July 2008 Archives

On the Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola there are many things that can be said of the Pilgrim-Saint and the Jesuit Order. Today, let us pray using the words of Loyola's The First Principle and Foundation:


  St Ignatius & Paul III.gifThe goal of our life is to live with God forever. God who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God's life to flow into us without limit. All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal. In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation.

We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of God's life in me.


- St. Ignatius as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J. from the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises

The witness of a vocation

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Reading this article on vocations made terrific sense and corresponds to what I've been thinking about for some time. It is clear to me now there are some things are necessary for verifying a vocation to a religious community (diocese?) without which it would be difficult for me to see how one can fulfill the destiny God has planned. That is to say, if a vocation candidate does not see in a particular order just what Sister Catherine says below, namely, that there needs to be an evident sense of tangible joy, youthful zeal for the Kingdom of God, a realization that God has a plan, and fearless love then one does not have a vocation to that charism (religious order). Ask the question: What is the long history of faithfulness of this group that I am looking into? Is it faithful to the papal magisterium or not? Let me also say that Sister Catherine is right when she points out that the job of the vocation director is not to make a sales pitch (yuck!!! how repugnant to think that a vocation director is making a pitch to join a community, but it is true) but to expose the vocation seeker to the beauty of serving God and the beauty of that particular charism in the Church. If you are being recruited, run away fast!!!


On the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae last week I observed the prophetic nature of Pope Paul VI's work and the gift it is to the Church and the world. Below I am adding a recently published article on the same subject by a scholar and friend, Don DeMarco.


Paul VI versus Playboy

By Donald DeMarco


In 1986, Brother Don Fleischhacker of the University of Notre Dame wrote a letter to Playboy protesting that magazine's fragmented view of human sexuality.


Citing "Humanae Vitae," this intrepid Holy Cross religious reasoned that once "the contraceptive mentality is accepted, there can be no coherent objective ground for opposition to homosexual activity." If the unitive aspect of sex becomes an end in itself, he went on to explain, "There is no essential reason why sex should be restricted to couples of different sexes."


Paul VI PP.jpgRecent events have proven that Brother Don was as prophetic as was Pope Paul VI when he penned "Humane Vitae" back in 1968. For Playboy, however, the letter was treated as an object of ridicule and its content irreverently dismissed: "Brother, you sound like St. Thomas' lawyer," wrote the Playboy editor, who went on to bless "both kinds" of sexual relations.


This holier-than-thou posture of Playboy explains why its founder, Hugh Hefner, has declared that he is the most moral human being he has ever met. From the perspective of Playboy, it is far ahead of the church in the sheer number of wonderful things it deems good, including marriage for same-sex partners. Playboy has surpassed Genesis in its generosity, and outdistanced mother church in its magnanimity.


The Vatican's Council for the Laity is establishing a foundation to encourage good Karol Wojtyla with a canoe.jpgsportsmanship under the patronage of Pope John Paul II. The John Paul II Foundation for Sports will be headquartered on the Via della Conciliazione, directly in front of St. Peter's Square. The Foundation will be operated under the patronage of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The aim is to encourage the values of the Gospel through sports.


My family is somewhat athletic, well, at least my father and sister are engaged with some kind athletic activity. My father rides a motor cycle and hunting and Lauren plays softball. Me, on the other hand, would rather watch from the sideline. Would you believe I was a freshman soccer coach when I was teaching at Fairfield Prep? And would you believe the team was undefeated? You ought to believe me because it is true. Nevertheless, I recall being impressed by the young and vigorous Fr. Karol Woytjla doing outside activity. I had never seen priests doing sports activities before. What a shock! In fact, one of favorite pictures of Fr. Karol is saying Mass on the underside of a canoe with a makeshift cross in the background. The connection between JP skying.jpgnatural beauty and the divine beauty (Mass) is a remarkable encounter. Later we see how Pope John Paul II very much knew the importance the role sports plays in culture as he addressed the topic in some 120 addresses.

Edio Costantini, the foundation's president, explained that one of the main objectives of the foundation is to relaunch parishes' educational venues. He also said "The creation of the foundation and the beginning of its activities coincides, not by coincidence, with the Pauline Year.  In his letters, St. Paul often referred to the Christian life as an athletic race that, in the end, would be awarded with an incorruptible crown."
The Foundation's first undertaking will be a series of marathons to take place between Bethlehem and Rome. The marathons will begin next April 24 and end June 21 in St. Peter's Square.


Why is the Church interested in promoting good sport? Archbishop Stanislaus Rylko writes in the preface of the proceedings, "The World of Sport Today: Field of Christian Mission":


To achieve these lofty objectives sport nevertheless needs to discover its deepest ethos, and comply with the basic principle of the primacy of the human person. He therefore urged people to adopt a healthy approach to sport, Karol at prayer.jpgso that sport is not practised as an end in itself, giving rise to the danger of becoming a vain and harmful idol, but to make it a meaningful instrument for the comprehensive development of the person and the construction of a society made more to the measure of Man. "When understood in this way, sport is not an end, but a means; it can become a vehicle of civility and genuine recreation, encouraging people to put the best of themselves on the field and to avoid what might be dangerous or seriously harmful to themselves or to others." In other words, for John Paul II, the world of sport is an important areopagus of modern times, awaiting apostles who are ready to boldly announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Benedict XVI arms.jpgIt is a venerable Catholic custom to unite our prayers to those of the Pope's. Frequently, we pray, that is, we state in our morning offering "...for the intentions of the Holy Father...." Remembering that "Prayer is man standing before God in need of everything, but also with trust that God will give everything, and bring us to the fulfillment he has destined for us" (John Janaro, Praying with Saint Paul, 221). Hence, here are the August intentions the Pope has asked us to remember in our prayers before the Throne of Grace:


The general intention
That the human family may learn to respect God's plan for the world and become ever more aware that Creation is God's great gift.

The mission intention
That the answer of the entire people of God to the common calling to holiness and mission may be promoted and fostered by means of careful discernment of charisms and constant commitment to spiritual and cultural formation.

The Abbey of Saint Mary was founded in Newark, New Jersey in 1857 as a conventual priory; the Holy See raised Saint Mary's to an Abbey in 1884, electing Father James Zilliox as the first abbot. On July 23, 1956, the abbey was transferred to Morristown, New Jersey, in the Diocese of Paterson. The "Saint Mary" in the title of the monastery is to honor the "Blessed Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception."


Abbot Giles.jpgToday, the Abbey of 47 monks is led by Abbot Giles P. Hayes, OSB; he's the tenth abbot, elected the monks in solemn vows on March 8, 2006.

Monks do a wide range of things. Their first obligation is the monastic life as it is laid down by the Rule of Saint Benedict, the Constitutions of the American-Cassinese Congregation and the various customs of the house. So, the life is situated around prayer, personal and communal. The personal side of a monk's prayer life is determined individually (hence the use of "personal") and typically includes lectio divina, the rosary, Eucharistic adoration and spiritual reading. While it is not true that all of the monks do all of these pious acts all of the time, many are faithful to many of the practices on a daily basis. Lectio divina is clearly the most important prayer that a monk has to be faithful to or else his monastic life suffers.


Communally, the monks of the abbey gather in the abbey church 4 times a day for the Divine Office and then for the Sacrifice of the Mass. The work of the monk is not the school or any other activity. The work of the monk is the opus Dei, the Office and Mass --the source and summit of one's relationship with God lived out in the Church. The hours are for the better part of the year as a follows (the order changes in the summer and holidays):


Lauds at 6:30 am

Sext at 11:45 am

Vespers and Mass at 5:15 pm

Vigils at 7:15 pm

Compline is prayed in private

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), the remarkable encyclical of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI. In the 1968 encyclical, the Pope reminds us that "Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who "is love," the Father "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named." This timeless work is not merely about regulating birth, conception and abortion. It is about the Divine Plan for us, about the beauty of human love between a husband and wife, about loving children and about growing in holiness so that one day we will be united with God in heaven. To think otherwise is selfish and narcissistic. The greatness of the teaching found in Humanae Vitae is there is unequivocally a dignity in collaborating with the Divine Plan on the part of every person. What has become clear to me is that all of what is taught by Pope Paul remains true today: the contraceptive mentality has watered down, even destroyed an integral notion of love in married life, sex, holiness & sacrifice, spiritual fatherhood & motherhood, priesthood, etc.


The acceptance of the Pill as a "normal" way to deal with a pregancy (i.e., a real human life) has encouraged Catholics (and other Christians) to reduce their salvation to something they manage rather accept as a gift from God. Since when does one manage God's gift of salvation? Isn't salvation freely given? Isn't faith a supernatural gift? Faith has consequences, just look at the saints and countless others who would not capitulate to society's demands for insidious compromise. Pope Paul's teaching stands against the constant degradation of marriage, family life and holiness. In so many ways Humanae Vitae  is "sign of contradiction" in the face of those who denigrate marriage by not seeing marriage as based on authentic love with its origins in the Blessed Trinity that is faithful, exclusive and eternal. If you want to know why our human existence is often "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short," to quote Thomas Hobbes, then you have you examine the attitudes about love, sexuality, responsibility and holiness. Taking a Pill will not exempt you from reality, at least not true reality. 


The Pope writes:

  Paul VI.jpg  ...one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source. "Human life is sacred--all men must recognize that fact," Our predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled. 'From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God."


Through the intercession of Saint James, Mary, Mother of God, and Saint Joseph, may married couples and those considering the vocation of married life remain close to the Lord.


Mary Eberstadt's article "The Vindication of Humanae Vitae" in the August/September 2008 issue of First Things  is worth reading and studying. Eberstadt does a terriffic job in relating the reality of the contraceptive culture and shows how Pope Paul was right all along. Also worth the time is Karol Wojytla's 1960 book, Love and Responsibility. Later as Pope John Paul II he delivered to the Church what is known as the Theology of the Body.

In Stamford, Connecticut, Church lays to rest Father Kevin P. Fitzpatrick (aged 52) who died Kevin Fitzpatrick.jpgsuddenly this past Sunday. Only a month ago did we celebrate his 25th anniversary as a Catholic priest. Father Kevin was a great person, a terrific priest and a friend. The loss is significant. May his memory be eternal and may the Lord comfort us in our sorrow. May his memory be eternal and may the Lord comfort us in our sorrow.

Venturing into Life

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Today is the feast of the Saint James the Greater. The Venerable Servant of God John Henry Newman reminds us in his Parochial and Plain Sermons that St. James' acceptance of risk in following the Lord unto his death was a vow recorded in heaven. How could he not respond positively to the question the Lord posed, "Are you able to drink from the cup I will give you?" James' answer, like that of Peter's, was little understood because he had no true idea of what was in store. Namely, that he'd be the first to die by the sword in Jerusalem. The faith James had was exceptional; it was a faith born in the trust in the person of Jesus Christ; it was a faith based on the encounter with such an exceSt James.jpgptional Presence that offered more to life than mending nets.


When it comes to us, I am afraid that we are often too zealous for the wrong in life and insincere in things that matter. Do we confine ourselves to the idea of truth without risking the implications what believing really could mean? Are bromides that only thing we can remember? Can we follow James' example who said, "Come, Lord Jesus," at the end of the day conforming all of our desires and hopes, joys and sufferings to the Lord's Will and thus making a venture that would allow us to live with Him forever? Or is eternal life too hard to grasp, too weird to accept as part of the promised hundred-fold?

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.



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