Archive for the ‘General Interest’ Category

 

Martin the Charitable

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Today the universal Church celebrates the feast of St. Martin de Porres, one of my family”s favorite Dominican saints. He lived in Peru at the turn of the sixteenth century, born of a Spanish father and a Black mother, and lived a remarkable life as a lay brother devoted to the poor and the sick.

Many stories attest to St. Martín”s exceptional piety. Sometimes he was surrounded by a bright light when he prayed, while other times he levitated off the floor of the chapel in a state of ecstasy. He lived for days on bread and water, and undertook other severe penances. Martín was said to be capable of bilocation (being in two places at once–wouldn”t that come in handy!), and individuals from both Africa and Mexico swore that they had encountered him in their home villages even though he was never known to have left Lima. Patients under his care spoke on several occasions of his having walked through locked doors in order to render medical help–help which sometimes produced miraculous results. [more]

Here”s what Pope John XXIII said at St. Martin”s canonization in 1962, which is found in the Office of Readings for today:

The example of Martin’s life is ample evidence that we can strive for holiness and salvation as Christ Jesus has shown us: first, by loving God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and second, by loving your neighbor as yourself.

When Martin had come to realize that Christ Jesus suffered for us and that he carried our sins on his body to the cross, he would meditate with remarkable ardor and affection about Christ on the cross. He had an exceptional love for the great sacrament of the Eucharist and often spent long hours in prayer before the blessed sacrament. His desire was to receive the sacrament in Communion as often as he could.

Saint Martin, always obedient and inspired by his divine teacher, dealt with his brothers and with that profound love which comes from pure faith and humility of spirit. He loved men and because he honestly looked on them as God’s children and as his own brothers and sisters. Such was his humility that he loved them even more than himself, and considered them to be better and more righteous than he was.

He did not blame others for their shortcomings. Certain that he deserved more severe punishment for his sins than others did, he would overlook their worst offenses. He was tireless in his efforts to reform the criminal, and he would sit up with the sick to bring them comfort. For the poor he would provide food, clothing and medicine. He did all he could to care for poor farmhands, blacks, and mulattoes who were looked down upon as slaves, the dregs of society in their time. Common people responded by calling him, “Martin the charitable.”

The virtuous example and even the conversation of this saintly man exerted a powerful influence in drawing men to religion.  It is remarkable how even today his influence can still come us toward the things of heaven.  Sad to say, not all of us understand these spiritual values as well as we should, nor do we give them a proper place in our lives.  Many of us, in fact, strongly attracted by sin, may look upon these values as of little moment, even something of a nuisance, or we ignore them altogether.  It is deeply rewarding for men striving for salvation to follow in Christ”s footsteps and to obey God’2012-04-24 18:33:33′s commandments.  If only everyone could learn this lesson from the example that Martin gave us.

For a recent photo of “St. Martin de Porres,” check out my Facebook wall at http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/profile.php?id=1075165711

Thanks for Everything

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Gratitude is the appropriate response when receiving a gift. Too often we take our lives for granted and don’t adequately acknowledge our abundant blessings. Sometimes, however, we may recognize the gift but not recognize the Giver. Instead, we take the credit ourselves. We “make our own breaks” and when things go our way, we are successful. At that point, we become like the man who prays, “Lord, help me find a parking place . . . never mind, I found one.” The truth, however, is that we are merely stewards, not manufacturers, of our material and spiritual blessings.

We also have to see the apparent tragedies, losses, and failures as gifts. This is where we truly need the vision of faith to trust that our loving God–even now, especially now–is drawing us to Himself. [more]

I think the best way to develop the virtue of gratitude is to meditate on our most fundamental identity. We are truly “children of God” (1 Jn. 3:1). In fact, Jesus tells us that we must become like children to enter the kingdom of God.

While we may be adults in the world’s eyes, we’re still children in God’s eyes. We are utterly dependent upon Him for the life of grace freely given us at Baptism. He cleans up our messes through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and He feeds us with the true bread from heaven.

And, as a Father who truly understands and desires what’s best for His children, He disciplines us, even though as it occurs we might not fully understand His purposes. And, as children who joyfully and confidently await Our Father’s blessing, we begin to see, with St. Thérèse, that prayer is “a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (Catechism, no. 2558).
 
God loves us not because we’re good, but because He’s good. In fact, God in His goodness loved us so much that, despite our sinfulness, He became man in the fullness of time to redeem us by His own blood and open for us the gates of heaven. We have received no greater gift, and we have no greater cause for thanksgiving.

Even more, through the Eucharist, Christ’s sacrifice is continually made present and effective in our lives. Not surprisingly, “Eucharist” literally means thanksgiving, as the gift of Christ to His Church elicits our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

We do need to recognize the fullness of the gift of the Eucharist–that Our Lord is truly present under the appearance of bread and wine, and that He gives us the grace and the power to live the Gospel when we partake of this Sacrament. To fully appreciate the gift of the Mass, our eyes must remain fixed on Jesus and this tremendous gift. That should go without saying, but in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, our focus can be diverted to ourselves if we’re not careful. Many of the liturgical controversies that we’ve endured in recent decades would dissipate if we really believed and truly appreciated what is happening on the altar. We can’t feed ourselves, we can’t save ourselves. Thank God that He sent His Son to feed us, indeed, to save us.

The gift of faith in Jesus Christ, truly present in the Eucharist, is inseparable from our faith in the Church. Scripture says that in marriage the two truly become one. Scripture also calls Jesus Christ the Bridegroom and the Church His Bride (cf. Eph. 5:21-33). If that were the case, it would take an act of violence–a spiritual divorce, if you will–to separate Christ from His Church. The Church, after all, is the Body of Christ extended through space and time. Even more profoundly, she is the family of God and our true home. The Bible is our family album. All those who are alive in Christ are truly our brothers and sisters in the communion of saints. Christ is the one source of eternal life for the whole world, and this life flows through His family, the Church. We are grateful for the gift of the Church and for the witness and intercession of the company of saints.

Thank you, Jesus.

Message for All the Saints

Monday, November 1st, 2010

It”s November 1st, the great solemnity of All Saints, in which we celebrate the glory of all the saints who now enjoy eternal life with the Blessed Trinity. And tomorrow is the feast of All Souls, in which we call to mind and pray for the deceased, which Scripture describes as being a “holy and pious” thing to do (2 Macc. 12:36).

Taken together, these feasts do much to enhance our awareness of our connectedness in Christ, in what is called the “communion of saints.”

While November begins with a flourish, really the whole month has a distinctive character all its own. The readings at Mass walk us through the end times and the last judgment, culminating on the feast of Christ the King at the end of the month (and liturgical year). What I”d like to focus on briefly today, however, are three virtues that are especially significant this month. [more]

(1) Charity While charity is the greatest of virtues and always necessary, it takes on a particular significance this month. As alluded to above, it is a spiritual work of mercy to pray for the deceased. This particular act of charity is especially recommended this month.

Also, it”s a time of loving service to our neighbor. We see this at play in the various soup kitchens, collection drives, nursing home visits, and service projects that are undertaken as the weather gets harsher this time of year. These are called corporal works of mercy. Our Lord very pointedly reminds us that when we do these things for others, we are doing them for Him (Mt. 25:40).

(2) Generosity The acts of mercy and service mentioned above surely are also acts of generosity, as we give of our resources and, even more, of ourselves to others. Generosity literally means “full of giving life,” which stands in stark contrast to the wintry desolation of late November. 

We may have to keep track of our monetary gifts for tax purposes, but we can”t keep a mental record of our acts of generosity. If we do that, then we weren”t really generous in the first place, as we”re expecting something in return.

Also, some of us may be really generous in giving to others, but out of pride or other reasons we don’2012-04-24 18:33:37′t always accept others” generosity well. The Christian, the recipient of God”s superabundant generosity, must be a conduit of the grace of Christ, able to give and receive easily. 

(3) Gratitude The secular holiday of Thanksgiving gives us a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the many blessings we have received. We should strive to thank others often, even for little things. Such acts build virtue, and they create a more human, wholesome culture (or counterculture) in our midst.

Even more, we should make a point to thank God often: upon arising, throughout the day, at dinner, and before retiring for the evening. We thank Him easily enough when something really good happens, but we should thank Him even more in the face of struggles, as He”s purifying us and preparing us for even more profound blessings. This quote from St. Paul might be a good memory verse this month:

“In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”         –1 Thessalonians 5:18

And if you haven”t yet had your fix of “For All the Saints” (one of my favorite hymns this time of year), check this out.  

 

St. Louis Cardinals

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I was in St. Louis yesterday for a guest appearance on Colleen Carroll Campbell”s excellent EWTN program “Faith and Culture.” My episode will air in a couple months. Stay tuned for details!

The filming took place at the Cardinal Rigali Center, the site of the archdiocesan offices. While I was there, I was honored to be able to sign a book just outside the chapel containing messages and good wishes to Archbishop Raymond Burke. The book will be given to Archbishop Burke when he officially becomes a cardinal on November 20th.

As even its name implies, St. Louis has a rich Catholic history. We see it now in the fact that two former St. Louis archbishops are now active (i.e., eligible to vote) cardinals: Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, and now Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. I don”t believe that any other archdiocese in the world can make such a claim. 

And beyond that, Cardinal-designate Burke is beloved in many quarters throughout the world because of his prayerful, gentle demeanor combined with his uber-courageous defense of the Catholic faith and all that is true, good, and beautiful.

So today I thought I would give readers this link to an editorial that appeared this week in the Washington Times regarding Cardinal-designate Burke and Catholic voters, as he has spoken forcefully and often regarding Catholics” duties not to vote for candidates who support abortion “rights.” I especially liked this quote:

“I had discovered over the years that many people simply were confused about their moral obligation in voting. . . . Many Catholics have the idea that while they might hold in their personal lives certain moral truths, that when it came to voting it was all right simply to bracket those truths and to vote according to other criteria.” 

Notre Dame and Archbishop Broglio

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Two interestings items I read about today at Catholic World News:

(1) Notre Dame

Contributions declined $120 million during the fiscal year in which President Barack Obama was awarded an honorary degree. Coincidence? I think not. If one factors out governmental grants (which are about the same from year to year) and looks exclusively at contributions from private sources, this represents a 58% decline. CWN further breaks down the numbers here

(2) Archbishop Broglio

Most Reverend Timothy Broglio is the Catholic Archbishop of the U.S. Military Services. In a Catholic News Agency story, Archbishop Broglio responded to court rulings regarding the constitutionality of excluding homosexual men and women from the military, and the controversial “Don”t ask, don”t tell” policy. Archbishop Broglio points out that there is no constitutional right to enter the military, and he also noted that a repeal of “don”t ask, don”t tell” could endanger the freedom of chaplains, since “there is the danger that teaching objective moral precepts or seeking to form youngsters in the faith could be misconstrued as intolerance.” God bless him for his courageous stance.

Heavenly Dining

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Mother Teresa died and went to heaven. God greeted her at the pearly gates.

“Be thou hungry, Mother Teresa?” asked God.

“I could eat,” Mother Teresa humbly replied.

So God opened a can of tuna and reached for a chunk of rye bread and they began to share it. While eating this simple meal, Mother Teresa looked down into hell and saw the inhabitants devouring huge steaks, lobsters, pheasants, and pastries. Curious, but deeply trusting, she kept quiet.

The next day God again invited her to join Him for a meal. Again, it was tuna and rye bread. Once again, Mother Teresa could see the denizens of hell enjoying lamb, turkey, venison, and delicious desserts. Still she said nothing.

The following day, mealtime arrived and another can of tuna was opened. She couldn’t contain herself any longer. Meekly, she asked, “God, I am grateful to be in heaven with you as a reward for the pious, obedient life I led. But here in heaven all I get to eat is tuna and a piece of rye bread, and in the other place they eat like emperors and kings! I just don’t understand it . . .”

God sighed. “Let’s be honest Teresa,” He said. “For two people, it just doesn’t pay to cook.”

“Current” Events

Monday, October 25th, 2010

One of my favorite lines from Fr. John Hardon, the late, great Jesuit theologian whose cause for sainthood is working its way through the Church, is: “even a corpse can float downstream.” 

Yet, as St. Irenaeus famous said, “The glory of God is man fully alive!”  If we are fully alive in Christ, then we have the vitality to swim against the current, to work against the pull of the flesh that wants to drag us downstream. And there is no neutrality here: if we do nothing but “go with the flow,” then we we”ll be dragged along with those who have made a conscious decision in favor of the “flesh” as opposed to the life-giving “spirit.”

Those who are faithfully answering the radical call to the consecrated life are the most “alive” people I”ve ever encountered. This past weekend, my wife and I had the privilege of visiting with our daughter at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. What struck me even more than the calls to chastity and obedience was the way they live the call to poverty.

Like the woman in today”s Gospel who was healed of her infirmity and was able to stand upright for the first time in many years, these beautiful young ladies are not “bent over” and worried about things here below. Rather, with Our Lord as their strength and constant companion, they see things from a more God-centered perspective. They are free. They appreciate and enjoy everything. They are not bored or thinking about what they”ve ”given up” or don”t have. What an amazing paradox: By becoming poor, they have truly become rich!  

 

Giving What We Got

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

This weekend my wife Maureen and I are heading to Ann Arbor to visit our daughter, Sr. Mary Kate. This will be our first opportunity to visit her since she entered the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist this past August. We”re so excited to see her!

With this upcoming visit in mind, I was recently pondering a light-hearted comment that one of the Dominican sisters made at a gathering of Catholic leaders a couple months ago. She said, “We need your prayers. We need your money. We need your daughters.” On all three counts, I can”t think of a better recipient than this thriving, faithful religious community.

Yet, our society and especially our government are competing for the same things!  [more]

The money, of course, is a no-brainer. The government wants as much of it as it can get away with taking, and our consumerist society is ready to pounce on whatever is left.

But what about the others? What does our secular society, let alone our government, care about our prayers? It would seem that if anything they don”t want us to pray or acknowledge God at all, especially in public.

Maybe instead of prayer we could say our “hearts.” They want our “buy in.” They want our allegiance, our adherence to their agenda. They want us to be Americans who happen to be (nominal) Catholics, not Catholics who happen to be Americans.

As sincere Catholics, we pray to God, trusting that our heavenly Father knows what”s best for us (cf. Mt. 6:31-32; 7:11; Lk, 12:7; Phil. 4:19). We want to grow in union with Him.

Society and the government want us to trust them instead (never mind what it says on our money!), because they think they know what”s best for us. They don”t want us to be counter-cultural witnesses to Christ. Instead, they want us to “go with the flow” and follow the fashions and political correctness of an increasingly “godless” society in the West.

And, like the good sisters, they want our kids. That makes sense economically, not only when it comes to selling them (with us picking up the tab!) things they don’2012-04-24 18:33:44′t need, but even more in ensuring a labor force as the effects of reproductive “choices” affect us on a macro level. Immigrants as well as large Catholic families are prime sources of the next generation of children, which is America”s greatest resource.

But it”s not enough for them to wait for a pay off on this resource (when our kids become laborers/consumers/taxpayers). They want to “program” them now, which makes things a lot easier on the back end. That explains much of the indoctrination that goes on in public schools (and before that, in daycare), as well as some of the institutional hostility to private Catholic schools and especially homeschooling families.

More on all that later. The question I”d like us to consider today is who gets our hearts, who gets our money, and who gets our kids? As much as we”d like to think so, we can”t have it both ways (cf. Mt. 6:24). May Our Lord Jesus Christ truly be the center of our lives, and may we truly give Him our best in all that we do. 

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” –Matthew 6:33

Catholic News and Notes

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

For your edification, here are links to some noteworthy Catholic news items that I”ve come across this week:

Woman of Leisure For those who were interested in my recent post on the connection between workaholism and sloth, this interesting article by Anthony Esolen goes even deeper. 

NY bishops give priority to life issues The New York bishops issued an election-year statement that urges voters to put moral principles above selfish interests, and that the right to life outweighs other issues.

Different sort of suffering This news story chronicles the travails of Fr. Mark Gruber, O.S.B., a college and seminary professor who was accused of pornography-related misconduct. He was later exonerated and a student came forward and admitted that he downloaded pornographic material on Fr. Gruber”s computer. Now Father faces challenges to restore his good name and teaching position. While only God absolutely knows the truth about these things, I”ve known Fr. Gruber for a long time and thought there may be more to the story when news of the allegations first broke last year, as I always considered him a very solid priest. If in fact he is innocent, this is quite a different sort of redemptive suffering, isn”t it?  

Fr. Ciszek’s cause  I was happy to read that Father Ciszek”s cause is moving along. It”s hard to believe that it’2012-04-24 18:33:49′s now been 26 years since he entered eternal life. For many, many years he was an inmate in Soviet prisons and work camps, where despite tremendous privations and torture he heroically functioned as a priest. It”s one of the most compelling stories of the 20th century–and it”s true! For more on his story, check out With God in Russia or He Leadeth Me.

Bishop Olmsted comes to KC  We were most blessed to welcome Bishop Thomas Olmsted to Kansas City this past week, where he was the homilist for the annual “Red Mass” for those in law-related fields. One of the leading pro-life spokesmen in the country, Bishop Olmsted did not disappoint. The link to the Catholic Key blog has the text of the homily and accompanying commentary.

O Canada!  The canonization of St. Andre Bessette Okay, I”m prejudiced because he”s my cousin (albeit a very distant cousin) and he was canonized on my birthday last Sunday. But it”s always a great day when the Church officially proclaims that someone is a “saint.” These have been difficult years for the faithful in Canada, so may this celebration, and even more St. Andre”s intercession, be a catalyst for renewal for our neighbors to the north. 

Protected: Must They Practice What We Preach?

Monday, October 11th, 2010

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