April 30, 2010

Socrates (left) and Aristotle

Thought of the Day

"Philosophers: cleaner than poets, quieter than politicians."

April 26, 2010

Thought of the Day

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there
can be no more hurt, only more love.

-- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

April 23, 2010

Created for Love

The following is taken from Theology of the Body for Teens:

Have you ever wondered why the subject of sex is part of nearly every TV show, advertisement, song, and movie? And the sex shown or sung about is usually glorious—with no pain inflicted on those involved.

Rarely do we see the pain that comes, for example, from selfishness. Did you ever think about what society would be like without selfishness in relationships?

If everyone simply loved the other as he or she wished to be loved, we would have virtually no pain, no problems in relationships. Imagine, for example, if marriages never ended in divorce. Think about the pain that both parents and kids would be spared.

Confusion reigns, and it is leading to some seriously broken hearts. People today seem more confused about the meaning of love and the purpose of sex than perhaps ever before. Many people are searching for the meaning of life and love but don’t realize that the answer is actually right in front of us; the key to finding that love we’re all looking for (even if we don’t know it) is hidden in God’s original design of our bodies and souls. Yes, you read that correctly. This Catholic curriculum is stating that God has actually hidden in our design as “male and female” a key to the secret of love.

Here’s a quick explanation. You’ll notice that this theme repeats itself many times throughout the Theology of the Body for Teens curriculum. If you can grasp this early, you’ll understand the lofty (but awesome) concepts in the pages and discussions ahead. Here goes: Our sexuality is a gift through which we can choose to be generous or selfish. Society has flipped the idea of “self-giving” on its head. In fact, many “love stories” portrayed in the modern culture could more appropriately be called “lust stories.” Why is this important? Because “love” involves being generous —like God—while “lust” is sexual desire that is selfish—apart from the love of God. Not to be confused with sexual attraction (which is good), lust is almost purely self-seeking. As renowned youth leader John Crudele succinctly says, “Love seeks to give; lust seeks to get.”

Are You Obsessed, Too?

Many people in the world think that the Catholic Church is obsessed with the topic of sex, saying that it has all these “rules” about it. In reality, it’s our culture that is obsessed with sex. Think about it. The next time you’re in a supermarket, look at all the magazines near the check-out counter. Virtually every one will be dominated with headlines about sex. Or, better yet (maybe, worse yet), think of the various shows on primetime television on any given night: they are loaded with sexual content that is either explicit or implied. The view of sex put forth by much of the world actually robs humans of dignity. The real problem, though, is that we often come to think about sex as the world does, instead of in the way that God intended.

The Call to Love as God Loves

We humans are called to love one another. We are not called to dominate or oppress or use others, but to respect them as persons made in God’s image and likeness. This call to love is actually “stamped” into our very bodies. The physical union of man and woman in the sexual act (also called the “marital act” because it is intended to express marital love) is actually meant to be a foreshadowing of the union that we will all experience in heaven. That heavenly union is not a sexual one, to be sure, but it is real—more real than anything we have (or will) experience here on earth. It’s a perfect union between God and mankind—for eternity.

This union was also foreshadowed in the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. In it we read about God’s original plan for unity with our original parents, Adam and Eve. But confusion reigned and there was a rupture—a breaking—between God and man. Because of this rupture, lust became a reality. A “twisting,” if you will, took place in our hearts. Instead of seeking the good of others, we desire to seek our own good, often at the expense of someone else’s dignity.

Yet God created us for union with Him. He gave us an “echo” in our hearts of the love that He intends for us all. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is an attempt to identify and find that love that God intends for us. If you seek, you will find it. It simply takes work on our part along with God’s amazing grace...

April 20, 2010

Thought of the Day — C. S. Lewis on Christianity

Thought of the Day
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important
-- C.S. Lewis

April 19, 2010

Culture of Life, Culture of Death; and the Family: By Monsignor Cormac Burke

Excerpted from "Culture of Life, Culture of Death; and the Family": Conference at the Catholic University of America, Dec. 2004 [originally published in Position Papers, Dublin, 2005] by Monsignor Cormac Burke.

[ ... ]


Culture suggests art; and the Chinese are renowned world-wide for an artistic tradition that goes back thousands of years, and is still expressed today with that fine touch of delicacy and beauty so often lacking in modern western art. I was reminded of this just yesterday when looking once again at one of those marvellous representations of Our Lady, Queen and Empress of China. What taste, I thought, the artist has!; what sense of beauty and tenderness!; just to look at that work of art raises one's heart to God.

Such works of art, then, inspire us to thank God not only for having made his Mother so beautiful and given her to the world, but for continuing to raise up truly artistic persons today, and to endow them with the talent and the desire to offer the world new representations of the beauty of Creation and of the even greater beauty given to us through the Incarnation.

Gifts to the world: that is what the true artist offers. John Paul II recalled this in his Letter to Artists of 1999, addressed "to all who are passionately dedicated to the search for new epiphanies [i.e. expressions] of beauty so that through their creative work as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world".

The creative work of artists: how rich and enriching it can be. And the more unique and worthwhile the creation, the longer it lasts, carrying with it a touch of immortality. As one twentieth century writer, speaking of the artistic urge, put it: "you make something through your invention..., and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality" (Ernest Hemingway, Writers at Work, 1963).

But so often the modern celebration of life - when it believes only in mortality, not in immortality, is so hollow and offers nothing to enrich life. To believe in death, to believe that with death everything definitively dies, is not to believe in life. The only value I see in my own life is that its satisfactions outweigh its pains - for the time being. The moment that is no longer so, I can terminate it.

These thoughts are not far from our topic, for it is in the family, in the home, where life begins and is cherished and is meant to grow, being life always possessed of true immortality.

Are our homes focal points of life - which also means of youth and energy and joy and optimism? Or is there a lifelessness precisely there, where life should be at its most expressive? Do we have too many devitalized and depersonalized homes? One family just like another; one couple, two or even three children; all hooked together on TV, or separately on internet, and the same in the neighbouring flat and the one above and the one below. A "home alive" is the great artistic venture project God is proposing to married people: the creation of a family visibly stamped with the culture of life, with a burgeoning personality, with something humanly and divinely original to it. ...

Visit Monsignor Cormac Burke's excellent website for related content and more.

April 15, 2010

St. Maximus the Confessor

Thought of the Day
To harbor no envy, no anger, no resentment against an offender is still not to have charity for him. It is possible, without any charity, to avoid rendering evil for evil. But to render, spontaneously, good for evil -- such belongs to a perfect spiritual love.

-- St Maximus the Confessor

How to Go to Confession (and Avoid Sin)

Fr. Phillip Neri Powell

The following is an excerpt from the article “Advice from Fr. Philip Neri’s Confessional,” by Fr. Philip Neri Powell, O.P., Ph.D. It's quite long but well worth the read. Visit his website here. Go here for the previous post in this series.

III. Resisting Temptation

9. Temptation: Temptation is the pressure we feel when our disordered desires rise up and urge us to indulge them against God’s will for us. Entertaining a temptation is not a sin. Merely thinking about lying is not the sin of lying. However, if you decide to lie and do so “in your heart,” then you have lied whether you actually give voice to the lie or not.

10. Resistance: When you resist temptation on your own you are rejecting God’s grace and denying the victory of the Cross. There is no reason to resist temptation. You are perfectly free not to sin. Rather than steel yourself against temptation and fight like mad to resist the sin, turn and face the temptation square on. Name it. Hand it over to God. And move on. Resistance is actually the first step we take toward the sin. Be honest: how many times have you resisted a temptation only to submit to it eventually? What you are doing is habituating yourself to surrendering to sin. Break the cycle here by taking control of the temptation itself. Let’s say you are being tempted to lie to your professor about cheating on a paper. Say to God, “Lord, I am being tempted to lie to Dr. Jones about my paper. I give this temptation to you to deal with. I’m going to the library. Amen.” This is both an act of the intellect and an act of the will. Habituate yourself to using Christ’s victory over sin and stop resisting temptation!

April 14, 2010

Priests: Be The Voice Of The Good Shepherd

VATICAN CITY, 14 APRIL 2010 (VIS) - The ordained ministry was again the topic of catechesis by Benedict XVI at today's general audience held in St. Peter's Square and attended by 16,000 people.

In particular, the Pope reflected on the "fruitful reality of the priest in the figure of Christ the Head in carrying out the tria munera that he receives, that is, in the three functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing".

"However, in order to understand what it means to act in persona Christi capitis, that is, in the person of Christ the Head, and the consequences of a priest's duty to represent the Lord, it is necessary to understand," the Holy Father said, "that the presbytery represents Jesus 'who is never absent in the Church'".

"Therefore, a priest ... never acts in the name of someone absent, but in the person of the Risen Christ" and "the three offices of teaching, sanctifying, and governing are ... a clear specification of that effective representation because they are actually the three actions of the Risen Lord himself who teaches, sanctify, and guides the Church today".

Referring to the first task, the munus docendi, teaching, the pontiff affirmed that a priest "teaches in the name of Christ present, putting forward the Truth which is Christ. For a priest, it is true what Christ says of himself: my teaching is not my own ... It is the voice and the word of the Father. That is how the priest should act: I do not propagate my ideas ... but am the mouth and heart of Christ and I present this unique teaching that has informed the Universal Church and that gives life".

"The teaching that we are called to offer, the truths of the faith that we must communicate should be internalized and lived in an intense spiritual journey," the Pope emphasized, recalling that not infrequently can a priest's voice seem one that cries out in the wilderness. This is what its prophetic force consists in, not in being homogenized into any other dominant culture or mentality but of showing the unique newness capable of a profound and authentic renewal of the human being, that is to say that Christ is the Living One, God who is near to us, God who works in and through life in the world".

"In preaching, catechesis, academic teaching, and above all "in the unwritten book that is his life, a priest is always a teacher. Not with the presumption of those who impose their own truths but with the humble and joyful sincerity of those who have found the Truth, have been grasped and transformed by it and who therefore cannot stop announcing it".

"In fact, the priesthood," observed the Holy Father, "is not chosen by anyone for himself. It is not a way of obtaining security in life or a social position. The priesthood is the answer to the Lord's call ... to become preachers, not of a personal truth, but of His truth".

Addressing himself to priests the Pope affirmed: "The Christian people need to hear the teaching of the true ecclesial doctrine" that has as it point of reference "Sacred Scripture, the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church".

"Priestly ordination," he continued, "means being immersed in the Truth ... which is not simply a concept or set of ideas to transmit and assimilate but the Person of Christ".

"The Pope finished by expressing the desire that St. John Mary Vianney may serve as an example for priests because, in him, the Christian people recognize "that which must always be recognized in a priest: the voice of the Good Shepherd".

April 13, 2010

How To Go To Confession

Fr. Phillip Neri Powell

The following is an excerpt from the article “Advice from Fr. Philip Neri’s Confessional,” by Fr. Philip Neri Powell, O.P., Ph.D. It's quite long but well worth the read. Visit his website here. Go here for the previous post in this series.

6. Gossip: What sin does gossip pervert? Gossip tends to pervert the gift of Truth, or in other words, gossip distorts our view of objective reality in favor of the illusions generated by lust, envy, jealousy, etc. Depending on the subject of the gossip, gossip is exciting b/c there is the great potential there for making oneself look good or better in front of friends. It is important to us that we appear to be “hooked in,” so we gossip. Gossip, in its worse form, is also a form of tearing people down—lying exaggerating, etc. all build up a false picture that then gets used to make rash judgments.

Advice: St. Philip Neri once took a penitent to the top of his church. He handed the woman a feather pillow and told her to rip the pillow open and scatter the feathers. She did so, watching the thousands of feathers fly all over the city. He then told her that her penance was to go and collect every feather. Such is the nature of gossip.

7. Doubt/Not praying: These sins can also be understood as a perversions of God’s Truth. One thing we have to get clear, however, is there is doubt and there is Doubt. Little “d” doubt is acceptable if and only if you are truly confused about or unsure of the right way to think about and believe an article of the faith. Being ignorant of a teaching can lead to doubt, so can the complexity of some of our beliefs. Big “D” Doubt occurs when you are actually rejecting a de fide (of the faith) teaching of the church for no other reason than you don’t like the teaching or that you the teaching teaches against your favorite sin. This occurs a lot with contraception, masturbation, and pre-martial sex. So, when you confess “doubt” be sure and distinguish between the two. Doubt often leads us to stop praying or to stop using the sacraments.

Advice: Know your faith! You are responsible for knowing and living the faith as it has been given to the Church. If you are truly confused about a teaching, ask for help or get a copy of the Catechism. If you find yourself Doubting, try saying to yourself: “I am one person in a two-thousand year old Church. I’m smart but I’m not Two-Thousand Years Smart, so I will assent to this teaching and assume that my rejection of the teaching is based on my ignorance and not on the falsity of the teaching.” This is a properly humble way of approaching difficult teachings. When you find yourself unable to pray with any eagerness or force, just pray anyway…”fake it ‘til you make it through the dry spell.” Prayer is a habit like any other and requires constant maintenance. Prayer is the means by which God speaks to us, so keep the channel open even when you are convinced that there’s no one on the other end. Think of yourself lost on a deserted island and you have a radio. When you give up hope that you will be rescued, you will turn the radio off. How will the rescue team find you then? Leave it on so you catch anything that might come through. In fact, pick several times during the day when you will sit with the radio and broadcast your location.

8. Lack of charity: This is a really BIG sin. This sin perverts God’s love. First, we are commanded by Christ to love one another. He never says that we have to like one another. This is the whole problem with equating “loving others” with “being nice to others.” We should be nice to other out of a sense of civility but the failure to be pleasant or polite is not a sin. When you find yourself actively working against the Good of another person, then you are in trouble. Charity requires that we will the Good of the other at all times. I can truly dislike someone and still will the Good for them. In fact, there may be more merit to loving someone you dislike. “Willing the Good” requires that we treat others as persons with their own ends, meaning we treat others as fellow creatures created in the image and likeness of God. We cannot use people as means to other ends. This is uncharitable.

Advice: Giving thanks for everyone in your life is key to being charitable to these people. Pay attention to how you are thinking and feeling about the people you interacted with daily. For everyone you meet send up a prayer that whatever they need to grow in holiness will be given to them. If there is someone you really, really dislike make that person a part of your daily thanksgiving. Have a Mass said for them! Beware one common pitfall: “Please, Lord, help Philip to change his ridiculous ways and make him a agree with me about X.” This is a prayer to change me to fit your expectations of who you want me to be. For some reason, I find mothers are terribly burdened with this temptation, especially when it comes to their children! Try instead: “Lord, I give you thanks for Philip. Grant him all he needs to grow in holiness.”

April 12, 2010

Thought of the Day

We must often draw the comparison between time and eternity. This is the remedy of all our troubles. How small will the present moment appear when we enter that great ocean.

-- St. Elizebeth Ann Seton

April 10, 2010

Divine Mercy Sunday — 2010

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday

April 11, 2010

You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

For information about the image of Christ shown above click here. To learn about Saint Faustina, the Divine Mercy Chaplet or Divine Mercy Sunday see Who is Saint Faustina? and The Sunday After Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday.

Who is Saint Faustina?

Helena Kowalska was the third of ten children, born August 25, 1905, in Głogówiec, Poland. At fifteen she left school to help support her family. Helena felt called by God to a religious vocation. In 1925, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, taking the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament.

This simple nun with only three years of formal education lived a short but consequential life. Through her, God reveled His compassion, His desire to forgive sins, and reconcile mankind to Himself. She endured great hardships in carrying out this Divine mission.

Sister Faustina received visions of our Lord, in which, Jesus instructed her to tell the world of His infinite love and mercy. She kept a diary of these visions; later published under the title Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of St. Faustina. Read it online here.

Sister Faustina was thirty-three when she succumbed to tuberculosis. Following her death her writings were met with skepticism. After the Second World War, the Church would revisit them. The Archbishop of Kraków, Karol Wojtyła (the future Pope John Paul II), reopened the investigation into Faustina's life and writings and approved devotion to the Divine Mercy, including praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

In 1993 Faustina was beatified, the last designation before sainthood. On April 30, 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized her a saint and established the second Sunday of Easter (the first Sunday after Easter Sunday), as Divine Mercy Sunday.

Her Vatican biography is here. A PDF on praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet is available here.

April 9, 2010

Genesis - "In the beginning" Part IV

Last time we talked about the Protoevangelium or “first gospel” in which God promises to send a redeemer to save his people from the slavery of sin. Implicit in this is that sin will grow and spread bringing havoc on humanity.

The "fruits" of original sin begin with Adam and Eve's first born son, Cain, killing his brother, Abel. Cain comes from bad seed - Abel good. The murder is, of course, evil, but it also goes to show how human nature was altered and/or perverted by sin. Cain's children will grow numerous and flourish. Unfortunately, they will also spread their sinful ways. More on this in the next installment.

April 8, 2010

He is Truly Risen

Fr. Rene Butler

Have you ever noticed how repetitious the Psalms sometimes are? For example, Psalm 117 is only two verses long and the first verse says the same thing twice, in different words: "Praise the LORD, all you nations! Give glory, all you peoples!"

Here is another example from Psalm 27: "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom do I fear? The LORD is my life's refuge; of whom am I afraid?"

This same kind of repetition occurs often in the Prophets.

The reason is simple: this is poetry, and one of the most important aspects of poetry in any language is the imaginative use of language to say the same things in many different ways. Here are some examples from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: "She doth teach the torches to burn bright!","What light from yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."

Shakespeare gives Romeo numerous opportunities to say, "Ain't she gorgeous!" but always in different words.

At Easter each year the Pope gives Easter greetings in many languages. Most of them say much the same as in English: "Happy Easter." But there are two others that say it differently.

The Polish version is "Wesolego Alleluja!" which means, [I wish you a] "Happy Alleluia!" How beautifully this expresses the spirit of the feast.

The best, however, is the Greek: One person says, "Chrystos aneste," and the other answers, "Alethos aneste." This means: "Christ is risen - He is truly risen."

At Christmas we are often reminded that "Jesus is the reason for the season." Easter reminds us that Jesus is the reason - period! The reason for everything that we say and do as Christians, the reason for the magnificent music and beautiful flowers, for our coming together to worship. All this is for one reason and one reason only: Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

April 7, 2010

Luke's Ressurection Narrative

No one knows exactly when Christ’s resurrection took place only that it was sometime between his burial late on Friday and the discovery of the empty tomb early Sunday morning. There were no eyewitnesses to describe the Resurrection itself. Instead, there are descriptions of appearances of the Risen Lord after the Resurrection.

The account of the Passion is one continuous narrative, very similar in all four Gospels. Not so with the narratives of the Resurrection appearances. These are isolated scenes and, while there are some similarities, each Gospel has its own stories to tell.

Luke’s Gospel account can be divided into five episodes, all taking place on Easter Sunday:

1) the finding of the empty tomb at dawn,

2) the appearance of the Risen Christ to two disciples walking to Emmaus,

3) the appearance to the disciples gathered in Jerusalem,

4) the commissioning of these disciples to witness and preach in his name,

5) the end of the visible appearances as Christ is carried off to heaven on Easter Sunday night.

One of the most familiar phrases in the Apostles’ Creed is: “We believe in the resurrection of the body.”

“Resurrection” is not the same as “resuscitation” (the act of reviving from apparent death or unconsciousness). In resurrection, this human existence isn’t simply continued. It’s transformed. This human existence, which for some may not have been so good at all…which may have been plagued by mistakes or just bad breaks…this human existence, is transformed into something magnificent. The seed blossoms into what it was meant to be.

That’s why the crucifixion means so much. The body that was put in the tomb was a wreck-broken, beaten, bloody, ruined. But Jesus went through death to a new, transformed, impossible-to-describe human life. On Friday he was a wreck, and on Sunday this broken body was glorious

April 5, 2010

Thought of the Day

Our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external enemies.

-- St Ambrose

April 3, 2010


Fr. Rene Butler

Usually we think of emptiness as not good, when something that is supposed to fill that space is gone.

That was the reaction of most of the disciples who found the tomb of Jesus empty. One important exception was the Beloved Disciple, who ran to the tomb with Peter after Mary Magdalene told them that Jesus’ body was missing. When he entered the tomb after Peter, the Gospel says, “He saw, and he believed.”

In other words, he understood what had really happened, and for him that empty tomb became one of the most beautiful places in the world. You can just imagine him thinking the biblical equivalent of “cool!” “awesome!” “wow!”

We make our churches as beautiful as possible for Easter. And that beauty is enhanced by the fact that our churches are fuller than usual. Ideally the fruit of the empty tomb is a full church, people of faith gathered together to celebrate the Risen Christ, week after week after week.

How wonderful it would be if all Christians realized that their church services are never so beautiful as when they are present, and their church is never so beautiful as when they are in it. 

April 1, 2010

A Prayer in Celebration of Christ's Resurrection

Heavenly Father,

You lifted your dear Son from the grave and
made Him a beacon of hope for all mortals.
By overcoming sin and death and hell, may
He take us by the hand and lead us into
the land of bliss and glory where we shall
enjoy forever the company of the whole
heavenly host.
May we trust with all our hearts in His
glorious wounds by which He ransomed us
for everlasting life.
Blessed be the name of Jesus, now and forever.