Please pray for me and my brother priests!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Venite Adoremus

Merry Christmas to my readers! I include below the words to "O Holy Night," which is my favorite Christmas Carol, for your enjoyment (and reflection) today.
God love you and Merry Christmas!
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Merry Christmas!
O Holy Night

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need—to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Cloud of Witnesses

Father George W. Rutler, pastor of The Church of the Savior in Manhattan, writes a truly delightful column in Crisis Magazine. The column (Cloud of Witnesses) found below was taken from the Catholic Education Resource Center and is posted below. Father writes about people he has known over the course of his life who have gone home to God in such a way that the reader really gets a feel for them, really gets a glimpse into everyday holiness.

Such "everyday holiness" is the stuff of saints. Pray for Jesus Vasquez, pray for Father Rutler, and pray for me as well, that we may all become part of that cloud of witnesses known as the communion of saints.

God love you!

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Jesus Vasquez
Rev. George W. Rutler


As I was unfamiliar with the Spanish convention of naming boys for the Savior, it startled me upon arriving in my new parish to read on the bulletin board: “If there is no usher at the 7:30 Mass, Jesus will take up the collection.”

So I came under the tutelage of sexton Jesus Vasquez (1927–1996), a prototype and amalgamation of all the church sextons who would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of their Lord than dwell in the tents of ungodliness.

This husband of a quiet wife and father of six children, who reciprocated his adoration of them, sustained them on a small income with no apparent astringency of domestic manners. He was equally ebullient with his extended family of the many saints whose statues he dusted daily, sometimes with groanings that could indeed be uttered, especially when taking up issues with Martin de Porres, whose statue he resembled.

As one tried in the fire, he arrived in the United States after being urged to leave the Dominican Republic for having been a student agitator while in medical school. When he abandoned hope of a professional career, he retained the classical culture in which he had been formed and grimaced if a clergyman mangled Latin. Other times he would peer from the sacristy door at a liturgical faux pas with a pained look freighted with all of the agonies of the Church’s suffering since guitarists and skirted dancers broke down the gates of the sanctuary.

For this Jesus, a high feast was the annual anniversary of his new citizenship. When he was semi-comatose on his deathbed, he recited the Pledge of Allegiance in the English he had laboriously studied in night school. In turn, he taught me much Castillano, explaining that my Spanish tutor was teaching me expressions useful only if I had been summoned to the court of Alfonso XIII.

Politely unspoken condescension marked his face whenever I suggested some change in the daily routine, for of that routine he was master, and on more than one occasion he would summon the priest to rejoice in the dawn if he had not heard the alarm for Angelus. This Jesus had no power to call the dead forth from their tombs, but he could weep as did Jesus in Bethany, often when he functioned as a sort of professional mourner at the funerals of people who had no one to keep vigil over their bodies. As a coffin was carried out onto the busy street, he managed to toll the tower bell once for each year of the departed life, and still be on the curb with hat off and head bowed for the final blessing. It was close to bilocation, and I never asked how he managed it.

A sturdy build served him well when he hammer-locked a pickpocket and dragged him from the pew to the street with an inconspicuous grace that did not interrupt the Gloria. He spied a thief carrying off my chalice as I was greeting people at the door after Mass and he leaped after him like a gazelle, knocked him to the ground, and pried the precious cup from the menacing hands.


On busy days he would choreograph the confessional lines, and I feared that he might start dividing the mortals from the venials. Having been a serious amateur boxer, he was full of advice but bemused when I started boxing lessons, clearly perplexed by someone making a sport of what was for him almost a necessity: He lived in a neighborhood where the manly art of self-defense really was for self-defense. He was shot in the leg during some random violence near his home, and was back on the job as soon as he got out of the hospital. “I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:26-27).


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Rev. George W. Rutler. "Jesus Vasquez." Crisis (November 2006).

Fr. Rutler writes a Cloud of Witnesses column for Crisis magazine.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Morley Institute a non-profit education organization. To subscribe to Crisis magazine call 1-800-852-9962.

Copyright © 2006 Crisis

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Saving the Church in China

Hong Kong's Cardinal Zen is an extraordinary man. Since his ordination in 1961, he has been an extraordinary voice for religious liberty, human rights, and democracy in China. He has never been afraid to speak up, and has been a prophetic voice in China for more than 40 years. This article from the Telegraph is the latest example of this.

Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia. Where Peter is, there the Church is. To take the age old maxim to the next level, where the Church is, there is Christ. Without Peter, what remains is either a fossil or a sham.

Pray for Cardinal Zen. Pray for the Church in China. Pray.

Questions and comments are welcome.

God love you!

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Joseph Cardinal Zen

Sack China's bishops, cardinal tells Vatican
By Richard Spencer in Beijing
Last Updated: 2:07am GMT 21/12/2006


The leader of Hong Kong's Roman Catholics has called on the Pope to excommunicate China's state-appointed bishops, as relations between Beijing and the Holy See plunge to new lows.

China's state-run Church has ordained bishops in defiance of Rome, despite negotiations since the death of John-Paul II aimed at restoring diplomatic ties after more than half a century.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop of Hong Kong and one of the Church's key voices on Chinese issues, said that the time had come for the Vatican to take an uncompromising stance.

In the most recent case, at the end of November, the ordination went ahead despite a clear warning from the Holy See that it would be in breach of Canon Law.

"I think people in the underground Church and also in the good part of the official Church don't expect the Holy See to ratify this ordination easily, and they don't expect the Holy See to absolve these bishops from sanctions," he said.

Canon law calls for the excommunication of both those ordaining and being ordained if it is without Church approval. Cardinal Zen said that the Vatican had acted quickly to excommunicate Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the former archbishop of Lusaka who married and then conducted four ordinations of rebel bishops.

Mainland China has six million people worshipping in the state-backed Catholic Church, but the same number again or even more worship in underground churches loyal to Rome. They are frequently repressed, and a number of bishops remain in prison.

Until recently, a compromise held whereby the official Church would only elevate bishops after receiving an indication from Rome that the candidate had the Vatican's approval. But Cardinal Zen said this compromise had run its course.

Excommunicating bishops would mark a major break between the Vatican and the Chinese Church, which is regarded as estranged from but still "in communion" with the mainstream.
But the cardinal said that Beijing had been using the ordinations as a show of force. He also alleged that two other bishops loyal to Rome were abducted by the authorities to take part in the service to lend it credibility.

According to Asia News, a Catholic news agency, one escaped and is now in hiding.
The Communist leadership fears foreign organisations such as the Church might play a role in organising dissent, and was particularly nervous of the late John-Paul II because of his perceived role in the collapse of European Communism.

The cardinal, who was born in Shanghai, said that it was now time to offer clear leadership to the underground Church, which had suffered for its "heroic resistance" to the state.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Assumption of Chastity

This great article is taken from Monsters and Critics.

The Cardinal Newman Society has, over the years, been a strong voice in calling for accountability in Catholic Colleges. This is just one more example of their fine work.

In regard to Catholic Colleges, my question is: Where has the integrity gone? I don't understand how "learned people" can hide under the mantle of the Church in order to attack, defame and undermine her. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Church teaching, integrity demands that if one works for a Catholic institution, and professes belief in the Catholic Church, that one would uphold the teachings and norms of that same Church. To not do so is dishonest at best (and some would hold even sinful).


Pray for the Cardinal Newman Society and the fine work that they do.


God love you!
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John Henry Cardinal Newman

Catholic leaders urge chastity on campus
By UPIDec 19, 2006, 23:48 GMT
MANASSAS, VA, United States


(UPI) -- More than 50 leaders of Catholic organizations signed a document Tuesday saying Catholic colleges and universities must 'faithfully and compassionately' address disordered attitudes towards sexuality on their campuses. In particular, the document calls for chastity in students and faculty dealing with same-sex attractions.

'We leaders of various Catholic apostolates encourage all Catholics, united in prayer and action, to faithfully and compassionately address rising homosexual activism, sexual scandals, pornography and sexual addiction, and harmful attitudes toward sexuality, human life, and marriage on Catholic college and university campuses,' the statement drafted by the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) begins.

'The Christian response to the wound of same-sex attraction is not hatred or discrimination, but aggressive efforts to develop a prevailing `assumption of chastity` among students, faculty, administrators, staff, and trustees on Catholic campuses, and an environment available to healing,' LifeSiteNews.com reports.

The statement calls on Catholic educational institutions to foster a campus culture that is 'conducive to moral student life,' remembering the Church`s call to chastity for all Christians.

'The overall message is that Catholic universities have the responsibility not to give in to the intellectual fashion today, but that they stay with the teachings of the Catholic church,' President Nick Healy of Florida`s Ave Maria University, told the Naples News.

'The church teaches that [same-sex attraction] is an objective disorder, and should be discouraged.'

The statement urges institutions to educate students about Catholic moral teaching on marriage, human life, and sexuality, and calls for spiritual, psychological and medical guidance for students, faculty and staff who are 'struggling with chastity.'

'We`ve all got disorders and temptations toward evil,' Joseph Fessio, provost of Ave Maria, told the Naples News. 'That comes from original sin. If we were to find people having difficulty living a moral life, we would try to help.'

While 'there is no valid scientific evidence for a biological origin of same-sex attraction,' the document states, 'there is evidence that persons with same-sex attractions can and do change.'

The statement calls on Catholic colleges and universities to avoid financially supporting or participating in events and organizations that contradict the Church`s moral teaching on marriage, human life and sexuality, including on-campus homosexual associations.

As well, Catholic institutions should be careful to hire administrators and faculty who 'respect the institution`s Catholic identity and pledge never in their official duties to contradict or challenge Catholic moral teaching on marriage, human life, and sexuality.'

The document was finalized and signed at the Catholic Leadership Conference in Denver on October 27, and a copy was sent to each U.S. bishop prior to their annual meeting in Baltimore mid-November, according to a press release by the CNS.

Among those who endorsed the statement were the presidents and trustees of Ave Maria College, Ave Maria University, Christendom College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Magdalen College, the International Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools, and the Catholic Family Network of homeschooling parents.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International © Copyright 2006,2007 by monstersandcritics.com.
This notice cannot be removed without permission.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Holiness, Suffering, and Happiness

While looking for the Carthusian motto online, I came across this great homily offered on the Feast of St. Bruno, the founder of the Carthusians. I thought I would share it here.

God love you!
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The Seal and Motto of the Carthusian Order.
"The Cross stands while the world turns."

Homily for School Mass: Feast of St. Bruno
Friday October 7, 2006
Fr. Bede Price, O.S.B.



Earlier this week, the church celebrated the feast of a man who can arguably be called the most popular Christian Saint — St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis took the Lord at his word when he said “sell all you have and come follow me” and then preached to the world the power of evangelical poverty. There is no place in the world where his master is preached that hasn’t also heard of the poor man of Assisi.

Today the church commemorates one of her far less well known heroes — St. Bruno. St. Bruno lived at almost the same time as St. Francis, though he is hardly a household name. The words of Christ Bruno heard were “Come away by yourselves and rest a while”, and his great gift to us was the witness of solitude in the pursuit of Holiness.

The religious order founded by St. Francis is among the largest, perhaps the largest in the church, who have worked zealously in schools, parishes, hospitals and universities. The monastic family founded by St. Bruno is the smallest religious order, whose lives are lived in almost total isolation and practically complete silence within their monasteries.

What these great Saints have to tell us is that there is no single way to Christian Holiness, but that the pursuit of it is not optional. Both saints lived for Christ alone, though they sought him in radically different ways. We too must seek to find and serve Christ in the way that pleases him. This is of particular importance for Christians your age. As you move from being children to men, you are obviously much concerned with the future. You have your mind fixed on College, on careers, perhaps even on families. Some of you probably aspire to wealth or even fame. All of us I am sure hope that whatever happens to us, we will be happy.

The decisions you make now and those you will make in the next few years will largely determine the course of much of the rest of your life. Be sure that you make these decisions deliberately. Be sure you try to be guided by Christ, because he has a vocation for each of you, and the extent to which you hear his call and respond to it will determine your happiness.

And when speaking of happiness, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about the sort of short-term happiness that you might feel after a successful test or a well-fought football game. I’m speaking of that deep down sense of being right with God and right with the world that produces in us a sense of peace. This form of happiness is perhaps more rightly called Christian Joy and it makes us able to bear the sufferings and trials that come our way as the result of our own sins and the sins of others. No Christian vocation is real unless it is lived in the shadow of the Cross. St. Francis was given the great grace of bearing in his own body the wounds Christ suffered for him and St. Bruno — like all saints who seek Christ in the desert of solitude had to wrestle with demons, which is why he is the patron of exorcists. He gave his monks a motto “Crux stat dum volvitur orbis” (the Cross stands while the world turns about it” The cross is the true axis of the world even if the world doesn’t know! Or as TS Eliot would have us put it: Christ is “at the still point of the turning world”.

One of the greatest of the 20th century martyrs was that true son of St. Francis — St. Maximillian Kolbe, who offered himself in place of one of his fellow prisoners at Auschwitz and was condemned to a horrible death in a starvation bunker in the worst days of World War II. St. Maximillian, was able to go to his death with peace and serenity, singing hymns because even in that place of evil and darkness Christ brought good out of evil. St. John Houghton was a Carthusian Monk in England during that other reign of terror called the English Reformation. When St. John was ripped from the seclusion of his cloister and then literally ripped apart at Tyburn, he was described by St. Thomas More as going to his death like a bridegroom going to church on his wedding day.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Funny Stuff

I found this link , entitled "Word on the Street," via American Papist. It's hilarious!

Stop by and check it out!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wisdom from St. Augustine



"Seek not to understand that you may believe, but seek to believe that you may understand."

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430AD)
North African; bishop, theologian, Doctor of the Church

Sin: Mortal and Venial

This blog is a response to a reader who wanted to know more about mortal and venial sin. I found a great answer on EWTN's website, which I highly recomend to people looking for Catholic answers.

(Could I have answered it myself without
EWTN? Absolutely. But why re-invent the wheel?)

Questions and comments are welcome.


God love you!

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Mortal versus Venial Sin




A serious, grave or mortal sin is the knowing and willful violation of God's law in a serious matter, for example, idolatry, adultery, murder, slander. These are all things gravely contrary to the love we owe God and, because of Him, our neighbor. As Jesus taught, when condemning even looking at a woman lustfully, sin can be both interior (choices of the will alone) or exterior (choices of the will carried into action). A man who willfully desires to fornicate, steal, murder or some other grave sin, has already seriously offended God by choosing interiorly what God has prohibited.

Mortal sin is called mortal because it is the "spiritual" death of the soul (separation from God). If we are in the state of grace it loses this supernatural life for us. If we die without repenting we will lose Him for eternity. However, by turning our hearts back to Him and receiving the Sacrament of Penance we are restored to His friendship. Catholics are not allowed to receive Communion if they have unconfessed mortal sins.

Venial sins are slight sins. They do not break our friendship with God, although they injure it. They involve disobedience of the law of God in slight (venial) matters. If we gossip and destroy a person's reputation it would be a mortal sin. However, normally gossip is about trivial matters and only venially sinful. Additionally, something that is otherwise a mortal sin (e.g. slander) may be in a particular case only a venial sin. The person may have acted without reflection or under force of habit. Thus, not fully intending the action their guilt before God is reduced. It is always good to remember, especially those who are trying to be faithful but sometimes fall, that for mortal sin it must not only be 1) serious matter, but 2) the person must know it is serious and then 3) freely commit it.

These two categories of sin are explicitly to be found in Sacred Scripture. In the Old Covenant there were sins that merited the death penalty and sins that could be expiated by an offering. This Law was a teacher that prepared the way for the faith (Gal. 3:24). In the New Covenant these material categories are replaced by spiritual ones, natural death by eternal death. There are thus daily faults for which we must daily ask forgiveness (Mt. 6:12), for even the "just man falls seven times a day" (Prov. 24:16), and mortal faults that separate the sinner from God (1 Cor. 6:9-10) for all eternity.

Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

Christmas Gifts and the Transformation of the World

This great article was published by Catholic News Service.

The Pope said at the heart of the article: "Making reference to the immanent arrival of Christmas, the Pope indicated that "in the grotto of Bethlehem we adore the same Lord who wanted to make himself our spiritual nourishment in the Eucharistic sacrament, in order to transform the world from within beginning from the human heart.""


This is what it is all about. The transformation of all creation into what it was meant to be. This begins with the transformation of hearts and souls, so that what the Father sees and loves in Christ He may see and love in us. The Eucharist is the pluperfect gift of God to man, for it is nothing less than the gift of Himself. The transformed human soul, made perfect by the Eucharist, is the gift that man gives back to God.




Questions and comments are welcome.


God love you!


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Christmas Gifts are a Reminder of Jesus, the Greatest Gift Given to Mankind



Vatican City, Dec. 15, 2006 (CNA) - During a meeting held with the university students of Rome Thursday afternoon, Pope Benedict XVI recalled that Christmas is, above all else, the celebration of the greatest gift God has given to mankind, the gift of Himself.

The students met with the Holy Father following their traditional Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome.

"Christmas gifts remind us of the most perfect gift that the Son of God gave us of himself in the Incarnation,” Pope Benedict told the youth. “Christmas is the day in which God has given himself to human persons and this gift is made perfect, so to speak, in the Eucharist."

"The Eucharistic mystery," he continued "constitutes the privileged point of convergence between the various spheres of Christian existence, including that of intellectual pursuit. (...) The Eucharist nourishes a fruitful unity between contemplation and action in us so that we are regularly sustained with faith."

Making reference to the immanent arrival of Christmas, the Pope indicated that "in the grotto of Bethlehem we adore the same Lord who wanted to make himself our spiritual nourishment in the Eucharistic sacrament, in order to transform the world from within beginning from the human heart."

The Virgin Mary was the "first to contemplate the incarnate Word, Divine Wisdom, made human. In the Christ Child (...) she recognized God's human face in such a way that the mysterious Wisdom of the Son was impressed on the Mother's mind and heart," the Pope said.

"This is why," he concluded, "Mary was transformed in the "Seat of Wisdom" and is particularly venerated with this title by the Roman academic community. There is a special icon dedicated to the "Sedes Sapientiae" that, starting from Rome, has already visited various countries, making a pilgrimage through the universities. It is present here today in order to be given to the delegation from Bulgaria and Albania."

The Cardinal, a Saint, and the Mafia

This great piece is taken from John Allen's column in the National Catholic Reporter. I have a great many issues with the Reporter, but John Allen is not one of them. We don't always see eye to eye, but he strikes me as a fair, faithful man who is a good columnist. This column is on the relationship between Salvatore Cardinal Pappalardo, the former archbishop of Palermo, and Father Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi, the pastor of a rough Palermo neighborhood.

Their relationship was wasn't always good, but there was an appreciation of the role that the other had to play in the life of the Church. Everyone is not called to do the same thing in the same way, but all are called to be faithful and holy in their day to day circumstances. Father Puglisi did so to such an extent that he is being considered for canonization. Cardinal Pappalardo passed away on the 10th of December of this year. It's an interesting article and a good read.


(A nod as well to Dom over at BettNet for the heads up on this article.)

Feel free to comment or leave questions. God love you!

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A Sicilian Lesson in the Complex Bond between Bishops and Saints
Submitted by John L. Allen, Jr.
December 14, 2006



Salvatore Cardinal Pappalardo


Father "Pino" Puglisi



Saints and bishops, as any student of church history knows, often have a curious love/hate relationship. Saints can be irritating figures, with a single-minded focus and a capacity to arouse controversy that rarely makes life easy. Bishops, likewise, can sometimes inadvertently become obstacles to sanctity rather than conduits for it, with their management concerns and a desire not to “rock the boat.” (This notwithstanding the fact that many bishops have themselves been saints.)

At the end of the day, bishops and saints need one another – bishops, to remind saints that no force in the church ever exists for itself; and saints to remind bishops that ultimately the church exists for the gospel, and not the other way around.

Though collisions between bishops and saints can be combustible, when they connect, the results can also be remarkable.

We had a reminder of the point this week with the death on Dec. 10 of Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo at the age of 88. Pappalardo, who led the Archdiocese of Palermo from 1970 to 1996, was known far and wide as Italy’s “anti-mafia bishop.”

By all accounts, Pappalardo’s leadership was instrumental in galvanizing anti-mafia resistance in Sicilian society. He was the driving force behind the memorable declaration of the Sicilian bishops in 1994: “The mafia is part of the reign of sin, and those who belong to it are agents of the Evil One. Whoever is part of the mafia is outside ecclesial communion.”
This marked a break from the historical quiescence of the Sicilian bishops; one of Pappalardo’s predecessors, Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini, who died in 1967, once famously remarked, “The mafia is an invention of the Communists.” On another occasion, asked what the mafia really was, Ruffini responded, “As far as I know, it could be a brand of detergent.”

For his efforts to break that silence, Pappalardo was constrained to spend many years under constant armed escort, driving around in bullet-proof cars. He amassed too many death threats to count.

Yet it did not always seem that Pappalardo was destined to be an anti-mafia hero. During much of the 1970s and 1980s, while the mafia’s dominance of Sicilian politics, finance, culture, and even the judiciary remained an open secret, Pappalardo was not outspoken. He was never in the mob’s pocket, but neither did he make many waves, no doubt calculating that doing so would make life worse for the church. Pappalardo was always a pastorally sensitive figure, at one point giving a used church to Palermo’s tiny Muslim community to use as a place of worship. But in the central Sicilian struggle of his day, for many years he was considered a secondary player.
Then, along came Fr. Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi, pastor of San Gaetano’s Parish in the rough Palermo neighborhood of Brancaccio.

Puglisi, currently a candidate for formal beatification, is already widely regarded as a saint in Sicily, with many calling him the Italian version of El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero. His favorite rhetorical question – “And what if somebody did something?” – is scrawled on walls all over Brancaccio.

In the 1960s, Puglisi began his career as pastor in the tiny town of Godrana, in the hills 40 kilometers outside Palermo. When he arrived, there had been 15 murders in this village of scarcely more than 100 people, all related to a feud between two rival clans. Puglisi started going door-to-door, reading the gospel with people and talking about forgiveness. He encouraged small groups to meet together to pray and read the Bible, at first once a month, then every 15 days.

Eventually one of the women who had been hosting a group said to Puglisi that she did not feel she could carry on until she had forgiven the mother of her son’s assassin. After much time, effort and prayer, Puglisi arranged a reconciliation between the two women, which endured despite strong disapproval from many in the village.

“Peace,” Puglisi said, “is like bread — it must be shared or it loses its flavor.”

After his transfer to Brancaccio, Puglisi was relentless in his battles against the mob, attacking the drug trade and persuading young people not to become mafia foot soldiers. It was his success in drying up the “talent pool” for young recruits that especially enraged mafia figures. Puglisi shrugged off death threats with the comment that everyone had to die.
Puglisi was shot to death in 1993. One of the hitmen who killed Puglisi, Salvatore Grigoli, later confessed and revealed the priest’s last words as his killers approached: “I’ve been expecting you.”

It was the death of Puglisi, along with the spectacular slayings of two anti-mafia judges in 1992, which transformed Pappalardo from a sympathetic but largely second-tier figure into a titan of the anti-mafia crusade. As late as 1992, at the funeral of one of those judges, Pappalardo avoided mentioning the mafia by name.

But at Puglisi’s funeral, Pappalardo dropped the euphemisms: “The Mafia can be eradicated only if the whole people of Sicily rise up in solidarity against its power,” he said. Pappalardo would later say that he didn’t want the spirit of “Don Pino” to be buried along with his body.
Pappalardo went on to engineer John Paul II’s famous 1994 visit to Sicily, when the pope’s outspoken criticism of the mafia ended forever the tacit understanding between the mob bosses and the island’s hierarchy, that they would largely stay out of one another’s way. After 1994, it was clear the church had taken sides.

To be honest, Pappalardo and Puglisi didn’t always enjoy the best of relationships. Puglisi used to describe himself as a “ball-breaker,” and he was often seen as a cantankerous and divisive figure. He was never one to follow orders just because the archbishop issued them; he once said, “We can, we must criticize the church when we feel it doesn’t respond to our expectations, because it’s absolutely right to seek to improve it.”

Then, with his trademark humor, Puglisi added: “But we should always criticize it like a mother, never a mother-in-law!”

Yet Pappalardo saw in Puglisi that single-minded dedication to his people, to justice, and to making Christ present in the world, which is ultimately the stuff of sanctity. Shortly before his death, Pappalardo recalled Puglisi in an interview with a Sicilian newspaper:
“His personality was often misrepresented,” Pappalardo said. “Don Pino did his duty as a pastor and educator in a neighborhood where people were recruited for mafia activity. He was not an anti-mafia cop. But his very act of living the gospel in that society was a challenge to criminality.”

To be sure, Pappalardo and Puglisi did not “break the back” of the mafia in Sicily. A recent poll found that eight out of ten Sicilian businesses still make protection payments to the mob, and six out of ten Sicilian youth work in the black market. Yet under Pappalardo’s leadership, at least a civil society arose in Sicily which represents an alternative vision of the island’s future, and the church shifted decisively into anti-mafia resistance.

That activity was galvanized to a significant degree by the life, and the death, of Sicily’s “ball-breaking” saint, Puglisi. One imagines that Pappalardo suffered many a headache because of Don Pino ... and that, in the end, he wouldn’t have had it any other way.

As a footnote, the Palermo archdiocese now marks the official opening of each ecclesiastical year on Sept. 15, the day of Puglisi’s death, as a way of keeping his memory alive. That custom was instituted by Pappalardo.
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Copyright 2006The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cow Emissions?

I found this article from the Independant. Could our culinary over-consumption be the true enemy of environmental consciousness? (Perhaps we should mandate meatless Fridays again...)

Is this how the cow strikes against mankind for centuries of hamburgers, hot dogs, meatloaf, prime rib, and filet mignon? Is this their revenge? Is this something we should truly be worried about, or is it perhaps just another environmental over-reaction?

The clarion call for virtue and moderation go out once again. These two qualities, virtue and moderation, as classically understood, would solve most of the worlds problems.


(Both illustrations do not belong to the article, but were added by yours truly.)


God love you and happy Sunday!

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Could our bovine friends be public enemy #1?

Cow 'Emissions' More Damaging to Planet that CO2 from Cars


By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor



Published: 10 December 2006

Meet the world's top destroyer of the environment. It is not the car, or the plane,or even George Bush: it is the cow.

A United Nations report has identified the world's rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the climate, forests and wildlife. And they are blamed for a host of other environmental crimes, from acid rain to the introduction of alien species, from producing deserts to creating dead zones in the oceans, from poisoning rivers and drinking water to destroying coral reefs.

The 400-page report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, entitled Livestock's Long Shadow, also surveys the damage done by sheep, chickens, pigs and goats. But in almost every case, the world's 1.5 billion cattle are most to blame. Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.

Burning fuel to produce fertiliser to grow feed, to produce meat and to transport it - and clearing vegetation for grazing - produces 9 per cent of all emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas. And their wind and manure emit more than one third of emissions of another, methane, which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide.

Livestock also produces more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world's emissions of ammonia, one of the main causes of acid rain.

Ranching, the report adds, is "the major driver of deforestation" worldwide, and overgrazing is turning a fifth of all pastures and ranges into desert.Cows also soak up vast amounts of water: it takes a staggering 990 litres of water to produce one litre of milk.

Wastes from feedlots and fertilisers used to grow their feed overnourish water, causing weeds to choke all other life. And the pesticides, antibiotics and hormones used to treat them get into drinking water and endanger human health.

The pollution washes down to the sea, killing coral reefs and creating "dead zones" devoid of life. One is up to 21,000sqkm, in the Gulf of Mexico, where much of the waste from US beef production is carried down the Mississippi.

The report concludes that, unless drastic changes are made, the massive damage done by livestock will more than double by 2050, as demand for meat increases.


"Great news! We've bred a cow that doesn't release any methane!"



Saturday, December 9, 2006

AmericanPapist Review of "Apocalypto"


I went to see Mel Gibson's new movie Apocalypto last night and really enjoyed it. Mel has once again shown himself to be a great film maker. I had planned to write a blog-review about it, but American Papist wrote such a good review of it, I thought I would link to his instead. He does have spoilers near the end of the review, but he posts warnings!


In a nutshell: A really great movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is violent, but not gratuitously so. It is a fast paced, action packed movie with great character development and a story like that is worthy of both the storyteller and the audience.




Friday, December 8, 2006

Saint Nicholas and the Brothel of Commercialism

The feast of St. Nicholas was on Wednesday of this week (December 6th). I found this great article about St. Nicholas on LifeSiteNews, a great website with alot of great stories. It is great to see a story about St. Nicholas the Bishop, and read a little about why "St. Nick" is synonamous with "Santa Claus". If it is truly better to give than to receive, the gift of purity is one that we can give both to God, and to a future spouse. As with all true gifts, the gift we give is also a gift we recieve, and purity is no exception.




Merry Christmas, and God love you!

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The Real Saint Nick Fought Prostitution
Special to LifeSiteNews.com by Warren Throckmorton, PhD



Given the decision making power of Santa Claus on the matter of gifts, my children make sure they leave Mr. Claus some seriously good cookies on Christmas Eve. However, most children don't know that there is much more to the real Saint Nick than toys and cookies. In addition to being generous, the jolly fellow could easily be considered the patron saint of purity.

Recently looking into the legend of Saint Nick, I learned that Saint Nicholas lived early in the fourth century in what is now Turkey. Orphaned as a young boy, he was left with substantial financial means by his parents. He used this inheritance to benefit others, especially children. Deeply religious, Nicholas became the Bishop of Myra in Turkey and played an important leadership role in the church. Called the Wonderworker, he was well known for his generosity to children, hence his association with the legend of Santa Claus. The story of a benevolent soul giving gifts to children is a part of many cultures with many names. Saint Nick as another name for Santa Claus persists to this day.

I also discovered that Saint Nicholas is a patron saint of virgins. In the Catholic tradition, a patron saint is one who prays to God on behalf of a petitioner. So, if one wants to remain chaste, one may pray to Saint Nicholas who will then lift up the petitioner in spiritual prayer to God. As an aside, his patronage of purity may explain at least one of the criteria for being in either the naughty or nice category when Saint Nick checks and rechecks his list. But I digress. There is more to this story.

Legend has it that Saint Nicholas became aware of a desperately poor parishioner having three daughters with no dowry to recommend them for marriage. The father had planned to sell them into prostitution to provide some means of support. By night, Saint Nicholas secretly brought bags of gold on three separate occasions to the man's home. These generous visitations allowed the three daughters to have sufficient means to avoid whoredom and later strike a marriage covenant. On the third visit to deliver the gift, Nicholas was caught in the act of generosity by the grateful father.

Many make the Santa Claus-like association of this story to Saint Nicholas the gift giver. I see an additional angle. For reasons that often involve money, women today have few benefactors, few Saint Nicks. Bob Dylan sang truly two decades ago that today's culture seems to promote "old men turning young daughters into whores." A look at any magazine rack will tell you that there is a market for flesh and the demographic is predominantly male, ages 12 and up. Research company Visiongain estimates the pornography market to be a 70 billion industry in 2006. That is a lot of gold being used to degrade women rather than enhance their virtue.

Blending traditional gender roles has been little help here. Women today are not, nor should they be, as helpless as those three girls aided by Saint Nicholas. However, girls gone wild with sexual freedom most often leads to exploitation by men. I doubt we would see as much skin if there were no gawking male purchasers, eager to buy and sell innocence as commerce.

Harmful to both men and women, graphic sexuality, even the somewhat scaled down prime time variety, contributes to the overall commodification of sex. Viewed through the eyes of a pornographer, sex is commerce and sexual purity is restraint of trade.

We need Saint Nicholas today. We need the gifts of chastity and modesty. We need more respecters of purity and fewer of those who would sell young people into the brothel of commercialism.We need you today Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker. Our sons and daughters need the good gifts of those who truly value their health and purity.

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Warren Throckmorton, PhD is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy in the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City (PA) College. Dr. Throckmorton is past-president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. His columns have been published by over 100 newspapers nationwide and can be contacted through his website at http://www.drthrockmorton.com/

(c) Copyright: LifeSiteNews.com is a production of Interim Publishing. Permission to republish is granted (with limitation*) but acknowledgement of source is *REQUIRED* (use LifeSiteNews.com).

Excommunication and Love

A wonderful Sister forwarded to me this article taken from Catholic World News, a great source for Catholic news and a Catholic perspective on secular news. This article details the excommunication of a number of dissident groups, first among them Call to Action, by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska. Call to Action appealed this ruling to the Vatican, and the Vatican upheld Bishop Bruskewitz's ruling.

Why do I think this is a good thing? Well, to draw on an analogy based on human body, healing can't begin until disease is recognized. These excommunicated groups have placed themselves, by their own actions, outside of the fold of the Church. No matter what the reason may be, be it ignorance or malice, it is an act of love on the part of the Bishop and of the Church to tell these groups the truth of their situation. Why? It's not punitive but pastoral. Now that they have been told that they have placed themselves outside of the fold, healing can take place, for reconciliation can be sought. Let us pray for the members of these groups. Let us also pray for Bishop Bruskewitz, a shepherd after the heart of Christ, that he may remain strong in the battle.

On another note, the picture on the bottom of this post is entitled, "The Excommunication of Robert the Pious." Robert was the king of France, and was excommunicated for (according to Wikipedia) "marital problems." Whatever the issue was, he remedied it and was reconciled. Robert is an example to all of the below mentioned groups, not for his problems, but for his ready solution.

Questions and comments are indeed welcome. This blog is new, so if you enjoy reading, tell a friend. God love you!


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Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz


Vatican Confirms Excommunication for US Dissident Group





Dec. 7, 2006 (CWNews.com) - The Vatican has confirmed an American bishop’s decision to excommunicate members of the dissident group Call to Action.

Call to Action is “causing damage to the Church of Christ,” wrote Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re (bio - news), the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, in a letter to Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska.

In March 1996, Bishop Bruskewitz had announced the excommunication of all Catholics in his diocese who were members of Call to Action or several other dissident groups which he described as “totally incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The Nebraska chapter of Call to Action appealed the bishop’s decision to the Vatican. In his November 24 letter to Bishop Bruskewitz, Cardinal Re reports that Vatican’s finding that the disciplinary action was “properly taken.”

The Vatican has determined that “the activities of ‘Call to Action’ in the course of these years are in contrast with the Catholic Faith due to views and positions held which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint,” Cardinal Re writes. He concludes: “Thus to be a member of this Association or to support it, is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic Faith.”

The excommunication that Bishop Bruskewitz announced covered not only to Call to Action, but also to members of Catholics for a Free Choice, Planned Parenthood, the Hemlock Society, the Freemasons, and the Society of St. Pius X.

The excommunication order applies only within the Lincoln, Nebraska diocese. But the Vatican’s judgment against Call to Action raises clear questions about the status of the group’s members in other dioceses.






The Excommunication of Robert the Pious

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Father Neuhaus on the Pope's Success in Turkey


In Turkey,
the Pope Built Bridges
Without Backing Down

FR. RICHARD JOHN NEUHAUS



What was Pope Benedict doing in Turkey, and was the trip a success?



Media attention focused on smoothing troubled relations between Muslim leaders and the Christian West. Keep in mind that whether or not we think the West is still Christian, it is very much the Christian West in the minds of most Muslims. The Pope is understandably viewed as the voice of Christendom. He is, after all, the leader of the greater part of the more than 2 billion Christians in the world.

The encounter in Turkey, and especially in Istanbul, was filled with high historical drama. Istanbul was once Constantinople, established in the fourth century as the western capital of the Roman Empire and named for the Christian emperor Constantine. Conquered by Muslims in 1453, it was renamed Istanbul. Islam had experienced a run of successful conquests since the seventh century, until it was turned back at the gates of Vienna in 1683. Such is the long history of Christian-Muslim relations, filled with defeats and resentments that fuel the resolve of some radical Muslims to go on the offensive with a jihad, or holy war, aimed at the West's submission to Islam.

The Pope's visit, of course, came in the aftermath of his Sept. 12 address at Regensburg University in Germany — where he raised the question of whether Muslims agree that violence has no place in advancing religion. Violence, he said, is contrary to reason, and "to act against reason is to act against the nature of God." In reaction to the suggestion that Islam may be prone to violence, thousands of Muslims violently protested in the Middle East and elsewhere, torching Christian churches and killing a Catholic nun in Somalia.

Some claimed the Pope had been unnecessarily provocative in Regensburg. Others were grateful that, at last, someone on the world stage had the courage to challenge the silence and even the complicity of Muslim leaders in connection with terrorist attacks on the West.
Contrary to some media reports, notably in The New York Times, the Pope did not bless Turkey's admission to the European Union.

During his days in Turkey, all the diplomatic niceties were observed, but Benedict did not back away even 1 inch from the challenge he raised at Regensburg. On the contrary, he repeatedly asserted that religion must repudiate violence, and underscored the duty of states to protect religious freedom.

The last point is a very touchy issue in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey, where Christians are less than one half of 1% of the population. Despite all the attention to Christian-Muslim relations, the chief purpose of the Pope's trip was to express solidarity with Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople and the symbolic leader of the world's 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians. Confined by the Turkish government to a small area of Istanbul called the Phanar, the ecumenical patriarchate is under siege and denied the most elementary rights to own property or conduct its own ministries.

Contrary to some media reports, notably in The New York Times, the Pope did not bless Turkey's admission to the European Union. Rather, he and Bartholomew issued a joint statement that such admission must be conditioned upon respect for "the inalienable rights of the human person, especially freedom. In every step toward unification, minorities must be respected, with their cultural traditions and the distinguishing features of their religion."
So was the visit to Turkey a success? If success is measured by clarifying the challenge of radical Islam and expressing solidarity with religious minorities under Islamic rule, the answer is certainly Yes.

ACNOWLEDGEMENT
Neuhaus, Richard John. “In Turkey, the Pope built bridges without backing down.” New York Daily News (December 3, 2006).

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Unaccountable Urges

This great post is from Ignatius Insight columnist Greg Olson. It speaks with crystal clear clarity to Prime Minister Blair's comments and serves as a bookend to the recent post about this same topic taken from Whispers in the Loggia.
Sex, in modern understanding, seems to be the only drive, the only urge that people, and society, don't want to see controlled (even if self-controlled). If one feels the urge to abuse money, food, tobacco, power or any number of things, public outcry is great. If one feels a penchant or urge to temper, violence, gluttony, sloth, or greed (amongst any number of things), we are told to learn self-control.

We care so much about the pollution of the worldly environment (concern over which isn't a bad thing), but seem to care very little about the pollution of the family, the culture, or our society. This latter pollution is far more insidious, and will kill us much faster then the former.
Questions and comments are welcome and appreciated. God love you.
"Condomism"

Over at NRO, Jennifer Roback Morse considers the "rubber ideology" embraced by those enamored with sex without consequences, attachment, or meaning:

This ["condomism"] is the belief that all problems surrounding sexual activity could be solved with enough contraception. Some adherents, such as contributors to the recent special issue of the Lancet, go even further. They believe that we could end world hunger and save the environment, if only we had enough condoms. Here are some of the tenets of condomism:

1. Every person capable of giving meaningful consent is entitled to unlimited sexual activity.

2. All negative consequences of sexual activity can be controlled through the use of contraception. Sexual Transmitted Diseases can be controlled through the use of condoms. The probability of pregnancy can be eliminated through contraception, properly used.

3. No one is required to give birth to a baby, in the event of pregnancy. Abortion, for any reason or no reason, at any time during pregnancy, is an absolute entitlement.

4. Any negative consequences of sexual activity that can not be handled by contraception or abortion are not worth talking about.

Sounds about right. Advocates of such stupidity will gush about how wonderful, liberating, and fulfilling is sex without commitment or moral strictures (#1), but cannot conceive (pun intended) that there could actually be a dark side to this amoral/immoral approach to such intimate and powerful actions (#2). But isn't it a basic fact of moral reality that the greater the good, the more devastating are the consequences of misusing and abusing that good? Yet, somehow, through the alchemy of psycho-babble and liberated lifestyles, sex only has meaning if you want it to have meaning. Just like a fetus is a baby only if you want it to be (#3, #4). As has been said numerous times in different ways, there are simply to approaches to life: you can conform yourself to reality and truth, or you can attempt to conform reality and truth to yourself.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Blog Problems

When I began to post blogs, my "Blog Create" page had a toolbar at the top of the blog entry area so that I could add pictures, center and bold text, use spell checker, etc. It has vanished for some reason! I imagine it is because I have done something wrong. If anyone knows how to fix this, I would be greatly appreciative!

AIDs and the Secular Response

I took this well written post from Whispers in the Loggia . Prime Minister Blair demonstrates that the tactics used by states and adopted by the UN are not helping the AIDs pandemic, but are indeed making it worse. Thanks to Whispers for this great story.

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The British prime minister made his World AIDS Day statement on MTV:

In a pointed criticism of the Vatican's stance on contraception, Mr Blair used a television interview on World Aids Day to insist that preaching abstinence was not enough.... Mr Blair said: "The danger is if we have a sort of blanket ban from religious hierarchy saying it's wrong to do it, then you discourage people from doing it in circumstances where they need to protect their lives."...

"When I was growing up it was more to do with telling youngsters about the actual act of sex. I think what it is about now is telling them about the dangers of having unprotected sex," he said.

Mr Blair insisted that people should be encouraged to protect themselves against HIV, and that it was "silly" to say otherwise.
Meanwhile, the primate of England and Wales offered a counterpoint on the Sunday chat-shows:

Cardinal [Cormac] Murphy-O'Connor told the BBC's Sunday AM: "I have to say the prime minister is saying 'I am going to give more and more aid, including more condoms into Africa'.

"I think what I would like to say to the prime minister is that it would be much better if he used that money to provide more antiretroviral drugs - medicines - for the millions of children, women who are affected.

"I speak to bishops in Africa and they tell me that their dioceses are flooded with condoms and I said 'Well, has it affected?' They said 'Well, sad to say it has meant more promiscuity and more Aids'.

"You have got to look at this, I think, within the whole context of the African culture."

He went on to say the best way to combat the disease is by having monogamous relationships.

He said: "The way to combat Aids is primarily, as everybody should know, behaviourally - keeping monogamous relationships between a man and a woman."

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Papal Slideshow

Thanks to American Papist (link at right) for this great slideshow of Pope Benedict's trip to Turkey. It is worthy of a few minutes browsing! (I would have added a picture, but the toolbar with the button to add pictures seems to have disappeared. Hmmm)



Papal Slideshow

Friday, December 1, 2006

20 Tips for a Good Confession

I just came across this great post on Father Z.'s blog, "What Does the Prayer Really Say?" (http://wdtprs.com/blog/fr-zs-20-tips-for-making-a-good-confession/) (I am unsure how to do hyper-links!) It is Father Z.'s 20 tips to making a good confession. Since I only care enough "borrow the very best", and since we both have as the aim of our mission the salvation of souls, and since confession is one of the sacraments given by Christ for this very reason, I happily repost his great list here.

God love you!



Fr. Z’s 20 Tips for
Making a Good Confession o{]:¬)


We should…
1) ...examine our consciences regularly and thoroughly;
2) ...wait our turn in line patiently;
3) ...come at the time confessions are scheduled, not a few minutes before they are to end;
4) ...speak distinctly but never so loudly that we might be overheard;
5) ...state our sins clearly and briefly without rambling;
6) ...confess all mortal sins in number and kind;
7) ...listen carefully to the advice the priest gives;
8) ...confess our own sins and not someone else’s;
9) ...carefully listen to and remember the penance and be sure to understand it;
10) ...use a regular formula for confession so that it is familiar and comfortable;
11) ...never be afraid to say something "embarrassing"... just say it;
12) ...never worry that the priest thinks we are jerks…. he is usually impressed by our courage;
13) ...never fear that the priest will not keep our confession secret… he is bound by the Seal;
14) ...never confess "tendencies" or "struggles"... just sins;
15) ...never leave the confessional before the priest has finished giving absolution;
16) ...memorize an Act of Contrition;
17) ...answer the priest’s questions briefly if he asks for a clarification;
18) ...ask questions if we can’t understand what he means when he tells us something;
19) ...keep in mind that sometimes priests can have bad days just like we do;
20) ...remember that priests must go to confession too … they know what we are going through.


Cigar Smoking and Divinely-Sanctioned Fun

In the spirit of G.K.Chesterton, and in the spirit of a comment left on my last blog, I found this article by Dennis Prager that I thought I would share. Chesterton said, "We give thanks for beer and burgundy by not abusing them." I imagine that he would say the same of tobacco.

One poster left this comment at the end of the Thanksgiving blog:
"Chesterton began from a passionate mystical gratitude for the world of senses as given by God....Chesterton argued that Catholicism justified innocent pleasure as God-given, in the hearty enjoyment of good wine and good food and good tobacco, and the associated cultures of public festival, dance and song....It was a divinely-sanctioned way of having fun." Sheridan Gilley, Chesterton Review

This blog is about one thing, truly: moderation. We need to enjoy the gifts God gives as they were meant to be enjoyed, and not as our appetites demand. This is a word that should be kept in the forefront whenever we enjoy any of God's gifts. Moderation is the rallying cry, and finding this mean is the key to virtue.


Questions and comments are welcomed and appreciated!


Why I Smoke (Cigars)

Dennis Prager


Singles ads are filled with people who will never even go on a first date with someone who smokes. I strongly suspect that more women would date a millionaire who earned his money disreputably than a millionaire who smoked.

Drinkers are far more highly regarded than smokers, as are playboys, gamblers, lawyers, politicians and almost anyone else except child molesters.

So I have no doubt that some readers who until now have held me in esteem will lose respect for me when they learn that not only do I smoke cigars and a pipe, but I love doing so, have no interest in stopping and have been happy to pass this pleasure on to my older son. In fact, we regularly have some of our best talks while we enjoy our cigars.

For the record, I never smoke cigarettes, which I happen to dislike the smell of, and which I acknowledge to be dangerous. But what I write here largely applies to cigarette smokers as well. In fact, I find anti-smoking zealots far more dangerous to society than cigarette smokers, and would much sooner date a cigarette smoker than one of the zealots.

Having said that, however, it does need to be pointed out that there is little in common between cigar (or pipe) smoking and cigarette smoking. Most important, we don't inhale. This is not meant in the way former President Bill Clinton meant it when he said he "never inhaled." The purpose and joy of cigar and pipe smoking are to enjoy the taste of tobacco in one's mouth. The purpose and joy of cigarette smoking are only vaguely related to the taste of tobacco.

And that leads to two other great differences between cigarette smoking and cigar (and pipe) smoking: First, there is no issue of addiction regarding cigars or pipes. I have been smoking both since I was 15 years old, and could stop tomorrow if I wanted to. Indeed, as a Jew who observes the Sabbath prohibition on kindling fire, I do not smoke for a day every week, and it is effortless. Likewise, I am frequently on the road lecturing, and often miss days at a time with absolutely no discernible effect. Second, because one does not inhale when smoking a cigar or pipe, the likelihood of lung cancer is minimal.

It is a sign of the times that the latest James Bond film has prohibited 007 from smoking a cigar. One of the most benign practices a person can engage in was banned, but our macho hero can be shown drinking alcohol and bedding women (and without any mention of condoms!), not to mention killing people and engaging in behaviors infinitely more dangerous than cigar smoking.
Yes, I am warned by doctors that I am more liable to contract mouth or lip cancer, but while physicians may see such diseases, in 40 years of smoking I have never met or heard of one person with either cancer.

Indeed, I am quite convinced that my one-a-day cigar or pipe may well have had a positive impact on my health given how much relaxation it induces. Stress kills far more people than cigars or pipes do.

It is a sign of the times that the latest James Bond film has prohibited 007 from smoking a cigar. One of the most benign practices a person can engage in was banned, but our macho hero can be shown drinking alcohol and bedding women (and without any mention of condoms!), not to mention killing people and engaging in behaviors infinitely more dangerous than cigar smoking.
We live in the Age of Stupidity. This new age has been induced by widespread college education and widespread secularism — Psalms is entirely accurate: "Wisdom begins with fear of the Lord" — which explains, for example, why only well-educated secularists came to believe that there were no innate nonphysical differences between men and women.

Nearly 100 years ago, before widespread college education and before widespread secularism, when America tried to prohibit a vice, it chose alcohol, not tobacco. It knew that there were immoral consequences to alcohol consumption — most child abuse, most spousal abuse, about half of violent crimes and most rapes are accompanied by alcohol. Nobody has ever raped because smoking a cigarette or a cigar numbed his conscience. And no one fears smoking drivers; we rightly fear drinking drivers.

Both in my hometown and on the road, I find great joy in visiting cigar stores and schmoozing with the owners and with the guys smoking there. In fact, cigar stores may be the last place men can get together without women.

Of course if you think I am really killing people due to the secondhand smoke they inhale from my cigar or pipe, I presume all discussion ends. I am then simply a killer who needs to be stopped. I find absurd the notion that more than 50,000 Americans are killed every year just by being in the presence of smokers. But if you believe it, all you need to do is open a window and enjoy yourself.

The late legendary comedian George Burns was a listener to my radio talk show. When he was around 90 years old, he invited me to his Beverly Hills home. In the course of our two hours together, he smoked two cigars and had a couple of martinis. I asked him what his doctor said about those habits. George looked at me and responded, "My doctor died."

My father is 88 years old and has been smoking a few cigars a day (in my 87-year-old mother's presence, I might add). They are both in near-perfect health. He not only taught me the joys of cigars. He also taught me the importance of thinking for myself and how to lead an honorable life that includes as much joy as possible.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Dennis Prager. “Why I smoke (cigars).” Townhall.com (November 21, 2006).




The World's Shortest Vocation Talk



"Without the priest, there is no Eucharist.
Without the Eucharist, there is no Church.
Without the Church, there is no hope."



Please pray for priests!
Please pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood!
Please pray that those who are called may respond with fervor and holiness!




Christ's Wounded Side and the Sacraments

I came across a picture on-line of Christ on the cross which featured prominently His wounded side. I am always moved by such pictures because it is from His wounded side that we receive the sacraments, and in effect, salvation. Often times there are pictured angels holding chalices to collect the Precious Blood so that it may be given to men for their salvation. (Of the two pictures below, the first one is the one that spawned this blog, the second demonstrates the angels collecting Christ's sacred blood. How beautiful and formational was true Catholic art!)

In thinking about this, I thought I would post from St. Thomas Aquinas, theologian and doctor without equal, in his Summa Theologica entry on this topic. A good portion might be difficult to read, but I will "bold" the 'heart' of the article (pun intended). However, read the whole thing, for it is not incomprehensible if one reads it slowly, and perhaps even reads it as a meditation. For the sake of brevity, I have also excluded the objections and replies. This is, however, something that all Catholics should have the most basic, rudimentary understanding of. The sacraments are key to our salvation, and this is where the sacraments come from!

Questions and comments are indeed welcome and encouraged.

(In the manner of a plug for subscribers, where else in the world do you read blogs so varied as here? From Sinatra to the Summa, my readers have got it all! If you agree, recommend this blog, ask your friends to subscribe, and spread the good news!)

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Whether the sacraments of the New Law derive their power from Christ's Passion?Q.62, Art. 5







On the contrary, on Rm. 5:14: "After the similitude of the transgression of Adam," etc., the gloss says: "From the side of Christ asleep on the Cross flowed the sacraments which brought salvation to the Church." Consequently, it seems that the sacraments derive their power from Christ's Passion.

I answer that, As stated above (1) a sacrament in causing grace works after the manner of an instrument. Now an instrument is twofold. the one, separate, as a stick, for instance; the other, united, as a hand. Moreover, the separate instrument is moved by means of the united instrument, as a stick by the hand. Now the principal efficient cause of grace is God Himself, in comparison with Whom Christ's humanity is as a united instrument, whereas the sacrament is as a separate instrument. Consequently, the saving power must needs be derived by the sacraments from Christ's Godhead through His humanity.

Now sacramental grace seems to be ordained principally to two things: namely, to take away the defects consequent on past sins, in so far as they are transitory in act, but endure in guilt; and, further, to perfect the soul in things pertaining to Divine Worship in regard to the Christian Religion. But it is manifest from what has been stated above (48, 1,2,6; 49, 1,3) that Christ delivered us from our sins principally through His Passion, not only by way of efficiency and merit, but also by way of satisfaction. Likewise by His Passion He inaugurated the Rites of the Christian Religion by offering "Himself--an oblation and a sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:2). Wherefore it is manifest that the sacraments of the Church derive their power specially from Christ's Passion, the virtue of which is in a manner united to us by our receiving the sacraments. It was in sign of this that from the side of Christ hanging on the Cross there flowed water and blood, the former of which belongs to Baptism, the latter to the Eucharist, which are the principal sacraments.

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But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5


For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
1 Peter 1:18-20, 2:24

Thursday, November 30, 2006

My Story

This blog was originally published on my other blog. I repost it here because I think it provides a good backgroung. I am asked constantly why I became a priest. People ask me in person, and people ask me via MySpace. I am always happy to answer, but my fingers can't take anymore typing, so I thought a blogged answer would satisfy the masses and save me some precious time, so here goes. I'll start at the beginning and work my way forward. (After typing this, I realized that it's around 1,800 words. A little long, but bear with me. I think you'll enjoy reading it.)



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As a little kid I thought about priesthood. My first inkling was as a small boy, no older then 7, while at Holy Mass with my Nana. She was a devout woman who served as her parish housekeeper. I recall kneeling, looking up at the altar, and thinking, "I think I should do that." I began talking about it, and recall telling two of my great-aunts one day on my Aunt Carolyn's back porch, to which one replied, "Don't be a Franciscan, they beg for their food. Be a Jesuit, they live like kings." Needless to say, I am not a Franciscan, for I am not called to poverty. Neither am I am Jesuit, for I was not called to the current charism of that order.


As I got a little older, it stuck with me. My family wasn't especially devout; we went to Mass on Christmas and Easter if we had time. I insisted on becoming an altar boy, though, and my parents let me. My brother joined me, and my folks would drop us off at Mass, and then pick us up afterwards. I really loved being on the altar. I think that this may have been because I always had a sense of Jesus' presence in the Eucharist. I couldn't have identified it, but it was there, and I recall being aware of it.


Also as a young boy, I discovered Mary. I found a prayer card to "Our Lady of Perpetual Help" and began saying the prayer every night before bed. I had a rosary in the "junk drawer" in my bedroom, and asked my father how to say it. He taught me, and I began saying it at night as I lay in bed. Mary was important to me then, and even more so now. She nurtures and guides vocations, is the Queen of the Clergy, but more importantly is the Mother of Priests.


When I reached middle school, priesthood was still in my mind. However, with the discovery of the fairer sex, all such thoughts were banished. I met my first girlfriend in the 7th grade, and began to fall in love with politics as well around the same time. These two interests would remain with me for a long time, and as good as both are, provided a distraction from what God was calling me to.


I also discovered EWTN, run by a nun who looked exactly like one of my dearest great -aunts. This is why I stopped on Mother Angelica one day, but not why I kept watching. I learned nothing in CCD, and thought the faith had nothing to teach me, nothing to offer me. Mother changed all that. She presented a faith that was simple to understand, yet rich with hope, love and truth. She shaped my faith, shaped me as a Catholic, and taught me that the faith was reasonable and the only thing that made life worth living. The one thing that was hammered home in me was the Eucharistic presence of the Lord. What I had known and believed as a child I now had a vocabulary for. The Real Presence. This changed my life. Also, Mother introduced me to sin. This wasn't a true introduction, as I had known sin most of my life, but now I knew what it was, that it stole away from me the happiness for which God made me, and how to avoid it: The Confessional! The Eucharist and Confession have been the two tethers, the two supports of my life, and the foundation upon which my life it built. (Pray for Mother Angelica, her order, and EWTN, if you would. It is an amazing tool and instrument of God's love in the world today.)
Also, though EWTN, I got to see and know Pope John Paul II. His example, his words, his joy, his person inspired me and made me want to be like him. As a matter of record, as an altar boy I marched into the sacristy and told my childhood pastor that I wanted to be Pope. His advice? "Be a priest first. It's how you get there."


In high school, my junior year, I spoke to my Latin teacher about becoming a priest. I knew he had studied with the Stigmatine Fathers for about 6 years and still regarded them very highly. He took me to see them, and they asked me a simple question, "Why do you want to become a priest?" I was at a loss to answer. The only thing I could say is that I thought God was calling me to such a life. They wanted more, though, (and rightly so) and told me to wait until after college and then come back to speak with them. To the ears of the 17 year old, this sounds like the brush off and I thought I had fulfilled my obligation to God in checking this out, and I was free to do what I wanted to.


I enlisted in the Army shortly after this meeting. I enlisted for two reasons, the first being a real desire to serve my country. The second reason was that as a career in politics awaited me, the best first step was military service. I was a part of the "split option program'. I completed basic training the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, was a reservist my senior year, and then went away after graduation to complete AIT and receive assignment. I was technically a reservist with plans to go active post-graduation.


I loved high school, and graduation was bittersweet. I had a great bunch of friends, a great girlfriend whom I began dating sophomore year, and a happy existence. I was looking forward to, however, beginning my military service. I was sent to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio Texas, and loved it there. San Antonio is a great city, Fort Sam is a great base, and I believe I was a good soldier. While there, I had been speaking to the Army chaplain about priesthood, and told him that my girlfriend and love of the service prevented me from really looking at priesthood as I thought I should. He told me that God would take care of it if He wanted me. Then, a week after this conversation, I received my "Dear John" letter in the mail. I was devastated, and thought, irrationally, that the priest had somehow orchestrated this. 3 or 4 weeks later, I passed out on a PT run, was taken to the hospital for testing, was told I had severe bronchial spasms, and was discharged from service. Both of my roadblocks had been removed.


I returned home late October depressed and not thinking about much of anything. My friends had, for the most part, all gone away to college (and a few to the military). I was, for the first time in a long time, single and alone, and felt like I had little to no control over my life. I still went to Mass on Sundays, but little else. Priesthood wasn't pushed out of my mind, but it wasn't even on the radar screen. I began working, first as a Security Guard at an Anheiser Busch plant (not as glamorous as one might think), then third shift at a hotel. I also worked part time at a restaurant. One of my oldest friends was still around, and I stayed with him for quite a while. My weeks were spent working, and my weekends were spent visiting friends at school or hanging out with the buddy who hadn't gone away. Not very exciting or edifying, I fear.


I knew I had to start college, so I applied to Hesser College, a small liberal arts/business school in Manchester, NH, and began there the fall of 1998. I enjoyed my time there greatly, but priesthood started to come to mind again. I searched for priests on America Online, and found a couple. I e-mailed them, told them I was a college student thinking about priesthood, and asked if they would correspond with me, so as to answer my questions.


One of them accepted the invitation. This Boston priest was a tremendous help to me. He advised me, guided me, and prayed for me. I visited him in his parish after a couple of weeks of constant correspondence, and I saw that the parish had a perpetual adoration chapel. I didn't know what that was. He explained it to me. Back at school, I noticed that the parish up the street from my college had one as well, and I began to go at night after my RA shift was over. At first I couldn't spend 20 minutes without getting bored and antsy. Soon enough, though, after a couple of hours I had to make myself go back to the dorm so that I could get some sleep. God was working overtime in me!


I decided to apply for the Seminary at the beginning of second semester, and I was borrowing cars to drive to Boston weekly to meet with and be interviewed by the vocation director of the Archdiocese of Boston, who happened to be the dean of the Seminary College as well, Father Bob Flagg. (He was a tremendous man, a great priest, and is sadly missed. He passed away shortly after I finished college. Pray for him, if you would.) I was nervous that my stuttering would keep me from priesthood, but Flaggy, as I would learn he was affectionately called, told me, "As long as you can say 'second collection' you'll be all set'. Well I could, and as Flaggy said, I was all set.

I was accepted on Holy Thursday of 1999, and began at the Seminary fall of 1999. I have never looked back. Were their difficult times, or times of doubt? Sure, but they were never doubts that I was called, only doubts that I could do what God asked of me. These are two distinct and different doubts. The longer I studied, the more I prayed, and the deeper I entered into formation, the more at ease and at peace I felt. I found happiness and joy, mixed with a healthy dose of the cross, and learned that what a priest 'is', is what I was called to become.

Why did I become a priest? Because nothing else would ever bring me more joy. Because I feel in my soul a zeal for the salvation of souls, and know that this happens though the sacraments of the Church, especially baptism, confession and Holy Mass. Because God called and offered me a gift, priceless and noble that I would be a fool to refuse. Because I love the Church, and wanted to serve Her with my whole being. Because I believe that the Truth is not an ideal, but a person: Jesus Christ. He is worth living for, He is worth dying for, and to serve Him makes my life complete.


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I was ordained May of 2006, and my priesthood is in its infancy. However, while my priesthood is only at its beginning, this blog is at its end. (I didn't think it would be this long!) As I read it and edit it, I realize there is a lot more I could write that I didn't. This isn't complete, and despite its length, it's truly a synopsis. I think it hits upon all the major 'stuff' though, and hopefully you find it, if not helpful, at least interesting.
Hopefully this answers the question, "Why did you become a priest, tell me your story" a little bit. Also, if you haven't subscribed, please do!




Questions, comments are always welcome and invited.


God love you!




How did this happen...

Hello! This is Father V. I currently blog on MySpace www.blog.myspace.com/romancleric and began this blog truly by accident. I was trying to post a comment on another blogspot page, and the next thing I knew I had my own blogspot. I had been considering moving my blog from MySpace (no one takes a MySpace blog very seriously, I fear!) and this might be the Holy Spirit's way of prompting me to do so!

Comments are appreciated as I begin this new phase of my cyber-ministry!