us, O Sovereign King, our sins against you.
    Jesus, You are a King of Mercy.
    We have deserved Your Just Judgment
    Have mercy on us, Lord, and forgive us.
    We trust in Your Great Mercy.
    O most awe-inspiring King, we bow before You and pray;
    May Your Reign, Your Kingdom, be recognized on earth.
    Amen.

    Saturday, November 24, 2007

    DVD Review: St. Peter — starring Omar Sharif


    Folks, this is yet another jewel by Italian Radio TV (RAI), a 2005 production about the life of St. Peter, starring Omar Sharif.

    The good thing about this movie is that it portrays the origin and growth of the primitive Church in a manner that is credible and entertaining. The miraculous, when it occurs at all, is portrayed very soberly, matter-of-factly and prosaic. You will find no "faith healing" scenes or fiery preachers screaming hell and damnation, emotional repression, and the like. No, you will find a "band of brothers" led by a fisherman who learned to love first hand in the school of the Nazarene who once was dead and now, is alive.

    St. Peter is ably portrayed by Omar Sharif, which I find a surprising choice because he's a Muslim. Sharif has had to suffer a bit for his choice of movie making. According to the Wikipedia, Sharif was born Michel Demitri Chalhoub in Alexandria, Egypt to Joseph Chalhoub, a timber merchant, and Claire (Saada), an Egyptian. The British news daily The Guardian reported back in 2005 "that a message on a web forum used in the past by al-Qaida had a link to a site carrying the threat. 'Omar Sharif has stated that he has embraced the crusader idolatry,' it said. 'He is a crusader who is offending Islam and Muslims and receiving applause from the Italian people. I give you this advice, brothers, you must kill him.' Other messages posted to the site had protested at the appeal. The Guardian's article also highlighted Sharif's current "unbeliever" credentials.

    Nevertheless, art is art and Sharif is an artist. His portrayal of St. Peter was of one of a strong, yet meek man. We don't get the sense of choleric angst we perceive in other portrayals of the Fisherman, such as the one portrayed by James Farentino in the 1977 miniseries, Jesus of Nazareth. Instead, Sharif plays St. Peter as a man in search of love, true Christ-like love who then finds himself in the awesome and quite undeserved position of having to confer, define, and defend that love for thousands of others.

    In a book I read awhile back, Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God by Jack Miles, I found an interesting thought. If a Person was born in this world and has nothing else in his calendar but one single appointment, and has an urgent message to share and only two years to do it, who will he choose to carry his message? Well, the answer is, anybody. Anybody would do, no matter how rustic his or her background or how culture. Anyone would do and that's what he did. He chose nobodies. These nobodies went ahead and changed the world by the power of their example and their speech, no swords, no invasions, no machinations with the high and mighty, no jihads, and no forced conversions. It was just themselves, the power of their idea, and the promise by the One that he "will be with them until the end of the world" and that's forever. St. Peter successfully captures the essence of the kerygma and its power to convince, change minds and convert.

    Directed by Giulio Base, the movie has several scenic and signature moments. One of my favorites is when Peter, guided by Paul, meets the Christians in Antioch. He is taken to a second story hallway that opens like a balcony into an inner courtyard. Down in the courtyard you see the Christians of Antioch acclaiming him. Sharif affects a John Paul the Great gesture and raises his two hands slightly in front of him to greet them back as he smiles to them. The moment looks completely Papal and explains the spiritual attraction Catholics feel for the Bishop of Rome not necessarily because who he is personally, rather, because he is Peter. The scenes of Peter's martyrdom look like the paintings one might find in an old family Bible or in a Missal. They were beautifully done. The transition to a surprising finale was exquisite, going a long way to explain in pictures what we Catholic Christians believe and why regarding the person of St. Peter.

    I just have one less-than-good thing to say about this movie and that is at times it becomes formulaic. The movie contains various subplots, one of them the love story between the good-hearted yet conflicted pagan man and the devoted, yet strong Christian woman. I saw this same subplot in another movie from these series I reviewed before, The Apocalypse – Starring Richard Harris. I suppose that I should expect these subplots but that doesn't mean I should like them. Nevertheless, these don't subtract anything from the movie's main premise.

    St. Peter is worth your time and money. It is ideal for family viewing or watch with friends at home or at church. It can also become a good catechetical tool about the power and the meaning of Christian Love, a central theme in Pope Benedict's first encyclical. It can also be a great apologetic proof against those who thing impossible or highly unlikely that St. Peter every made it to Rome, much less becoming what we Catholics said he became: the first in a long line of very human men who are witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ.

    Thank God for good cinema, thank God for St. Peter.

    Thursday, November 22, 2007

    DVD Review: Into Great Silence


    Those of us who have followed the development of this movie are familiar already with the story of its origin: "In 1984, German filmmaker Philp Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about the. They said they would get back to him. Sixteen years later, they were ready." Without crew, artificial lighting or sound – other than the ambient noises of the monastery – and without running commentary, the Carthusians, one of the Church's most austere orders, welcomed Gröning into their midst. He filmed their daily prayers, tasks, rituals, rare outdoor excursions against a background of the changing seasons. Supernature, as well as nature, marks the rhythms of life of these very holy and yet intensely human beings who dwell at the Grande Chartreuse.

    The result is Into Great Silence.

    The film is multifaceted. The fact that it has neither score nor script allowed the filmmaker to witness the natural development of the story unfolding before him. This is a story of prayer, sacrifice and intense joy.

    I think that nothing portrays the humanity of these men more than the brief interludes Gröning captured of each one of them. Interspersed throughout the movie Gröning presents us with the faces of the monks and I firmly believe that, although I don't know and may never know their names, I swear I know them. Their personalities jump at you from the screen. This is possible because their continuous dialogue with God has enabled these monks to drop all masks, all pretenses, their very hearts coming to us through their eyes and their beings through their countenances.

    Into Great Silence is somewhat of a misnomer. For we hear the monks pray together, talk, and even play. We hear the animals calling, the sound of the wind over the mountains, the drops of water from melting snow, of a fork against a dish, and of human laughter. We also hear the words of the blind monk sharing his joy for the gift of sightlessness. We hear the prayers the Prior pronounced over the two prostrated novices at Chapter. We hear the "yes" they give to the Lord and his Church to lose themselves forever behind those holy walls, and we see and hear the loving embrace with which each member of the community welcomes the new brothers. We hear the sound of their hair being cut. We hear the food cart trampling down the ancient hallways. We hear the "click click" that the hands of the Prior makes as he types in his IBM notebook computer.

    There's a lesson in all this, for it is not the lack of sounds that make this place a holy place, but the "quality" of the silence and what it's said and heard in it.

    If you're looking for an action-packed film crawling with murderous albino monks intent on protecting the secrets of the Church, this movie is not for you. In fact, it may put you to sleep. But if you are a seeker of the Face of God and the Spirit is impelling you to deepen your communion with the Lord, whether as a lay person or even as a member of this holy group of burnt men, you will find yourself one step closer to his Mystery.

    I urge you to watch and pray Into Great Silence.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    The Maritains on Liturgy and Contemplation

    Folks, the EWTN electronic library has this jewel by Jacques and Raissa Maritain, Liturgy and Contemplation. This is the table of contents:
    I. On Liturgy
    Endnotes
    II. On Contemplation
    Endnotes
    III. Against Some Misconceptions Which Tend To Divert Christian Souls From Contemplation
    Endnotes
    This is an extract:
    One also hears formulated sometimes another series of grievances [against contemplative prayer]: ascetical preparations, solitary meditation, the desire for and the experience of infused prayer, all this—some say—arises from a spirituality in which the soul is turned towards itself and seeks itself. Under pretext of seeking mystical union it abandons itself to introspection and to a psychological fixation on its own interior states, in which a disguised egoism holds the first place and which many a time would call for the attentions of the psychologist or psychoanalyst rather than of the spiritual director. To this spirituality that one terms "subjective," one opposes then the purely "objective" and entirely disinterested spirituality of the liturgy, which in convoking the whole of creation to the praise of God and in absorbing each one in the prayer and the elan of the assembly of the faithful, cures the soul of egoistic seeking of self and teaches it to be contented with honoring God through the worship which is rendered to Him in common.
    This is a great work and it is really a blessing that it is freely available online.

    Individual Magisterium of Catholic Bishops Now Highlighted

    Folks, including this post, there have been 32 blogposts in Vivificat! quoting the individual magisterium of various U.S., Latin America, Australian, Italian, and Curial bishops which I thought hard-hitting, relevant and orthodox. In my lay opinion they represent what the magisterium of individual bishops ought to be. I have now collected them all under the tag Episcopal Magisterium and will continue to do so in the future. I hope you enjoy the new listing.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    Four points on the church's teaching about homosexuality

    Archiepiscopal backbone alert!

    By Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of Minneapolis, MN

    Source: The Catholic Spirit, Thursday, November 15, 2007

    Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of Minneapolis, MNI was pleased that Joe Towalski, editor of The Catholic Spirit, ad­dressed the issue of the church's teaching on homosexuality, derived as it is from an understanding of the natural moral law, and the reason why those who promote homosexual activity or a homosexual lifestyle are not permitted to speak at Catholic institutions.

    I thought his presentation was balanced and quite helpful as far as it went. I propose this column as a sequel to his, in the sense of providing four footnotes, if you will, to the points he made:
    • At their special assembly in Denver from June 14 to 19, 2004, just before the last presidential election, the U.S. bishops issued a document (see Origins, July 1, 2004, Vol. 34, no. 7) clarifying the role of Catholic politicians with respect to their stands on moral issues within the public arena.

    The second to last point of that document was our collective resolve that Catholic churches, colleges and other institutions should not give "awards, honors or platforms" to persons who, whether Catholic or not, held public positions contrary to the church's defined teaching. To do so would cause scandal, leading Catholics to be confused about what is right and wrong according to the teachings of the church, prompting them to endorse or even to commit immoral behavior.

    This is why it was not appropriate for Carol Curoe and her father to speak at the Church of St. Francis Cabrini in Minneapolis.

    • Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity within a homosexual lifestyle formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin. They have broken communion with the church and are prohibited from receiving holy Communion until they have had a conversion of heart, expressed sorrow for their action and received sacramental absolution from a priest.

    • The USCCB statement "Always Our Children" is not a normative teaching statement of the bishops' conference. I, along with the majority of bishops at the time of its publication, never had the opportunity to discuss or vote on that document in general assembly. It was written by the Committee on Marriage and Family and, with the approval of the NCCB Administrative Committee, it was published in the committee's name only (see Origins, Oct. 9, 1997, Vol. 27, no. 17, p. 287).

    What is considered normative would be last year's document adopted by the USCCB general assembly and entitled "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclina­tion: Guidelines for Pastoral Care." I urge you to read and study this document, which can be ordered at: www.usccbpublishing.org.

    • Finally, while we can always do more to support persons with same-sex attractions to live chastely within the community of the church, there is much that is already being done but receives little attention.
    Here in the archdiocese, we have, for 10 years now, had present the support groups, Faith in Action Courage and Encourage.

    The former invites persons struggling with same-sex attractions into a regular support group of faith-filled individuals who are striving to live chastely according to the teachings of Jesus, by confronting their attractions, building healthy relationships and growing spiritually through the sacraments of penance and holy Eucharist. Much like the support groups of Alcoholics Anon­ymous, Courage seeks to foster a spirit of fellowship to ensure that a person knows he/she does not face personal difficulties alone.

    Encourage is a similar support group for parents, family members and friends of those with same-sex attractions who want to grow spiritually themselves and to help their loved ones live chastely.

    I had the privilege of initiating both chapters in the Archdiocese of Detroit 11 years ago. I have met many impressive and, I would say, heroic individuals through that movement.

    To contact Courage, call (651) 291-4438. To contact Encour­age, call (651) 291-4438. All phone messages are confidential. More information is available at www.archspm.org/family.

    As Joe Towalski said in his editorial (Nov. 1, 2007, p.7), we must uphold the truth of our Catholic faith, which can often be quite challenging and demanding for any of us, while at the same time, welcoming into the community those who feel isolated and marginalized.

    This is the same tension St. Augustine recognized of "hating the sin, but loving the sinner." It is a "careful line," but one that calls for conversion - a conversion that leads to eternal life.

    God love you!

    - Read also Minneapolis Archbishop Condemned for Giving Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality.

    Stem cell breakthrough uses no embryos

    Folks, according to YahooNews/AP:
    NEW YORK - Scientists have made ordinary human skin cells take on the chameleon-like powers of embryonic stem cells, a startling breakthrough that might someday deliver the medical payoffs of embryo cloning without the controversy.

    Laboratory teams on two continents report success in a pair of landmark papers released Tuesday. It's a neck-and-neck finish to a race that made headlines five months ago, when scientists announced that the feat had been accomplished in mice.

    The "direct reprogramming" technique avoids the swarm of ethical, political and practical obstacles that have stymied attempts to produce human stem cells by cloning embryos.
    Please, continue reading here.

    Comments. These news have been around for some time but now there are a couple of solid scientific papers backing this up. Of course, these news will not sit well with those who have had $$$ invested on the embryonic stem cell technique, as well as as those who used the embryonic stem cells as a wedge issue to cheapen the value of human life.

    This is my prognosis: embryonic stem cell researchers are on the way out. Don't invest your money with them. There is no more need to kill some human beings so that other can live.

    - Read also 'Milestone' stem cell advance reported at CNN.

    Who owns the Kingdoms of this World?

    A Word Study.

    Folks, in light of current events I’ve been meditating long and hard on the following verse of Scripture (Luke 4:5-8, NIV):
    5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So if you worship me, it will all be yours." 8Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'[a]"
    My first impulse was to take the devil’s words at face value. Yes, I thought, all the kingdoms of the world belong to the devil, and all their authority and splendor. Then it occurred to me that the devil is also a liar and father of lies. I pondered these words and faced the seeming paradox: is the devil telling the truth in these verses? Is the inspired writer “catching” the devil not in a lie, but in a truth?

    I resolved the paradox in the following manner: what the devil said here is not completely a lie, it is worse than that. It is a half-truth and half-truths as we know, are worse than lies.

    Yes, the devil has a claim upon the kingdoms of this world but he lies when he says “they were given to him.” The only One that could give them to him was God himself. Did God forfeit the realm of government to the devil? I think not. The devil just claimed them as his and wants us to believe that God gave them to him. In fact, the devil in his damned pride stole them from God. He figures that by appropriating the realm of government he can gain the upper hand in his conflict with God, and gain some points in his endless polemic that matter is bad and unworthy of spirit, much less of God’s attention.

    Inasmuch as they are Christian believers in government, inasmuch as men carry with them the image and likeness of God, God has not forfeited the spheres of government. Oh, yes, plenty of devils may be found therein but also God, and God is infinitely stronger, just, merciful and loving than all the enemies arrayed against Him and the creatures He died to save.

    So, if you feel called to public service, do not hesitate, but go in with the Armor of God.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007

    A Story of Uttered Words

    A non-poem.

    In the beginning was the Word
    And the Word was God
    And the Word created the world
    And the Word saw that it was Good
    Because God is Goodness beyond Goodness
    As the waters cover the sea
    So is the Word in his Goodness

    The Word created man on the sixth day
    The Word uttered man
    Man became a living soul
    A word uttered by the Word ready to utter other words
    And to sing God’s own song.

    It wasn’t to be

    Man chose to sing his own song
    In utter disharmony with the Word
    He chose his own melody and forgot that
    He was once uttered.
    And man’s words contradicted God’s Word
    And the Goodness fled from creation
    Chased away by bad words

    Words that lead to bad deeds
    To murder and to war
    To wanton exploitation and disorder
    God sent the Word once again
    To a tired, sickly world
    And the Word took flesh and dwelt
    Among men, to teach men how to sing
    Again, to restore the melody in every man’s
    Soul
    To utter man once again
    To love him
    To redeem him
    To heal him
    And to save him

    Saturday, November 17, 2007

    In Saudi Arabia, gang rape victim gets punished

    Folks, according to CNN,
    A court in Saudi Arabia increased the punishment for a gang-rape victim after her lawyer won an appeal of the sentence for the rapists, the lawyer told CNN.

    The 19-year-old victim was sentenced last year to 90 lashes for meeting with an unrelated male, a former friend from whom she was retrieving photographs. The seven rapists, who abducted the pair and raped both, received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in prison.

    Saudi FlagThe victim's attorney, Abdulrahman al-Lahim, contested the rapists' sentence, contending there is a fatwa, or edict under Islamic law, that considers such crimes Hiraba (sinful violent crime) and the punishment should be death.

    "After a year, the preliminary court changed the punishment and made it two to nine years for the defendants," al-Lahim said of the new decision handed down Wednesday. "However, we were shocked that they also changed the victim's sentence to be six months in prison and 200 lashes."

    The judges more than doubled the punishment for the victim because of "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media," according to a source quoted by Arab News, an English-language Middle Eastern daily newspaper.
    Read the entire piece here.

    Commentary. Well, let me see, what's wrong with this picture? According to an online Islamic source:

    Islam is a religion of justice. God has said:
    “Truly God commands you to give back trusts to those to whom they are due, and when you judge between people, to judge with justice....” (Quran 4:58)

    And He has said:

    “...And act justly. Truly, God loves those who are just.” (Quran 49:9)

    We should even be just with those who we hate, as God has said:

    “...And let not the hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety....” (Quran 5:8)

    The Prophet Muhammad said: “People, beware of injustice,[5] for injustice shall be darkness on the Day of Judgment.”[6]

    And those who have not gotten their rights (i.e. what they have a just claim to) in this life will receive them on the Day of Judgment, as the Prophet said: “On the Day of Judgment, rights will be given to those to whom they are due (and wrongs will be redressed)...”[7]
    I see no justice done here in this the most Muslim of all lands, where a gang rape victim is condemned to be scourged, and her penalty increased because her judges disliked being exposed in public through the media.

    This is not justice, it's BS. This young lady will have to carry not only the scars of violation twice, one group inflicted by her assailants and the other by her judges. The scars on her body but more likely, the scars on her souls will never heal. Bravo, bravo for Islam.

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    Was Hitler a Christian? - Translated

    Folks, I've just finished my latest translation project. The Spanish translation of Dinesh D'Souza's article, Was Hitler a Christian? is available now in Vivificat en Español, with Mr. D'Souza's permission. Pass it along to that Spanish reading friend who's being confused by all those "bright" atheists.

    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    Thomas Merton on healing the Great Schism

    Folks, in light of the news regarding the recent agreement reached in ecumenical talks held at Ravenna about the "fact" of the Roman Primacy—if not the extent and depth of its authority—I wish to share with you this quote Thomas Merton made in his journal on April 28, 1957:
    I can unite in myself, in my own spiritual life, the thought of the East and the West, of the Greek and Latin Fathers, I will create in myself a reunion of the divided Church and from that unity in myself can come the exterior and visible unity of the Church. For if we want to bring together East and West we cannot do it by imposing one upon the other. We must contain both in ourselves, and transcend both in Christ.
    Merton's words have long provided me with a program for life regarding the divide between Eastern and Western Christianity. Though this agreement as well as any other agreement about anything between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism, is something objectively good, we must recognize that actual Eucharistic sharing is still years away.

    In the meantime, as individuals, we can unite East and West within ourselves, as Merton said. The schism has to heal within us before it is healed outside of us; the Spirit needs to fuse together within ourselves the fractured parts before He moves on to heal the Church of this Original Sin of all Schisms. Let us pray, then, for that intention and for the acquisition of a just sense of proportion regarding the worthy task of healing the East-West Schism.

    Bad economic news

    Folks, this from WorldNetDaily:
    An unprecedented signal from senior Chinese leaders that the Asian economic giant might abandon the U.S. dollar sent shockwaves through the markets today as the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 360 points and the greenback fell to a record low against the euro.

    Xu Jian, a Chinese central bank vice director, told a conference in Beijing, "The dollar is "losing its status as the world currency." Meanwhile, at the same meeting, Cheng Siwei, vice chairman of China's National People's Congress, said, "We will favor stronger currencies over weaker ones, and will readjust accordingly."

    Craig R. Smith, CEO of Swiss America Trading Corp., told WND he's been in the investment business for 30 years and has "never seen people more nervous."

    Alarmed by today's economic news, he dispatched a note to brokers with a warning of ominous potential consequences if China and other trading partners abandon the dollar.

    "If that were to happen, all bets are off, and we will be in a depression that makes 1929 look like child's play," he said, "or we will experience Weimar Republic inflation as the dollar makes extreme moves toward devaluations."

    China has $1.43 trillion of foreign exchange reserves. During the five months up to August, Chinese investors reduced their holdings of U.S. Treasuries by 5 percent to $400 billion.

    Smith told WND that underlings in Beijing have been suggesting for some time that China could abandon the dollar, "but this is the first time a senior leader came forward, and it sent shockwaves through markets."

    "What we're experiencing today is a result of loose monetary policy, deficit spending and bad trade policies," said Smith, a WND columnist. "It's all coming home to roost at once."

    The dollar's decline today to $1.47 against the euro helped push the price of crude oil to a record $98.62 a barrel and gold to a 27-year high. The U.S. dollar also reached its lowest level against the Canadian dollar since the end of a fixed exchange rate in 1950 and a 23-year low against the Australian dollar. The New York Board of Trade's dollar index fell to 75.077, the lowest since March 1973, when the index began.

    Smith said the U.S., and consequently the world, may face a major financial crisis if "we can't find a way to get the $3 billion a day we need to stay alive and make balance of payments with foreign countries."

    The Federal Reserve faces a dilemma, he explained. If it raises interest rates to prop up the dollar, the housing market and the stock markets will be slammed, causing a recession. A lowering of interest rates to stimulate the economy would erode the dollar further and spark massive inflation.

    Underscoring the alarm among investors, Smith said a prominent Connecticut investor called him this morning and said, "I'm terrified, I think we could be sitting on a collapse."

    Smith said the fundamental conditions are worse today than in 1979 and 1980, when gold spiked to $850 an ounce then fell for the next 20 years.

    Today, instead of a rapid increase, there has been a gradual rise in oil and gold prices, among others, that suggests a long-term condition. Gold, for example, has gone from $265 in 2000 to $845 today.

    Smith said the only solution is fiscal responsibility by consumers, corporations and government.

    "We cannot spend money we don't have, anymore," he said. "The only thing that keeps us alive as a nation is our ability to borrow. We spend more money that we make."

    Now, Smith said, "the world is saying, 'We lent you that much money, we're not going to do it anymore.'"

    The problem, of course, Smith notes, is that if Americans don't spend, the economy doesn't grow, and the nation goes into a recession.

    But continuing to reduce interest rates and print money to maintain the spending leads to inflation.

    Eventually, he said, Americans simply are going to have to live within their means to lay a foundation for long-term economic health.

    "To get through some of this stuff, we're going to go through some pain," Smith said.
    Commentary. A stronger commitment to living our lives according to the Gospel will go a long way to living simply and according to our means. Our family is now taking measures to increase our income and reduce our debt load. The fact is that we don't need all that the commercials on TV, radio and the Web want to sell us in order to be happy.

    Let us live simply, self-controlled, and without material attachments and as we progress in living according to the Word, we would be doing our part to push this country forward.

    Needless to say, this crisis may soon make military operations in Iraq unsustainable in the short term.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    The Jesus Prayer

    Fr. Steven Peter Tsichlis

    Prayer is the basis of our Christian life, the source of our experience of Jesus as the Risen Lord. Yet how few Christians know how to pray with any depth! For most of us, prayer means little more than standing in the pews for an hour or so on Sunday morning or perhaps reciting, in a mechanical fashion, prayers once learned by rote during childhood. Our prayer life - and thus our life as Christians - remains, for the most part, at this superficial level.

    THE CHALLENGE OF ST. PAUL

    But this approach to the life of prayer has nothing to do with the Christianity of St. Paul, who urges the Christians of first century Thessalonica to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:1). And in his letter to Rome, the Apostle instructs the Christian community there to "be constant in prayer" (Rom. 12:12). He not only demands unceasing prayer of the Christians in his care, but practices it himself. "We constantly thank God for you" (1 Thess. 2:13) he writes in his letter to the Thessalonian community; and he comforts Timothy, his "true child in the faith" (1 Tim. 1:2) with the words: "Always I remember you in my prayers" (2 Tim. 1:3). In fact, whenever St. Paul speaks of prayer in his letters, two Greek words repeatedly appear: PANTOTE (pantote), which means always; and ADIALEPTOS (adialeptos), meaning without interruption or unceasingly. Prayer is then not merely a part of life which we can conveniently lay aside if something we deem more important comes up; prayer is all of life. Prayer is as essential to our life as breathing. This raises some important questions. How can we be expected to pray all the time? We are, after all, very busy people. Our work, our spouse, our children, our school - all place heavy demands upon our time. How can we fit more time for prayer into our already overcrowded lives? These questions and the many others like them which could be asked set up a false dichotomy in our lives as Christians. To pray does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things or to spend time with God in contrast to spending time with our family and friends. Rather, to pray means to think and live our entire life in the Presence of God. As Paul Evdokimov has remarked: "Our whole life, every act and gesture, even a smile must become a hymn or adoration, an offering, a prayer. We must become prayer-prayer incarnate." This is what St. Paul means when he writes to the Corinthians that "whatever you do, do it for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).

    THE JESUS PRAYER

    In order to enter more deeply into the life of prayer and to come to grips with St. Paul's challenge to pray unceasingly, the Orthodox Tradition offers the Jesus Prayer, which is sometimes called the prayer of the heart. The Jesus Prayer is offered as a means of concentration, as a focal point for our inner life. Though there are both longer and shorter versions, the most frequently used form of the Jesus Prayer is: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." This prayer, in its simplicity and clarity, is rooted in the Scriptures and the new life granted by the Holy Spirit. It is first and foremost a prayer of the Spirit because of the fact that the prayer addresses Jesus as Lord, Christ and Son of God; and as St. Paul tells us, "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).

    THE SCRIPTURAL ROOTS OF THE JESUS PRAYER

    The Scriptures give the Jesus Prayer both its concrete form and its theological content. It is rooted in the Scriptures in four ways:
  • In its brevity and simplicity, it is the fulfillment of Jesus' command that "in praying" we are "not to heap up empty phrases as the heathen do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them . . . (Matt. 6:7-8).

  • The Jesus Prayer is rooted in the Name of the Lord. In the Scriptures, the power and glory of God are present in his Name. In the Old Testament to deliberately and attentively invoke God's Name was to place oneself in his Presence. Jesus, whose name in Hebrew means God saves, is the living Word addressed to humanity. Jesus is the final Name of God. Jesus is "the Name which is above all other names" and it is written that "all beings should bend the knee at the Name of Jesus" (Phil. 2:9-10). In this Name devils are cast out (Luke 10:17), prayers are answered (John 14:13 14) and the lame are healed (Acts 3:6-7). The Name of Jesus is unbridled spiritual power.

  • The words of the Jesus Prayer are themselves based on Scriptural texts: the cry of the blind man sitting at the side of the road near Jericho, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me" (Luke 18:38); the ten lepers who "called to him, Jesus, Master, take pity on us' " (Luke 17:13); and the cry for mercy of the publican, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:14).

  • It is a prayer in which the first step of the spiritual journey is taken: the recognition of our own sinfulness, our essential estrangement from God and the people around us. The Jesus Prayer is a prayer in which we admit our desperate need of a Saviour. For "if we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth" (1 John 1:8).
  • THE THREE LEVELS OF PRAYER

    Because prayer is a living reality, a deeply personal encounter with the living God, it is not to be confined to any given classification or rigid analysis. However, in order to offer some broad, general guidelines for those interested in using the Jesus Prayer to develop their inner life, Theophan the Recluse, a 19th century Russian spiritual writer, distinguishes three levels in the saying of the Prayer:
  • It begins as oral prayer or prayer of the lips, a simple recitation which Theophan defines as prayers' "verbal expression and shape." Although very important, this level of prayer is still external to us and thus only the first step, for "the essence or soul of prayer is within a man's mind and heart."

  • As we enter more deeply into prayer, we reach a level at which we begin to pray without distraction. Theophan remarks that at this point, "the mind is focused upon the words" of the Prayer, "speaking them as if they were our own."

  • The third and final level is prayer of the heart. At this stage prayer is no longer something we do but who we are. Such prayer, which is a gift of the Spirit, is to return to the Father as did the prodigal son (Luke 15:32). The prayer of the heart is the prayer of adoption, when "God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit that cries 'Abba, Father!'" (Gal. 4:6).
  • THE FRUITS OF THE JESUS PRAYER

    This return to the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit is the goal of all Christian spirituality. It is to be open to the presence of the Kingdom in our midst. The anonymous author of The Way of the Pilgrim reports that the Jesus Prayer has two very concrete effects upon his vision of the world. First, it transfigures his relation ship with the material creation around him; the world becomes transparent, a sign, a means of communicating God's presence. He writes:

    "When I prayed in my heart, everything around me seemed delightful and marvelous. The trees, the grass, the birds, the air, the light seemed to be telling me that they existed for man's sake, that they witnessed to the love of God for man, that all things prayed to God and sang his praise."

    Second, the Prayer transfigures his relationship to his fellow human beings. His relationships are given form within their proper context: the forgiveness and compassion of the crucified and risen Lord.

    "Again I started off on my wanderings. But now I did not walk along as before, filled with care. The invocation of the Name of Jesus gladdened my way. Everybody was kind to me. If anyone harms me I have only to think, 'How sweet is the Prayer of Jesus!' and the injury and the anger alike pass away and I forget it all."

    ENDLESS GROWTH

    "Growth in prayer has no end," Theophan informs us. "If this growth ceases, it means that life ceases." The way of the heart is endless because the God whom we seek is infinite in the depths of his glory. The Jesus Prayer is a signpost along the spiritual journey, a journey that all of us must take.

    Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    Russian prelate chastises Catholic bishops' "political correctness"

    Folks, this according to Catholic World News:
    Orthodox prelate faults Catholics on politically-correct approach

    Metropolitan Kiril of SmolenskMoscow, Nov. 13, 2007 (CWNews.com) - The top ecumenical-affairs officer of the Russian Orthodox Church has criticized Catholic leaders for bowing to popular opinion in their public statements.

    “More than one generations of Roman Catholic hierarches have been taught with the political-correctness idea,” said Metropolitan Kiril of Smolensk (pictured right), speaking to a group of students in Moscow. The Russian prelate said that in ecumenical talks, Orthodox leaders have sought to warn Catholic bishops that if they become overly concerned about public opinion, “then one might turn traitor to his own identity.”
    Commentary. Well, all that's true as far as it goes. Lord knows I detest "political correctness." But then again, this is no different from the Russian Orthodox public subservience to the former Soviet state, a fact the Russians have yet to reckon with and heal. If the purpose of these comments was to maneuver in order to capture some sort of "moral high ground" vis-a-vis the Catholic Church, the good Metropolitan should rethink his strategy.

    I wonder what brought this up?

    Two columns to ponder

    Folks, I've been too busy lately to add some original contents of my own and that will last for a bit as we wind down the year at work and home. In the meantime, check out these two newspaper columns. On one, Thomas Sowell asks us to Stop ‘making a difference’. A very thought-provoking title since every day I wake up with the purpose of making a difference - and that's not going to change, of course. Nor do i think that's what Sowell means:
    Making a difference makes sense only if you are convinced that you have mastered the subject at hand to the point where any difference you might make would be for the better.

    Very few people have mastered anything that well beyond their own limited circle of knowledge. Even fewer seem to think far enough ahead to consider that question. Yet hardly a day goes by without news of some uninformed busybodies on one crusade or another.
    Which means that we should make a difference on those very things we know and if we don't know anything, then we should start learning something.

    The other one is by Cal Thomas, Change what?, in which he says these luminous words:
    Our problem is we have more of what we don't need and less of what we do need. More things and poor relationships translate into more for self and less for others. It would appear that self-storage facilities are one of the fastest growing businesses in America. I see them everywhere multiplying like overpriced coffee shops. Why do we need so many storage units? It's because we lack room in our larger houses for all the stuff we don't need, bought on credit with money many of us didn't have. It is because the marketers have sold us on the value of things, while culture has diminished the value of human relationships.
    Hear, hear! My parish priest would have concurred.

    Read them both and ponder their sage sayings.

    Saturday, November 10, 2007

    NYT: Latin Mass Draws Interest After Easing of Restrictions

    The Rev. Jerome Fasano, center, begins a traditional Latin Mass at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton, Va. - Photo: Brendan Smialowski for The New York TimesFolks, I find it interesting that the New York Times decided to talk about this subject. This is a sampling:
    The way Catholics came to worship after the Vatican II council has been a source of passionate conflict for some. A tiny but vocal minority was outraged by what they considered abrupt and misguided changes of the council, and Pope Benedict’s letter was meant to heal that rift.

    Celebration of Latin Mass “One priest said on a blog that now we can’t be considered the nutty aunt in the attic,” said Jason King of Seattle, a board member of Una Voce America, a group that promotes the Tridentine Mass. “The pope’s letter legitimized our aspirations.”

    Yet many Catholics, including priests and parishioners who grew up with the Tridentine Mass, recall services that were hasty and with little scriptural content.

    “Most Catholics all over the world who have experienced the liturgy of Vatican II would say it’s not perfect, but most Catholics would admit that they are in a better place than 45 years ago,” Father Pecklers said. “They can understand the liturgy. Men and women are invited into celebration. There’s greater diversity and a greater sense of ownership of the parish by the laity.”

    On a recent Wednesday evening at St. Andrew’s, young families and the elderly, children in school uniforms and craggy men, along with many women in mantillas, gathered in a hush as Father Fasano celebrated the Tridentine Mass. He leaned over the altar and prayed in a soft rumble of Latin.

    Parishioners seemed confused at times about when to sit or stand. Yet no one seemed to be straining to hear the priest. They looked instead to their missals or prayed on their own. Some parishioners at St. Andrew’s spoke about how abandoning the Tridentine Mass weakened American Catholicism.
    Read the entire piece here.

    Commentary. The article is balanced on the whole, with opinions on both side of the issue, and the general conclusion that the Tridentine Mass will never be "normative" which is, of course, what the Holy Father said in the motu proprio. So, interesting, but nothing that we really didn't know already.

    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments: Tridentine Mass should not be limited

    Folks, according to the Catholic News Service, Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don (pictured right), secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, criticized bishops and priests who have given a narrow interpretation to Pope Benedict XVI's permission for the wider celebration of the Tridentine Mass. "On the part of some dioceses, there have been interpretive documents that inexplicably aim to limit the 'motu proprio' of the pope," he told the Web site Petrus Nov. 5. He also said:
    Behind the attempts to define the terms in a way that limits the availability of the Tridentine Mass, "there hide, on the one hand, ideological prejudices and, on the other hand, pride, which is one of the most serious sins," the archbishop said.

    "I repeat: I invite everyone to obey the pope. If the Holy Father thought it was his obligation to issue the 'motu proprio,' he had his reasons and I share them fully," he said.

    "The bishops, in particular, have sworn fidelity to the pontiff; may they be coherent and faithful to their commitment," he said.
    Read the entire piece here.

    Commentary. Folks, I've explained elsewhere my stance regarding the Tridentine Mass, most recently on this blog post, so I am not going to repeat what I said then. You all know I prefer the Novus Ordo. But I am not blind to the requirements of justice. The Holy Father wishes to expand the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, yet it is clear that some bishops "out there" are intent upon frustrating the wishes of the Holy Father. As the words of Archbishop Patabendige Don (I hope those are his surnames) demonstrate, the Holy See seems to be keenly aware of the steps those bishops are taking and are also very clear as to the root of their opposition: pride, prejudice and disobedience.

    It is not my habit to challenge bishops directly or call them to task. My oh my, that's not my calling. Nevertheless, I can't help to suffer along with my brethren who prefer this mode of Catholic worship and whose clear pastoral needs have been ignored for so long. They don't deserve to be treated as second-class Catholics. There should not be second-class Catholics anywhere in the Church.

    The rest of us have a RIGHT to the fullness of Catholic Tradition, TO ALL OF IT. Tridentine-skeptical bishops have the obligation to explain to the Catholic faithful entrusted to them why are they intent in blocking access to a part of the Tradition or, as the motu proprio provides for, they should be ready to explain their reasons for blocking the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to the Holy See.

    My prayers are with my brethren and with the bishops, and of course, with the entire Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit will have the last word, as He always does, of course.

    John Kerry laments losing pro-Life voters in 2004

    Senator still unable to articulate the Catholic position on abortion.

    Folks, according to LifeSiteNews ,
    John Kerry lamented the fact that he lost the pro-life vote in the 2004 US presidential elections during a talk given at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life yesterday. The Catholic, former Democratic presidential candidate still did not, however, express any regrets about his pro-abortion position. Kerry stated that he wished he had talked more about his personal view of what constitutes "Catholicism" earlier in the campaign, rather than waiting until the last three weeks. Reflecting an ongoing failure of the most US bishops to adequately communicate Church teaching on the issue, Kerry also claimed that the position of the four Catholic bishops was somehow "not a church position. And what we didn't do was make ... sure the Catholic position was in front of people as much as it should be."
    Commentary. And how did Senator Kerry define the "Catholic position" on abortion? Not by any mention of Catholic doctrine, papal teaching, the Church Fathers or the Magisterium, but to a very personal view of the meaning of "Vatican II" according to the report.

    See why I didn't vote for the guy? Don't you think that if a presidential candidate uses his "Catholic credentials" as a way to attract a certain voting bloc, that he should be called to task to see how close that candidate's "Catholicism" matches reality?

    Senator Kerry also acknowledged Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi and the late Jesuit Fr. Robert Drinan as great influences in his life and thought. Of these three the one that has damaged the most the Gospel of Life is definitely the late Fr. Drinan. In the end, Kerry, Kennedy, and Pelosi are uniformed, misinformed, indifferent, or hostile to Catholic teaching. But Fr. Drinan should have known better. The damage he caused can be objectively measured in lives.

    Bottom line: I am glad I didn' vote for Kerry and I am perfectly happy with the stand against him I took back then. Catholics-in-name-only will never get my vote.

    Monday, November 05, 2007

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Contemplation

    2709. What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: "Contemplative prayer [oración mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us."6 Contemplative prayer seeks him "whom my soul loves."7 It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love, and we seek him in that pure faith which causes us to be born of him and to live in him. In this inner prayer we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself.

    2710. The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter. One cannot always meditate, but one can always enter into inner prayer, independently of the conditions of health, work, or emotional state. The heart is the place of this quest and encounter, in poverty and in faith.

    2711. Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we "gather up" the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us. We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed.

    2712. Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more.8 But he knows that the love he is returning is poured out by the Spirit in his heart, for everything is grace from God. Contemplative prayer is the poor and humble surrender to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son.


    2713. Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts.9 Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, "to his likeness."

    2714. Contemplative prayer is also the pre-eminently intense time of prayer. In it the Father strengthens our inner being with power through his Spirit "that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith" and we may be "grounded in love."10

    2715. Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. "I look at him and he looks at me": this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus it learns the "interior knowledge of our Lord," the more to love him and follow him.11

    2716. Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child. It participates in the "Yes" of the Son become servant and the Fiat of God's lowly handmaid.

    2717. Contemplative prayer is silence, the "symbol of the world to come"12 or "silent love."13 Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the "outer" man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.

    2718. Contemplative prayer is a union with the prayer of Christ insofar as it makes us participate in his mystery. The mystery of Christ is celebrated by the Church in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit makes it come alive in contemplative prayer so that our charity will manifest it in our acts.

    2719. Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith. The Paschal night of the Resurrection passes through the night of the agony and the tomb—the three intense moments of the Hour of Jesus which his Spirit (and not "the flesh [which] is weak") brings to life in prayer. We must be willing to "keep watch with [him] one hour."14

    Saturday, November 03, 2007

    Archbishop Chaput on Citizenship and Evangelization

    Most Reverend Charles Chaput, Abp. of DenverI always enjoy being with friends like tonight because I can leave my Kevlar vest in Denver. I do a lot of speaking, and while most of the people I meet are wonderful folks, not everyone is always happy to hear what I have to say.

    In fact, one of the distinguishing marks of debate both outside and within the Church over the last 40 years is how uncivil the disagreements have become. Being a faithful Catholic leader today -- whether you're a layperson or clergy -- isn't easy. It requires real skill, and in that regard, I've admired the great ability and good will of Bishop Murphy for many years. So it's a special pleasure to be with him tonight. New York's Cardinal Edward Egan is another leader who's given extraordinary and sometimes difficult service to the Church.

    I'm not really surprised by the environment in our country or in our Church because Msgr. George Kelly saw it coming 30 years ago. I read his great book, "The Battle for the American Church," as a young Capuchin priest when it first came out in 1979. I remember being struck immediately by George's very Irish combination of candor, scrappiness, clarity, intelligence and also finally charity -- because everything he wrote and said and did was always motivated by his love for the Church.

    I also remember George's sense of humor, which was vivid and healthy, and which probably kept him so generous and sane. He was a man's man and a priest's priest -- and his commitment to Catholic family life, Catholic education and Catholic scholarship has remained with me as an example throughout my priesthood. George and I became friends through our mutual friend Father Ronald Lawler, O.F.M. Cap., and after I became a bishop in South Dakota, he would often call me or write me with his advice -- and I was always happy to get it, because it was always very good. So I'm grateful for a chance to acknowledge my debt to him.

    Please, continue reading here.

    Friday, November 02, 2007

    Tidbits from Hither and Thither

    Vivificat's irregular roundup of news and brief commentary.

  • Today we remember all the Faithful Departed. Let us pray: "O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of Thy servants departed the remission of their sins, that,through pious supplications, they may obtain the pardon which they have always desired. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end."

  • Also today, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Episcopalians nationwide are watching as leaders and delegates of the Episcopal Church’s Pittsburgh Diocese converge on in this city today to consider separating from their national affiliation, according to the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. The 142nd convention for the Pittsburgh diocese, whose leaders have spoken in favor of a more conservative church, meets today to consider an amendment to its constitution to allow its separation from the Episcopal Church of the United States. The diocese’s parishes then could join a more conservative group, the worldwide Anglican Communion, rather than its American arm. If the resolution passes, the pullout would have to be ratified at a second convention. Commentary. This is the latest in a series of ongoing defections by congregations from the national Episcopal Church. Christian believers in the Episcopal Church who take the Bible seriously and hold in esteem their communion's former links with historical Christian doctrine are themselves not taken seriously by a hierarchy dominated by theological technocrats who feel empowered to change the core of Christian belief in their so-called Christian Church. Let us pray for our fellow believers in the Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh as they face momentous decisions in the next few days.

  • Zenit.org reports that Pope Benedict XVI told a group of pharmacists that they must avoid anaesthetizing consciences, and emphasized that drugs should be used to help human beings, not to take the life of unborn children or the elderly. He recalled their role in educating patients "in the correct use of medications" and in informing them of "the ethical implications of the use of particular drugs." The spin the Mainstream Media is giving to the speech was to be expected: "Pope urges pharmacists to reject abortion pill" and "Pope to Druggists: Shun Immoral Scripts" are but two examples of this trend. An editorial published in The San Jose Mercury News even recurred to an equivocal to make its point: "Editorial: Pharmacist's duty to patient, not pope." Commentary. A pharmacist's first duty is to God and to his or her conscience, not to pharmacist boards, not to legislative commitees, not to governors, much less to a newspaper editor. Catholic and other Christian pharmacists are being pressured to act against their consciences in dispensing abortifacients and contraceptives of every kind. This is today's equivalent of burning incense to the gods to prove one's loyalty to Caesar. Well, guess what, some pharmacists don't want to burn incense to the idols of abortion and contraception and if our so-called democratic societies are as liberal and tolerant as they say they are, they should respect the consciences of these pharmacists. These pharmacists deserve the respect and the support from all peoples of conscience. Human positive law should bend to recognize their right to dissent from current social orthodoxies.

  • Finally for now, according to the Catholic News Service, After 138 Muslim scholars wrote to top Christian leaders highlighting shared religious values as a basis for working together for peace and understanding, a Vatican official raised questions about the possibilities for dialogue with Muslims. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the longtime Vatican diplomat who became president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in September, has said the Vatican would respond formally to the Muslim scholars. But he raised concerns among the Muslim signers when he told a French Catholic newspaper he was not sure "theological dialogue" was possible with Muslims. "With some religions, yes," he said. "But with Islam, no, not at this time. Muslims do not accept the possibility of discussing the Quran, because it is written, they say, as dictated by God. "With such a strict interpretation, it is difficult to discuss the content of faith," he said in the interview published Oct. 18. Commentary. I checked out the Muslim site, A Common Word, to be greeted by a word from Cardinal Pell of Sidney, Australia, praising the Muslim scholar's letter: "Many complexities and problems remain, of course, but the leadership given by the 138 scholars who have issued this letter is to be welcomed and applauded. Serious scholarly replies from the leadership of the Christian churches are required." I tend to agree. A conversation between Muslims and Christians must take place. In light of recent events, the need for the conversation acquires a new urgency. If St. Francis talked to the Muslims, we can talk to.
  • Thursday, November 01, 2007

    Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints

    From today's Office of Readings, a sermon by Saint Bernard, abbot.

    Let Us Make Haste To Our Brethren Who Are Awaiting Us

    Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honours when their heavenly Father honours them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.

    Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins. In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints. But our dispositions change. The Church of all the first followers of Christ awaits us, but we do nothing about it. The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them.

    Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory. . . .

    Therefore, we should aim at attaining this glory with a wholehearted and prudent desire. That we may rightly hope and strive for such blessedness, we must above all seek the prayers of the saints. Thus, what is beyond our own powers to obtain will be granted through their intercession.