Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Papal Intentions for February

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI asks us to join him in praying throughout February for:

General Intention: That all peoples may have access to water and other resources needed for daily life.

Missionary Intention: That the Lord may sustain the efforts of health workers assisting the sick and elderly in the world's poorest regions.

Monday, January 30, 2012

With Authority!

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Mark 1:21-28

As part of the requirements of seminary formation, each of us met with a spiritual director at least monthly to discuss vocational discernment and other spiritual things that were taking place. It was helpful because often the person had gone through similar things or at least knew better how to respond and could offer some helpful advice. One time I went for a session with my director and at the end he said, “Brent, I have some homework for you to do for next time. I want you to sit down at some point this coming week and read the entire Gospel of Mark in one sitting.” I looked at him a bit confused. “One sitting? We take a whole year in the liturgical cycle to read it.” But, as directed, I went home and read Mark’s gospel in one sitting. Much to my surprise, it only took me a couple of hours with the unexpectedly-short length of 25 pages.

One thing that I liked is that it read quickly. Believed by many to be the written account of St. Peter’s own preaching, we can get a glimpse into what it was to hear the gospel proclaimed in a genuine form. Rather than lengthy discourses or parables, we hear more frequently the stories of healings and exorcisms. These were all signs to convince people and to illustrate the reality that Jesus was truly the Son of God and the Savior anticipated for so many years. Behind all of these many powerful stories, though, we recognize that it is the authority of Jesus Christ that is really the key. It is that authority, which we hear about today in the readings, which enables Him to do all of the things that we hear about, beginning with the cleansing of the man in the gospel we just read. It’s about authority.

When we look at the passage given to us this weekend, we immediately find the Lord teaching in the synagogue, where the people are astonished at his teaching because He taught with authority, not as the scribes. You see, the scribes were the scholars of the Law and often spoke in reference to it in teaching. But rather than simply speak about it, they constantly reference Rabbi so-and-so who spoke about a particular point and quoted those who went before them, going all the way back to the Torah (Books of Moses, first five books of the Old Testament). In stark contrast, Jesus doesn’t come and reference this or that teacher who went before Him, but boldly comes and speaks the truth from His own authority – authority meaning literally ‘from one’s substance’ or ‘from one’s self’. Christ speaks from Himself and the authority given to Him because He is in fact the prophet spoken of in our reading from Deuteronomy. He is the prophet who will speak the words placed in His mouth by the Father. He is the one who comes with the authority given by the Father and with that authority speaks to humanity.

Because is the Son of God and the great prophet, He speaks authoritatively and things happen. He commands demons to be quiet and they are. He cast them out and they go. He speaks of healings and they occur. His authority is true, and not just in Biblical times. It’s not as if the authority of Christ ended with His Ascension 2000 years ago. Rather, it is still at work in His Church, in the liturgy, and in the Word of God. His authority still speaks today.

While in years past, and still sometimes today, the evil spirits would manifest themselves in very physical and violent ways, today we often see evil lurking quietly, secretly moving hearts away from the Lord. It happens in addictions such as drug use, pornography, and lust for power or material things which lead us away from the Lord by sinning. It also happens in addictions to technology and other things that lead us away from the Lord not by sin but by keeping us from the silence where the Lord is found. And so we gather tonight and bring those addictions to the Lord, all of those places of darkness where the Lord is not fully present in our hearts, and we lay them at the foot of the altar and ask the Lord to speak with His authority once again and gain for us that freedom that brings peace. The freedom that permits us to be free once again and to rejoice in the knowledge of God’s love and mercy. May the Lord grant us the graces.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

"I will attempt day by day to break my will into pieces. I want to do God's Holy Will, not my own."

-St. Gabriel Possenti

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Article on St. Philomena

I recently came across this article about St. Philomena, the battle for purity among our youth, and Fr. Chad Partain of the Alexandria Diocese. Check it out HERE.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Behold, the Lamb of God!

Readings for Sunday, January 15/ Second Sunday of Ordinary Time:
1 Samuel 3:3-10,19
Psalm 40:2, 4,7-10
1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20
John 1:35-42

I have often said that the beauty and depth of the scriptures are quite often found in the seemingly insignificant details, those little words or phrases that are so quickly passed by and yet are really the key to understanding the passage. I believe the same thing is true of the liturgical celebration – and today we actually see an intersection of those two realities.

Let’s look again at the passage from St. John’s gospel. The scene opens with St. John the Baptist standing there with two disciples – Andrew is named and the other is traditionally believed to be John the Evangelist. As the Lord passes by, those beautiful words are found on the lips of the Baptist: Behold, the Lamb of God. That should sound familiar to us, especially since it is now said at every Mass as the priest holds up the host before the distribution of Holy Communion. Behold, the Lamb of God. Such simplicity; only a few words. And yet those words compel the disciples to follow, but apparently at a safe distance.

Then it happens – He turns toward them, asking, “What are you looking for?” You can almost see the astonished looks on the disciples’ faces as this great man, whom they honor with the title Rabbi, speaks to them. Their hearts are revealed as they respond, “Where are you staying?” They don’t want to just chat as they are walking, as if making superficial small talk. They want to stay for a while; they want to spend time with the Lord and get to know Him. Recognizing the desire of their hearts, the Lord shows them where He is staying and Andrew goes to get Simon Peter to bring him to meet the Lord. Here the passage ends, but the scriptures do not indicate that the disciples ever leave the house of the Lord. Rather, they imply otherwise in that the next day more disciples are called and the third day Jesus shows up at the Wedding at Cana with disciples and family at His side.

Imagine what it would have been like! To be there with the Lord in the flesh as He began His ministry of salvation. To hear Him speak as no person had before. What was spoken in the silence of that home as for one of the last times they are actually together without a crowd of people beating down the door? Surely it was enough to keep them there and keep them seeking to go deeper, and yet also to go out and proclaim the Good News to others as they had already begun to do.

But let’s go back to the beginning – Behold, the Lamb of God. We hear these words spoken by the Baptist so many years ago echoed at each Mass that we attend. When we hear them, do we realize that it’s not a statement of fact, so much as an invitation that is extended to us? The reason that the scriptures are often tied into the text of the Mass is because the Mass seeks to use the background of the scriptures to call to mind an entire story with just a few words. With these few words the priest once again acts as the Baptist did years ago to speak to the gathered disciples – all of us – and to point out the Lamb so that we too might all follow as those first disciples did. Think about the unspoken dialogue that takes place:

Behold, the Lamb of God! We follow and He turns to us and asks us as He asked Andrew and John – What are you looking for? ‘Say the word and my soul shall be healed,' we cry out. And so it is done.

Fr. Markey of the Society of St. Hugh of Cluny
It’s not by coincidence that the calling of the disciples in John’s gospel is followed immediately by the first miracle – changing water into wine at a wedding feast. And it is no coincidence that 2000 years later we come each Sunday to behold the Lamb, follow after Him and come to know His power and love in the midst of this sacred banquet, looking forward to the Heavenly Wedding Banquet where with the Lamb, the disciples, and all the angels and saints, we hope to hear the fullness of those blessed words: Come and see.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

On 'Jesus > Religion'

In the course of the past week, it seems that a viral video has come up that pits Jesus against Religion. You may have heard of it: 'Jesus > Religion'. Sadly, the guy is really talented and has some good points, but misses the mark for the most part. His emotionally charged blanket statements can easily lead us astray if we don't take the time to think about it. In the past few days, I've gotten a handful of emails from people with questions or concerns in response to it. To respond adequately would take a while, since his broad statements need some precise responses. Thus this post is meant to be a simple starting point if you're looking for a response to it.  I posted below three videos. The first is the above-mentioned video. The latter two are responses from individuals that I thought were cleaver and well-done. Enjoy!

Untitled from John Hollowell on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

"Our Lord needs from us neither great deeds nor profound thoughts. Neither intelligence nor talents. He cherishes simplicity."

-St. Therese of Lisieux

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Wednesday through Friday of this week I had the privilege of going to Houston with three seminarian friends to the CMAA Winter Chant Intensive. For the better part of three days, we learned about and sang  Gregorian Chant (hence the workshop's name). It was a wonderful time and culminated in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with us chanting the prayers of the Mass, which we had used as the means to learning during the course of the workshop. Below is a little clip of us practicing the Communion Chant. It was a beautiful time and a blessed opportunity to meet some incredibly talented people. Now to try to grow in my skill and understanding....

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

As we honor the Most Holy Name of Jesus today, 
let us call upon Him for help

Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus

V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.
V. God the Father of Heaven
R. Have mercy on us. 
V. God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Holy Spirit,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Holy Trinity, one God,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, Son of the living God,
R. Have mercy on us.
Jesus, splendor of the Father, [etc.]
Jesus, brightness of eternal light.
Jesus, King of glory.
Jesus, sun of justice.
Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus, most amiable.
Jesus, most admirable.
Jesus, the mighty God.
Jesus, Father of the world to come.
Jesus, angel of great counsel.
Jesus, most powerful.
Jesus, most patient.
Jesus, most obedient.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
Jesus, lover of chastity.
Jesus, lover of us.
Jesus, God of peace.
Jesus, author of life.
Jesus, example of virtues.
Jesus, zealous lover of souls.
Jesus, our God.
Jesus, our refuge.
Jesus, father of the poor.
Jesus, treasure of the faithful.
Jesus, good Shepherd.
Jesus, true light.
Jesus, eternal wisdom.
Jesus, infinite goodness.
Jesus, our way and our life.
Jesus, joy of Angels.
Jesus, King of the Patriarchs.
Jesus, Master of the Apostles.
Jesus, teacher of the Evangelists.
Jesus, strength of Martyrs.
Jesus, light of Confessors.
Jesus, purity of Virgins.
Jesus, crown of Saints.

V. Be merciful, R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Be merciful, R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.
V. From all evil, R. deliver us, O Jesus.

From all sin, deliver us, O Jesus.
From Your wrath, [etc.]
From the snares of the devil.
From the spirit of fornication.
From everlasting death.
From the neglect of Your inspirations.
By the mystery of Your holy Incarnation.
By Your Nativity.
By Your Infancy.
By Your most divine Life.
By Your labors.
By Your agony and passion.
By Your cross and dereliction.
By Your sufferings.
By Your death and burial.
By Your Resurrection.
By Your Ascension.
By Your institution of the most Holy Eucharist.
By Your joys.
By Your glory.

V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us, O Jesus.
V. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.

Let us pray.

O Lord Jesus Christ, You have said, "Ask and you shall receive, seek, and you shall find, knock, and it shall be opened to you." Grant, we beg of You, to us who ask it, the gift of Your most divine love, that we may ever love You with our whole heart, in word and deed, and never cease praising You. Give us, O Lord, as much a lasting fear as a lasting love of Your Holy Name, for You, who live and are King for ever and ever, never fail to govern those whom You have solidly established in Your love. Amen.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Gifts and Graces

Icon of the Mother of God Hodigitria
Readings for Sunday, January 1/ Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God:
Numbers 6:22-27
Psalm 67:2,3,5,6,8
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:16-21

As the Christian faith began to spread throughout the nations in the first centuries after the Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Our Lord, many questions began to arise. Things that most of us take for granted or might not think to ask were brought up: Is the Holy Spirit God? Is Jesus God? Is He also a man? How does that work? Are the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and the Father all the same or are they different? How can we have one God and yet say these three are God? These are just the high points of thousands of questions that began to be asked as the Church began to grow in understanding of the Scriptures and the God of the Universe. 

Of course, as these questions arose, they had to be dealt with. As we gather here today to celebrate this Solemn Feast of Mary under the title of Holy Mother of God, we are really celebrating a belief of the Church that was clarified 1600 years ago at an Ecumenical Council in Ephesus, in current-day Turkey. There the Church pronounced that since Jesus Christ is the Word of God and Word made flesh, it is right to say that He is fully God and thus that it is proper to say that Mary is the Holy Mother of God, or more true to the Greek theotokos – the God-bearer.

With this definition of Mary as Mother of God, Mother Church showed that in knowing about the Lord Jesus we could also come to know about Mary. This colors the other teachings about Mary that were believed since the earliest of times and which were clarified throughout the centuries: Mary’s perpetual virginity, that she never sinned, that she was immaculately conceived in her mother’s womb and assumed into Heaven at the end of her life, that all grace passes through the hands of Mary, and that she is the Mother and Queen of us all. While such descriptions or titles can often seem a bit far-fetched or overly-pious, the fact that she had the specific blessing of bearing God Himself in her own womb makes these other titles understandable and almost a given. But beyond all of these titles and theological terms, there is something for us here today to really pause and reflect upon.

Let us look for a moment at the life of Mary. She was blessed with these special gifts and graces not just because God the Father wanted to do so. She was blessed with these gifts because the Lord had a plan for her, He had created her and guided her throughout her life so that when the time came, she would be able to say yes to the angel Gabriel and ultimately gain for us the gift of salvation.

As we come here today to celebrate this Solemn Feast and begin the New Year, it seems to me that rather than, or in addition to, making a resolution for ourselves, why not spend some time in prayer and ask the Lord what He wants of us? All of us have gifts, and even weaknesses, that the Lord desires to work through to continue to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and the gift of Salvation. The challenge is to find those gifts, to say yes to the Lord’s desires, and to pray for the courage to put them into action. May God grant us all of these graces.