Saturday, April 16, 2011

Benedict on Holiness

Holiness is important. In fact, it's why we're here. Holiness, theosis, divine sonship. And more to the point: it's available to everyone! Did you know that you are called to be a saint? Shouldn't that change your perspective on everything in your life? Zenit reports from Pope Benedict's latest papal audience in Rome:
What does it mean to be saints? Who is called to be a saint? Often it is thought that holiness is a goal reserved for a few chosen ones. St. Paul, however, speaks of God's great plan and affirms: "[God] chose us in him [Christ], before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us" (Ephesians 1:4). And he speaks of all of us. At the center of the divine design is Christ, in whom God shows his Face: the Mystery hidden in the centuries has been revealed in the fullness of the Word made flesh. And Paul says afterward: "For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Colossians 1:19). In Christ the living God has made himself close, visible, audible, tangible so that all can obtain his fullness of grace and truth (cf. John 1:14-16).

Because of this, the whole of Christian existence knows only one supreme law, the one St. Paul expresses in a formula that appears in all his writings: in Christ Jesus. Holiness, the fullness of Christian life does not consist of realizing extraordinary enterprises, but in union with Christ, in living his mysteries, in making our own his attitudes, his thoughts, his conduct. The measure of holiness is given by the height of holiness that Christ attains in us, of how much, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, we mold all our life to his. It is our conforming ourselves to Jesus, as St. Paul affirms: "For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29). And St. Augustine exclaimed: "My life will be alive full of You" (Confessions, 10, 28). In the Constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council spoke with clarity of the universal call to holiness, affirming that no one is excluded: "The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one -- that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who ... follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory" (No. 41).
Did you see that? No one is excluded from the universal call to holiness. But how to we achieve holiness? The pope continues:
However, the question remains: How can we journey on the path of holiness, how can we respond to this call? Can I do so with my own strength? The answer is clear: A holy life is not primarily the fruit of our own effort, of our actions, because it is God, the thrice Holy (cf. Isaiah 6:3), who makes us saints, and the action of the Holy Spirit who encourages us from within; it is the life itself of the Risen Christ, which has been communicated to us and which transforms us. To say it again according to Vatican Council II: "The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God's gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received" (ibid., 40).
Awesome! In baptism of faith we become sons of God and sharers in God's own divine nature. Incredible. Magnificent. The pope then expounds on this even more:
Hence, holiness has its main root in baptismal grace, in being introduced into the paschal mystery of Christ, with which his Spirit is communicated to us, his life as the Risen One. St. Paul points out the transformation wrought in man by baptismal grace and even coins a new terminology, forged with the preposition "with": "We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). However, God always respects our liberty and asks that we accept this gift and that we live the demands it entails. He asks that we allow ourselves to be transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit, conforming our will to the will of God.

How can we make our way of thinking and our actions become thinking and acting with Christ and of Christ? What is the soul of holiness? Again Vatican II specifies: It tells us that holiness is none other than charity fully lived. "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him" (1 John 4:16). Now God has amply diffused his love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (cf. Romans 5:5); because of this, the first and most necessary gift is charity, with which we love God above all things and our neighbor out of love for him. For charity to grow as a good seed in the soul and fructify us, every faithful one must listen willingly to the Word of God, and with the help of his grace, realize the works of his will, participate frequently in the sacraments, above all in the Eucharist and in the holy liturgy, constantly approach prayer, abnegation of oneself, in the active service to brothers and the exercise of all virtue. Charity, in fact, is the bond of perfection and fulfillment of the law (cf. Colossians 3:14; Romans 13:10); it directs all the means of sanctification, gives them their form and leads them to their end.
In essence, holiness is none other than "charity fully lived", that which is brought about in us by God's grace, incorporating us into God's own divine life. Laudetur Iesus Christus! Therefore, let us hasten to the sacraments, particularly during this Holy Week. Embrace the Sacrament of Confession! Receive Holy Communion worthily. Pray daily. And serve one another, not for your glory, but for God's glory. Read the whole speech and pray for the pope daily.

Benedict's Birthday

Today is the pope's birthday :) Take a minute and pray for him and for strength in mind, heart, body, and soul.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bring the Shuttle Home, Houston!

I can't think of any other place, except perhaps Kennedy Space Center in Florida, that deserves to have one of the retired space shuttles more than Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.   In fact, I'm quite surprised that we have to even have such a discussion.  After all, Mission Control is in Houston.  Most of the astronauts live in Houston.  The astronauts who died in shuttle disasters - they lived here along with their families.   The astronauts train in Houston.  Most of the design, development, and overall planning for each project has been done in Houston.  It only makes sense!  Join the movement!

Members of the task force weigh in at the Houston Chronicle:
As part of its commitment to housing a flown orbiter, Space Center Houston will develop a new state-of-the-art, 53,000-square-foot orbiter exhibit featuring interactive, educational experiences that will encourage student interest and commitment to STEM education. The theme for the exhibit will be the human side of shuttle operations, including astronaut activities and what they accomplished on the shuttle. 

Houston will also establish a new Space Shuttle Education Foundation to fund the attendance cost of all validated education groups. There are tremendous educational benefits to all the children who visit NASA Johnson Space Center daily. Space science is abstract and a challenge for many students to comprehend. The presence of a space shuttle would serve as the catalyst to promote understanding and inspiration. National science standards prescribe aviation and solar science in many states as a basis of state curricula.

None of us should forget the amazing NASA families who have made Houston their home and who have dedicated, and in some instances, given their lives to human space flight. They know what we all know and what our president and NASA administrator must also know - that the iconic shuttle belongs in Houston, where it can be a catalyst for generations to come to explore the human frontier of space and science.

Last and certainly not least as reasons that Houston should be at the top of any list to house a retired orbiter is the city's commitment to pay for it. Unlike other contenders, Houston does not need a handout to cover all the costs associated with housing an orbiter.
Bring it home!


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