Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

31 January 2012

But seriously…very seriously...

Cardinal-Designate Timothy M. Dolan has spoken about the recent efforts of the Obama administration to encroach upon Catholics' conscientious objection to contraceptive and abortifacient drugs.

Let everyone--Catholics in particular--be reminded: the Catholic Church continues to oppose not only direct abortion, but also pharmaceutically-induced abortion.  She also continues to oppose contraceptive drugs.  Most of all she opposes the contraceptive mentality in which people consider the formation of new human beings as a disease, or at best a situation that one should be able to separate from the pleasurable and unitive aspects of sexual intercourse.  She also opposes the rape of religious liberties, which apparently is intolerable for every other religion except for Catholicism.

Unfortunately, I suspect that many Catholics will not find any problem with what the president is mandating.  There is no harm felt by one who does not ascribe to the assailed tenets in question.

The Art of the Gerund



30 January 2012

Reflections on Catholic Schools Week

The theme for this year's celebration of Catholic schools is, "Faith. Academics. Service."  The first letters of these words form fas, which is Latin for "Divine Law or command"; it can also mean "fate, destiny," and the adjective "lawful, allowed."  Catholic schools are permitted by our American Constitution (for now!); they instill the divine law in children’s hearts; and they shape their destiny as "saints in the making."  Catholic schools follow the example of the Lord Jesus who taught “with authority,” yet we may say that they teach authority: they empower young people to be faithful, intelligent, and generous forces in the world.

The eyes of all looked intently at Him (Lk 4:20b)
I approach this topic with due respect for the public school system that educated me from kindergarten through grade six.  The good teachers of Saint Clair Area Elementary and Middle Schools provided a good foundation in everything I needed to know, and my peers supplied the rest.  Early on I began to feel like a square peg in a round hole, as many kids do.  Eventually I became an object of scorn in the classroom and at recess, as many kids do.  Toward the end of sixth grade I started to ask my mom about transferring to the local Catholic elementary school, the same building where I'd been attending CCD (PREP) since our parish program merged with the others in town.  My mom relented.  She and I visited the principal, had a pleasant interview, and I showed up at St. Clair Catholic that fall.  It wasn't too long (surprise!) before one or two of the kids who had sniffed me out were making comments.  As one of seven or eight in the class, I'd gone from a 30-gallon tank into a fishbowl!

St. Clair Catholic (formerly St. Mary's) Elementary School, closed in 1991 and razed in 2011

By the grace of God I stuck with it, and I began to get along rather well with the others in the class and in our school community.  In a short time I began to speak to the teacher and to others about my interests in the priesthood.  I started attending daily Mass at St. Mary's across the street, where I would often serve funeral Masses.  (My grades didn't seem to suffer for it.)

SCC helped me to develop my musical talents.  I was drafted to play the trumpet for Nativity's Band in 7th grade, I often played the organ for school Masses in 8th grade, and I played the keyboard for the 8th grade show.

I got in trouble once for clapping erasers against the front of the building.  In 8th grade, during Catholic Schools Week, we got to assume staff roles for a day.  I was the principal.  I remember asking the school secretary to do something for me, calling her by her first name in front of some adults (after all, the principal did!).  She wasn't happy about that, I soon found out.

The idea that religion was an integral part of my school day was simply delightful.  Starting the day and many classes with a prayer, getting to submit a possible name for the Diocesan newspaper (I don't remember my choice), learning the Basic Catechism questions…when I had to do that for Confirmation in sixth grade I couldn't wait to get through it, but by this point I couldn't get enough!

Where the Schuylkill's mighty mountains / Rise toward the sky

And then there was high school…Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Pottsville (the Big City) was where I spent the best seven four years of my life!  Band, chorus, and drama--the works we attempted together, and the times we spent inside and outside of those activities--these were second only to Church for me.  I got to learn Latin, to diagram sentences, to play the Bloomsburg Fair, to analyze the battles of the Civil War, to plot the triumph of Holy Mother Church against the Heathen, to memorize Shakespeare, and to discover Frank Sinatra and Stan Kenton from a teacher who went on to spend 51 years at Nativity and who recently came back Part-Time.  (I feel compelled to remind the reader that I graduated in 1994.)

Once again the pleasantly familiar glue that held together otherwise tumultuous years--years not bereft of teasing, nor of misbehavior--was the frequent reception of Holy Communion and Confession, and the daily exposure to Catholic doctrine, worship, morality, and prayer.  Catholic school provided those opportunities, which in large part stoked the fire of my vocation to the Priesthood.  I am blessed to have met and to continue to know several fine priests who showed me, inside and outside of school, what it is like to be intelligent, compassionate, talented, pious, funny, imperfect, insightful…happy.

I still run into some of my friends and teachers from elementary and high school.  Often I make a point of it.  I have participated in or officiated at their weddings, baptized their children, (alas) helped them begin annulment proceedings, anointed and/or buried their parents.  By no means do I expect them to, but many of those people call me "Father," if only upon greeting me.  They know far too much.

Wedding Cake created by the wife of a friend since 7th grade,
for their wedding, that I witnessed

If any student I have ever taught in any way could experience a fraction of the blessings that I enjoyed; if he or she could possibly realize the love of God for and in them as I came to realize it in Catholic School; with Simeon I would say, "Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace; Your Word has been fulfilled" (Lk 2:29)

26 January 2012

Another Positive Presentation of Religion


Fr. Pontifex!  'Nuff said.  '

Anyhow, this vid is meaty.  I often raise an eyebrow at imitations.  Like Christian Rock.  And some of the responses to the viral "Hate Religion, Love Jesus" will look and sound cheesier than others.  But our struggling friend--our foe of organized religion who "isn't judging" but in fact lambasting--has the upper hand.  His crafty presentation is fodder for my generation and younger, many of whom know the sound byte more than the Word.

The Sound Byte became Flash and went viral among us;
but the Word-Made-Flesh will not be drowned out.

In light of this video volley the Pope's recent praise of silence seems all the more relevant.

In the Wake of the Week for Christian Unity

In the following article Pope Benedict XVI tells us what true ecumenism requires: conversion. The personal integrity of every Catholic vis-a-vis Christ, the Church, and his neighbor will provide a most compelling witness to the Truth-Seeker. When Catholics give a lackluster witness, "what good is there to this Catholicism they claim to represent?" The recent Anglican ordinariate demonstrates how Rome is the ideal rallying point for Christians who are, on one hand, disenfranchised with their current Church and, on the other hand, recognize the need for Truth, Beauty, and Goodness are these are found in Catholic Doctrine, Liturgy, Morality, and Prayer. However difficult they may seem, whatever challenges they may present to insider and outsider alike, there is no substitute.

24 January 2012

A Time To Be Silent, A Time To Speak

Below, the full text for Pope Benedict's Message for World Communications Day 2012, followed by my reflections:

Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we draw near to World Communications Day 2012, I would like to share with you some reflections concerning an aspect of the human process of communication which, despite its importance, is often overlooked and which, at the present time, it would seem especially necessary to recall. It concerns the relationship between silence and word: two aspects of communication which need to be kept in balance, to alternate and to be integrated with one another if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved. When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning.

Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested. In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other. Joy, anxiety, and suffering can all be communicated in silence – indeed it provides them with a particularly powerful mode of expression. Silence, then, gives rise to even more active communication, requiring sensitivity and a capacity to listen that often makes manifest the true measure and nature of the relationships involved. When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge. For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.

The process of communication nowadays is largely fuelled by questions in search of answers. Search engines and social networks have become the starting point of communication for many people who are seeking advice, ideas, information and answers. In our time, the internet is becoming ever more a forum for questions and answers – indeed, people today are frequently bombarded with answers to questions they have never asked and to needs of which they were unaware. If we are to recognize and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive. Amid the complexity and diversity of the world of communications, however, many people find themselves confronted with the ultimate questions of human existence: Who am I? What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope? It is important to affirm those who ask these questions, and to open up the possibility of a profound dialogue, by means of words and interchange, but also through the call to silent reflection, something that is often more eloquent than a hasty answer and permits seekers to reach into the depths of their being and open themselves to the path towards knowledge that God has inscribed in human hearts.

Ultimately, this constant flow of questions demonstrates the restlessness of human beings, ceaselessly searching for truths, of greater or lesser import, that can offer meaning and hope to their lives. Men and women cannot rest content with a superficial and unquestioning exchange of skeptical opinions and experiences of life – all of us are in search of truth and we share this profound yearning today more than ever: “When people exchange information, they are already sharing themselves, their view of the world, their hopes, their ideals” (Message for the 2011 World Day of Communications).

Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God. In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives. It is hardly surprising that different religious traditions consider solitude and silence as privileged states which help people to rediscover themselves and that Truth which gives meaning to all things. The God of biblical revelation speaks also without words: “As the Cross of Christ demonstrates, God also speaks by his silence. The silence of God, the experience of the distance of the almighty Father, is a decisive stage in the earthly journey of the Son of God, the incarnate Word …. God’s silence prolongs his earlier words. In these moments of darkness, he speaks through the mystery of his silence” (Verbum Domini, 21). The eloquence of God’s love, lived to the point of the supreme gift, speaks in the silence of the Cross. After Christ’s death there is a great silence over the earth, and on Holy Saturday, when “the King sleeps and God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages” (cf. Office of Readings, Holy Saturday)God’s voice resounds, filled with love for humanity.

If God speaks to us even in silence, we in turn discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God. “We need that silence which becomes contemplation, which introduces us into God’s silence and brings us to the point where the Word, the redeeming Word, is born” (Homily, Eucharistic Celebration with Members of the International Theological Commission6 October 2006). In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation to communicate that which we have seen and heard” so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbours so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.

In silent contemplation, then, the eternal Word, through whom the world was created, becomes ever more powerfully present and we become aware of the plan of salvation that God is accomplishing throughout our history by word and deed. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, divine revelation is fulfilled by “deeds and words having an inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them” (Dei Verbum, 2). This plan of salvation culminates in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the mediator and the fullness of all revelation. He has made known to us the true face of God the Father and by his Cross and Resurrection has brought us from the slavery of sin and death to the freedom of the children of God. The fundamental question of the meaning of human existence finds in the mystery of Christ an answer capable of bringing peace to the restless human heart. The Church’s mission springs from this mystery; and it is this mystery which impels Christians to become heralds of hope and salvation, witnesses of that love which promotes human dignity and builds justice and peace.

Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak. This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today’s world. To Mary, whose silence “listens to the Word and causes it to blossom” (Private Prayer at the Holy HouseLoreto, 1 September 2007), I entrust all the work of evangelization which the Church undertakes through the means of social communication.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2012, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.


+ + + + +

Encounters in recent months and attempts of both personal and liturgical prayer have prompted me to cultivate the qualities of an active listener, which I am doing through practice and through reading.  After paying attention to how I pay attention, I have noticed how I sometimes approach people with my preconceived agenda, start answering them before they've finished speaking (if not vocally, then mentally), or just have a bunch of distortion running through my head whenever I want to give respectful silence to whoever is trying to talk to me.  And it's hard to have all the answers (or to presume that everyone expects you do/should); it takes a lot of energy to labor under that unreasonable burden.  So the movement toward generous presence is more urgent than ever, and I suppose that now is the appropriate time for it.  We're only ready for things when we're ready.

18 January 2012

Questions they never asked me so I asked myself

Questions they never asked me so I asked myself
Walker Percy was a figure that good Dr. Thornbrugh had us read in the seminary. I love this excerpt, and so could you!

Hate Religion, Love Jesus: Another Response

This one is for the younger set, but no less accurate and personal.  To his credit, he has both the beard and the bald going.

Hate Religion, Love Jesus: One Response

Thumbs up for a brother priest, likewise of clean pate, for his snarky response to our disillusioned seeker.

15 January 2012

A Refreshing Rereading of An Old Dichotomy

Thanks to a priest-friend for an interesting piece called "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus."  It brings up the famous opposition, or at least tension, between faith in Jesus and organized religion…and, one may conclude, the Catholic religion in particular.  I call it "refreshing" only in the sense that content is brought up again when the curly arrow button (or its IE equivalent) is clicked.  It's more like a "rehashing" of a claim that apparently people haven't tired of making.

Well, it is also refreshing because of the speaker's candid admission of his past (at about 1:30)--his former use of pornography, and his subsequent conviction of organized religion (his congregation?) as unable/unwilling to deal with him in that wounded condition.  "The Church [should not be] a museum for good people but a hospital for the broken."

Thanks be to God for the gift of sacramental reconciliation, the proper remedy for sin; yet like gratitude is due for the many bodies of people who provide an "external forum," outside Confession, wherein people can speak freely about the shameful practices and attitudes that bind them.  I speak here of any two, three, or four letter group whose last letter is A.  These do not expect participants to adhere to an organized religion, yet welcome all such.  They invite people to discover and embrace God, to examine their lives, and to address past and present wrongs as a tried-and-true way to be able to live comfortably and vibrantly without returning to the destructive practices and attitudes of their past.  And they welcome increasingly-liberated members to stick around for the next person to come through their doors in need of such a way out.

Anyhow, Another blog presents a reliable riposte to the above video, concluding with a fantastic commercial from "Catholics Come Home."  Yet I would invite the patient reader nonetheless to consider how "the Church"--that is, the patient reader himself--can become a healer, albeit a wounded healer, for the many who are hurting.

The Lord Was Calling the Youth

The Lord is calling not just Samuel, but all the youth to encounter and follow Him.  Be attentive.  Be available.  Be Ware!

03 January 2012

Latin is for Lovers

"I'm not dead," this language keeps saying to us.  Even though I've had enough Latin to teach first and second-year courses (2004-06) and could forage my way through Testamenta et Vetus et Novum, I wouldn't by any stretch call myself proficient, as many students from Wyoming Catholic College could say.  Call it a bucket-list item--I'd really enjoy immersing myself in the Mother Tongue once again, to the point of easy conversation and composition.  Of course, nothing's stopping me from doing what I can right here and now.