Saturday, March 06, 2010

Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Lent

From: Luke 13:1-9

The Need for Repentance

[1] There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. [2] And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? [3] I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. [4] 0r those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? [5] I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
[6] And he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. [7] And he said to the vinedresser, 'Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?' [8] And he answered him, 'Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. [9] And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"

1-5. Our Lord used current events in his teaching. The Galileans referred to here may be the same as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (5:37). The episode was fairly typical of the times Jesus lived in, with Pilate sternly suppressing any sign of civil unrest. We do not know anything about the accident at Siloam other than what the Gospel tells us.

The fact that these people died in this way does not mean that they were worse than others, for God does not always punish sinners in this life (cf. Jn 9:3). All of us are sinners, meriting a much worse punishment than temporal misfortune: we merit eternal punishment; but Christ has come to atone for our sins, he has opened the gates of heaven. We must repent of our sins; otherwise God will not free us from the punishment we deserve. "When you meet with suffering, the Cross, your thought should be: what is this compared with what I deserve?" (St. J. Escriva, "The Way", 690)

3. "He tells us that, without Holy Baptism, no one will enter the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Jn 3:5); and, elsewhere, that if we do not repent we will all perish (Lk 13:3). This is all easily understood. Ever since man sinned, all his senses rebel against reason; therefore, if we want the flesh to be controlled by the spirit and by reason, it must be mortified; if we do not want the body to be at war with the soul, it and all our senses need to be chastened; if we desire to go to God, the soul with all its faculties needs to be mortified" (St John Mary Vianney, "Selected Sermons", Ash Wednesday).

6-9. Our Lord stresses that we need to produce plenty of fruit (cf. Lk 8:11-15) in keeping with the graces we have received (cf. Lk 12:48). But he also tells us that God waits patiently for this fruit to appear; he does not want the death of the sinner; he wants him to be converted and to live (Ezek 33:11) and, as St Peter teaches, he is "forbearing towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Pet 3:9). But God's clemency should not lead us to neglect our duties and become lazy and, comfort-seeking, living sterile lives. He is merciful, but he is also just and he will punish failure to respond to his grace.

"There is one case that we should be especially sorry about--that of Christians who could do more and don't; Christians who could live all the consequences of their vocation as children of God, but refuse to do so through lack of generosity. We are partly to blame, for the grace of faith has not been given us to hide but to share with others (cf. Mt 5:15f). we cannot forget that the happiness of these people, in this life and in the next, is at stake. The Christian life is a divine wonder with immediate promises of satisfaction and serenity--but on condition that we know how to recognize the gift of God (cf. Jn 4:10) and be generous, not counting the cost" (St. J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 147).
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.

Principles and Practices - March 7

In Heaven

No doubt the natural love for parents and kindred will be spiritualized, but it will certainly not be destroyed. In heaven we shall be supernatural, not unnatural. He that has decreed the resurrection of the body, certainly wishes us eternally to lead natural human lives, glorified and exalted indeed, but not changed into something inhuman and alien to the instincts He Himself has instilled in our breast.

-Dr. Arendzen.
From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, March 6


[continued from yesterday]

...In most things in life, and in prayer not least of all, it is not so much what a man can do that is his true measure, but rather what with all his heart he aspires to do; human nature is surrounded with too many obstacles, is weighed down with too many burdens of all kinds, is of itself too weak and faltering, to be a true gauge of the workings of that inner self which, after all, is the true man.

We aspire to higher and better things; we make the effort to rise to them; by word and deed we encourage ourselves in our endeavour; in the end we may fail, or may seem to fail, but God has seen our heart, and our effort, as well as our apparent failure, and knows that the evil we do is not the whole story of ourselves.

In the second place this very suspicion is in itself a sure sign of progress. The man who makes an Act of Contrition without any thought whether he means it or not, who learns little of himself from repeated falls and infidelities, who trusts himself this time, as he has often done before, without much intention of greater effort, is in a far more evil plight than the man who knows his weakness, and who can do little more than look up to heaven and cry: "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!" - Yes, even though while he cries he trembles for himself in the future.

For a perfect Act of Contrition the main point is to be utterly sincere, or as sincere as we can make ourselves, at the moment that we pray; this sincerity, forcing our heart to correspond with our words, is the chief object at which we have aimed in these instructions. It may be well, then, to analyse an Act of Con­trition in this light, in order both that we may the more clearly discover our own sincerity, and that we may be the more thorough in our contrition in the future....

[continued tomorrow]
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918

Friday, March 05, 2010

Gospel for Saturday, 2nd Week of Lent

From: Luke 15:1-3; 11-32

Parables of God's Mercy
[1] Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him (Jesus). [2] And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."

The Prodigal Son
[3] So He told them this parable: [11] "There was a man who had two sons; [12] and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. [13] Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. [14] And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. [15] So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. [16] And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. [17] But when he came to himself he said, `How can many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! [18] I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you; [19] I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.'" [20] And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. [21] And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' [22] But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; [23] and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; [24] for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.

[25] "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. [26] And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. [27] And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' [28] But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, [29] but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. [30] But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' [31] And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. [32] It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

1-32. Jesus' actions manifest God's mercy: He receives sinners in order to convert them. The scribes and Pharisees, who despised sinners, just cannot understand why Jesus acts like this; they grumble about Him; and Jesus uses the opportunity to tell these Mercy parables. "The Gospel writer who particularly treats of these themes in Christ's teaching is Luke, whose Gospel has earned the title of `the Gospel of mercy'" ([Pope] John Paul II, "Dives In Misericordia", 3).

In this chapter St. Luke reports three of these parables in which Jesus describes the infinite, fatherly mercy of God and His joy at the conversion of the sinner.

The Gospel teaches that no one is excluded from forgiveness and that sinners can become beloved children of God if they repent and are converted. So much does God desire the conversion of sinners that each of these parables ends with a refrain, as it were, telling of the great joy in Heaven over a sinner who repents.

1-2. This is not the first time that publicans and sinners approach Jesus (cf. Matthew 9:10). They are attracted by the directness of the Lord's preaching and by His call to self-giving and love. The Pharisees in general were jealous of His influence over the people (cf. Matthew 26:2-5; John 11:47) a jealousy which can also beset Christians; a severity of outlook which does not accept that, no matter how great his sins may have been, a sinner can change and become a saint; a blindness which prevents a person from recognizing and rejoicing over the good done by others. Our Lord criticized this attitude when He replied to His disciples' complaints about others casting out devils in His name: "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in My name will be able soon after to speak evil of Me" (Mark 9:39). And St. Paul rejoiced that others proclaimed Christ and even overlooked the fact they did so out of self-interest, provided Christ was preached (cf. Philippians 1:17-18).

11. This is one of Jesus' most beautiful parables, which teaches us once more that God is a kind and understanding Father (cf. Matthew 6:8; Romans 8:15; 2 Corinthians 1:3). The son who asks for his part of the inheritance is a symbol of the person who cuts himself off from God through sin. "Although the word `mercy' does not appear, this parable nevertheless expresses the essence of the divine mercy in a particularly clear way" ([Pope] John Paul II, "Dives In Misericordia", 5).

12. "That son, who receives from the father the portion of the inheritance that is due him and leaves home to squander it in a far country `in loose living', in a certain sense is the man of every period, beginning with the one who was the first to lose the inheritance of grace and original justice. The analogy at this point is very wide-ranging. The parable indirectly touches upon every breach of the covenant of love, every loss of grace, every sin" ("Dives In Misericordia", 5).

14-15. At this point in the parable we are shown the unhappy effects of sin. The young man's hunger evokes the anxiety and emptiness a person feels when he is far from God. The prodigal son's predicament describes the enslavement which sin involves (cf. Romans 1:25; 6:6; Galatians 5:1): by sinning one loses the freedom of the children of God (cf. Romans 8:21; Galatians 4:31; 5:13) and hands oneself over the power of Satan.

17-21. His memory of home and his conviction that his father loves him cause the prodigal son to reflect and to decide to set out on the right road. "Human life is in some way a constant returning to our Father's house. We return through contrition, through the conversion of heart which means a desire to change, a firm decision to improve our life and which, therefore, is expressed in sacrifice and self-giving. We return to our Father's house by means of that sacrament of pardon in which, by confessing our sins, we put on Jesus Christ again and become His brothers, members of God's family" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ is Passing By", 64).

20-24. God always hopes for the return of the sinner; He wants him to repent. When the young man arrives home his father does not greet him with reproaches but with immense compassion, which causes him to embrace his son and cover him with kisses.

20. "There is no doubt that in this simple but penetrating analogy the figure of the father reveals to us God as Father. The conduct of the father in the parable and his whole behavior, which manifests his internal attitude, enables us to rediscover the individual threads of the Old Testament vision of mercy in a synthesis which is totally new, full of simplicity and depth. The father of the prodigal son is FAITHFUL TO THIS FATHERHOOD, FAITHFUL TO THE LOVE that he had always lavished on his son. This fidelity is expressed in the parable not only by his immediate readiness to welcome him home when he returns after having squandered his inheritance; it is expressed even more fully by that joy, that merrymaking for the squanderer after his return, merrymaking which is so generous that it provokes the opposition and hatred of the elder brother, who had never gone far away from his father and had never abandoned the home.

"The father's fidelity to himself [...] is at the same time expressed in a manner particularly charged with affection. We read, in fact, that when the father saw the prodigal son returning home `he had COMPASSION, ran to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.' He certainly does this under the influence of a deep affection, and this also explains his generosity towards his son, that generosity which so angers the elder son" ("Dives In Misericordia", 6).

"When God runs towards us, we cannot keep silent, but with St. Paul we exclaim, "ABBA PATER": `Father, my Father!' (Romans 8:15), for, though He is the creator of the universe, He doesn't mind our not using high-sounding titles, nor worry about our not acknowledging His greatness. He wants us to call Him Father; He wants us to savor that word, our souls filling with joy [...].

"God is waiting for us, like the father in the parable, with open arms, even though we don't deserve it. It doesn't matter how great our debt is. Just like the prodigal son, all we have to do is open our heart, to be homesick for our Father's house, to wonder at and rejoice in the gift which God makes us of being able to call ourselves His children, of really being His children, even though our response to Him has been so poor" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 64).

25-30. God's mercy is so great that man cannot grasp it: as we can see in the case of the elder son, who thinks his father loves the younger son excessively, his jealousy prevents him from understanding how his father can do so much to celebrate the recovery of the prodigal; it cuts him off from the joy that the whole family feels. "It's true that he was a sinner. But don't pass so final a judgment on him. Have pity in your heart, and don't forget that he may yet be an Augustine, while you remain just another mediocrity" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 675).

We should also consider that if God has compassion towards sinners, He must have much much more towards those who strive to be faithful to Him. St. Therese of Lisieux understood this very well: "What joy to remember that our Lord is just; that He makes allowances for all our shortcomings, and knows full well how weak we are. What have I to fear then? Surely the God of infinite justice who pardons the prodigal son with such mercy will be just with me `who am always with Him'?" ("The Story of a Soul", Chapter 8).

32. "Mercy, as Christ has presented it in the parable of the prodigal son, has THE INTERIOR FORM OF THE LOVE that in the New Testament is called AGAPE. This love is able to reach down to every prodigal son, to every human misery, and above all to every form of moral misery, to sin. When this happens, the person who is the object of mercy does not feel humiliated, but rather found again and `restored to value'. The father first and foremost expresses to him his joy, that he has been `found again' and that he has `returned to life'. This joy indicates a good that has remained intact: even if he is a prodigal, a son does not cease to be truly his father's son; it also indicates a good that has been found again, which in the case of the prodigal son was his return to the truth about himself" ("Dives In Misericordia", 6).
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.

Principles and Practices - March 6

God and Life

Of all the great truths - the truths on which the heart of man rests and which guide him in his moral and spiritual life - the deepest and most firmly fixed is that which is expressed in the opening words of the Apostles Creed: 'I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth.'

Take away God, and this world is unintelligible; take away God, and human life is a melancholy puzzle. Take away God, and each human existence drifts like a frail bark which has been cast loose from its moorings and is at the mercy of the waves and currents of the treacherous sea.

Take away God, and death hangs over our life's end like a dark and heavy curtain, hiding we know not what, extinguishing hope, and tempting per­plexed mortals to give themselves up to this world when the world is bright, and, when it is black, to lift their hands against their own lives.

From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, March 5


A CORRESPONDENT has suggested a difficulty in his prayer which is well worth our considera­tion. He opens his prayer-book; he reads, let us say, the prayers before or after Confession; the words are good, he is pleased to have them and to say them; but all the time he has the suspicion that they are not his own.

He comes to Confession with the weight of sin upon him; he hopes and believes that by doing what is enjoined upon him he will be freed from his burden; he makes his Act of Contrition, he renews his Purpose of Amendment, with al1 the earnestness of which his soul is capable; but he tells himself all the time that he has done this kind of thing before, and nothing much has come of it; and he wonders to him­self whether all the time he is not soothing himself with mere words, since his resolution seems to come to so little.

In the first place, for his consolation, and for the consolation of the very many who labour under the same suspicion of them­selves, let us say at once that this very attitude of mind is in itself a good sign, almost a sure sign, that all is well....

[continued tomorrow]
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Gospel for Friday, 2nd Week of Lent

From: Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
(Jesus told the chief priests and the elders,) [33] "Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. [34] When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; [35] and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. [36] Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. [37] Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.' [38] But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.' [39] And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. [40] When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" [41] They said to Him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons."

[42] Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes'! [43] Therefore I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it."
[45] When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking about them. [46] But when they tried to arrest Him, they feared the multitudes, because they held Him to be a prophet.

33-46. This very important parable completes the previous one. The parable of the two sons simply identifies the indocility of Israel; that of the wicked tenants focuses on the punishment to come.

Our Lord compares Israel to a choice vineyard, specially fenced, with a watchtower, where a keeper is on the look-out to protect it from thieves and foxes. God has spared no effort to cultivate and embellish His vineyard. The vineyard is in the charge of tenant farmers; the householder is God, and the vineyard, Israel (Isaiah 5:3-5: Jeremiah 2:21; Joel 1:7).

The tenants to whom God has given the care of His people are the priests, scribes and elders. The owner's absence makes it clear that God really did entrust Israel to its leaders; hence their responsibility and the account He demands of them.

The owner used to send his servants from time to time to collect the fruit; this was the mission of the prophets. The second despatch of servants to claim what is owing to the owner--who meet the same fate as the first--refers to the way God's prophets were ill-treated by the kings and priests of Israel (Matthew 23:37; Acts 7:42; Hebrews 11:36-38). Finally he sent his son to them, thinking that they would have more respect for him; here we can see the difference between Jesus and the prophets, who were servants, not "the Son": the parable indicates singular, transcendental sonship, expressing the divinity of Jesus Christ.

The malicious purpose of the tenants in murdering the son and heir to keep the inheritance for themselves is the madness of the leaders in expecting to become undisputed masters of Israel by putting Christ to death (Matthew 12:14; 26:4). Their ambition blinds them to the punishment that awaits them. Then "they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him": a reference to Christ's crucifixion, which took place outside the walls of Jerusalem.

Jesus prophesies the punishment God will inflict on the evildoers: He will put them to death and rent the vineyard to others. This is a very significant prophecy. St. Peter later repeats to the Sanhedrin: "This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner" (Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:4). The stone is Jesus of Nazareth, but the architects of Israel, who build up and rule the people, have chosen not use it in the building. Because of their unfaithfulness the Kingdom of God will be turned over to another people, the Gentiles, who WILL give God the fruit He expects His vineyard to yield (cf. Matthew 3:8-10; Galatians 6:16).

For the building to be well-built, it needs to rest on this stone. Woe to him who trips over it! (cf. Matthew 12:30; Luke 2:34), as first Jews and later the enemies of Christ and His Church will discover through bitter experience (cf. Isaiah 8:14-15).

Christians in all ages should see this parable as exhorting them to build faithfully upon Christ and make sure they do not fall into the sin of this Jewish generation. We should also be filled with hope and a sense of security; for, although the building--the Church--at some times seem to be breaking up, its sound construction, with Christ as its cornerstone, is assured.
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.

Pro-abort Nancy Pelosi - an obstinate, lying heretic

Pelosi Calls Pro-Life Democrats Liars, Third Abortion Funding Denial This Week

In a press conference today. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denied the abortion funding in the Senate health care bill for the third time in the last seven days. Reacting to a promise from pro-life Democrats to kill the bill over the massive abortion funding it contains, Pelosi essentially called them liars.

This morning, Rep. Bart Stupak said he and pro-life Democrats were prepared to vote against the bill because it funds abortions and contains other pro-abortion problems.

Pelosi got exasperated when a reporter asked at her weekly press conference about their unwillingness to support the bill over abortion.

“Let me say this: This is not about abortion! This is a bill about providing quality, affordable health care for all Americans,” she said, according to Politico....
She daily continues to condemn herself by her own lies, her stance as a death peddler, and her continued obstinacy in open defiance of God and the Church. Pray for the soul of this ardent disciple of Satan that she may repent while she still can.
John McCormack, a pro-life writer at the conservative Weekly Standard, said Pelosi is lying about the abortion funding component of the Senate bill...

Richard Doerflinger, the associate director of the pro-life office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops put Pelosi's myth to bed in response to the second set of falsehoods....
Is it not the sign of a mentally disturbed crackpot to call those of whom she wants support of Resident 0bama Deathcare LIARS? Is that how one gains support? I fear she is so consumed with evil that her soul and conscience are now dead. And, as usual, where are the bishops?

More here.

Principles and Practices - March 5

Change Places

Do be just and fair in everything. Always put yourself in the place of your neighbour, and put him in yours; and so will you judge righteously. Think yourself a seller when you are a buyer, and a buyer when you sell - so will your barter be fair. All these acts of injustice are small and may not indeed call for restitution, if we have not taken more than that which is strictly ours; but we are not the less obliged to amend our conduct; for all these are great failings against reason and charity.

-St. Francis de Sales.
From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, March 4


[continued from yesterday]

This last remark suggests a word of warn­ing. We are told by saints who knew much about prayer that we should examine our prayer and see if we can what makes us fail.

This is very sound advice; no matter what hints may be suggested for prayer, the soundest hint is that we should study our own soul, find the way that it finds easiest and best, and cultivate that as well as we are able. St. Teresa encourages this method; so do many modern teachers of prayer.

At the same time, during the hour of prayer itself, there is no distraction more fatal than to reflect and ask oneself whether one is pray­ing well or not. Such a process is often mere vanity, and vanity is the ruin of all prayer. It kills spontaneity, it stifles fervour, it puts a veil between oneself and God; it may even sub­stitute oneself and one's own image in the place of Him to whom we wish to pray.

Let preparation for prayer be as careful as we like; after prayer let us ask ourselves what has helped us most, and what has been a hindrance. But during prayer let there be nothing be­tween the heart and God. The great effort of the soul should be to realisation of the truth; and this, if gained even for a moment, as St. Teresa very well says, is worth all the pains that may be taken, and bears fruit in great peace of mind.

One last remark may be made in regard to the attitude to prayer. It is said of St. Igna­tius Loyola that during his busy day he had little time for long prayer, but that he would find satisfaction in a few moments here and there, whether in his room or before the Blessed Sacrament.

But even for these few moments he would pause before he began; he would not plunge into even so short a prayer without some kind of preparation, some thought of what he was about to do and how he was about to do it.

When he went into the chapel, if only for a passing visit, he would stand for a time with his hand on the door­handle before he entered the presence of his "Master and Lord," as he delighted in calling Jesus.

When we think of this example, and when we think of ourselves, and the way we run unreflectingly into prayer, and when after­wards we complain that we could not pray at all, but that our minds were wandering all the time, perhaps if we cared we could find the cause of these distractions very easily.

If, before we began our prayer, we would steady our mind, withdraw it from its surroundings, and turn it in the direction along which we wish it to go, perhaps we should find a grow­ing power of self-control. And this is espe­cially true, and especially necessary, in any such prayer as tries to be independent of forms, such as has been here illustrated.
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Gospel for Thursday, 2nd Week of Lent

From: Luke 16:19-31

Lazarus and the Rich Man
(Jesus told them this parable:) [19] "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. [20] And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, [21] who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. [22] The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; [23] and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. [24] And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' [25] But Abraham said, `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things, but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. [26] And besides in all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' [27] And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, [28] for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' [29] But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' [30] And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' [31] He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"

19-31. This parable disposes of two errors--that of those who denied the survival of the soul after death and, therefore, retribution in the next life; and that of those who interpreted material prosperity in this life as a reward for moral rectitude, and adversity as punishment. This parable shows that, immediately after death, the soul is judged by God for all its acts--the "particular judgment"--and is rewarded or punished; and that divine revelation is by itself sufficient for men to be able to believe in the next life.

In another area, the parable teaches the innate dignity of every human person, independently of his social, financial, cultural or religious position. And respect for this dignity implies that we must help those who are experiencing any material or spiritual need: "Wishing to come down to topics that are practical and of some urgency, the Council lays stress on respect for the human person: everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as another self, bearing in mind above all his life and the means necessary for living it in a dignified way lest he follow the example of the rich man who ignored Lazarus, the poor man" (Vatican II, "Gaudium Et Spes", 27).

Another practical consequence of respect for others is proper distribution of material resources and protection of human life, even unborn life, as Paul VI pleaded with the General Assembly of the United Nations: "Respect for life, even with regard to the great problem of the birth rate, must find here in your assembly its highest affirmation and its most reasoned defense. You must strive to multiply bread so that it suffices for the tables of mankind, and not rather favor an artificial control of birth, which would be irrational, in order to diminish the number of guests at the banquet of life" ("Address to the UN", 4 October 1965).

21. Apparently this reference to the dogs implies not that they alleviated Lazarus' sufferings but increased them, in contrast with the rich man's pleasure: to the Jews dogs were unclean and therefore were not generally used as domestic animals.

22-26. Earthly possession, as also suffering, are ephemeral things: death marks their end, and also the end of our testing-time, our capacity to sin or to merit reward for doing good; and immediately after death we begin to enjoy our reward or to suffer punishment, as the case may be. The Magisterium of the Church has defined that the souls of all who die in the grace of God enter Heaven, immediately after death or after first undergoing a purging, if that is necessary. "We believe in eternal life. We believe that the souls of all those who die in the grace of Christ-whether they must still make expiation in the fire of Purgatory, or whether from the moment they leave their bodies they are received by Jesus into Paradise like the Good Thief--go to form that people of God which succeeds death, death which will be totally destroyed on the day of the resurrection when these souls are reunited with their bodies" (Paul VI, "Creed of the People of God", 28).

The _expression of "Abraham's bosom" refers to the place or state "into which the souls of the just, before the coming of Christ the Lord were received, and where, without experiencing any sort of pain, but supported by the blessed hope of redemption, they enjoyed peaceful repose. To liberate these holy souls, who, in the bosom of Abraham were expecting the Savior, Christ the Lord descended into hell" ("St. Pius V Catechism", I, 6, 3).

22. "Both the rich man and the beggar died and were carried before Abraham, and there judgment was rendered on their conduct. And the Scripture tells us that Lazarus found consolation, but that the rich man found torment. Was the rich man condemned because he had riches, because he abounded in earthly possessions, because he `dressed in purple and linen and feasted sumptuously every day'? No, I would say that it was not for this reason. The rich man was condemned because he did not pay attention to the other man, because he failed to take notice of Lazarus, the person who sat at his door and who longed to eat the scraps from his table. Nowhere does Christ condemn the mere possession of earthly goods as such. Instead, He pronounces very harsh words against those who use their possessions in a selfish way, without paying attention to the needs of others[...]."

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus must always be present in our memory; it must form our conscience. Christ demands openness to our brothers and sisters in need--openness from the rich, the affluent, the economically advantaged; openness to the poor, the underdeveloped and the disadvantaged. Christ demands an openness that is more than benign attention, more than token actions or half-hearted efforts that leave the poor as destitute as before or even more so [...].

"We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our riches and freedom, if, in any place, the Lazarus of the Twentieth Century stands at our doors. In the light of the parable of Christ, riches and freedom mean a special responsibility. Riches and freedom create a special obligation. And so, in the name of the solidarity that binds us all together in a common humanity, I again proclaim the dignity of every human person: the rich man and Lazarus are both human beings, both of them equally created in the image and likeness of God, both of them equally redeemed by Christ, at a great price of the `precious blood of Christ' (1 Peter 1:19)" ([Pope] John Paul II, "Homily in Yankee Stadium", 2 October 1979).

24-31. The dialogue between the rich man and Abraham is a dramatization aimed at helping people remember the message of the parable: strictly speaking, there is no room in Hell for feelings of compassion toward one's neighbor: in Hell hatred presides. "When Abraham said to the rich man `between us and you a great chasm has been fixed...' he showed that after death and resurrection there will be no scope for any kind of penance. The impious will not repent and enter the Kingdom, nor will the just sin and go down into Hell. This is the unbridgeable abyss" (Aphraates, "Demonstratio", 20; "De Sustentatione Egenorum", 12). This helps us to understand what St. John Chrysostom says: "I ask you and I beseech you and, falling at your feet, I beg you: as long as we enjoy the brief respite of life, let us repent, let us be converted, let us become better, so that we will not have to lament uselessly like that rich man when we die and tears can do us no good. For even if you have a father or a son or a friend or anyone else who have influence with God, no one will be able to set you free, for your own deeds condemn you" ("Hom. on 1 Cor.").
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.

Lenten Reflection: Avarice, The Second Capital Sin

"Covetousness is the root of all evils, and some in their eagerness to get rich have strayed from the faith and have involved themselves in many troubles." 1 Timothy, 6:10.

The story is just as pointed as it is old of the man whose soul was con­trolled by the devil of avarice. He had a lot of money, but he wanted more. In his fear that thieves might learn of his riches and come to steal them he had a strong room built deep down beneath the foundations of his house. The door to this room was made of iron and was cleverly concealed in the wall.

Every time he got hold of some more gold this grasping fellow would hurry to his hiding place and add it to his heaps of coins. One day he acquired a particularly large amount of money, and he was particularly eager to add it to his treasures. He hurried to his secret chamber, but in his haste he forgot to take the key from the outside of the lock. He entered, quickly closed the door, dropped the new-won coins one by one on the piles of gold and silver, gloating over every piece. As he started to leave he dis­covered to his horror that the door was locked and could be opened only from the outside. He screamed and shouted for help; he tried to dig and scrape his way out. But the room was so strongly built that there was no hearing him and there was no escape.

Meanwhile his family wondered where he was. They thought some mis­fortune had befallen him. They searched everywhere. They asked his friends and business acquaintances. No one had seen him. At last the news reached a locksmith who immediately remembered that this miser had engaged him to make a strong door with a spring lock that would lock itself when the door was closed. He hurried to the home, told the family and rushed to the secret door. There was the key in the lock - outside. They opened the door and found the dead body of the man sprawling with his arms extended over the heaps of coins, embracing his treasures in his death­struggle, still worshipping in death the god of gold he had adored during life.

1. That man had been killed by the devil of avarice, the second capital sin. Avarice or covetousness means an excessive love of money and worldly goods. Those material possessions may take the form of books or pictures, buildings or land, cars or jewelry. Usually, however, to the avaricious man gold is god. All his affection, all his ambition, all his talents and all his energies are principally and often exclusively devoted to getting more and more gold, money and goods.

2. Avarice attacks in every walk of life. It is a vice that affects both the rich and the poor, the high and the lowly. Have we not all seen men of means, men who have plenty of this world's goods, still straining with every ounce of their strength, and with every power of mind and body, to build up a still bigger bank account? Have we not seen men and women who own several houses or hundreds of acres of land or boxes full of jewelry, still striving to get more? But the covetous are not limited to the wealthy. There are avaricious people among the poor. They would give anything to have more of this world's goods. Their hearts are set on riches, even though they do not have them. They strive for things which are beyond their reach.

3. The more food you give this devil of avarice, the more he wants. The covetous heart is ever adding to what it has; it is never satisfied. St. Bern­ardin of Siena brings this out in a conversation he carries on with a money­grabber:
"Now, 0 miser, how much money do you want?" asks our saint.

"If I had ten thousand florins," replied the miser, "I would consider myself
well off."

A florin was worth about 50 cents. Let's say the man wanted ten thousand dollars. Suppose St. Bernardin gives him the ten thousand and a few days later asks what he has done with them. "Oh, I have spent them," answered the miser, "and I need some more. There was a tenant of mine to whom I lent a hundred. Then I spent some on cattle, and fifty I used to repair a house, oh, more than fifty."

When our saint asked him how much he now wanted the avaricious one exclaimed:

"Oh, I need fifteen thousand at least."

"What are you going to do with that much money?" asked St. Bernardin.

"Oh, there is a house beside mine that I would do very well to possess. And between the two houses there is a plot of land. If I could have that, nobody would be able to get at me to do me any harm."

No sooner did he spend the fifteen thousand than he wanted twenty-­five thousand. When the saint asked him why, the fellow declared:

"What would I do with it? Well, to begin with, there is a certain castle that greatly attracts me. And I want to have a room by each one of the gates. You know I can't bear foggy weather. And so if it is foggy in one place, I must have somewhere to go where it is clear."

St. Bernardin winds up his sermon on the subject by sarcastically saying that the man would then want grand clothes and equipment, and would not be satisfied even if he had a hundred thousand dollars.

Revise this story and the amounts of money, and you have a picture of many people, including some Catholics. Indeed, some of our modern gold-seekers would not stop at a hundred thousand or a million.

4. Such covetous hearts are also wretched and miserable. They cannot be content. They never relax. They never rest. They never sleep. They never stop grasping.

5. The covetous man has many marks, many characteristics by which we can recognize him. Pay close attention to these marks. Some of these labels may fit you:
A. He is heartless and inhuman toward everyone, including those who are in extreme need. His condition is brought out in the famous German folk story about a poor charcoal burner who in the kindness of his heart always tried to do good turns for others. Often he wished for riches that he might help others still more. One day a wicked-looking spirit met him in the woods and told him he would make him rich on condition that he exchange his heart of flesh for a wonderful mechanical heart. The poor man did not fancy the con­dition, but he consented to the bargain. The evil spirit cast him into a deep sleep. When he awoke he could feel the mechanical heart beating regularly in his breast but it, felt cold, very cold. Riches came to him, but his heart was harsh and stony, his manner over­bearing. Everything he touched turned to gold, but the more money he made, the harder his heart became. As old age crept upon him he longed, but in vain, for his warm human heart. The man who gives in to a greed for gold, always has to make this cruel exchange. His heart becomes hard.

B. The avaricious man is mean and stingy. He becomes what we call in common language a "skinflint," a "cheapskate," a "tightwad." He shows this stinginess everywhere:
i. He shows it at home where he scarcely allows enough money to pay for the necessities of life. The skimpy allowance he gives his wife scarcely pays for the groceries and running expenses. He denies his wife and children any pleasure or amusement that costs money, not because he does not have the money, but because he wants to build up a bank account.

ii. The avaricious man is stingy outside the home. Ask him to help in a charity drive of any kind and he will try to find an excuse for not giving. If he does weaken he will give a dollar when he should give a twenty. His support of the Church is as cheap as he can pos­sibly make it. To cover up his stinginess with the Lord he will rant and rave about expensive church furnishings, about the priests bleed­ing the parishioners, and winds up demanding where all the money goes to.

iii. This stingy fellow is stingy also in his social life. That is where he gets the nickname of "cheapskate." He will never treat unless he is forced. He lets others pay the way, and pick up the bill.

For tips he picks the smallest coins out of his pocket. It is not a question of prudent economy; it is miserliness and meanness with regard to money.
C. When you see a Catholic who gives little or nothing to the missions, who gripes about the orphan collection, who waits and waits to make his measly contribution to the building fund, mark him down as a miser. The man who thinks only of his own bank account will be blind and deaf to all the good work of the Church.

D. Because it might cost him something in the way of money, time, or energy, the covetous man will avoid serving on committees or as an officer of parish organizations. He is stingy not only with his silver; he is stingy with his service. He takes no practical interest in parish or community affairs.

E. He delays in paying his bills, causing needless expense and incon­venience to his debtors. He figures that in the meantime he can draw the interest on the money which should be used for meeting his obligations.

F. He becomes uneasy and even angry at trifling losses or expenses. He flies into a rage if one of the family accidentally breaks some­thing, or if something is spoiled or lost.

G. Often the avaricious man is guilty of violating the Tenth Command­ment, namely, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods." Covet here means to want in the wrong way. He cannot bear to see another with a better car or more property or a bigger bank account. He is miserable at the financial success of others. The good fortune of his neighbor makes him unhappy.

An old legend brings out this con­nection between avarice and jealousy. A business man, while on a journey, overtook two travelers. One was a greedy, avaricious man; the other was of a jealous and envious make-up. When they came to the parting of their ways, the merchant said he wanted to give them a parting gift. Whoever made a wish first would have his wish ful­filled, and the other man would get a double portion of what the first had asked for. The greedy man knew what he wanted, but he was afraid to express his wish, because he wanted a double portion, and could not bear to think of his companion getting twice as much as he would receive. Meanwhile the envious man was unwilling to wish first, because he could not stand the idea that his companion would get twice as much as he would get. Each waited and waited for the other to wish first. Finally the covetous man took the envious man by the throat and threatened to choke him to death unless he made his wish. At that threat the envious man said:

"All right, I will make my wish. I wish to be blind in one eye."

At once he lost the sight of one eye, and his avaricious companion went blind in both eyes. That is how avarice and the other capital sin of envy blind and curse the souls of men.

H. Avarice is also one of the principal causes of the controversy and struggle between labor and management that has brought on so much bitterness and so many costly, crippling strikes and violence. Not always, but often, the demands of labor rise from avarice and not from justice. On the other hand, the refusal of management to grant just demands finds its foundation in covetousness, a desire for greater profits.

This vice creeps into other business and social relations. The grocer who cheats, the butcher who gives unjust weights, as well as the customer who tries to outdo the merchant, all are inspired by avarice. Yes, it is one of the capital, principal vices of mankind, a vice we must weed out at all costs and at all efforts.
6. We must keep clearly in mind the difference between avarice and prudent economy. It is not wrong to be thrifty, to be saving and economical. In fact, wasteful and extravagant living is the opposite vice. How can a person tell whether he is stingy or merely economical?

By asking himself whether he is guilty of anyone of the indications or marks of the covetous person, as I have just outlined them for you. If your saving makes you unfeeling toward the poor and suffering, if it makes you stingy toward your family, your parish, and other charities, if it keeps you from cooperating in parish affairs, if it prompts you to delay paying your debts, if it makes you extremely sad when you lose something or miss a chance to make money - then you can be sure that the devil of avarice has a hold on your heart.

7. Once you have recognized this evil spirit of greed in your make-up, start at once to root it out. How can a covetous man overcome this vice?
A. He should realize that he is merely a pilgrim on this earth, and that he cannot take his treasures with him. He should recall the words of St. Paul to St. Timothy, words which are divinely addressed to all of us :
"Godliness with contentment is indeed great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and certainly we can take nothing out." 1 Timothy, 6:6-7.

B. He should think less of earth and more of heaven, recalling and living the words of that same letter of St. Paul to St. Timothy regarding the rich:
"Let them do good and be rich in good works, giving readily, sharing with others, and thus providing for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, in order that they may lay hold on the true life." 1 Timothy, 6:18.

C. The avaricious man must consider the emptiness of mere things, helpless things, like money and land and belongings. Think of the wretched man in the story with which we started tonight - the man who was accidentally locked in the secret room with all his treasures. His piles of gold were helpless to open a door or secure him assist­ance. Stocks and bonds and bank accounts will be worthless on the day of doom. They will be worse than worthless, if we have violated God's law in acquiring them.

D. The covetous soul should weigh the evils of avarice: it hardens the heart, it blinds the eyes, it cripples the hand of giving, it limits the joys of life to cold, unsatisfying gold.

E. He should seek to know the will of God, especially as expressed in the Tenth Commandment: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods."

F. Above all he should strive to acquire that virtue which is the direct opposite of avarice, namely, generosity.
8. Generosity is that virtue which withdraws the affections from earthly goods and prompts a person to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It shows itself:
A. In active charity toward the poor. Suppose you suspect that you are covetous. Test yourself by giving to some poor person or some charitable cause at the next opportunity.

B. In supporting good works. The next time there is a collection for the missions, the orphans, or war relief, double your contribution. Prove to yourself that you are not avaricious. Incidentally, you will double your blessings.

C. In developing greater confidence in God. The more you put your trust in earthly treasures, the less you put your confidence in God. Yes, be thrifty, be economical, be saving, but be so in a prudent, reasonable way. We find generous souls in every walk of life.
9. About twenty years ago there died in Davenport, Iowa, a man who was nicknamed "Hummer." His real name was Henry Kahl, but they called him "Hummer" Kahl because he got things done efficiently and quickly. His life reads like an Alger story - poverty to riches. Born in 1875, he had to go to work at the age of 12. At 16 he was driving a team for a con­tractor. He worked energetically and efficiently, became a foreman and then a partner in the business. As head of a contracting firm he never asked his men to do anything that he could not do. He was fearless as well as tireless. No one was surprised when he became a millionaire. And no one was surprised at his generosity in the giving of time and energy and money to individuals and worthy causes. His keenest delight was to do someone a kindness unnoticed. He was the very opposite of an avari­cious man, so that the then Bishop Rohlman could say of him:
"To his fellow citizens he remains a demonstration that a man can reach wealth and success through honesty and hard work. To those of our faith he will be a challenging example of a man who made his mark in a material way, and was withal a thoroughly practical Catholic."
Would that this could be said of everyone of you.

10. Finally, in this question of avarice and liberality, we can do no better than think of our Lord and how He purposely gave everything He had in the service of others. Think of how He was stripped of even His clothing in His passion and death.

By way of contrast, recall the avaricious Judas who sold His Master for thirty pieces of silver. What a contrast! Tonight and during this Lent choose to be more like the Master and less like Judas. Trust not riches. Trust in God. Amen.
Adapted from Lent and the Capital Sins
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1952)

Principles and Practices - March 4

Why We Adore God

God immeasurably excels all creatures, even the highest and the sublimest of the heavenly spirits; He excels them not merely by His infinite dignity and perfection, but also by reason of His boundless power and dominion. Hence at all times and in all places, every creature is dependent upon God. It behoves man as a rational creature consciously and freely and actively to acknowledge his absolute dependence upon God - in a word, to adore God.

From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, March 3


[continued from yesterday]

...Lastly, as an example of the way the method may be applied to any of the saints, we may take a prayer to St. Joseph.
St. Joseph,
The 'just man;'
The perfect man of Nazareth,
The Spouse of Mary,
The Foster-father of Jesus,
The Patron of labour,
The Patron of a happy death,
The Patron of the whole Church,
Unflinchingly generous,
I am a poor beggar,
I am in need,
My tale is against me,
I am very disappointing,
I have no excuse,
I deserve nothing,
Even for the future, how much can I promise?
I cannot be sure of myself,
But I would it were otherwise,
I would become true,
And you can help me,
For Jesus hears you,
Ask him to forgive,
Ask Him to forget,
Ask Him to make me sinless,
Like to yourself,
To make me selfless,
Like yourself,
To make me generous,
Take me as your companion,
And Mary's,
And His.
These examples will suffice to show how the mind may be trained to make its own way in prayer. In general one may notice that the plan is in each case much the same; indeed this plan lies at the root of all prayer of colloquy.

First comes a realisation of the person to whom we pray, with whatever expressions of affection it may evoke; then a realisation of oneself in contrast with this person, with the necessary acts of humility and contrition, or of love and hope; finally, and spontaneously, there is that appeal from one in need to one who possesses an abundance, inspired by a mutual affection which knows it can presume to ask.

Let the actual words be of least account. The realisation is the all-important matter; when, with a single, selfless, unaffected heart we forget to watch our thoughts and words, then the thoughts and words will come of themselves, spontaneously and hot from the heart....

[continued tomorrow]
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Gospel for Wednesday, 2nd Week of Lent

From: Matthew 20:17-28

Third Prophecy of the Passion
[17] And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way He said to them, [18] "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, [19] and deliver Him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and He will be raised on the third day."

The Mother of the Sons of Zebedee Makes Her Request
[20] Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to Him, with her sons, and kneeling before Him she asked Him for something. [21] And He said to her, "What do you want?" She said to Him, "Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your Kingdom." [22] But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?" They said to Him, "We are able." [23] He said to them, "You will drink My cup, but to sit at My right hand and at My left is not Mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father." [24] And when the ten heard it they were indignant at the two brothers. [25] But Jesus called them to Him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. [26] It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [27] and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; [28] even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."

18-19. Once again our Lord prophesies to His Apostles about His death and resurrection. The prospect of judging the world (cf. Matthew 19:28) might have misled them into thinking in terms of an earthly messianic kingdom, an easy way ahead, leaving no room for the ignominy of the cross.

Christ prepares their minds so that when the testing time comes they will remember that He prophesied His passion and not be totally scandalized by it; He describes His passion in some detail.

Referring to Holy Week, Monsignor Escriva writes: "All the things brought to our mind by the different expressions of piety which characterize these days are of course directed to the Resurrection, which is, as St. Paul says, the basis of our faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14). But we should not tread this path too hastily, lest we lose sight of a very simple fact which we might easily overlook. We will not be able to share in our Lord's Resurrection unless we unite ourselves with Him in His Passion and Death. If we are to accompany Christ in His glory at the end of Holy Week, we must first enter into His holocaust and be truly united to Him, as He lies dead on Calvary" ("Christ Is Passing By", 95).

20. The sons of Zebedee are James the Greater and John. Their mother, Salome, thinking that the earthly reign of the Messiah is about to be established, asks that her sons be given the two foremost positions in it. Christ reproaches them for not grasping the true-spiritual-nature of the Kingdom of Heaven and not realizing that government of the Church He is going to found implies service and martyrdom. "If you are working for Christ and imagine that a position of responsibility is anything but a burden, what disillusionment awaits you!" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 950).

22. "Drinking the cup" means suffering persecution and martyrdom for following Christ. "We are able": the sons of Zebedee boldly reply that they can drink the cup; their generous expression evokes what St. Paul will write years later: "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13).

23. "You will drink My cup": James the Greater will die a martyr's death in Jerusalem around the year 44 (cf. Acts 12:2); and John, after suffering imprisonment and the lash in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 4:3; 5:40-41), will spend a long period of exile on the island of Patmos (cf. Revelation 1:9).

From what our Lord says here we can take it that positions of authority in the Church should not be the goal of ambition or the subject of human intrigue, but the outcome of a divine calling. Intent on doing the will of His Heavenly Father, Christ was not going to allocate positions of authority on the basis of human considerations but, rather, in line with God's plans.

26. Vatican II puts a marked emphasis on this "service" which the Church offers to the world and which Christians should show as proof of their Christian identity: "In proclaiming the noble destiny of man and affirming an element of the divine in him, this sacred Synod offers to cooperate unreservedly with mankind in fostering a sense of brotherhood to correspond to this destiny of theirs. The Church is not motivated by an earthly ambition but is interested in one thing only-to carry on the work of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for He came into the world to bear witness to the truth, to save and not to judge, to serve and not to be served" ("Gaudium Et Spes", 3 cf. "Lumen Gentium", 32: "Ad Gentes", 12; "Unitatis Redintegratio", 7).

27-28. Jesus sets Himself as an example to be imitated by those who hold authority in the Church. He who is God and Judge of all men (cf. Philippians 2:5-11; John 5:22-27; Acts 10:42; Matthew 28:18) does not impose Himself on us: He renders us loving service to the point of giving His life for us (cf. John 15:13); that is His way of being the first. St. Peter understood Him right; he later exhorted priests to tend the flock of God entrusted to them, not domineering over them but being exemplary in their behavior (cf. 1 Peter 5:1-3); and St. Paul also was clear on this "service": though He was "free from all men", He became the servant of all in order to win all (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19 ff; 2 Corinthians 4:5).

Christ's "service" of mankind aims at salvation. The phrase "to give His life as a ransom for many" is in line with the terminology of liturgical sacrificial language. These words were used prophetically in Chapter 53 of Isaiah.

Verse 28 also underlines the fact that Christ is a priest, who offers Himself as priest and victim on the altar of the cross. The expression "as a ransom for many" should not be interpreted as implying that God does not will the salvation of all men. "Many", here, is used to contrast with "one" rather than "all": there is only one Savior, and salvation is offered to all.
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.

Is the National Catholic Education Association really Catholic? Hardly!

From LifeSiteNews:
Pro-Abort Garrison Keillor to Deliver Catholic Teachers Assoc. Keynote Address

The National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) has invited Garrison Keillor, a pro-abortion, pro-gay "marriage" Episcopalian, as a keynote speaker at the group's annual convention. Keillor, well-known as a humorist and host of A Prairie Home Companion, has repeatedly published his pro-abortion, pro-same-sex "marriage" views - and has labeled pro-life, pro-family, and anti-pornography activists "shrieking ninnies and pompous blowhards."

On the issue of abortion, Keillor has been quoted as saying it should be decided "case by case," and that disabled embryonic children should be destroyed....
Where are the US bishops? Still AWOL?

More here.

Principles and Practices - March 3

Who Settles?

On the whole, rationalistic theology becomes enthusiastic about Christ and Christianity only so far as it thinks that these represent freedom from dogma, contempt for the Church, modern civilization and the modern ideal of humanity. There remains in it hardly more than a faint semb­lance of what has at all times and from the very begin­ning been understood by the terms 'Christ' and 'Christianity.'

From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, March 2


[continued from yesterday]

...The next illustration is a prayer to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity; again a very easy prayer to one who has learnt devotion to God, the Holy Ghost.
Holy Spirit of God,
Love of God,
Silent, secret, all preserving,
Breathing where you list,
Expressing our longings,
You are wisdom,
You are love,
You are strength and fidelity,
I am none of these,
I need them all,
Sincerely I want them,
I do believe sincerely I want them,
You are the Father of the poor,
You do not fail,
Will you fail me?
That I may never fail you,
I cannot trust myself,
That I may never do wrong,
That I may be wise,
According to my place in life,
That I may love,
Truly, not falsely,
That I may be faithful,
To God, to men,
That I may have strength,
Sufficient for the task you give me,
And may use it.
Let the prayer conclude with the "Veni Creator Spiritus," or even better with the "Veni Sancte Spiritus," since the latter, line by line, suggests a continuation of the same simple method....

[continued tomorrow]
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918

The Doctrine of the Catholic Kennedy? Worthless...

In 1960, he theorized the most rigid separation between Church and state, in order to be acceptable as president. Half a century later, Archbishop Chaput is accusing him of causing serious damage. An essay by Professor Diotallevi on the limits and shortcomings of secularism...
by Sandro Magister
ROME, March 2, 2010 – Precisely fifty years after the memorable speech, preserved in the anthologies, that John F. Kennedy gave to the Protestant pastors of Houston in order to convince them and the entire nation that as a Catholic he could be a good president (see photo), the archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput, has returned to the scene of the crime, in Houston, for a Baptist conference on the role of Christians in public life.

The "crime" was precisely the one committed by Kennedy with that speech, Chaput maintained in his talk, given yesterday evening at Houston Baptist University and reproduced in its entirety further below....
Continued here

Monday, March 01, 2010

Gospel for Tuesday, 2nd Week of Lent

From: Matthew 23:1-12

Vices of the Scribes and Pharisees
[1] Then said Jesus to the crowds and to His disciples, [2] "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; [3] so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. [4] They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. [5] They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, [6] and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, [7] and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. [8] But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. [9] And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in Heaven. [10] Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. [11] He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; [12] whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

1-39. Throughout this chapter Jesus severely criticizes the scribes and Pharisees and demonstrates the sorrow and compassion He feels towards the ordinary mass of the people, who have been ill-used, "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). His address may be divided into three parts: in the first (verses 1-12) He identifies their principal vices and corrupt practices; in the second (verses 13-36) He confronts them and speaks His famous "woes", which in effect are the reverse of the Beatitudes He preached in Chapter 5: no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven--no one can escape condemnation to the flames--unless he changes his attitude and behavior; in the third part (verses 37-39) He weeps over Jerusalem, so grieved is He by the evils into which the blind pride and hardheartedness of the scribes and Pharisees have misled the people.

2-3. Moses passed on to the people the Law received from God. The scribes, who for the most part sided with the Pharisees, had the function of educating the people in the Law of Moses; that is why they were said to "sit on Moses' seat". Our Lord recognized that the scribes and Pharisees did have authority to teach the Law; but He warns the people and His disciples to be sure to distinguish the Law as read out and taught in the synagogues from the practical interpretations of the Law to be seen in their leaders' lifestyles. Some years later, St. Paul--a Pharisee like his father before him--faced his former colleagues with exactly the same kind of accusations as Jesus makes here: "You then who teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? For, as it is written, `The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you'" (Romans 2:21-24).

5. "Phylacteries": belts or bands carrying quotations from sacred Scripture which the Jews used to wear fastened to their arms or foreheads. To mark themselves out as more religiously observant than others, the Pharisees used to wear broader phylacteries. The fringes were light-blue stripes on the hems of cloaks; the Pharisees ostentatiously wore broader fringes.

8-10. Jesus comes to teach the truth; in fact, He is the Truth (John 14:6). As a teacher, therefore, He is absolutely unique and unparalleled. "The whole of Christ's life was a continual teaching: His silences, His miracles, His gestures, His prayer, His love for people, His special affection for the little and the poor, His acceptance of the total sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of the world, and His resurrection are the actualization of His word and the fulfillment of revelation. Hence for Christians the crucifix is one of the most sublime and popular images of Christ the Teacher.

"These considerations are in line with the great traditions of the Church and they all strengthen our fervor with regard to Christ, the Teacher who reveals God to man and man to himself, the Teacher who saves, sanctifies and guides, who lives, who speaks, rouses, moves, redresses, judges, forgives, and goes with us day by day on the path of history, the Teacher who comes and will come in glory" (John Paul II, "Catechesi Tradendae", 9).

11. The Pharisees were greedy for honor and recognition: our Lord insists that every form of authority, particularly in the context of religion, should be exercised as a form of service to others; it must not be used to indulge personal vanity or greed. "He who is the greatest among you shall be your servant".

12. A spirit of pride and ambition is incompatible with being a disciple of Christ. Here our Lord stresses the need for true humility, for anyone who is to follow Him. The verbs "will be humbled", "will be exalted" have "God" as their active agent. Along the same lines, St. James preaches that "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). And in the "Magnificat", the Blessed Virgin explains that the Lord "has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree [the humble]" (Luke 1:52).
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.

Principles and Practices - March 2

The Power of the Priesthood

What would be the use of a house full of gold if there were nobody to open the door to you? The priest has the key of all the treasures of Heaven; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the administrator of His gifts. Without the priest, the Death and Pas­sion of Our Lord would profit us nothing. Look at the poor heathens: of what benefit is Our Lord's death to them? Alas, they obtain no share in redemption, so long as they have not priests to apply His Blood to their souls. The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see a priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

-Cure d' Ars.
From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, March 1


As a result of the remarks made in our last instruction on Prayer not a few have expressed a desire to see more illustrations of the method of prayer that is there advocated.

We proceed then to give further examples, but with a word of warning. Let it be remem­bered that they are examples and no more.

They are not "prayers" in the commonly accepted sense; they are not given merely to be read. They are an effort to show how the soul may guide itself in prayer; how much prayer may be expressed in few words; they are simply a suggestion of the way a soul may, as it were, steady itself in its upward flight.

Two illustrations of this method of prayer have been given, one to Our Lady, the other to Jesus Christ Our Lord; we proceed to give another addressed to the first Person of the Blessed Trinity, to whom after some experi­ence it is always most easy to pray.
A Prayer to God the Father
My Father,
You are so great,
I am so little,
You are the First and the Last,
The Beginning and the End,
Almighty, Everlasting,
And yet my Father,
You made me,
The creature that I am,
With my powers, my weaknesses,
Because you wanted me,
Even me,
You put me here,
You gave me this state of life,
You want me back,
I want to be yours,
I want to do your work,
When the end comes I want to go to you,
But without you I cannot,
You will not fail me,
You cannot fail me,
Let me not fail you.
I know my weakness,
I have learnt it from my falls,
Which you have permitted,
That I might learn,
Is it necessary to be taught more?
I can do nothing of myself,
I cannot desire to do anything,
I cannot keep from harm,
I cannot want to keep from harm,
Help me that I may,
Help me that I may desire it,
Give me the desire of sacrifice,
At least the desire of the desire,
I am an infant asking for bread,
Will my Father give me a stone?
The prayer concludes very naturally with the "Our Father"; which of itself, treated in a manner like the above, may easily "raise the mind and heart to God" for an hour....

[continued tomorrow]
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gospel for Monday, 2nd Week of Lent

From: Luke 6:36-38

Love of Enemies (Continuation)
(Jesus said to his disciples,) [36] "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. [37] "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; [38] give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back."

36. The model of mercy which Christ sets before us is God Himself, of whom St. Paul says, 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions" (2 Cor 1:3-4). "The first quality of this virtue", Fray Luis de Granada explains, "is that it makes men like God and like the most glorious thing in Him, His mercy (Lk 6:36). For certainly the greatest perfection a creature can have is to be like his Creator, and the more like Him he is, the more perfect he is. Certainly one of the things which is most appropriate to God is mercy, which is what the Church means when it says that prayer: 'Lord God, to whom it is proper to be merciful and forgiving...'. It says that this is proper to God, because just as a creature, as creature, is characteristically poor and needy (and therefore characteristically receives and does not give), so, on the contrary, since God is infinitely rich and powerful, to Him alone does it belong to give and not to receive, and therefore it is appropriate for Him to be merciful and forgiving" ("Book of Prayer and Meditation", third part, third treatise).

This is the rule a Christian should apply: be compassionate towards other people's afflictions as if they were one's own, and try to remedy them. The Church spells out this rule by giving us a series of corporal works of mercy (visiting and caring for the sick, giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty...) and spiritual works of mercy (teaching the ignorant, correcting the person who has erred, forgiving injuries...): cf. "St Pius X Catechism", 944f.

We should also show understanding towards people who are in error: "Love and courtesy of this kind should not, of course, make us indifferent to truth and goodness. Love, in fact, impels the followers of Christ to proclaim to all men the truth which saves. But we must distinguish between the error (which must always be rejected) and the person in error, who never loses his dignity as a person even though he flounders amid false or inadequate religious ideas. God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts; He forbids us to pass judgment on the inner guilt of others" (Vatican II, "Gaudium Et Spes", 28).

38. We read in Sacred Scripture of the generosity of the widow of Zarephath, whom God asked to give food to Elijah the prophet even though she had very little left; He then rewarded her generosity by constantly renewing her supply of meal and oil (1 kings 17:9ff). The same sort of thing happened when the boy supplied the five loaves and two fish which our Lord multiplied to feed a huge crowd of people (cf. Jn 6:9)-a vivid example of what God does when we give Him whatever we have, even if it does not amount to much.

God does not let Himself be outdone in generosity: "Go, generously and like a child ask Him, 'What can You mean to give me when You ask me for "this"?'" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 153). However much we give God in this life, He will give us more in life eternal.
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.

Principles and Practices - March 1

Our Need

We come to Thee, Sweet Saviour!
It is love that makes us come:
We are certain of our welcome,
Of our Father's welcome home.
O bountiful salvation!
O life eternal won!
O plentiful redemption!
O Blood of Mary's Son!

We come to Thee, Sweet Saviour!
Fear brings us in our need;
For Thy hand never breaketh,
Not the frailest bruised reed.
O bountiful salvation!
O life eternal won!
O plentiful redemption!
O Blood of Mary's Son!

From Principles and Practices
Compiled by Rev. J. Hogan of The Catholic Missionary Society
Published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers To The Holy See
Nihil Obstat; Eduardus J. Mahoney, S.T.D. Censor deputatus.
Imprimatur; Edm. Can. Surmont, Vicarius generalis.
First printed in 1930

The School of Love, February 28


[continued from yesterday]

Or again one may thus draw out a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. One comes into the presence of Our Lord. One realises Him, one realises oneself, one has in mind what it is one wishes to express; and the prayer may take a form such as this:
Jesus, Jesus Christ,
Jesus, Son of God,
Jesus, God made Man,
Jesus, truly man,
Jesus, with a greatly loving Heart,
Jesus, here present,
You are,
You love me,
You have proved it wonderful1y,
In your own life and in mine,
In ways I know,
In ways I do not know;
I am a poor creature,
I have done endless harm,
I have hurt you,
I am sorry,
I would do better,
But I cannot trust myself,
I seem incapable of any good,
And yet you want me
To be yours, live with you,
Work with you, die with you,
You know I cannot of myself,
I cannot keep from hurting you,
Yet you pity me, love me,
Even me,
And you have chosen even me,
Then I rely on you,
I have no other help,
Keep me from doing evil,
Keep me from hurting you,
Make me true in myself,
Make me true to you,
You can if you will,
And if I will,
And I do will so far as I am able,
I have no other hope,
I give you myself,
In spite of, against, my own opposition;
and the prayer may fitly conclude with the Anima Christi, or any other form of prayer which the soul prefers.

The length of time such a prayer will take is quite indefinite. At one time, when the soul is sluggish or distracted, or when the body is weary, it may be short, at another time it may easily expand into an hour; in either case the effort should be made to be very real, to mean exactly what we say, to delay until we are sure that we mean it, speaking to Our Lady or Our Lord directly, as to a personal friend in whose presence we are.

If this is done it will soon be found that many more steps can be made between those here suggested, each soul having its own particular thoughts, reflections and manners of expressing its love and con­trition.

Such prayer is among the most satisfying to the human soul, and is far easier than those think who have not tried it. But who has not tried it, however unconsciously?

For who has not striven at some time to utter to God his soul exactly as it is, and what is the prayer here suggested but this? Let us bear in mind the words of a great saint of prayer: "It is not abundance of knowledge that satisfies the soul, but to feel and relish things internally."
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918