January 2009 Archives

WYA-horiz.jpgWorld Youth Alliance in North America announces the theme of the forthcoming summer camp for high school students: Solidarity Generation--Youth in Action.

The camp will be held at Portsmouth Abbey School in Rhode Island from June 21-27, 2009 and is open to youth ages 12-17.


Power Point Presentation

For more info contact Shannon Joseph at northamerica@wya.net.

Scholarships available.


What is the World Youth Alliance?

The World Youth Alliance is a global coalition of young people ages ten to thirty who are committed to promoting the dignity of the person and building solidarity among youth from developed and developing nations. We train young people to work at the regional and international levels to impact policy and culture and our members represent over one hundred different countries. Founded in 1999 at the United Nations Cairo +5 Conference on Population and Development, WYA has offices in Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America. WYA works with the United Nations, the European Union, and Organization of American States, holds conferences and training sessions world-wide, and creates opportunities for members to participate and cultural and international development projects that promote human dignity, solidarity, family and life.



The Acceptable Prayer

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prayer1.jpgQuestion: How can a person know that his prayer is acceptable to God? (1 Pt 2:5)

Answer: When a person makes sure that he does not wrong his neighbor in any way whatsover, then let him be sure that his prayer is acceptable to God (see Ex 20:16-7; Mt 19:19). But if someone harms his neighbor in any way whatsoever, either physically or spiritually, his prayer is an abomination and is unacceptable. For the wailing of the one who is being wronged will never allow this person's prayer to come before the face of God. And if indeed he does not quickly reconcile with his neighbor, he will certainly not go unpunished  his whole life by his own sins, for it is written that whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven (Mt 18:18).

Tim Vivian, ed., Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers. (Collegeville: Cistercian Studies, 2008).

Saint John Bosco

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John Bosco Dream of 2 pilars.jpgSaint John Bosco, full of confidence I turn to you, asking you to intercede for me. Help me to lead a good and happy life. May I always be a help to others, avoid sin and die a happy death. Bring down the blessings of God special graces which I now ask...I trust in His love and mercy to grant what He knows is best for me.

Saint John Bosco, send us good and holy priests and religious and grant perseverance to those who are preparing to offer their lives to God. Amen.

Saint John Bosco, pray for us.

The Vatican announced today that it is initiating the first-ever visitation of women's religious communities in the United States. The visitations are being undertaken to help strengthen religious communities in the U.S., which are suffering from a sharp drop in vocations and gentrification of their ranks.

FRode.jpgOn the heels of issuing a report on the health of U.S. seminaries--which were found to be in relatively good condition--the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, headed by Cardinal Franc Rodé, is embarking on a comprehensive study of the more than 400 congregations present in the United States. The visitations will only assess those religious who engage in apostolic or active work, and will not involve contemplative communities.

The visitation process is being spearheaded by Connecticut native Mother Mary Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., who was appointed by Cardinal Rodé. Mother Clare is the superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a group of sisters that is based in Rome but has 135 sisters in the U.S.

According to a December 22, 2008 Vatican decree authorizing the visitations, the study is being undertaken "to look into the quality of the life" of the members of U.S. religious institutes.

CMillea.jpgMother Clare estimates that the project will take about two years to finish, and says that upon completion she will submit a confidential report to Cardinal Rodé. There are no plans to publish the findings.

Sr. Eva-Maria Ackerman, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, explained how the several-stage process will work at a press conference in Washington D.C. on Friday.

"First, Mother Clare will solicit voluntary input from the superiors general through inviting them to make personal contacts with her in Rome or in the United States. During the second stage, the major superiors in the United States will be asked for information such as statistics, activities and community practices."

She continued, "selected on-site visits will be made during the third stage. During this time, the sisters will have an opportunity to share with the visitation teams their joys and hopes, challenges and concerns about their lives as women religious in the Church today. The final stage will be the compilation and delivery of a comprehensive and confidential review by Mother Clare to Cardinal Rodé.

Sr. Ackerman also added that the "visitations are beginning as we speak."

In a press release announcing the initiative, Mother Millea indicated that while she is not obliged to visit every community of women religious, she looks forward to learning and better understanding the "multi-faceted dimensions of the sisters' religious lives, as well as their abundant contributions to the Church and society."

"I am truly humbled, and a bit overwhelmed," Mother Millea said of her assignment. "While I have visited each of the communities and missions in my own congregation, the thought of gathering facts and findings about nearly 400 institutes across the United States can be daunting in scope."

"I am praying for all the sisters who will be a part of this Visitation, and hoping for their prayers "both for the good of the process as well as for me in this role," she added. "I ask the prayers of the American Catholic clergy and faithful too."

More information about the visits can be found at www.apostolicvisitation.org

Pope Benedict.jpgHere is an address of Benedict XVI to the Joint International Commission which deals with theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, given today 30 January 2009. The theme of the address ought to be a recognizable one for us this week. The Pope, the brilliant theologian and gentle churchman that he is, is working overtime to bring the various churches together. May his work bear fruit!

I extend a warm welcome to you, the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. At the end of this week of dedicated work we can give thanks together to the Lord for your steadfast commitment to the search for reconciliation and communion in the Body of Christ which is the Church.

Indeed, each of you brings to this task not only the richness of your own tradition, but also the commitment of the Churches involved in this dialogue to overcome the divisions of the past and to strengthen the united witness of Christians in the face of the enormous challenges facing believers today.

The world needs a visible sign of the mystery of unity that binds the three divine Persons and, that two thousand years ago, with the Incarnation of the Son of God, was revealed to us. The tangibility of the Gospel message is conveyed perfectly by John, when he declares his intention to express what he has heard and his eyes have seen and his hands have touched, so that all may have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Jn 1:1-4). Our communion through the grace of the Holy Spirit in the life that unites the Father and the Son has a perceptible dimension within the Church, the Body of Christ, "the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Eph 1:23), and we all have a duty to work for the manifestation of that essential dimension of the Church to the world.

Your sixth meeting has taken important steps precisely in the study of the Church as communion. The very fact that the dialogue has continued over time and is hosted each year by one of the several Churches you represent is itself a sign of hope and encouragement. We need only cast our minds to the Middle East - from where many of you come - to see that true seeds of hope are urgently needed in a world wounded by the tragedy of division, conflict and immense human suffering.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has just concluded with the ceremony in the Basilica dedicated to the great apostle Paul, at which many of you were present. Paul was the first great champion and theologian of the Church's unity. His efforts and struggles were inspired by the enduring aspiration to maintain a visible, not merely external, but real and full communion among the Lord's disciples. Therefore, through Paul's intercession, I ask for God's blessings on you all, and on the Churches and the peoples you represent.


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Abba Antony said, 'I saw the snares that the Enemy spreads out over the world and, groaning, I said, "What can get through such snares?" Then I heard a voice saying to me, "Humility.'"

Tim Vivian, ed., Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers. (Collegeville: Cistercian Studies, 2008).

A VERY brief article (700 words) on the recent events with the four schismatic bishops having their ex communication lifted by Pope Benedict last week. The Wall Street Journal article is found here.

In the days following the Octave of Christian Unity the news-better, rumor- that there is a possible change in relations between Rome and the traditional Anglicans is good news. Yesterday, the Australian online news service, The Record, published the following article on some very key movements in Catholic-Anglican relations; some suggest these movements if realized, could lead to full communion and could be as cataclysmic as King Henry VIII's break from Rome.  Indeed, the Church's work would be a clear desire to be in full, visible communion with those have at the moment imperfect communion. Ut unum sint, the prayer of our Lord, is realizable I believe if we (a) ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to be unified and (b) if we actually work for it. A problem I see is that our church bodies do a lot of talking but resolve little in reality. All these dialogues, all the money spent, all the time used up seems to be a colossal waste at face value. At least that is the picture on this side of the desk. I am confident that the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and Centro Pro Unione (to name two key organizations) are doing lots of great work (my certainty is based on the fact that I know some of the people involved). But one of these days I'd like to see a pay-out on the investment. As does the Church hopes, I, too, would like to see the Holy Spirit bring us together in my lifetime. AND wouldn't this be a great thing to rejoice in during the Year of Saint Paul????!!!!!

TAC.jpgHistory may be in the making. It appears Rome is on the brink of welcoming close to half a million members of the Traditional Anglican Communion into membership of the Roman Catholic Church, writes Anthony Barich. Such a move would be the most historic development in Anglican-Catholic relations in the last 500 years. But it may also be a prelude to a much greater influx of Anglicans waiting on the sidelines, pushed too far by the controversy surrounding the consecration of practising homosexual bishops, women clergy and a host of other issues.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has decided to recommend the Traditional Anglican Communion be accorded a personal prelature akin to Opus Dei, if talks between the TAC and the Vatican aimed at unity succeed, it is understood.

The TAC is a growing global community of approximately 400,000 members that took the historic step in 2007 of seeking full corporate and sacramental communion with the Catholic Church - a move that, if fulfilled, will be the biggest development in Catholic-Anglican relations since the English Reformation under King Henry VIII.

TAC members split from the Canterbury-based Anglican Communion headed by Archbishop Rowan Williams over issues such as its ordination of women priests and episcopal consecrations of women and practising homosexuals.

The TAC's case appeared to take a significant step forwards in October 2008 when it is understood that the CDF decided not to recommend the creation of a distinct Anglican rite within the Roman Catholic Church - as is the case with the Eastern Catholic Churches - but a personal prelature, a semi-autonomous group with its own clergy and laity.

St-Peter keys.jpgOpus Dei was the first organisation in the Catholic Church to be recognised as a personal prelature, a new juridical form in the life of the Church. A personal prelature is something like a global diocese without boundaries, headed by its own bishop and with its own membership and clergy.

Because no such juridical form of life in the Church had existed before, the development and recognition of a personal prelature took Opus Dei and Church officials decades to achieve.
An announcement could be made soon after Easter this year. It is understood that Pope Benedict XVI, who has taken a personal interest in the matter, has linked the issue to the year of St Paul, the greatest missionary in the history of the Church.

The Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls could feature prominently in such an announcement for its traditional and historical links to Anglicanism. Prior to the English Reformation it was the official Church of the Knights of the Garter.

The TAC's Primate, Adelaide-based Archbishop John Hepworth, told The Record he has also informed the Holy See he wants to bring all the TAC's bishops to Rome for the beatification of Cardinal Henry Newman, also an Anglican convert to the Catholic Church, as a celebration of Anglican-Catholic unity.

Although Cardinal Newman's beatification is considered to be likely by many, the Church has made no announcement that Cardinal Newman will be beatified.

Thumbnail image for Johnhepworth.jpgArchbishop Hepworth personally wrote to Pope Benedict in April 2007 indicating that the TAC planned a meeting of its world bishops, where it was anticipated they would unanimously agree to sign the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to seek full union with the Catholic Church.

This took place at a meeting of the TAC in the United Kingdom. TAC bishops placed the signed Catechism on the altar of the most historical Anglican and Catholic Marian shrine in the UK, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, before posting it up in the main street in an effort to gather public support.

Archbishop Hepworth, together with TAC bishops Robert Mercer and Peter Wilkinson, presented the signed items personally to Fr Augustine Di Noia OP, the CDF's senior ecumenical theologian, on October 11, 2007, in a meeting organised by CDF secretary Archbishop Angelo Amato.

Bishop Mercer, a monk who is now retired and living in England, is the former Anglican Bishop of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. Bishop Wilkinson is the TAC's diocesan bishop in Canada.

TACs Canadian Bishop Peter Wilkinson has close ties to the Catholic hierarchy in British Columbia, which has also met the CDF on the issue. He has already briefed Vancouver archdiocesan priests.

One potential problem for the Holy See would be the TAC's bishops, most of whom are married. Neither the Roman Catholic nor Eastern Catholic churches permit married bishops.

benedict XVI amrs bw.jpgBefore he became Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger discussed the issue of married bishops in the 1990s during meetings of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission exploring unity, before the Anglican Church's ordination of women priests derailed it.
One former Anglican priest who became a Catholic priest told The Record that, along with the Eastern Churches, which have the same sacraments and are recognised by Rome.

The TAC's request is the closest any section of the Anglican Church has ever come to full communion with Rome because the TAC has set no preconditions. Instead it has explicitly submitted itself entirely to the Holy See's decisions.

Six days prior to the October 11 meeting between TAC bishops and the Holy See - on October 5 - the TAC's bishops, vicars-general of dioceses without bishops, and theological advisers who assisted in a plenary meeting signed a declaration of belief in the truth of the whole Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The declaration said, in part: "We accept that the most complete and authentic expression and application of the Catholic faith in this moment of time is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, which we have signed, together with this letter as attesting to the faith we aspire to teach and hold."

Statements about the seriousness of the division between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church caused by issues such as the ordination of women priests were emphasised at the wordwide Lambeth Conference held in the UK in 2008.

At the conference, three Catholic cardinals - Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and the Prefect for the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Ivan Dias, the Pope's personal envoy, all addressed the issue.

Cardinal Dias, who favours welcoming traditionalist Anglicans into the Catholic Church, bluntly told the Anglican Communion's 650 bishops that they are heading towards "spiritual Alzheimer's"and "ecclesial Parkinson's".

"By analogy, (Alzheimer's and Parkinson's) symptoms can, at times, be found even in our own Christian communities. For example, when we live myopically in the fleeting present, oblivious of our past heritage and apostolic traditions, we could well be suffering from spiritual Alzheime's. And when we behave in a disorderly manner, going whimsically our own way without any co-ordination with the head or the other members of our community, it could be ecclesial Parkinson."

Cardinal Kasper warned Anglican bishops that Rome would turn to smaller ecumenical communities if the Anglican Communion at large proved unapproachable ecumenically.

This is bad news for the Anglican Communion, but good news for the TAC.

In Charge of Fire.jpg

If you are in the greater New Haven, Connecticut area this coming weekend, "In Charge of the Fire" is well worth the effort to see. The writer, actors and director capture the essence of the life of Saint Paul and it reminds us of the salient points of this saint's life and work for Christ. I think this a wonderful contribution to the celebrations happening in the Year of Saint Paul.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to the Archbishop of Cologne and those participating in the International Scientific Congress on the occasion of the 7th centenary of Blessed John Duns Scotus' death. What relevance does a letter was written in October 2008 by the pope have for us today? Why remember Blessed John at all? Faith and reason working together in the heart of the Church!!! They are not in opposition to each other. Catholics are known to work intimately with faith and reason and Scotus is a prime example of the tradition. But you don't need me to tell you that. Read the pope.


Johannes Duns Scotus.jpgRejoice, City of Cologne, which once welcomed within your walls John Duns Scotus, a most learned and devout man, who passed from this life to the heavenly Homeland on 8 November 1308; and, whose remains you preserve with great admiration and veneration.

Our Venerable Predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, exalted him with lofty praise; we too would like to surround him with the praise he deserves and invoke his protection.

Thus the seventh centenary of his pious passing is now being celebrated, as is only right. And while articles and entire works in honour of Bl. John Duns Scotus are being published in various parts of the world and congresses are being held, including the solemn Congress currently being prepared that will take place in Cologne from 5 to 9 November 2008, we consider it a duty of our service in this circumstance to say a few words about this most illustrious man who so distinguished himself by contributing to the progress of the doctrine of the Church and of human science.

Indeed, combining piety with scientific research, in accordance with his invocation: "May the First Principle of things grant me to believe, to understand and to reveal what may please his majesty and may raise our minds to contemplate him", with his refined brilliance he penetrated so deeply the secrets of natural and revealed truth, and found in them a doctrine which led him to be called Doctor Ordinis, Doctor Subtilis, and Doctor Marianus, becoming a teacher and guide of the Franciscan School, a light and example to the entire Christian People.

Thus we desire to remind scholars and everyone, believers and non-believers alike, of the path and method that Scotus followed in order to establish harmony between faith and reason, defining in this manner the nature of theology in order constantly to exalt action, influence, practice and love rather than pure speculation; in fulfilling this task he let himself be guided by the Magisterium of the Church and by a sound critical sense regarding growth in knowledge of the truth and was convinced that knowledge is valuable to the extent that it is applied in praxis.

Firmly anchored to the Catholic faith, Duns Scotus strove to understand, explain and defend the truth of the faith in the light of human reason. Thus he strove to do nothing other than show the consonance of all truths, natural and supernatural, that come from one and the same Source.

Alongside Sacred Scripture, divinely inspired, is the authority of the Church. Duns Scotus seems to follow St Augustine's words: "I would not believe the Gospel, except that I [first] believe the Catholic Church". In fact, our Doctor often gives a special emphasis to the supreme authority of the Successor of Peter. As the Blessed said: "Although the Pope cannot dispense with natural and divine law (given that his power is inferior to both), being the Successor of Peter, Prince of the Apostles, he still has the same authority as had Peter".

Therefore, the Catholic Church whose invisible Head is Christ himself, who left as his Vicars the person of Blessed Peter and his Successors guided by the Spirit of truth, is the authentic custodian of the revealed deposit and the rule of faith. The Church is the firm and permanent criterion of the canonical dimension of Sacred Scripture. Indeed, she "established which books of the biblical canon were to be held authentic".

Elsewhere he states that "the Scriptures were revealed in the same Spirit in which they were written, and in this way one must consider that the Catholic Church has presented them in that same Spirit with which the faith has been passed down, guided that is, by the Spirit of truth".

After having proven with various arguments taken from theological reason, the very fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from original sin, he was absolutely ready also to reject this conviction should it not be in harmony with the authority of the Church, saying: "We can with probability attribute to Mary all that has the greatest perfection, provided it is not opposed to the authority of the Church or the Scriptures".

The primacy of the will sheds light on the fact that God is charity before all else. This charity, this love, Duns Scotus kept present when he sought to lead theology back to a single expression, that is to practical theology. According to his thought, since God "is formally love and formally charity", with the greatest generosity he radiates his goodness and love beyond himself. And in reality, it is for love that God "chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He predestined us in love to be his adoptive sons through Jesus Christ" (cf. Eph 1: 4-5).

A faithful disciple of St Francis of Assisi, Bl. John contemplated and preached assiduously the Incarnation and the saving Passion of the Son of God. However, the charity or love of Christ is expressed in a special way not only on Calvary, but also in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, without which "if not for being able to render supreme adoration unto God through the veneration of the same Sacrament every mercy would disappear in the Church". This Sacrament moreover is a sacrament of unity and love; through it we are led to love one another mutually and to love God as a common good and to be loved at the same time by others.

And as this love, this charity, was the origin of all things, so too our eternal happiness will be in love and charity alone: "Eternal life is simply the desire as well as the will to love, blessed and perfect".

Since at the beginning of our ministry we first of all preached love, which is God himself, we see with joy that the unique doctrine of this Blessed keeps a special place for this truth, which we consider principally worthy to be researched and taught in our time. Therefore, willingly complying with the request of our Venerable Brother Cardinal Joachim Meisner, of Holy Roman Church, Archbishop of Cologne, we are sending this Apostolic Letter with which we desire to honour Bl. John Duns Scotus and invoke his heavenly intercession upon us. Lastly, to those who are taking part in any capacity in this International Congress and in other initiatives concerning this outstanding son of St Francis, we cordially impart our Apostolic Blessing.

Given in Rome, at St Peter's on 28 October 2008, the fourth year of our Pontificate.



The epitaph at Blessed John's grave is rather fun:

Scotland bore me,                      Scotia me genuit,

England received me,                 Anglia me suscepit,

France taught me,                      Gallia me docuit,

Cologne holds me.                     Colonia me tenet.


Can we think of advancing his cause for sainthood? Its taken too many years to get to "Blessed"!!!!


footnotes in the original, see vatican.va

The Pope and the Circus

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Circus & the pope.jpgIt's not every day that the Pope meets with the circus, unless you mean meeting with a long line of clergy and laity on any given subject wanting the pope's permission, insight or blessing. Nonetheless, it is fun to see the Holy Father having a light moment in his schedule. The Medrano Circus came to the General Audience today.

cub and a lion.jpg



Lion visit pope.jpg

Saint Thomas Aquinas

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The Lord led the just in the right paths. And showed him the kingdom of God.

O God, Who does enlighten Thy Church by the wonderful learning of blessed Thomas, Thy Confessor, and makes it fruitful by his holy works; we beseech Thee, grant us both to understand what he taught and to follow his example in what he practiced.


St Thomas Aquinas Gozzoli.jpg"The law of divine love is the standard for all human actions"

It is evident that not all are able to labor at learning and for that reason Christ has given a short law. Everyone can know this law and no one may be excused from observing it because of ignorance. This is the law of divine love. As scripture says, The Lord will quickly execute sentence upon the earth.

This law should be the standard for all human actions. In the case of products of human manufacture, each product is considered right and good when it conforms to a standard. So also each human act is considered right and virtuous when it conforms to the standard of divine love. But when a human act does not conform to the standard of love, then it is not right, nor good, nor perfect.

This law of divine love accomplishes in a person four things that are much to be desired. First, it is the cause of one's spiritual life. For it is evident that by the very nature of the action what is loved is in the one who loves. Therefore whoever loves God possesses God in himself; for scripture says, Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. It is the nature of love to transform the lover into the object loved. And so if we love God, we ourselves become divinized; for again, Whoever is joined to God becomes one spirit with him. Augustine adds, "As the soul is the life of the body, so God is the life of the soul." Thus the soul acts virtuously and perfectly when she acts through charity, and through charity God lives in her; indeed, without charity she cannot act; for scripture says, Whoever does not love, remains in death. If a person possesses all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but lacks charity, that person has no life. For it matters not whether one has the grace of tongues, or the gift of faith, or any other gift such as prophecy; these do not bring life without charity. Even if a dead body should be adorned with gold and precious jewels, it nevertheless remains dead.

The second point about charity is that it leads to the observance of the divine commandments. Gregory the Great says that charity is not idle. For charity is present if one is occupied about great things; but if one is not so occupied, charity is not present. We see a lover do great and difficult things because of the one loved, and that is why the Lord says, Whoever loves me will keep my word. Whoever keeps this command and the law of divine love fulfills the whole law. A third point about charity is that it provides protection against adversity. For misfortune cannot harm one who has charity; rather it becomes useful to that person; as scripture says, All things work for good for those who love God. Furthermore, misfortune and difficulties seem pleasant to the lover, and our own experience verifies this.

A fourth point about charity is that it truly leads to happiness, since eternal blessedness is promised only to those who have charity. For all other things are insufficient without charity. You must note that it is only the different degrees of charity, and not those of any other virtues, which constitute the different degrees of blessedness. Many of the saints were more abstemious than the apostles, but the apostles excel all the other saints in blessedness because of their higher degree of charity.

From a conference by "St. Thomas Aquinas" (Opuscula, In duo praecenta... Ed. J.P. Torrel, in Revue des Sc. Phil. Et Théol., 69, 1985, pp. 26-29.

Saint Thomas Aquinas by Joseph Pieper

Saint Thomas Aquinas by Father Bernhard Thomas Blankenhorn, OP

Various stimulating resources on Aquinas

The yeast in the pizza dough is dead. Ave Maria.jpgThe faculty of Ave Maria University (Naples, FL) found out that the financial situation is rather dire and the school could close within 18 months. The once interesting idea is about to go belly up. AND "I am sorry isn't going to cut it." One wonders if this seemingly weird idea was based on good, holy discernment focused on Christ, or not. Could the money and intellectual capacities of so many of the good faculty members could have been used more effectively in established universities??? Tom Monaghan wanted to die poor and he's pretty close to it now. The business acumen of the Domino's Pizza founder seems to have run out. Ave Maria Law School is selling naming rights for its buildings.

Patriarch Kirill.jpgMetropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, 62, has been elected the new Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. There were 711 delegates from various countries, laity and clergy alike. It is being reported the new patriarch received 508 of 677 valid votes.

The Russian Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian body in the world with more than 165 million adherents in Russia and beyond.

Patriarch Kirill succeeds Patriarch Alexy II who died on 5 December 2008 who was elected in 1991 to be the head of the Russian Church.

Born in St Petersburg, into a priest's family, Kirill was ordained a priest in 1969. He served as rector of the St Petersburg seminary. He is regarded as one of the most open of the Russian Orthodox bishops to the West.

Before his election as patriarch, Kirill headed the Church's department for external relations.

May God grant Patriarch Kirill many years!

Saint Angela Merici

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"Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me."

St Angela Merici and daughters.jpg

Lord, may Saint Angela commend us to Your mercy; may her charity and wisdom help us to be faithful to Your teaching and to follow it in our lives.

A brief bio and a Wiki article

The Company of Saint Ursula in the United States

Mozart's birthday: 253rd!

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Happy birthday to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!

Born on 27 January 1756 & Died on 5 December 1791

Prolific and influential composer --more than 600 works

Orthodox Church begins balloting.jpgIn the course of these days the Russian Orthodox Church is gathering to discuss and pray for a new patriarch. Let us join our prayers together for graces needed to elect the man the Holy Spirit has chosen to lead the Russian Church.

The process of selecting a new father of the Church in Orthodoxy is much different than the way either the Latin or the various Eastern Catholic churches elect a head. Another example of a diversity of gifts given by the Holy Trinity.

Benedict at Vespers for Con St Paul 09.jpgIt is a great joy every time we find ourselves gathered at the tomb of the Apostle Paul on the liturgical feast of his conversion to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I greet all of you with affection. I greet in a special way Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the abbot [Edmund Powers] and the community of monks who are hosting us. I also greet Cardinal Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. I greet along with him the lord cardinals who are present, the bishops and the pastors of the various Churches and ecclesial communities gathered here this evening.

A special word of recognition goes to those who worked together in preparing the prayer guides, experiencing firsthand the exercise of reflecting and meeting in listening to each other and, all together, to the Word of God.

St. Paul's conversion offers us a model that shows us the way to full unity. Unity in fact requires a conversion: from division to communion, from broken unity to healed and full unity. This conversion is the gift of the Risen Christ, as it was for St. Paul. We heard this from the Apostle himself in the reading proclaimed just a moment ago: "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

The same Lord, who called Saul on the road to Damascus, addresses himself to the members of the Church -- which is one and holy -- and calling each by name asks: Why have you divided me? Why have you wounded the unity of my body?

Conversion implies two dimensions. In the first step we recognize our faults in the light of Christ, and this recognition becomes sorrow and repentance, desire for a new beginning. In the second step we recognize that this new road cannot come from us. It consists in letting ourselves be conquered by Christ. As St. Paul says: "I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been conquered by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12).

Conversion demands our yes, my "pursuit"; it is not ultimately my activity, but a gift, a letting Paul the apostle.jpg ourselves be formed by Christ; it is death and resurrection. This is why St. Paul does not say: "I converted" but rather "I died" (Galatians 2:19), I am a new creature. In reality, St. Paul's conversion was not a passage from immorality to morality, from a mistaken faith to a right faith, but it was a being conquered by Christ: the renunciation of his own perfection; it was the humility of one who puts himself without reserve in the service of Christ for the brethren. And only in this renunciation of ourselves, in this conforming to Christ are we also united among ourselves; we become "one" in Christ. It is communion with the risen Christ that gives us unity.

We can observe an interesting analogy with the dynamic of St. Paul's conversion also in meditating on the biblical text of the prophet Ezekiel (37:15-28), which was chosen as a basis for our prayer this year. In it, in fact, the symbolic gesture is presented of two sticks being joined into one in the prophet's hand, who represents God's future action with this gesture. It is the second part of Chapter 37, which in the first part contains the celebrated vision of the dry bones and the resurrection of Israel, worked by the Spirit of God.

How can we not see that the prophetic sign of the reunification of the people of Israel is placed after the great symbol of the dry bones brought to life by the Spirit? There follows from this a theological pattern analogous to that of St. Paul's conversion: God's power is first and he works the resurrection as a new creation by his Spirit. This God, who is the Creator and is able to resurrect the dead, is also able to bring a people divided in two back to unity.

Ezekiel.jpgPaul -- like Ezekiel but more than Ezekiel -- becomes the chosen instrument of the preaching of the unity won by Christ through his cross and resurrection: the unity between the Jews and the pagans, to form one new people. Christ's resurrection extends the boundary of unity: not only the unity of the tribes of Israel, but the unity of the Jews and the pagans (cf. Ephesians 2; John 10:16); the unification of humanity dispersed by sin and still more the unity of all who believe in Christ.

We owe this choice of the passage from the prophet Ezekiel to our Korean brothers, who felt the call of this biblical passage strongly, both as Koreans and Christians. In the division of the Jewish people into two kingdoms they saw themselves reflected, the children of one land who, on account of political events, have been divided, north from south. Their human experience helped them to better understand the drama of the division among Christians.

Now, from this Word of God, chosen by our Korean brothers and proposed to all, a truth full of hope emerges: God allows his people a new unity, which must be a sign and an instrument of reconciliation and peace, even at the historical level, for all nations. The unity that God gives his Church, and for which we pray, is naturally communion in the spiritual sense, in faith and in charity; but we know that this unity in Christ is also the ferment of fraternity in the social sphere, in relations between nations and for the whole human family. It is the leaven of the Kingdom of God that makes all the dough rise (cf. Matthew 13:33).

In this sense, the prayer that we offer up in these days, taking our cue from the prophecy of Ezekiel, has also become intercession for the different situations of conflict that afflict humanity at present. There where human words become powerless, because the tragic noise of violence and arms prevails, the prophetic power of the Word of God does not weaken and it repeats to us that peace is possible, and that we must be instruments of reconciliation and peace. For this reason our prayer for unity and peace always requires confirmation by courageous gestures of reconciliation among us Christians.

Once again I think of the Holy Land: how important it is that the faithful who live there, and the pilgrims who travel there, offer a witness to everyone that diversity of rites and traditions need not be an obstacle to mutual respect and to fraternal charity. In the legitimate diversity of different positions we must seek unity in faith, in our fundamental "yes" to Christ and to his one Church. And thus the differences will no longer be an obstacle that separates but richness in the multiplicity of the expressions of a common faith.

Pope John XIII.jpgI would like to conclude this reflection of mine with a reference to an event that we older people here have certainly not forgotten. In this place on Jan. 25, 1959, exactly 50 years ago, Blessed Pope John XXIII announced for this first time his desire to convoke "an ecumenical Council for the universal Church" (AAS LI [1959], p. 68). He made this announcement to the cardinals in the chapter room of the Monastery of St. Paul, after having celebrated solemn Mass in the Basilica.

From the providential decision, suggested to my venerable predecessor, according to his firm conviction, by the Holy Spirit, there also derived a fundamental contribution to ecumenism, condensed in the decree Unitatis Redintegratio. In that document we read: "There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart. For it is from renewal of the inner life of our minds, from self-denial and an unstinted love that desires of unity take their rise and develop in a mature way" (7).

The attitude of interior conversion in Christ, of spiritual renewal, of increased charity toward other Christians, created a new situation in ecumenical relations. The fruits of theological dialogues, with their convergences and with the more precise identification of the differences that still remain, led to a courageous pursuit in two directions: in the reception of what was positively achieved and a renewed dedication to the future.

Opportunely, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which I thank for the service it renders to all the disciples of the Lord, has recently reflected on the reception and future of ecumenical dialogue. Such a reflection, if on one hand rightly desires to emphasize what has already been achieved, on the other hand intends to find new ways to continue the relations between the Churches and the ecclesial Communities in the present context.

The horizon of full unity remains open before us. It is an arduous task, but it is exciting for those Christians who want to live in harmony with the prayer of the Lord: "that all be one so that the world believes" (John 17:21). The Second Vatican Council explained to us "that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective -- the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ" (Unitatis redintegratio, 24).

at St Paul outside the walls.jpgTrusting in the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ, and encouraged by the significant steps made by the ecumenical movement, with faith we invoke the Holy Spirit that he continue to illumine our path. May the Apostle Paul, who worked so hard and suffered for the unity of the mystical body of Christ, spur us on from heaven; and may the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the unity of the Church, accompany and sustain us.


Pope Benedict XVI

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

Vespers, Conversion of Saint Paul, 2009

OSB monk.jpgA Spiegel Online article of January 25, 2007 looks into the monastic life from the German perspective: fewer monks and nuns professing vows and more lay people for a way to make sesne of their lives. The experience of the monks and nuns in Europe, in this case Germany, is not unlike the experience one can have in monasteries in the USA when it comes to diminishing numbers, lack of vision and hope for the future, and with plentiful  examples of liturgical & theological dissent. One can't forget that so many of the '68ers are still in charge.

But not all is bunk as there are a number of indicators pointing out that people are considering the monastic life anew. In fact, there are bright, generous and fun men and women entering the monasteries: they are on fire with the reality of serving and loving the Lord and His Church; they are ready to spend themselves for the eternal good of others and they are willing to preach Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior for humanity. That doesn't mean that thousands of men and women are running to cloister but those are very willing to take up the sacrifice of the cloister seriously. In accepting Christ one is never disappointed or easily thrown under the bus.

BUT there are equally bright, generous and loving people whose vocation is not to enter the monastery but it is to follow Christ  more deeply in following a rule of life --like the Rule of Saint Benedict-- while living in the world. The oblate life (also referred to as a third order or even in a secular institute) is beautiful and flourishing today.

I've had this article in my file for a while but some interesting points are worth considering even now. Monastic life in the 3rd millennium.

Conversion of Saint Paul

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Conv of St Paul.jpgI planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase, Alleluia.


O thou great Doctor, Paul, we here beseech of thee Lead thou our spirits up to heavenly mystery,

Till ends the partial knowledge that to us is given, While here below, and we receive the fuller light in heaven.

May everlasting honor, power and glory be, And jubilation, to the Holy Trinity, The One God, ever ruling all things mightily, Throughout all endless ages of eternity. Amen.


O God, Who has taught the whole world by the preaching of the blessed Paul the Apostle; we beseech Thee, that we, who this day celebrate his conversion, may by his example advance unto Thee.

On this day 50 years ago (1959), Blessed Pope John XXIII, at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, announced the Second Vatican Council.

FTwal.jpgTrue to itself and its focus on what Eastern Christians have to say, Oasis asked His Beatitude, Archbishop Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, for his opinion about what is happening in Gaza right now. Oasis met him at this home, in Jerusalem, a few days after the start of Israel's 'Cast Lead' operation. Archbishop Twal's words show a man clearly affected by the situation, concerned that things might be going backward with disastrous consequences for the whole region.

Your Beatitude, what are your thoughts about the latest developments?

In our Christmas message we had given voice to hope for peace in the Holy Land. Things seemed close at hand. More and more private meetings were taking place; pilgrims were coming in greater numbers; the economic situation in the Territories was getting better. Now, things are back where they were years ago. Military solutions are never good; violence begets violence. There is a clear imbalance between the parties. There have been too many innocent victims who have nothing to do with Hamas: women, children, families who had a right to lead a normal life, free. Gaza is under siege by land, sea and air. The city has been turned into an open air prison. Objectively such conditions cannot favour peace and reconciliation. In any case it certainly will not boost hope that violence will stop one day. On the contrary!

Doesn't Israel have a right to defend itself?

Of course! Everyone has the right to self-defence. Israel has won every war in defending itself, but has achieved neither peace, nor security. Counting only on the military option without offering people real alternatives is not a solution. Gaza's siege does not date from yesterday. This applies to Palestinians as well because even the most extreme situation does not cancel one's moral responsibilities vis-à-vis one's actions. But this is true not only for Palestinians.

What is a way out then?

I'll leave that to the politicians and the specialists. It's obvious that diplomatic negotiations have not led to good results as far as violence in Gaza is concerned. And yet we can also see that awareness about solving this problem has increased at the international level. There are three or four good initiatives underway. The world seems to be doing more to solve the problems of the Middle East. Hope never dies, even if it is already very late. The only way out is political. But if there is no good will by the parties involved, all we'll ever get are empty words, promises and meetings without any results.

What should Christians in the Holy Land and around the world do about events in Gaza?

First of all everyone must assume his or her responsibilities. Violence calls for our conversion. Our heart must convert, what we say must change, our outlook must change. Widespread mistrust does not help; it is very destructive.

Foad Twal2.jpegIs the visit by the Holy Father a good idea?

In Jerusalem we are grateful to the Pope for his constant attention and words. We are certain that a visit would help us a lot; the same is true for pilgrims who come to the Holy Land. They can help us remind the international community that joint action is always more courageous; they can exert pressure in favour of greater justice and peace for all. Pious words are not enough; we need acts of courage.

Courtesy of the Oasis International Studies and Research Centre


Saint Francis de Sales

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Thumbnail image for St Francis de Sales.jpg O God, Who did will that blessed Francis, Thy Confessor and Bishop, should become all things unto all men for the salvation of their souls, mercifully grant that being filled with the sweetness of Thy love, we may, through the guidance of his counsels and the aid of his merits attain the aid the joys of everlasting life.


Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622) born in Thorens, Savoy, in France, was a brilliant student and lawyer. At an early age he was nominated Bishop of Geneva and later he vigorsly fought Calvinism. Together with Saint Jane Frances de Chantal he founded the Order of the Visitation. A classic book on the spiritual life is de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life. He died in Lyons and was canonized in 1665. In 1877, Pope Blessed Pius IX proclaimed him Doctor of the Church. Pius XI declared him patron of journalists and other writers.

Joseph Younan.jpgYesterday, Bishop Joseph Younan, 65, eparch of the New Jersey centered Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance (in the USA & Canada) was elected Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians today. His Beatitude, Ignace Joseph III Younan succeeds His Beatitude Mar Ignace Pierre Abdel-Ahad and a temporary administration of the patriarchate.

Pope Benedict accepted a request for full ecclesiastical communion with the new patriarch (according to the Eastern Code of Canon Law), here is the letter of concession. The granted the request of communion "willingly, thus performing a part of the Petrine ministry which gives me particular pleasure. Communion with the Bishop of Rome, Peter's Successor, established by the Lord as the visible foundation of unity in faith and charity, guarantees the bond with Christ the Pastor and introduces the particular Churches into the mystery of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church".

Pope Benedict XVIs address (in French) to the new patriarch and the bishops of the synod.

In brief, the Pope said: "My hope is that in the East, where the Gospel was first announced, Christian communities may continue to live and bear witness to their faith, as they have over the centuries. At the same time I hope that all those outside their homeland may receive adequate pastoral care so as to maintain the bond with their religious roots". The Pope then voiced his hope that the Eastern Churches, "wherever they may be, are able to integrate themselves into their new social and ecclesial surroundings without losing their own identity and conserving the imprint of their Eastern spirituality, so that, using the words East and West, the Church may speak effectively of Christ to modern mankind". 

The bishops of the Syrian Catholic Church have been meeting in synod in Rome since the 18th.

More info about the new patriarch and the Syrian Catholic Church can be had at a H2O News video segment, a 2008 CNEWA article and in a Wiki article.

May Mary, Mother of God intercede for the new patriarch and the Syrian Catholic Church before the Throne of Grace.

The Vatican on the tube

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Pope TV.jpgWatch the Pope (and the Church) at The Vatican --in 4 languages. A different angle in reporting...giving the Truth!

Vatican Communications HD

Protecting the unborn NOW

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ProLife.jpgOur nation is at a critical point in the fight to protect the unborn. The latest proposed legislation, the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), calls for a significant increase in unlimited amount of abortions in this country. But FOCA goes far beyond that - it seeks to force hospitals and health care providers to violate their own consciences by requiring that abortions and abortion referrals be made available to clients seeking such services. This legislation seeks to eliminate the choice for those whose beliefs would preclude their participation in the acts of death which the proposed law would require.

The impact on the lives of those who practice medicine and those, such as the Catholic Church, who provide hospitals and health care facilities, would be profound. This is on top of the "rights" which the bill purports to protect that virtually eliminates any restrictions on abortion and removes parental rights of notice when abortions are performed for minors.

The Bishops of the United States have asked all Catholic organizations to support a campaign that will also be rolled out through parishes throughout the country - it is being called the National Pro-Life Postcard Campaign to Congress. Cardinal Justin Rigali referenced this campaign in his homily at the Pro-Life vigil on Wednesday at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

Every person who believes that abortion is wrong, that "Freedom of Choice" actually denies choice to those whose conscience would be violated by the legislation's requirements, needs to take action. As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have said, "FOCA goes far beyond the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision. No other piece of legislation would have such a destructive impact on society's ability to limit or regulate abortion... The national postcard campaign will send a timely message to Congress that abortion advocates are out of step with mainstream America, and that their agenda should not become part of our nation's laws in any way."

Please link to the USCCB's website by using the URL here - it will conveniently allow you to send electronic postcards to your Senators and your Congressional delegate, expressing your strong opinion in opposition to FOCA. As Edmund Burke is so often quoted, "All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing." Place your cursor on the URL and press Ctrl & click or paste the URL in your internet browser.


Malta cross.jpgWe cannot do nothing - this postcard campaign is not enough, but it is something - a small but important step to insure that the voices of those who support the pro-life movement are heard, loud and clear. Please take the few moments required to send the electronic postcards.

AND we have to be even more vigilant in a variety of areas legislation which threatens the unborn and the conscience, e.g., foreign policy.

The rights of Christians in Muslim countries is always threatened. A Reuters story sheds some light on the problems that the Mor Gabriel monastery in Midyat, Turkey faces right now. The monastery of Syriac Christian monks has been present on this site for 1600 years and now faces a reduction if not factual extinction. Can you imagine the extinction of a monastery built in A.D. 397 dedicated to the witness to Jesus Christ???

Is this one more reason to consider NOT admitting Turkey to the European Union??? Religious freedom is not a valued in Muslim countries and there are countless examples of this fact. Many will point to the fact that millions of dollars of land and other cultural artifacts have been stolen by the Turkish government over the years but the matter is not merely about the material wealth but about the existence of the Christian presence in the land of their birth. What has to be done is to convince the nations of Islamic rule that religious reciprocity is a value and significant to the greater freedom of all people as well as a part of the cultural heritage of the respective countries. Now a minority Christians were once a majority in many of these Muslim countries.

This article is interesting because of the facts presented, particularly the facts that show how the Christians have diminished since the radical state secularization of the country.

Let us pray to Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11th, on whose feast day the court will determine the fate of the Mor Gabriel monastery.

The Church has judged that Jesuit Father Roger Haight's writings are beyond the limits of orthodox theological reflection on the nature of Christ (Christology).

Either one is a Catholic theologian teaching orthodox theology or you don't teach. The problem with Father Haight is that Church's objectivity is reduced to school yard monitor and while he is an ordained Catholic priest, Haight very rarely celebrates the Mass. AND then there is his own admission that he considers himself not a Catholic theologian but a Christian theologian. I suppose that's what you get when a Catholic priest destined to teach priesthood candidates is educated by the Baptists. The objectivity of the Faith means something: one, holy, catholic and apostolic for starters.

Once asked if he would revise his thinking/publications sentire cum Ecclesiae so that he could be missioned by the Jesuits to teach, Father Haight told two scores of Jesuit seminarians that he would not do so. I guess that is what is called by many Jesuits "loyal opposition to the Church." Of course, if you understand the Church to be a sacrament founded by Christ then saying no to the Church is saying no to Christ. Does this remind you of a conversion story from the Acts of Apostles where the protagonist in the narrative hears said: "...why are you persecuting me?"

Sandro Magister's article

The 2004 CDF notification on Jesus, Symbol of God

As Jesuit Father Gerald O'Collins once said: "I wouldn't give my life for Roger Haight's Jesus. It's a triumph of relevance over orthodoxy." Neither would I, would you?

Newman.jpgOn this day in 1991, Pope John Paul the Great recognized John Henry Cardinal Newman was indeed a man who possessed heroic virtue. This recognition carried with it an ecclesial title of "Venerable Servant of God." Henceforth, we say "Venerable Servant of God John Henry Newman."

The process of determining whether Cardinal Newman is a saint continues along. To assist our understanding of the process of canonization and to have a better appreciation for the great work of Newman, a new website was recently launched. Visit the JHN website here.


Read John Henry Newman one step closer to sainthood


 The Prayer for John Henry Newman's Beatification

God, our father, your servant John Henry Newman upheld the faith by his teaching and example. May his loyalty to Christ and the Church, his love for the Immaculate Mother of God, and his compassion for the perplexed give guidance to Christian people today. We beg you to grant the favors we ask through his intercession so that his holiness may be recognized by all and the Church may proclaim him a Saint. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


    Church, dogma and certainty
    There is but one rule of faith for all; and it would be a greater difficulty to allow of an uncertain rule of faith, than (if that was the alternative, as it is not), to impose upon uneducated minds a profession which they cannot understand. But it is not the necessary result of unity of profession, nor is it the fact, that the Church imposes dogmatic statements on the interior assent of those who cannot apprehend them. The difficulty is removed by the dogma of the Church's infallibility, and of the consequent duty of "implicit faith" in her word. The "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" is an article of the Creed, and an article, which, inclusive of her infallibility, all men, high and low, can easily master and accept with a real and operative assent. It stands in the place of all abstruse propositions in a Catholic's mind, for to believe in her word is virtually to believe in them all. Even what he cannot understand, at least he can believe to be true; and he believes it to be true because he believes in the Church.
    A Grammar of Assent, Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1955 (orig. 1870), p. 129.

Rusty Reno tackles the question of where to begin when considering our life in God in his First Things essay, "In The Beginning." Reno provokes me to ask a few questions. Where do we begin, when, why and for what purpose? What is our destiny, in other words? Where do our loyalties exist? Are we wedded too much to our ideas? That is, are we blinded to a particular theological lens and biblical interpretation that when truth is presented we pass it by because we are too comfortable in our belief system? If we are rigidly following what we think is right versus wrong will we ever advance in wisdom, grace and love? AND the problem is thus exposed: who's wisdom, grace and love are living in? God's or ours? What place does Torah and the Gospel have in our lives? Do we follow a political personality or Jesus, the Savior?

theotokos & cross.jpgHappy the peacemakers; they shall be called sons of God. (Mt 5:9)


God our Father, you reveal that those who work for peace will be called your sons. Help us to work without ceasing for that justice which brings true and lasting peace.



The days leading up to today have made me more concerned than ever for the rights of the unborn. It is clearer to me that with the new presidential administration and the confirmation of Mrs. Clinton as the Secretary of State, abortion will become more accepted and more ingrained in the political machinery here in the USA and it will be a significant agenda item in foreign policy. The abortion politic may not be so "in your face" as it has been but the architects of our governmental social and foreign policies will slip the matter of abortion into the fray as a human right wherever possible. For example, I can foresee that an African country who has traditionally been against abortion will be pressured to change their laws and health care policies to make abortion available and fully funded. The Clinton crowd has already worked in organizations like the UN and USAID to foster pro-abortion policies. Also dangerous to human life is how it will be introduced in health care reforms through riders to the existing laws, counseling, foreign aid and various other humanitarian projects in our own land. So, it is likely that FOCA will not be the most significant piece of legislation to advocate for abortion rights here in the USA. Planned Parenthood has an elaborate plan to move their agenda ahead.  What is the Pro-Life? What is our plan at the local and state levels? Who are our spokespeople, now that Richard Neuhaus is dead?

Let's reflect on the last pro-life essay written by the late Father Richard John Neuhaus in the January 2009 essay in First Things, "The Pro-Life Movement as the Politics of the 1960s" where he wrote:

"Whatever else it is, the pro-life movement of the last thirty-plus years is one of the most massive and sustained expressions of citizen participation in the history of the United States. Since the 1960s, citizen participation and the remoralizing of politics have been central goals of the left."

And further Neuhaus wrote: "the pro-choice proponents are the defenders of the status quo. They routinely cite data indicating that a majority of Americans do not want to see Roe overturned. As has often been pointed out, these same Americans believe that Roe created a restrictive abortion policy. In what sociologist James Hunter calls "mass legal illiteracy," it is widely believed that Roe permits abortion in the first trimester, allows it for serious reasons in the second, and forbids it in the third. But, of course, as Roe and companion decisions make clear, the law as presently imposed by the Supreme Court allows abortion at any time for any reason and up through the fully formed baby emerging halfway out of the birth canal. As Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon has written, it is the most permissive abortion regime in the Western world. When those same Americans are asked about the circumstances in which abortion should be permitted, a great majority says that abortion should not be permitted for the reasons that 90 percent of abortions are procured. It is understandable, however, that pro-choice advocates trumpet popular support for Roe, dependent as they are on the ignorance of "the silent majority."

ProLife.jpgTherefore, oursis the work of "welcoming unborn children into life and protecting them under law," as Fr Neuhaus once said.

Ecumenism in the Holy Land

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by Marie-Armelle Beaulieu writing for www.terrasanta.net

The official website of the Custody of the Holy Land has published an interview with an acute observer of the dynamics of ecumenism in the Middle East. Father Frans Bouwen, a member of the White Fathers (also known as the Missionaries of Africa) lives near the church of Saint Anne in Old Jerusalem. We offer Father Bouwen's reflections to our readers.

* * *

Pilgrims often return home from the Holy Land with a feeling of having personally experienced the scandal that is division between churches. Father Frans Bouwen, a priest of the Missionaries of Africa in Jerusalem who faithfully joins his fellow White Fathers in fulfilling their calling to pray for unity, has observed the evolution of ecumenical dialogue for the past 40 years. He spoke with us about the matter, providing a glimpse of current affairs.

What is the state of ecumenism in the Holy Land?


That's hard to say in just a few words. But basically, I would say there has been a considerable amount of progress in the past 30 to 40 years. Thirty years ago, it would have been difficult for me to imagine that we would be where we are today. I have witnessed a slow progression that began with Pope Paul VI's visit to Jerusalem in 1964, his meeting with the Orthodox patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople, and particularly his meeting with the Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem at the time, Patriarch Benediktos. The progression has been developing little by little ever since.

When evaluating the state of ecumenism in the Holy Land, it is important to consider the various levels and the different types of meetings. There are so many things going on in the area of ecumenism that it is almost impossible to grasp. Some elements that need to be considered are the Holy Places, the relations between hierarchies, and those between the faithful of different denominations. As for parish priests, that all depends above all on individual priests.

I think that we have come a long way, but progress it not guaranteed forever and we regularly make note of the fact that a small event could take us back 5 or 10 years and make us have to start all over again.

Do the heads of churches meet with each other?


The heads of 13 churches and the Father Custos meet together approximately once every two months. This custom was established in 1994, after the publication of the first common memorandum on the signifance of Jerusalem for Christians.

What do they talk about in these meetings?


The meetings are above all characterized by a spirit of brotherhood, and that's very important. The subjects discussed often revolve around shared problems and difficulties that are generally external and often related to the situation in the country - for example: access to Jerusalem, whether or not to pay taxes, freedom of movement for Christians, the issue of obtaining visas for the religious as well as students and volunteers, etc. This is already a major step forward, one that was taken when the first Intifada began in late 1987. It is more challenging for them to broach subjects related to problems that there may be between churches. They are able to adopt a united position when there is an external problem but as far as sensitive issues related to the relations between churches, I have the impression that it's hard for them to approach them directly.

Are these sensitive issues theological in nature?


No. Here in Jerusalem, we do not have all of the competent people that we need to initiate a theological dialogue. The Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches do have such people, but some of the smaller churches aren't as fortunate. Additionally, the Orthodox churches feel that they do not have the legitimacy to operate on that level, so they refer to higher authorities that are outside the country.

Of the issues that there are between churches, mostly between Catholics and Orthodox - who together account for 95% of the Christians in the country, the most sensitive is undoubtedly the well-known issue of proselytism. The Orthodox still criticize the Catholics for proselytizing their faithful. I think that that does not happen anymore, but this is still a very sensitive point of contention in Catholic-Orthodox relations. We Catholics should be humble enough to recognize that our communities are composed in great part of people who were previously part of the Orthodox denomination.

Did proselytism begin with the establishment of the Franciscans in the 14th century?

No, it primarily began after the restoration of the Latin Patriarchate in the 19th century. There were Catholic communities before that, but they were relatively small and lived primarily in the areas surrounding the Holy Places and in some parishes. The restoration of the Latin Patriarchate gave rise to a missionary movement. It's important to place things in the proper context. The missionaries did some remarkable work and certainly contributed to stopping the advance of Islam in certain regions, thanks to schools and to the revival of Christianity that they began in the parishes. But working towards revival or unity in keeping with the mentality of the time also consisted in working towards the "return" of non-Catholics, particularly Orthodox Christians.

The Orthodox Church has not yet come to terms with the fact that these things happened this way at a time when the church did not have enough resources and people. Even today, certain Orthodox leaders continue to suspect us of proselytism. But I think that great efforts have been made since Vatican II and that proselytism no longer takes place. Besides, if we ask them to present us with facts, they tell us about old incidents from 15 to 20 years ago. Nonetheless, the fact remains that this is a wound that they still feel, and we have not been able to heal it by discussing the matter frankly. We Catholics should try to understand the sensitivities of others ; that way, many things will become possible little by little.

To go back to meetings between church authorities, is there no joint reflection among them?

On the occasion of one particular holiday, for example, the heads of the churches jointly reflected on a passage from Scripture for two half-days. The event was enriching, but such activities are still the exception and not the rule.

Given the lack of a theology committee, are there other kinds of dialogues at a lower level?


Yes. Some people want there to be exchanges across pastoral apostolates. We do have such exchanges in some places, but it's very difficult to have them everywhere. We have also addressed the issues of mutual aid among schools and respect for the denominational affiliations of fellow students. Many Orthodox children are educated in Catholic schools because there are more of them and they are more spread out over various regions. This leads us to consider the question of Catholic influence and, in turn, the need to respect the identity of each individual student. Basic education typically lasts 12 years. An Orthodox (or other) child who receives all of his schooling at a Catholic school, who participates in Mass and Confession, may end up feeling more at ease in the Catholic church than in the denomination he was baptized into. The Catholic church knows how to provide Christian education without alienating students from their own churches. This requires a truly special type of attention if we really want to push ecumenism forward.

How are things among lay people?


I think - and this is a sociological phenomenon you will generally find in the Middle East - that the faithful identify more easily as Christians, whereas the clergy identify more with their denominations. For the faithful, what mostly counts is solidarity with other Christians in the presence of non-Christians, and they spontaneously collaborate with each other. Look at how many Orthodox teachers there are in Catholic schools, how many Orthodox members and assistants there are in social organizations like Caritas, and how many are involved in youth movements (the Scouts, the YMCA, the YWCA, the JEC, the JOC, etc.). Everywhere we see Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants working together. And I think that almost every family participates in this type of interaction. That really helps with the spontaneity of collaboration, which Christians feel is vitally important for their presence. Sometimes they say, "Unity is not an issue. The only thing that still separates us is holiday dates." That's a little simplistic, but that's how they feel.

Are there any differences between the Palestinian Territories and Israel with regard to ecumenism?


No major differences, but I think that in Nazareth, ecumenical relations are generally a little easier and more spontaneous ; they're more fraternal among heads of churches, and I think that's also the case among lay people. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the atmosphere is different there and that they are farther away from the center, Jerusalem.

So despite the accusations that are made against the church in Jerusalem - against all the churches - ecumenism is alive in the Holy Land?


When people say that division between churches is a scandal, particularly in Jerusalem, where Jesus prayed for the unity of his people and so on, I agree, but I hasten to add that none of the divisions we face originated here. They were all brought in from outside. So the church in Jerusalem is not responsible for them, but it suffers their consequences. It would behoove pilgrims, who claim to be scandalized by the existing divisions, to be well aware of this.

Today is the 62nd anniversary of the monastic foundation of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in North Guilford, Connecticut. Faithfilled nuns made the journey from a Dominican nun's monastery in Summit, New Jersey to a suburb of New Haven in 1947 to spend their lives for the Gospel and the Church.

nun at adoration.jpgNearly 40 nuns of the Order Preachers live in a papal enclosure offering sacrifices and prayers for our salvation; they study and work for the up-building of the Kingdom of God. The nuns follow the charism of Saint Dominic as it is lived today within the Dominican Order which says that "there is indeed a diversity of gifts, but one and the same Spirit, one charity, one mercy. The friars, sisters and laity of the Dominican Order are to preach the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world; the nuns are to seek, ponder and call upon him in solitude so that the Word proceeding from the mouth of God may not return to him empty, but may accomplish those things for which it was sent." (From the Fundamental Constitutions of the Nuns)

I am grateful for the presence of the monastery because it has offered me a place to pray, that is, to enjoy the friendship of Jesus and His Mother, Mary. Nuns have perpetual adoration before the Blessed Sacrament open their chapel to countless visitors who want to do the same; there is a possibility of making other spiritual exercises like the Stations of the Cross. The nuns support themselves entirely on the donations they receive and the income from a modest bookstore.

The context of Our Lady of Grace Monastery is in the Archdiocese of Hartford, 15 miles from New Haven and priests from the Dominican Priory of Saint Mary's, New Haven.

OP cross.jpgThe value of prayer and sacrifice was learned early in my life through the nuns of this monastery. Now with the Lord, Sisters Mary Dominic and Veronica used to sit with me talk about life and God. Over the years I made a regular pilgrimage (really a short trip from my parents' home 12 miles away) to the monastery because it was interesting, even mysterious. How many places do you that beckon you to know Christ? As a teenager I would ride my bicycle to the North Guilford monastery to serve the Sunday Mass celebrated by Father Luke and then ride all the way home again. I count on the witness of these nuns because I trust it. Our Lady of Grace Monastery is not sentimental; it's not fake, it's not transient; the lives of the witnesses are rooted in Jesus Christ. Would that all of us could say the same. Would that the witness of these nuns could rub off more so that we could give be the face of Christ in the world.

Our Lady of Grace Monastery
11 Race Hill Road
North Guilford, CT 06437-1099

(203) 457-0599

Saint Agnes

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St Agnes.jpgAgnes beatæ virginis
natalis est, quo spiritum
cælo refudit debitum
pio sacrata sanguine.

Matura martyrio fuit
matura nondum nuptiis;
prodire quis nuptum putet,
sic læta vultu ducitur.

Aras nefandi numinis
adolere tædis cogitur;
respondet: «Haud tales faces
sumpsere Christi virgines.

Hic ignis exstinguit fidem,
hæc flamma lumen eripit;
hic, hic ferite, ut profluo
cruore restinguam focos».

Percussa quam pompam tulit!
Nam veste se totam tegens,
terram genu flexo petit
lapsu verecundo cadens.

Iesu, tibi sit gloria,
qui natus es de Virgine,
cum Patre et almo Spiritu,in sempiterna sæcula.

(Saint Ambrose)

Almighty and eternal God, Who did choose the weak things of the world to confound the strong, mercifully grant, that we who celebrate the solemnity of blessed Agnes, Thy Virgin and Martyr, may experience her intercession with Thee.


Lamb1.jpgChurch has remembered Saint Anges, who died in 305, since 354 in the sacred Liturgy, poetry and art. This ancient feast retains a custom of blessing of the wool of two lambs brought to the pope from the Trappist Abbey of Tre Fontane. The wool from the lambs is given to the nuns to weave the pallia. The pallia spend some time at the relics of Saint Peter below the main altar of Saint Peter's Basilica showing a special unity between the Pontiff and the archbishop. The pallium is a white woolen band embroidered with six black crosses worn over the shoulders and has two hanging pieces, front and back. Since the 9th century, the pallium has wider use and is worn by the pope and by metropolitan archbishops symbolizing authority and expresses the special bond of unity between the archbishop and the Roman Pontiff. Pallia are given, upon request from by the metropolitan archbishops on the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Paul by the pope. The pallium is worn by the archbishop in his diocese and when necessary, in the other diocese in the Metropolitanate and is generally worn only for significant ecclesial events like the blessing of Chrism, ordinations, consecration of altars and not for daily and Sunday Mass.



Holy Abbots of Citeaux.jpgGod of power and might, you have given us in your saints a living witness to religious perfection. Schooled in their principles and observances, may we, too, strive to show that same faith and live in our lives.


Knit together in the unity of the Holy Spirit, the blessed abbots Robert, Alberic, and Stephen chose to be poor with the poor Christ, and so went forth to a desert wilderness to abide in the place you had prepared for them.

Schooled in all things by the Rule of Saint Benedict, their father, they sought only to live in peace according to the truth of the Gospel.

Setting nothing before the love of Christ,
and zealous for the praise of your Majesty, their example drew many to take up the strong and glorious weapons of obedience.

Saint Meinrad

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 St Meinrad2.jpg



All-powerful and eternal God, your wonders shine forth in the merits of your blessed martyr Meinrad. We beg you that, as you crowned him with the glory of suffering for your name, so now we might be aided by his prayers in obtaining your mercy.


The Archabbey of Saint Meinrad in sourthern Indiana continues the tradition of their heavenly.

Last evening (19 January) two participants in the October 2008 Synod of Bishops spoke about the importance and value of knowing Christ personally and intimately. Christ is not an abstraction nor is Christianity an ethic. Merely knowing about Jesus is moralistic and inconsistent with the true experience of Christinity which says that Jesus Christ is the true, personal foundation of life and that He answers the need of heart. Father Julián Carrón, President of the Fraternity of Communion & Liberation and Mr. Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus addressed a crowd of more than 200 people, including the Most Reverend Peter A. Rosazza, an auxiliary bishop of Hartford and Vicar for New Haven, CT. The evening was moderated by Dominican Father Peter John Cameron, Editor-in-Chief of Magnificat magazine.

The discussion was built on the theme "The Word's Face: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of Every Believer." Saint Mary's Church Hall (New Haven, CT) was the venue of the evening. This was the same hall that the Venerable Servant of God Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882.

The discussion emphasized that Christians are not a people of the Book, as is commonly but wrongly asserted, but a people who follow a person, the definitive revelation of God, Jesus Christ. Moreover, it was emphasized that Catholics know Christ through sacred Scripture and Tradition. Anderson made a point in saying that he had heard a story of someone facing imprisonment who given a choice in taking one book with him and he selected the missal. The reasoning was the missal had both Scripture and the Liturgy. Both Anderson and Carrón dealt with various aspects of Dei Verbum, the revolutionary document on Divine Revelation from the Second Vatican Council.  Anderson made a point that the Church is missionary in sharing the faith with others and noted that Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have made the effective preaching of Jesus Christ a particularly important aim of the entire Church, each according to his or her place in the Body of Christ.

Father Julián Carrón was an Ordinary member of the Synod meaning that he was a full and voting participant in the Synod as the bishops who are appointed to the gathering. Father Carrón's Synodal intervention can be read here. Mr. Anderson was an auditor at the Synod meaning that he was a partial participant at the Synod but less important as his role was to listen to the work of the Synodal Fathers, to meet experts and those participating in the Synod and to make brief intervention before the full body of the Synod. Both have participated in previous Synods of Bishops.

Father Carrón and Mr. Anderson answered questions fielded from the audience and afterwards met with anyone who presented themselves. Father Carrón met very briefly with members of the local members of the Communion & Liberation. The event was an experience of Christ among us.

The evening was sponsored by Communion & Liberation of Connecticut, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus and Saint Mary's Church & Priory.

A brief article and video of the panel discussion can be found here.

Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau

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Blessed Basil Moreau.jpgI have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)


Lord God, help us to imitate the virtues of Blessed Basil Moreau, especially his trust in Divine Providence, his confidence in the Cross as our only hope, and his zeal for making God known, loved, and served.


Blessed Basil Moreau is an example on how to "promot[e] hope in the Cross of Christ...[showing us]...a radical identification to Christ, and to cultivate in our own lives union of hearts and zeal for the mission."



Commemorative booklet of the beatification of Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau

A recent biography: Basil Moreau: Founder of Holy Cross

Barack Obama.jpgFirst of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. (1 Timothy 2:1-8)


Prayer for the Nation and

the Civil Authorities

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Benedict, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own Bishop, Henry, all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance.

To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Archbishop John Carroll

Archdiocese of Baltimore

delivered in 1791

A Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism (Hyde Park: NY, New City Press, 2007), published by the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, provides numerous suggestions for Catholics engaging in private prayer for Christian unity:

St Paul and the viper Malta.jpg-Give due attention to prayer for unity in the celebration of the Eucharist;

-Insert, where possible, particular intercessions for Christian unity in the liturgical prayer of the Church, including the Liturgy of the Hours and Office of Readings;

-Offer daily prayer or devotions for the intention of Christian unity. Examples can include the Morning Offering, praying the Rosary or Eucharistic adoration;

-Seek Christian unity through fasting, penance and personal conversion;

-Unite hardships and sufferings with Christ for the intention of Christian unity.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity worked with the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches for the preparation of materials for the week of prayer.


The daily themes are:

Jan. 18: Christian communities face to face with old and new divisions.

Jan. 19: Christians face to face with war and violence.

Jan. 20: Christians face to face with economic injustice and poverty.

Jan. 21: Christians face to face with ecological crisis.

Jan. 22: Christians face to face with discrimination and social prejudice.

Jan. 23: Christians face to face with disease and suffering.

Jan. 24: Christians face to face with a plurality of religions.

Jan. 25: Christian proclamation of hope in a world of separation.

Because we follow Christ and His Church we "pray that all may be one," without forgetting the part that says "so that the world may believe that we are sent."

The Holy Father said: "Let us too welcome this invitation and pray with greater intensity that Christians walk in a resolute way toward full communion with each other. I especially address Catholics throughout the world that, united in prayer, they do not tire to work to overcome obstacles that still impede full communion among Christ's disciples. The ecumenical task is even more urgent today, to give to our society, which is marked by tragic conflicts and lacerating divisions, a sign and an impulse toward reconciliation and peace.

In our particular circumstance we can make a contribution to the work of Christian unity. As we know Christian unity has a priority of the Church through the centuries; it was reaffirmed as a priority of the Second Vatican and it was evidenced during the 26 years of Pope John Paul IIs papacy. Christian unity is a hallmark of Pope Benedict. So I ask, where are you going to make a contribution, with grace, in the work of Christian unity in 2009?

The Pontifical Council for Christian Unity has a useful resource page.

Schuster.jpgBehold a great priest, who in his days pleased Godm and was found just.


O God, Who did give Thy people blessed Idelfonso as a minister of eternal salvation, we beseech Thee; grant that we may deserve to have him as an intercessor in heaven, whom we had as a teacher of life on earth.



A brief sketch:

- Born 18 January 1880 at Rome, Italy: known in history as Alfredo Ludovico Luigi Schuster;

- Educated at Saint-Paul-Outside-the-Walls and then entered the novitiate there in 1896 taking the name Ildefonso and professing solemn vows on 13 November 1890;

- Ordained a priest in 1904; he was novice master, prior and procurator for the Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine monks before being elected Abbot-Nullius of his abbey on 6 April 1918;

- He was devoted scholarship and teaching and appointed president of the Pontifical Oriental Institute from 1919 to 1922. His Liber sacramentorum, Historical and Liturgical Notes on the Roman Missal is well known and used for liturgical history and theology studies;

- Pope Pius XI nominated Abbot Idelfonso Schuster the Archbishop of Milan on 26 July 1926 and was made a cardinal in 1929;

- Died 30 August 1954 at Venegono, Italy of natural causes;

- Beatified 12 May 1996 by Pope John Paul II and with the liturgical memorial on 30 August.

WPCU 09.jpg2009 is the 101st observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The week begins today and ends on the 25th, the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. The theme is "That they may become one in your hand." (Ezekiel 37:15-19, 22-24a)

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2009 is rooted in the experience of the churches in Korea. In their context of national division these churches have turned for inspiration to the prophet Ezekiel, who also lived in a tragically divided nation and longed for the unity of his people.

According to Ezekiel the division of the people reflected - and resulted from - their sinfulness and alienation from God. They may become again one people by renouncing their sins, undergoing conversion, and returning to God. Yet ultimately it is God who unites God's people by purifying, renewing and liberating them from their divisions. For Ezekiel this unity is not simply the joining of previously divided groups; it is rather a new creation, the birth of a new people which should be a sign of hope to other peoples and indeed to all of humanity.

Resources at Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute 

Saint Anthony, Abbot

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Sts Anthony Abbot & Michael Lippi.jpgGod, who allowed Blessed Anthony the Abbot to serve You with a marvelous life in the desert, grant by his intercession that, denying ourselves, we may constantly love You above all things.


More on Abbot Saint Anthony

This weekend the National Diaconia of the Fraternity of Community & Liberation (an ecclesial movement in the Church) will be meeting in New Jersey with some events across the Hudson River in NYC. More than 200 people from the USA, Canada and Italy will be present. Father Julián Carrón, the President of the Fraternity will be giving several lessons and he will be a part of panel introducing a book recently published, Is It Possible to Live This Way: Hope. This book comprises talks the late Msgr. Luigi Giussani gave to the consecrated lay members of CL known as Memores Domini. Some of you may remember we had a similar event last year for the first volume by a similar title as the one being present this weekend, Is It Possible to Live This Way: Faith. The third and final volume in this series on Love will be released next year.

Over the next few days there are a series of events organized by the Communion and Liberation movement and the Crossroad Cultural Center in New York City. In addition to Fr. Julián Carrón, the other panelists include John Allen, National Catholic Reporter Correspondnet; Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, noted theologian and author; and Edward Nelson, Princeton professor of mathematics. The presentationis open to the public, will be held at the Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University, 566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square South, New York. A free ticket is required for admission, and they will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning at 2:00 pm.

More info on the New York Encounter

You should also subscribe to Traces, the monthly magazine of CL which is faithful to the objectivity of the Church.

Saint Basil the Great tells us that we can't go it alone...

If anyone claims to be able to be completely self-sufficient, to be capable of reaching perfection without anyone else's help, to succeed in plumbing the depths of Scripture entirely unaided, he is behaving just like someone trying to practice the trade of a carpenter without touching wood. The Apostle would say to such: 'It is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the Law who will be justified.' [Rom. 2:13]

Washing the feet.jpgOur Lord, in loving each human being right to the end, did not limit himself to teaching us in words. In order to give us an exact and telling example of humility in the perfection of love, he put on an apron and washed the disciples' feet.

So what about you, living entirely on your own? Whose feet will you wash? Whom will you follow to take the lowest place in humility? To whom will you offer brotherly service? How, in the home of a solitary, can you taste the joy that is evident where many live together?

The spiritual field of battle, the sure way of inner advancement, continual practice in the keeping of the commandments, this is what you will find in a community. It has the glory of God as its aim, in accordance with the word of the Lord Jesus: 'Let your light so shine before your fellows that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.' [Matt. 5:16]

What is more, community preserves that particular characteristic of the saints which is referred to in the Scriptures thus: 'All who believed were together and had all things in common.' [Acts 2:44] 'The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common.' [Acts 4:32]

Thomas Spidlik. Drinking from the Hidden Fountain : A Patristic Breviary: Ancient Wisdom for Today's World. Minneapolis: Cistercian Publications, 1993. 215.

I am presenting excerpts of a lecture delivered by Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev at the Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, October 21, 2008. This work was made known to me by a friend, Paulist Father Ron Roberson heads the Orthodox desk for the US Bishops ecumenical office in Washington, DC. The emphasis I added to the lecture are the ideas that are striking deserve greater attention by us. The keys are "personal encounter,"  and the lex orandi tradition and being conscious of the great divorce of faith and reason. Thanks for your patience.

Evagrius.gifAccording to a classical definition by Evagrius, 'If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian'. In traditional Orthodox understanding, theology is not a science, or a scholarship, or an academic exercise. To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship.

Theology ought to be inspired by God: it ought not to be the word of a human person, but the word of the Spirit pronounced by human lips. A true Christian theologian is one who is able to be silent until the Holy Spirit touches the strings of his soul. And it is only when the human word falls silent and the word of the Spirit emerges from his soul, that true theology is born. From this moment 'a lover of words' is transformed into 'a lover of wisdom', a rhetorician into a theologian.

According to St Gregory Nazianzen, not everyone can be a theologian, but only the one who purifies himself for God. Not all can participate in theological discussions, but only those who are able to do it properly. Finally, not every theological concern can be discussed openly.

Discussion of theology is not for everyone, I tell you, not for everyone - it is not such inexpensive and effortless pursuit... It must be reserved for certain occasions, for certain audiences, and certain limits must be observed. It is not for all men, but only for those who have been tested and have found a sound footing in study, and, more importantly, have undergone, or at the very least are undergoing, purification of body and soul.

St Gregory Nazianzen.jpgTheology, according to St Gregory, is nothing other than the ascent to God. Gregory uses the traditional image of Moses on Mount Sinai to emphasize that the true theologian is only someone who is able to enter the cloud and encounter God face to face. In this multi-dimensional, allegorical picture Moses symbolizes the person whose theology emerges from the experience of an encounter with God. Aaron represents someone whose theology is based on what he heard from others; Nadab and Abihu typify those who claim to be theologians because of their high position in the church hierarchy. But neither acquaintance with the experience of others nor an ecclesiastical rank gives one the right to declare oneself a theologian. Those Christians who purify themselves according to God's commandments may take part in a theological discussion; the non-purified ought not.

Thus, purification of soul is a necessary precondition for practicing theology. Its central point is summed up in the following dictum: 'Is speaking about God a great thing? But greater still is to purify oneself for God'. Here, purification (katharsis) is not opposed to theology: rather, theology is that ascent to the peak of Mount Sinai which is impossible without purification. What is required for practicing theology is not so much intellectual effort, neither external erudition, nor wide reading, but first of all humility and modesty. According to Gregory, humility is not to be found in someone's external appearance, which may often be deceitful, and perhaps not even in how someone is related to other people, but in his attitude to God. The humble, in Gregory's judgment, is not he who speaks but little about himself, or who speaks in the presence of a few but rarely; not he who 'speaks about God with moderation, who knows what to say and what to pass over in silence'.

In other words, everyone can be a good Christian, but not everyone is able to investigate the depths of doctrine, where many things should be covered by an apophatic silence. Everyone can contemplate on matters of theology, but not everyone can be initiated into its mysteries.

All Christians must purify themselves for God: the more a person is purified, the more discernible are the words of the Spirit in his mouth. True theology is born out of a silent and humble standing before God rather than out of speculations on theological matters. We can see that this understanding is radically different from what we normally mean by 'theology'. One of the tragic consequences of the divorce between Christian theory and praxis, between faith and knowledge, is that nowadays knowledge about theological subjects does not necessarily presuppose faith. You can be a theologian and not belong to any church community; in principle, you do not need to believe in God to receive a theological degree. Theology is reduced to one of the subjects of human knowledge alongside with chemistry, mathematics or biology.

Another divorce which needs to be mentioned is that between theology and liturgy. schola.jpgFor an Orthodox theologian, liturgical texts are not simply the works of outstanding theologians and poets, but also the fruits of the prayerful experience of those who have attained sanctity and theosis. The theological authority of liturgical texts is, in my opinion, higher than that of the works of the Fathers of the Church, for not everything in the works of the latter is of equal theological value and not everything has been accepted by the fullness of the Church. Liturgical texts, on the contrary, have been accepted by the whole Church as a 'rule of faith' (kanon pisteos), for they have been read and sung everywhere in Orthodox churches over many centuries.

Throughout this time, any erroneous ideas foreign to Orthodoxy that might have crept in either through misunderstanding or oversight were eliminated by church Tradition itself, leaving only pure and authoritative doctrine clothed by the poetic forms of the Church's hymns.

Coptic dec.jpgSeveral years ago I came across a short article in a journal of the Coptic Church where it stated that this Church had decided to remove prayers for those detained in hell from its service books, since these prayers 'contradict Orthodox teaching.' Puzzled by this article, I decided to ask a representative of the Coptic Church about the reasons for this move. When such opportunity occurred, I raised this question before one Coptic metropolitan, who replied that the decision was made by his Synod because, according to their official doctrine, no prayers can help those in hell. I told the metropolitan that in the liturgical practice of the Russian Orthodox Church and other local Orthodox Churches there are prayers for those detained in hell, and that we believe in their saving power. This surprised the metropolitan, and he promised to study this question in more detail.

During this conversation with the metropolitan I expressed my thoughts on how one could go very far and even lose important doctrinal teachings in the pursuit of correcting liturgical texts. Orthodox liturgical texts are important because of their ability to give exact criteria of theological truth, and one must always confirm theology using liturgical texts as a guideline, and not the other way round. The lex credendi grows out of the lex orandi, and dogmas are considered divinely revealed because they are born in the life of prayer and revealed to the Church through its divine services. Thus, if there are divergences in the understanding of a dogma between a certain theological authority and liturgical texts, I would be inclined to give preference to the latter. And if a textbook of dogmatic theology contains views different from those found in liturgical texts, it is the textbook, not the liturgical texts, that need correction. Even more inadmissible, from my point of view, is the correction of liturgical texts in line with contemporary norms. Relatively recently the Roman Catholic Church decided to remove the so-called 'antisemitic' texts from the service of Holy Friday. Several members of the Orthodox Church have begun to propagate the idea of revising Orthodox services in order to bring them closer to contemporary standards of political correctness. For example, the late Archpriest Serge Hackel from England, an active participant in the Jewish-Christian dialogue, proposed the removal of all texts from the Holy Week services that speak of the guilt of the Jews in the death of Christ (cf. his article "How Western Theology after Auschwitz Corresponds to the Consciousness and Services of the Russian Orthodox Church," in Theology after Auschwitz and its Relation to Theology after the Gulag: Consequences and Conclusions, Saint Petersburg, 1999; in Russian). He also maintains that only a 'superficial and selective' reading of the New Testament brings the reader to the conclusion that the Jews crucified Christ.

In reality, he argues, it was Pontius Pilate and the Roman administration who are chiefly responsible for Jesus' condemnation and crucifixion. This is just one of innumerable examples of how a distortion of the lex credendi inevitably leads to 'corrections' in the lex orandi, and vice versa. This is not only a question of revising liturgical tradition, but also a re-examination of Christian history and doctrine. The main theme of all four Gospels is the conflict between Christ and the Jews, who in the end demanded the death penalty for Jesus. There was no conflict between Christ and the Roman administration, the latter being involved only because the Jews did not have the right to carry out a death penalty. It seems that all of this is so obvious that it does not need any explanation. This is exactly how the ancient Church understood the Gospel story, and this is the understanding that is reflected in liturgical texts. However, contemporary rules of 'political correctness' demand another interpretation in order to bring not only the Church's services, but also the Christian faith itself in line with modern trends.

Theotokos.jpgThe Orthodox Tradition possesses a sufficient number of 'defense mechanisms' that prevent foreign elements from penetrating into its liturgical practice. I have in mind those mechanisms that were set in motion when erroneous or heretical opinions were introduced into the liturgical texts under the pretext of revision. One may recall how Nestorianism began with the suggestion to replace the widely-used term Theotokos (Mother of God) with Christotokos (Mother of Christ), the latter was seen as more appropriate by Nestorius. When this suggestion was made, one of the defense mechanisms was activated: the Orthodox people were indignant and protested. Later, another mechanism was put into operation when theologians met to discuss the problem. Finally, an Ecumenical Council was convened. Thus, it turned out that a dangerous Christological heresy, lurking under the guise of a seemingly harmless liturgical introduction, was later condemned by a Council.

To rediscover the link between theology, liturgy and praxis, between lex orandi, lex credendi and lex Vivendi would be one of the urgent tasks of theological education in the 21st century. The whole notion of a 'theology' as exclusively bookish knowledge must be put into question. The whole idea of a 'theological faculty' as one of many other faculties of a secular university needs to be re-examined. The notions of 'nonconfessional', 'unbiased', 'objective' or 'inclusive' theology as opposed to 'confessional' or 'exclusive' must be reconsidered.


Hilarion.jpgHilarion Alfeyev was born on July 24, 1966 in Moscow. He studied violin, piano and composition. He graduated in 1991 with a Master of Theology from the Moscow Theological Academy. In 1995, Alfeyev earned a doctorate from the University of Oxford (UK) under the supervision of Bishop Kallistos Ware writing defending a thesis titled "St Symeon the New Theologian and Orthodox Tradition."

He entered the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius, Lithuania, where he was tonsured as a monk, ordained a deacon and a ordained priest in 1987. His bishop assigned him to serve as parish priest in Lithuania, including two years as dean of Annunciation Cathedral in Kaunas.

From 1995 to 2001 Hilarion Alfeyev served as Secretary for Inter-Christian Affairs of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. He also taught part time at Smolensk and Kaluga Theological Seminaries (Russia), at St Vladimir's and St Herman's Theological Seminaries (USA) and at Cambridge University (UK).

On 27 December 2001, Alfeyev was elected a bishop and consecrated by His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia in January 2002. The Patriarch assigned him to serve as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Sourozh in Great Britain until the Holy Synod decided, only a few months later, that he was to be nominated as Head of the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions in Brussels. Since May 2003 he has served as Bishop of Vienna and Austria, administrator of the Diocese of Budapest and Hungary, in addition to his position in Brussels, which he continues to hold.

Bishop Hilarion has authored numerous musical compositions including "St Matthew Passion," grand oratorio for soloists, choir and orchestra, with performances at the Great Hall of Moscow Concervatory, the Auditorium Conciliazione, Rome and at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne. Equally well received was his 2008 "Christmas Oratorio," performed in Washington, Boston and New York and later in Moscow.

Dear Sara, "Little Princess"
(the meaning of your name),
How fitting you should have it-
Too soon your glory came.

Your little heart was broken
ChooseLife.jpgWhen Mommy let you go.
But angel, please remember
She really didn't know.

Some said it wasn't beating,
Your tiny little heart,
And so it didn't matter
They tore you all apart.

They said you couldn't feel it.
How Satan can deceive!
The agony you suffered
So many disbelieve.

No grave to mark your passing,
And few to mourn or pray,
But Grandma will remember
That awful, tragic day.

My arms will never hold you.
My rocking chair is still.
But Grandma's heart is full of love
That death can never kill.

Sweet Angel pray for Mommy,
And pray for Daddy too,
And say a prayer for Grandma
And I will pray for you.

And you and I together
Will pray for all your friends
Who never had a birthday!
We'll pray abortion ends!




Written by Mary Kathryn Johnson

Prescott Valley, AZ

Saints Maurus and Placid

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St Placid.jpgO God, you have filled us with wonder by the example of monastic observance in the lives of your blessed confessors Maurus and Placid. As we celebrate their memory and follow in their footsteps, may we come to share in their reward.


What we know of these saints we know from Saint Gregory the Great

who introduces them in his Life of Saint Benedict. These early companions of Saint Benedict are what you may call the first Benedictine oblates, ones who made an offering of themselves to God's service. In time they lived their monastic life fully and without reservation.


On the life of Saint Maur.

Boniface Wimmer at 200

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BWimmer.JPGToday marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, the father of American monasticism. Providence has seen to it that Wimmer's anniversary coincides with the Year of Saint Paul in that both men proclaimed Christ and both were great missionaries; both were contemplative and active for the sake of the Gospel and the Church--there is no dichotomy; and both had communion with Christ.

In 1846, Wimmer left Bavaria to come to the US to establish the monastic life and to evangelize the German peoples, to win all for the Church under the banner of the cross. Wimmer had a burning desire to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He, with 18 novices, founded what is today called the Archabbey of Saint Vincent in Latrobe, PA; the largest Benedictine abbey in the world. In 1855, the American-Cassinese Congregation was founded - a grouping now of more than 28 abbeys and priories which assisted Wimmer in his mission.

Archabbot Boniface once said: "The life of man is a struggle on earth. But without a cross, without a struggle, we get nowhere. The victory will be ours if we continue our efforts courageously, even when at times they appear futile."

The Anniversary website on Boniface Wimmer

RJN ordination.jpgIn 2005-2006, the Congregation for Catholic Education conducted an Apostolic visitation of all the seminaries and houses of formation which prepare men for the sacrament of Holy Orders. The visitation was coordinated by Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, a veteran seminary rector. The Congregation's document is signed by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, the Prefect and Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, O.P. the under-secretary.

Cardinal O'Malley notes in his letter to the US bishops that, in general, the report is positive, healthy but indicates the holes in the formation programs, namely:

- Mariology and Patristics;

- a commitment to sentire cum Ecclesia in the area of moral theology, particularly homosexual behavior;

- need for continued vigilance toward matters of the internal forum;

- that there be a greater collaboration between bishops and rectors to ensure consistency of formation for seminarians during times of vacation (what do seminarians do when they aren't in school or being supervised?);

- that Mass be celebrated every day in the seminary, including Sunday;

- that only priest personnel vote for the advancement of candidates;

- that there be a check for irregularities the program;

- and to know and deal with the impediments candidates may have incurred at the start of formation.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley's letter to the US bishops

The Final Report from the Congregation

NO formation program of priestly formation is perfect. As is all reports there are some items that never surface with honesty: prayer life, assent to Thumbnail image for Christ.jpg what the Gospel teaches, assent to magisterial teaching on all matters, sexuality, service to those in need, healthy interpersonal relationships with men, women and consecrated religious. Though I can't say with certainty that the interviews were dishonest I can say that there is a certain amount of non-disclosure based on the context of the seminarians and faculty and who made up the visitation committee. Not all committees were equal. Plus, the bishop with a seminary in his diocese had an opportunity to dispute what was written in the report. Some things can be rewritten. What I am also interested in are the names of the seminaries and formation houses who are doing the good work and those who need to revamp their programs. In all of this review and hype about programs, we need to keep one cnetral fact straight: keep the focus on Jesus Christ crucified and risen. Without Christ, what's point? 

Today begins the Novena for the Protection of the Unborn. The Novena is available in English and Spanish at Women for Faith & Family. Share this site with family and friends.

It is clearly an understatement to say that this is a crucial era in our lives as persons and as Catholics (not to be separated, of course). How we protect and care for those on the margins of our society is critical as our actions say volumes about who are as thinking and praying persons. Of course, who is more vulnerable than the unborn? The importance of this moment in history has little to do with the Obama ascendency, though his presidency will mark a significant change in direction in matters pertaining to matters of life, as much as it is a recognition that the act of aborting persons before birth is an act of evil, one that has cost 45 million lives. Think of the populations of countries that have roughly 33-45 million people: Tanzania, Argentina, Sudan, Poland, Kenya, Algeria, and Canada. If you did simple addition you the list of combined countries would be numerous. The point really is that one soul is lost to abortion is a sin and a crime. Our prayer is multifaceted: for the peaceful repose of the abortion souls, for the overturn of Roe v. Wade, for the new president not to repeal the Bush policies and enacting more liberal ones and for the healing of the women and men who have aborted their sons and daughters.

Annunciation.jpgWe should be united in this work of prayer and peaceful protest. Liturgically, the Church has asked that January 22nd be a day of penance. Therefore, the US bishops have said that the Sacrifice of the Mass on this day celebrated using the votive Mass for Peace and Justice and the vestments be purple. The intention is "Day of Penance for violations to the Dignity of the Human Person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life."


Articles to read

The Pro-Life Movement as the Politics of the 1960s

We Shall Worry, We Shall Not Rest

Abortion after Obama

On Abortion and the African American Family

Current Statistics

USCCB Pro-Library

National Right to Life


Prayer Resources

USCCB Pro-Life Office



The March for Life (Washington, DC)

Walk for Life West Coast (San Francisco, CA)

Nuns find peace on a farm near Virginia Dale. They tend to gardens, they do maintenance, they even herd cattle. But most of all, they pray.


By Erin Frustaci

Fort Collines Now



About 35 miles northwest of Fort Collins, life is quiet, peaceful and contemplative--a Virginia Dale.jpgcontrast from the fast-paced consumer-driven lifestyle found in other parts of the world. Tucked among rocky foothills and fresh country air, the tiny town of Virginia Dale is all but forgotten.

And yet, there is a certain timelessness for those who call it home. The natural landscape, free of distractions, serves as the perfect backdrop for a community of about 20 Benedictine nuns of the Roman Catholic Church whose life work and mission is prayer.

"The focus is not on all life's accessories, but on life itself," Mother Maria-Michael Newe said.

Despite the complexity of the modern world where people are attached to their Blackberries, email and iPods, Maria-Michael believes there is still a need for simplicity and peacefulness in society.

"I think people are seeking this, they are just afraid of it," she said. "They are so used to being busy that they are not used to sitting still in the quietness."

nun investiture july08.jpgThe nuns, who range from 23 to 93 years old and come from all over the world, build their days around the seven-day services which make up what is called the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours. Maria-Michael said the premise is to be prepared at all times to praise God. And if the volume of mail, email and phone calls for prayer requests is any indication, their work is greatly appreciated.


Throughout the day a chorus of voices chanting prayers can be heard from the chapel. At other times the stillness and deep quietness reverberates all around. Then there are also more unconventional sounds of the Abbey: An 89-year old nun weeding her flower gardens, an industrial mixer blending cookie dough for fresh homemade cookies, a green Gator's engine starting as three young nuns prepare to heard cattle to a different barn.

The nuns work within the monastery and valley to support themselves. They divide up daily housekeeping tasks including cooking, cleaning, laundry and maintenance, as well as operate a gift shop that sells religious books and handmade cards and craft items. They also run a small online altar bread distributing business.

As a cloistered community, they only go outside for necessary business purposes such as grocery shopping or doctor appointments. Tuesdays are usually the days when select nuns make a trip down to Fort Collins to run errands.

"Work is a blessing," Newe said. "It's such a joy when you can bring home the gifts of God and help sustain the table."

Following in the footsteps of their pioneer sisters, the nuns also are active ranchers. They run a herd of beef cattle, grow hay, collect eggs from the chickens, milk the cows and tend to the vegetable gardens.

The Abbey of St. Walburga relocated to Virginia Dale in 1997 after outgrowing its former location in Boulder. When the abbey first came to Boulder in the 1930s, the area was spacious and open. But as the city built out with busy highways and new subdivisions, an expansion of the abbey became problematic. The nuns spent several years looking for a new home. A Denver businessman and his wife eventually donated the land in Virginia Dale to them.

It's a much different way of life, but one that is rewarding for those who are meant to live it, the nuns said. Contrary to misconceptions and pop-culture movies like Sister Act, Newe said the community is not a shelter for people who are running away from their problems. In fact, she said the women who join monasteries do it because they are called in that direction.

"You have to be mature enough to live in a community and yet be alone," Newe said.
A typical day begins promptly at 4:50 a.m. with Matins, or vigils. More prayer sessions, including Lauds, follow. From 9-11:30 a.m. the women are dispersed throughout the property for the first work session of the day.

Sr Maria Gertrude.jpgMany of them change into denim overalls to work on the farm, though they still wear the traditional veils. On Tuesday this week Sister Maria Gertrude Read, 23, and Sister Maria Josepha Hombrebueno, 30, spent the morning painting the fence by the farm a vivid red. The fall is busy time for maintenance in preparation for winter.

"We've been painting it bit by bit," Read said. "We've been doing it for a couple weeks."

Read just made her temporary vows two weeks ago. She has been in the Abbey for three years.

"I felt called to some kind of religious life," she said.

She grew up in Boulder and was raised Catholic. However, she said it wasn't as meaningful to her when she was younger. When she was 14 years old, she had a specific experience while at a church summer camp when she knew she wanted to become a nun. Before that, she said she had pictured nuns as scary.

"It was this push," she said. "It was a transforming moment. My whole life changed after that."

She began looking at different monasteries and then decided to look closer to home. She admits that she could have gotten married and had a "normal job," but it wouldn't have been the same.

"I don't think it's fair to say I wouldn't have been happy somewhere else, but I wouldn't have had the same fullness and joy."

At 11:30 a.m. Sister Maria Gertrude and Sister Maria Josepha quickly cleaned up from their painting project and slipped back into their black habits, the traditional religious costumes or robes. After another prayer session in the chapel, the nuns gather for their formal meal at noon.

"When you live in a community, you really have to serve each other. You have t," Newe said.

During that time, scripture is also read aloud. After the meal, the nuns have quiet time, where they can rest, go for a walk or spend private time praying. The afternoon is dedicated to classes for the younger women and another session of work before afternoon and evening prayers.

Most women begin their quest by visiting a monastery. Once they decide it is something they want to pursue, they become a candidate for about the first three months. After that, she will receive a postulant veil and remain a postulant for about nine months. During that time, the woman studies the Benedictine rule, traditions and ways of prayer. From there, she will become a novice for two years. At the end of that period she will make her first vows of obedience, stability and fidelity to the monastic life. After another three years, she will make her solemn perpetual vows.

Sister Raisa Avila, 22, is in the earlier stages of discernment, having only been at the abbey for about a year. She is a postulant.

"It's a lifelong commitment, so you want to make sure," she said.

Avila is originally from Vancouver, B.C., in Canada. She was born and raised catholic but didn't take it seriously until she was faced with challenges. She was in school and had a different life, but she knew there was more out there for her.

"My love for God drew me here," she said.

She attended a monastic living weekend at an abbey in Canada and was hooked. But Avila admits the path wasn't always smooth. The transition into the lifestyle at the abbey has been challenging, Avila admits.

Mother Maria Michael  and Sr Genevieve Glen.jpg"I'm still human," she said. "I cried when I left home. I missed my family, but at the same time, you have to make sacrifices."

She said God has brought her through the tough times. She said she eagerly looks forward to the next stages of the process. Avila has also learned more about farming than she could have ever imagined. Though she did not grow up on a farm, she now greets the cows and llamas as if it were second nature.

During her afternoon work last Tuesday, she helped two other sisters heard the cattle to get them ready to be sold in an auction in Centennial. With a smile on her face, she then headed back into the chapel.

The abbey has become a place for prayer for the nuns as well as volunteers and people outside of the community.

"Our place really is a house of prayer. You don't have to be catholic to pray here," Mother Maria-Michael Newe said.

And while there are areas of the abbey that are cloistered such as the dining and living quarters, the public is invited to visit much of the property. In fact, the nuns run a retreat house on the property where groups and individuals can spend some time away for a set fee. The retreat house, which can fit about 23 people, is designed to offer quiet withdrawal from the busy noise of the ordinary home and work world.

Newe said prayer can be a hefty job at times, but it is also extremely rewarding. She said she often receives prayer requests for troubled relationships, illnesses and financial struggles. She is happy to take the requests because she said it is part of her duty.

"Somewhere in the world someone is needing that prayer," Newe said. "And we take them and their cause to heart. It's a work of love."


The blog 



Saint Hilary of Poitiers

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All-powerful God, as Saint Hilary defended the divinity of Christ Your Son, give us a deeper understanding of this mystery and help us to profess it in all truth.


Saint Hilary of Poitiers.jpgSaint Hilary of Poitiers (315-368) was a leading defender of the Church against the Arian heresy. He wrote twelve books about the Holy Trinity as well as commentaries on St. Matthew's Gospel and the Psalms. Known as the Doctor of the Divinity of Christ and in 1851 named a Doctor of the Church.


"Drawing confidence from God's kindness to undertake the office of a wise man, though it is an office beyond our powers, we intend so far as we can (pro nostro modulo) to set forth the truth professed by the Catholic faith, and to eliminate errors opposed to it. For, if I may use the words of Hilary, 'I am conscious that I owe it to God as the chief office or duty of my life that my every word (omnis sermo meus) and perception (sensus) should speak of Him.'"

-St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, Bk.I, ch. II, in Opera omnia s. Thomae Aquinatis (Rome, 1968), p. 6.

World Meeting of the Families 2009

The family, teacher of human and Christian values

January 13-18

Mexico City


Holy Family2.jpgOur God, indivisible Trinity, you created the human being "in your image" and You admirably formed him as male and female that so together, united and in reciprocal collaboration with love, they fulfilled Your project of "being fecund and dominate the Earth"; We pray to You for all our families that so, finding in You their initial inspiration and model, that is fully expressed in the Holy Family of Nazareth, can live the human and Christian values that are necessary to consolidate and sustain the love experience and to be the foundations of a more human and Christian construction of our society.

We pray to You for the intercession of Mary, our Mother, and Saint Joseph. For Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A video about the Pope's participation in this magnificent event is seen here.

Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys

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Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys.jpgO Mother Bourgeoys, you, whose compassionate power is ever increasing, show us your way of Truth, Faith and Holiness.

Make us humble enough to abandon ourselves to the Will of God, generous enough to find in the Cross the joy of the Loving Giver.

May your fidelity to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament lead us ever nearer to this source of light and peace. May your spirit of openness help us to be concerned for our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Finally, may Our Lady of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bring us to this unity of eternal grace to which God has called you for all eternity. Amen.


A Vatican biography and another view of the Canadian saint's life.

How old is your Church?

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From various sources:

If you are a Lutheran, Martin Luther, an apostate of the Roman Catholic Church, founded your religion in Germany, in the year 1517.

If you are a Mennonite, your church began in Switzerland with Grebel, Mantz, and Blaurock, in the year 1525.

If you belong to the Church of England, also know as Anglican, your religion began with King Henry VIII in 1534, who established his own church because the Pope could not grant him a divorce with the right to remarry.

If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox, in Scotland, in the year 1560.

Saint Aelred of Rievaulx

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St Aelred2.jpgThe charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord, all my being, bless his holy name (Rom 5:5; Ps 102:1).

O God, who gave the blessed Abbot Aelred the grace of being all things to all men, grant that, following his example, we may so spend ourselves in the service of one another, as to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The New Advent bio

Saint Aelred authored several influential books on spirituality, among them The Mirror of Charity and Spiritual Friendship. He also wrote seven works of history, addressing two of them to King Henry II of England advising him how to be a good king. The twentieth century has seen a greater interest in Saint Aelred as a spiritual writer than in former times when he was known to be a historian.

This year we honor the 900th anniversary of Saint Aelred's birth, though some the anniversary in AD 2010.

St Jerome.jpgSaint Jerome once said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. Therefore it is not a stretch to say that an authentic, believing Catholic studies and prays the Bible.

But what do we believe about the Bible? Catholics hold that Scripture is the inerrant Word of God and is authoritative for understanding Christ's teaching; it is the basis for all Church teaching. Further, it is the Holy Spirit who provides a guide to understanding Christ's teaching which is called Tradition. In fact, it was Church who, under the Holy Spirit's inspiration that the Scriptures were written. With Tradition assisting us, nothing can replace an intimate familiarity with the Word of God through study and prayer (personal & communal). As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said that we are to, "[hear] the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith."

In 1965, the Church gave us a pivotal document on Scripture, Dei Verbum, which outlines its place in the life of every Christian. For many Dei Verbum is a middle way for biblical interpretation which lies between Protestant fundamentalism and secular rationalism. I recommend that you consider each word of this document. If you think Catholics find Scripture irrelevant you will find the following astonishing :

Therefore, all the clergy must hold fast to the Sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study, especially the priests of Christ and others, such as deacons and catechists who are legitimately active in the ministry of the word. This is to be done so that none of them will become "an empty preacher of the word of God outwardly, who is not a listener to it inwardly" since they must share the abundant wealth of the divine word with the faithful committed to them, especially in the sacred liturgy. The sacred synod also earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful, especially Religious, to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the "excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:8). "For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ."Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading, or through instructions suitable for the purpose and other aids which, in our time, with approval and active support of the shepherds of the Church, are commendably spread everywhere. And let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for "we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine saying."

It devolves on sacred bishops "who have the apostolic teaching" to give the faithful entrusted to them suitable instruction in the right use of the divine books, especially the New Testament and above all the Gospels. This can be done through translations of the sacred texts, which are to be provided with the necessary and really adequate explanations so that the children of the Church may safely and profitably become conversant with the Sacred Scriptures and be penetrated with their spirit.

If you are looking for a fine review of what Dei Verbum has meant to us 35 years later I tend to think this essay of Archbishop Charles Chaput of 2000 as helpful. Additionally, you will find a wealth of information for biblical study at St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology directed by Scott Hahn. Hahn's section on biblical studies is found in this internet library.

You may be short of time so I have drawn together a set of booklets on some aspects of Scripture published by the Catholic Information Service that are quite fine. Here are 8 online resources about sacred Scripture and the faith that will help know the fundamentals which will assist your personal study and prayer life:

About the Bible

God's Story of Creation

Some Lessons from Genesis

The Ten Commandments

Revelation: A Divine Message of Hope

Q& A about the Catholic Faith

An underestimated chain of scripture is the gift of the Rosary. I would venture to say that no serious Catholic can resist the Rosary as form of prayer especially if he or she wants to know the Lord and to decapitate the head of sin. The Scriptural Rosary for Peace makes it clear the intimate connection between Scripture and the rosary

If you are looking for a primer on the Faith, then I would recommend reading and/or listening to the 30 booklets that address the various elements of our salvation in Jesus Christ in the Hart series. This series carries the reader through a systematic study of what Catholics believe and how Catholics worship and live.

One last point: pray the Divine Office. The sacred Liturgy of the Church comprises the praying the Divine Office (at the hinge hours of Morning and Evening Prayer) and praying the Sacrifice of the Mass. In a real sense one can't divorce the Divine Office from the Mass as they form a unit. So if one conceives of the Liturgy as merely the Mass and makes no connection to the Divine Office, then that person has deficient view of the sacrifice of praise the Church continually offers to God. And what is the Divine Office and Mass? Pure Scripture; pure praise of the Blessed Trinity. Once you discover that the Liturgy (the Office & Mass) is the Church's prayer speaking the Word of God and God speaking to us, or say it another way, the Mass is the face of the Word of God today and into eternity.

Baptism of the Lord

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Almighty, eternal God, when the Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism in the Jordan, You revealed Him as Your own beloved Son. Keep us, Your children born of water and the Spirit, faithful to our calling.


Thumbnail image for Baptism of the Lord.jpgChrist's Baptism -
from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

All the Old Covenant prefigurations find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus. He begins his public life after having himself baptized by Saint John the Baptist in the Jordan. After His resurrection Christ gives this mission to His apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."

Our Lord voluntarily submitted Himself to the baptism of Saint John, intended for sinners, in order to "fulfill all righteousness". Jesus' gesture is a manifestation of His self-emptying. The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as His "beloved Son."

In His Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of His Passion, which He was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a "Baptism" with which He had to be baptized. The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible "to be born of water and the Spirit" in order to enter the Kingdom of God.

See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the cross of Christ, from His death. There is the whole mystery: He died for you. In Him you are redeemed, in Him you are saved. (1223-1225)

Saint Gregory of Nyssa

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St Gregory of Nyssa.jpgGod our Father, Saint Gregory, your bishop, praised you by the splendor of his life and teaching. In your kindness, as we forget what is past and reach out to what is before us, help us to attain that vocation to which we are called.


Saint Gregory Nyssa converted to Christianity in his early twenties and at the urging of his brother, Saint Basil, he was ordained bishop of Nyssa. He is the author of many theological works but he's also known to be a mystic and a humanist. His final work, the Life of Moses, is mystical reflection on the life of Moses, Israel's great leader and prophet.

Saint Gregory understood his life --indeed all of life-- as unending progress of discovering what God is doing in us and how sin is refusal to keep on growing in this discovery, for "the one thing truly worthwhile is becoming God's friend."

Some of Saint Gregory's famous sayings are the following:

"So we say to God: Give us bread. Not delicacies or riches, nor magnificent purple robes, golden ornaments, and precious stones, or silver dishes. Nor do we ask Him for landed estates, or military commands, or political leadership. We pray neither for herds of horses and oxen or other cattle in great numbers, nor for a host of slaves. We do not say, give us a prominent position in assemblies or monuments and statues raised to us, nor silken robes and musicians at meals, nor any other thing by which the soul is estranged from the thought of God and higher things; no--but only bread! . . .

"But you go on business to the Indies and venture out upon strange seas; you go on a voyage every year only to bring back flavourings for your food, without realizing that . . . [it] is above all a good conscience which makes the bread tasty because it is eaten in justice. . .

"'Give Thou bread'--that is to say, let me have food through just labor. For, if God is justice, anyone who procures food for themselves through covetousness cannot have his bread from God. You are the master of your prayer if your abundance does not come from another's property and is not the result of somebody else's tears; if no one is hungry or distressed because you are fully satisfied. For the bread of God is, above all, the fruit of justice."

For more about Saint Gregory, a Cappadocian, read this article.

Jeanne Marie Vonder Haar.jpgToday is a red letter day in history with the birthday of Sister Jeanne Marie Vonder Haar, an Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a dear friend.

Like many of the Apostles I know, Sister Jeanne Marie lives the order's motto: the Love of Christ Urges us.... A striking example of this is Sister Jeanne Marie's dedication (for decades) to the formation of young people in the obedience of elementary education. The companionship she shares was also striking today at a funeral of the father of one of the Apostles: nearly 75 of the sisters were present offer their sympathies and prayerful solidarity to Sister Barbara Matazaro and family. (Sr. Jeanne Marie is in the centerof the photo).

RF Taft.jpgOn January 9th Archimandrite Robert F. Taft, SJ celebrated his 77th birthday. May God grant him abundant blessings in the coming year.

Father Taft is the reason I am interested in the Eastern Churches and the study of the sacred Liturgy. He's a former professor of mine and continues to be a friend.

BTW, he's delivering the Schmemann Lecture at Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary on January 30th at 7:30 pm. For more info see the website.

Saint Paul & Art

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St Paul Giotto.jpgHenry Artis, an artist and a modest theologian will give a presentation on St. Paul and Art (as part of the Crossroads on the Road program) this Sunday, January 11 at 12:00 noon, at the parish of Saint John Baptist de la Salle, 5706 Sargent Road, Chillum, MD 20782.

The flyer is located Seeing St Paul flyer - Maryland.pdf.

Mr. Artis is available to give or a similar presentation in your parish or school. Email me and I'll put you in touch with him, paulzalonski@yahoo.com.

On January 7, 2009, His Holiness delivered this address. It bears reading the whole thing. It is excellent, per usual!

In this first general audience of 2009, I want to offer all of you fervent best wishes for the New Year that just began. Let us renew our determination to open the mind and heart to Christ, to be and live as his true friends. His company will make this year, even with its inevitable difficulties, be a path full of joy and peace. In fact, only if we remain united to Jesus will the New Year be good and happy.

St Paul at St Peter's.jpgThe commitment of union with Christ is the example that St. Paul offers us. Continuing the catecheses dedicated to him, we pause today to reflect on one of the important aspects of his thought, the worship that Christians are called to offer. In the past, there was a leaning toward speaking of an anti-worship tendency in the Apostle, of a "spiritualization" of the idea of worship. Today we better understand that St. Paul sees in the cross of Christ a historical change, which transforms and radically renews the reality of worship. There are above all three passages from the Letter to the Romans in which this new vision of worship is presented.

1. In Romans 3:25, after having spoken of the "redemption brought about by Christ Jesus," Paul goes on with a formula that is mysterious to us, saying: God "set [him] forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood." With this expression that is quite strange for us -- "instrument of expiation" -- St. Paul refers to the so-called propitiatory of the ancient temple, that is, the lid of the ark of the covenant, which was considered a point of contact between God and man, the point of the mysterious presence of God in the world of man. This "propitiatory," on the great day of reconciliation -- Yom Kippur -- was sprinkled with the blood of sacrificed animals, blood that symbolically put the sins of the past year in contact with God, and thus, the sins hurled to the abyss of the divine will were almost absorbed by the strength of God, overcome, pardoned. Life began anew.

St. Paul makes reference to this rite and says: This rite was the expression of the desire Cimabue S Domenico Crucifix Arezzo c1275.jpgthat all our faults could really be put in the abyss of divine mercy and thus made to disappear. But with the blood of animals, this process was not fulfilled. A more real contact between human fault and divine love was necessary. This contact has taken place with the cross of Christ. Christ, Son of God, who has become true man, has assumed in himself all our faults. He himself is the place of contact between human misery and divine mercy; in his heart, the sad multitude of evil carried out by humanity is undone, and life is renewed.

Revealing this change, St. Paul tells us: With the cross of Christ -- the supreme act of divine love, converted into human love -- the ancient worship with the sacrifice of animals in the temple of Jerusalem has ended. This symbolic worship, worship of desire, has now been replaced by real worship: the love of God incarnated in Christ and taken to its fullness in the death on the cross. Therefore, this is not a spiritualization of the real worship, but on the contrary, this is the real worship, the true divine-human love, that replaces the symbolic and provisional worship. The cross of Christ, his love with flesh and blood, is the real worship, corresponding to the reality of God and man. Already before the external destruction of the temple, for Paul, the era of the temple and its worship had ended: Paul is found here in perfect consonance with the words of Jesus, who had announced the end of the temple and announced another temple "not made by human hands" -- the temple of his risen body (cf. Mark 14:58; John 2:19 ff). This is the first passage.

2. The second passage about which I would like to speak today is found in the first verse of Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Romans. We have heard it and I repeat it once again: "I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship."

In these words, an apparent paradox is verified: While sacrifice demands as a norm the death of the victim, Paul makes reference to the life of the Christian. The expression "offer your bodies," united to the successive concept of sacrifice, takes on the worship nuance of "give in oblation, offer." The exhortation to "offer your bodies" refers to the whole person; in fact, in Romans 6:13, [Paul] makes the invitation to "present yourselves to God." For the rest, the explicit reference to the physical dimension of the Christian coincides with the invitation to "glorify God in your bodies" (1 Corinthians 6:20): It's a matter of honoring God in the most concrete daily existence, made of relational and perceptible visibility.

Conduct of this type is classified by Paul as "living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God." It is here where we find precisely the term "sacrifice." In prevalent use, this term forms part of a sacred context and serves to designate the throat-splitting of an animal, of which one part can be burned in honor of the gods and another part consumed by the offerers in a banquet. Paul instead applied it to the life of the Christian. In fact he classifies such a sacrifice by using three adjectives. The first -- "living" -- expresses a vitality. The second -- "holy" -- recalls the Pauline concept of a sanctity that is not linked to places or objects, but to the very person of the Christian. The third -- "pleasing to God" -- perhaps recalls the common biblical expression of a sweet-smelling sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 1:13, 17; 23:18; 26:31, etc.).

Immediately afterward, Paul thus defines this new way of living: this is "your spiritual worship." Commentators of the text know well that the Greek expression (tçn logikçn latreían) is not easy to translate. The Latin Bible renders it: "rationabile obsequium." The same word "rationabile" appears in the first Eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon: In it, we pray so that God accepts this offering as "rationabile." The traditional Italian translation, "spiritual worship," [an offering in spirit], does not reflect all the details of the Greek text, nor even of the Latin. In any case, it is not a matter of a less real worship or even a merely metaphorical one, but of a more concrete and realistic worship, a worship in which man himself in his totality, as a being gifted with reason, transforms into adoration and glorification of the living God.

Christ & cup.jpgThis Pauline formula, which appears again in the Roman Eucharistic prayer, is fruit of a long development of the religious experience in the centuries preceding Christ. In this experience are found theological developments of the Old Testament and currents of Greek thought. I would like to show at least certain elements of this development. The prophets and many psalms strongly criticize the bloody sacrifices of the temple. For example, Psalm 50 (49), in which it is God who speaks, says, "Were I hungry, I would not tell you, for mine is the world and all that fills it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer praise as your sacrifice to God" (verses 12-14).

In the same sense, the following Psalm 51 (50), says, " ...for you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart" (verse 18 and following).

In the Book of Daniel, in the times of the new destruction of the temple at the hands of the Hellenistic regime (2nd century B.C.), we find a new step in the same direction. In midst of the fire -- that is, persecution and suffering -- Azariah prays thus: "We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no holocaust, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks ... So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly" (Daniel 3:38ff).

In the destruction of the sanctuary and of worship, in this situation of being deprived of every sign of the presence of God, the believer offers as a true holocaust a contrite heart, his desire of God.

We see an important development, beautiful, but with a danger. There exists a spiritualization, a moralization of worship: Worship becomes only something of the heart, of the spirit. But the body is lacking; the community is lacking. Thus is understood that Psalm 51, for example, and also the Book of Daniel, despite criticizing worship, desire the return of the time of sacrifices. But it is a matter of a renewed time, in a synthesis that still was unforeseeable, that could not yet be thought of.

altar.jpgLet us return to St. Paul. He is heir to these developments, of the desire for true worship, in which man himself becomes glory of God, living adoration with all his being. In this sense, he says to the Romans: "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice ... your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).

Paul thus repeats what he had already indicated in Chapter 3: The time of the sacrifice of animals, sacrifices of substitution, has ended. The time of true worship has arrived. But here too arises the danger of a misunderstanding: This new worship can easily be interpreted in a moralist sense -- offering our lives we make true worship. In this way, worship with animals would be substituted by moralism: Man would do everything for himself with his moral strength. And this certainly was not the intention of St. Paul.

But the question persists: Then how should we interpret this "reasonable spiritual worship"? Paul always supposes that we have come to be "one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28), that we have died in baptism (Romans 1) and we live now with Christ, through Christ and in Christ. In this union -- and only in this way -- we can be in him and with him a "living sacrifice," to offer the "true worship." The sacrificed animals should have substituted man, the gift of self of man, and they could not. Jesus Christ, in his surrender to the Father and to us, is not a substitution, but rather really entails in himself the human being, our faults and our desire; he truly represents us, he assumes us in himself. In communion with Christ, accomplished in the faith and in the sacraments, we transform, despite our deficiencies, into living sacrifice: "True worship" is fulfilled.

This synthesis is the backdrop of the Roman Canon in which we pray that this offering be "rationabile," so that spiritual worship is accomplished. The Church knows that in the holy Eucharist, the self-gift of Christ, his true sacrifice, is made present. But the Church prays so that the celebrating community is really united to Christ, is transformed; it prays so that we ourselves come to be that which we cannot be with our efforts: offering "rationabile" that is pleasing to God. In this way the Eucharistic prayer interprets in an adequate way the words of St. Paul.

St. Augustine clarified all of this in a marvelous way in the 10th book of his City of God. I cite only two phrase: "This is the sacrifice of the Christians: though being many we are only one body in Christ" ... "All of the redeemed community (civitas), that is, the congregation and the society of the saints, is offered to God through the High Priest who has given himself up" (10,6: CCL 47,27ff).

3. Finally, I want to leave a brief reflection on the third passage of the Letter to the Romans referring to the new worship. St. Paul says thus in Chapter 15: "the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in performing the priestly service (hierourgein) of the gospel of God, so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the holy Spirit" (15:15ff).

I would like to emphasize only two aspects of this marvelous text and one aspect of the unique terminology of the Pauline letters. Before all else, St. Paul interprets his missionary action among the peoples of the world to construct the universal Church as a priestly action. To announce the Gospel to unify the peoples in communion with the Risen Christ is a "priestly" action. The apostle of the Gospel is a true priest; he does what is at the center of the priesthood: prepares the true sacrifice.

LITURGY.JPGAnd then the second aspect: the goal of missionary action is -- we could say in this way -- the cosmic liturgy: that the peoples united in Christ, the world, becomes as such the glory of God "pleasing oblation, sanctified in the Holy Spirit." Here appears a dynamic aspect, the aspect of hope in the Pauline concept of worship: the self-gift of Christ implies the tendency to attract everyone to communion in his body, to unite the world. Only in communion with Christ, the model man, one with God, the world comes to be just as we all want it to be: a mirror of divine love. This dynamism is always present in Scripture; this dynamism should inspire and form our life. And with this dynamism we begin the New Year. Thanks for your patience.

neuhaus.jpgBefore 10 a.m. this morning Father Richard John Neuhaus, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, died. Jody Bottom made the announcement on the First Things website.

Neuhaus' death comes nearly a month after our dear friend's death, Avery Cardinal Dulles.

May the Good Shepherd be merciful and forgive his sins and receive him into the New Jerusalem where Lazarus is poor no longer.

May Father Neuhaus' memory be eternal!

Our Lady of Prompt Succor

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OL Prompt Succor.jpgOur Lady of Prompt Succor, ever Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God, you are most powerful against the enemy of our salvation. The divine promise of a Redeemer was announced right after the sin of our first parents; and you, through your Divine Son, crushed the serpent's head. Hasten, then, to our help and deliver us from the deceits of Satan. Intercede for us with Jesus that we may always accept God's graces and be found faithful to Him in our particular states of life. As you once saved the City of New Orleans from ravaging flames and our Country from an invading army, have pity on us and obtain for us protection from hurricanes and all other disasters. (Silent pause for individual petitions.) Assist us in the many trials which beset our path through life. Watch over the Church and the Pope as they uphold with total fidelity the purity of faith and morals against unremitting opposition. Be to us truly Our Lady of Prompt Succor now and especially at the hour of our death, that we may gain everlasting life through the merits of Jesus Christ Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.


Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us. (three times)

The National Review Online is reporting this afternoon that Father Richard John Neuhaus received the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick at the hand of Father George Rutler last night. Read the story here. I mentioned this matter a few days ago.

Father Neuhaus is the famed Editor-in-Chief of First Things and the head of the Institute on Religion and Public Life.

Kindly say a prayer for him. 

Epiphany: The Light of Life

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Epiphany.jpgThe star which leads us to Jesus is sacred Scripture. Behold our light has already come (Is 60:1), because for us and for our salvation God has become man. He was seen on earth and dwelt among us men and women, so that, by the might of his word and the example of his life he might enlighten those who are sitting in darkness and direct them into the way of peace (Lk 1:79).  It is no wonder that before the Lord's coming, when they heard nothing of God, when they did not discern the light of Scripture, the pagans lay prostrate in their sins and in the darkness of their errors. But now lying prostrate in carnal desires and in the darkness of inequities is a matter for great agitation, for the true light that enlightens every one coming into this world (Jn 1:9), Christ Jesus, has now come. We cannot have further excuse for our sins, for Christ, who takes away the sins of the world and justifies, for the wicked, now speaks to us openly. Someone who follows me does not walk in darkness but will have the light of life (Jn 8:12).


Saint Aelred of Rievaulx

Sermon 4 for the Epiphany, 32-33

Blessed André Bessette

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Blessed Andre.jpgLord our God, friend of the lowly, You gave your servant, Brother André, a great devotion to Saint Joseph and a special commitment to the poor and afflicted. Through his intercession help us to follow his example of prayer and love and so come to share with him in Your glory.



Blessed André Bessette (1845-1937), born near Quebec, was professed brother in the Congregation of the Holy Cross. He did the humble work in his religious house for over forty years. He was known to have had a great devotion to Saint Joseph and therefore he was entrusting the intentions of the poor and sick to him. He built the shrine which grew into the great basilica known as Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, Canada.


Every year the Propogation of the Faith, the office of Ivan Cardinal Dias, publishes a list of those who have been killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ and the Church. In 2008, 20 people gave a powerful witness to the Light of the World. These are our brothers and sisters in the faith, adopted sons and daughters of God. Pray for them; pray for their killers; imitate their faith. Read the dossier here.

Epiphany Novena for priests

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John Paul with BS.jpgLittle more than a year my friend Fr. Mark at Vultus Christi initiated a plan of prayer for the priesthood, particularly in reparation for sins committed by priests. This plan of prayer was inspired by a letter from Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM to the world's bishops encouraging them to designate people, including priests, whose "ministry" it would be to pray for the priesthood in the wake of the sex abuse crisis. The point of the letter was to begin to think about and work for a renewal of the priesthood. Today begins a novena inspired by Saint Peter Julian Emyard who in 1857 began his own renewal of the priesthood adoration movement. Let's be united in prayer for the intentions of our priests.

Fr. Mark has also developed a program of prayer called Thursdays in Adoration and Reparation for Priests which keeps the Holy Thursday event of Our Lord forming the priesthood and giving us the gift of His Eucharistic Presence.

There are many opportunities to spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in parishes today (more now than a few years ago). And there religious orders who make it a point to adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament regularly, if not daily, for example, the Dominican nuns in North Guilford, CT and Linden, VA to name two monasteries, the pink sisters found in cities such as Philadelphia, St. Louis, Lincoln and Corpus Christi; the monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey and Newark Abbey have the daily practice of adoration prior to the Divine Office, the monks of Saint Mary's Abbey (Morristown, NJ) have adoration and confession on the second Friday of the month for vocations and for the priesthood, the monks of Belmont Abbey (Belmont, NC) have recently dedicated an adoration chapel in the center of their college campus in honor of Saint Joseph where monks, students and other interested people gather with the Eucharistic Lord.

What better time than in Epiphanytide to develop a habit of prayer in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament? 



Saint John Neumann

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St John Neumann.jpgO God, who willed blessed John, thy confessor and bishop, to shine in pastoral works; graciously grant that, following his teachings and examples, we might obtain eternal life.


"John Nepomucene Neumann spent the whole of his adult life striving to live as a total Christian. Nevertheless, no one would have been more shocked than John Neumann at the thought that one day he would be canonized a saint. The possibility never crossed his mind. While his whole consciousness was directed toward serving God in immediate relationship with Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, he was constantly aware of shortcomings in saying his prayers, in faithfulness to the rule of life he had set for himself, and in the accomplishment of his daily duties.

"One of his primary objectives was to introduce the Forty Hours Devotion - a three-day ceremony in which the Blessed Sacrament was exposed in a monstrance on the altar, and priests and people encouraged to keep a constant vigil in the church, honoring Christ's bodily presence among them. Neumann drew up the diocesan-wide schedule, recognizing the fact that while this practice would be fairly easy in the large city parishes it would be most difficult in the smaller settlements. His objective was to have this devotion in progress somewhere in the diocese, all year long.  (Francis Xavier Murphy, C.SS.R.)

O Saint John Neumann, your ardent desire of bringing all souls to Christ impelled you to leave home and country; teach us to live worthily in the spirit of our Baptism which makes us all children of the one Heavenly Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, the first-born of the family of God.


Obtain for us that complete dedication in the service of the needy, the weak, the afflicted and the abandoned which so characterized your life.  Help us to walk perseveringly in the difficult and, at times, painful paths of duty, strengthened by the Body and Blood of our Redeemer and under the watchful protection of Mary our Mother.


May death still find us on the sure road to our Father's House with the light of living Faith in our hearts. Amen.


A few dates in the saint's life

  • 28 March 1811 at Prachititz, Czech Republic
  • 28 June 1836 ordained priest by Bishop John Dubois, NYC
  • January 1842 taking his vows at Baltimore, MD, the first Redemptorist in the USA
  • 28 March 1852 ordained bishop 4th bishop of Philadelphia, PA; The Episcopal motto was Passio Christi, conforta me - Passion of Christ strengthen me
  • 5 January 1860 of a stroke at 13th and Vine Streets, Philadelphia
  • 19 June 1977 canonized by Pope Paul VI

TS Eliot: RIP 44th anniv.

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TS Eliot.jpg

Thomas Stearns Eliot

26 September 1888 - 4 January 1965

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

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St Elizabeth Ann Seton2.jpgLord God, You blessed Elizabeth Seton with gifts of grace as wife and mother, educator and foundress, so that she might spend her life in service to Your people. Through her example and prayers may we learn to express our love for You in love for others.


At the Mass which Pope Paul VI declared Seton a saint he said:


 Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is an American. All of us say this with spiritual joy, and with the intention of honoring the land and the nation from which she marvelously sprang forth as the first flower in the calendar of the saints. This is the title which, in his original foreword to the excellent work of Father Dirvin, the late Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, attributed to her as primary and characteristic: "Elizabeth Ann Seton was wholly American"! Rejoice, we say to the great nation of the United States of America. Rejoice for your glorious daughter. Be proud of her. And know how to preserve her fruitful heritage. This most beautiful figure of a holy woman presents to the world and to history the affirmation of new and authentic riches that are yours: that religious spirituality which your temporal prosperity seemed to obscure and almost make impossible. Your land too, America, is indeed worthy of receiving into its fertile ground the seed of evangelical holiness. And here is a splendid proof-among many others-of this fact.


May you always be able to cultivate the genuine fruitfulness of evangelical holiness, and ever experience how-far from stunting the flourishing development of your economic, cultural and civic vitality -it will be in its own way the unfailing safeguard of that vitality. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was born, brought up and educated in New York in the Episcopalian Communion. To this Church goes the merit of having awakened and fostered the religious sense and Christian sentiment which in the young Elizabeth were naturally predisposed to the most spontaneous and lively manifestations. We willingly recognize this merit, and, knowing well how much it cost Elizabeth to pass over to the Catholic Church, we admire her courage for adhering to the religious truth and divine reality which were manifested to her therein. And we are likewise pleased to see that from this same adherence to the Catholic Church she experienced great peace and security, and found it natural to preserve all the good things which her membership in the fervent Episcopalian community had taught her, in so many beautiful expressions, especially of religious piety, and that she was always faithful in her esteem and affection for those from whom her Catholic profession had sadly separated her.



·         Born in New York City, August 28, 1774

·         Married William Magee Seton, January 25, 1794; mother of 5 children; William died in Pisa, December 27, 1803

·         Received into the Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday, March 14, 1805, by Father Matthew O'Brien in St. Peter's Church, Barclay Street, NY

·         Formation of the new community in 1808, first Religious Congregation of women in the USA

·         Died at Emmitsburg, Maryland, January 4, 1821

·         Canonized on September 14, 1975 by Pope Paul VI

St Elizabeth Ann Seton4.jpg 

Her devotion to the Eucharist, sacred Scripture, especially the 23rd Psalm, and the Blessed Virgin Mary are hallmarks of Seton's spiritual life. Following the example of Saints Vincent de Paul and Louis de Marillac hers was an apostolic spirituality.


The Church says officially: In Emmitsburg, Maryland, USA, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton who, after having been widowed, professed the Catholic Faith and worked competently at educating girls and feeding impoverished children as a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph, which she founded. (Martyrologium Romanum, 2005)

The Epiphany Proclamation

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Magi Aldighieri da Zevio.jpg

The Epiphany Proclamation


Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return. Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.


Let us recall the year's culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising celebrated between the evening of the 9th of April and the evening of the 12th of April.


Each Easter - as on each Sunday - the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death.


From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.


Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the 25th of February.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the 21st of May.

Pentecost, the joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on the 31st of May.


Corpus Christi will be celebrated on the 11th of June.


The First Sunday of Advent will be celebrated on the 29th of November.


Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.


To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history, be endless praise, for ever and ever.


R. Amen.


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Vidimus stellam ejus in Oriente,

et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum.

We have seen his star in the East and are come with gifts to adore the Lord.
(Matthew 2:2)


Magi Bartolo de Fredi.jpg

O God, who today revealed your Only-begotten, a star having been the guide, graciously grant, that we, who have already come to know you from faith, may be led all the way unto the contemplation of the beauty of your majesty.


Blessed Columba Marmion's essage on the Epiphany is an excellent meditation.


Begotten of the Father before the daystar shone or time began, the Lord our Savior has appeared on earth today.



Magi detail Bottocelli.jpgEpiphany inscription over the doorway of the home:

20 + C + M + B + 09


The letters have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the Three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. All three revered as saints and honored in the Munich cathedral. We abbreviate the Latin words "Christus mansionem benedicat" ("May Christ bless the house"). The letters recall the day on which the inscription is made, as well as the purpose of blessing.


The crosses represent the protection of the Precious Blood of Christ, whom we invoke, and the holiness of the Magi who adored of the infant Jesus. The inscription is made above the front door, so that all who enter and depart this year may enjoy God's blessing. The month of January bears the name of the Roman god Janus, the doorkeeper of heaven and protector of the beginning and end of things. This blessing "christens" the ancient Roman observance of the first month.

Blessing of Chalk

V. Our help is the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.

Let us pray.

Bless, O Lord God, this creature chalk
to render it helpful to your people.
Grant that they who use it in faith
and with it inscribe upon the doors of their homes
the names of your saints, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar,
may through their merits and intercession
enjoy health of body and protection of soul.
Through Christ our Lord.

And the chalk is sprinkled with Holy Water.


On December 19th I brought to our attention a recently published book about Communion in the hand by Bishop Schneider. You can read the entry here. As a follow-up, here is a bulletin note from a Connecticut pastor raising the question of the fittingness of the faithful's reception of Holy Communion in the hand. The argument is cogent.


The beginning of each year is often a time of "New Year Resolutions". Over the next few weeks in this Pastor's Column I would like to suggest some "New Year Resolutions" having to do with our Catholic Faith. My first suggestion is during 2009 start exercising the option of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue in Mass. Let me explain why.

This past summer Catholics were horrified when a professor at the University of Minnesota willfully desecrated the Eucharist. On the internet Professor Paul Zachary Myers invited anyone to obtain for him a consecrated Host from a Catholic Church so that he could desecrate It. Another man read about the request and took a Host from the London Oratory, videotaping Himself taking It from the Mass. He then sent the Host to Professor Myers and posted the video on the internet. Professor Myer then proceeded to drive a rusty nail through the Host in order to show the "absurdity" of the Catholic belief in the True Presence, and posted photos of the event on his website. Unfortunately the event set off a series of copycat crimes, and these desecrations are all over the internet.

What can be behind so much hatred? Even a child understands that it is not right to mock what others hold to be sacred. I have offered Mass in reparation for this sacrilege, and I know that many good Catholics have also done forms of prayer and penance in order to console the wounded heart of Our Lord.

Pope Communion.jpgDo you remember last year here at St. Mary's when we found a Host under one of the pews in the church? I know from other priests that this happens every once in a while in other parishes as well. These incidents remind us that it would certainly be more difficult for people to take the Host improperly if everyone were receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. As the Catholic Church teaches, "If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful" (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 92).

Many people born prior to the Second Vatican Council will remember when everyone received Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling. This has been the long held practice for thousands of years (although during certain periods of the early Church it did allow Communion in the hand). While many think that it was Vatican II that called for this change, it is important to note: Vatican II never called for Communion in the hand. Communion in the hand was the result of disobedience which forced the hand of the Church (no pun intended!).

After the Second Vatican Council some dioceses in the world started to make their own rules about receiving the Communion in the hand, disobeying the laws of the universal Church. Witnessing this practice without approval, the Vatican stated that it feared that this disobedience would lead to "...both the possibility of a lessening of reverence toward the august sacrament of the altar, its profanation, and the watering down of the true doctrine of the Eucharist" (Memoriale Domini).

Therefore in 1968 Pope Paul VI graciously sent out a questionnaire to all the bishops of the world asking if there should be a prudent change in the Church's practice on how Communion would be distributed. The poll numbers came back overwhelming against Communion in the hand. Hence the Vatican concluded: "The answers given show that by far the greater number of bishops think that the discipline currently in force should not be changed. And if it were to be changed, it would be an offense to the sensibilities and spiritual outlook of these bishops and a great many of the faithful" (Memoriale Domini).

Nonetheless the disobedience continued and some of these dioceses petitioned Rome to officially permit Communion in the hand. A year later, in 1969, Pope Paul VI gave an indult to the French bishops permitting each bishop to decide the question in his own diocese (En réponse a la Demande). An indult is a special permission for a particular situation, rather than a universal norm. Nonetheless eventually the majority of dioceses in the world took advantage of the indult and simply permitted the practice.

Why did the Pope allow it? Perhaps it can be best summed up by the words of Our Lord about why divorce was allowed in the Old Testament: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives" (Matthew 19:8). Their disobedience had reached such a point that it would have been difficult to have them return to the traditional practice.

Nonetheless some countries like Sri Lanka did not use the indult, and maintained the long held tradition of receiving only on the tongue. Recently there have also been dioceses around the world such San Luis, Argentina and Lima, Peru that have returned to the traditional practice and no longer permit Communion in the hand. This is an option fully supported by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

Furthermore, if one does receive Communion on the hand, there is always the danger that particles may be remain in the hand. The Council of Trent infallibly teaches that Our Blessed Lord is truly present even in the particles as well: "If anyone denies that in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist the whole Christ is contained under each form and under every part of each form when separated, let him be anathema" (Chapter VIII, Canon 3). For this reason the priest always purifies his hands of particles at the end of Mass, and uses a corporal (a small white cloth meant to catch the corpus, or body, of Our Lord).

Communion.jpgFinally another major event occurred this past year when Pope Benedict XVI asked that from now on, all who receive Holy Communion from him must receive It on the tongue and kneeling. I am sure that by insisting on this ancient practice the Pope is trying to foster a deeper respect for the Eucharist as well.

When Rome did give the indult to the French bishops in 1969 it stated, "The new manner of giving Communion must not be imposed in a way that would exclude the traditional practice." Therefore Communion is on the tongue is still the common practice for the universal Church. While both practices are permitted in the diocese of Bridgeport, I encourage parishioners to give prayerful consideration to following Pope Benedict XVI's lead by receiving Holy Communion on the tongue in the new year.

Sincerely in Christ,
Father Greg J. Markey, Pastor
Saint Mary's Church, Norwalk, CT

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux offers a power witness to the name of Jesus. Today's feast is a good time to consider the words of Bernard as food for the soul.


I recognize now the name hinted at by Isaiah: "My servants are to be given a new name. Whoever is blessed on earth in that name will be blessed by the Lord, Amen." O blessed name, oil poured out without limit! From heaven it pours down on Judaea and from there over all the earth, so that round the whole world the Church proclaims: "Your name is oil poured out." And what an outpouring! It not only bathes the heavens and the earth, it even bedews the underworld, so that all beings in the heavens and the earth, it even bedews the underworld should bend the knee in the name of Jesus, and that every tongue should Adoration of the Name of Jesus.jpgacclaim: "Your name is oil poured out." Take the name of Christ, take the name of Jesus; both were infused into the angels, both were poured our upon men, even upon men who rotted like animals in their own dung. Thus you became a savior both of men and beasts, so countless are your mercies, O God. How precious your name, and yet how cheap! Cheap, but the instrument of salvation. If it were not cheap it would not have been poured out for me; if it lacked saving power it would not have won me. Made a sharer in the name, I share too in its inheritance. For I am a Christian, Christ's own brother. If I am what I say, I am the heir of God, co-heir with Christ. And what wonder if the name of the Bridegroom is poured out, since he himself is pour out? For he emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave.


Did he not even say: "I am pour out like water"? The fullness of the divine life was poured out and lived on earth in bodily form, that all of us who live in this body doomed to death may receive from that fullness, and being filled with its life-giving odor say: "Your name is oil poured out." Such is what is meant by the outpouring of the name, such its manner, such its extent.


By why the symbol of oil? I have yet to explain this. In the previous sermon I had begun to do so when another matter that seemed to demand mention suddenly presented itself, though I may have dallied with it longer than I intended. In this I resembled the valiant woman, Wisdom, who put her hand to the distaff, her fingers to the spindle. Skillfully she produced from her scanty stock of wool or flax a long spool of thread, out of which she wove the material that made warm clothes for the members of her household. The likeness between oil and the name of the Bridegroom is beyond doubt, the Holy Spirit's comparison of the two is no arbitrary gesture. Unless you can persuade me otherwise, I hold that the likeness is to be found in the threefold property of oil: it gives light, it nourishes, it anoints. It feeds the flame, it nourishes the body, relieves pain: it is light, food, medicine. And is not this true too of the Bridegroom's name? When preached it gives light, when meditated it nourishes, when invoked it relieves and soothes.


How shall we explain the world-wide light of faith, swift and flaming in its progress, except by the preaching of Jesus' name? Is it not by light of this name that God has called us into his wonderful light, that irradiates our darkness and empowers us to see the light? To such as we Paul says: "You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord." This is the name that Paul was commanded to present before kings and pagans and the people of Israel; a name that illumined his native land as he carried it with him like a torch, preaching on all his journeys that the night is almost over, it will be daylight soon -let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark; let us arm ourselves and appear in the light. Let us live decently as people do in the daytime. To every eye he was a lamp on its lamp-stand; to every place he brought the good news of Jesus, him crucified. What splendor radiated from that light, dazzling the eyes of the crowd, when Peter uttered the name of the strengthened the feet and ankles of the cripple, and gave light to many eyes that were spiritually blind. Did not the words shoot like a flame when he said: "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk"? But the name of Jesus is more than light, it is also food. Do you not feel increase of strength as often as you remember it? What other name can enrich man who meditates? What can equal its power to refresh the harassed senses, to buttress the virtues, to add vigor to good and upright habits, to foster chaste affections? Every food of the mind is dry if it is not dipped in that oil; it is tasteless if not seasoned by that salt. Write what you will, I shall not relish it unless it tells of Jesus. Talk or argue about what you will, I shall not relish it if you exclude the name of Jesus. Jesus to me is honey in the mouth, music in ear, a song in the heart.


Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 15 on the Song of Songs.

Most Holy Name of Jesus

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Virgin & child botticelli.jpgLord, may we honor the Holy Name of Jesus enjoy His friendship in this life and be filled with eternal joy in His Kingdom, where He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


Jesu Dulcis Memoria


Jesu, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest!


Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than thy blest name,
O Savior of mankind!


O hope of every contrite heart!
O joy of all the meek!
To those who fall, how kind thou art,
How good to those who seek!


But what to those who find? Ah this
Nor tongue nor pen can show:
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but his lovers know.


O Jesu, light of all below!
Thou Fount of life and fire!
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire!


Thee will I seek, at home, abroad,
Who everywhere art nigh;
Thee in my bosom's cell, O Lord,
As on my bed I lie.


With Mary to thy tomb, I'll haste,
Before the dawning skies,
And all around with longing cast
My soul's inquiring eyes;


Beside thy grave will make my moan,
And sob my heart away;
Then at thy feet sink trembling down,
And there adoring stay;


Nor from my tears and sighs refrain,
Nor those dear feet release,
My Jesu, still from thee I gain
Some blessed word of peace!

A Vespers hymn by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (12th century)


The feast of the Holy Name of Jesus  has been celebrated in various places since the fifteenth century and was extended to the whole Catholic Church 20 December 1721 by Pope Innocent XIII but it was a devotion of many holy men and women before this time. There are antecedents which indicate that the faithful's veneration of the Holy Name was encouraged Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Bernardine of Siena and Saint John Capistrano. Various religious orders had their dates for the observance of this feast. Sadly, one of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council was to excise the feast from the liturgical calendar thinking that the Holy name was honored enough in the Divine Office and that the Mass texts were reduced to a Votive Mass. When Pope John Paul II published the third edition of the Roman Missal in 2002 he restored the feast to the liturgical calendar as an optional memorial on the first free day after January 1st, that is January 3rd.


IHS2.jpgBy the time of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and his companions, the newly of priests chose the name of Jesus by which they would identify themselves. With the pope's permission the Loyola called his groups the Company of Jesus, translated into Latin to be the Societas Iesus, hence the Society of Jesus. The image adopted was Saint Bernardine's IHS monogram. The observance of the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, with its Votive Mass, set the tone of mission of the Company of Jesus. As a side note, the Votive Mass of the Holy Name of Jesus was one the Masses offered for the repose of the soul of Avery Cardinal Dulles at the University Chapel at Fordham. The devotion still is observed in the Society of Jesus.


Does your parish have a Holy Name Society? If not, why not ask the pastor to begin one. See the US confraternity's webpage.


In the Wall Street Journal (January 1, 2009) there is an informative article about the Kennedy family's support of abortion. This interesting information comes at a time in NY politics when Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President Kennedy, is looking to become senator who replaces Senator Clinton. To purposely accept abortion and the contraceptive culture as acceptable is morally wrong. This is yet another example of someone claiming to be a "good" Catholic and not closely following Christ. Read Anne Henderschott's article. It's distressing.

Saints Basil and Gregory

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Sts Basil & Gregory.jpgGod our Father, You inspired the Church with the example and teaching of Your saints Basil and Gregory. In humility may we come to know Your truth and put it into action with faith and love.


Just three -of many-- things about being a Christian according to Saint Basil the Great:


The Christian ought to be so minded as becomes his heavenly calling, and his life and conversation ought to be worthy of the Gospel of Christ.


The Christian ought to regard all the things that are given him for his use, not as his to hold as his own or to lay up; and, giving careful heed to all things as the Lord's, not to overlook any of the things that are being thrown aside and disregarded, should this be the case.


Every one ought, as far as he is able, to conciliate one who has ground of complaint against him. No one ought to cherish a grudge against the sinner who repents, but heartily to forgive him. He who says that he has repented of a sin ought not only to be pricked with compunction for his sin, but also to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.


Pope Benedict's 2007 catechesis on Saint Basil part I and part II.

Veni, Creator Spiritus

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At the beginning of the new calendar year we pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us. You will recognize the text if you've attended an Ordination and Confirmation Masses or if you recall the Liturgy from Pentecost. Veni, Creator Spiritus is frequently used at the annual Red Mass which marks the beginning of the academic year or the opening of the judicial year. This hymn to the Paraclete is attributed to Rabanus Maurus (776-856). A plenary indulgence is granted if it is recited on January 1st. 

Holy Spirit2.jpgCreator Spirit all Divine,
come visit every soul of Thine.
And fill with Thy Celestial Flame
the hearts which Thou Thyself did frame.

O Gift of God, Thine is the Sweet
consoling name of Paraclete.
And spring of life and fire of love,
and unction flowing from above.

The mystic seven-fold gifts are Thine,
finger of God's Right Hand Divine.
The Father's Promise sent to teach,
the tongue a rich and heavenly speech.

Kindle with fire brought from above
each sense, and fill our hearts with love,
And grant our flesh so weak and frail,
the strength of Thine which cannot fail.

Drive far away our deadly foe,
and grant us Thy true peace to know,
So we, led by Thy Guidance still,
may safely pass through every ill.

To us, through Thee, the grace be shown,
To know the Father and the Son,
And Spirit of Them Both, may we
forever rest our Faith in Thee.

To Father and Son be praises meet,
and to the Holy Paraclete.
And may Christ send us from above,
that Holy Spirit's gift of love. Amen.

RJN.jpgMay I ask you to hold in your Masses and prayers Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and the Editor-in-Chief of First Things.


Fr. Neuhaus is in the hospital in New York. Over Thanksgiving, he was diagnosed with a serious cancer. The long-term prognosis for this particular cancer is not good, but it is not hopeless, either, and there is a possibility that it will respond to the recommended out-patient chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, over Christmas, he was taken dangerously ill with what seems to be a systemic infection that has left him very weak. Entering the hospital the day after Christmas, he was sedated to lower an elevated heart rate and treatment was begun for the infection. Over the last few days, he has shown some signs of improvement, and there is a reasonable expectation that he will recover from this present illness--sufficiently, we hope, that he will be able to begin the chemotherapy for the cancer.

Fr. Neuhaus is not able at the moment to receive visitors or speak on the telephone or answer his mail, and he has requested that no flowers, candy, or other get-well presents be sent--just your prayers for his quick recovery.

Mary, Mother of God

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Virgin & Child Raffaelo.jpgGod our Father, may we always profit by the prayers of the Virgin Mother Mary, for You bring us life and salvation through Jesus Christ her Son who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit.


There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, "for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all". The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.


Predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence which determined the incarnation of the Word to be the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin was in this earth the virgin Mother of the Redeemer, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented Him to the Father in the temple, and was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross. In this singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Saviour in giving back supernatural life to souls. Wherefore she is our mother in the order of grace.


flowers from a trunck.jpgThis maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until The eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and cultics, until they are led into the happiness of their true home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix. This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator.


For no creature could ever be counted as equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. Just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by the ministers and by the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is really communicated in different ways to His creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.


The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. It knows it through unfailing experience of it and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more intimately adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer.


By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ. For in the mystery of the Church, which is itself rightly called mother and virgin, the Blessed Virgin stands out in eminent and singular fashion as exemplar both of virgin and mother. By her belief and obedience, not knowing man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as the new Eve she brought forth on earth the very Son of the Father, showing an undefiled faith, not in the word of the ancient serpent, but in that of God's messenger. The Son whom she brought forth is He whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, namely the faithful, in whose birth and education she cooperates with a maternal love.


The Church indeed, contemplating her hidden sanctity, imitating her charity and faithfully fulfilling the Father's will, by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By her preaching she brings forth to a new and immortal life the sons who are born to her in baptism, conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God. She herself is a virgin, who keeps the faith given to her by her Spouse whole and entire. Imitating the mother of her Lord, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, she keeps with virginal purity an entire faith, a firm hope and a sincere charity.


Virgin & child Gizzoli.jpgBut while in the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she is without spot or wrinkle, the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin. And so they turn their eyes to Mary who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues. Piously meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church with reverence enters more intimately into the great mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more and more like her Spouse. For Mary, who since her entry into salvation history unites in herself and re-echoes the greatest teachings of the faith as she is proclaimed and venerated, calls the faithful to her Son and His sacrifice and to the love of the Father. Seeking after the glory of Christ, the Church becomes more like her exalted Type, and continually progresses in faith, hope and charity, seeking and doing the will of God in all things. Hence the Church, in her apostolic work also, justly looks to her, who, conceived of the Holy Spirit, brought forth Christ, who was born of the Virgin that through the Church He may be born and may increase in the hearts of the faithful also. The Virgin in her own life lived an example of that maternal love, by which it behooves that all should be animated who cooperate in the apostolic mission of the Church for the regeneration of men. (Lumen gentium 53; 61-65)

Benedict XVI arms3.jpg

The General Intention
That in the face of a spreading of a culture of violence and death the Church through her apostolic and missionary activity may promote with courage the culture of life.

The Missionary Intention
That especially in mission countries Christians may show with acts of fraternal love that the Child born in the stable at Bethlehem is the luminous Hope of the world.

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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