February 2009 Archives

Solome.jpg "None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when--like the artists of every age--captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you" (John Paul II, Letter to Artists, 1). With this in mind, I think of the various ways the arts of engaged my sense of beauty, how good art has expressed my relationship with God and how impoverished (even oppressive) life would be without the work of artists.


Honestly, I rarely think with any degree of seriousness on how religious posters have demonstrated the genius of human creativity much less how this medium has impacted the our sense of living in tension with the Divine. But I believe this is what we have here. The exhibit, "Reel Religion: A Century of the Bible and Film" gives us a strong indication of this impact and what has transpired since the 19th century.


The posters belong are a part of Dominican Father Michael Morris' (and look here) collection. Morris is a professor of art and religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California .

Besides posters there are other memorabilia such as Charlton Heston's tunic and cape from the 1959 award-winning Ben-Hur and correspondence from directors.

The "Reel Religion" exhibit opened February 6th and will close on May 17th.


See a video clip on the subject. 


"The Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) brings to the public an interpretation of art through the lens of biblical religions and an understanding of religion through its artistic manifestations."


A version of this exhibit was seen at St. Louis University's MOCRA last year.

The Lent Lily

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'Tis spring; come out to ramble

The hilly brakes around,

For under thorn and bramble

About the hollow ground

The primroses are found.


And there's the windflower chilly

Lent lily.jpgWith all the winds at play,

And there's the Lenten lily

That has not long to stay

And dies on Easter day.


And since till girls go maying

You find the primrose still,

And find the windflower playing

With every wind at will,

But not the daffodil,


Bring baskets now, and sally

Upon the spring's array,

And bear from hill and valley

The daffodil away

That dies on Easter day.


A.E. Housman (1859-1936)


In the Saint Francis garden particularly, but around Belmont Abbey College campus generally, the daffodil, which blooms in Lent, is decorating the landscape. Signs of spring are here which makes one leap for joy. The Housman poem gives voice to the unfolding beauty at this time of year (at least in the south).

Photo caption needed

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PAZ on a bench.jpg

Saint Anne Line

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A while ago, a friend contacted me and said, "we ought to find out about Anne Line!" She had learned something of her story and wanted to know more. We set out together by car from my house in the southern suburbs and -- after, I'm afraid, a couple of dreadful muddles -- we eventually arrived at Dunmow in Essex on the other side of London, where Anne, who was martyred in 1601, is honored.


She grew up at Dunmow, the daughter of William Heigham, who was a staunch supporter of Calvinist doctrines, and who disowned both her and her brother when they announced their conversion to Catholicism as young adults. Anne married a fellow convert, Roger Line, but their time together was short, as not long after the wedding he was arrested for attending Mass -- at that time a serious offense -- and exiled. He died abroad in 1594.


Anne devoted the rest of her life to harboring priests and making arrangements for them to say Mass. It is thanks to women of her caliber that the Faith was preserved in England, and the risks she took were great. Eventually, she was arrested when she had arranged for Mass to be celebrated by a Jesuit, Father Francis Page, in her house. It was Candlemas Day, 1601. Tried at the Old Bailey, she was hanged on February 27, 1601, affirming her faith and refusing to express regret at having helped a priest.


Today, there are two churches in Essex named after Anne Line -- both modern and very ugly, but with real devotion to the saint. On our little pilgrimage, we visited both of these, met with great friendliness -- cups of tea, warm welcome from clergy and from various parishioners who were about -- and realized that there is a genuine local cult that reflects a real gratitude for the gift of the Catholic Faith that has been passed on to us.


Joanna Bogle

The Women Saints of Britain

The season of Lent is: "to offer in the joy of the Holy Spirit, of our own accord a measure of service...Less food, drink, sleep, speech, merriment, and with the joy of spiritual desire await holy Easter." (Rule of St Benedict, 49)

Stations of the Cross

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The Stations of the Cross, also called the Way of the Cross or the Via Dolorosa (Latin for "Way of Sorrow"), are the prevailing popular devotion during Lent but many Catholics made the Stations of the Cross on Fridays throughout the year and some even daily. (Pope John Paul II had the pious practice of making the Stations of the Cross daily and installed a set of stations in the apostolic apartments.) In using the word "stations" we understanding it to come from the Latin "station," meaning "standing still." The Stations are designed to have 14 stops (and some more recent publications include a 15th station) that portray events of the Passion and death of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They begin with Jesus' condemnation to death, and concluding with His being laid in the tomb.


luca di tomme crucifixion.jpg

The Stations of the Cross are rooted in the ancient tradition of the Church. Saint Jerome, in the fifth century, speaks in his writings about pilgrims coming to Jerusalem to follow the Way of the Cross. In the Middle Ages, knights of the Crusades walked path Jesus took in meditation to Calvary. Famously Saint Francis of Assisi traveled to the Holy Land to convert the infidels and identify with Christ crucified.


In 1342 the Franciscans became custodians of many of the sacred places in the Holy Land. In 1686, Pope Innocent XI granted the same indulgences that pilgrims to the Holy Land obtained to all who make the Stations of the Cross. Thus, making the Stations substituted for physically making a pilgrimage to place where the Lord made his way.


Stations are found in every church, reflecting Christ's words: "If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).


So what's the Church's teaching on the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross)?


Of all the pious exercises connected with the veneration of the Cross, none is more popular among the faithful than the Via Crucis. Through this pious exercise, the faithful movingly follow the final earthly journey of Christ: from the Mount of Olives, where the Lord, "in a small estate called Gethsemane" (Mk 14, 32), was taken by anguish (cf. Lk 22, 44), to Calvary where he was crucified between two thieves (cf. Lk 23, 33), to the garden where he was placed in freshly hewn tomb (Jn 19, 40-42).


The love of the Christian faithful for this devotion is amply attested by the numerous Via Crucis erected in so many churches, shrines, cloisters, in the countryside, and on mountain pathways where the various stations are very evocative.


The Via Crucis is a synthesis of various devotions that have arisen since the high middle ages: the pilgrimage to the Holy Land during which the faithful devoutly visit the places associated with the Lord's Passion; devotion to the three falls of Christ under the weight of the Cross; devotion to "the dolorous journey of Christ" which consisted in processing from one church to another in memory of Christ's Passion; devotion to the stations of Christ, those places where Christ stopped on his journey to Calvary because obliged to do so by his executioners or exhausted by fatigue, or because moved by compassion to dialogue with those who were present at his Passion.


In its present form, the Via Crucis, widely promoted by St. Leonardo da Porto Maurizio (+1751), was approved by the Apostolic See and indulgenced, consists of fourteen stations since the middle of seventeenth century.


The Via Crucis is a journey made in the Holy Spirit, that divine fire which burned in the heart of Jesus (cf. Lk 12, 49-50) and brought him to Calvary. This is a journey well esteemed by the Church since it has retained a living memory of the words and gestures of the final earthly days of her Spouse and Lord.


In the Via Crucis, various strands of Christian piety coalesce: the idea of life being a journey or pilgrimage; as a passage from earthly exile to our true home in Heaven; the deep desire to be conformed to the Passion of Christ; the demands of following Christ, which imply that his disciples must follow behind the Master, daily carrying their own crosses (cf Lk 9, 23).


The following may prove useful suggestions for a fruitful celebration of the Via Crucis:


via-crucis1991.jpg-the traditional form of the Via Crucis, with its fourteen stations, is to be retained as the typical form of this pious exercise; from time to time, however, as the occasion warrants, one or other of the traditional stations might possibly be substituted with a reflection on some other aspects of the Gospel account of the journey to Calvary which are traditionally included in the Stations of the Cross;


-alternative forms of the Via Crucis have been approved by Apostolic See  or publicly used by the Roman Pontiff: these can be regarded as genuine forms of the devotion and may be used as occasion might warrant;


-the Via Crucis is a pious devotion connected with the Passion of Christ; it should conclude, however, in such fashion as to leave the faithful with a sense of expectation of the resurrection in faith and hope; following the example of the Via Crucis in Jerusalem which ends with a station at the Anastasis, the celebration could end with a commemoration of the Lord's resurrection (131-134).


(Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 2001)

Exposed to subtle sins today

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"...I observe that a civilized age is more exposed to subtle sins than a rude age. Why? For this simple reason, because it is more fertile in excuses and evasions. It can defend error, and hence can blind the eyes of those who have not very careful consciences. It can make error plausible, it can make vice look like virtue. It dignifies sin by fine names; it calls avarice proper care of one's family, or industry, it calls pride independence, it calls ambition greatness of mind; resentment it calls proper spirit and sense of honour, and so on." (John Henry Newman, Sermon 5, Faith and Prejudice, NewYork: Sheed & Ward, 1956)

The Benedictine nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga in Virginia Dale, Colorado, have St Walburga Abbey.jpgstarted a small publishing business, the St. Walburga Press. The press publishes books, booklets, CD's, blank journals, note cards, and other small gift items created by the nuns, oblates and friends of the Abbey. The new online store features booklets by Mother Maria-Thomas Beil OSB, Sister Genevieve Glen OSB, and Father John Krenzke. Three blank journals, lined and unlined, with illustrations and quotations, were created by the staff of the St. Walburga Press. The store also sells works by Sister Genevieve and Sister Hildegard Dubnick OSB from other publishers. The nuns plan to add CD's and other gift items soon. Visit the store at <store.walburga.org>. For now, shipments are limited to the U.S.

Lent is a most propitious time for more intense prayer, of penance and of greater attention to the needs of brothers and sisters. Before we start running off to do more, think first about the quality of time spent doing "Lenten activities."

Between Carnival and Lent.JPGThe Liturgies in the Lenten season are an invitation to live more intensely the desire for conversion with the words of the apostle Paul in front of us: "We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).

The imposition of ashes at yesterday's sacred Liturgy helped us to acknowledge ourselves sinners, invoke the forgiveness of God while manifesting a sincere desire for conversion. The journey we find ourselves making is an ascetic journey leading directly to Easter Triduum, and the 8th day: the heart of the liturgical year.

The tradition of the Church obliges you and me to abstain from meats and to fast, with the sole exception of those who are impeded for reasons of health or age, 2 days per year (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday). There is good reason to extend this practice to each Wednesday and Friday of the year save for the Easter season,but that is a topic for another blog entry!


Fasting's great value in the Christian life is experienced as a need of the spirit to relate better to God. Fasting from food on the superficial level as important as it is, is meaningless if it doesn't lead to a deeper reality, fasting from sin. For fasting to make an impression on us needs to be connected with a sincere desire for interior purification, willingness to obey the divine will and a thoughtful solidarity toward brothers and sisters.

What is the link between fasting and prayer? Part one to pray means to communicate with God and part two it is to listen to God through the work of lectio divina (think of what October's Synod of Bishops on the Word of God said about lectio divina) which forms an opened heart.

Of the many venerable things we can do during Lent the most important aspects of Lent Mother Church proposes to us is an urgent invitation to a deeper conversion, penance and solidarity. The logic here is the awareness of what needs converting in ourselves first before we go and reconstruct the world. It is easier to think that Jesus came to save all humanity from sin and death (He did) and it is often difficult to deeply know that Christ saved me.  The common good can only be reconciled to God's designs when we first have the affection for ourselves that God has for us. It's less about what the Lord did for everybody else, than it is to know in the depths our being that God wants me to be with in Him. Here is the need to be aware of the fact of the Incarnation of the Word for my personal encounter with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Hence, the evening news will tell you just where peacemaking needs to be: in our own hearts and then in the hearts of so many in the world around us. Many of the problems we face are the result of our own divided heart and lack of peace. Hopefully our Lenten observance will pave the way to a true conversion of heart assisted by penance and solidarity contributing to the work of true peacemaking in the context in which we find ourselves. As John Paul II often reminded us, we are co-responsible for the construction of peace and conversion is the first step in that regard.

Lent is not everyone's cup of tea. I find myself at odds with the discipline of this holy season in part because I am not always up to the call of conversion. AND yet, what is Christian life but a constant change of heart, moving from sin to grace, from spiritual antipathy to greater freedom in Christ, from being a yahoo to being the person God the Father wants me to be. Several things come to mind at the beginning of Lent: has the Paschal Mystery (the Lord's life, death, resurrection & ascension) made a lasting impression on me? Does the Lord's self-giving open or close the doors of my heart?


In some way there is an impression made on us by the Lord's Paschal Mystery otherwise we wouldn't begin the season of Lent with prayer, fasting and almsgiving symbolized by the mark of ash. But a possible danger is allowing the spiritual life to be mired in mere routines and moralisms which kill off a relationship with the Blessed Trinity and with our neighbor. Human nature, however, is a funny thing sometimes. We often think that everyone else is expected to change except for me. While it is the acceptable time to change heart and mind, as the Apostle says, often the practice of change is left to the other person in the pew or the one sharing the bathroom. Therefore there is a disconnect with reality here because of a lack of awareness of hod God is inviting us to new life.


It is our Christian belief, that is, the reality of being a true disciple of the Lord Jesus, that God loved us so much so as to suffer death and to rise three days later for me. The question becomes: does Christ's death/resurrection make a real difference in my life? How do my attitudes toward an ego-centric sister or a crazy aunt change as a result of this awareness? Do we have a hope based on faith that can show the world there is real, substantial hope in an era where there's so little trust, love and belief in the hundred-fold promised by the Lord?


God is patient with us via truce he offered and which is spoken of by Saint Benedict. Abbot Placid reminded us at last evening's Mass, God has provided us


...a truce granted us for this very reason, that we may amend our evil ways. As the Apostle says, "Do you not know that God's patience is inviting you to repent" (Rom. 2:4)? For the merciful Lord tells us, "I desire not the death of the sinner, but that the sinner should be converted and live" (RB, Prol.).


The hallmarks of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I would contend that every day of our Christian life is marked this way with prayer, sacrifice and charity. So this time of the year is characterized by a more intense living of our commitment to Christ by encountering him in old and perhaps new ways. If we don't pray at the side of the cross can we really call ourselves Christian? Is there a real obedience (following and listening) to the example Christ gave us? Can we receive give to others the alms of patience, forgiveness and love? Do we have affection for ourselves as a condition for loving others? And can we be intentional in not being controlled by sin and sinful tendencies? Can we remove ourselves from those things that denigrate our dignity as a son and daughter of God, or are we going to exist in a cycle of destructive attitudes and actions? Now is the acceptable time, now is the time to act.

Eluana Englaro.jpgThe head of the Vatican's Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella said that his hope is that Eluana Englaro's tragic death will provoke a societal affirmation of human dignity. Watch a video clip.


Read Communion & Liberation's statement on Eluana's death.

"Vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and society. Twenty years since Christifideles Laici:

balance and perspectives".

PC Laity.jpgThe first encounter on February 28th will be particularly dedicated to the "Ecclesiology of Vatican II and Christifideles Laici", with an introduction by Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, president of the Vatican office for the laity, Pontifical Council for the Laity.

"To be Christian lay people, it must often be reminded, is a true and specific vocation. It is a calling. It is also a mission--be it in the Church, within our Christian communities, be it above all in the world. A Christian lay person is evangelical yeast, is the light of the world, the salt of the earth. This is his vocation. (...) To be Christian lay people today, to be coherent Christians, at times requires not little courage, requires going against the tide. Our dicastery tries to encourage and help the laity to live their vocation in a courageous, convincing and persuasive manner."

Ash Wednesday

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When you fast, be not as hypocrites, of a sad countenance. (Benedictus antiphon)


Grant, O Lord, that Thy faithful may begin the solemn days of Lent with fitting piety and may persevere therein with steadfast devotion.



Ash Wednesday.JPGWhat do you think would count as evidence of our Christian faith? What surely mark us believers in God who loves and sustains us? Can you identify the point of a relationship with the Incarnate God?

"The person believes in and is devoted to the person of Jesus Christ
and accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior.
An understanding that some suffering is a part of life
and that crosses have to be carried under difficult circumstances.
A conviction that our life here is only a small part of our life,
that this is not as good as it gets --there is a resurrection for each one of us.
A commitment to be a person of forgiveness --
A commitment to non-violence and justice for others
A fundamental respect and love for people and for all of creation.
A lively sense of the presence of Christ in our world,
in the poor, in the sick, in the weak, in the prisoner,
in those who are hungry and thirsty, in the stranger,
in short, that Christ is present in those whom our world disregards, and would just like to get rid of.


Ash Wednesday Australia.jpgDoes this sound radical? Difficult? Off the edge?
It is, all of the above.
Fortunately, Christians are not born, they are made.
They are made by the work of the Holy Spirit.
From ashes to fire --from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost --the whole Church,
not just me as an individual in my own little box,
the whole Church prays and works with those
who are preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil.

And the fifty days of Easter are a time when
Christians savor the readings about the early Christian churches
and the blessings of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This whole span of days from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost
is a special time of formation for Christians?

Easter and Pentecost are about our death and resurrection in Christ,
our Passover from death to life in his Passover,
through water and the Holy Spirit in baptism.

Lent is our annual retreat,
our annual re-entry into the catechumenate,
in order to reflect on, affirm, remember,
and re-claim that baptism.
For baptism is the sacramental center out of which we live.
It is the watery Spirit-filled womb and tomb
to which we are called to return time and time again.
Becoming a Christian means stability in Christ our Rock,
but always being on the move;
sure of our identity in Christ,
but still always seemingly wet from the waters of baptism.


Sometimes when we think of Lent we think of penance.
And penance, to our modem sensibility, has a negative, pinched quality about it.
However, penance comes from the Latin

paenitentia that comes from the Greek metanoia.
And metanoia means to change one's heart, one's mind.
It means to be converted.
It means claiming the full meaning of being baptized into Christ;
claiming that new birth, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

If there ever was a person who made baptism the very center of his life,
it was Martin Luther.
When he was plagued by doubt, or tempted to despair,
he would trace the sign of the cross on his forehead and say, "I have been baptized."
No matter what happened, through Christ God had claimed him.
As you sign the forehead of the person next to you with ashes,
you are reminding the person
that no matter what happens,
he or she has been claimed by God through baptism.


Each one of us wants to live the Gospel in such as a way
that it is crystal clear that Christ is the center of our existence.

Abbot John Klassen, OSB

The Abbey of Saint John
February 13, 2002

adapted by this blogger

Saint Walburga

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St Walburga Belmont Abbey.JPGO God, the boundless generosity of your favor is proclaimed by the wonders you have worked in your holy women. As we are taught by your holy virgin Walburga's example of purity and rejoice in the glory of her miracles, may she be our patron to gain for us your unfailing love.


One of the important Benedictine saints in the Church is the 8th century Saint Walburga and yet she is relatively unknown to many outside the world of monks and nuns. Her story is found here. You might find it interesting to note that Saint Walburga's relative is the Apostle to Germany, Saint Boniface, and her brother was the abbot and later bishop, Saint Wunibald.


In Colorado, there is a rather significant monastery of Benedictine nuns under the patronage of today's saint, The Abbey of Saint Walburga (founded in 1935). The nuns at this monastery are a great group of women who live the monastic life with seriousness and a great of humanity (that is, humor). Most importantly the life they live is attractive to young women which has untold blessings from the Church in Colorado and beyond. Two of the nuns from this abbey serve the Vatican's monastery, Monastero Mater Ecclesiae at the moment (they'll be home in just over a year's time).


St Walburga at Belmont Abbey.jpgSince 1857, the Benedictine sisters of Elizabeth, NJ, also claim Saint Walburga as their patron.


Also, we should mention the venerable witness of Saint Walburg Monastery in Covington, Kentucky. The sisters there directly descended from Saint Walburga Abbey in Eichstatt, Germany and are celebrating the 150th anniversary of their founding this year.


Belmont Abbey's secondary patron is Saint Walburga. No fewer than two statues, one in the monastery and one in the grotto honor the saint. Plus, the monks honored the saint with a beautiful stained glass window in the Abbey Basilica.


The novena prayer to Saint Walburga


Holy Walburga, you dwell in the glory of heaven, gazing upon the face of the Triune God in the company of all the saints.  I turn to you, full of trust in the words of Jesus Christ, "Amen, amen I say to you, the one who has faith in me will do the works I do, and greater far than these" (John 14:12).  God has granted you the gift of healing; help me in my need, which I bring before you (mention petition).  Beg God to grant healing, consolation and strength to me and to all those for whom I pray.  Implore Him to let me recognize His love and know His presence, whatever He may have in store for me.


Ask this for me through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Of you my heart has spoken: "Seek his face." It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face. (Psalm 26:8-9)

Holy Face.jpgToday is Shrove Tuesday at last, or least I hope this is the beginning of a good, serious observance of Lent. The monks here have sung as many Alleluias as possible before they are packaged up and placed in the closet for 40 days (save an exception or two). 

A liturgical feast that is little known of here in the USA is that of the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus. Certainly in Rome and in other places around the globe the Church's Liturgy provides an opportunity, the grace to seek the face of God in Christ. The psalmody and other readings of Scripture point us in this direction. Some have called today's feast a  flash of paschal glory before beginning Lent because there is the sense that what was prepared for us in the Transfiguration will happen on calvary and then in the resurrection. Our prayer for this final day of the Liturgy through the Year before the season of holy Lent is:

O God, who willed that your only-begotten Son should become man, and show us in his human nature a perfect image of your divinity, grant, we beseech you, that by venerating the image of his Holy Face we may be united with him in the mysteries of his Passion and Death, and so come to contemplate forever his glorious Face in the joy of the resurrection.

Let us pray for each other this Lent. I need your prayers.

Silence in the monastery confuses the world; it sometimes confuses me and there are times that I am frustrated by silence. The practice of silence is often misunderstood by those who live in monasteries because of an insufficient understanding of a "theology of silence." Family and friends think monks take a vow of silence. They get this idea from the clichés of the TV and movies where they see monks and nuns piously walking the halls of the abbey in silence with a mean looking superior hovering over the shoulder waiting for someone to slip-up.  While I don't deny that this understanding may be rooted in some truth, or a least a vague sense of truth, it nonetheless lends itself to gross misunderstanding of the role of silence in the monastic life, indeed the need (and desire for) for silence in all people's lives.


What did Saint Benedict say about the practice of silence in his Rule? In one place he says:

Rule of St Benedict.jpgLet us do what the Prophet says: "I said, I will take heed of my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I have set a guard to my mouth, I was dumb, and was humbled, and kept silence even from good things" (Psalm 38[39]:2-3).  Here the prophet shows that, if at times we ought to refrain from useful speech for the sake of silence, how much more ought we to abstain from evil words on account of the punishment due to sin.


Therefore, because of the importance of silence, let permission to speak be seldom given to perfect disciples even for good and holy and edifying discourse, for it is written: "In much talk up shall not escape sin" (Proverbs 10:19). And elsewhere: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). For it belongs to the master to speak and to teach; it becomes the disciple to be silent and to listen. If, therefore, anything must be asked of the Superior, let it be asked with all humility and respectful submission. But coarse jests, and idle words or speech provoking laughter, we condemn everywhere to eternal exclusion; and for such speech we do not permit the disciple to open his lips (Ch. 6).


Belmont Abbey's Father Abbot, Placid, put in our mailboxes the community's custom of silence that had been formulated in consultation with the community in 2006. Essentially it is outlines what's permitted and what's not. To me, it is less of a "wagging of the finger" as it is a way to focus our life yet again on a venerable practice that leads to freedom but yet takes discipline and freedom to engage our mind, hear and will. So what's expected? Following Vespers (c. 7:30 pm) to the conclusion of breakfast (c. 8:00 am) silence is carefully observed throughout the monastery. Extended conversations may be had in designated areas like the common recreation areas, the formation study and the guest dining room. "A spirit of silence should be maintained in the hallways of the monastery at all times, and any conversation should be carried on in a quiet tone of voice." Another place where we attempt to maintain silence is in the sacristy, the basilica and in the passage way between the abbey and the basilica. A stricter sense of being silent exists in the church prior to the Mass and the Divine Office, in the refectory before the evening meal which includes the brief reading of a chapter (a few lines really) of the Rule of Saint Benedict and during table reading (only 15 min.) and in "statio" (the order of seniority) prior to Sunday Mass and Vespers.


This work of silence is neither rigid and nor is unreasonable. In fact, I appreciate the periods of silence the community has worked out and I hope that my confreres will help me live by what's expected.


When I am participating in community days of the CL movement I practice silence with the group. We don't do this to shut up the incessant talker (though it's a nice by-product of the silence) or to force an agenda as it is a method to help us (me) to appreciate the beauty of God the Father's creation which is in front of us. So, it is not uncommon to walk in the woods, climbing a mountain, or sitting by the seashore and not talk to your neighbor. Sounds goofy? Perhaps for the uninitiated or the person who can't grasp the need to soak in the beauty of life, indeed all of creation, without the distracting noise of talking all the time, silence would be difficult or unhelpful or somewhat silly.


Way of the Cross.jpgAnother example of the witness of silence is the Good Friday Way of the Cross that starts at Saint James Cathedral (Brooklyn) and ends at St. Peter's Church (Barclay St., NYC--ground zero) but crosses the Brooklyn Bridge and makes other stops to pray, listen to Scripture and sing spiritual songs. Imagine 5000+ people making the Way of the Cross in silence in the chilly air! People in NYC walking in silence following a cross in silence! What's the point? The point is: How does one understand, that is, judge (assess, evaluate, understand reality) the impact of the Lord's saving life, death and resurrection if all you hear is chatter? The gospel is made alive by the witness of 5000+ people walking in silence.


One last example are my friends in the Fraternity of Saint Joseph (I call them CL's contemplatives-in-the-world who follow the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation) who spend a portion of each day in silence and at least one other day in an extended period of silence. For me, this is a witness to the presence of Christ and one's relationship with the Lord. Their discipline of silence is not merely turning off the radio, not speaking, not writing email or updating their blog, nor the simple absence of distracting noise but the intentional focus on the work of the Lord in prayer and study. How do you discern (verify) the will of God in the hussle-and-bussle of life? How do you hear the voice of the Lord calling you, as the Lord called Samuel or the apostles if all you encounter is the blaring of the stereo, the train or your mother yelling for you to answer the doorbell?


Angelico-Silence.jpgTheologically, I think Patriarch Bartholomew I (of Constantinople) said it well in an address a year ago:


The ascetic silence of apophaticism imposes on all of us -- educational and ecclesiastical institutions alike -- a sense of humility before the awesome mystery of God, before the sacred personhood of human beings, and before the beauty of creation. It reminds us that -- above and beyond anything that we may strive to appreciate and articulate -- the final word always belongs not to us but to God. This is more than simply a reflection of our limited and broken nature. It is, primarily, a calling to gratitude before Him who "so loved the world" (Jn 3:16) and who promised never to abandon us without the comfort of the Paraclete that alone "guides us to the fullness of truth." (Jn 16:13) How can we ever be thankful enough for this generous divine gift?


So, in my context silence is not punitive or a burden but way of living with an awareness that would otherwise be minimized and likely forgotten.

We are all Begging to have God

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Saint Basil the Great


It is natural to look for beauty and to love it, even though the idea of what is beautiful varies between one person and another.


Now, what is more marvelous than the divine beauty?  What can you think of that is more likely to give pleasure than the magnificence of God?  What desire could be more ardent, more irresistible than the thirst which God inspires in the soul when once it has been purified of every vice and cries out: 'I am sick with love.' [S. of S. 2:5]


The divine beauty is beyond description in words.  We could compare its brilliance to the light of the morning star or the moon or the sun.  But we should be as far from a true description as midday is from the dead of night.


This beauty is invisible to the eyes of the body; only the soul and the mind can perceive it.  Every time it illumines the saints, it leaves in them a sting, a nostalgia so strong as to wring from the cry: 'Woe is me, that I am in exile still.' [cf. Ps. 120:5]


By our nature we human beings aspire to what is beautiful and love it.  But what is beautiful is also good.  God is good.  Everyone looks for the good, therefore everyone looks for God.


Cardinal Thomas Spidlik, SJ. Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary: Ancient Wisdom for Today's World. Minneapolis: Cistercian Publications, 1993. 173.

Today 2 novices and a junior with the novice master from Mepkin Abbey (the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance), a novice from the South-Central Mother House of the Religious Sisters of Mercy and the 2 novices from Belmont Abbey came together for friendship and study. The symposia has been devoted to the study of the 1983 Code of Canon Law as it pertains to religious life. The course is taught by Religious Sister of Mercy Sister Jean Margaret. The retired bishop of Charlotte, Bishop William Curlin, 81, gave a talk on the inter-relation of Canon Law, religious and bishops. His Excellency was the bishop of this diocese from 1994-2002; previously he was an auxiliary bishop of Washington, DC. Experience tells us that it's important that some study of the Church's Law happens during formation (and perhaps even later in life) so that one knows the boundaries of what is and is not possible for people in religious life.

All were here this afternoon and evening for a visit to the campus, dinner and Vespers. This is the first time this type of gathering has happened and it's due to the hard work of Sister Jean Margaret persuading the abbots of Belmont and Mepkin this was fitting for monks to do.

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Saint Polycarp

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St Polycarp.jpgFor 86 years I have served Jesus Christ and he has never abandoned me. How could I curse my blessed King and Savior?  (a quote from Saint Polycarp used as the Benedictus antiphon)


O God, Who does gladden us by the annual solemnity of blessed Polycarp, Thy Martyr and Bishop; mercifully grant that we may rejoice in the protection of him whose heavenly birth we celebrate.



"Amidst the sweetness he is enjoying from the contemplation of the Word made Flesh, John, the Beloved Disciple, beholds coming towards him his dear Polycarp, the Angel of the Church of Smyrna [Apoc. 2:8], all resplendent with the glory of martyrdom. This venerable Saint has in his soul the fervent love that made him say in the amphitheatre, when asked by the Proconsul to curse his Divine Master: "Six-and-eighty years have I served Him, and He has never done me any wrong; nay, he has laden me with kindness. How could I blaspheme my King, who has saved me?" After having suffered fire and the sword, he was admitted into the presence of this King his Saviour, in reward for the eighty-six years of his faithful service, for the labours he had gone through in order to maintain faith and charity among his flock, and for the cruel death he endured."

"He was a disciple of
St. John the Evangelist, whom he imitated by zealously opposing the heretics, who were then striving to corrupt the faith. In obedience to the command of his holy Master [2 John 1:10], he refused to hold intercourse with Marcion, the heresiarch, whom he called the first-born of Satan. This energetic adversary of the proud sect that denied the mystery of the Incarnation, wrote an admirable Epistle to the Philipians, in which we find these words: Whosoever confesses not that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, is an Antichrist. Polycarp, then, had a right to the honour of standing near the Crib, in which the Son of God shows himself to us in all his loveliness, and clothed in flesh like unto our own. Let us honour this disciple of John, this friend of Ignatius [of Antioch], this Bishop of the Apostolic Age, whose praise was pronounced by Jesus Christ Himself in the Revelations of Patmos. Our Saviour said to him by the mouth of St. John: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life [Apoc. 2: 10
]. Polycarp was faithful even unto death, and has received his crown; and whilst we are celebrating the coming of his King among us, he is one of the Saints who assists us to profit by the holy season."

(From Dom Prosper Guéranger's The Liturgical Year for the feast of Saint Polycarp (in the old calendar the feast was 26 January), Volume III, translation by the Benedictines of Stanbrook, 1983.)


Today, 23 February 2009, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI named His Excellency, Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan, PhD, until now the archbishop of Milwaukee, the 13th bishop and 10th archbishop of New York. TDolan.JPGHeavenly Father, give Archbishop Dolan the grace of holiness of life and wisdom to direct and guide the Archdiocese of New York so that all may grow in your love. We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Ad multos annos!

Keeping Belmont Abbey green

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The weather at Belmont Abbey was terrific today: it was a bright, sunny and a cool day perfect for relaxing work outside. I loved it because the weather here beats the weather my parents have in New England. I consider today to be a wonderful grace. But I digress. Four of us planted some fruit trees (3 pears and a cherry) and 3 blueberry bushes. Father John ordered these things and is now unable to work in the garden so we volunteered our time assist a senior confrere. Working in the garden is preferable to painting!

Gardening proves to be a relaxing things for me plus it demonstrates my attentiveness to the environment which I think is increasingly critical for humanity if humanity hopes to continue to thrive well into this and the next millennium. In recent years the Pope and other respected theologians have been considering an appropriate approach to the issue of climate change and related matters and how best to proceed in protecting the environment. One example of the Pope's commitment to protecting the environment was his agreeing to install a brand system of solar energy on the Pope Paul VI Auditorium back in the autumn; it was a generous gift of a German solar energy company.

Salesian Father Manilo Sodi, theology professor of Pontifical Salesian University, has said that we "need to counter the position of those who consider nature to be above or at the same level as the human person." Moreover, Sodi said that "man should not abuse nature," and added that "the transcendental nature of the human person and his relationship with the Creator and with other creatures, favors an ecological use of nature that does not dehumanize the person nor degrade the environment."

Planting 4 trees and 3 bushes wouldn't t be considered a giant leap forward in keeping the earth green and protecting the environment from toxicities; but it is a small step in a right and good direction. Other Benedictine monasteries in the USA and abroad do considerable more than we do in "greening" the property, including the living space of the monks. And so the effort continues....

For now, I am satisfied with keeping the Abbey "green" by planting a few new trees and bushes, which was relaxing after the Holy Synaxis and brunch.

PAZ planting a pear tree.JPG

PAZ with a worm.jpg Belmont Abbey water tower.JPG

PNAC Seminarians.jpg"For all of us, the seminary was a decisive time of discernment and preparation," he said. "There, in profound dialogue with Christ, our desire to be deeply rooted in him was strengthened. In those years, we learned to see the Church as our own home, accompanied by Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our most loving Mother, always obedient to the will of God. [...]


"To have priests according to the heart of Christ, confidence must be placed in the action of the Holy Spirit, more than in human strategies and calculations. [...] On the other hand, the need for priests to address the challenges of today's world must not lead to the abandonment of a painstaking discernment of the candidates, or the neglect of necessary  --even rigorous-- demands, so that their formative process helps to make them exemplary priests.


New Iragi priest.jpg"Today more than ever, it is necessary that seminarians, with the right intention and beyond any other interest, aspire to the priesthood moved solely by the will to be genuine disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ who, in communion with his bishops, make him present with their ministry and witness of life. Of great importance for this is being very attentive to their human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation, as well as the adequate choice of their formators and professors, who must be outstanding in their academic capacity, their priestly spirit and their fidelity to the Church, so that they can instill in the young men what the People of God need and expect from their pastors.


(Pope Benedict speaking to the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America 20 Feb 2009)


The video clip of the Pope's speech is found here.

The Feast of the Chair of Peter


Chair of St Peter.jpgNow when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:13-19)


All-powerful Father, You have built Your Church on the rock of Saint Peter's confession of faith. May nothing divide or weaken our unity in faith and love.


Saint Damasus said: "one Chair of Peter, one true font of baptism" (una Petri sedes, unum verumque lavacrum) bearing witness to the trust our Lord placed in Saint Peter to be the head of the Church. The feast of today is a keen reminder of the witness of Peter's faith in the Jesus as Lord and Savior of all people with therefore an evangelizing aspect of being initiated into the Body of Christ as Saint Paul would later say. A more superficial sense of what is honored today  is what some say is the day Peter was appointed by the Lord as the Father of Church, the seed to what we now conceive as a pope. True as it is but the Chair of Peter is about witness and baptism first and foremost.


Hence, today the Church does not honor church furniture but the responsibility of the Church's mission as teacher and pastor conferred on Peter by Jesus Christ continuing in an unbroken line of apostolic service down through the ages to Pope Benedict XVI. The Church's liturgical theology (theologia prima) recalls the importance of the unity of the Church, founded upon the Apostle Peter. It also helps us to see the objectivity of the Church's teaching and pastoral authority known in the magisterium under the Roman Pontiff. For the Catholic this is understood clearly in the dogmas and doctrines of the Catholic faith solemnly defined "ex cathedra" (from the chair) and extended to all the acts of the ordinary magisterium.


As a point of reference the Catechism says:


Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: "Feed my sheep." The power to "bind and loose" connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles289 and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom (553).


The Pope's message on YouTube

Christ and the Church: here is the synthesis of Monsignor Giussani's life and of his apostolate. Without ever separating one from the other, he communicated around him a true love for the Lord and for the various Popes that he knew personally. He also had a great attachment for his Diocese and for his Pastors.

Pope John Paul II

 Luigi Giussani's grave marker.jpg


May Father Giussani's memory be eternal!


Father Giussani really wanted not to have his life for himself, but he gave life, and exactly in this way found life not only for himself, but for many others. He practised what we heard in the Gospel: he did not want to be served but to served, he was a faithful servant of the Gospel, he gave out all the wealth of his heart, he gave out all the divine wealth of the Gospel, with which he was penetrated and, serving in this way, giving his life, this life of his gave rich fruit--as we see in this moment--he has become really father of many and, having led people not to himself, but to Christ, he really won hearts, he has helped to make the world better and to open the world's doors for heaven.
Pope Benedict XVI

Today about 25 friends who follow, that is, are a part of Communion & Liberation from around the Carolinas came to Belmont Abbey Basilica to celebrate the Sacrifce of the Mass on the occasion of the 4th anniversary of death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani and the 27th year of the recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation. Redemptorist Father Joseph Dione, a local pastor, was the celebrant of the Mass.

After, John Neill, the CL Responsible for the Carolinas, led us on a walk around the grounds of Belmont Abbey College stopping at the Saint Joseph Adoration Chapel and at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the graces received today and in the past year. This was especially important to recognize since Our Lady of Lourdes is important to the life of CL  because it was something that Giussani taught us: go to the BVM. So we feel very connected with the history of our charism. The group then went to dinner at a local restuarant but I had to ring bells and pray Vespers. Our group joined about 30 other groups in the USA and countless others around the world who did the same thing for the same reason.

It was a beautiful day in which we gave came together as friends to give thanks to God. Some photos follow.

CL of the Carolinas.jpg CL prayer of thanks.jpg

robert Neill with St Benedict.JPG

Dear Friends united in love and service of Jesus Christ and His Church:

The Church is one big leper colony! You heard me right. All of us in the Church are lepers! My mind is still on last Sunday's Gospel when Jesus healed the leper.

leper.jpgJesus, the Divine Physician, often cleansed lepers of their hideous disease. It was thought incurable then. It was so dreaded that lepers had to live together in colonies where they could at least welcome and care for one another. There, they were all alike. There, they were all lepers.

Our Lord, of course, knows that there is also a spiritual leprosy, a leprosy that affects the soul, a moral disease, called sin. He can and will cure that, too, if, like the leper in last Sunday's gospel, we ask Him to do so.

Those who realize they have this interior leprosy come together in a leper colony, called the Church. The Church is filled with spiritual lepers who welcome one another, care for one another, and turn to Jesus, the Divine Physician, for cleansing, through prayer, worship, and the sacraments.

The Church is then a hospital for the sick, not a country club for the spiritually sleek. We belong to the Church, not because we're saints, but because we're sinners, not because we're proud, but because we're humble, not because we want to do God a big favor, but because we need a big favor from God.

Not long ago a high school junior, preparing for the sacrament of confirmation, wrote me: "Archbishop Dolan, I hate going to Sunday Mass. All I see around me are hypocrites, two-faced people who act holier-than-thou on Sunday, and then put everybody else down all week."

I wrote him back, "You're right. And now there's one more hypocrite among them on Sunday morning -- you, because you just judged all of them, dismissed them, and considered yourself holier-than-them. So, welcome to the Church! You're one of us."

Sure, there are a lot of saints in the Church. But, odds are, if you told them you thought them a saint, they'd be the first to tell you they were only recovering sinners.

You have heard me talk before about my beautiful niece, Shannon. When she was eight, she was diagnosed with perilous bone cancer. Odds were she would loose her leg, maybe her life. Her major worry, though, was that she would loose her hair, and her friends, who might, she was afraid, shun her because she was bald and had cancer.

During her surgeries and chemo, her third grade classmates made and sold what they called "Shannon caps," stocking caps with her name on it. The benefits helped cover some of her expenses.

When the day came when she could finally return to school, she was scared. Would the kids welcome her? Would they make fun of her, bald, in a wheelchair, with that dreaded disease of cancer? She wore her "Shannon cap" to cover her cue-ball head.

When her dad pushed her into the third grade classroom, every child, and the teacher, were wearing a "Shannon cap". They all stood and cheered. Shannon smiled. She was back home among friends.

That's the Church . . . we're all lepers . . . we're all unclean . . . we all need the only one who can heal us. We're all in it together.

dolan.jpgSee you at Mass.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan

The Journal Times.com

February 17, 2009

RJN2.jpgI am still saddened by the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus. Many are. I pray for him regularly at Mass and while saying the rosary and I find myself wondering what he'd say about this or that today. First Things arrived the other day and I shelved it temporarily because I've got other things to read first (what, I am not going to drop everything to read FT???); I look forward with eagerness to read to First Things as much today as when I first was introduced to the magazine by friend Father Edward Oakes but I have to admit it is still a little awkward seeing RJN's name on the cover.


One of the last gifts he gave to us is the forthcoming book, American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile. It's not a book from the grave as it was in production long before RJN got ill and died. I am looking forward to it as I have looked forward to everything RJN wrote for publication or said in the public forum.


Available from Amazon

A Google preview of American Babylon


Product description


neuhaus_american_babylon.jpgChristians are by their nature a people out of place. Their true home is with God; in civic life, they are alien citizens "in but not of the world." In American Babylon, eminent theologian Richard John Neuhaus examines the particular truth of that ambiguity for Catholics in America today.


Neuhaus addresses the essential quandaries of Catholic life--assessing how Catholics can keep their heads above water in the sea of immorality that confronts them in the world, how they can be patriotic even though their true country is not in this world, and how they might reconcile their duties as citizens with their commitment to God. Deeply learned, frequently combative, and always eloquent, American Babylon is Neuhaus's magnum opus--and will be essential reading for all Christians.


Let me recommend to you the Richard John Neuhaus Online Archive, a well stocked blog of materials by or on Father Richard.

Saint Peter Damian

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Legend of St Peter Damian.jpgAll-powerful God, help us to follow the teachings and example of Peter Damian. By making Christ and the service of His Church the first love of our lives, may we come to the joys of eternal light.


St Peter Damien was the soul of the "Riforma gregoriana", which marked the passage from the first to the second millennium and whose heart and driving force was St Gregory VII. It was, in fact, a matter of the application of institutional decisions of a theological, disciplinary and spiritual character which permitted a greater libertas Ecclesiae in the second millennium. They restored the breath of great theology with reference to the Fathers of the Church and in particular, to St Augustine, St Jerome and St Gregory the Great.


With his pen and his words he addressed all:  he asked his brother hermits for the courage of a radical self-giving to the Lord which would as closely as possible resemble martyrdom; he demanded of the Pope, Bishops and ecclesiastics a high level of evangelical detachment from honours and privileges in carrying out their ecclesial functions; he reminded priests of the highest ideal of their mission that they were to exercise by cultivating purity of morals and true personal poverty.


In an age marked by forms of particularism and uncertainties because it was bereft of a unifying principle, Peter Damien, aware of his own limitations - he liked to define himself as peccator monachus - passed on to his contemporaries the knowledge that only through a constant harmonious tension between the two fundamental poles of life - solitude and communion - can an effective Christian witness develop.


(Pope Benedict XVI, Letter to the Camaldolese Order, 20 February 2007)


A brief bio of this important Benedictine saint

Life in the abbey today

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In the monastic world one can sometimes be sheltered from some of the concerns of "outside world": the "fast life" for example. But for many of us the true living of reality never goes away. How could it?  Like the rest of the world the monks have to be concerned about some external things like family, friends, keeping the apostolate alive if it is for God's great glory, concern for one another, etc. The added feature to our life, as it is similar to all serious Christians is that we have see the about the seriousness of living the balance of prayer, study, work and holy leisure, the monastic way of life while keeping reality (God & humanity) in front of with the concern for the healthcare for the elderly, formation of the young, the maintenance of the buildings and grounds, diet and exercise, communication of the charism to our students, colleagues, benefactors and alumni, concern for the welfare of the poor and the ill, care for the environment and so on. As I progress in this life I am learning better the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, my own need for happiness, love, development of the intellect & affect, and other things that contribute to happy and truth-filled living.


Yesterday (Thursday) we met for our weekly meeting with the abbot to discuss Lectio Divina, a practice of reading/praying/contemplating the Scriptures from within the heart of the Church's Liturgy. We are reading the book Praying the Bible: An Introduction to Lectio Divina by the late Archbishop Mariano Magrassi, OSB. It is a wonderful synthesis of all the elements that contribute to this experience of coming to know Christ through the ancient yet ever contemporary practice of holy reading of Scripture.  I am ever mindful of Saint Jerome's didctum: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." More on this topic later but I have to say, read this book!


House work is never done, ask my mother, or ask anyone who owns a home. We spent the last week painting various parts of the abbey and today we spent the morning preparing the guest rooms.


Caution sign.jpgThis afternoon we went to the US Olympic training facility for white river rafting. It was a very pleasant afternoon away from the monastery with confreres enjoying time in the fresh air and sun with a brief walk in nature before having a beer and kettle chips.


Tonight, we are watching the 1964 classic "Becket" with Sir John Gielgud, Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole; this is one my favorite movies of all time.


These are the things which make life in the abbey.

Abp Demetrios.jpgThe President of Fordham University, Fr. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. announced Tuesday Feb. 17, a Jaharis Family Foundation gift establishing the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture as part of the Orthodox Christian Studies Program of this renowned Roman-Catholic Jesuit University.


The announcement came at the conclusion of the Sixth Annual Orthodoxy in America Lecture given this year by Fr. Stanley Harakas, ThD, who is the Archbishop Iakovos Professor of Orthodox Theology Emeritus at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Fr. Harakas' topic "The Future of Orthodox Christianity in America: A Normative Approach" captivated his diverse audience of academics, clergymen, students and laymen. He outlined the threats and pitfalls but also the opportunities of the social and cultural reality in America and suggested ways of what we need to do and ought to do, as Orthodox.


Following the lecture President McShane announced the establishment of the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture through a generous donation of two million dollars by the Jaharis Family Foundation. Fr. McShane welcomed Michael and Mary Jaharis as he expressed his great joy and gratitude. He further said that naming the chair after Archbishop Demetrios is a most deserving honor and that the University was "thrilled that his name (the Archbishop's) and the name of the Jaharis family will forever be associated with Fordham."


St Bede.jpgThe saint on whom we reflect today is called Bede. He was born in Northeast England, in fact in Northumbria, in the year 672/673. He himself narrates that, when he was seven years old his parents entrusted him to the abbot of the neighboring Benedictine monastery, to be educated. "In this monastery," he recalls, "I lived from then on, dedicating myself intensely to the study of Scripture, while observing the discipline of the Rule and the daily effort to sing in church, I always found it pleasant to learn, teach and write" (Ecclesiastical History of the English People, V, 24). In fact, Bede was one of the most illustrious figures of erudition of the High Middle Ages because he was able to make use of many precious manuscripts that his abbots, who went on frequent trips to the Continent and to Rome, were able to bring back to him. His teaching and the fame of his writings enabled him to have many friendships with the principal personalities of his time, who encouraged him to continue in his work, from which so many benefited. Falling ill, he did not cease to work, always having an interior joy that was expressed in prayer and song. He concluded his most important work, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, with this invocation: "I pray, O good Jesus, who benevolently has allowed me to draw from the sweet words of your wisdom, that I may reach you one day, source of all wisdom, and to always be before your face." Death came to him on May 26, 735: It was Ascension day.

St Bede symbol.jpgSacred Scriptures were the constant source of Bede's theological reflection. Having made a careful critical study of the text (we have a copy of the monumental Codex Amiatinus of the Vulgate, on which Bede worked), he commented on the Bible, reading it in a Christological vein, namely, re-uniting two things: On one hand, he listened to what the text was saying exactly, he really wanted to listen and understand the text itself; on the other hand, he was convinced that the key to understanding sacred Scripture as the unique Word of God is Christ and with Christ, in his light, one understands the Old and the New Testament as "a" sacred Scripture.

The events of the Old and New Testament go together, they are together the path toward Christ, though expressed in different signs and institutions (it is what he calls "concordia sacramentorum"). For example, the tent of the covenant that Moses raised in the desert and the first and second temple of Jerusalem are images of the Church, new temple built on Christ and the Apostles with living stones, cemented by the charity of the Spirit. And, as was the case for the construction of the ancient temple of Jerusalem, even pagan people contributed, making available valuable materials and the technical experience of their master builders, thus apostles and masters not only from ancient Hebrew, Greek and Latin stock contributed to the building of the Church, but also new peoples, among which Bede is pleased to enumerate the Iro-Celts and the Anglo-Saxons. St. Bede witnessed the universality of the Church grow, which is not restricted to a certain culture, but is made up of all the cultures of the world which must open themselves to Christ and find in him their point of arrival.
Eccl His.jpgAnother topic loved by Bede is the history of the Church. After having taken interest in the period described in the Acts of the Apostles, he reviewed the history of the Fathers of the Church and the councils, convinced that the work of the Holy Spirit continues in history. In the Cronica Maiora, Bede traces a chronology that would become the basis of the universal calendar "ab incarnatione Domini." Up to then, time was calculated from the foundation of the city of Rome. Bede, seeing that the true point of reference, the center of history is the birth of Christ, gave us this calendar that reads history beginning with the Lord's Incarnation. He registered the first six ecumenical councils and their development, presenting faithfully the Christian, Mariological and Soteriological doctrine, and denouncing the Monophysite and Monothelite, iconoclastic and neo-Pelagian heresies. Finally, he wrote with documentary rigor and literary expertise the already mentioned Ecclesiastical History of the English People, for which he is recognized as "the father of English historiography." The characteristic traits of the Church that Bede loved to evidence are: a) its catholicity, as fidelity to tradition together with openness to historical developments, and as the pursuit of unity in multiplicity, in the diversity of history and cultures, according to the directives that Pope Gregory the Great gave to the apostle of England, Augustine of Canterbury; b) its apostolicity and Romanness: In this regard he considers of primary importance to convince the whole Iro-Celtic Churches and that of the Picts to celebrate Easter uniformly according to the Roman calendar. The calculation elaborated scientifically by him to establish the exact date of the Easter celebration, and thus of the entire cycle of the liturgical year, became the text of reference for the whole Catholic Church.
Bede was also an illustrious teacher of liturgical theology. In the homilies on the Sunday Gospels and those of feast days, he develops a true mystagogy, educating the faithful to celebrate joyfully the mysteries of the faith and to reproduce them consistently in life, while expecting their full manifestation of the return of Christ, when, with our glorified bodies, we will be admitted in offertory procession to the eternal liturgy of God in heaven. Following the "realism" of the catecheses of Cyril, Ambrose and Augustine, Bede teaches that the sacraments of Christian initiation make every faithful person "not only a Christian but Christ." In fact, every time that a faithful soul receives and guards the Word of God with love, in imitation of Mary, he conceives and generates Christ again. And every time that a group of neophytes receives the Easter sacraments, the Church is "self-generated," or to use a still more daring expression, the Church becomes "Mother of God," participating in the generation of her children, by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Thanks to this way of making theology, interlacing the Bible, the liturgy and history, Bede has a timely message for the different "states of life":

a) For scholars (doctores ac doctrices) he recalls two essential tasks: to scrutinize the wonders of the Word of God to present it in an attractive way to the faithful; to show the dogmatic truths avoiding the heretical complications and keeping to the "Catholic simplicity," with attention to the small and humble to whom God is pleased to reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom.

b) For pastors, that for their part, must give priority to preaching, not only through the verbal or hagiographic language, but also valuing icons, processions and pilgrimages. Bede recommends to them the use of the vernacular, as he himself does, explaining in Northumbria the "Our Father," and the "Creed" and carrying forward until the last day of his life, the commentary to John's Gospel in the common language.

c) For consecrated people who are dedicated to the Divine Office, living in the joy of fraternal communion and progressing in the spiritual life through ascesis and contemplation, Bede recommends to take care of the apostolate -- no one has the Gospel just for himself, but must regard it as a gift also for others -- either by collaborating with the Bishops in pastoral activities of various types in favor of the young Christian communities, or being available to the evangelizing mission to the pagans, outside their own country, as "peregrini pro amore Dei."
Placed in this perspective, in the commentary to the Canticle of Canticles, Bede presents the synagogue and the Church as collaborators in the propagation of the Word of God. Christ the Spouse desires an industrious Church, "bronzed by the fatigues of evangelization" -- clear is the reference to the word of the Canticle of Canticles (1:5), where the Bride says: "Nigra sum sed formosa" (I am brown, but beautiful) -- attempts to till other fields or vines and to establish among the new populations "not a provisional bell but a stable dwelling, namely, to insert the Gospel in the social fabric and the cultural institutions. In this perspective, the saintly Doctor exhorts the lay faithful to be assiduous to the religious instruction, imitating those "insatiable evangelical multitudes who did not even give the Apostles time to eat." He teaches them how to pray constantly, "reproducing in life what they celebrate in the liturgy," offering all actions as spiritual sacrifices in union with Christ. To parents he explains that also in their small domestic realm they can exercise "the priestly office of pastors and guides," by giving Christian formation to the children and states that he knows many faithful (men and women, spouses and celibates) "capable of an irreproachable conduct that, if suitably pursued, could approach daily Eucharistic communion ("Epist. ad Ecgbertum," ed. Plummer, p. 419).
St Bede2.jpgThe fame of holiness and wisdom that Bede enjoyed already in life, served to merit him the title of "Venerable." He is thus called also by Pope Sergius I, when he wrote his abbot in 701 requesting to make him come temporarily to Rome for consultation on questions of universal interest. The great missionary of Germany, Bishop St. Boniface (d. 754), requested the archbishop of York several times and the abbot of Wearmouth to have some of his works transcribed and to send him to them so that they and their companions could also enjoy the spiritual light he emanated. A century later Notkero Galbulo, abbot of St. Gall (d. 912), being aware of the extraordinary influence of Bede, equated him with a new sun that God had made arise not in the East but in the West to illumine the world. Apart from the rhetorical emphasis, it is a fact that, with his works, Bede contributed effectively to the making of a Christian Europe, in which the different populations and cultures amalgamated among themselves, conferring on them a uniform physiognomy, inspired by the Christian faith.

Let us pray that also today there be personalities of Bede's stature, to keep the whole Continent united; let us pray so that all of us are willing to rediscover our common roots, to be builders of a profoundly human and genuinely Christian Europe.


(Wednesday General Audience, Rome, 18 February 2009)

The encounter with Christ?

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Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, in his weekly article on the forthcoming Sunday Scriptures, "To What Lengths Are We Willing to Go to Encounter Jesus?" asks:


Do we share the paralytic man's faith in today's Gospel? Do we have the chutzpah, creativity, perseverance and persistence of his friends to bring someone to Christ? To what lengths are we willing to go to encounter Jesus? How much are we willing to sacrifice so that our friends, too, might hear his saving word and experience the Lord's healing touch and presence?


Find the article here.


AND the answer is? What does your time doing Lectio Divina reveal to you?

A new independent report on college costs published by The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education--the research division of The Cardinal Newman Society--reveals that some of the most faithful Catholic colleges and universities in the United States also offer students significant cost savings.

Among the study's key findings:

· Average tuition for students at the recommended faithful Catholic colleges is about $3,000 less than at other Catholic colleges and about $1,000 less than the average private college.

· The Newman Guide colleges provide students a larger portion of institutional aid (39%) than the average private college (29%).

· Students at the recommended Catholic colleges graduate with fewer loans and less debt--on average, about $2,000 less than at private colleges and $1,400 less than other Catholic colleges.

The study was conducted by Andrew Gillen, Ph.D., a leading expert on college affordability issues and the research director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. The study is available online at TheNewmanGuide.com.

In order to help families learn more about the Newman Guide's recommended faithful and affordable colleges, beginning today their campus profiles are available online for the first time at TheNewmanGuide.com.

The recommended Newman Guide colleges are Ave Maria University, Aquinas College (Tenn.), Belmont Abbey College, Benedictine College, The Catholic University of America, Christendom College, The College of Saint Thomas More (Texas), DeSales University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Holy Apostles College & Seminary, John Paul the Great Catholic University, Magdalen College, Mount St. Mary's University, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, St. Gregory's University, Southern Catholic College, Thomas Aquinas College, The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (N.H.), University of Dallas, University of St. Thomas (Texas), and Wyoming Catholic College.

Vicky's journey.JPG

Past days in the monastery

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Life in a monastery is never boring. Living our lives seriously hardly leaves room for idleness. The abbey welcomes Christ in the visitors, including vocation guests, we receive. The presence of guests reminds us that we Christ is among us. And I am of the opinion that a religious house should rarely be without guests. The round of prayer, work, reading, dining (feeding is crude, so we politely dine) and private time is a lot. At the moment, time for self is not as plentiful as I want or need especially since I have to prepare for teaching and I want to do some study.


mask wall.jpgOne of my least favorite domestic chores is painting. Actually, I hate painting (probably because my father never really liked it either) and I only initiate the task when it is needed, or asked. I'd rather pay professionals to do the job of preparing the walls, painting and cleaning up. Here at Mary, Help of Christians (Belmont) Abbey I've been asked along with two others to paint a few hallways and a room. The companions are fine to work with, though one drives the work, getting mucked up with paint isn't my idea of fun. BUT the walls do look good and the abbot and other monks are pleased. Happy to oblige. I am just hoping that we don't have to paint the very long outside porch. The passage from Saint Paul comes to mind: if you don't work, you don't eat. Hmmmm, I like to eat....

Catholics and Orthodox Christians are celebrating a Pauline year from June 28, 2008, to June 29, 2009.


St Paul.jpgA prime characteristic of St. Paul's legacy, the archbishop said, was his "adherence to the absolute nature of the truth of the Gospel." St. Paul saw the Gospel "not as an abstract, theoretical truth," but a truth grounded in the person of Jesus, who died and is risen.


Christ crucified represents "the medicine of first resort for every spiritual weakness" and thus there can be "no possibility of compromise." According to St. Paul, to be a pastor is to offer that Gospel with integrity.


St. Paul insisted on overcoming human distinctions among believers. "There is a school of thought" that divisions within a group must be accepted as part of the fallen human condition, but St. Paul rejected such thinking.


"What is the church" but the body of Christ, allowing for no divisions. St. Paul specifically denounced distinctions among Jews and Greeks and rich and poor because any such distinctions are to be subordinated to unity in Christ.


"We encounter the word 'brother' 34 times" in St. Paul's writings, driving home the point that in Christ "any other distinction is secondary."


In addition, St. Paul emphasized "the plan of God for salvation for all people."


St. Paul traveled "the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire" in his zeal to draw souls to Christ. Closely related is St. Paul's adherence to the pastoral care of souls, which the apostle freely expressed in his writings. St. Paul wrote to his disciples that he prayed for them and thanked God for them. "What an incredible difference it would make if every pastor" showed such zeal for his people.


While "self-styled apostles" took advantage of the people to whom they preached, "St. Paul took the opposite approach," accepting nothing and refusing "to be a burden." Rather, St. Paul demonstrated "pastoral passion," comparing himself to a father or to a nurse caring for a child.


(Archbishop Demetrios, Sixth Annual Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua Lecture (Nov. 23), Immaculate Conception Seminary, Rockville Centre Diocese, Pete Sheehan for CNS, Dec. 2, 2008, adapted)

Blessed Fra Angelico

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Fra Angelico.jpgKnown in the Dominicans as Brother John from Fiesole (c. 1395-February 18, 1455), we know him best as Fra Angelico.


In declaring Fra Angelico the Patron of Catholic Artists in 1982, Pope John Paul II said: "Angelico was reported to say "He who does Christ's work must stay with Christ always". This motto earned him the epithet "Blessed Angelico", because of the perfect integrity of his life and the almost divine beauty of the images he painted, to a superlative extent those of the Blessed Virgin Mary."


Fra Angelico's grave stone in the Dominican Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Rome) the epitaph says:


When singing my praise, don't liken my talents to those of Apelles. Say, rather, that, in the name of Christ, I gave all I had to the poor. The deeds that count on Earth are not the ones that count in Heaven. I, Giovanni, am the flower of Tuscany.


When in Rome, I pay a visit to the grave of Fra Angelico to pray for the Catholic artists.

The Holy See's Press Office released a statement this morning about the US Speaker of the House's visit to the Holy See and to the Pope:


Following the General Audience the Holy Father briefly greeted Mrs. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage.


His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.


Pope & Pelosi.jpgGood for the Pope. I wish I could've been there watching the Speaker's face while the Pope teaches her (and her entourage) the orthodox faith including the various constituent components of Catholic moral teaching. I'm sure she knew that the Pope would say something about her heterodoxy but I bet she didn't expect such a direct address. Or, did she? You know, she's not very clear on these things so every little bit helps. Perhaps now she'll actually become a believing Catholic and not one that merely picks and chooses what to believe so as to keep an influential job.


Now, can we get Joe Biden and the other Catholics in Congress to meet Pope Benedict?


The new Syrian Patriarch, Ignace Joseph III Younan, elected on January 22nd was  enthroned on February 15th in Beirut. The story of the event is here and here. It is interesting to note the theological and liturgical differences between Western & Eastern Catholics. The Patriarch was enthroned, not installed. The proper term is enthroned; one installs computer software and a new dishwasher, not a bishop. To enthrone a bishop means that he is led to his chair and seated. Of course there's more to the rite but that's it essentially. Worldwide the Syrian Catholics number about 200, 000.

Lori Cathedra.jpgThe point of this note isn't the size of a bishop's chair as it was to draw attention to a new Eastern Catholic Patriarch. That said, for some, parsing the difference between enthronement vs. installation may be overly picky. The liturgical theology of the Church says that bishops sit on cathedras (substantial looking chairs), not thrones even if some look more like thrones than mere a big chair. That some bishops may look like plenipotentiaries, even act like them, they're not. But to say that a bishop is led to a choir stall, like an abbot is upon his election, is not quiet correct either. How long has the word "installation" been used to denote the act of inaugurating a bishop's ministry? I think some people who claim to be liturgists tend to force a new agenda on the Church using inaccurate jargon. But I defer to a great authority.

Is he sorry?

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a-rod.jpgTonight's evening news had an update on the A-Rod drug scandal. What I find amazing is that a man would admit to taking steroids, citing pressure, to enhance his performance to play a high profile sport and get paid $275 million (by all accounts a record). A-Rod must think everybody is looking the other way and stupid. His defense was that as 25 year old he made some stupid decisions.


Fair enough, we all do things we regret. No one, except the Savior of mankind and the BVM can claim otherwise. Original Sin has deeply affected our lives. As a Catholic, I can testify to the beauty of the Catholic faith by the mercy experienced when you ask for the mercy of God (forgiveness!) through the sacrament of Confession, make amends with your brothers and sisters AND you change your life. I don't know A-Rod's faith life but something seems out of whack here in that he still has a job playing baseball and he's still being looked upon as a hero. Not telling the truth is a serious offence. If the news caught A-Rod expressing his sorrow by saying "I am sorry" to the public, it wasn't aired. I wonder if he said those 3 words. Personally, I think the Yankees should fire the man AND go to confession. But that's me.


Moreover, a 9 year old child told a report that what A-Rod did "wasn't wrong but he should not have used drugs." Not wrong? WHAT???? I suppose the child's moral formation is still in flux at the moment but this is crazy. I'd like to know what the parents teach this young man. What moral formation does this child get in school, in church, in the Boy Scouts?

Blackfriars Rep in the NYTimes

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In the Saturday (February 13, 2009) issue of the NYTimes' Connecticut section there's an article on the excellent work of Blackfriars Repertory Theatre. Have a read...

Pope Benedict spoke of "teaching the art of prayer, encouraging participation in the liturgy and the Sacraments, wise and relevant preaching, catechetical instruction, and spiritual and moral guidance. From this foundation faith flourishes in Christian virtue, and gives rise to vibrant parishes and generous service to the wider community" to the Nigerian bishops making their ad limina.


Later the Pope said: "The celebration of the liturgy is a privileged source of renewal in Christian living" and "to maintain the proper balance between moments of contemplation and external gestures of participation and joy in the Lord".

New Saints

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During a public Ordinary Consistory in the Clementine Hall Apostolic Palace on 21 February 2009, Pope Benedict XVI will announce the canonization of the following Blesseds as Saints.

Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, bishop, founder of the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary;

Arcangelo Tadini, priest, founder of the Congregation of Worker Sisters of the House of Nazareth;

Francis Coll y Guitart, priest of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans), founder of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the BVM;

Joseph Damian de Veuster, priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary of the Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar;

Bernard Tolomei, abbot, founder of the Congregation of Saint Mary of Monte Oliveto of the Order of Saint Benedict;

Rafael Arnáiz Barón, religious of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance;

Nuno of Saint Mary Álvares Pereira, religious of the Order of Carmelites;

Gertrude (Catherine) Comensoli, virgin, founder of the Institute of Sisters of the Most Blessed Sacrament;

Marie of the Cross (Jeanne) Jugan, virgin, founder of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor;

Catherine Volpicelli, virgin, founder of the Congregation of the Handmaids of Sacred Heart.

The ceremony of Canonization of the Blesseds: Arcangelo Tadini; Bernard Tolomei; Nuno de Santa Maria Álvares Pereira; Gertrude (Caterina) Comensoli e Catherine Volpicelli will be Sunday, 26 April 2009.


The ceremony of Canonization of the Blesseds: Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński; Francisco Coll y Guitart; Jozef Damian de Veuster; Rafael Arnáiz Barón e Marie de la Croix (Jeanne) Jugan will be Sunday, 11 October 2009.

Music can proclaim Christ

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music.jpg"Music, like art, can be a particularly great way to proclaim Christ because it is able to eloquently render more perceptible the mystery of the faith." Music can "help us contemplate the intense and arcane mystery of Christian faith."


(Pope Benedict XVI spoke after a concert given Our Lady's Choral Society of the Archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland on the occasion of the 80th anniv. Vatican City State, 13 Feb 2009)

Anointing Father John Oetgen

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This afternoon the Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey, with whom I am currently living, gathered in the room of Father John Oetgen to celebrate the Rite of Anointing of the Sick. Father John is one of the senior monks of this monastic community spending a lifetime serving the Lord as a monk, a priest and a professor literature. He's in 80s and he's been infirmed for the last 4 months. He's received this sacrament before, but Father Abbot Placid thought it best to celebrate the sacrament now as Father John has grown weaker in body. What comfort there is when brothers "gather in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who is present among us" to pray and show affection for a brother.


If you have been present for the sacrament of the sick you know how moving it is. I was moved to tears several times during the rite probably for no other reason than what I was experiencing was a great theology at work: God's praise and our conversion. While I don't know Father John well, the humanity of act of gathering in prayer and companionship was beautiful.


The rite, recalling the words of sacred Scripture, remind us that the sick came to Jesus for healing; moreover, we recall that Jesus' life, death and resurrection is what sets us free from sin and death. This is the faith we have professed, this is the faith we gave witness to today with Father John, it is the faith that comforts and sustains Father John.


Addressing the faithful, the Saint James exhorts us to care for the ill in this manner: "Are there any who are sick among you? Let them send for the priests of the Church, and let the priests pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick persons, and the Lord will raise them up; and if they have committed any sins, their sins will be forgiven them."  This we did and it was beautiful.


With the laying on of hands and prayer, we asked God to grant Father John comfort in his suffering, courage in the face of fear, patience if distressed and hope when sad and the support of the brothers (and all others) when feeling alone. So, I ask you to pray that God will do the loving thing for Father John and to assist the monks here in all ways that Providence sees fit.

Saints Cyril and Methodius

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Saints Cyril and Methodius.JPGAfter this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of Him, two by two, into every town and place where He Himself was about to come. And He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.


Father, You brought the light of the Gospel to the Slavic nations through Saint Cyril and his brother Saint Methodius. Open our hearts to understanding Your teaching and help us to become one in faith and praise.



Writing about today's saints Pope John Paul II said:


[Saints Cyril and Methodius made a] generous decision to identify themselves with those peoples' life and traditions, once having purified and enlightened them by Revelation, make Cyril and Methodius true models for all the missionaries who in every period have accepted Saint Paul's invitation to become all things to all people in order to redeem all. And in particular for the missionaries who, from ancient times until the present day, from Europe to Asia and today in every continent, have labored to translate the Bible and the texts of the liturgy into the living languages of the various peoples, so as to bring them the one word of God, thus made accessible in each civilization's own forms of expression.


Perfect communion in love preserves the Church from all forms of particularism, ethnic exclusivism or racial prejudice, and from any nationalistic arrogance. This communion must elevate and sublimate every purely natural legitimate sentiment of the human heart. (Slavorum apostoli, 11, 1985)

Saint Valentine

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St Valentine baptizing Lucilla.jpgHe that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.


We beseech You almighty God, grant that we who celebrate the heavenly birth of blessed Valentine, Your martyr, may through his intercession be freed from all impending evils.




(The antiphon and prayer for Mass is a far cry from the saccharine sense of the saint we honor today in the secular world.)

Blessed Jordan of Saxony

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Blessed Jordan of Saxony.jpgIt has been said that "Jordan who, more than any one man after Saint Dominic himself, created the spirit of the Order, gave to it a joy and an informality in its daily life which are amongst its greatest treasures, for they enshrine and express a whole theology of religious life."



May Blessed Jordan of Saxony pray for the Order of Preachers today and always, and grant an increase of vocations to the Dominican Family. May he stir up the hearts of young men and women, as once he did on this earth, with a fervour for Truth, to give themselves in its service in the Order of Preachers. May he clothe us, his brothers and sisters, with his zeal and passion for Christ the Word, and may he give us cause joyfully to laugh in his company for ever. Amen.

TBertone.jpgThe Cardinal Secretary of State to His Holiness, Tarcisio Bertone was in Mexico from January 15 to 19 to preside over the 6th World Meeting of Families. While in Mexico the cardinal met with Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa and with representatives of culture.

Bertone was interviewed by Carlo Di Cicco, deputy director of the Vatican newspaper, and Roberto Piermarini, director of the news service of the papal radio.


One of the relevant questions was on the family and culture why the cardinal gave substantial attention to these topics. What is good to keep before our eyes is the witness that BOTH family and culture can have for work in the Kingdom of God. In answer to this query, Cardinal Bertone said:


Because in reality, the family is the first transmitter of values and culture for the new generations; for children and young people growing up, the family is the transmitter of values. This is a proven fact in the experience of family life, despite all the difficulties that mark the way, not only in Europe but also in Latin America.

I recall a conference, a debate, that took place here in Rome, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, with Professor Barbiellini Amidei, precisely about the family, regarding its capacity or incapacity to address other instances of socialization in the task of transmitting values.

In the end we agreed that the family is the first instance of the transmission of values -- and this is also the conviction of the Popes: of John Paul II and, particularly, Pope Benedict, as taken up in the two messages addressed to Mexico -- the family is the first instance of human and Christian formation.

It transmits the identity, the family's own identity, and the cultural and spiritual identity of a people.

Then the state is born thanks to the grouping, the communion among families, that is why the state should have the mission to strengthen the identity of a people grounded in its roots, in its origins, which later determine the development of both the political and ecclesial community.


Regarding Culture the cardinal was asked:  In the meeting with [people of] the world of culture and education you emphasized the limited success that Mexican culture had during the last century. Is it not a rather harsh judgment for a Church that suffered persecution, including a bloody one?
Cardinal Bertone: It is, in fact, a question of harsh judgment. I literally quoted an author, Gabriel Zaid, who remembers his meeting with a European bishop who asked him: "Is a Catholic culture possible in Mexico? Can the Catholic Church have some cultural influence in the country?"  

When this European bishop, more precisely this Dutch bishop, asked him what could be expected of Mexico, Zaid, desolate, said: "I couldn't give him any hope.

"In Mexico, beyond the vestiges of better times and popular culture, Catholic culture has ended" -- you must realize that we were in the 70s -- it remained on the margin, in one of the most notable centuries of Mexican culture: the 20th century. How could that happen? -- Zaid replied -- "I'm still asking myself that!"

This diagnosis is certainly pessimistic: I have taken it up again precisely because there have been incentives, highly significant positive aspects, so that it would be very unjust to stress the negative and subscribe fully to this diagnosis.

Nevertheless, the writer's observation and the bishop's question require an answer; they are stimulating.

That culture is necessary in the work of the Church, and even more so in humanity itself, was affirmed by Pope John Paul II, in his great address in UNESCO, when he cried out: "The future of man depends on culture! The peace of the world depends on the primacy of the Spirit! The peaceful future of humanity depends on love!" Thus he related peace, culture and love.

For the Church, cultural promotion is an innate reality, written in her DNA, in her history: It is an urgent and necessary imperative.

By the very fact that the Gospel is itself creator of culture, the proclamation of the Gospel is cultural creation.
The truth is that the Church in Mexico was persecuted and gave many martyrs. I received and venerated the relics of a 15-year-old boy, who looked much more mature than his age, José Sánchez del Río, who took part in a cultural circle of Catholic Action.

Despite his young age, he was arrested, and after his capture he was killed. Before dying, he wrote "Long Live Christ the King," which was the cry of Mexican martyrs.

That is why Mexico's Church is certainly a martyr Church, but also because of this she has been marginalized. This Church has always practiced a great religion of worship, very significant, source of her fidelity to Christ and of her enthusiasm for the faith, but somewhat resigned from the cultural point of view. That is why it was and is necessary to re-launch the whole of cultural promotion that -- as I said -- is innate to the mission of the Church, particularly in Mexico.

B16 meet a rabbi.jpgPope Benedict received members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations today. Speaking English, the Pope recalled his visit to a synagogue in Cologne, Germany in August 2005, and to the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2006. His Holiness said,


As I walked through the entrance to that place of horror, the scene of such untold suffering I meditated on the countless number of prisoners, so many of them Jews, who had trodden that same path into captivity at Auschwitz and in all the other prison camps. How can we begin to grasp the enormity of what took place in those infamous prisons? The entire human race feels deep shame at the savage brutality shown to your people at that time.


The Church is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism and to continue to build good and lasting relations between our two communities. If there is one particular image which encapsulates this commitment, it is the moment when my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II stood at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, pleading for God's forgiveness after all the injustice that the Jewish people have had to suffer


The hatred and contempt for men, women and children that was manifested in the Shoah was a crime against God and against humanity. ... It is beyond question that any denial or minimisation of this terrible crime is intolerable and altogether unacceptable.


This terrible chapter in our history must never be forgotten. Remembrance - it is rightly said - is 'memoria futuri', a warning to us for the future, and a summons to strive for reconciliation. To remember is to do everything in our power to prevent any recurrence of such a catastrophe within the human family by building bridges of lasting friendship.


It is my fervent prayer that the memory of this appalling crime will strengthen our determination to heal the wounds that for too long have sullied relations between Christians and Jews. It is my heartfelt desire that the friendship we now enjoy will grow ever stronger, so that the Church's irrevocable commitment to respectful and harmonious relations with the people of the Covenant will bear fruit in abundance.


See the Pope speak about the Shoah.


Are we clear? Are there any questions about where the Church (and the Pope) stand on this matter?

Animals focus their attention on their prey. Human beings focus their attention within and, turning towards God, who descends into their being, flee from the world, ceasing to be attached to external objects.


For what they are trying to do is not to lose their concentration amongst the variety of objective things. Prayer is that spiritual means which forbids thought to become dissipated and remain attached to scattered objects.


The images produced by the rational faculty keep us tied to objective things. Prayer liberates us from their gravitational pull, without, however, abolishing them. Humanity reaches out to God and God responds.


Like a Pelican in the Wilderness
Stelios Ramfos

Vatican City State at 80

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Lateran 80.jpgToday marks 80th anniversary of the establishment of Vatican City State by the signing of the Lateran Pacts of 1929 by Benito Mussolini and Pietro Cardinal Gasparri.

This Pact establishes Vatican City as an independent state, restoring the civil sovereignty of the Pope, compensated the Holy See for loss of the papal states and outline the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church's and Italy. On 25 March 1985, the Italian Parliament ratified a signed agreement (18 February 1984) which modifies the Lateran Pact.

The temporal government of the Church is technically under the pope as head of state but he appoints a president for the temporal affairs of state. Currently, the President of Vatican City State is Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo; the cardinal has legislative and executive authority regarding the temporalities (i.e., persons, policies & properties).

A press conference at the Vatican yesterday, considered the forthcoming conference on Darwin & theology. The presentation can be viewed at the Vatican's YouTube site. Here's the H2O News report.

The March 3-7 conference will take place in Rome on "Biological Evolution, Facts and Theories" and was presented by Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of that pontifical council. The conference will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his "Origin of the Species." The University of Notre Dame, the Gregorian University and the Pontifical Council for Culture are co-sponsoring the event on faith and reason (science) to demonstrate that faith and reason are complementary NOT at odds with each other as is commonly thought.

Jesuit Father Marc Leclerc said: "It's not in the least about a celebration in honor of the English scientist; it's simply about analyzing an event that marked for all time the history of science and that has influenced the way of understanding our very humanity."

The organizers said on the website: There will be nine sessions where academics will treat the "idea that science, on the one hand, and theology, on the other, represent different fields of analysis and interpretation, though often they are incorrectly overlapped, causing confusion and ideological controversies."

More information on Biological Evolution, Facts and Theories: www.evolution-rome2009.net.


LG & JPII.JPGOn this date in 1982, Pope John Paul II officially recognized (approved) Communion and Liberation as an authentic charism in the Church. The recognition of this fact for the Church means the work of Father Luigi Giussani and so many others was really born of the Holy Spirit. What follows are few items about the movement which come from the CL archives.


The Fraternity of Communion and Liberation

This is the eminent group among those born from the
movement, whose origins and aims it shares. It was recognized as a Lay Association of Pontifical Right on February 11, 1982. The decree of approval of the Fraternity's request for recognition reads that the Holy Father himself was "benevolently pleased to encourage the Pontifical Council for the Laity" that the recognition procedure might have a positive outcome. The letter accompanying the decree, signed by the then Cardinal Opilio Rossi, recognizes that the Fraternity of CL's contribution to the Church in her work of evangelization is "of outstanding importance and pastoral urgency," especially in "distant" de-Christianized areas where "the basic principles of human life and social interchange are at stake." The ecclesial nature of the Association, the letter concludes, makes obvious its "full cooperation and communion with the Bishops, headed by the supreme Pastor of the Church," down to the pastoral life of the diocese, to which it offers "its experience and contribution."

This recognition from the Pontifical Council for the Laity amounted to de facto approval of the educational experience of CL.

The first "Fraternity" groups were formed around the mid-1970s at the initiative of some former university students who wanted to go more deeply into what it means to belong to the Church, also within the conditions of adult life and the responsibilities it brings, in communion with others.

CL at St Peter's.jpgToday the Fraternity's groups host 50,000 people who have made the decision to commit themselves to a way of life that supports the path to holiness, acknowledged as the true aim of existence. The life of the Fraternity normally takes place through the free formation of groups who consider that commitment to be the reason for their friendship and sharing.
Belonging to the Fraternity calls for a minimal rule of personal ascesis, daily moments of prayer, participation in encounters of spiritual formation including an annual retreat, and commitment to the support, financial and otherwise, of the charitable, missionary, and cultural initiatives promoted or sustained by the Fraternity.

Recent years have witnessed also in Italy and abroad the rise of Fraternity groups formed by diocesan priests (the first of these took the name of Studium Christi) who in this way intend to help each other pursue more deeply their vocation and the accomplishment of their mission.


On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the pontifical recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, John Paul II writes Fr Giussani a long autograph letter.


Subsequently, Fr Giussani writes all the members of the Fraternity to call attention to the great value of the Pope's letter and to the importance of the indications conveyed.


What is Communion & Liberation?


Communion and Liberation is an ecclesial movement whose purpose is the education to Christian maturity of its adherents and collaboration in the mission of the Church in all the spheres of contemporary life.

LG detail.jpgIt began in Italy in 1954 when Fr Luigi Giussani established a Christian presence in Berchet high school in Milan with a group called Gioventù Studentesca (Student Youth), GS for short. The current name of the movement, Communion and Liberation (CL), appeared for the first time in 1969. It synthesizes the conviction that the Christian event, lived in communion, is the foundation of the authentic liberation of man. Communion and Liberation is today present in about seventy countries throughout the world.

There is no type of membership card, but only the free participation of persons. The basic instrument for the formation of adherents is weekly catechesis, called "School of Community."

Traces 2009.jpgThe official magazine of the Movement is the international monthly, Traces - Litterae Communionis 

*email Kim for a subscription ($30.00 per year): traces@clhac.com




This Traces article is worth your review: A New Movement: A Story of a Beginning

OL Lourdes2.jpgRejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may suck and be satisfied with her consoling breasts; that you may drink deeply with delight from the abundance of her glory.


God of mercy, we celebrate the feast of Mary, the sinless mother of God. May her prayers help us to rise above our human weakness.


At Sunday's Angelus the Pope spoke to the following address to the gathered people:


Today [Febraury 8, 2009] the Gospel (cf. Mark 1:29-39) -- in direct continuation with last Sunday -- presents us with Jesus, who after having preached on the Sabbath in the synagogue of Capernaum, cured many ill people, beginning with Simon's mother-in-law. Entering his house, he found her in bed with a fever and immediately, taking her by the hand, he healed her and had her get up. After sunset, he healed a multitude of people afflicted with all sorts of ills.


The experience of the healing of the sick occupies a good portion of the public mission of Christ and it invites us once again to reflect on the meaning and value of illness in every situation in which the human being can find himself. This opportunity comes also because of the World Day of the Sick, which we will celebrate next Wednesday, Feb. 11, liturgical memorial of the Virgin Mary of Lourdes.


Despite the fact that illness is part of human existence, we never manage to get used to it, not only because sometimes it comes to be burdensome and grave, but essentially because we are made for life, for complete life. Precisely our "internal instinct" makes us think of God as plenitude of life, and even more, as eternal and perfect Life. When we are tested by sickness and our prayers seem in vain, doubt wells up in us and, filled with anguish, we ask ourselves: What is God's will?


It is precisely to this question that we find an answer in the Gospel. For example, in the passage of today we read: "He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him" (Mark 1:34). In another passage from St. Matthew, it says: "He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people" (Matthew 4:23).


Jesus healing.jpgJesus does not leave room for doubt: God -- whose face he himself has revealed -- is the God of life, who frees us from all evil. The signs of this, his power of love are the healings that he carries out: He thus shows that the Kingdom of God is near, restoring men and women to their full integrity in spirit and body. I refer to these healings as signs: They guide toward the message of Christ, they guide us toward God and make us understand that man's truest and deepest illness is the absence of God, who is the fount of truth and love. And only reconciliation with God can give us true healing, true life, because a life without love and without truth would not be a true life. The Kingdom of God is precisely the presence of truth and love, and thus it is healing in the depths of our being.


Thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, the work of Jesus is prolonged in the mission of the Church. Through the sacraments, it is Christ who communicates his life to the multitude of brothers and sisters, as he cures and comforts innumerable sick people through so many activities of health care service that Christian communities promote with fraternal charity, thereby showing the face of God, his love. It is true: How many Christians all over the world -- priests, religious and laypeople -- have given and continue giving their hands, eyes and hearts to Christ, true physician of bodies and souls!


Let us pray for all the ill, especially for those who are most grave, and who can in no way take care of themselves, but depend entirely on the care of others; may every one of them be able to experience, in the solicitude of those who are near to them, the power of the love of God and the richness of his grace that saves us. Mary, health of the sick, pray for us.

spirito 1.jpgOn this the feast of the great Saint Scholastica, the twin sister of Saint Benedict, I thought it would be appropriate to hear a few words about the significant connection between the Benedictines (Sts Benedict & Scholastica and Pope Benedict) and Father Luigi Giussani.


Signs of spiritual friendship

by Don Giacomo Tantardini (In 30 Days, May 2005)


...The hundredfold is not the outcome of a project, of a program. My real program of government is that of not doing my own will, of not following my own ideas, but of setting myself to listen, with the whole Church, to the word and will of the Lord and let myself be led by Him, so that it is He Himself who leads the Church in this hour of our history, Benedict XVI said again in the sermon of the mass opening his ministry. The hundredfold here below, like the eternal life, has a beginning, a "permanent" source (each word from the first appearance of Benedict XVI in St Peter's Square, that was packed with Romans hurrying to see the new Pope, remains in the memory: Trusting in his permanent help). The permanent beginning is Jesus Christ, the Lord risen.


The Church is living because Christ is living, because he is truly risen (Easter Sunday 24 April). And on Sunday 1 May, when, addressing the Churches of the East which were celebrating Easter, he repeated with force Christós anesti! Yes, Christ is risen, is truly risen!, the immediate applause that rose from the square packed with faithful up to that window was very fine.


Here the communion of mind and heart among Saint Benedict, Benedict XVI, Don Giussani and the most ordinary believer is luminous and total.

Giussani detail.jpgDon Giussani always kept the gaze of his life and heart fixed on Christ (Cardinal Ratzinger, in Milan Cathedral, at Don Guissani's funeral). We need men who keep their eyes looking at God, learning from there true humanity (in Subiaco). And, again in Subiaco, Cardinal Ratzinger concluded his lecture by quoting the more beautiful phrase that Saint Benedict repeats twice in the Rule: Put absolutely nothing before Christ who can lead us all to eternal life. Here, chapter 72: Christo omnino nihil praeponant. In chapter 4: Nihil amori Christi praeponere/ put nothing before the love of Christ.

St Scholastica.jpgSet me as a seal upon Your heart, as a seal upon Your arm; for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned. (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)


Lord, as we recall the memory of Saint Scholastica, we ask that by her example we may serve you with love and obtain perfect joy.


A miracle wrought by Saint Scholastica  


Saint Scholastica: Finding Meaning in Her Story

The Monastic Taster Weekend

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Are you ready for this? Try out the religious (monastic) life just for a weekend. If you like the experience, come back and stay. The best the English religious orders have to offer! I suppose when you have problems getting people to enter the religious life you have to create "fun" things to attract newbies. The BBC article reports: "In 1982, there were 217 novices in the Catholic Church in England and Wales but by 2007 that figure had dropped to 29."

Some days ago I mentioned here the possibility of a personal prelature for the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC). I also mentioned that there could be a possibility of a personal prelature for the SSPX crowd and that this might come to pass before the TAC gets their issues worked out. It still may happen but who really knows. Last week an official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was decrying the idea as one put forth by bloggers and overstepping journalists. Well, this could be the case. But I doubt it. It seems that a higher authority is thinking about a reasonable theological/ecclesiological solution. So, what does one do with the news reported by The Catholic Herald (of Britain) on February 6th stating that the pope himself is the person behind personal prelature notion for the TAC?

It is doubtful that you'll see scores upon scores upon scores of Anglo-Catholics becoming Roman Catholic through a set up like a prelature devoted to matters Anglican. You'll see some, but how many? Your guess. Say a prayer to the Virgin of Walsingham and ask for Cardinal Newman's intercession.

Saint Maron

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Saint Maron.jpgA song of ascents. I raise my eyes toward the mountains. From where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. (Ps. 121:1-2)


February 9th the Maronite Church in Lebanon (and in the diaspora) celebrated the liturgical feast of the founder their Church, Saint Maron. It is commonly known that Saint Maron was a 4th/5th century Syriac Christian monk. Maron moved to the mountains of ancient Syria to what is known today as Lebanon. His spirituality, as would be expected of a monk, was penitential and centered on the sacred Liturgy. Studying the liturgical texts you would notice the influence of semitic forms of thinking, praying and discipline. There is a keen appreciation for Old Testament typology in Maronite theology, spirituality and Liturgy. One clear acknowledgement needs to be made: the monks (indeed, all the disciples of Saint Maron) held to the truth taught by the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451). They even suffered for their orthodox Christian faith.


This is already too much information to introduce you to the fact that in Rome there is a Maronite College founded in the 16th century. Here seminarians and priests of the worldwide Maronite Church come to study the sacred sciences at the heart of the Catholic Church.


In the autumn of 2008 the Diocese of Rome and the Holy See established a parish for the Maronites living in Rome centered at the Maronite College. This news video gives a brief introduction to this new work of the Maronite Church.


ALSO, if you are interested in knowing more about Eastern Christianity, the Catholic Information Service at the Knights of Columbus published a brand new booklet on what the Eastern Christian Churches are, and the place they hold in Christianity. Read Jesuit Father Steven Hawkes-Teeples' work Eastern Christians and Their Churches.


In the USA there are two eparchies (dioceses) of Maronites, The Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brookkyn and Our Lady of Lebanon. Between the two eparches, the Maronite Voice is published.

Today I began a phase of my journey in living a vocation: life at a Benedictine abbey. I arrived today from New Haven, Connecticut, leaving 50 degree weather and arriving in 70 degrees. What a nice change from the New England winter; no snow here in Charlotte.


Belmont Abbey Basilica.jpgBelmont Abbey is a small group of Benedictine monks who follow the Rule of Saint Benedict. There 17 solemnly professed monks with 5 in some stage of formation. The age range is 24 to 88. The head of the monastery is Abbot Placid and the Prior is Father David.


The Abbey was founded in 1876 by Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, the founder of monasticism in the USA, who sent monks from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, PA, to Charlotte. While the abbey is typically called "Belmont" after the town in which it's situated, the religious title of the abbey is "Mary, Help of Christians", sometimes just called Maryhelp; the feast day we observe is May 24.


The monks run a small liberal arts college called Belmont Abbey College.


A quick note on schedule:

7:00  - Morning Prayer

7:30 - breakfast in silence

8:30 - 11:30 work, study, lectio, prayer (whatever you're assigned)

11:45 - Midday Prayer

Noon - lunch followed by work

5:00 - The Sacrifice of the Mass

5:45 - Dinner in silence for most of the meal with readings from the holy Rule & a book

7:00 - Vespers

Compline is in private for most of the monks but some of the formation monks pray Compline together at 9:30.


The Abbey Basilica of Mary Help of Christians is central to the life of the monks, friends, visitors and the college community. The architecture is German Gothic-Revival. The church was the largest Catholic church in the state at the time of its construction. The monks of the abbey did much of the construction work themselves (with Brother Gilbert Koberzynski crafting the ceiling in the style of a sailing vessel).The interior of the church was renovated in 1964-1965.

The windows were designed and executed by the Royal Bavarian Establishment of Francis Mayer and Company (Munich). The windows were displayed at the Columbian Exhibition, the World's Fair of 1892 winning four gold medals. The abbey church was the cathedral from 1910-1977 and it was elevated to the rank of a Minor Basilica on July 27, 1998. The Basilica has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973.


Let us pray for each other.

Evangelization & Prayer

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St Paul preaching.jpgEvangelizing is an act of service done out of love, like parents when they teach their children to pray. They are giving their children the best they have. They are giving them the foundations of their faith. This is the reason that should impel the growth of ... the Church: to grow more so as to evangelize more; to grow in holiness so as to be better witnesses of Christ in the world. To grow in holiness, to grow in love, to grow in hope so as to bring others to faith, love, and hope.

What would Saint Paul tell us today if he came to see us? What would he ask of us? What would he pass on to us? Certainly, he would remind us of the words he once wrote to the community in Corinth: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." (1 Cor 9:24)Saint Paul insists very much on prayer. He said: "Pray always." Prayer is conversation with God; it is the nourishment of the apostle, of the evangelizer. Today, in these times when we live in such adverse environments, prayer becomes even more important. Prayer shows us that our commitment to evangelization comes from Christ. To evangelize is to give what we have received; it is to preach the Christ I have met in prayer. Saint Paul began his work of evangelization after three years of solitude and prayer in the deserts of Arabia. Contemplation and apostolate always go hand in hand.

Prayer helps you "to know the love of Christ, which surpasses all knowledge, that you may be filled to measure of all the fullness of God"[viii] and makes it so that "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that you may be rooted and established in love." (eph 3:17)

Cardinal Franc Rodé, CM

December 14, 2008

Saint Theodore Stratelates

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St Theodore Stratelates.jpgWith the word of God as a spear in your hand, in courage of soul and armed with faith, you vanquished the enemy, Theodore, glory of martyrs, with whom you unceasingly pray to Christ God for us all. (Kontakian)

Of note, Saint Theodore's skill was than being a general, as much as that is recognized as important, in the fourth century he was known to have suffered and was beheaded for his faith in Jesus Christ. It was his faith in a person who gave him salvation, a vague idea or an ethic. True to what he confessed with his lips the hagiography shows that Saint Theodore brought the icon of the Virgin with Child frequently to people after the devastation wrought by the Tatars. In other words, Saint Theodore was an instrument of Christ's comfort and healing. May Saint Theodore lead us to Christ.

Here's a brief biography and another one.

Paul Wattson.jpg(1863-1940)

We draw near to God and He enters into our being. He dwells in us. He takes us into union with Himself. As the tree strikes roots down into the soil and that which yesterday was but a bit of dirt, today is part of the tree, so Christ reaches down through the mystery of the Incarnation and takes into union with Himself those that are willing to be lost and merged in Him. He lives in them and they can cry out with Saint Paul, "It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me." [Gal.2:20] It is that indwelling presence of Christ that satisfies the soul, which, if it seeks satiety elsewhere will never find it, and He leads the soul step by step, and if the person has his or her trials and sufferings --and we all do-- in the midst of this wicked and naughty world we are to make atonement in union with Christ crucified on the Cross, for in His mystical body He is constantly reproducing His own crucifixion. (Fr. Paul's sermon, December 25, 1925)

IYA 2009.jpgNow that we are more than half finished with the Year of Saint Paul, a year dedicated to celebrating the 2000th anniversary of the Apostle to the Gentile's birth by getting to know Saint Paul through intellectual, spiritual and cultural events, let us now turn our gaze onto a rather significant figure of our western intellectual history, Galileo. 2009 has been named the International Year of Astronomy to observe the fact that Galileo made some significant studies of our galaxy. The International Year of Astronomy (IYA) proposes to observe the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first astronomical use of the telescope.

The goals of the IYA 2009 are to:

Increase scientific awareness;

Promote widespread access to new knowledge and observing experiences;

Support and improve formal and informal science education;

Provide a modern image of science and scientists;

Facilitate new networks and strengthen existing ones;

Facilitate the preservation and protection of the world's cultural and natural heritage of dark skies in places such as urban oases, national parks and astronomical sites.

Galileo Presenting Scopel.jpgSome interesting things

The Vatican Observatory

Astronomy 2009

Galileo 2009 sponsored by Euresis, an Association for the Promotion of Scientific Endeavor

100 Hours of Astonomy 2-5 April 2009

The January 6th, 2009 homily of Pope Benedict mentioning the IYA 2009 

Reflections by Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., on the Pope's salute to those participating in the IYA 2009

A. C. Crombie, Augustine to Galileo: The History of Science A.D. 400-1650 (an online book)

Frank J Parater.jpgOctober 10, 1897 - February 7, 1920

Loving Father, your servant Francis Joseph Parater sought perfection as a student, scout and seminarian. He offered himself to you completely through the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Through his intercession, may young people answer your call to follow Jesus as priests, deacons and religious. Grant, as well, the favors I seek, so that your Church will recognize his holiness and proclaim him Blessed.Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For more information

dubois.jpgA Presidential insider takes up the work of faith-based initiatives for the Obama administration, it was announced on February 5th. The 26 year old Princeton grad, Joshua DuBois (also a BU alum) will lead a restructured office which got its sea legs in the Bush administration but had its antecedants in prior administrations of government. He is a Pentecostal pastor. Known to be charismatic and bright, DuBois will be assisting faith groups navigate federal funding policies while having the ear of the President. According to the White House Press Office,

"The Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will focus on four key priorities, to be carried out by working closely with the President's Cabinet Secretaries and each of the eleven agency offices for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships:

-The Office's top priority will be making community groups an integral part of our economic recovery and poverty a burden fewer have to bear when recovery is complete.

-It will be one voice among several in the administration that will look at how we support women and children, address teenage pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion.

-The Office will strive to support fathers who stand by their families, which involves working to get young men off the streets and into well-paying jobs, and encouraging responsible fatherhood.

-Finally, beyond American shores this Office will work with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world.

"The Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will include a new President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, composed of religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds. There will be 25 members of the Council, appointed to 1-year terms.

Members of the Council include:

Judith N. Vredenburgh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers / Big Sisters of America
Philadelphia, PA

Rabbi David N. Saperstein, Director & Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and noted church/state expert
Washington, DC

Dr. Frank S. Page, President emeritus, Southern Baptist Convention
Taylors, SC

Father Larry J. Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA
Alexandria, VA

Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., Pastor emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church
Cleveland, OH

Eboo S. Patel, Founder & Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Corps
Chicago, IL

Fred Davie, President, Public / Private Ventures, a secular non-profit intermediary
New York, NY

Dr. William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USA
Philadelphia, PA

Melissa Rogers, Director, Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for Religion and Public Affairs and expert on church/state issues
Winston-Salem, NC

Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, a Church Distributed
Lakeland, FL

Dr. Arturo Chavez, Ph.D., President & CEO, Mexican American Cultural Center
San Antonio, TX

Rev. Jim Wallis, President & Executive Director, Sojourners
Washington, DC

Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church
Knoxville, TN

Diane Baillargeon, President & CEO, Seedco, a secular national operating intermediary
New York, NY

Richard Stearns, President, World Vision
Bellevue, WA

All are interesting choices and all seem to be leaders in their respective faith traditions or organizations. I wonder if this group can work with the faith groups across the spectra and not just the people who follow their particular brand of faith. Two members of the Council are Catholics (one being a priest) and they are seemingly on the left side of the Church. THE common thread which unites this group is experience in community organizing, just like the President. I look forward to seeing the fruit of their labors. Dealing with the secularists is not going to be easy even for the theologically left of center people chosen for the Council.

Regarding the mandate to "address teenage pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion" I wonder just how this goal is going to be accomplished. It sounds fishy to me as I don't trust the double-speak of President Obama when it comes to protecting life. He certainly has not demonstrated that pro-life matters are part of his makeup. In fact, the opposite is true: Obama has stepped on the pro-life efforts of reasonable people of all faiths.


don-Giussani.jpgIn 1963, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, (later Pope Paul VI, wrote a letter to Fr Giussani in which he raised some questions about the primacy given to experience in the high school youth group Gioventù Studentesca (cf M Camisasca, Comunione e Liberazione. Le origini [Communion and Liberation. The origins], San Paolo, 2001). Father Giussani answered the questions in a booklet entitled precisely L'esperienza (Experience) in November 1963. In August 1964, Pope Paul VI wrote in his encyclical Ecclesiam suam: "The mystery of the Church is not a truth to be confined to the realms of speculative theology. It must be lived, so that the faithful may have a kind of intuitive experience of it, even before they come to understand it clearly" (no 37).

At the beginning of the history of the Movement, the method that was developed to sustain  the proposal for living the charism, which is Communion and Liberation, was precisely defined, furnishing a very valuable tool for living the present in greater awareness, a present that is so full of risk because of the ever-recurring danger of reducing experience to sentimentalism or moralism, especially at a time when everything seems to end up in nothingness out of a widespread insecurity. This is the complete opposite of the certitude that arises from the encounter with Christ. It is for this reason that some of Giussani's ideas on Experience are offered here (which later became a chapter of The Risk of Education).


Experience as the Development of the Person
There was a time when the person did not exist, hence what constitutes the person is a given; it is the product of another.

This original condition is repeated at all levels of the person's development. The cause of my growth does not coincide with me, but is other than me.

Concretely, experience means to live what causes me to grow.

A person grows as a result of experience; that is, the valorization of an objective relationship.

Nota Bene: "Experience" connotes the fact of becoming aware of one's growth, in two basic aspects: the capacity to comprehend and the capacity to love.

a) A person is first of all consciousness, a being that is aware. It follows that experience is not the doing or the setting up of relationships with reality in a mechanical way. This is the mistake implied in the phrase "to have an experience," where "experience" becomes synonymous with "trying something out."

What characterizes experience is our understanding something, discovering its meaning. To have an experience means to comprehend the meaning of something. This is done by discovering its link to everything else; thus experience means also to discover the purpose of a given thing and its function in the world.

b) It is also true, however, that we are not the creators of meaning. The connection that binds something to everything else is an objective one. Therefore, true experience involves saying yes to a situation that attracts us; it means appropriating what is being said to us. It is composed of making things our own, but in such a way that we proceed within their objective meaning, which is the Word of an Other.

True experience mobilizes and increases our capacity to accept and to love. True experience throws us into the rhythms of the real, drawing us irresistibly toward our union with the ultimate aspect of things and their true, definitive meaning.

Nature as the Place of Experience
We give the name "nature" to the place where those objective relationships that develop a person take place: nature is the locus of experience.

Characteristically, nature weaves an organized, multi-leveled fabric that awakens the need for unity immanent in each one of us.

This fundamental need finds a correspondence in our affirmation of God, for God is precisely the unitary meaning which nature's objective and organic structure calls the human consciousness to recognize.

Error in Human Experience
The need for unity that animates the conscious life of the person must struggle against divisive forces present in humanity, forces that drive him to disregard objective connections and to tear apart the organic structure of nature's tapestry, isolating each single aspect of it.

Because of the human being's need for unity, isolating each relationship or aspect inevitably turns each relationship into an absolute. All of this blocks the dynamic, evolutionary relationship of the person with reality, creating a series of disjointed pieces that are abnormally affirmed.

This tendency to separate and isolate gives all sorts of typical and inadequate connotations to the word experience, among which are an immediate reaction to things, the multiplication of links through the mere proliferation of initiatives, a sudden attraction or disgust for the new, an insistence on our own designs or plans, insisting on memories of the past that have no value in the present, or even referring to a particular event in order to block aspirations or stunt ideals.

God's Mystery Revealed in the Field of Human Experience
The role of Christ and the prophets in history was to announce with absolute clarity that God is the ultimate implication of human experience, and that therefore the religious sense is an inevitable dimension of an authentic, exhaustive experience.

But Christ's exceptional nature does not lie so much in the fact that His presence calls us to acknowledge that implication as in the fact that His very coming constitutes the physical presence of the ultimate meaning of history.

There cannot be an exhaustive, full, human experience without the valuation, whether conscious or not, of its relation with the event of Christ-Man.

The objective relationship that we spoke of earlier which fulfills the person no longer takes place only in nature, for with the advent of Jesus there is also a "super-natural" place; its development is in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Christian Experience
The Christian experience and that of the Church are one, single, vital act, in which a triple factor is at work, as follows:

a) An encounter with an objective fact which has an origin independent of the person having the experience. The existential reality of this fact or event is a community that can be documented, like every reality which is fully human. This community has an authority expressed through a human voice in judgments and directives, constituting criteria and meaning.

All forms of Christian experience, even those lived in the innermost recesses of the soul, refer in some way to an encounter with the community and to its authority.

b) The ability to properly perceive the meaning of that encounter. The value of the fact which we encounter transcends our power to understand so much so that an act of God is required for an adequate understanding. The same gesture by which God makes His presence known to humanity in the Christian event also enhances a person's potential for knowledge, raising him up to the exceptional reality to which God attracts him. We call this the grace of faith.

c) An awareness of the correspondence between the meaning of the fact that we encounter and the meaning of our own existence, between the reality of Christ and the Church and the reality of our own person, between the encounter and our own destiny. It is the awareness of this correspondence that brings about the growth of the self, an essential component of experience.

Above all, in the Christian experience one sees clearly that in an authentic experience, human self-consciousness and capacity for criticism are engaged, and that this is very different from a mere impression or a sentimental echo.

It is within this verification of Christian experience that the mystery of the divine initiative exalts human reason. Freedom is at work in this verification. We cannot register or recognize the glorious correspondence between the presence of the mystery and our dynamism as human beings unless we have first accepted and are fully aware of our own radical dependence, of the fact that we are "made." This awareness constitutes our simplicity, purity of heart, the poverty of spirit.

The drama of our freedom is entirely contained in this poverty of spirit, a drama so deep that when it happens, it is nearly hidden.

In Church, I seem to frequently sit in the dollar section. What I find curious is that those who merely give dollar are the same ones who drive luxur cars, have good jobs and take beautiful vacations. When it comes time to give to the Church's ministry these same people don't give the traditional tithe and nor do they give 5%. I think some pastors are happy if they get 1-2% from the congregants. Why are Christians --and I am particularly speaking of Catholics here-- so miserly when it comes to supporting the Church and giving gifts to the priests. For goodness sake, priests don't even get a fruit basket at Easter any more let alone a gift on the anniversary of ordination! Ecclesial ministry is not about the perks, it is a about the cross and resurrection of Christ, but there is a tradition of showing respect and love for those who Passing the Plate.jpgpreach the God's Word. Christian Smith, a Sociologist at the University of Notre Dame (my alma mater) co-authored a book on the giving patterns of Christians today. Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money, is published by Oxford University Press. The book is "Making use of social surveys, government and denominational reports, and interviews with Christian pastors and church members, the book assesses such influences on charity as consumerist culture, mistrust of the policies and competence of nonprofit administrators, the hesitation of clergy to ask for money, and the mechanisms by which American Christians give. It also suggests ways that clergy and lay church leaders might convince their congregations of the imperative of generosity." I agree with one reviewer: this is ought to be required reading for serious pastors not because of a need for money but what it is says about thinking of Christians in the pew.

The press release

Dr Smith is also the director of Notre Dame's Center for the Study of Religion and Society

PS: I am reminded of the purpose of the common fund collected in the ecclesial movement of Communion & Liberation:

From the Movement's beginnings, one of its most educative actions has been the so-called "common fund." This is a fund whose aim is the furthering of the Movement's work through support of missionary, charitable, and cultural activities. Everyone gives freely to this fund, contributing monthly a percentage of income (at the beginning of the Movement's history this was called the "tithe"). The purpose of this gesture is to witness to a communal concept of personal property and a growth in awareness of poverty as an evangelical virtue. The amount each one gives is not important, but what matters is the seriousness with which one fulfills this freely made commitment. It is this seriousness that permits each person to be educated to charity.

Would that clergy and people take the same idea up in the parish?

Do you ever think of the connection between holiness and priests? I am NOT suggesting a vague academic consideration of the topic but I am wondering about it in the concrete. Every now and again the notion --perhaps I can even say vocation-- of spiritual paternity and maternity arises in me and I am not exactly sure where the idea comes from or where it is going. The matter of the holiness of priests --indeed, of all people, concerns me, but right now I am thinking specifically of the ordained's holiness because it is a real need in our ecclesial life together today.

Friends, laity and clergy alike who work as spiritual fathers and mothers, live a beautiful vocation in walking spiritually with those who are ordained. They become familiar with the personal narratives of sin and grace, they hear about the presence of the Lord in daily living, and they know the struggles of faith, hope and charity. In a word, spiritual fathers and mothers see the reality of Divine intimacy at work.

So, let me say a very brief word about the idea of spiritual maternity for priests. Actually, let me point you in the direction of the spiritual maternity of Catherine Doherty, a well known mystic of the 20th century who had a special love for the priesthood and the enduring need of priests to be holy. Doherty said once, "I wish I could tell every priest that I share his pain and joy, whatever it may be, because I love the priesthood passionately." But there are others as Cardinal Hummes indicates in a recent letter (see below), who have been called to this vocation.

What I am interested is real holiness, not fake spiritual sentimentality, not some vague "connection" with the divinity. Rather, holiness is a way of life centered on reality as it is given and lived in the light and tension of the Gospel, the sacraments and the Church.

Having CHummes.jpgconcern for priests, Claudio Cardinal Hummes wrote in 2007 to the world's bishops asking for help in establishing in their dioceses places of eucharistic adoration and the development of a spiritual work that looks to women to assist in flourishing of holiness in the priesthood. That letter bears greater attention and so I have linked it here.

Cardinal Hummes says many memorable things in his letter on spiritual maternity but important item that needs to rememmbered is the following:

According to the constant content of Sacred Tradition, the mystery and reality of the Church cannot be reduced to the hierarchical structure, the liturgy, the sacraments, and juridical ordinances. In fact, the intimate nature of the Church and the origin of its sanctifying efficacy must be found first in a mystical union with Christ.

 For more information read my friend Father Mark's recent essay on the subject.

Fathers Garry and Harry Giroux are twin brothers, both Roman Catholic priests in a small town in upstate New York. In 2004, Father Harry was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, and his brother Father Garry has been his caregiver ever since. "Garry and Harry" explores this fascinating story and the relationship of these brothers as they deal with their faith, family, and hope in the face of tragedy.

This film is the work of Steven Madeja, a freelance filmmaker and film festival director in Potsdam, NY. Madeja received a Bachelor's with honors degree in Film from Vassar College in 2008.

Watch "Garry and Harry"

Thanks to my friend Rachel for sharing this video.

St Agatha 2007.jpgO glorious Saint Agatha, through whose intercession in Christ I hope for the restored health of body and soul, hasten to lead me to the true Good, God alone. By your intercession, O blessed Agatha, may I ever enjoy your protection by faithfully witnessing to Christ. You invite all who come to you to enjoy the treasure of communion with the Holy Trinity. Moreover, if it be for God's great glory and the good of my person, please intercede for me with the request of [mention request here].

Saint Agatha, you found favor with God by your chastity and by your courage in suffering death for the gospel. Teach me how to suffer with cheerfulness, uniting myself to Christ crucified with a simplicity and purity of heart. Amen.



Saint Agatha, eloquent witness of Jesus Christ as Savior, pray for us.

Saint Agatha, the martyr who says to Jesus, "possess all that I am," pray for us.

Saint Agatha, concerned with the welfare of all God's children, pray for us.

Saint Agatha, pray for us.


MOC cross.jpgThe Commandery of Saint Peter Nolasco of the Military Order of the Collar of Saint Agatha of Paternò annually observes the liturgical memorial of Saint Agatha in early February by offering the Sacrifice of the Mass with the Rite of Anointing of the Sick for those living with diseases of the breast. The art above was commissioned of Matthew Alderman. The imprimatur is given by Henry J. Mansell, Archbishop of Hartford, 2007. Copyright Paul A. Zalonski.

Help the poor by drinking tea

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fairtrade.jpgToday's Zenit posting had an article titled: Nuns Invited to Help Poor by Drinking Tea. Interesting idea, I thought. Help the poor by drinking tea. (I like coffee more.) Sounds easy and given the recent economic problems we're facing in the USA --and scanning the news services shows problems with the economy are global-- I wonder what we are doing about the poor of this country. Granted the poor in the developing world are far poorer and have much less access to resources to fulfill human basic needs than our poor brothers and sisters in the USA. Nonetheless, I think we all need to figure out an adequate plan on how to assist the poor in our own cities and abroad. The Beatitudes quickly come to mind as does the parable of the widow's mite, and the rich young man. I'd be negligent if I didn't say the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

A variety of religious congregations of sisters are leading the charge by making this invitation as concrete as possible by encouraging others to buy tea and coffee sold by Fairtrade workers. Of course, the Franciscans are behind this good work! The Zenit article says: "Springing from a financial vision and a commitment based on the values of the Gospel," the organizers explained, "new economic relations can arise, challenging men and women religious to make their choices as consumers, beginning with a critical conscience, with bases in the political, economic and social reality." My challenge: let's not let the vowed religious do this act of mercy alone.

fairtrade tea.jpgAre good deeds only left to nuns and priests? I hope not. The Good News of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is for all people and therefore we have to let the words announcing our salvation to cut closely to our human experience. Would it be possible for us, on this side of the ocean, to purchase food products from Fairtrade? Yes, because Fairtrade also operates here in the USA. See the links below. Those unfamilar with the work of Fairtrade should know that it is an organization that represents more than 4,000 groups of workers worldwide.

In early January, the Pope called on Governments to assist the poor: "We need to give new hope to the poor," he said. "How can we not think of so many individuals and families hard pressed by the difficulties and uncertainties which the current financial and economic crisis has provoked on a global scale? How can we not mention the food crisis and global warming, which make it even more difficult for those living in some of the poorest parts of the planet to have access to nutrition and water?" (Address to Diplomatic Corps, 8 January 2009). Pope Benedict, quoting the First Letter of Saint John, offers us a challenge in this year's Lenten message: "If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him -- how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 John 3:17).

Fairtrade USA

Fairtrade UK

Avery Dulles, card.jpgNearly 2 months after Cardinal Dulles' death, the formal announcement of the endowed chair that honors the Cardinal is made at Fordham University. University President Father Joseph McShane made the "unofficial" announcement at the first Mass at which we prayed for the peaceful repose of the Cardinal.


It is hoped that a professor will be identified soon to hold the Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Chair in Catholic Theology.

Robert Taft.jpgMany are familiar with the name of the great liturgical scholar the Right Reverend Archimandrite Robert Francis Taft because they actually know him (and thus love him), or know his very extensive list of publications (more than 850) on matters pertaining to liturgical history or because of an experience him in the classroom or merely because they heard of him. Whatever the case may be this blog entry is not panegyric of Father Robert Taft but a way of encouraging you to listen to his keynote address on the point of liturgy AND the enduring influence of the late Father Alexander Schmemann at the symposium noted below: it will shape anew your thinking on the Church's liturgical life.

Alexander Schmemann.jpgSaint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary held an international liturgical symposium honoring one of the best of liturgical scholars to walk the earth 29-31 January 2009: "The Past and Future of Liturgical Theology: Celebrating the Legacy of Father Alexander Schmemann."


The talks are thus far available in podcasts noted here.

The other speakers at the conference:

His Grace the Rt. Rev. Maxim [Vasiljevic], Bishop of the Western Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America; "Opening Episcopal Remarks"

Dr. Michael Aune, Dean of the Faculty, Dean of the Chapel, Professor of Liturgical and Historical Studies at Pacific Lutheran Seminary, and Core Doctoral Faculty in Liturgical Studies at General Theological Union; "The Current State of Liturgical Theology: A Plurality of Particularities"

The Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Job [Getcha], former Dean of St. Sergius Theological Institute, Paris; "From Master to Disciple: The Notion of 'Liturgical Theology' in Father Kiprian Kern and Father Alexander Schmemann"

Keynote by The Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ; "The Liturgical Enterprise Twenty-five Years after Alexander Schmemann [1921-1983]: The Man and His Heritage"

Dr. Bryan D. Spinks, Professor of Liturgical Studies, Yale Divinity School; "From Liturgical Theology to Liturgical Theologies: Schmemann's Legacy in Western Churches"

The Rev. Dr. Stephanos Alexopoulos, Professor at the International Center for Hellenic and Mediterranean Studies, Athens, Greece; "Did the Work of Father Alexander Schmemann Influence Modern Greek Theological Thought? A Preliminary Assessment"

Sr. Dr. Vassa Larin, nun of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad; currently teaching Liturgical Studies at the University of Vienna; "Father Alexander Schmemann and Monasticism"

Dr. David W. Fagerberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame; "The Cost of Understanding Schmemann, in the West"

The Most Blessed Jonah [Paffhausen], Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada, Orthodox Church in America; "Closing Episcopal Remarks."

As you heard in the Epiphany Proclamation Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on February 25th. The Holy Father, with the following letter, is giving us a plan on how to fruitfully observe Lent.


Battle of carnival & lent Brueghel.jpgAt the beginning of Lent, which constitutes an itinerary of more intense spiritual training, the Liturgy sets before us again three penitential practices that are very dear to the biblical and Christian tradition - prayer, almsgiving, fasting - to prepare us to better celebrate Easter and thus experience God's power that, as we shall hear in the Paschal Vigil, "dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride" (Paschal Præconium). For this year's Lenten Message, I wish to focus my reflections especially on the value and meaning of fasting. Indeed, Lent recalls the forty days of our Lord's fasting in the desert, which He undertook before entering into His public ministry. We read in the Gospel: "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry" (Mt 4,1-2). Like Moses, who fasted before receiving the tablets of the Law (cf. Ex 34,28) and Elijah's fast before meeting the Lord on Mount Horeb (cf. 1 Kings 19,8), Jesus, too, through prayer and fasting, prepared Himself for the mission that lay before Him, marked at the start by a serious battle with the tempter.

We might wonder what value and meaning there is for us Christians in depriving ourselves of something that in itself is good and useful for our bodily sustenance. The Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it. For this reason, the history of salvation is replete with occasions that invite fasting. In the very first pages of Sacred Scripture, the Lord commands man to abstain from partaking of the prohibited fruit: "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die" (Gn 2, 16-17). Commenting on the divine injunction, Saint Basil observes that "fasting was ordained in Paradise," and "the first commandment in this sense was delivered to Adam." He thus concludes: " 'You shall not eat' is a law of fasting and abstinence" (cf. Sermo de jejunio: PG 31, 163, 98). Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God. Such was the case with Ezra, who, in preparation for the journey from exile back to the Promised Land, calls upon the assembled people to fast so that "we might humble ourselves before our God" (8,21). The Almighty heard their prayer and assured them of His favor and protection. In the same way, the people of Nineveh, responding to Jonah's call to repentance, proclaimed a fast, as a sign of their sincerity, saying: "Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?" (3,9). In this instance, too, God saw their works and spared them.

In the New Testament, Jesus brings to light the profound motive for fasting, condemning the attitude of the Pharisees, who scrupulously observed the prescriptions of the law, but whose hearts were far from God. True fasting, as the divine Master repeats elsewhere, is rather to do the will of the Heavenly Father, who "sees in secret, and will reward you" (Mt 6,18). He Himself sets the example, answering Satan, at the end of the forty days spent in the desert that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Mt 4,4). The true fast is thus directed to eating the "true food," which is to do the Father's will (cf. Jn 4,34). If, therefore, Adam disobeyed the Lord's command "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat," the believer, through fasting, intends to submit himself humbly to God, trusting in His goodness and mercy.

The practice of fasting is very present in the first Christian community (cf. Acts 13,3; 14,22; 27,21; 2 Cor 6,5). The Church Fathers, too, speak of the force of fasting to bridle sin, especially the lusts of the "old Adam," and open in the heart of the believer a path to God. Moreover, fasting is a practice that is encountered frequently and recommended by the saints of every age. Saint Peter Chrysologus writes: "Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God's ear to yourself" (Sermo 43: PL 52, 320. 322).

In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one's body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a "therapy" to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God. In the Apostolic Constitution Pænitemini of 1966, the Servant of God Paul VI saw the need to present fasting within the call of every Christian to "no longer live for himself, but for Him who loves him and gave himself for him ... he will also have to live for his brethren" (cf. Ch. I). Lent could be a propitious time to present again the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution, so that the authentic and perennial significance of this long held practice may be rediscovered, and thus assist us to mortify our egoism and open our heart to love of God and neighbor, the first and greatest Commandment of the new Law and compendium of the entire Gospel (cf. Mt 22, 34-40).

The faithful practice of fasting contributes, moreover, to conferring unity to the whole person, body and soul, helping to avoid sin and grow in intimacy with the Lord. Saint Augustine, who knew all too well his own negative impulses, defining them as "twisted and tangled knottiness" (Confessions, II, 10.18), writes: "I will certainly impose privation, but it is so that he will forgive me, to be pleasing in his eyes, that I may enjoy his delightfulness" (Sermo 400, 3, 3: PL 40, 708). Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.

At the same time, fasting is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live. In his First Letter, Saint John admonishes: "If anyone has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need, yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him - how does the love of God abide in him?" (3,17). Voluntary fasting enables us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of his suffering brother (cf. Encyclical Deus caritas est, 15). By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger. It is precisely to keep alive this welcoming and attentive attitude towards our brothers and sisters that I encourage the parishes and every other community to intensify in Lent the custom of private and communal fasts, joined to the reading of the Word of God, prayer and almsgiving. From the beginning, this has been the hallmark of the Christian community, in which special collections were taken up (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27), the faithful being invited to give to the poor what had been set aside from their fast (Didascalia Ap., V, 20,18). This practice needs to be rediscovered and encouraged again in our day, especially during the liturgical season of Lent.

From what I have said thus far, it seems abundantly clear that fasting represents an important ascetical practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves. Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person. Quite opportunely, an ancient hymn of the Lenten liturgy exhorts: "Utamur ergo parcius, / verbis cibis et potibus, / somno, iocis et arctius / perstemus in custodia - Let us use sparingly words, food and drink, sleep and amusements. May we be more alert in the custody of our senses."

Dear brothers and sisters, it is good to see how the ultimate goal of fasting is to help each one of us, as the Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote, to make the complete gift of self to God (cf. Encyclical Veritatis splendor, 21). May every family and Christian community use well this time of Lent, therefore, in order to cast aside all that distracts the spirit and grow in whatever nourishes the soul, moving it to love of God and neighbor. I am thinking especially of a greater commitment to prayer, lectio divina, recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and active participation in the Eucharist, especially the Holy Sunday Mass. With this interior disposition, let us enter the penitential spirit of Lent. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Causa nostrae laetitiae, accompany and support us in the effort to free our heart from slavery to sin, making it evermore a "living tabernacle of God."

With these wishes, while assuring every believer and ecclesial community of my prayer for a Pope blesses.jpg fruitful Lenten journey, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 11 December 2008.


This past Sunday, the Church gathered to worship God; she observed the Presentation of teh Lord in the Temple; and she observed 25 years of priestly service to the Divine Majesty of one her sons, The Reverend Father Richard G. Cipolla, PhD, DPhil (Oxon). Father Cipolla is a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT, a teacher, a husband, the father of two, and a great friend. We were colleagues at Fairfield Prep (Fairfield, CT) in late 1990s and I served the Mass he celebrated faithfully at the Bridgettine Convent (Dairen, CT). The homily Father Cipolla delivered on Sunday follows. It bears reading and using for today's lectio.

Candelmass, 25th Anniversary Mass, 1 February 2009, St Mary's Norwalk

RGC preaching.jpgShe wraps him carefully, carefully against the cold, not the cold of a New England winter, but cold nevertheless. And as she wraps him she ponders all these things in her heart. And when all is ready she and her husband bring him to the temple, that the law may be fulfilled. And they bring their thank-offering for the birth of their son. They bring him to the temple to dedicate him, to redeem him as the first born with their little gift, meant to be a symbol and yet everything. As they enter the darkened temple the lamp burning before the holy of holies flickers, flickers in recognition of the reality replacing the symbol, the flesh of God enters the place of the symbol of God, and reality is changed, the warp and woof of the universe of space-time explodes silently, as the creator of space-time enters into the man made temple and shatters forever the disconnect between human history and the eternal God.

And you notice that is not the high priest who recognizes this child. It is not the religious authorities who officially wait for the Messiah, the redeemer. They are probably watching their wide screen plasma TV in the rectory. It is the pious old man, Simeon, who waits in the temple for the reality, and who recognizes this reality, mirabile dictu, when he sees it and when he recognizes the reality he takes the child in his arms and sings, he sings in perfect chant: Nunc dimittis. Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation. And he holds the child to himself, the child who is his creator, and he sees the suffering of this child as a man, he sees what redemption means, he sees the sword of suffering in the heart of the child's mother. He sees, he weeps, but he weeps with tears of joy.

The wreaths are long gone. The Christmas trees are part of the compost of town dumps. Our houses are bare, secular, waiting for the end of winter. And in the midst of all of this the Church demands that we celebrate the last feast of Christmas, the purification of St Mary the Virgin, commonly known as the Presentation of Christ in the temple, when we bless candles, reminding us that the child born on Christmas night is the light of the world. The world has forgotten Christmas until next Halloween. We, as St John reminds us, are not of the world, so we joyfully celebrate this last of the great Christmas feasts, a feast that is the climax of Epiphany, the feast that is one more answer to the question: who is this child? Who is this man? What does all of this mean? What is the cross? What is Easter? For mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples. Quite an affirmation. This is not theoretical or cultural Christianity, no pie in the sky business, no teddy bear in the sky God, no warm fuzzies. The astounding claim that the child that Simeon takes from Mary and holds in his arms is the Logos of the universe, the meaning of existence, the auctor of creation itself: this is at the heart of what the Christian faith is and what we do this afternoon is an antidote not only to the grey and boring secularism that marches on and tramples almost everything in its path but also is an antidote to that reduction of Christianity to right living, to morality, or to personal feeling that is grounded in an individualism that is contrary to the entire New Testament.

RGC.jpgWhen people ask me, as they have for over twenty five years, why did you become Catholic? They ask me this for various reasons, some good, some bad. But in the end what they want is for me to give some sort of personal journey story, something that I could do on Oprah, and would warm people's hearts. I am not adverse to warming people's hearts, but that has nothing to do with why I became a Catholic and remain a dedicated Catholic. Why I became Catholic is because it is real and therefore true; it is true and therefore real. Someone with my scientific background could never believe in anything that did not have a grounding in this world of atoms, of electrons, of muons, of the very stuff of the universe, of the stuff of which we are made. An idealistic religion, as some forms of American Christianity have become with all of the attendant corollaries, is something I could never ultimately take seriously. At least classical Judaism takes history seriously, seeing history through the lens of the relationship of God with the Jewish people, not the individual, but the people, the collective, the community. Here the God of Israel is engaged with his people, to say the least, chastising them, goading them on, calling them back, but never less than real in their own history. History. This is the key. Cardinal Newman said: to know history is to cease to be protestant. Now saying this I emphasize my debt and my love for my protestant upbringing which gave me a knowledge of the Bible and which set me upon my path. But when I found out that the Bible has a history and that history is inseparable from the oral tradition of the Church and the living teaching magisterium of the Church beginning with St Paul down to today. When I found out that Christianity has a history and that history is inseparable from the human history of the past two thousand years and that the Church is imbedded and inseparable from that history, then one is forced to the conclusion that either God entered human history with the birth of Christ and therefore the very stuff of human history is forever transformed, or the whole thing is a nice story that gives us a vague hope that Kafka is not right and that we do not die like a dog.

The event we celebrate in this Mass, the presentation of Christ in the temple, is part of human history. If it is not, forget about it. It means nothing. And what we do together this evening is part of human history. It may not be observed by many people, just as the birth of Christ was observed by very few people, just as his death on the cross was observed by very few people, just as his post-resurrection appearances were observed by very few people. But nevertheless it is happening in this world in this place as a part of human history. And what we do here is the context of the Church's liturgy, in the context of the Mass. We are not just a bunch of people coming together to commemorate a religious festival, like the Romans did with Saturnalia. We are not here to ponder intellectually or mentally or heartfully what Trinity Botticelli.jpgChristianity means. We do not come here to learn. We come here to connect and be connected to the pivot event of human history: the death and resurrection of the Lord of history. We come here to worship the God who is above his creation, eternal, all powerful, the ground of being, but who comes among us in the forms of bread and wine, stuff of the universe and pretty basic stuff at that, who comes to us in this church at this altar in this space and time, who comes as the Son to offer himself up to the Father in the eternal sacrifice that alone makes that connection between God and man possible and real. Simeon held the child Jesus in his arms. What a wonderful thing. But we go far beyond that. In this Mass the Son offers himself to the Father, Calvary is re-presented, and the infinite grace of that offering is bestowed upon us, and as we receive Holy Communion symbol and reality become one, as God enters our body to transform us from death into life. This is where worship and life come together. This is where culture and faith come together. This is where beauty and truth kiss, this is where eternity and time intersect. This is where those whom we have loved and who have died in Christ are with us in the most real way as part of the body of Christ. This is where the angels and archangels and the blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints join with us in this offering of sacrifice and praise.

And all of this in sign and symbol that partake of the reality of God in this extraordinary form of the Roman rite. The ordinary form, the Mass of Paul VI, is known as that because it happens to be celebrated in most Catholic parishes today. That is what ordinary means. The form we celebrate here and now, given back to the Church by the courage and foresight of the present Pope, is extraordinary in the jargon of the Church. Extraordinary means here not exceptional but rather not ordinary. This is the rite that is the distillation of the Catholic faith of at least fifteen hundred years; this is the stuff of Catholicism, not man made, not the product of scholarship or committees, but rather the product of organic growth, like a wonderful old house with some funny and strange features, rooms that seem too small or too large, some curious old furniture, and yet when you step into it, you know that this is a home, a home that has been lived in by countless generations, a home that is meant to be enjoyed, contemplated, a place to have fun in, a place that is home in the sense that it is full of that love that makes a home a real home and not merely a house.

Some of you know the ending of TS Eliot's poem, "Little Gidding":

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

The first time I celebrated this form of the Mass, these lines came to me, for I knew this place for the first time as the place for which I was ordained a Catholic priest. And what I have come to realize is that the Traditional Mass has been given back to the Church by the grace of God in order that new generations might know the place for the first time in all its beauty and truth. For how many years was this place deformed by lifeless, legalistic celebrations of the Mass? How long was this place hidden from a laity consigned to being mere spectators at a clerical event? How long was the entrance to this home barred by those who refused to believe that the people of God were intelligent enough and faithful enough and graceful enough to live fully in this home and so built a new home to appeal to a generation that already has grey hair and is as outdated as is the Brady Bunch split level house? This form of the Mass has been given back to the Church as a gift, a gift to be shared, a gift to be cherished, a gift that lies at the very heart of what it means to be Catholic.

Ministers at the Altar RGC.jpgThis task of renewal is indeed formidable. It is much more formidable than that which President Obama faces in this time of national crisis. The liturgical damage of the past forty years is deep; it is as high as a mountain, for it is not only a question of liturgical form, it is that mountain of willful ignorance that has confused worship of God with worship of the self. And there are days when I look at that mountain and say to myself that there is no way to return. But then I look at the great number of young children at the coffee hour following the 9:30 Solemn Mass on Sunday; I see them running around, I see them stuffing a doughnut into their mouths, I see them with their young parents who have brought them to the Mass, I see them as children whose only experience of Mass is precisely this what we do today, the worship of the transcendent God who became flesh: then the mountain does not seem as high. How fitting is that we celebrate this Mass in this church whose lack of an altar rail, whose absent side altars, whose soiled wall to wall carpet, all speak of the liturgical deterioration of the past forty years. And how fitting it is that this parish church, not one of the wealthy parish churches of this diocese, is determined to bring back the beauty of this church, not for beauty per se, but so that it can once again be a fit setting for the coming of God in the flesh to his people and their response of adoration.

Heady stuff, you say. Quite far from the happy-slappy Catholicism most Catholics have know for the past forty years. Quite far from the liberal Protestantism that has joined forces with the secular steamroller, quite far from the radically individualistic evangelical Christianity that draws thousands to the mega-churches on a Sunday. Quite far from the generic American religion that is a cross between vestiges of Christianity and vague moral stirrings. Quite far indeed. As far as eternity. As far as infinity. The infinity of the Logos, of the reason that holds the universe together. The infinity of the God who did not need us yet created us of his will. But ultimately the infinity of love, the love that knows no bounds, no not any, even to death, even to death on a cross for us, pro nobis, death for life, my life, your life, the only infinity that means anything at all, the infinity that became finite in the womb of Mary for the sake of love.

Saint Blase

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St Blaise.jpgO God, Who does gladden us by the annual solemnity of blessed Blase, Thy Martyr and Bishop; mercifully grant that we may rejoice in the protection of him whose heavenly birth we celebrate.


Jesus Christ cares for the ill and the Church, the sacrament of Christ on earth, continues the mission of Christ of healing by asking God to do the loving thing: to heal the sick according to His holy Will. One of the most ancient and revered customs in the Church, therefore, is the offering of prayer and doing fitting good works for the sick to relieve greatest burdens which afflict the human body and spirit.

The ministry of the Church is not what heals or saves someone because on its own it has no such power; it is the faith in the power of the Lord Jesus whose grace provides comfort to the sick; it is the Lord who heals and it is Holy Spirit which works through human agency. And in all that, we believe that our sufferings are connected to (identified with) the sufferings of Christ for the salvation of sinners. As the Pope said recently, "Jesus suffered and died on the cross for love. In this way He gave meaning to our own suffering, a meaning that many men and women of all ages have understood and made their own, thus experiencing profound serenity even amid the bitterness of harsh physical and moral trials".

Still, it is the will of God that believers should pray for the blessing of good health so that they might engage fully in sharing the knowledge and love of God to the world in which they live. Let's be clear: God wants us to be happy here, right now. It is important to remember that these prayers offered by Christ's faithful people remind us of the Lord's special care and compassion for the sick and infirm and that it is ultimately God's Will that is followed.

Saint Blase was bishop of Sebaste in what is present day Armenia during the fourth century. We know little about his life yet there are numerous accounts which suggest that he practiced medicine before converting to Jesus Christ and becoming a bishop. He is reputed to have miraculously cured a little child who almost died because of a fishbone in the throat.

From about the eighth century to the present, the Church has liturgicall remembered Saint Blase and has been imparted an annual blessing of the sick, especially those who suffer ailments of the throat.

The blessing is typically given by touching the throat of each person with two candles blessed on the preceding day, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

The blessing of the throat is imparted by the ordained and in some cases, a lay minister may perform the blessing without making the sign of the cross. If imparted during Mass, it usually follows the homily and general intercessions. Some priests offer the blessing in place of the final blessing of the Mass. BUT the intercession of Saint Blase is not limited to today's liturgical memorial and it is encouraged to request the blessing at other times to those who suffer from illness or diseases of the throat.

The Blessing:

Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.

Presentation of the Lord Weyden.jpgLord, now Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for my eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou has prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Thy people Israel.


Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly beseech Thy majesty, that as Thine only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, so too Thou would grant us to be presented unto Thee with purified souls.


The blessings of candles, symbolic of Christ the Light to all peoples, is observed on this feast is a poignant reminder that the great feast of the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior means something as it fails to reduce God-becoming man to sentiment or ethics.  Taken by the faithful to their homes, the blessed candles are a reminder that Jesus Christ is indeed "Light from Light, True God from True God."

The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple emphasizes in yet a more radical way the manifestation of the Christ child at Epiphany celebrated a few weeks ago. This feast, like the Christmas-Epiphany cycle, proclaims Jesus as Lumen gentium (the Light of the world). He is the true foundation of our lives. At the singing of the Canticle of Simeon (see above) the Church puts on our lips the words of Scripture instructing us that Jesus is "The light for the revelation of the Gentiles: and for the glory of Thy people Israel."

 In a nutshell, the Church says of the observance of the feast of the Presentation:

The feast of February 2 still retains a popular character. It is necessary, however, that such should reflect the true Christian significance of the feast. It would not be proper for popular piety in its celebration of this feast to overlook its Christological significance and concentrate exclusively on its Marian aspects. The fact that this feast should be "considered [...] a joint memorial of Son and Mother" would not support such an inversion. The candles kept by the faithful in their homes should be seen as a sign of Christ "the light of the world" and an expression of faith. (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 123)

Benedict at Mass 2009.jpgGeneral intention

That the pastors of the Church may always be docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in their teaching and in their service to God's people.

Mission intention

That the Church in Africa may find adequate ways and means to promote reconciliation, justice and peace efficaciously, according to the indications of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

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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