Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lord, Receive My Spirit...

Today is the Feast of St. Stephen the First Martyr. His martyrdom is recorded in Acts 6:8-7:60:
And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyre'nians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cili'cia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated men, who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us." And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel...

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
St. Stephen, pray for us.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In Nativitate Domini

From the Office of Readings.
Sermo 1 in Nativitate Domini, by Pope St. Leo the Great

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.
Merry Christmas! O Magnum Mysterium!

Celebrate the profundity of this day and this season. Embrace the sacraments, particularly regular confession. Go to Mass. Honor your marriage. Pray. Love one another. If you are angry or resentful, let it go. Lay down your pride. Pick up the Cross. Eat, drink, and make merry (in moderation), but in so doing, remember God's blessings. Thank God for His grace.

The Word has become Flesh. He dwells among us.
O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum
iacentem in praesepio.
Natum vidimus et chorus angelorum
collaudantes Dominum. Alleluia

O great mystery and wonderful sacrament,
that beasts should see the newborn Lord
lying in a manger.
The newborn we have seen and a chorus of angels
praising the Lord. Alleluia

Quem vidistis pastores?
Dicite, annunciate nobis quis apparuit?
Natum vidimus et chorus angelorum
collaudantes Dominum. Alleluia

Whom have you seen, shepherds?
Speak, tell us who has appeared?
The newborn we have seen and a chorus of angels
praising the Lord. Alleluia

O admirabile commercium:
creator generis humani,
animatum corpus sumens
de virgine nasci dignatus est;
et, precedens homo sine semine,
largitus est nobis suam Deitatem.

O wonderful gift:
the creator of the human race,
taking our flesh upon him,
deigns to be born of a virgin;
and, coming forth without seed of man,
bestows his Divinity upon us.
il bambino! il bambino!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

791st Anniversary of the Order of Preachers

From the Dominican Province of St. Joseph Vocations blog:
On this day, December 22, in the year 1216, His Holiness Pope Honorius III gave official approval to the creation of the Order of Preachers to St. Dominic. It is somehow fitting in this season in which we look forward to the birth of Our Savior, we celebrate as well the birth of our Order. The anniversary is still celebrated in the Order, but impeded liturgically because of the primacy of these days before Christmas.
From the Moniales, OP blog:
For 10 years, St. Dominic preached against the heretics in southern France—sometimes with a few companions but often alone. Slowly, a radically new order began taking shape. Why radical? Because unlike other orders this new Order of Preachers would combine the apostolic life of the Apostles with mendicant itinerancy while at the same time having the monastic elements of silence, prayer, sung Divine Office, study and community life. It took 2 Popes and 4 Bulls for St. Dominic to get full approval of the Order of Preachers.

Even the name was radical. We might not think so today but in St. Dominic's time it was, for the office of Preaching belongs properly to the Bishop and his priests share in this office. What St. Dominic wanted was that his men (who would be ordained to the priesthood) receive the office of Preaching by reason of belonging to the Order. Both Innocent the IV and Honorious III trusted St. Dominic and knew him to be a man on fire for God and a man in whom the Holy Spirit acted powerfully. So, on December 22, 1216 the Order of Preachers was born.
St. Dominic, pray for us!
Ukraine is game to you?!

I believe this scene from Seinfeld is one of the best scenes in Television.

Throughout the episode, Kramer and Newman are engaged in an epic battle against each other in a mad game of Risk, the game of world domination. They take the game so seriously, they don't trust leaving the board with one when the other is not around. The game so distracts Kramer, that he doesn't notice his car being impounded, and when he Jerry alerts him, Kramer insists that he and Newman continue the game on the subway on their way to retrieve the car. On the subway, they are put into a real-life encounter with a foreign national -- a situation which, unlike the game, they simply brush off and end up getting a rude awakening to real world international relations... And it's funny... :)
Tony Blair now a Catholic

I don't typically post about things like this, but the affairs of England, my long lost homeland, and of all Englishmen in general, hopelessly fascinate me. According to CNN.
"It can be confirmed that Tony Blair has been received into full communion with the Catholic Church by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor," the head of the church in England and Wales, the church said in a statement.

"I'm very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church," the statement quoted Murphy-O'Connor as saying.

"For a long time he's been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months he's been following a program of formation for his reception into full communion. Our prayers are with him, his family and his wife at this joyful moment in their journey of faith together," Murphy-O'Connor said.
Please pray for Blair and for converts in general. Zadok has some other questions, but it sounds like he has come a long way and that he has made the careful decision to go "further up and further in", as it were. And this is the next step on an incredible journey with God.

Now, if only the Queen and the entire Royal Family would come home...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

For me life is Christ
If you have met Christ, live Christ, live with Christ! Proclaim it in the first person, as genuine testimony: "For me life is Christ." That is true liberation: to proclaim Jesus free of ties, present in men and women, transformed, made new creatures. Why instead at times does our testimony seem to be in vain? Because we present Jesus without the full seductive power of his person, without revealing the treasures of the sublime ideal inherent in following him; and because we are not always successful in demonstrating conviction, translated into living terms, regarding the extaordinary value of the gift of ourselves to the ecclesial cause we serve.

Brothers and sisters: it is important that men see in us dispensers of the mysteries of God, credible witnesses of his presence in the world. We frequently remember that God, when he calls us, asks for not only one part of our person but all our person and all our vital energies, so that we may announce to men the joy and peace of a new life in Christ, and guide them to a meeting with him. So let it be our first concern to seek the Lord, and, once we have met him, to observe where and how he lives, by being with him all day. Being with him, in a special way, in the Eucharist, where Christ gives himself to us; and in prayer, through which we give ourselves to him. The Eucharist must be performed and extended into our daily actions as a "sacrifice of praise." In prayer, in the trusting contact with God our Father, we can discern better where our strengths and weaknesses are, because the Spirit comes to our aid. The same Spirit speaks to us and slowly immerses us in the divine mysteries, in God's design of love for humanity, which he realizes through our willingness to serve him.

Pope John Paul II, January 26, 1979
I hope that you are challenged by these words. Let us use this Advent wisely...
When Two Worlds Collide

Trite Christmas carols like this are permitted in this context.

For your Advent meditations...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lego Robots

Legos have certainly come a long way since I was a child. Check this out.

Create the smartest, strongest and most advanced LEGO® robot ever, in as few as 30 minutes! The new NXT Intelligent Brick, your robot's "brain," features a powerful 32-bit microprocessor and more memory, plus support for USB 2.0, Bluetooth and more!

A highly versatile palette of LEGO TECHNIC® elements combines with state-of-the-art ultrasonic, sound, light and touch sensors in the next generation of intuitive robotics. With included Quick-Start guide, easy-to-use software and step-by-step building instructions, beginners and experts alike can create humanoid, vehicle and animal robots that obey every command!

Improved light sensors can detect different colors and intensities, while the new sound sensor enables robots to respond to sound patterns and tones. Robots can really "feel" with improved touch sensors, while ultrasonic "eyes" measure distance and movement.

Programming software is now available for both PC and Macintosh, plus with Bluetooth support, you can even command your robot from your mobile phone!
32-bit microprocessor, plus I can control my lego creations from my mobile phone? The future really is now. Too bad the price tag is about $250.00!
Biblia Clerus: Yeah baby!

A new web resource published by the Holy See's Congregation for the Clergy: Biblia Clerus:
This program offers Sacred Scripture, its interpretation in light of Sacred Tradition and the teachings of the Magisterium, with appropriate theological commentary and exegesis.
The downloadable version allows you to connect Sacred Scripture to the complete works of many Doctors of the Church, Councils, Encyclicals, teachings of the Popes, Catechisms, as well as commentaries from secular literature, etc.
Based on a few experiments, the cross-reference mechanism is functional, but it could be a little more precise in my opinion. I'm sure it'll improve once folks begin using it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sacrificial themes in the early Martyrs

In Ch. 50 of his Apologeticus, Tertullian famously acknowledged the following with regard to the early Christian martyrs:
Plures efficimur quotiens metimur a vobis; semen est sanguis Christianorum
"The more often we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed". And indeed it was true and is true today. The witness offered by these Christians who shed their blood for their faith, in one way or another, bears testimony to others concerning the extraordinary power of faith and the power of God's grace to save. Indeed, it is from this that the word martyr derives. And consequently, the Church grows from this witness. The blood of the martyrs is seed.

Many have pointed out that many of the heroic stories of the early martyrs are also related as tales of sacrifice -- sacrifices that are linked to the one sacrifice of Christ, our High Priest, offered in thanksgiving for the benefit of the whole Church. Thus, in view of identifying with a eucharistic sacrifice, their sacrifice is judged acceptable and life giving, not merely for the one being martyred, but indeed for the present and future Church still remaining, if not only for the witness it confirms.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp records a very famous example in Ch. 14 concerning the execution of St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, in the 2nd century. As he was being prepared for execution on a pyre, Polycarp is said to have offered a sacrificial prayer of thanksgiving to God the Father. It is a eucharistic prayer in every sense, which even concludes with a doxology:
And when [Polycarp] placed his hands behind his back and was tied, he was like an exceptional ram taken from a great flock for a sacrifice, prepared as a whole burnt offering that is acceptable to God. Looking up into heaven he said:
Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed child Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, the God of angels, of powers, and of all creation, and of every race of the upright who live before you. I bless you for making me worthy of this day and hour, that I may receive a share among the number of the martyrs in the cup of your Christ, unto the resurrection of eternal life in both soul and body in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. Among them may I be received before you today as a sacrifice that is rich and acceptable, just as you prepared and revealed in advance and now fulfilled -- the true God who does not lie. For this reason and for all things I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal and heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved child, through whom be glory to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, both now and for the ages to come. Amen.
When he sent up the "Amen" and finished the prayer, the men in charge of the fire touched it off. And as a great flame blazoned forth we beheld a marvel -- we to whom it was granted to see, who have also been preserved to report the events to the others. For the fire, taking on the appearance of a vaulted room, like a boat's sail filled with the wind, formed a wall around the martyr's body. And he was in the center, not like burning flesh but like baking bread...
The reference to bread is also not unique. Mike Aquilina is quick to remind us that St. Ignatius of Antioch referred to himself as bread when, in his letter to the Romans, he asked the Church to petition Christ that he be found to be an acceptable sacrifice.
I am writing to all the churches and giving instruction to all, that I am willingly dying for God... Allow me to be bread for the wild beasts; through them I am able to attain to God. I am the wheat of God and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found to be the pure bread of Christ... Petition Christ on my behalf, that I may be found a sacrifice through these instruments of God.
Praised be Jesus Christ, our High Priest.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
A Hymn to the Virgin

To one that is so fare and bright
     Velut maris stella
Brighter than the day is light,
     Parens et puella:
I cry to thee to turn to me:
Lady, pray thy Son for me,
     Tam pia,
That I may come to thee.

In sorrow, counsel thou art best,
     Felix fecundata:
For all the weary thou art rest,
     Mater honorata:
Beseech him in thy mildest mood,
Who for us did shed his blood
     In cruce
That we may come to him
     In luce

All this world was forlorn
     Eva peccatrice,
Till our Savior Lord was born
     De te genetrice.
With thy Ave sin went away
Dark night went and in came day
The well of healing sprang from thee

Lady, flower of everything
     Rosa sine spina
Thou bore Jesu, heaven's King
     Gratia divina:
Of all I say thou bore the prize,
Lady, Queen of paradise
Maiden mild, mother
     Es Effecta.
This little hymn, c. 1300, is macaronic, partly in Latin and partly in English, like many of the carols of the medieval English Church. The English composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) composed a beautiful piece based on this particular hymn at the age of 17. It is one of my favorites. Britten's composition is written for two choirs, a large one singing the English verses, and a smaller one for the Latin.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The freedom to take a stand

Is there more to the religious freedom we enjoy in this country than merely the freedom to shut up?
It is not true that there is opposition between being a good Catholic and serving civil society faithfully. In the same way there is no reason why the Church and the State should clash when they proceed with the lawful exercise of their respective authorities, in fulfillment of the mission God has entrusted to them.

Those who affirm the contrary are liars, yes, liars! They are the same people who honour a false liberty, and ask us Catholics “to do them the favour” of going back to the catacombs.
-St. Josemaría Escrivá, #301 from The Furrow
The Catholic Music Shop

Check out Courtesy of the New Liturgical Movement. From the press release:
In the old days, if you wanted to hear a choir from another town, you hopped on your donkey and went on a trip. Nowadays, you surf the internet to find a CD or MP3.

Venturing into the repertoire of sacred music that spans nearly two millennia can be quite intimidating, so Diana and Mike Silva have just opened the online Catholic Music Shop ( as a guide. Shoppers can browse categories such as Gregorian Chant, Polyphony, Masses, Liturgical Year and the Blessed Virgin Mary. There’s even a complete section for the novice listener.

“If you go to and type in ‘Gregorian chant,’ you’ll come up with over 1,300 CD’s. It can be overwhelming. Because we know the musical tradition of the Church, and because we’re familiar with the ensembles, we’re able to direct our customers to the high quality performances and recordings,” Diana Silva explained.

The Catholic Music Shop is owned and operated by Diana and Mike Silva, a couple uniquely qualified to offer the treasury of the Church’s sacred music online. Mike, a computer programmer by trade, is also President and Founder of Voci del Tesoro, which operates the highest-ranking Live 365 internet choral music broadcast, Choral Treasure plays online (streaming) commercial-free music of the Catholic tradition, and has listeners in over 120 countries. Diana Silva, who co-founded and directed the Voci del Tesoro professional choir, was also the Founding Chair of the Department of Sacred Music at Ave Maria University, where she directed the AMU Choirs, taught Choral Conducting, Voice and served as Director of Liturgical Music. She and Mike also organize advanced courses in Gregorian chant every summer at St. Pierre Abbey in Solesmes , France .

The online shop offers mostly CD’s, but also some DVD’s and books as well, and each selection is hand-picked. Catholic Music Shop is an Amazon affiliate, so payment and shipping are automatically handled by, and all the prices are the same as one would pay at Amazon.

“The ‘shelves’ are stocked for Advent and Christmas, and we are adding to our inventory in each category daily,” said Mike Silva.
It brings things together very nicely.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Welcome, Cardinal DiNardo!

Oh, to be in Rome! We watched coverage of most of the consistory today. Fr. Z. comments on a recent interview with DiNardo.

My pastor flew to Rome last Sunday afternoon. And by chance, earlier in the week, we happened to see him on television in the company of our archbishop outside of Gammarelli's in Rome.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Catholic & Orthodox meeting in Ravenna: Agreements and Questions

Presented here is the first document adopted by the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church from their talks last month in Ravenna, Italy. It should be noted that representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate were not present.
Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church. Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority
The agreement is nothing really that new, but it is nonetheless a good and substantial document and a significant step toward unity. In particular, it concerns the nature of Communion, Conciliarity and Primacy, and Authority. The agreements and questions concerning the primacy of the bishop of Rome and the nature of that primacy and authority are also summarized. I encourage you to read the whole of the document, but here is a snippet:
40. During the first millennium, the universal communion of the Churches in the ordinary course of events was maintained through fraternal relations between the bishops. These relations, among the bishops themselves, between the bishops and their respective protoi, and also among the protoi themselves in the canonical order (taxis) witnessed by the ancient Church, nourished and consolidated ecclesial communion. History records the consultations, letters and appeals to major sees, especially to that of Rome, which vividly express the solidarity that koinônia creates. Canonical provisions such as the inclusion of the names of the bishops of the principal sees in the diptychs and the communication of the profession of faith to the other patriarchs on the occasion of elections, are concrete expressions of koinônia.

41. Both sides agree that this canonical taxis was recognised by all in the era of the undivided Church. Further, they agree that Rome, as the Church that “presides in love” according to the phrase of St Ignatius of Antioch (To the Romans, Prologue), occupied the first place in the taxis, and that the bishop of Rome was therefore the protos among the patriarchs. They disagree, however, on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome as protos, a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millennium.

42. Conciliarity at the universal level, exercised in the ecumenical councils, implies an active role of the bishop of Rome, as protos of the bishops of the major sees, in the consensus of the assembled bishops. Although the bishop of Rome did not convene the ecumenical councils of the early centuries and never personally presided over them, he nevertheless was closely involved in the process of decision-making by the councils.

43. Primacy and conciliarity are mutually interdependent. That is why primacy at the different levels of the life of the Church, local, regional and universal, must always be considered in the context of conciliarity, and conciliarity likewise in the context of primacy.

Concerning primacy at the different levels, we wish to affirm the following points:
1. Primacy at all levels is a practice firmly grounded in the canonical tradition of the Church.
2. While the fact of primacy at the universal level is accepted by both East and West, there are differences of understanding with regard to the manner in which it is to be exercised, and also with regard to its scriptural and theological foundations.
44. In the history of the East and of the West, at least until the ninth century, a series of prerogatives was recognised, always in the context of conciliarity, according to the conditions of the times, for the protos or kephale at each of the established ecclesiastical levels: locally, for the bishop as protos of his diocese with regard to his presbyters and people; regionally, for the protos of each metropolis with regard to the bishops of his province, and for the protos of each of the five patriarchates, with regard to the metropolitans of each circumscription; and universally, for the bishop of Rome as protos among the patriarchs. This distinction of levels does not diminish the sacramental equality of every bishop or the catholicity of each local Church.

45. It remains for the question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of all the Churches to be studied in greater depth. What is the specific function of the bishop of the “first see” in an ecclesiology of koinônia and in view of what we have said on conciliarity and authority in the present text? How should the teaching of the first and second Vatican councils on the universal primacy be understood and lived in the light of the ecclesial practice of the first millennium? These are crucial questions for our dialogue and for our hopes of restoring full communion between us.
Yes, and it is an interesting study with some very diverse opinions, particularly among the Orthodox. Eastern Orthodox theologian Olivier Clément admitted as much several years ago and went on to argue:
The primacy of honor-- which, we should note, is granted to the Pope by all the Orthodox churches-- must inevitably convey to the Patriarch of Rome some measure of power as well, even if it is only the power of presiding.
Clément lays out many of the substantial, but not insurmountable, obstacles involved in the discussion in his book, You Are Peter: An Orthodox Reflection on the Exercise of Papal Primacy, as I noted in my very brief review. The book was authored as a response to John Paul II's encyclical, Ut Unum Sint.

The commission's document concludes:
We, the members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, are convinced that the above statement on ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority represents positive and significant progress in our dialogue, and that it provides a firm basis for future discussion of the question of primacy at the universal level in the Church. We are conscious that many difficult questions remain to be clarified, but we hope that, sustained by the prayer of Jesus “That they may all be one … so that the world may believe” (Jn 17, 21), and in obedience to the Holy Spirit, we can build upon the agreement already reached. Reaffirming and confessing “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4, 5), we give glory to God the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who has gathered us together.
Absolutely, and Amen! Please continue to pray for Christian Unity, particularly among the apostolic churches!

Thanks, Fr. Z.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

On Blog Names...

When I created this blog back in 2003, I left it open so that I could change its name freely if ever I so desired. Funny thing is, the more I blog, the more I find deeper meaning in the title I chose.

Now, I'm told that I am a fairly consistent person, not prone to acting on impulse or making rash decisions about important things. Thus, I never struggled much with finding a consistent voice, or with constantly reinventing my blog identity. And my blog has never been particularly controversial (as in, I am neither an angry Catholic nor an angry Protestant), and so naturally I don't have throngs of angry readers or nasty comments.

In the course of these years, I have unpacked the depth of my blog title in the various (and all encompassing) subjects of my various posts. Ultimately, I believe this has reflected something important, not just concerning my personality, but also concerning my spiritual life.

Ad Altare Dei is taken from the the fuller verse, Introibo ad altare dei (English: I will go to the altar of God), which is taken from Psalm 43:
Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people;
from deceitful and unjust men
deliver me!

For thou art the God in whom I take refuge;
why hast thou cast me off?
Why go I mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?

Oh send out thy light and thy truth;
let them lead me,
let them bring me to thy holy hill
and to thy dwelling!

Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy;
and I will praise thee with the lyre,
O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.
Of course, this particular part of Psalm 43 is recalled during the start of the Traditional Latin Mass during the prayers at the foot of the Altar.

I chose the title originally because it stuck out as something meaningful, many Catholics were familiar with it, and it was in Latin. Pretty shallow. Of course, a few people (wrongfully) assumed that my choosing this particular title meant that I despised the "Novus Ordo" missae, which was and is most certainly not the case.

I began to find Ad Altare Dei, and indeed the whole of Psalm 43, increasingly meaningful and applicable to the growth of my spiritual life. I began to see it as something that reflected my whole journey as a follower of Christ, including my participation in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church. My life is thus a continual turning toward Christ, who stands as both High Priest and as Victim, to Christ who offers and is offered at God's holy altar. It is also therefore a turning away from sin. This is what conversion means. I am also strengthened by that grace that springs forth from that most sacred place.

So then, just as a priest quotes Psalm 43, Introibo ad altare Dei, when standing at the foot of the Altar, so this prayer has become not only the prayer of my blog, but the prayer of my life. And my understanding of my life, my mission, and my apostolate continues to unfold before me.
Only One Left

LONDON - Barbara West Dainton, believed to be one of the last two survivors from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, has died in England at age 96.

Dainton died Oct. 16 at a nursing home in Camborne, England, according to Peter Visick, a distant relative. Her funeral was held Monday at Truro Cathedral, Visick said Thursday.

Elizabeth Gladys "Millvina" Dean of Southampton, England, who was 2 months old at the time of the Titanic sinking, is now the disaster's only remaining survivor, according to the Titanic Historical Society.

The last American survivor, Lillian Gertrud Asplund, died in Massachusetts last year at age 99.

Dainton, born in Bournemouth in southern England in 1911, was too young to remember the night when the huge liner hit an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic in April 1912, killing 1,500 people, including her father, Edwy Arthur West.

He waved farewell as the lifeboat carrying Barbara; her mother, Ada; and her sister, Constance, was lowered into the ocean, according to Karen Kamuda of the Titanic Historical Society in Indian Orchard, Mass. His body was never identified.
Tri-cornered hat tip to Modern Commentaries.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Comet 17P/Holmes

Has anyone been able to get a good look at Comet 17P/Holmes?

Here's a photo taken from Westmont's Carroll Observatory, using the observatory's Keck Telescope:

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Interesting things...

Seeing odd things around town. I have been seeing a real, honest-to-goodness DeLorean cruising around town. I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago. I was on my way home from a bible study at my parish, and I ended up right behind it, not far from the old Sugar mill... I saw it again just last week on my way to the parish... it cruised right past me. Maybe it's not so odd -- just that I've never seen a time machine up close before! ;) Give me a break, I'm a child of the 80s.

A few weeks ago, I was eating lunch at a local Indian restaurant with some co-workers. As we got up to leave, at least 20 old ladies dressed in purple dresses and hats walked in for lunch. It was a Mayberry meets Twilight Zone moment...
Parish attacked before Mass in Palmdale

From California Catholic Daily:
A pistol-wielding man screaming “there’s going to be a killing” stormed into St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Palmdale before a Sunday afternoon Mass on Nov. 4, kicking the pastor and knocking him to the ground, according to press reports.

“As I walked in, he had gotten to the choir area and became very aggressive," Msgr. Stephen Downes, St. Mary’s pastor, told the Los Angeles Daily News. "He hit a male choir member on the side of the head, then a maintenance man tackled him to the ground. Other choir members held him down."

A sheriff’s deputy told the Daily News that when law enforcement agents arrived at the church and subdued the suspect, they found a pistol hidden in his waistband. “It was cocked and ready to go,” Deputy Daryl Bonsall told the newspaper.

"He (the suspect) punched the pastor, knocked him down and kicked him,” Lt. Cory Kennedy told the Antelope Valley Press. “I think my deputies arriving and these people stopped a bad situation from happening. I think he had some real bad intentions.”

According to news accounts, the man repeatedly cursed, shouted that there is no God and made unspecified “anti-Catholic” statements.

Deputies arrested Claude Sricchia, 65, of Acton. He was charged with assault, making terrorist threats, and carrying a concealed weapon.

Following the incident, a shaken Msgr. Downes celebrated the 5:30 p.m. Mass a little later than scheduled. The Antelope Valley Press said about 400 parishioners were in attendance when the melee occurred.

Sricchia, who allegedly had been drinking, is not a member of the parish, and had to be identified by fingerprints since he refused to identify himself, sheriff’s officials told the press.
I remember Msgr. Stephen Downes fairly well. He served as pastor of my parish in Santa Barbara for several years before moving on.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Liturgy of the Temple

The work of Simon "the Just", the high priest, son of Onias, in the temple and the people gathered around him worshiping God. It is recorded in Sirach 50:5-21:
How glorious [Simon, the high priest] was when the people gathered round him as he came out of the inner sanctuary [from behind the veil]!

Like the morning star among the clouds,
like the moon when it is full;
like the sun shining upon the temple of the Most High,
and like the rainbow gleaming in glorious clouds;
like roses in the days of the first fruits,
like lilies by a spring of water,
like a green shoot on Lebanon on a summer day;
like fire and incense in the censer,
like a vessel of hammered gold adorned with all kinds of precious stones;
like an olive tree putting forth its fruit,
and like a cypress towering in the clouds.

When he put on his glorious robe and clothed himself with superb perfection and went up to the holy altar, he made the court of the sanctuary glorious. And when he received the portions from the hands of the priests, as he stood by the hearth of the altar with a garland of brethren around him, he was like a young cedar on Lebanon; and they surrounded him like the trunks of palm trees, all the sons of Aaron in their splendor with the Lord's offering in their hands, before the whole congregation of Israel.

Finishing the service at the altars, and arranging the offering to the Most High, the Almighty, he reached out his hand to the cup and poured a libation of the blood of the grape; he poured it out at the foot of the altar, a pleasing odor to the Most High, the King of all. Then the sons of Aaron shouted, they sounded the trumpets of hammered work, they made a great noise to be heard for remembrance before the Most High.

Then all the people together made haste and fell to the ground upon their faces to worship their Lord, the Almighty, God Most High. And the singers praised him with their voices in sweet and full-toned melody. And the people besought the Lord Most High in prayer before him who is merciful, till the order of worship of the Lord was ended; so they completed his service.

Then Simon came down, and lifted up his hands over the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, to pronounce the blessing of the Lord with his lips, and to glory in his name; and they bowed down in worship a second time, to receive the blessing from the Most High.
What is it to do the work of God?

Friday, November 02, 2007

All Souls Day

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God. Wisdom 3:1-9:
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.

For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever.

Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

All Souls Day: Solemn Requiem Mass

This Friday, November 2nd, 7:30pm at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land.

A requiem mass celebrated in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, with the traditional chants of the Mass for the Dead. This is not a concert (as I thought it was a few months back), but a time of prayer for the souls of the deceased.

Earlier that day, a low mass will be celebrated according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (aka Traditional Latin Mass) at 12:10pm.

Oh, and rumor has it that there will be black vestments used... Could it be true? ;)
The Treasury of Merit in Early Jewish and Christian Tradition

Mike Aquilina is very happy to announce that the third volume of Letter and Spirit, the annual journal of Catholic Biblical Theology, is available, featuring contributions by Cardinals Avery Dulles and Christoph Schonborn, Michael Waldstein, Romanus Cessario, David Fagerberg, and Scott Hahn. Titled The Hermeneutic of Continuity: Christ, Kingdom, and Creation, this volume also features an essay by Gary Anderson of Notre Dame, which, as Aquilina notes, examines the notion of the Treasury of Merit in Early Jewish and Christian Tradition. Looks like an interesting read.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fire Fighters and Secret Societies

Please pray for those affected by the terrible fires in California. We have friends and family in the San Diego area who have had to evacuate.

On a lighter note, Jimmy Akin uses this opportunity to refer to the peculiar instructions given by the second century emperor Trajan to Pliny the Younger about having fire departments:
Pliny to Trajan:

A desolating fire broke out in Nicomedia, and destroyed a number of private houses, and two public buildings -- the almshouse and the temple of Isis -- although a road ran between them. The fire was allowed to spread farther than it need, first owing to the violent wind; second, to the laziness of the citizens, it being generally agreed they stood idly by without moving, and simply watched the conflagration. Besides there was not a single public fire engine or bucket in the place, and not one solitary appliance for mastering a fire. However, these will be provided upon orders I have already given. But, Sire, I would have you consider whether you think a fire company of about 150 men ought not to be formed? I will take care that no one not a genuine fireman shall be admitted, and that the guild should not misapply the charter granted it. Again there would be no trouble in keeping an eye on so small a body.

Trajan to Pliny:

You have formed the idea of a possible fire company at Nicomedia on the model of various others already existing; but remember that the province of Bithynia, and especially city-states like Nicomedia, are the prey of factions. Give them the name we may, and however good be the reasons for organization, such associations will soon degenerate into dangerous secret societies. It is better policy to provide fire apparatus, and to encourage property holders to make use of them, and if need comes, press the crowd which collects into the same service.
In spite of his concern about certain city-states being the prey of factions, Trajan is long dead.
Daniel Cardinal DiNardo Fan Club

If you are on Facebook, be sure to check out the Daniel Cardinal DiNardo Fan Club Facebook Group. It is so refreshing to see so many young adults excited for our archbishop, Daniel DiNardo, and so many seem to have a personal story concerning how DiNardo has impacted their life and why they respect him as their (now) Cardinal Archbishop.

Receiving the news from Rome concerning his elevation, DiNardo stated the following:
I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father for his kindness in appointing me and for his trust in allowing me to be placed in the College of Cardinals. May I immediately add that it is also very humbling and surprising! I promise him my fullest communion, loyalty and obedience.
And we are very honored to be a part of this communion with our archbishop, who stands as a vicar and legate of Christ for our local church of Galveston-Houston (Catechism 894, 1560). But let us not pretend that our archbishop is not human as we are. He stands as successor to the Apostles, who, as we know, were also very human. Therefore, let us remember to pray for him constantly, for wisdom and strength, giving thanks to God for grace and for life in Christ. Let us also ask God for humility and for the softening of hearts.

My pastor has been asked to organize a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome next month for the consistory. There are a lot of folks going! Because the consistory is happening over Thanksgiving weekend, we will, of course, be watching it from Houston with our family.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Catholics and Mennonites

Courtesy of the Vatican Information Service:
Today in the Vatican, the Pope received a delegation from the Mennonite World Conference, a group which has recently expressed the desire to meet the Pope and to visit some of the dicasteries of the Holy See. This is the Mennonite Conference's first visit to Rome.

"The Mennonites are part of the Anabaptist tradition of the Reformation," explains a communique issued by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. "To use a modern term, the Mennonites could be described today as pacifists. For their views on Baptism which, they feel, should be administered only to people capable of making autonomous decisions, they were subject ... to persecution in both Protestant and Catholic countries." In 1986 and 2002, the leaders of the Mennonite World Conference accepted John Paul II's invitation to participate in the meetings for peace in Assisi.

"In the ecumenical spirit of recent times, we have begun to have contacts with each other after centuries of isolation," the Pope told the Mennonite leaders in his English-language talk. "Since it is Christ Himself who calls us to seek Christian unity, it is entirely right and fitting that Mennonites and Catholics have entered into dialogue in order to understand the reasons for the conflict that arose between us in the sixteenth century. To understand is to take the first step towards healing."

"Mennonites are well known for their strong Christian witness to peace in the name of the Gospel, and here, despite centuries of division, the dialogue report 'Called Together to be Peacemakers' has shown that we hold many convictions in common. We both emphasize that our work for peace is rooted in Jesus Christ."

Catholics and Mennonites "both understand that 'reconciliation, non violence, and active peacemaking belong to the heart of the Gospel.' Our continuing search for the unity of the Lord's disciples is of the utmost importance. Our witness will remain impaired as long as the world sees our divisions."

The Pope concluded his address by expressing the hope that the visit "will be another step towards mutual understanding and reconciliation."
I've encountered a number of Amish and Mennonite families in the farm country of central Indiana, where I have family. In fact, the Mennonites operate a number of fine country restaurants out there that are unequaled in both hospitality and deliciousness.
Imitation Catholic or Illusion?

It is no secret that some Protestant churches at times employ somewhat questionable methods in order to attract Catholics into their congregations. This has been more prevalent within the last 10 years, and there has been a particular focus on Hispanic communities. The idea is to transplant various Catholic terminology and devotional practices into a Protestant setting. Sometimes, folks can't even tell that they're not at a Catholic church (which I'll discuss in a minute).

For example, check out what is available at St. Paul's (Episcopal) Cathedral in San Diego. They advertise a weekly Misa en Español, which heads up their Hispanic Ministry. They explain:
The Cathedral celebrates Holy Communion in Spanish on Sundays and, throughout the year, Hispanic events such as Día de los Muertos, Posadas, and the Serenade for Our Lady of Guadalupe. We also offer First Communions and Quinceañeras. Spanish-speaking staff and clergy are available to answer questions about these and the other components of our rich Hispanic Ministry.
They also have an Our Lady of Guadalupe Art Program.

The Misa en Español notice reminds me of a picture I snapped during a visit to Houston in 2004. Holy Cross Lutheran Church (ELCA) and their large outdoor banner advertising their own weekly Misa en Español:

Some Protestant communities even set up statues of the Virgin and hang banners of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I'm sure we can agree that what these groups have done is misleading. But aside from that, it underscores a major problem that exists within today's Church. The problem concerns the popularity of devotional practices and poor catechesis. All these Protestant groups have done is adopt external Catholic practices. They obviously (perhaps with some exceptions) haven't completely adopted our theology. If they haven't done this, why is merely adopting the external trappings of Catholic piety, albeit piety imbued with cultural significance, effective in attracting Catholics into their congregations?

Apart from the divine liturgy, popular devotional practices can aide in the development of a healthy spiritual life, but unless these practices are rooted in, flow from, and lead us to an active life of grace and repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, particularly as brought forth in the liturgical life of the Church, what do they communicate? They are rendered empty insofar as growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ is concerned. The point here is that for many folks, there is no consideration for this. And if folks don't understand what makes Christianity real, then why should they remain Catholics anyway?

The US Bishops stressed this back in 2003. Quoting Pope Pius XII, they explained that the purpose of popular devotional practices in the life of the Church is:
to attract and direct our souls to God, purifying them from their sins, encouraging them to practice virtue and, finally, stimulating them to advance along the path of sincere piety by accustoming them to meditate on the eternal truths and disposing them better to contemplate the mysteries of the human and divine natures of Christ.
But when the environment for the practice of devotional practices becomes disoriented, things can become unhealthy and dangerous, as the Bishops also stress by quoting Pope Paul VI:
Popular religiosity of course certainly has its limits. It is often subject to penetration by many distortions of religion and even superstitions. It frequently remains at the level of forms of worship not involving a true acceptance by faith. It can even lead to the creation of sects and endanger the true ecclesial community.
This is not to say that there is no place for popular devotions. In fact, when in a properly oriented environment, devotions can serve as a vehicle for solid teaching and religious practice. As Pope Paul VI asserted:
[Popular religiosity] is well oriented, above all by a pedagogy of evangelization, it is rich in values. It manifests a thirst for God which only the simple and poor can know. It makes people capable of generosity and sacrifice even to the point of heroism, when it is a question of manifesting belief. It involves an acute awareness of profound attributes of God: fatherhood, providence, loving and constant presence. It engenders interior attitudes rarely observed to the same degree elsewhere: patience, the sense of the Cross in daily life, detachment, openness to others, devotion. . . . When it is well oriented, this popular religiosity can be more and more for multitudes of our people a true encounter with God in Jesus Christ.
So what then is the key in maintaining a properly oriented environment? The Bishops assert that devotions must be oriented toward Christ. Devotional practices, even laudable practices, that become disassociated from the life of the Church and the teachings of Christ, are disoriented. Quoting the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the bishops say:
The criterion for the truth and value of a private revelation is therefore its orientation to Christ himself. When it leads us away from him, when it becomes independent of him or even presents itself as another and better plan of salvation, more important than the Gospel, then it certainly does not come from the Holy Spirit, who guides us more deeply into the Gospel and not away from it.
They continue:
Similarly, although not every popular devotion has its origin in a private revelation, every popular devotion must likewise be in conformity with the faith of the Church based on public Revelation and must ultimately be centered on Christ.
They assert that the responsibility falls on everyone to ensure that popular devotions are faithful to church teaching, and bishops (assisted by priests and deacons), in particular. The fact that some devotional practices can be used to lead folks away from the Church proves that, in some cases, they have become disoriented. Let's admit that and, following our Lord's example, work to change the environment.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hail, O Cross, Our Only Hope
O crux ave spes unica
hoc passionis tempore
auge piis justitiam
reisque dona veniam
Archbishop DiNardo named Cardinal Designate

John Allen reports... here is the complete list... The Archdiocese responds here.

We're very happy about this... I expected this might happen, seeing as how there has been speculation about a Cardinal in the American South for quite some time. But as John Allen observes, the pick indicates that the pope recognizes "the shifting center of the Catholic population in the United States from the East Coast to the Southwest."

Personally speaking, DiNardo is a very approachable pastor. My wife and I have run into him several times (even randomly); times which have given us opportunities for discussions with him. I also appreciate that he is a patristics scholar, having earned his license in patristics at the Pontifical University Augustinianum in Rome. It's not uncommon, even in general conversation, to hear him quote the early Church fathers or hear him quote the Gospel in Greek and then translate it for you.

Please use this opportunity to pray for Archbishop DiNardo and continue to do so...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Late Teens to Mid-40's?

When I served in young adult ministry in the Santa Barbara area, we struggled a bit with how to properly define young adult in terms of age. We knew that we weren't in the same boat as 18-24 yr old folks. We knew that, for the most part (there are always exceptions), young adults in college were in a completely different state of life than those who were out in the working and professional world. We also knew that we were different from those young adults of older ages who had already established families and had very different priorities. We decided that our ministry would target young adults between the ages of 25 and 35 and who were largely not married, or at the very least, did not yet have children. As our ministry grew, we (and I, very reluctantly) extended our target age "upper bound" from 35 to 40.

Just the other day, I received an email from another young adult group in California advertising an event. Their target age was given as "late teens to mid-40s". Really? "mid-40s"? I think that's pushing it to the extreme, and I think that this is a little too wide a range for which to operate an effective ministry.

I think Bill Cork said it best when he spoke on Young Adult Ministry at last year's Fullness of Truth conference in Houston: If you call yourself a young adult, and yet you're old enough to have children who are themselves old enough to be young adults in your same group, I've got news for you: You're not a young adult. You're middle-aged.

The horror!
Godzdogz, Reflections on the Filioque

We profess in the Nicene Creed: And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son)... The phrase and the Son (Latin: filioque) has been the subject of intense controversy through the centuries between Eastern and Western Christianity.

The Godzdogz blog of the English Dominican Province offers a reflection on the Filioque controversy:
This phrase is misleadingly simple. The controversy it generated – usually referred to by its Latin form, Filioque – occasioned the first great schism in Christianity between the churches of the Latin West, which accepted its inclusion in the creed, and the churches of the (largely) Greek East, which did not. What was disputed concerned who God has revealed Himself to be.

The New Testament texts that speak of the relationship between the Spirit and the Son are concerned with God’s act of revelation in the Word incarnate; even John 15:26:
When comes the Paraclete whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, which from the Father proceeds, that one will testify about me.
This of course is the reference par excellence in favour of the procession of the Spirit from the Father alone; but the word “alone” is not found in this text; rather what it deals with is the temporal mission of the Paraclete. The Latin Fathers appealed frequently to two other texts in John: 16:14-15:
That one [the Spirit of Truth] me will glorify, because of mine he will receive and will announce [it] to you. All things which has the Father mine are. Therefore I said that of mine he receives and will announce [it] to you
and 20:22:
And this having said he breathed on [them] and says to them receive [the] Holy Spirit.
If we are sons able to call God ‘Father’ that is because we have received the Spirit of his Son. Hilary of Poitiers thought that ‘of mine he will receive’ (Jn 16:14) might have the same meaning as ‘proceeds from the Father’ (De Trin. VIII, 20), while Augustine and Anselm believed that the breathing on the disciples (Jn 20:22) implied the procession of the Spirit from the Son.

The source of Latin reflection on the mystery of the Trinity was largely Augustine who developed his teaching by a rigorous exegesis of scripture. Here he is quoting himself (Tr. In Joh. Evang.99, 8-9):
I had been teaching from the evidence of the holy scriptures that the Holy Spirit proceeds from them both. I then went on to say: So if the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, why did the Son say He proceeds from the Father (Jn 15:26)? Why indeed, do you suppose, unless it was the way he was accustomed to refer even what was his very own to him from whom he had his very self? For example, that other thing he said, My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me (Jn 7:16). If in this case we can accept that it is his teaching, which he says however is not his but the Father’s, how much more should we accept in our case that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from him, seeing that he said He proceeds from the Father without also saying ‘He does not proceed from me’?
The doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son began to be proclaimed as official church teaching in the church of Spain. It was regarded as a necessary counter to a kind of Arianism prevalent among the ruling Visigoths, which regarded the Holy Spirit as a creature of the Son just as it regarded the Son as a creature of the Father. The aim of the church there was to safeguard the consubstantiality of the Word incarnate with the Father. The Spanish church’s doctrine was shared by the churches of France and England, where by the late eighth century the term Filioque is found in the creed recited at Mass each Sunday, and where moreover it was assumed that the word had always been part of the creed of Nicaea. Things rapidly became polemical, for political as well as theological reasons. In 1014 the Roman church, under pressure from the Bavarian emperor, introduced the Frankish creed, containing the Filioque, into the Mass. When the definitive break with Constantinople occurred exactly forty years later the difference over the Filioque was one of the central points of dispute.

The fundamental Orthodox objection seems to be that it is a mistake to think of the persons of the Trinity as constituted by the relationships of their origins: their distinctness as hypostases is prior to their relationships; somehow, both the distinctness and the unity of the three hypostases are derived from the first person, the Father, who is the sole beginning and the only cause of divinity, which he communicates wholly to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the inter-personal relationships of the three are richer and more dynamic than just considering their relationship in terms of origin allows – summed up in the Greek term perichoresis – in terms of which modern Orthodox theologians explain statements of the Greek Fathers that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. Aquinas decided that we can also say this, with suitable qualifications: it is a way of stating, he says, what Augustine held, that the Son receives from the Father the power of being joint origin or ‘breather forth’ of the Holy Spirit; further, he saw it as a gesture of goodwill towards the Greek position. The concern in the West is that to omit the Filioque is to play down the fact that to name the Holy Spirit is to name not only the Father but also the Son, for the Spirit is necessarily constituted within their relationship and so related to both. The one God is the Father begetting the Son in the love of the Spirit and the Son loving the Father in the same Spirit in whom he is lovingly begotten. The Son and Spirit are both ‘God of God’ and the point of the doctrine of the Filioque is to remind us of this teaching.
What is also interesting is something John Allen brought to our attention back in 2003:
Fr. Johannes Grohe, an Opus Dei priest who teaches church history at Santa Croce, spoke on the history of church councils. He offered several interesting nuggets, such as the fact that a regional council in Persia in 410 produced one of the earliest insertions of the famed "filioque" clause into the Creed, specifying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father "and from the Son." This council, as Grohe points out, was an Eastern affair, and its adoption of the filioque came out of the rich theological reflection of early Persian Christianity. Hence the notion that the filioque is solely an imposition of the medieval Western Church upon the East, born of later controversies between Rome and Byzantium, is historically dubious.
Meanwhile, dialog moves forward...
Chesterton in Santa Barbara

Well, close anyway. From the Westmont College Office of Public Affairs:
Influential early 20th century English writer G.K. Chesterton will be the focus of a talk at Westmont Thursday, Oct. 18. Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society, will deliver a free lecture, “An Introduction to G.K. Chesterton,” in Hieronymus Lounge at 7 p.m.

A group of Westmont alumni and friends who began a chapter of The Chesterton Society in Santa Barbara in 2003 are sponsoring the event.

“We were inspired by the Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton to pursue a modest goal of reading great literature and contemplating the human condition,” says Rich Dixon, a founding member of the group and 1992 Westmont alumnus. “His more than 100 books remain timeless in their humor, wonder, and use of paradox and cover a range of genres, including poetry, history, literary criticism, economics, philosophy and politics.”

Chesterton’s most well-known works include “Orthodoxy,” “Heretics” and “Everlasting Man.”

Ahlquist is the creator and host of the “Apostle of Common Sense” television series on EWTN, Eternal Word Television Network. He has spoken at Yale, Columbia, New York, Pennsylvania and Villanova Universities and many others venues around the world. His books “G.K. Chesterton - The Apostle of Common Sense” and “Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton” will be available for purchase.
This is especially interesting since Westmont is a private college of the evangelical Protestant tradition. And I had no idea that there was an ACS chapter at Westmont.

I also understand that Dale Ahlquist will be speaking at UC Berkeley on Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 7:00 P.M. in Room 166 of Barrows Hall. He will be speaking about, "The Art of Thinking: G.K. Chesterton on How to Use Your Brain for Its Intended Purpose."

Friday, October 12, 2007

No beer and no TV make Homer go crazy!

"Hmm, that's odd. Usually, the blood gets off at the second floor."
Fun with Uncle Gilbert

We recently subscribed to Gilbert Magazine, published by the American Chesterton Society. We received the first issue a few weeks ago, and so far, we love it! The magazine is jammed packed with solid Catholic thought, literature, and a love of good beer! And we're still making our way through this issue...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Christ, the answer

Today, I saw some good observations from Chris Burgwald:
A fellow blogger used the occasion of San Francisco's archbishop giving Holy Communion to two transvesite men dressed as nuns to state the following:
Wake up, folks! This is the reality of the Church of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Conservative Catholics longed for change, thought that these men would bring it, and what have they received? This.
Said blogger (a former Catholic) proceeded to quote Revelation 18:1-5, implying none too subtly that the Catholic Church is the Babylon of St. John's vision.

Here was my comment in response, which (for reasons inscrutable to me) didn't make the moderation cut:
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

I stopped fretting about the sins and failings (real & perceived) of popes and bishops a long time ago... it's not my billet. I am confident that the Catholic Church is the fullness of the Body of Christ, despite the faults of her members, and there is no where else for me to flee to, no utopian ecclesial community that will be without fault, if for no other reason then as soon as I joined it, it would cease to be such.

The teachings of the Catholic Church are the teachings of Jesus Christ, and I know that I receive Him and His grace & life when I dwell in her... that's good enough for me.
Thanks, Chris...

There is a cure for anger and resentment... do you know what, or rather whom, it is? It is Christ, whom St. Paul says came and preached peace to [those] who were far off and peace to those who were near. Only He can set us free. What a gift we have in Him! He comes to us and desires the darkest part of our being, the deepest reaches of our soul, offering His very self in its place. I hope that this former Catholic understands that we are right there with him. We love him and miss him, and we will be there to welcome him and his family home. May the peace of Christ be with him.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Beauty, part 2

I believe that Bill Cork misses the point entirely. (what is more ironic, several months ago I believe he would have known better!) It might seem, based upon what he has written here, that his interpretation of beauty seems more in line with how our culture interprets beauty. He says, "Jesus, however, had no beauty to attract us..." No, Jesus did not appeal expressly to what is pleasing to the eye, and yes, superficiality constitutes a form of beauty, but in a narrow sense, certainly not the sense in which I understand the pope sees it.

Is superficiality all there is to beauty? Is beauty merely what is "pleasant to the eyes" or merely "outward adornment"? Absolutely not. Otherwise one could not behold the paradox that is the profound beauty of Christ's suffering and death, and the struggle of artists to convey that beauty. Superficiality can be deceptive. The contemplation of beauty is more than a fleeting, emotional response to what looks nice. Satan himself can appear alluring and seductive, giving the appearance of beauty. Furthermore, beauty is in itself not a thing to be worshiped. And, as a human creation, artistic beauty is limited, even if inspired.

One needs to understand how to appreciate authentic beauty. I struggled with this. I believe our culture has a problem with beauty, between superficiality and profundity. Authentic beauty stirs something up upon which faith acts. Even the Scriptures themselves are beautiful and, as art, communicate an eternal reality not readily perceivable to the eye.

The pope writes in his letter to artists:
Every genuine artistic intuition goes beyond what the senses perceive and, reaching beneath reality's surface, strives to interpret its hidden mystery... True artists above all are ready to acknowledge their limits and to make their own the words of the Apostle Paul, according to whom “God does not dwell in shrines made by human hands” so that “we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold or silver or stone, a representation by human art and imagination” (Acts 17:24, 29). If the intimate reality of things is always “beyond” the powers of human perception, how much more so is God in the depths of his unfathomable mystery!

The knowledge conferred by faith is of a different kind: it presupposes a personal encounter with God in Jesus Christ. Yet this knowledge too can be enriched by artistic intuition... Saint Bonaventure comments: “In things of beauty, he contemplated the One who is supremely beautiful, and, led by the footprints he found in creatures, he followed the Beloved everywhere”.
I suspect that non-Catholics intuitively struggle with this notion more than Catholics, but that's not universally true. Possibly because of beauty's relation to this notion of mystery.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The world will be saved by beauty...

From the Letter of Pope John Paul II to Artists, those who "are passionately dedicated to the search for new epiphanies of beauty":
A noted Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid, wrote that “beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up”.

The theme of beauty is decisive for a discourse on art. It was already present when I stressed God's delighted gaze upon creation. In perceiving that all he had created was good, God saw that it was beautiful as well. The link between good and beautiful stirs fruitful reflection. In a certain sense, beauty is the visible form of the good, just as the good is the metaphysical condition of beauty. This was well understood by the Greeks who, by fusing the two concepts, coined a term which embraces both: kalokagathía, or beauty-goodness. On this point Plato writes: “The power of the Good has taken refuge in the nature of the Beautiful”.

It is in living and acting that man establishes his relationship with being, with the truth and with the good. The artist has a special relationship to beauty. In a very true sense it can be said that beauty is the vocation bestowed on him by the Creator in the gift of “artistic talent”. And, certainly, this too is a talent which ought to be made to bear fruit, in keeping with the sense of the Gospel parable of the talents (cf. Mt 25:14-30).

Here we touch on an essential point. Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation—as poet, writer, sculptor, architect, musician, actor and so on—feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole.
The pope elaborates on this essential point by specifically encouraging artists to respond to their powerful vocation:
Dear artists, you well know that there are many impulses which, either from within or from without, can inspire your talent. Every genuine inspiration, however, contains some tremor of that “breath” with which the Creator Spirit suffused the work of creation from the very beginning. Overseeing the mysterious laws governing the universe, the divine breath of the Creator Spirit reaches out to human genius and stirs its creative power. He touches it with a kind of inner illumination which brings together the sense of the good and the beautiful, and he awakens energies of mind and heart which enable it to conceive an idea and give it form in a work of art. It is right then to speak, even if only analogically, of “moments of grace”, because the human being is able to experience in some way the Absolute who is utterly beyond.

On the threshold of the Third Millennium, my hope for all of you who are artists is that you will have an especially intense experience of creative inspiration. May the beauty which you pass on to generations still to come be such that it will stir them to wonder! Faced with the sacredness of life and of the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude.

From this wonder there can come that enthusiasm of which Norwid spoke in the poem to which I referred earlier. People of today and tomorrow need this enthusiasm if they are to meet and master the crucial challenges which stand before us. Thanks to this enthusiasm, humanity, every time it loses its way, will be able to lift itself up and set out again on the right path. In this sense it has been said with profound insight that “beauty will save the world”.

Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savour life and to dream of the future. That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy. It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: “Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!”.
And, of course, just as artists must respond to and cultivate such a vocation, we must leverage the beauty in art and train ourselves to truly and authentically appreciate the beauty in art.

I never understood how to appreciate the beauty revealed by art of any form until I became a Catholic. It's not that I couldn't perceive beauty. Somewhere in my soul, I recognized that beauty stood in the context of an eternal reality. It revealed something intrinsic about the nature of the universe and the transcendent, but what was that to someone as I was, whose world was merely temporal, moving from one moment to the next? In the end, I only really appreciated the superficiality of beauty.

The Catholic Church taught me how to frame beauty and comprehend it because she taught me how to be patient with beauty. She did this then and does this now through a variety of ways, not the least of which is liturgy. The pope also describes beauty as a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence, that it should stir that hidden nostalgia for God. So beauty should certainly captivate us and inspire us toward wonder, yet it must also disturb us toward humility. It must destroy the ego while at the same time communicate its redemption and care with relation to God, who is the ultimate source of all that is really beautiful.

When the Church does this well, she truly reflects that inner illumination of which Pope John Paul II speaks, that divine breath of the Creator Spirit that has reached out to human genius and has stirred its creative power. Of course, this inner illumination doesn't always represent itself in things that are specifically Catholic, and we should recognize that. Nonetheless, it reflects something very Catholic, very universal, in nature. It should perhaps be of no surprise to anyone why history has called the Church the true Patron of the Arts, even though she hasn't always lived up to that title.

Continue reading in Beauty, Part 2.
Future of the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Theresa's

The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite will be celebrated at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land on every first Sunday of the month at 2:30pm, starting today. I also understand that a low mass will be celebrated on All Souls Day (Fri, Nov. 2nd) at 12:10pm.

I want to say a few things about seeing the TLM come to St. Theresa's. I've been to many TLMs over my last 10 years as a Catholic. I am a more Reform of the Reform minded person, but what I found in this experience of the TLM at my parish is something very interesting, and dare I say, in the face of the awesome mystery that is the mass, that it is also a lot of fun -- in the most vague sense of the word.

First of all, nothing is being imposed ex alto here. As far as I know, the diocese never asked my pastor to do this. The TLM came about basically because of the interest of my pastor and parishioners in the wake of the Holy Father's motu proprio. It was truly a home-grown, parish-rooted happening.

Secondly, unlike at many of the indult locations I have been, it's exhilarating to attend a TLM that isn't inundated by bunker Catholics, those Catholics with a major chip on their shoulders and an axe to grind. This is due in part to the sheer genius of the motu proprio and the Church's desire to move away from an indult mentality that might also breed rebellion and disobedience in some groups. While I know there are those who are there because they love the TLM and prefer it to the novus ordo missae, many in attendance at our mass have never assisted at a TLM before this time. It's something any Catholic can appreciate.

Thirdly, many of the folks in attendance are quite prepared. In addition to understanding the importance of participating in the mass by joining in prayer with the actions at the altar, folks also participate thoroughly in the chants and take part in many of the responses. When I am there, I know that I am with fellow parishioners in the company of honored guests worshiping God in our own parish space, just as we do in any other mass.

Those are just a handful of observations I will note for the time being.

Perhaps I can convince my pastor to write about his experience in preparing to offer the TLM for the very first time...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Purpose of the Appendix?

From CNN.

According to surgeons and immunologists at Duke University Medical School, as published online in a scientific journal this week, the purpose of the appendix is to aide the growth of healthy digestive bacteria:
Diseases such as cholera or amoebic dysentery would clear the gut of useful bacteria. The appendix's job is to reboot the digestive system in that case.

The appendix "acts as a good safe house for bacteria," said Duke surgery professor Bill Parker, a study co-author. Its location -- just below the normal one-way flow of food and germs in the large intestine in a sort of gut cul-de-sac -- helps support the theory, he said.

Also, the worm-shaped organ outgrowth acts like a bacteria factory, cultivating the good germs, Parker said. That use is not needed in a modern industrialized society, Parker said.

If a person's gut flora dies, it can usually be repopulated easily with germs they pick up from other people, he said. But before dense populations in modern times and during epidemics of cholera that affected a whole region, it wasn't as easy to grow back that bacteria and the appendix came in handy.

In less developed countries, where the appendix may be still useful, the rate of appendicitis is lower than in the U.S., other studies have shown, Parker said.
So underuse may increase the risk of infection and appendicitis.
Cardinal Mahony to debate Immigration on Monday

From the Archdiocesan News Archive:
Notre Dame, IN -- Cardinal Roger Mahony will join Senator Mel Martinez (R-Florida), Governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano and Hazleton, PA Mayor Louis Barletta to debate the issue of immigration at the University of Notre Dame’s annual Forum, Monday, October 8 at Noon PST. Ray Suarez, Senior Correspondent for the News Hour with Jim Lehrer will moderate the debate.

“The Forum has become our way of inaugurating each new academic year, allowing us to intellectually engage a significant issue for our nation, our world, and the Church,” stated Father John Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame. “This year our topic is immigration, an issue that has raised our national conscience and provoked the need for legislative reform. Still unresolved, immigration will continue to register as one of our nation’s most important matters in the upcoming Presidential campaign and election.”

For those unable to attend, a live video stream will be available at

Monday, October 01, 2007

Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Today is the Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, patroness of our parish. It's a special day too, in that I credit the intercession of St. Thérèse with my first discovering the woman who would eventually become my wife. Through the grace of God, St. Thérèse has become a dear friend to us. Thanks be to God.

And there was quite a celebration tonight! Beginning with the rosary, and then a procession into the church building for mass, followed by a very well attended reception. And tonight, my pastor offered the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin... And, lo, I did not see anyone squirming in the pews! Could this be something we will see again soon? ;)

From today's Office of Readings:
From the autobiography of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, virgin:

Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of St. Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the first epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.

I persevered in the reading and did let not my mind wander until I found this encouraging theme: "Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will now show you the way which surpasses all others." For the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind.

When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognized myself in none of the members which Saint Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favorably within the whole body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realized that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting.

Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my proper place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Magna Carta images

Medievalist Dr. Richard Nokes tells us about the NYTimes article about the auction of a version of the infamous Magna Carta, originally issued in 1215. Prof. Nokes also points out this excellent interactive view of the whole Magna Carta. Check it out!

My favorite line from Magna Carta:
First, that we have granted to God, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired.
in perpetuity... If only this had been respected in later years...

Check out amazonmp3. has released an iTunes rival facilitating mp3 music downloads (albums and individual songs) at reasonable costs.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

An Appendix...

My wife has had a very difficult week. Last Tuesday, she woke up with severe abdominal pain and nausea. The initial CT scan was inconclusive, but a round of tests revealed an infection, so later Tuesday night, we checked her into the hospital so that she could receive pain medication and an antibiotic. The next day, after two more CT scans and an ultrasound, it was determined that on top of having two ruptured, ovarian cysts, she also had appendicitis, and so she was made ready for an appendectomy. The appendectomy was successful, but it revealed an appendix that had become gangrenous and was on the verge of rupture. It also revealed significant peritonitis in the surrounding tissue. Lastly, all of the shock to her system has caused her intestine to basically shut down, preventing proper digestion. So tonight she remains in the hospital until everyone is sure that she can properly digest food while they also treat the remaining infection. Please pray for her.

UPDATE 09/25/07: Though my wife took a slight turn for the worse on Monday, today she is doing much better. Her digestive system appears to be waking up, and soon she should be able to tolerate food, thanks be to God. Many thanks for all of your prayer, and for those of you who have come to visit. We appreciate your friendship and support. And we also appreciate those who have sought the particular intercession of St. Thérèse of Lisieux as we approach her great feast in a few days. Thérèse had a special role in the beginning of our relationship. But let us give praise to God for simple lessons, for the extraordinary value of suffering, and for His free gift of grace.

UPDATE 09/28/07: I brought my wife home from the hospital today. She's doing much better. Thank you again for all of the help you've all given us.
A Message for Young Adult Ministry

Having been involved in young adult ministry for several years (both as a "minister" and as a "young adult"), I can resonate with many of Fr. Philip's points of advice for those who minister to young adult Catholics.
Teach the apostolic faith full on... no compromises on basic doctrine or dogma. This generation of college students can smell an intellectual/spiritual weasel a hundred miles away. They would rather hear the bald-faced Truth and struggle with it than listen to a priest/minister try to sugar-coat a difficult teaching in the vain search for popularity or “hipness.”

Preach the gospel full on…ditto. Tell it like it is and let the students grow in holiness. Yes, they will fail. Who doesn’t? But let them fail knowing what Christ and his Church expects of them. Lowering the moral bar comes across as expecting too little from them. What does that say about the Church’s view of our future ecclesial leaders? They can’t cut it, so we have to shorten the race.

Give them charitable work to do... present this work as a kind of “churchy social work” and they will not stay away in droves. I regularly cite Matthew 25 as my scriptural backing for asking them to do volunteer work in the community. Frankly, They have been beaten with the Social Justice-Work stick all their lives and most of what they hear sounds like the socio-economic engineering agenda of a modernist, socialist political party. This is attractive to some, but my experience is that students yearn for a chance to do something Truly Good for their community. If their leaders loudly and proudly attach volunteer work to the Gospels as a an exercise in charity rather than an experiment in social engineering, they will come.

Challenge them intellectually…these are smarts kids. They want to know what the Church teaches and why. They don’t always agree with the Church. Fine. Coming to holiness through obedience is a long, long road for some (..even for Dominican friars who try really hard!). They aren’t afraid of tough texts or difficult arguments. Just give them the documents, read along with them, answer questions honestly and clearly, and let them make the choices they will be responsible for. You have no control over what they will come to believe or practice. Fortunately, that’s not our task. Jesus said, “Preach and teach the gospel.” He said nothing about punishing those who will not hear or see.

Feed them…they’re poor and hungry. Yes, I mean feed them spiritually, but I also mean feed them literally—food, drink, and fellowship do amazing things for students on budgets and for students who have endured slap-dash catechesis and dumbed-down, irreverent liturgy.

For the ecclesial leaders over 45 y.o. (esp. campus ministers):

These students aren’t you at 18.
Apply your own standards of liberality and let them explore the fullness of the Church’s ancient traditions. You had a crappy childhood at St. Sixtus of the Perpetual Frown under the bruising discipline of Sr. Mary of the Five Wounds of Christ, so religious habits, rosaries, crucifixes, devotional booklets, Latin, incense, sanctus bells, etc. all remind you of stifling dogmatic lectures, knuckle-rappings, silly moral imperatives, triumphal-martial Catholicism, etc. Guess what? They aren’t you! They didn’t have these experiences, so they don’t associate Eucharistic adoration and First Friday Masses with intellectual repression and physical pain. Let them transform these traditions and make them their own. This is what you did, right? Well then, be consistent and apply your own principles. If you don’t, they will simply ignore you as a dinosaur and look for unofficial leadership elsewhere…which is exactly what you did when your elders failed to allow you the room you needed to explore and grow!

You didn’t follow in the religious/spiritual footsteps of your parents, why would you expect them to follow in yours? More than anything these younger generations need our patience. Keep your contempt and snarky commentary to yourself. You only injure your already sketchy credibility.

You grew up (for the most part) in a sexually repressed culture crowded with rules and punishments. They didn’t. They grew up in the sexual chaos your revolution caused and still celebrates. If they want to figure out what virginity, chastity, and NFP is all about, let them. Again, your snarky predictions of their inevitable failure will only serve to further damage your credibility—it will not deter them. Also, ask yourself: why are you threatened by their desire to put their sexuality in the context of faithful marriage?

These younger generations respect ecclesial authority most when those in authority show themselves to be people of integrity and strength. They do not expect moral perfection from you, only consistency and heroic effort. Failure is a demon they struggle with daily. Your efforts to weaken the moral ideals of the faith so that they might “succeed” are patronizing. We have to own up to the fact that recent attempts to undermine the moral teachings of the Church are really about the Baby-boomer generation’s obsession with sex and its very public need to have their sexual lives approved and celebrated, especially by those most likely to disapprove.
Sometimes it is true that young adults who do actively seek out these things are dismissed or brushed off. Many young adults sincerely desire to struggle with and understand things like Natural Family Planning and the Church's inability to ordain women to the priesthood. And this questioning is not the same as open rebellion. In my own experience, I also found young adult ministers who truly recognized the needs and desires of young adults and sought to meet them, even if they were more progressive themselves.


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