Saturday, December 11, 2004

Vatican, Orthodox Church to Collaborate on an Ecumenical Film Project

The year 2005 will see an unprecedented ecumenical collaboration: Russian Orthodox Christians and Catholics from Italy and Poland will join "their scholarly and creative forces" to make a five-part historical documentary about early Christians, "Pilgrimage to the Holy City." The filming process begins in the spring, and the release is scheduled for Christmas.

Announcing the plan, Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia pointed out that the idea behind was to once again remind to the world that Christianity was the foundation of European culture. He sees the project as an event of paramount importance. "The recent signing of the EU Constitution, which does not even make any mention of the common Christian roots, requires a creative spiritual response as well as a political one," the Russian Patriarch said emphatically. According to him, "millions of Christians worldwide took as an insult [this attempt to] hush up the modern world's historical foundations."

The acclaimed Russian filmmaker Vladimir Khotinenko, 52, has been invited to direct the Christian documentary. "Our task will be to make 'Pilgrimage to the Holy City' a film appealing to mass audiences," the director says. "Contemporary society has sidelined moral issues for some reason, making their consideration optional. A person coming forward to speak about those values in public will be immediately attacked or ridiculed. This is just what has happened to Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ,' for instance." Miracles should be made tangible and visible, Mr. Khotinenko holds. He said his ambition was to create a convincing visualization so that viewers would have no doubts the imprints of the Apostle Peter's knees on the stone floor were genuine (the imprints will be among the relics featured in the new documentary).

The film is going to be produced by a Moscow Patriarchy scholarly center, the Orthodox Encyclopedia. Sergei Kravets, in charge of the center and of the script editing team for "Pilgrimage to the Holy City," has announced, "all the catacombs and relics of the Vatican and Rome will be opened to Russian filmmakers for the first time ever." The Moscow Patriarchy and Holy See officials made the decision when they met for talks in Moscow in August. The visiting Vatican officials then brought along a copy of the Icon of the Virgin of Kazan, which had for more than a decade been confined to the Pope's private rooms. This year, John Paul II decided to return the image to the Russian Orthodox Church as a gesture of goodwill.

In response to the Pontiff's gift, Patriarch Alexis II expressed confidence that kind relations with the Roman Catholics would eventually be restored, noting that the Russian Orthodox Church had all along "showed willingness to develop these relations in the spirit of sincere cooperation."
This sounds very encouraging....


Gospel (1962 Missal) 3rd Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)

GOSPEL (Jn. 1:19-28).
At that time the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to John, to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and did not deny; and he confessed: I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he said: I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered, No. They said therefore unto him, Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? what sayst thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias. And they that were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said to him: Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet? John answered them, saying: I baptize with water: but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not: the same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose. These things were done in Bethania beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Why did the Jews send messengers to St. John to ask him who he was?

Partly because of their curiosity, when they saw St. John leading such a pure, angelic and penitential life; partly, as St. Chrysostom says, out of envy, because St. John preached with such spiritual force, baptized and exhorted the people to penance, that the inhabitants of Jerusalem came to him in great numbers; partly, and principally, they were impelled by the providence of God to demand publicly of St. John, if he were the Messiah, and thus be directed to Christ that they might be compelled to acknowledge Him as the Messiah, or have no excuse for rejecting Him.

Why did the Jews ask St. John, if he were not Elias or the prophet?

The Jews falsely believed that the Redeemer was to come into this world but once, then with great glory, and that Elias or one of the old prophets would come before Him, to prepare His way, as Malachias (4:5) had prophesied of St. John; so when St. John said of himself that he was not the Messiah, they asked him, if he were not then Elias or one of the prophets. But Elias, who was taken alive from this world in a fiery chariot, will not reappear until just before the second coming of Christ.

Why did St. John say, he was not Elias or the Prophet?

Because he was not Elias, and, in reality, not a prophet in the Jewish sense of the word, but more than a prophet, because he announced that Christ had come, and pointed Him out.

Why does St. John call himself "the voice of one crying in the wilderness"?

Because in his humility, he desired to acknowledge that he was only an instrument through which the Redeemer announced to the abandoned and hopeless Jews the consolation of the Messiah, exhorting them to bear worthy fruits of penance.

How do we bear worthy fruits of penance?

We bear fruits of penance, when after our conversion, we serve God and justice with the same zeal with which we previously served the devil and iniquity; when we love God as fervently as we once loved the flesh-that is, the desires of the flesh-and the pleasures of the world; when we give our members to justice as we once gave them to malice and impurity (Rom. 6:19), when the mouth that formerly uttered improprieties, when the ears that listened to detraction or evil speech, when the eyes that looked curiously upon improper objects, now rejoice in the utterance of words pleasing to God, to hear and to see things dear to Him; when the appetite that was given to the luxury of eating and drinking, now abstains; when the hands give back what they have stolen; in a word, when we put off the old man, who was corrupted, and put on the new man, who is created in justice and holiness of truth (Eph. 4:22-24).

What was the baptism administered by St. John, and what were its effects?

The baptism administered by John was only a baptism of penance for forgiveness of sins (Lk. 3:3). The ignorant Jews not considering the greatness of their transgressions, St. John came exhorting them to acknowledge their sins, and do penance for them; that being converted, and truly contrite, they might seek their Redeemer, and thus obtain remission of their offences. We must then conclude, that St. John's baptism was only a ceremony or initiation, by which the Jews enrolled themselves as his disciples to do penance, as a preparation for the remission of sin by means of the second baptism, viz., of Jesus Christ.

What else can be learned from this gospel?

We learn from it to be always sincere, especially at the tribunal of penance, and to practice the necessary virtue of humility, by which, in reply to the questions of the Jews, St. John confessed the truth openly and without reserve, as shown by the words: The latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose, as the lowest of Christ's servants, giving us an example of humility and sincerity, which should induce us always to speak the truth, and not only not to seek honor, but to give to God all the honor shown us by man. Have you not far more reason than John, who was such a great saint, to esteem yourself but little, and to humble yourself before God and man? "My son," says Tobias (4:14), "never suffer pride to reign in thy mind, or in thy words: for from it all perdition took its beginning."

O Lord, banish from my heart all envy, jealousy and pride. Grant me instead, to know myself and Thee, that by the knowledge of my nothingness, misery and vices, I may always remain unworthy in my own eyes, and that by the contemplation of Thy infinite perfections, I may seek to prize Thee above all, to love and to glorify Thee, and practice charity towards my neighbor. Amen.

Gospel, Saturday, 2nd Week of Advent

From: Matthew 17:9a, 10-13

The Transfiguration (Continuation)
[9] And as they were coming down the mountains, [10] (And) the disciples asked Him (Jesus), "Then why do the scribes say that Elijah must come?" [11] He replied, "Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things; [12] but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will suffer at their hands." [13] Then the disciples understood that He was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

10-13. Malachi 4:5 (3:23 in the Hebrew) speaks of the coming of Elijah the prophet before "the great and terrible day of the Lord", the Judgment Day. When Jesus says that Elijah has already come, He is referring to St. John the Baptist, whose mission it was to prepare the way for the First Coming of the Lord, the same as Elijah will have to do prior to His last coming. The scribes failed to grasp the meaning of the prophecy of Malachi; they thought it referred simply to the coming of the Messiah, the First Coming of Christ.
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, December 10, 2004

An open letter from St. Stanislaus Kostka Parishoners

I received this email this morning. It helps to bring many things into perspective, especially since this has not, to my knowledge, been printed in the press. I thank Mr. Czernikiewicz for forwarding this to me.

Here is an open letter from St. Stanislaus Kostka Parishoners, which was released two months ago. Those who follow this case will be interested to see somewhat broader perspective,

Parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish
at Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist Church
15 Plaza Square Saint Louis, Missouri 63103-2318
Contact: (314) 781 4486

October 3, 2004

Open Letter to Parishioners and Supporters of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish

Over the last several months the Polish community of the St. Louis metropolitan area has been largely divided over a disagreement between the Archdiocese of St. Louis and members of the Board of Directors of the parish corporation regarding the future of the parish. The purpose of this letter is to outline the position of the St. Stanislaus Parish faithful parishioners who are supportive to the changes proposed by the Archbishop of St. Louis. Our prime objective is to reunite our community of faith and to resume religious services at St. Stanislaus Church.

In order to understand what is currently occurring in the St. Stanislaus Parish community we need to take a closer look not only at events which occurred earlier this year, but also at the circumstances surrounding changes of corporate by-laws by the Board of Directors of the St. Stanislaus corporation. This conflict has many underlying issues which have developed over many years, and unfortunately they have not been explored enough by the media and therefore are not known to the public. To further explain our position, it seems useful to clarify some terms in regard to St. Stanislaus Parish community vs. Polish Roman Catholic St. Stanislaus Parish Corporation.

St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish is a faith-based community of people who subscribe to the discipline and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The parish was established by Archbishop Kenrick in 1880. As a parish, St. Stanislaus Kostka is required to function in accordance with the norms of Roman Catholic Church law.

The "Polish Roman Catholic St. Stanislaus Parish" is a Missouri not-for-profit corporation established in 1891 to enable the St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish community to more easily function within civil law. As Article 1 of the original by-laws states, "The corporate power of the corporation shall under the laws of the State of Missouri be exercised in conformity with the principles and discipline of the Roman Catholic Church, and in accordance with such rules and regulations as may be established from time to time, for the government of said church, by the Roman Catholic Archbishop in the Diocese of St. Louis, or by his authority."

Unfortunately, for some time the values and goals of both entities have been very different. As a result, the needs of many members of our parish community have not been properly represented and attended. Over the past several years, the St. Stanislaus Parish corporation has been managed in such a way that it has resembled more of a small family business, rather than a Roman Catholic parish community which functions according to the norms of Roman Catholic Church law.

The original by-laws were adopted by the first Board of Directors of the St. Stanislaus Corporation in 1891. The first President and Treasurer of the Board was the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Fr. Urban Stanowski. In 1891, Archbishop Kenrick, as trustee for the Congregation of St. Stanislaus, signed a deed conveying a property from the archdiocese to the civil corporation – "Polish Roman Catholic St. Stanislaus Parish". While the deed conveyed the property to the civil corporation, it did not transfer financial control of the parish. When the property was conveyed, the parish corporation was structured so that all directors, including the pastor, were appointed by the Archbishop who could also remove the directors in case of disagreement. The Archbishop also had final decision-making authority in any disagreement among the directors.

Article 5 of the original by-laws states that "The Treasurer of said corporation shall collect all moneys due or coming to said corporation and pay out of funds in his hands, only such claims and demands as he may be directed to pay by resolution of said Board of Directors. Whenever the money in his hands belonging to said corporation shall exceed sum of Five Thousand dollars, he shall deposit the same, in the name of said corporation, in a depository to be designated by said Board: and monies thus deposited can be withdrawn only by check signed by such Treasurer and countersigned by acting President of said corporation. He shall keep in a book for that purpose, a just, true and full account of all receipts and disbursements of said corporation, and said books at all times be open to the inspection of any member of said Board of Directors and to the Archbishop of Diocese of St. Louis or his representative. He shall on the first Monday after the Feast of Pentecost, in each year (or oftener if required by resolution of said Board) make out, in duplicate a full, true and detailed account of all said receipts and disbursements, together with a full and true statement of all assets and liabilities of said corporation, and shall transmit, without delay, one of said duplicates to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of said Diocese, and shall submit the other to said Board of Directors at its next regular meeting. He shall prepare and cause to be published in such manner as the President of said corporation may direct, a synopsis of said account and statement for the benefit of the members of said corporation.[..]

Article 8 states that "If any dispute or controversy arise between the members of said Board of Directors which they cannot settle, they shall submit same, without delay, to the decision of said Archbishop of said Diocese of St. Louis, and if he be absent to the Vicar-General, and in his absence to the Administrator of said diocese of St. Louis, and the decision of said Archbishop, Vicar-General or Administrator, shall be final and binding on all parties. Either party refusing to abide by said decision, after being duly notified in writing thereof, shall forthwith cease to be a director of said corporation and his place shall be declared vacant by other members of said Board of Directors".

Article 12 states, in part, that "Those by-laws cannot be changed or modified, nor […] shall any amendment be made at any time which shall in anywise be in conflict with any law of the State of Missouri, or with any rule , regulation or requirement of the said Diocese of St. Louis in force at the time of such proposed change".

The St. Stanislaus Corporation functioned in its role in accordance with the original charter until the lay members of the Board of Directors revised the original by-laws in 1978, then adopted new by-laws in 2001, and most recently in 2004. Through these illegal changes of the original by-laws, the lay Board of Directors took away the authority of the Archbishop over the parish corporation. Through these revisions, the Board of Directors secured its own autonomy by removing the power of the Archbishop to remove them from office. By revising the by-laws in this manner, the members of the Board violated the original purpose of the St. Stanislaus Corporation and its relationship to Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish and thus the Roman Catholic Church.

After assuming a position of authority over the parish corporation, the Board of Directors focused their attention primarily on the financial management of the parish funds and so disregarded many relationships with active parish members. Despite several requests by many parishioners over the course of many years, and although required by the original by-laws, the Board refused to provide a complete detailed written report of all the financial accounts of the parish. As far as we know, the Corporation has never gone through an independent audit of all financial accounts it holds.

In the summer of 2003, Archbishop Rigali initiated the process of bringing the parish into conformity with the more than 200 other parishes of the archdiocese. In response to the Archbishop’s request, the Board of Directors initiated an intense, large scale, hostile campaign crafted to discredit Archbishop Burke, the successor to Archbishop Rigali, who has worked to bring to completion the work begun by Archbishop Rigali. The vindictive language and tone used in Board of Directors communications to parishioners and on their internet site is despicable and disgraceful and should have no place in any parish community. We find such tactics deeply troubling and unacceptable, particularly if they are used in the name of all parishioners.

The current conflict between the Archdiocese and the Board of Directors clearly demonstrates that the Board is defending its own position of power, which was attained through illegal modifications of the original corporate by-laws and which for the first time is being seriously challenged. In a desperate attempt to retain final authority over the parish assets, the Board wrote on its internet web site that it is currently considering the parish assets "to be deeded to another Polish organization not related to the Archdiocese and possibly not related to the Roman Catholic Church, or to join another (non Roman) Catholic Church." By appealing to the passions and prejudices of many unaware parishioners, members of the Board created an illusion of a potential danger of closing the parish.

The St. Stanislaus corporation currently owns multiple bank accounts with considerable assets, which have been generated through the hard work and generous donations of money, time and talents of countless individuals who believed that their work benefited the St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish community and thus the Roman Catholic Church. Many supporters providing financial contributions to the current campaign do not realize that they actually support actions which remain in direct contradiction with principles of Roman Catholic morality. The "Save St. Stans" campaign, filled with hostility towards the Roman Catholic Church, exploits the vulnerability of many faithful parishioners and supporters of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish who have been led to believe that donating money to the campaign, will help to save the parish from closing. Unfortunately, these donations are used to fuel aggression and hostility towards the Roman Catholic Church.

The changes the Archdiocese is requiring in the structure of the St. Stanislaus Corporation will allow St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish to be faithful to its original mission. These changes will also ensure that parish assets will be managed in accordance with both the spirit and the law of the Roman Catholic Church. In this way the required changes will benefit the entire parish community.

We are asking our fellow parishioners who have previously taken a position opposing Archbishop Burke to reconsider and join us in our support of making the changes the Archbishop is requiring. St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish has been given his assurance that as long as we continue to gather at St. Stanislaus Church and continue to support our parish it will never be closed. This is a unique commitment that no other parish has been given. He has also assured us that, in accordance with Roman Catholic Church law, the funds of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish will never be used for any other purposes.

It is up to us as faithful parishioners to follow our Archbishop instead of separating our parish from the Roman Catholic Church as has been suggested by the Board members as an alternative. The signers of this letter are not prepared to stand by idle to watch the Board of Directors either turn our parish assets over to some organization which is not part of the Roman Catholic Church or to force the Archbishop to close the Parish because of the obstinacy of the lay Board in refusing to accept the reasonable requirements of Roman Catholic Church law. This conflict is a test of our judgment and ability to exist and function as a religious community within the Roman Catholic Church. How we emerge from here is dependent on our ability to comprehend the complexity of the situation, and on our courage to make a conscientious choice. We truly hope and pray that this conflict will be resolved in the best interest of the parish community. We accept the fact that every Roman Catholic parish, in order to remain a part of the Roman Catholic Church, must function in accordance with Church law.

You are always welcome to join us at our Sunday Polish Mass at 9am and coffee-and-donuts meetings at Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist Church.

* * *

Parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish at Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist Church

Archbishop Burke encourages Enthronement of Sacred Heart

...the [A]rchbishop is recommending that Catholic families follow the traditional practice of Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in their homes.

"The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus leads to a strong commitment to imitate the royal way of Christ, which is selfless love of others by the practice of the virtues," said [Archbishop Burke]. "If we are truly to live the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, of sharing with Christ in his Eucharistic Sacrifice, then Christ must be a constant companion, an always welcomed member of our household."

To assist Catholics in this, the archdiocesan Office of Worship has various devotional items available, including the Enthronement Home Ceremony Book.

For more information on Sacred Heart materials, call the Office of Worship at (314) 792-7231.
Every Catholic family should do this. Every pastor in the archdiocese should promote this and assist families with the enthronement.

Article here.

Merger plans to be sent to Abp. Burke

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke should have a "best set of recommendations" by this weekend for the consolidation of parishes and schools in the Northeast County and South City deaneries.

Archbishop Burke is expected to meet with the archdiocesan Priests’ Council to discuss the recommendations for the South City Deanery on Tuesday Dec. 14 and Thursday, Dec. 16. He is expected to meet with the council on the Northeast County Deanery on Monday, Dec. 20 and Wednesday, Dec. 22, said Father Brockland. The archbishop also will meet with the pastors of both deaneries.
St Louis Review article.

Abp. Burke on the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception

As we prepare for the joyous celebration of the birth of our Savior on Christmas, we invoke the intercession of Mary Immaculate, that we may be disposed to receive the Savior into our lives each day, to follow Him faithfully each day along the Way of the Cross which leads to sinlessness and eternal peace in the Kingdom of Heaven. May the 150th anniversary of the Proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception be the occasion for us to turn, with renewed confidence, each day to the Mother of God, asking the help of her prayers, so that the victory of her Son over sin and everlasting death may be ours. She is the Mother of God and our Mother. She will not fail to help us by her intercession. "O Mary, conceived without original sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."
Full article here.

Book signing by Fr. Giesler tomorrow

Father Michael Giesler will sign copies of his new novel, "Marcus," a novel of early Christians in Rome, from 1:30-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, at the Wespine Study Center of Opus Dei, 100 E. Essex Ave. in Kirkwood. Call (314) 821-1608.

The meaning of the season is the birth of Jesus Christ

From Archbishop Charles Chaput's column...
The ‘holidays’ exist because of Christmas the holy day

The people of Denver elected John Hickenlooper as their mayor because they saw in him the common sense that guides every good leader. He earned their confidence last week. In the face of a strong and unhappy public response, he reversed his decision to retire the “Merry Christmas” lights on City Hall. “Merry Christmas” will remain part of Denver’s public celebration of the holidays for at least the foreseeable future.

This December, I have a modest proposal. Let’s scrub the expression “Happy Holidays” from our vocabulary. We don’t need it. We don’t celebrate a generic excuse for gift-giving. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

So let’s say it — and mean it — with all our hearts: Merry Christmas.
Excellent advice from one of the faithful shepherds of the Church.


Philosopher reverses course after decades of promoting atheism

He expresses a belief in God based on scientific evidence

NEW YORK - A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind.

He now believes in God - more or less - based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.

At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A superintelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

"My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: 'Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.'"
Full story.

Gregory will be "a hard act to follow" in Belleville

The process itself is begun by the pope's representative to the United States, called the apostolic nuncio, the day a bishop's seat is vacated. The nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, will collect names in the same geographical region, and then begin to look outside the region.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of America magazine, said Montalvo would put a lot of stock in who Gregory, St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke and Cardinal Francis George of Chicago recommend for Belleville.
Article here.

Gospel, Friday, 2nd Week of Advent

From: Matthew 11:16-19

Jesus Reproaches People for their Unbelief

(Jesus spoke to the crowds), [16] "But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates. [17] `We piped to you, and you did not dance, we wailed and you did not mourn.' [18] For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, `He has a demon'; [19] the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds."

16-19. Making reference to a popular song or a child's game of His time, Jesus reproaches those who offer groundless excuses for not recognizing Him. From the beginning of human history the Lord has striven to attract all men to Himself: "What more was there to do for My vineyard, that I have not done in it?" (Isaiah 5:4), and often He has been rejected: "When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?" (Isaiah 5:4).

Our Lord also condemns calumny: some people do try to justify their own behavior by seeing sin where there is only virtue. "When they find something which is quite obviously good," St. Gregory the Great says, "they pry into it to see if there is not also some badness hidden in it" ("Moralia", 6, 22). The Baptist's fasting they interpret as the work of the devil; whereas they accuse Jesus of being a glutton.

The evangelist has to report these calumnies and accusations spoken against our Lord; otherwise, we would have no notion of the extent of the malice of those who show such furious opposition to Him who went about doing good (Acts 10:38). On other occasions Jesus warned His disciples that they would be treated the same as He was (cf. John 15:20).

The works of Jesus and John the Baptist, each in their own way, lead to the accomplishment of God's plan for man's salvation: the fact that some people do not recognize Him does not prevent God's plan being carried into effect.
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, December 09, 2004

I'll be out till later this evening....

Politics of inclusion at Christmastime...

“Students at Spring Grove Elementary School in McHenry County, Illinois recently managed to sing holiday songs without ever mentioning Christ or the Christmas story. In another Illinois community, students in the Woodland District schools were forbidden from singing ‘Jingle Bells,’ never mind ‘Silent Night.’ But lucky for them, they are now allowed to listen to Christmas songs on the school bus (a ban was invoked after one student complained, but was later reversed when parents protested).
And more stories of the same from the Catholic League.

Another warning went out years ago, for those who remember, when more and more entities resorted to the "XMAS" tag rather than use Christmas...I don't recall seeing "XMAS" of late. Perhaps it's too close to "Christmas"? Happy Winter Solstice, anyone?

Speaking of which...Wlliam Donohue has another article aptly titled, "DON’T CALL IT CHRISTMAS".
The Kansas newspaper [the Wichita Eagle] ran the following clarification: ‘A story in Monday’s paper referred to a tree that was lighted at Tuesday’s Winterfest celebration as a ‘Christmas tree.’ In an effort to be inclusive, the city is actually referring to this tree as the ‘Community Tree.’

In Glendale, Ohio, village officials had a Holiday Walk on the Village Square last Saturday, though no one explained what holiday was being celebrated. And in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the town sponsored ‘a series of holiday events’ that included a ‘Holiday Parade’ and ‘a Community Sing and Tree Lighting.’ Again, there was no mention of exactly what holiday these people were so happy about.
Winterfest...Holiday Parade...a Tree Lighting. The reason for the season, eh?

How is the Sacrament of Penance....

...related to the Sacrament of Baptism? What about redemption and human freedom? Why doesn't Lucifer just go to Confession? (This is also a test question).

Where do we find Christ when we celebrate the Eucharist?

Name as many places as you can with sliding into heresy...(this is a test).

Sacrosanctum Concilium # 7 states, in part:
...Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, "the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered Himself on the cross"20) but especially under the Eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes21. He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20) .
Any others?

Pontifical University to Take on the Devil

A Vatican university said on Thursday it will hold a special "theoretical and practical" course for Roman Catholic priests on Satanism and exorcism in response to what the Church says is a worrying interest in the occult, particularly among the young.

The two-month course, which begins in February and will be limited to priests and advanced students of theology, will include themes such as Satanism, diabolic possession and "prayers of liberation."
I guess this means the devil is real?


Challenging the Christmas “Grinch” in New York and Florida

A News Alert from the Thomas More Law Center
***Thomas More Law Center to be featured tomorrow morning (Friday, December 10th) on the FOX News Channel's FOX & Friends program. Tune in tommorrow at 8:20 AM (EST)!***

ANN ARBOR, MI — With less than three weeks to go before Americans celebrate the national Christmas holiday, two prominent legal cases dealing with government policies that discriminate against Christmas religious displays during the holy season have each reached a critical stage. The Thomas More Law Center is fighting two separate cases, one in New York City and the other in Bay Harbor Islands, Florida, over policies that outlaw the public display of the Christian Nativity while permitting the display of symbols of other religions.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center commented Thursday, “Christmas is under siege throughout our nation, and the cases in New York and Bay Harbor Islands demonstrate the kind of hostility and double standard being used by officials to deny Christians the right to publicly celebrate one of their holiest seasons.”

In New York City, Law Center attorney Robert Muise will present oral argument Monday before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the Law Center’s case against the New York City Department of Education. The Law Center filed a federal lawsuit, challenging New York City’s policy that encourages and permits the display of the Jewish Menorah during Hanukkah and the Islamic star and crescent during Ramadan in the more than 1200 public schools in the City, but prohibits the similar display of the Christian Nativity during Christmas.

The appeal was filed after Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles Sifton ruled that the City’s discriminatory policy was permissible because it was an accommodation of “multiculturalism” and “an attempt to diversify the season and provide non-Christian holidays with parity.”

Separately, Florida U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga is expected to rule early next week on a request for a temporary restraining order that would require the Town of Bay Harbor Islands to allow a Christian resident to the display the Nativity alongside existing Jewish Menorahs.

The emergency request was filed as a part of a federal lawsuit against the Town of Bay Harbor Islands for its practice of displaying exclusively Jewish religious symbols while prohibiting the similar display of a Christian Nativity. The Town had adorned the lampposts lining its main street with Jewish Menorahs and Stars of David and allowed a Jewish synagogue to display its Menorah in the most prominent, public location at the entrance of the town. However, the town denied a Christian resident permission for the second consecutive year to display her Christian Nativity scenes.

In a hearing in Miami earlier this week, Law Center attorney Edward White argued that Bay Harbor Islands is discriminating against Christians by violating the free speech rights of resident Sandra Snowden, who had been denied the right to display her private Nativity in a public forum. Town attorneys defended their policy, arguing that the Menorah can be displayed because it is a secular symbol and not a religious one, unlike the Nativity.
The Menorah is a secular symbol?

Bishop Trautman Summarizes Agenda for Liturgy

Bishop Trautman shares thoughts on liturgy chair appointment
LSV: Can you give us a short preview of the agenda for the liturgy committee?

Bishop: There are two main things: first of all a review of the ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy) texts that are being presented to the commissions of English-speaking bishops' conferences now. There are 11 English-speaking conferences of bishops. And ICEL has been charged with translating the missal prayers. Those prayers are coming to the bishops now for review, modification and approval. So the work now of the committee will be to study those texts and to present them eventually to the body of bishops.

We have to ponder also the ecumenical dimensions of liturgical texts. For the last 35 years we, with the Protestant tradition, have used the same liturgical texts. An example would be the Nicene Creed, the Apostle's Creed, the Holy, Holy, Holy, The Lamb of God. We've all used the same texts. Now that is being questioned because some of those texts are not translated according to (the Liturgiam Authenticam) document.
Article here.

At Holy Mass Last Night

Because of a number of circumstances yesterday, I was unable to attend Mass where I had intended to do so...Because I had to be at work rather early, I could not attend Mass at the Chapel of the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem. My next option was go to Mass at the Cathedral of to St. Agatha's at noon, but was unable to do this because of a scheduling conflict which arose that morning. It seemed that I had a couple of options left - going to Mass at my parish at 6:00pm or to St. Joseph's at 7:30pm. I reluctantly decide to go to Mass at my parish (I seldom go there anymore due to numerous liturgical abuses and the worst 'music' imaginable - "sacred" is isn't.

Before I went to my parish, I remembered this article, where Brisbane's Archbishop and the priest responsible for at least hundreds of invalid Baptisms agreed that those who report liturgical abuses are "spying" on act of worship.
"In other words it's spying on an act of worship."
Father [Peter] Kennedy said it was a rare opportunity for the two men to agree. "People have no right to be doing this sort of thing. They have no respect for the mass and they have not respect for the liturgy," Father Kennedy said.
Apparently, neither this priest nor the Archbishop has read article 184 of Redemptionis Sacramentum which says, in part:
[184.] Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.
Now was any mention made that priests are specifically prohibited from altering the liturgical rites or that the faithful have a "right" to a true Liturgy:
The faithful have a right to a true Liturgy, which means the Liturgy desired and laid down by the Church, which has in fact indicated where adaptations may be made as called for by pastoral requirements in different places or by different groups of people. (Inaestimabile Donum, Forward)
or from the most recent Instruction from the Holy See:
[12.] On the contrary, it is the right of all of Christ’s faithful that the Liturgy, and in particular the celebration of Holy Mass, should truly be as the Church wishes, according to her stipulations as prescribed in the liturgical books and in the other laws and norms. Likewise, the Catholic people have the right that the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass should be celebrated for them in an integral manner, according to the entire doctrine of the Church’s Magisterium. Finally, it is the Catholic community’s right that the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist should be carried out for it in such a manner that it truly stands out as a sacrament of unity, to the exclusion of all blemishes and actions that might engender divisions and factions in the Church. (Redemptionis Sacramentum)
So it was with some hesitation that I decided to attend Mass at my parish. I did not go to file a report or to fill out a report card on various shenanigans and other 'goings on', but to fulfill my Holy Day obligation, offer praise to God, to ask for Our Blessed Mother's intercession and to pray for the very priests who need the graces to demonstrate their love of Christ and His Church by being obedient to the directives of the Church.

I have been told my others that things were getting better at the parish (I so rarely attend Mass there that I would not know...If I did, I would be compelled to write letters to the Archdiocese.

I knew something was amiss when the entrance procession included a woman who was holding aloft a bowl of incense...How inclusive!

Anyway, as I stated, I was not there to take notes, but I did notice the following:
1. Nearly every prayer in the Missal was changed to some extent, including the Eucharistic Prayer Preface.
2. The homily was given, not from the lectern, but while walking about the steps of the sanctuary (similar to the TV evangelists).
3. The wine was consecrated in a large flagon on the altar (a la Mahony).
4. The Precious Blood was later poured into common wine goblets for the numerous extraordinary ministers.
5. We received no final blessing at the end of Mass from the priest who is supposed to be acting "in persona Christi" - The priest is to impart his blessing by saying, "May Almighty God bless YOU,...not, "May Almighty God bless US,..."

Anyway, we have been told by the Office of Worship and the Archbishop that NO glass vessels are to be used in the Archdiocese for the distribution of the Precious Blood. Apparently, some parishes either haven't received that update or they have chosen to ignore it. I did miss the "Ministry of Danced Prayer", though. That's probably scheduled for the Christmas Masses.

**** Updated ****
I had almost forgotten this...I was struck by the irony of a statement made during the homily which, paraphrased, went something like this: "We show our love of God by being obedient to Him." Of course, this is most true. However, it seems that we do not have to be obedient to the Holy Father or the Church in order to demonstrate our love of God, if we follow the examples given by some of our priests in celebrating the Holy Mass and their infidelity to liturgical laws...

One other thing which I had heard through the grapevine (from a priest I know), but have yet been unable to absolutely verify is that this parish ranks second in number of complaints at the Archdiocese. Whether this means at the Office of Worship or elsewhere, I am not certain. I have written no letters to the Archdiocese for a while, since for all practical purposes, I attend Mass at parishes which do not engage in the "do-it-yourself" Mass.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on us. Mary, Mother of our Lord, pray for us.

Bishop Gregory Named as Archbishop of Atlanta

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, who was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for three years during the height of the clergy molestation crisis, has been appointed by Pope John Paul II to serve as Archbishop of Atlanta, the archdiocese announced Thursday.
Unbelievable is the only word that comes to mind. Archbishop Donoghue's resignation becuase of age was accepted, it seems. Please keep the faithful of Atlanta and Archbishop Gregory in your prayers.


and here.

Gospel, Thursday, 2nd Week of Advent

From: Matthew 11:11-15

The Mission of John the Baptist. Jesus' Reply
(Jesus spoke to the crowds,) [11] "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. [12] From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. [13] For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; [14] and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. [15] He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

11. With John the Old Testament is brought to a close and we are on the threshold of the New. The Precursor had the honor of ushering Christ in, making Him known to men. God had assigned him the exalted mission of preparing His contemporaries to hear the Gospel. The Baptist's faithfulness is recognized and proclaimed by Jesus. The praise he received is a reward for his humility: John, realizing what his role was, had said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

St. John the Baptist was the greatest in the sense that he had received a mission unique and incomparable in the context of the Old Testament. However, in the Kingdom of Heaven (the New Testament) inaugurated by Christ, the divine gift of grace makes the least of those who faithfully receive it greater than the greatest in the earlier dispensation. Once the work of our redemption is accomplished, God's grace will also be extended to the just of the Old Alliance. Thus, the greatness of John the Baptist, the Precursor and the last of the prophets, will be enhanced by the dignity of being made a son of God.

12. "The Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence": once John the Baptist announces that the Christ is already come, the powers of Hell redouble their desperate assault, which continues right through the lifetime of the Church (cf. Ephesians 6:12). The situation described here seems to be this: the leaders of the Jewish people, and their blind followers, were waiting for the Kingdom of God the way people wait for a rightful legacy to come their way; but while they rest on the laurels of the rights and rewards they think their race entitles them to, others, the men of violence (literally, attackers) are taking it, as it were, by force, by fighting the enemies of the soul--the world, the flesh and the devil.

"This violence is not directed against others. It is a violence used to fight your own weaknesses and miseries, a fortitude, which prevents you from camouflaging your own infidelities, a boldness to own up to the faith even when the environment is hostile" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 82).

This is the attitude of those who fight their passions and do themselves violence, thereby attaining the Kingdom of Heaven and becoming one with Christ. As Clement of Alexandria puts it: "The Kingdom of Heaven does not belong to those who sleep and who indulge all their desires, but to those who fight against themselves" ("Quis Dives Salvetur", 21).

14. John the Baptist is Elijah, not in person, but by virtue of his mission (cf. Matthew 17:10-13; Mark 9:10-12).
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, December 08, 2004

Those darn kids, again

The following was from an email I received today. No doubt, many of these are probably well known already, but I thought I would share them.

Below is the email as I received it. For those who can remember as far back as their grade school days, perhaps, some of these might be vaguely familiar, especially considering some of the terminology used in regarding certain aspects of the faith. Those with small children will immediately recognize the misspellings based on the level of understanding that a child has or on a phonetic rendering of terms that a child is trying to work out.
Subject: Those darn kids, again

Pay special attention to the wording and spelling. If you know anything about the bible, even just a little bit, you will probably find this humorous!

This allegedly comes from a Catholic elementary school test in which kids were asked questions about the Old and New testaments. The following statements about the Bible were written by children. They have not be retouched or corrected. Incorrect spelling has been left as is.

1. In the first book of the Bible, Guinessis, God got tired of creating the world so he took the Sabbath off.

2. Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. Noah's wife was Joan of Ark. Noah built and ark and the animals came on in pears.

3. Lots wife was a pillar of salt during the day, but a ball of fire during the night.

4. The Jews were a proud people and throughout history they had trouble with unsympathetic genitals.

5. Sampson was a strongman who let himself be led astray by a Jezebel like Delilah.

6. Samson slayed the Philistines with the axe of the apostles.

7. Moses led the Jews to the Red Sea where they made unleavened bread which is bread without any ingredients .

8. The Egyptians were all drowned in the dessert. Afterwards, Moses went up to Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments.

9. The first commandments was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple.

10. The seventh commandment is thou shalt not admit adultery.

11. Moses died before he ever reached Canada . Then Joshua led the Hebrews in the battle of Geritol.

12. The greatest miricle in the Bible is when Joshua told his son to stand still and he obeyed him.

13. David was a Hebrew king who was skilled at playing the liar. He fought the Finkelsteins, a race of people who lived in biblical times.

14. Solomon, one of Davids sons, had 300 wives and 700 porcupines.

15. When Mary heard she was the mother of Jesus, she sang the Magna Carta.

16. When the three wise guys from the east side arrived they found Jesus in the manger.

17. Jesus was born because Mary had an Immaculate Contraption.

18. St. John the blacksmith dumped water on his head.

19. Jesus enunciated the golden rule, which says to do unto others before they do one to you. He also explained a man doth not live by sweat alone.

20. It was a miricle when Jesus rose from the dead and managed to get the tombstone off the entrance.

21. The people who followed the Lord were called the 12 decibels.

22. The epistels were the wives of the apostles.

23. One of the oppossums was St. Matthew who was also a taximan.

24. St. Paul cavorted to Christianity, he preached holy acrimony which is another name for marraige.

25. Christians have only one spouse. This is called monotony.

Pope says God wants all to be holy, 'immaculate in love'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Presiding at a special Mass marking the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception, Pope John Paul II said God "desires that, in Christ, we all would be holy and immaculate in love."

During the Dec. 8 Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, the pope said he was "renewing today in a special way" the act of entrusting the protection of the entire church to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

Source here.

Gospel, Dec. 8, Solemnity of The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary

From: Luke 1:26-38

The Annunciation and Incarnation of the Son of God

[26] In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, [27] to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. [28] And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" [29] But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. [30] And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. [31] And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. [32] He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, [33] and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there will be no end." [34] And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no husband?" [35] And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. [36] And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. [37] For with God nothing will be impossible." [38] And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

26-38. Here we contemplate our Lady who was "enriched from the first instant of her conception with the splendor of an entirely unique holiness; [...] the virgin of Nazareth is hailed by the heralding angel, by divine command, as `full of grace' (cf. Luke 1:28), and to the heavenly messenger she replies, `Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word' (Luke 1:38). Thus the daughter of Adam, Mary, consenting to the word of God, became the Mother of Jesus. Committing herself wholeheartedly to God's saving will and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with Him, serving the mystery of Redemption, by the grace of Almighty God. Rightly, therefore, the Fathers (of the Church) see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man's salvation through faith and obedience" (Vatican II, "Lumen Gentium", 56).

The annunciation to Mary and incarnation of the Word constitute the deepest mystery of the relationship between God and men and the most important event in the history of mankind: God becomes man, and will remain so forever, such is the extent of His goodness and mercy and love for all of us. And yet on the day when the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity assumed frail human nature in the pure womb of the Blessed Virgin, it all happened quietly, without fanfare of any kind.

St. Luke tells the story in a very simple way. We should treasure these words of the Gospel and use them often, for example, practising the Christian custom of saying the Angelus every day and reflecting on the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

27. God chose to be born of a virgin; centuries earlier He disclosed this through the prophet Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23). God, "before all ages made choice of, and set in her proper place, a mother for His only-begotten Son from whom He, after being made flesh, should be born in the blessed fullness of time: and He continued His persevering regard for her in preference to all other creatures, to such a degree that for her alone He had singular regard" (Pius IX, "Ineffabilis Deus," 2). This privilege granted to our Lady of being a virgin and a mother at the same time is a unique gift of God. This was the work of the Holy Spirit "who at the conception and the birth of the Son so favored the Virgin Mother as to impart fruitfulness to her while preserving inviolate her perpetual virginity" ("St. Pius V Catechism," I, 4, 8). Paul VI reminds us of this truth of faith: "We believe that the Blessed Mary, who ever enjoys the dignity of virginity, was the Mother of the incarnate Word, of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" ("Creed of the People of God", 14).

Although many suggestions have been made as to what the name Mary means, most of the best scholars seem to agree that Mary means "lady". However, no single meaning fully conveys the richness of the name.

28. "Hail, full of grace": literally the Greek text reads "Rejoice!", obviously referring to the unique joy over the news which the angel is about to communicate.

"Full of grace": by this unusual form of greeting the archangel reveals Mary's special dignity and honor. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church "taught that this singular, solemn and unheard-of-greeting showed that all the divine graces reposed in the Mother of God and that she was adorned with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit", which meant that she "was never subject to the curse", that is, was preserved from all sin. These words of the archangel in this text constitute one of the sources which reveal the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception (cf. Pius IX, "Ineffabilis Deus"; Paul VI, "Creed of the People of God").

"The Lord is with you!": these words are not simply a greeting ("the Lord be with you") but an affirmation ("the Lord is with you"), and they are closely connected with the Incarnation. St. Augustine comments by putting these words on the archangel's lips: "He is more with you than He is with me: He is in your heart, He takes shape within you, He fills your soul, He is in your womb" ("Sermo De Nativitate Domini", 4).

Some important Greek manuscripts and early translations add at the end of the verse: "Blessed are you among women!", meaning that God will exalt Mary over all women. She is more excellent than Sarah, Hannah, Deborah, Rachel, Judith, etc., for only she has the supreme honor of being chosen to be the Mother of God.

29-30. Our Lady is troubled by the presence of the archangel and by the confusion truly humble people experience when they receive praise.

30. The Annunciation is the moment when our Lady is given to know the vocation which God planned for her from eternity. When the archangel sets her mind at ease by saying, "Do not be afraid, Mary," he is helping her to overcome that initial fear which a person normally experiences when God gives him or her a special calling. The fact that Mary felt this fear does not imply the least trace of imperfection in her: hers is a perfectly natural reaction in the face of the supernatural. Imperfection would arise if one did not overcome this fear or rejected the advice of those in a position to help--as St. Gabriel helped Mary.

31-33. The archangel Gabriel tells the Blessed Virgin Mary that she is to be the Mother of God by reminding her of the words of Isaiah which announced that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, a prophecy which will find its fulfillment in Mary (cf. Matthew 1:22-23; Isaiah 7:14).

He reveals that the Child will be "great": His greatness comes from His being God, a greatness He does not lose when He takes on the lowliness of human nature. He also reveals that Jesus will be the king of the Davidic dynasty sent by God in keeping with His promise of salvation; that His Kingdom will last forever, for His humanity will remain forever joined to His divinity; that "He will be called Son of the Most High", that is that He really will be the Son of the Most High and will be publicly recognized as such, that is, the Child will be the Son of God.

The archangel's announcement evokes the ancient prophecies which foretold these prerogatives. Mary, who was well-versed in Sacred Scripture, clearly realized that she was to be the Mother of God.

34-38. Commenting on this passage John Paul II said: "`Virgo fidelis', the faithful Virgin. What does this faithfulness of Mary mean? What are the dimensions of this faithfulness? The first dimension is called search. Mary was faithful first of all when she began, lovingly, to seek the deep sense of God's plan in her and for the world. `Quomodo fiet?' How shall this be?, she asked the Angel of the Annunciation [...]."

"The second dimension of faithfulness is called reception, acceptance. The `quomodo fiet?' is changed, on Mary's lips, to a `fiat': Let it be done, I am ready, I accept. This is the crucial moment of faithfulness, the moment in which man perceives that he will never completely understand the `how': that there are in God's plan more areas of mystery than of clarity; that is, however he may try, he will never succeed in understanding it completely[...]."

"The third dimension of faithfulness is consistency to live in accordance with what one believes; to adapt one's own life to the object of one's adherence. To accept misunderstanding, persecutions, rather than a break between what one practises and what one believes: this is consistency[...]."

"But all faithfulness must pass the most exacting test, that of duration. Therefore, the fourth dimension of faithfulness is constancy. It is easy to be consistent for a day or two. It is difficult and important to be consistent for one's whole life. It is easy to be consistent in the hour of enthusiasm, it is difficult to be so in the hour of tribulation. And only a consistency that lasts throughout the whole life can be called faithfulness. Mary's `fiat' in the Annunciation finds its fullness in the silent `fiat' that she repeats at the foot of the Cross" ("Homily in Mexico City Cathedral", 26 January 1979).

34. Mary believed in the archangel's words absolutely; she did not doubt as Zechariah had done (cf. 1:18). Her question, "How can this be?", expresses her readiness to obey the will of God even though at first sight it implied a contradiction: on the one hand, she was convinced that God wished her to remain a virgin; on the other, here was God also announcing that she would become a mother. The archangel announces God's mysterious design, and what had seemed impossible, according to the laws of nature, is explained by a unique intervention on the part of God.

Mary's resolution to remain a virgin was certainly something very unusual, not in line with the practice of righteous people under the Old Covenant, for, as St. Augustine explains, "particularly attentive to the propagation and growth of the people of God, through whom the Prince and Savior of the world might be prophesied and be born, the saints were obliged to make use of the good of matrimony" ("De Bono Matrimonii", 9, 9). However, in the Old Testament, there were some who, in keeping with God's plan, did remain celibate--for example, Jeremiah, Elijah, Eliseus and John the Baptist. The Blessed Virgin, who received a very special inspiration of the Holy Spirit to practise virginity, is a first-fruit of the New Testament, which will establish the excellence of virginity over marriage while not taking from the holiness of the married state, which it raises to the level of a sacrament (cf. "Gaudium Et Spes", 48).

35. The "shadow" is a symbol of the presence of God. When Israel was journeying through the wilderness, the glory of God filled the Tabernacle and a cloud covered the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 40:34-36). And when God gave Moses the tablets of the Law, a cloud covered Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:15-16); and also, at the transfiguration of Jesus the voice of God the Father was heard coming out of a cloud (Luke 9:35).

At the moment of the Incarnation the power of God envelops our Lady--an expression of God's omnipotence. The Spirit of God--which, according to the account in Genesis (1:2), moved over the face of the waters, bringing things to life--now comes down on Mary. And the fruit of her womb will be the work of the Holy Spirit. The Virgin Mary, who herself was conceived without any stain of sin (cf. Pius IX, "Ineffabilis Deus") becomes, after the Incarnation, a new tabernacle of God. This is the mystery we recall every day when saying the Angelus.

38. Once she learns of God's plan, our Lady yields to God's will with prompt obedience, unreservedly. She realizes the disproportion between what she is going to become--the Mother of God--and what she is--a woman. However, this is what God wants to happen and for Him nothing is impossible; therefore no one should stand in His way. So Mary, combining humility and obedience, responds perfectly to God's call: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done according to your word."

"At the enchantment of this virginal phrase, the Word became flesh" ([St] J. Escriva, "Holy Rosary", first joyful mystery). From the pure body of Mary, God shaped a new body, He created a soul out of nothing, and the Son of God united Himself with this body and soul: prior to this He was only God; now He is still God but also man. Mary is now the Mother of God. This truth is a dogma of faith, first defined by the Council of Ephesus (431). At this point she also begins to be the spiritual Mother of all mankind. What Christ says when He is dying--`Behold, your son..., behold, your mother" (John 19:26-27)--simply promulgates what came about silently at Nazareth. "With her generous `fiat' (Mary) became, through the working of the Spirit, the Mother of God, but also the Mother of the living, and, by receiving into her womb the one Mediator, she became the true Ark of the Covenant and true Temple of God" (Paul VI, "Marialis Cultus", 6).

The Annunciation shows us the Blessed Virgin as perfect model of "purity" (the RSV "I have no husband" is a euphemism); of "humility" ("Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord"); of "candor" and "simplicity" ("How can this be?"); of "obedience" and "lively faith" ("Let it be done to me according to your word"). "Following her example of obedience to God, we can learn to serve delicately without being slavish. In Mary, we don't find the slightest trace of the attitude of the foolish virgins, who obey, but thoughtlessly. Our Lady listens attentively to what God wants, ponders what she doesn't fully understand and asks about what she doesn't know. Then she gives herself completely to doing the divine will: `Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word'. Isn't that marvellous? The Blessed Virgin, our teacher in all we do, shows us here that obedience to God is not servile, does not bypass our conscience. We should be inwardly moved to discover the `freedom of the children of God' (cf. Romans 8:21)" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 173).
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, December 07, 2004

Straight Answers: The Immaculate Conception

Fr. William P. Saunders, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls, wrote this article as a columnist for the Arlingtoin Catholic Herald. He has written several articles which are excellent catechetical and explanatory guides...

This one is perfect reading for tomorrow. Share it with others.

Archbishop's letter disturbs St. Stanislaus Kostka board

But Tuesday night, after a much shorter second meeting, one side wasn't talking and the other was decidedly less upbeat.

The reason was a letter, written by Archbishop Raymond Burke just after last week's meeting, to the parishioners of St. Stanislaus in which he reminded the parish that their complaint against him to the Vatican had been rejected last month, and then laid out his vision for the handing over of their parish.

Archdiocese representatives would not comment Tuesday night, but St. Stanislaus board members said the particulars of the deal outlined in Burke's letter were different from those they had heard in the meeting last week, and that they had pointed that out at Tuesday's meeting.
Something about this story just doesn't sound right...It's inconceivable that Monsignor Vernon Gardin, and the lawyer for the Archdiocese, Bernard Huger, were not communicating Archbishop Burke's position or that they were unclear or did not speak to the Archbishop about the meeting. I'm not certain that this account is truly credible.

Article here.

Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem Web Site

Special Thanks to Marc P. who notified me that the CRNJ web site was up and running.

Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk Speaks about Positives

Yet Archbishop Louis Sako is frustrated about the lack of truthfulness and accurate reporting from Western journalists and news organizations who are "simply peddling propaganda and misinformation".

We can sympathize with his frustrations about the reporting. Those who are looking for accurate reporting on the Iraq situation are not going to find it on the nightly network news or on many of the cable news channels.
Archbishop Sako's frustration is increasingly shared by other Iraqis, who can hardly recognize their country from the foreign media coverage. Westerners, too, both military and civilians, upon their return are often finding to their surprise and concern they had lived and worked in a different country to that their loved ones, friends and neighbors back home saw every night on the news.
Wall Street Journal Opinion Page

Catholic laity must follow authoritative church teachings,

"A clear and authoritative reaffirmation of these fundamental principles of the lay apostolate will help to overcome the serious pastoral problems created by a growing failure to understand the church's binding obligation to remind the faithful of their duty in conscience to act in accordance with her authoritative teaching," [the Holy Father] said.

He said there was an "urgent need for a comprehensive catechesis" on the lay apostolate.

The pope told the bishops that promoting a clear understanding of doctrinal and moral teachings was an essential part of their ministry as teachers and pastors.
How many people, how many Catholics, will listen to the Holy Father?
How many Catholics will be made aware of these recent statements of the Roman Pontiff?

There is a great need for catechesis and for catechists - those Catholics who are able should assist the bishops and priests in the task of catechizing others. Those who are unable to assist by actively teaching can, nonetheless, assist by offering their prayers and sacrifices. Here I would suggest the Marian Catechist Apostolate as a means to acquire the necesary doctrinal and spiritual formation needed to assist in the work of catechesis. Please check it out if you feel called to help in this area.

CNS article is here.

Vatican publishes "Martyrologium Romanum"

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Three years after finishing the massive project of updating and correcting the book-length calendar of Catholic saints, the Vatican has published an even bigger, more accurate version.

The "Martyrologium Romanum" ("Roman Martyrology") was presented to the public Dec. 4 during a conference on holiness and the complicated task of separating fact from legend when dealing with martyrs and saints who lived and died thousands of years ago and whose lives gave rise to fervent devotion and, perhaps, fanciful stories.

The martyrology -- with its 6,658 individual names and an additional 6,881 unnamed martyred "companions" -- is organized as a calendar; it lists the saints and blesseds whose feast is celebrated each day and provides a small biography of each.

The 844-page martyrology is considered a liturgical book, not a catalogue or history, because it forms the basis for determining which saint is remembered at Mass each day.
The book is published in Latin while Italian, French, and German translations are under way. No mention of an English edition.


It's Official: Diocese of Spokane files for bankruptcy

By becoming only the third diocese nationally to seek shelter in bankruptcy court, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane is hoping the court will help provide a clearer picture of its financial liability in mounting sex-abuse lawsuits and goad its reluctant insurers into paying some of the claims.

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 protection yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Spokane, citing total liabilities of about $81 million, with about $76 million of that in sex-abuse claims, according to financial statements filed as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. It has only about $11 million in assets, according to the statements.
Article here.

Gospel, Dec 7, Memorial: St. Ambrose, Bishop & Doctor of the Church

From: Matthew 18:12-14

The Lost Sheep
[12] "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search of the one that went astray? [13] And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. [14] So it is not the will of My Father who is in Heaven that one of these little ones should perish."

12-14. This parable clearly shows our Lord's loving concern for sinners. It expresses in human terms the joy God feels when a wayward child comes back to Him.

Seeing so many souls living away from God, Pope John Paul II comments: "Unfortunately we witness the moral pollution which is devastating humanity, disregarding especially those very little ones about whom Jesus speaks."

"What must we do? We must imitate the Good Shepherd and give ourselves without rest for the salvation of souls. Without forgetting material charity and social justice, we must be convinced that the most sublime charity is spiritual charity, that is, the commitment for the salvation of souls. And souls are saved with prayer and sacrifice. This is the mission of the Church!" ("Homily to the Poor Clares of Albano," 14 August 1979).

As the RSV points out, "other ancient authorities add verse 11, "For the Son of Man came to save the lost"--apparently taken from Luke 19:10.
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, December 06, 2004

Text of the Holy Father's Address to Bishops of Region V

First some commentary:
Pope John Paul has exhorted the bishops of the US to reacquaint themselves with their role as teachers. He referred to the "serious pastoral problems created by a growing failure to understand the Church's binding obligation to remind the faithful of their duty in conscience to act in accordance with (the Church's) authoritative teaching."

The Pope said, "There is urgent need for a comprehensive catechesis on the lay apostolate which will necessarily highlight the importance of a properly formed conscience."
Comments courtesy Lifesite.

The text of the Holy Father's address is here.

More success stories from Non-embryonic stem cells

Non-Embryonic Stem Cell Testimonial from Russia: Spinal Cord Injuries Reversed

The Russian news agency Novosti reported Monday that Russian scientists have succeeded in treating six individuals bed-ridden with spinal cord damage using non-embryonic stem cells derived from the patient's own nasal tissues. All six are learning to walk again.

A Simple Test

After reading an Off the Record post by Diogenes here, and recalling that St. Bernadette's was a much discussed parish some time ago on a Catholic Web Site - and it hosted a comments page which was soon removed after a number of posts were made asking them to read the Catechism, etc..., I decided to have a little quiz:

What do these St. Louis parishes share?
St. Cronan, Holy Family, Holy Innocents, St. Margaret of Scotland, and St. Pius V...

Answer? Not today...

(RCF) Roman Catholic Faithful Press Release

*** UPDATED ***

To view the Press Release, you will need to visit the RCF site.

This press release is not for the 'faint of heart'. Perhaps the USCCB will appoint a special "Task Force" to study the letter and get back to RCF, say, in a few years?

The Press Release has been removed as some have indicated that it is over the top...which it is....

Incorrect Headline in Prior Post...

I have been informed that an article previously posted here has an incorrect headline (as taken from the source).

The information from WHYY FM News states the following:
Rachel Buchman works as a freelance reporter for WHYY news, and helps produce WHYY's Radio TImes talk show from time to time. In Wilmington, Delaware she reports and anchors for WILM newsradio, where she often files for CBS. She started as a volunteer at WHYY ... and at WPFW, a Pacifica station in Washington, DC. Rachel graduated cum laude from Barnard College of Columbia University in 1999 with honors in Anthropology.
While WHYY is an NPR affiliate, and Rachel Buchman is/was a freelance reporter for the station, the headline is, indeed, misleading or incorrect. Perhaps the proper headline should have indicated that so as not to insinuate a questionable or remote association link with NPR?

Thanks to SMC for bring that to my attention.

St. Nicholas from CatholicCulture...

St. Nicholas was born in Lycia, Asia Minor, and died as Bishop of Myra in 352. He performed many miracles and exercised a special power over flames. He practiced both the spiritual and temporal works of mercy, and fasted twice a week. When he heard that a father who had fallen into poverty was about to expose his three daughters to a life of sin, Nicholas took a bag of gold and secretly flung it through the window into the room of the sleeping father. In this way, the three girls were dowered and saved from mortal sin and hell.
We have celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas, in part, by doing the "shoe" thing for as long as I can remember.
Shoes can be left outside the bedroom door, or stockings are hung by the fire on December 5th evening. St. Nicholas (instead of Santa Claus) comes by to brings cookies or gifts in the shoes or stockings.

Chicago Church Restoration by the Institute of Christ the King

Building saved from the wrecking ball will be used by a Latin mass Roman Catholic order

St. Gelasius Church is a neo-Renaissance shell empty of pews and parishioners, so dilapidated it was once slated for destruction.

Now it is alive with activity as masons repair the stone facing and priests in cassocks supervise painters inside the rectory.

After a community battle to save the 81-year-old Roman Catholic church, a Latin mass order has moved in, hoping to bring a renaissance of worship and art to a changing South Side neighborhood through an ancient liturgy.

The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, headquartered in Italy, plans to celebrate the Tridentine mass, a historic form of liturgy spoken in Latin, in a sanctuary restored to an Italianate glory.
Full story here...

Church reaches out to Hispanics

But the church mentioned in the article is not Catholic...
Forty-four Hispanics gathered for a turkey dinner and fellowship the day after Thanksgiving at First Baptist Church of O'Fallon.

The event marked the first fruit of the labor of Patrick Regalado, who was hired as an associate pastor in October to start an Hispanic Ministry Center for the Greater St. Louis Area.

And most [of his Latino brothers], like Regalado, grew up in Roman Catholic homes. Some 90 percent of Latin America is Roman Catholic, he said.

Regalado was "born again" at age 18 after his father survived what a doctor had diagnosed as terminal cancer.
The catechetical crisis is evidently not limited to the U.S.


St. Stanislaus weighs setting up trust

Many parishioners at St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church remain deeply fearful about the future of their historic Polish parish, despite recent news of a possible compromise with the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Roger Krasnicki, a spokesman for the board, warned the 300 gathered at the Polish Heritage Center: "We will have to give up something in order to reach a solution with the archdiocese."
I had intended to comment but decided instead to pray for this man and the others responsible for deepening the rift and suspicion of the Archdiocese in this situation.


Gospel for Monday, 2nd Week of Advent

From: Luke 5:17-26

The Cure of the Paralytic in Capernaum
[17] On one of those days, as He (Jesus) was teaching, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was with Him to heal. [18] And behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; [19] but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. [20] And when He saw their faith He said, "Man, your sins are forgiven you." [21] And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, "Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?" [22] When Jesus perceived their questionings, He answered them, "Why do you question in your hearts? [23] Which is easier, to say, `Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, `Rise and walk'? [24] But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the man who was paralyzed--"I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home." [25] And immediately he rose before them, and took up that on which he lay, and went home, glorifying God. [26] And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, "We have seen strange things today."

17. A little earlier, beside the lake, Jesus addressed His teaching to crowds (verses 1ff). Here His audience includes some of the most educated Jews. Christ desired not only to teach but also to cure everyone--spiritually and, sometimes, physically, as He will soon do in the case of the paralytic. The evangelist's observation at the end of this verse reminds us that our Lord is ever-ready to use His omnipotence for our good: "I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil', God declared through the prophet Jeremiah (29:11). The liturgy applies these words to Jesus, for in Him we are clearly shown that God does love us in this way. He did not come to condemn us, to accuse us of meanness and smallness. He came to save us, pardon us, excuse us, bring us peace and joy." ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 165). On this occasion also Jesus wanted to benefit His listeners, even though some of them would not receive this divine gift because they were not well-disposed.

19-20. Our Lord is touched when He sees these friends of the paralytic putting their faith into practice: they had gone up onto the roof, taken off some of the tiles and lowered the bed down in front of Jesus. Friendship and faith combine in obtaining a miraculous cure. The paralytic himself had a like faith: he let himself be carried around, brought up onto the roof and so forth. Seeing such solid faith Jesus gives them even more than they expect: He cures the man's body and, what is much more, cures his soul. Perhaps He does this, as St. Bede suggests (cf. "In Lucae Evangelium Expositio, in loc."), to show two things: that the illness was a form of punishment for his sins and therefore the paralytic could only get up once these sins had been forgiven; and that others' faith and prayer can move God to work miracles.

In some way, the paralytic symbolizes everyone whose sins prevent him from reaching God. For example, St. Ambrose says: "How great is the Lord who on account of the merits of some pardon others, and while praising the former absolves the latter! ...] Therefore, let you, who judge, learn to pardon; you, who are ill, learn to beg for forgiveness. And if the gravity of your sins causes you to doubt the possibility of being forgiven, have recourse to intercessors, have recourse to the Church, who will pray for you, and the Lord will grant you, out of love for her, what He might have refused you" (St. Ambrose, "Expositio Evangelii Sec. Lucam, in loc.").

Apostolic work should be motivated by desire to help people find Jesus Christ. Among other things it calls for daring--as we see in the friends of the paralytic; and it also needs the intercession of the saints, whose help we seek because we feel God will pay more attention to them than to us sinners.

24. Our Lord is going to perform a public miracle to prove that He is endowed with invisible, spiritual power. Christ, the only Son of the Father, has power to forgive sins because He is God, and He uses this power on our behalf as our Mediator and Redeemer (Luke 22:20; John 20:17-18, 28: 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:9; Isaiah 53:4-5). Jesus used this power personally when He was on earth and after ascending into Heaven He still uses it, through the Apostles and their successors.

A sinner is like a paralytic in God's presence. The Lord is going to free him of his paralysis, forgiving him his sins and enabling him to walk by giving him grace once more. In the sacrament of Penance, if Jesus Christ, "sees us cold, unwilling, rigid perhaps with the stiffness of a dying interior life, His tears will be our life: `I say to you, My friend, arise and walk,' (cf. John 11:43; Luke 5:24), leave that narrow life which is no life at all" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By," 193).
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.
eprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and ScepterPublishers, the U.S. publisher.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Leon Suprenant Responds to the Post Dispatch

Kevin Horrigan's Nov. 28 column, "Keeping the faith - at great personal cost," leaves the impression that the Rev. Thomas Doyle's strained relationship with church authorities is based primarily on his 1985 report concerning clerical sex abuse and the growing homosexual subculture in the church.

It is true that Doyle's report was a source of alienation. It was tragic that his findings weren't taken seriously until the sex abuse scandal came to light in 2002. Even if his facts, statistics, and inferences weren't accurate in every instance, in retrospect there was too much evidence there to ignore.

Sadly, though, as the scandal has played out, Doyle has assumed the role of casualty, not hero.

"Scandal" has many shades of meaning. In a strict, religious sense, scandal is an attitude or behavior that leads another to sin. I don't presume to judge the state of Doyle's soul, but it's clear from his public statements and associations that he has been scandalized by the sins of some members of the clergy. He has not, in fact, "kept the faith."

Further, the new, "democratic" church he envisions not only calls for a marked departure from the biblical model that the Catholic Church has followed for two millennia, but also represents a populist power grab in keeping with the agendas of radically dissident organizations like Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful.

Doyle's sincere concern for victims of sexual abuse is praiseworthy. However, it's his extreme, aberrant views, not his staunch opposition to sexual abuse, that trouble church authorities and many practicing Catholics alike.

Leon Suprenant
President, Catholics
United for the Faith
Steubenville, Ohio
Emphasis above added...

Gospel, Second Sunday of Advent

From: Matthew 3:1-12

The Preaching of John the Baptist
[1] ln those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, [2] "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." [3] For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."

[4] Now John wore a garment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. [5] Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, [6] and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

[7] But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? [8] Bear fruit that befits repentance, [9] and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father' ; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.' [10] Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

[11] I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. [12] His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
1. The _expression "in those days" does not specify the exact time of the event in question. It is sometimes used merely as an opening phrase to mark the beginning of a new episode. In this case, in fact, it can be calculated that some twenty-five years have elapsed since the Holy Family's return from Egypt. This is only an estimate, because the exact date of their return has not been established.

On the date of the start of John the Baptist's preaching, see Luke 3:1-3.

The word "wilderness" has a wider meaning here than we give it today. It does not refer to a sandy or rocky desert, but rather to arid regions, low in vegetation.

2. "Repent": Christ's redeeming work ushers in a new era in the Kingdom of God. This brings such advance in salvation history, that what is required from now on is a radical change in man's behavior towards God. The coming of the Kingdom means that God has intervened in a special way to save mankind, but it also implies that we must be open to God's grace and reform our ways. Christ's life on earth compels people to take a stand--either for God or against him ("He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters": Lk 11:23).

Given man's sinful state after original sin, the newly-arrived Kingdom requires that all men repent of their past life. To put it another way, they have to stop going away from God and instead try to get closer to him. Since sin hinders this conversion, it is impossible to turn back to God without performing acts of penance. Conversion is not simply a question of making a good resolution to mend our ways; we have to fulfill that resolution, even if we find it difficult.

Penance grows only where there is humility--and everyone should admit sincerely that he is a sinner (cf. 1 Jn 1 :8-10). Obedience also goes hand in hand with penance; everyone ought to obey God and keep his commandments (cf. 1 Jn 2:3-6).

The literal translation of the Greek is "Repent". But precisely because the very essence o f conversion consists in doing penance, as we have said, the
New Vulgate has "paenitentiam agite" ("do penance"). This translation
conveys the deeper meaning of the text.

Man's whole life, in fact, consists in constantly correcting his behavior, and therefore implies a continual doing of penance. This turning back to God was preached continually by the prophets in the Old Testament. Now, however, with the coming of Christ, this penance and turning to God are absolutely essential. That Christ took on our sins and suffered for us does not excuse us from making a true conversion; on the contrary, it demands it of us (cf. Col 1:24).

"Kingdom of heaven": this expression is identical to "Kingdom of God". The former is the one most used by St Matthew, and is more in line with the Jewish turn of phrase. Out of reverence, the Jews avoided pronouncing the name of God and substituted other words for it, as in this case. "Kingdom of God" or "Kingdom of heaven" was a concept used already in the Old Testament and in religious circles at the time of Christ. But it occurs particularly frequently in Jesus' preaching.

The phrase "Kingdom of God" can refer in a general way to God's dominion over creatures; but normally, as in this text, it refers to God's sovereign and merciful involvement in the life of his people. Man's rebellion and sin broke the order originally established in creation. To re-establish it, God's intervention was needed again; this consisted in the redeeming work of Christ, Messiah and Son of God. It was preceded by a series of preliminary stages in salvation history throughout the Old Testament.

Consequently, the Kingdom of God, announced as imminent by John the Baptist, is brought into being by Jesus. However, this is an entirely spiritual one and does not have the nationalistic dimension expected by Jesus' contemporaries. He comes to save his people and all mankind from the slavery of sin, from death and from the devil, thereby opening up the way of salvation.

In the period between the first and second comings of Christ, this Kingdom of God (or Kingdom of heaven) is, in fact, the Church. The Church makes Christ (and therefore also God) present among all peoples and calls them to eternal salvation. The Kingdom of God will be brought to completion only at the end of this world, that is, when our Lord comes to judge the living and the dead at the end of time. Then God will reign over the blessed in a perfect way.

In the passage we are considering, John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, preaches the imminence of the Kingdom of God, ushered in by the coming of the Messiah.

3. By quoting Isaiah 40:3, St Matthew makes it clear that St John the Baptist has a mission as a prophet. This mission has two purposes--first, to prepare the people to receive the Kingdom of God; second, to testify before the people that Jesus is the Messiah who is bringing that Kingdom.

4. The Gospel gives a brief outline of the extremely austere life of St John the Baptist. His style of life is in line with that of certain Old Testament prophets and is particularly reminiscent of Elijah (cf. 2 Kings 1:8; 2:8-13ff.). The kind of food and dress described are of the most rudimentary for the region in question. The locust was a kind of grasshopper; the wild honey probably refers to substances excreted by certain local shrubs rather than to bees' honey.

In view of the imminent coming of the Messiah, John underlines, with his example, the attitude of penance preceding great religious festivals (similarly, in its Advent liturgy the Church puts John before us as a model and invites us to practise mortification and penance). In this way, the point made in the previous verse (concerning John's view of his mission as precursor of Christ) is fulfilled. A Christian's entire life is a preparation for his meeting with Christ. Consequently, mortification and penance play a significant part in his life.

6. John's baptism did not have the power to cleanse the soul from sin as Christian Baptism does. The latter is a sacrament, a sign, which produces the grace it signifies. Concerning the value of John's baptism, see the note on Mt 3:11.

7. St John reproaches the Pharisees and Sadducees for their attitude towards him. His preaching and baptism are not simply one more purification rite. Rather, they demand a true interior conversion of the soul, as a necessary predisposition to reach the grace of faith in Jesus. In the light of this explanation, we can understand why the prophetic words of St John the Baptist were so hard-hitting; as it turned out, most of these people did not accept Jesus as the Messiah.

"Pharisees": these constituted the most important religious group in Jesus' time. They kept the Law of Moses rigorously and also the oral traditions which had built up around it. They gave as much importance to these latter, indeed, as to the Law itself. They strongly opposed the influence of Greek paganism and totally rejected the homage paid to the Roman emperor. Among them there were men of great spiritual eminence and sincere piety; but there were many others who exaggerated pharisaical religiosity to the extreme of fanaticism, pride and hypocrisy. It was this perversion of the true Israelite religion that John the Baptist (and later our Lord) castigated.

"Sadducees": the Sadducees constituted a smaller religious group than the Pharisees, but they included many influential people, most of them from the main priestly families. They accepted the written Law, but, unlike the Pharisees, they rejected oral tradition. They also rejected certain important truths, such as the resurrection of the dead. On the political front, they went along easily with the terms dictated by the Romans, and they acquiesced in the introduction of pagan customs into the country .Their opposition to Christ was even more pronounced than that of the Pharisees.

9-10. St John the Baptist's listeners believe their salvation is assured because they are descendants of Abraham according to the flesh. But St John " warns them that to pass God's judgment it is not enough to belong to the chosen people; they must also yield the good fruit of a holy life. If they fail to do this, they will be thrown into the fire, that is, into hell, the eternal punishment, because they did not do penance for their sins. See the note on Mt 25:46.

11. St John the Baptist did not limit himself to preaching penance and repentance; he encouraged people to receive his baptism. This baptism was a way of interiorly preparing them and helping them to realize that the coming of Christ was imminent. By his words of encouragement and by their humblerecognition of their sins, they were prepared to receive Christ's grace through Baptism with fire and the Holy Spirit. To put it another way, John's baptism did not produce justification, whereas Christian Baptism is the sacrament of initiation which forgives sin and bestows sanctifying grace.

The effectiveness of the sacrament of Christian Baptism is expressed in Catholic teaching when it says that the sacrament gives grace "ex opere operato". This means that grace is given by virtue of Christ who acts through the sacrament, and not by virtue of the merits of either the minister or the recipient of the sacrament. "When Peter baptizes, it is Christ who baptizes [...]. When Judas baptizes, it is Christ who baptizes" (St Augustine, "ln loann. Evang.", 6).

The word "fire" points in a metaphorical way to the effectiveness of the Holy Spirit's action in totally wiping out sins. It also shows the life-giving power of grace in the person baptized.

Foremost among the personal qualities of St John the Baptist is his remarkable humility; he resolutely rejects the temptation of accepting the dignity of Messiah which the crowds apparently wanted to bestow on him. Carrying the sandals of one's master was a job for the lowest of servants.

12. Verses 10 and 12 refer to judgment by the Messiah. This judgment has two parts: the first occurs throughout each man's life and ends in the Particular Judgment immediately after death; the second occurs at the time of the Last Judgment. Christ is the judge in both instances. Let us remember the words of St Peter in Acts 10:42: "And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he [Jesus] is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead." The judgment will give to each person the reward or punishment merited by his good or bad actions.

It is w orth noting that the word "chaff' does not refer only to bad deeds; it refers also to useless ones, for example, lives lacking in service to God and men. God will judge us, therefore, for our omissions and our lost opportunities.

"Don't let your life be barren. Be useful. Make yourself felt. Shine forth with the torch of your faith and your love. With your apostolic life, wipe out the trail of filth and slime left by the unclean sowers of hatred. And set aflame all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you bear in your heart" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 1).
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.