Thursday, December 30, 2010

On Online Arguments

There is a pithy little piece over at The Atlantic on winning online arguments

What I often see in religious arguments in comment boxes on blogs and so forth thoroughly disgusts me.  In the past, I have been on both ends of the rail, but I can barely stand to write comments on blogs anymore, especially when I do take the time (too much time, in some cases) to understand someone's argument only to have my very time consuming response rebuffed, brushed off, or summarily deleted.  It's the time of thing that can send any person into a frenzy.  I've encountered this quite a bit on many Catholic blogs.  Grr!

Just seeing what my online friend Hugo goes through at the SDA2RC blog is interesting.  He can humbly make a succinct, balanced, and intelligent point that is devastating to someone's argument, and instead of being engaged in a serious manner, he is subjected to relentless browbeating ("Oh, well, you just haven't taken this class or read this book - how can you possibly expect to be right about X?" or "How dare you question or challenge me? You don't have my superior education").  And then there's also deliberate obfuscation in a feeble attempt to deflect a striking blow ("Oh, well, when I said X, I was really talking about Y and Z, and therefore you're a fool for not seeing that").  And Hugo is probably one of the most humble, balanced, respectful, and educated Christians I have ever met (online, certainly), and he is treated this way by people in positions of ministry who clearly should know better. 

I can only think of when I went to hear Fr. Michael Crosby, OFM Cap., speak back in 2003.  Of course, this was not a blogging venue, but the attitude was the same.  He laughed as he boasted about how great of a scholar of scripture he was, his vast educational background and ministry experience. Then he proceeded to brag about how he once publicly humiliated a couple of young adults who dared to question something he once said in a talk (something he was clearly wrong about, by the way).  And I've seen this done elsewhere in other contexts as well, by Catholics and non-Catholics, by priests, protestant pastors, campus ministers, and atheists.  These people are not concerned with what is true or good or holy.  They are only concerned about themselves.  I suppose it's a temptation any of us can fall into.  Let us meditate on that today.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


A few weeks ago, we returned from an amazing pilgrimage to Europe.  It will take us a long time to unpack all of the insights and graces we received through the experience. We spent time in Portugal, France, and Italy, but most of our time was spent in Spain. We stayed just outside of Madrid near to the village of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, and we made day trips to Avila, Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Toledo, Segovia, Loyola, and Javier (the latter two locales of course being the birthplaces of the notable Jesuits Ignatius and Francis Xavier, respectively).  I very much enjoyed Toledo, particularly its massive cathedral, and I would love to return to Salamanca in order to explore its historic university.

Throughout our journey, we stayed in hospederias run by convents and monasteries, and we were very well taken care of with lots of good food, drink, and company.  We were also very fortunate to have been traveling with a good priest who graced us with daily mass in every location, from deep within the papal tombs of St. Peter's in Rome to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes, from places both lofty and large to simple and understated.  It's also amazing where you can spontaneously find opportunities to spend time with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  There are churches in even the darkest alleys of Toledo that have the Blessed Sacrament exposed.  How awesome is that!  We also were able to pray with our beloved Holy Father in Rome both at the Sunday Angelus as well as at the papal audience and listen to him preach.

On the whole, we learned a great deal and developed an even greater appreciation for the local culture as well as the complex history of Christianity in Europe.  But more than that, as a pilgrimage, it was a profound spiritual experience. I will try to unpack that a little bit more on the blog in the coming weeks.

Friday, December 24, 2010


O Magnum Mysterium! O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the newborn Lord lying in a manger! Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear Christ the Lord. Alleluia!

... the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.

- St. Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century), Against Heresies, Preface to Book V.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Reason for the Season: Theosis

Eric Sammons has a fine post about deification ("theosis" in the East) as being the whole point of Christmas.  St. Peter asserts (2 Peter 1:4) that in Jesus Christ, God has enabled us to become "partakers in the divine nature".  That is why God assumed our humanity in Jesus Christ: so that we might come to share in His divinity.  Indeed, through grace via the sacramental life, God makes us sharers in His own divine life.  We receive divine sonship, becoming God's own sons and daughters.  The fullness of salvation will entail being completely united to Him.  Eric writes, quoting from the Catechism:
The Son of God shares in our human nature so that we can share in his divine nature. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, drawing from Scripture and the Catholic Tradition, emphasizes this connection between God becoming man and our being made like God:
The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4): “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939) “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” (St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B) “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4) (CCC 460)
Too often we look at Heaven as just a really great earth: we eat whatever we want, we hang out with whoever we want and we never get sick or hurt. But Heaven is less about what we do and more about what we become. When we enter into Heaven we are transformed into a new creation: while keeping our human nature we participate in the divine nature.
Well said.  As Eric has said, we must not read the wrong idea into this notion of deification. It is not a confusion of humanity and divinity, such as one might find in the Eastern non-Christian religions. It is also not as Mormons might suggest: We do not become beings with our own divine nature or ability. What we become is solely dependent upon the one true God, for the divine life in which we partake is His. I am reminded of one of the sermons of one of my favorite Dominican mystics, Johannes Tauler, who preached:
What God has in himself by nature, that he now imparts to the soul by grace, the divine being, unnamed and without form or manner of existence that we can express.  And now everything that is done in that soul God himself does, acting, knowing, loving, praising, enjoying, all of which the soul has and does as if it were a passive instrument of God's activity.  One can no more speak of this state clearly than he can speak clearly of the divine life itself.  To men and angels it is far too high for expression.
I wish you all a blessed 4th week of Advent as we prepare for that most awesome celebration.

Friday, December 17, 2010


The Byzantine Rambler has something to say, and I wish to echo that.  Click here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fr. McDermott on Catherine of Siena

Fr. Thomas McDermott, O.P., was recently featured on "EWTN Bookmark" discussing his new book on the spiritual life and teaching of St. Catherine of Siena.  I recently acquired this book, coincidentally, and I am looking forward to beginning it soon!

St. Catherine, pray for us!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mary and the Nativity

From a sermon by Ephrem of Syria (Sermo 3 de diversis, Opera omnia, III), 4th century:
The titles of Mary are many, and it is right that I should use them: she is the palace where dwells the mighty King of kings; not as he entered her did he leave her, for from her he put on a body and came forth.  Again, she is the new heaven, in which there dwells the King of kings; he shone out in her and came forth into creation, formed and clothed in her features. She is the stem of the cluster of grapes, she gave forth fruit beyond nature's means, and he, though his nature bore no resemblance to hers, put on her hue and came forth from her. She is the spring whence flowed living water for the thirsty (ex quo sitientibus fluxerunt aquae vivae), and those who have tasted its draught give forth fruit a hundred fold.
Mary is the preeminent preacher of the Word; her very life proclaims Christ, the Eternal Word, for she bore Him in her womb and brought him to birth in the world.  And even if she dares not say a word from her mouth, her very life is a model for all who preach Christ.  Let us meditate on that today.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Scripture and the Sacred Liturgy

From Part Two of Pope Benedict XVI's postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini," concerning Scripture and the Sacred Liturgy:
The Church has always realized that in the liturgical action the word of God is accompanied by the interior working of the Holy Spirit who makes it effective in the hearts of the faithful. Thanks to the Paraclete, "the word of God becomes the foundation of the liturgical celebration, and the rule and support of all our life. The working of the same Holy Spirit ... brings home to each person individually every-thing that in the proclamation of the word of God is spoken for the good of the whole gathering. In strengthening the unity of all, the Holy Spirit at the same time fosters a diversity of gifts and furthers their multiform operation".[185]

To understand the word of God, then, we need to appreciate and experience the essential meaning and value of the liturgical action. A faith-filled understanding of sacred Scripture must always refer back to the liturgy, in which the word of God is celebrated as a timely and living word: "In the liturgy the Church faithfully adheres to the way Christ himself read and explained the sacred Scriptures, beginning with his coming forth in the synagogue and urging all to search the Scriptures".[186]

Here one sees the sage pedagogy of the Church, which proclaims and listens to sacred Scripture following the rhythm of the liturgical year. This expansion of God's word in time takes place above all in the Eucharistic celebration and in the Liturgy of the Hours. At the centre of everything the paschal mystery shines forth, and around it radiate all the mysteries of Christ and the history of salvation which become sacramentally present: "By recalling in this way the mysteries of redemption, the Church opens up to the faithful the riches of the saving actions and the merits of her Lord, and makes them present to all times, allowing the faithful to enter into contact with them and to be filled with the grace of salvation".[187] 
Thank you, Benedict!.  And as I have said before on this blog, the liturgy is the proper context for scripture. The scriptures were canonized precisely for the purpose of proclamation within the context of the liturgy. Liturgy is naturally the primary context through which Christians, like those before, have always encountered the scriptures. And, of course, the liturgy would not be what it is without the scriptures.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P, and the Fatima Statue

I recently ran across an interesting story recently about Fr. Thomas Matthew McGlynn, O.P., an American priest and artist who is best known for sculpting the large statue of Our Lady of Fatima that currently stands in the niche above the main entrance of the basilica in Fatima, Portugal.  The large statue is based on a smaller statue that is said to be the most accurate representation of the Virgin from the apparitions, as it was constructed with the careful consultation of Lúcia Santos, whom we of course know as one of the three children who claimed to have witnessed the apparitions at Fatima in 1917.  What is most striking about the statue is how simple it is.  Apparently Fr. McGlynn had originally produced a version of the statue according to his particular interpretation of the apparitions and had gone to Portugal in order to acquire the approval of Lúcia.  However, when he consulted with Lúcia (Lucy), she convinced him that he had to start from scratch apparently because she was not pleased with many of the details:
After examining the [first, original] statue for some time, [Lúcia] said,"It's not the right position. The right hand should be raised and the left, lower down. The garments in the statue are too smooth. The light was in waves and gave the impression of a garment with folds. She was surrounded by light and she was in the middle of light. Her feet rested on the azinheira (a small holm oak tree). The leaves of the azinheira were small as it was a young tree. The leaves did not bend down." This was a shock to Tom who thought that Our Lady had appeared on a cloud, a form he considered to be appropriately artistic. Lucy added, "She always had a star on her tunic. She always had a cord with a little ball of light,' and she indicated an imaginary pendant around the neck falling down near the waistline.

She explained that there were only two garments visible, a simple tunic and a long veil or mantle. The tunic had no collar and no cuffs. Nor was there a cincture or a sash around the waist, although the tunic was drawn in at the waist. The sleeves were not wide, and the mantle and the tunic were a wave of light. When Tom (McGlynn) asked her how one distinguished between the mantle and the tunic, she said,"There were two waves of light, one on top of the other." When Tom asked her if there was a line of gold on the mantle, she explained "It was like a ray of sunlight all around the mantle." She further explained that this ray around the mantle was like a thin thread. The mantle in Tom's sculpture was a long, oval contour which he treasured. Lucy said, "It seemed to be straighter. It was a thing all made of light and very light, but it fell straight down. The clothing was all white. The cord was a more intense and yellow light....The light of Our Lady was white and the star was yellow."

Tom had added hair around the neck to fill out the form, but Lucy insisted that she never saw any hair. Nor did she see whether Our Lady was wearing sandals because she never looked at her feet. Tom asked her if the face and hands and feet of Our Lady had the color of light or the color of flesh. She answered,"Flesh colored light; light which took on the color of flesh." As to Our Lady's expression, she commented,"Pleasing but sad. Sweet but sad." She told Tom that the face of his statue seemed too old...

Thus, it was agreed that Tom would remain at the convent to do a new statue under Lucy's direction. What happened is something unique in the life of the Church and the history of sculpture: a documentary of a spiritual experience that one had with the Other World. Lucy was the narrator and Tom the instrument through which Lucy would express what she saw.

... With the statue completed, Tom returned to the Bishop of Leiria to thank him for this opportunity to see Lucy and to correct the statue. Since Lucy had participated in the new statue, Tom asked the Bishop permission to do a large figure of it for the niche on the facade of the Shrine. Tom suggested that the funds for it execution might come from American Catholics as a perpetual symbol of American Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin at this, her newest shrine. 
The final, completed statue was presented as a gift to the Sanctuary of Fatima from the Catholics of North America in 1958 and placed in the niche the following year. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Ancient Law of Love

Suffering is the ancient law of love; there is no quest without pain, there is no lover who is not also a martyr. Hence it is inevitable that he who would love so high a thing as Wisdom should sometimes suffer hindrances and griefs.

-Blessed Henry Suso, O.P.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

To go on pilgrimage...

To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where He has revealed Himself, where His grace has shone with particular splendour and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.
Pope Benedict XVI at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Norbertine Life

The Norbertines of St. Michael's Abbey in Orange County in Southern California produced this very nice video:

Hat Tip Anglican Patrimony blog.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Perhaps, A Better Life

So my wife and I recently decided to cut the cable line (i.e. we canceled our cable service). We did this largely because we were concerned with how much control we gave to television over our daily lives -- not that we are opposed to TV, we aren't. In fact, with Internet streaming, Netflix (check out the 2nd generation Apple TV), and iTunes, we will still have access to movies and current (and classic) television shows. The only difference here is that we will have much more control over what we watch and when we watch it. Ultimately I had to face the reality that cable television, with its constant background chatter and inane selection of programming, simply could not be made to compete with more important things, like prayer and study.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

New Master of the Order of Preachers

Fr. Bruno Cadoré, O.P., of France has been elected the new Master of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) and will serve this role for the next nine years. The previous Master was Carlos Azpiroz Costa of Argentina. The Friar blog has more information on him:
On Sunday, September 5, 2010, the Dominican friars gathered together in Chapter in the city of Rome elected Fr. Bruno Cadoré, OP, of the Province of France, as the new Master of the Order of Friars Preachers and the 86th successor to St. Dominic.

Fr. Cadoré was trained as a physician and has taught especially in the area of bio-medical ethics. Before becoming Provincial of the Province of France, he taught at the Catholic University of Lille. In 2008, the President of France appointed Fr. Cadoré to the French National AIDS Council as an advisor.

Please join the whole Dominican Order in praying for Fr. Cadoré, that by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Dominic, he may serve the Order and the Church with wisdom and prudence.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Ancient Secrets for a Sharper Mind

A very excellent article written by Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P. of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph. Check it out.
How often have you, after a day of multi-tasking, felt scattered and dissipated? Man is supposed to be homo sapiens, but there is a difference between genuine knowledge and information, between the concentration of a true scholar and the bleary-eyed absorption of the chronic web surfer.

The ancients grasped this, even before the internet age, and recovering their secrets can sharpen your mind, and even help you better your grades.

The key, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is not just a matter of study habits - and it certainly isn't a matter of having unlimited access to the internet. Rather, it is a matter of training your desire for knowledge, so that you develop the virtue of studiousness and not the vice of curiositas.

Aquinas takes his starting point from Aristotle: Everyone desires to know. Though knowledge can be put to a bad use (you can use it for evil purposes, like defrauding your neighbor, or even killing an unborn baby in the name of scientific research), all true knowledge, considered in itself, is good. The desire to know is a spiritual desire for a spiritual good, the truth, and it comes with its own pleasures (and true pleasures they are!)

... Still, as every high school freshman is acutely aware, even the delights of the spirit don't suppress our bodily desires, which often pull us in a different direction. "Because of his bodily nature, man avoids the labor involved in seeking knowledge," says Aquinas. Studiousness is the virtue that strengthens our perseverance in pursuing the higher but harder-to-reach pleasures of worthy knowledge.
Read the rest!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

On Waldensians and Dominicans

I rather liked this brief little tale written by Gerald de Frachet, an early Dominican friar, concerning Peter of Aubenas and his entrance to the Dominicans.  This story is also recorded in the Lives of the Brethren:
Brother Peter of Aubenas, who served as prior and as lector in Provence and who ran his course in the Order happily to its end, has described how he came to join the Order.  When he was practicing medicine in Genoa and had already made a promise to join the Order, the Poor Men of Lyons, also called the Waldensians, had such a disturbing effect on him that he was in great doubt which of the two he ought to follow.  He was rather more drawn to the Waldensians he found there, because he saw in them more outward signs of humility and of the virtues of piety, while he considered the friars too cheerful and showy.

So one evening, when he was brooding unhappily about this, not knowing what to do, he knelt down and asked God with all his heart, weeping profusely, to reveal to him, in his mercy, what he ought to do in this dilemma.  After his prayer he went to sleep, and shortly afterward he imagined that he was walking along a road with a dark wood on the left hand side of it, in which he saw the Waldensians all going their separate ways, with sad, solemn faces.  On the right side of the road was a very long, high wall, which was extremely beautiful.  He walked along it for some time and at last came to a gate.  Looking in, he saw an exquisite meadow, planted with trees and colorful with flowers.  In it he saw a crowd of Friars Preachers in a ring, with joyful faces raised towards heaven.  One of them was holding the Body of Christ in his upraised hands.  This sight delighted him and made him want to join them; but an angel who was guarding the gate blocked his way and said, "You will not enter in here now."  He started to weep bitterly.  Then he woke up and found himself bathed in tears and his heart joyful instead of his previous distress.  After some days, when he had dispatched some business he was obliged to do, he entered the Order. 

I heard this and a great deal more from his own lips.  He was a very contemplative man, and the Lord revealed many things to him in the Order and about the Order.

Fr. Rutler on Ad Orientem

Fr. George Rutler has a commentary concerning liturgical reform in First Things, brought to us courtesy of the New Liturgical Movement (and others).  Among his many points, he writes:
While I am glad for the new and more accurate translation of the Mass, which is not perfection but closer to it than one deserves in an imperfect world, a far more important reform would be the return of the ad orientem position of the celebrant as normative. It is the antidote to the tendency of clerisy to impose itself on the people. When a celebrant at Mass stops and says, “This is not about me,” you may be sure he thinks it may be about him. It would be harder for him to harbor that suspicion were he leading the people humbly to the east and the dawn of salvation.
My thoughts exactly.  Ad orientem, which refers to the posture of both the congregation and the celebrant facing East during the celebration of the Eucharist, was largely done away with in most parishes after the Second Vatican Council.  However, the council never called for this, and there is a growing awareness that doing away with it was a grave mistake.  It should once again be made normative, with, of course, proper catechesis so that the people understand what it means and why it is important.

Jordan of Saxony

Concerning Jordan of Saxony, I thought this was apropos.  From the Lives of the Brethren:
[Jordan] was asked once why arts men came thronging to join the Order [of Preachers, the Dominicans], while theologians and canon lawyers held back.  He answered, "Country people, who are used to drinking water, get drunk on good wine much more easily than noblemen and townspeople, who do not find wine very strong because they are used to it.  Arts men drink the plain water of Aristotle and other philosophers all week, so when they are offered the words of Christ or his disciples in a Sunday sermon or on a feast day, they fall victim at once to the intoxication of the Holy Spirit's wine, and hand over to God not only their goods but themselves.  But these theologians are always listening to the words of God, and they go the same way as the country sacristan who passes the altar so often that he loses his reverence for it and frequently turns his back on it, while outsiders bow reverently towards it."

When the Church Was Young

From an article written by Mike Aquilina concerning youth ministry in the early centuries of the Church.
... in all the documentary evidence from all the ancient patriarchates of the East and the West, there's not a single bulletin announcement for a single parish youth group.

Yet the Fathers had enormous success in youth and young-adult ministry. Many of the early martyrs were teens, as were many of the Christians who took to the desert for the solitary life. There's ample evidence that a disproportionate number of conversions, too, came from the young and youngish age groups.

How did the Fathers do it? They made wild promises.

They promised young people great things, like persecution, lower social status, public ridicule, severely limited employment opportunities, frequent fasting, a high risk of jail and torture, and maybe, just maybe, an early, violent death at the hands of their pagan rulers.

The Fathers looked young people in the eye and called them to live purely in the midst of a pornographic culture. They looked at some young men and women and boldly told them they had a calling to virginity. And it worked. Even the pagans noticed how well it worked.
I have often found that we are afraid to challenge youth.  Too often youth ministry and campus ministry are focused solely on social gatherings than they are about forming the soul and the conscience.  Yet, we can't be afraid to challenge youth and young adults, giving them an invitation to a truly radical way of life.  Embracing the Gospel is radical and counter-cultural.  They should be taught honestly the truths of the Faith by people who aren't ashamed of them, especially concerning matters in which the Church is indeed counter cultural, such as when it comes to artificial contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage.  Yet, they also need to be challenged to be charitable and to live out their vocation with a truly compassionate concern for others: for the prisoner, for the poor, and for the salvation of souls.  Yes, the Gospel is radical!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stark Mad and Senseless: Fire and the Holy Spirit

Picking up from my post from last week, On Sacrifice and Holy Fire, I want to point out that the parallel between that blessed Fire of God that descended upon and consumed Elijah's sacrifice and the Holy Spirit that descends upon the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar at Mass was quite apparent to others.  St. John Chrysostom (4th century) writes in Book III of On The Priesthood:
Picture Elijah and the vast multitude standing around him (Kings 18:36-39), and the sacrifice laid upon the altar of stones, and all the rest of the people hushed into a deep silence while the prophet alone offers up prayer: then the sudden rush of fire from Heaven upon the sacrifice:— these are marvelous things, charged with terror. Now then pass from this scene to the rites which are celebrated in the present day; they are not only marvellous to behold, but transcendent in terror. There stands the priest, not bringing down fire from Heaven, but the Holy Spirit: and he makes prolonged supplication, not that some flame sent down from on high may consume the offerings, but that grace descending on the sacrifice may thereby enlighten the souls of all, and render them more refulgent than silver purified by fire. Who can despise this most awful mystery, unless he is stark mad and senseless? Or do you not know that no human soul could have endured that fire in the sacrifice, but all would have been utterly consumed, had not the assistance of God's grace been great.
Chrysostom is here writing about the awesome calling of priesthood, but what he writes here is striking.  By grace, we are purified as by fire and made partakers in God's own divine life.  He writes it better than I can: Who can despise this most awesome mystery, unless he is stark mad and senseless?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On Sacrifice and Holy Fire

I have always been impressed by the image of sacrifice shown to us in the book of Kings (18:36-39):
And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that thou, O LORD, art God, and that thou hast turned their hearts back." Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God."
I can picture this scene in my mind very vividly.  After witnessing this scene in which Elijah calls God down upon the sacrificial offering, perhaps we might expect that God would greet us in a similar fashion every time we experience the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the event in which we encounter, face to face, the One Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. After all, God indeed descends upon our gifts in the divine fire of the Holy Spirit. And yet, what we see is not a display of magnificence, but rather a display of ultimate humility as God gives of Himself for us and shares with us the eternal Gift of Himself, inviting and making us by grace to be partakers of His own divine nature and life. And in the face of THAT, what else can we do but fall on our faces also, exclaiming, "The Lord, he is God!"

The Epiclesis and the West

Eastern Orthodox priest Fr. J. Guy Winfrey notes that there is something that just isn't right about the ancient Roman Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great as celebrated by the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Church:
One of the strangest things that exists in the WRV Liturgy of St. Gregory is an epiclesis following the words of Institution. It simply does not belong. When the WR was first authorized by the Holy Synod of Moscow, they required the addition of the epiclesis in the Mass of St. Peter (the old Latin Canon of the Roman Rite) so as not to scandalize Orthodox who were ignorant of the WR and its authenticity. They made clear that it was not done for any theological cause at all and that the old Roman Canon stood as completely valid as it was.
I am very happy that that Fr. Winfrey posted this because the question of why the Orthodox would have tinkered with something they acknowledged as ancient and venerable disturbed me.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

On Embryonic Stem-Cells

Biologist Fr. Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, O.P., Ph.D., responds to Bill Tammeus' recent article in the National Catholic Reporter.
In his essay, Mr. Tammeus claims that the Catholic Church misrepresents the science behind somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which is the scientific procedure commonly called cloning. He claims: “The problem comes when people adopt the unwavering position that there’s no essential difference between a tiny ball of early stem cells produced by SCNT and a fully developed human being.” From his arguments, it appears that Mr. Tammeus is scientifically and philosophically confused.
Read the whole article.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Music in the Divine Liturgy

Good article from David Petras in Spero News.
For the Christians, the hymns had to have words. Liturgical hymns are not just hummed, they are absolutely not only a matter of melody, notes and meter. They are not just beautiful sounds, but they convey a truth and a concept. This is perhaps why the church early on accepted only the human voice in song and forbade musical instruments. Eusebius of Caesaria was to write, "more sweetly pleasing to God than any musical instrument would be the symphony of the people of God, by which, in every church of God, with kindred spirit and single disposition, with one mind and unanimity of faith and piety, we raise melody in unison in our psalmody" ("On Psalm 91, 4"). The Eastern Church accepted this principle as its tradition. The rejection of instruments, however, was not universal, for the Western Church later allowed their use in the church.
Read the whole article.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

New Orleans

Last weekend, my wife and I were presented with an opportunity to visit New Orleans for the first time. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip! In addition to visiting various historical locations, we also made several visits to antique and used book stores in the area. I was able to find a used edition of the Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary (second in fame and content only to the mammoth Oxford Latin Dictionary) for only $40.00. Of course, I snagged it, since the cheapest I could ever have found it used online was $125.00.

Visiting the place, one can't help but recall the hundreds of years worth of destruction and suffering that lingers in the area due to fires, hurricanes, poverty, and other things. Yet the city and its people seem simultaneously joyful and appreciative of life. It's an interesting juxtaposition, and the resiliency is contagious.

When you are there, particularly in the French Quarter, you can't help but feel a palpable connection to the Old World (Europe, most particularly France and Spain) while not losing sight of the fact that you are also in a modern American city. Culture, art, music, food, and good drink abound, and no, I am not referring to the excesses of Bourbon Street. The city's strong Catholic history is also ubiquitous and inescapable. I can't wait until we can return.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My apologies!

I got pretty carried away over the last month with work and various other projects that I haven't blogged even once.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Octave Day of New Birth

Tomorrow we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, which is also known by various names, including Whit Sunday, Dominica in albis, Quasimodo Sunday, and (recently) Divine Mercy Sunday. It is the Sunday of the Octave of Easter. The morning's Office of Readings presents to us words from St. Augustine's Eighth Sermon in octava Paschae given to the newly baptized:
I speak to you who have just been reborn in baptism, my little children in Christ... [Baptism] is a sacrament of new life which begins here and now with the forgiveness of all past sins, and will be brought to completion in the resurrection of the dead. You have been buried with Christ by baptism into death in order that, as Christ has risen from the dead, you also may walk in newness of life...

This is the octave day of your new birth. Today is fulfilled in you the sign of faith that was prefigured in the Old Testament by the circumcision of the flesh on the eight day after birth. When the Lord rose from the dead, he put off the mortality of the flesh; his risen body was still the same body, but it was no longer subject to death. By his resurrection he consecrated Sunday, or the Lord's day. Though the third after his passion, this day is the eighth after the Sabbath, and thus also the first day of the week.

And so your own hope of resurrection, though not yet realized, is sure and certain, because you have received the sacrament or sign of this reality, and have been given the pledge of the Spirit.
This is an octave. Augustine here demonstrates the great significance of the number eight as a sign of redemption and new life as well as resurrection, as our own resurrection is secured by Christ's, in whose body we are incorporated by way of our baptism by water and the Spirit. Baptism into Christ is baptism into his death and is intrinsically linked to his resurrection.

It is not uncommon to find baptismal fonts that are octagonal in shape for this very reason, as we find in the ancient baptistery in Milan where St. Augustine himself was likely baptized:

As Augustine also references, the number eight also applies to why the Church observes the Lord's Day, Sunday, as the eighth day, a day of new creation and birth in Christ, which, as Augustine writes, will be brought to completion in the resurrection of the dead. The work of Redemption is of greater significance and splendor than that of the first Creation, as the Catechism points out (CCC 349):
But for us a new day has dawned: the day of Christ's Resurrection. The seventh day completes the first creation. The eighth day begins the new creation. Thus, the work of creation culminates in the greater work of redemption. The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendour of which surpasses that of the first creation.
I hope that you are having a blessed Easter!

(originally posted in April, 2009)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Resurrexit sicut dixit!

Today is Pascha Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord!
Dominica Paschae in Resurrectione Domini

We spent the evening at our 4-hour Easter Vigil liturgy where we were privileged to join our parish community in welcoming 14 catechumens into the Church through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion. I could not help but recall my own reception into the church in 1997. The mystery of Christ's Church on Earth always moves me. The backdrop of human sin in the world and even in the Church cannot destroy us and cannot destroy our hope because we who seek Him belong to Him. The power and the glory of His suffering, death, and resurrection and Our Lord's victory over sin and death confirms that. How awesome that is! How awesome Christ is!

Last night's liturgy was awesome. Of course, every mass is inherently awesome. Our pastor preached a powerful sermon, touching on many points concerning baptism and justification, confirmation, and of course, the most intimate communion we share in the Holy Eucharist. What we share and live out in the sacraments is nothing less than God's own divine life at work in us. Peter assures us of this fact (2 Pet 1:3,4):
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.
And, in response, I can only echo Paul's assertion to the Galatians (Gal 2:20):
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Peace be with you.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday in Houston

Good Friday at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Houston

The photo above is provided courtesy of Fr. Joseph Huneycutt. We are fortunate this year in that the dates of Catholic and Orthodox Easter from both calendars coincide.

A reading from St. John Chrysostom from today's Office of Readings:
If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. Sacrifice a lamb without blemish, commanded Moses, and sprinkle its blood on your doors. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.

There flowed from his side water and blood. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit, and from the holy eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam. Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh! As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.

Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy "Maundy" Thursday

Tomorrow is Holy Thursday, also known as "Maundy Thursday". First and foremost, Holy Thursday is the feast at which we commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist. In Church Latin, which numbers weekdays from Sunday (the 1st day of the week), Holy Thursday is actually Feria Quinta in Caena Domini, or Thursday (5th day) of the Lord's Supper. It is also the feast on which we commemorate Our Lord's washing of the Apostles' feet.

But why "Maundy"? Its use is common among traditionalist Catholics as well as Christians of other liturgical churches (e.g. Lutheran, Anglican). I actually haven't heard a complete explanation for the name. There are a few competing theories as to its derivation. The most common explanation seems to be that it derives from the first word of the Latin antiphon from John's Gospel that is sung during the washing of the feet: Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos. In English: I give to you a new commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you.

However, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod disagrees:
The explanation usually given for the word "Maundy" is popular, even in most dictionaries. But, it is incorrect. According to the popular notion, the term "Maundy" is from the Latin, "mandatum," which means "commandment." Most dictionaries say the same thing, thus proving that there is only one book without errors, and, as you shall shortly see, that one inerrant book isn’t one of most dictionaries.

If the name of this night were to have come from the "mandatum," it would Mandy Thursday, or Mandate Thursday, or even Mandatum Thursday. But, the term comes to us from the Medieval English royal practice of given alms to the poor on this Thursday. There is an English term from the Middle Ages, maund. It is both a noun and a verb. The verb, to maund, comes from the Old French, mendier, which in terms comes from the Latin, mendicare, to beg. To "maund" is to beg. And the noun, maund, refers to a small basket, held out by maunders as they would maund. On Holy Thursday, the extended Royal Family of Great Britain would give alms to the poor prior to attending Holy Thursday mass. These alms were presented to each of the gathered poor in a small velvet bag called the "maundy purse." You see, term Maundy Thursday refers to this practice, and we get this name from the Anglicans, not the Romans, who also now call this day Maundy Thursday as well as Holy Thursday because of the influence of English-speaking Roman churches!
Either way, it's coming!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

RIP Jaime Escalante

Jaime Escalante of "Stand and Deliver" fame died Tuesday after a battle with cancer. Requiescat in pace.

The Pope and the New York Times

It now appears to be clear that recent attempts on the part of the New York Times to link Pope Benedict with the horror of what has happened to children under the influence of priest-abusers have been woefully misdirected. I think Jimmy Akin has the clearest portrayal of the facts of the situation involving the horrible Fr. Murphy in Wisconsin, including the actions of the archdiocese, the local authorities, Rome, and what role Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) actually had. Read Jimmy here. What the New York Times has attempted to do is capitalize on abuse cases in order to launch a smear campaign. How can this possibly be considered honest journalism?

And one more thing: Just yesterday, Fr. Thomas Brundage, JLC, who was Judicial Vicar for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and who presided over the case of Fr. Murphy, has now spoken out to clear things up with the facts of this case that have been completely distorted by the New York Times. Smear campaigns do nothing to bring justice to abuse victims:
The fact that I presided over this trial and have never once been contacted by any news organization for comment speaks for itself.

My intent in the following paragraphs is to accomplish the following:

-To tell the back-story of what actually happened in the Father Murphy case on the local level;

-To outline the sloppy and inaccurate reporting on the Father Murphy case by the New York Times and other media outlets;

-To assert that Pope Benedict XVI has done more than any other pope or bishop in history to rid the Catholic Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse and provide for those who have been injured;

-To set the record straight with regards to the efforts made by the church to heal the wounds caused by clergy sexual misconduct. The Catholic Church is probably the safest place for children at this point in history.
And there is still much work to do.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Scientific Study, a Hymn of Praise to God

Last week, Pope Benedict spoke about St. Albert the Great, Dominican scholar and bishop. St. Albert is one of my influences as a Dominican involved in science. Benedict said:
Above all, St. Albert shows that between faith and science there is no opposition, notwithstanding some episodes of misunderstanding recorded in history. A man of faith and prayer, as St. Albert the Great was, can cultivate serenely the study of the natural sciences and progress in the knowledge of the micro and macro cosmos, discovering the laws proper of matter, because all this concurs to feed the thirst for and love of God. The Bible speaks to us of creation as the first language through which God — who is supreme intelligence, who is Logos — reveals to us something of himself. The Book of Wisdom, for example, states that the phenomena of nature, gifted with grandeur and beauty, are as the works of an artist, through which, by analogy, we can know the Author of creation (cf. Wisdom 13:5). With a classic similarity in the Medieval Age and the Renaissance one can compare the natural world with a book written by God, which we read on the basis of several approaches of the sciences (cf. Address to the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Oct. 31, 2008).

How many scientists, in fact, in the wake of St. Albert the Great, have carried forward their research inspired by wonder and gratitude before a world that, in the eyes of scholars and believers, seemed and seems the good work of a wise and loving Creator! Scientific study is transformed then into a hymn of praise. It was well understood by a great astrophysicist of our times, whose cause of beatification has been introduced, Enrico Medi, who wrote:
Oh, you mysterious galaxies ... I see you, I calculate you, I understand you, I study you and discover you, I penetrate you and I am immersed in you. From you I take the light and I do science, I take the motion and do science, I take the sparkling of colors and make poetry; I take you stars in my hands, and trembling in the unity of my being I raise you beyond yourselves, and in prayer I hand you to the Creator, that only through me you stars can adore (The Works. Hymn to Creation).
St. Albert the Great reminds us that between science and faith there is friendship, and that the men [and women] of science can undertake, through their vocation to the study of nature, a genuine and fascinating journey of sanctity.

Deus, fons et origo totius sapientiae, qui in illam exquirendam sanctum Albertum effecit magnum, gratiam vobis concedat, benedictionis suae largitatem infundat, atque suae tribuat sapientiae abundantiam.

Blueberry Wine

Last weekend, we were given a bottle of blueberry wine from Teixeira Ranch winery in the Santa Maria Valley of California where we grew up. They call it Heavenly Blue. Let me say right up front: this wine is good, friends. An excellent dessert wine. Great with ice cream. Ok, so it was a tiny splurge before Holy Week. I reasoned that this dark blue wine was appropriately close to the penitential purple of the Lenten season, and since I was still in a mood after observing the Solemnity of the Annunciation last Thursday, I also reasoned that this pleasant blue wine called forth meditation on the Blessed Mother and her beautiful Fiat. Of course, you believe me, right?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Solemnity of the Annunciation

Tomorrow (Thursday) is the great Solemnity of the Annunciation. There is no end to the meditation on the profound mystery of the Incarnation: God becoming man, taking on human flesh. It is rich in its profundity, yet it is also as simple as is expressed in the ancient antiphon used for the Magnificat today in the Proprium Ordinis Praedicatorum for the Liturgy of the Hours:
Oriétur sicut sol Salvátor mundi, et descéndet in úterum Vírginis, sicut imber super gramen.
The Saviour of the world shall arise like the sun, and He shall descend into the womb of the Virgin as rain upon the grass.

On that note, Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P., will be celebrating mass at 7:30pm Thursday at my parish, St. Theresa's in Sugar Land, in honor of this great feast day. He will also be wrapping up the Lenten parish mission. Come and join us!

The Dominican Rite Liturgy

The Eastern Dominican Province has produced a most excellent website providing a tutorial and a history of our beautiful liturgy of the Dominican Rite.
The ancient Dominican liturgy, largely unchanged since 1256, beautifully expresses the distinctive charism of the primitive Dominican Order. This site, a project of the Liturgical Commission of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, makes accessible the riches of the ancient Dominican liturgy – not as a rival to the Novus Ordo, which remains the Ordinary Form of the Mass, but as a supplement to enrich our liturgical life with the treasures of our tradition, consistent with the express wishes of the Second Vatican Council (Sacrosanctum Concilium 4).
Hat tip Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fasting in the East and in the West

I think that Eric Sammons makes a good point over at his blog regarding the differences in "Fasting regulations" between Eastern and Western Christianity:
Some people might know about the vast difference in the fasting regulations between the two great churches. In the West, we are told to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (which means one normal meal and two small meals not to equal that one normal meal) and abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent and Ash Wednesday. In the East, on the other hand, a common tradition is that every day of Lent is a day of fasting and abstinence, and abstinence applies not only to meat, but also includes items such as fish, wine and oil. Why such a difference in these practices? Is it because the East is just more holy or more serious about Lent? I think the reason is due more to the underlying attitudes towards rules and regulations in the East and the West.

- In the West, a regulation is seen as the minimum requirement and failing to follow it is perceived as a serious failure, perhaps even a sin.

- In the East, a regulation is seen as an ideal to strive for and failing to follow it is perceived as an opportunity to do better in the future.

So in the West, the regulations for fasting are much less stringent than in the East, because a failure to follow them is seen as a more egregious action. In the East, the regulations are much more strict, but failing to live up to them is not seen as serious of a failure.
Of course, for those of us in the West, the minimum requirement had been a bit more stringent. But this point still holds. I see the benefits of both mindsets, and I share Eric's opinion that each attitude has its advantages and disadvantages:
The advantage of the Western attitude is that regulations are always taken seriously, but the disadvantage is that one can become legalistic or even prideful if he follows the law. The advantage of the Eastern attitude is that one always sees the ideal as something to strive for and this keeps you humble, but the disadvantage is that the wide gap between practice and regulation might be so wide as to seem insurmountable or make the regulation appear unrealistic.

All Christians should work, with the help of God’s grace and a good spiritual director, to make sacrifices that are in keeping with their state of life. The worst thing to do, at any time, is to compare one’s own sacrifices with anyone else’s.
Amen to that. In fact, I believe that as we practice whatever disciplines are proper to our spiritual tradition, be it Eastern or Western, our particular attitude can nevertheless be informed and nourished by that of the other. East and West can certainly learn from each other and work together in such a way. As a Western Christian, I am inspired by the practice of the East to attempt to exceed what is for me the minimum requirement imposed by the Church. In fact, the Church doesn't fail in encouraging us to do precisely this.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


On the 5th Sunday of Lent we begin the period of the final two weeks of the season traditionally referred to as Passiontide. Crucifixes and other sacred images and statues are traditionally veiled during this time. We had never encountered this practice before until we moved to Texas. Other liturgical churches (e.g. Anglicans, Lutherans) also maintain this practice, although I understand that even there it isn't universal. What is the point of veiling? It is admittedly a good question - after all, why wouldn't one earnestly desire to gaze upon the Crucifix during this time? According to the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia:
The crosses are veiled because Christ during this time no longer walked openly among the people, but hid himself. Hence in the papal chapel the veiling formerly took place at the words of the Gospel: "Jesus autem abscondebat se." Another reason is added by Durandus, namely that Christ's divinity was hidden when he arrived at the time of His suffering and death. The images of the saints also are covered because it would seem improper for the servants to appear when the Master himself is hidden.
The crucifix is typically unveiled after the Lord's Passion is observed on Good Friday. Fr. Z reflects on this more:
We lose things during Lent. We are being pruned through the liturgy. Holy Church experiences liturgical death before the feast of the Resurrection. The Alleluia goes on Septuagesima. Music and flowers go on Ash Wednesday. Today, statues and images are draped in purple. That is why today is sometimes called Repus Sunday, from repositus analogous to absconditus or “hidden”, because this is the day when Crosses and other images in churches are veiled. The universal Church’s Ordo published by the Holy See has an indication that images can be veiled from this Sunday, the 5th of Lent. Traditionally Crosses may be covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and images, such as statues may be covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil. At my home parish of St. Agnes in St. Paul, MN, the large statue of the Pietà is appropriately unveiled at the Good Friday service...

The pruning cuts more deeply as we march into the Triduum. After the Mass on Holy Thursday the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the main altar, which itself is stripped and bells are replaced with wooden noise makers. On Good Friday there isn’t even a Mass. At the beginning of the Vigil we are deprived of light itself! It is as if the Church herself were completely dead with the Lord in His tomb. This liturgical death of the Church reveals how Christ emptied Himself of His glory in order to save us from our sins and to teach us who we are.

The Church then gloriously springs to life again at the Vigil of Easter. In ancient times, the Vigil was celebrated in the depth of night. In the darkness a single spark would be struck from flint and spread into the flames. The flames spread through the whole Church.

If we can connect ourselves in heart and mind with the Church’s liturgy in which these sacred mysteries are re-presented, then by our active receptivity we become participants in the saving mysteries of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

Stabat Mater dolorosa iuxta Crucem lacrimosa, dum pendebat Filius.
Cuius animam gementem, contristatam et dolentem pertransivit gladius.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Christopher Lee and Metal Music

I'm not sure I get this. Melissa Snell of the Medieval history blog brings us news that the infamous Christopher Lee (Dracula, Count Dooku, Saruman the White) has produced a "symphonic metal music" album entitled Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. Apparently it tells the story of Charlemagne looking back at his life on his deathbed. Melissa notes:
Far and away the best thing about the album is Lee's performance. Now that he's in his 80s, his voice doesn't have the clarity it once had, but it still has extraordinary power and depth. The narration by his daughter, Christina, is quite good. The music is listenable, although there isn't a single track I felt compelled to listen to again, and some of the melodies stay with you. And, miracle of miracles, the content is historically accurate. I don't want Mr. Lee thinking I doubted his and his associates' ability to pull together an accurate portrayal of a medieval figure; it's just that I'm so used to popular culture falling short that it's a delightful surprise when somebody gets it right.

Unfortunately, although the lyrics were interesting as well as factual, they lacked poetry; and while the music was enjoyable, it wasn't as exciting as I'd anticipated. Of course, this is only my own personal opinion; music critics who know more about these things will probably think differently. I'm simply an extreme history enthusiast, and as such I can only tell you that, yes, Charlemagne did have trouble with his brother Carloman in the early years of his reign; and yes, according to Einhard he was betrayed by the Gascons on his Spanish expedition; and yes, he did have more than 4000 Saxons brutally executed when they refused to convert to Christianity.
A taste over at Christopher Lee's website:

It is interesting. But clearly not my thing. ;)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

SXSW & The Big Deal Down South

What do a bunch of livestock, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Mary J. Blige, the Jonas Brothers, Tim McGraw, Darius Rucker, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, the Black Eyed Peas, Brooks & Dunn, and Selena Gomez have in common? They are all featured at this year's Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. And which local band is notably missing from this list for the first time in I don't know how long? ZZ Top. What's up, guys? The Eliminator must be in the shop. We've been here almost four years now, and we still have only made it to one Rodeo event: the 2007 opening BBQ cook-off.

And what's the other big deal down south? The annual South by Southwest (SXSW) live music festival in Austin. It's not too far away from here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Faith and Reason Lecture Series (#2)

Our monthly Faith and Reason lecture series at St. Theresa's in Sugar Land continues next Tuesday, March 16th. Our last lecture with Fr. Jeff Reed was quite excellent and well attended. In our next lecture, Joseph Magee, Ph.D., will explore the rational limits and requirements of faith with regard to the individual and the community. Can we believe anything we want to believe? If you are in the Houston area, come on down Tuesday evening to Sugar Land (705 St. Theresa Blvd.) and check it out! Everyone is invited and bring a friend!

The lecture begins at 7pm and will take place in the new school library of the St. Theresa Catholic School building (upstairs and at the end of the hallway through the double doors). I look forward to seeing you there!

Also, by way of a preview, Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P., will be at St. Theresa's on Monday, March 22nd, to give our annual Lenten parish mission. Details to come, everyone invited.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Anglican Church in America

Last week, the big news was that the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America (ANA - belonging to the worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion) voted to implement the provisions of Anglicanorum Coetibus, which means they will join many others worldwide who have elected to enter full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. This group looks to include about 3000 members in 120 or so parishes. As they report on their website:
We, the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America of the Traditional Anglican Communion have met in Orlando, Florida, together with our Primate and the Reverend Christopher Phillips of the "Anglican Use" Parish of Our Lady of the Atonement (San Antonio, Texas) and others.

At this meeting, the decision was made formally to request the implementation of the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus in the United States of America by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The National Catholic Register has more:
The bishops of the Anglican Church in America have voted to accept Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to bring their 3,000 members into the Catholic Church.

The unanimous vote of eight members of the House of Bishops, who met in Orlando, Fla., brings 120 parishes in four dioceses across the country into the Church.

Also present at the March 3 vote and in support of it were representatives of “Anglican use” parishes admitted on a one-by-one basis to the Catholic Church in accordance with the Pastoral Provision of Pope John Paul II in 1980.

The move is seen as significant for both the “AngloCatholics” in the Anglican Church in America and the worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion — and the Catholic Church.

“We are returning to the Roman Catholic Church as community with a common past and a common future,” commented Christian Campbell, a Florida lay member of the Anglican Church in America and coordinator of a blog called
There are those who have ignorantly sought to downplay the significance of Anglicanorum Coetibus, describing it as merely "an extension" of the pastoral provision already in existence. It's certainly rooted in that effort, but this is proof that what the pope has done here is truly something new, as we now have the means to implement meaningful structures to allow for significantly large groups of Anglicans to become Catholic. But I'm just glad that it looks like the Anglican Church of St. Mary of the Angels in Los Feliz, CA, will finally be Catholic. Several years back, it looked like the community was ready to join via the pastoral provision as an Anglican Use parish, but for several reasons (some trivial, some not), that fell through. Ut unum sint.

UPDATE: I just want to correct a point here. It is now my understanding that even though the Anglican Church in America has voted to implement Anglicanorum Coetibus, it is still the responsibility of each parish to vote on whether it will join the movement or not. Thus, it is not a fait accompli that all 120 or so parishes will automatically join the Anglican ordinariate that is set up.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Consecration of Sagrada Familia

So the pope is planning to visit Spain in November and will consecrate the infamous Sagrada Familia.
Regarding the stop in Barcelona, Cardinal Martínez Sistach already last month said the Holy Father had expressed interest in consecrating the church of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family).

The cardinal noted that the church's architect, Antoni Gaudí, has a cause of canonization being studied.

The church is also important to the Holy Father, according to the cardinal, because of its title, "given the maximum importance that the family has for the Holy Father, since the good of people, society and the Church is directly related with the protection, defense and promotion of the family."
Awesome! Thank you, Benedict!

7 Reasons why...

... you should go to confession during Lent. Courtesy of Taylor Marshall.
1. Priestly absolution is an awesome gift that Jesus gave us.
2. You are a sinner.
3. Confession is a means of grace.
4. You may have committed mortal sin.
5. Guilt is unpleasant.
6. Confession unites you more fully to the Church.
7. Receiving the Eucharist becomes even more powerful.
Speaking of which, I plan to go this weekend :)

The 5th Marian Dogma

In light of a recent forum in Rome concerning the so-called "Fifth Marian Dogma" (which hasn't yet been formally declared as such), Eric Sammons has an excellent post explaining the implications of what a formal, dogmatic declaration would entail as well as a couple reasons why one might want to oppose such an act. I am speaking, of course, of the understanding of Mary as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces. Is it time for the pope to formally define this as dogma?

I first encountered speculation concerning this dogma not too long after I entered the Church in 1997. A sensationalistic article was published in Newsweek, I believe, and I spent much of the following year correcting and explaining the issue to my Evangelical friends who thought Catholics wanted to make Mary a fourth person of the Godhead. Being a new Catholic who was still making sense of all things Catholic, I remember feeling a bit angry and left out that the Church was moving too fast - but since when is that ever true? I came to realize that I wasn't angry at the Church but rather at the stupid article. Nevertheless, while I acknowledge Mary as coredemptrix, I'd have to place myself in the "not-right-now" camp insofar as a formal declaration of dogma is concerned. I suspect that this is where Pope Benedict XVI is as well. It is my opinion that such a move would have series ramifications on our relationship with the Eastern Orthodox, and this has been a significant theme of his pontificate. That said, I understand also why one might want the pope to act.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Bell

Every time I hear the bell on my cat's collar ring, I can't help but think of John Donne: therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. Memento mori. I hope Lent has been a formative experience for all of you!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Profession Approaches...

This is what I will profess during tomorrow's liturgy:
To the honor of Almighty God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of St. Dominic, I, Alan Phipps, before you, the Moderator of this group, and Fr. N, the religious promoter, representing the Master of the Order of Friars Preachers, promise to live according to the Rule and Directory of the Dominican Laity for three years.
I will then receive the scapular, which is a sign and a reminder of dedication to God, to the Church, and to the Order. The scapular should serve more precisely as a reminder, as the Moderator will say during the Rite, "to preach the message of Jesus' love through your thoughts, words, deeds, and life."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

O.P. First Profession

This Sunday, I will officially complete my candidacy (aka "novitiate") as a Lay Dominican and will make my first profession, which is a 3-year temporary profession. Superficially, it means that I will no longer be a novice and, in committing myself to live out the Rule of the Laity, I will also have also been granted the privilege of adding the "O.P" post-nominal initials to my name. The spiritual reality, however, it is much more deep. This is my vocation. This is my mission: to preach - in every way a person can really preach without actually mounting a pulpit. In studying and reading the writings of so many great Dominicans, I am truly humbled to have even made it to this point. I pale in comparison to so many of the great giants of the Dominican Order, particularly those of the Third Order such as Catherine of Siena and Rose of Lima. It's almost as though I'm sneaking in the back door. Who am I to even ask? Please pray for me!

Yves Cardinal Congar, O.P.

I attended a lecture downtown last night on the inimitable and controversial 20th century theologian Yves Congar, O.P. (pictured above, at right, speaking with Josef Ratzinger (aka Benedict XVI) at the Second Vatican Council) I confess that while I was peripherally aware of Congar's theology, and his often being lumped together with the likes of Rahner, Schillebeeckx, and Küng, I wasn't really aware of the influence his theology had on the theology of the laity expressed at the Second Vatican Council. It was quite extraordinary. Even in his on-again-off-again relationship with Rome, and many of his controversial ideas concerning ecumenism, I find him to be a fascinating figure, and I'm actually more curious to spend some time studying some of his treatises on church reform - We shall see!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Eleventh Doctor

As an anxious schoolboy, I await the coming of the Eleventh Doctor, who, I am told, will be making his appearance around Easter of this year. I have to say I am personally attached to the Tenth Doctor, but who knows what can happen. Having a Doctor who is younger than I am is a bit off-putting, I must say.

If you have no idea what I am talking about - don't worry too much about it. All will be made clear :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Early Morning Adoration

A friend from my church recently moved, and so I took over his early morning weekly Holy Hour for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in our parish's perpetual adoration chapel. I have known for a long time that this was something I wanted to do - I frequent the adoration chapel often as it is. But I guess you could say I was waiting for a little guidance as to what time was actually right when this opportunity presented itself. I wasn't sure at first how it would work out, but it has turned out to be quite awesome. I am amazed at how lucid my prayer is during that time, and there's something about being with Our Lord in the midst of the night's hush as the rest of the city rests. Thank you, my Lord and My God. Thank you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fr. Robert Barron on the Discipline

Fr. Barron comments on the controversy surrounding the revelation that Pope John Paul II frequently took the discipline and the subject of mortification and redemptive suffering.

In the light of Da Vinci Code mania, the practice of mortifying the flesh in any fashion has been highly misunderstood. In fact, as Fr. Barron states, mortification has been a treasured part of Catholic spiritual practice for centuries. This is certainly true of St. Dominic and the Dominicans -- it is one of the treasured Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic, as related in early manuscripts about St. Dominic based on testimonies of his contemporaries:
AT THE END of the prayer which has just been described, Saint Dominic would rise from the ground and give himself the discipline with an iron chain, saying, "Thy discipline has corrected me unto the end" [Ps. 17:36]. This is why the Order decreed, in memory of his example, that all the brethren should receive the discipline with wooden switches upon their shoulders as they were bowing down in worship and reciting the psalm "Miserere" or "De Profundis" after Compline on ferial days. This is performed for their own faults or for those of others whose alms they receive and rely upon. No matter how sinless he may be, no one is to desist from this holy example which is shown in the drawing.
Extreme cases such as this are rare today, and taking the discipline, even with a lightweight rope like the one Fr. Barron describes (which is also what the numeraries of Opus Dei utilize), should be done in full consultation with a spiritual director. Now, it has to be acknowledged that there are many ways to embrace suffering and mortification. Denying the physical urges and keeping them in check can be as simple as getting up on time in the morning, foregoing that next helping of food at dinner, or skipping dessert. Otherwise our passions can easily enslave us.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blessed Reginald of Orleans

We observed the Memorial of Blessed Reginald of Orleans yesterday according to the Dominican calendar. Blessed Reginald had an inspirational zeal for the salvation of souls and was given to teaching and preaching in a very convincing manner. He is associated with a well known miracle that is recorded by his friend and later Master of the Order, Blessed Jordan of Saxony:
While Master Dominic was in Rome in 1218, Master Reginald, then dean of St. Aignan in Orleans, arrived there, intending to go overseas. He was very highly thought of, a most learned man and a prominent public figure. He had taught canon law in Paris for five years.

On his arrival in Rome, he fell seriously ill, and Master Dominic went to vist him several times, urging him to follow the poverty of Christ and to join his Order. He prevailed upon him to agree, fully and freely, to enter the Order, so much so that he bound himself to it by vow.

So he was rescued from the serious, well-nigh desperate peril of his illness, not without a miracle of divine power. While he was feverish, with a high temperature, the queen of heaven and mother of mercy, the Virgin Mary, came to him visibly and anointed his eyes, ears, nose, mouth, navel, hands, and feet with a healing balm which she had brought wth her, saying as she did so things like, “I anoint your feet with holy oil to make them ready to spread the gospel of peace.” She also showed him the complete habit of the Order.

He was cured immediately, and his whole body was restored to perfect health. It happened so suddenly that the doctors, who had more or less given up hope of his recovery, were astonished to see him looking so well. This remarkable miracle was made known afterwards by Master Dominic to many people who are still with us today. I was present myself on one occasion when he told the story publicly during a conference he was giving in Paris.

His health restored, Master Reginald fulfilled his desire to go overseas, although he was already bound to the Order by profession. On his return, he went to Bologna, which he reached on December 21, and at once he threw himself utterly into preaching. His fervent eloquence fired the hearts of all who heard it as if it had been a blazing torch; hardly anyone was rock-like enough to be proof against its heat. The whole of Bologna was in ferment; a new Elijah seemed to have arisen among them.

During this period he received many people into the Order in Bologna, and the number of the disciples began to grow, as more and more were added to them.

Brother Reginald, of holy memory, came to Paris and preached Christ Jesus and him crucified. But God soon took him from the earth. Finishing his course in a short time, he had accomplished a full life’s work.

Brother Matthew, who had known him when he was living in honor and luxury in the world, several times asked him, in some amazement, “Do you ever fell depressed, Master, that you put on the habit?” With his eyes lowered, he replied, “I very much doubt if there is any merit in it for me, because I have always found so much pleasure in the Order.”

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Faith and Reason Lecture Series

If you are in the Houston area, be sure to come down Tuesday evening to St. Theresa's in Sugar Land where Fr. Jeff Reed will be presenting a lecture on the complementarity of Faith and Reason through the mind of Pope John Paul II - largely reflecting on the late Holy Father's brilliant encyclical, Fides et Ratio. Everyone is invited, even if the topic is completely new to you!

The lecture begins at 7pm and will take place in the new school library of the St. Theresa Catholic School building (upstairs and at the end of the hallway). I look forward to seeing you!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Eucharistic Adoration at St. Mark's

I was very happy to discover recently that the new pastor of my former parish of St. Mark's in Isla Vista, CA, which is associated with UC Santa Barbara, has started offering regular Eucharistic exposition and adoration for the student community in a big way, including more opportunities for confession and concluding with Benediction!

This is quite a significant development. Absolutely awesome. I came upon that old monstrance they're using back in 2001 in the sacristy and, after I polished it up, I requested permission from the staff to start evenings of Eucharistic adoration with friends and others who wanted to join. We did this for two years, and for reasons that continue to frustrate me, we decided to stop, and I put the monstrance back in the cupboard where it remained for more years. The tide has definitely turned...

Join with me...

Te Deum laudamus: te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli; tibi caeli et universae Potestates...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

On St. Martin de Porres, Obedience, and Charity

Yesterday, I finished Giuliana Cavallini's excellent biography of St. Martin de Porres of 16th/17th century Lima, Peru. Rather than focus on many of Martin's apparent spiritual gifts, for which there exists much testimony, I want to focus in on a couple aspects of Martin's virtue and sanctity. Often when we discuss things like obedience and service today, the understanding of these things is usually distorted. Obedience, for example, is shunned in our society. On Martin's obedience, Cavallini writes:
Obedience is not a "passive virtue," as many seem to think who look at it in the grayish perspective of such expressions as "blind obedience," "obedient as a corpse" and the like. These expressions are often used and abused in contemporary spiritual literature. Obedience is certainly the renunciation of one's own will, but a renunciation effected by a free act of the will...
In other words, true obedience is a willful act, something we choose to do that still involves the active engagement of our intellect. Nevertheless, it recognizes a humility to put a desire for our best interest over our own personal satisfaction and indulgence.

Martin often described himself as a "poor mulatto". For those who don't know what "mulatto" means, I refer to wikipedia. He actively sought to serve those around him, be they poor or rich. Yet he stands in stark contrast to our present culture. Martin did not see himself as an instrument of shame for the rich or special empowerment of the poor. His aim was not social warfare but spiritual awakening. Cavallini notes:
Martin's whole apostolate of charity had only one purpose: to awaken the love of God in souls; in all souls, without exception, in the souls of the rich as well as those of the poor. Some people do not know how to love the poor without hating the rich. They really love only themselves, and are the hypocrites who sound the trumpets when they give alms so that they may be honored by men... In Martin's eyes, the rich and the poor were not two irreconcilable opposites, two extremes of opposition. They were simply two different ways of life in the infinite variety of the universe, two states willed by uncreated Goodness so that men might exercise the divine work of charity among themselves.
And it so was the case that Martin inspired many of the rich to freely give of themselves to the causes of the poor and sick without desiring to call attention to themselves. Yes, the rich can succumb to greed, but in the cultivation of good virtue, they may also become wise stewards of their wealth, seeing it as something to be shared rather than to be hoarded.


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