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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

The problems of

A while back I blogged about the problems the web can pose to kids. This article by Shiela Gardner presents some scary information about and the types of information posted by children that places them at risk of being exploited.

The Internet is a tool that can be used both for good and for ill. If your children use computers, you must be constantly alert what sites they visit and what type of information they are providing to others.

Homily for Thursday - Matthew 9:1-8

How easy it is to doubt. We live in a generation which often prides itself on being skeptical. No one is going to make a fool out of me. I can only trust myself. If I’m skeptical I won’t be disappointed. Even in our relationship with God it can be easy not to trust, to doubt that God really loves us, that God can truly help us.

The scribes too found it hard to trust in God’s power and mercy. They say, “This man blasphemes” because no one but God can forgive sins and Jesus calls them on their disbelief saying, “Which is easier…to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘Get up and walk’?” It is indeed easier to say “Get up and walk”; this can be immediately tested and accepted. For the scribes to accept that Jesus can forgive sins is to believe that he is indeed God, that he indeed has the power to do as he says.

In this section of the Gospel, Matthew shows us sign after sign of Jesus’ power. In our reading on Tuesday, Jesus calms the storm and the Apostles ask “What sort of man is this whom even the winds and the sea obey?” This was followed by the casting out of the demons of the men of Gadarenes, which we didn’t hear because of the Solemnity yesterday, the people do not recognize Jesus but the demons call him the “Son of God”. Today, after Jesus heals the paralytic, the people rejoice that God had given such authority to human beings. Jesus calms the storm, he casts out demons, he heals the paralyzed, he clearly possesses power that rightfully belongs to God and yet they still doubt, they still have “little faith”.

In our own lives, Jesus continues to give us sign after sign of his mercy and faithfulness – yet when a new trial enters our lives we wonder “Can we trust God to help us now?” When we hear the words of Jesus spoken by the priest do we truly believe that our sins have been forgiven?

As Douglas Adams said, “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.” If Jesus continues to show powers that belong solely to God – that he can control storms as only God can, that he casts out demons as only God can, that he heals as only God can - it’s a pretty good bet that Jesus is God. And when Jesus forgives sins and has given this power to his Church, should we not believe when the priest says “Your sins are forgiven”? Let us no longer doubt, but believe.

Tuesday Homily - Feast of Saint Irenaeus

We live in a messy world full of struggles and trials and tribulations. We may often feel that we are like the apostles, stuck in a boat in the midst of a stormy and turbulent sea crying out to Jesus – “Lord, save us!”

Saint Irenaeus struggled against the Gnostics who believed that God as Spirit could never have any connection with a world which was so imperfect and in which there were so many problems. The glorious Word of God, Jesus, could not have possibly had a body like we do subject to disease and sickness and weakness. Irenaeus, however, saw that in a great and wondrous way God did enter into the messiness of our lives in Jesus Christ who was born into our messiness, lived in our messiness, died in our messiness and rose again. Even when Jesus rose from the dead, he did not cast aside his physical body but kept it and transformed it.

For the apostles and for us, God is not alien to our struggles – so transcendent that there is no connection between us and him. Rather, God, in Jesus Christ, is with us in our boats and with us amidst the storms. He does not tell us to ignore the storms, to look only at the spiritual, he instead calls us to “Be not afraid” – to trust that he is with us and he has power over the storms. He does not abandon our world but enters it and transforms it. To our turbulent seas he brings peace.

Monday, June 27, 2005

When Science and Religion meet

New developments in technology are allowing scholars greater insight into the wisdom of the past by opening up some of the earliest Christian writings.

In addition to making these previously unread documents available to scholars, this new photographic technology will also enable many of these texts to be made available on the Internet for everyone to see.

How fitting that this takes place within a monastery - the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai to be exact. Monasteries were the centers of Christian teaching for centuries and helped promote the development of Western Culture - now the fruits of that culture are helping to uncover its hidden roots.

What makes Jesus cry

Recently, a horrific event took place at an Orthodox convent in Romania as a 23-year old nun was starved, crucified and suffocated by other nuns in her community and an Orthodox priest as a result of an "exorcism".

I make mention of this not to cast shame upon Orthodoxy, God knows that many Roman Catholic clergy have committed similar shameful acts in the name of the faith. Rather I note it to note that not all that is considered "traditional" is truly of God. Indeed, the real shame is that no one came to the poor woman's help.

Being Catholic does not mean "blind obedience" to the clergy, nor does it mean open opposition simply to show one's "independence" - being Catholic means that you have been baptized into Christ as priest, prophet and king. This lays upon all Catholics the responsibility to speak out against injustice and to bring Christ into even the darkest of situations.

How to make the sexual abuse problem worse

As I blogged yesterday, attempts to deal with the serious problem of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have generated a new problem - what to do about false accusations. Unfortunately, the very group [The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests] that is seeking to attain justice for abuse victims is also helping to generate the very climate in which false accusations will increase.

SNAP arguing that "blind loyalty to the church" is keeping people from coming forth with knowledge of abuse, is urging that a fund be set up to reward "whistle blowers". Unfortunately, those who indeed have a "blind loyalty" to the church are not likely to speak up simply because they might get money for it - that is the very nature of "blind loyalty". On the other hand, those who are unscrupulous and greedy will be much more likely to make false accusations in the hopes of getting some of this reward money.

How can justice be served in this way? The guilty still are not punished but the innocent suffer.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Pope Benedict the Fireman

Here's a recent picture of Pope Benedict wearing a fireman's hat. How fitting, though I think that his job is not to put out the fire but to help get the fire of faith started and to keep it burning.

Photo and accompaning article on TimesOnline.Posted by Hello

Sexual abuse and the priesthood

Dover priest marks 50 years of serving God - Fosters

The experiences of Father Paul Gregoire demonstrate some of the problems dealing with accusations of sexual abuse - that is, how can one act to both protect children and respond appropriately to cases of real abuse and also protect priests from false accusations.

Fr. Gregoire was suspended from ministry for nine months after being accused of committing sexual abuse in the 1970s. The Vatican later determened the accusations were not credible, but not until after he had to undergo all the media scrutiny that comes along with any accusation. One has only to look at the case of Chicago Cardinal Bernadine for another case of false accusation.

While the past response of shuffling abusing priests was reprehensible, is justice served by stigmitizing the innocent because once an innocent person iis accused how can they ever get their reputation restored?

Back from Brotherhood Week - New Pictures are Up!

Brotherhood week went well at Oglebay in West Virginia. I spent the week walking around in the woods and taking pictures. There were deer everywhere and many approached very close to where all the lodges are located. My pictures can be seen on the Flicker site in the Links section. Many of the pictures are of various plants and I want to thank Ylem for adding some actual names to my many generically titled pictures.

It was a good time to relax and take a break before getting back into the Deaconal work. This week we start a Bible Study at the parish and I will be presiding at another baptism this weekend.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Brotherhood Week

I will be away for brotherhood week, so I won't be posting again until friday. You all will be in my prayers.

Father's Day Homily

A Father who is there for us

One morning a father knocked on his son’s bedroom door. “Teddy,” he calls out, “wake up!”
Teddy answers, “I don’t want to get up, Papa.”
The father shouts, “Get up. It’s Saturday and you have to go to practice today.”
Teddy shouts back, “I don’t want to go to practice.”
“And why not?” asks the father.
“Well, there are three reasons,” says Teddy. “First, practice is so dull; second, the kids tease me; third, I hate practice, especially on Saturday.”
The father leans against the door and says, “Well’ I’m going to give you three reasons why you must go to practice. First, because it is your duty as a member of the team; second because you are forty-five years old; and third, because you are the coach.”

Today is Father’s Day – a day of celebrating all those who get up every day in response to the Father’s knocking. Being a father means facing many struggles and difficulties. It means going to work – even when you would prefer to stay in bed because you know that your family depends on you. It means disciplining children so that they might grow up to be mature men and women. It means constantly looking out for your family, making every effort to ensure that they are protected.

Thank God we have a Heavenly Father who does all this and helps the fathers here on earth to do the same. Not a single sparrow falls to earth without the Father’s consent and no father is ever separated from our Father’s care and support. He too must discipline and encourage. He too must protect and nurture his children. He too must make of his family a house of love.

Fathers do not magically appear out of thin air, they are being continually formed from the day of their birth. The first stone of their foundation is laid in the love that they see exists between their own father and mother. A child of a loving family will become a loving father himself. Another stone is laid at baptism where the child learns that his entire life, including his fatherhood is rooted in God. As the child grows both in the love of his family and in the faith of the Church more stones in his foundation for fatherhood are added. This is why it is important that families learn the teachings and traditions of the Church and participate in the Church’s sacramental life. For, as a boy grows he will come to see the importance of the faith in his father’s life, he will come to learn to trust in God as he trusts in his own father. My own father didn’t go to religious conferences or constantly pray the rosary, but he made a consistent effort to make his faith a part of his life, of going to Church on holy days, of instilling in his children a desire to know God. He knew that he didn’t have all the answers, but he trusted that God did. Since one of his children has answered the call to the priesthood and the other is now the faithful father of four – he did pretty well I must say.

This doesn’t mean that once that boy becomes a father, life will be easy – indeed as any father here can say – it isn’t. But if you have been raised to be a good Christian man – you will have all the necessary preparation for being a good Christian father.

Indeed, God gives fathers everything they need to raise their children well. He gives them hands that can create and can comfort. He gives them mouths to speak words of encouragement and instruction. He gives them eyes and ears to see and hear the good. Yet, the same hand that can console can also strike. The same mouth that can speak words of blessing can also curse. The same eyes and ears that seek out the good in a child can close themselves to everything but the bad. God has gives fathers all the tools they need, but fathers must still use those tools properly.
This is where the most important tool is used – God gives all fathers a heart that mirrors his own so that everything that a father does is rooted in love whether he is disciplining his child or spending quality time together.

Certainly this can seem like an extremely high standard. Who of us can ever live up to the example of God? The ultimate example of fatherhood? Even a model like St. Joseph can seem impossible to emulate since I can say with certainty none of us sons was as well behaved as Jesus was. So being a father means making mistakes. It means that sometimes things won’t work out the way that you wanted. If you have young children this usually takes place when you are out at a restaurant and the only sounds you can hear are of your young ones crying.

But being a father also means hearing a child tell you that they love you. It means coming home to a hug after a long day of work. It means the pride that you feel in the accomplishments of your sons and daughters and the pride you get in sharing those accomplishments with others. It means choosing to create life.

There are going to be good days and bad days but a father perseveres and grows in grace and love through these times. He has come to know that God is a Father who keeps his promises and who will keep him under his protection as he lives through the struggles of being a good father. He perseveres because every day God knocks on his door and tells him that it’s time to get up. If God gives us a call, he will give us every grace to remain faithful to it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Thoughts on Tuesday's Gospel

MT 5:43-48

God’s Son shines on the good and the bad. I know I wouldn’t want it any differently because it is indeed when we have done wrong that we need the Son most of all. Yet it is very difficult to love our enemies – whether people who are far away such as Osama Bin Laden or even people in our neighborhood or church that have caused us pain. We may pray for their conversion but loving enemies requires mutual conversion – in fact they may be praying for our conversion at the same time that we are praying for theirs.

Vatican chooses Sun Microsystems [insert joke here] for secure communication.

The Vatican has decided to go with Sun Java for it's e-mail and other electronic communication.

So, I guess we can now say that there is only one mediator between us and the Holy Father and that is the Sun and no one gets to communicate with the Holy Father except the Sun and those to whom the Sun links.

Creationism hits the Tulsa Zoo

The Tulsa Zoo has given into the creationists and decided to place an exhibit in the zoo portraying the first Genesis creation account. Apparently the creationists were upset over a couple of other religious items in the zoo and demanded equal treatment. Perhaps we can get a petition to show creation via the theory of Intelligent Design as well.

Monday, June 13, 2005

CBS and ABC planning pope movies

CBS and ABC planning pope movies:- - Entertainment News -

Many of us are always eager for the media to present a more positive portrayal of the Catholic Church, so it will be interested to see how these projects will develop. I am skeptical right now that these programs will accurately portray John Paul II but am willing to keep an open mind on the issue.

Did Jesus die of a blood clot?

An Israeli researcher is now arguing that Jesus died not from blood loss on the cross but from a blood clot.

There is of course no dogmatic teaching on Jesus' death other than the teaching that Jesus did indeed die on the Cross and rose again. So such medical theories are interesting but not really important for our faith beliefs. What is far more important is what Jesus' death means for us - freedom from slavery to sin and the establishment of a new covenant in his blood.

Still, such medical examination can serve a useful purpose in reminding us that Jesus was truly human and lived life as a human being in all its fullness while retaining all the fullness of his divinity.

Thoughts on Monday's Gospel

MT 5:38-42

Jesus tells us to avoid responding with evil for evil. It seems that we, however, live in a climate of fear that emphasizes security and safety over openness and cooperation. We have difficulty trusting anyone but ourselves and are quick to tolerate laws and restrictions just so that we might be safe. Jesus calls us out of our fear becuase if I am afraid it is likely that the one of whom I am afraid is also afraid and as we build up walls of protection we also build up walls of suspicion because I wonder what is going on behind other's walls and wonder if it might be threatening to me.

It is difficult but necessary to tear down these walls, to use that energy and that material from the building of wall to the building of bridges.

Thoughts on Sunday's Gospel

MT 9:36-10:8

"The harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few". Truly this seems to be the case for the Catholic Church in the United States where the number of Catholics continues to increase whereas the number of priests continues to decline. Many are the suggestions for reversing this trend from ordaining woman, to ordaining married men, to making the formation for priests more traditional. I won't speak to these reasons but it seems to me that in the past the position of the priest was seen as a position of honor and power. The post-Vatican II Church has struggled well to end the problems of clericalism but with that attitude went the pedestal on which the cleric stood and the recent clergy scandals only further cast aspersions on the position of the priest. I also think that in the US it is difficult to find anyone willing to take a job for one's entire life - we are used to working in a position for a few years and then transfering to a new job, we like change. So it seems to me that the clergy decline will not end as long as these attitudes prevail - any other attitude may disguise symptoms but do not really provide a cure.

We need to do a much better job encouraging young men to become priests - especially those who would make good priests because if we don't encourage the good ones to become priests we risk being given the bad ones. This means parents should encourage their children to enter religious life and that religious superiors need to do a better job nurturing the vocations that God has sent them.

Baptismal Homily

Today, Jesus has said, “Let Robert come to me; do not prevent him” and Robert has come. As Jesus embraced and blessed the children, we will embrace and bless him in Jesus’ name. We will lay our hands on him and will send him forth to reveal to us the Kingdom of God. From this day forward, the Kingdom belongs to him.

What do we mean we must accept the Kingdom of God like a child? Does it mean that we must be trusting like a child? Yes, we must be trusting but Robert, God has also given you a mind to develop and use to judge wisely between the good and the bad. So be trusting but not gullible. Indeed as you grow you will be asked to give reasons for your faith.

Does it mean that we must be totally dependent upon God as a child is totally dependent? Yes, we must remember that we are totally dependent upon God and that our successes are not as a result of our efforts alone. I emphasize alone, because while we are dependent upon God – God also has given us gifts and talents to use in making our world better. Robert, as Nelson Mandela has said, “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us…Your playing small does not serve the World.”

Does it mean that we must be totally obedient to God? Yes, in trusting that God only desires our good, we should be obedient to following his will especially in the difficult and troubling times of our lives. But being obedient to God does not mean blind obedience to others, even when they speak in the name of God. Along with obedience, Robert, you must also have the courage to speak out against injustice and come to the aid of the oppressed.

So, what does it mean to accept the Kingdom of God like a child? It means that entering the kingdom does not come about through intellectual reasoning, natural talent, or the ability to think for ourselves. It comes through trust and dependence and obedience. But if we enter the kingdom of God as a child, once we enter the kingdom we grow to adulthood through the use of our talents, the development of our wisdom, and the acceptance of responsibility we have to others. As Saint Paul says, when we are children we talk and think and reason as a child, but when we become adults we have to behave as adults.

For we who have already accepted the Kingdom – Robert’s parents and his Church, it means that we must help Robert to discover his talents, to acquire the knowledge to use his talents well, the ability to bring the Kingdom of God to expression in the world in new and wondrous ways.

The Kingdom of God belongs to Robert Johnathan and it will not be kept from him.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Thoughts on Saturday's Gospel

MT 5:33-37

Let your "Yes" be "Yes" and your "No" be "No". How often it is that we hide the truth from ourselves and from others in a desire to make ourselves appear more pleasant. In the religious life, in the name of maintaining community it's easier to suppress difficulties than to air out differences in order that they might be resolved. Even as I was making myself dinner this evening I found myself wishing that there were some types of jelly besides grape and strawberry but God forbid that I put down a different type of jelly on the shopping list "because I don't want to be a bother". I'd much rather just complain in secret about how I wish that my needs were being better met. Sometimes it's better to be honest and disagreeable than it is to be dishonest and outwardly pleasant. At least it ensures that relationships will be built more on a stable foundation and not on marshmallowy pleasantries.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Homily on Friday's Gospel

MT 5:27-32

Everybody has to have some God at some time, which one will you chose? Perhaps this is not a question you have thought much about, but it is a question for each of us. At the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, idols were easy to recognize. But we live in a more subtle time; our idols are much more hidden and seductive. Anything that interferes with your relationship with God or is desired for its own sake is an idol – whether it be money, or power, or time.

Yet, as our Gospel demonstrates, we have a jealous God who asks for nothing less than all of us as we ask for nothing less than all of him and we all can act adulterously in this relationship. Many things strive for superiority in our lives over the position that belongs to God. Is Sunday our Lord’s Day or has it become our shopping day, our child’s soccer day, our watching football day? I even saw a recent news article about people becoming “addicted to e-mail” of feeling the need to hear the words “You’ve got mail”, of being fearful that one may be missing an important communication but are we constantly checking up with God to see what he may be communicating to us?

One danger we all face is dealing with problems of time. We even speak of taking time out of our busy schedules for God as if our schedules are more important. Instead of taking “time out for God” we should spend more time being on for him.

In a world with so many distractions and so many things to gather our attention, we must strive ever more for faithfulness and single-hearted devotion to the Lord. Everybody has to have some God at some time, which one will you choose?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Thoughts on Thursday's Gospel

MT 5:20-26

Forgiveness is so important for Jesus that he tells us that if we have done anything against our brother that we are not even to offer worship to God before we reconcile ourselves. I know that for myself that this is something that I have done very rarely at least beyond making mental reconcilliation. It's can often seem that forgiveness and restoration of a relationship with another is separate from my relationship with God. But, Jesus includes this in a teaching requiring us to be more righteous than the pharisees and scribes.

It is interesting that Jesus describes this righteousness entirely in terms of the way that we treat one another - seeking forgiveness, not using harsh words; rather than in terms of any explicitly worship related activity. Once more this emphasizes that our faith life and our personal life are interrelated and that one cannot love God and hate neighbor.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Thoughts on Wednesday's Gospel

MT 5:17-19

Jesus says that he did not come to abolish the law or the prophets, but how could he who is their source and their fulfillment abolish them? Unfortunately, sometimes people try to minimize Jesus' teachings -the "Jesus didn't say anything about 'X' so I can do whatever I want" as if Jesus came to offer us some sort of legal text or canon. Jesus is the source of all law, so Jesus has something to say about everything we should do even if he did not specifically state it in the Gospels. Certainly we always need to act with discernment and strive to properly form our consciences, but we shouldn't compartmentalize our lives in to "Jesus applies here" and "Jesus doesn't apply here". For, in Jesus fulfilling the law does not mean obeying a set of rules or proscriptions, fulfilling the law means becomeing more fully the human beings that God has intended - becoming more truly who we really are.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Eating disorders + the Internet = Tragedy

Web Sites Celebrate a Deadly Thinness - New York Times

Anything can and will appear on the Internet and so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that their are now web sites glorifying eating disorders and offering advice for hiding eating disorders from parents. Also not surprisingly, teens who visited these sites were less healthy and spent more time in the hospital than teens who did not.

It is a further sign of the moral decline of our country that the authors of these sites can absolve themselves of responsibility on the grounds that "I just put the information out there. I don't force anybody to follow it." This is what happens when a society places a priority on individualism at the expense of our collective responsibility to one another. As one doctor said, the child most vulnerable to these sites are the one's "least connected to other people".

We also need to do a better job of encouraging and supporting our youth through the difficult teen-age years. They struggle enough with finding their place in the world without feeling that they are going through the experience alone.

Jesuit Astronomers

There is a short article on the Vatican observatory in Arizona scans the heavens">Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope in Arizona which gets about one million dollars a year for research "with no strings attached". As the Rev. Chris Corbally states, "The whole realm of the heavens is part of our Christian lives" and part of Christianity is to understand how the universe works.

Famous Jesuit Astronomers

Maximilian Hell, S.J. (1720 - 1792) the first to observe a transit of Venus, diirector of the astronomy observatory in Vienna. A lunar crater is named after him.

Roger Boscovich, S.J. (1711-1787) tracked solar eclipses, invented the ring micrometer and an achromatic telescope. A lunar crater is named after him.

Christopher Clavius, S.J. (1538-1612) a very large lunar crater is named after Clavius who had immense influence on his contemporaries. He has been referred to as the "most influential teacher of the Renaissance."

Angelo Pietro Secchi, S.J. (1818-1878) perfected the meteorograph, the spectroscope and the telescope. Astronomers call him "the Father of Astrophysics".

More Abortion Hypocrisy

Just when Hilary Clinton speaks of the "right to be able to have choice when it comes to the most private and intimate decisions that a woman has to make", a nineteen-year old man faces spending the rest of his life in prison for helping his girlfriend to abort her twins. The mother of the twins has admitted that she asked her boyfriend for help in ending her pregnancy but cannot be prosecuted because "of her legal right to abortion."

I am at a loss to see how what has happened here was either "intimate" or "private". What instead took place was the ruining of four lives - two killed, one in prison and the fourth emotionally scarred. I will also be curious to see if either NARAL or Planned Parenthood comes to the man's defense, but I doubt it.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Vatican and AIDS

Several people have criticized the musican Bob Geldhof for his invitation to Pope Benedict to appear at the Live 8 conference to benefit Africa. They are repeating the same tired accusations that the Vatican opposition to the use of condoms is detrimental to the prevention of AIDS in Africa.

The tragedy is that it is only in Uganda which has instituted an active program for the promotion of abstinence and not condom distribution that the percentage of people with AIDS has declined. However in those countries that have adopted massive condom distribution there has been no noticable diminishment of the high incidence of the disease. This is because the distribution of condoms doesn't prevent AIDS. Condoms are 90% effective, but are not 10% of the time. And despite the problem of engaging in a behavior which can be life-threatening 10% of the time, the distribution of condoms generates a false sense of security rather than making sexual activity safer.

Therefore, the opponents of Vatican policy are in fact only keeping the AIDS rate in Africa at its astronomical rates.

The root problem of these opponents is a failure to recognize that the Vatican policy is rooted in a desire to be as supportive of life as possible. Opponents can only percieve Vatican policy as an attack on sex.

Homily on Tuesday's Gospel

MT 5:13-16

Jesus tells the faithful that they are the "Salt of the World". Salt has a variety of uses, but two of the most known are as a spice and a preservative. Is your food too bland, add salt. Do you want to keep meat edible without refrigeration, use salt. The Church is also called to be both a spice and a preservative. As a spice, the Church is called to inspire the faithful, to ensure that the faith does not become bland and stale, to be open especially to the voice of the Spirit. Thus, the Church is always producing new saints and holy men and women calling us into greater holiness and pointing to the work of God in our world today. The Church needs prophets in order to keep from become static, of losing its ability to speak to the contemporary world around us.

Salt is also a preservative and just as the Church must express itself in ever new situations it must also remain faithful to its traditions. It must preserve the faith that has been passed down from the apostles. If you look around today you can find many people claiming to have the inside track on the faith and their are many different religions out there. We need the Church to exercise discernment, to help the people of God to decide whether a spiritual message is worthy of belief. Without the preservative quality of the Church, we would fall into chaos.

You are the Salt of the World and are called to "go out into the deep" in your faith, to constantly discover anew your relationship with God in the Spirit while at the same time staying rooted in the the teachings of Christ present in Scripture and Holy Tradition. If we do this, our Salt will keep its flavor as we show ourselves to be both solid and excited in our faith.

Ecumin Seeds

Posted by Hello

It's time for planting again and the Bearded Seraph's shop is open and offering Ecumin Seeds for all of your inter-denominational events. Guaranteed to promote the faith if planted with care, well watered and nurtured with plenty of Son light. All natural and organic. Pick up a couple of bags today!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Thoughts on Monday's Gospel

MT 5:1-12

This is the Matthean version of the beatitudes. The beatitudes have often been seen as the new commandmants - a shift from "Thou shalt not" to "Thou shall". I also remember one theologian asking why so many Christians sought to get the Ten Commandments put in public places, but no one ever did the same for the beatitudes.

Perhaps it is because following the beatitudes can be much more difficult that following the commandments. I know when I am lying but how do I know when I am pure of heart or pure in spirit? Perhaps this is why the beatitudes aren't talked about nearly enough - because following the beatitudes requires a constant effort to fulfil them and it doesn't seem sufficient to look at just one of the beatitudes whereas trying to fulfill all of them can seem overwhelming.

I think that following the beatitudes requires both action and a change of mindset. Fulfilling the goal of the beatitudes easily and naturally requires a constant desire to be the beatitudes until fulfilling them becomes habitual. This is not something that comes easily - it requires our whole lives.

Sunday's Homily

When I first visited Holy Rosary, I was struck by the stained glass pictures that line the sides of the church. Each one tells the story of the Gospels in broken glass, with different colors – blues and greens and reds, and different shapes – rectangles and triangles and circles. No one piece of glass is perfect – even if it may appear so from afar, if you look closely you will find chips and flaws and discolorations. Yet, it is in these broken, flawed, and misfit pieces of glass that the good news of Christ shines forth. This is truly a Christian art form, for, as we see in today’s Gospel, just as these misfit pieces of glass come together to express the good news, so the misfit peoples of the world come together in the Church to express the beauty of the Lord.

For we belong to a Church of misfits, of people who seem the least qualified to serve as examples of goodness or as models of what it means to be holy. Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector to follow him and if you think that an IRS agent has trouble making friends today, let me tell you - it was far worse in Matthew’s time. You certainly wouldn’t want to associate with one, much less go to their house for dinner. It’s the same with the other apostles. Peter was an uneducated fisherman, not the sort of person you would think of going to for theological advice. Judas betrayed him. Paul approved of the horrible murder of Stephen. Yet, these are the misfits on whom Jesus chooses to build his Church.

How unlike the way our world works today. What employer willingly hires prostitutes, or thieves, or liars, or murderers? Most employers would say to such prospective applicants – “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” We don’t eagerly seek out misfits; instead we seek out perfection. We seek to join those people who are on the top of their game, the best at what they can do. Even when I was discerning my vocation, I sought a community of saints, filled with people who shone with holiness. Well, I have news for you – there is no such perfect community. If for no other reason than because the instant I joined it, it too became a community of misfits.

Holy Rosary is also a community of misfits and not just because I’m here. We all have our flaws, those parts of ourselves that we would like to change. We are like St. Paul, finding ourselves doing what we should not do more often than we would like and not doing what we should do nearly often enough. Yet, Jesus’ message of hope is that he can take us with all our imperfections and make something perfect just as these imperfect pieces of glass have become something perfect.

If you find it difficult to do the right thing, remember that Jesus desires mercy – not sacrifice. He did not come to call the righteous but sinners. Jesus does not throw away our piece of glass, though he may polish it a bit. Indeed it is in our flaws that God’s message of love and forgiveness shines most brightly. Remove the broken and chipped glass from these windows and their stories cannot be told, remove the misfits from the Church and the Gospel message is silenced. Yes, Jesus appears most clearly in broken things, in the Eucharistic bread that has been broken and in the struggles that are part and parcel of the brokenness of our lives.

How much we need the eyes of Christ, his eyes of mercy and love, to see others and to see ourselves as Christ sees all of us misfits – as people who may be out of place in society but who have a perfect fit in him. For just as it is through our Christian eyes that we can see the good news presented in the stained glass, so it is through the eyes of Christ that we can see the glory of God shining forth right now in those around us.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Blogging, Academia and Free Speech

Timothy Shortrell, a sociologist at Brooklyn College, has found himself in a bit of a tempest because of web article he posted a few years ago calling Christians "moral retards". He has been attacked by several groups and newspapers calling him intolerant and his

Several questions have been raised by this - should Shortrell remain chair of the Brooklyn College sociology department where he will presumably make decisions involving students who are Christian? As FIRE notes, even if Shortrell denies that his views on Christians influence his teaching or academic behavior - is there not a presumption that Shortrell cannot always act in such an unbiased fashion so that any Christian who feels that they have been unfairly treated has grounds for a suit?

What is clear is again the seriousness of blog posting or putting anything on the internet - one the one hand controversy attracts attention and if you want to get people's attention, get them visiting your blog - it helps to have controversy. On the other hand, what you post can sometimes come back to haunt you. Professor Shortrell may want to keep his private postings and his academic life separate but as he has found - that distinction is not truly possible in real life.

Professor Shortrell's article, Religion and Morality: A Contradiction Explained, displays some problems that have not been brought up by the critics so far that seem to be focused more on whether or not he can voice anti-Christian comments. As a teacher of history, I can say that there are many times when the behavior of Christians can be criticized and that the behavior of Christian institutions can be criticized as well. So, I don't think that this perspective of Professor Shortrell should necessarily serve as grounds for any sort of disciplinary action.

What I find more problematic is the lack of academic rigour and logical argumentation in his piece. There are several errors of fact and evidence which make me more suspicious of Professor's ability to speak on the issue of religion at all. Clearly the professor had memorized the vocab-speak of the sociologist in the Freud school using words such as "fetishization" but he makes a fundamental mistake in ascribing all truth to "scientific thinking" and none to "religious thinking". As if they were two diametrically opposed ways of thought. There are far too many religious scientists to note and the dependence of science upon religious thought has been too conclusively proved for Professor Shortrell to make such a sophomoric statement. Indeed it was the Christian belief that God could be discovered in nature that led to the early foundations of the scientific method and to major developments in science throughout history - I give Gregor Mendel's work on genetics as only one example. A professor of a "soft science" such as sociology should know better. Like history, another "soft science" at attempt to use a rigorous methodology may be made but since we are dealing with the actions of human beings who have freedom we can in no way ever put our explanations into practice. Those who do not know history are not doomed to repeat it because no historical or sociological event is ever repeated.

Moreover, the Professor commits the cardinal error of confusing faith for ideology as such his fails to see his own ideological problems. He can try to prove his point by the use of such charged words as "mental prison", "holy war", and "fantaticism" that can inspire emotions but contribute little to a rational argument. It is saddening that he can at the same time blame religion for promoting violence and hatred yet at the same time refer to those with whom he disagrees as "moral retards" does he not see that such dehumanization only leads to further violence? Yet, because he confuses religion and ideology he is blind to the problems of his own ideology, of his own religious faith - Shortrell heal thyself!

Let's just take one paragraph as an example of the Professor's short sightedness -

"In every religious tradition, there is an orthodoxy with an elite (priests, ministers, rabbis, mullahs, etc.) to enforce it, and considerable effort is made to suppress dissent. Where religion is still powerful enough to influence politics—in places such as the U.S., Iran, Israel, for example—religious leaders seek to extend the reach of orthodoxy to the public sphere. We live at a time, alas, when more and more people are demanding that unpopular ideas be suppressed. Speaking freely is now an invitation to serious trouble."

Now let's see what happens when we change a few words:

"In every academic tradition, there is an orthodoxy with an elite (faculty and administration) to enforce it, and considerable effort is made to suppress dissent. Where academia is still powerful enough to influence politics—in places such as the U.S., Canada and Europe for example—academics seek to extend the reach of orthodoxy to the public sphere. We live at a time, alas, when more and more people are demanding that unpopular ideas in academia be suppressed. Speaking freely is now an invitation to serious trouble."

Note that the second statement is also true. Once more I say, heal thyself!

Can religious faith lead to violence, of course it can and it has as has other ideology such as support for a particular political perspective such as democracy, capitalism, and communism. Should our response be to end all ideology - yet, that is an ideology itself. Welcome to the problem of humanity. Professor Shortrell, how can a sociologist understand so little about the subject that he studies?

I don't believe that Professor Shortrell should be censored for expressing unpopular views, especially in a medium outside of the classroom despite how little I think of his position. I do think some remedial courses in history and sociology might be helpful.

Franciscans in the News - Brother David Buer, help for the homeless

Las Vegas City Life

Franciscans like me need friars like Brother Dave as a constant call back to the core of what it means to be a Franciscan - ministry to those who are most in need. Indeed, once I start my ministry at the school and enter into the high walls of the Ivory Tower it will be a struggle to remember that just a few miles away are people suffering from poverty both financially and spiritually and in need of my help.

Thoughts on Saturday's Gospel

LK 2:41-51

Was Jesus a problem child? In today's Gospel, after Mary expresses her justified anxiety and perhaps even anger at having spent three days looking for Jesus - Luke makes a point of writing that Jesus returned home and was obedient. I think a belief in the perfection and goodness of Jesus makes us think that during his childhood he always knew exactly what his parents wanted and always did what he was told. But, perhaps it is possible to still believe in Jesus' sinlessness and still think that it was not as easy as that for Mary. For example, compare this with the Gospel passage in which Mary tries to get Jesus to come home which Jesus uses as an opportunity to tell us that those who do the Father's will are his mother, brother and sister. Or think about how we also believe that God is sinless, but that doesn't keep us from getting angry at him every once in a while.

I guess I want to think that Jesus had a pretty normal childhood that included trying to stay out playing with friends even though his mother called him home, being comforted by Mary and Joseph after he had a fall.

A parent's love is particularly shown in it's perseverence especially during the difficult times when a child is screaming at the restaurant, making too much noise in Church, when the parent wonders whether they are doing a good job being a parent. I can't help but believe that Mary and Joseph had this love for Jesus.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Pope versus Harry Potter

There has been much made in the entertainment press about allegations that Pope Benedict condemned the Harry Potter books saying in response to the Gabriele Kuby, author of Harry Potter: Good or Bad, "It is good that you explain the facts of Harry Potter because this is a subtle seduction which has deeply unnoticed and direct effects in undermining the soul of Christianity before it can really grow properly."

The news media has generated the usual negative comments from the usual suspects - for example, Ute Ranke-Heinemann, author of the book Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven and denyer of the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, stated, "The Vatican feels that it has the copyright on what is good and what is bad and does not want anyone else infringing on its right to this monopoly."

It has also generated negative comments from more unlikely sources such as Catholic singer Charlotte Church, who stated, "I'm from a Catholic family. But I don't like this new Pope." "He even wants to ban Harry Potter! He says it is because of witchcraft and other bad stuff!" She says he should read them and then make a judgement, "If he bothered to sit down and read it he'd understand the morals of it."

So, what are the facts of the matter and why should Ms. Church and Ms. Ranke-Heinemann know better? First, Cardinal Ratzinger - when before Pope, did make the controversial comments several years ago within the context of a response to Ms. Kuby. Note that they were not within the context of a theological text or a papal proclamation but only as his own theological opinion - which, I hope Ms. Ranke-Heinemann would agree - he is entitled as he does indeed hold an advanced degree from the same theological institution as she does. This is not at all as Ms. Ranke-Heinemann puts forward a dogmatic decision attempting to bind the faithful or enforce a "monopoly of the truth" but simply one person expressing his view on a particular book. So, Ms. Ranke-Heinemann - Get over yourself.

As for Ms. Church, she should spend more time there and less time slandering your Pope. I am sure that he is sorry that you don't like him, but I don't think he loses any sleep over it. He did not say he wanted to ban Harry Potter, nor did he mention "witchcraft and stuff". Perhaps you should take your own advice and actually sit down and read his comments and his reasons for them - but it's much easier to rise to the bait and say things that you will likely regret for some time to come. You should get over yourself as well. Also, that invitation to the Vatican Christmas party has been rescinded.

For the sake of openess, let me offer you my comments. I like Harry Potter and I plan to continue reading Harry Potter. There are things about it that I don't like and feel that are indeed morally questionable - for example, it seems to me that the series seems too often to justify the ends by the means particularly when it comes to Harry's behavior. He breaks rule after rule in the novels only to be proclaimed a hero for doing it in the end. I think that this sends a bad message but I don't think I would go as far as the Cardinal did when he made his comments.

Moreover, while Ms. Church may be trying to take the moral high ground by calling on the Pope to read the books, and perhaps he has, that's not the way most of us work. Instead we often rely on the opinions and views of others we trust regarding books, movies, music and more. Sometimes that trust is misplaced - as it appears to be in the case of Ms. Kuby who revealed this quote to the press and reminds me somewhat of Ms. Rita Skeeter in the Potter series. But none of us have the time to read every book or see every movie that comes out - that's life.

Let me use an extreme example to prove the point - I, like most people I suspect, have never read Mein Kampf - at least all of it. Now, should we all be required to read that book before we can condemn it for being anti-semitic and a tool that caused millions of deaths? Or can we pretty safely rely on the words of others that it is not a good book? I think we can and I think we do.

Unfortunately, too many people - Catholics included - are under the mistaken impression that anything said by anyone working for the Vatican and especially anything said by the Pope has the thelogical weight of a dogmatic and infallible statement. It doesn't and shouldn't be treated as if it did. The Vatican is very careful with what it says and to what degree of theological importance it ascribes to it - to give something too much or too little consideration is extremely dangerous. So, the next time some one says to you - "The Vatican says..." or "The Pope says..." it would be extremely prudent for you to see exactly who said what and in what way.

Let me give you an example by comparing the teachings on the Trinity and on birth control as expressed in Humanae Vitae. The doctrine of the Trinity must be held as true with firm faith and belief by all Catholics. To deny that God is Trinity means to remove yourself from the faith therefore this is the highest level of teaching. The teaching regarding birth control, while important and to be treated with respect, can be disagreed with by one of good conscience without that person being thereby excluded from the faith.

Also, in any doctrinal or dogmatic statement one must note the truth expressed by the statement and the way that truth is expressed. We must believe that God is Trinity, but how we express that truth in human language is more open for discussion. Again, reacting to everything coming out of the Vatican as if it were a statement of the highest authority does everyone a disservice as does trying to learn what the Church teaches from entertainment web sites.

I leave you with a quote from a Jesuit priest on the Vatican web site regarding JK Rowling and JRR Tolkien which has not been removed, despite the new Pope's apparent criticism, "I welcome them for a reason that is rarely mentioned by the critics nowadays, and that is an eschatological reason: that they serve, with St. John the Baptist and Jesus himself, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’ and to make us all, even the sadly rapidly aging members of the younger generation, children again, thereby preparing us in an unseen manner for reception into the kingdom of heaven”.

Pope Staff Curly Fry

Pope Staff Curly Fry

Yet another bizarre "food item" with Catholic imagery has appeared on eBay. I find it very telling that these odd auctions are so linked with Catholic symbolism - perhaps it demonstrates that while the Catholic Church has been taking its lumps the past couple of years, the spirituality continues to remain a strong influence in our society.

I also am intrigued that the items are related to food and nourishment again as if there were a natural connection between what we need for our bodies and what we need for our souls - especially in light of the recent celebration of Corpus Christi.

So, one might ask - what is more of the miracle: the pope's staff appearing in a curly fry or the face of Mary appearing on a piece of toast or...the very body and blood becoming present in the Eucharist? Of course, in order to obtain the Eucharist, you have to be willing to give your whole life and heart.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Thoughts on Friday's Gospel

MT 11:25-30

"I am meek and humble of heart". These words exemplify the theme of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. It may seem odd to pay particular attention to one organ in the body of Jesus but the devotion to the Sacred Heart should be seen instead as devotion to Jesus, the meek and humble one.

The Western mindset can seem to be focused on the intellect and the mind at the expense of the feelings and the heart. We are told to be open-minded in the sense of being tolerant, rather than being open-hearted in the sense of welcoming and loving and that is a pity. Especially, since Jesus is the model of one with an open-heart offered to all who come to him, indeed on the Cross his heart was opened for everyone.

This idea of open-heartedness should also influence our way of understanding Jesus' meekness and humility - meekness does not mean shyness or introvertedness, rather Jesus' meekness is reflective of his desire to bring comfort and security to all. The Sacred Heart is not a hardened heart closed to the outside, but a soft heart beating for the life of the world.

Exam Students Turn to John Paul for Inspiration News - Latest News - Exam Students Turn to John Paul for Inspiration

Scottish catholic students can purchase armbands seeking the help of John Paul II in their studies thanks to sixteen year old Daniel Philbin Bowman. Bowman hopes that young people will ask for John Paul's intercession at difficult times - for example, while taking exams.

Think that this is a great idea and could turn into something bigger if all sorts of words and saints appeared on armbands in order to expand the faithful's participation in the communion of saints. Too many Catholic churches have gone the route of least possible reference to the saints and to the divine in the name of simplicity and austerity so that worship spaces too often look like factory floors.

Perhaps these armbands will help focus greater attention to those who have preceeded us on the way and lead to a greater restoration of holy images in our worship.

A band of brothers

A band of brothers

This is a nice article about a Franciscan community in Phoenix. It truly reflects the Franciscan charism of a community composed of people from all sorts of backgrounds and histories who are linked together by their love of God and the Church.

Is your child blogging?

Security Awareness for Ma, Pa and the Corporate Clueless: Blogging = Danger?

I have written before about some of the dangers of blogging in regards to job related issues. But it is also important for parents to be watchful if their children are blogging. Anything the child writes or pictures the child posts can be viewed by people who may be less than friendly. For example, if a child writes that they are having parental problems or self-esteem concerns - this could be read by a criminal seeking for a victim.

So it is very important that you follow what your child is putting on the Internet and if the child is getting comments or responses, find out who is doing the responding.

The Franciscan formation

One soil type that is particularly prone to slides is called the Franciscan formation. It has many fractures and weak spots that can give way when saturated. The hills behind Cayucos and much of the Santa Lucia Range into Big Sur consist of Franciscan formations, Rosenberg said.

This soil definition refers to the city of San Francisco rather than to the religious order. But I can't help but think how appropriate this can be in regards to certain Franciscans who seem to be oversaturated with certain types of eco-spiritualit that tend to divinize creation and minimize the transcendence of God. For example, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have established a center called Prariewoods with the following goals:

to be open to the divine presence within all members of the earth community; to integrate the principles of the universe (interiority, diversity, and communion); to reverence all of creation as sacred and revelatory of the divine; to embody a lifestyle that cares for earth and celebrates the human; to extend hospitality to all; and to impact ecological consciousness.

What is interesting is not so much what it says - the importance of concern for creation, which is good but what it does not say which is that there is any focus on the transcendent, on the One who is not created and not part of the universe. While one can indeed discover God in creation, one must never think that God is creation. A Christian cannot live with his head always in the clouds but nor can he live as a naval gazer. This is why the scriptures so clearly teach us that we are in the world but not of the world and why Francis himself said "My God and my all!"

Thoughts on Thursday's Gospel

MK 12:28-34

Jesus tells us that the first commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is one commandment because one cannot love God without loving what God loves and one cannot love one's neighbor without loving the one who made them.

The two parts of this first commandment must always be kept together - to strive to love God without seeking to love one's neighbor turns God into a personal mouthpiece and makes one into their own personal God. God certainly doesn't need us telling him what he should do. On the other hand to strive to love one's neighbor without also striving to love God turns one's neighbor into simply an object to be formed according to our own desires in the name of making them happy.

In loving God and loving our neighbor we are able to maintain our proper perspective as to our relatedness and distinctiveness with respect to God and neighbor. We let God be God and neighbor be neighbor.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Vocational Beer Mats

The Catholic Church in Britain has begun a new vocational campaign in that country using beer mats, the cardboard squares and circles that you place under beer at bars. I don't know how successful such a campaign might be though I certainly wish it all the best and know that the "Theology on Tap" program which organized Catholic talks and discussions at area pubs in DC and other cities was effective in generating the interest of the young post-21 crowd.

Always willing to jump on the latest bandwagon, I have made a couple of beer mats myself for the purpose of increasing vocations to the TORs. I don't know whether they will ever see the light, but maybe we can also use them at other establishments such as coffee shops, restaurants, and even Krispy Kreme!

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Thoughts on Wednesday's Gospel

MK 12:18-27

The Gospel of the Resurrection plays an important part here in Mark after several references to Jesus' passion. Jesus wants us to know that death is not the end, but only the beginning of an entry into a new and glorified life. So important is this, that Jesus tells those who doubt the resurrection "they are greatly mislead".

God is the God of the living, not of the dead. Therefore, not only does this mean that those who are gone from this world are not dead, but alive because God cannot cease to be God - but also that those who worship God must be alive and not dead in their faith. In describing God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - Jesus is not just saying something about God, he is also saying something about the three patriarchs and all the faithful. Being a child of God requires a doing faith that is willing to journey into the unknown as did Abraham, to be a person of peace as was Isaac, and to even wrestle with angels as did Jacob.