Monday, September 1, 2014

Salt and Light: Prayer and the Taizé Community

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ten Reasons You Should Get to Confession This Weekend

The following comes Simcha Fisher at NCR:

1. You need to.  You have a mortal sin on your soul, and it’s killing you.  You know you want to live. So go to confession.

2.  You don’t need to.  Oh, really, you don’t need to?  You don’t need to have your soul refreshed, your courage strengthened, your dusty, crusty, venial sin-chapped hide soothed with the sweet balm of forgiveness?  You don’t need to hear one more time that the Almighty Son of God came down from Heaven, was born, suffered, died, and rose again so that you, personally, could be saved?  No thanks, you don’t neeeeed any of that right now?  Really?  Go to confession.

3. Your kids need to see you do it.  You can talk all you want about receiving the sacraments, but if you don’t do it, chances are they won’t do it when they grow up.  So go to confession.

4. Your spouse needs to see you do it.  In the words of Anthony Esolen,
Look in the mirror. Take a long, slow, excruciating look in the mirror. See your faults for what they are. See all the petty selfishness and cowardice and spitefulness and pride and envy. Then think that there's somebody on earth who is silly enough to love you. And when you are exercised about your spouse's faults, just repeat these words three times: "You're no peach either." Works wonders.
  Go on, peachy.  Let your spouse know you’ve looked in the mirror.  Go to confession.

5. You might die soon.  Honest to goodness, it could happen!  All it takes is for some distracted lady driving a huge 15-passenger van to get whacked in the side of the head with an apple core while she’s driving in the roundabout and BAM, you’re gone.  Get it in now, while you can still walk and talk, because it may be your last chance.  Go to confession!

6. It’s the beginning of the school year.  Whether you’re homeschooling or sending the kids off, or if you’re a teacher, or maybe you’re a student yourself, or maybe you’re the unlucky son of a gun who stocks the back-to-school shelves at Staples, and you feel like you’re going to strangle the next inconsiderate slob who thinks it’s funny to rearrange all the Flair pens – you need to turn things around.  The start of something new is always a good time to get a clean slate.  So go to confession.

7. You spent the whole day glued to your computer yesterday, reading everything you can about Syria and Miley Cyrus, and now you have a wretched, empty sensation between your ears.  All the world is sad and dreary, and you can’t think of any particular reason why you should even bother to get up tomorrow.  Confession restores hope.  Go to confession.

8. You’ve been doing great lately.  You pray a lot, you’ve been patient and kind, you’re making all kinds of progress in your career, and your personal life is blooming.  Confession gives glory to God.  Go to confession!

9. You’re not really sure that God is listening to you anyway.  You don’t bear him any particular ill will, but He doesn’t seem to have anything to do with you, and vice versa.  Confession makes a connection with God.  Go see Him in confession.

10. What, nine reasons aren’t enough for you?  Now you’re just looking for excuses. It's only Thursday; you can totally figure out how to get it into your schedule.  Go to confession.  Go!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Salve Regina sung by the monks of the Grande Chartreuse

The Body of Christ: Substance and Reality

The following comes from Fr. Dwight Longenecker:

Not too long ago while celebrating Mass I drifted into a kind of silence.
I had spent the day paddling through the shallow waters of contemporary culture and mainstream media and was feeling both tired and soiled.
Then as I celebrated Mass it seemed to me that what I was doing there was real. It was somehow solid and real in a way that nothing else in the world compared to.
The flippy flappy headlines of the day with their superficial concerns, the cycle of economic worries or delights, the celebrity gossip and ecstasy or sorry at the triumph or loss on the sports field–all of it was seen for what it is: ephemera.
But at Mass. Now there we have something solid. I recalled Newman’s words on leaving the Church of England to become a Catholic: “Now this is a real religion.”
Of course this is linked with the history of the Church. The Mass has been here and been celebrated from the intimacy of the Lord’s Supper down through the ages. I remembered that classic passage from Dom Gregory Dix:
Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so wounded and prisoner of war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc—one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei—the holy common people of God.
Such thoughts were dancing in my own mind and imagination as I stood at the altar to say the black and do the red.
Then for Corpus Christi I read that article in the Daily Telegraph about neuroscience and religion and wrote a blog post.
The poor scientist seemed to think that religion consisted only of mystical experiences.
What I saw and knew was that such experiences are not really so important in Christianity at all.
Mystical experiences and charismatic gooseys and hallelujah moments and apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary are all well and good and I think they’re marvelous, but at the end of the day Christianity is about a historical person.
It’s about Body and Blood. It’s about Blood, Sweat and Tears. It’s about something that no other religions is about: the historical incarnation of the Son of God who took flesh of the Blessed Virgin and  became Man.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Believe by Brooks and Dunn

Worn by Tenth Avenue North

I Thirst: Eucharistic Healing

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

Among many Catholics there is a privation, a sense of absence and even estrangement from true communion with God. This is a paralyzing reality among some believers. How can this be when Jesus is always and truly present in the Eucharist, on the altars and in the tabernacles of the world? Jesus hasn’t abandoned us; He is truly and perpetually present. In His Presence there is healing.
Often we claim to be looking for God, but our back is turned to Him as we look to people and places where God is not found. We have to turn around to look at Jesus — face-to-face in the Eucharist — to make sense of the madness of the world all around us.
There is a great thirst among God’s people, but the thirst of Jesus is far greater. The Heart of the Eternal High Priest is not fickle like the human heart. The Church’s initiatives, including the crusade of prayer for priests suggested by the Congregation for the Clergy, will be fruitful only if we fall in love with Jesus in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the deepest, most life-changing encounter with Jesus the High Priest.
The name Jesus the Eternal High Priest is intimately related to His hour when in Gethsemane Jesus prayed to the Father and to His perfect sacrifice on the altar of the Cross. Jesus is our High Priest, the victim of His own intercession for sinners.
The Eternal High Priest is a “victim offering” to God the Father for the ransom of humanity. Each ministerial priest becomes a victim offering also. Archbishop Fulton Sheen eloquently writes about this to his brother priests:
That moment when the priest lifts up the Host and the Chalice, he is at his best. A bride and groom are at their peak of loveliness and lovability at the moment of marriage. Love is said to be blind because it sees no faults in the beloved. God’s love becomes blind at this moment. He sees us through “the rose-colored glasses” of his Son. Never again will we appear as priestly, as victimal, as deserving of salvation, as we are when the Father sees us through “the rose-colored glasses” of the Body and Blood of his Son as we lift Host and Chalice to heaven. During this holy action, we priests become holy (Exodus 39:29). But we are also victims. We do not just offerMass; we are also offered. (Those Mysterious Priests)
If we take time to ponder these sublime truths of our Faith, we are struck with awe at the gift of God. He loved us into being, ransomed us from sin and death by laying down His life so that we can live forever, and then perpetuates Himself in the ministerial priesthood so that we can encounter the living Jesus made present by His priests.
The letter to the Hebrews says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” What does it mean to hold fast our confession? We confess that Jesus is Lord; we bear witness by our life and our good works. How can our confession of faith and love for Jesus be convincing if we are not encountering him?

The Healing Power of Eucharistic Contemplation

Communing with the Divine Lover of our soul becomes irresistible joy, not labor. The words of Bl. Teresa of Calcutta inspire us:
“When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.” (Quoted in At the Altar of the World: The Pontificate of Pope John Paul II through the Lens of L’Osservatore Romano and the Words of Ecclesia de Eucharistia.)
In 2003, Pope John Paul II laid out a plan for the New Evangelization that starts with contemplating the face of Christ in the Eucharist stating that he would like to “rekindle Eucharistic amazement.” The Eucharist is the central provision of God for interior renewal and inner healing.

O Lord, Make Me Happy, But Not Yet…

The following comes from Fr. Dwight Longenecker:
Sister Mary Lucy was a Poor Clare nun who suffered greatly. She lost her eyesight and had a degenerative bone disease which caused her spine to crumble.
The doctors could do very little to help her. I used to visit her regularly, but never once heard her complain.
Instead she had a huge radiant smile. I asked her, “Sister, do you ever feel angry at the Lord because you have lost your sight?”
“Oh no!” she’d exclaim, “I’ve seen such wonderful things that I would never have been able to see if I had my sight!”
She was a mystic.
Another time I asked her if she was in pain because of her crumbling spine.
She said, “Constantly!”
Doesn’t that make you unhappy?
“No! It makes me happy because it brings me so close to Jesus!”
I look around me at so many people who are so unhappy over tiny trifles and I remember Sister Mary Lucy and I remember St Augustine’s famous quote, “Lord make me chaste… but not yet.”
Then I think how many people seem to be saying to God, “Lord, make me happy…but not yet.”
Here we are as Americans–the richest, healthiest, best educated, most self reliant and able human beings who have ever lived and yet so much unhappiness.
I’m not talking about those who have real cause for unhappiness–the poor, the unemployed, the chronically sick, the bereaved, prisoners, those with terminal illness, but I’m talking about the big babies that most of us are.
Why so much unhappiness, griping, grumbling, whinging and whining, bitching and bellyaching over so many totally petty and silly things?
I think it’s because we WANT to be unhappy.

Feast of the day: Beheading of John the Baptist

There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: "I am the truth"? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.

Through his birth, preaching and baptizing, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.

Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men. He was locked away in the darkness of prison, through he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ.

To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather is was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward. Since death was ever at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ's name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: "You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake." He tells us why it is Christ's gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us."


from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable on the death of John the Baptist.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Restless by Audrey Assad

Anima Christi


Soul of Christ, sanctify me.

Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen



Saint of the day: Augustine




Today is the feast of one of the all time greatest saints and theologians in the history of the Church. Today we remember St. Augustine of Hippo. The following comes from the catholic.org site:

St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break.

This famous son of St. Monica was born in Africa and spent many years of his life in wicked living and in false beliefs. Though he was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and though he had been brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terrible ashamed of himself. "What are we doing?" he cried to his friend Alipius. "Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!"

Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself out into the garden and cried out to God, "How long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?" Just then he heard a child singing, "Take up and read!" Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul, and read the first passage his gaze fell on. It was just what Augustine needed, for in it, St. Paul says to put away all impurity and to live in imitation of Jesus. That did it! From then on, Augustine began a new life.

He was baptized, became a priest, a bishop, a famous Catholic writer, Founder of religious priests, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived. He became very devout and charitable, too. On the wall of his room he had the following sentence written in large letters: "Here we do not speak evil of anyone." St. Augustine overcame strong heresies, practiced great poverty and supported the poor, preached very often and prayed with great fervor right up until his death. "Too late have I loved You!" he once cried to Go
d, but with his holy life he certainly made up for the sins he committed before his conversion. His feast day is August 28th.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Empty My Hands by Tenth Avenue North

Beauty Will Save the World

The following comes from Crisis:

A popular quote we often hear but find hard to understand is “beauty will save the world.” How will beauty save the world? The line comes from Dostoevsky’s novel, The Idiot, attributed to the main character, Prince Myskin. The prince, an epileptic Russian nobleman, serves as a Christ-like figure, who stands apart for his innocence and even naiveté. Out of the mouth of this idiot comes a clearer vision of beauty and reality than those around him, his clarity heightened even in the midst of his sickness.
The saving power of beauty in the prince’s life could not overcome his sickness, but nonetheless illumined his vision: “What matter though it be only disease, an abnormal tension of the brain, if when I recall and analyze the moment, it seems to have been one of harmony and beauty in the highest degree—an instant of deepest sensation, overflowing with unbounded joy and rapture, ecstatic devotion, and completest life?” In the midst of his suffering, he glimpsed, though in a paradoxical manner, the heart of reality.
Are the prince’s words on beauty the words of a mad idiot or of a prophet?
In Solzhenitsyn’s Noble lecture, he notes that after dismissing the quote for years, he realized that “Dostoevsky’s remark, ‘Beauty will save the world,’ was not a careless phrase but a prophecy. After allhe was granted to see much, a man of fantastic illumination. And in that case art, literature might really be able to help the world today?”
If that is not enough, Pope John Paul II quoted the line in his Letter to Artists, under the heading “The Saving Power of Beauty”:
People of today and tomorrow need this enthusiasm [of wonder] if they are to meet and master the crucial challenges which stand before us. Thanks to this enthusiasm, humanity, every time it loses its way, will be able to lift itself up and set out again on the right path. In this sense it has been said with profound insight that “beauty will save the world” (§16).
Can the words of an idiot set the tone for our response to the modern world? In a mad world, maybe only the idiot is sane. It seems we can and even must trust him, now that the words of an idiot have become the words of a Pope!
Upon reading Pope Francis’s first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, I was struck most of all by its literary quality. The encyclical does not offer much theological innovation, but is remarkable for its engagement of culture: classical, medieval, and above all contemporary. It seems to follow Dostoevsky’s vision for the power of beauty. In our world that has largely rejected the ability of reason to know the truth and the moral order toward the good, is it a privileged moment for beauty? The encyclical seems to point to this reality, using literature and art to underscore its points.
Pope Benedict XVI, the primary drafter of Lumen Fidei, emphasized the absolutely essential role of beauty in human life in his “Meeting with Artists.” Guess who he turned to for support?
Dostoevsky’s words that I am about to quote are bold and paradoxical, but they invite reflection. He says this: “Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here” (quoting from the novel, Demons).
Is it not clear that we are missing this key element of human life? And if we are, what does this mean for the life of faith?
Lumen Fidei does not explicitly draw out the significance of beauty for the light of the faith. Rather, it is demonstrated by the style of the encyclical itself. Once again, Dostoevsky makes a crucial appearance:
In Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Prince Myskin sees a painting by Hans Holbein the Younger depicting Christ dead in the tomb and says: “Looking at that painting might cause one to lose his faith.” The painting is a gruesome portrayal of the destructive effects of death on Christ’s body. Yet it is precisely in contemplating Jesus’ death that faith grows stronger and receives a dazzling light; then it is revealed as faith in Christ’s steadfast love for us, a love capable of embracing death to bring us salvation. This love, which did not recoil before death in order to show its depth, is something I can believe in; Christ’s total self-gift overcomes every suspicion and enables me to entrust myself to him completely (§16).
This quote is significant in relation to Dostoevsky’s vision of beauty for a number of reasons. Like “beauty will save the world,” it comes from The Idiot and refers to Prince Myskin. Second, it points to a central theme of the novel, the struggle with beauty, physically and spiritually, in the midst of suffering. Third, this struggle and tension between physical and spiritual beauty becomes a central motif in the engagement of modern culture. In the midst of sickness, how can one perceive beauty clearly? Beauty should be a path to truth, and thus faith, but the modern world itself is disfigured and trapped in darkness. It has a kind of spiritual epilepsy, an internal, maddening sickness, which, unlike for Myskin, impairs the perception of true beauty.
Looking back to Benedict’s vision, we can see how beauty itself is luminous. The light of beauty is meant to illuminate the path toward the light of faith. In Benedict’s “Meeting with Artists,” we see both the darkness of the modern eclipse of beauty and true beauty’s ability to lead to sight:
Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy…. Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence.
Literary and artistic references in Lumen Fidei show just this twofold engagement with beauty. The encyclical quotes Nietzsche, Rousseau, and Wittgenstein to demonstrate how illusory beauty focused on the self (finding one’s own way) traps within subjective experience. In this false beauty, there is no motion beyond the self to the true and the good, but rather a truncation and darkening isolation. True beauty is also employed in the encyclical to show that the light of beauty sheds its rays toward the true and the good. The poetry of Dante and T.S. Eliot are used to provide images of the light of faith and of faith’s role in society respectively.
The fight for beauty is a true battleground of the soul and intimately linked to the crisis of faith. Dostoevsky himself indicates this in his masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov: “The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.” What appears as beautiful may not be, and what appears terrible, such as the corpse of Christ, may indicate true beauty. Dostoevsky manifests this tension by placing his prophet of beauty in the midst of suffering and even insanity.
For good or ill, beauty has power. This power can be used to illumine the path toward the truth and goodness, or to pull one down in the vain pursuit of self. If beauty does not point toward the true and the good, it becomes a darkness, a turning inward. Another line from The Idiot reveals this ambiguous power of beauty: “Such beauty is real power…. With such beauty as that one might overthrow the world.” This beauty is the beauty of a woman, which may have such power (think of Troy), but when beauty sheds its light in the right direction, it should save the world, not overthrow it!
Francis and Benedict chose the line from The Idiot on Holbein’s painting for a reason. It is precisely in its realistic portrayal of suffering that it arrests and challenges the characters in the novel. This realism can be a scandal, but also an opportunity. As we contemplate our own disfigurement in the modern world, we have the same dilemma. We must overcome the darkness imposed by illusory beauty, along with the spiritual disfigurement it has created. Maybe our perception of beauty must begin with a more genuine experience of suffering. In contemplating the suffering of Christ, in particular, we see a beauty which took on our infirmities and overcame their darkness. It is a challenging beauty, but a powerful one—with power to transform our own suffering and lack of beauty. It is a beauty that shakes us to the core, which illuminates us, and ultimately is the beauty that will save the world.

Saint of the Day: Monica

Today is the Feast of St. Monica! You can learn more about this wonderful saint from the Patron Saints Index! The following are the words of St. Augustine about his mother:

The day was now approaching when my mother Monica would depart from this life; you know that day, Lord, though we did not. She and I happened to be standing by ourselves at a window that overlooked the garden in the courtyard of the house. At the time we were in Ostia on the Tiber. And so the two of us, all alone, were enjoying a very pleasant conversation, "forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead.." We were asking one another in the presence of the Truth - for you are the Truth - what it would be like to share the eternal life enjoyed by the saints, which "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, which has not even entered into the heart of man." We desired with all our hearts to drink from the streams of your heavenly fountain, the fountain of life.

That was the substance of our talk, though not the exact words. But you know, O Lord, that in the course of our conversation that day, the world and its pleasures lost all their attraction for us. My mother said, "Son, as far as I am concerned, nothing in this life now gives me any pleasure. I do not know why I am still here, since I have no further hopes in this world. I did have one reason for wanting to live a little longer: to see you become a Catholic Christian before I died. God has lavished his gifts on me in that respect, for I know that you have even renounced earthly happiness to be his servant. So what am I doing here?"

I do not really remember how I answered her. Shortly, within five days or thereabouts, she fell sick with a fever. Then one day during the course of her illness she became unconscious and for a while she was unaware of her surroundings. My brother and I rushed to her side, but she regained consciousness quickly. She looked at us as we stood there and asked in a puzzled voice: "Where was I?"

We were overwhelmed with grief, but she held her gave steadily upon us, and spoke further: "Here you shall bury your mother." I remained silent as I held back my tears. However, my brother haltingly expressed his hope that she might not die in a strange country but in her own land, since her end would be happier there. When she heard this, her face was filled with anxiety, and she reproached him with a glance because he had entertained such earthly thoughts. Then she looked at me and spoke: "Look what he is saying." Thereupon she said to both of us, "Bury my body wherever you will; let not care of it cause you any concern. One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be." Once our mother had expressed this desire as best she could, she fell silent as the pain of her illness increased.


- from the Confessions of Saint Augustine of Hippo

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Am by Crowder

Our Lady of Częstochowa and my vocation!


Today, August 26, is the feast of Our Lady of Częstochowa! I never had a great devotion to this image until the year 2000. That was when I was ordained a priest! That makes today the 14th anniversary of my ordination! When I first found out my ordination would be on August 26th I was a bit disappointed that it would not be on a feast day, but later found out about Częstochowa. It was made more special when I realized the great devotion that Pope John Paul II had for her as well. Pope John Paul II, native of Poland, visited the shrine in 1979 and 1983.The miraculous portrait of Our Lady of Czestochowa is venerated by many as an actual portrait of the Madonna, painted during her lifetime by Saint Luke the Evangelist on the top of a cypress-wood table. Our God is a God of miracles and He is so very generous!

It is in this context that I wanted to write a few words about vocations and about my own vocation story. I am especially mindful of the great gift that ordination brings to the Church, to my family and to the Salesian Family, as well as to me personally. During this Year for Priests it is good to reflect more on this mystery of vocation and the gift that it is for all of us who love the Church and her mission.

My vocation is not so different from many others. Many folks had a hand in it! I think the wonderful prayerful example of my parents was a big part. I can remember seeing my mother frequently in her room with rosary in hand (no doubt praying for us kids!). Also, the hard working example of my Dad and his wonderful availability to others was and is a model to me. I don’t think we ever missed a mass on Sunday. Our parish was a second home to our family. Between school activities, scouting, fairs, picnics and altar serving the parish became a real extension of home.

I can remember being so impressed with the priests of my parish as a youngster and as an altar boy. Our Pastor, the late Msgr. Charles Pagluighi, was a great inspiration to all of us in the parish and he had a particular charism for young people. He had a way of getting his altar boys excited to do a great job at serving at mass. His love for the Chicago Cubs was well known and I remember marveling at the fact that he was an honorary team chaplain! I think the fine example and down to earth goodness of Fr. Pagluighi was a big part of my seeing priesthood in such a positive light.

Another priest of the parish when I was in grammar school was Fr. Arthur Calkins. Fr. Calkins was a very different personality from Fr. Paglughi. Fr. Calkins was a very thoughtful homilist and scholar and had the personality of a university professor. But, it was Fr. Calkins who was the first priest to ask me as a youngster if I had ever thought of the priesthood. I was very surprised by the question and I don’t remember how I responded to his question. However, I do remember that he asked me! The question stayed with me and remained something that I would think about from then on.

I think these good parish priests gave me such a positive view of priesthood that made it possible to say yes years later.

It was also in grammar school that I met Don Bosco. The Salesian Sisters came to our school as I began the 7th grade. They were wonderful, joyful women who had a clear love for God, the Church and this great Salesian Charism. Their love for St. John Bosco, Mary, Help of Christians and for young people was so clear. These sisters didn’t just talk about joy, but they were visibly joyful. I had never seen a religious sister in a habit play softball or basketball before, but these wonderful Salesians sure did! They also loved to tell the many stories of Don Bosco, his dreams, and his miracles to us kids. We saw old movies about the saint and even read comic books about him. This was a cool saint who could do it all! I left grammar school with a love for Don Bosco and his spirit.

I attended Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero, Louisiana and it was there that I encountered the Salesian Priests and Brothers. My parish priests and the Salesian Sisters tilled the soil and the priests at Shaw planted more seeds. During the summer between my Junior and Senior years of High School I had the chance to help out at a Salesian summer camp in Ipswich, MA. I needed to do 50 hours of service to graduate and the camp sounded like fun. I was supposed to work there for one week, but I was enjoying it so much that I called home to work out staying for a second! It was in working with the young people that summer that I began to see that Don Bosco’s spirit was really growing in me. Was God calling me to be a priest? Was God calling me to be a Salesian? Maybe, but I wasn’t ready to say that out loud!

By the end of my Senior year at Shaw I was all set to go to LSU and begin a new chapter in my life. Just before graduation the school Director Fr. Pat Angelucci called me into his office to ask me a question. He asked me what I planned to do after graduation. I told him I was headed to LSU. He asked the question again. This time he looked me right in the eyes and asked “what do you plan to do with the rest of your life?” Somehow I had the courage to say maybe I will become a Salesian! Six years later that is exactly what happened! On August 15, 1991 I knelt before my provincial and made profession as a Salesian of Don Bosco. Nine years later I was blessed to be ordained a priest!

Pope Benedict called us to celebrate a special Year for Priests in 2011 and I have been thinking about this wonderful mystery of priesthood and the great gift that it is to the Church. No man deserves to be a priest. I know that I don’t deserve this wonderful gift. However, I do know that God doesn’t call the qualified, but qualifies the called. Somehow God works through one’s limitations and brokenness to bring healing, hope and holiness to the people of God. Please pray for us priests that we might continue to grow more and more into the heart of Christ. The Church needs more and more men to say yes! Maybe God is calling you? Don’t be afraid to say YES!

Blessed Ceferino Namuncurá: Prince of the Pampas!


Today Salesians from all around the world celebrate Blessed Ceferino Namuncurá:


He was born at Chimpay, a small town in Valle Medio, Río Negro Province, Argentina, the sixth child of Rosario Burgos and a Mapuche cacique, Manuel Namuncurá. He was baptized by a Salesian missionary priest, Domingo Milanesio, at the age of eight.


Namuncurá's early years were spent by the Río Negro river, and it was here that he, according to legend, miraculously survived a fall into the river.


His father Manuel, Chief of the Mapuches, promoted to honorary Coronel in the Argentine army, decided that his son study in Buenos Aires, in order to prepare himself "to be useful to his people." Thanks to the friendship of Manuel with General Luís María Campos, Minister of War and Navy of Argentina, the boy came to study in the National Workshops of the Navy as a carpenter's apprentice. There he would remain for three months. Ceferino wrote to his father that he was not happy in that place and Manuel then asked former Argentine president Luís Sánchez Peña's advise. He recommended to Coronel Manuel Namuncurá that he send the boy to the Salesians of Don Bosco.


On September 20, 1897, Ceferino went to study with the Salesians at the Colegio Pío IX, a technical academy at Almagro, Buenos Aires, where he was given a Catholic education.


There he showed himself to be an excellent student and choral musician. From April 2, 1901, Carlos Gardel, afterward legendary tango singer and film actor, became a student at the academy and sang along with Ceferino in the chorus. The Mapuche lad always earned first place.


When he finished his studies, Manuel his father wanted him back home, to serve as interpreter and secretary, but Ceferino was already enthusiastic for becoming a Salesian priest.


Although his health was already generally frail, Ceferino, who was beloved by all his Salesian mentors, began studies for the priesthood. In 1904, he departed for Italy accompanying Mgr. Giovanni Cagliero, a former disciple of Don Bosco who was to become an Archbishop. Pope Pius X received them in September, after which Namuncurá moved to Turin and later to the Salesian College "Villa Sora" in Frascati, to continue his education. He became increasingly ill during the Italian winter and was taken to Rome, were he finally succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis on May 11, 1905, at the Fate bene fratelli hospital.


In 1924 his remains where returned to Argentina and placed at Fortín Mercedes, in the southern part of Buenos Aires Province.


At his birthplace of Chimpay was erected a small chapel, where believers from Río Negro Province and beyond began to pray for his intercession. In 1945, a request for his beatification was elevated to the Holy See. Between May 13 and July 10, 1947, the Catholic Church started officially the process for Canonization of Ceferino Namuncurá, with 21 then-living witnesses deposing evidence in favour of his saintly virtues.


On June 22, 1972, Pope Paul VI promulgated the Decree of Heroism of His Virtues and Ceferino was thus proclaimed venerable, becoming the first Catholic Argentine to receive that title and the first South American aborigine.


The devotion to Ceferino Namuncurá, the saintly young Mapuche, known popularly as The Lily of Patagonia ("El lirio de la Patagonia") became very extended in Buenos Aires and throughout Argentina. In particular the humbler classes of Argentina recognise him, because of his indigenous features, as one of their own. The affection of the people of Argentina for this selfless young man is quite touchingly sincere and images and representations of his gentle face are myriad. Because of his belonging to the Salesians of Don Bosco, who always faithfully promoted his remembrance, his figure started to become familiar worldwide, anywhere where the Salesian work, introducing Ceferino as a model of youthful holiness and selflessness.


In 1991 his relics were translated from the small sanctuary chapel to the roomier Sanctuary of Mary, Help of Christians, at the same town of Fortín Mercedes.


In 2000 a committee of Vatican pathologists declared that the healing of the uterine cancer of a young mother, Valeria Herrera from Córdoba, Argentina, could not be explained medically, with which it was left to Church authorities to decree that it was a miracle due to the intercession of Ceferino Namuncurá. This was one of the main facts that opened the way for the beatification of Ceferino.


Pope Benedict XVI finally decreed his beatification on 6 July 2007. The ceremony of beatification was held in Chimpay, Argentina, on November 11, 2007. It was one few beatification ceremonies held outside the Vatican and in the blessed's own land (traditionally it is celebrated in Saint Peter Square in Rome); it was the first beatification of a South American aborigine; Blessed Ceferino was beatified by Cardenal Tarcisio Bertone, a Salesian of Don Bosco and Vatican Secretary of State.


Ceferino's liturgical calendar memorial as a Catholic beatus was established on August 26.