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

31 March 2012

Empty for Fullness' Sake

      Today’s second reading was Saint Paul’s hymn to the humbling and exaltation of Jesus.  This passage is nestled within a series of instructions on community life, so the Church has decided to remove it from its original context.  It fits remarkably well with the day’s remaining readings, which treat of the Lord’s Passion and Death.
      Why should the Church’s members remain steadfast in faith, enduring all necessary trials?  How can we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling?”  Christ Himself is the answer: His self-sacrifice is the agenda, the pattern for our daily living.  It is incompatible with the spirit of this age, which seeks to acquire and possess, to shoot first and ask questions later.  What virtue is gained by emptying oneself?  St. Paul says that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.”  No English word I know has its root in the original Greek word for emptying; but the Latin (exinanivit) clearly gives birth to “inane.”  To the non-believer, Jesus’ heroism seems pointless and silly, not worth the effort.
      For the believer, however, there is inestimable value to what Jesus has done…and to what you and I do, for our actions and sufferings are not somehow separate from His.  Take the example of the unnamed servant in Isaiah, who says of God: “Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.”  By opening our ears, eyes, and hearts to the presence of the Lord in our lives, we are, to quote St. Paul again, “putting on the mind of Christ,” and we become more disposed to seeing and serving Him where He is found.

29 March 2012

A Catalog of Cooperation in the Divine Plan

Simcha Fisher blogs for the National Catholic Register.  If I am not mistaken, simcha is Hebrew for "joy"; and it is a joy to read her.

Her recent article on What Pro-Lifers Do is a concern for pro-aborts who wonder what pro-lifers do for mothers and babies after the alleged "only" point of concern, viz., the time of pregnancy.

To the cynic it may sound like a boast.  When you're put on the defensive, any assertion is interpreted as aggressive, boastful…defensive.  However you slice it, the truth is the truth.  It will taste pleasant but may sour in the stomach (cf. Rev 10:9); or vice versa.

27 March 2012

Heretical, Schismatic, Apostate, Profligate, Truculent, Pernicious, and Indolent

I didn't know that other names had been considered for the seven dwarfs, until The 47 Dwarfs mentioned, well, forty-seven rejected monikers.

Canon 1024

Sacram ordinationem valide recipit solus vir baptizatus.

To quote Canon Law is one thing, to explain it another.  Fr. Dwight Longenecker offers a fine explanation in his article Why Women Cannot Be Priests.

26 March 2012

Who's the User? Who's the Used?

Accepting Abundance is a neat title for a blog.  The article is even more interesting.

Yet Another Answer to "Can Anything Good come from Schuylkill County?"

Pottsville native hits high notes in Italy - News - Republican Herald

She was Tammy back then, when I was privileged to accompany her for a couple of weddings and funerals, but Ms. Tamara Mancini is now ensconced in the theatre of opera.  This is great news for a young woman who has persevered in vocal music for most of her life.

I am not the biggest opera fan, I must concede, but I saw Turandot at the Met about five years ago.  Quite a role, and I am sure Ms. Mancini is doing well.  Thanks to Schuylkill County's daily informant for this piece.

23 March 2012

Gran Toribio

The saint we celebrated today, Turibius (Toribio) de Mogrovejo (1538-1606), was a Spaniard who became Archbishop of Lima, Peru and did much to reform that archdiocese.  The clergy were in particular need of reform (surprise, surprise--I speak as one in such need).  They were known for attenuating Christ's teachings in order to justify (perhaps their own) way of life.  Apparently quoting Tertullian, Toribio was known to proclaim, "Christ said, 'I am the Truth'; He did not say, 'I am the custom.'"

Jesucristo dijo, 'Yo soy la Verdad'--no dijo, 'Yo soy la costumbre.'

I find it noteworthy that the words "custom" and "costume" both originate in consuetudo (Sp. costumbre) which is also rendered "habit"--ingrained pattern of action, distinctive religious apparel.  What can be donned can also be doffed; if one's interior does not change it makes no difference.

Just because X "always has been done that way" doesn't make it acceptable, or the best way to do it in these circumstances.  "Always that way"--the death knell of a parish, not necessarily to a rapid death, but death all the same.

The readings of the day providentially illustrated Toribio's dictum.  Wisdom's relecture of Isaiah's fourth  Servant Song (52:13--53:12) has "the wicked" hanging on to customary ways of looking at one who truly is "holier than thou" without presenting himself so.  "To us he is the censure of our thoughts" (2:14); especially to the thought "Let no meadow be free from our wantonness" (2:9).  Strikingly poetic lines, these are also apt descriptions of a habit that permits no outside light to shine on it and expose it for the lie it is--precisely what the Just Man naturally does.  Then the Jews stick to their customary understanding of the Messiah's origins, which enables them to dismiss Jesus' true identity and true teachings.

Jesus, Just One, have mercy on us!
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on us!
Jesus, Censure of our Thoughts, have mercy on us!
Jesus, Recompense of Holiness, have mercy on us!
Jesus, Reward of Innocent Souls, have mercy on us!

22 March 2012

Local Boy Makes Good…so we can, too

Sainthood cause advances for US Jesuit and Soviet prisoner :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)
Jesuit Father Walter J. Ciszek is a story of remarkable trust in the moment-to-moment will of God.  When, please God, he rises to the honors of the altar, it will be a blessing for our Diocese and my Coal Region.  At the outset, Fr. Ciszek was no saint.  Yet he consented to the workings of the Holy Spirit within him to great effect.  His story, therefore, can become ours as well.  The same degree of recognition may not come to pass, but so what?

This Just Rocks

21 March 2012

Well, well, well

Each time John 5:1-16 comes up in the Lectionary, as it did yesterday, I am struck by Our Lord's question to a paralyzed man: Do you want to be well?

It seems like a strange question.  Who, after all, wouldn't want to "be well"--to enjoy physical health?  Often when I'm making hospital visits, people tell me, "If you don't have your health, you don't have anything."  Thus far I haven't ever been hospitalized, so perhaps I have little basis for saying this--I wouldn't agree with their statement.  I don't think they are implicitly denying the life of the resurrection or of sanctifying grace, but it seems necessary in any dis-eased state (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.) to reaffirm those realities.

Health is what moral theologian Germain Grisez would call a "basic human good," something worth pursuing for its own sake, something worth attaining and maintaining by reasonable means.  In its absence we tend to appreciate it more; that much is roundly affirmed by the aged and infirm among us.  But we cannot lose sight of our greatest human good--indeed something unattainable by purely human means--the life of the resurrection, which we experience here and now when we are "in the state of grace," that is, when unconfessed serious sin is not present in us and virtue is intentionally pursued through our good choices.  These two conditions sound like a whole lot of human effort--and they are, to be sure.  Jesus will never make me feel better without my consent.  But even our repentance and converted lifestyle are at root a living response to God's primary action in the soul.

Once again, what kind of question is "Do you want to be well?"  Based on the disposition of the paralyzed man in John 5, one might wonder whether he wanted to be well, or whether he even knew what wellness might look, sound, or feel like.  Thirty-eight years is a long time to be unwell.  Sufferers of chronic pain, congenital or terminal conditions approach things from a perspective much different than someone who has caught a cold or broken a bone.

Yet this man's perspective seemed very much clouded by self-pity and victimhood.  He didn't even answer Jesus' question!  He didn't seem to be listening, so caught up was he in his troubles.  "Nobody helps me get into the pool; everybody else gets there before me!"  Later on, the Jewish authorities call him out for violating the Sabbath labor law by carrying his mat.  (For Pete's sake, he just got cured of decades of affliction!  Let him leap around; would it be too much work for him to carry a tune if he wants?)  The man blames Jesus for "making" him do what he probably would have done spontaneously!  Then, when Jesus admonished the man not to sin, he ratted Jesus out and turned the authorities against Him (5:16).

Do you want to be well?   Do you know what it means to be well?  If you really knew, would you really want it?  What deeper changes would wellness prompt you to make?

I have often wanted, prayed for, wellness according to my limited standards.  The Lord stretches us to reconsider His vision of optimal health and welfare.  That vision has everything to do with our recognition of the Source of Wellness, Jesus.  Only within the Positive Reality of Spiritual Wellness can one consider the privative "affliction" of sin--that by which "[some]thing worse may happen to you" (5:14).

Incidentally, you are well advised to consult this post by Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington for its usefulness in reflecting on what we have just considered.
HHS Edict Will Force Catholics to Violate Conscience -- From the PA Catholic Conference, a link that should help you to voice the Mind of Christ regarding this matter of human dignity and religious freedom

19 March 2012

Have a Slice of Piety

Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington writes of the virtue of piety, forgotten but not gone in this culture.  Enjoy!

17 March 2012

One for the Men

I really don't know who reads this blog, except for a few parishioners who have told me that they came across it.  Given that my readers likely include men, I offer the following article by convert Kevin Lowry:
Five Keys to Transform Difficult Times into Growth.  We particularly need to be reminded that hard times befall everyone.  Human weakness and limitations are universal, and we'd better get used to the idea.  At the same time, God also extends the invitation to transformation to all.  Ad astra per aspera!  Chin up!

The Good Fight

I Fight Him With Love:
The title alone is captivating.  But witness for yourself the total beauty of this young woman and her blog, truly works of love that will inspire her readers.  The Christophers, long known for inspiring stories, tell of what God has been doing through Maura Byrne for the edification of women (and men).

16 March 2012

Tweet others as you wish to be Tweeted

With respect to many elements of modern technology, I would make a novice look like a peritus.  I have added some kind of "widget" that enables viewers to see this blog post (or the whole blog, I guess) on Twitter.  For what it's worth.

14 March 2012

Before his day gets away...

Les Brown Introduces Doris Day - Obit Report - Republican & Herald

A native of nearby Reinerton (western Schuylkill County), PA, Lester Raymond Brown Sr. would have been 100 years old today.  God's blessings on his "Band of Renown," now under the able leadership of his son, Les Jr.

Dubito, ergo sum

Are you a Catholic who deals with doubts about your Catholic faith?  Atheist-turned-Catholic Jennifer Fulwiler has some good tips for you!  I was always reminded of Bl. John Henry Newman's famous dictum, "Ten thousand difficulties do not equal one doubt."  He was distinguishing "doubt" from "difficulty" so as to make the former more serious than the latter.  Fine with me: just realize, O chary reader, that Jesus came to take away our sins, not our brains--so feel free to investigate.  The Truth is the Truth, and will withstand our best assaults as a stone wall resists even a volley of popcorn.

Liberation…for Virtue

In a recent address to bishops of the midwestern United States, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the need to present a clear understanding of Church teaching on sexuality.  The overarching goal is "the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships."  Current expressions of sexual liberation in the American Church demonstrate the need for such sound teaching.

I suspect that many Americans would be unwilling to hear a thing coming from our mouths on these matters, and this for good reason: a considerable number of Catholic clergy seem equally malformed, and these bruised reeds have been wielding influence over other bruised reeds.  The right training of the will complements the right intellectual formation.  Will and intellect both rely on a healthy disposition towards our human passions: "Are they our servant or our master?"

A man ordained a year before me had the following verse from a psalm printed on his ordination card: "Let those who trust in you not be put to shame through me, Lord of hosts" (69:6).  Earlier that year (2002), the major wave of revelations began, so that verse has seemed eminently appropriate to me.  "May it never be that, as a result of my actions, someone's faith in God or men is weakened."


Over the years I have been blessed to know, and entrust myself to, mentors who helped me to recognize how bruised a reed I am--how much in need of the Lord's mercy, and therefore how much in need of growth I am.  Growth happens for me within the context of community.  I haven't gotten very far by isolated navel-gazing; but when self-examination is supported by trust in God and leads to serving His people, it is crucial to growth.

Misaligned intellect and will…passions gone awry…this is the stuff of every brother and sister of Cain.  "Why are you so resentful and crestfallen?  If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master" (Gen 4:6-7).  Earlier, Cain's parents heard this from the Lord: "I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing: in pain shall you bring forth children.  Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master" (3:16).  What's with this "urge"?**

In Christ's vision of the human person, made explicit in every age by the Catholic Church, man receives an authentic blueprint for community and sexuality.

(1) community: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are ONE in THREE, giving all of Themselves (Love) to each other.  Human beings live together well when they lovingly subject their unique selfhood to each other.  The result is not personal suffocation, but the unhampered breath of freedom.
(2) sexuality: as the Son assumed a human body and soul, and exercised unhampered freedom precisely in His human living, He is in the best position to teach mature, vibrant interactions with adults and children.  We learn from Him to be givers and not takers--each day to engage in a series of choices for others' betterment and not in compensation for any perceived personal deficits.  Through such giving, one receives; through such self-forgetting, one finds--and this precisely in one's capacity to propagate the race and enter into bodily union with another.  

In this enterprise (i.e. implementing in one's own life the blueprint for authentic sexuality and community) it makes no difference whether one is married or not (celibacy); but it makes all the difference when one is intentionally, prayerfully choosing to give and not to take (chastity).  As a priest I learn daily that you, Church, are no consolation prize.  You are the prize--and if in any way I ever treat you otherwise, so help me God I will…repent and move forward in virtue.

**I wrote a paper on the "urge" toward my M.A. in Sacred Scripture from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (2003).  Interested persons, inquire at your own risk.

13 March 2012

Friend me

Shameless Popery: Virtuous Friendships: What They Are, Why They Matt…

First, the very title "Shameless Popery" earns this blog a tip of the biretta.  Second, the article well treats the subject of the bonds people form and the bases for those bonds.  I am blessed to have such friends in my life--priests and others with whom I share interest in Who and What Really Counts.  Have one, be one.

09 March 2012

Serenity Now!

Serenity is not just for recovering addicts, although recovering addicts undoubtedly seek it in order to grow in victory and freedom, that is, to live as productively as possible without resorting to the addictive substance or practice.  [Read the above link to blogger Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington, who writes well of serenity.]

The need for, and value of, serenity is universal.  Who among us is not affected by sin and its consequences--the weakening of the will, the darkening of the intellect, and our tendency to be mastered by, and not master of, our emotions?  Corollary to these consequences are a multitude of "dysfunctional" attitudes and attachments that beleaguer the human person and cry out for mercy.

Whether or not we care to admit it, most of us just need to make it through the day.  That's what serenity is for.

Off, Limits!

U.S. Out of my uterus! But first: buy me stuff for my uterus! |

Read the above opinion piece.  The author's method of garnering attention nobly takes us right to the issue and treats it substantially, if also with some wry humor typical of blogosphere inhabitants.

06 March 2012

Where It All Began

Because the fourth of March commemorated Saint Casimir, patron of Poland and Lithuania, I present just a few photographs of the church where I first encountered Christ and the Church I soon desired to serve.

Imagine dragging a coffin up those stairs

The site of many a May Procession

Fittingly the last message on the still-standing sign encourages prayer for vocations;
I was honored to be the third and last priest

"Mother, ask your Son to reverse my hands."

Statue commemorating the 500th anniversary of Christian Lithuania

Aftermath of the church's closing, though I am happy to note that a former parishioner owns the building

Respondeo and the Sed Contra Band

Among the several hundred persons* who hourly visit my blog, I can only suspect that at least twenty-eight of them are mothers.  For their sake, then, I offer one mother's discursive reasoning, a clever introduction to Thomism.

*Estimate includes those who click on it accidentally, and (we suspect) to their considerable dismay, in the hopes of viewing a blog written by Father Cecil Zelonis, a Low-Church Anglican who clings to the title "Father" merely to cause a stir, in typical English fashion.

04 March 2012

Grammar is Good.

In age of tweets, teachers hammer the grammar - News - Republican Herald

Thumbs up to my hometown rag for this splendid article. The first time I noticed the textual devolution was during my brief spell as a high school teacher. I encountered a homework assignment in which one young lad spelled "probably" p-r-o-l-l-i.


Text like that while you drive, and soon you'll be breaking two laws.

Peter Kreeft: An "Ideas" Man

Peter Kreeft's The Three Most Profound Ideas I Have Ever Had is an article that well summarizes some profound verities. Enjoy!

03 March 2012


The Virgin Mary assured the Peasant Juan Diego of her caring presence:

"Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son: let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you: let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?"

Mary’s appearance catalyzed the conversion of hundreds of thousands in Mexico and Central America.  It also signaled the end of human sacrifice, a well-established practice not just among the Aztecs, but also in many religions throughout the world and throughout the ages.  When the true God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son—not just any boy, mind you, but “your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love”—it may not have sounded so strange in that historical situation.  Nevertheless it struck his father’s heart like a dagger, for wrapped up in this child were all the promises that this God had made to him, of countless descendants and fruitful land.  The Lord calls off the slaughter at the last minute not to build His credibility (He needs nothing of the sort), nor simply to reward Abraham’s faith (as praiseworthy and vital as it was).  Above all God wanted to reaffirm His consuming desire that no one be lost forever, and to point to One who in time could and would satisfy the just consequences of sin.

In the fourth installment of the series Catholicism, the host Fr. Robert Barron cites Rene Girard, a cultural anthropologist and philosopher, who says that there is something about our nature that, in times of tension, seeks to discharge all its anxieties upon some individual or group in order to experience relief and to recapture a sense of unity.  In biblical terms this is called the “scapegoat.”  In Leviticus 16 we read of the ancient ritual in which the priest Aaron selected a goat, laid his hands on it, and confessed the sins of the Israelites over it.  Then an assistant would lead the goat to an isolated part of the desert and leave it there.  This sort of sacrifice enabled the people to go on with their lives.  Is this not, to some extent, the way of all human groups on every scale—to find someone to blame, a rallying point for us in our misery, fear, and shame?
Mary’s Son surpassed the role of the scapegoat, especially as He conducted His entire mission in the freedom of self-giving love; and yet He who alone is innocent suffered the sins of the guilty for our deliverance.  By this tremendous gift Jesus wants to form us in the same love—to choose the good with freedom, understanding, and joy, to accept and encourage responsibility.  Alongside this love Jesus fosters an assurance of God’s abiding presence, that “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all…[will] also give us everything else along with him”—everything we need to live in the freedom of His Kingdom.