Saturday, December 08, 2007

Just for Today, December 9

Let Thy grace, O Almighty God, assist us, that we who have undertaken the office of priesthood, may serve Thee worthily and devoutly in all purity and good conscience.
- Bk. IV, ch. xi.

Pure as the angel at his side,
A soul newborn My priest must be;
A sister, hidden and unknown,
Obtains for him this grace from Me.
- P.
For a List of Abbreviations, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - December 9

The life of a true Christian should be such that he fears neither death nor any event of his life, but endures and submits to all things with a good heart.

- St. Teresa
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for December 9, The Great Secret

If there are in me such marvels, if my soul, like Mary's, though to a lesser degree, serves as a living tabernacle for the Holy Trinity, how I ought to exert myself during prayer to penetrate my interior riches as deeply as possible and to keep recollected throughout the day that the treasure within may not be lost.

I must not content myself with a superficial knowledge of the splendors of my life of grace. I must study it, plumb its depths. I must realize that this is the great secret. What can be wanting to a soul who has discovered both the reality of God and His nearness?

I have lived so long under the impression that things relating to the invisible world have, so to speak, no real existence. That is false. The invisible world is more real than the visible world. I have lived for such a long time under the equally false impres­sion that God is distant. He is quite near. When I have discovered the proximity of the invisible world, then I will have discovered everything.

Reality, proximity, me! The Invisible dwelling within my soul, on terms of intimacy with me. And all this is true! Could He be nearer?

But if that is so, how ought I to conduct myself in the routine of life? As one who does not know? Or who knowing does not realize?

That would be atrocious, absurd. "Act," says a modem writer, "so that what is may be." I don't have to create this mysterious world in me; it is in me. But I must so act that it may be some­thing for me, something which counts.

I will give to the magnificent realities I bear within me their value as realities.
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

An Advent Vespers Update?

As previously noted here (see screen capture for details), one cam only wonder if a change has been made to the Advent Vespers program in a local Catholic parish at which Rabbi Susan Talve was scheduled.

Considering what is being passed off as "Advent Vespers" these days in some places, some might rightly ask, "What exactly are 'Advent Vespers'?"

'Vespers' refers to 'Evening prayer' and as a liturgical action, it should be celebrated communally in church by groups of the faithful, if possible. Some of us pray the Liturgy of the Hours, but do not have the opportunity to do so communally in a church on a regular basis. But when a special season such as Advent provides us an opportunity to do so, should we not make use of the rites and prayers afforded us by the Church?

CantiNOVA Publications has great information on Advent Vespers and from its site, we read:

These excerpts from the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours show the Church's concern that the faithful unite in liturgical prayer, even beyond Sunday Mass. The season of Advent offers an appropriate opportunity for us to celebrate the Hours, most especially Evening Prayer (Vespers).

The Catholic Liturgy Book states, "Evening Prayer has a dual character- praise for the gifts of the day gone by and PENITENCE for the sins we have committed. It sets the approach of night within the context of Christian hope, and is marked by a strong sense of God's mercy and HOPE FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST, who is the light of the world." One can see from the capitalized phrases above that the themes of Advent and the basic themes of Evening Prayer overlap considerably....

It should be noted that it is ALWAYS desirable to stray as little as necessary from officially approved texts and translations, even with congregational involvement. Under unusual circumstances it may be necessary to substitute a paraphrased version of a psalm or canticle in the interest of having a familiar and singable setting. This should be done with caution, and should ultimately lead the congregation to a familiarity with and appreciation of approved settings. While the clergy (bishop, priest or deacon) should participate in a leadership role in Evening Prayer, the service may be celebrated fully and properly even with no clergy present.
For those who wish to learn more about Advent Vespers, I would suggest the CantiNOVA site which has a wonderful outline, making it quite easy for those planning such liturgical prayers.

Gospel for December 8, Solemnity: 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.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Just for Today, December 8

O Lord, teach me to do Thy will, teach me to con­verse worthily and humbly in Thy sight; for Thou art my wisdom, who knowest me in Truth, and didst know me before the world was made, and before I was born in the world.
- Bk. III, ch. ill.

Let Thy will be mine, and let my will always follow Thine, and agree perfectly with it. Let me always will or not will the same with Thee: and let me not be able to will or not will any otherwise than as Thou willest or willest not.
- Bk. III, ch. xv.

Our Lady's unique privilege was her Immaculate Conception and divine Motherhood, and yet Our Lord tells us that whosoever shall do the will of my Father that is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother (Matt. xii, 15). It is well to speak of Mary's prerogatives but that is not enough, we must make her loved. If a sermon on her only calls forth "ohs!" and "ahs!" of admiration, it ends by being wearisome, and does not draw us to love and imitate her.
- N.V.
For a List of Abbreviations, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - December 8

No harp sends forth such sweet harmonies as are produced in the afflicted heart by the holy name of Mary. Let us kneel to reverence this holy, this sublime name of Mary!

- Bl. Henry Suso
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for December 8, The Immaculate Conception

Yesterday, I meditated on the fact that Mary is greater as child of God than as Mother of God. In other words, she is greater by the fullness of her state of grace than by her Divine Maternity; she is greater through the Holy Trinity's Presence within her soul than through the Word Incarnate whose Body was formed within her own.

But if no creature other than Mary can claim Divine Mater­nity, every soul in grace enjoys the Divine Sonship. That means that I too can possess what was greatest in Mary, for the Holy Trinity who lived in her through sanctifying grace dwells likewise in me.

This being true, how does Mary differ from me?

The difference is twofold and therein lies the privilege of the Immaculate Conception.

I came into the world without sanctifying grace; baptism had to impart this divine life to me. But Mary entered as a matter of course into human and divine life at one and the same time. Preserved as she was from original sin, she enjoyed the indwelling of the Holy Spirit from the first moment of her existence.

Further, whereas in me this possession of the Holy Spirit is limited and reduced to the degree of sanctity God has destined for me, divine life in Mary was of incomparable fullness. Olier goes so far as to say that from the very first moment of her life, Mary enjoyed in her possession of grace more divine life than all the saints together ever had.

"Immaculate Mother, assist me that I may be filled with Divine Life to the degree God has planned for me. Let me put no obstacle to the divine invasion of God-life into my soul."
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

The Golden Compass - Deciphered...

St Louis Review film critic, Tom Kavanaugh, has provided his critique of the trilogy "His Dark Materials," by British atheist Philip Pullman...I'm not certain if this longer version is in the St Louis Review's printed version or not...It's well worth distributing to friends and family or anyone else who may have been duped into thinking "The Golden Compass" is a movie worth spending money on...

There has been a lot of controversy about the New Line release of the film version of "The Golden Compass," based on the first book in an equally controversial trilogy of books called "His Dark Materials" by avowed atheist Philip Pullman.

But much of the controversy centers on the question of whether there should be any controversy at all.

This is mainly because Pullman, along with the film’s director and New Line Cinema the studio that made the film, have cleverly — some might say devilishly — positioned this first installment (in part, by disguising the few things from the first book that directly attack Christians) as a harmless holiday film. They did so in such a way as to make any opposition to it appear repressive and foolish.

Some, however, like the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, say the film is anything but harmless, calling this positioning of the film a "stealth campaign" and "bait for the books: unsuspecting parents who take their children to see the movie may feel impelled to buy the three books as a Christmas present."

What’s wrong with that? Only that the other two books in the trilogy, with growing virulence as they near the last book’s conclusion, are not only an attack on the Catholic Church but Christianity and God, as well.

Pullman insidiously leads his readers to root for themes, beliefs and ideas, such as witches and paganism, in their overthrow of God, religion and heaven.

Pullman’s god, in fact, is a pathetic old fraud who has ruled by oppression and intimidation until he’s mercilessly killed by the two children protagonists of the story. In his trilogy, it was actually Satan and the fallen angels who brought consciousness and free will (and everything good about being human) to this earth, something that God and his Church, the Magisterium (what the Catholic Church calls its teaching authority) will do anything to end — because we call such free-thinking "sin" — including murder and torture.

You might think I’m exaggerating, so I’ve included some passages straight out of the three books of "His Dark Materials" — "The Golden Compass," "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass" — to give you an idea of just what your children might be reading this Christmas. Or, if the movie version of "The Golden Compass" is a hit, what they might be seeing in the Cineplex next Christmas.

First, we really are talking about God here, despite claims that the series is a fantasy that involves other worlds in parallel universes to ours. Consider this passage:

"(The angel) Balthamos said quietly, ‘The Authority, God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty’ — those were all names he gave himself. He was never the creator. He was an angel like ourselves — the first angel, true, the most powerful, but he was formed of Dust as we are."

Pullman’s god, called the Authority, is described in the third book as a doddering old angel who is relieved to be snuffed out of existence by Lyra and Will, who don’t even know who they are helping to kill when they help him out of his toppled crystal chariot:

"Oh, Will, he’s still alive! But — the poor thing ... " … Demented and powerless, the aged being could only weep and mumble in fear and pain and misery, and he shrank away from what seemed like yet another threat."

The Authority is actually a fraud, one of a group of angels who battled for dominion over heaven and earth and won, kicking out better angels and literally demonizing them through falsehoods told in the Bible and by the Authority’s Church on Earth, the Magisterium. Both seem to be in the business of making humans unhappy:

"I don’t know who will join us, but I know whom we must fight. It is the Magisterium, the Church. For all its history … it’s tried to suppress and control every natural impulse. And when it can’t control them, it cuts them out.

" … They cut their sexual organs, yes, both boys and girls; they cut them with knives so they shan’t feel. This is what the Church does, and every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling."

The Authority never created anything, much less the human race. The fallen angels did that by finding a world where they could start a kingdom to rival the Authority’s. They used Dust to give some of the creatures intelligence and, voila, humanity was created. Not by the evil Authority but by a friendly serpent.

Another lie told by the Authority and its Church is that good people go to heaven when we die. In fact, some parts of us just disintegrate while a part of our consciousness is forced by God to stay throughout eternity in a frightening, eerie, lonely, colorless place, controlled by fearsome Harpies (who are only mean because God is forcing them to be so) located far underground on a planet in one of our parallel universes.

"Ghost people — so many that Lyra couldn’t guess their number. No one was moving about, or running or playing, though many of them turned to look at these new arrivals, with a fearful curiosity in their wide eyes. "Ghosts," she whispered. "This is where they all are, everyone that’s ever died."

Later, when Lyra and Will found a way out of the land of the dead, so that the souls/ghosts could be "freed" into eternal extinction, some hesitated to go believing they would still one day go to heaven.

"No one spoke until a young woman came forward. She had died as a martyr centuries before. She looked around and said to the other ghosts:

"‘When we were alive, they told us that when we die we’d go to Heaven. And they said that Heaven was a place of joy and glory and we would spend eternity in the company of saints and angels praising the Almighty, in a state of bliss. That’s what they said. And that’s what led some of us to give our lives, and others to spend years in solitary prayer, while all the joy of life was going to waste around us and we never knew.

"Because the land of the dead isn’t a place of reward or a place of punishment. It’s a place of nothing. The good come here as well as the wicked, and all of us languish in this gloom forever, with no hope of freedom, or joy, or sleep, or rest, or peace."

Lyra and her friend Will (from Earth) eventually go to this land of the dead to find the ghost of one of her playmates and end up releasing these poor tortured souls into sweet oblivion. They themselves come back from the dead, the only ones to do so in the history of any world.

"We shall come back," whispered Lyra fiercely. "…I swear I’ll come back…even if no one’s ever done it before, I swear I will."

Lyra will actually accomplish three pretty impressive things in the three books: she will be responsible for the overthrow of Heaven, she will overcome and defeat Death, and she will be the new Eve/Mother for a new Republic of Heaven on Earth.

Lena Feldt gasped, "She will be the mother—she will be life—mother—she will disobey—she will—" "Name her! You are saying everything but the most important thing! Name her!" cried Mrs. Coulter.

"Eve! Mother of all! Eve, again! Mother Eve!" stammered Lena Feldt, sobbing.

Lyra fulfills the prophesy of becoming the new Eve when, after Heaven has been destroyed she and her young friend Will are sent away to an island paradise on another world to recover. There, as also predicted, a scientist from Will’s (our) world named Mary Malone has been directed in dreams to play the part of the young couple’s "temptress," telling the pre-teens the blissful joys of carnal love. They immediately, discover their own and each other’s bodies and fall passionately in love.

" … I love you, Will, I love you." The word love set his nerves ablaze. All his body thrilled with it, and he answered her in the same words, kissing her hot face over and over again, drinking in with adoration the scent of her body and her warm, honey-fragrant hair and her sweet, moist mouth that tasted of the little red fruit.

One of the things Malone tells the kids as part of her temptation is how she herself had been a Roman Catholic nun until a sexual experience caused her to see the errors of her ways, causing her give up her vows, the Church and God all in one glorious moment.

"There’s no one to fret, no one to condemn, no one to bless me for being a good girl, no one to punish me for being wicked. Heaven was empty. I didn’t know whether God had died, or whether there had never been a God at all. And I took the crucifix from around my neck and I threw it in the sea. That was it. All over. Gone.

"So that was how I stopped being a nun," she said. The Magisterium of Lyra’s world (and by implication the Christian religions of our world) are obsessed by sin to the point of perversion and will do anything to stop people from enjoying life and thinking for themselves, even if that includes murder, assassination, torture, or wholesale slaughter of innocent men, women and children.

"There was a precedent. Something like it had happened before. Do you know what the word castration means? It means removing the sexual organs from a boy so that he never develops the characteristics of a man. A castrato keeps his high treble voice all his life, which is why the Church allowed it: so useful in Church music."

As opposed ro the Magisterium, Pullman’s witches, on the other hand are not wicked, ugly old crones but rather a wonderful sisterhood of free-loving, wise, compassionate heroes of the sky — beautiful, ageless and powerful.

"She was young — younger than Mrs. Coulter; and fair, with bright green eyes; and clad like all the witches in strips of black silk, but wearing no furs, no hood or mittens. She seemed to feel no cold at all. Around her brow was a simple chain of little red flowers. She sat on her cloud-pine branch as if it were a steed and seemed to rein it in a yard from Lyra’s wondering gaze."

Led by their beautiful queen Serafina Pekkala, the witches save the day several times during the trilogy, not only for Lyra but for others as well, including the rescue of the children from the torture chambers of the Church’s General Oblation Board (the dreaded Gobblers).

"… Lyra saw in the air beside her a witch, one of those elegant black shadows from the high air, but close enough to touch; and there was a bow in the witch’s bare hands, and she exerted her bare pale arms (in the freezing air!) to pull the string and then loose an arrow into the eye slit of a mailed and lowering Tartar hood only three feet away. Up! Into midair Lyra and Roger were caught and swept, and found themselves clinging with weakening fingers to a cloud-pine branch, where a young witch was sitting tense with balanced grace."

But there are other sweet, kind, gentle and heroic people who help Lyra and Will along the way, offering sage atheistic advice, and gladly join them in the kids’ mission to kill God. They include:

A dear old man who teaches Will how to use the Subtle Knife to cut windows into other worlds, and teaches both kids that suicide is really a pretty good option for ending your life when the time comes.

"Now go. I shall die very soon, because I know where there are poisonous drugs, and I don’t intend to wait for the Specters to come in, as they will once the knife has left. Go."

"You en’t really going to poison yourself?" said Lyra distressed.

"Hush," said Will. "It won’t hurt him. He’ll just go to sleep."

A talking polar bear, Iorek, a great blacksmith (as well as kind, protective friend to Lyra) is also a great fighter, ripping off the bottom of the face of the King of the Bears in a fight for supremacy over the bear clan; later Iorek eats the flesh and organs of his good human friend, Lee Scoresby, after the aeronaut’s death, as a way of honoring his lost comrade.

And because the Texan aeronaut was one of the few humans Iorek had ever esteemed, he accepted the man’s last gifts to him. With Deft movements of his claws, he ripped aside the dead man’s clothes, opened the body with one slash, and began to feast on the flesh and blood of his old friend.

A pair of "good" i.e. (anti-God) male angels named Baruch and Balthamos, who happen to be lovers.

"The next moment, the two angels were embracing, and Will, gazing into the flames, saw their mutual affection. More than affection: they loved each other with a passion."

And, after the death of Baruch:

"Then Balthamos stood up, sick and weary and full of pain.

"‘Baruch," he said, "oh, Baruch, my dear, I can do no more. Will and the girl are safe, and everything will be well, but this is the end for me, through truly I died when you did, Baruch, my beloved.’"

All of these people friendly to the idea of killing God are so nice, even loveable, and described by Pullman in rhapsodic, even heroic, terms. On the other hand, the defenders of God and of His Church are described in ways that are reminiscent of Nazi propaganda against Jews, either being cruel, manipulative, lecherous, filthy, smelly, murderous, fanatically religious, or all of the above. For example:

A Russian priest who offers to "help" Will.

"The priest kept leaning forward to look closely at him, and felt his hands to see whether he was cold. And stroked his knee. ‘My boy,’ he said and then closed his eyes and began to intone a prayer or a psalm. Vapors of tobacco and alcohol and sweat came powerfully from him, and he was close enough for his thick beard, wagging up and down, to brush Will’s face. Will held his breath."

Another priest, Father Gomez, who is sent by the Church to murder Lyra.

"… Father Gomez found himself praising God for his mission, because it was clearer than ever that the boy and the girl were walking into mortal sin. They hadn’t looked back once since coming over the top of the ridge, but he still kept low, moving down the stream at a crouch, holding the rifle in one hand, balancing with the other."

God’s regent, Metatron, who is willing risk Heaven and Earth to get a chance with Mrs. Coulter.

"‘When I was a man," he said, "I had wives in plenty, but none was as lovely as you.’

"That was the moment she felt most exposed and in most danger. But she trusted to her lies, and to the strange truth she’d learned about angels, perhaps especially those angels who had once been human; lacking flesh, they coveted it and longed for contact with it. And Metatron was close now, close enough to smell the perfume of her hair and to gaze at the texture of her skin, close enough to touch her with scalding hands.

… And the shadow hungrily sniffed and seemed to gulp at the scent of her flesh"

And even Mrs. Coulter herself, at least before she comes to her senses and switches sides against God, embodies the malicious punishment of the Magesterium.

"‘We have a thousand years of experience in this Church of ours. We can draw out your suffering endlessly. Tell us about the child,’" Mrs. Coulter said, and reached down to break one of the witch’s fingers. It snapped easily."

This series of books and the movies made from them are for children — pre-teens and adolescents. Pullman has denied this saying he intended the books for any thinking person of any age, but that is pure rubbish.

Everything from the ages of the young protagonists to the inclusion of every favorite childhood imagery — from cute cuddly animals to fluffy white bears, to flight in balloons, to secret and magical gadgets, to cowboys … even, nowadays, witches … and especially in granting license and empowerment of adolescents and pre-adolescents, especially girls, to do and be whatever they want to do and be.

Is there anything we can do? Protesting and boycotting the movie of "The Golden Compass" would only be turned against us, making us look anti-art, anti-literature, anti-free expression, repressed as well as repressive of thought and imagination, paranoid and self-pitying as the priests and monks of the Magisterium.

Instead, I suggest the open sharing of information with other parents and talking with your children about this very serious matter of using cute animals and an eye-candy movie production to lure children into believing things their parents believe are wrong. If your kids want to see the movie and you decide to let them, talk about it beforehand and afterward, explaining some of the things that you think are bad that will be in the next movies. If you decide not to allow them to see the movie, explain to them why; that the movie seems harmless but leads to very bad things that the man who wrote the books wants to make children believe about God and heaven.

To share the information about the movie, send these few passages I’ve quoted from the books (out of the hundreds of disturbing passages I’ve found) to every parent you know so they can be informed about Philip Pullman’s agenda to change the hearts and minds of our children.


Personally, I think the film should be boycotted, primarily by Catholics, as well as by other Christians and anyone else who can envision the poisonous effect these books could have on oinnocent children. Does it matter if the atheists and secularists turn against us? Aren't they already against us - daily? Why would anyone want to feed this beast so that it could grow even bigger? Starve it of your hard earned money and support! Let it die from hunger of money and lack of attention! Instead, would it not be better to use that money to help feed, clothe and shelter those truly in need?

The full article from the St Louis Review is here.

Please let us know if I have made errors in any formatting of the article - I attempted to make it a bit more readable.

CDF to Release Document on Evangelization and Catechesis

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2007 / 05:17 pm (CNA).- The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), headed by Cardinal William Joseph Levada, is about to release an important document on evangelization and catechesis, Vatican sources told CNA this week.

According to the Vatican sources, the document, which could be made public this Advent, “can be regarded as an application of the principles of the document “Dominus Iesus” to the way evangelization is transmitted and catechesis is taught within the Catholic Church.”
Jesus Christ is at the center of all authentic catechesis and evangelization. Simply put, that which is not Christocentric is not authentic.

Reflections, the Immaculate Conception

Here are some of the previous posts, reflections and meditations on the Immaculate Conception:

Virtue in Person, The Immaculate Conception 2007

Contemplating the Immaculate Conception, the Grace of God 2007

A Reflection on the Immaculate Conception 2006

The Immaculate Conception-The Lovliest Lady 2006

Three Reasons the Church’s Enemies Hate The Immaculate Conception 2006

Mental Prayer for December 8, Feast of the Immaculate Conception 2006

How are we to understand the Immaculate Conception? 2006

Straight Answers: The Immaculate Conception 2004

Feasts of Mary and Our Advent Observance....

...By Archbishop Raymond Burke

Two important feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary take place during the Season of Advent: the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (a holy day of obligation) on Dec. 8 and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, on Dec. 12. Closely related to both feasts is the Memorial of St. Juan Diego, the messenger of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on Dec. 9, which will not be celebrated liturgically this year because it falls on the Second Sunday of Advent.

The celebration of these feast days of our Blessed Mother and of St. Juan Diego help us to enter more fully into the observance of the Season of Advent.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is our model in preparing for the celebration of Christmas by disposing our hearts to welcome our Lord more fully, both as He comes to us now in the Church and as He will come to us in glory on the Last Day. She is also our intercessor who asks our Lord to give us the special graces of Advent, by which our hearts are purified of whatever hinders both our Lord’s coming to us now and our preparation to meet Him when He will come in glory. A reflection on her feasts will help us to see how the Blessed Mother is both the model of our Advent observance and our intercessor for the strong graces of the Season of Advent in our lives...
Continued here.

"Words Not To Be Used in Public," courtesy of the UN

Susan Yoshihara, Executive Vice President of CFAM, tells us of the latest attempt to marginalize countries with traditional values. UNESCO has released a document telling UN member states what words they must never say.

UNESCO Attempts to Sneak Rejected Rights into UN Documents
By Samantha Singson

(NEW YORK — C-FAM) In a recently published UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) document on guidelines to discuss HIV/AIDS in UN publications, the organization attempts to use a backdoor approach to promote controversial new rights that have been explicitly rejected by UN member states, and calls those who do not promote the agenda “derogatory” and “discriminatory.” In particular, the UNESCO document uses a failed 2003 UN resolution to usher in the highly controversial term “sexual orientation” as part of UN human rights language.

Entitled “UNESCO Guidelines on Language and Content in HIV- and AIDS- Related Materials,” the organization launched the document with an aim to “provide guidance towards using uniform, correct, gender-sensitive, non-discriminatory and culturally-appropriate language that promotes universal human rights,” and to rid UN discourse of “problematic terminology.” “Risky sex,” “promiscuous” and “prostitute” are discriminatory according to UNESCO, and should be replaced with “unprotected sex,” “having multiple partners” and “commercial sex worker”....
I have no doubts that these people are truly demented...unless, of course, they are completely without any functioning gray matter...The UN, with abysmal yet neverending attempts at elitist rule and dominion over all of mankind, needs to go!

More at CFAM here.

Female Catholic Priest Wannabes?

Holy men

"Love one another as I have loved you," Christ commanded as he knelt to wash the feet of his apostles at the Last Supper.

In one of the most moving ceremonies in the Catholic liturgy, each year during the Holy Thursday Mass the pastor kneels to wash the feet of 12 of his flock.

This poignant dramatization reminds the faithful that priests are called to serve — a point female Catholic priest wannabes fail to understand. The all-male priesthood/hierarchy is not about refusing to share power.

Rather, it is about holy men answering God’s call to follow in Christ’s footsteps, dedicated to lives of love, sacrifice and service.

Sandra Y. Smith
Des Peres

Sandra has the proper understanding of the situation - the priesthood isn't about "power" as some self-absorbed "priestesses" believe, but it's about a man responding to God's call and the Church discerning whether that call is truly from God.

But there may be a bit of a problem here in this letter. And this has done nothing but exacerbate the rebellious calls from some women who claim to hear some "spirit" urging them to revolt and division. What is this problem? It is the fact that the washing of the feet during the Holy Thursday liturgy has been altered without authority. Rather than including only men - following the same practice as our Lord - some have taken upon themselves to inject political correctness into a liturgical rite distorting its meaning and significance.

Perhaps, had bishops and priests been obedient to the liturgical directives, rather than assuming for themselves authority which they did not possess, we would be much better off with respect to the faithful having a clearer understanding of the theological reasons for certain rites and ceremonies, rather than the confusion that necessarily results from so many parishes, priests, and bishops doing "his own thing."

But then, this is merely one abuse in a long list of examples which have led many to the place where they find themselves today - unable to defend the faith because they don't know or understand the faith - and others, determined to start a "new" church, following in lockstep with the evil one.

The Church has sound and legitimate reasons for establishing certain liturgical guidelines and directives, many of which are steeped in a theological richness and significance resulting in an inspiring beauty when properly understood. Depriving the faithful of this sacramental and theological heritage and beauty is deplorable and, in some cases, has prompted others to disobedience, such as "Female Catholic Priest Wannabes."

Source of the Letter to the Editor: St Louis Review

Bishop Listecki's Letter regarding "The Golden Compass"

Previously discussed here, the full text of Bishop Jerome Listecki's Lettor to Pastors warning of the dangers of the movie, "The Golden Compass," is now available at the Diocese of La Crosse website. It is a PDF file and may be viewed in its entirety here.

Chiesa: Required Reading for Visitors to the Sistine Chapel: "Spe Salvi"

The Last Judgment returns powerfully to the fore. An outstanding book gives a new interpretation of Michelangelo's fresco. And Benedict XVI, with his second encyclical, throws new light on the ultimate destiny of man and the world

ROMA, December 7, 2007 – Benedict XVI wrote the encyclical "Spe Salvi," which is entirely his own work, between last winter and spring. But he decided to publish it at the end of the liturgical year, on the brink of Advent, when the readings of the Mass are opening the perspective of the Last Judgment.

An important part of the encyclical is dedicated to the Last Judgment. The self-criticism that the pope asks of modern Christianity also concerns this essential chapter of the Christian faith, which he believes has "faded" in favor of an individualistic vision of man's destiny.

The idea of the Last Judgment survives more in art than it does in faith. But even the artists – the pope notes – have not always expressed the full and authentic meaning of the Judgment in their depictions. They have emphasized the "menace" more than the "splendor of hope."

The figure of Christ as judge that Michelangelo painted in the Sistine Chapel is the most famous image of the Last Judgment in the world. In this, in effect, "Christ's gesture of condemnation not only shakes his entire muscular body, it also constitutes the fresco's animating force. It makes the entire painting tremble, even in its farthest removed corners. His right arm, raised in the act of condemnation, is the same arm that in the next act will hurl all evildoers into the depths of hell."...

Gospel for Dec 7, Memorial: St Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor

Old Calendar: St. Ambrose

From: Matthew 9:27-31

The Curing of Two Blind Men. The Dumb Devil

[27] And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, "Have mercy on us, Son of David." [28] When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord." [29] Then he touched their eyes, saying, " According to your faith be it done to you." [30] And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly charged them, "See that no one knows it." [31] But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.


27-34. The evangelist shows people's different reactions to miracles. Everyone admits that God is at work in these events--everyone, that is, except the Pharisees who attribute them to the power of the devil. A pharisaical attitude so hardens a person's heart that he becomes closed to any possibility of salvation. The fact that the blind men recognize Jesus as the Messiah (they call him "Son of David": v. 27) may have exasperated the Pharisees. Despite Jesus' sublime teaching, despite his miracles, they remain entrenched in their opposition.

In the light of this episode it is easy enough to see that the paradox is true: there are blind people who in fact see God and seers who see no trace of him.

30. Why did our Lord not want them to publicize the miracle? Because his plan was to gradually manifest himself as the Messiah, the Son of God. He did not want to anticipate events which would occur in their own good time; nor did he want the crowd to start hailing him as Messiah King, because their notion of messiah was a nationalistic, not a spiritual one. However, the crowd did in fact proclaim him when he worked the miracles of the loaves and the fish (Jn 6:14-15): "When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, 'This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!' Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew, again to the hills by himself."

31. St Jerome (cf. "Comm. on Matth.", 9, 31) says that the blind men spread the news of their cure, not out of disobedience to Jesus, but because it was the only way they could find to express their gratitude.
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 06, 2007

Just for Today, December 7

By so much the more does a man draw nigh to God, by how much the farther he withdraw himself from all earthly comfort. So much the higher also he ascends into God, by how much the lower he descends into himself, and by how much the meaner he esteems him­self.

But he that attributes anything of good to himself, stops the grace of God from coming into him; for the grace of the Holy Ghost ever seeks an humble heart.

If thou couldst perfectly annihilate thyself, and cast out from thee all created love, abundance of grace would flow into thee.
- Bk. III, ch. xlii.

When Our Lord made us go up into the tree, like Zaccheus, He unfolded many mysteries before our eyes. Now let us listen to His words: Make haste and come downJ'for this day I must abide in thy house (Luke xix, 5). Where must we go when we come down? The disciples asked: Rabbi, where dwellest thou (John i, 38)? We learn from His own lips that the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head (Luke ix, 58). We must therefore go down so low, that in our poverty we have not where to lay our head, for then Our Lord will be able to dwell within us.

I was given the light to see this during my retreat. Christ wishes us to receive Him into our hearts; they are empty as far as concerns creatures, but mine, alas, is not empty of self, and that is why I am bidden to go down. I will go down so low that Jesus will be able to lay His sacred Head upon my heart, and feel that He is understood and loved.
- L.
For a List of Abbreviations, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - December 7

We can obtain no reward without merit, and no merit without patience.

- St. Alphonsus
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for December 7, A Sealed Fountain

The liturgy, using the words of the inspired text, calls the Virgin Mary, garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up, a vessel of pure gold which holds the wealth of our souls, Christ. It is careful to warn us, All the glory of the King's daughter is within.

I will live this day in fervent union with Mary to prepare for her beautiful feast of the Immaculate Conception.

How exquisite was the inner beauty of the Holy Virgin's soul! How can I conceive of that splendor of purity, of humility, of gratitude, of love of God?

Permit me, O Mary, to gaze upon your loveliness. Let me dis­cover, one by one, all those hidden marvels which God never wearies of contemplating. How simple the words of your Mag­nificat seem to me! Yes, truly, the Most High God has done great things in you!

One of your most devoted clients has aptly remarked that your greatest dignity does not consist in having borne Jesus in your womb, but in having possessed, as you did, the fullness of God in your soul. "It is greater," says the Jesuit Nieremberg, "to be the daughter of God by grace than the Mother of God by nature."

Mother of God, you alone were that. But daughter of God­ - isn't my soul that, too, by grace? Am I not also permitted to share this your greatest privilege?

O my soul, glorify the Lord. All the glory of the King's daughter is within. This is true of Mary.. It is true of me. Magnificat! Magnificat!

I am so poor, yet there is within me a whole world of wonders. Magnificat!
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

Virtue in Person, The Immaculate Conception

"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." St. Luke, 1:28.

In the past, one of the most prized awards in the whole scientific, artistic and lit­erary world was the Nobel prize, given by the King of Sweden to men and women who have excelled in science, art or literature. To receive the Nobel prize was a distinct mark of merit. It represented a reward to persons who worked for the interest of humanity, established by the will of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite, who lived from 1836 to 1896, and who left his estate for this purpose.

In 1928 the prize for literature was awarded to Sigrid Undset, a convert to the Catholic Church. On her way to Stockholm where the distinction was to be conferred upon her, she passed through Oslo, Norway.

There a great celebration was arranged in her honor. She received a laurel wreath, token of the Nobel prize. But the very next day, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother, she went to the church of St. Dominic and reverently laid the laurel wreath before the statue of our Blessed Mother.

In the same way, on this glorious feast of the Immaculate Conception, we wish to lay at the feet of Mary all the tributes of her sons and daughters throughout the world.

We want to honor her today and every day because God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit honored her. God gave Mary every possible beauty and privilege. Today we honor one of those beauties - her Immaculate Conception.

1. The Immaculate Conception does not refer to the Virgin Birth of our Lord. Neither does it refer to the sinlessness of Jesus. Neither does the Immaculate Conception mean that the conception of Mary was like the conception of Christ in that Christ had no human father.

2. The Immaculate Conception does mean that the Blessed Virgin, from the very first instant that she began to exist in the womb of her own mother, St. Ann, was preserved from all stain of all sin. It especially means that she was preserved from original sin, by a singular privilege and favor of God.

3. Original sin is that moral guilt, that stain of soul, which we inherit from our first parents. In the very origin of the human race Adam and Eve disobeyed God. That sin has been passed on to all their sons and daugh­ters, with one single exception - Mary, the Mother of the God-man, Jesus Christ.

As we know, of course, Christ was also born and conceived sinless, by reason of the fact that He was God as well as man.

4. From the very first instant of her existence Mary was free from all sin and filled with grace, filled with the love and pleasure of God, filled with the life of God Himself. That is why the angel announced: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee."

5. The Old Testament foretold this privilege in many ways:
A. Right after the fall of Adam and Eve God promised a Redeemer, and He promised a wonderful woman and mother. God told the serpent: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman. . . she shall crush thy head." Genesis, 3 :15.

B. Again we read of her in Proverbs, 8:22: "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways."

C. And the Canticle of Canticles exclaims of her: "Thou art all fair. . . and there is no spot in thee." Canticles, 4:7.
6. This has been the constant teaching and belief of Mother Church. And when the Pope defined this fact as a dogma of faith in 1854, he was indeed exercising his power as supreme teacher, but he was also putting into positive, definite form a belief of the Church from apostolic times.

7. It is well to remember that the Immaculate Conception was a privilege and not a right, as far as Mary was concerned. God chose her as the mother of His Son. Then out of love for His Son's mother, the Almighty gave Mary every possible beauty and grace. Furthermore, Jesus did not want His Mother to be for one second in the power of Satan.

8. Immaculate means without stain, without the least stain of sin. Mary was spotlessly pure in body and soul. That purity gave her a charm and fascination beyond all description. It makes her appealing to all God's children, but especially to us Catholics who have learned to whis­per her sweet name as soon as we learned to say Papa and Mama, who have prayed to her in quiet times and troubled times, who have really and often experienced her sweet help and motherly interest.

9. God gave Mary to us as a Model of every virtue. Keep her in mind through the coming year as we consider obedience to the laws of the Church, as we think about prayer, and especially as we meditate upon the various virtues. She is all of these good things - in person.

Like Sigrid Undset, we want to honor Mary every day, but especially this day when we recall her singular privilege of being kept free from all sin. We know that she is not God. No Catholic ever said she was. But she was the Mother of God. That gives her a special claim on our honor, praise and veneration.

Particularly we Americans, who are dedicated to her under the title of today's feast, Immaculate Conception, wish to show her our love and respect and devotion.

May Mary Immaculate keep America and all Americans! May Mary Immaculate draw all Americans to understand, to respect, and to love her! May Mary Immaculate take us by the hand and guide us gently and surely in the footsteps of her divine Son! Amen.
Adapted from Prayers, Precepts and Virtues
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1949)

Contemplating the Immaculate Conception, the Grace of God

"The Lord keepeth thee free from evil, may the Lord keep thy soul. May the Lord keep thy coming in and thy going out from henceforth, now and forever." - (Psalm cxx, 7-8.)

1. Divine Grace is necessary.
2. It is efficient and powerful.
3. It may be resisted.

Introduction. - The Immaculate Conception of Mary is a miracle of Divine Grace. To us also God gives His grace in various though different ways. This grace is the supernatural life of the human soul.

1. Divine Grace is absolutely necessary for our gaining merit and Salvation.

(a) We all are burdened with original sin. "We are by nature children of wrath" (Ephes. ii, 33. God has graciously preserved Mary from original sin, and removed it in our case by Baptism. "God, Who is rich in mercy, for His exceeding charity, wherewith He loved us even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together in Christ, by Whose grace you are saved" (Ephes. ii, 4, 5);

(b) We all have soiled our souls with actual sins, and from these we may free ourselves only through grace. Divine grace must move us to repentance and reform. Absolution in the Sacrament of penance is by Divine Grace.

(c) Without Divine Grace we cannot resist the temptation to do evil: "Lead us not into temptation."

(d) Without Divine Grace we cannot accomplish any good. "For it is God Who works in you both to will and to accomplish" (Phil. ii, 13). In the good that men do without Divine assistance is lacking the motive that gives it merit; it is done for the sake of reputation or for other worldly purposes.

(e) Without Divine Grace we cannot persevere in virtue. "Wherefore he that thinks himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. x, 12).

2. Divine Grace is efficient and powerful. "I can do all things in Him Who strengthens me" (Phil. iv, 13).

(a) Divine Grace leads to repentance and reform. St. Peter,
St. Paul, St. Augustine, and many others.

(b) Divine Grace assists in conquering sin. "But by the Grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. xv, 10).

(c) Divine Grace makes victory easy. "For my yoke is sweet and my burden light" (Matt. xi, 30).

(d) Divine Grace sweetens adversity; for instance, it made virtue bearable to the martyrs.

(e) Divine Grace causes its own increase. "For he that hath, to him shall be given" (Matt. xiii, 12).

3. Divine Grace is not irresistible. It may be resisted. Man is free. Divine Grace does not compel him. We cannot resist the Almighty Power of God, but we can resist Divine Grace. "God made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel. Before man is life and death, good and evil. That which he shall choose shall be given him" (Eccl. xv, 14-18).

(a) God is willing to enlighten you and to show the way. You, however, are at liberty to close your eyes, and to prefer darkness to the light.

(b) God's Grace moves you to do good. You may refuse to listen.

(c) God may arouse your conscience and induce you to pen­ance. It is for you to yield or to refuse.

(d) God's Grace may exhort you to renounce worldliness. You are free to choose.

(e) God's Grace puts before your mind, both eternal punishment and eternal reward. You may choose either.
Adapted from Plain Sermons by Practical Preachers, Vol. II(©1916)
Nihil Obstat: Remegius Lafort, S.T.D
Imprimatur: John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

Battle for soul of St. Thomas takes a turn for the worse

Katherine Kersten updates readers in the Star Tribune about a story covered previously:

[On Oct. 25, 2007] St. Thomas' trustees voted to eliminate the archbishop's automatic position on the board. As a result, come next spring, for the first time since Archbishop John Ireland founded the institution, a sitting archbishop will not chair the St. Thomas board. Moreover, he may not even have a seat on it...The vote severing this legal link with the archdiocese is the latest development in a long-running struggle for St. Thomas' soul...

"I found this action very, very disturbing -- it was clearly directed at Archbishop Nienstedt," said Tom Mooney of St. Paul, a St. Thomas alumnus and donor. Many St. Thomas alums are concerned about the "erosion" of the institution's Catholic identity, he said.

"I think there's a problem, and a lot of priests do," said the Rev. Paul LaFontaine of St. Charles Borromeo parish in St. Anthony. "The archbishop is the chief teacher of the faith in the diocese. He ought to be part of the academic community, and respected and regarded as such."

. . .

The pace of secularization at St. Thomas could escalate rapidly if two archdiocesan seminaries affiliated with the university -- St. Paul Seminary and St. John Vianney College Seminary -- move to cut ties. Both are independent archdiocesan corporations. St. Paul Seminary was once a separate organization and could possibly be again.

An interesting observation and one which may need to be evaluated further if St Thomas trustees continue their secularization of the university.

Another good article, The Politics of Higher Education, by Anne Hendershott, can be read at here.

Church Ladies Be Damned, Part 2 reads the headline of the latest RFT story of St Louis' feminine imitators of Laurel and Hardy...

The Riverfront Times (RFT) provides a followup to a November 7 article, "The Church Ladies" which discussed the recent sham "ordination" of Rose Marie "Ree" Hudson, of Festus, and Elsie McGrath, of south St. Louis by another fraudulent "cleric", Patricia Fresen, who falsely represents herself as a Roman Catholic "bishop."

The current RFT article by Kristen Hinman is really nothing more than a repeat of old news - a regurgitation of things already known to those who have been following the escapades and fantasies of the local 'priestess' imposters.

In a seemingly boorish attempt at ridicule, Hinman writes:
Rose Marie “Ree” Hudson and Elsie McGrath took another step toward eternal damnation this week by failing to show up for a hearing before St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke.

Hinman may not realize how truthful her words really are. And McGrath and Hudson, seemingly obsessed with starting their own church and religion as so many other heretics and schismatics have done. Faithful Catholics understand that this type of rebellious spirit does, in fact, lead to the eternal death of the soul if left unchecked and unrepented - and it stems from pride which commonly leads to disobedience.

Most people are already aware that:
Immediately after being ordained on November 11 as part of the Roman Catholic Womenpriest Program, Hudson and McGrath were greeted by a special process server in the lobby of the Central Reform Congregation...with a [summons] from the archbishop...

Now that would have been a sight to see, I think!

....the process server appeared with a letter from the archbishop stating that Hudson and McGrath were “summoned” to appear “personally before [him]” at 10 a.m. on Monday, December 3, in order to defend themselves against the charges of “schism” and “rejection of the definitive truth, de fide tenenda, infallibly set forth that women cannot validly receive the sacrament of ordination to the priesthood.”

Wait a second...hasn't Joe, our frequent disruptor, theologian, and canon law expert, already told us that this teaching was not infallible? Hmmm...contradictory statements - how do we resolve this dilemma? Who is right? Faithful Catholics will heed the Church...Friends and accomplices of the evil one will wilfully reject the teachings of the Church...

We are told that Hudson and McGrath did not show up for their meeting. Could it be that deep down inside they know that they are wrong? Or maybe they think Jesus was wrong? Maybe they prefer the lies of the devil rather than the truth of the Almighty?

McGrath says she and Hudson did not consider showing up for the hearing. “We would have had one of two options at the tribunal. One: to plead guilty to the charges of heresy and schism and recant, which is, of course, a lie. Or two: to prove that we’re right and they’re wrong, which is, of course, impossible.
Batting .500, they're "wrong" on the first point, but correct on the second. They are, by all appearances, guilty of heresy and schism. And there's no possible way them to prove that they are right. So why then do they persist if they know that they cannot 'prove' that they are correct?

"There’s another reason, too, for not going, and that is to demonstrate that a mere man who presumes to speak for God has no power over us. Were we to have attended the hearing, we would be granting him a position of authority, which is one of the very things we want to eradicate in our model of priestly ministry.”

Get it? They want to change what Jesus has instituted! What pride, what arrogance, what conceit, what narcissism! Those affected by such vanity and egoism can do nothing except lead others away from the King of kings and the Lord of lords...And it seems that over a hundred foolish "followers" are supporting these two in their delusional quest away from God...

As Archbishop Burke reminds us:
I urge you, therefore, to offer fervent prayers for the women involved, that they will repent and be reconciled with the Church. Please pray, too, for all who will be confused and led astray by their sinful action.
The RFT piece can be read here.

Gospel for Thursday, 1st Week in Advent

Optional Memorial of St. Nicholas, bishop
Old Calendar: St. Nicholas, bishop and confessor

From: Matthew 7:21, 24-27

Doing the Will of God

(Jesus said to His disciples,) [21] "Not every one who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven.

Building on Rock

[24] "Every one then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; [25] and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. [26]And every one who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; [27] and the rain fell, and the floods came, and winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it."


21-23. To be genuine, prayer must be accompanied by a persevering effort to do God's will. Similarly, in order to do His will it is not enough to speak about the things of God: there must be consistency between what one preaches--what one says--and what one does: "The Kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power" (1 Corinthians 4:20); "Be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22).

Christians, "holding loyally to the Gospel, enriched by its resources, and joining forces with all who love and practise justice, have shouldered a weighty task on earth and they must render an account of it to Him who will judge all men on the last day. Not every one who says `Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but those who do the will of the Father, and who manfully put their hands to the work" (Vatican II, "Gaudium Et Spes", 93).

To enter the Kingdom of Heaven, to be holy, it is not enough, then, to speak eloquently about holiness. One has to practise what one preaches, to produce fruit which accords with one's words. Fray Luis de Leon puts it very graphically: "Notice that to be a good Christian it is not enough just to pray and fast and hear Mass; God must find you faithful, like another Job or Abraham, in times of tribulation" ("Guide for Sinners", Book 1, Part 2, Chapter 21).

Even if a person exercises an ecclesiastical ministry that does not assure his holiness; he needs to practice the virtues he preaches. Besides, we know from experience that any Christian (clerical, religious or lay) who does not strive to act in accordance with the demands of the faith he professes, begins to weaken in his faith and eventually parts company also with the teaching of the Church. Anyone who does not live in accordance with what he says, ends up saying things which are contrary to faith.

The authority with which Jesus speaks in these verses reveals Him as sovereign Judge of the living and the dead. No Old Testament prophet ever spoke with this authority.

22. "That day": a technical formula in biblical language meaning the day of the Judgment of the Lord or the Last Judgment.

23. This passage refers to the Judgment where Jesus will be the Judge. The sacred text uses a verb which means the public proclamation of a truth. Since in this case Jesus Christ is the Judge who makes the declaration, it takes the form of a judicial sentence.

24-27. These verses constitute the positive side of the previous passage. A person who tries to put Christ's teaching into practice, even if he experiences personal difficulties or lives during times of upheaval in the life of the Church or is surrounded by error, will stay firm in the faith, like the wise man who builds his house on rock.

Also, if we are to stay strong in times of difficulty, we need, when things are calm and peaceful, to accept little contradictions with a good grace, to be very refined in our relationship with God and with others, and to perform the duties of our state in life in a spirit of loyalty and abnegation. By acting in this way we are laying down a good foundation, maintaining the edifice of our spiritual life and repairing any cracks which make their appearance.
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 05, 2007

Just for Today, December 6

If Thou wilt have me to be in darkness, be Thou blessed; and if Thou wilt have me to be in light, be Thou again blessed; if Thou vouchsafe to comfort me, be Thou blessed; and if it be Thy will I should be afflicted, be Thou always equally blessed.
-Bk. III, ch. xvii.

I thank Our Lord for making me walk in darkness, for I do so in much peace. I would willingly spend the whole of my religious life in this dark underground passage, if by it I might win light for sinners.

I am only too glad to be without consolation; I would be ashamed if my love were no better than that of a fiancee in the world, who only looks for presents or admiration. I love my Betrothed for His own sake, and it is His tears and not looks of admiration that I want from Him. I long to wipe away those tears, to gather them up as precious diamonds to adorn my wedding dress.

My heart's desire is to love Jesus as He has never been loved before.
- L.
For a List of Abbreviations, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - December 6

It is not enough to forbid our own tongue to murmur; we must also refuse to listen to mur­murers.

-Ven. Louis de Granada
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for December 6, Happiness of the State of Grace

Who can tell the treasures of joy contained in the single thought, "the state of grace"? To resemble the angels! To hold God within! If I suffer, to suffer for Him; if I weep, to feel that He consoles me; if I am ill, to have Him at my bedside; if I die, to go with Him to Heaven.

Pleasures lead to disgust and weariness; human joys, even the purest, lose in the long run the savor of their first transports. But in this union of the soul with God, there are joys unceas­ingly renewed.

He who does not bear within himself this divine harmony, sanc­tifying grace, cannot enjoy to the full the beauties of nature. Oh! to love You, my God, to love You in looking up to the sky, to behold You in everything, to hear Your Name in every passing sound, and to sing to You in my heart a hymn of ever-increasing beauty; such are the true delights of the Christian upon earth!

"My God, for myself, for all those I love, I ask but one single happiness, the state of grace." (Marie Jenna.)

During this whole time of Advent I will try to live more prayer­fully in the living tabernacle of my soul; I will unite myself with the recollection of Mary awaiting the birth of Jesus who takes form within her chaste womb.

Jesus living in Mary during those nine months between the Annunciation and the Nativity was a real Presence. The Holy Spirit dwelling in me throughout my life by the state of grace is a Presence just as real. In Mary, however, it was a corporeal Presence, the Presence of Jesus, the Man-God. In me it is a Presence solely spiritual - the Holy Trinity has no body - but it is a decidedly Real Presence.

I will endeavor to accustom myself to the reality of the Real Presence within me.
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

Jesuit Fr Kolvenbach:Theological dialogue with Islam 'impossible'

An excerpt from an interview by John Allen with Jesuit Father General, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach:
On the strictly religious and theological level, is dialogue with Islam possible?

I’m afraid that at a theological and dogmatic level, dialogue with Islam is impossible. Often in Beirut, Muslims would ask me: ‘How is it possible that an educated person, a professor, believes in three gods?’ Obviously, they were referring to the Christian dogma of the Trinity. That’s an example of the difficulties of dialogue. Some who are favorable to theological dialogue with Muslims forget that at a certain point, you have to choose. For Muslims, it’s very clear: God is one. They chant it five times every day...

Plenary Indulgence for the 150th Anniversary of Lourdes

VATICAN CITY, DEC 5, 2007 (VIS) - According to a decree made public today and signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Benedict XVI will grant the faithful Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes.

"The forthcoming 150th anniversary of the day in which Mary Most Holy, revealing herself as the Immaculate Conception to Bernadette Soubirous, wished a shrine to be erected and venerated in the place known as 'Massabielle' in the town of Lourdes," the decree reads, "calls to mind the innumerable series of prodigies through which the supernatural life of souls and the health of bodies has drawn great advantage from the omnipotent goodness of God."

"Indeed, by venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary in the place 'upon which her feet trod,' the faithful draw nourishment from the Holy Sacraments, expressing the firm intention to lead in the future Christian lives of increasing faithfulness" and they "achieve a vivid vivid perception of the significance of the Church. ... Indeed the succession, over time, of marvelous events ... enables us to glimpse the joint operation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Church: in the year 1854 the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary was defined," and "in the year 1858 Mary Most Holy showed herself to ... Bernadette Soubirous using the words of the dogmatic definition: 'I am the Immaculate Conception.'

"In order to draw increased fruits of renewed sanctity from this holy anniversary," the decree adds, "the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has decided to concede the gift of Plenary Indulgence" to the faithful under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Holy Father), in the following way:

A) "If between December 8, 2007 and December 8, 2008 they visit, preferably in the order suggested: (1) the parish baptistery used for the Baptism of Bernadette, (2) the Soubirous family home, known as the 'cachot,' (3) the Grotto of Massabielle, (4) the chapel of the hospice where Bernadette received First Communion, and on each occasion they pause for an appropriate length of time in prayer and with pious meditations, concluding with the recital of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith, ... and the jubilee prayer or other Marian invocation."

B) "If between February 2, 2008 ... and February 11, 2008, Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes and 150th anniversary of the apparition, they visit, in any church, grotto or decorous place, the blessed image of that same Virgin of Lourdes, solemnly exposed for public veneration, and before the image participate in a pious exercise of Marian devotion, or at least pause for an appropriate space of time in prayer and with pious meditations, concluding with the recital of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith, ... and the invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary."

The decree concludes by recalling that faithful who "through sickness, old age or other legitimate reason are unable to leave their homes, may still obtain the Plenary Indulgence ... if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the usual three conditions, on the days February 2 to 11, 2008, in their hearts they spiritually visit the above-mentioned places and recite those prayers, trustingly offering to God, through Mary, the sickness and discomforts of their lives."

Source: VIS

Calgary Catholic school board dumps Golden Compass

CALGARY — The Catholic school board in Calgary has followed the lead of a Catholic school board in Burlington, Ont., in pulling the children's fantasy book The Golden Compass off school shelves....

However, not everyone in Calgary's Catholic community was jumping on the book-banning bandwagon.

Calgary Bishop Fred Henry said there are more pressing issues facing Catholics than debating a children's fantasy novel.
My suspicion is that something is not quite right about the paraphrasing of Bishop Henry's remarks. Where are his exact comments, I wonder? Maybe direct quotes wouldn't fit the Globe and Mail's spin?