Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Priest at Prayer for July 22, Avarice

The Third Part - Vices and Virtues


Second Meditation - Further Evils of Avarice in the Priest

I. The avaricious priest becomes a stumbling-block to the faithful. According to Church historians, the most balanced and conscientious, one of the sparks that pro­duced the conflagration of Protestantism and caused the explosion of the combustible material piled up by so many abuses and laxity of both people and clergy was the ecclesiastical demand for money, sometimes unjust, sometimes immoderate.

The constant spectacle of a shepherd of souls attached to money soon persuades the people that religion is just another money-making business or con­cern, a means of livelihood for a person who is either unwilling to earn or incapable of earning a living in any other way.

Eternal and spiritual values are not believed in or are despised, because the master and dispenser of them lives as though for him they did not exist, or as if his only hope was linked up with the tangible good things of earth. If he preaches about spiritual goods, it is taken as a joke, as a hackneyed pulpit theme that nobody believes, least of all the preacher himself; and thus, under the impact of the priest's example, souls will cling more and more firmly to pleasures, honours, and wealth; and religion, if any trace of it should remain, becomes a mixture of Christian formulas and mercenary - not to say ungodly - spirit.

And there are so many instances of this soul ­destroying and corroding avarice!

II. There is a further consideration: this particular vice, with all its ruinous effects on the avaricious person, especially the priest, turns out to be absolutely of no use; it has not the slightest compensation by way of pleasure in his life.

Lord, there is many a time when Thou couldst have asked Thy priests who had enslaved themselves to the cruel demon of covetousness:

Thou fool! . . . And whose shall be those things which thou hast provided? (Luke xii, 20)

Upon the wrinkled and frowning brow of the avar­icious cleric might well be stamped, in stigmatisation of his foolishness, these sarcastic remarks from the Bookof Ecclesiastes:
"And there was another kind of frustration I marked, here under the sun.
Here is one that works alone, partner nor son nor brother to aid him, yet still works on, never content with his bright hoard, never asking, as he toils and stints himself, who shall gain by it. Frustration and lost labour, here, too." (Eccl. iv, 7-8)

Brother priest, who is going to inherit from you here on earth? Who is going to survive you? Who is going to eat and drink the "pretium sanguinis" of your parishioners and of Christ, the fruit of your sordid life, unworthy of God's minister?

Who is going to make merry and do himself well on the strength of what your covetous and miserly acts kept in hiding and seclusion, like the dragon of the fable? Who is so closely related to you, so deeply loved by you, so near to your heart and so grateful to you for your sacrifices and stintings, that for the sake of leaving him well endowed you even profane your priesthood, make purchaseable products out of your priesthood's sublimest functions, extinguish the flickering flame of conscience, spend your days in sordidness, harrowed by worry, in order to make your little pile?

Who ever loved you so much that, with a view to bettering his worldly condition, you do not hesitate to fling your good name to the gossiping public, and your soul to the unquenchable fire?

III. St. Thomas teaches (S.T. II-II q. 118, a. 5) that there are graver sins, in themselves, than avarice; most sins are, in fact: those directly affronting and injuring God, those that violate human rights; for the simple reason that avarice has for its object exterior goods, goods very inferior to the Glory of God and the welfare of souls. Avarice, we may say, has to do with goods of the lowest grade.

But there is no sin more hideous and indecorous for human dignity than that of enslaving the human will to riches, to things of such paltry value, inferior by far to the things which constitUte the object of spiritual vices, lower even than the mire of fleshly wallowing. The basest, the lewdest, the most hideous thing on earth is to identify the soul and its yearnings with these empty shadows of good; because the soul is what it loves: heaven, if in love with heaven; if mud, mud.

And if this applies to every avaricious person, even to the man aspiring after fabulous wealth, what degrad­ation, what sordidness this vice will take on in the priest, who perhaps has to live a beggarly existence in order to save up in shillings and pence!

Avarice is also the most dangerous of vices. Those of the spirit, pride, for example, are cured or relieved by disillusionment; those of the flesh, with all their power­ful sting, are mitigated or neutralised by the winter of one's declining years; whereas avarice of its own nature tends to increase with age.

The older one gets, the more helpless and needy one becomes and the less one is able to fend for oneself, and therefore, the more avid one is to possess and to hoard, as the only remedy for one's indigence and the only support for one's weakness.

Hasn't experience taught a lesson or two in demonstra­tion of this sad fact? How many old people, fast approaching death, already on the threshold of eternity, on those frontiers that allow no earthly chattel to pass through, seem to have no hands or eyes or memory or desire except for the service of their god - money!

1. Could I swear that I have never committed real injustice: larceny, theft, or fraud, with the goods of my parishioners, of the Church, or of the charitable works, that I administer? The diocesan Authorities may not perhaps be able to convict me, but what about my inmost conscience and God's justice?

2. Have I been scrupulously honest in giving an account of all my administrative acts to the person who, according to Canon Law, has a right and a duty to receive it from me? It would be the best guarantee of my straightforwardness and honesty.

3. Have I ever taken advantage of the faithful's ignorance and demanded more than what is permitted by diocesan regulations or lawful custom in matters pertaining to burials, weddings, and church functions? At the hour of death, will my conscience disturb me on this issue?

4. And while supposing that I have proceeded in everything with absolute justice - the world demands as much of any decent person - do I not demand my rights with excessive haste and harshness, like a tax­collector or a money lender?

5. Apart from everything else, am I not mean in aiding the poor? What alms do I give? What sympathy do I show towards the poor? What do people think of me in this matter, those who know me well?

However biassed or distorted their opinion may be, I should do well to find out what it is, not in order to reproach them or to revenge myself, but to arrive at an objective know­ledge of myself, to gather clues for passing on myself a correct judgement.
Adapted from The Priest at Prayer
by Fr. Eugenio Escribano, C.M. (© 1954)
Translated by B.T. Buckley, C.M.

Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood!

Thoughts and Counsels - July 21

We should reflect on all our actions, exterior and interior, and before we commence, examine well if we are able to finish them.

-Ven. John Tauler
From Mary, Help of Christians
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Gospel for Saturday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time

Optional Memorial: St Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor

Optional Memorial: Our Lady's Saturday

From: Matthew 12:14-21

Jesus, the Suffering Servant of Yahweh

[14] But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against Him, how to destroy Him. [15] Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed Him, and He healed them all, [16] and ordered them not to make Him known. [17] This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: [18] "Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon Him, and He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. [19] He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will any one hear His voice in the streets; [20] He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, till He brings justice to victory; [21] and in His name will the Gentiles hope."

17-21. Once again the sacred text points out the contrast between the contemporary mistaken Jewish notion of a spectacular messianic kingdom and the discernment which Jesus asks of those who witness and accept His teaching and miracles. By providing this long quotation from Isaiah (42:1-4), the Evangelist is giving us the key to the teaching contained in Chapters 11 and 12: in Jesus the prophecy of the Servant of Yahweh is fulfilled: the lovable and gentle teacher has come to bring the light of truth.

When narrating the passion of our Lord, the Gospels will once again remind us of the figure of the Servant of Yahweh, to show that in Jesus the suffering and expiatory aspect of the death of the Servant finds fulfillment (cf. Matthew 27:30, with reference to Is 50:6; Matthew 8:17 and Isaiah 53:4; John 1:38 and Isaiah 53:9-12; etc.).

17. Isaiah 42:1-4 speaks of a humble servant, beloved of God, chosen by God. And in fact Jesus, without ceasing to be the Son of God, one in substance with the Father, took the form of a servant (cf. Philippians 2:6). This humility led him to cure and care for the poor and afflicted of Israel, without seeking acclaim.

18. See the note on Matthew 3:16.

[Note on Matthew 3:16 states:
16. Jesus possessed the fullness of the Holy Spirit from the moment of His conception. This is due to the union of human nature and divine nature in the person of the Word (the dogma of hypostatic union). Catholic teaching says that in Christ there is only one person (who is divine) but two natures (divine and human). The descent of the Spirit of God spoken of in the text indicates that just as Jesus was solemnly commencing His messianic task, so the Holy Spirit was beginning His action through Him. There are very many texts in the Old Testament which speak of the showing forth of the Holy Spirit in the future Messiah. This sign of the Spirit gave St. John the Baptist unmistakable proof of the genuineness of his testimony concerning Christ (cf. John 1:29-34). The mystery of the Holy Trinity is revealed in the baptism of Jesus: the Son is baptized; the Holy Spirit descends on Him in the form of a dove; and the voice of the Father gives testimony about His Son. Christians must be baptized in the name of the Three Divine Persons. "If you have sincere piety, the Holy Spirit will descend on you also and you will hear the voice of the Father saying to you from above: "This was not My son, but now after Baptism he has been made My son" (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, "De Baptismo", 14).]

19. The justice proclaimed by the Servant, who is filled with the Holy Spirit, is not a noisy virtue. We can see the loving, gentle way Jesus worked His miracles, performing righteousness in all humility. This is how He brings about the triumph of His Father's Justice, His plan of revelation and salvation--very quietly and very effectively.

20. According to many Fathers, including St. Augustine and St. Jerome, the bruised reed and the smoldering wick refer to the Jewish people. They also stand for every sinner, for our Lord does not seek the sinner's death but his conversion, and his life (cf. Ezekiel 33:11). The Gospels often bear witness to this reassuring truth (cf. Luke 15:11-32), the parable of the prodigal son; Matthew 18:12-24, the parable of the lost sheep; etc.).
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.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Priest at Prayer for July 21, Avarice

The Third Part - Vices and Virtues


First Meditation - Evils of Avarice in the Priest

I. St. Paul speaks of avarice as a kind of idolatry - ­"that love of money which makes a man an idolater." (Eph. v, 5.)

Just as the idolater surrenders to a creature, adoring it as his God, the avaricious person surrenders and sacri­fices himself to riches, with an all-absorbing desire to possess them.

Once covetousness dominates over me, I shall regard and assign the amassing and worship and service of the ephemeral goods of earth, in the form of coin, chattels, or paper money; as the whole of life's purpose. My spiritual faculties will live a life of dedication to the worship of my idol. This will be the pursuit of my probing mind day and night. This will be my love above all other loves. My heart, created for the God of heaven, will be full of the craving for wealth - auri sacra fames - and this will be my despicable god, whom I shall love with my whole heart, with my whole soul, with my whole mind, and with all my strength.

Even in the holiest works of my ministry: in preach­ing, administering the Sacraments, in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and in the very Person of Christ sacrificed, I shall seek no other value beyond their emolument value in cash. To this idol I shall sacrifice not only my own soul with its understanding, will, and affections, but the Word of God as well; yes, the very Person of the Word, if avarice becomes my ruling passion.

Have not these abominations the stench of sacrilege and apostasy about them? Should I not richly deserve, if I stooped so low, the bitter reproach conveyed through the prophet Isaias:
Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins (Is. xliii, 24),

or that uttered by Ezechiel:
"For a handful of meal, or a crust of bread, they will put me to shame before my own people." (Ez. xiii, 19)

II. There is a semblance of perfect happiness in the possession of riches: we can procure with them most of the good things of this life, and their sovereignty in this world is practically undisputed. Hence, the unruly desire to possess and retain, which is avarice, becomes by its force and widespread action the origin of other keen desires equally irregular and vicious; in other words, avarice is a capital sin.

From this poisoned source flows in an unquenchable and continual stream insensitive­ness and callousness of heart at the sight of our neigh­bours' sorrows and miseries - the hard-heartedness of the rich glutton towards Lazarus - and also a tormenting solicitude to increase our store.

Money alone does not satisfy the covetous man; in order to acquire and retain his ill-gotten goods he resorts to violence, extortion, deceit, perjury, fraud, treachery, and every species of injustice. And in the case of a covetous or avaricious priest, these injustices would find expression in his imposing taxes and stole-fees in accord­ance with his craving for quick gains, not with the rulings of Canon Law and common honesty; he will be led, in imitation of Judas, to maladminister the sacred property of the poor, of the Church, of Christ, and to fleece the devout or simple people under the pretext of piety.

You may think this an exaggeration, but, if the priest is avaricious, what other line of business or source of income can he exploit for quick gains outside the sphere of the altar and public worship and whatever pertains thereto?

III. To the above-mentioned evils of priestly avarice must be added another no less serious. Zeal for the salvation of souls is diametrically opposed to, and absolutely in­compatible with, greed for gain and hoarding; therefore, those works of zeal which do not yield ready cash, which bring no increase to his emoluments, will be a hindrance to him, a hateful task, an irreparable loss of time; because to him "time is money."

He will not exercise these "non-productive" duties of the ministry, or, if he cannot evade them entirely, he will spare as little time for them as possible, and will never put his whole heart and mind into them. They will be, for a priestly victim of avarice, nothing more than matters of form and tiresome courtesies.

And what are those unproduc­tive priestly duties? Catechetical instruction, the preach­ing that goes with his appointment, the confessional, attending the sick and poor; all these will be the target of his hatred and contempt, as being the enemies of his happiness.

Not all these dark stains defile my conscience; that, I can well and piously believe; but am I sure of not being contaminated by a few drops, so to speak, of this deadly poison in a diluted form? Even diluted they can gradually blacken my soul, obscure my ways of thought and action; they can imperceptibly cast me almost unawares at the feet of the golden calf.


Instead of resolutions, today I'm going to put myself some queries on a number of points, with full deter­mination to correct, if necessary, anything crooked or not quite straight and honest, anything unfair or frankly dishonest, that may emerge from this self-examination.

1. Money being the common denominator for all external goods, avarice usually takes the form of avid desire for money - aeris aviditas; so, do I experience that immoderate craving for money? has it become a sort of kink in my mind? has it become a minting-machine for converting all my activities of body and soul into money?

2. Is your desire to acquire and hold on to things a desire that goes unrestrained? The principle that should govern this desire is as follows:
All exterior goods and possessions interchangeable among themselves or exchangeable for money - such is the general meaning of "riches" - are in the nature of useful means to an end; therefore, these goods must necessarily be adjusted to a cer­tain order or measure in keeping with what is necessary or useful for the maintenance of man's life according to his particular state and condition, and in harmony with his eternal interests.

It follows, then, that the practical consideration in matters of desiring, seeking and possessing material goods is simply: "Are they necessary or convenient in order to live?"

3. The sin of avarice comes in when this practical consideration is set aside, when acquiring and retaining go beyond the limits approved by right reason, for the mere delight of possessing, of continually increasing one's store, or for the purpose of employing possessions in ways that are sinful. The essence of avarice is the immoderate craving to have things.

How often have I been unrestrained in my desires? How often have I trespassed, in my desire for gain? How often have I, as a priest, yielded to avarice? Have I struggled with myself in order to acquire the noble virtue of generosity, which moderates according to reason this affection and craving for possession?

4. Avarice is a twofold disorder:
(a) In acquiring and retaining, it goes beyond what is proper and just, either taking by force what belongs to another or keeping it against the owner's reasonable will; this is avarice in its crudest form of injustice, the avarice of thieves, extortioners, forgers, dishonest admin­istrators, etc. Surely, such ignoble company is not mine! But it is not altogether impossible!
(b) In the affections of the heart towards riches, avarice entails inordinate pleasure and disorder: a too ardent desire or fondness for them, excessive delight and complacency in them, even though there may be no question of wanting to appropriate another's belongings unjustly. This type of avarice, less blameworthy than the former type, is still something base and vile; it is in clean opposition to the virtue of generosity, and, if nurtured, can develop into the first type. Could I
swear that I am not a prey to this form of covetous­ness? If I were, I should sooner or later warrant the terrible words of St. John Chrysostom: "tenebrae animae est pecuniarum cupido" - the craving for money is darkness to the soul.

5. All avarice is a sin, but not all of the same gravity. The first type of avarice we have mentioned is grave sin (per se, ex genere suo) with the gravity attach­ing to theft and robbery; but it could be venial sin through lack of perfect knowledge and wilfulness (ex imperfectione actus); or when the quantities concerned are small - ex parvitate materiae. If I have committed sins of avarice of this type, have they been grievous sins? If they have, there is a name for me: thief.

As regards the second type of avarice: disorderly craving will amount to mortal sin only if I gloat on worldly possessions to the extent of preferring them to charity; that is, if for love of worldly goods I am ready to offend the love of God and the neighbour by break­ing some serious precept of the divine law. If I am dis­posed to forfeit riches rather than offend God in this way, my avarice does not exceed venial sin.

What is my position? Where do I stand as regards my affections for the perishable things of earth? How far do these affections go? Where do I draw the line?

6. In conclusion, have I stooped so far as to convert the corruptible treasures of earth into objects of a spiritual love? Avarice is a spiritual disorder, because what takes delight in the possessing and counting of riches and in gloating over them is not the body but the soul, the soul created to find its delight in God.

That is why St. John calls this vice concupiscentia oculorum (1 John ii, 16), covetousness of the eyes, that is, of the intelligence. And this is a serious aberration and debasement.
Adapted from The Priest at Prayer
by Fr. Eugenio Escribano, C.M. (© 1954)
Translated by B.T. Buckley, C.M.

Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood!

Archbishop Burke Speaks to Confraternity of Catholic Clergy

Clergy Voice Their Full Support

SAINT LOUIS, July 20 /Christian Newswire/ -- Archbishop Raymond Burke was keynote speaker for the 32nd annual convocation of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, a national association of 600 priests and deacons. This year's conference was held in Saint Louis and included other speakers such as Dr. James and Helen Hitchcock, Msgr. Kevin McMahon and Fr. Fred Miller. The following resolutions were issued at the conclusion of the four day gathering on July 19th:

1.We express our deep gratitude and respect for church leaders like Archbishop Raymond Burke of Saint Louis who courageously, consistently and faithfully defend Holy Mother Church and all her official teachings and disciplines. We strongly support his stand on denying Holy Communion to any Catholic candidate or politician who openly and notoriously supports abortion and/or euthanasia...
Continued here.

Archbishop Burke: Two Forms of the One Rite of the Mass

From the weekly column by the Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke:

In writing to you this week, I want to address two different but related subjects of concern to us all. The first is the recent publication of new liturgical norms pertaining to the celebration of two forms of the Rite of the Mass, the form used by all until 1970 and the new form introduced by Pope Paul VI. The new norms, given by Pope Benedict XVI on July 7, have been the subject of much discussion in the media. For your better understanding of the new norms, I want to offer you my reflections on the norms and their implementation in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Two forms of the one Rite of the Mass

By his apostolic letter "Summorum Pontificum," Pope Benedict XVI has provided for the easier use of the form of the Rite of the Mass until 1970, which was published by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962, in addition to the use of the Rite of the Mass, which was published by Pope Paul VI in 1970 and with which we are all quite familiar. The first form is sometimes popularly called the Tridentine Rite of the Mass, referring to the fact that, in its essentials, it remained the same from the time of the reforms introduced by the Council of Trent (Tridentine is the adjective for Trent). Changes were introduced into the rite over the centuries, including the changes made in the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, but the greater part of the rite remained unchanged.

The second form is called the Novus Ordo or New Order of the Mass. It also retains the essential elements found in the Tridentine Rite but introduces a somewhat radical simplification of the rite. It is, however, one and the same Rite of the Mass.

With the norms promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI, the Novus Ordo remains the ordinary form in which the Rite of the Mass is to be celebrated. The Order of the Mass in force before the changes introduced by the Novus Ordo is now the extraordinary form, which may be celebrated by any priest, without special permission, under the conditions set forth by the Holy Father. In establishing the extraordinary form of the Rite of the Mass, our Holy Father reminds us that, in fact, the use of the Roman Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII "was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted" (Letter of Pope Benedict XVI Accompanying the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, July 7, 2007, paragraph 6).

As he observes, there was a greater attachment to the former rite than perhaps was anticipated, especially among the faithful "with a notable liturgical formation and a deep, personal familiarity with the earlier form of the liturgical celebration" (Ibid.). An interest in and attachment to the former Rite of the Mass also developed among the faithful in circumstances in which the reforms of the Novus Ordo were not implemented with fidelity but were falsely seen to permit or even require a creative interpretation on the part of the priest. Such circumstances, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, "led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear" (Ibid.). Our Holy Father reflects upon his own experience of the confusion and hurt which sometimes accompanied the implementation of the Novus Ordo.

Not infrequently, I meet young people who are attracted to the former Order of the Mass, even though they had no experience of it when they were growing up. What attracts them is the beauty and reverence, which the earlier form very much fosters. Such beauty and reverence should also be evident in the celebration of the Novus Ordo. Because the ordinary form is greatly simplified, the priest and those who assist him must be attentive to the divine action taking place and not give way to an informality and familiarity which is offensive to the nature of the Sacred Liturgy.

Through "Summorum Pontificum," Pope Benedict XVI makes the former Order of the Mass more available to the faithful who are attached to it. At the same time, he maintains the Novus Ordo as the ordinary form of the celebration of the Mass. It is the expressed hope of our Holy Father that the use of the extraordinary form will support the faithful celebration of the Mass according to the Novus Ordo.

Implementation of the new norms in the archdiocese

Some of the faithful of the archdiocese have expressed the fears that the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the Mass will be taken away and that the use of the extraordinary form of the Mass will be imposed upon them, while they, in fact, are attached to the ordinary form. Both fears are unfounded. The celebration of the extraordinary form in parishes must be requested by a group of the faithful and is to be scheduled in such a way as to permit the other faithful the use of the ordinary form. Priests, when they celebrate the Mass without a congregation, that is, when they are on vacation or away from a parochial assignment, may choose either form. Members of the faithful can, of course, assist at the Mass, no matter in which form it is celebrated.

At present, the Archdiocese of St. Louis has a most effective apostolate on behalf of the faithful who are attached to the extraordinary form of the Rite of the Mass, that is the Roman Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII. St. Francis de Sales Oratory is the center of the apostolate and serves well the faithful who desire the celebration of the Mass and of the other sacraments according to the rites which were in force in 1962. The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem also provide Sunday and holy day Masses at the Chapel of the Passionist Nuns in Ellisville. In addition, the Canons Regular, as befits their form of religious life, celebrate daily and publicly the Liturgy of the Hours in the chapel of their Priory in Chesterfield.

If additional requests of the regular celebration of the extraordinary form of the Rite of the Mass are received, I will work with the parish priests in responding appropriately and generously to the requests. Also, courses of liturgical formation pertaining to the Roman Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII will be provided for priests who desire it. The seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary will be provided the liturgical formation necessary to celebrate the Mass according to the extraordinary form. Their studies of Latin will also give attention to the texts of the extraordinary form.

Gratitude for the richness of the forms of the Sacred Liturgy

In concluding my brief reflections on "Summorum Pontificum," I express, in the name of us all, deepest gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for providing so richly and well for the worthy and beautiful celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Holy Mass. With Pope Benedict XVI, I am certain that the richer possibilities for the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments will lead us all to a deeper appreciation of the immeasurable love of God for us and to a deeper response of love, on our part.



Thoughts and Counsels - July 20

No one has a right to mercy who cannot himself show mercy.
-Ven. Louis de Granada
From Mary, Help of Christians
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Gospel for Friday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time

Optional Memorial of St. Apollinaris, bishop and martyr

Old Calendar: St. Jerome Emiliani, confessor; St. Margaret of Antioch, virgin and martyr

From: Matthew 12:1-8

The Question of the Sabbath

[1] At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck ears of grain and to eat. [2] But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." [3] He said to them, "Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: [4] how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? [5] Or have you not read in the law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless? [6] I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. [7] And if you had known what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. [8] For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."


2. "The Sabbath": this was the day the Jews set aside for worshipping God. God Himself, the originator of the Sabbath (Genesis 2:3), ordered the Jewish people to avoid certain kinds of work on this day (Exodus 20:8-11; 21:13; Deuteronomy 5:14) to leave them free to give more time to God. As time went by, the rabbis complicated this divine precept: by Jesus' time they had extended to 39 the list of kinds of forbidden work.

The Pharisees accuse Jesus' disciples of breaking the Sabbath. In the casuistry of the scribes and the Pharisees, plucking ears of corn was the same as harvesting, and crushing them was the same as milling--types of agricultural work forbidden on the Sabbath.

3-8. Jesus rebuts the Pharisees' accusation by four arguments--the example of David, that of the priests, a correct understanding of the mercy of God and Jesus' own authority over the Sabbath.

The first example which was quite familiar to the people, who were used to listening to the Bible being read, comes from 1 Samuel 21:2-7: David, in flight from the jealousy of King Saul, asks the priest of the shrine of Nob for food for his men; the priest gave them the only bread he had, the holy bread of the Presence; this was the twelve loaves which were placed each week on the golden altar of the sanctuary as a perpetual offering from the twelve tribes of Israel (Leviticus 24:5-9). The second example refers to the priestly ministry to perform the liturgy, priests had to do a number of things on the Sabbath but did not thereby break the law of Sabbath rest (cf. Numbers 28:9). On the other two arguments, see the notes on Matthew 9:13 and Mark 2:26-27, 28.

[The notes on Matthew 9:13 states:
13. Here Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6, keeping the hyperbole of the Semitic style. A more faithful translation would be: "I desire mercy MORE THAN sacrifice". It is not that our Lord does not want the sacrifices we offer Him: He is stressing that every sacrifice should come from the heart, for charity should imbue everything a Christian does--especially his worship of God (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Matthew 5:23-24).]

[The notes on Mark 2:26-27, 28 states:
6-27. The bread of the Presence consisted of twelve loaves or cakes placed each morning on the table in the sanctuary, as homage to the Lord from the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Leviticus 24:5-9). The loaves withdrawn to make room for the fresh ones were reserved to the priests. Abiathar's action anticipates what Christ teaches here. Already in the Old Testament God had established a hierarchy in the precepts of the Law so that the lesser ones yielded to the main ones.

This explains why a ceremonial precept (such as the one we are discussing) should yield before a precept of the natural law. Similarly, the commandment to keep the Sabbath does not come before the duty to seek basic subsistence. Vatican II uses this passage of the Gospel to underline the value of the human person over and above economic and social development: "The social order and its development must constantly yield to the good of the person, since the order of things must be subordinate to the order of persons and not the other way around, as the Lord suggested when He said that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. The social order requires constant improvement: it must be founded in truth, built on justice, and enlivened by love" ("Gaudium Et Spes", 26).

Finally in this passage Christ teaches God's purpose in instituting the Sabbath: God established it for man's good, to help him rest and devote himself to Divine worship in joy and peace. The Pharisees, through their interpretation of the Law, had turned this day into a source of anguish and scruple due to all the various prescriptions and prohibitions they introduced.

By proclaiming Himself `Lord of the Sabbath', Jesus affirms His divinity and His universal authority. Because He is Lord he has the power to establish other laws, as Yahweh had in the Old Testament.

28. The Sabbath had been established not only for man's rest but also to give glory to God: that is the correct meaning of the _expression "the Sabbath was made for man." Jesus has every right to say He is Lord of the Sabbath, because He is God. Christ restores to the weekly day of rest its full, religious meaning: it is not just a matter of fulfilling a number of legal precepts or of concern for physical well-being: the Sabbath belongs to God; it is one way, suited to human nature, of rendering glory and honor to the Almighty. The Church, from the time of the Apostles onwards, transferred the observance of this precept to the following day, Sunday--the Lord's Day--in celebration of the resurrection of Christ.

"Son of Man": the origin of the messianic meaning of this _expression is to be found particularly in the prophecy of Dan 7:13ff, where Daniel, in a prophetic vision, contemplates `one like the Son of Man' coming down on the clouds of Heaven, who even goes right up to God's throne and is given dominion and glory and royal power over all peoples and nations. This _expression appears 69 times in the Synoptic Gospels; Jesus prefers it to other ways of describing the Messiah--such as Son of David, Messiah, etc.--thereby avoiding the nationalistic overtones those expressions had in Jewish minds at the time (cf. "Introduction to the Gospel According to St. Mark", p. 62 above.]
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, July 19, 2007

The Priest at Prayer for July 20, Love of Hard Work

The Third Part - Vices and Virtues

The Love of Hard Work

Fourth Meditation - What should and should not be done

I. To do nothing at all is the first degree of idleness. To say Mass and recite the Divine Office hurriedly, just to get it done, and then to kill time (as though time was some sort of harmful and poisonous creature!) talking for hours on end, reading the newspaper (if I have sufficient energy to do so) - a parasite of a priest, a fruitless tree sucking the sap of other trees, marked out for those words of burning scorn and concentrated wrath from Christ's own lips:
"Why cumbereth it the ground?" (Luke xiii, 7)

A miserable, aimless, dishonest existence!

Haven't I spent days, months, years with my talents, many or few, - five, three, or one - buried in the barren sands of a somnolent survival? Am I not to be num­bered among those whom the Master of the vineyard greets in the evening with the sad reproof: "What do ye here all the day idle?"

II. Perhaps mere lack of activity is not in your line; on the contrary, you are naturally active, and neither your youth nor your impulsive imagination will allow a life of idleness; you feel the need to move around, to be always on the go, to keep your mind constantly nourished. Yes, but hasn't your mind up to now been a furnace feeding on fuel as quick-burning as it is useless - occupations that estrange you from yourself, that entertain, divert, and distract you? Aren't you like a traveller who is bored while the train swallows up mile after mile, and takes to smoking, reading a novel, looking out of the window, for no other purpose than to deaden the sensation of forced inactivity imposed by the long journey?

Distraction, diversion, entertainment, are all ways and means of escaping from the realities of the hour and from one's own personality. Is that the formula for the life of a priest? If it is, our Lord would certainly have to revise the schedule of the priestly vocation contained in these words:
I have chosen you, and have appointed you, that you should go and should bring forth fruit, and your fruit should remain. (John xv, 16)

III. Perhaps my case is different again. I consider it improper for any steady person to fritter his life away in aimless activity; that might be all right for children or people in the green of youth, but not for mature age, and much less for a priest-presbyter: an old man. At the moment of my ordination, in the full vigour of my twenty-some-odd years, I said good-bye to my youth and I cannot go back to it without forfeiting the glorious title of priest.

Nevertheless, in preference to priestly duties and clerical activities, which seemed to clash with my worldly outlook, I may have chosen other occupations apparently more glamorous, remunerative, and honour­able, almost to the point of cancelling out the former.

Have I unreservedly obeyed the injunction of the Apostle:
"Like a good soldier of Christ Jesus, take thy share of hardship.

"Thou art God's soldier, and the soldier on service, if he would please the captain who enlisted him, will refuse to be entangled in the business of daily life." (2 Tim. ii, 3-4)?

Can I swear to God and to my own conscience that I have observed the ruling of the Church - a ruling that has never changed from the beginning - about keeping away from certain secular employments?

1. I shall positively keep away from any occupation which is at variance with, or less conformable to, Canon Law, if only because experience teaches that the priest
comes to grief therein every time. Moreover, I resolve not to attach more importance to any work, however pleasant and useful it may seem, than to my ministerial duties.

2. If I cannot conveniently forgo all relaxation, while keeping within the narrowest limits of what is per­missible, I shall prefer those forms of recreation that have an educational value for me or which enable me to develop my priestly capabilities; such as travel or sight-seeing suitable to my state.

3. While I do not propose to deprive myself till the end of my days of games in every shape and form, I shall most definitely refrain from games of chance, a pitfall and a snare that has been the ruin of many a good priest; and so I shall say good-bye for ever to gambling-houses, casinos, etc.

4. Since card games can so easily captivate one and arouse one even to frenzy, if I do not decide to renounce them entirely, at least I promise to hold myself in check and to take them as a mere diversion; and, if I begin to find myself tied down to the card table because of an eager desire for monetary gain, or to revenge my piqued or wounded feelings, or for the sake of mere pleasure, I shall give up card games immediately.

I shall never allow the faithful to witness the degrading spectacle of, for instance, my spending the whole night at a game of cards; a thing so unworthy of the priest who has so much else to do, and who in the morning has to offer to God the Holy Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Adapted from The Priest at Prayer
by Fr. Eugenio Escribano, C.M. (© 1954)
Translated by B.T. Buckley, C.M.

Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood!

Fr. Tom Euteneuer to Celebrate EWTN Masses

Fr Euteneuer, President of Human Life International, will be celebrating the televised Masses for EWTN every day this next week, from Sunday the 22nd of July through Saturday the 28th.

Note that Wednesday, July 25th will be the 39th anniversary of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae which will be the subject of Fr Euteneuer's homily that day.

Also, Tuesday, July 24th, will be the 19th anniversary of Father's priesthood and he will preach on the Holy Priesthood.

Radical Homosexuals Outline Strategy for Advancing their Agenda at UN

We report today on the admitted strategy of radical homosexuals to use UN documents to force their agenda on governments. The homosexuals are emboldened in recent months by their acceptance as NGO by the UN Economic and Social Council. Their agenda, however, has run into a road block called the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Spread the word.
Yours sincerely,
Austin Ruse
The C-Fam Friday Fax article can be read here.

Party time in KC...

From the USCCB page-Down the Road:

August 1-5
National Assembly of Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Kansas City, MO. Contact: Annmarie Sanders, IHM, at or (301) 588-4955

I wonder how pleased Bishop Finn is with this 'Assembly' taking place in the diocese?

Want to know more about LCWR? Look here.

Ever wonder where these came from?

Some fun, from an email, source unknown (veracity of the trivia is also unknown):
The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be.

Here are some interestings facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide their body odor.

Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water..

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, It's raining cats and dogs.

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. So, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence, the saying, Dirt poor.

The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance way. Hence, a thresh hold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old..

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could bring home the bacon. They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence, the custom of holding a wake.

England is old and small country and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, thread it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be saved by the bell or was considered a dead ringer.

Whoever said history was boring?

USCCB Sqanders Any Remaining Moral Authority

In a response to a request by 14 self-professed "Catholic" member of Congress to meet with U.S. bishops to help effect a surrender to the terrorists in Iraq, some bishops of the USCCB, led by Bishop Wenski, have decided to join in.

I first read about this request here. And, as expected, some bishops are ever so eager to join hands with the likes of Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro and other abortion supporters...

An interesting observation is made by CWNews' Diogenes:

"Our shared moral tradition..."

. . .Who are these Democratic politicians, who find such a ready audience at the USCCB? They're Catholic members of the House of Representatives. And half of them-- including Rep. Tim Ryan, who is leading the charge on Iraq-- also signed a May public statement scolding Pope Benedict XVI for daring to say that Catholic politicians should oppose the legalized killing of unborn children.
. . .
... A concerned pastor might have told them that if they disregard the Church's teaching on a clear issue of moral teaching, they should not be so hypocritical as to invoke Church teaching on an issue that is not nearly so clear-- an issue on which loyal Catholics can and do differ. But the USCCB leaders didn't choose those options.

...responsible public leaders of the Catholic Church should not claim to share a moral tradition with politicians who support the slaughter of the unborn.
But what we see appears to many to be irresponsible leadership on the part of USCCB. Is it any wonder that the USCCB is looked upon with disdain by a number of faithful Catholics? Will the USCCB ever be able to recover its squandered moral authority? Many think not, especially with reports like this.

Sheila Rauch Kennedy on Canon Law & Annulments

There must be a better way than annulment to protect Catholics and marriage.

...many see easy annulment as the church's well-intentioned attempt to address divorce and remarriage among its members. Yet the prevalence of annulments in the United States — 90% of annulments decided in U.S. church courts are granted; roughly 57,000 last year alone — has also led many theologians to question whether the Catholic Church is truly protecting its marriage sacrament. In many cases, the process has become cruel, dishonest and misguided, prompting church lawyers to caution that the procedure itself may violate Catholic law.

In the United States, the vast majority of annulments are granted on the basis of Canon 1095, a code in Catholic law that allows psychological factors to be taken into account when evaluating a marriage. Canon 1095, based on well-established Catholic law, states that a person must have the capacity to understand what he or she is doing by marrying and be able to meet its requirements. It stipulates that husbands and wives must enter into marriage honestly and freely, without fraud or duress, and be capable of consummating the union.

...Church courts in the U.S., however, have broadened acceptable criteria for psychological incapacity to include almost anything, from personality traits such as self-centeredness, moodiness or being eager to please to unproven "disorders," which may be embellished into full-blown mental illness, a practice that has prompted critics to refer to Canon 1095 as the "loose canon."
Perhaps later, Dr Ed Peters might review and comment on Kennedy's article which can be read here.

Jesus Lands in Congo – After a Two-month Delay (Chiesa)

ROMA, July 19, 2007 – In the middle of Africa is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And at the center of Congo, in the Eastern Kasai province, is the diocese of Mbujimayi.

Raphaël Dila Ciendela, 44, a priest of the diocese of Mbujimayi, found out only at the beginning of June that pope Benedict XVI had published – almost two months earlier, on April 16 – the book entitled “Jesus of Nazareth.”

“I learned about it by chance, while talking with a priest friend, the rector of a seminary in my diocese, who had received the volume from a confrere who had just returned from Europe.”

Soon after it was Fr. Raphaël’s turn to take a trip to Europe. That was when he had the chance to see with his own eyes, for the first time, a copy of the volume.

“It was June 21, and I had just arrived in Italy. I saw the book by chance at the home of a friend of mine in Pisa. I finally bought the French edition for myself in Bordeaux, on July 11, the feast of Saint Benedict.”
One need only imagine what it must be like for those like Fr. Raphael, where electrical service is unreliable, and others information services are sparse.

Thoughts and Counsels - July 19

We should offer ourselves and all we have to God, that He may dispose of us according to His holy will, so that we may be ever ready to leave all and embrace the afflictions that come upon us. (St. Vincent de Paul)
From Mary, Help of Christians
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Gospel for Thursday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus Thanks His Father (Continuation)

(At that time Jesus declared,) [28] "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [29] Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."


28-30. Our Lord calls everyone to come to Him. We all find things difficult in one way or another. The history of souls bears out the truth of these words of Jesus. Only the Gospel can fully satisfy the thirst for truth and justice which sincere people feel. Only our Lord, our Master--and those to whom He passes on His power--can soothe the sinner by telling him, "Your sins are forgiven" (Matthew 9:2). In this connection Pope Paul VI teaches: "Jesus says now and always, `Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' His attitude towards us is one of invitation, knowledge and compassion; indeed, it is one of offering, promise, friendship, goodness, remedy of our ailments; He is our comforter; indeed, our nourishment, our bread, giving us energy and life" ("Homily on Corpus Christi", 13 June 1974).

"Come to Me": the Master is addressing the crowds who are following Him, "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). The Pharisees weighed them down with an endless series of petty regulations (cf. Acts 15:10), yet they brought no peace to their souls. Jesus tells these people, and us, about the kind of burden He imposes: "Any other burden oppresses and crushes you, but Christ's actually takes weight off you. Any other burden weighs down, but Christ's gives you wings. If you take a bird's wings away, you might seem to be taking weight off it, but the more weight you take off, the more you tie it down to the earth. There it is on the ground, and you wanted to relieve it of a weight; give it back the weight of its wings and you will see how it flies" (St. Augustine, "Sermon" 126).

"All you who go about tormented, afflicted and burdened with the burden of your cares and desires, go forth from them, come to Me and I will refresh you and you shall find for your souls the rest which your desires take from you" (St. John of the Cross, "Ascent of Mount Carmel", Book 1, Chapter 7, 4).
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, July 18, 2007

The Priest at Prayer for July 19, Love of Hard Work

The Third Part - Vices and Virtues

The Love of Hard Work

Third Meditation - Excuses for not Working Hard

I. Many plausible excuses will occur to me for not get­ting down to hard work. Here are some of them:

"There's nothing for me to do." Is that possible? What privileged domain has the Church or your lucky star assigned to you where there is nothing to do? In the Kingdom Christ established by His blood and toil, can there be any such place?

Perhaps you have the cure of souls, you are a parish priest, an administrator, a curate, a chaplain to nuns or to some other religious institute?

"Yes, I have some sort of a job like that, but my predecessor left nothing for me to do."

That baffles me. You seem to me to imply only one of two things: either everything remains to be done and created anew: confraternities, associations, the visiting of the sick, the teaching of catechism, preaching, frequenting of the Sacraments, going in search of the sheep that have strayed, a serious effort to increase the Fold with converts, a re-calling and re-shepherding of those that have fled; in other words: nothing is being done and everything needs doing.

Or else, everything has been done: your predecessors were men of zeal who established Christian institutions and transmitted them to you in a condition of perfect life and vigour, leaving your catechism classes well organised, ample opportun­ities for preaching, sick people accustomed to seeing the priest at their bedside and with them at the hour of death, a confessional always ready to receive penitents, altar-rails crowded every day.

If this is happily your case, woe be unto you if you do not get down to real hard work, otherwise all the solicitude of your predecessors will gradually be robbed of all its fruits, everything will cool down, and eventually will die altogether. Can you think of anything that imposes more hard work than the cultivation of a fervent parish?

"In my case, I haven't a pastoral office of any kind; I just say Mass, and perhaps not every day."

I can only say that if you're not an old priest on the sick list or in retirement after many a long year and noble striving, you move me to tears; I seem to hear Christ say to you the words spoken by Isaias to Sobna, prefect of the Temple: What dost thou here? . . . the shame of the house of thy Lord! (Is. xxii, 16) You mean to tell me you are in constant idleness while there are still so many unbelievers to whom the Gospel has not yet been preached? so many penitents without priests to hear them? so many dying without the last Sacraments? so many parishes without catechetical instruction?

If the Lord's vineyard is nearly choked with thistles and thorns, it is not for scarcity of workers, but because there are hundreds like you whose wretched
lives God will condense, at the last Day, in that bitter remonstration of the owner of the vineyard:
Why stand you here all the day idle? (Matt. xx, 6)

II. "My case is different. My lot, for my sins, is work on a very stony patch of the Lord's vineyard, not a decent cluster ever grows there: souls so obdurate, so estranged from God, that no human strength, and I was going to say, divine Power as well, will bring them to their duties. A reprobate lot of straying sheep on whom the shepherd's callings are lost, as in a wilderness, however zealous the shepherd."

That is a possibility; but do you think the nations evangelised by St. Paul were any better disposed to receive the Gospel? And coming nearer to our own age, do you think those savage and most degraded American tribes in the sixteenth century were a more promising field? And yet, in little more than a century, there were priests who converted them in their millions.

But let us suppose that all your best efforts crash against the stone wall of indifference, that after years and years of labour the field remains as sterile as ever; discouraging and depressing it certainly is, but don't forget that St. James, for example, the Apostle of Spain, was in the same plight, and yet the time came when the seed brought fonh fruits of benediction so plentiful that even today the "Son of thunder" from his high place in heaven rejoices to see his field as one of the most beautiful and richest fields in the Church of God. But, whatever there may be in store for you, console yourself in your distress by thinking that God will reward you not for the number of souls converted but for the efforts you have made by His grace with the sole purpose of pleasing and serving Him.

III. "But I'm a sick man, I can't take up a lot of work; I've enough to do looking after my wretched health."

Yes, a poor specimen you are, indeed, if you have to devote your pitiful existence to the sole task of spinning it out a little longer, living just for the sake of living, with no wider prospects and no ulterior purpose; a lamp that feeds on its own light and sheds light on nobody. But, come to think of it, is your illness so severe that you can't do a stroke of work? Surely you can pray for souls and offer to God your aches and pains for their benefit; by your example you can stimulate those around you to do good.

But this sort of excuse is not usually heard in cases of totally disabling sickness. Examine yourself impartially, and see whether there isn't an element of exaggeration, egoism, inborn indolence, self-deception and squeamish­ness in your complaint: there is frequently so much of this in the ailments of the clergy!

To dig, to do hard manual labour, no, perhaps your health isn't strong enough for that, and your vocation doesn't require it; but look at all those farm and factory workers who in spite of severe bouts of sickness keep on with their jobs, until their health and very life break down in the process. . . .

A glance at Church history in every age, including our own, will give you the shock you need: the priests who carried out the most strenuous achievements were
usually men of indifferent health, and sometimes very sick men: St. Paul, St. Basil, St. Vincent de Paul, the Cure d' Ars, Cardinal Newman, Father Faber, etc. Far less bitter your life would be if, instead of keeping your mental and physical energies pent up for twenty-four hours a day within the narrow preoccupation of your aches and pains and their hypothetical remedy, you opened the flood-gates and launched out to do what good you can for your fellow men.

IV. "I can't say I work terribly hard, but my remunera­tion is a mere pittance."

That may be quite true. The casual labourer, the road-mender, the porter, any unskilled mechanic, is often better paid than the priest, who, with his pittance, is nevertheless looked upon as rolling in money. His sup­posed wealth is sometimes a charge against him; he is represented as the prototype of spivs (slackers) and drones - one of the hardest insults we priests have to bear. If this is your case; if injuries and meanness of this kind come your way and you have to live almost continually a beggarly existence; I ask you to lift your eyes to God, and in your desolation remember the blessing announced to us by the Prince of the Apostles:

"If, after all, you should have to suffer in the cause of right, yours is a blessed lot. . . .

"It may be God's will that we should suffer for doing right; better that, than for doing wrong." (1 Peter iii, 14 and 17)

Besides, the work of a priest is not a commodity that can be priced, like the work of a road-mender; all the millions in the world cannot purchase a single act of supernatural zeal. So never tolerate the question: "How much do I owe you?" You have a right to a decent maintenance; it's only just that "he who serves at the altar should live by the altar".

But you are not like the doctor or any other professional man, your priestly work does not come under the category of "do ut des", it must remain for ever intact and unremunerated, here on earth. Only God can reward you in terms of strict justice. Are you going to debase the value of your priestly ministry to the level of any chattel at an auction sale?

Rich or poor, stipends large or small, I shall keep on toiling for Thee, O God, with the eternal reward ever in my sight. I would not have Thee, at the end of my working day, utter those words: "Believe me, you have received your reward already."

V. "If I attempt anything out of the ordinary, my fellow priests will bring me to heel, they'll spy on me like a dangerous criminal, they'll give a twist to my best inten­tions, they'll point a finger of scorn at me and make me a laughing-stock."

Sadly enough, such may be the case. . . oh, there are so many cases! . . . Don't do a thing; neglect your most sacred and obvious duties; don't preach or teach catechism; leave your sick to die like dogs; let your whole life glide softly away in peevish inactivity; allow your vineyard to clutter up with weeds and thistles and even become infested with poisonous reptiles. . . . Worse still, surrender to vice, let your conduct be a by-word in the neighbourhood and the ignominy of priestly circles. . . you may yet be allowed to live in peace. And if eccle­siastical justice is bent on providing a remedy for your misdeeds, its hands will be tied, there will be no wit­nesses to inform against you; your fellow priests, although among themselves and in the privacy of their own little gatherings they may lament your straying, when called upon to give evidence to your ecclesiastical Superiors about you, they will stand up for you and almost canonise you. . . . There has been more than one case of this!

On the other hand, if you make up your mind to be really zealous, to spend talent and energy on the work of God, to attain distinction in preaching and in constant vigilance for the salvation of souls; and should God show His Good Pleasure by showering His blessing upon your watchful efforts, making the fear of God and Christian works flourish all round you through your zeal. . . ah, get ready! they'll fix a scrutinising pair of eyes on you; you'll be the target of scorching criticism; you'll be accounted a hypocrite and a pest; they may even try to find chapter and verse in the Code for your indictment, and then, "in a spirit of humility and charity", they will denounce you to the Prelate.

Grossly exaggerated as this may appear, it has hap­pened; the saintly Cure d'Ars is a case in point; and there have been others, if not so resonant, no less unfortunate.

This is all very heart-rending, but, far from forcing you to throw in the towel, it should goad and spur you to greater things still. You have the hallmark, the identity seal, that God imprints on the works most pleasing to Him. Rejoice, your works are the works of God; they are indelibly marked with the divine approval.

Blessed are you when they shall revile and persecute you and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven; for so they persecuted the prophets that were before you. (Matt. v,11-12)

1. There is a type of work which no priest can ever afford to omit: study, books. Without study, without books, I shall not be long in falling back to my native uncouthness. The intellect is not a fountain-head of ideas, it is a reservoir; and if these ideas are not renewed frequendy, they will leak through the cracks and crevices of the forgetful mind; and thus, I shall come to be an empty barrel: words without ideas, phrases bereft of judgement and discrimination, formulas stripped of affections, platitudes stale and stodgy.

The priest without his books will never rise to great heights; but he can, due to his aversion to study, sink to the depths; more than one such priest has ended up a poor dolt or thrown up everything to become an industrialist-on-the-­make or a peddler of common wares.

2. I shall devote an hour or so each day to the following studies: Holy Scripture, devoutly read and meditated upon, especially the New Testament; Moral and Dogmatic theology, in its catechetical form rather than its Scholastic presentation, which seeks an under­standing, and as far as possible a clear and definite grasp, of the truths of our holy Faith and of the command­ments of God and the Church in their vital and practical import, even though I omit a host of controversies among theologians, of little practical benefit either to myself or to my people of the parish.

3. I shall not disdain to revise Christian philosophy, Theology's pedestal, nor the study of the Humanities, so necessary to the priest who needs to know how to use the spoken and written word efficiently. The Humanities most needed by the priest are, according to Leo XIII, the Greek and Latin classics and the good writers in the priest's native tongue.

4. I shall try to keep on a level with those people who are in the front ranks of general culture; because if I lag behind in these matters I shall be out of touch with good society and shall be dismissed as an ignorant bumpkin.
Adapted from The Priest at Prayer
by Fr. Eugenio Escribano, C.M. (© 1954)
Translated by B.T. Buckley, C.M.

Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood!

New Bishop for Diocese of Pittsburgh

Bishop David Zubik of Green Bay, Wis., a popular former auxiliary bishop of Pittsburgh, has been named bishop of his hometown Diocese of Pittsburgh.
. . .
The new bishop is being hailed as a holy man who knows the diocese inside and out. The Ambridge native spent most of his ministry here and held top posts under former Bishop Donald Wuerl, who became archbishop of Washington, D.C., in May 2006. His selection is considered a vote for administrative continuity in a diocese that is viewed as one of the best run in the nation.

Many abusers were "Latin-only, cassocks-only" priests

So states Cardinal of the questions posed to him was this:

What about the charge that the problem is a lack of discipline and orthodoxy in the seminaries?

His response:

Well, first of all that's one of the things that we still are studying. As you know, the bishops are conducting a study of causes.... In our case, many of the priests came out of the "good old days" -- Latin-only, cassocks-only.... Most of our cases did not come out of post-Vatican II, they came out of pre-Vatican II. (my emphasis)

Of course today, our screening process, our evaluation process, the fact that we take in older men, we don't take in guys out of high school or even grammar school -- it's a whole different frame of reference for the process of choosing seminarians. There's psychological evaluation, constant monitoring. We do everything we can to make sure that the people being ordained don't have a problem.
Perhaps a followup could have been:
Should there be a raising of concern, especially now, when we see more and more priests adopting a cassock or learning Latin? or,

How much time studying is needed to determine that the causes of the problems are really homosexualty and dissent, as proposed by Bishop Bruskewitz in 2002?

More here.

Gospel for Wednesday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time

Optional Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis (USA)

From: Matthew 11:25-27

Jesus Thanks His Father

[25] At that time Jesus declared, "I thank Thee, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; [26] yea, Father, for such was Thy gracious will. [27] All things have been delivered to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal


25-26. The wise and understanding of this world, that is, those who rely on their own judgment, cannot accept the revelation which Christ has brought us. Supernatural outlook is always connected with humility. A humble person, who gives himself little importance, sees; a person who is full of self-esteem fails to perceive supernatural things.

27. Here Jesus formally reveals His divinity. Our knowledge of a person shows our intimacy with Him, according to the principle given by St. Paul: "For what person knows a man's thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him?" (1 Corinthians 2:11). The Son knows the Father by the same knowledge as that by which the Father knows the Son. This identity of knowledge implies oneness of nature; that is to say, Jesus is God just as the Father is God.
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, July 17, 2007

The Priest at Prayer for July 18, Love of Hard Work

The Third Part - Vices and Virtues

The Love of Hard Work

Second Meditation - Models of Hard Work

I. Solomon advises us to go to school with the ant and learn from this little creature the ways of diligence and hard work (Prov. vi, 6). But we priests have only to look around us: into factories of modern industrialism, into iron foundries and blast furnaces where such heavy and dangerous work is being done night and day; and, in the countryside itself, only by sheer hard work can farmers manage to earn their daily bread honestly for themselves and their families; hard work that spans the long daylight hours of a summer's day from the first glimmerings of dawn until evening dusk; and even then, the day is all too short, and the struggle for existence is unceasing. If I, a priest, need a spur to hard work, I have not far to look for it; perhaps my own hard­working parents set for me the earliest example.

And what about those thousands upon thousands of saintly people who have been the salt of the earth, from whose sweated toil the world has always drunk in abun­dance? Is it possible to imagine a lazy Saint? These are my masters and models in keeping with my priestly state. But there are certain models of supreme signifi­cance and value to me; let us take some of them: St. Paul, the Blessed Mother of Jesus, and finally, Jesus Christ Himself, the God-Man who had a better right than any other child of Adam to say: in laboribus a juventute mea.

II. Saint Paul. - When, as we saw in our last meditation, the Apostle administered such severe warnings to the faithful about hard work, he was well authorised to do so; he was the first to give the lead.

"You do not need to be reminded how, on our visit, we set you an example to be imitated; we were no vagabonds ourselves.

"We would not even be indebted to you for our daily bread, we earned it in weariness and toil, working with our hands, night and day, so as not to be a burden to any of you." (2 Thess, iii, 7,8)

Every word of this beautiful chapter should be the subject of meditation. And I should do well to ponder over these moving words which St. Paul addressed to the early Christians of Ephesus on his departure from the city:
"You yourselves can testify how I have lived among you since the first day when I set foot on Asia serving the Lord in all humility, not without tears over the trials which beset me through the plots of the Jews:

"And how I have never failed you when there was any need of preaching to you, or teaching you, whether publicly or house by house.

"I have proclaimed both to Jew and to Greek repentance before God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts xx, 18-21)

"Be on the watch, then; do not forget the three years I spent, instructing every one of you con­tinually, and with tears." (Act xx, 31)

For three years, uninterruptedly, day and night, in public and in each individual household; all the while ambushed by Jews and Gentiles, and ill-treated by them: that would seem crushing enough. But without rest, without consolation, through cities, by the wayside, by land and sea, in failing health, battered and assaulted; and yet, building up so many Christian com­munities, covering so many parts of Asia Minor, so many parts of Europe. Surely he has well earned his daily bread! Surely he should receive at least the means of self-support! No. Those labours are free of charge. That is his boast, and he says:

"I would rather die than have this boast taken from me." (1 Cor. ix, 15.)

No wonder, when he came to leave those vast terri­tories and populous centers through which he had passed establishing the kingdom of God, he could, with legiti­mate pride, say to his converts:

"I have never asked for silver or gold or cloth­ing from any man; you will bear me out, that these hands of mine have sufficed for all that I and my companions needed." (Acts xx, 33-34)

And no doubt, in saying this, he extended those hands and showed them to the people; hands that had so often stretched out before the multitudes in gestures of irre­sistible persuasiveness from the preacher of the Gospel and the pacifier of agitated masses, hands that had touched the dead to raise them to life again, and had been laid on the sick to heal them.

He shows them those hands of his grown callous from constant use of the hemp and bodkin with which he sewed the canvas cloths together for the making of tents, the lowly manual labour which earned him his meager pittance. A great man, indeed, is Paul when he perorates in the Areo­pagus, but his stature is not diminished when he rests from his consuming apostolic labours to sew canvas sheets throughout the night, lest he die of starvation, and to provide for those that help him in the task of evangel­isation.

III. The Mother of Jesus. - It is very little the Gospels tell us about her, and even that litde reveals her inner life rather than her outward activities. But what was the need? Was your own mother poor? Or, at least, don't you know some good woman, the mother of a Christian family, with a very small share of this world's goods? Consider her occupations, her life of unremitting toil.

Such was Mary's life, Mary the Mother of the humble home of Nazareth. Call to mind the picture of the Strong Woman, the "vigorous wife," as contained in the Book of Proverbs; those were the household cares of the Strong Woman and Vigorous Wife, Mary of Nazareth. To rise at first light of dawn, tidy the house, sweep, scmb, wash the dishes, sew or mend; and to be the last to go to bed at night.

Those blessed hands, which now emit heavenly rays of beauty, and which dispense to us all the great stream of graces won by Christ, are hands that once were chapped and roughened with the cleansing of pots and pans, the scrubbing of floors, the plying of the needle, the carrying of the pitcher to the well.

If you ask Christ, the Judge of living and dead, the Rewarder of every virtue: "Lord, what are those precious stones in Thy Mother's crown of glory which shine more refulgent than the stars of the heavens?" His answer will be: "No, not ostentatious deeds, not lofty preachments, not the conversion of whole nations, not martyrdoms or consuming flames or agonising crosses; they are the humble household tasks of my Mother, the worries and cares of a very humble home which, in passing through my Mother's hands, or rather, through her Heart ablaze with divine love more burning than that of all the Seraphim, were fashioned into that crown of glory, heaven's most lustrous adornment."

O God, however much the world may despise hard work, I will not despise it; and seeing the transform­ations it undergoes when suffused by Thy love, I shall love it, too.

IV. Jesus Christ. - "In laboribus a juventute mea" are words that sum up, if we exclude physical ailments, the life of our Lord.

Carpenter, craftsman, the artisan's son, are the terms used by fellow-citizens and countrymen when speaking of Jesus; terms spoken in a tone of derision when refus­ing to accept the wisdom that flowed from His lips.

How came this man by all these things? What wisdom is this that is given to him, and such mighty works as are wrought by his hands ? (Mark vi, 2)

From the age of twelve to thirty, His whole life, which St. Luke compresses into the words "He was subject to them," was a life of obedience to Mary, His hard-working Mother, and to Joseph, the carpenter. With Joseph He cuts, saws, planes, and nails, wood; He makes or repairs window-frames, doors, ploughs; earning His bread with the sweat of His brow and the toil of His hands. Dispossessed, as it were, of His God­head's crown, which He had seemed to leave behind Him among the bright angelic choirs, on earth He wears two crowns: during the last hours of His labor­ious existence, the crown of thorns, studded with the rubies and gems of His precious blood; during His whole life, the crown of hard work, studded with the drops of sweat when wielding the tools of His car­penter's trade day after day.

And how often, during the years of His public ministry, while proving to the world His Mastery, He would go back in thought and yearning to those peaceful hours spent at the workshop of Nazareth!

Is there any­thing more exhausting to a man than to be constantly dealing with vast throngs of people? There He is: the Word of God, surrendering to their demands, hemmed in by them, crushed, carried along by them through the hilly tracks and dusty roads of Judea and Galilee and over the shores of Tiberias.

His lodging-place is besieged by the crowds from dawn to dusk; He has not even time for a meal; He instructs them, listens to them, heals the sick, suffers the thousand-and-one imperti­nences of friends, the suspicions and captious question­ings of shrewd enemies; and over the heads of those same crowds, within reach of their sarcasm, over­whelmed by the cataract of His own torments, He finally utters from the cross the triumphant cry of liberation: Consummatum est. It was liberation from crushing toil, an end to all those years of unspeakable labour in which every muscle, every sense, and every faculty and fibre of His being had been consumed by hard work.

That is one more lesson from the Cross; the lesson to every priest on the meaning of hard work.

O Lord, do I, Thy minister; do I, alter Christus, propose to squat down under the sheltering shadow of the Cross and spend my life in idleness, adducing my very priesthood as a reason for taking things easy?

This will be my work programme:
1. Not to omit a single one of my priestly acts of piety: mental prayer, Mass, Divine Office, spiritual reading, visit to the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary; and to give to each act all the time, space, quiet, and seri­ous attention which my dealings with God require, per­forming them in places conducive to recollection, and considering them my noblest occupation and exercises of the day.

2. To prepare for preaching: sermons, homilies, catechetical instructions, and whatever entails the announcing of God's word. To devote to this prepar­ation all the time and labour that my audience and my ability demand, because otherwise I should be profaning the word of God taught us so reverently by its first Herald, the Word of God in Person.

3. To discharge my ministerial duties towards my neighbour, not only those due in strict justice, but also those of equity, charity, or simply out of devotion, with that fixed attention and calm repose which everything divine demands, not allowing any human interest to abbreviate or hurry them unduly.

4. Not to despise any form of zeal, however new and unusual it may appear to me, so long as the Church does not disapprove of it and it seems to be effective; and even to make use of these new manifestations of zeal in so far as prudence and timely circumstances call for them: schools, lectures, works of charity, social or quasi-social institutions.

O God, as Thou didst pour the new wine of the Gospel into new wine-skins, notwithstanding the perse­cution by fire and sword on the part of the keepers of ­the old wine-skins, I also shall try the new as well as the old, so as to be able to sum up my life in the words of Thy Apostle:

"I have been everything by turns to everybody to bring everybody salvation." (1 Cor. ix, 22)
Adapted from The Priest at Prayer
by Fr. Eugenio Escribano, C.M. (© 1954)
Translated by B.T. Buckley, C.M.

Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood!

Should Cardinal Mahony Resign?

Such is the question being posed at Catholic World News (subscription required-well worth it). An excerpt of Phil Lawler's column:

Jul. 17, 2007 ( - Five years ago Cardinal Roger Mahony was reportedly encouraging Vatican officials to ask for the resignation of Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law. Using the same logical arguments that the American prelate presented in 2002, the Vatican should now ask Cardinal Mahony himself to step down.

The sensational cost of the sex-abuse scandal for the Los Angeles archdiocese far exceeds the devastation in Boston. The $660-million legal settlement announced on July 16 is nearly five times the total of the financial damages in Boston. Combining that settlement with previous agreements, lawyers' fees, and other associated costs, the overall price to be paid by the faithful Catholics of Los Angeles will approach $1 billion.

Yet the monetary costs, grave as they are, still do not reflect the most serious damage to the Catholic faith. Only rarely do I agree with an editorial in the Boston Globe, particularly when the topic is the Catholic faith. But today's Globe editorial is on target:
In the eyes of victims, the scandal will never be fully resolved as long as bishops who put the interests of their fellow priests over the protection of children remain in positions of leadership.
One could-- and should-- go further. This ugly chapter in Catholic history cannot be closed until the Church rebukes those prelates who put their own interests ahead of the needs of the Catholic faithful and the Catholic faith. Cardinal Mahony is the most conspicuous example.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles does indeed need a change...And much prayer and penance is needed for the conversion of so many lost souls.

More Tyranny in Venezuela

Chavez Replaces the Virgen de Coromoto with a Bust of Che Guevara

In another defiant gesture against the democratic and spiritual sensibilities of the people of Venezuela, its ruler, Lt. Col. Hugo Chávez Frías, has determined that after August 5th, when the government takes over the management of the hospital in Maracaibo, its name will be changed from Hospital Virgen de Coromoto to that of Argentinean guerrilla fighter, Ernesto Che Guevara, who executed hundreds of Cubans in Havana.
. . .
Not only will the name of the hospital be changed but also, what is even worse, the venerated statue of the Virgen de Coromoto has been taken away from the entry to that hospital and it will be replaced by a bust of Guevara.
. . .
All those who are familiar with the characteristics of the people of Venezuela know that they are devotedly Catholic and that they have a profound devotion for the Virgen de Coromoto.
How much time is left, assuming Chavez remains alive and in power, before his increasing persecution of the people and the Church results in executions?

Gospel for Tuesday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus Reproaches People for Their Unbelief

[20] Then He (Jesus) began to upbraid the cities where most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. [21] "Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. [22] But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. [23] And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to Heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. [24] But I tell that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."


21-24. Chorazin and Bethsaida were thriving cities on the northern shore of the lake of Gennesaret, not very far from Capernaum. During His public ministry Jesus often preached in these cities and worked many miracles there; in Capernaum He revealed His teaching about the Blessed Eucharist (cf. John 6:51ff). Tyre, Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah, the main cities of Phoenicia--all notorious for loose living--were classical examples of divine punishment (cf. Ezekiel 26-28; Isaiah 23).

Here Jesus is pointing out the ingratitude of people who could know Him but who refuse to change: on the day of Judgment (verses 22 and 24) they will have more explaining to do: "Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required" (Luke 12:48).
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.