30 April 2008

Fire at Little Portion Hermitage

I was heartbroken when I read this news about John Michael Talbot and all the brothers and sisters at the Little Portion Hermitage...

From JMT - Written on Tuesday, May 29,2008

Greetings!Last night the sleep of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, Monastic, was interrupted close to midnight as a raging fire burned our Chapel and Common Center to the ground. Viola and I were the first on the scene as I saw the orange/red glow through our hermitage's back windows. Upon arriving we found there were no hoses capable of stopping the raging flames. I ran up the hill and woke up the community, and we started the almost futile task of spraying down the part of the Common Center that had not yet burned and retrieving anything from inside we could still find.We lost some most valuable things in the fire. Our community archives were lost and all of the books in our library. The Troubadour stockroom and inventory were lost to the flames. All of the various awards received were melted in the intense heat of the fire. We have some back-ups from computers, but nothing current. It is our hope that most of this is covered by our insurance.

In Jesus,
John Michael Talbot
Founder, and Spiritual Father
The Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage

Would You Like To Help? We sincerely appreciate any donation you can make to assist in the rebuilding of Little Portion Hermitage Monastery. Your kind donation is tax deductible. Online donations may be made here: http://www.littleportion.org/

Surprising Connection

Blessed Elena Guerra (+April 1), "Apostle of the Holy Spirit", founder of the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Spirit in Lucca, Italy at the end of the nineteenth century, urged Pope Leo XIII to lead the Church back to the Upper Room.

From 1895 to 1903 she wrote twelve confidential letters to the Pope, requesting a renewed preaching on the Holy Spirit. She exhorted him to invite the faithful to rediscover life lived according to the Holy Spirit. She called and prayed for a renewal of the Church, the reunion of Christianity, a renewal of society.
She wrote: "Pentecost is not over. In fact it is continually going on in every time and in every place, because the Holy Spirit desired to give himself to all men and all who want him can always receive him, so we do not have to envy the apostles and the first believers; we only have to dispose ourselves like them to receive him well, and He will come to us as he did to them."
Prompted by Sr. Elena, Pope Leo XIII issued several important documents concerning the Holy Spirit. In his 1897 encyclical letter, Divinum Illud Munus, he wrote: "...we ought to pray to and invoke the Holy Spirit, for each one of us greatly needs His protection and His help. The more a man is deficient in wisdom, weak in strength, borne down with trouble, prone to sin, so ought he the more to fly to Him who is the never-ceasing fount of light, strength, consolation, and holiness."

His Holiness urged the Church to pray a Novena to the Holy Spirit from Ascension to Pentecost (For those interested in doing it this year, start tomorrow May 1-10, 2008).

On January 1, 1901, at the request of Sr. Elena, Pope Leo XIII invoked the Holy Spirit by singing the hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus", in the name of the entire Church. At the same day, halfway around the world in Topeka, Kansas, at the Bethel College and Bible School, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred which is generally accepted as the beginning of Pentecostalism.


Veni Creator Spiritus

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
vouchsafe within our souls to rest;
come with thy grace and heavenly aid,
and fill the hearts which thou hast made.

To thee, the Comforter, we cry,
to thee, the Gift of God most high,
the Fount of life, the Fire of love,
the soul's anointing from above.

O Finger of the hand divine,
the sevenfold gifts of grace are thine;
true promise of the Father thou,
who dost the tongue with power endow.

Thy light to every sense impart,
and shed thy love in every heart;
thine own unfailing might supply
to strengthen our infirmity.

Drive far away our ghostly foe,
and thine abiding peace bestow;
if thou be our preventing Guide,
no evil can our steps betide.

Praise we the Father and the Son
and Holy Spirit with them One;
and may the Son on us bestow
the gifts that from the Spirit flow.

~10 c. Latin, translated by Edward Caswall, 1849

23 April 2008

Proverbs 31 Man

Okay ladies, how many times has the Proverbs 31 woman been shoved in your face as the "ideal" you must attain to?

What about the Proverbs 31 man? He's in there between the other verses, and the rest of the book is directed to him. There is much that men must do to be the husbands, fathers, and leaders God meant us to be.

But let's just focus on the guy in chapter 31.

He has the perfect wife/helpmeet, but he doesn't just expect it--he praises her. Sure she has business sense, but he trusts her. And why does she succeed? Because he is a responsible and respected, offering her security.

When a man fails to praise, trust, and offer security to his wife he can't really expect her to be the Proverbs 31 woman. I can tell you this from experience.

So us men need to do our part to help the woman in our life be who she was meant to be.

19 April 2008

Gadar Peretz

Repair broken walls
build foundations
for many generations
my children
renew ancient places
my light
shines in darkness
my darkness
shines like noonday
guides continually
He satisfies
my thirsty soul
a watered garden
a spring that never fails
Bread from my soul
feeds the afflicted

Lily Among Thorns

Why did I take a picture of Mary in front of this hyacinth?
Another name for the hyacinth is the "Lily among Thorns", a name from the Song of Songs that the Church Fathers applied to the Blessed Virgin:

"I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters." (Canticles 2:1-2)

Many flowers have ancient names that refer to our Holy Mother. During the Reformation these were replaced, especially in England. You can read more about these and Mary Gardens Here.

18 April 2008

Pope Benedict's Sermon in DC

Here are some excerpts from Pope Benedict's sermon in Washington D.C. yesterday. These statements in particular speak of the Holy Spirit and the need for renewal throughout the Catholic Church in America:

In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk 22:32). I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (cf. Acts 2:14ff.). I have come to repeat the Apostle's urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country. As we have heard throughout this Easter season, the Church was born of the Spirit's gift of repentance and faith in the risen Lord. In every age she is impelled by the same Spirit to bring to men and women of every race, language and people (cf. Rev 5:9) the good news of our reconciliation with God in Christ.

Christ established his Church on the foundation of the Apostles (cf. Rev 21:14) as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit's manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8). In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim "the great works of God" and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in his Spirit.

"Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!" (cf. Ps 104:30). The words of today's Responsorial Psalm are a prayer which rises up from the heart of the Church in every time and place. They remind us that the Holy Spirit has been poured out as the first fruits of a new creation, "new heavens and a new earth" (cf. 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1), in which God's peace will reign and the human family will be reconciled in justice and love. We have heard Saint Paul tell us that all creation is even now "groaning" in expectation of that true freedom which is God's gift to his children (Rom 8:21-22), a freedom which enables us to live in conformity to his will. Today let us pray fervently that the Church in America will be renewed in that same Spirit, and sustained in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel to a world that longs for genuine freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), authentic happiness, and the fulfillment of its deepest aspirations!

In today's Gospel, the risen Lord bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and grants them the authority to forgive sins. Through the surpassing power of Christ's grace, entrusted to frail human ministers, the Church is constantly reborn and each of us is given the hope of a new beginning. Let us trust in the Spirit's power to inspire conversion, to heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and freedom. How much we need these gifts! And how close at hand they are, particularly in the sacrament of Penance! The liberating power of this sacrament, in which our honest confession of sin is met by God's merciful word of pardon and peace, needs to be rediscovered and reappropriated by every Catholic. To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes.

Those who have hope must live different lives! (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior. To him be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

17 April 2008

Fig leaves and facades

"The greatest loss that we all have to deal with is the loss of the image of ourselves as a perfect person."
~ Fred Rogers

Today I decided to break the silence about my infrequent posting. Like Adam, I felt exposed and vulnerable so I went into hiding.

John Eldredge writes that every man's deepest fear is, "to be exposed, to be found out, to be discovered as an imposter, and not really a man." In his popular book "Wild at Heart" (Thomas Nelson, 2001) he continues that, "most of what you encounter when you meet a man is a facade, an elaborate fig leaf, a brilliant disguise."

At work and church, everybody knew me as a happy guy, father of eight blessings, married to his soulmate for 14 years. They admired me and listened to advice and insight that I readily gave. But inside I was ruled by fear--like a cancer it spread through every area of my life.

When I quit my job, my wife quit me. We went from sending me on retreat, to temporary seperation, to divorce. Wait a minute, isn't this superdad, the family man we all looked up to. Well, since I suffered from bipolar disorder I wasn't always the most stable person. Frau Thomas finally said "ENOUGH!"

If a man gets his identity from his work and family, right now I have neither. Broken, I've been in the high prarie of Eastern Colorado recovering emotionally and spiritually. The many books and Scriptures I've read are like healing balm on my wounded soul.

But I don't feel worthy to blog when I'm such a mess. Jobless, seperated from wife and kids, living off charity--some example of a Christian man. I don't believe in divorce, the Catholic Church doesn't believe in divorce, but there I was in court yesterday starting the process that will (in man's eyes) undo the tangled knot we called our marriage. There wasn't even any adultry involved (the only Scriptural justification)--she just couldn't handle the instability anymore.
Regardless, I am seeing victory in my life. Changes in attitude and healings of mind and spirit occur daily. God is good! The work He began, He is faithful to complete.

Pray for me.

15 April 2008

Speaking in Tongues

The most thorough "textbook" on the role and work of the Holy Spirit that I've come across is "Your Life in the Holy Spirit" by Alan Schreck. This is a revision of his earlier work "Hearts Aflame". For anyone interested in the Charismatic Renewal, this book clearly explains who the Holy Spirit is, what He does, how he helps us, and how He guides the Church.

This explaination of glossolalia (speaking in tongues) is the clearest I've found anywhere:

The authentic gift of glossolalia or speaking in tongues is twofold. First, just as the genuine gift of healing or working miracles, it requires God's action. Second, glossolalia requires a gift of faith to be recieved and exercised. God does not force anyone to speak in tongues; he does not force anyone to engage in any particular form of prayer. The person praying must "step out in faith" and yield to the gift, making sounds to allow the language of prayer to come forth.

Admittedly, speaking in tongues requires faith and an unusual degree of humility (at least for the "sophisticated" people of the twenty-first century who often have difficulty becoming like little children to receive a simple gift). Also, many people reject it simply because they do not understand it or fail to realize how it could benefit them.

And yet, even something as simple and apparently unnecessary as speaking in tongues serves to show the power and goodness of God's gifts through the Holy Spirit. It truly is a gift for those of us who "do not know how to pray as we ought" (Romans 8:26). Glossolalia is particularly helpful when words cannot easily express certain interior states, such as the heights of joy in praising God for his goodness, or the depths of sufering or sorrow.

Some Catholics may be tempted to limit their prayer to formal prayers or to the Mass and decide that glossolalia is not for them. And if Pentecost had not happened, then glossolalia--along with mysticism, or contemplative prayer--might well be seen as unnecessary, extraordinary, or outmoded. But in fact, Jesus completed his saving actionby sending us the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit is always ready both to do new things and to renew the old and forgotten things that we find in Scripture and in our tradition!
~Alan Schrek, Your Life in the Holy Spirit (Word Among Us Press, 1995)

06 April 2008

Approaching Scripture

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa was appointed by Pope John Paul II as Preacher to the Papal Household in 1980, which capacity he still serves. As part of the Charismatic Renewal he has written many books including "Sober intoxication of the Spirit". This sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Easter captures the Catholic approach to Scripture:

There are two ways to approach the Bible. The first is that of considering it an old book, full of religious wisdom, of moral values, and of poetry too. From this point of view it is absolutely the most important book for understanding our Western culture and the Judeo-Christian religion. It is also the most printed and read book in the world.

But there is another, much more demanding way to approach the Bible, and it is that of believing that it contains the living word of God for us, that it is an “inspired” book, that is, written, indeed, by human authors, with all of their limitations, but with God’s direct intervention. A very human book and, at the same time, divine, that speaks to men of all times and reveals to them the meaning of life and death.

Above all it reveals to them God’s love. If all the Bibles in the world, St. Augustine said, on account of some disaster, would be destroyed and there remained only one copy and, of this copy, all of the pages were illegible save for one, and on this page only one line were legible; if this line were that of the first letter of John that reads “God is love,” the whole Bible would be saved because it is summed up in this statement. This explains how it is that so many people approach the Bible without culture, without great education, with simplicity, believing that it is the Holy Spirit that speaks in it and find in it answers to their problems, light, encouragement, in a word, life.

The two ways of approaching the Bible -- the way of erudition and the way of faith -- do not exclude each other, on the contrary, they must be united. It is necessary to study the Bible, the way in which it should be interpreted (or to pay attention to the findings of those study it in this way), so as not to fall into fundamentalism. Fundamentalism consists in taking a verse from the Bible, just as it sounds, and applying it to today’s situations, without taking into account the difference of culture, of time, and of the different genres of the Bible.It is believed, for example, that the universe is little more that 4,000 years old since this would seem to be what we can calculate from the information that the Bible provides, while we know that the universe is some billions of years old. The Bible was not written as a textbook of natural science, but for salvation. God, in the Bible, adapted himself to the way of speaking of the men of the time so that they could understand; he did not write only for the men of the age of technology.

On the other hand, to reduce the Bible to an object of study and erudition, remaining neutral to its message, is to kill it. It would be as if a man, receiving a letter from the woman he loves, were to examine it with a dictionary, from the point of view of grammar and syntax, and stops at these things, without grasping the love that is in it.Reading the Bible without faith is like trying to read a book at night: nothing can be read, or at least one does not read what is essential. Reading Scripture with faith means reading it in reference to Christ, grasping what refers to him on every page, just as he did with the disciples of Emmaus.

Jesus remains with us in two ways: in the Eucharist and in his word. He is present in both: in the Eucharist under the form of food, in the Word under the form of light and truth. The word has a great advantage over the Eucharist. Only those who already believe and are in a state of grace can receive communion; but everyone, believers and nonbelievers, married people and divorced people, can approach the word of God. Indeed, to become a believer, the most normal route is that of listening to God’s word.

02 April 2008

Christian Maintenance

Fifteen years ago I picked up a musty copy of "Your God is Too Small" by J.B. Phillips at a Library book sale. Phillips was an Anglican known for his paraphrase of the New Testament. He also wrote a book called "New Testament Chritianity" which is available online. When he's not misguided (or mildly heretical) Phillips has some amazing insights. Spoken like a true Augustinian, yes? Anyhoo, I'm paraphrasing him (how ironic) except the direct quotes which are in italic.
In order to live a life of New Testament quality, we shall find it necessary to work out some kind of practi­cal plan to keep us alive and sensitive to the Spirit of the living God, which will keep us supplied day by day with the necessary spiritual reinforcement, and which will help us to grow and develop as sons and daughters of God. It is unfortunately only too easy to slip back into conformity with our immediate surroundings, and to lose sight of the supra‑human way of living, except per­haps as a wistful memory. This does not in the least mean that real Christian living is a kind of spiritual tight‑rope walk, a fantastic and unnatural progress which can only be maintained by intense concentration. On the con­trary, the Christian way of living is real living, and it carries all the satisfaction and exhilaration which living in reality can bring. It is quite simply because we are surrounded by unreal and false values, by a pattern of living divorced from and unconscious of spiritual reali­ties, that we have to take time and trouble to maintain supra‑natural life, even though that life is in the truest sense the natural one. Experience shows that Christians whose lives are illuminated by the new quality of living, only maintain that inner radiance by taking certain practical steps. Now, naturally these will vary in indi­vidual cases, and there are people who either by tem­perament or through long years of practice can absorb God through the pores of their being, so to speak, as naturally and easily as most of us can breathe. But for the majority of us who are walking "by faith and not by sight" there are some essentials for the maintenance of real Christian living.

1. Quiet. We must secure quiet or the noise and pressure of modem life will quickly smother our longing to live life of the new quality. During the period of quiet is to open our lives to God--to perfect understanding, wisdom, and love. Worship and intercession are also good during this time.

2. Christian Fellowship. "A very large part of our Christian maintenance will consist of joining in with the fellow­ship of the Church, in its prayer and worship, in its work and service. Many people who profess to be Christians are very irregular worshippers. I do not think they can possibly realise how they weaken the cause of the Church, and in addition starve themselves of Christian fellowship. Many people appear to be convinced that they can lead good lives without committing themselves to Church attendance or the fellowship of the Church."

3. Regular Bible Reading.

4. Christian Reading. Those who never read a Christian book "are very ignorant both of the history and of the implications of their Faith... the Church could be infinitely more powerful as God's in­strument for the establishment of His Kingdom if its members were better informed in their minds as well as more devoted in their hearts."

01 April 2008

April brings New Life

The month of April is dedicated to the Holy Spirit.
The whole month falls in the Easter season with the liturgical color of white.

The feasts of the Evangelist Mark (+25th) and St. George (+23rd) occur this month.

The Holy Father calls on us to pray that even in the difficult and complex situations of present-day society, Christians may never tire of proclaiming with their lives Christ’s resurrection, the source of hope and peace.

His Missionary Intention is that future priests in young Churches may be ever more seriously formed culturally and spiritually in order to evangelize their respective countries and the whole world.

Stay tuned for many postings about the Holy Spirit. "You can't see Him, but He's always there!"