Friday, June 17, 2005

Confessions of a white Christian Republican

When Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean said the other day that the Republicans were pretty much a "white, Christian party," I must admit I felt a guilty sense of self-recognition. He had nailed me cold, dead to rights. I looked in the mirror and confessed, "Yes, I am a white Christian, and I am a Republican."

Let's get the facts out here:

• I have been white all my life. I was born white in Minneapolis, one of the whitest cities in America....

Hat tip to my brother for the link to the article!

New Study Suggested for Understanding the Sexual Abuse Crisis

CHICAGO - A board set up by U.S. Catholic bishops to examine the church's sexual abuse crisis recommended a sweeping study yesterday to provide a better understanding of why priests abused minors.

Dr. Paul McHugh, a professor and former director of the Johns Hopkins psychiatry department, told the gathering of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during a closed-door session that the research would take about three years and would include extensive interviews with victims and perpetrators.
I still have to defer to Bishop Bruskewitz's comments a few years back when he suggested that there is a definite link between the crisis and rampant dissent with the Church...Is someone looking for a 3-year employment contract to come up with other reasons for widespread sexual criminal and deviant behavior?

Pope Halts Beatification of French Priest

Pope Benedict XVI has temporarily blocked the beatification of a French priest and appointed a commission to investigate the priest's anti-Semitic writings, drawing praise from Jewish leaders who called it a sign of the new pope's sensitivity to other religions.

Cardinal George: Seminary no place for homosexuals

As the nation's Roman Catholic bishops gathered in Chicago Thursday for a meeting to review their sexual abuse policy, Cardinal Francis George said homosexual men should not be admitted into seminaries.
Another item on the bishops' agenda for Friday would ban an acclamation from the mass. If accepted, Catholics would no longer recite the words: "Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again."

Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., who chairs the liturgy committee, said the "Christ has died" language is "much beloved" by Catholic faithful, but theologically incorrect.

Reading for Friday, 11th Week in Ordinary Time

From: 2 Corinthians 11:18, 21-30

He (St. Paul) Apologizes for Boasting (Continuation)

[18] Since many boast of worldly things, I too will boast. [21] To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

What He has Suffered for Christ

But whatever any one dares to boast of--I am speaking as a fool--I also dare to boast of that. [22] Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. [23] Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one--I am talking like a madman--with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. [24] Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. [25] Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; [26] on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; [27] in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. [28] And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. [29] Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

[30] If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

16-21. The Apostle breaks off once more to excuse his boasting. The only reason why he is making this apologia is to defend his apostolic authority over the Corinthians.

"The Apostle", St John Chrysostom comments, "acts like someone of illustrious race who has chosen to dedicate himself to heading a holy life and who feels compelled to sing the praises of his family in order to take down certain people who are priding themselves on being well-born. Do you think he is acting in a vain way? No, because the only reason he boasts is to humble these vain people" ("Hom on 2 Cor.", 24).

19-20. These words are heavily ironical, caricaturing as they do the foolishness of the Corinthians, who consider themselves to be so sensible. St Paul upbraided them on this score previously (cf. 1 Cor 1:18-4:21). In this instance their foolishness consists in letting themselves be taken advantage of by intruders and doing nothing about it.

21. "To my shame, I must say": this could also be translated as "To shame you I tell you", for the Greek does not make it clear who feels ashamed. St Paul is still speaking sarcastically: he argues that he showed himself too weak to the Corinthians, for he has not taken advantage of them the way the false apostles have. That may be why, he tells them, they consider him inferior to the latter.

23-33. St Paul begins his apologia proper, in which he points out his merits in contrast with those of his opponents. On the score of race, he is their equal (v. 22); on the score of being a minister of Christ, he is much better qualified: as proof of this he offers the physical suffering he has undergone in his apostolate (vv. 23-27, 30-33), and the moral suffering (vv. 28f). One cannot fail to be moved by this outline of his sufferings, an account which provides us with extremely valuable information about his life not contained in the Acts of the Apostles. Although this list is not exhaustive (cf. v. 28), and much suffering still lies ahead of him, we can see that Ananias' prophecy has already come true: "I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name" (Acts 9:16).

It is very revealing that the evidence he provides to show his superiority as a servant of Christ is precisely his sufferings. Our Lord had already said, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Lk 9:23). Suffering, the cross, is something inseparable from the Christian life, and a sure sign that one is following in the Master's footsteps. Monsignor Escriva comments: "When we set out seriously along the 'royal highway', that of following Christ and behaving as children of God, we soon realize what awaits us--the Holy Cross. We must see it as the central point upon which to rest our hope of being united with our Lord.

"Let me warn you that the program ahead is not an easy one. It takes an effort to lead the kind of life our Lord wants. Listen to the account St Paul gives of the incidents and sufferings he encountered in carrying out the will of Jesus: 'Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one' (2 Cor 11:24-28)" ("Friends of God", 212).

22. The Apostle makes it quite clear that he is the equal of his opponents as far as background goes. The three terms used (Hebrew, Israelite, descendant of Abraham), although in a way they all mean the same, have different shades of meaning. "Hebrews" here designates both origin--descendants of Eber (cf. Gen 11:14)--and race. It may be that Paul's enemies questioned his ethnic purity on the grounds that he had been born in Tarsus, a city in Asia Minor; however, he was "a Hebrew born of Hebrews" (Phil 3:5) and spoke Hebrew (cf. Acts 21:40). "Israelites"--descendants of Jacob, whose name Yahweh changed to "Israel" (cf. Gen 32:28)--would indicate that he was a member of the chosen people who had the true religion. Being a "descendant of Abraham" would refer to the fact that he was an heir to the messianic promises.

St Paul often had to make a point of stressing his Jewish origin (cf. Acts 22:3; Rom 11:1; Gal 1:13ff; Phil 3:4ff). Probably his opponents were forever trying to discredit his teaching--about the superiority of the New Law over the Old, about circumcision not being necessary--by saying he was not a Jew. He most certainly is, he says, and he often refers to his immense love for those of his race (cf. Rom 9).

24. It is not possible to say exactly when these beatings took place; they are not reported in the Acts of the Apostles. Possibly they occurred in some of the synagogues where he went to preach: synagogues in the Diaspora had authority to inflict this form of punishment. Because Jewish law laid down a maximum of forty lashes (cf. Deut 25:2f), usually only thirty-nine were given to avoid going beyond the limit. It was a very severe and demeaning form of punishment.

25. The Romans beat people with rods. Though three beatings are mentioned here the Acts of the Apostles only tell us of one instance of Paul's being punished in this way at Philippi (cf. Acts 16:22-24). On the three occasions he must have been beaten unlawfully, for Roman law prescribed that this punishment could only be imposed on Roman citizens--St Paul was a Roman (cf. Acts 22:25-29)--when they were under sentence of death.

The stoning took place at Lystra, and after it the Apostle was dragged out of the city and left for dead (cf. Acts 14:19f).

The Acts of the Apostles refer to only one instance of shipwreck (cf. Acts 27:9ff).

28-29. In addition to the physical sufferings mentioned, others still greater weigh down on the Apostle--who was "all things to all men" (1 Cor 9:22)--those to do with the pastoral care of people who sought his help, and the care of the churches he had founded. The physical evils, St John Chrysostom comments, "no matter how terrible they may have been, passed over quite quickly and left behind them a great consolation. But what afflicted Paul, what oppressed his heart and made him so anxious was the pain caused him by the laxity of all the faithful without any distinction. It was not only the behavior of prominent members that caused him pain; he was indifferent to no one; he ranked all Christians, irrespective of who they were, as his dearly beloved children" ("Hom. on 2 Cor.", 25).

The Apostle, who is identified with Christ (cf. Gal 2: 19f), makes his own the words of his Master: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (Jn 10:11). He stands as a model for pastors of the Church as regards the solicitude they should have for the souls God has entrusted to them.

30. As if by way of summing up what he has said already, St Paul points out that he is really boasting about his "weakness", that is, about things which worldly eyes see as weakness, failure and humiliation. He will go on to explain that it is really in these things that God's power and strength are most clearly to be seen (cf. 12:7:10): this "weakness" makes fruitful the work of his chosen ones.

This is another example of the paradox of the Christian life: Christ won victory on the cross, and his Apostles rejoice and are proud to suffer on his account (cf. 7:4; 8:2; Acts 5:41; Gal 6:14).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Compendium of Catechism Ready for June 28 Release

Vatican, Jun. 15 ( - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) will unveil the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on June 28, during a liturgical ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Compendium, which was prepared by a special Vatican commission, is the product of a lengthy editorial process. Pope John Paul II had formed the editorial commission in 2003, in response to a request made at the International Catechetical Congress the previous year. The commission was chaired by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in his capacity as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Compendium, which offers a concise presentation of the teachings found in the Catechism, will be available to the public in its Italian-language form on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. The world's episcopal conferences will be responsible for preparing translations.
Hopefully, with translations following the guidelines of Liturgiam Authenticam. Nonetheless, this is great news! Perhaps this will help those who may feel intimidated by the size of the Catechism? With God's grace, we may have the Compendium in English is less than 3-5 years?

The End of Europe...

Such is the poisoned fruit of contraception, abortion and a denial of God...

Embryos Welcome: Ruini Wins the Referendum, and Sets an Example

The Cardinal had asked Italians to refrain from voting, and three out of four of them did as he requested. The Italian Church scores its first victory in Benedict XVI's battle in the defense of life and man.
by Sandro Magister

Concern is widespread over next bishop

Seven priests concerned about Belleville's next bishop represented 75 percent of diocesan clergy when they met recently with Cardinal Francis George.

Monsignor James E. Margason, vicar general of the diocese, said "more than 50" of Belleville's active diocesan priests signed a letter that was sent to George in Chicago. There were 70 active priests at the time the letter was signed. Now there are 72. Margason would not talk about the content of the letter.

Gospel for Thursday, 11th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Matthew 6:7-15

An Upright Intention in Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting (Continuation)

(Jesus said to His disciples:) [7] "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. [8] Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. [9] Pray then like this: Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. [10] Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. [11] Give us this day our daily bread; [12] And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors; [13] And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [14] For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father also will forgive you; [15] but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

7-8. Jesus condemns the superstitious notion that long prayers are needed to attract God's attention. True piety is not so much a matter of the amount of words as of the frequency and the love with which the Christian turns towards God in all the events, great or small, of his day. Vocal prayer is good, and necessary; but the words count only if they express our inner feelings.

9-13. The "Our Father" is, without any doubt, the most commented-on passage in all Sacred Scripture. Numerous great Church writers have left us commentaries full of poetry and wisdom. The early Christians, taught by the precepts of salvation, and following the divine commandment, centered their prayer on this sublime and simple form of words given them by Jesus. And the last Christians, too, will raise their hearts to say the "Our Father" for the last time when they are on the point of being taken to Heaven. In the meantime, from childhood to death, the "Our Father" is a prayer which fills us with hope and consolation. Jesus fully realized how helpful this prayer would be to us. We are grateful to Him for giving it to us, to the Apostles for passing it on to us and, in the case of most Christians, to our mothers for teaching it to us in our infancy. So important is the Lord's Prayer that from apostolic times it has been used, along with the Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Sacraments, as the basis of Christian catechesis. Catechumens were introduced to the life of prayer by the "Our Father", and our catechisms today use it for that purpose.

St. Augustine says that the Lord's Prayer is so perfect that it sums up in a few words everything man needs to ask God for (cf. "Sermon", 56). It is usually seen as being made up of an invocation and seven petitions--three to do with praise of God and four with the needs of men.

9. It is a source of great consolation to be able to call God "our Father"; Jesus, the Son of God, teaches men to invoke God as Father because we are indeed His children, and should feel towards Him in that way.

"The Lord [...] is not a tyrannical master or a rigid and implacable judge; He is our Father. He speaks to us about our lack of generosity, our sins, our mistakes; but He also does so in order to free us from them, to promise us His friendship and His love [...]. A child of God treats the Lord as his Father. He is not obsequious and servile, he is not merely formal and well-mannered; he is completely sincere and trusting" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 64).

"Hallowed by Thy name": in the Bible a person's "name" means the same as the person himself. Here the name of God means God Himself. Why pray that His name be hallowed, sanctified? We do not mean sanctification in the human sense--leaving evil behind and drawing closer to God--for God is Holiness Itself. God, rather, is sanctified when His holiness is acknowledged and honored by His creatures--which is what this first petition of the "Our Father" means (cf. "St. Pius Catechism", IV, 10).

10. "Thy Kingdom come": this brings up again the central idea of the Gospel of Jesus Christ--the coming of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is so identical with the life and work of Jesus Christ that the Gospel is referred to now as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, now as the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 9:35). On the notion of the Kingdom of God see the commentary on Matthew 3:2 and 4:17. The coming of the Kingdom of God is the realization of God's plan of salvation in the world. The Kingdom establishes itself in the first place in the core of man's being, raising him up to share in God's own inner life. This elevation has, as it were, two stages--the first, in this life, where it is brought about by grace; the second, definitive stage in eternal life, where man's elevation to the supernatural level is fully completed. We for our part need to respond to God spontaneously, lovingly and trustingly.

"Thy will be done": this third petition expresses two desires. The first is that man identify humbly and unconditionally with God's will--abandonment in the arms of his Father God. The second that the will of God be fulfilled, that man cooperate with it in full freedom. For example, God's will is to be found in the moral aspect of the divine law--but this law is not forced on man. One of the signs of the coming of the Kingdom is man's loving fulfillment of God's will. The second part of the petition, "on earth as it is in Heaven", means that, just as the angels and saints in Heaven are fully at one with God's will, so--we desire--should the same thing obtain on earth.

Our effort to do God's will proves that we are sincere when we say the words, "Thy will be done." For our Lord says, "Not every one who says to Me, `Lord, Lord' shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven." (Matthew 7:21). "Anyone, then, who sincerely repeats this petition, `Fiat voluntas tua', must, at least in intention, have done this already" (St. Teresa of Avila, "Way of Perfection", chapter 36).

11. In making this fourth petition, we are thinking primarily of our needs in this present life. The importance of this petition is that it declares that the material things we need in our lives are good and lawful. It gives a deep religious dimension to the support of life: what Christ's disciple obtains through his own work is also something for which he should implore God--and he should receive it gratefully as a gift from God. God is our support in life: by asking God to support him and by realizing that it is God who is providing this support, the Christian avoids being worried about material needs. Jesus does not want us to pray for wealth or to be attached to material things, but to seek and make sober use of what meets our needs. Hence, in Matthew as well as in Luke (Luke 11:2), there is reference to having enough food for every day. This fourth petition, then, has to do with moderate use of food and material things--far from the extremes of opulence and misery, as God already taught in the Old Testament "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food which is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, `Who is the Lord?' or lest I be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God" (Proverbs 30:8).

The Fathers of the Church interpreted the bread asked for here not only as material food but also as referring to the Blessed Eucharist, without which our spirit cannot stay alive.

According to the "St. Pius V Catechism" (cf. IV, 13, 21) the Eucharist is called our daily bread because it is offered daily to God in the Holy Mass and because we should worthily receive it, every day if possible, as St. Ambrose advises: "If the bread is daily, why do you take it only once a year [...]? Receive daily what is of benefit to you daily! So live that you may deserve to receive it daily!" ("De Sacramentis", V, 4).

12. "Debts": clearly, here, in the sense of sin. In the Aramaic of Jesus' time the same word was used for offense and debt. In this fifth petition, then, we admit that we are debtors because we have offended God. The Old Testament is full of references to man's sinful condition. Even the "righteous" are sinners. Recognizing our sins is the first step in every conversion to God. It is not a question of recognizing that we have sinned in the past but of confessing our present sinful condition. Awareness of our sinfulness makes us realize our religious need to have recourse to the only One who can cure it. Hence the advantage of praying insistently, using the Lord's Prayer to obtain God's forgiveness time and again.

The second part of this petition is a serious call to forgive our fellow-men, for we cannot dare to ask God to forgive us if we are not ready to forgive others. The Christian needs to realize what this prayer implies: unwillingness to forgive others means that one is condemning oneself (see the notes on Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:21:21-35).

13. "And lead us not into temptation": "We do not ask to be totally exempt from temptation, for human life is one continuous temptation (cf. Job 7:1). What, then, do we pray for in this petition? We pray that the divine assistance may not forsake us, lest having been deceived, or worsted, we should yield to temptation; and that the grace of God may be at hand to succor us when our strength fails, to refresh and invigorate us in our trials" ("St. Pius V Catechism", IV, 15, 14).

In this petition of the "Our Father" we recognize that our human efforts alone do not take us very far in trying to cope with temptation, and that we need to have humble recourse to God, to get the strength we need. For, "God is strong enough to free you from everything and can do you more good than all the devils can do you harm. All that God decrees is that you confide in Him, that you draw near Him, that you trust Him and distrust yourself, and so be helped; and with this help you will defeat whatever hell brings against you. Never lose hold of this firm hope [...] even if the demons are legion and all kinds of severe temptations harass you. Lean upon Him, because if the Lord is not your support and your strength, then you will fall and you will be afraid of everything" (St. John of Avila, "Sermons, 9, First Sunday of Lent").

"But deliver us from evil": in this petition, which, in a way, sums up the previous petitions, we ask the Lord to free us from everything our enemy does to bring us down; we cannot be free of him unless God Himself free us, in response to our prayers.

This sentence can also be translated as "Deliver us from the Evil One", that is to say, the devil, who is in the last analysis the author of all evils to which we are prone.

In making this request we can be sure that our prayer will be heard because Jesus Christ, when He was on the point of leaving this world, prayed to the Father for the salvation of all men: "I do not pray that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil one" (John 17:15).

14-15. In verses 14 and 15 St. Matthew gives us a sort of commentary of our Lord on the fifth petition of the "Our Father".

A God who forgives is a wonderful God. But if God, who is thrice-holy, has mercy on the sinner, how much more ought we to forgive others--we sinners, who know from our own experience the wretchedness of sin. No one on earth is perfect. Just as God loves us, even though we have defects, and forgives us, we should love others, even though they have defects, and forgive them. If we wait to love people who have no defects, we shall never love anyone. If we wait until others mend their ways or apologize, we will scarcely ever forgive them. But then we ourselves will never be forgiven. "All right: that person has behaved badly towards you. But, haven't you behaved worse towards God?" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 686).

Thus, forgiving those who have offended us makes us like our Father, God: "In loving our enemies there shines forth in us some likeness to God our Father, who, by the death of His Son, ransomed from everlasting perdition and reconciled to Himself the human race, which before was most unfriendly and hostile to Him" ("St. Pius V Catechism", IV, 14, 19).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bishops to avoid issue of homosexuality at meeting?

Despite a 1961 Vatican directive...?
U.S. Catholic bishops will sidestep the issue of whether homosexual men should become priests at their semiannual meeting, which begins tomorrow, despite the Vatican's concern about the role of homosexuals in the church's massive sex-abuse scandal.

Memphis bishop welcomes home gay homosexual Catholics

Reflecting on the church as home and on recent meetings with Catholics who feel unwelcome in their “home,” Memphis, Tenn., Bishop J. Terry Steib announced the beginning of a diocesan ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics.

Steib began his June 2 column, “This Far by Faith,” published in the diocesan newspaper, by reflecting on the church as home “where [God’s] family gathers to celebrate God’s unconditional love.”

Steib...announced the beginning of a diocesan ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics “to be sure that we do not leave anyone behind, to be sure that all are welcome in their own home, and to be sure that we promote genuine gratitude and reverence for the gift that each one of us is to the church.”
Source (National unCatholic Reporter)

The link to Bishop Steib's column "This Far by Faith" can be read on the diocesan web site here.

Is Governor Blunt TRULY Pro-Life?

Letters to the editor: Missouri citizens deserve to know the whole story

To the Editor:

In recent editorials and interviews, Gov. Matt Blunt accuses Missouri Right to Life (MRL) of "bizarre" behavior and of failure to support pro-life legislation. Missouri citizens deserve to know the whole story.
Letter here...

I believe there is a connection somwhere between the Stowers Institute and the Danforths. I recall, in reading a flyer my dentist asked me to review, one of the Danforth's was listed in the article as supporting the despicably nightmarish act of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Certainly there are forces unseen working to convince Blunt that ghoulish experimentation is not only proper but something to be exalted in the name of science...Pathetic!

Priests seek to block bishop's installation

Bishop Edward K. Braxton has one week to go before becoming the eighth bishop of Belleville, but in an unusual move, a group of priests is working to block his installation.

Over the past two weeks, the seven priests have sought help from senior Catholic officials in Chicago and Washington to stop the installation on grounds that the normal process for matching a new bishop to a diocese was not followed, and that church leaders who traditionally participate in the selection were not consulted.
Full article here.

What is a Sacrament?

"When you see these things coming to pass, know that the kingdom of God is near." St. Luke, 21 :31.

Jim was a sophomore in college. He had but lately turned twenty. But that twentieth birthday was an important one, for his father had promised that when the young man graduated, he would become owner and manager of a large plantation in the Philippines.

Upon graduating, Jim discovered that he did not have enough money even to make the trip, much less to equip and staff the work on the land that was given him. He went to his older brother, Bill, who had a sizeable bank account. Bill told Jim that he could draw on that bank account for anything he needed. The last I heard, Jim was doing well, and was paying back to Bill the money he had borrowed.

Each one of us is in the position of Jim. Our heavenly Father has promised us a kingdom. The kingdom will be ours if we manage and run it properly. But, like Jim, we need help. Our older brother, Christ, has an exhaustless bank account of merits and grace. We can draw upon that spiritual account as often and as much as we wish. He even arranged several ways to help us. Christ has given us seven ways in which we can secure the means to take care of our spiritual kingdom.

Those seven ways we call the seven sacraments. The word sacrament comes from the Latin word, "sacrare," which means to make sacred, to make holy, to set apart for the service of another. A sacrament is something which makes us holy, or helps to make us holy and pleasing to God.

The early Christian Church used the word sacrament for the many sacred things which Christ left us. Almost everything in the Church was called a sacrament, something sacred. And such it was. However, in the twelfth century the Church gave a special and limited meaning to the word. From then on a sacrament meant what it means today:
It is an outward sign of inward grace instituted by Christ.

An outward sign is something which we can see, feel, or hear. God gave us a body and a soul. The body can be seen, felt, and heard. When God gave us these helps for our souls, the sacraments, He gave to each of those sacraments something we could see or feel or hear, some outward sign which would show that the soul was receiving that help. In other words, God planned that whenever our souls would receive help or grace through the sacraments, our senses, our bodies, should know about it.

In Baptism, for instance, you can see the priest pouring the water over the head of the one being baptized, you can hear the words, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Tho person baptized can hear those words and feel the water. But nobody can see the soul being washed of its sins. The pouring of water and saying of the words are the outward sign. We can see that. Inside takes place the washing from sin and the giving of grace. That we cannot see.

But why did Christ connect such beautiful things of the soul with such commonplace, earthy things as water, oil, bread and wine? For many reasons. Jesus Himself united in Himself the great glory of God with the common clay of man. Furthermore, since the Church is a society which can be seen, it is fitting that God's grace be given in a manner which we can see. Another reason we have already mentioned: Man is made of body and soul. To reach the soul you must, so to speak, go through the body.

Finally, when grace is given through something we can see or hear or feel, we know, as far as human beings can know, that the grace Christ promised is received. This certainty we could not have were there no outward sign.

St. Augustine points out that our Lord wishes His followers to have certain signs by which they might recognize one another, be united as a group, and be distinguished from unbelievers. The sacraments unite Catholics in their worship. They unite us in the spiritual society of the Church. They unite us in prayer and love and faith.

The third requirement of a sacrament is that it be instituted by Jesus Christ. Of this we will speak in a following lesson.

Today Jesus tells us of the signs which will warn the world of His coming to judge us. "When you see these things coming to pass, know that the kingdom of God is near."

In a similar sense Christ gave us signs of His coming to our hearts, the outward signs of the sacraments. As we receive those sacraments we can repeat the words of Christ: "When you see these things coming to pass, know that the kingdom of God is near." Yes, that kingdom of God's grace is very near, it is in your very heart.

Like that young man Jim, who was responsible for a big plantation, we need help in winning God's kingdom. Christ offers that help through the sacraments, much as Jim's older brother offered help through his bank account.

The real thing is the inner grace and help which comes to us from the boundless spiritual bank account of our elder brother, Christ, who has won all merits for us.

Be sure to thank God for His goodness and generosity shown in the sacraments. Be sure to make the most of these helps offered us so liberally, so lovingly. Use the means, use the helps, and the kingdom of heavon will be yours. Amen.

Adapted from "Talks on the Sacraments"(1947) by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM

Gospel for Wednesday, 11th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

An Upright Intention in Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting

(Jesus said to His disciples,) [1] "Beware of practising your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in Heaven.

[2] "Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. [3] But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, [4] so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

[5] "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. [6] But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

[16] "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. [17] But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, [18] that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

1-18. "Piety", here, means good works (cf. note on Matthew 5:6). Our Lord is indicating the kind of spirit in which we should do acts of personal piety. Almsgiving, fasting and prayer were the basic forms taken by personal piety among the chosen people--which is why Jesus refers to these three subjects. With complete authority He teaches that true piety must be practised with an upright intention, in the presence of God and without any ostentation. Piety practised in this way implies exercising our faith in God who sees us--and also in the safe knowledge that He will reward those who are sincerely devout.

5-6. Following the teaching of Jesus, the Church has always taught us to pray even when we were infants. By saying "you" (singular) our Lord is stating quite unequivocally the need for personal prayer--relating as child to Father, alone with God.

Public prayer, for which Christ's faithful assemble together, is something necessary and holy; but it should never displace obedience to this clear commandment of our Lord: "When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father".

The Second Vatican Council reminds us of the teaching and practice of the Church in its liturgy, which is "the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows [...]. The spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. The Christian is indeed called to pray with others, but he must also enter into his bedroom to pray to his Father in secret; furthermore, according to the teaching of the Apostle, he must pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium", 10 and 12).

A soul who really puts his Christian faith into practice realizes that he needs frequently to get away and pray alone to his Father, God. Jesus, who gives us this teaching about prayer, practised it during His own life on earth: the holy Gospel reports that He often went apart to pray on His own: "At times He spent the whole night in an intimate conversation with His Father. The Apostles were filled with love when they saw Christ pray" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 119; cf. Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; etc.). The Apostles followed the Master's example, and so we see Peter going up to the rooftop of the house to pray in private, and receiving a revelation (cf. Acts 10:9-16). "Our life of prayer should also be based on some moments that are dedicated exclusively to our conversation with God, moments of silent dialogue" ("ibid", 119).

16-18. Starting from the traditional practice of fasting, our Lord tells us the spirit in which we should exercise mortification of our senses: we should do so without ostentation, avoiding praise, discreetly; that way Jesus' words will not apply to us: "they have their reward"; it would have been a very bad deal. "The world admires only spectacular sacrifice, because it does not realize the value of sacrifice that is hidden and silent" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 185).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Cleveland diocese faces suit

Parishioners allege bishop allowed financial officers to divert $2 million. A lawsuit filed by 36 members of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland accuses Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of allowing three financial officers to divert about $2 million in diocesan funds to their private businesses.

Eucharist in the Pontificate of Benedict XVI

Scott Hahn on the New Pope's Potential Revival
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio, JUNE 12, 2005 ( Benedict XVI's pontificate is not about restoration of the liturgy so much as re-appropriation -- of the mystery of the Eucharist.

So says Scott Hahn, professor of theology and Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville, director of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and author of "The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth" (Doubleday).

Board revokes abortion doctor's license

TOPEKA, Kan. - More than two months after disciplinary action forced him to close his Kansas City, Kan., abortion clinic, Dr. Krishna Rajanna has lost his license.
Thank God!

Gospel for Tuesday, 11th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus and His Teaching, the Fulfillment of the Law (Continuation)

(Jesus said to His disciples,) [43] "You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. [45] So that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [46] For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect."

43. The first part of this verse--"You shall love your neighbor"--is to be found in Leviticus 19:18. The second part--"hate your enemy"--is not to be found in the Law of Moses. However, Jesus' words refer to a widespread rabbinical interpretation which understood "neighbors" as meaning "Israelites". Our Lord corrects this misinterpretation of the Law: for Him everyone is our neighbor (cf. the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37).

43-47. This passage sums up the teaching which precedes it. Our Lord goes so far as to say that a Christian has no personal enemies. His only enemy is evil as such--sin--but not the sinner. Jesus Himself puts this into practice with those who crucified Him, and He continues to act in the same way towards sinners who rebel against Him and despise Him. Consequently, the saints have always followed His example--like St. Stephen, the first martyr, who prayed for those who were putting him to death. This is the apex of Christian perfection--to love, and pray for, even those who persecute us and calumniate us. It is the distinguishing mark of the children of God.

46. "Tax collectors": the Roman empire had no officials of its own for the collection of taxes: in each country it used local people for this purpose. These were free to engage agents (hence we find reference to "chief tax collectors": cf. Luke 19:2). The global amount of tax for each region was specified by the Roman authorities; the tax collectors levied more than this amount, keeping the surplus for themselves: this led them to act rather arbitrarily, which was why the people hated them. In the case of the Jews, insult was added to injury by the fact that the chosen people were being exploited by Gentiles.

48. Verse 48 is, in a sense, a summary of the teaching in this entire chapter, including the Beatitudes. Strictly speaking, it is quite impossible for a created being to be as perfect as God. What our Lord means here is that God's own perfection should be the model which every faithful Christian tries to follow, even though he realizes that there is an infinite distance between himself and his Creator. However, this does not reduce the force of this commandment; it sheds more light on it. It is a difficult commandment to live up to, but along with this we must take account of the enormous help grace gives us to go so far as to tend towards divine perfection. Certainly, perfection which we should imitate does not refer to the power and wisdom of God, which are totally beyond our scope; here the context seems to refer primarily to love and mercy. Along the same lines, St. Luke quotes these words of our Lord: "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36; cf. note on Luke 6:20-49).

Clearly, the "universal call to holiness" is not a recommendation but a commandment of Jesus Christ.

"Your duty is to sanctify yourself. Yes, even you. Who thinks that this task is only for priests and religious? To everyone, without exception, our Lord said: `Be ye perfect, as My Heavenly Father is perfect'" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 291). This teaching is sanctioned by chapter 5 of Vatican II's Constitution "Lumen Gentium", where it says (40): "The Lord Jesus, divine teacher and model of all perfection, preached holiness of life (of which He is the author and maker) to each and every one of His disciples without distinction: `You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect' [...]. It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society."
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Devotion to the Sacred Heart through First Friday Communion

by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which the Church fosters, in a special way, during the month of June, is rich in its forms. There are four principal forms of the devotion, all of which are strictly related to each other: 1) the First Friday Mass and Communion of Reparation; 2) the Holy Hour on the Thursday before First Friday to commemorate the Agony in the Garden; 3) the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrated annually on the Friday after the Second Sunday after Pentecost or the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, if it is celebrated on Sunday; and 4) the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Enthronement of the image of the Sacred Heart.
Complete article here.

Network Nightmares are Over!!!

It has been a long month with multiple systems issues, many related to a major network WAN conversion to a new vendor....But, the end of the tunnel is here and I can resume blogging - With that, I would like to share something which was sent ot me a few days ago, and I wish to publicly apologize to those whose emails I have not yet answered. I will get to it shortly.

Anyway, those who have spent any time on or around a farm will understand the wisdom in these statements of advice as related by those from the country.
An Old Farmer's Advice

Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.

Keep skunks and bankers and lawyers at a distance.

Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.

A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.

Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled.

Meanness don't jes' happen overnight.

Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads.

Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.

It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge.

You cannot unsay a cruel word.

Every path has a few puddles.

When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.

The best sermons are lived, not preached.

Most of the stuff people worry about ain't never gonna happen anyway.

Don't judge folks by their relatives.

Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time.

Don't interfere with somethin' that ain't botherin' you none.

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'.

Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.

The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin'.

Always drink upstream from the herd.

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.

Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back in.

If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.

Gospel for Monday,11th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus and His Teaching, the Fulfillment of the Law (Continuation)

(Jesus said to His disciples,) [38] "You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' [39] But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; [40] and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; [41] and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. [42] Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you."

38-42. Among the Semites, from whom the Israelites stemmed, the law of vengeance ruled. It led to interminable strife, and countless crimes. In the early centuries of the chosen people, the law of retaliation was recognized as an ethical advance, socially and legally: no punishment could exceed the crime, and any punitive retaliation was outlawed. In this way, the honor of the clans and families was satisfied, and endless feuds avoided.

As far as New Testament morality is concerned, Jesus establishes a definitive advance: a sense of forgiveness and absence of pride play an essential role. Every legal framework for combating evil in the world, every reasonable defense of personal rights, should be based on this morality. The three last verses refer to mutual charity among the children of the Kingdom, a charity which presupposes and deeply imbues justice.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.