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

28 August 2012

Medium Madness

Very recently a parishioner asked** me about the Church's view on mediums.  Apparently there is a popular television show that features a medium.  (I suppose popularity makes for a happy medium.)  (I further suppose that I should get to the response.)

Paragraph 2116 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future (Dt 18:10; Jer 29:8). Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

Since the earliest days people have tried to gain greater certainty over the unknown by occult practices.  Remember how Saul's attempt to invoke Samuel blew up in the former's face (1 Sam 28:4-19).  Many people are not content to trust in the merciful and wise plan of God.  In the face of personal tragedy, loss of work, bereavement, etc., the "desire for power" begins to manifest.  The CCC astutely notes that the real object of this power is "other human beings," because time and history...well, they're too abstract and sublime, but this troublesome situation or inscrutable individual is a bit easier to grasp.

Are occult practitioners insincere?  What are they actually doing when they claim to exercise such powers?  Does Satan enter such people in order to equip them for his "ministry"?  I can't answer for occult practitioners or Satan; but the latter, as crafty as he is, tries whatever he can to distract souls from living the truth in love.

Can't God communicate His will through people?--Yes, the NAB footnotes say, but that happens precisely by His choice and not by the manipulation of a human being.  Angels fulfill that very function as divinely appointed messengers, not as fabrications of our wishful thinking.

More to the point of the Catechism paragraph is the "honor, respect, and loving fear" due only to God.  This is the positive value affirmed in the prohibition of divination.  God described Himself as "jealous" (Dt 4:24 et al) not in the sense that our straying diminishes His sense of worth, or damages His Self-perception, but rather that He wants all of us, without reservations born of distrust.  He wants us for our sake, so that we may achieve the fullness of life that He wills for us.  Easily distracted as we are, we don't seem to want that fullness of life for us as much as He does; or we want it, but sabotage our pursuit of it by our weak desire, clouded understanding, or unbridled emotions.  Contrary to what we may think, the fear of God is a liberating fear and not a paralyzing one.  It frees us for the pursuit of heaven by placing our concerns, daily or overarching, in the larger context of His best interests for all humanity.

Now it may be that some people are able to view horoscopes and watch fortune-tellervision "for entertainment purposes only."  Jesus told the apostles that they could pick up serpents (cf. Mk 16:18).  According to the text of Alcoholics Anonymous, sober alcoholics well immersed in the program could possibly enter places which serve alcohol.  Apostles and addicts must, however, be acutely aware of their motives and be spiritually fit, lest they get bitten or blotto.  Some demons can be expelled only "by prayer" (Mk 9:29; variant readings include "and fasting").  Growing up I always heard the wise counsel not to mess with the devil.  I certainly strive to improve my spiritual fitness; but the goal of such exercises is not to achieve mastery over the unknown factors in my life, but rather to grow in the strength needed to accept my limits.

For the reader's edification, consult this link on the subject from Catholic Culture.

**I very much enjoy the effort to research and articulate the Church's teachings.  So ask away!

26 August 2012

What He Said

For your edification I provide the link to a personally relevant article, "On Why I Left Facebook."  I have been back-and-forthing on this very subject for some time--talking about it with a mentor, with a brother priest, justifying this way and that...and doing other things that an unholy hour on Facebook would preclude.  But the case remains open...and it will so remain until I make a decision.

The selfsame blogger posted another relevant writing by Fr. Sertillanges, O.P. "On Intellectual Work."  Sertillanges' words seem to apply to the earlier post.

I had an "ouch moment" when I read a quotation of philosopher Josef Pieper from the first piece:

“For its part, evagatio mentis [uneasy restlessness of mind] reveals itself in loquaciousness (verbositas), in excessive curiosity (curiositas), in an irreverent urge ‘to pour oneself out from the peak of the mind onto many things’ (importunitas), in interior restlessness (inquietudo), and in instability of place or purpose (instabilitas loci vel propositi).

Today I ask God to open my heart to the discipline necessary to become a better thinker, reader, and writer, "for our good and for the good of all His holy Church."

25 August 2012

You Could Use A Complement

The readings from Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Year II) pointed to God’s providential purpose for our past and our future.  Not surprisingly, the readings also related to the life-states of marriage and celibacy.  Together they form the peanut butter and jelly of ecclesial life; their common purpose enhances their distinct flavors and their power to nourish and delight a hungry Church.

Ezekiel speaks for God’s tender care for Israel.  From her beginnings she was no thoroughbred.  She certainly didn’t look the part, and received no royal regard from her neighbors.  But the Lord, like a suitor, doted on Israel: “I spread the corner of my cloak over you to cover your nakedness” (16:8), an act of the marriage-minded (cf. Ruth 3:9).  From this covenant flows a series of lavish acts of mercy that win the Bride great fame.

In time (who knows how long?) the Bride’s many adornments go to her head—which she soon fails to use—becoming the Jane for every John and the shrine for every false idol.  The Lectionary discreetly omits the detailed catalogue of her sins and their consequences, preferring to jump to the Lord’s astounding promise of restoration.

The Lord Jesus refers the Pharisees to “the beginning”—Genesis—for the basis of the unity and indissolubility of marriage.  According to NAB footnotes, the Mosaic concession of divorce was limited to porneia, specifically the violation of certain blood or legal relationships.  Elsewhere in the New Testament, the Greek term takes on more extensive meaning: unchastity, prostitution, and idolatry.  The Divine Bridegroom is faithful (cf. 2 Cor 1:18 et al), and so He will not desert His Bride even if she should forget or deny the covenant.

The Apostles, married except for one (according to Tradition), are brought to a moment of desperation.  The very idea of forever, faithful, and fruitful seems futile, worth rethinking.  “If that is the case with a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” (Mt 19:10).  Just as Jesus refuses to backpedal in the “Bread of Life Discourse” of John 6, He does not try to calm the querulous apostles.  Celibacy is for those “to whom that is granted,” and the gift requires personal acceptance: you have to sign for it.

By choosing God’s choice of non-marriage, priests and consecrated religious are not exempt from the struggles of our faithfully married counterparts.  We were warned.  My bishop directed rather convicting words to me and my classmate over ten years ago when he ordained us deacons: “Look upon all unchastity and avarice as worship of false gods; for no man can serve two masters.”

(The Bishop said what he said, and then he ordained us.  The following year, he advanced us to the presbyterate.  Neither of us would claim flawlessness in thought, word, and deed regarding the evils just now mentioned, or any other.  Praise the Divine Mercy that works in and through earthen vessels, liberating the repentant from the tyranny of the past for the sake of a splendid future!)

Celibates, too, must constantly return to “the beginning” to discover who made us, and what for.  The answer to both: Love.  The chaste celibate bears witness to the Kingdom of Heaven, the end and aim of human existence: “At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mt 22:30).  By no means does this “higher love” rob earthly love of its significance; instead the celibate’s joyful life is meant to encourage faithfully and fruitfully married people that they’re going in the right direction.

It hasn’t always been easy for me to remember my First Love.  The temptations of “the world, the flesh, and the devil” clamor for my attention all the time.  In this respect I presume to identify with the married couples I encounter and serve.  What’s more, I look to faithfully and fruitfully married people for encouragement along my appointed path to the Kingdom.  Husbands and wives and children are the primary reason for my consecration.  I exist to serve them by proclaiming the Gospel to them, celebrating the Sacraments for them, and caring for their souls.  In turn, their sacrificial fidelity and fruitfulness challenge me to deeper prayer and generous apostolate—lest celibacy devolve into easygoing bachelorhood.

So let’s stick together, celibates and spouses.  Together we demonstrate the complementarity of the spiritual and the material.  Together we remind people who (for whatever reason) are unmarried that life must be directed toward God and neighbor—with clear intention and with palpable delight.  Already the Church can announce that “the wedding day of the Lamb has come, His bride has made herself ready” (Rev 19:7).

For further reflections on this topic, see:

Mark Shea on the Celibate Priesthood
Pope Benedict XVI on the Relationship of Celibates and Spouses

23 August 2012

A-void: Hell

Hear out Fr. Barron on the subject of the existence and population of Hell.

New to me was the image of the lock on Hell's door.

Keep in mind that Fr. Barron is a theologian offering a mature opinion based on his reading of the heavy hitters in Catholic theology.  While he holds Thomas Aquinas in great reverence, he does not settle upon Aquinas' position--which, we must note, is as much a "position" as anyone else's in Barron's presentation.

This Is My Body

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life offers commentary on the recent deaths of Helen Gurley Brown and Nellie Gray.  In many respects they represent divergent world-views.

21 August 2012

Bring Him Home

Many readers may remember Susan Boyle, the lady who won over the "Britain's Got Talent" judges and scored a recording contract.  I would direct your attention to Jamie Pugh, who in his own right has done well with "Bring Him Home," a good song from a great musical, Les Miserables.  

I was moved to tears--not so much by the song as by the reaction of the audience and judges, and this in light of his story (he's a pizza delivery guy who likes to sing).  For that, however, you'll have to go onto YouTube yourself.  

He's a poster-man for living one's dreams.  Give credit to shows like BGT and American Idol for being a loudspeaker for people with good voices.

17 August 2012

"Take" That--HiiiiiiiYAH!

--- 1 ---

In my efforts to get hip and with it in matters technological, hampered as they are by my primal aversion to learning new mechanisms, I have cut-and-pasted the HTML template for "7 Quick Takes Friday," which may become a regular feature of this corner as much as anything about it is regular.

--- 2 ---

For the longest time I thought that HTML was the abbreviation for Hotmail, my first and most relied-upon email provider.

--- 3 ---

I don't want to tell you what I thought "SHTML" stood for. I still don't know.

--- 4 ---

You mean I have to do seven of these? How many are left?

--- 5 ---

At the very least I am delighted to give props to Conversion Diary, which is one of numerous faithfully and thoughtfully Catholic blogs out there today. Thanks to hosts such as New Advent and BigPulpit, I have come to enjoy several of these blogs. If I would take the time, perhaps I could make something of this current blog.

--- 6 ---

I really have to hand it to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, for its High School Youth Conferences. I never knew about them when I was in high school, if they even existed in the early '90s. At that time, gatherings like Steubenville's weren't my bag. Since then, I have attended several of them as a priest. I heard perhaps eight or nine hours of quality Confessions each time. I witnessed kids enjoying the Holy Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, eager to share their spiritual experiences with their peers. Now I recognize that these experiences need follow-up and continued effort to be preserved, and the worship style at most parishes does not resemble the externals of a youth conference. But the same Jesus is here at Holy Guardian Angels, just itchin' to see those young souls. And I'm always happy to see them, too. One of those souls, currently united to a body (for many years to come, we hope), attended Benediction yesterday, stayed afterward to talk to one of his former high school teachers and to help me put away the Eucharistic paraphernalia. Priesthood: Totally Worth It.

--- 7 ---

Somebody will have to explain to me the value of HTML, when I get around to caring.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

16 August 2012

All Fired Up

Thank Msgr. Pope from DC for this treatment of Divine Wrath.  I experienced a bit of that last week in my attempts to get to the bottom of recent computer problems--which accounts for the reprieve that readers had from my postings. It wasn't that God was particularly upset, but rather that certain realities were incompatible. Once the experts got to the bottom of it, then the rebuilding process could begin.

Lord, I choose to facilitate my healing today through my actions, words, and thoughts. 

15 August 2012

I Would Not Give You False Hope

O Mary, crush the head of the ancient serpent on our behalf!

(Thanks to The Anchoress for the idea.)

Consider with me the Marian and Christological implications of the song and video.  

Mary comes to the aid of her endangered children who by original sin, the effects of original sin, personal sins, and the effects of personal sins, are "laid so low in such a mysterious way."  

And "the course of a lifetime"--yours, mine, of everyone before us and since--"runs over and over again."  It seems we learn as we learn--fitfully.  

But we no longer need to lament "that strange and mournful day," for sin has had its day.  The Day of the Lord, of which the prophets so often spoke, has come to us in Jesus.  

We can speak of Our Lady's loving subordination to the Master-Plan, which as JPII has affirmed, is indeed mutual subordination.  To jump a few decades on the Billboard charts: "Woman needs man, and man must [not in terms of necessity, but out of love] have His mate [the Church]--on that you can rely."  Such is the love of the New Adam for the New Eve.

Consult Fr. Z the Greater's treatment of this mystery here.

On Mary's Assumption and the Church's Clarity

For the past several years I have been making use of a reader’s guide to the Lectionary.  It offers helpful tips for proclaiming the Word at Mass, as well as some helpful commentary.  Regarding today’s solemnity with its remarkable first reading from Revelation, the guide has this to say: “Remember, you are recounting a mystical vision, not something that happened at the grocery.  Speak…with great reverence” (p. 223).  That observation and direction apply to the whole of Sacred Scripture. 
Up the street, our friends in the United Church of Christ advertise with the maxim, “God is still speaking: Listen!”  It is hoped that our lectors, as well as we clergy, proclaim the sacred text with “great reverence,” and it is equally hoped that the faithful receive it with “great reverence,” because God continues to be made flesh--in a manner of speaking--at each and every Mass, in the proclamation of the Word and especially in the offering of the Eucharist.  Today’s solemnity is an example of God’s continued action in the Church--in particular, the Catholic and Orthodox churches, who continue the Apostolic Tradition from the lips of Christ Himself and His chosen leaders.  It is not to say that our Protestant brethren care nothing for the Mother of God, but that the Church of Christ which is found most fully in the Catholic Church holds Mary in due regard for her role in salvation history. 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church illustrates the ways that the Church grows in receiving the heritage of faith: through the contemplation and study of believers, in particular theologians; in the spiritual sense that believers exhibit through their disciplines; and in the charism that Bishops exercise in their preaching.  Quoting the Second Vatican Council’s document on Divine Revelation, the Catechism continues: “…Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others.  Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls” (CCC 95; DV 10§3).
I mention these points from the Catechism because the dogma of the Assumption was solemnly defined in 1950, within the lifetime of many.  At the same time, the Assumption of Our Lady was not a new notion.  Several early Fathers of the Church, most notably Saint John Damascene in the 8th century, spoke much about Mary’s freedom from the corruption of death as a necessary consequence of both her exalted role as the God-bearer and every other way in which she participated most intimately in the life of her Son.  Pope Pius XII’s official declaration was the Church’s way of removing any confusion in the matter of Mary’s corporeal share in the glory of the Lord.  Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium combine as panes of glass through which Divine Light and Love shine with unparalleled clarity.
Mary as Ark of the Covenant and Keeper of the Flame—indeed not a matter for the “Daily Docket” or even for a front-page headline in the largest font!  It is the mystery of the ages: a lowly maiden of Nazareth has, by God’s design and by her free choice, become the firstfruits of universal salvation in Jesus the Christ; and we celebrate that mystery today in the way that she entered the communion of the Trinity with soul and body intact.  Lest we forget: it is the same hope shared by all believers.

12 August 2012


Just makes you want to conquer a foreign country, doesn't it?

11 August 2012

Appetite for Instruction

         Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, tells a story of his childhood.  His family lived at the base of a mountain in Vermont.  He remembered how he would gaze upward in awe of this mountain, pondering its significance, wondering whether he might ever be able to climb it.  But for his fourth birthday, he recalled that his aunt made him a plate of fudge, which from that point onward distracted him from mountain musings.  How easily his appetite for this world’s pleasures had leveled his lofty ideals (cf. J. Harbaugh, S.J., A Twelve-Step Approach to the Sunday Readings, 165-166)!
         Just that easily would the people of Israel forget what the Lord had done for them time and again throughout their history—how He had freed them from Egyptian slavery and sustained them in the wilderness with food and drink, and most importantly, with His Presence.  The crowds would also fail to recognize the caring Presence of God in Jesus Christ.  They reduced Him to His earthly parentage, so they could dismiss whatever He told them.  Grumblings of the mind are favored over grumblings of the stomach; a plate of fudge surpasses the Bread of Life.
         And yet the Lord reminded the crowds, as He reminds us, of our appetite for instruction.  The Creator has installed in us the capacity for a lively personal relationship with Christ, in the Church, through the Eucharist.  He has made us to be ultimately dissatisfied with anyone and anything less.  Like the Israelites of old and the crowds of the Gospel, we will find in the living flesh of Jesus contentment for our murmuring, certainty for our objections, and direction for our wandering.
         In her doctrinal heritage, sacramental order, and moral principles, the Church has consistently offered a program to counter spiritual malnourishment.  Many of us, at various points in our lives, rather resemble those noncommittal crowds.  As in the physical order, spiritual inactivity breeds discomfort and disease, in the forms mentioned by St. Paul: “bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling.”  It is never too late to get off our spiritual couches, to move our minds toward deeper understanding and our wills to greater discipline.  As with any regimen of diet and exercise, we must start small, but continue consistently for best results.  Replacing one television program or YouTube foray with a little reading of the Bible or Catechism would start a revolution of Olympic proportions.

10 August 2012

Down With O.P.

New Advent got hold of this Scholastic treatment of a subject most dear to me.  I'd seen it before as a seminarian, but now, reaping the fruits of sacerdotal ministry, my appreciation for it has increased.

Thanks to the Order of Preachers for...well, for St. Thomas Aquinas himself, and for the untold thousands of thinkers he has inspired through the centuries--one in particular who expertly extrapolated this entry on naps.

09 August 2012

Points for Prayer

Father Z the Greater has published this article on five prayer statements that are worth our recitation and meditation.  Enjoy!

08 August 2012

Judge Properly, Lest Ye Be Judged Improperly

Some years ago I heard a statement that made an impression on me:

"I wanted everyone to judge me by my intentions, but they were judging me by my actions."

In a moment of self-pity I devised my epitaph, which (of course) had to be in Latin:

Bene voluit.  He meant well.  (cue violin)

Read Msgr. Pope's recent offering on the subject of good intentions.  Then take note of your actions.

07 August 2012

FOCUS, Daniel-san

The Fellowship of Catholic University Students!  If you are a Catholic university student, this organization seems worth knowing.  This posting from FOCUS member Amanda Teixeira is a clever commercial for having one's head on straight in college, and beyond.

02 August 2012

Signs of Life

This evening I joined about a dozen parishioners for the final viewing and discussion of Fr. Barron's Catholicism series.  The youngest member of the group was a woman in her early thirties, a married mother of two.  She hasn't been confirmed yet, so I suggested that she attend this series as a good catalyst to her formation.  At various points in the series she acknowledged her ignorance of many concepts that the rest of the group were taking for granted.  Her candid admissions became the opportunity for several people to converse with her after "class."  They spoke to her about the Rosary, about the Eucharist, about their own faith journeys.

After locking up I went over to the daily Mass chapel for Benediction, the conclusion of Eucharistic Adoration which takes place most Thursdays throughout the year.  I was delighted to see a young man in the pews, a longtime altar server and recent graduate of our local Catholic high school.  The High School Youth Conferences held at the Franciscan University of Steubenville have inspired this young man and others in our youth group to a deeper investment in the Catholic faith.  After we put away the candles, monstrance, and other items, he and I talked for a good while about his efforts to engage friends and associates in conversation about the Lord.  He has been looking forward to the next few Sundays and their feature of St. John's "Bread of Life" discourse.

There are signs of life in our parish.  I don't just mean social functions, or our children's imminent return to school.  People want to know more about the Faith and want to apply it to their lives.  People are coming to the Church "where they are" and are open to a greater understanding and love of God.  I don't give a hoot what you read in the papers or online, or what you hear in neighborhood conversations.  These are good times to be a priest, good times to be a Catholic.  It's time to cash in on the truth, beauty, and goodness of our faith.