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

30 June 2012

Heart to Heart

Here is an interview with Leah Libresco, who has begun the process of seeking initiation into the Catholic Church.  There's a ways to go for her, and that's fine.  She is right where she needs to be at this moment.  And let's be honest: there's a ways to go for a great many of us, and we are right where we need to be at this moment.  God save us from entropy--moral, doctrinal, liturgical, spiritual, whateveral!

You gotta hand it to Christ: He founded a Church that offers herself, at once, as a haven for atheists who question and a haven for staunch traditionalists.  Minds me of a song I picked up at a Steubenville Youth Conference several years ago: "It's a big, big house, where we can play football ["touchdown!"]."  I hope we can bowl, instead.

29 June 2012

Greater Love No (Wo)Man Hath

Read the story of Chiara Petrillo, a young mother and a sign for our times.  Then pray for your mother.

28 June 2012

System Failure…Or System Reform Opportunity: Your Call

What If We Fail?: Bob Royal wonders what happens to the Church in America — and to America — if the Court doesn't overturn Obamacare . . . and even if it does.

So now we know that the Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare.  Now what?  The battles regarding forced insurance for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients will continue, with vigor unabated.

Read Mr. Royal's article for some insight into how the Church proceeds with personal repentance and cultural evangelization "going forward."  All is not lost.  All is never lost.  It may get to the point where it seems pretty doggone lost, but nil desperandum.  Hopelessness gives way to sustained action in every appropriate matter, in every appropriate venue.  Hope is sustained by the Holy Spirit who continues to in-form and in-spire the Mystical Body of Christ.

Conversion: The Never-Ending Story

In blogger Mark Shea's Best Facebook Entry of the Month, we hear about Leah Libresco, a former atheist who has begun the RCIA process.  This is nothing less than fantastic.  I would agree with Mark that the limelight can have a certain erosive quality, and must be tempered by closing the door of the inner room and praying to the secret-seeing Father.  So much can be gained by talking things through, but there is One whom we all must face, all the time.

Atheist-cum-Catholic Jennifer Fulwiler testifies about her journey, about its perils and rewards.  We can learn a lot from her story.  Come to think of it, if we kept one eye on the Scriptures/Catechism/Code of Canon Law/Roman Missal and the other eye on our neighbor, we'd learn NEI (not enough information)!  When you get to this bottom, keep digging!

Best wishes to every recent convert.  Speaking of such, I know a recent convert who is getting it.  She quite humanly chokes at that part of the Our Father in which we declare that we forgive, and that the extent of our forgiveness will determine our being forgiven.  Yeah, it ain't easy…but she is steadfastly applying herself to this teaching, and God will not disappoint.  What an example for all of us!

27 June 2012

The Sharpening Image

Are you a Catholic wife?  Are you a Catholic woman?  Are you a Catholic?  Are you a person of good will?  Are you exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen on a regular basis?

Then this article is right for you!
Don't talk to your doctor or pharmacist about it to see if it's right for you.
Just read it.
Then offer it to someone else on the premise that you think that he or she might find it helpful.

26 June 2012

Sanity and Sanctity and Supersized Softdrinks

We have Brother Sebastian White, O.P. and First Things magazine to thank for this effervescent yet educational editorial on the integral unity of soul and body and contemporary incomprehension of that unity.

We also offer our prayers for Brother Sebastian as he perseveres to Sacred Orders.

Go Away, Go Within

Thanks to a reader for directing me to this column from "Busted Halo" which offers vacation advice from Pope Benedict XVI.

Our dean in the seminary would tell us a line that had to predate him, as hackneyed as it sounded: "Gentlemen, there is no vacation from your vocation."  We knew that he was right (Papa Kelly always was!), but it took me a fair amount of living to fully appreciate it.

We don't seem to get a pass from anything that truly pertains to our vocation and to its resultant changes in our identity.  I am always configured to the person of Christ, the Head and Spouse of the Church.  Husbands and wives are always identified in relation to one another.  Our actions have to reflect that all the time.

This is particularly true with parents.  When you have a child, yes, you can send entrust him or her to grandparents or other babysitters for a time, but little Oscar or Matilda doesn't cease for that time to be your own.  Responsibility for the child's welfare does not cease, even though you may be bold enough to share it with your trusted caretakers.  I have great reverence for parents on this account.

The time we spend either away from our workplaces or with a significantly lighter workload doesn't exempt us from performing certain tasks that are constitutive of being husband/father, wife/mother, consecrated religious, deacon, or priest.  It certainly doesn't allow us to do things that we'd otherwise be ashamed to do or to be caught doing.

May God be our witness--everywhere!

25 June 2012

All in the Family

The Church Catholic will witness a Rare father and son priest ordination set for this Saturday, courtesy of the Anglican Ordinariate, by which former Anglicans around the world are "crossing the Tiber."

22 June 2012

Self-Knowledge, Self-Mastery, and Freedom

Recently the Church began the "Fortnight For Freedom," fourteen days of prayer, sacrifice, education, and advocacy for religious freedom.  For the opening of this campaign, Archbishop William E. Lori, recently-installed Archbishop of Baltimore, delivered this homily.  Please keep this intention in your prayers and take whatever actions are being suggested.

The Catholic Church is one of the last prophetic voices for sexual responsibility in the Western world.  We are silenced neither by the misdeeds of some of our clergy and religious, nor by people's opposition to Church teaching.  We continue to proclaim Jesus as the Way to Truth and Life.  We cannot help but note that the Way of Jesus is comprehensive; it is concerned with every aspect of human existence.  The Lord has assured us that we can--and must--continue to declare without fear that He is Lord of everything and Lord of all.

Wife, mother, and blogger Simcha Fisher has written about the subject of promoting sexual responsibility among young women by the tracking of their menstrual cycle.  One might wonder about the value of this activity, especially for chaste unmarried women.  Fisher addresses that and other questions in this article.

The title of my present post, "Self-Knowledge, Self-Mastery, and Freedom" reminds us that these three are meant to exist in a trinitarian fashion: inseparable, interdependent, and indispensable for the full flowering of the human person, regardless of religious affiliation.

21 June 2012

You Have Not Chosen Me

You Have Not Chosen Me | Crisis Magazine

In the article above, Father George W. Rutler offers due recognition to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of England and to His  Supreme Majesty, Jesus the Christ of All Time and Space and Beyond.

I am reminded by Fr. Rutler's article that popularity is not all there is to all there is.  I suppose if one person views what he or she needs on this blog, then its purpose is fulfilled.  May it benefit whom it is meant to benefit!

17 June 2012

Faith, Hope, Charity…and You

In an earlier post I offered sample questions from, and personal commentary on, an Examination of Conscience based on the Beatitudes (quod vide).  In this post I offer sample questions from, and personal commentary on, an Examination of Conscience based on the Theological Virtues (quod vide), written by the late Father John A. Hardon, S.J.

  • Do I make an honest effort to grow in the virtue of faith by daily mental prayer on the mysteries of the faith as revealed in the life of Jesus Christ?
This question pertains to the fides quae (literally "the faith which"), the objective content of Catholic teaching.  There is truth to be known, and there is a way to know it.  For those who still read books, I recommend
    • The Holy Bible (The New American Bible is the version used in liturgy; the Jerusalem Bible is another favored Catholic translation--hey, J.R.R. Tolkien had a hand in it; the New Revised Standard Version published by Ignatius Press is well liked for its "formal equivalence" style of translation.  If smaller, Mass-sized bites seem more suitable, consult each day's readings in a missalette, such as may be found in the pews of your church.  There are many worthy devotionals that offer a verse or two to chew on.)
    • The Catechism of the Catholic Church (brainchild of the Second Vatican Council, though not promulgated until 1992.  Meaty.)
    • The Documents of Vatican II (translated by Austin Flannery, O.P.  Hardly like the so-called "spirit" of this council, responsible for much of the current mess.)
    • The Code of Canon Law (1983.  More detail about many things than I will ever care to know, but check out the initial canons on each sacrament for a succinct and beautiful definition)
    • The Roman Missal, Third Edition (formerly known as the "Sacramentary."  Contains all the prayers--fixed and variable--offered within the Holy Mass all year round.  The revised  phraseology reveals a certain richness in the liturgical texts.)
By "mental prayer" Fr. Hardon means a "form of prayer in which the sentiments expressed are one's own and not those of another person. Mental prayer is accomplished by internal acts of the mind and affections and is either simple meditation or contemplation" (Wikipedia article).  Think carefully about the truths of faith and talk lovingly to God about them in your own words.
  • Do I ever tempt God by relying on my own strength to cope with the trials in my life?
This question pertains to the fides qua (literally "the faith by which"), an individual's life-sustaining relationship with God.  It is said that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who say to God, "Your will be done," and those to whom God says, "Have it your way."  It seems that we all have to go through the contest of faith, the back-and-forth of partial surrenders, the lessons learned and relearned.  God is patient, to a fault!  He lets us have our way, He lets us go on spinning our spiritual wheels, trying really hard without mindfully consecrating our activity and sufferings to Him.  Grace is there for the asking.

Read Gaudium et Spes no. 37 for a masterful treatment of the human situation.
  • Have I allowed human respect to keep me from giving expression to my faith?
This question refers to both the fides quae and the fides qua insofar as we can be ashamed of the truth of Catholic teachings, or we can hesitate to share about our personal relationship with the Lord.  If we have little knowledge of the former or little experience of the latter, we must remember that nobody else will accomplish these things for us, and nobody else will answer for us when an accounting of our stewardship is demanded.

  • Do I allow myself to worry about my past life and thus weaken my hope in God's mercy?
Unlike human beings, The Enemy has made only one overarching choice for Self.  There is no opportunity for repentance because of the intensity of the angelic will.  He knows, that, unlike angels, human beings are able to repent--to change their minds and to learn from their mistakes.  He therefore capitalizes upon our sins by reminding us of them, annoyingly and at inopportune times (e.g. during prayer, or in the act of making new mistakes--"See, you idiot!  You still can't get it right!").

Many people have made a habit of entertaining worries about our past sins, even those of which we have been sacramentally absolved.  We thereby strain our spiritual muscle, making it harder to resist all sorts of temptations.  Discouragement increases like the proverbial snowball tumbling down a hill.  Soon enough we wonder "what's the use" with a life of virtue.  Tires can deflate when they hit a nail, or  because of an untreated slow leak.

I am no stranger to such things.  A trusted friend has suggested a prayer that should be repeated as necessary: "This is not open for discussion."
  • Do I fail in the virtue of hope by my attachment to the things of this world?
"Woe to you who cling to passing things, for you will pass with them" (St. Augustine, Tractate on the Gospel of John, 10.6).  You will pass…slowly, uncomfortably, with all the futility of a kidney stone.  Paying undue attention to material goods, to relationships, to fame, or to praise, distracts us from the true end and aim of our lives--the mansion prepared for us in heaven.

I think of the Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin devours a sickening amount of cereal so that he can collect enough box tops to send for a propelling cap.  As he waits each day for the postman he fantasizes about flying around the neighborhood, around the world.  Finally the cap comes in.  Reluctantly he must attempt "some assembly required," and in the process he accidentally snaps the propeller.  That's the human condition--misplaced hopes, misdirected material and spiritual resources.

One cannot help but wonder whether repeated attachments and disillusionments might harden a person to the acquisition of the divine perspective.  Again, Augustine: "God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination."  Fortunately God is patient, to a fault!
  • Do I try to combine every fully deliberate action with at least a momentary prayer for divine help?
This is a habit worth trying on.  Best to keep it simple: "Lord, help me."  "Jesus, take the wheel."  Anything that reminds us right now that God is in control and that He trusts you and me enough to do what we have to do each day, mindful of the untold millions of other people who are somehow affected by our words and actions.  No pressure!

  • Do I take the occasion to tell God that I love Him whenever I experience something I naturally dislike?
The first of the two great commandments concerns love of God (cf. Dt 6:4).  As with any relationship, we run the risk of being "fair-weather friends," attentive and grateful when all seems well.  All too often, our automatic response to hardship is complaint.  What if, through discipline, we might come to say, "Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity to grow in patience!"  It will seem (be?) fake at first, but just keep at it.  We're not necessarily out to change what we dislike into a favorite, as a leopard its spots.  It would seem worthwhile to capitalize upon the unavoidable unpleasantries (people, places, and things) of this life.  Souls are waiting to be healed through Purgatory.  Your soul is waiting for unprecedented growth.
  • Have I dwelt on what I considered someone's unkindness toward me today?
We can't blame anyone else for the way our day is going.  We get to choose our attitude toward the people and situations of the day, how we approach "all things visible and invisible."  People may very well treat us unkindly.  If we're not yet at the point where we're blessing them in return, remember that this is a lifelong endeavor.  It requires willingness, patience, and labor to look for reasons to have compassion on anyone who may have offended us.

Negative thoughts will arise.  But there is a difference between what arises within our consciousness and what we dwell upon, entertain, seat at our table and pour a glass of Merlot for.  Let those thoughts pass through; dwell rather upon the image of Christ that you share with your fellow human beings.

  • Have I written any letters today?
This may seem like a strange question for an examination of conscience, especially in times so troubling for the postal service.  Of course a text message, email, telephone call would do.  The point:

For Christ's sake, think about somebody else!

Thinking about somebody else is a form of prayer.  Let thoughts freely give birth to words and actions. As often as you do, I'm sure you experience the legitimate satisfactions that accompany generosity of time and effort.  The more often we try to think about somebody else, the less often we will chafe at something we may find naturally unpleasant; and the unkindnesses that come our way will not have their way with us.

16 June 2012

It's Wordcraft, Wicked Wordcraft

Lovers of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins appreciate his facility with the English language.  At first I considered him a verbal scofflaw.  To my knowledge, there is no law against coining words or using them outside of the denotative box; so have at it--as long as meaning is detectable without excessive straining.  Erin McKean has this to say about the use of "undictionaried words."*

*(Whilst composing this electronic entry, both the author's name and the "un-" word appear with the dreaded red line underneath.  Shall we be so impudent as to brand them misspellings?)

12 June 2012

Controlling and Enjoying Your Prayer

For those who try too hard; or for those who, thinking that they have to just "keep trying harder," fearfully slink away from the whole blasted enterprise…
The Futility of being Puppeteer of the Deity

06 June 2012

Sin and Grace Illustrated

If you enjoy reading books with pictures, this post from blogger Emily Stimpson is a good 'un.  It illustrates the life of sin and the life of grace.

04 June 2012

Happy Is as Happy Does

A parishioner who attended a wedding out of the area attended Mass at a nearby church.  The pastor's bulletin column was entitled, "How Happy Are You?"  It listed eleven Yes or No questions, which I hand on to you:

1. Do you allow ample time to arrive early and relax for appointments?
2. Do you celebrate your own efforts and accomplishments?
3. Have you refused to stay in a hurtful relationship even though it means you may be alone?
4. Do you pay your bills and debts on time and feel comfortable with your spending patterns?
5. Do you make time to exercise at least 3 times a week?
6. Have you eliminated negative self-talk such as "I am stupid" or "I am a bad person"?
7. Do you set time aside for daily meditation, prayer, and reflection just as you would make time for anyone else that you treasure?
8. Do you feel you have control over your life and that you can succeed?
9. Do you generally value your own inner guidance and intuition more than the advice of others?
10. Are you comfortable telling people how you truly feel about the pain of a difficult situation?
11. Can you accept compliments?

I did not give the "preferred" response to all of these questions.  Authentic self-love is no easier for me to cultivate simply by virtue of being a priest.  Yet in recent years I have been nudged in this direction because healthy self-love is crucial in order to sustain many of the changes I've made in my life.  Arresting unworthy behaviors is one thing, reshaping unworthy attitudes another.  The former doesn't last long without the latter, although the latter often doesn't take place without the former.

How do you rate?  If you are not pleased with your responses, start by accepting that this is where you are and where you need to be right now.  Then make small changes in one area at a time.

01 June 2012

Loss Prevention

Nowadays when you return an item to a store, the customer service people may not even ask you why you are returning it.  Then the item gets shipped to a warehouse or factory and is sold at a lower price.  The company "takes the hit" on the item.

The Church, the "Company of Witnesses," has lost her share of adherents over the years.  It has become a topic of studies and reflections (such as this one by the Nat'l Cath Reporter, this posting by a priest from Phila, and America Magazine's Fr. Byron, a co-author of one recent study).

One blogger asks not the usual 5 questions to people who are contemplating a departure.  The business of "loss prevention" is worth undertaking, long overdue.

Another question worth asking: "Why are you staying?"