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
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


"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.


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?

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