Monday, December 30, 2002

From the Desert: on having realistic goals

Amma Sarah said, "If I prayed God that all men should approve of my conduct, I should find myself a penitent at the door of each one, but I shall rather pray that my heart may be pure towards all."
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Special feedback request!

Today it's been two months since I first proposed the Spiritual Fitness Program, back on October 30th. If a few of you who tried it can email me, or comment here, about how it worked out for you or didn't, I would greatly appreciate it, so I can make improvements for the next time I get asked for advice or get told that Catholic living's too tough...... Emails will not be published, prayer's too personal a thing; if you want to be public, use the comments boxes.
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Intercession please

Bene Diction does blog on, at a new address: I have corrected the sidebar link. Considering the suddenness of his disappearance and then his move, and other signs in the blogosphere --- including his total disappearance from the "Semi-definitive list" site he helped to found --- I suspect prayers are in order (and, if I'm wrong, they sure can't hurt).
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Saturday, December 28, 2002

Another adventure of Abba Macarius in the desert: the glory of peace in the home

Once when Abba Macarius was praying in his cell, he heard a voice which said, "Macarius, you have not yet reached the standard of two women in the city."

On his arrival in the city, he found the house and knocked at the door. A woman opened it, and welcomed him to her house. He sat down, and called them to sit down with him. Then he said to them, "It is for you that I have taken this long journey. Tell me how you live a religious life." They said, "Indeed, how can we lead a religious life? We were with our husbands last night." But the old man persuaded them to tell him their way of life.

Then they said, "We are both foreigners, in the world's eyes. But we accepted in marriage two brothers. Today we have been sharing this house for fifteen years. We do not know whether we have quarreled or said rude words to each other; but the whole of this time we have lived peaceably together. We thought we would enter a convent, and asked our husbands for permission, but they refused it. So since we could not get this permission, we have made a covenant between ourselves and God that a worldly word shall not pass our lips during the rest of our lives."

When Macarius heard this, he said, "Truly, it is not whether you are a virgin or a married woman, a monk or a man in the world: God gives His Holy Spirit to everyone, according to their earnestness of purpose."
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The Ways of Power even now

Click on the headline for a meditation on the truths and ways of the use of power. It was given as a homily at Epiphany last year, but befits this day, when we commemorate the massacre of helpless and innocent babies who were in the way of a cruel man's security in power. [Real Audio needed; 24:12. Sorry no print text available, I know it's longish!]
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Friday, December 27, 2002

My archbishop about today's saint, our archdiocese's patron, filched from his installation homily back in August.

So the strategy is clear: we keep our eyes on Jesus ---
as He speaks to us in His Word,
as He teaches in His Church,
as He continues to save, heal, and forgive in His sacraments,
as He can be served in the least of our brothers and sisters.

And may I conclude by proposing that we can keep our eyes on Jesus as we "walk on the water" towards Him by learning from the patron of our great Archdiocese, St. John, Apostle and Evangelist:

At the most solemn and critical time in His life, Jesus found His beloved disciple near Him: at the Last Supper, with His head on His shoulder, as He gave us the Eucharist, and there at the foot of the Cross, next to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

My new friends in Christ: we find ourselves at a solemn and critical moment in the life of Christ's Church. We can never go wrong in imitating St. John: staying close to Jesus in the Eucharist, and taking Mary into our homes as our Mother.

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St. Stephen and St. Paul rejoicing together: St. Fulgentius of Respe in yesterday's Office of Readings

Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.

Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.

Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defence, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.

My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2002

The Incarnation, by St. John of the Cross

Now that the time had come
when it would be good
to ransom the bride
serving under the hard yoke

of that law
which Moses had given her,
the Father, with tender love,
spoke in this way:

Now You see, Son, that Your bride
was made in your image,
and so far as she is like You
she will suit You well;

yet she is different, in her flesh,
which Your simple being does not have.

In perfect love
this law holds:

that the lover become
like the one he loves;
for the greater their likeness,
the greater their delight.

Surely Your bride's delight
would greatly increase
were she to see You like her,
in her own flesh.

My will is Yours,
the Son replied,
and My glory is
that Your will be Mine.

This is fitting, Father,
what You, the Most High, say;
for in this way
Your goodness will be the more seen.

Your great power will be seen,
and Your justice and wisdom.
I will go and tell the world,
spreading the word
of Your beauty and sweetness,
and of Your sovereignty.

I will go seek My bride
and take upon Myself
her weariness and labors
in which she suffers so;

and that she may have life
I will die for her,
and, lifting her out of that deep,
I will restore her to You. ....

When the time had come
for Him to be born
He went forth like the bridegroom
from his bridal chamber,

embracing His bride,
holding her in His arms,
Whom the gracious Mother
laid in a manger

among some animals
that were there at that time.
Men sang songs
and angels melodies

celebrating the marriage
of Two such as these.
But God there in the manger
cried and moaned;

and those tears were jewels
the bride brought to the wedding.
The Mother gazed in sheer wonder
on such an exchange:

In God, man's weeping,
and in man, gladness;
to the one and the other
things usually so strange.
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A Nativity sermon of St. Leo the Great, from today's Office of Readings

Dearly beloved, today our Saviour is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.

And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.
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Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Blessed Christmas, all!
from St. Ephrem's 5th hymn on the Nativity


Behold, O Bethlehem!
David the King clothes himself in fine white linen.
The Lord of David
and Son of David hid His glory
in swaddling clothes.
His swaddling clothes gave
a robe of glory to human beings.
On this day our Lord exchanged
radiance for shame,
as the Humble One.
For Adam exchanged truth for evil
as a rebel.
The Gracious One took pity;
His upright deeds conquered those of the wicked one.

On the birth of the Son,
the emperor was enrolling
the people in the census,
so that they would be indebted to him.
To us the King came out
to cancel our debts,
and He wrote in His name another debt,
so that He would be indebted to us.

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One of those ubiquitous virus warnings, with a twist, from the OpenCath listserv:

VIRUS ALERT: THE ADVENT VIRUS

Be on the alert for symptoms of inner HOPE, PEACE JOY, and LOVE!

The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to this virus and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions.

This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a firly stable condition of conflict in the world.

Some signs and symptoms of THE ADVENT VIRUS:

A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.

An unmistakable ability to enjoy the moment.

A loss of interest in judging others.

A loss of interest in conflict.

A loss of the ability to worry.

Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation and thankfulness.

Contented feelings of connectedness with others and God's nature.

Frequent attacks of smiling.

An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than making them happen.

An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.

Please send this warning out to all whom you love. This virus can and has affected many systems. Some systems have been completely cleaned out because of it!

Blessings and Health!

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Monday, December 23, 2002

O Emmanuel, God with us, let us know that presence.

O Emmanuel,
Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio gentium,
et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.

O Emmanuel,
Our King and lawgiver,
expected one of the nations,
and their Savior:
Come to save us, O Lord our God.

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Sunday, December 22, 2002

O King of the nations, our true Lord

O Rex Gentium,
et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations
and their desired One,
the Cornerstone that makes both one:
come, and deliver man,
whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.

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Saturday, December 21, 2002

My Christmas homily for the REBORN listserv

The from-all-eternity, all-powerful, all-knowing Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity and Creator of the entire universe came to us as a baby.

Why?

Because babies are irresistible! A coo or a whimper or waving a little fist, and we are putty in a baby's power. Let the corners of baby's mouth curl up when it burps, and we will be absolutely besmitten.

The Lord counts on it. How can we _not_ accept Him? There will be time enough for the future lessons.
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O Morning Star: it never sets.....the Light shines out in darkness.

O Oriens,
splendor lucis æternæ,
et sol justitiæ:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.

O Morning Star,
splendor of eternal light,
and sun of righteousness:
come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness
and the shadow of death.

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Friday, December 20, 2002

O Key of David: once that key unlocks us, we're free forever!

O Clavis David,
et sceptrum domus Israël,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit,
claudis, et nemo aperuit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.


O Key of David,
and scepter of the house of Israel,
You open, and no man shuts,
You shut, and no man opens:
come, and lead the captive from the prison house,
who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.

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Thursday, December 19, 2002

O Root of Jesse. from which we grow or into which we're grafted....

O Radix Jesse,
qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare..

O Root of Jesse,
that stands for an ensign of the people,
before whom the kings keep silence
and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication:
come to deliver us, and tarry not.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2002

World Day of Peace, 2003: Pacem in Terris, a permanent commitment

courtesy of the CINJustAnn listserv, the statement of Pope John Paul II for the upcoming World Day of Peace.
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MESSAGE
OF HIS HOLINESS
POPE JOHN PAUL II
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE
WORLD DAY OF PEACE

1 JANUARY 2003

PACEM IN TERRIS:
A PERMANENT COMMITMENT

1. Almost forty years ago, on Holy Thursday, 11 April 1963, Pope John XXIII published his epic Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris. Addressing himself to "all men of good will", my venerable predecessor, who would die just two months later, summed up his message of "peace on earth" in the first sentence of the Encyclical: "Peace on earth, which all men of every era have most eagerly yearned for, can be firmly established and sustained only if the order laid down by God be dutifully observed" (Introduction: AAS, 55 [1963], 257).

Speaking peace to a divided world

2. The world to which John XXIII wrote was then in a profound state of disorder. The twentieth century had begun with great expectations for progress. Yet within sixty years, that same century had produced two World Wars, devastating totalitarian systems, untold human suffering, and the greatest persecution of the Church in history.

Only two years before Pacem in Terris, in 1961, the Berlin Wall had been erected in order to divide and set against each other not only two parts of that City but two ways of understanding and building the earthly city. On one side and the other of the Wall, life was to follow different patterns, dictated by antithetical rules, in a climate of mutual suspicion and mistrust. Both as a world-view and in real life, that Wall traversed the whole of humanity and penetrated people's hearts and minds, creating divisions that seemed destined to last indefinitely.

Moreover, just six months before the Encyclical, and just as the Second Vatican Council was opening in Rome, the world had come to the brink of a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The road to a world of peace, justice and freedom seemed blocked. Humanity, many believed, was condemned to live indefinitely in that precarious condition of "cold war", hoping against hope that neither an act of aggression nor an accident would trigger the worst war in human history. Available atomic arsenals meant that such a war would have imperiled the very future of the human race.

The four pillars of peace

3. Pope John XXIII did not agree with those who claimed that peace was impossible. With his Encyclical, peace -- in all its demanding truth -- came knocking on both sides of the Wall and of all the other dividing walls. The Encyclical spoke to everyone of their belonging to the one human family, and shone a light on the shared aspiration of people everywhere to live in security, justice and hope for the future.

With the profound intuition that characterized him, John XXIII identified the essential conditions for peace in four precise requirements of the human spirit: truth, justice, love and freedom (cf. ibid., I: l.c., 265-266). Truth will build peace if every individual sincerely acknowledges not only his rights, but also his own duties towards others. Justice will build peace if in practice everyone respects the rights of others and actually fulfils his duties towards them. Love will build peace if people feel the needs of others as their own and share what they have with others, especially the values of mind and spirit which they possess. Freedom will build peace and make it thrive if, in the choice of the means to that end, people act according to reason and assume responsibility for their own actions.

Looking at the present and into the future with the eyes of faith and reason, Blessed John XXIII discerned deeper historical currents at work. Things were not always what they seemed on the surface. Despite wars and rumors of wars, something more was at work in human affairs, something that to the Pope looked like the promising beginning of a spiritual revolution.

A new awareness of human dignity and inalienable human rights

4. Humanity, John XXIII wrote, had entered a new stage of its journey (cf. ibid., I: l.c., 267-269). The end of colonialism and the rise of newly independent States, the protection of workers' rights, the new and welcome presence of women in public life, all testified to the fact that the human race was indeed entering a new phase of its history, one characterized by "the conviction that all men are equal by reason of their natural dignity" (ibid., I: l.c.,268). The Pope knew that that dignity was still being trampled upon in many parts of the world. Yet he was convinced that, despite the dramatic situation, the world was becoming increasingly conscious of certain spiritual values, and increasingly open to the meaning of those pillars of peace -- truth, justice, love, and freedom (cf. ibid., I: l.c., 268-269). Seeking to bring these values into local, national and international life, men and women were becoming more aware that their relationship with God, the source of all good, must be the solid foundation and supreme criterion of their lives, as individuals and in society (cf. ibid.). This evolving spiritual intuition would, the Pope was convinced, have profound public and political consequences.

Seeing the growth of awareness of human rights that was then emerging within nations and at the international level, Pope John XXIII caught the potential of this phenomenon and understood its singular power to change history. What was later to happen in central and eastern Europe would confirm his insight. The road to peace, he taught in the Encyclical, lay in the defense and promotion of basic human rights, which every human being enjoys, not as a benefit given by a different social class or conceded by the State but simply because of our humanity: "Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person, that is, his nature is endowed with intelligence and free will. Indeed, precisely because he is a person he has rights and obligations, flowing directly and simultaneously from his very nature. And as these rights and obligations are universal and inviolable so they cannot in any way be surrendered" (ibid., 259).

As history would soon show, this was not simply an abstract idea; it was an idea with profound consequences. Inspired by the conviction that every human being is equal in dignity, and that society therefore had to adapt its form to that conviction, human rights movements soon arose and gave concrete political expression to one of the great dynamics of contemporary history: the quest for freedom as an indispensable component of work for peace. Emerging in virtually every part of the world, these movements were instrumental in replacing dictatorial forms of government with more democratic and participatory ones. They demonstrated in practice that peace and progress could only be achieved by respecting the universal moral law written on the human heart (cf. John Paul II, Address to the United Nations General Assembly, 5 October 1995, No. 3).

The universal common good

5. On another point too Pacem in Terris showed itself prophetic, as it looked to the next phase of the evolution of world politics. Because the world was becoming increasingly interdependent and global, the common good of humanity had to be worked out on the international plane. It was proper, Pope John XXIII taught, to speak of a "universal common good " (Pacem in Terris, IV: l.c., 292). One of the consequences of this evolution was the obvious need for a public authority, on the international level, with effective capacity to advance the universal common good; an authority which could not, the Pope immediately continued, be established by coercion but only by the consent of nations. Such a body would have to have as its fundamental objective the "recognition, respect, safeguarding, and promotion of the rights of the human person" (ibid., IV: l.c., 294).

Not surprisingly therefore John XXIII looked with hope and expectation to the United Nations Organization, which had come into being on June 26, 1945. He saw that Organization as a credible instrument for maintaining and strengthening world peace, and he expressed particular appreciation of its 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which he considered "an approximation towards the establishment of a juridical and political organization of the world community" (ibid., IV: l.c., 295). What he was saying in fact was that the Declaration set out the moral foundations on which the evolution of a world characterized by order rather than disorder, and by dialogue rather than force, could proceed. He was suggesting that the vigorous defense of human rights by the United Nations Organization is the indispensable foundation for the development of that Organization's capacity to promote and defend international security.

Not only is it clear that Pope John XXIII's vision of an effective international public authority at the service of human rights, freedom and peace has not yet been entirely achieved, but there is still in fact much hesitation in the international community about the obligation to respect and implement human rights. This duty touches all fundamental rights, excluding that arbitrary picking and choosing which can lead to rationalizing forms of discrimination and injustice. Likewise, we are witnessing the emergence of an alarming gap between a series of new "rights" being promoted in advanced societies -- the result of new prosperity and new technologies -- and other more basic human rights still not being met, especially in situations of underdevelopment. I am thinking here for example about the right to food and drinkable water, to housing and security, to self-determination and independence -- which are still far from being guaranteed and realized. Peace demands that this tension be speedily reduced and in time eliminated.

Another observation needs to be made: the international community, which since 1948 has possessed a charter of the inalienable rights of the human person, has generally failed to insist sufficiently on corresponding duties. It is duty that establishes the limits within which rights must be contained in order not to become an exercise in arbitrariness. A greater awareness of universal human duties would greatly benefit the cause of peace, setting it on the moral basis of a shared recognition of an order in things which is not dependent on the will of any individual or group.

A new international moral order

6. Nevertheless it remains true that, despite many difficulties and setbacks, significant progress has been made over the past forty years towards the implementation of Pope John's noble vision. The fact that States throughout the world feel obliged to honor the idea of human rights shows how powerful are the tools of moral conviction and spiritual integrity, which proved so decisive in the revolution of conscience that made possible the 1989 non-violent revolution that displaced European communism. And although distorted notions of freedom as license continue to threaten democracy and free societies, it is surely significant that, in the forty years since Pacem in Terris, much of the world has become more free, structures of dialogue and cooperation between nations have been strengthened, and the threat of a global nuclear war, which weighed so heavily on Pope John XXIII, has been effectively contained.

Boldly, but with all humility, I would like to suggest that the Church's fifteen-hundred-year-old teaching on peace as "tranquillitas ordinis -- the tranquility of order" as Saint Augustine called it (De Civitate Dei, 19, 13), which was brought to a new level of development forty years ago by Pacem in Terris, has a deep relevance for the world today, for the leaders of nations as well as for individuals. That there is serious disorder in world affairs is obvious. Thus the question to be faced remains: What kind of order can replace this disorder, so that men and women can live in freedom, justice, and security? And since the world, amid its disorder, continues nevertheless to be "ordered" and organized in various ways -- economic, cultural, even political -- there arises another equally urgent question: On what principles are these new forms of world order unfolding?

These far-reaching questions suggest that the problem of order in world affairs, which is the problem of peace rightly understood, cannot be separated from issues of moral principle. This is another way of saying that the question of peace cannot be separated from the question of human dignity and human rights. That is one of the enduring truths taught by Pacem in Terris, which we would do well to remember and reflect upon on this fortieth anniversary.

Is this not the time for all to work together for a new constitutional organization of the human family, truly capable of ensuring peace and harmony between peoples, as well as their integral development? But let there be no misunderstanding. This does not mean writing the constitution of a global super-State. Rather, it means continuing and deepening processes already in place to meet the almost universal demand for participatory ways of exercising political authority, even international political authority, and for transparency and accountability at every level of public life. With his confidence in the goodness he believed could be found in every human person, Pope John XXIII called the entire world to a nobler vision of public life and public authority, even as he boldly challenged the world to think beyond its present state of disorder to new forms of international order commensurate with human dignity.

The bond between peace and truth

7. Against those who think of politics as a realm of necessity detached from morality and subject only to partisan interests, Pope John XXIII, in Pacem in Terris, outlined a truer picture of human reality and indicated the path to a better future for all. Precisely because human beings are created with the capacity for moral choice, no human activity takes place outside the sphere of moral judgment. Politics is a human activity; therefore, it too is subject to a distinctive form of moral scrutiny. This is also true of international politics. As the Pope wrote: "The same natural law that governs the life and conduct of individuals must also regulate the relations of political communities with one another" (Pacem in Terris, III: l.c., 279). Those who imagine that international public life takes place somewhere outside the realm of moral judgment need only reflect on the impact of human rights movements on the national and international politics of the twentieth century just concluded. These developments, anticipated by the teaching of the Encyclical, decisively refute the claim that international politics must of necessity be a "free zone" in which the moral law holds no sway.

Perhaps nowhere today is there a more obvious need for the correct use of political authority than in the dramatic situation of the Middle East and the Holy Land. Day after day, year after year, the cumulative effect of bitter mutual rejection and an unending chain of violence and retaliation have shattered every effort so far to engage in serious dialogue on the real issues involved. The volatility of the situation is compounded by the clash of interests among the members of the international community. Until those in positions of responsibility undergo a veritable revolution in the way they use their power and go about securing their peoples' welfare, it is difficult to imagine how progress towards peace can be made. The fratricidal struggle that daily convulses the Holy Land and brings into conflict the forces shaping the immediate future of the Middle East shows clearly the need for men and women who, out of conviction, will implement policies firmly based on the principle of respect for human dignity and human rights. Such policies are incomparably more advantageous to everyone than the continuation of conflict. A start can be made on the basis of this truth, which is certainly more liberating than propaganda, especially when that propaganda serves to conceal inadmissible intentions.

The premises of a lasting peace

8. There is an unbreakable bond between the work of peace and respect for truth. Honesty in the supply of information, equity in legal systems, openness in democratic procedures give citizens a sense of security, a readiness to settle controversies by peaceful means, and a desire for genuine and constructive dialogue, all of which constitute the true premises of a lasting peace. Political summits on the regional and international levels serve the cause of peace only if joint commitments are then honored by each party. Otherwise these meetings risk becoming irrelevant and useless, with the result that people believe less and less in dialogue and trust more in the use of force as a way of resolving issues. The negative repercussions on peace resulting from commitments made and then not honored must be carefully assessed by State and government leaders.

Pacta sunt servanda, says the ancient maxim. If at all times commitments ought to be kept, promises made to the poor should be considered particularly binding. Especially frustrating for them is any breach of faith regarding promises which they see as vital to their well-being. In this respect, the failure to keep commitments in the sphere of aid to developing nations is a serious moral question and further highlights the injustice of the imbalances existing in the world. The suffering caused by poverty is compounded by the loss of trust. The end result is hopelessness. The existence of trust in international relations is a social capital of fundamental value.

A culture of peace

9. In the end, peace is not essentially about structures but about people. Certain structures and mechanisms of peace -- juridical, political, economic -- are of course necessary and do exist, but they have been derived from nothing other than the accumulated wisdom and experience of innumerable gestures of peace made by men and women throughout history who have kept hope and have not given in to discouragement. Gestures of peace spring from the lives of people who foster peace first of all in their own hearts. They are the work of the heart and of reason in those who are peacemakers (cf. Mt 5:9). Gestures of peace are possible when people appreciate fully the community dimension of their lives, so that they grasp the meaning and consequences of events in their own communities and in the world. Gestures of peace create a tradition and a culture of peace.

Religion has a vital role in fostering gestures of peace and in consolidating conditions for peace. It exercises this role all the more effectively if it concentrates on what is proper to it: attention to God, the fostering of universal brotherhood and the spreading of a culture of human solidarity. The Day of Prayer for Peace which I promoted in Assisi on 24 January 2002, involving representatives of many religions, had this purpose. It expressed a desire to nurture peace by spreading a spirituality and a culture of peace.

The legacy of Pacem in Terris

10. Blessed Pope John XXIII was a man unafraid of the future. He was sustained in his optimism by his deep trust in God and in man, both of which grew out of the sturdy climate of faith in which he had grown up. Moved by his trust in Providence, even in what seemed like a permanent situation of conflict, he did not hesitate to summon the leaders of his time to a new vision of the world. This is the legacy that he left us. On this World Day of Peace 2003, let us all resolve to have his same outlook: trust in the merciful and compassionate God who calls us to brotherhood, and confidence in the men and women of our time because, like those of every other time, they bear the image of God in their souls. It is on this basis that we can hope to build a world of peace on earth.

At the beginning of a new year in our human history, this is the hope that rises spontaneously from the depths of my heart: that in the spirit of every individual there may be a renewed dedication to the noble mission which Pacem in Terris proposed forty years ago to all men and women of good will. The task, which the Encyclical called "immense," is that "of establishing new relationships in human society, under the sway and guidance of truth, justice, love, and freedom." Pope John indicated that he was referring to "relations between individual citizens, between citizens and their respective States, between States, and finally between individuals, families, intermediate associations and States on the one hand, and the world community on the other". He concluded by saying that "to bring about true peace in accordance with divinely established order" was a "most noble task" (Pacem in Terris, V: l.c., 301-302).

The fortieth anniversary of Pacem in Terris is an apt occasion to return to Pope John XXIII's prophetic teaching. Catholic communities will know how to celebrate this anniversary during the year with initiatives which, I hope, will have an ecumenical and interreligious character and be open to all those who have a heartfelt desire "to break through the barriers which divide them, to strengthen the bonds of mutual love, to learn to understand one another and to pardon those who have done them wrong" (l.c., 304).

I accompany this hope with a prayer to Almighty God, the source of all our good. May he who calls us from oppression and conflict to freedom and cooperation for the good of all help people everywhere to build a world of peace ever more solidly established on the four pillars indicated by Blessed Pope John XXIII in his historic Encyclical: truth, justice, love, freedom.

From the Vatican, 8 December 2002

JOHN PAUL II
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O LORD and ruler: of Israel, of the whole world, and of me....

O ADONAI, et dux domus Israël,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O LORD AND RULER of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
come, and redeem us with outstretched arm.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2002

O Wisdom: the time is nearing....

O Sapientia,
quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter,
suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom,
Who procedes from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching out mightily from end to end,
and sweetly arranging all things:
come to teach us the way of prudence.


When the time of the O antiphons comes, we know that Christmas is truly near. Rejoice, and keep preparing.

Also, tomorrow is the first of this winter's ember days. If you're minded to observe, don't forget to put your red beans to soak this afternoon. [smile: red beans and rice is God's own gift to the fasting and abstaining!]
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Sunday, December 15, 2002

Fairness Doctrine notice

Fair notice given: as usual, I'm getting fisked over at Terrence's place. The curious can go and read. Suffice it to say that Terrence and I disagree on many many things, and also that no amount of fisking will bring me to play parse the sound bite against anybody, let alone any bishop of the holy Church.
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Saturday, December 14, 2002

On a dark night I went out unseen..... ; in thankfulness for St. John of the Cross on his day.

One of the more well-known of St. John's verses, and the basis of his book The Dark Night of the Soul.

On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings--oh, happy chance!--
I went forth without being observed, My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised--oh, happy chance!--
In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at rest.

In the happy night, In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught, Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart.

This light guided me More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me-- A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me, Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast, Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him, And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion; My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself, Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

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Friday, December 13, 2002

A Cancer in the Christian Life: from the desert and from Fr. Jim's bishop

first: from my friends the desert Christians.

Abba Or also said: If you have spoken evil of your brother, and you are stricken with remorse, go and kneel down before him and say, "I have spoken badly of you. Let this be my surety that I will not spread this slander any further." For detraction is death to the soul.

and then, courtesy of Fr. Jim of Dappled Things, a link to an excellent teaching by his bishop on slander and other related offences against the truth and against human dignity.

Pray for our battered suffering Church in these days of grief.
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Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Our daily bread doesn't come from the grocery store, or even Archer Daniels Midland

Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the coming week, December 18, 20, and 21, are the winter Ember Days.

No longer mandatory but not banned either, the Ember Days are still observed by some of us old-fashioned types, especially those of us with Catholic Worker heritage. There's lots of information about the Ember Days on the Access to Catholic Social Justice Teaching website.

Traditionally days of fasting and abstaining, on the Ember Days we recall and give thanks to God for the bountiful resources of the earth and the orderly cycle of the seasons.

The good things we need don't originate at the grocery store. Despite their commercials, ADM doesn't create our food. Our food comes from our Lord's good fertile earth and the people who work to keep it that way; from the cycle of the seasons, the snows and rains and dry periods, cold and warm coming at the proper times; and from many people most of us don't care about working very hard to plant and tend and harvest and pack.

So, on the 18th, 20th, and 21st, join us in eating low on the food chain and praying to God in thanksgiving for the seasons and the good earth, and for protection from floods, droughts, blights, and other evils; and also remember and pray for the people who work very hard for very little to plant the potatoes and pick the peas, to put the corn in cans and pluck the chickens, so we can have the privilege of going to the grocery store.
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Wanting to want what we pray for: Suscipe and other adventures in praying

My days are patterned. Meals, correspondence, physical therapy, etc. find their places around the stuff that patterns life:

Morning offering. Examination of conscience and bedtime prayers.

Lauds, Office of Readings, Vespers

"the lists" for the City and for the Archdiocese. Wondering whether I'm doing any good or making any difference, because chaos keeps happening anyway.

Some Lectio, and hoping to have something for the website, before my readers tire of prepackaged entrees from the Tradition and riot for some home cooking.

And Suscipe, the scariest prayer in the hymnal. I sing Suscipe every day, but most of the time I can only want to want what I'm asking for....and is that enough?

I ask myself, why do I keep doing this? Especially on those bad days when I'm hanging onto the first catechism questions for dear life (since they're known to be true and do not change) and when I'm hollering at God. Yes, when the boarder isn't here to get scared I do scream at God, when the pain gets to be too much for me.

Well, it's because of those first catechism questions: Who made me? God made me. Why did God make me? God made me to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him, and to be happy with Him forever and ever in heaven. And it's about the Act of Contrition, where there's another one of those solid true things: God is all-good and deserving of all my love. And it's because some twenty-five years ago I made a promise, to live simply and singly and submittedly; and part of that "submittedly" is to hold in prayer this city and this archdiocese, even when all I can do is hold a name in my hands and show it to God. And it's because, those very few times I've been able to sing Suscipe without reservation and without doubt, the Lord has granted some quite wild and crazy but very graced times in return.

So I take up the two "lists" up again: the one that begins
+Timothy, Archbishop
+Richard
+Rembert
Pastor, priests and staff of Gesu Parish.....

and the one that begins
Mayor John Norquist
Alderman Angel Sanchez
all members of the Common Council......

and hold them up before the Lord, in the hope the Lord can use my little frail prayer in His great doings; and I remember that, as the prophet Hosea kept telling his very much less that perfect wife: Faithfulness will be your joy.
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Suscipe: the scariest prayer in the hymnal

Take, Lord, receive
all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
my entire will.

Take, Lord, receive
all I have and possess.
You have given all to me;
now I return it.

Give me only Your love and Your grace;
that's enough for me.
Your love and Your grace
are enough for me.

Take, Lord, receive;
all is Yours now.
Dispose of it
wholly according to Your will.

Give me only Your love and Your grace;
that's enough for me.
Your love and Your grace
are enough for me.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2002

For the Kairos Guy, Peter of Sursum Corda, Fr. Jeff Keyes, and all the others of St. Blogs who fret and weep over their bishops, or over Cardinal Law....

As you-all already know, I've taken my share of flack over in Amy's boxes for not denouncing the retired bishop for whom I've been interceding for the past 25 years; so I do have the knowledge of being where the feeding frenzy is.

I was doing research through Google last night on a completely unrelated topic when Google brought up this link, to a Capuchin friar named Alexis somewhere in this neighborhood [he uses the same very local isp I do]. That's all I know about him, except for this homily, preached on May 26, the first Sunday after our local debacle began. I, of course, don't agree with everything Fr. Alexis writes, but some of it is very wise . We have responsibility to honor and care for our bishops, just as they have a duty to honor and care for us. Do we follow through?

In part, Fr. Alexis writes:

First Reflection:
A wounded shepherd
In the gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus, the good shepherd, says to his disciples, “You will all fall away because of me this night; for it is written `I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed’” (Mt 26: 31). Rembert, the shepherd, has been stricken. In the gospel of St. Luke, Jesus tells the parable of a good shepherd who has a hundred sheep and one of them strays and gets lost. The shepherd goes in search of the one that’s lost and when found, he rejoices, he hoists the found sheep upon his shoulders and carries it home. Then he invites friends and neighbors to celebrate with him. Jesus ends that parable with these words, “I tell you there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine self-righteous and respectable people who have no need of repentance” (Lk 15: 4-7).

When a sheep gets lost and the shepherd finds it, he hoists it upon his shoulders and carries it back home. We now ask, when the shepherd gets lost, who shall hoist him on their shoulders and carry him home? How do we now respond? Do we let the media lead us by the nose and determine how we shall respond? Do let the whole legal system with its lawyers and plaintiffs determine how we shall respond? Do we let political correctness at this moment determine how we shall respond? Or do we respond with gospel correctness. Do we respond as a Christian community responds? Do we hoist the wounded shepherd on our backs and carry him home? Or do we throw him away?

Every day we get fed the press -- the New York Times or the Boston Globe. But the press community is not a religious community. Every day we get fed now the legal system. But the legal system is not a religious community. At the end of the day, and after all is said and done, for the most part they are financial communities. It’s simply Capitalism turning every thing it touches into gold. That’s not a bid for Communism. That’s not even a criticism; it’s simply the name of the game. Is there no one these days to remind us that we are a religious community? Is there no one these days to call us to respond as a religious community?

Prayer:
Father in Heaven, Shepherd of our souls, this is a moment of truth for us, your flock. Give us the courage to rise up now to our identity as a community of faith, love and forgiveness. Give us strong shoulders at this moment to carry the weight of political incorrectness, of being out of step. Give us compassionate shoulders at this moment to bear the weight of a wounded shepherd, for we are all well aware of our own wounded-ness. In peace, let us pray to the Lord. -- Lord have mercy.


Yes, Lord, have mercy. Do not allow us to give up or to lose heart.
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Monday, December 09, 2002

St. Anselm on our All-Holy Mother of God for today's solemnity.

Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night – everything that is subject to the power or use of man – rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. All creatures were dead, as it were, useless for men or for the praise of God, who made them. The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by the acts of men who served idols. Now all creation has been restored to life and rejoices that it is controlled and given splendour by men who believe in God.

The universe rejoices with new and indefinable loveliness. Not only does it feel the unseen presence of God himself, its Creator, it sees him openly, working and making it holy. These great blessings spring from the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb.

Through the fullness of the grace that was given you, dead things rejoice in their freedom, and those in heaven are glad to be made new. Through the Son who was the glorious fruit of your virgin womb, just souls who died before his life-giving death rejoice as they are freed from captivity, and the angels are glad at the restoration of their shattered domain.

Lady, full and overflowing with grace, all creation receives new life from your abundance. Virgin, blessed above all creatures, through your blessing all creation is blessed, not only creation from its Creator, but the Creator himself has been blessed by creation.

To Mary God gave his only-begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.

God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the re-created world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Saviour of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed.

Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to himself

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Some questions for the conscience stolen from Noli Irritare Leones

The keeper of _Noli_, Lynn the Empress Norton, is a Friend, and each month posts her Meeting's Queries, which are the way Friends hold themselves accountable for their community's beliefs. This month's Queries seemed very appropriate for us Catholics to ponder given our recent trials and tribulations. (sub "church" or "parish" for "meeting")

The Meeting for Worship is the center of our spiritual community. Therein as we come to know each other in the Spirit, we build the "beloved community."

Mutual respect and care in the Meeting form the foundation from which we can test, support, and exercise leadings of the Spirit. At its best, the Meeting community provides a framework for us to learn and practice mutual care, which strengthens us as we act in the world.

All members of the Meeting community should share in the care of one another. While respecting privacy, we must be aware of and sensitive to each other's needs. We must also be willing to ask for assistance when we are in need.

Do I strive to be inclusive in my relationships within the Meeting?

Do I care for the reputation of others, refraining from gossip or disparaging remarks?

Am I committed to the difficult work of forgiveness, and affirming God's love for the whole community?

How are love and unity maintained among us?

Do we practice the art of listening, even beyond words?

How have we been sensitive to the personal needs and difficulties of members and attenders, young and old?

Do we visit one another in our homes and keep in touch with distant members?

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Saturday, December 07, 2002

Wise words from St. John Chrysostom

Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works.
If you see a poor man, take pity on him.
If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him.
Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies.
Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice.
Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.
Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful.
Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip.
Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.
For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?
May He who came to the world to save sinners strengthen us to complete the fast with humility, have mercy on us and save us.
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Prayers, please, for Jonah House Community and for the Berrigan family. Philip Berrigan, co-founder of Jonah House and tireless witness for the sanctity of human life, died last night, according to a statement by the Jonah House Community. The funeral will be on Monday in Baltimore. Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon him.
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Thursday, December 05, 2002

From the desert: a story of St. John of Damascus, whose feast-day was yesterday.

The following is told concerning St. John of Damascus (reposed c. 750): His elder and spiritual father, wishing to test him, one day handed him some woven baskets and told him to take them into Damascus and sell them there. The elder laid down a very high price for the baskets, thinking that they would not sell at such a price and would have to be brought back. John had, then, firstly to undertake a very long journey; secondly, to enter as a poor monk the city where he had earlier been man next in importance after the Caliph (`Abd al-Malik 685-705); thirdly, to ask an absurdly high price for the baskets; and, fourthly, should the baskets not be sold, he had to endure the long journey there and back for nothing. The elder wished, in this way, to test the obedience, the humility, and the patience of his famous disciple.

John silently prostrated himself before the elder and, without a word, took up the baskets and set out. When he came to Damascus, he stood in the marketplace and waited for customers. When he told interested passers-by the price of his goods, they began to laugh and mock him as a lunatic. He stood there the whole day, exposed to mockery and ridicule. But God, who sees all things, did not abandon His patient servant. A passing citizen happened to glance at John, and, although John was wearing a monk's poor habit and his face was shrunken and pale from fasting, the man recognized him as the former nobleman and first minister of the Caliph, in whose service he also had been. John also recognized him, but they began to deal as strangers. Even though John told him the ridiculously high price of the baskets, the man bought them and paid the price without comment, mindful of the good deeds the Damascene had once done for him. Then holy John returned singing triumphantly to the monastery, and brought joy to his elder.
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Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Another word of wisdom from St Isaac the Syrian, of Nineveh.

Sit in the presence of the Lord every moment of your life, as you think of Him and recollect Him in your heart. Otherwise, when you only see Him after a period of time, you will lack freedom of converse with Him, out of shame; for great freedom of converse is born out of constant association with Him.

Constant association with fellow-beings involves the body, whereas when it is with God, it involves the soul's meditation and the offering of prayers. As a result of its great intensity, this meditation is sometimes mingled with wonder. "The heart of those who seek the Lord shall rejoice."

Seek the Lord, O sinners, and be strengthened in your thoughts with hope. Seek His face through repentance at all times - and you shall be sanctified by the holiness of His face. You shall be purged clean of your wickedness. Run to the Lord, all who are wicked. He forgives wickedness and removes sin.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Rash judgment, detraction, and calumny are all still sins

During the Thanksgiving holiday I was sent an email seeking my input and forwarding another email accusing a member of the archdiocesan clergy of having paid fines for patronizing red-light districts. I emailed back, but it still bugs me in my spirit --- why do we do these things to one another? And did I answer rightly? Should I have answered at all? When will this fashion to accuse others pass away? Here, edited to protect all identities except my own, is what I responded; and that I worry over.

I have no special knowledge of this particular thing, although all the names are familiar. My job is to pray for the City and Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and sometimes I pray for the Milwaukee clergy by reciting the list of names from the Wisconsin Catholic Directory, holding each one up before our Lord.

_If_ the facts are as they are stated, there is a priest who has had difficulty maintaining a life of chaste celibacy. He may need more that usual help and support from his father the bishop, and maybe specialized help as well. _However_, I would read this with more than the usual amount of salt, given the source. What is said may not be correct, or may not be presented truthfully. (Here in Milwaukee, we have many more crazy faction fighters of all fringes than most other places; and they tend to be more vicious also.)

Your correspondent indicates that he has contacted the Archbishop; this was a right thing. And, in fact, a move to [small rural town] may be a very good thing, since there are no red-light districts in [small rural town] to be near occasions for one who is weak regarding chastity, and there are many such districts in Milwaukee County.

Yet, is any of this our business? Neither of us is the bishop; +Timothy is the bishop, and +Rembert before him. And neither of us is Father's confessor or his spiritual director. The Catechism at # 2477-2479 has strong teaching about the great evils of rash judgment, detraction, and calumny. It is sin to make another person's faults known to one who does not already know them, even if what is said is true. If it is not true, it is even worse. We must approach anything like this with great caution and much prayer, keeping always in mind that we ourselves have done spectacularly stupid things we wouldn't want to be flaunted in public.

I do hope I have not scandalized you in this.


Lord, come to our assistance. Holy Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.
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Sunday, December 01, 2002

O Lord, How Shall I Meet Thee? by Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676). It's been a long time since I had a contribution for the Glorious Seventeenth Century Poets Society...... [thanks, Bill at Ut Unum Sint!]

O Lord, how shall I meet Thee,
How welcome Thee aright?
Thy people long to greet Thee,
My Hope, my heart's Delight!
O kindle, Lord, most holy,
Thy lamp within my breast
To do in spirit lowly
All that may please Thee best.

Thy Zion strews before Thee
Green boughs and fairest palms,
And I, too, will adore Thee
With joyous songs and psalms.
My heart shall bloom forever
For Thee with praises new
And from Thy name shall never
Withhold the honor due.

I lay in fetters, groaning,
Thou com'st to set me free;
I stood, my shame bemoaning,
Thou com'st to honor me;
A glory Thou dost give me,
A treasure safe on high,
That will not fail or leave me
As earthly riches fly.

Love caused Thy incarnation,
Love brought Thee down to me;
Thy thirst for my salvation
Procured my liberty.
O love beyond all telling,
That led Thee to embrace,
In love all love excelling,
Our lost and fallen race!

Rejoice, then, ye sad-hearted,
Who sit in deepest gloom,
Who mourn o'er joys departed
And tremble at your doom.
Despair not, He is near you,
Yea, standing at the door,
Who best can help and cheer you
And bids you weep no more.

Ye need not toil nor languish
Nor ponder day and night
How in the midst of anguish
Ye draw Him by your might.
He comes, He comes all willing,
Moved by His love alone,
Your woes and troubles stilling;
For all to Him are known.

Sin's debt, that fearful burden,
Let not your souls distress;
Your guilt the Lord will pardon
And cover by His grace.
He comes, for men procuring
The peace of sin forgiven,
For all God's sons securing
Their heritage in heaven.

What though the foes be raging,
Heed not their craft and spite;
Your Lord, the battle waging,
Will scatter all their might.
He comes, a King most glorious,
And all His earthly foes
In vain His course victorious
Endeavor to oppose.

He comes to judge the nations,
A terror to His foes,
A Light of consolations
And blessed Hope to those
Who love the Lord's appearing.
O glorious Sun, now come,
Send forth Thy beams so cheering,
And guide us safely home.

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Saturday, November 30, 2002

A Prayer for a Fresh Start, by Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Praise be to You, dear God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

We thank You for Your constant gift of a fresh start and new beginning!

We extol You, Lord, for the vitality of the Church here, for its fidelity to Your Son's mandate to teach, serve, and sanctify.

We seek Your grace upon the vast array of people, projects, and proprams that teach Your people, serve Your people, and sanctify Your people.

We can do no better that uniting with our archdiocesan patron St. John, in placing our heads on the shoulder of Jesus Your Son, as St. John did at that first Eucharist, and in taking Your Mother into our homes, as St. John did after Your Son entrusted her to him before He died.

Without You, Lord, we can do nothing, but with you, all things are possible.

We believe You never call us to a task without giving us sufficient grace.

Give it now, Lord, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Happy Advent!

It's a perfect time for a fresh start. From our friends the desert Christians:

Abba Poemen said about Abba Pior that every single day he made a fresh beginning.

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Friday, November 29, 2002

Dorothy, pray for us

This day in 1980, which was a Saturday and the last day in Ordinary time, just before sunset, the servant of God Dorothy Day passed from this life to life true and eternal. Deacon Tom Cornell said when he spoke at my parish earlier this year, just in time to celebrate the new year in heaven.

Dorothy was the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, newspaper (which still sells at a penny a copy!), and communities.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2002

We must not live by fear alone

Click on the headline for a homily on the parable of the talents by Bishop Richard Sklba from November 17th. [real audio needed; 11:04]
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Tuesday, November 26, 2002

found the url for the editorial below and also for the underlying news article:

Mutiracial group cleans up after Klan

Using the Creative Broom

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How to behave when the haters come to town

This past Saturday we had a rally by three notoriously violent hate groups. There was no violence, and the editors of the Journal Sentinel published an editorial today discussing why, and why that's good. I couldn't find a url for it yet, so I'm transcribing it from my paper copy right here. Things like this make me proud of this great city I'm bound to pray for.

from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial page today, 26 Nov 2002:
Using the Creative Broom

Milwaukee has shown how to respond when apostles of hate preach their message of intolerance in public. First, the city deserves credit for what it did not do --- namely, try to deny a podium to the hate groups that soiled the steps of the federal courthouse Saturday. Such an instinctive reaction, called for by some residents, would have undermined the principle of free speech and the right to assemble, which help make America strong.

More speech, not censorship, is the answer. Accordingly, in the days before the hate rally, some residents let a placard do the talking. The placard, displayed in windows, showed a circle with a slash over the word "hate."

As for the event itself, residents divided over tactics. Some chose to send a message by staying away; others chose to send a message by attending a counterdemonstration. Which strategy was more effective is debatable. The counterprotest did carry the risk of a clash, which would have harmed the cause of racial tolerance. But no melee materialized here, as it has elsewhere. The leaders of the counterdemonstration and the police deserve credit for keeping the peace.

Finally, on Sunday, a multiracial and multicultural group of Milwaukeans showed marvelous creativity in their response. With brooms in hand, about 250 people swept the federal steps, symbolically cleansing it of the bigotry from the day before. Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan sprinkled holy water on the steps "to reclaim this section of [God's] vineyard," and an African cleansing ritual was performed.

Make no mistake about it, the sponsors of Saturday's rally --- the Ku Klux Klan, the National Socialist Movement, and the World Church of the Creator --- advocate terrorism in pursuit of their cause. The Klan boasts a long history of lynchings, mutilations, and other acts of violence designed to instill fear among African-Americans and others. The National Socialists follow Nazism, responsible for monstrous crimes against humanity. The World Church, the relatively new hate group on the block, has been linked to contemporary acts of violence.

In other words, these are vile organizations that left behind a smelly residue that needed to be swept away.

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A Poem for Our Fair City by Frank Zeidler, who was the Mayor from just after WWII until 1960, and is still an honored elder here. His early poetry (from the depression era) has just been published. [the dots in front of the fourth lines are not in the poem; I had to put them in so blogger would hold the indentation.]

A Place for Peace and Justice
Frank Zeidler

Milwaukee, happenstance in time and place,
A settlement of types of clan and race ---
Can it be known to be a special place
. . . For peace and justice?

The settlers coming to Lake Michigan shore
Found peoples living in this site before;
And thus arose the need of old once more
. . . For peace and justice.

The tide of global immigration swelled
Since through injustice many were compelled
To seek a land where law and freedom held
. . . For peace and justice.

Milwaukee and Wisconsin thus became
The sites which earned and gained the fame
As residence of those who had the aim
. . . For peace and justice.

So let us now as those residing here
Uphold the goals and standards once held dear
And work with confidence and not with fear
. . . For peace and justice.

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Monday, November 25, 2002

A Meditation on Detachment written by St. Thomas More during his imprisonment, 1534

Give me Thy grace, good Lord
to set the world at nought;
To set my mind fast upon Thee,
and not to hang upon the blast of men’s mouths;
To be content to be solitary,
not to long for worldly company;
Little by little utterly to cast off the world,
and rid my mind of all the business thereof;
Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
but that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me unpleasant;
Gladly to be thinking of God,
piteously to call for His help;
To lean unto the comfort of God,
busily to labor to love Him;
To know my own vileness and wretchedness,
to be humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God;
To bewail my sins passed,
for the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity;
Gladly to bear my purgatory here,
to be joyful of tribulations;
To walk the narrow way that leads to life,
to bear the cross with Christ;
To have the last thing in remembrance,
to have ever before my eye my death that is ever at hand;
To make death no stranger to me,
to foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell;
To pray for pardon before the Judge come,
to have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me;
For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks,
to buy the time again that I before have lost;
To abstain from vain conversations,
to eschew light foolish mirth and gladness;
Recreations not necessary to cut off,
of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss as
nothing for the winning of Christ;
To think my greatest enemies my best friends,
for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good
with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.
These attitudes are more to be desired of every man
than all the treasure of all the princes and kings Christian and heathen,
were it gathered and laid together all upon one heap.

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Saturday, November 23, 2002

Blaise Pascal's Memorial

On this day in 1654, Blaise Pascal had a personal experience of the uncreated light, and wrote his famous Memorial, which Gerard kindly posts for us here.
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Viva Cristo Rey: Blessed Miguel Pro, sj

Miguel Pro was a bright but not brilliant Jesuit priest, a Mexican who had gone to Europe to fulfill his vocation. In 1926, after his ordination, he returned to Mexico on mission. His duty: travel around, preach the Gospel, celebrate the sacraments for the Catholics in hiding, avoid arrest for as long as possible. This is a very traditional Jesuit job description: St. Edmund Campion is the classic model of the genre.

Father Pro was notably successful in his ministry, going from place to place in disguise, celebrating Eucharist, baptizing, and generally encouraging the persecuted believers. He took a child-like delight in the more clandestine aspects of his life; the costumes, the role-playing, the going-out-the-back window-police-at-front-door. This also seems to be the classical Jesuit way of things, as history attests with the English martyrs and as I myself remember during the Vietnam War era.

Eventually, of course, he was arrested, and after being held for several days, with no semblance of a trial, he was taken to the police firing range and executed by firing squad. The government had photographers there, and publicised the execution in an apparent attempt to frighten the Catholics into submission, but that backfired; the photos became holy cards, and the sight of their priest, arms extended, giving up his life for Christ his King, gave them courage and became the beginning of the end of the persecution.

Viva Cristo Rey!
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Thursday, November 21, 2002

The story of today's memorial: The Presentation of Mary

this is from a second-century document called the Protoevangelium of James [thanks to Christopher Haas, who emailed this to me this morning]

6. And the child (Mary) grew strong day by day; and when she was six months old, her mother (Anna) set her on the ground to try whether she could stand, and she walked seven steps and came into her bosom; and she snatched her up, saying: As the Lord my God liveth, thou shall not walk on this earth until I bring thee into the temple of the Lord. And she made a sanctuary in her bed-chamber, and allowed nothing common or unclean to pass through her… And when she was a year old, Joachim made a great feast, and invited the priests, and the scribes, and the elders, and all the people of Israel. And Joachim brought the child to the priests; and they blessed her, saying: O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations. And all the people said: So be it, so be it, amen. And he brought her to the chief priests; and they blessed her, saying: O God most high, look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be for ever. And her mother snatched her up, and took her into the sanctuary of her bed-chamber, and gave her the breast. And Anna made a song to the Lord God, saying: I will sing a song to the Lord my God, for He hath looked upon me, and hath taken away the reproach of mine enemies; and the Lord hath given the fruit of His righteousness, singular in its kind, and richly endowed before Him. Who will tell the sons of Rubim that Anna gives suck? Hear, hear, ye twelve tribes of Israel, that Anna gives suck. And she laid her to rest in the bed-chamber of her sanctuary, and went out and ministered unto them. And when the supper was ended, they went down rejoicing, and glorifying the God of Israel.

7. And her months were added to the child. And the child was two years old, and Joachim said: Let us take her up to the temple of the Lord, that we may pay the vow that we have vowed, lest perchance the Lord send to us, and our offering be not received. And Anna said: Let us wait for the third year, in order that the child may not seek for father or mother. And Joachim said: So let us wait. And the child was three years old, and Joachim said: Invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are undefiled, and let them take each a lamp, and let them stand with the lamps burning, that the child may not turn back, and her heart be captivated from the temple of the Lord. And they did so until they went up into the temple of the Lord. And the priest received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: The Lord has magnified thy name in all generations. In thee, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel. And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her.

8. And her parents went down marvelling, and praising the Lord God, because the child had not turned back. And Mary was in the temple of the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there, and she received food from the hand of an angel.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2002

from the desert: a particularly persistent temptation

An old man said: For nine years a brother was tempted in thought to the point of despairing of his salvation, and being scrupulous, he condemned himself, saying, "I have lost my soul, and since I am lost, I shall go back to the world." But while he was on the way, a voice came to him on the road, which said, "These nine years during which you have been tempted have been crowns for you; go back to your place, and I will allay these thoughts." Understand that it is not good for someone to despair of himself because of his temptations; rather temptations procure crowns for us if we use them well.
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Monday, November 18, 2002

The Institution by Lisa Basarab.

Like a wrench turned inward
Flashing pain, and gone
Then squeezing, pounding
All of life

A grip of fear so real
That all becomes hell
Swirling, mashing black
In dreams

Nightmares without release
With jeering, fractured finger
Seeping unholy accusation
Pointing, pointing

Like a knife backstabbing
Like a serpent striking
Like a nail in my heart
A plea

To kill my God in me
To sever bonds with Him
And make of me a shade
Pulled so down

Down in mire so weak and pale
The squalid self abyss,
Marrow-deep fatigue (and
Endless night)

No light, no piercing stream of light
No hint of water
For me on a jury's slate
Only guilt

Of my own making, breaking a
Heart so cold from stone
Jabbing guilt, always guilt
Never mercy

Never.

Why no priestly absolution,
Just a toll to pay and pay?
A slim, tortuous road bending
So far, so far

You promised in His words to me
A feast on my return
A fatted calf
Not noose

To string along and up a swaying
Body in surreal ease
Poked like a child on a swing
Whee!

But the glee of games is gone
For my heart's hunt-ripped effigy
Searing, burning,
Flamed

On the spit of upright clerics
Turning folly into shame
Shame, shame!
(An ancient game.)

And so, alone, I hurt
Slipping into nowhere else to go
Except a shrinking Body
Tree-hung

Battered limbs, blood-splashed
Spittle-strewn and slung
With friends looking up
In misery

Save me, sweet Convicted One
In faint aches of rage I spew
that steal Your breath
From mine

Lift the noose away, heal the ache around
To squelch only every urge to bolt
And not Your pain
In me
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Sunday, November 17, 2002

from the desert: "....as we forgive those who trespass against us...."

One of the high officials bore a grudge against another. Great John (the Almsgiver) heard of this and admonished him several times, but could not persuade him to be reconciled with his enemy. One day therefore the saint sent and had him fetched on the pretext of some public business, and as soon as he had come the patriarch held a service in his oratory, no one else being present save his syncellus. After the patriarch had said the prayer of consecration and had pronounced the opening words of the Lord's Prayer, the three of them began to repeat the Prayer. When they got to the sentence, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" the patriarch made a sign to the syncellus to stop, and he himself stopped too, and the magistrate commenced saying all by himself, "Forgive us as we forgive." At once the saint turned towards him and said in a gentle voice, "Consider in what an awful moment you are saying to God 'As I forgive, do Thou forgive me'!" Immediately, as though tormented by fire, the magistrate fell on his face at the saint's feet crying, "Whatever you command, my lord, your servant will do." And from that time he was reconciled to his enemy in all sincerity.
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Saturday, November 16, 2002

Wisdom from the Kairos Guy

This is such simple advice, but it always bears remembering. The point of Christianity is not that we stop sinning. The point is that we become the sort of people for whom sinning would be alien. Ultimately, "not sinning" is the effect of becoming such a person, not the cause. All the rules, all the dogmas and doctrines are aimed at this one goal, and irrelevant if they don't help us get there.
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Friday, November 15, 2002

Morning Prayer to the Holy Trinity: from St. John Chrysostom

Glory to You, our God, glory to You.
Glory to You, O Lord our God, Who always overlooks our sins.
Glory to You, O Lord our God, Who enabled me to see this day.
Glory to You, O most-holy Trinity, our God.
I venerate Your ineffable goodness.
I praise Your inexplorable forbearance.
I thank and glorify Your infinite mercy.
For although I deserve every chastisement and punishment,
You have mercy and do good to me
with myriads of blessings.
Glory to You,
O Lord my God,
for everything.
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Thursday, November 14, 2002

A Litany of Humility, composed by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, who was secretary of state for St Pius X.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, O Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
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Tuesday, November 12, 2002

The USCCB: the Lord working through Roberts' Rules

Torture by Roberts' Rules. That's what we say when some organization or other to which we belong has to make decisions in the formal way. Yet, it is the simplest way we have to do things "decently and in order." Boring and occasionally a bit esoteric, but clear and in right order.

Our fathers the bishops have been subjecting themselves to great doses of Roberts' Rules these past few days, and for a few more to come, to accomplish those things that need to get accomplished. So much to get done, so little time to do it; motion, second, amendment, second, discuss, vote, motion, second......

Remember to keep praying for them. These few days they're being allowed precious little time to pray for themselves. They need us.
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On the Pomodoro Corona and Crucifix

The altar of God:
square, as the heavenly Jerusalem is square;
erected over the relics of the saints of God;
the center of the Church;
the center of life.
Stone, permanent, not to be moved.
Above it, a corona,
"a form of honor canopy suspended from the ceiling, without pillars."
And, in this case, truly a corona, a crown.
A crown of thorns to acknowledge our King,
our crucified Lord and Redeemer.
I look up and see
those golden nails that hold Him fast
as He gives His very spirit to His Father.
"Into Your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit."
It flies away like a dove.
And those thorns, first meant for degradation,
yet becoming glory;
for He is the King, the Lord.
On the cross, and on the altar.
In the tabernacle, and in our own hearts.
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Sunday, November 10, 2002

it didn't quite get done for Saturday, but here it is:

Spiritual Fitness Level Two, for advanced beginners

If you still need to see and start level one, the program is here, and the reasons behind the program are here.

I did promise to provide a level two exercise program. But, please, promise me in return, especially those of you who are real beginners at praying, that you'll stick with level one for at least a couple of months before proceeding? Please? Those of you for whom this is a refresher course or rehab may be ready sooner. Do not proceed until you are praying morning offering and night review without difficulty either in the praying or in the remembering-to. Let the prayer habit get solidly established --- don't go running ahead before the foundation's solid.

That said: here's level two, spiritual workout for advanced beginners.

First: continue all the exercises of level one. The goal is to build a lifelong habit pattern; don't stop now! Also, is it time for Confession again? Is there some problem that keeps coming up when you review your day each bedtime, some besetting sin or fault, that needs or could use some confessional grace?

Second: find a fifteen minute piece of time after breakfast and well before bedtime. We're looking for prime, well-awake time for this. Also, consider a time where, after a while, the fifteen minutes can expand to a half-hour. Seated comfortably with good lighting for reading [eyestrain is not the goal!], read, slowly and thoughtfully, the Sacred Scriptures. Read them out loud if that's what it takes in order to slow down. A good way to begin is with the lectionary readings for each day. These are available on the internet at "the journey" (citations only, grab your favorite Bible) and at the USCCB site (full text, NAB). There's also a wonderful little magazine called Magnificat, the world's best missalette, available by subscription, that has all the readings in full text and lots of other helpful stuff besides. _Do_not_ just pick up a Bible and start at Genesis 1:1. People who try that tend to give up somewhere in Leviticus' rubrics or in Numbers' censuses, and we do not want to give up.

The goals of this exercise are to spend even more time with the One we want to love and to learn about Him and His ways, His history and promises, what He likes and what is detestable to Him. How can we come to live in a way pleasing to our Beloved if we don't even know what might please Him? So we're going to spend some time observing and studying and learning and watching, then we will begin to know.

Third: find a spiritual friend and/or a regular confessor. There's only so far that an unknown disenbodied internet voice can take you. There's only so far you can go with a book. To proceed beyond this point, you need a guide who knows you. Every one of us is different, and the way we will love and serve the Lord will be as different as we are. The person you are looking for is someone you can trust, therefore you will not lie to them or pretend things are okay when they aren't. They need to be discrete, not prone to gossipping; and wise enough to admit when they don't have an answer; and they should be at least one step ahead of you on this journey, if possible. Be patient, it may take a while to find the person who can help you in this way, but when you find that person, you will know it.

You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul, and your whole mind.

Why did God make me? God made me to know Him, and to love Him, and to serve Him, and to be happy with Him forever and ever in heaven.
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Friday, November 08, 2002

The Spiritual Fitness Program: Clarifications, Explanations

Thanks to all the folk who have let me know that they appreciated the original proposal, or are actually trying it out. I've discovered something that needs clarifying, because I made a presumption I should not have. Then, I'll explain a little about why I suggested certain things and just what the goal of it all is.

When I proposed the "spiritual exercises for the out-of-shape," I presumed that the basics of "church law" were happening already: going to Mass on Sundays and following the rules on fasting and abstaining; but as I was writing about going to confession, it dawned on me that I really ought to say it, just in case --- if you're not going to Mass on Sunday, or you're making a point of going out for steak dinner on Lenten Fridays, cut it out! Go to Sunday Mass, and eat fish fry! It may seem odd or really minor, but it truly does make a difference.

Now, for just why I proposed what I did, above and beyond "morning offering and night examination of conscience is how Catholics have always done it" --- which is true.

The long-term goal is to become totally in love with the God who never stops loving us. How can we let our love grow for God if we don't bother to spend any time with Him? By doing the exercises I proposed, what we are doing is establishing a habit of spending time with God. Eventually, we want "offering our day to God" to be just as natural a part of morning as washing face, brushing hair, and starting the coffee pot, and "looking over the day with God" to be as routine as checking that the door's locked and putting on the pajamas. That's why I said to do it for a couple of months; so the habit would form.

In the morning, in addition to the morning offering, I suggested praying the Benedictus, and at night the Magnificat. This is a tiny way of being connected with the whole Church that prays. In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Benedictus is prayed every morning in Morning Prayer ("Lauds") and the Magnificat every night in Evening Prayer ("Vespers"). For us to pray them also helps us to be united with everybody else in all the Lord's Church in our prayer. It's also very traditional to close the day with a Marian prayer; thepart of the Hours called Night Prayer or Compline ends with a Marian hymn. Plus, it just feels so good to have Our Lady and all the saints looking out for us as we sleep.

Psalm 51 on Friday morning is another tiny reminder of a great truth. Friday is a special day. Our Lord Jesus gave up His life, at our hands, for our salvation, on a Friday. Every Friday can be an occasion to remember that great gift especially. [Here in Milwaukee, the ways of Catholics to remember Friday has sprouted a local secular tradition and industry --- the Friday Fish Fry]

Just like we are forming a habit of spending time with God, we are also in need of a habit of behaving like a Catholic, which is why I proposed a merciful act every day. It is my hope that by the end of two months and the sixtieth day and sixtieth act of mercy, we will have developed a taste for acting mercifully, and be, at least sometimes, doing the merciful thing without planning it or having to think about it. This is a big step toward acting like a Catholic, a state the theologians call "orthopraxy," which is just as important as believing rightly, "orthodoxy."

And, going to Confession (and getting to Mass on Sunday): We have been given the sacraments for a very good reason.(we need them!) and therefore we ought to be taking full advantage of them and the graces they contain for us. Why spurn such great gifts? Grab them instead! This is one part of life where being greedy can work as a goodness.

Now that you know _why_ you're doing what you're doing, you'll keep it up and get those good Catholic habits well-established.

Then, we can proceed to "Spiritual Fitness for Advanced Beginners," which I hope to post sometime tomorrow.
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Thursday, November 07, 2002

About vengeance: from the desert

A brother who was insulted by another brother came to Abba Sisoes, and said to him: I was hurt by my brother, and I want to avenge myself. The old man tried to console him and said: Don't do that, my child. Rather leave vengeance to God. But he said: I will not quit until I avenge myself. Then the old man said: Let us pray, brother; and standing up, he said: O God, we no longer need you to take care of us since we now avenge ourselves. Hearing these words, the brother fell at the feet of the old man and said: I am not going to fight with my brother any more. Forgive me, Abba.
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Wednesday, November 06, 2002

To Give Glory to God in All Things

Discovered in yet another crevice of Gerard's Catholic Pages for Lovers, a prayer for all of us who are overcome by the endless mercy of God.
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Vocation: where our great passion and the world's great need meet

This article is from the inSPIRIT Journal, October 2002 issue. Ryan O'Rourke is a third-year theology student at Saint Francis Seminary who works for the Faith Community for Worker Justice and is a live-in volunteer at Casa Maria, Milwaukee's Catholic Worker community.

A Catholic worker
Ryan O'Rourke

Fr. Joe would always tell us that a vocation is where "....your great passion and the world's great need meet." Those of us in the college seminary and its director Fr. Joe would often gather in the evening to talk philosophy, theology, politics, and argue about whose turn it was to wash the kitchen floor. But mostly we talked about callings and how to fulfill them.

Such is the nature of college seminary. The college seminary is for men searching for their niche in life who think there is a possibility that niche might be the Roman Catholic priesthood. During the day we would go off to our different universities, and in the evening gather for dinner, prayer, and discussion. Some went on to the major seminary; others followed God's call to other places and occupations.

It has been several years since college and I still think often of Fr. Joe's words. I continue to search for that place where my great passion and the world's great need come together. The only problem is that, in my particular case, I am quite certain that particular lifestyle won't pay the rent. At 27 years old, no longer covered under the health insurance plan of my parents, I am starting to think more practically. What I really feel God is calling me to do with my life is no longer the only voice I hear. The voice of realism has crept in and now controls a certain sphere of influence in my decision making process where the voice of idealism once ruled supreme.

I find myself, like many my age, in the midst of a spiritual battle that marks the passage from one stage of adulthood to another. I feel faced with the choice of either following what I believe to be my calling or choosing the security that a good paying job with a benefits package will provide. As I look to the scripture for advice and inspiration, the answer seems obvious --- follow the calling and ditch the security. The scripture passage that has consumed my consciousness the past year has been Mt 6:31-33 that says, "So do not start worrying: where will my food come from? Or my drink? Or my clothes? Your Father in heaven knows that you need these things. Instead, give first place to his kingdom and to what he requires, and he will provide you with all these other things." I have come to the conclusion that next to "Love your enemies," this passage is the most difficult tp live out. Most of us try hard not to make a choice between our calling and our security --- determined to have our cake and eat it too.

When Fr. Joe told us that a vocation was where our great passion and the world's great need meet, he never told us that the world would not necessarily recognize its great need and compensate those who provide it. He never told us that the world would not recognize that it needs more poets than bankers, more musicians than insurance providers, or more peace activists than soldiers. He never told us that the world might indeed be hostile to what it needs the most. I believe there lies the most noble and difficult of callings --- the calling to provide a much needed service to the world without receiving anything in return.
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