28 December 2008

Sunday After Nativity

Today the Eastern Church celebrates St. Joseph the Betrothed, the Prophet King David, and James the Kinsman of the Lord. On the Western calendar Sts. Joseph and James have their own day, but David doesn't. Happy namesday to me.


Come let us extol David the king, the grandparent of God; for from him sprang forth out of a stem, namely the Virgin, and from that did shine forth Christ the Flower, renewing the creation of Adam and Eve from corruption: for He is compassionate. (Sticheron, Tone 1)

27 December 2008

Best of 2008 -- Part 1

As 2008 comes to a close I'd like to recall articles from the past year on various topics. Today I will list some articles on the work of the Holy Spirit, Charismatic gifts, and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Click each title to read the articles.

25 December 2008

God Enters History

God seeks out man in the midst of his worldly and earthly connections and relationships; God, whom no one, not even the purest of men, can discover for himself, comes to man of His own volition and enters into relationship with him... God is the one who acts, and it is He who brings salvation to man. (1)

He [God] has entered into history, has come to meet man, and thus man can go to meet Him. He [man] can unite himself to God, because God has united Himself with man. (2)

Human listening to the message of faith is no passive reception of hitherto unknown information; rather, it is the awakening of our submerged conscience and the opening up of the powers of understanding that are awaiting the light of truth within us. (3)

The longing for the infinite is alive and unquenchable within man. None of the attempted answers will do; only the God who Himself became finite in order to tear open our finitude and lead us out into the wide spaces of His infinity, only He corresponds to the question of our being. (4)

In the revelation of God it is, in the end, precisely a matter of Him, the Living and True One, breaking into our world and thus breaking open the prison of our theories, by means of whose iron bars we seek to protect ourselves against the coming of God into our lives. (4)

~Pope Benedict XVI
(1) The Unity & Diversity of Religions
(2) The Truth of Christianity
(3) Truth-Tolerance-Freedom
(4) The New Questions that Arose in the Nineties
** Compiled in the collection "Truth & Tolerance"

23 December 2008

Christ is Born, Glorify Him!




Chanted by Reader Nader Hajjar, Ottawa.
Video by kalamation and Fr. Francois Beyrouti
.

22 December 2008

The Last Song You Hear on Earth


In the mid 1980's I had a garage band called "Vladimir's Universe" that performed in local clubs. My mentor was a guy named Tom V. Silvia. He had a studio in a garage where he recorded and produced a demo tape for me.

After losing touch with him for 20 years I decided to Google him and found that he passed away in 2007. On his memorial page I found out that he was a devout Catholic who was involved at a parish here in Ann Arbor. Requiescat in pace! May his memory be eternal!

I bring this all up because there was a recording of him on the memorial page. Tom mentioned that in Catholic teaching the last sense lost when you die is hearing. That's why the priest whispers in the ear of someone who died.

Being a musician, Tom felt it was important to leave with a good song. He chose "Love Supreme" by John Coltrane--partially because of it's length.

The Eastern tradition (Orthodox & Byzantine Catholic) is to chant the entire Psalter for the dying person. I hope that my kids will do this for me. If God would allow it, I would love to pass while my oldest son is chanting Psalm 51 "Miserere mei, Deus" in Tone IV 4.

21 December 2008

Fourth Sunday of Advent

We beseech Thee, Almighty God, to purify our consciences by Thy daily visitation, that when Thy Son our Lord cometh He may find in us a mansion prepared for Himself; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

20 December 2008

Spiritual Gifts in the 4th Century

Early-fourth century Church Historian Eusebius of Caesarea had this to say about the gifts of the Spirit in his time:

For some of them drive out demons effectually and truly, so that those who have been cleansed from evil spirits frequently believe and unite with the Church. Others have a foreknowledge of future events, and visions, and prophetic revelations. Still others heal the sick by the laying on of hands, and restore them to health. And, as we have said, even dead persons have been raised, and remained with us many years.

As also we hear that many brethren in the Church possess prophetic gifts, and speak, through the Spirit, with all kinds of tongues, and bring to light the secret things of men for their good, and declare the mysteries of God.


~Church History 5:7

19 December 2008

Cup-O-Camel


I take my relationship with Christ seriously. But it's the kind of "seriousness" that children exhibit when they play. Intensity and absorption mingled with abandonment and joy. As G.K. Chesterton said, "It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it."

There is a kind of "seriousness" that is poison. It leads to legalism and even depression. That was the problem the pharisees had. They were so uptight that they served God out of duty rather than love.

This "tainted seriousness" is not just found in religion, but also in politics and everyday living. Rigidness is one manifestation. Another is to believe that things are actually as bad as you imagine they are.

So what's the antidote? One is to just lighten up. Another is to exaggerate circumstances until they are so ridiculous that you can't help but laugh. St. Francis of Asissi was good at this as exemplified in a conversation he had with friar while walking in a cold winter storm:

"When we come to St. Mary of the Angels (monastery) soaked by the rain and frozen by the cold, all soiled with mud and suffering from hunger, and we ring at the gate of the place and the brother porter comes out and says angrily: 'Who are you?' and we say: 'We are two of your brothers.' And he contradicts us, saying, 'You are not telling the truth. Rather you are two rascals who go around deceiving people and stealing what they give to the poor. Go away!' And he does not open for us, but makes us stand outside in the snow and rain, cold and hungry, until night falls--then if we endure all those insults and cruel rebuffs patiently, without being troubled and without complaining, and if we reflect humbly and charitably that the porter really knows us and that God makes him speak against us, oh, Brother Leo, write that perfect joy is there."

By imagining such an extreme scenario, he could walk in the snow and rain with joy rather than complaint and despair. Plus, even if such a thing happened, he was already prepared to be joyful.

Jesus offered the cure of exaggeration to the pharisees. They were blind to justice, mercy, and faith because of their "seriousness". Our Lord said that they "strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" (Matthew 23:24). What an absurd image, but it showed how ridiculous their legalism was. Then he continued with images of cups that are clean on the outside but filled with filth, of whitewashed tombs that contain decaying bodies.

Take the horrendous tragedies in your life and look at them in a way that will make you laugh. If you are taking life too seriously, have a bowl of camel soup.

18 December 2008

Our Lady of Expectation

“O God who wished that your Word would take the flesh from the womb of the Virgin as announced by the Angel and whom we confess to be the true Mother of God, may we be helped by her intercession.”

Today, in many parts of the world (but sadly not in America), it is the feast of Our Lady of Expectation. One week before Christ-Mass we celebrate the Holy Virgin "great with child".

The feast is kept alive in many countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Poland as well as in a few religious orders. In older editions of missals, this feast is still listed as a votive Mass. There are special prayers and novenas to “Our Lady of Expectation” available for women who cannot conceive or bear a child.

The origin of this feast goes back to the bishops of the 10th Council of Toledo, in 656. They felt that the joy of the Annunciation was overshadowed by the somber character of Lent, so they moved the feast to the week before Nativity. Later, they re-joined the rest of the Church in celebrating the Annunciation on March 25th. But they kept this day as a way to celebrate the Virgin with child .

16 December 2008

Active Waiting

Fear is what makes it hard to wait. The more afraid we are, the harder waiting becomes. Fearful people want to get away from where they are. When we can't flee, a common reaction is to fight.

But waiting is part of movement from something to something more. If you are between opportunities, you are still somewhere... you're "between".

While waiting, we should live actively in the moment. Experience God where you are now. Embrace the present moment as the place you're meant to be.

Seed has been planted, something has begun. Fulfillment of God's promises will come if we cultivate and fertilize what he has sown. That is active waiting.

15 December 2008

The Waiting

When we read the Bible we often plow through from one passage to the next like any other book. What is hard to grasp is the time lapse between events.

We jump from the Ascension to Pentecost in a matter of minutes, forgetting that there was a lapse of 9 days. What happened during that time? They waited.

We read of the Anunciation when the archangel told Mary that she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. After a brief stop at Elizabeth's house we read ahead and Christ is born. This also takes a few minutes for us to travel. We forget that nine months pass (at least in the Catholic Church the feast days remind us of the time lapse). What did Mary do during that time? She waited and prepared.

It's hard to realize that St. Paul spent years in various towns. They weren't weekend crusades or week long camp meetings. It took time to establish a church.

Why should our lives be any different? How often we expect God's work in our lives to be instant. When the Holy Spirit plants an idea about His direction for our lives we must be patient until it blooms.

"And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)

14 December 2008

Third Sunday of Advent

Stir up Thy power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let Thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

10 December 2008

Being Catholic Matters

In our pluralistic society a common attitude is that it doesn't matter what church you belong to as long as you love Jesus. I will agree that one's eternal salvation is a mystery and I treat everyone who follows after Jesus as a Christian brother or sister whether they are Catholic or not. Many evangelical and protestant authors have written books that I've benefited from. The prayers of my non-Catholic family and friends are always welcome.
Yet, the Body of Christ is not some fragmented nebulous conglomeration of conflicting interpretations of Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:13). The Church is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15) built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets (Ephesians 2:20). The authority given to the Apostles was passed on to faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2) who hold the traditions they were taught orally and in writing (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
Who fulfills all of these criteria? Only the Catholic Church (and I include the Eastern Orthodox under this umbrella) can claim Apostolic succession and uninterrupted faithfulness to Apostolic doctrine. The Church is living and breathing, it adjusts and grows over time, but it's roots and fruits remain the same.

Here's why it matters: Jesus promised that He would preserve the Church and gave it authority (Matthew 16:18-19). As part of the Catholic Church I come under this protection. I have the assurance that the Fathers and the Magisterium are guided by the Holy Spirit to keep me from error (John 16:13). I can receive the divine presence of Christ through Communion (John 6:53-54) and the removal of sin and renewal of my relationship with God through Reconciliation (1 John 1:9). I am part of a 2000 year old, world-wide spiritual family!

I'm sorry if my triumphalism makes you uncomfortable, but these are the facts. As Catholics we have so many resources to assist us as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Other "ecclesial communities" might have zeal (Romans 10:2), heartfelt worship (John 4:24), and television ministries (Luke 9:49-50)--but they can't claim the authority and protection that exists in the Catholic Church.
It does matter!

08 December 2008

Nightingale Sounds

One of my favorite Christmas songs is the 16th century "villancico" from Spain called "Riu Riu Chiu". Several recordings have been made including a version by the Monkees doing the first two verses (see video below). I post this today because the song mentions today's feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here's my own moderately literal translation:

Riu, riu chiu protected by the River
God kept our Lady from that wolf the devil
God kept our Lady from that wolf the devil

The rabid wolf attempted to bite the Theotokos
But Almighty God knew how to defend her
He wished to create her impervious to sin
Nor did she embody original sin

This newborn child is the mightiest of monarchs
Christ patriarchal dressed in human flesh
He humbled Himself in order to redeem us
He who was infinite took on finitude

Many prophecies told us about His coming
And now in our days we have seen them fulfilled
God became man on earth do we behold Him
Now man goes to heaven because it is His will

Christ is here giving life to the dead
He comes to redeem the fallen race of Adam
Jesus is the light that shines in the day
He is the Lamb of God John the Baptist prophesied

Now we have received what we were all desiring
Let us go together bearing our gifts
Let us give our wills to the God who was willing
to come down to earth becoming one of us.

07 December 2008

7 Minutes in Heaven

No, I'm not talking about being locked in a closet with a love interest to see what happens. Then again, maybe on a spiritual level I am. Jesus should be our beloved and He did tell us to go into the closet to pray.

Anyway, I came across this great recommendation for spending deliberate time with God. Sure, I talk to Him throughout the day, but it's still good to set a daily "appointment" where I can stop and listen. No doubt, Jesus was in constant communication with the Father throughout His earthly ministry, but He would go off to pray. If God incarnate set aside time time to pray, how much more do we need it.

So here's the plan: deliberately spend seven minutes with God. Two minutes of quiet, contemplative prayer in the morning and five minutes of Bible reading and "Lectio Divina" (meditation on the Scripture) at night.

Sure God deserves more of our time, but setting aside this time is a good place to start a routine.

Second Sunday of Advent

Merciful God, who didst send Thy messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

03 December 2008

St. John of Damascus: Theotokos

Moreover we proclaim the holy Virgin to be in strict truth the Mother of God. For inasmuch as He who was born of her was true God, she who bare the true God incarnate is the true mother of God.

For we hold that God was born of her, not implying that the divinity of the Word received from her the beginning of its being, but meaning that God the Word Himself, Who was begotten of the Father timelessly before the ages, and was with the Father and the Spirit without beginning and through eternity, took up His abode in these last days for the sake of our salvation in the Virgin’s womb, and was without change made flesh and born of her.

For the holy Virgin did not bare mere man but true God: and not mere God but God incarnate, Who did not bring down His body from Heaven, nor simply passed through the Virgin as channel, but received from her flesh of like essence to our own and subsisting in Himself. For if the body had come down from heaven and had not partaken of our nature, what would have been the use of His becoming man? For the purpose of God the Word becoming man was that the very same nature, which had sinned and fallen and become corrupted, should triumph over the deceiving tyrant and so be freed from corruption, just as the divine apostle puts it, For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:21). If the first is true the second must also be true.

Hence it is with justice and truth that we call the holy Mary the Mother of God. For this name embraces the whole mystery of the dispensation. For if she who bore Him is the Mother of God, assuredly He Who was born of her is God and likewise also man.

~St. John of Damascus (645-749) whose feast is celebrated today
(from "An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith" 3:12)

01 December 2008

The Icon of Advent

The Virgin Mary
is the icon of Advent.
Let us call upon her
to help us to become
an extension of humanity
for the Lord who comes.

~Pope Benedict XVI

30 November 2008

Advent Begins!

Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a
highway for our God.
(Isaiah 40:3)

Collect for the First Sunday of Advent


Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

"Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come."
(Mark 13:33)



28 November 2008

O God the Holy Ghost

As a bright flame,
and like unto the wind,
Come from the heights of heaven,
O God the Holy Ghost!
Touch Thou my tongue with fire,
guide Thou my feeble pen,
Make my heart strong,
then when I need Thee most.
Help me to write of Thee,
teach me to speak of Thee,
Let me lead souls to Thee,
O God the Holy Ghost.


~Susan L. Emery, 1903


27 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Troparion for Thanksgiving (Tone 7)


You made the earth, O God and all it contains. You have given us a share in Your life. All creation sings praise to You. As our forefathers gave thanks to You after coming to these shores, we your unworthy servants, also give thanks on this day for all your benefits bestowed throughout the years.


Metropolitan Cantor Institute
Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh



26 November 2008

Seeking Silence

Your inner life
is like a
banana tree
filled with
monkeys
jumping
up and down.

~Henri Nouwen

25 November 2008

Defend Your Joy!

"The devil exults when he can extinguish or even impede the devotion and joy brought about by pure prayer or other good works in the heart of God's servant. If the devil takes hold of a servant of God, and if the latter is not wise enough to eliminate this bond as soon as possible by confession, contrition, and satisfaction, it would be very easy for the devil to take the slightest thing and turn it into an even heavier burden."
~St. Francis of Assisi

How do you keep your joy from being stolen? How can you avoid viewing difficulties as tragedies? By confession, contrition, and satisfaction.

Confession: When you sin it is easy to fall into despair. Don't let your sores fester, but go immediately for healing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (James 5:16)

Contrition: "The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit." (Psalm 34:18) "For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones." (Isaiah 57:15)

Satisfaction: "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content." (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

21 November 2008

Mary Enters the Temple

Today in both the East and West we celebrate the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple, or the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Kontakion for the Feast, Tone 4




20 November 2008

Theology

"The one who has purity in prayer is true theologian."
~Evagrius Ponticus

"Theology is looking at reality with the eyes of God."
~Henri J.M. Nouwen

"Theology is simply that part of religion that requires brains"
~G.K. Chesterton

The Source of all Peace

Keep your eyes on the prince of peace, the one who doesn't cling to his divine power; the one who refuses to turn stones into bread, jump from great heights, and rule with great power; the one who says, "Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness" (see Matt. 5:3-11). See the one who touches the lame, the crippled, and the blind; the one who dies alone, rejected, and despised. Keep your eyes on him who becomes poor with the poor, weak with the weak, and who is rejected with the rejected. That one, Jesus, is the source of all peace.

~Henri J.M. Nouwen "The Path of Peace"

17 November 2008

A Note to My Single Friends

Marriage, like any vocation, should be approached with much discernment and prayer. It is important, however, not to become obsessed with the idea of marriage to the point that it consumes you. That would turn this Sacrament into an idol. All vocations take preparation and should be entered into with care.

The best thing to do is hang out in groups with other Christian singles who can encourage you in your Faith. This is a safe way to find the person God has for you and to learn what qualities you desire in a future spouse. Be careful, however, not to build up such an ideal that no mortal can ever live up to it. The “right” person may not be the “perfect” person. It is easy to overlook reality while holding out for a fairy tale—the one God has for you may be someone you would never expect.

The right person will be someone who has the same intense desire to serve God that you do. You will encourage each other in the Faith and strengthen each other. That doesn't mean that you won't have disagreements and differences of opinion about minor things, but your respect for each other should overcome them.

Stop praying that you'll find your future spouse—pray for your future spouse. Maybe you haven't met them because God is still preparing them for you. Ask the Lord to keep them safe and make them ready to spend their life with you.

Don't get distracted by your desire. Sometimes we can want something so bad that it dominates our prayers and thoughts. Even if it is a good thing, it can prevent us from praying about other issues. God's will for us is our sanctification. If we are becoming more like Christ, then we are in His will. Some of that work can only be accomplished while we are single and have the freedom to go wherever the Spirit leads.

God knows your desires and will lead you. Don't worry about tomorrow—be the best servant of God you can be today. There may be things you need to accomplish now while you are single. Once you are married your life is not your own, and when you have children your time is even more limited. Pray that you will recognize opportunities to serve the Lord while in your current state.

Seek advice from married people you respect. Heed the warnings given by those with experience. Many advisors make victory sure. Also, talk with people in the consecrated life who have chosen the single life for the service of God. Learn from them how to use your time for God while you are single.

16 November 2008

Matters of Dress (1892)

I think it's fun to look at the values of a century ago and see how much culture has changed. The following is from a book called "The Correct Thing for Catholics" by Lelia Hardin Bugg written in 1892. Enjoy.

It is the Correct Thing:

To dress according to one's means.

To avoid all extremes and eccentricities in dress.

To remember that neatness, scrupulous cleanliness, and a perfect fit are the fundamentals in a proper attire.

To avoid conspicuous attire on the street.

To dress in society as the occasion demands.

To remember that one of the marks of a lady is to dress as one.

To keep one's clothes in perfect order.

To make a liberal use of soap and water.

To remember that male cranks wear their hair long and female cranks theirs short.

To leave rouge to the green-room where it is a necessary adjunct, and to the women who have no reputation to be compromised.

To remember that tight lacing, and any device of the toilet which injures the health, is not only bad taste, but is a positive sin.

To remember that no lady, to say nothing of a Catholic worthy of the name, will wear a gown cut immodestly low.

To dress becomingly in the home circle.

To remember that the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and is therefore worthy of proper care.

TO THINK LESS OF ADORNING THE BODY THAN THE SOUL.


It is Not the Correct Thing:

For a woman to spend more than she can afford on dress.

For a woman to spend the greater part of her time shopping, studying fashion-plates, devising costumes, and sewing.

For a woman who can afford better to wear shabby gowns.

To follow an ugly and unbecoming fashion.

For poor women to try to rival rich ones in matters of dress.

To haggle over a reasonable price for dressmaking and sewing.

To show disrespect to a hostess by appearing at her entertainments in unsuitable apparel.

To wear showy and expensive costumes at church.

To wear shabby costumes at church, as if anything were good enough for the house of God.

To wear torn stockings, ripped gloves, shoes with buttons off, gowns in need of dusting and renovating, hats out of date and unbecoming, soiled collars, cuffs, or niching, and to make a liberal use of pins.

To emulate the Indian in his dislike to a bath.

To use rouge on the cheeks, ink on the eyebrows, or blondine on the hair.

To use powder too freely. Its proper use is merely to take the shiny appearance off the face after it has been washed, or when going out in the wind and sun to prevent chapping.

To forget that an immodest gown is a mark of low breeding.

To devote the greater part of one's time to the consideration of clothes.

To think that anything is good enough to wear at home.

For a woman to appear in the home circle in a slouchy wrapper, old slippers, hair dishevelled, bangs in curl-papers, or in a worn-out reception gown sadly in need of repairs.

To forget that art in many instances may remedy the defects of nature.

To let vanity be the motive in taking proper care of the body.

11 November 2008

Known and Unknown

Faith brings together the known and the unknown so that they overlap: or rather, so that we are aware of their overlapping... faith incorperates the unknown into our everyday life in a living, dynamic and actual manner. The function of faith is not to reduce mystery to rational clarity, but to integrate the unknown and the known together in a living whole, in which we are more and more able to transcend the limitations of external self.

~Thomas Merton

10 November 2008

The new era has begun

“Comment is useless. It is enough to say in one short sentence that the new era has begun, to which prophets and kings, and the suffering, the dying, all who labour and are heavy-laden, have aspired in vain... Of him who has been the herald of its inauguration we have nothing more to say. Time alone can show what is yet left for him to do.

“It is understood now, by fanatic barbarians as well as by civilised nations, that the reign of War is ended. 'Not peace but a sword,' said CHRIST; and bitterly true have those words proved to be. 'Not a sword but peace' is the retort, articulate at last, from those who have renounced CHRIST’S claims or have never accepted them... There shall be no more an appeal to arms, but to justice; no longer a crying after a God Who hides Himself, but to Man who has learned his own Divinity. The Supernatural is dead; rather, we know now that it never yet has been alive. What remains is to work out this new lesson, to bring every action, word and thought to the bar of Love and Justice; and this will be, no doubt, the task of years. Every code must be reversed; every barrier thrown down; party must unite with party, country with country, and continent with continent. There is no longer the fear of fear, the dread of the hereafter, or the paralysis of strife. Man has groaned long enough in the travails of birth; his blood has been poured out like water through his own foolishness; but at length he understands himself and is at peace."

No, this isn't another media orgasm over the election of Barack Obama. It's from "Lord of the World" written by Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson in 1906. The book takes place in the distant 21st century and describes the rise of a charismatic leader from the midwestern United States who becomes "President of the World". Some of the book is a bit neurotic, sometimes ridiculous, while many aspects are eerily familiar.

It's worth checking out and can be read online:

06 November 2008

Quiet, Dark Churches

Let there be quiet, dark churches in which men can take refuge. Places where they can kneel in silence. Houses of God, filled with His silent presence. There, even when they don't know how to pray, at least they can still breathe easily. Let there be a place somewhere in which you can breathe naturally, quietly, and not have to take your breath in continuous short gasps. A place where your mind can be idle, and forget its concerns, descend into silence, and worship the father in secret.

~Thomas Merton

Rediscover the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Today I would like to extend this invitation to everyone: Let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit; let us be aware again of our baptism and of our confirmation, sources of grace that are always present. Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain a renewed Pentecost for the Church again today, a Pentecost that will spread in everyone the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel.

~Pope Benedict XVI, May 11, 2008

05 November 2008

The Obama Victory

As someone who voted pro-life, that means for John McCain, I was disappointed by the outcome of the election. So, how to respond? The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said this in their congatulatory message:

"Our country is confronting many uncertainties. We pray that you will use the powers of your office to meet them with a special concern to defend the most vulnerable among us and heal the divisions in our country and our world. We stand ready to work with you in defense and support of the life and dignity of every human person."

I don't know if the President-elect will catch the subtle message to defend and support life, but we must pray for him, so let's pray for a miraculous change of heart. We must look for ways to work within the new regime. The epistle reading from today's Mass includes this appropriate advice:
"Prove yourselves innocent and straightforward, children of God beyond reproach in the midst of a twisted and depraved generation – among whom you shine like the stars in the sky while holding fast to the word of life." (Philippians 2:15-16)

My friend Oswald very eloquently sums up how Christians should respond to this election:

"What do we do then? What do Christians do in this predicament? We will do what we have always done: we will pray for the conversion of the nation and its very, very badly chosen leaders--and for our own continuing conversion... We will do so without bitterness or anger or resentment because the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit has been and is continually being poured into our hearts regardless of external circumstances, whether political or personal. We will smile because we have reason to smile: Jesus and only Jesus saves and He does so here and now regardless of the extremely bad and self-destructive choice made tonight by the nation's voters."Italic

For Oswald's complete analysis visit his Political Asides blog. Also, check out his always insightful Catholic Analysis blog.

04 November 2008

Prayer After an Election

God of all nations, Father of the human family, we give you thanks for the freedom we exercise and the many blessings of democracy we enjoy in these United States of America. We ask for your protection and guidance for all who devote themselves to the common good, working for justice and peace at home and around the world. We lift up all our duly elected leaders and public servants, those who will serve us as president, as legislators and judges, those in the military and law enforcement. Heal us from our differences and unite us, O Lord, with a common purpose, dedication, and commitment to achieve liberty and justice in the years ahead for all people, and especially those who are most vulnerable in our midst. Amen.

Election Petition to Mary

This excellent prayer to the Mother of God appeared in the Sunday bulletin of my parish, Christ the King, in Ann Arbor:

O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your lovingcare. Most Holy Mother, we beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son. Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins of our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection. Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people. Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom. Free us from the falsehoods that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life. Grant our country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded, and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life. Trusting in your most powerful intercession, we pray… Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, we fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, our Mother. To thee do we come, before thee we stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer us. Amen.

03 November 2008

Merton on Politics

Perhaps in the end the first real step toward peace would be a realistic acceptance of the fact that our political ideals are perhaps to a great extent illusions and fictions to which we cling out of motives that are not always perfectly honest: that because of this we prevent ourselves from seeing any good or any practicability in the political ideals of our enemies--which may, of course, be in many ways even more illusory and dishonest than our own. We will never get anywhere unless we can accept the fact that politics is an inextricable tangle of good and evil motives in which, perhaps, the evil predominate but where one must continue to hope doggedly in what little good can still be found.

... I believe the basis for valid political action can only be the recognition that the true solution to our problems is not accessible to any one isolated party or nation but that all must arrive at it by working together.

We must try to accept ourselves, whether individually or collectively, not only as perfectly good or perfectly bad, but in our mysterious, unaccountable mixture of good and evil. We have to stand by the modicum of good that is in us without exaggerating it.

~Thomas Merton

02 November 2008

Quis est, qui me tetigit?

Daughter,
your faith has
made you well;
go in peace.

25th Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 8:41-56


01 November 2008

All Saints Day

Dearly beloved brethren! This day we keep with one great cry of joy, a feast in memory of all God's holy children; His children, whose presence is a gladness in heaven; His children, whose prayers are a blessing to earth; His children, whose victories are the crown of Holy Church; His chosen, whose testifying is the more glorious in honor, as the agony in which it was given was the sterner in intensity. For, as the dreader grew the battle, so the grander grew the fighters; and the triumph of martyrdom waxed the more incisive by the multiplicity of suffering; and the heavier the torment, the heavier the prize.

~St. Bede the Venerable

31 October 2008

Catholic Charismatic Renewal 2.0

When I was becoming Catholic I was thrilled to know that the Charismatic Renewal was active in the Church. What a joy to find that there were more Spirit-filled charismatics in the Catholic Church than all non-catholic Pentecostals and Charismatics put together!
I did have a few disappointments. It took much searching to get information on the Renewal. Many Charismatic web sites are outdated or poorly maintained. Local prayer groups are hard to find or they are stagnant.
Some things I did find encouraging. The CCR is a grassroots movement within the heart of the Church supported by hierarchs, especially the last several Popes. It is Catholic first, THEN Charismatic. There were no celebrities--there are some leaders who stand out, but they don't have personality cults around them.
The Holy Spirit placed some things on my heart about the future of the Renewal:
*More cohesion, coordination, and cooperation.
*More visibility and a stronger web presence.
*The next wave of leadership must be trained.
*Be prepared for tremendous growth.
I don't know if this was a prophecy or not, but I have a strong feeling that many Protestant/Evangelical Charismatics and Pentecostals will be coming into the Catholic Church. Weary of being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, they will be searching for the stability and authority that the Church offers. The Lord wants shepherds ready to feed them and help them recover from spiritual abuses that they come out of.
Let's get ready for the next chapter in CCR history!

30 October 2008

Faith or Magic?

In his awesome book "New Seeds of Contemplation", Thomas Merton discusses the "theology of the devil". He describes many wrong attitudes, exaggerations, and errors that deceive many who think they are following Christ. What I found most interesting is the description of how "faith" is diabolically defined. This was written in 1961, before the popularity of the nonsense promoted by Oprah or the "word-faith" ideas of televangelists.



The theology of the devil is really not theology but magic. "Faith" in this theology is really not the acceptance of God Who reveals Himself as mercy. It is a psychological, subjective "force" which applies a kind of violence to reality in order to change it according to one's own whims. Faith is a kind of supereffective wishing: a mastery that comes from a special, mysteriously dynamic will power that is generated by "profound convictions". By virtue of this wonderful energy one can exert persuasive force even on God Himself and bend His will to one's own will. By this astounding new dynamic sould force of faith (which any quack can develop in you for an appropriate remuneration) you can turn God into a means to your own ends. We become civilized medicine men, and God becomes our servant. Though He is terrible in His own right, He respects our sorcery, He allows Himself to be tamed by it. He will appreciate our dynamis, and will reward it with success in everything we attempt. We will become popular because we have "faith". We will be rich because we have "faith". All our national enemies will come and lay down their arms at our feet because we have "faith". Business will boom all over the world, and we will be able to make money out of everything and everyone under the sun because of the charmed life we lead. We have faith.



29 October 2008

Beware of Spiritual Arrogance

Those of us who take our Christian faith seriously can easily fall into elitism. That is, an attitude that we are somehow more enlightened or holier than the "average" Christian.

During Apostolic times the Jewish Christians looked down on the gentile believers. When new religious orders appeared on the scene they met resistance: consider the opposition faced by St. Francis, St. John of the Cross, or the Jesuits. Though these are examples of the establishment opposing change, our saints could easily have judged others as being less spiritual for not understanding them. But they didn't.

I bring up all this because I occasionally run across folks in the Charismatic Renewal who consider the "regular" Catholic to be inferior. They often ignore anything that doesn't come from a Charismatic source. "How could someone who hasn't been 'baptized in the Holy Spirit' have anything worthwhile to say?"

This attitude was common in the early days of the Renewal, not just among Catholics, but Protestant Charismatics as well. Prayer groups became islands where the "enlightened" gathered. Some left their churches and ended up in established Pentecostal congregations. I think that this attitude contributed to the stagnation of many prayer groups and the disappearance of others.

If we tell people that they need the baptism in the Holy Spirit because their current experience with God isn't good enough they'll close themselves off. Just because someone is uncomfortable with the gift of tongues, prefers traditional forms of worship, or quiet prayer does not make them inferior. The pious little old lady sitting quietly in Mass every day may have more of the Spirit in her big toe than my entire prayer group put together!

An emotional experience like the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not required in order to have spiritual gifts. A confessor can have the gifts of knowledge or wisdom even if he doesn't speak in tongues. God supplies each of us with gifts for the building up of the Church and the only requirement is our openness to the Holy Spirit.

At confirmation every Catholic experiences their personal Pentecost. Wouldn't it be cool if those being confirmed spoke in tongues when the Bishop blessed them! But, alas, they don't. Does this mean nothing happened? Of course not.

I am thankful to be in a parish that is officially Charismatic with an active prayer group. We sing in the Spirit during portions of the Mass. Our worship is upbeat and lively. Our prayer group is active and attended by young and old. I wish that all Catholic parishes were like mine, but that doesn't mean mine is "better".

We must love our brothers and sisters and appreciate their gifts. We must recognize that the Holy Spirit dwells in all Catholics and pray that they open themselves to more and more of His blessings. And finally, we must humble ourselves and admit that there is still more that we lack no matter how Charismatic we happen to be.

28 October 2008

More of God

There is always something MORE that God can give us.

He is without boundaries like a shoreless ocean.

We can never get enough.

The Holy Spirit wants to lead all of us into a deeper relationship with Christ.

He wants to energize us and enhance our prayer life.

He wants to set us free and bestow gifts.

But we can't "conjure" the Holy Spirit.

He leads as He wills.

27 October 2008

Associating with Non-Catholics, 1892

It is the Correct Thing To...
Be willing and ready at all times and under all circumstances to give the reason for one's religious beliefs when asked to do so by a sincere seeker after truth.
To avoid argument merely for the sake of argument.
To say nothing needlessly to wound the feelings and religious opinions of those out of the Church.
To refute calumnies against the Church when they come under one's notice.
To remember that all minds cannot see alike; that certain minds unillumined by the grace of God are utterly unable to grasp religious truths which are perfectly clear to even a little child who has studied its Catechism faithfully.
To be firm always in one's adherence to the teachings of the Church, even at the risk of giving offence to others outside her pale.
To remember that "a liberal Catholic," in the sense in which the term is usually understood, is often no Catholic at all.
To know that right and wrong is a matter of conscience, even where one has a false conscience.
To know that a Catholic has no excuse for having a false conscience.
To know that ignorance is hardly an excuse for a Catholic, for there is every chance afforded for knowing the truth.
To know that Catholics are excommunicated who marry before a Protestant minister.
To remember that example is more powerful than precept.
It is Not the Correct Thing...
To be unable to give a lucid explanation of one's belief.
To be fond of arguments and religious discussions.
To be careless about what one says, and the use of expressions calculated to give offence.
To weakly agree to slanders on the reputation and integrity of the Church or her ministers.
To manifest surprise and impatience at the failure of any one to grasp a truth that seems so plain to one's self.
To forget that whilst truth remains ever the same, the lamp of Faith, which is God's grace in the soul, may burn differently at different times and may even for some reason be withdrawn altogether; and that as a blind person cannot perceive the objects in the room, although the objects be there, so a soul left in darkness cannot perceive truth, although truth exists as plain as ever.
To imagine that because one cannot see a truth it is therefore not so.
For a Catholic to say that one Church is as good as another; for every intelligent Protestant knows that a consistent Catholic cannot think so, and that a Catholic who says he does is telling a deliberate falsehood.
To try to find excuses for doctrines which the Church never taught.
To act in any way that would bring reproach on the Church or give scandal to those either in or out of the fold.
~From "The Correct Thing for Catholics" (1892) by Lelia Hardin Bugg

26 October 2008

Priesthood Sunday

How humbly Thou dost obey Thy priests! One word from their lips and Thou dost come down upon the altar in Holy Mass and renew the Sacrifice of Calvary in an unbloody manner. Thou dost permit Thy priests to give Thee as the Bread of Life to those who come to the Holy Table; Thou dost not shrink even from the unworthy. Thou dost allow Thyself to be carried wherever Thy priests bear Thee. Heaven and earth are subject to Thee, O King of Glory, and yet Thou dost lower Thyself before Thy sinful creatures, living with them in the Sacred Host--offering Thyself for them, coming to their hearts in Holy Communion.

~Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D.
For more on the vocation of the Priesthood, visit:

25 October 2008

The Seeds of God's Love

For it is God's love that warms me in the sun and God's love that sends the cold rain. It is God's love that feeds me in the bread that I eat and God that feeds me also by hunger and fasting. It is the love of God that sends the winter days when I am cold and sick, and the hot summer when I labor and my clothes are full of sweat: but it is God Who breathes on me with light winds off the river and in the breezes out of the wood. His love spreads the shade of the sycamore over my head and sends the water-boy along the edge of the wheat field with a bucket from the spring, while the laborers are resting and the mules stand under the tree.
It is God's love that speaks to me in the birds and streams; but also behind the clamor of the city God speaks to me of His judgements, and all these things are seeds sent out from His will.

If these seeds would take root in my liberty, and if His will would grow from my freedom, I would become the love that He is, and my harvest would be His glory and my own joy.

~Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (1961)