Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rebuilding Christ's Church

This article was in the July 16 issue of America Magazine. I think it is excellent:

By Martin Pable, OFM, Cap.
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As my spiritual directee described what she called “a meltdown” in talking with her husband, she sighed, “I just don’t care anymore.” Things were not going well at the parish where she is on staff. She was fatigued; her husband was not recovering well from an injury; she saw little that was positive in church leadership. But she then went on to tell how she recovered her usual zest during a weekend retreat led by a Capuchin friar and a secular Franciscan woman. She came to the realization that she truly does care—about the parish, about the wider church, about her call to minister to God’s people. I stressed how important it is that she keep her focus on “the deep-down things,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins put it: on the lordship of Jesus, on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, on the unfailing, unconditional love of God and on the simple beauties of nature, just as Francis of Assisi would have us do.
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“Rebuild My Church”
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The woman’s cry found an echo in my own heart. Sometimes I am tempted to say (though it is more of an under-the-breath whimper than a full-throated cry), “I don’t care any more, either.” On Easter Sunday the church where I offered Mass was filled to the rafters. The next Sunday the music was just as uplifting, and I preached with the same enthusiasm—but the church was back to its usual half-fullness. “Where is everybody?” Every survey I read paints the same dismal picture. Catholics are divided; they no longer believe many church teachings; they are angry and hurt by the sexual abuse scandals and by the closing of parishes; they have little confidence in their leaders.
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Yet the words “I don’t care” stick in my throat. I cannot say them, because I do not really mean them. I am haunted by the words of Jesus to Francis of Assisi: “Go and rebuild my church, which you see is falling into ruins.” I hear those words not as a “should” but as a gentle, loving invitation. They make me want to give my best, even though I may never see much in the way of measurable “rebuilding.” For that matter, I wonder if Francis did. At first he took Christ’s words literally and began physically repairing the little, broken-down church of San Damiano. Only later did he understand what Jesus really meant: Go and rebuild my church spiritually. And, God knows, he tried. But he met opposition, not only from the faithful, who expressed indifference, not only from the institutional church, but also (and especially) from his own friars. This was discouraging.
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What Really Matters?
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I have often been touched by the ending of T. S. Eliot’s poem “Ash Wednesday”: “Teach us to care and not to care/ teach us to sit still/ Even among these rocks.” Yes, there are things we ought to care about, and others that we ought not. How are we to distinguish, to separate them? That is the function of discernment, of contemplation. Hence we need to “sit still,” to make time, to pray. Wasn’t that the impetus behind St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the contemporary retreat movement? Our consumer-driven, success-oriented culture dismisses the act of sitting still and the practice of prayer. Good heavens, we might miss something!
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So, what should we care about? Briefly: what God cares about. I do not think God cares who wins the Academy Awards, or the N.B.A. championship or the next “American Idol” competition. God does care about the protection of human life, the safeguarding of human rights and dignity for all people, economic justice and adequate health care for everyone, the protection of children from violence and exploitation, equal opportunities for women and about the ending of war as a means of settling disputes and the commitment of all nations to live in peace.
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“Teach us to care and not to care/.../ even among these rocks.”
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Yes, the rocks are there, and some of them are huge, like the stone rolled in front of Jesus’ tomb. What are my rocks? What are yours? Probably nearly the same things: the divisions in the church, the lack of dialogue, the clash of egos, the insistence on adherence to rules over sound pastoral judgment and the direction of resources to rebuild the physical rather than the spiritual church.
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But even among these rocks, we must learn to care and not to care. So we must stop trying to please everybody, stop being paralyzed by fear of criticism, stop caring about who gets credit and focus only on getting the job done. And with genuine passion and even joy, we continue to give our best efforts, even when they appear fruitless. We detach ourselves from results, and ask only if we are being faithful to the Gospel vision that Jesus left us.
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St. Paul had another way of putting this. “My prayer for you,” he wrote, “is that your love may more and more abound…so that…you may learn to value the things that really matter” (Phil 1:9-10). A good discernment question we should often ask ourselves is, “At the end of the day, in the long view of life, does this really matter?” If the answer is yes, then we stand firm and take whatever heat may come. But if the answer is no, we let it go. Sometimes it is wiser to lose the battle if it means winning the war. And then we trust that our humble yielding will be blessed by God. As Paul said in another place, “Your work is never in vain when it is done in the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58). That is really comforting. After all, it is not we who can rebuild the church; that is the work of Christ and of the Holy Spirit whom he sent to guide it till the end of time. Yet in a mysterious divine economy, our “work” is needed to bring about God’s purposes.
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Persevere
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“I don’t care any more.” We need not be afraid if those words well up in our minds at various times in our spiritual journey. They can represent a moment of truth, a warning light that there is a malfunction in our spiritual system. Rather than deny or repress it, let it come into the light—where it can be honored, examined and brought into dialogue with the part of us that still does care. We pray, “Teach us to sit still...even among these rocks.” Then, whether in a retreat, or in spiritual direction, or in prayer to the Holy Spirit, we reclaim our power to care deeply about “the things that really matter.”
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Toward the end of his life, when Francis saw that many of his brothers were no longer following the way of poverty and humility that he had passed on to them, he was distressed in spirit and cried out in prayer, “Lord, I give you back the family you gave me!” (read: “I don’t care any more!”). But then he “sat still” and heard the Lord say to him: “Tell me, brother, why are you sad about this? Who converts men and calls them to enter the order? Who gives them the grace to persevere? Is it not I? Therefore, I say to you: don’t be saddened about this. Do what you have to do, and do it well. I have planted the order of brothers in an everlasting charity.”
“Do what you have to do, and do it well.” Each one of us is able to do that, even among our rocks.
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That is the only way to rebuild the church and to extend the reign of God in our world.
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Martin Pable, O.F.M.Cap., is a retreat director at St. Anthony Retreat Center, Marathon, Wis., and author of Reclaim the Fire: A Parish Guide to Evangelization (Ave Maria Press, 2002).
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Monday, July 30, 2007

Some Monday Humor

I don't know if this is true, but someone sent it to me and it is at least worth a laugh:

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Can you imagine yourself to be the nun that is sitting at her desk grading these papers all the while trying to keep a straight face and maintain her composure?? These answers come from a Catholic Elementary School test where kids were asked questions about the Old and New Testaments.

1. IN THE FIRST BOOK OF THE BIBLE, GUINESSIS. GOD GOT TIRED OF CREATING THE WORLD SO HE TOOK THE SABBATH OFF.

2. ADAM AND EVE WERE CREATED FROM AN APPLE TREE. NOAH'S WIFE WAS JOAN OF ARK. NOAH BUILT AND ARK AND THE ANIMALS CAME ON IN PEARS.

3. LOTS WIFE WAS A PILLAR OF SALT DURING THE DAY, BUT A BALL OF FIRE DURING THE NIGHT.

5. SAMPSON WAS A STRONGMAN WHO LET HIMSELF BE LED ASTRAY BY A JEZEBEL LIKE DELILAH.

6. SAMSON SLAYED THE PHILISTINES WITH THE AXE OF THE APOSTLES.

7. MOSES LED THE JEWS TO THE RED SEA WHERE THEY MADE UNLEAVENED BREAD WHICH IS BREAD WITHOUT ANY INGREDIENTS.

8, THE EGYPTIANS WERE ALL DROWNED IN THE DESSERT. AFTERWARDS, MOSES WENT UP TO MOUNT CYANIDE TO GET THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

9. THE FIRST COMMANDMENTS WAS WHEN EVE TOLD ADAM TO EAT THE APPLE.

10. THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT IS THOU SHALT NOT ADMIT ADULTERY.

11. MOSES DIED BEFORE HE EVER REACHED CANADA . THEN JOSHUA LED THE HEBREWS IN THE BATTLE OF GERITOL.

12. THE GREATEST MIRICLE IN THE BIBLE IS WHEN JOSHUA TOLD HIS SON TO STAND STILL AND HE OBEYED HIM.

13. DAVID WAS A HEBREW KING WHO WAS SKILLED AT PLAYING THE LIAR. HE FOUGHT THE FINKELSTEINS, A RACE OF PEOPLE WHO LIVED IN BIBLICAL TIMES.

14. SOLOMON, ONE OF DAVIDS SONS, HAD 300 WIVES AND 700 PORCUPINES.

15. WHEN MARY HEARD SHE WAS THE MOTHER OF JESUS, SHE SANG THE MAGNA CARTA.

16. WHEN THE THREE WISE GUYS FROM THE EAST SIDE ARRIVED THEY FOUND JESUS IN THE MANAGER.

18. ST. JOHN THE BLACKSMITH DUMPED WATER ON HIS HEAD.

19. JESUS ENUNCIATED THE GOLDEN RULE, WHICH SAYS TO DO UNTO OTHERS BEFORE THEY DO ONE TO YOU. HE ALSO EXPLAINED A MAN DOTH NOT LIVE BY SWEAT ALONE.

20. IT WAS A MIRICLE WHEN JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD AND MANAGED TO GET THE TOMBSTONE OFF THE ENTRANCE.

21. THE PEOPLE WHO FOLLOWED THE LORD WERE CALLED THE 12 DECIBELS.

22. THE EPISTELS WERE THE WIVES OF THE APOSTLES.

23. ONE OF THE OPPOSSUMS WAS ST. MATTHEW WHO WAS ALSO A TAXIMAN.

24. ST. PAUL CAVORTED TO CHRISTIANITY, HE PREACHED HOLY ACRIMONY WHICH IS ANOTHER NAME FOR MARRAIGE.

25. CHRISTIANS HAVE ONLY ONE SPOUSE. THIS IS CALLED MONOTONY.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lord, teach us how to pray

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 29, 2007:

A priest was preaching on the value of temperance. With great emphasis he said, “If I had all the beer in the world, I’d take it and pour it into the river.” With even greater emphasis he said, “And if I had all the wine in the world, I’d take it and pour it into the river.” And then finally, shaking his fist in the air, he Said, “And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I’d take it and pour it into the river.” With his homily complete, he sat down very satisfied with what he’d said. Then the leader of song stood very cautiously and announced, “For our offertory song, let us sing Hymn #365, ‘We Shall Gather at the River.”

We hear in today’s Gospel perhaps the most import request that we can make in the spiritual life. “Lord, teach us how to pray.” This is probably a question we’ve all wanted to ask the Lord at one point or another. Everyone knows that we should be people of prayer, but the search for the effective prayer isn’t always an easy one.

Sometimes we think that prayer is about finding the right formula – if we say the correct words in the correct way, we’ll get what we’re looking for. Perhaps if we pray the right novena on the right days, God will answer us. Now, I’m not looking for a show of hands here, but just think for a moment, how many of us have prayed the following types of prayers before:

· “Oh God, if only you would help me pass this test; get this promotion; not let the police officer see how fast I was going…”
· Or, “Dear Sweet Jesus, please don’t let my parents find out…”
· Or, “Oh God, if you get me out of this one, I swear I’ll become a priest…”
· Or, “Dear Lord, I will never do that again!”

These are what I like to call prayers of desperation, or 911 Prayers. As though all prayer consisted of were those moments when we pick up the God phone, dial 911, and help is on the way.

Now, this isn’t to suggest that we shouldn’t be calling on God for help in tough times. God should always be our first call. The problem with these prayers is that they view prayer as a sort of economic exchange. They are often bargaining prayers – God, You do this and I’ll do this. In other words, the question behind them is what do I have to give (or so, or say) to get the thing I want.

Jesus reminds us today that prayer first and foremost is not about an exchange, it is not an encounter in the economy of God; rather it is always about relationship. Prayer is not merely an event that responds to certain situations in our lives, it must be in fact our way of life. This is what St. Paul is talking about in First Thessalonians when he tells us to “be unceasing in prayer.” He means, we should lead lives that themselves become prayer.

So prayer is relationship. But, what kind of relationship? Well, notice how Jesus begins and ends what He has to say about prayer in today’s Gospel. He begins by saying, “When you pray, say: ‘Father’“ and he ends with the words, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father.” Jesus sandwiches everything He has to say about prayer in the language of a relationship between child and father, between child and parent. Prayer is a family affair based on a relationship of familiarity and love, of tenderness and intimacy – not on power, authority, or economy.

One way to think about this family relationship is to think of the word “family” as standing for: Forget About Me, I Love You in opposition to a world that tells us to Forget about YOU, I Love ME! The life of prayerful relationship cares about God first, then others before ourselves. So, our prayer doesn’t begin with asking God to do things for us in exchange for other things. It begins with getting to know a God who loves us so deeply and so intimately that He wants us to think of Him as our Father. Jesus understood this so well that He called God “Abba,” a title best translated as “Daddy.” When someone prays before their Abba, it isn’t about correct formulas; it is only about correct hearts. Hearts that understand family: forget about me, I love you.

Let us ask with the disciples today, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” I encourage everyone to do a few simple things. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each day to say, “Abba, Father, I love you. I know that there is nothing that can happen today that you and I can’t handle together.” In the middle of the day, say, “God, I’m thinking of you. Be with me today.” At the end of the day, simply say, “God, thank you for gift and blessings of this day. I’m sorry for all the things I may have done wrong. I ask your forgiveness and strength to do better tomorrow.” It really is that easy!

“Lord, teach us how to pray.”

May God give you peace!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

St. James

Feast Day: July 25

This feast day of St. James is one that is always near and dear to my heart. It reminds me how saints can provide for us not only witness and example on the Christian journey, but they can also connect us to brothers and sisters in Christ in various places. My home parish is St. James Church back in New Bedford and so on this feast day I am thinking of that place and all of the wonderful people there. I'm mindful of important experiences I have had there throughout my life and in particular my first Mass which was celebrated there on September 17, 2000. I remember baptizing my nephew and nieces there, and of course, baptizing my Dad there.

I also feel a connection with the people of St. James Church in the tiny village of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is there that our Blessed Mother continues to share a message of God's love for us.

St. James is of course one of the apostles. There were two apostles named James - typically referred to as either the Greater (who we celebrate today) or the Lesser. Now "lesser" doesn't mean the other James wasn't a great saint, it usually refers to the fact that he was younger. The other St. James went on to write the Letter of James and was the leader of the early Christian community in Jerusalem.

St. James the Greater is the one we hear of in today's Gospel, the brother of John, who's mother asked Jesus if her sons could have a place of importance in His kingdom. Now, I have to say, this Gospel passage is very unfair to James. Here we are celebrating his feast day and what do we have before us but a moment of weakness. This is not what led to his canonization.

Instead we recall that James held a very special place in the life of Jesus. Of all the 12 apostles, there were three who seem, on the record of Scripture, to be closer to Jesus than the rest: Simon Peter, James and John. It was these three, and only these three, who were present with Jesus when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead. It was these three who were present on the mount of Transfiguration. It was these three who were with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as He endured His agony before crucifixion. There was something special in that relationship. And, of course, James is reported to be the first of the apostles to suffer martyrdom at the hands of King Herod Agrippa (Acts 12.1).

But there is another characteristic about these three I want us to reflect on today. Simon, James and John are also the only three to receive a special name, perhaps even a nickname, from Jesus. Simon of course is called Peter, or The Rock. And Jesus gives to James and John the name, The Sons of Thunder, perhaps because of their passionate way of following Him.

I think it leads us to a simple question for our own reflection today. What name would Jesus give you to describe your living of the faith, your way of following Him? Would you be "rock solid" in your faith? Are you "thunderous" in your proclamation of the Gospel? How would Jesus describe you?

Let us pray that through the intercession of St. James the Greater, that Jesus would be able to give us a worthy name. Let us pray that we will have the courage to live up to the name He has already given us through our baptism - the name of Christian.

May God give you peace.

Monday, July 23, 2007

All Access



We all had an awesome experience of God's love for us at this year's Steubenville East Summer Youth Conference at the La Salette Shrine in Attleboro, MA. Check out some more photos at: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=38171&l=8a7a3&id=695525144

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pope pleads for an end to war

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy, JULY 22, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus in the Piazza Calvi of Lorenzago di Cadore, near the spot where the Pope is vacationing in northern Italy.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In these days of rest that, thanks be to God, I am passing here in Cadore, I feel all the more intensely the impact of the sorrow of the news that comes to me about bloody altercations and episodes of violence that are occurring in so many parts of the world. This brings me to reflect once again on the drama of human freedom in the world. The beauty of nature reminds us that we have been placed here by God to "cultivate and keep" this "garden" that is the earth (cf. Genesis 2:8-17).

If men lived in peace with God and with each other, the earth would truly resemble a "paradise." Unfortunately, sin ruined this divine project, generating divisions and bringing death into the world. This is why men cede to the temptations of the evil one and make war against each other. The result is that in this stupendous "garden" that is the world, there open up circles of hell.

War, with the mourning and destruction it brings, has always been rightly considered a calamity that contrasts with God's plan. He created everything for existence and, in particular, wants to make a family of the human race. In this moment it is not possible for me to not return to a significant date in history: August 1, 1917 -- almost exactly 90 years ago -- my venerable predecessor, Benedict XV, published his celebrated "Nota Alle Potenze Belligeranti" (Note to the Warring Powers), asking them to put an end to the First World War (cf. ASS 9 [1917], 417-420).

As that huge conflict raged, the Pope had the courage to affirm that it was a "useless bloodbath." This expression of his left a mark on history. It was a justified remark given the concrete situation in that summer of 1917, especially on the front here in this part of northern Italy. But those words, "useless bloodbath," have a larger, prophetic application to other conflicts that have destroyed countless human lives.

Precisely these very lands in which we presently find ourselves, which in themselves speak of peace and harmony, have been a theatre in the First World War, as many testimonies and some moving songs of the Alps still recall. These are events not to be forgotten!

It is necessary to make a treasury of the negative experiences that our fathers unfortunately suffered, so that they not be repeated. Benedict XV's "Nota" did not limit itself to condemning war; it indicated, at a juridical level, the ways to construct an equitable and durable peace: the moral force of law, balanced and regulated disarmament, arbitration in disputes, freedom on the seas, the reciprocal remission of war debts, the restitution of occupied territories, fair negotiations to resolve problems.

The Holy See's proposal was oriented toward the future of Europe and of the world, according to a project that was Christian in inspiration but able to be shared by all because it was founded on the law of nations. It is the same program that the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II followed in their memorable speeches at the United Nations, repeating in the name of the Church: "No more war!"

From this place of peace here in the north of Italy, where one feels even more vitally how unacceptable the "useless bloodbaths" are, I renew the call to follow with tenacity the way of law, to firmly renounce the arms race, to reject in general the temptation to face new situations with old systems.

With these thoughts and wishes in our heart we now offer up a special prayer for peace in the world, entrusting it to Mary Most Holy, Queen of Peace.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Living lives of deep faith

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 15, 2007:

Psychologists like to tell us how important it is to be in touch with our “inner child.” Well, I have to tell you, on Thursday of this week, my inner child took charge and I had one of the most fun days I can remember. As you know, we just concluded our annual vacation Bible school called Summer Spirit. We had 140 young people here for the week, along with another 100 counselors and volunteers. It was an awesome week of Scripture, faith and fun. What more could you ask for? Now, the Thursday of Summer Spirit is always water fight day. Everyone comes armed to the gills (sorry, I couldn’t resist that pun), and it is a day of all-out water fighting. Now, last year, the kids ganged up on Fr. Mike a bit, and in a struggle ensued over the control of the water hose. Let’s just say that Fr. Mike lost, he ended up in the Emergency Room with a sprained arm, and I had to take all the Masses for the next five days. But, as we left for the Emergency Room, Fr. Mike could be heard saying, “Wait until next year.”

Cut to last Tuesday after morning Mass and Fr. Mike and I are talking with Deacon Roland about what we want to do. We had been searching for really good super-soakers, but hadn’t found anything good enough. We said, off-the-cuff, “What we really need is a fire engine.” Deacon Roland’s eyes perked up and he said, “I think I can arrange that for you.” At quarter of 10 in the morning on Thursday, Fr. Mike and I got a quick training on how to work the fire hoses, and with the help of five fire-fighters, we entered the Church parking lot at 10 a.m. sirens a-blazing. As the fire chief told the kids some nice things about fire safety, he gave us our cue. He said, “It is important to see how the hoses work on a fire engine.” With that we came around from behind the engine, backed up by our fire fighting buddies, hoses on full. Let’s just say, the kids never knew what hit them. Talk about letting that inner child out – my grandfather was a firefighter and I can remember from my youngest days as a child always wanting to ride on the fire truck; add to that working the hoses – a dream come true. By the way, you have no idea how powerful those hoses are. My arms are still killing me!

By my child’s day didn’t end there. Back in May I had the honor celebrating Mass back in Massachusetts for the 90th birthday of my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Ledoux. It was a great celebration and connected me with a lot of people I hadn’t seen in years. At that Mass, one of my grade school teachers, Sr. Louise, asked if I would come and concelebrate at a Mass to celebrate her 60th Jubilee as a Dominican Sister of Hope. To understand my connection with Sr. Louise, she was my teacher in Second Grade, Fourth Grade, Seventh Grade and Eighth Grade. I had an almost exclusively Sr. Louise education in grammar school. Interestingly, by the way, my school back home was also St. Francis Xavier. So, of course, when she asked I was beyond honored and said immediately yes!

This celebration was also on Thursday. So, once I dried myself off from the water fight, I drove to Newburgh, NY where the sisters have their motherhouse. We enjoyed an incredibly beautiful Mass surrounded by more than 220 Dominican sisters, followed by a meal. Now, talk about feeling like a little kid again! Can I get a show of hands from you – how many of you were taught by nuns? You know that it doesn’t matter how old you are, when back in their presence you are instantly a child again answering every question with the most polite, “Yes, Sister,” you’ve ever uttered. So, for this dinner, I sat sandwiched between Sr. Louise on my left, and Sister Mary Martin, who was my principal all those years, on my right. Although, I have to say, watching Sr. Martin toss back a few scotches was certainly a side of her that I never saw in grammar school.

But as I was celebrating with these holy women, I was remembering so many beautiful moments from my childhood. I was looking at them and realizing that I am the person that I am today, in such great measure because of them and their influence in my life. For example, a simple moment that I will never forget from fourth grade. At the end of the year, as everyone was signing the little yearbooks that we had each year, Sr. Louise wrote on mine, “Tommy, I think you would make a wonderful priest. Pray about it this summer.” That was the first time I ever remember anyone saying that to me, and the seeds of a vocation were planted.

At the Mass to celebrate these sisters marking 50, 60, 70 and 75 years as nuns, the priest who was presiding said, “We do not gather here to mark the passage of time – 50, 60 or 75 years – we gather here today to celebrate lives lived with deep faith, and lives touched by Jesus through these holy women.” And isn’t that what it is all about? This is the common call that we all have – to live lives of deep faith, and to make every effort to touch the people we come in contact with by letting Jesus shine through us. We gather here today to celebrate lives lived with deep faith, and lives touched by Jesus.

I want to invite everyone to close their eyes right now for a moment. I would imagine that for many you, as I’ve been speaking, certain people have been coming to your mind – people, maybe religious sisters – who have been witnesses of Jesus, images of holiness in your life. Let us call them to mind, see their faces, remember their words. Repeat after me, “Jesus, I thank you for their presence in my life.” With your eyes still closed, let us ask Jesus to help us be the same witnesses of holiness to others. Again, repeat after me, “Jesus, make my life a witness to You.” Pray it like you mean it, “Jesus, make my life a witness to You.”

My brothers and sisters, we gather here today to celebrate lives lived with deep faith, and to live lives that will touch others through Christ Jesus.

May God give you peace.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I wanna be a fireman!!

We just finished our annual Sumer Spirit week here in the parish. Summer Spirit (just finished its 27th year) is our vacation Bible school. This year we had 140 young people participate and almost as many volunteers. It is an awesome week of fun and faith - the best combination in the world.

But, this year, I have to say, Fr. Mike and I really outdid ourselves! You see, the Thursday of Summer Spirit is always water fight day. Everyone comes armed and ready for battle. (Spiritually we could say we are renewing our baptismal commitments in the most dramatic of forms.) Now, last year, Fr. Mike got a bit ganged up on and totally soaked. But, being the single-minded person he can be, he tried his darndest to stay in the battle. During a bit of a tug-of-war over the water hose, Fr. Mike sprained his arm. Bottom line - we ended up in the Emergency Room and I had to take all the Masses for about five days.

His last words, "Wait until next year."

This year comes and after morning Mass on Tuesday we're talking with our new deacon, Roland Miller, about what we will do. We've been searching far and wide for the best super-soakers and really couldn't find anything adequate. We say, "What we really need is a fire engine." Deacon Roland responds, "I think I get one for you."

Cut to Thursday. It is quarter of 10 a.m., we're getting a quick training from the Chief on how to operate the hoses. He comes with four other fire fighters and we all ride in sirens blazing into the Church parking lot. To say that the kids were stunned would be an understatement.

The fire chief begins to speak to the kids about fire safety and some of their firefighting equipment and when he says, "It's important to see how the hoses work," Fr. Mike and I, backed up by the other firefighters, come from around the back of the engine hoses on full. The kids never knew what hit them.

Needless to say that might have been the most fun moment I can remember in my life. A lifelong childhood dream realized - riding on a fire engine, working the hose. I think - no, I know - Fr. Mike and I had even more fun than the kids.

Today, however, are we ever aching! Those hoses are unbelievably powerful and take a lot of strength to keep them manned. Our hats go off to our fire fighting heroes who do this not for fun, but to save lives. Although, they too had a blast on Thursday!

The last thing we heard as the kids were going home though? "Wait until next year."

You can view more photos from Summer Spirit at: www.sfxnewmilford.org/photos

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Christ established only one Church

Here we go again. You know, sometimes I think that the media just can't help themselves. The headline on page 3 of my local paper today, "Pope reasserts Church's domination." The New York Times, "Pope cites 'defects' of other faiths." The Boston Globe, "Pope reasserts salvation comes from one church." The general tenor of these articles, "Pope Benedict XVI reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released yesterday that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation." Like I said, here we go again.

The challenge is that a good headline and lead often trumps the truth or the details which are inevitably more complex and complicated than anything that you could fit in a headline. The Pope has not made any type of move to invalidate the goodness that exists in many of the different Christian denominations or even other religions in the world. As usual for our theologian-Pope, he is seeking again to clarify things.

Anyone who knows me knows that I often speak of what I call the theological question of our time. Every era has a theological debate that seems to be teased out and find answers in their time. You need only look to the 3rd Century and the great Christological debates over the nature of Jesus personhood, with the resulting Council's and decrees leading us to the Nicene Creed and its definitive statement on who Jesus truly is to understand. Thank goodness they didn't have newspapers in their day. Lord knows what the headlines would have read, "Pope says Jesus no longer a man." "Church thinkers reassert Jesus is no god at all," and so on.

The question of our time, in our great era of ecumenism is this: How do we understand the Roman Catholic Church as the normative means of salvation in a religiously plural world? Or perhaps more easily - how can we at the same time recognize and affirm that which is good in other denominations while still holding true to what we believe to be the pre-eminent place in the economy of salvation enjoined upon the Roman Catholic Church? How can we be who we truly are and still place nice with other Christians?

As with any debate of this nature and scope, we have to pause from time to time and remember some of the critical issues along the way that we can't loose in the process.

What did the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (notice they didn't even get right who said this) say? The document said, "Christ 'established here on earth' only one Church and instituted it as a 'visible and spiritual community', that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted." That last part is important. The Roman Catholic Church is the historic Church founded by Christ. It is one that traces its development all the way back - the only one. Secondly, what we hold so importantly is that phrase "in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted." This is the crux of what we believe. All the means of salvation that Christ intended to give us - Word, Sacrament, Unity, Apostolic Succession, etc. - exist in and only in the Roman Catholic Church.

Is the Pope saying the Church is flawless? No. Is the Pope saying that we're some how holier than everyone else? No. The Pope is simply stating that there is a pre-eminent position held by the Roman Catholic Church that no other church enjoys. That all of the means of salvation are in the Roman Catholic Church alone.

When the document says that other Churches are "defective" in some way, or are not real Churches, these are not insults but technical theological terms. Again to quote, "According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church." It means not that they are "defective" i.e. "rejects" of some sort. But simply that they have a lack - maybe they lack the Sacraments, maybe they lack a priesthood born of Apostolic Succession, maybe they lack some portion of the Word of God.

Are they, therefore evil and bad? Again, no. Here's something I'm sure you won't find reported in any mainline media about other Christian denominations, "It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them...There are 'numerous elements of sanctification and of truth' which are found outside her [the Roman Catholic Church] structure...In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them [other Christian denominations] as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church."

A point of real conflict might be over the fundamental part of the equation - there are many other denominations that believe that a diversity of Christian expressions is a good thing. And while the Catholic Church wouldn't disagree with that per se, I think the Church is trying to say, "But, unity is better. Unity is what Christ intended." And, this must be a unity that doesn't become a least common denominator unity; a bland, generic Christianity. Rather, it needs to be one that embraces the fullness, the completeness of what Christ came to reveal and offer us as a means for our salvation. This fullness subsists in the Roman Catholic Church.

For too long, the ecumenical movement has become a sort-of passive aggressive, keep-the-peace encounter. A "let's not fight" discussion. And, I'm not encouraging fighting, but rather real discussion. It isn't enough to affirm what we agree on - even though that is wonderful. We have to eventually dive into what we disagree about if there is every to be a true unity within the Christian family.

And, highly emotionalized, inaccurate articles like the ones splashed over the media today don't help. The question of the relationship of all of the communities of Christ in the world is a complicated one. We need to give it the time, the prayer and the space to be a real, truthful, communal conversation.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer Spirit!


Our annual Vacation Bible School - SUMMER SPIRIT - is underway this week. We have 140 kids having fun and learning more about their faith in Jesus Christ. Check out some more photos at: www.sfxnewmilford.org/Photos

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Waiting for the Big Guns

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 8, 2007:

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”

A preacher was speaking one night at an open-air evangelical crusade. The famed preacher, Billy Graham was set to speak the next night. Graham arrived a day early and came unannounced and sat on the grass with the rest of the crowd. In front of him sat an elderly gentleman who seemed to be listening attentively to the preaching. When the call came for people to come forward and make a commitment to the Lord, the gentleman did not move. Dr Graham tapped the man on the shoulder and asked, “Would you like to accept Christ today? I’ll be glad to walk down with you if you want to.” The old man looked him up and down unimpressed, shook his head and said, “No, I think I’ll just wait till the big guns show up tomorrow night.” In the thinking of this man and in the thinking of many people, winning souls for Christ is something that should be reserved for the “big guns.” Today’s gospel story, however, shows us that mission of winning souls is for everyone, big guns and little shots alike, clergy and religious, along with all the baptized.

There is a temptation with this passage from Luke’s Gospel to use it to preach on the call to priestly or religious vocations. But, this passage actually has more to do with the call to those who are not ordained than to clergy.

You see, Luke’s Gospel has two stories of Jesus sending out His followers to go and spread the Good News. In chapter 9, Jesus sends the 12 apostles and in chapter 10 which we heard today, He sends 72 disciples. Scholars believe that the sending out of the 72 is Luke’s way of emphasizing the universal scope of the message of Christ. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that the mission of the 12 was limited to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The mission of the 72 has no such limitation. You see there is a significance to these two numbers – 12 vs. 72. According to Jewish tradition there are 12 tribes of Israel and 72 nations of the earth. The sending of the 72 disciples, therefore, symbolizes the sending of the message of Christ to the whole world.

I invite you, today, to look at this story from a the perspective of those 72 bringing the message, from the perspective of the missionaries themselves. Our tradition usually identifies the 12 apostles with ordained ministry in the church – the ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. When at the Last Supper Jesus commissioned His followers to “do this in memory of me” He was addressing the 12, or the clergy so-to-speak. If this is so, then the 72 who are sent out on mission in today Gospel must be understood as lay people. Today’s gospel, then, is the commissioning of the mission of all lay people. This way we can read the two missions in the Gospel of Luke, the mission of the 12 and the mission of the 72, as the mission of the clergy and the mission of the laity together. By including these two accounts Luke is saying that mission of spreading the Gospel is not only for the clergy, the mission is not only for the “big guns,” the mission is for us all, ordained and non-ordained followers of Christ alike.

Jesus tells us today why it is so important that we all engage in this mission of spreading the Gospel together. Because, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few.” This is as true today as it was in the days of Jesus. There is a greater need than ever for the world to hear, truly hear, the saving words of Jesus. So what role are the laity supposed to play in fulfilling this mission? Jesus tells us that the role of the laity is twofold. First He says, “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest,” or in other words – pray for more laborers. Secondly He says, “Go on your way; behold, I am sending you,” or in other words, you too must be a laborer of the harvest, actively involved in spreading the Gospel.

Prayer and action. It’s not a question of doing either the one or the other. Rather, every Christian is called to participate in the spreading of the message of Christ through both a commitment to prayer and a commitment to action. We are all called to be people deeply rooted in prayer, unafraid of spreading and sharing our faith with others – whever we find them. You’ve probably heard before, “Pray as if everything depends on God, but act as if everything depends on you.”

This is what the Church means when it speaks of the priesthood of all the faithful in addition to the priesthood of the ordained. Did you know that you, too, are a priest, or as St. Peter puts it, “you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own.’” And so, today is your ordination day. Today, you are ordained by God to be men and women of deep prayer; men and women of profound holy action in our world. It is the day to embrace your priesthood and the great call to prayer and action in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.” So, pray as if everything depends on God, but act as if everything depends on you.

May God give you peace.

The Tridentine Mass strikes back

Pope Benedict XVI today issued an Apostolic Letter allowing for the return of the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Mass. Below is the text of his motu proprio:

SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM
BENEDICT XVI

The following unofficial translation has been prepared by the USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy. Only the Latin original of the Apostolic Letter may be considered the official text.

It has always been the care of the Supreme Pontiffs until the present time, that the Church of Christ offer worthy worship to the Divine Majesty "for the praise and glory of his name" and "for the good of all his Holy Church."

As from time immemorial so in the future the principle shall be respected "according to which each particular Church must be in accord with the universal Church not only regarding the doctrine of the faith and sacramental signs, but also as to the usages universally handed down by apostolic and unbroken tradition. These are to be maintained not only so that errors may be avoided, but also so that the faith may be passed on in its integrity, since the Church's rule of prayer (lex orandi) corresponds to her rule of belief (lex credendi)." (1)

Among Pontiffs who have displayed such care there excels the name of Saint Gregory the Great, who saw to the transmission to the new peoples of Europe both of the Catholic faith and of the treasures of worship and culture accumulated by the Romans in preceding centuries. He gave instructions for the form of the Sacred Liturgy of both the Sacrifice of the Mass and of the Divine Office as was celebrated in the City. He made the greatest efforts to foster monks and nuns, who militating under the Rule of St Benedict, in every place along with the proclamation of the Gospel by their life likewise exemplified that most salutary expression of the Rule "let nothing be given precedence over the work of God" (ch. 43). In this way the sacred liturgy according to the Roman manner made fertile not only the faith and piety but also the culture of many peoples. Moreover it is evident that the Latin Liturgy in its various forms has stimulated in the spiritual life very many Saints in every century of the Christian age and strengthened in the virtue of religion so many peoples and made fertile their piety.

However, in order that the Sacred Liturgy might more efficaciously absolve its task, several others among the Roman Pontiffs in the course of the centuries have brought to bear particular concern, among whom Saint Pius V is eminent, who with great pastoral zeal, at the exhortation of the Council of Trent, renewed the worship of the whole Church, ensuring the publishing of liturgical books amended and "restored according to the norm of the Fathers" and put them into use in the Latin Church.

It is clear that among the liturgical books of the Roman Rite the Roman Missal is eminent. It grew in the city of Rome and gradually down through the centuries took on forms which are very similar to those in vigor in recent generations.

"It was this same goal that as time passed the Roman Pontiffs pursued, adapting or establishing liturgical rites and books to new ages and then at the start of the present century undertaking a more ample restoration." (2) It was in this manner that our Predecessors Clement VIII, Urban VIII, St Pius X(3), Benedict XV, Pius XII and the Blessed John XXIII acted.

In more recent time, however, the Second Vatican Council expressed the desire that with due respect and reverence for divine worship it be restored and adapted to the needs of our age. Prompted by this desire, our Predecessor the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI in 1970 approved for the Latin Church liturgical books restored and partly renewed, and that throughout the world translated into many vernacular languages, have been welcomed by the Bishops and by the priests and faithful. John Paul II revised the third typical edition of the Roman Missal. Thus the Roman Pontiffs have acted so that "this liturgical edifice, so to speak,...might once again appear splendid in its dignity and harmony." (4)

However in some regions not a small number of the faithful have been and remain attached with such great love and affection to the previous liturgical forms, which had profoundly imbued their culture and spirit, that the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, prompted by pastoral concern for these faithful, in 1984 by means of a special Indult Quattuor abhinc annos, drawn up by the Congregation for Divine Worship, granted the faculty to use the Roman Missal published by John XXIII in 1962; while in 1988 John Paul II once again, by means of the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei, exhorted the Bishops to make wide and generous use of this faculty in favor of all the faithful requesting it.Having pondered at length the pressing requests of these faithful to our Predecessor John Paul II, having also heard the Fathers of the Consistory of Cardinals held on 23 March 2006, having pondered all things, invoked the Holy Spirit and placed our confidence in the help of God, by this present Apostolic Letter we DECREE the following.

Art. 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is to be regarded as the ordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Catholic Church of Latin Rite, while the Roman Missal promulgated by St Pius V and published again by Blessed John XXIII as the extraordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) and on account of its venerable and ancient use let it enjoy due honor. These two expressions of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Church in no way lead to a division in the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Church, for they are two uses of the one Roman Rite.

Hence it is licit to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as the extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church. The conditions laid down by the previous documents Quattuor abhinc annos and Ecclesia Dei for the use of this Missal are replaced by what follows:

Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without the people, any priest of Latin rite, whether secular or religious, can use the Roman Missal published by Pope Blessed John XXIII in 1962 or the Roman Missal promulgated by the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI in 1970, on any day except in the Sacred Triduum. For celebration in accordance with one or the other Missal, a priest does not require any permission, neither from the Apostolic See nor his own Ordinary.

Art. 3. If Communities or Institutes of Consecrated Life or Societies of Apostolic Life of either pontifical or diocesan rite desire to have a celebration of Holy Mass in accordance with the edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962 in the conventual or "community" celebration in their own oratories, this is allowed. If an individual community or the entire Institute or Society wants to have such celebrations often or habitually or permanently, the matter is to be decided by the Major Superiors according to the norm of law and the particular laws and statutes.

Art. 4. With due observance of law, even Christ's faithful who spontaneously request it, may be admitted to celebrations of Holy Mass mentioned in art. 2 above.

Art. 5, § 1. In parishes where a group of faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition exists stably, let the pastor willingly accede to their requests for the celebration of the Holy Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962. Let him see to it that the good of these faithful be harmoniously reconciled with ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the governance of the Bishop according to canon 392, avoiding discord and fostering the unity of the whole Church.

§ 2. Celebration according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII can take place on weekdays, while on Sundays and on feast days there may be one such celebration.

§ 3. Let the pastor permit celebrations in this extraordinary form for faithful or priests who request it, even in particular circumstances such as weddings, funerals or occasional celebrations, for example pilgrimages.

§ 4. Priests using the Missal of Blessed John XXIII must be worthy and not impeded by law.

§ 5. In churches, which are neither parochial nor conventual, it is the Rector of the church who grants the above-mentioned permission.

Art. 6. In Masses celebrated with the people according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII, the Readings can be proclaimed even in the vernacular, using editions that have received the recognitio of the Apostolic See.

Art. 7. Where some group of lay faithful, mentioned in art. 5§1 does not obtain what it requests from the pastor, it should inform the diocesan Bishop of the fact. The Bishop is earnestly requested to grant their desire. If he cannot provide for this kind of celebration, let the matter be referred to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

Art. 8. A Bishop who desires to make provision for requests of lay faithful of this kind, but is for various reasons prevented from doing so, may refer the matter to the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", which should give him advice and help.

Art. 9, § 1. Likewise a pastor may, all things duly considered, grant permission to use the older ritual in administering the Sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, as the good of souls may suggest.

§ 2. Ordinaries are granted the faculty to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation using the former Roman Pontifical, as the good of souls may suggest.

§ 3. It is lawful for clerics in holy orders to use even the Roman Breviary promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.

Art 10. It is lawful for the local Ordinary, if he judges it opportune, to erect a personal parish according to the norm of canon 518 for celebrations according to the older form of the Roman rite or appoint a rector or chaplain, with due observance of the requirements of law.

Art. 11. The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, erected in 1988 by John Paul II, (5) continues to carry out its function. This Commission is to have the form, duties and norm for action that the Roman Pontiff may wish to assign to it.

Art. 12. The same Commission, in addition to the faculties it already enjoys, will exercise the authority of the Holy See by maintaining vigilance over the observance and application of these dispositions.

Whatever is decreed by Us by means of this Motu Proprio, we order to be firm and ratified and to be observed as of 14 September this year, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, all things to the contrary notwithstanding.

Given at Rome, at St Peter's, on 7 July in the Year of Our Lord 2007, the Third of Our Pontificate.

BENEDICT XVI
------------------------------------------------
1 General Instruction of the Roman Missal, third edition, 2002, n. 397
2 Pope John Paul II, Ap. Letter Vicesimus quintus annus, 4 December 1988, n. 3: AAS 81 (1989) p. 899.
3 Ibidem.
4 Pope St Pius X, Motu Proprio Abhinc duos annos, 23 October 1913: AAS 5 (1913) 449-450; cf. Pope John Paul II,
Ap. Letter Vicesimus quintus annus, 4 December 1988,11. 3: AAS 81 (1989) p. 899.
5 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta, 2 July 1988, n. 6: AAS 80 (1988) p. 1498.

For the Latin text, visit the Vatican website at: www.vatican.va

I would love to know what everyone thinks about this. Please leave a comment.

Friday, July 6, 2007

St. Maria Goretti

July 6, 2007
St. Maria Goretti
(1890-1902)

One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti.

She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class.

On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help, gasping that she would be killed rather than submit. “No, God does not wish it. It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger.

She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum. She died about 24 hours after the attack.

Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother.

Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.

Comment: Maria may have had trouble with catechism, but she had no trouble with faith. God's will was holiness, decency, respect for one's body, absolute obedience, total trust. In a complex world, her faith was simple: It is a privilege to be loved by God, and to love him—at any cost. As the virtue of chastity dies the death of a thousand qualifications, she is a breath of sweet fresh air.

Quote: "Even if she had not been a martyr, she would still have been a saint, so holy was her everyday life" (Cardinal Salotti).

(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

We hold these truths to be self evident...

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.

We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock
New Hampshire:Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts:John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut:Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York:William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey:Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania:Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware:Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland:Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina:William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina:Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia:Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Mission Betrayed

FRIARS CORNER:

Mission Betrayed

Sometimes in our world, which seems so wrought with injustice, an organization comes along that truly stands up for the “little guy” and for all of the horrors around us, giving even the smallest voice a hearing on the world stage. This is how I always felt about Amnesty International. AI was begun in 1961 and in the 40 plus years since then has had a global mission to be an advocate for all of the voiceless in our world. In that time, they have had a stellar record of advocating for prisoners of war, people held down by all kinds of oppression – whether at the hands of unjust leaders or societies, or the wages of poverty and illness throughout the world.

And so, it is with a very disappointed and heavy heart that I have now come to the conclusion that I can no longer support this once great organization. AI’s own mission statement says, “Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights. AI’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.”

In April, AI amended the “human rights” they are working for by declaring that they would now work for “women’s human rights to be free of fear, threat and coercion as they manage all consequences of rape and other grave human rights violations.” That sounds good on the surface, but the consequence of this stand is that they are now working for the so-called “right” to freely and easily contract an abortion.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has said that with its new stance supporting the legalization of abortion around the world, Amnesty International “has betrayed its mission.”

These sentiments have also been echoed by Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J., an iconic figure in pacifist and human rights circles, repudiating the new Amnesty position. “One cannot support an organization financially or even individually that is contravening something very serious in our ethic,” the priest said. Cardinal Martino said, “I believe that if, in fact, Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support, because in deciding to promote abortion rights, A.I. has betrayed its mission.” Amnesty International, a widely respected human rights organization, had been officially neutral on abortion until this April, when its executive committee adopted a new position.

Sadly, unless they change this position, I can no longer support them. If you have supported them in the past, I encourage you to do the same. Write to AI, as I have, and ask them to change their position on this critical human right – the right of every unborn child to exist. Ask them to instead champion the rights of one of the largest groups ever to be denied basic human rights – the millions of unborn who are killed each year through abortion. Perhaps they will heed our voices and again become the champion of all those denied basic human rights.

Love, Fr. Tom

The Most Precious Blood of Jesus

The month of July is traditionally dedicated to the Precious Blood. The feast of the Precious Blood of our Lord was instituted in 1849 by Pope Pius IX, but the devotion is as old as Christianity. The early Fathers say that the Church was born from the pierced side of Christ, and that the sacraments were brought forth through His Blood.

"The Precious Blood which we worship is the Blood which the Savior shed for us on Calvary and reassumed at His glorious Resurrection; it is the Blood which courses through the veins of His risen, glorified, living body at the right hand of God the Father in heaven; it is the Blood made present on our altars by the words of Consecration; it is the Blood which merited sanctifying grace for us and through it washes and beautifies our soul and inaugurates the beginning of eternal life in it."

The extraordinary importance of the saving Blood of Christ has ensured a central place for its memorial in the celebration of this cultic mystery: at the centre of the Eucharistic assembly, in which the Church raises up to God in thanksgiving "the cup of blessing" (1 Cor 10, 16; cf Ps 115-116, 13) and offers it to the faithful as a "real communion with the Blood of Christ" (1 Cor 10, 16); and throughout the Liturgical Year. The Church celebrates the saving Blood of Christ not only on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, but also on many other occasions, such that the cultic remembrance of the Blood of our redemption (cf 1 Pt 1, 18)

Here are some thoughts I found on the Precious Blood of Jesus.

Good Pope John 23rd in 1960 wrote an encyclical encouraging devotion to the Precious Blood. Here are some excerpts:

As we now approach the feast and month devoted to honouring Christ's Blood — the price of our redemption, the pledge of salvation and life eternal — may Christians meditate on it more fervently, may they savour its fruits more frequently in sacramental communion. Let their meditations on the boundless power of the Blood be bathed in the light of sound biblical teaching and the doctrine of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. How truly precious is this Blood is voiced in the song which the Church sings with the Angelic Doctor (sentiments wisely seconded by our predecessor Clement VI):

Blood that but one drop of has the world to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

Unlimited is the effectiveness of the God-Man's Blood — just as unlimited as the love that impelled him to pour it out for us, first at his circumcision eight days after birth, and more profusely later on in his agony in the garden,12 in his scourging and crowning with thorns, in his climb to Calvary and crucifixion, and finally from out that great wide wound in his side which symbolizes the divine Blood cascading down into all the Church's sacraments. Such surpassing love suggests, nay demands, that everyone reborn in the torrents of that Blood adore it with grateful love.

Let us, then, come back from that table like lions breathing out fire, thus becoming terrifying to the Devil, and remaining mindful of our Head and of the love he has shown for us. . . This Blood, when worthily received, drives away demons and puts them at a distance from us, and even summons to us angels and the Lord of angels. . . This Blood, poured out in abundance, has washed the whole world clean. . . This is the price of the world; by it Christ purchased the Church... This thought will check in us unruly passions. How long, in truth, shall we be attached to present things? How long shall we remain asleep? How long shall we not take thought for our own salvation? Let us remember what privileges God has bestowed on us, let us give thanks, let us glorify him, not only by faith, but also by our very works.

If only Christians would reflect more frequently on the fatherly warning of Peter, the first pope: "Look anxiously, then, to the ordering of your lives while your stay on earth lasts. You know well enough that your ransom was not paid in earthly currency, silver or gold; it was paid in the precious blood of Christ; no lamb was ever so pure, so spotless a victim."15 If only they would lend a more eager ear to the apostle of the Gentiles: "A great price was paid to ransom you; glorify God by making your bodies the shrines of his presence."16 Their upright lives would then be the shining example they ought to be; Christ's Church would far more effectively fulfill its mission to men. God wants all men to be saved,17 for he has willed that they should all be ransomed by the Blood of his only-begotten Son; he calls them all to be members of the one Mystical Body whose head is Christ. If only men would be more responsive to these promptings of his grace, how much the bonds of brotherly love among individuals and peoples and nations would be strengthened. Life in society would be so much more peaceable, so much worthier of God and the human nature created in his image and likeness.