Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How Great is Our God by Chris Tomlin

Saints top Ultimate Standings 2010

This piece appears in the July 12, 2010 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Five years ago, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Saints ranked last in our Ultimate Standings. Today they're No. 1. How'd that happen? Commitment to community, championship play and cheap prices. We chatted with Saints Nation.

November 2005

What would you say to fans who think the Saints are leaving town for good?
Eighty percent of companies in New Orleans have not been able to reopen, but we are keeping this company in business. We relocated to San Antonio so we can stay afloat. We remain a Louisiana corporation, and we're paying $25 million into the state income tax fund this year. All anybody wants to do is criticize [owner] Mr. [Tom] Benson, but they're barking up the wrong tree. -- Greg Bensel, team spokesman

How close did the team come to moving?
The rest of the world thought we were down and weren't coming back. We had to relocate in 2005. Our practice facility was occupied by the military during that time. Publicly, everybody was talking about that. But we -- ourselves and our staff -- wanted to come back. We just had to find a way. And that's what we did. -- Tom Benson, owner

Our standings rank all MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL teams by how they repay fans for the time, money and emotion they invest in them. The results show that fans feel a strong connection to the Saints. What accounts for that?
The bond we have with our fans, and the support we get from them, were created post-Katrina, with the struggles and hardships we all went through helping to rebuild this city. We really leaned on each other in that time, and I think it culminated in the reopening of the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006. That symbolized the fact that New Orleans was not only going to come back, but come back stronger than ever. When we thought about winning the Super Bowl, we wanted to win it for our fans. -- Drew Brees, quarterback

You always see the players in our community, especially Drew Brees. You can drive by his house and honk, and if he's working on the yard or something, he'll wave back. -- Jeff Larsen, fan

Want to know how we came up with the Ultimate Standings? Take a deeper look here.
We have a good website, but not a big social media presence. When players leave practice or games, they're visible, and news spreads person to person and by word of mouth. The Saints are what people talk about with their neighbors. It's neat to see. -- Doug Miller, director of new media

We explicitly look for people with a certain energy level. That's one reason we hired Sean Payton. We look for tough-mindedness and intelligence, and people who see a glass as half full. We have to have players and staff who do more than football, who relish the chance to make a difference in New Orleans. -- Mickey Loomis, GM

Fans love Sean Payton. Does the Saints' aggressive play help keep the team close to fans?
I think so. On offense we attack, and on defense [defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams is blitzing every other down. I think it brings more excitement to the game. -- Pete Carmichael, offensive coordinator

The Superdome has some wear and tear on it, but does it have a different vibe from other venues?
There's energy in the building; even when you come out for warmups in the early part of the day, you can feel the electricity. Then you come back out for the start of the game and you can really feel something in the air. -- Carmichael

You go to some other stadiums and you hear fans kind of going up and down, but here it's loud the entire game. Maybe that has something to do with the hard alcohol they serve at the stadium. Or all the crazy costumes you see. Like Whistle Monster -- he has a huge whistle on his head. -- Ryan Pace, director of pro scouting

So coaches on the field, no matter what they say, notice what goes on in the stands.
There's a guy who dresses like a Saints robot, and he dances during timeouts. He's phenomenal. You can't help but notice. You're still taking care of business, but there are always those five or 10 seconds when there's a little lull, and you're like, "Wow, did you see that?" -- Scottie Patton, head athletic trainer

How did the "Who Dat?" chant start?
I think it was something that came out of the court system in the 1800s. I'm not exactly sure. But we didn't steal it from Cincinnati, that's for sure. They're "Who Dey?" We're "Who Dat?" -- Michael Prestenback, fan

[Ed.'s note to Mr. Prestenback: "Who Dat?" originated in a song written by poet Paul Laurence Dunbar in 1898 that was part of a minstrel show.]

And we're allowed to drink walking down the street. They can't tailgate like we can down here. -- Scott VanderMeer, fan

Following all those years of the Aints, of Black Mondays nearly every week, what was it like when the Saints won the Super Bowl?
It was families, friends, the older generation who had been waiting their whole lives for this, and it was nuts. We hit the [French] Quarter, Bourbon Street, and tore it up. It was Mardi Gras times 1,000. It was just love, everybody embracing each other. I think it might have stopped. I'm not really sure. -- Larsen

After the Super Bowl I had so much stuff left in front of my house: wine bottles, beer, signs, cards, flowers, you name it. Just people showing their appreciation. You could tell how much it meant to them. -- Brees

For the rest of the story please click here.

Catholic Men Return to the Rosary

The following comes from the Press-Enterprise site:

David Calvillo used to think praying the rosary was for "old ladies and funerals."

Then he went to a Catholic men's retreat in 2008, where for the first time he felt the rosary's spiritual power as he prayed it with 79 other men.

Calvillo, 49, is now on a crusade to convince Catholics that "real men pray the rosary," the name he gave a nonprofit he founded last year.

The rosary, a cycle of prayers said while worshippers finger a string of beads, is not gender-specific. Yet many men say they have always associated the rosary with women, especially older females.

There's no way to know whether the number of men praying the rosary is increasing, but nearly 9,000 people have indicated they like "Real Men Pray the Rosary" on the group's Facebook page.

Angel Pérez, 49, of Rialto, changed his view of the rosary after he heard a priest at a Catholic conference several years ago exhort men to pray the rosary to grow spiritually, strengthen their families and serve as an example to their children.

Two male parishioners of St. Martha Catholic Church in Murrieta clutch their rosary beads during a weekly prayer group. To attract males, there are increasingly popular "sports rosaries" that feature beads in the shape of footballs, soccer balls, basketballs and hockey pucks.

"He said, 'Prayer is not just for women,' " said Pérez, who now regularly recites the rosary with his wife and 15-year-old son. "And I thought, 'You're right.' We men sometimes think that if we pray the rosary that we're not the same men as before. On the contrary, we are men who are believers in God."

In addition to praying at home, Pérez said in Spanish that he tries to attend a Tuesday morning rosary prayer session at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Rialto.

Sometimes, all of the 15 to 20 people at that Tuesday prayer are women, said Pérez's wife, Josefina, 49, who leads the group. Members are hoping to add a second, nighttime rosary prayer, to attract more men and younger women, who are more likely to be working on weekday mornings, she said.

The Rosary Ritual

There are several variations to rosaries but they typically include 53 repetitions of a prayer to Mary, six Lord's Prayers and one of four sets of five "mysteries," which are significant events in the lives of Jesus and Mary.

The beads help worshippers keep track of each prayer without having to concentrate, leaving the mind better able to meditate upon the prayers. Members of other faiths, including Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, also use beads during prayer.

Although rosaries are most common among Catholics, other Christians, including some Lutherans, Episcopalians and Orthodox Christians, also recite series of prayers while touching beads.

There is no obligation in the Catholic Church to pray the rosary but it has long been beloved among many Catholics. The cathedral for the Diocese of San Bernardino is named Our Lady of the Rosary, a reflection of the rosary's significance, said Mike Jelley, deacon of the cathedral and vice chancellor of the diocese.

Michelle Mitchell attends a rosary prayer group that is, like most, majority women.
Calvillo, who lives in McAllen, Texas, said the centrality of Mary to the rosary may be one reason why it is typically associated more with women than with men. Calvillo said prayer in general is connected more with women.

"It's probably an offshoot of the humility and submission within prayer," he said. "As a man we're taught to be strong and protectors of our family, and humility may be more consonant in women."

Calvillo, an attorney, said he founded Real Men Pray the Rosary because the rosary has offered him so much spiritual sustenance.

Even though the prayers don't change, they can take on new meaning. For example, Calvillo said, the prayer on the annunciation to Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus took on special meaning when he found out he was going to become a father.

Calvillo's website and Facebook page convey a more masculine image than other rosary websites, which sometimes feature pink roses. The group's symbol is a fist clutching rosary beads, and the website urges the faithful to "Be a Proud Rosary Warrior!"

Sports themes

Some Catholic parents strategize how to make the rosary more appealing to their sons. Many buy increasingly popular "sports rosaries" that feature beads in the shape of footballs, soccer balls, basketballs and hockey pucks.

"I think it's to entice the kids to use the rosaries," said Lucy Orr, owner of Rosaries Just for You in Carol Stream, Ill. "If it's got soccer balls on it and the boy plays soccer, he's more apt to carry it around with him."

Rosaries Just for You introduced the sports rosaries three years ago, and they now account for half the company's sales. Most customers appear to be parents buying the beads for their sons, she said.

The full rosary dates to the 15th century, although elements of it date back even further, said Lawrence Cunningham, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. It was created to offer the illiterate a shorter, more easily memorized alternative to reading the 150 psalms, he said.

Until the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s switched Masses from Latin to vernacular languages, many Catholics who did not understand Latin recited the rosary during Mass, he said. After Vatican II, use of the rosary declined, Cunningham said.

Broader Appeal

If men promote the rosary, it appears to broaden its appeal among male worshippers. The weekly rosary prayer group at St. Martha Catholic Church in Murrieta has been about one-third male since it was founded seven years ago, said Deacon Pat Necerato. He said that's probably in part because Necerato and a former priest at the church created the group.

Frank Cuevas, 64, currently oversees the St. Martha rosary group. He said popular culture reinforces the idea of the rosary as for women. Cuevas has seen many Hollywood and Mexican films with scenes of the rosary, but he's never seen a man in one of those parts.

Like Calvillo, he began praying the rosary at an all-male retreat after he heard a priest express his love for it.

Now the Monday night rosary prayer group is an integral part of Cuevas' spiritual life, an escape from the stress and pressure of work.

"It calms me down," he said. "It's a time when I know I'm one with the Blessed Mother, one with Jesus. I feel a relief, a glow."

Why I Became a Catholic: The Conversion Story of André Frossard

The following conversion story comes from the Love One Another site:

“After my conversion,” states André Frossard, “all was joy and simplicity: there was God, bountiful joy, and an ocean of light and delight. I was spellbound, filled with a tremendous gratitude toward the immensity of merciful Beauty. God was love, and that love taught me that it was the cause and destiny of all that existed. Every creature existed not for itself alone, but for the Other, for everyone else, starting with God Himself, from whom all things flowed….Relentless self-gazing ultimately leads us to the brink of nothingness, from which we are plucked by some stupendous goodness” (God and Human Questions, pp. 8-9).

Although they took place almost a hundred years apart, the conversions of atheists Alfonse Ratisbonne and André Frossard had many things in common—the most striking of which were their sudden and instantaneous experience of the mystery of God, their discovery of the truth of the Blessed Trinity together with all the doctrinal truths proclaimed by the Catholic Church. Why did André Frossard, an atheist, emerge from his extraordinary encounter with God in June of 1935 a Catholic, and not a Protestant or a Muslim? Precisely because there is but one God, and He revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. God can be known and encountered only in the Catholic Church, because only in the Catholic Church is the fullness of truth about God and the salvation of the human race proclaimed. God is a God of such great humility that He gives Himself to us entirely—His love and eternal life—in the mystery of the Eucharist.

Frossard states that his extraordinary encounter with God involved absolutely no choice on his part. He did not choose the path of faith for himself; even less did he choose the Catholic Church. He was simply, with absolute clarity, given the certainty that the fullness of truth resided in the Catholic Church alone. Only later, when he underwent catechesis in preparation for baptism, did he realize that he had already received full knowledge of the faith during his conversion and encounter with God. It was with utter amazement that he stated that everything he had then received had already centuries earlier been formulated and proclaimed by the teaching authority of the Church.

When Frossard first gazed on the Blessed Sacrament, he discovered the meaning of the word “God,” whose essence consisted in His purest, unselfish self-giving and bestowal of life and pure love upon us His creatures. God was Love, who offered us the gift of existence. Frossard came to the realization that everything in God’s plan of salvation was a gift. Like a little child, he began to rejoice in the existence of God. By way of answering the question, “What is a Christian?” he turned to God in his prayer: “A Christian is he who finds ceaseless joy in the fact that he is not a god, since You Are Who You Are!” (Istnieje inny swiat, p. 83).

After his conversion, it became obvious to Frossard that those who denied the personal nature of God were profoundly mistaken. Therefore he earnestly appealed to his readers, “Do not believe them!” (Ibid., p. 139). He also warned his readers against the evils of atheism, since people who deny God create a world without love, hope, or freedom; all too soon they turn into murderers of their brothers and sisters. On the other hand, those who strive to love unselfishly witness thereby to the existence of God, even if they have not yet come to know Him fully. Frossard’s conversion and witness to life is a call to all baptized people to value the great treasure of faith and undertake the daily effort of living by it.

What does faith give us?
Frossard states that he received the gift of certainty of God’s existence “in the form of a reality that leaves no room for doubt or uncertainty.” Faith, he explains, effects as radical a change in our life as does the gift of sight in one who has been blind since birth or the gift of hearing in one who has been born deaf. When Frossard read the entire Gospel for the first time, he understood that of all the virtues, Jesus most valued the virtue of faith. The accounts of the Gospel make frequent mention of Jesus marveling at the faith of certain people: “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Mt 8:10). According to Frossard, faith is more certain than mystical knowledge, since it is a gift of God Himself; and it is only through faith that we may come to know Him. When a Christian makes an act of faith, when he overcomes doubt and uncertainty in the absence of any emotion or sense of consolation, he takes into himself the mystery of the unseen God, who then opens Himself up to him, allowing him to enter into a dialog of love with Him. Frossard observes that the way of faith (especially in the early stages) is fraught with many difficulties. Christians ought not, then, to allow themselves to be easily discouraged. Reason is of no help here, only great humility. Faith teaches us that we need to love before we can know God. Many people mistakenly think the converse to be true: that we must know God before we can love. Faith is inseparable from love and humility. Frossard reminds us that for God to deliver us from death, to free us from our enslavement to sin, to protect us from the destructive influence of Satan—humility is required on our part.

The Eucharist
Those who contest the real presence of God in the Eucharist Frossard calls madmen. Rather than abide in a respectful silence in the presence of this mystery, they become the most consummate offenders against the Blessed Sacrament. It was obvious to Frossard after his conversion that since its institution on Holy Thursday the Eucharistic presence of the Savior continues to have an enduring impact on the history of the world and is constantly changing it. When the Eucharist is celebrated, the events of our salvation become truly present, for in God there is no past or future but only an eternal “now.” Thus Christians truly participate in the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, since these events are constantly made present in God.

Prayer and Holy Scripture
After his conversion, Frossard’s happiest hours were spent in praying in church. He confesses that he found these moments to be “flights of indescribable delight” (Ibid., p. 79). From prayer, he drew an enduring sense of joy. “God is boundless Generosity,” he wrote. He found lasting happiness in being nourished by the Word of God. Reading Holy Scripture, which meant listening to what God had to say, instilled in him a delight in prayer.

Once becoming a Catholic, Frossard began to read the Bible with heightened attention and bated breath. Such an attitude to Holy Scripture comes only from a conviction that the Author is God himself, that it is His love letter addressed to us, in which He informs us of all that we need in order to be happy. Frossard treated the Bible as the history of God’s presence among His creatures—as another species of Eucharist. In reading it, he contemplated the Word of God and consumed it. He advised his readers, when reading Holy Scripture, to ask themselves the question, “What does God wish to say to me at this moment?” And he observed: “I read Holy Scriptures in the most literal way possible for this very simple reason: that either they are inspired and thus the work of God Himself, who uses us as His mediators; or, conversely, they are not inspired, in which case it is a historical book, like any other, although considerably older, and more picturesque. But then of course we have the scripture scholars among us, many of whom— poor devils!—have no sense of the godly. Locked away in their studies, they are utterly blind to the splendor of God. I refer to those gentlemen who would “demythologize” the Bible!
Ils me font rigoler! They make me laugh! They would make Aesop’s fables out of the Holy Scriptures. They think they make them more understandable, but in fact they render them incomprehensible, of no use to anyone, unless it be for themselves and their university faculties” (Messori, 1997)).

An unseen spiritual universe
During Frossard’s extraordinary encounter with God, he experienced “a Love never before felt—a Love that enables us to love and breathe. That day I learned that we were not alone. I learned that permeating, embracing, and awaiting us was an unseen Person, and that there existed, beyond the world of the senses and the imagination, another world. Compared to that world, our material world, which is so beautiful and so compelling, is nothing more than a shadowy phantom and thus but the faintest reflection of the Beauty that created it. For there is another world. And I speak of it not on the basis of hypotheses, logical reasoning, or hearsay, but on that of personal experience (Istnieje inny swiat, p. 9.

“This world eludes situation; it cannot be placed within our own perceptible world. Its laws are not our laws. But it exists nevertheless. I saw it with the eyes of my soul. It was like a silent bolt of lightning—a transcendence that revealed itself!—flashing from the recesses of that chapel on rue d’Ulm, where He—who could possibly know it!—remained mysteriously hidden. In such instances the soul sees, with blinding clarity, what the bodily eyes cannot see, be they ever so keenly attuned and attentive. Later the mind’s eye retains a certain sensuous awareness, which I characterized once as “rather heavenly.” I used this phrase deliberately in order to underscore that we are dealing here with a faintly colored phenomenon. In fact, it is a contradiction to speak of this other world in terms of our presently existing one….That other world exists; it is more beautiful than that which we call beauty, and it would be a great mistake to characterize it as inexpressible and bereft of color, as less substantial than our perceptible world….We can only speak of it in terms of images; admittedly, they fall short of conveying its richness and radiance….The spiritual world commands the power of expression and self-manifestation, and this power is, in the truest sense of the word, nuclear: it is the ultimate reality, causing things to be what they are, for that which is real does not consist wholly in the parts of it that can be seen and counted….
“Toward this other world, which springs from the resurrection of the body, we all make our way. There, in the twinkling of an eye, will be realized that essential part of our personality, which baptism brings to some, spiritual sight to others, and love to all. There we will find those whom we thought we had lost, but who are saved. We will enter there not in some ethereal form but in the full vigor of life. And there at last we will taste that ineffable joy which happiness, spreading in ever wider circles, and the revelation of that final mystery—the radiant splendor of God—will increase beyond conceivable measure” (Istnieje inny swiat, pp. 142-143).

On death
“Mystical experience assures us that there is a God after death; and…this will be a huge surprise to many,” Frossard insists. “They will see with the same amazement which it was my lot to experience on the day of my conversion, and which endures to this day, that there is indeed another world: a spiritual universe consisting, essentially, of a light of extraordinary splendor permeated by a tremendous sweetness. That which but a day earlier strikes them as improbable will become natural. That which strikes them as impossible will become utterly acceptable. That which they deny will be joyously affirmed by the power of the apparent. They will see that all Christian hope, no matter how extravagant, is well-founded; that it is not bold enough to convey an adequate image of God’s generosity. They will claim, as I have, that the bodily eyes are not required to perceive this radiance which enlightens the soul; that, in fact, these eyes hinder our perceiving it; that this radiance illumines the part of our being, which is in no way dependent on our body. How is this possible? I do not know….All I know is that that what I am saying is the truth” (Bog i ludzkie pytania, p. 182). “For we come out of love and then return to love on the strength of faith and hope by way of suffering and death. And nothing can hinder us in this” (Istnieje inny swiat, pp. 145-146).

Scandals in the Church
Frossard’s experience of Christ’s presence in the Church was so strong that the sins and scandalous conduct of some of its members only further impressed upon him the fact of his own sinfulness. It was this knowledge about himself—he writes—that restrained him from “taking the parts for the whole, St. Peter’s holy water font for the Tiberian Sea, and the theorizings of a cathedral canon for the teachings of the Universal Church. That is why I have never felt the slightest temptation to pass judgment in these matters and be the one to cast the proverbial stone.” Frossard knew that the Church was humanity’s greatest treasure, for in her abided Christ who called all sinners into a community with Himself. that he might free them from enslavement to sin and all manner of addiction, heal them, transform their hearts, and lead them to heaven. Just as one of the twelve apostles proved to be a traitor, so it should be no surprise to no one that new Judases appear in every generation.

On the existence of the devil
Asked if he believed in the Devil, Frossard replied, “I do indeed; for how can you be a Catholic and not take seriously a reality which the Holy Scriptures mention 147 times? Let our so-called experts say what they please. Let them talk about “figures of speech” and ancient myths. They do this most of all for their own peace of mind” (Pytania o chrzescianstwo).

Fr. Mieczysław Piotrowski SChr

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Heart of Worship by Matt Redmon

Home Team by Coach Sean Payton

The following comes from ESPN.oom:

Which Sean Payton would come through in his book "Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life"?

The NFL head coach who gives very vanilla answers to the media during the season?

Or the guy who loves to have a drink or two and hang out with friends or family?

"I told Coach that to sell this book he needed to write it like he really is and not the one he puts out there for the public to see, using coach-speak," said co-author Ellis Henican, who is a columnist for the newspaper Newsday in New York. "Sean really is a funny guy, and that comes out in this book."

The book, available online and in stores, tells the story of Payton's rise through the coaching ranks, what the city of New Orleans has meant to him, and what it's like inside the locker room of the Saints. It's not just about beating the Indianapolis Colts in February's Super Bowl.

Sean Payton worked with Newsday columnist Ellis Henican to write a fascinating book.

"I didn't want to write another winning-on-the-field book or about modern-day leadership. That's B.S.," said Payton, who spent six weeks with Henican after the Super Bowl to craft the stories. "I wanted to write a book about the stories, ones that you sit around and tell your friends."

Here are a few, retold to Page 2 by Payton and his friends:

Payton and his Saints really wanted to draft versatile running back Reggie Bush in the 2006 NFL draft with the No. 2 pick. The Houston Texans had drafted lineman Mario Williams at No. 1, and the Saints were up.

But Bush's marketing agent, Mike Ornstein, kept telling Payton that Bush didn't want to play in New Orleans and that the New York Jets, who had the fourth pick, were where Bush, highly touted out of USC, wanted to be.

"Don't draft him. Make a trade to New York. That's where I wanted this kid," said Orenstein, who had known Bush for years. "Make the [expletive] trade."

"So I said, '[Expletive] you,'" Payton said, "and hung up the phone and made the pick."

Orenstein, laughing today, said the conversation went exactly like that. "My reaction was the same: [Expletive] him!"

The funny thing is that now they are close friends, and Orenstein is the reason the book was made. Orenstein got Henican together with Payton.

Another story: When Payton was an assistant coach for the Dallas Cowboys, he flew to California to interview for the head coaching job with the Oakland Raiders.

Owner Al Davis did the interviewing and wore his traditional black sweatsuit.

"Al is an extremely talented football guy. Few owners who interview can really talk about a defensive front, team travel and the salary cap," Payton said. "He can hit on all these topics, and this was my first interview as head coach. It was 2003, and I was going to meet Al Davis."

Payton, who had been in the NFL only about five years, said he was really nervous.

"I walked into the bathroom, and I took three deep breaths," Payton said. "I said: 'I belong here. I belong here. I belong here.'"

The interview was heading late into the evening, and both were hungry.

"You like cheeseburgers?" Davis said.

"Of course I do," Payton said.

Davis then asked his assistant to run to McDonald's to get some cheeseburgers and -- get this -- coleslaw.

"The assistant says, 'Mr. Davis, McDonald's doesn't have cole slaw," Payton remembers. "But Al wanted his cole slaw, so the assistant had to figure out what to do."

A little while later, the assistant returns with the food.

"So we're sitting there -- mind you, it's about 11 p.m. -- eating McDonald's cheeseburgers and cole slaw from KFC," Payton said. "You know what a cold cheeseburger tastes like?"

Payton turned the job down, eventually becoming head coach of the Saints in 2006, defending Super Bowl champs and now an author.

The book is filled with stories like that.

In a month, the Saints will make their way to the White House, as most champions do after winning a title, and Payton is ready.

"A friend of mine calls me Forrest Gump," Payton said about the movie character who has so many unbelievable things happen to him. "I can't wait to get to the White House, like in the movie, and drink seven Dr. Peppers and tell the president, 'I gotta pee.'"

It's easy to see which Payton came through in the book.

Lynn Hoppes is senior director of Page 2 and commentary for He can be reached at

Pope creates a Pontifical Council to promote the new evangelization of the West

The following comes from the CNA:

From the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-walls in Rome where he was celebrating First Vespers on the eve of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict XVI revealed this evening his plan to create a new pontifical council. The council will be aimed at addressing the "progressive secularization" of historically Christian areas.

The new Vatican dicastery will be the first created since the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care was created in 1985 by Pope John Paul II. Vatican writer Andrea Tornielli predicted the new council's creation in April 2010, saying that it would be “the most important novelty of Pope Benedict’s pontificate."

After pointing to the "extraordinary impulse" John Paul II gave to the mission of the Church and the "genuine missionary spirit" that drove him, Pope Benedict XVI said that he is drawing on this inheritance.

Noting that he asserted at the beginning of his Petrine Ministry "that the Church is young, open to the future," he emphasized, "And I repeat it today, close to the sepulchre of St. Paul: the Church is an immense renewing force in the world, not exactly for her forces, but for the force of the Gospel, in which blows the Holy Spirit of God, God creator and redeemer of the world."

In the face of current historical, social and, especially, spiritual challenges which overwhelm our human capacities, Pope Benedict remarked that "It seems sometimes we pastors of the Church (are) reliving the experience of the Apostles, when thousands of needy people followed Jesus, and He asked: what can we do for all these people? They then experienced their powerlessness."

But the Lord, he continued, showed them that "nothing is impossible" and fed the masses with some bread and fish.

"But it wasn't - and it's not - just a hunger for material food," Benedict XVI clarified.

In the world today, he continued, "there is a deeper hunger that only God can satiate" and in the midst of the Third Millennium in which man still desires "a genuine and full life, he is in need of truth, of profound liberty, of free love.

"Also in the deserts of the secularized world, the soul of man is thirsty for God, for the living God," the Holy Father pointed out.

Referring to regions of the world where the Gospel has ancient roots, where it has led to "a true Christian tradition, but where in recent centuries ... the process of secularization has produced a grave crisis in the sense of Christian faith and of belonging to the Church," Pope Benedict said "I have decided to create a new body."

This structure of the body, he explained, will be a new pontifical council, "with the important task of promoting a renewed evangelization in countries where the first announcement of the faith has already resounded and Churches of ancient foundation are present, but are living (through) a progressive secularization of society and a sort of 'eclipse of the sense of God'."

This situation, he explained, "constitutes a challenge for finding adequate means of reproposing the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ."

Monday, June 28, 2010

When the Saints Go Marching In by Pete Fountain

Maronite Catholic brother beatified in Lebanon

The following comes from the CNA:

Previously "venerable" Maronite brother Estephan Nehme was beatified on Sunday morning in Lebanon. The Holy Father remembered Blessed Estephan after the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square, entrusting the people of Lebanon to his protection.

Brother Estephan, whose body was discovered uncorrupted in the tomb of the monastery of Kfifane over a decade after his death in 1938, is remembered as a humble, loving and devout monk. The Maronite Voice, a Glen Allen, Virginia-based publication, described him in its most recent edition as "distinguished for his simple and evangelical life," living in service to the Lord and men, loving all without discrimination.

The postulator general of his cause for canonization, Fr. Paolo Azzi, said of him in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) that he left "everywhere a witness of loyalty to God's call, ascetic commitment and of continuous prayer. His characteristic was to do everything in the presence of God."

Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said in his letter for the beatification of the Lebanese monk that he was an "angel with a human face."

His beatification ceremony, which took place on Sunday morning at the Monastery of Sts. Cyprien and Justine in Kfifane, Lebanon, was presided over by Archbishop Amato. The Mass which followed was led by His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, and concelebrated by patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and other Maronite clergy.

Maronites follow in the footsteps of the spirituality of St. Maron, a 4th century monk who chose to become a hermit in modern-day Syria. Fr. Azzi told LOR that the Maronite Church's "originality" is that is the only Eastern Church that has always been faithful to the Holy See.

The Church celebrates 1,600 years since St. Maron's death this year.

After Sunday's Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict XVI joyfully recalled Brother Estephan's beatification, entrusting the "Lebanese brothers and sisters" to the protection of the blessed Maronite monk.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Just A Closer Walk With Thee by Pete Fountain

Benedict XVI Encourages Prayer for Church's Purity

The following comes from the Zenit site:

Highlights Vocation to Belong Exclusively to Jesus

ROME, JUNE 24, 2010 ( Benedict XVI is underlining the importance of prayer for the Church's purity and holiness, especially through the intercession of those who have consecrated themselves to God.

Today the Pope visited a community of cloistered nuns in the Dominican convent of Santa Maria del Rosario in Rome's Monte Mario district.

In his homily, he told the nuns that through prayer, "which finds its culmination in the daily participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, your consecration to the Lord in silence and seclusion becomes fecund and full of fruits."

The Pontiff affirmed that these fruits are attained "not only for the path of sanctification and purification, but also for the apostolate of intercession that you carry out for the whole Church, so that it can appear pure and holy in the presence of the Lord."

He told the nuns, "You, who know well the efficacy of prayer, experience every day the many graces of holiness it can obtain in the Church."

"Be grateful to Divine Providence for the sublime and gratuitous gift of the monastic vocation, to which the Lord has called you without any merit of yours," the Holy Father exhorted.

Heart of the Church

He continued: "Even before you were born, the Lord had kept your heart for himself to be able to fill it with his love.

"Through the sacrament of baptism you received divine grace in yourselves, immersed in his death and resurrection, you were consecrated to Jesus, to belong to him exclusively."

Benedict XVI acknowledged that "the way of contemplative life, which you received from St. Dominic in the form of cloister, places you, as living and vital members, in the heart of the Lord's Mystical Body, which is the Church."

Thus, he added, "as the heart makes the blood circulate and maintains the whole body alive, so your hidden existence with Christ, interlaced with work and prayer, contributes to sustain the Church."

The Pope encouraged the nuns to continue with this prayer, "presenting in the presence of the Most High the spiritual and material needs of so many brothers in difficulty, the strayed lives of all those who separate themselves from the Lord."

He urged them to recognize "that in everything you do, beyond the personal moments of prayer, your heart continues to be led by the desire to love God."

The Pontiff offered a prayer that Our Lady, "who in silence received the Word of God, guide you in your daily virginal consecration, so that you will be able to experience in obscurity the profound intimacy she lived with Jesus."

He concluded by giving a blessing to those present, as well as to "the persons who entrust themselves to your prayers."

What Is Freedom?

Fr. Barron comments on the reform and renewal of theology

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Archbishop Chaput: Liturgical renewal should create martyrs’ love for the Mass

The following comes from the CNA:

Christian witness is intended to prepare for and to live the “cosmic liturgy” in which all mankind adores God, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput declared in a lecture on Thursday evening. Noting the cultural obstacles to liturgical understanding, he said the renewed liturgy should create Christians who would die rather than not celebrate Mass.

Delivering the Hildebrand Distinguished Lecture at the Liturgical Institute of the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, the Archbishop of Denver praised Chicago’s “historic role” in the renewal of the liturgy and the evangelization of America. He said the 10th anniversary of the Liturgical Institute shows that this legacy continues.

He opened with a reflection on the respected liturgist and theologian Fr. Romano Guardini. Soon after the Second Vatican Council published its “groundbreaking” document on the liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” the priest sent a letter to the Third German Liturgical Conference wondering whether man in an industrial and scientific age is “no longer capable of the liturgical act.”

“I think he put his finger on one of the key questions of mission in his time, and also in ours,” Archbishop Chaput remarked, explaining that the liturgical act is the transformation of personal prayer and piety into “genuine corporate worship” and “the public service that the Church offers to God.”

This act requires an inward awareness of the unity of the whole person, body and soul, with the spiritual body of the Church, present in heaven and on earth, he added.

“It also requires an appreciation that the sacred signs and actions of the Mass -- standing, kneeling, singing and so forth -- are themselves ‘prayer’.”

However, he warned, this awareness is obscured in a society organized around a “narrow” vision of technological progress in which truth is judged by what can be perceived and verified through research and experiment.

“In practice, almost nothing of what we believe as Catholics is affirmed by our culture,” commented the archbishop. “Even the meaning of the words ‘human’ and ‘person’ are subject to debate.”

This has implications for Catholic worship in which we profess to be in contact with “spiritual realities” and to receive the true Body and Blood of the Lord.

“We preach the good news that this world has a Savior who can free us from the bondage of sin and death. What can our good news mean in a world where people don’t believe in sin or that there is anything they need to be saved from?” Archbishop Chaput asked. “What does the promise of victory over death mean to people who don’t believe in the existence of any reality beyond this visible world?”

The archbishop said Chicago priest Fr. Robert Barron is one of the few to have wrestled with such issues. For him, the liturgy is not to be shaped according to modern suppositions; rather, the liturgy should “question and shape the suppositions of any age.” While modern man is probably incapable of the liturgical act, this is no grounds for despair. Instead, we should “let the liturgy be itself,” the priest has said.

Archbishop Chaput agreed with Fr. Barron that in recent decades the “professional liturgical establishment” chose to shape the liturgy according to the world, which has proven to be “a dead end.” Seeking relevance through “a kind of relentless cult of novelty” has only resulted in confusion and division between the faithful and the true spirit of the liturgy, continued the archbishop.

He said liturgical renewal should build “an authentic Eucharistic culture” to instill “a new sacramental and liturgical sensibility that enables Catholics to face the idols and suppositions of our culture with the confidence of believers who draw life from the sacred mysteries ...”

To this end, the Archbishop of Denver offered several suggestions: the need to recover the “intrinsic and inseparable connection” between liturgy and evangelization; the need to see the liturgy as a participation in the “liturgy of heaven” where Christians worship “in Spirit and truth” with the Church and the communion of the saints; and the need to recover and live the early Christians’ “vibrant liturgical and evangelical spirituality.”

“Liturgy is both the source of the Church’s mission and its goal,” explained the prelate. “The reason we evangelize is in order to bring people into communion with the living God in the Eucharistic liturgy. And this experience of communion with God, in turn, impels us to evangelize.”

The “pedestrian” and self-focused nature of many contemporary liturgies results from the loss of the sense of this participation in the heavenly liturgy, he suggested.

“The Eucharist … is a cosmic liturgy that unites the worship of heaven with our own worship here on earth… Heaven and earth are filled with the glory of God,” he continued. Worship is a window through which “the reality and destiny of our lives is glimpsed.”

This truth should “make us strive for liturgies that are reverent and beautiful, and that point our hearts and minds to things above.” The ultimate purpose of Christian witness is to “prepare the way for the cosmic liturgy in which all humanity will adore the Creator.”

The archbishop encouraged the faithful to look to the early Christians, who found their identity in the liturgy and said “we cannot live without the Mass.”

“This is the kind of faith that should inspire our worship. And this is the kind of faith that our worship should inspire. Can we really say today that we’re ready to die rather than not celebrate the Mass?”

Describing the liturgy as “a school of sacrificial love,” he said that all Christians should see themselves as a Eucharistic offering, “a perfect offering holy and acceptable to God.”

“The liturgical act becomes possible for modern man when you make your lives a liturgy, when you live your lives liturgically -- as an offering to God in thanksgiving and praise for his gifts and salvation. You are the future of the liturgical renewal.”

Archbishop Chaput closed his lecture with the words of one of the dismissal prayers of the new Roman Missal: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

To read Archbishop Chaput's full lecture, click here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The World's Reaction to Landon Donovan's Game Winning Goal

My Best Days are Ahead of Me by Danny Gokey

A letter of thanks from the Pope to the Salesians

The following comes from the Salesian News Agency:

Benedict XVI has expressed his pleasure at the “warm sentiments of filial devotion and spiritual closeness” sent to him by the Rector Major, Fr Pascual Chávez, and the Salesian bishops in their letter at the end of May. A “thoughtful expression of solidarity, shown in a difficult situation also for the whole Church” which evoked the gratitude of the Holy Father.

Very Reverend
Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva S.D.B., Rector Major,
Salesian Society of Saint John Bosco

I was delighted to receive the cordial letter of 24 May, in which you wished to convey to me the warm sentiments of filial devotion and spiritual closeness of the Cardinals and Venerable Brother Bishops belonging to the Salesian Family, gathered together in Castelnuovo Don Bosco for a charming moment of family celebration which you organised and at which my Secretary of State, dear Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone presided.

This thoughtful expression of solidarity, shown in a difficult situation also for the whole Church, has produced in me a sincere sense of gratitude, also because it is sign of that deep communion and that ardent affection which the spiritual Sons of Saint John Bosco have also nourished for the Successor of Peter.

Therefore, I want to respond to your message, which I greatly appreciate, with the assurance of a constant remembrance in my prayers, with which I very willingly accompany the praiseworthy proposals for a spiritual renewal and an ever more convinced attachment to the Gospe, demonstrated, in the name of the whole Institute, by yourself and by all those who have taken part in this significant meeting.

I invoke the maternal protection of Mary Help of Christians on you and on the Venerable Brothers, Cardinals and Bishops, who associated themselves with the expressions of devotion, so that each one may continue to serve the Lord and the brethren with joy, bringing to fulfilment His every good work. With these wishes and as a sign of my paternal solicitude, I heartily impart a special Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to the whole Congregation.

From the Vatican, 14 June 2010

Celebrate: Don Bosco Among Us!

Find out more about the relic of Don Bosco coming to the USA and Canada by clicking here!

The Korean War

Archbishop Sheen on How to Improve Your Mind

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Walk on Water by Britt Nicole

Pope calls for imitation of St. Thomas Aquinas' devotion to Eucharist

The following comes from the CNA:

Basing his catechesis for a third and final time on the legacy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Benedict highlighted Aquinas’ “masterpiece,” the “Summa Theologica.” He referred to the saint's devotion to the Eucharist, making the call for all people to "fall in love" with the Blessed Sacrament.

An estimated 7,000 pilgrims and faithful joined the Pope in the Paul VI Hall for Wednesday's general audience. Among those in attendance was a group from Malawi in tribal dress who performed a traditional dance for the Holy Father from their seats in the packed auditorium.

Referring to the "masterpiece" of the “Summa Theologica,” Benedict XVI noted the saint’s “serene confidence in the harmony of faith and reason, and in the ability of reason, enlightened by faith, to come to an understanding of God and his saving plan.”

Through the work, said the Pope, the saint “illustrates the working of divine grace, which perfects our natural gifts and enables us, through the practice of the virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to attain the eternal happiness for which we were created.”

In the collection of articles from which the “Summa” is composed, explained the Holy Father, the 13th century saint offers an extensive series of questions and answers through which he assists in deepening the teachings provided in Scripture and those from the Fathers of the Church, especially St. Augustine. He examines three elements of the being and essence of God: that He exists in Himself as the beginning and end of all things, that He is present in life through His Grace and in Christian activity, and that he is present in a special way in the Person of Christ, still present in the sacraments.

Benedict XVI recalled the importance the saint gives to the sacraments, in particular to the Eucharist. Noting Aquinas' enormous devotion to the Eucharist, the Holy Father cited the saint's words from another work in which he spoke of the Blessed Sacrament as that of the "Passion of our Lord, (which) contains in it Jesus Christ who suffered for us.”

"Therefore," he went on, "all that is the effect of the Passion of our Lord, is also the effect of this sacrament, it not being but the application in us of the Passion of the Lord."

Through these words, said the Pope, we "understand well why St. Thomas and other saints celebrated Mass while shedding tears of compassion, tears of joy and of gratitude, for the Lord, who offers himself in sacrifice for us."

The Holy Father then exclaimed, "in the example of the saints, let us all fall in love with this Sacrament!

"Let us participate devotedly in Mass in order to obtain its spiritual fruits; let us feed from the Body and Blood of the Lord that we may be incessantly nourished by divine Grace; let us pause willingly and often in the company of the Blessed Sacrament."

Pope Benedict XVI concluded the English-language portion of the catechesis by imploring that, “with the Angelic Doctor, let us pray for the grace to love the Lord with all our heart and to love our neighbor, 'in God and for God.'”

The Birth of John the Baptist

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

All of Creation my MercyMe

Smartphone applications integrate prayer life with daily technology

The following comes from the site:

Praying is now so 21st century.

Instead of a paperback missalette, there's iMissal. Instead of prayer cards, there's a touch-screen Saint A Day. Instead of randomly jotting down prayer requests, there's a digitally organized list in PrayerSteward.

These three applications -- better known as apps -- only scratch the surface of faith-related digital materials available in Apple's App Store and, to a lesser extent, in the Android Market and Palm Pre App Catalog. With these digital Catholic resources comes the undeniable convenience of modern-day prayer.

"I know people who before they even get out of bed they have their iPod Touch or their iPhone in their hand," said Sister Kathryn James Hermes, a Daughter of St. Paul and director of digital publishing for Pauline Books and Media, in an interview with the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Arlington Diocese.

"You could be looking at the psalms or the morning meditation," she added.

In March, Parks Associates, a market research and consulting company specializing in digital technologies, reported that smartphone (i.e. iPhone, Android, Palm Pre) users are expected to quadruple by 2014, resulting in 1 billion users worldwide.

That's a market that everyone, even the Vatican, can get behind.

On Easter Sunday, the Vatican Observatory Foundation, which promotes scientific research of the heavens, launched the Vatican-approved iPhone app: "Daily Sermonettes with Father Mike Manning."

"These daily reflections are inspired by Scripture, using God's uplifting message as a guide in your daily life, supporting the foundation's mission of scientific research, education and discovery," the website reads.

Also approved by the Vatican is iBreviary (available on iPhone and Android), an app developed in part by Italian priest Father Paolo Padrini, that contains daily readings, the Liturgy of the Hours and other prayers in multiple languages.

"As religious, we take to heart that (Pope) Benedict has said we need to give a soul to technology, a soul to communications," Sister Kathryn said. "We do that through prayer, through reflection, through the love with which we carry out our apostolate -- even the way in which we create our apps, trying to make them a truly beautiful experience."

Sister Kathryn and the Daughters of St. Paul always are on the lookout for ways to give the Internet a soul by using it to spread the good news.

"For those who never go into a church, through the media we're able to allow wherever they are to become a church," she said. "It becomes a place of encounter for them, a sacred space, a type of church. It becomes a way to multiply our presence to a whole new audience."

The iMissal app, developed by Cantcha Inc. and available for iPhone and Android users, contains a full calendar displaying all liturgical seasons, all Mass readings for every liturgical cycle, audio readings, a daily Bible verse and a list of popular prayers.

"It really is meant to become the source of everything Catholic that Catholics turn to for prayer and devotion and faith," Sister Kathryn said. "It's this very simple thing. You can have the readings right in your hand along with everything else that organizes your life."

Favorite prayers can be e-mailed to friends, and iMissal is connected with CatholicTV, a television ministry of the Archdiocese of Boston, and enables users to stream Mass online.

Though the Rosary Miracle Prayer app, available in June, users can pray the rosary in his or her own "sacred space." Audio tracks feature the Daughters of St. Paul -- recorded at their studio in Boston -- praying the decades, and 18 different sets of pictures help draw the faithful into the four sets of mysteries.

From within the app, users can e-mail the Daughters of St. Paul directly with personal prayer intentions.

With the Saint A Day app, invoking a prayer to the patron saint of cancer, artists, flying or mail delivery is only an index finger away. A quick search results in a wide breadth of information on a particular saint, and users then are able to e-mail it to a friend in need.

PrayerSteward, an application released earlier this month by Safe-t-Technologies LLC, offers an easy way to keep track of prayer intentions.

Once a user make a promise to remember someone in prayer, it can be added to the PrayerSteward list. The user can set time limits or reminders or e-mail the prayer request to others. More information is available at, and a quick search on YouTube provides a useful tutorial.

Besides the digital apps, the Daughters of St. Paul have six CDs available for download on iTunes and will soon have books available for e-readers like Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook and Apple's iPad.

Despite all the apps, smartphones and fancy devices, however, the mission of evangelization for the Daughters of St. Paul -- and for the church -- remains the same today as 2,000 years ago in St. Paul's time.

"All of these things are means," Sister Kathryn said. "They are a way to reach out to a lot of people at once. That's really the essence of our mission, to evangelize out."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pope Benedict: Priests are a sign of God's love for all mankind

The following comes from the CNA:

After celebrating the Mass of ordination for 14 deacons of the diocese of Rome in St. Peter’s Basilica this morning, Pope Benedict prayed the Sunday Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Before the prayer, he explained that priests are a sign of God’s love for all mankind.

“The Sacrament of Holy Orders manifests, on the part of God, his caring closeness to man, and on the part of him who receives the sacrament, the full availability to change oneself into an instrument of that closeness, with a radical love for Christ and his Church,” said Pope Benedict.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel reading, the Holy Father referred to the affirmation of Peter in which he says that Jesus is the Christ, the chosen one of God. He noted that, with this response, “all earthly opinions that consider Jesus to be one of the prophets are overcome.”

“According to St. Ambrose,” he continued, “with this profession of faith, Peter ‘has embraced the totality of all things, because he has expressed the nature and the name’ of the Messiah. And Jesus, in front of Peter’s profession of faith, renews his invitation to Peter and the other disciples to follow him on the hard path of love which leads to the cross.”

The Holy Father also cited St. Maximus the Confessor, who said, “The distinctive sign of the power of Christ is the cross. To take up the cross means committing oneself to conquer those sins which are obstacles in the journey towards God. It means to welcome God’s will for one’s life on a daily basis, and to increase in faith when faced by life’s problems, difficulties and suffering.”

Pope Benedict concluded his remarks by commending the newly ordained priests to the protection of the Virgin Mary. “May they always be faithful disciples, valiant in the proclamation of the word of God, and administrators of his gifts of salvation.”

Following his remarks, the Benedict XVI prayed the Angelus, greeted the gathered pilgrims in various languages and imparted his apostolic blessing.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, he noted that in today’s Gospel Jesus calls us “to carry our cross in union with him.”

“May we always give ourselves to him and thus discover anew the joy that he promises to those who follow him,” he commented. “Upon you and your loved ones at home, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God.”

The Execution of John Fisher

Monday, June 21, 2010

Love Has Come by Mark Schultz

George Weigel on Deep Catholicism

The following comes from the Denver Catholic Register site:

Eight years ago, during the Long Lent of 2002, I started using the phrase “Catholic Lite” to denote a cast of mind that, in my judgment, had contributed mightily to the crisis of fidelity that was at the root of clerical sexual abuse and episcopal misgovernance. Within that mindset, one of the fundamental questions shaping ecclesial life had become, “How little can I believe and do while still remaining a Catholic?” Then as now, the question struck me as not only mistaken, but ultimately boring. But it didn’t come from nowhere, and understanding its origins was, and is, important.

In the late 1960s, the emergence of Catholic Lite was a reaction to some of the weaknesses of pre-Vatican II catechesis, and especially the kind of teaching that failed to distinguish between those parts of the Baltimore Catechism that stood at the core of Christian conviction and those that were on the periphery. This dumbing-down tendency in catechetics received intellectual reinforcement from efforts by scholars like Karl Rahner, an influential figure at the Council, to create what the German theologian called “brief creedal statements” (three examples of which may be found at the end of Rahner’s Foundations of Christian Faith). Rahner likely meant to provide short, compelling summaries of the Creed from which the serious work of explaining Christianity to unbelievers could begin; what too many learned from efforts like his was Catholic Lite.

Catholic Lite was also informed by interpretations of the Council which held that Vatican II marked a decisive break-point with the past, and that the boundaries of faith and morals were now sufficiently elastic as to accommodate virtually any construal of what it meant to believe, pray, and live as a Catholic. This notion of a “council of rupture” was rejected by the 1985 Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which counterposed a “council of continuity and reform.” But traces of the mentality of rupture remained.

Catholic Lite also had a certain pastoral appeal. During the Long Lent of 2002, and again during 2010’s Scandal Time II, I’ve been approached by concerned Catholics who begin a conversation by saying, “I’m a bad Catholic, but… .” To which I invariably, and truthfully, reply, “We’re all bad Catholics… .”—before going on to make the point that holding the bar of expectation high, even knowing that we’ll fail, is the path to genuine spiritual and moral growth. Yet it’s also understandable that, in a society dominated by the culture of the therapeutic, some pastors would imagine it more, well, pastoral to prescribe Catholic Lite rather than challenging parishioners to live Catholicism-in-full: understandable, but short-sighted and, in the final analysis, a disservice to Christians baptized for spiritual and moral grandeur.

What’s the alternative to Catholic Lite? I found one answer in a new book by Father Aidan Nichols, O.P., one of the intellectual adornments of Anglophone Catholicism, who teaches at Cambridge University in England. In Criticizing the Critics: Catholic Apologias for Today (Family Publications), Father Nichols responds to the challenges posed (according to the book’s table of contents) by “modernists, neo-gnostics, academic biblical exegetes, feminists, liberal Protestants, progressive Catholics, the erotically absorbed, and critics of Christendom” in a series of trenchant essays. Toward the end, he gives us a luminous description of the Catholicism-in-full that we need. That kind of Catholicism is not sectarian, nor does it attempt to re-create the Catholic 1950s, “which … showed its Achilles’ heel by the manner in which its adherents subsequently fell way.” Rather, what we should seek is:

“…a deep Catholicism [that] is not simply sure of its dogmatic basis and at home in its corporate memory, though these are essential. It is also profoundly rooted in the Scriptures, the Fathers, the great doctors and spiritual teachers, and receptive to whatever is lovely in the human world of any and every time and place, which the Word draws to himself by assuming human nature into union with his own divine person.”

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Most Blessed Sacrament

Who do you say that I am?

Father's Day

I found this at the Friendship for Lazarus site. Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hold Us Together by Matt Maher

A Prayer for Priests

Divine Savior, Jesus Christ, who have entrusted your work of redemption to the priests, who take your place on earth, I offer you, through the hands of your most holy Mother, for the sanctification of your priests and future priests this whole day, all my prayers, works, joys, sacrifices and sufferings. Give us saintly priests. Grant to them apostolic hearts, filled with love for you and all the souls belonging to you, so that, being themselves sanctified in you, they may sanctify us who are entrusted to their care and bring us safely into Heaven.

Loving Jesus, bless all their priestly work and sacrifice. Bless all their prayers and words at the altar and in the confessional, in the pulpit, in the school and at the sickbed. Call many young men to the priesthood and the monastic life. Protect and sanctify all who will become your priests. And grant to the souls of the priests who have departed this life, eternal rest.

And do you, Mary, Mother of all priests, take them under your special protection and lead them ever to the highest priestly sanctity.

Find more prayers for priests here.

Sunday declared a day of prayer by Louisiana Legislators

This Sunday is declared a day of prayer for the oil spill recovery in New Orleans. Let's join everyone in this prayer that this terrible disaster will be cleaned up and that all those affected will be lifted up in the hope that God gives us in His Divine Providence. Hat tip to the Abita Deacon on this one:

June 17, 2010

Archbishop expresses gratitude to legislators for declaring Day of Prayer for Oil Spill Recovery

We thank the legislators for declaring Sunday a Day of Prayer. This is a public sign of our humble dependence upon God.

Our hearts and prayers go out to those who were killed in the explosion. Likewise we offer prayerful consolation to their families and friends.

The oil spill has very challenging affects on many people in our community, especially the fishing industry, oil industry and related works. We also need to be attentive to the impact on our environment and economy.

We ask God to reassure us and to walk with us in this very challenging time. We pray that:

• we may not lose hope,
• we will persevere in tough times,
• we will see God’s compassion and love in these trying circumstances,
• God will lead scientists and engineers to a permanent solution soon,
• we will bear this cross with trust,
• we will reach out in prayer and with financial resources to those whose livelihood and family life have been affected.

The Catholic Church through Catholic Charities will continue to be present to those affected by offering food, counseling and other emergency services now and in the long-term.

God never abandons us but walks with us during this challenging time in the history of our state and nation.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans

March of the Unqualified

March Of The Unqualified from Catholic Media House on Vimeo.

"God can't use me or at least shouldn't use me". We've probably all thought it at some point. However, studying the Bible shows us that many flawed people were used by God in powerful ways. They were just as unqualified as you. So now what's your excuse?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Get Back Up by Toby Mac

Rosary Rallies for Priests Give Final Flourish to Their Special Year

This seems like a great idea! I found this at the Spirit Daily site. God bless all those who pray for us priests! The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

Have you heard about the Rosary for Priests? People will be gathering on the steps of Cathedrals in many dioceses on June 19 at 10am, to offer a Rosary for priests to commemorate the last day of the Year for Priests. While last Friday was the ceremonial ending, the indulgences are available until June 19. And on top of that, it is Father’s Day weekend — what more fitting time could there be to pray for our spiritual Fathers?

This independent and spontaneous prayer initiative for priests was started by a small group of lay faithful in San Francisco, with the approval of the Archdiocese, and it is catching on. At least three other California dioceses have approved these gatherings and the list is growing.

“This is not a political act, or act of advocacy. It is a spiritual act; an act of love and support for our Reverend Fathers,” said Rosary for Priests committeeman Cyrus Johnson. “The best thing you can do for a person, including yourself, is prayer. This is most fitting for our priests who do so much for us. We wish to make a public declaration of appreciation as the laity.”

The idea is simple, and maybe that’s why it’s catching on. Rosary for Priests has been notified of simultaneous prayer rallies at the cathedrals of the following dioceses: San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento, and inquiries have arrived from as far away as Germany, France and Indonesia. The San Francisco-based group is not doing the organizing for any other dioceses, but is offering free flyers, promotional materials and event listings on the website.

The Rosary for Priests team encourages the faithful in other dioceses to request permission to hold Rosary for Priests prayer gatherings at their own Cathedrals, and invite as many people as possible to join together in prayer. Simply let your Cathedral know you would like to gather to pray for 30 minutes, with no other purpose than to pray for those good men who have offered their lives in the service of Christ and His Church.

More details, as well as recommendations for organizing your own Rosary for Priests, can be found on their website at [1]

If you can’t attend a Rosary for Priests event or get to your cathedral on Saturday, please show your unity with those who are attending these events — and your love for our priests — by praying a Rosary with us at 10 a.m.

Fr. Barron on "dumbed down" Catholicism

Pope John Paul II and the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Pope rethinks, clarifies and reinforces celibacy, asserts Vatican analyst

The following comes from the CNA:
Vatican analyst Sandro Magister published an article in which he detailed Pope Benedict’s teaching on priestly celibacy, a concept with which many have expressed discontent in face of the clerical sexual abuse scandals. However, the Pope’s June 10 explanation, which presents celibacy in a new light, was both hinted at and foreshadowed by two prior talks, Magister claims.

During a prayer vigil with 15,000 priests from around the world, Pope Benedict answered the questions of five priests from five different continents. His response to one priest in particular was the focus of Magister's column. Responding to a question by a priest from Eastern Europe, Pope Benedict explained the meaning of priestly celibacy. “And he did so in an original way, departing from the current historical, theological, and spiritual literature,” wrote Magister.

“It is clear from this that one of the cornerstones of this pontificate is not a distancing from clerical celibacy, but its reinforcement,” he added. Quoting from the Pope’s open letter to world bishops from March of 2009, Magister noted that one of Pope Benedict’s priorities is “to make God present in the world and to show men and women the way to God.”

Magister also recalled a speech addressed to the Roman curia on December 22, 2006, in which Pope Benedict said, “The great theme of my journey to Germany was God.” And while the Church “must speak of many things,” her true theme is God, and from the ordering of all things toward God comes the importance of all other church teachings. “Moreover, the great problem of the West is forgetfulness of God,” said the Pope. “This forgetfulness is spreading.”

In that address, Pope Benedict declared that “the true foundation of the priest's life, the ground of his existence, the ground of his life, is God himself.” Making reference to the sixteenth psalm, which was once a part of the rite of ordination, he also explained how the priest’s property or possession is not of this world. As David said, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, you hold my lot,” so does the priest acknowledge that he, like the tribe of Levi, does not live off the land, but rather off the Lord.

Thus, “The priest must truly know God from within and thus bring him to men and women: this is the prime service that contemporary humanity needs.” When God is no longer central to a priest’s life, he loses his zeal, explained the Pope. Chastity, he continued, “can only be theocentric. It cannot mean being deprived of love, but must mean letting oneself be consumed by passion for God and subsequently, thanks to a more intimate way of being with him, to serve men and women, too.”

This speech, declared Magister, is a reminder of the Pope Benedict’s dedication to the clergy. And it is because of this understanding of the role of the priest that the Pope declared the Year for Priests and to propose “exemplary figures like the Holy Curé of Ars.”

The Pope’s remarks last Thursday only confirm this dedication and this understanding of celibacy, Magister wrote. And they reinforce “an extremely coherent picture” of the role of the Church, which is “to lead men to God.”

As he spoke to his brother priests in St. Peter’s Square last week, the Holy Father explained that “celibacy is an anticipation.” To live the celibate life is to acknowledge the presence of God, the certainty of the next life, and the value of both.

In a world where the “now” of the present and tangible seems good enough, “celibacy is a great scandal, because it shows precisely that God is considered and lived as a reality,” Pope Benedict told the gathered priests. “With the eschatological life of celibacy, the future world of God enters into the realities of our time,” even though the material world would have any hint of the transcendent vanish.

The Pope contrasted celibacy with the modern notion of not getting married. The two are not at all alike, he said, and that is because celibacy represents a lifestyle of commitment, as does marriage. “Not getting married is based on the desire to live only for oneself, not to accept any definitive bond, to have life at every moment in full autonomy, to decide at every moment what to do, what to take from life; and therefore a ‘no’ to commitment, a ‘no’ to definitiveness, a having life only for oneself,” he explained.

Celibacy, on the other hand, “is a definitive ‘yes,’ it is allowing ourselves to be taken in hand by God, giving ourselves into the hands of the Lord, into his ‘I,’ and therefore it is an act of fidelity and trust,” said the Holy Father. “It is the exact opposite of this ‘no,’ of this autonomy that does not want to be obligated, that does not want to enter into a bond.”

And, “as the criticisms show,” concluded Benedict XVI, “celibacy is a great sign of faith, of the presence of God in the world.” He prayed that the Lord free priests from the secondary scandals such as their sins and imperfections so that they may continue to live the “scandal” of celibacy. Thus, by demonstrating their faith and trust in God, they may bring people to God.