Sunday, November 30, 2008

We wait

Saw this beautiful Advent homily online and wanted to share it with you. It comes from Msgr. James P. Moroney at St Paul's Cathedral in Worcester:

I remember the day that Gerry died, as Mary held his hand. She wept. Oh how she wept as she clung to his body in the hopes of somehow not losing the fifty-seven years of married life they had lived and loved together. The kids tried to console her, but it was of little use. She just needed to cry until she couldn’t cry anymore. The pain and the emptiness was deeper than I could ever imagine.

She spent the next days and weeks longing for Gerry more than she had ever longed for anything ever before. She so wanted him to come back that every creak of the floorboard and shadow around the corner made her heart leap in hope.

I lost track of Mary, but bumped into her again about a year later. She was still sad, but not as desperate as the last time I had seen her. I inquired how she was doing and she told me about the day that made all the difference.

She had gone to Church and she was sitting all alone in the pew staring at the crucifix above the tabernacle, she said. When all it once it occurred to her that it was not Gerry for whom she longed, but God. The God who she prayed would forgive Gerry’s sins. The God who would keep her in his grace until the last day. The God who had gone to prepare a place for Gerry and for her and for all who loved others as he had loved them.

And Her waiting for Gerry was just a shadow of her deepest longing for God, her desire for love, and her desire to live in God and to know peace with him forever.We all ache for God, and we wait…

The addict in the alley behind the Cathedral waits: for a God who will come and remove all that enslaves him...

The single mother waits: for a day when she no longer has to work 54 hours,a night when she can sleep eight,a life when she’ll finally know the kids will be ok.

The soldier in a ditch in Iraq waits: for a morning when there are no more explosions of IEDs,and every look is not feared as the precursor to an assault, and you don’t have to bury your new best friends.

The old man in the nursing home waits: for the day he will no longer be alone, when pain will no longer be his most constant companion,and when he can once again rest in the embrace of her whom he loved.

The prisoner on death row waits: for a place where he will no longer be seen as evil, for a life that makes sense, for a time when love can be given and received, for the coming of a God who will love him.

The investment banker waits: for the day when he’s not gripped by the fearthat he’s about to lose everything, for the day when he can count his valuein the quality of his love rather than the size of his profit.

The little child waitswithin her mother’s womb: for a world that will welcome her, and parents that will love her, and a country who will protect her.

We all wait in joyful hope, with baited breath, as we gaze toward the Eastern skies in expectation of the one who rises with healing in his wings…Exiled in a Babylon of our own selfishness, we cry out: “rend the heavens, O Lord, and come down to us!” Yet he waits for us in that confessional, ready to embrace us pick us up on his shoulders and carry us home to himself.

Longing to be loved, orphaned by our infidelity and broken promises, we cry out “Why do you let us wander and harden our hearts?” Yet he waits on that altar, to feed us with himself and to make us sons and daughters of his Father, to live in us that we might live in him.

Frightened that we have been abandoned, strangers in a strange desert, we cry out: “Let us see your face and we will be saved!” Yet he waits for us in the poor, the sick, and the old, ready to console our frightened spirits.

We wait in joyful hope. The part of us that is afraid to confess that secret sin. The part of us that doesn’t think it’s possible to forgive what ‘that one’ did or that God could really forgive me. The part of us that cries in the middle of the night. The part which feels empty and alone. The part that’s overwhelmed and confused. The part which amidst all the din and doubt, waits…waits in silence for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ upon a cloud in all his glory.

Get ready my brothers and sisters. Get ready! “Be watchful! Be alert! Go to confession, celebrate the Sacred Mysteries, and pray! Feed the poor. Go visit the prisoners and the old people in nursing home. Find the one you’ve not yet forgiven and call him right now.

Make your heart a manger to receive your king, for he is coming. He is coming very soon!

This comes courtesy of (

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wake up!

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, November 30, 2008:

“Be watchful! Be alert! Stay awake! You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming…May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”

Here is a quiz for you. Let’s say you are asleep and dreaming. In your dream, a big lion is chasing you. You try to run away from the lion, only to see a tiger coming right at you. You keep running in a new direction, but no matter where you turn, you find a ferocious animal coming after you. How can you escape? The answer is simple: Wake up.

By waking up you enter a whole new world of reality, different from that of the dream world. What was a huge problem in the dream world becomes a non-issue in the waking world. Dream world concerns lose their importance and new concerns take their place. For example, you discover that your problem is no longer how to escape from wild beasts but how to beat the morning rush and arrive early for work.

As we enter the season of Advent today, we can relate to the change that occurs between a dream state and consciousness. Advent hopes to wake us from or spiritual slumber; to effect a change so that we move from a state of being spiritually asleep to that of being spiritually awake, when the soul is awake and alert not to worldly realities, but to spiritual realities.

In today’s gospel Jesus admonishes and encourages his followers to remain alert in the spirit. He says, “Be watchful! Be alert! Stay awake!” Jesus was preparing to leave His disciples for an uncertain length of time. Through their faith in Jesus, His disciples have roused themselves from a spiritual sleep. But during His absence there is the danger that they might be tempted to doze off. Jesus challenges them to remain awake and watchful so that whenever He comes, He would find them not sleeping but watching in faith, ready to welcome Him.

Today we enter the season of Advent waiting: a time of special preparation for the coming of the Lord. Mark’s portrait of the doorman watching out to open for the Lord whenever he “suddenly” appears is an image of what we are expected to be doing all year long but especially during the season of Advent. The doorman stays awake in order to recognize and welcome the Lord at his coming. Faith, likewise, transforms us into people who are able to recognize the Lord and willing to receive Him. Recognition is crucial because the Lord does not always come in easily recognizable ways. At Bethlehem He came in the form of a newborn child and people did not recognize Him. In the Parable of the Sheep and Goats which we heard last Sunday He said He came to people in the form of the most needy and disadvantaged of this world and many did not recognize Him. But true people of faith did recognize Him and served Him in the neediest people of society. Faith is first and foremost a way of seeing. Once we truly see, it leads us to a way of living.

The “wicked” who were numbered among the goats last week were probably waiting for the final arrival of the Lord, but in their slumber failed to recognize Him in His every day presence. The shocker in that parable is that Christ comes into our lives in the form of the ordinary people and events of our everyday lives. And so, we need to be awake in faith to recognize and serve Christ in these commonplace and routine encounters. It will do us no good to recognize him on Judgment Day if we have not recognized and served Him every day.

The question that needs to be on the heart of every believer today is: Am I awake or asleep? Am I living in a false reality, a dream world of my own making, where things other than God; other than family and faith are most important? If the answer is yes, then “Wake up!” Wake up to the reality that is God in your life. Wake up to the priorities that God has set, so that you may achieve the goal of your faith.

Here are some simple things that we can do to help stay awake:

First, set aside a few moments every day to talk to God – be with Him in spirit and prayer.

Next, look at your family situation. Find the time to pray together as a family. Pray before meals, pray before going to bed, pray anytime that will work for your family – especially if you’ve never done this as a family before.

Thirdly, if you’ve had a falling out with someone, make it your Advent goal to make up with them, find healing and reconciliation. What a gift for the soul that would be.

Fourth, make sure you include the Sacrament of Penance in your Advent preparations. You don’t want to carry your sins into Christmas Day. We have confessions every Wednesday at 7 p.m. during Advent and every Saturday at noon, or you can always ask us after any Mass or make an appointment any time.

Fifth, don’t spend all of your Christmas money on yourself, your family or friends. Instead, make sure you put some of it aside for the poor because what you do for them, you do for Jesus.

Finally, make sure this Advent season is not a season of hurriedness and chaos for you; but instead a time of family, faith and friends. Take the time to enjoy the people around you; the people you love; and those who love you. Advent is a joyful time, so enjoy it!

“Be watchful! Be alert! Stay awake! You do not know when the Lord is coming… May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.” Our eyes can always be opened a little more; we can always be spiritually a bit more awake. So, let us pray to open our eyes in faith to see God present and active in our lives and in our world. Let us open our hearts and homes to the Lord who comes to us daily in the form of the needy man or woman. Stay awake and prepare to welcome the Lord during this wondrous season of Advent.

May God give you peace.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Give thanks

THANKSGIVING DAY, November 27, 2008:

Today’s holiday of Thanksgiving has its roots geographically close to us - after all the first Thanksgiving took place less than 200 miles from here. In 1623, Governor William Bradford of Massachusetts made the following proclamation for Thanksgiving: “The great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest…and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather…on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

This proclamation is all the more extraordinary in light of how destitute the circumstances were. Only 47 of the original 121 Pilgrims had survived the harsh winters, lack of food and disease. They had gone through a time of great difficulty; gotten to a point where many people would have quoted Scripture, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Instead, they never lost sight of their gratitude to God who is the source and giver of life. They knew that even their horrible experiences could never outweigh all that they had to be grateful for from God. And so they gave thanks.

We heard in our Gospel passage, “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Giving thanks should be one of the most foundational things that we do as humans. As you know, a group from the parish just returned last week from a pilgrimage to Italy. Now some of our pilgrims did better than others at making attempts at the Italian language, but almost everyone learned one important word – grazie, or thank you. We need these words, especially in a foreign land, because we are very much at the mercy of those who know the place, so it is appropriate to show some humility by acknowledging the free assistance others give us. We give thanks.

But how often in the regularness of our lives to we forget to give thanks? We tend to take for granted so many of the wonderful things that people do for us each and every day. We forget to be grateful to a spouse who cooked dinner or did laundry or ran to the store, or who goes to work everyday. We figure, well, they were supposed to do that. But, to say “thank you,” is an act not only of kindness, but of humility. It is recognizing that I am incomplete without others. I need all of the other people who are in my life, both close and far. It is humility that makes us fully alive.

Our gratitude also grows when we begin to notice the beauty around us - both those things that are visible to the eye that we can see and those things, perhaps more precious, that we cannot see. What is essential in life is often invisible to the eye. Think about that. For example, trust is not visible to the eye. Hope is not visible to the eye. Love is not visible to the eye, and the abiding presence of our God is not visible to the eye. But it is what is important and it’s essential and it is there. And we have to notice and give thanks. We can in fact, be thankful for just about everything. Here are a few examples to ponder:
  • I can be thankful for the mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
  • I can be thankful for the taxes I have to pay because it means I have a job and I am employed.
  • I can be thankful for the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have had enough to eat.
  • I can be thankful for the lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
  • I can be thankful for all the complaining I do about the government because it means we have freedom of speech.
  • I can be thankful for the parking spot I find at the far end of the lot because it means I am capable of walking.
  • I can be thankful for my big heating bill because it means I am warm.
  • I can be thankful for the person behind me in Church who sings off-key because it means I can hear.
  • I can be thankful for the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.
  • I can be thankful for weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been productive.
  • I can even be thankful for the alarm that goes off early in the morning because it means that I am still alive.

If you were in Greece and you needed to say ‘Thank you,” you would say, “Eucharisto.” You may have recognized the fact that this is a word that you and I and countless Christians around the world use all the time. The word for thanks in Greek is “Eucharisto.” This is what we do each time we gather at the altar of God – the Eucharist is in fact the ultimate act of thanksgiving. We give God thanks because behind every gift of food, shelter, friendship or assistance stands the One giver of all good things. It is our glory, our great privilege to know this God and to give thanks to Him in true humility.

And so, today, let us be full of thanks. Let us express to our God and to our loved ones: grazie, gracias, merci, danke, eucharisto – or just plain old “thanks.”

May God bless you and your families today and every day. Happy Thanksgiving.

Whatever you did...


It is just about that Salvation Army time of year. Soon we'll see and hear the bell ringing of volunteers collecting money at stores and supermarkets everywhere. Now, the Salvation Army does not believe in baptism, the Eucharist or the priesthood. Yet their Christianity is clear. Why? Because their public witness to Christ is powerful. They provide soup kitchens for the starving. They clothe the naked. They rehabilitate those addicted to drugs and alcohol. They are there wherever disaster strikes.

"I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me."

The Solemnity of Christ the King, which we celebrate today, is a relatively new feast in the Church; established less than 100 years ago. It was put in place by Pope Pius XI in 1925. In establishing the feast, he explained that throughout history feasts have been instituted in response to particular needs that arise in the life of the world and the Church. He gave the example of feasts of martyrs, or the celebration of Corpus Christi and the Sacred Heart. He was writing in 1925, when the world was still trying to recover from World War I, which had devastated Europe and shattered modernity's hopes for unlimited progress based solely on human reason. It was also only a few years after the Russian Bolshevik Revolution, which had given birth to the world's first explicitly atheist regime: Soviet communism.

Everywhere the Pope looked, he saw human societies abandoning Christian values and trying to build paradise on earth through other means. Pius pointed out that if humanity had been able to perfect itself by itself, without God's help, then Jesus Christ would never have come to earth. Jesus, of course, did come, bringing His Gospel and His grace to us, and only by believing in that Gospel and accepting that grace can we achieve true and lasting peace and prosperity.

The Pope instituted today's Solemnity as a way to remind the world that to reject Christ, either in private life or in public life, is to reject our only hope, and conversely to accept him is to accept salvation. He wrote, "Once [we] recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony... That these blessings may be abundant and lasting in Christian society, it is necessary that the kingship of our Savior should be as widely as possible recognized and understood." That same societal rejection of Christian values that the Pope responded to in 1925 is stronger than ever today; and so this becomes an increasingly important feast for our world.

The Holy Father emphasized the link between private and public life - what we say and what we do. He stressed that it's not enough for Christians to hold onto their faith only in their private lives. We must bring Christ and Christian values into culture, politics, and every sphere of society. If we truly believe in Christ, why would we be afraid of defending and spreading Christian values? Why would we let ourselves be bullied by those who try to exclude Christ from culture?

In 1908, the famous English historian and writer, Hilaire Belloc ran for the British Parliament. His opponents tried to scare off his supporters by claiming that Belloc's faithfulness to the Catholic Church would inhibit him from being objective. Belloc responded in a speech, "Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day." Taking beads out of his pocket he continued, "This is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell its beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God for having spared me the indignity of being your representative." The crowd was shocked for a minute, and then burst out in applause. He went on to win that election, and many more.

If Catholics cannot bring Christ's wisdom, goodness, truth and grace into our society, what do we have to offer? With Christ truly as our King we should not be afraid to spread His Kingdom. But, being followers of Christ the King doesn't mean that we force people into the Church. That was not Christ's method, and so it should not be ours. As Pope John Paul II said more than once, the Church does not impose its beliefs, she proposes them. But we must be courageous in making that proposal - and it is the responsibility of us all.

We are all ambassadors of Christ the King. We represent Him to the world. Through us, His wisdom can enlighten culture. Through us, his grace reaches into every corner of the human community and heals it of selfishness, greed, and injustice. Our job as ambassadors is simply to be loyal and constant and public. That means first of all that we must know our King's desires and priorities, and, as ambassadors, put the King's program into action. And so, are we active ambassadors? Is Christ's truth and grace reaching more people through us, through our words, deeds, and example? We are called to know Christ's message better and better, and to deliver it wherever we find ourselves.

Today as Christ comes once again to encourage, enlighten, and strengthen us in the Holy Eucharist, let's renew our faith in this great and eternal King, and let's renew our commitment to spread His Kingdom - in thought, in word and in deed.When did we see you, our Lord and King, and reach out to your need?

"I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers (or sisters) of mine, you did for me."

May God give you peace.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Assisi rising

We just arrived in Rome today after a week in Assisi. This is the view from my hotel room in Assisi of Santa Maria degli Angeli in the morning fog. We had an incredible time in the land of Francis and Clare, and are now in Rome. Tomorrow we have Mass at the altar where Blessed Pope John 23rd is entombed and visit more sights of the Eternal City. We're praying for you all.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

These are remarks of Pope Benedict from today, the Feast of the dedication of St. John Lateran:

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today the liturgy celebrates the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called “mother and head of all the churches of the city and the world.” In fact, this basilica was the first to be built after Emperor Constantine’s edict, in 313, granted Christians freedom to practice their religion.

The emperor himself gave Pope Miltiades the ancient palace of the Laterani family, and the basilica, the baptistery, and the patriarchate, that is, the Bishop of Rome’s residence -- where the Popes lived until the Avignon period -- were all built there. The basilica’s dedication was celebrated by Pope Sylvester around 324 and was named Most Holy Savior; only after the 6th century were the names of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist added, and now is typically denominated by these latter.

Initially the observance of this feast was confined to the city of Rome; then, beginning in 1565, it was extended to all the Churches of the Roman rite. The honoring of this sacred edifice was a way of expressing love and veneration for the Roman Church, which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch says, “presides in charity” over the whole Catholic communion (Letter to the Romans, 1:1).

On this solemnity the Word of God recalls an essential truth: the temple of stones is a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, which in their letters the Apostles Peter and Paul already understood as a “spiritual edifice,” built by God with “living stones,” namely, Christians themselves, upon the one foundation of Jesus Christ, who is called the “cornerstone” (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17; 1 Peter 2:4-8; Ephesians 2:20-22). “Brothers, you are God’s building,” St. Paul wrote, and added: “holy is God’s temple, which you are” (1 Corinthians 3:9c, 17).

The beauty and harmony of the churches, destined to give praise to God, also draws us human being, limited and sinful, to convert to form a “cosmos,” a well-ordered structure, in intimate communion with Jesus, who is the true Saint of saints. This happens in a culminating way in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the “ecclesia,” that is, the community of the baptized, come together in a unified way to listen to the Word of God and nourish themselves with the Body and Blood of Christ. From these two tables the Church of living stones is built up in truth and charity and is internally formed by the Holy Spirit transforming herself into what she receives, conforming herself more and more to the Lord Jesus Christ. She herself, if she lives in sincere and fraternal unity, in this way becomes the spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God.

Dear friends, today’s feast celebrates a mystery that is always relevant: God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships him in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23-24). But this observance also reminds us of the importance of the material buildings in which the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God. Every community therefore has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we call upon the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that she help us to become, like her, the “house of God,” living temple of his love.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Blessed John Duns Scotus

Today is the 7th Centenary of the death of the great Franciscan philosopher/theologian, Blessed John Duns Scotus. I have a few resources for everyone today. The first is a homily preached by Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien at the International Centenary Symposium on the Mariology of Scotus last month in Scotland:
INTRODUCTION:It gives me very great pleasure to welcome you all here to Duns this afternoon to ourbeautiful little church dedicated to Our Lady and St Margaret.I know that you have come on pilgrimage here from the International Symposium being held at Durham University – I would hope a welcome break for you all in the midst of deep theological lectures on various aspects of the life and work of Blessed John Duns Scotus.

Hopefully here in this beautiful border country of Scotland where John Duns Scotus was born you will be able to absorb something of the beauties of nature which affected John as he was growing up and no doubt had a considerable influence on his thought.

As you know John became a Franciscan; studied at the University of Oxford; was ordained to the Priesthood on 17 th March 1291; and continued his studies at Oxford before being sent to Paris. He lectured in Oxford and in Paris for a considerable number of years before he was sent to Cologne where he lectured for some time before his untimely death on 8 th November 1308 at approximately 43 years of age and at the height of his maturity. It is the 700 thanniversary of his death which we are commemorating at this time.

THEOLOGY OF BLESSED JOHN DUNS SCOTUS: With so many theologians around me I hesitate to try to summarise the theology of Blessed John Duns Scotus in a few words. However I quote from the late Father Eric Doyle O.F.M. who wrote in a pamphlet producedfor the 7 th centenary of the birth of John Duns Scotus: “If one were asked to summarise the vast synthesis of truth created by Duns Scotus, the answer would take no more than a few words – a philosophy of love and of theology centred on Christ”.

Perhaps in thinking of the theology of John we should emphasise his teaching on “the uniqueness of each and every individual person”; we should reflect on his theology of “Christ and his relationship to the world”; and thirdly of course we should realise the depth of the teaching contained in “his defence of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Lady” almost 600 years before the Definition of the Dogma by Pope Pius IX in1854.

Here in this beautiful little parish church his teaching with regard to the Immaculate Conception is summed up in the stained glass window above my head with the engraving ofthe words: “potuit; decuit; ergo fecit”; “it could be done; it would be fitting if it were done; therefore it was done!”.

SPIRITUALITY OF BLESSED JOHN DUNS SCOTUS: However it is not because of the depth of his theology that we gather today for this symposium and in this little church. It is to thank God for the spirituality of this man.

Even in his own time when preparations were being made for his reception of his mastership in theology, the Minister General of the Franciscans wrote: “I authorise to be presented…..the beloved father in Christ... John Scotus. I am thoroughly informed, partly from my own experience and partly from his world wide reputation, of his praiseworthy life, his outstanding knowledge, his most subtle mind, and his other remarkable qualities….” Those words were written over 700 years ago.

And it was less than 20 years ago that there was promulgated the decree of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the presence of Pope John Paul II which declared: “The fame of holiness, the virtues, and the cult from time immemorial, given to the servant of God, John Duns Scotus, professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor, born in Duns Scotland towards the end of 1265 and died in Cologne Germany on 8 th November 1308”.

Many of us here present, including myself, were in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome to share in the joy of the promulgation of that decree of our late Holy Father Pope John Paul II.

CONCLUSION: As you gather at the Symposium in Durham University and as we gather here this afternoon perhaps we should give some further thought to the relevance of Blessed John Duns Scotus in our world of today.

He is indeed what we might describe as a “saint for Europe”; we should realise how his theological thought can help us in the realisation of the uniqueness of each one of us as an individual; and we should be led on to ever deeper thought of our union as human beings in the love of God and of the role of Our Blessed Lady in our redemption.

Underlying it all however should be the realisation that basic to the depth of his theology and the ability to teach of this the “subtle Doctor” there was a good holy man, an exemplary friar, a son of St Francis, a wonderful priest, born and brought up in this beautiful border country of Scotland who grew throughout his life in his knowledge and love of Our Lord and in his desire to serve that same Lord in the simplicity of his life as a Franciscan.

May we bestrengthened to serve that same Lord and his people with something of the wisdom and simplicity of Blessed John Duns Scotus.

And, another tidbit for you today, the General Ministers of the Order of Friars Minor and the Third Order Regular have issued a letter for this occassion. You can read it at the link below:

"O Most High, Almighty and gracious Lord, Who exalts the humble and confounds the proud of heart, grant us the great joy of seeing Blessed John Duns Scotus canonized. He honored Your Son with the most sublime praises; he was the first to successfully defend the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary; he lived in heroic obedience to the Holy Father, to the Church and to the Seraphic Order. O most holy Father, God of infinite love, hear, we beseech You, our humble prayer, thorough the merits of Your Only-Begotten Son and of His Mother, the Immaculate Conception."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

US BIshops offer congratulations to President-elect

The following letter was sent to President-elect Obama by Cardinal Francis George, current president of the U.S. Bishops Confernce:

Dear President-elect Obama,

I write to you, in my capacity as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to express our congratulations on your historic election as President of the United States.

The people of our country have entrusted you with a great responsibility. As Catholic Bishops, we offer our prayers that God give you strength and wisdom to meet the coming challenges.

Our country is confronting many uncertainties. We pray that you will use the powers of your office to meet them with a special concern to defend the most vulnerable among us and heal the divisions in our country and our world. We stand ready to work with you in defense and support of the life and dignity of every human person.

May God bless you and Vice President-elect Biden as you prepare to assume your duties in service to our country and its citizens.

Sincerely yours,
Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago
President USCCB

Vatican hopes President-elect Obama will promote human dignity

Vatican City, Nov 5, 2008 / 11:45 am (CNA).- Speaking to Vatican Radio on Wednesday, the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, announced that Pope Benedict XVI has sent his greetings to President-elect Barack Obama, the content of which will not be made public "because of its personal nature."

“The duty that the President of the United States has is a task of the highest responsibility not only for his country but for the whole world, given the importance that the U.S. has in every field of the world scene," Fr. Lombardi said in Spanish.

“For this reason, we all hope the new President Obama will be able to respond to the expectations and hopes placed in him, by effectively serving what is right and just, finding adequate ways to promote world peace, favoring the growth and dignity of the human person, in full respect of the essential human and spiritual values,” the Vatican spokesman remarked.

“Believers pray that God may enlighten and assist him in this greatest responsibility," Lombardi concluded.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Doctors weigh in on election

The AMA polled its members to see where they stand in regards to the Presidential Election. Here's what they discovered:

  • The Allergists voted to scratch it
  • The Dermatologists advised not to make any rash moves.
  • The Gastroenterologists had sort of a gut feeling about it
  • The Neurologists thought the Administration had a lot of nerve
  • The Obstetricians felt they were all laboring under a misconception.
  • The Ophthalmologists considered the idea shortsighted
  • The Pathologists yelled, 'Over my dead body!' while the Pediatricians said, 'Oh, Grow up!'
  • The Psychiatrists thought the whole idea was madness
  • The Radiologists could see right through it
  • The Surgeons decided to wash their hands of the whole thing.
  • The Internists thought it was a bitter pill to swallow
  • The Plastic Surgeons said, 'This puts a whole new face on the matter.'
  • The Podiatrists thought it was a step forward
  • The Urologists felt the scheme wouldn't hold water.
  • The Anesthesiologists thought the whole idea was a gas
  • The Cardiologists didn't have the heart to say no.
  • The Dentists thought it was an oral problem.
  • I can't tell you what the Proctologists had to say!

Don't forget to vote!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Study Links Sex on TV To Teen Pregnancy

CHICAGO, Nov. 3, 2008

(CBS/ AP) Groundbreaking research suggests that pregnancy rates are much higher among teens who watch a lot of TV with sexual dialogue and behavior than among those who have tamer viewing tastes.

"Sex and the City," anyone? That was one of the shows used in the research. The new study is the first to link those viewing habits with teen pregnancy, said lead author Anita Chandra, a Rand Corp. behavioral scientist.

Teens who watched the raciest shows were twice as likely to become pregnant over the next three years as those who watched few such programs. Previous research by some of the same scientists had already found that watching lots of sex on TV can influence teens to have sex at earlier ages.

Shows that highlight only the positive aspects of sexual behavior without the risks can lead teens to have unprotected sex "before they're ready to make responsible and informed decisions," Chandra said.

The study was released Monday in the November issue of Pediatrics. It involved 2,003 12- to 17-year-old girls and boys nationwide questioned by telephone about their TV viewing habits in 2001. Teens were re-interviewed twice, the last time in 2004, and asked about pregnancy. Among girls, 58 became pregnant during the follow-up, and among boys, 33 said they had gotten a girl pregnant.

Participants were asked how often they watched any of more than 20 TV shows popular among teens at the time or which were found to have lots of sexual content. The programs included "Sex and the City," "That '70s Show" and "Friends." Pregnancies were twice as common among those who said they watched such shows regularly, compared with teens who said they hardly ever saw them. There were more pregnancies among the oldest teens interviewed, but the rate of pregnancy remained consistent across all age groups among those who watched the racy programs.

Chandra said TV-watching was strongly connected with teen pregnancy even when other factors were considered, including grades, family structure and parents' education level. But the study didn't adequately address other issues, such as self-esteem, family values and income, contends Elizabeth Schroeder, executive director of Answer, a teen sex education program based at Rutgers University.

"The media does have an impact, but we don't know the full extent of it because there are so many other factors," Schroeder said. The question of whether a child's viewing habits in general affected pregnancy rates, mainly the total number of hours spent watching television - not just racy programming - was also not covered, as pointed out on CBS' The Early Show. But Bill Albert, chief program officer at the nonprofit National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, praised the study and said it "catches up with common sense."

"Media helps shape the social script for teenagers. Most parents know that. This is just good research to confirm that," Albert said. Still, U.S. teen pregnancies were on a 15-year decline until a 3 percent rise in 2006, the latest data available. Experts think that could be just be a statistical blip. And Albert noted that the downward trend occurred as TV shows were becoming more sexualized, confirming that "it's not the only influence."

Psychologist David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, cited data suggesting only about 19 percent of American teens say they can talk openly with a trusted adult about sex.

With many schools not offering sex education, that leaves the media to serve as a sex educator, he said. "For a kid who no one's talking to about sex, and then he watches sitcoms on TV where sex is presented as this is what the cool people do," the outcome is obvious, Walsh said.

He said the message to parents is to talk to their kids about sex long before children are teens. Parents also should be watching what their kids watch and helping filter messages sex-filled shows are sending, he said.

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B16 on evolution

There are many Christian denominations who do not believe in Darwin's theory of evolution. Further, manhy of them believe that the Book of Genesis is a literal story of how the earth was created. This is not the Catholic perspective. Pope John Paul II spoke many years ago eloquently on how evolution is consistent with our Catholic beliefs and with Scripture. Now, our current Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has also spoken on the topic. Below are his thoughts:

My predecessors Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II noted that there is no opposition between faith’s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences. Philosophy in its early stages had proposed images to explain the origin of the cosmos on the basis of one or more elements of the material world. This genesis was not seen as a creation, but rather a mutation or transformation; it involved a somewhat horizontal interpretation of the origin of the world.

A decisive advance in understanding the origin of the cosmos was the consideration of being qua being and the concern of metaphysics with the most basic question of the first or transcendent origin of participated being. In order to develop and evolve, the world must first be, and thus have come from nothing into being. It must be created, in other words, by the first Being who is such by essence.

To state that the foundation of the cosmos and its developments is the provident wisdom of the Creator is not to say that creation has only to do with the beginning of the history of the world and of life. It implies, rather, that the Creator founds these developments and supports them, underpins them and sustains them continuously. Thomas Aquinas taught that the notion of creation must transcend the horizontal origin of the unfolding of events, which is history, and consequently all our purely naturalistic ways of thinking and speaking about the evolution of the world. Thomas observed that creation is neither a movement nor a mutation. It is instead the foundational and continuing relationship that links the creature to the Creator, for he is the cause of every being and all becoming (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q.45, a. 3).

To "evolve" literally means "to unroll a scroll", that is, to read a book. The imagery of nature as a book has its roots in Christianity and has been held dear by many scientists. Galileo saw nature as a book whose author is God in the same way that Scripture has God as its author. It is a book whose history, whose evolution, whose "writing" and meaning, we "read" according to the different approaches of the sciences, while all the time presupposing the foundational presence of the author who has wished to reveal himself therein. This image also helps us to understand that the world, far from originating out of chaos, resembles an ordered book; it is a cosmos.

Notwithstanding elements of the irrational, chaotic and the destructive in the long processes of change in the cosmos, matter as such is "legible". It has an inbuilt "mathematics". The human mind therefore can engage not only in a "cosmography" studying measurable phenomena but also in a "cosmology" discerning the visible inner logic of the cosmos. We may not at first be able to see the harmony both of the whole and of the relations of the individual parts, or their relationship to the whole. Yet, there always remains a broad range of intelligible events, and the process is rational in that it reveals an order of evident correspondences and undeniable finalities: in the inorganic world, between microstructure and macrostructure; in the organic and animal world, between structure and function; and in the spiritual world, between knowledge of the truth and the aspiration to freedom. Experimental and philosophical inquiry gradually discovers these orders; it perceives them working to maintain themselves in being, defending themselves against imbalances, and overcoming obstacles.

And thanks to the natural sciences we have greatly increased our understanding of the uniqueness of humanity’s place in the cosmos.The distinction between a simple living being and a spiritual being that is capax Dei, points to the existence of the intellective soul of a free transcendent subject.

Thus the Magisterium of the Church has constantly affirmed that "every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘produced’ by the parents – and also that it is immortal". This points to the distinctiveness of anthropology, and invites exploration of it by modern thought.

Distinguished Academicians, I wish to conclude by recalling the words addressed to you by my predecessor Pope John Paul II in November 2003: "scientific truth, which is itself a participation in divine Truth, can help philosophy and theology to understand ever more fully the human person and God’s Revelation about man, a Revelation that is completed and perfected in Jesus Christ.

For this important mutual enrichment in the search for the truth and the benefit of mankind, I am, with the whole Church, profoundly grateful".

The Catholic Vote

FRIAR'S CORNER, November 2, 2008:

We are, at last, coming to the end of what has been a long and interesting election cycle. On Tuesday, we will head off to our voting places and cast our vote for the man who will be our next President, along with a variety of other offices and issues. Catholics are always curious what the Church thinks and how we should vote while being true to our beliefs. So, let me reflect on that a bit today.

First, let me say, that the Church never backs a candidate or a party, but rather always issues. This is in part because of the separation of Church and state that we hold so dear, but it is also sadly because there is NO candidate who supports fully what the Catholic Church supports.

There is always going to be a struggle between the parts of a candidates platform that are in line with Catholic teaching and the parts that are not.But, contrary to what some partisan Catholics want us to believe - a Catholic voter can make a moral choice for either of the candidates in this election.

The Pope highlighted during the last election cycle that a Catholic cannot vote in conscience for someone who holds serious views that are in contradiction to Catholic teaching if that is the primary reason they are supporting them, but they can vote for that candidate for other reasons. And, so a Catholic could never support someone precisely because they support abortion, but could vote for other proportionate reasons; or a Catholic could not support someone precisely because they favor the death penalty, but could for other reasons.

So, what is a Catholic to do? Well, the US Bishops give us some guidance. Every election cycle they produce a document called Faithful Citizenship which is meant to help Catholic voters be more aware of the issues we should consider when making this very important choice. In it the Bishops say, "The Church is involved in the political process but is not partisan. The Church cannot champion any candidate or party. Our cause is the defense of human life and dignity and the protection of the weak and vulnerable. In light of these principles and the blessings we share as part of a free and democratic nation, we bishops vigorously repeat our call for a renewed kind of politics: Focused more on moral principles than on the latest polls; Focused more on the needs of the weak than on benefits for the strong; Focused more on the pursuit of the common good than on the demands of narrow interests."

Here are some of the issues Faithful Citizenship highlights:

A Safer, Better World: How will candidates build not only a safer world, but a better world? One that is more just, more secure, more peaceful, more respectful of human life and dignity? How will candidates keep our nation from turning to violence to solve some of its most difficult problems--abortion to deal with difficult pregnancies; the death penalty to combat crime; euthanasia and assisted suicide to deal with the burdens of age, illness, and disability; and war to address international disputes? How will our nation pursue the values of justice and peace in a world where injustice is common, desperate poverty widespread, and peace is overwhelmed by violence?

Protecting the Poor: Especially in our tough economic times, how will candidates address the tragic fact that more than 30,000 children die every day as a result of hunger and poverty; that the younger you are, the more likely you are to be poor here? How can we work together to overcome poverty, pursue the common good, care for creation, and overcome injustice?

Health Care: How will candidates address the growing number of families and individuals without affordable and accessible health care?

Prejudice and Racism: How will candidates help our society combat continuing prejudice, overcome hostility toward immigrants and refugees, and heal the wounds of racism, religious bigotry, and other forms of discrimination?

Stewardship of Creation: How will candidates establish policies that address protecting our environment and preserving our natural resources?

Pro-Life: How will candidates protect innocent unborn children? Will they support the full range of life issues, being against abortion, the death penalty, the use of embryonic stem cells, cloning, assisted suicide and euthanasia?

We are called to see political life through the eyes of our faith and to bring our moral convictions to our public life. We aren't called to approach politics as Democrats or Republicans, as conservatives or liberals - but, as Catholics.

The most important thing for us to do is be involved. Let candidates know what is important to us as Catholics, and most importantly, vote on Tuesday.

You can read the Bishop's complete statement at:

Love, Fr. Tom

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"We are defined by whom we have lost"


Columnist Anna Quindlen, reflecting a few years ago on death after the passing of her sister-in-law at a young age wrote, “My brother and I . . . were both teenagers when our mother died, we know that if anyone were to ask us, ‘When does it stop hurting?’ we would have to answer in all candor, ‘If it ever does, we will let you know.’...As a writer, I wrote my obituaries carefully and think about how little the facts suffice, not only to describe the dead but to tell what they will mean to the living all the rest of our lives. We are defined by whom we have lost.”

As I reflect today on this All Souls day, I kept hearing Quindlen's words, “we are defined by whom we have lost.” As we gather here today and in particular call to mind all our loved ones who have gone to their eternal rest, these words can almost become a prayer: we are defined by whom we have lost.

We live in a culture that wants us to “get over it” when someone dies, to move on, or the current favorite word of pop psychology “to find closure.” But, the Church, in its long held wisdom, gives us this Feast, asking us to not “get over it,” but rather to give voice to our grief and sorrow.

Today is a day that respects our love for those who have died, both the grief of losing someone close to us, perhaps over the course of this year, or the loss in our world due to hunger, poverty, violence and war; and to pray in a special way for all the souls in Purgatory, helping them achieve the glory of Heaven through our prayers.

As Christians, we believe that our dear ones are now safe in God's care. As followers of Jesus, we believe He will strengthen us while we live. There is no need for heavy theology today, or extensive explanation of our Scriptures because we already know what we believe about resurrection and eternal life. So, instead, let me just suggest three small things to do at the end of the day that helps us to honor our beloved departed:

First, Remember - Jesus gave his disciples these powerful words, “Do this in memory of me,” in other words, remember me. So too, our loved ones must be called to mind, we must keep them in our memory and keep our love for them alive. Angels appeared to the disciples after the resurrection telling them to remember that Jesus had prepared them for this moment. From Luke’s Gospel, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Then they remembered His words. We too, in our tears and sorrows, remember that Jesus understands our hurt, our sorrow, our heartache. We can bring all of it to Him and He will heal us, especially as we remember.

Second, Give Thanks - In the Book of Sirach, we hear the remembrance of people who lived their faith and touched others: “Shed tears for one who is dead…as is only proper…give thanks, as they deserve.” Memory fills us with a sense of gratitude and praise. When we remember those who have died, so many thoughts come into our mind: things we did, or did not do; sometimes regret; words that may or may not have been spoken. Today we are asked to dismiss all of that; even if just for today. We remember our dead and for them and their lives, for the difference they made to us and others, we are grateful. And so think today, for whom are you grateful? Whether their life was a long full one, or ended with too many roads untravelled; whether they died suddenly, peacefully, or after a long illness; for whom are you grateful. Relish that memory and offer it up to the Lord.

The third thing we can do is Live - We are defined by whom we have lost. Those we have loved and lost, have contributed to who we are. And so, who are we? How can we allow the memories and the gratitude to shape us? Maybe that is the privilege, the blessing of those who have embraced loss: loss reminds us that we cannot live as though we have all the time in the world. We cannot let words go unspoken, gestures of love go undone. Like the disciples, we realize we cannot wear grief like a badge that exempts us from living. No, our grief gently, but firmly, calls us to live.

The great abolitionist Sojourner Truth once said, “I'm not gonna just die... I'm going home like a shooting star.” Today, on this All Souls Day, let us pause, and think about those stars, those lights that have shaped us, and gone home. And let us take a deep breath, and continue our lives, knowing that Jesus, the Morning Star, who guided them home, will one day safely guide us home too. Today we remember, give thanks and live as those who will also be joined with all of those in heaven one day. And we pray for all of our loved ones who have gone before us, especially those souls in Purgatory, that they will enjoy one day the joy of God’s presence in Heaven.

Eternal life grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

May God give you peace.

Changing the impossible

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