Sunday, August 28, 2011

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

"It has come to this, that I can no longer suffer because all suffering is sweetness."

-St Therese of Lisieux

O Crux Ave, Spes Unica! (Hail to the Cross, Our Only Hope)

Giotto's Crucifixion scene in Assisi
Jeremiah 20:7-9
Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9
Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16:21-27

I love being Catholic. From the two-thousand years of history, the sacraments, and an incredibly rich theology, to the devotional life, social outreach and communal life, there is so much to love about our faith. But one of the things that I love most about being Catholic is the Crucifix. That visible reminder that Jesus died for me and that I am called to die to myself for others. The crucifix is the sign of what we ought to strive for ever day as Christians.

Last weekend we heard Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus “ You are the Christ, the Son of God!” The Lord’s response is one of affirmation, that He is indeed the Christ, and that Peter is the one upon whom His Church shall be built. There is a beautiful parallel here. We have often heard that the Church is the Body of Christ and this is absolutely true. We continue the work He Himself began 2000 years ago. And the beauty is that last week as Jesus’ own identity as the Christ is revealed, so too the identity of His Body, the Church, is revealed as a means to salvation also. To sum it up – if it happens to Christ, it happens to the Church.

This weekend we this theme of revelation continued. Immediately following last week’s account of Peter’s profession we hear Matthew telling us that the Lord revealed that He must suffer, be killed and be raised up again. He told them that suffering was absolutely necessary for Himself. And as Christ, so the Church. Thus Jesus continues, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” MUST deny himself. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not a strong encouragement. It’s a requirement. We MUST deny ourselves and pick up our cross to follow the Lord.

Every one of us has a cross to bear. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that all of us have a number of crosses to bear. Some small, some greater. It may be physical or mental limitation, emotional or spiritual suffering, the burden of caring for others or some cross which we’ve taken up ourselves. But the reality is that all of us have a cross and it is by carrying that cross in the path Christ walked before us that we are assured of our salvation.

One of the things that I love about being Catholic is that I know I’m not alone, but that millions or billions of saints have tread the path before and we can turn to them to learn how to bear our cross and to find encouragement in them. I’m certain that whatever cross we might be called to bear and any trial we are asked to endure, there is someone who has done it before and that person, now a saint in heaven, is praying for us as we strive to follow the command of the Lord.

One of my favorite saints is St. Philomena, a virgin martyr from around the 3rd century. At 13 years of age, she had consecrated her virginity to Christ forever. The Roman emperor, however, wanted to take her as his wife. When she refused, she was whipped severely. They also shot arrows at her and tried to drown her in the Tiber River. And in the midst of all of this, she patiently bore the cross of persecution out of love for Christ and His Church. She ultimately won the crown of martyrdom because she bore her cross with courage.

Usually on the 28th of August the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Augustine. Though not a martyr, he too endured great trials and suffering. A licentious youth, he sought fulfillment in fleshly pleasures and led a life compelled by lust. In the process of his conversion and afterward, he had to endure the perpetual temptations to return to that former way of life. He bore the cross of temptations and attachment to sin. And because he carried that cross well, he has stood as a model of conversion for millions through the Church’s history.

Closer to our own day we have the great witness of Blessed John Paul II. As Pope, he lived a vibrant life and certainly brought a youthfulness to the papacy that hadn’t been seen in many years. But one of the greatest gifts he gave to the Church was his witness of suffering. In his final years, and especially in his final days, he endured great physical trials and suffering. And yet, he boldly marched forward as a sign to the whole world that we ought not run from trials but embrace them as a means to growth in holiness and joy.

And while he’s not a saint of the Church, I believe him to be a living saint, Pope Benedict XVI provides us another type of witness. As a Cardinal, he has worked for many years in service to the Church and was at the age of retirement. He longed to simply find a place of solitude so he could write books he had been hoping to write for years and to live a quiet existence. And yet the Holy Spirit made it such that he was asked to set aside all of his hopes, dreams, and desires and lead the Church as Pope. The cross was offered to him; and heeding the words of Our Lord, he denied Himself and he took up that cross.

I was watching the closing Mass for the World Youth Day in Madrid Spain and it was a very touching thing to see. Two million youth there at the Mass and in the midst, Pope Benedict, clearly aging and becoming weaker from the burdens he bears. And while he certainly doesn’t have the voice of an angel, to hear him chant the prayers and pray the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass was awesome. I couldn’t stop watching because I was so drawn to this man who was visibly bearing the cross in the sight of the entire world, for love of Christ and His Church.

From these holy men and women of ages past and those who are in our midst today, even in the pews around us, we can find great strength and encouragement in heeding that call ourselves. Be they small crosses or large ones, we are not alone. We can turn to others for encouragement, ask the saints in Heaven to pray for us, and see in their lives a concrete witness of how to bear the cross well. But most of all, turn to Our Lord because as promised, His grace is sufficient for us to do all that He asks. We need only ask for it and our prayer will be granted.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Music and the Soul

HERE is a great little clip from Bishop Sam Aquila about music today. A must read. H/T to Fr. Z and those he notes on this.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Skin and Snouts

As we celebrate today the Apostle Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel in the gospels, we find that there is not much of anything said about him outside of his being named in the Twelve. Some historical accounts have him evangelizing the people of India; some accounts have him in Egypt. I say why not both!? Anywho, the story of his life is not the point of this post, but rather that of his death. As we have no verifiable accounts of his life, his death also remains somewhat a mystery. That said, there is one interesting story that seems to have been widely believed in the early church and it is that he was flayed to death, also known as being skinned alive. Again, this is not verifiable, but it certainly makes for a powerful story of faith and willingness to suffer for the Lord. And in his honor I post the image that depicts him flayed - holding his skin in hand. St. Bartholomew, pray for us!

And on a lighter note: 
Fr. Z at the WDTPRS blog posts about some interesting animal reactions to the East Coast Earthquake HERE. Seeing this got me interested in a new funny looking animal that I would greatly enjoy having around the house - the elephant Shrew. What a cute little creature.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Readings for Tuesday, August 23/ St. Rose of Lima:
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Psalm 139:1-6
Matthew 23:23-26

"That is how we speak, not as trying to please men, but rather God, who judges our hearts."

In the realm of Spiritual Theology, we speak of a number of 'ends' of man, things that we are tending towards; goals, in a sense.We hopefully have regular goals of striving for one virtue or another and eliminating some vice that we find in ourselves, but these are all oriented towards a greater goal - holiness. In the gospel today we find the Lord challenging the Scribes and Pharisees because they lack holiness. They do a little bit here and there but miss the main point. They don't know the real goal but simply settle for the things that please themselves. In stark contrast we find Paul speaking to the Thessalonians about his intention to speak so as to please God rather than to focus on pleasing men. Here we find one who has the goal in sight: glorifying God. This is our ultimate end or goal. We were created to glorify God and we do this by being saints in heaven. We become saints by being living witnesses of God's holiness in this life on Earth. Pray that we all might keep our eyes on the true goal and not settle for anything less. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Keys and Confessions

Isaiah 22:19-23
Psalm 138:1-3, 6, 8
Romans 11:33-36
Matthew 16:13-20

It seems like every time I sign on to my email or go on any other webpage there’s always an ad on the side of the great new diet that guarantees we’ll lose 10 pounds this week or an exercise program that can give me six-pack abs in 5 weeks. There’s this constant focus on the appearance of our bodies, and in a sense it’s a good thing. After all, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. But while it’s easy for us to focus on the state of our body, we also recognize that we are both body and soul. So, the question we must ask ourselves today is what is the state of our soul?

Yesterday I was driving in the car listening to some music and a song came on from a band that I used to listen to all the time during high school. It was a new song and so I wanted to hear what it sounded like, if they had changed much. And as I listened to it, I was repulsed. After 30 seconds I couldn’t take any more of the hatred and profanity that filled the lyrics of the vocalist and had to change the station. As a teenager I was used to that because I was so immersed in it myself that it didn’t seem a problem.  Getting to such a rough state doesn’t happen overnight though, but rather over a long time.

Around the same time, I had a Ford F-150 with an extra cab and at some point during my high school years it became my own personal trash can. It probably started with a coke bottle tossed back behind me while driving. Then a bag from lunch at a fast food joint. Then a little bit more and before long, I literally had junk piled up to the top of my seat. And when I finally cleaned it out, there was so much junk I was amazed. I had been carrying it around all the time and never really thought about it being there. And we do the same thing with our sins – we keep tossing on one after the other throughout our days and before we know it we’re carrying around a ton of baggage. And where are we supposed to bring that? Confession.

When we begin to talk about confession we, of course, have to acknowledge sin. It’s not something we talk about much these days. But the truth is that sin is a reality and it’s a serious one. Though we don’t often think about it, every single sin is an offense against God. The impatience I show at the red light. The little frustration that I have when trying to deal with things throughout the day. These sins are all things that Our Lord died for on the cross. And so they are things that we can bring before the Lord and seek grace to overcome. This happens in the sacrament of confession.

I’ve often heard people say that they don’t know why they need to go to confession to a priest when they can go straight to God. My first response to that is if they’re not going to confession, then they better make sure to actually do so rather than just talk about being able too. But more important – we don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to forgiveness of sins. Jesus set up the sacraments for us to use them, not to work our way around them. It’d be like if I had someone cut my grass while I was out of town for the week and I gave them the keys to the garage and lawnmower and came back to find them trying to cut the yard with a weed eater. You’d have to wonder why they didn’t use the means that was effective and proper. The same applies to the sacrament of confession – we need only go to the sacrament, not try to find other ways.

Also, I have often heard people say that going to confession is really difficult. I can certainly relate; after all, it isn’t easy to open up and reveal your faults to someone. But the reality is that priest is not there simply as another person; we are there to simply be a conduit of grace and forgiveness. We’re not there to judge, but rather to simply forgive. Moreover, there is no reason to fear that we will tell because – we don’t remember what you say. I can tell you honestly that I’ve got many more things that I’d rather remember – things about the faith, important dates and events, and, more notably now, the names and stories of all of you and the many other parishioners here. I don’t see you and recall your sins. Rather, the sins are given over to the Lord and when I see you I simply rejoice at your presence here at the parish and hope to get to know you.

Finally, one of the problems that people have is why to confess to a priest. I struggle with the reality myself. I am often amazed at the reality that the words of absolution, even on the lips of a sinner like myself, are able to free people from sins. And yet, it is true and we find it confirmed in our readings today.

As I’ve said before, Jesus points out that which has gone before and fulfills it, often elevating it to a new level of importance or from a physical to spiritual reality. In the book of the prophet Isaiah we hear about this person Eliakim who is given the key of the house of David. The holder of this key was like the second in command to the King of Judah. When the king was absent, Eliakim or the one holding that office made decisions that had the authority of the king backing them, offered the sacrifices that the king was obliged to do, and had keys that literally opened and closed the gates in the temple area. He was the one to discern who could enter and who remained outside and this authority was given and carried out on behalf of the king. We should have this all in mind when we hear Our Lord telling Peter that He is giving him the keys to the kingdom. The keys Peter is given are not keys to a simple building but to the Church herself and to the kingdom of Heaven and he exercises that authority in the name of our king, Christ the Lord. And so when it comes to our sins and eternal life, we need not get creative. We need only humble ourselves and go to the ones with the keys; the ones who can guarantee that entry to the kingdom. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Litany for Vocations

I've been searching for a specific prayer that I could regularly pray for vocations and this is one of the better ones that I've come across, so I felt compelled to share it. The field of souls is ripe, let us pray that workers might be sent out to harvest them for eternal life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mary, the New Ark

Readings for Monday, August 15/ Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10
Psalm 45:10-12, 16
1 Corinthians 15:20-27
Luke 1:39-56

“God’s temple in heaven was opened and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

In the Bible, as we have it today, the first line quoted above is in chapter 11 and the following verses comprise chapter twelve, as if they were different things that John was seeing. The truth, however, is that they Ark of the Covenant and the woman clothed with the sun are one and the same. The ark is the woman and the woman is our Blessed Mother.

To understand the depth of this we need to understand the meaning of the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament. The Ark was a large wooden box plated in gold that contained three significant items: the tablets that held the Ten Commandments, a container of the Manna from the desert, and the rod of Aaron, which sprouted and showed God’s selection of the High Priest. More importantly, the Ark was known to be the very dwelling place of God and so for the people of Israel to be in the presence of the Ark was an honor because they were in the presence of God Himself. In the midst of a war, the Israelites carried the Ark away from Jerusalem and buried it so that it would not be taken by foreign nations. It was never seen again after that and for hundreds of years the people of Israel longed to see it’s return.

It eventually did come back to them, but not in the form they anticipated. Rather than a gold-plated box, the Ark came to Jerusalem in the form of a teenaged virgin who bore in her womb the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Like the Ark of days past, she too held within her great treasure. Rather than a simple tablet Commandments, she bore the giver of the entire Law. Rather than the jar of Manna that sustained the Israelites in the desert, she held the True Bread from Heaven, the One who gives us Himself in the Eucharist. And rather than a staff symbolizing the selection and power of the High Priest, in her womb was the High Priest that all other priests bow down before. But like that Ark before her, she was indeed the dwelling place of God.

This is not just some connection that we have conjured up. Rather, it has scriptural backing and that backing is found in those details we pass over so quickly. For instance, the phrasing used to tell of how Mary went out to visit her cousin Elizabeth is the same as that used to describe how King David went out to meet the Ark of the Covenant as it came into Jerusalem. When David drew near to the Ark he is said to have leapt for joy in the presence of the Lord. The same description is applied to John the Baptist, who leapt in His mother’s womb at Mary’s arrival. As David enters into the presence of the Ark and the Lord Himself, he is dumbfounded and in absolute awe. And what do we hear on the lips of Elizabeth? “How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Furthermore, we know that the people sang hymns and chants before the Ark of the Covenant. The word to describe that singing is used only four times in the Old Testament and all of them are in reference to the Ark. That same word is used only once in the New Testament and it is found here on the lips of Elizabeth as she cries out in a loud voice “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” And finally, David went out and stayed in the presence of the Ark for three months before it came into Jerusalem. And what is the conclusion of this gospel passage? “Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.”

The richness of all of this is to simply show that Mary was absolutely right when she said “all generations will call me blessed” because she bore within herself the Son of God, the Word Made Flesh, the Savior of the Human Race. And as we celebrate this blessed feast of her Assumption today we once again honor our Blessed Mother and rejoice at the great gifts bestowed upon her. As the Ark was pure and incorruptible, so too was Our Lady free from sin and because of her blessedness did not suffer the fate that we shall, that return to the dirt from which we came. Rather, she was taken up into Heaven to reign forever as Queen of Heaven and to give us here on Earth encouragement as we recall that this life is not the end. We are all called to be saints in Heaven. With our Blessed Mother’s prayers, may we hasten toward that wonderful homeland where we might reign with her and all the saints forever. 

And just for fun...

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I've officially noted visits to this blog from people in 33 different countries, including the US. That's pretty exciting; at least in my book it is. Anywho, welcome to all of you who come to this little blog. Hope you're enjoy your visit. :)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Prayer and Conversion

Isaiah 56:1,6-7
Psalm 67:2,3,5,6,8
Romans 11:13-15,29-32
Matthew 15:21-28

It’s striking that last weekend we hear Our Lord speaking to Peter, saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” and yet today we hear him say to the Canaanite woman, “O woman, great is your faith!” This pagan woman, who, we tend to think, should not have been a person possessing much faith, is praised by the Lord Himself. I can only imagine the shocked faces of the Apostles, especially Peter, whose faith was so recently challenged and found lacking. And yet as we look at the faith of this woman, we find in her a beautiful model of intercessory prayer.

First, she recognizes a need. She sees that her daughter is plagued by a demon and needs to be freed from that horrible oppression. And so she seeks for someone or something to bring about this freedom and as the Lord draws near she cries out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David.” In calling Him ‘Son of David’ she is recognizing the fact that Jesus is the Messiah since it was believed that the savior would come from David’s lineage. Though a pagan, this woman sees the truth of the person of Jesus and entrusts her daughter’s cause to Him. She makes clear her desire to Our Lord – she wants her daughter freed from the demon. Here the Lord does a curious thing; He doesn’t even say a word. He just continues on. To our modern ear this seems to be a harsh thing to have done, as if the Lord was so unconcerned about the woman and her daughter that He simply carried on. The reality, though, is that the Lord does this so as to allow the woman to show the depth of her faith and to allow it to increase. From the disciples’ plea asking Jesus to tell her to go away we can deduce that she kept up with them. Rather than give up because the Lord didn’t respond at her first request, she redoubles her efforts. She even jumps into the conversation that the Lord is having with the disciples; Jesus is actually speaking to the twelve when she bows down in homage and pleads “Lord, help me!” What faith indeed! The boldness of this woman is incredible to contemplate and for this the Lord finally engages her. After this brief dialogue where she argues that the Gentile people should not be totally ignored, Jesus sees that the woman had faith stronger than most of those He had encountered in Israel and rewards her fervent intercession by granting her request. She knew what she wanted, took it to Our Lord, persisted in asking for it, and was finally granted it.

As we see the bigger picture of our readings today, we hear the voice of Our Lord challenging us to take up this type of prayer for others. In our first reading God speaks through the prophet Isaiah, saying, “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul recounts how he glories in evangelizing the Gentiles because some of the Jewish people come to know Christ out of jealousy for their reception of the Gospel. It would be easy for us to simply be content and complacent with how things are. I find it easy myself to say with regard to spiritual things, “Well, I’m way better off now than I used to be” and for that reason let myself off the hook when called to do something more. The Lord doesn’t want disciples who are content with how things are going; He wants disciples who are willing to step out there and bring others to know Him or to know Him more deeply. Sometimes this comes in a bold or dramatic way. But more often than not, it comes in a gradual conversion. And this is where we come in.

None of us has to look very far to find people that could be brought closer to Christ and His Church. They’re in our homes, at our job, walking with or around us every day. I can almost guarantee that every one of us has someone in the family that “used to be Catholic” or does not have a deep relationship with Our Lord. I’m sure most of us probably have a friend or co-worker that has strayed from the narrow path a bit. And of course there are also those billions of souls – atheists, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and countless other religions – who are not part of the Church that was founded by Jesus Christ and do not have the fullness of Truth and grace of the sacraments to help them attain salvation. It is for all of these people who are in the midst of our daily life that the Lord invites us to pray.

Often we think that conversions are brought about by inviting someone to Mass, passing on a book or cd, or talking about our faith. Certainly these are necessary things for us in the process of bringing people to the Church or back to the Church, but they are not the primary thing. As Patrick Madrid points out in his book Search and Rescue: How to Bring Your Family and Friends into – or Back into – the Catholic Church, we must start with prayer. In that book he cites a wise bishop who responded to Saint Monica’s frustrations about Saint Augustine’s unwillingness to convert as she wanted with that beautiful statement: Talk less to Augustine about God and more to God about Augustine. We must pray. And we must pray like the Canaanite woman in the gospel.

Recall her method: she saw the need, brought it before the Lord in faith, persisted in prayer, and was rewarded. The call of the Lord to us today here at St. George parish is to do the same in seeking to bring about conversion in our loved ones. Identify them, bring them before the Lord and pray for them. Continuously. And when the fruits don’t show at first, pray more. Pray morning offering prayers for their conversion, offer our prayers for them while at Mass, pray the rosary for them, ask the saints to pray for them, ask their guardian angel to open their hearts to God’s grace. The ways to pray for others are countless, we need only make use of them.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Feast Day!

Today is the feast of St. Philomena and I had the privilege of celebrating Mass on her altar in the parish dedicated to her in the southern part of our diocese. It was a great joy to be able to be there today and to celebrate with a good friend and brother priest. I pray that all of you who frequent this blog begun in her honor would also be blessed through her intercession. St. Philomena, pray for us!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Like Children

Readings for Tuesday, August 9/ St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross:
Deuteronomy 31:1-8
Deuteronomy 32:3, 4, 7-9,12
Matthew 18:1-5, 1, 12-14

"Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven."

Most children have no qualms telling adults what they want. They will quickly and repeatedly tell you 'I want this' or 'I need that' because they realize quite well that they are not capable of getting it themselves. They are dependent on others to help them and it is evident by their reaching out to us to help. And this is what the Lord desires of each of us - to reach out to Him.

St. Thomas Aquinas says that humility is simply knowing the truth. And the truth is that we are nothing. And yet we are everything in the eyes of God. Everything that we do is solely because of God's grace. His grace permits each breath we take and every action we do throughout the day; we are utterly reliant upon Him for everything. And the challenge is for us to truly realize it and to live it. To recognize that, like a child, we cannot do for ourselves but must simply cry out 'I want' and 'I need' to the One who can truly provide for us. Come, Holy Spirit, and teach us how to pray.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Minor Setback

So I went to the bookmark that I have for the USCCB daily readings page and it rerouted me to a generic page for the Bible. They have the links to the readings on that page and I'll have to continue to use that link in the future; not a big deal. The problem though is that all of the links that I had to daily readings on this blog are now invalid and simply bring you to the page for the Bible rather than the actual readings. In the end, this is a bit frustrating since none of the previous links are functional. BUT all future ones should work just fine...provided they don't make drastic changes to their format again...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Minor Achievements and Such

I've officially registered 3000 visitors to this little blog! I'm excited by that and pray that it is a source of spiritual nourishment and encouragement for all who come to visit. Thanks for stopping by! :)


Readings for Sunday, August 7:
1 Kings 19:9,11-13
Psalm 85:9-14
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:22-33

I’ve always loved this passage that we hear today about the prophet Elijah meeting the Lord in the tiny whispering sound and covering his face in response. And of course you know that I like to pry any time there are little details in the scriptures. So why does Elijah cover his face? We need not go far, for we find the solution in the passage from Exodus 33, when the Lord tells Moses that no man could see the face of God and live. Elijah took this literally, as did most of the Israelites, and so they thought that if they laid eyes on God then their life would end in that exact moment.

One of the things that theologians and scriptures scholars have often noted is the reality of God’s Divine Revelation continuing to unfold over the course of the years. God, in His love for us, knew that humanity could not fully understand everything immediately. So He set up ways to learn gradually and He started with the basics - things that were tangible, things people could see. From there He gradually brought the people to the point where they were able to connect physical events around them with a corresponding spiritual reality which is the true point. In other words the physical events of the Old Testament often prefigure a spiritual reality that actually is what the Lord wants to show us. For instance, in the Torah or first five books of the Old Testament, we see the Lord giving the list of the Ten Commandments and tells the people that if any of those laws are broken that physical death is an acceptable punishment. In the New Testament down to today, we realize now the deeper reality of things, that those sins really are a spiritual death (thus the name mortal sins) for us because they cut us off from God. The physical is now elevated to have a spiritual meaning.

Turning back to the passage about Elijah and Exodus 33, we ask what the deeper spiritual reality is in this case. Pope Benedict, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, discussed this in an interview (subsequently published as God and the World) and noted that the reality is that when we come into contact with the One True God, we necessarily walk away changed and must die to ourselves. Rather than experience a physical death, we are obliged to leave something of our former selves behind – specifically attachments to sin and worldly things, our own plans and even our personal hopes and dreams – and to simply follow after Him and conform ourselves more closely to Him. It seems a bit harsh to say that when we come into contact with the Lord that He desires that we give up our hopes and dreams and plans, but the reality is that the God that we encounter is the God who created us and knows the deepest desires of our hearts even if we are still yet unaware of them, so the reality is that while we have dreams and desires of our own, the Lord has even greater things in store.

 We all have plans. We all have hopes. We all have aspirations. When I was younger I wanted to be a professional baseball player, then a rock star, and then a geologist.  But in choosing to pursue a priestly vocation, I had to let those dreams go. As a teen and college student, I lived a life that I was content with in my sinfulness. When I chose to follow after Christ, I had to let set aside some of those former things. Even today as a priest I still have plans, hopes and aspirations for my time here and my life as a priest and yet I realize that those too must be given over to the Lord. And it’s tough to do that. This is why I think that so often it can be difficult for us to enter into silence, to go deeper in our prayer, and to follow after the Lord as we’re challenged to do by the Gospel: because we realize that if we really experience God like Elijah did, we might actually hear the whisper of God  and must leave something of ourselves behind and give up those things that we ourselves have planned and that certainty of what lies ahead in exchange for the unknown. But in response to this fear and hesitancy, we need only hear the words Jesus speaks to His disciples today: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Friday, August 5, 2011


Readings for Friday, August 5/ Dedication of Major Basilica, St. Mary Major in Rome:
Deuteronomy 4:32-40
Psalm 77:12-16, 21
Matthew 16:24-28

I couldn't help but be struck by the first reading today. Talking about the great things the Lord has done for His people Israel, our ancestors in faith, he says this: "For love of your fathers he chose their descendants
and personally led you out of Egypt by his great power, driving out of your way nations greater and mightier than you, so as to bring you in and to make their land your heritage, as it is today. This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other."

The Lord PERSONALLY led them out of Egypt; He showed them His love and for that reason they ought to know and hold that He is God. Because of His personal love. Does this thought make you pause in wonder as it does me?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Heads Up!!

As one might note from the address and background image of this blog, I have a strong devotion to St. Philomena. Her feast day is coming up on August 11 and that means that the novena starts today (if you want to end on the 10th) or tomorrow (if you want to end on her feast).

The novena prayers composed by St. Jean Vianney are available HERE.

The shorter novena prayers are available HERE.

And for more information on the Life, Martyrdom and Intercessory Power of St. Philomena, check out the website of her shrine HERE and click the 'About' section at the top for options.

From the Lips...

Readings for Tuesday, August 2/ St. Eusebius:
Numbers 12:1-13
Psalm 51:3-7, 12-13
Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14

In response the charge that his disciples aren't following the traditions that the Jewish leaders had set up, the Lord reminds them and us that it is not what enters the mouth that defiles us but that the things that come forth from our mouth do. He speaks to the reality that sin happens primarily in our hearts and then it is often manifested in words. I find it significant that we have a concrete example of this in the reading from Numbers, as Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses. They didn't do anything, they simply spoke against him and that was enough to merit punishment from the Lord.

One way that the Church has encouraged us throughout the years to purify ourselves is by having a devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. In the liturgy we bow our heads at the name of Jesus. In conversation we ought to use His name sparingly and if it is spoken in vain - what a great practice to say in response "Blessed be the name of the Lord!" to remind others that His name is to be held sacred. Furthermore, the scriptures tell us that at the name of Jesus, every knee bends in heaven, on the earth and under the earth. So as we use our very lips to speak that powerful name, that name which has the power to cast our demons and cure the sick, we are mindful that our lips ought to be a place of purity and praise; on them ought to be praise, uplifting words, and truth, not negativity, profanity and lies. In this way we can ensure greater purity for ourselves.