Monday, March 31, 2008

Holy Father Meets the Salesian General Chapter!

The following article was posted by the Catholic World News today:

Vatican, Mar. 31, 2008 ( - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) met on March 31 with the participants in the 26th general chapter of the Salesian order, and encouraged them to "reawaken apostolic passion in each individual Salesian."

The Holy Father-- who had returned to the Vatican the previous evening after resting for several days after Easter at Castel Gandolfo--- told the Salesians that their religious community should emulate their founder Don Bosco, showing the same "faithful abandonment to the Father and dedication to the evangelical mission."

That mission is doubly important today, the Pontiff continued, because of "the process of secularization that is gaining ground in modern culture." He cautioned that the effects of secularization can be evident even within religious orders, and warned against "lifestyles that risk weakening evangelical witness."

Noting the Salesians' involvement in educational projects, the Pope said that the world of schooling is facing its own crisis, "a crisis of trust in life which, in the final analysis, is a lack of trust in God Who called us to life." He said that to counteract that trend, Salesian educators must help to strengthen the families of their students and ensure the proper formation of their own community members.

The general chapter of the Salesians had spent most of the month of March in its meetings, which culminated with the re-election of Father Pascual Chavez Villanueva as rector-general of the order.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

After 100 Years, Year of the Cubbies?

Is this the year that the Chicago Cubs end the drought and win a World Series? I sure hope so! The Red Sox nation was able to celebrate a World Series victory after 80 years of the "curse of the Bambino"... The "curse of the goat" has only lasted for 63 years but the World Series drought has gone for 100! I started watching the Cubs on WGN when we first got cable tv back in 1981! Fr. Pagluigi our pastor was also a huge fan. His influence rubbed off and I have been for the lovable losers ever since! Those days of Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson and Rich Sutcliffe were the best! Who could forget Harry Carey and the fun he brought to the game! Win lose or draw... I am still a Cub fan... But it sure would be nice to win one! Let's pray for the Cubbies and all their loyal fans!

Houston, we have a Cathedral!

The Co-Cathedral in Houston is complete and is only lacking one thing... the blessing of the Cardinal! ABC News in Houston did a beautiful job covering the building of the Cathedral and here are the final two news segments. You can watch the blessing on Wednesday, April 2 at 12 PM (Eastern) from your computer here! God is good and blessing the Church! Let's continue to pray for more young men to say yes to the call of Christ to follow him as priests! We need priests to celebrate the sacraments in beautiful buildings like this one!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Divine Mercy Sunday

Friday, March 28, 2008

Vocation Video from Kentucky!

Vocation to holiness
Uploaded by Le_Bon_Larron

"Dear young people, like the first disciples, follow Jesus! Do not be afraid to draw near to him, to cross the threshold of his dwelling, to speak with him, face to face, as you talk to a friend. Do not be afraid of the ‘new life’ he is offering. He himself makes it possible for you to receive that life and practice it, with the help of his grace and the gift of his Spirit."

"It is true: Jesus is a demanding friend. He points to lofty goals; he asks us to go out of ourselves in order to meet him, entrusting to him our whole life; ‘Whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it’ (Mk. 8:35). The proposal may seem difficult, and, in some cases, frightening. But – I ask you – is it better to be resigned to a life without ideals, to a world made in our image and likeness, or rather, generously to seek truth, goodness, justice, working for a world that reflects the beauty of God, even at the cost of facing the trials it may involve?" (Pope John Paul II)

Whispers in the Loggia

Rocco Palmo is one of the best known Catholic bloggers around! His sight called Whispers in the Loggia has over 5 million hits! Well done! Enjoy this interview with one of the new medias great writers!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

God Wants Our Best

Ok I love football, and miss it! The NFL draft is coming soon and I am one of those people who actually gets excited to see who will the Saints get!! So yes, this clip is about football, and it is amazing... and true! But the clip is more about life than just football. God's does want our very best and is ready to help us to achieve it! We have to put aside our own self imposed limitations and allow God to use us. How many people feel called to a religious or priestly vocation but fail to respond? They are afraid their best is not going to be good enough. That would be true if God's grace were not a part of the equation! Let's pray that the many young people will say yes to God's call to giving their very best! Let's pray for one another that we will allow God to give us the courage and strength to offer our best selves as well!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Children of the Eucharist

This is just amazing... and impressive! What can we do to get some of this going in our own Salesian places? I think it might be a beautiful thing. What do you think? I pray that this will take off and a new generation of young people will come up who lead all of us back to the Eucharist!

How to Build a Cathedral

This story is just amazing...! ABC news does a beautiful job covering the building of the Co-Cathedral in Houston. There are actually 10 segments to this story and you can check them out here!
The artwork is amazing and the stained glass is unbelievable! I have to visit this place next time I am at home, or visiting the Beckers!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Habemus Don Bosco!

We have a great blessing in the renewal of our Rector Major Fr. Pascual Chavez, SDB for another 6 year term! The following information was taken from Br. Tom Dion's blog and he should be getting more information and photo's to us soon! Br. Tom said:

This morning Fr. Pascual Chavez Villanueva was re-elected Rector Major! The process for voting began at 9:00 am. Each chapter member was given a ballot on which they were to write the name of the person they wanted to be Rector Major for the next six years. One by one each person was called up by alphabetical order to place their ballot in the ballot box. After all of the ballots were cast, the scrutineers tabulated them in front of the assembly. In the end, Fr. Chavez won by a landslide. Then, Fr. Jozsef Havasi, the oldest confrere at the Chapter went to the microphone to ask Fr. Pascual if he accepted. After a few words in which he recalled the death of his brother and the fact that he now has 16,000 brothers, he accepted. Thanks be to God!!! Pictures of the event will follow later today when fewer people are using the internet. Also, later this morning we will begin the discernment for the Vicar of the Rector Major and then vote on him in the early evening. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Go South Young Man!

I am and always will be a southerner! I remember this reality most when I can't find a country station on the radio here in New Jersey or when I have to endure yet another day of sub-65 degree weather! I love the warm weather... hate the cold! Murphy's law would have that I have spent so many years in the North! I do love the northeast as well and it has become a second home. But, you can't take the south out of this New Orleans native! It does my heart good to see so much growth happening, especially regarding our faith, in the south! I do believe that future growth will continue to happen in the south and am sure that many vocations will also be coming from this region of our country. I was really happy to read Rocco Palmo's blog on this very topic. I couldn't help including it below! I hope you get as excited about the hopeful future of the Catholic faith in the south as I do! Rocco is writing from Philadelphia:

Whenever the state of things 'round these parts becomes too demoralizing -- and, really, when isn't it? -- I've taken to calling friends in the South to hear "the latest"... and always come away re-energized and much more hopeful.

The spirit and verve that once made the Northeast the undisputed flagship of the Stateside church -- and the envy of the world -- has now shifted, and dramatically so, to places like the Carolinas, Georgia, Utah, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Washington... State. Parishes that were just starting up a decade ago now count a thousand families and more, the pace of building and expansion efforts can't keep up, the ministry teams are practically getting their doors knocked down, flocks of shepherds are being imported to keep the folks well-served... and from packed pews, the people are investing much, much more than just a weekly envelope in the plate.

On Easter Night in these places, RCIA classes of fifteen, thirty, fifty or more are no exception, but the norm. And the boom isn't just resplendent in living stones -- next week, the nation's fourth largest city finally gets a permanent home-base as the $65 million Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart opens its doors in Houston, the region's largest local church, where a mix of geographic and spiritual immigration has quadrupled the Catholic population to 1.5 million over the last three decades.
In the Lone Star state -- where the faithful recently overtook Evangelicals to become Texas' largest religious group -- the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the diocese of Dallas (its Catholic contingent grown five-fold to a million-plus since... 1990) each welcomed more than 2,000 catechumens and candidates into full communion at Saturday's Vigil.

From the Big D -- home of the K-Far -- the Dallas Morning News takes a look at the new faithful:

Matthew Parks was born Protestant and raised in an Assemblies of God church near Houston. By midnight tonight the 28-year-old will be Catholic....

Mr. Parks will be among 200 at St. Mark Catholic Church in Plano completing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. St. Mark and Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Garland this year have the highest number of catechumens – those who've completed preparations to join – a combined 500 adults and children, among the 74 parishes in the diocese's nine-county area.

"I don't want to put too much expectation on the event, but next to becoming sober, it will probably be the most exponential event of my life," Mr. Parks said. "It's really going to be an awesome experience. It's overwhelming to think about, to finally consume the Body of Christ."

Mr. Parks moved to Dallas a year ago after what he described as a "long problem with drug abuse," and began study of the Catholic faith after joining initiates at St. Mark. The initiation period is nine months to a year and culminates at Easter.

The Dallas convert count does appear to be significant. The Archdiocese of Detroit, for example, lists 589 catechumens and 497 from other Christian faiths receiving Communion; an additional 289 baptized Catholics are receiving sacraments.

The rise in conversions brings good news to the Dallas diocese after a recent study of religion in America showing that Catholicism has had the largest drop attributed to change of religion. Nearly one in three Americans were brought up Catholic; fewer than one in four now list Catholic as their religious affiliation, the Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey showed.

"The Pew report has valid points. It does not apply to the experience in Dallas," said the Rev. Kevin Joseph Farrell, bishop of the Diocese of Dallas. "When I was in the Northeast, parishes were closing. The South, Southwest and West have the fastest-growing [Catholic] populations. Not just because of immigrants coming from the south who are already Catholic. Many are people who are returning to the church and folks moving here from the Northeast. We have a wave of immigrants and a wave of migrants."

New converts such as Guy Hollis, a Dallas-area irrigation specialist, embraced the idea in the name of family. The more he accompanied his wife, Chachi, to Sunday Mass, the more he became interested in her faith. He and their preschooler and toddler will be among the 300 entering Good Shepherd in Garland.

...blessedly mind-blowing stuff, eh?

To all of our newest fellow-travelers, the warmest of welcomes. Hopefully you heard this along the way, but it's your house as much as it is anyone else's here, so make yourselves comfortable; you've already got the keys, grab whatever you need from the fridge, make as much noise as you want (we could use that), and company's always a treat. Bottom line: just be yourself, have fun, make this your home, and if there's anything the rest of us can help with or anything you just find yourself curious about, just ask -- we're here to help... and we need you to help us stay honest and keep on our toes.

Seriously, thanks for making the trip and hope it went smoothly -- you're already doing more for more folks than you might realize, but no pressure. We're all in this together... and together, as one of us likes to say, "let's go up to meet our destiny."

In God We Still Trust

My cousin sent me a copy of this song that I thought was fantastic! I am in a country music free zone here in New Jersey... there just are no country music stations! I suppose that's why I haven't heard this song by Diamond Rio. It really is a beautiful song and I pray the words are true! As we enter into Easter and springtime let's continue to place all of our hope in God, the One who loves us and sent His Son to save us! Have a blessed Easter and God bless America!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gorbachev in Assisi

In 1956 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev famously said to the USA and her allies "Whether you like it or not. History is on our side. We will bury you!" Many knees trembled at these words. Khrushchev had promised to bring an end to Christianity and even boldly promised to show the last Orthodox priest on television. While he did close and destroy 30 percent of the churches and monasteries in Russia we know that Khrushchev failed in his attempt to bury the USA and to bury faith! Khrushchev spent the last 7 years of his life under the watchful eye of the KGB as he had been deposed as President. Some years later, in 1983, President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an evil empire. Many around the world condemned him for calling the Soviets "evil". Many in our own time don't believe that evil exists at all. This was true back in 1983 as well. At the Brandenburg Gate of West Berlin, Germany on June 12, 1987 President Reagan made a great challenge to then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. He challenged him to "tear down this wall!" Again, many in the media were critical. But by November 9, 1989 that wall did come down! The sweep of democratic reforms across Eastern Europe was nothing short of miraculous. Many wondered why Gorbachev didn't respond as earlier Soviet leaders before him like Khrushchev or Brezhnev. Some suspected that Gorbachev might actually have Christian faith. Many understandably found that hard to believe. However, now we are finding out more about what may have motivated Gorbachev at the time. Peter Robinson of the National Review online wrote an article about the recent visit on March 19th of Mikhail Gorbachev to the Tomb of St. Francis in Assisi. During that visit Gorbachev formally announced that he was a Christian. He stated that "St Francis is, for me, the alter Christus, the other Christ. His story fascinates me and has played a fundamental role in my life." He added, "It was through St Francis that I arrived at the Church, so it was important that I came to visit his tomb."
You can read the London Telegraph article here. Miracles do happen! We need to pray that we have the eyes to see them! During this holy season of Easter let's continue to pray that the light of faith continues to shine in our hearts that others might come to see the truth that can't be buried. The truth has risen from the tomb! Alleluia!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Light!

"Exultet iam angelica turba caelorum:
exultent divina mysteria:
et pro tanti Regis victoria tuba insonet salutaris...."

("Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!")

Pro-life Prophet of Great Britain

Great Britain has a prophetic voice speaking out for life! Check out this article on Cardinal Keith O'Brien's Easter sermon here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Remember Me Lord

It was our infirmities that He bore,
our sufferings that He endured....
He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins,
upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by His stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following our own way;
but the Lord laid upon Him the guilt of us all.
(Isaiah 53:3-6)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fishers of Men

Lord Jesus, as You once called the first disciples to make them fishers of men, let your sweet invitation continue to resound: Come, follow Me!

Give young men and women the grace of responding quickly to Your voice. Support your bishops, priests and consecrated people in their apostolic labor.

Grant perseverance to our seminarians and to all those who are carrying out the ideal of a life totally consecrated to Your service.

Awaken in our community a missionary eagerness. Lord, SEND WORKERS TO YOUR HARVEST and do not allow humanity to be lost for the lack of pastors, missionaries and people dedicated to the cause of the Gospel.

Mary, Mother of the Church, the model of every vocation, help us to say “Yes” to the Lord Who calls us to cooperate in the divine plan of salvation. Amen.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Calling All Prophets!

The following article points out a reality that is challenging. Some would suggest that the Cardinal is stating the obvious while others would say he has gotten it all wrong! Read the brief article and decide for yourself:

Rome, Feb. 15, 2008 ( - The prefect of the Congregation for Religious has lamented that many Catholic priests are neglecting their duties under the pressure of conforming to secular culture.

In a February 14 interview with the Italian ANSA news agency, Cardinal Franc Rode said that priests today tend to be less obedient to the Church and more responsive to the world. He cited reluctance to wear clerical dress as a symptom of this trend.

“A drift towards bourgeois values and moral relativism are the two great dangers that weaken religious life," said the Slovenian cardinal. "The biggest problem today is the climate of secularization-- present not only in Western society but also within the Church itself.”

Cardinal Rode said that young people continue to hear God's call to a vocation in the priesthood or religious life. But he suggested that a lax model of priestly or religious life is not likely to encourage vocations. As evidence the cardinal pointed to the young Catholics who are attracted to contemplative life in highly disciplined religious orders. "They are attracted because it is a radical life choice," he said.

While many remain focused and devout, there are many religious and clergy who have forgotten the essentials. If we are honest with ourselves then we know that all of us are influenced by the values of the world. The secularization is so thorough that often we are unaware of it. This might be true regarding the way we dress, worship, or by way we generally carry ourselves as consecrated religious or as priests. Yet, we are called to be signs of contradiction. We are called continuously to point others toward Christ! This is a daunting challenge in a world that can seem tone deaf to the call of Christ. Let's pray that we ourselves have not become tone deaf to that call.

Sister of Life on MTV!

Now that's pretty amazing! Well, God is full of surprises!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Vocation Trends

The December 2007 issue of "The Catholic World Report" magazine has the cover story of "By the Numbers: The Best and Worst US Diocese for Vocations". The following are top and bottom 20 diocese in the USA.

The top 20 Diocese in the United States for seminarians to Catholic population:

1. Lincoln ( 38/93,988)
2. Juneau (2/5473)
3. Tulsa (17/55,462)
4. Rapid City (7/25,729)
5. Cheyenne (13/49,121)
6. Duluth (18/68,037)
7. Peoria (43/174,008)
8. Denver (93/384,611)
9. Wichita (28/120,527)
10. Lexington (11/48,070)
11. Tyler (14/61,390)
12. Bismarck (14/62,898)
13. Fargo (18/82,891)
14. Nashville (15/69,400)
15. Spokane (21/97,655)
16. Pensacola-Tallahassee (14/65,209)
17. Memphis (14/67,342)
18. Mobile (14/67,434)
19. Yakima (16/77,149)
20. Sioux City (17/87,528)

The bottom 20 Diocese in the United States for seminarians to Catholic population:

157. Monterey (5/195,200)
158. Reno (3/121,347)
159. San Bernadino (28/1,146,960)
160. Detroit (31/1,286,985)
161. Syracuse (8/345,736)
162. Boston (39/1,845,846)
163. Rockville Centre (28/1,431,774)
164. Galveston-Houston (29/1,495,030)
165. San Antonio (13/673,526)
166. Santa Rosa (3/159,763)
167. Rochester (6/341,772)
168. El Paso (11/656,035)
169. Hartford (10/668,231)
170. New York (37/2,542,432)
171. Los Angeles (60/4,448,763)
172. Laredo (3/229,141)
173. Las Vegas (7/539,953)
174. Metuchen (7/603,214)
175. Honolulu (1/143,240)
176. San Diego (5/950,743)

While these numbers are not everything, they do indicate trends and can show us where the vocational fruitfulness is most apparent. There are a lot of hopeful signs that things are improving for the Church. Perhaps we have turned that corner on vocations and will now see a steady increase that will last? We can always hope... and pray!

Monday, March 17, 2008

An Irish Blessing

Some Irish Music For St. Pat's

St. Patrick's Day Fun

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Life and Death of Religious Life

Last summer Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR wrote a very good article in First Things on the renewal of religious life today. You can find the full article here. I think he is a great realist and speaks very clearly about the future of religious life. I think that we Salesians, as we challenge ourselves to return to Don Bosco, are in a position to experience renewal and growth that might surprise us. I pray we are up to this challenge. It is such an important time for us in our congregation and, in particular, in our American provinces. The Holy Spirit has blessed us with so many wonderful models of holiness in our province. It is our turn today to respond to God's call of grace and live our our vocations with the same intentionality. We recall the words of Pope John Paul II who said to us: "Salesians, be saints!" As our Salesian General Chapter continues these days in Rome, let's continue to pray for our congregation. Let's also pray for courage and strength as we seek to return to Don Bosco! The young people of the USA need us! Let's also pray for more and more generous young people to come forward to serve the Church and serve the Lord as priests and religious.

The Spirit of Lent

The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian:

O Lord and Master of my Life,
Do not abandon me to a spirit of idleness
discouragement, ambition, and idle talking!

But rather bestow your grace upon me your servant,
the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love.

Yes O lord and King,
Grant me to see my failings
And not to condemn my brother,
O you who are blessed from ages to ages. Amen.

I think this prayer is a perfect one to reflect on during Lent. It is especially good for a Passion Sunday like today! I pray today that you are able to reflect on this prayer as well. Let's pray for one another today in a special way, especially as we reflect on the Passion of Our Lord, that we might be able to receive the graces that God has in store for us. Let's pray that our hearts are not so full that we have no room to receive Him! Have a happy and blessed Holy Week!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fields of Athenry

This is St. Patrick's Day Weekend here in the New York/New Jersey area... Even though the beginning of Holy Week has taken some of the focus off of this years celebration... it is still clearly time to celebrate the Irish! I added a clip of my favorite Irish ballad to this post. The Fields of Athenry is a very sad song but it still is one of my favorites. I do love country music and I'm sure country and Irish music are cousins! The beauty of this clip is that it gives the sad history of the song before it begins. Happy St. Patrick's and God bless!

Happy Feast of St. Joseph!

O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bella: The Movie

If you didn't get a chance to see Bella at the movie theaters then you missed a fantastic movie with a wonderful message! But, you have your chance now to see it as it comes out in May on DVD. You can pre-order it here. A good Catholic movie with a pro-life message is a miracle these days and Bella is just that. I do encourage everyone to see this movie. The main character is truly a hero who is able to inspire. The story shows how men can counter the culture of death and the me-first culture by being truthful, honest and self-sacrificing persons. Eduardo Verastegui is the lead actor in the film and is a story of conversion himself. You can learn more about his story here. He went from Mexican soap opera and music star to being a man on fire for his Catholic faith! God is good... all the time!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

God in the Streets of New York City

Catholics believe that during the Mass which we attend each week (for some of us daily), the priest (during the consecration) speaks these words as he holds the communion host, "...He took bread and gave you thanks. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: Take this all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you". When the priest says "this my body", it is at that instant when, through the miracle of transubstantiation, the bread and wine which we offer as the bloodless sacrifice to our Lord truly become the Body, Blood , Soul and Divinity of Jesus. It is His true Presence in the form of bread and wine. It is Christ. We are so blessed to have the chance to receive him in this beautiful sacrament. It is also a great blessing to be able to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Having grown up in the 70's and 80's I did not see much of Eucharistic Adoration. Thankfully, this devotion has made a comeback in recent years! The following video is a beautiful reminder of how the presence of Christ in the Eucharist can touch lives. I enjoy watching this video by grassroots films to observe the eyes of those passing in the streets. They did a fantastic job! If you have not seen the short film (its only about 4 minutes) then I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another Marine Corps Gem... From Times Square!

Semper Fi

I really am not a Jonathan Stewart fan... at all! But, this is just very, very funny and I couldn't help posting it. I hope my brother-in-law appreciates all the Semper Fi posts I have put up recently! Send me some feedback Earl! God bless!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fr. Frank Klauder on Don Bosco's Dream of the 200 Day March

Fr. Frank Klauder, SDB was a wonderful, saintly priest who touched the lives of hundreds of Salesians and seminarians over the course of his many years of teaching. Fr. Frank died a saintly death on January 28, 2000 surrounded by his Salesian confrere. He was a man who loved Jesus Christ, had tremendous devotion to the Mother of God, loved Don Bosco and the Salesian charism! He was a man on fire with love for the Church and the Holy Father! It was that love for the Church and the Holy Father that prompted Fr. Frank to reflect profoundly upon the dreams of Don Bosco and their importance for our own time. He felt that Don Bosco's dreams or prophecies were unfolding before our eyes. This was especially true in the last 20 years of his life. I have included below Fr. Frank's article on Don Bosco's dream of the 200 day march. This article was originally published in Soul Magazine and has been posted on EWTN's website as well.

The Biographical Memoirs of Saint John Bosco provide us with a number of prophecies, which the saint disguised as "dreams," which have always stirred interest in the readers of his biography.

Well known is the saint's "dream of the two columns" where Don Bosco foresaw the future difficulties of the Church, envisioned as a ship on stormy seas. Several popes strive to moor the Church and anchor it between two columns which arose amid the dangerous waters. The columns symbolized the two devotions to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to Mary Immaculate, the Help of Christians, Calm and peace for the Church is won only when one of the popes finally succeeds in anchoring the Church between the two columns.

The dream has great symbolic significance and can be interpreted in several ways, while maintaining the essential meaning that the Church's future is guaranteed through Peter's ministry and through fidelity of the faithful to the two devotions to Jesus and Mary.

Another symbolic dream is the less-known "march of the 200 days," which can shed light on interpreting dream of the two columns. The account of this dream is given in the tenth volume of the Biographical Memoirs (pp. 49-59) in the context of "three prophecies," whose details need not delay us here.

The "first prophecy" ends as follows:

"There shall yet come a violent hurricane. Iniquity is at an end, sin shall cease, and before two full moons shall have shone in the month of flowers, the rainbow of peace shall appear on earth ... Throughout the world a sun so bright shall shine as never seen since the flames of the Cenacle until today, nor shall it be seen again until the end of time."

I will return to this prophecy at the very end of the article. It is the second prophecy that especially concerns us here.

It reads in part as follows:

"It was a dark night, and men could no longer find their way back to their countries. Suddenly a most brilliant light shone in the sky, illuminating their way as at high noon. At that moment from the Vatican came forth, as in procession, a multitude of men and women, young children, monks, nuns, and priests, and at the head was the pope.

"But a furious storm then broke out, somewhat dimming that light, as if light and darkness were locked in battle ...

"The ranks of the procession thinned considerably. After a two-hundred-day march, all realized that they were no longer in Rome. In dismay they swarmed about the Pontiff to protect him and minister to him in his needs.

"At that moment two angels appeared, bearing a banner which they presented to the Supreme Pontiff, saying: "Take the banner of her who battles and routs the most powerful armies on earth. Your enemies have vanished; with tears and sighs your children plead for your return."

"One side of the banner bore the inscription: 'Queen conceived without sin' and the other side read: 'Help of Christians.'

"The Pontiff accepted the banner gladly, but he became very distressed to see how few were his followers.

"But the two angels went on: 'Go now, comfort your children. Write to your brothers scattered throughout the world that men must reform their lives. This cannot be achieved unless the bread of the Divine Word is broken among the peoples. Teach children their catechism and preach detachment from earthly things. The time has come,' the two angels concluded, 'when the poor will evangelize the world. Priests shall be sought among those who wield the hoe, the spade, and the hammer, as David prophesied: 'He raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor. To seat them with princes, with the princes of his own people' (Ps 113:7-8).

"On hearing this, the Pontiff moved on, and the ranks began to swell.

Upon reaching the Holy City, the Pontiff wept at the sight of its desolate citizens, for many of them were no longer. He then entered Saint Peter's and intoned the Te Deum, to which a chorus of angels responded, singing: 'Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.'

"When the song was over, all darkness vanished and a blazing sun shone...

"From the start of the exile until the intoning of the Te Deum, the sun rose two hundred times. All the events described covered a period of four hundred days."

Regarding this mysterious dream, I offer the following interpretation, suggested in part by a layman:

1. The four hundred "days" refer to four hundred months, or thirty-three-and-a-third years;

2. The two hundred "days" refer to sixteen and a half years;

3. The first "brilliant light" before the beginning of the procession or march refers to Vatican Council II, which ended in 1965;

4. The "furious storm" that broke out refers to the controversies that arose after the council;

5. The end of the first two hundred "days" or sixteen-and-a-half years, brings us to 1982, when the Pope visited Fatima, one year after the attempted assassination on his life. At that time, speaking, in the third person the Pope said:

"Today John Paul II reads the message of Fatima again, with trepidation in his heart, because he sees how many people and societies-how many Christians have gone in the opposite direction to the one indicated in the message of Fatima. Sin has made itself firmly at home in the world, and the denial of God has become widespread in the ideologies, ideas, and plans of human beings."

Before concluding his talk, the Pope recited a prayer, called "apocalyptic" by the New York Times, as follows:

"From famine and war, deliver us.

From nuclear war, from incalculable self-destruction, from every kind of war, deliver us.

From sins against the life of man from its very beginning, deliver us.
From hatred and from the demeaning of the dignity of the children of God, deliver us.

From every kind of injustice in the life of society, both national and international, deliver us.

From readiness to trample on the commandments of God, deliver us.
From attempts to stifle in human hearts the very truth of God, deliver us.

From sins against the Holy Spirit, deliver us, deliver us.

May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of Hope."

It was at this time that John Paul renewed the consecration of the world and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, having invited the bishops of the world to join him in a collegial manner and thus complying completely with one of the requests of the Fatima message. Two years later, in 1984, he repeated the same consecration. Events thereafter (1989) witnessed the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

6. The end of the four hundred "days" brings us to 1999. In that year two full moons occur in the same month, as also in 1988, when there were two full moons in the month of May, as a prelude to the events of 1989.

7. The splendid era of peace, with which "the first prophecy" ends refers to the era of peace promised by Our Lady at Fatima, and which is being gradually prepared by the papal initiatives for the third millennium.

In conclusion, the future is bright with promise, provided that we heed the voice of the Holy Father. Our era is in need of moral reform, which will require work and prayer on the part of all Christians. For Catholics, an important part of this endeavor is fidelity to the Holy Rosary, which has always been Our Lady's "weapon of victory."

Don Bosco's First Dream

Young John Bosco had never had such a dream as this one! But, thankfully, he remembered this dream and it recurred several times in his lifetime. As we Salesians contemplate "returning to Don Bosco" it is most helpful for us to return to Don Bosco's first dream at the age of 9. Like young John Bosco we may not always understand what God is calling us to. But, like him, we should listen to the words of the Blessed Mother in the dream: "in good time you will understand everything!" The Rector Major shared this artistic expression of the first dream with us as he gave us the new Strenna for 2008. It is an excellent reminder of the heart of Don Bosco and of our charism!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Salesian According to the Bishop of Milo

Today our community held a quarterly day of recollection (A day long retreat) at Guardian Angels Parish in Allendale, NJ. It rained all day! However, we were blessed to have had Fr. Pat Angelucci, SDB as our retreat preacher. Fr. Pat shared some beautiful insights on Salesian life and on Salesian asceticism. He read a quote to us that was particularly insightful. In Volume 18 of The Biographical Memoirs of St. John Bosco we can find a description of a Salesian from the Bishop of Milo. This description was written in 1886, but it goes to the heart of some of the qualities that make up a Salesian of Don Bosco. I find the description to be very insightful!

“A Salesian is not like a Jesuit, a soldier, so to speak, of the sacred army or, one might better say, of the elect militia that the Church mobilizes against her fiercest enemies, and especially against this modern world which is so full of pride so conceited because of its knowledge and its valor. A Salesian is not like a Capuchin, the most popular of monks, for his austerity and severity, his contempt for worldly possessions, his absolute poverty both interior and exterior, which terrify us. The Salesian is not like the son of St. Benedict who lives in solitude, and spends his life in study, in the chant of divine praises and in the cultivation of the soil. The Salesian is not like a disciple of Joseph Calasanz, eminent benefactor, well deserving of the Church and of Society, but devoted only to one task. No, the Salesian is not any of these.

The Salesian is the man of self-denial and humility, the man who lives dead to himself, without even noticing it; who does good, thinking that he is doing nothing; who makes sacrifices without considering them, sometimes even unaware of them. He is the man who deems himself to be the lowliest servant of the Church when his last hour strikes. He goes wherever he is sent; he takes and adapts himself to things as he finds them, building his nest in either the exuberant branches of a tree rich in foliage, or amid the most sharply pointed, craggy stones or bare rock. His characteristic virtues are that he never complains, not even when everything is against him, and that he is never discouraged, but always puts his hope in Divine Providence.

The Salesian has something of the energy, of the industriousness, of the breadth and of the height of goals as well as the unconquerable courage of the Jesuit; he also enjoys something of the popularity of the Capuchin; he has something of the retiring spirit and working habits peculiar to monks; in short, he has something in common with all religious orders known to us, despite the fact that he truly is a new breed.”

Friday, March 7, 2008

Salesian Cardinal Zen prepares Stations for Pope Benedict

The following is a translation of Paolo Rodari's article that I found on and was translated by Fr. Z. It is very intersting and says a lot about the concern that the Holy Father has for the Catholic Church in China. God bless our Salesian Cardinal Zen and all of the faithful in Hong Kong and China.

The Pope Realpolitick toward China passes to the Via Crucis at the Colosseum

Paolo Rodari

Facts support that Benedict XVI, with his hallmark political pragmatism, values especially relations with Beijing in an attempt to safeguard as much as possible the difficult lot of the Catholic Chinese.

Beyond sending, in May of last year, a historic letter to Catholics in that country, in which for the first time important openings were made by the Holy See to Beijing and to the Church taking the governments line (in addition to this Church, in China there lives in the midst of a thousand difficulties another, underground Church), it is foreseen for the upcoming Stations of the Cross on Good Friday at the Colosseum that Benedict XVI will send beyond the Great Wall another signal worthy of note.

To pen the meditations, in fact – and this choice is obviously entirely Ratzinger’s – will be the Bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun, 76, born Yang King-pang in the Diocese of Shanghai.

Zen became bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong in 2002, after being in Hong Kong as Coadjutor since September 1996, a year before the return of the city to Chinese mainland control.

And when, on 22 February 2006, Benedict XVI announced the surprising intention to give him the Cardinal’s biretta, it was well understood that the Pope was counting on the new Cardinal to work amidst the difficult relations between the Holy See and Beijing. Zen’s words after the announcement of the Pope, in fact, demonstrate this desire: "This nomination", the Chinese Cardinal said, "is a sign of good will and of the Pope’s affection for all of China. And if I accept it, I accept it for all China. I am already nearly 75 and I was thinking to retire. Now I don’t know what will happen to me. But we stand at attention and obey our orders. Perhaps the Pope will have need for advice once in a while. There is a great deal to be done regarding China."

It is beyond question too much to say that the choice of Zen to pen the Good Friday meditations is a hand extended by the Holy See to a country that, in all ways, seeks to show to the West a democratic face (included in this attempt is also the difficult organization of the Olympics).

Still, a Chinese bishop coming after the illustrious names of Angelo Comastri (2006) and Gianfranco Ravasi (2007) offers his own reflections for one of the papal events most closely followed by the world, remains a publicity opportunity that China can in some way play with on the level of image. [In other words, China has no choice but to ‘spin’ this in as positive light as possible.]

Still, on balance among Chinese prelates Zen is the one characterized by a line of greater realism regarding Beijing. A line, namely, that absolutely does not want to hide the sufferings of so-called underground Catholics. Zen, in fact, from the position of strength he has earned in this issue, has often chosen openly to criticize Beijing. Even though in Hong Kong Catholics are only 5 percent of the population, the Cardinal has often shown, as faithful son of St. John Bosco he is, a courageous social commitment, thanks to which he has become one of the most respected and influential figures – and even feared – in the city. It wasn’t by chance that in 2002 he was voted to be "person of the year", receiving in the newspapers the singular place of "the moral conscience" of Hong Kong.

Beijing is a government that tends to respect tough figures, intransigent in certain issues, like Zen. And even though the day in which he received the Cardinal’s red various observers saw in his controversial character an obstacle to relations with Beijing, Benedict XVI instead red precisely in the fine points of this not easy character that authority which Beijing requires from every interlocutor.

In was in 1999 that Zen’s line toward Beijing came to the fore in way evident to all. At that time there were arrested various exponents of a movement for "residence rights" for children of residents of Hong Kong born in China. Zen took a public position against these arrests and actually got to the point of encouraging hunger strikes and sit-in demonstrations. No religious leader had ever dared so much.

Zen has many times expressed his favor about the letter sent by the Pope to Chinese Catholics. In particular, he saw as positive the desire of Pope Benedict XVI to welcome, after long years of forced separation, the very large majority of bishops of the official Church into the one Catholic Church. "The Church in China", he said on the occasion of the 2005 Synod of Bishops, "apparently divide in two, one official recognize by the government and one clandestine which refuses to be independent from Rome, is in reality only one Church, because all want to be in unity with the Pope". It is hoped, then, that also Beijing will accept this desire for unity "even if" he said, "the ‘conservative’ elements in the official Church resisting it, for obvious motives of self-interest."

I find it really interesting that the Pope chose Card. Zen for this globally visible role on the even of the Beijing Olympics.

Rodari dismisses the idea that this choice is actually a positive extension of a hand to Beijing.

Having Zen in the spotlight at Good Friday, which underscores Christ’s suffering, will automatically also underscore suffering and human rights in China.

No matter what, China must put a positive spin on this choice, given the need to present the very best face to the West, including especially the Holy See, before the Summer Olympics.

Fr. Corapi's Story of Conversion

During this holy season of Lent all of us are invited to return to God. Our Lord is so generous in offering his grace, his pardon, and his peace. The sacrament of reconciliation is such a powerful encounter with God's grace that most of us need to partake of more often. Somehow we put it off and intend to go far more often then we actually do! Let's challenge ourselves more these days to give ourselves to this sacrament more frequently. God has a plan for our lives! He wants only good things for us and is calling us to such an intimate relationship with Him. This video by Fr. Corapi is a powerful testimony to the power of the sacrament. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Truth Hurts!

Leticia at Catholic Media Review links us to this trailer of Ben Stein’s soon-to-be-released documentary, Expelled. You have to watch this trailer... and eventually the movie when it comes out! I think Ben Stein is right. The secular mindset has become so defensive (regarding Darwinism, Global Warming etc.) that it refuses to hear any other argument. I think it is so important for those of us responsible for the education of the young to keep ourselves informed. We have to be careful not to buy into this secular agenda ourselves. I pray that millions will see this movie when it comes out in the spring of this year!

Havana Monastery?

Sometimes its good to be surprised! I was very surprised to read that Cuba (yes, that Cuba!) has invited a group of Benedictines to found a monastic community in their country. Just last week our Salesian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone visited the country on behalf of Pope Benedict. The visit was prompted by the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul's visit to Cuba. We have to pray for the success of this new community. The people of Cuba and the Church there could use some good news and hope. I will include the story here that I read on Earth Times: Cuba has invited the Catholic Church to open a new monastery on the island and a German Benedictine order said Wednesday it would send four monks to establish a "spiritual centre."The church has been officially banned in the past from building new churches on the communist island.

The four monks will be provided by the Missionary Benedictines, also known as the Ottilien Congregation, an order of monks with its world headquarters at Landsberg am Lech, west of Munich.

The new site will be in the archdiocese of Havana, the order's spokesman said.

The foundation had been requested by the archbishop, Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, and had been expressly approved by Fidel Castro before his retirement last month as Cuban leader.

The spokesman said Cuban authorities had been helpful in the preparations to set up the monastery, which was likely to open this year.

One of the monks would come from the headquarters abbey, St Odilia at Landsberg, where 110 men practise manual trades as part of their religious vows. The order is a splinter from the Benedictines, the Catholic Church's oldest religious order.

It was understood that Castro had insisted that one of the four monks with farm experience be skilled in cheese-making. The "Maximo Lider" as he is known in Cuba is said to be fond of cheese.

The spokesman said Cardinal Ortega hoped the Benedictines would give the church in Cuba "fresh spiritual impetus."

The church has been banned for decades from the Cuban media, but last month Cuban state-controlled television broadcast live a mass celebrated in Havana's cathedral square by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the visiting Vatican secretary of state.

Bertone visited Cuba February 20-26 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the late Pope John Paul's trip to the island.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

President Bush Honors a Hero

Yesterday President Bush Attended the Medal of Honor Ceremony for Woodrow Wilson Keeble. Keeble was a full-blooded Sioux Indian and a Master Sargeant during the Korean War. His paperwork for the Medal of Honor was somehow lost and he was unable to receive the medal during his lifetime. The President chose to offer the medal to the Master Sargeant's family yesterday. It is wonderful to see and hear stories of true heroism in an age that too often is sorely lacking in it! President Bush recounted the story yesterday, "After days of fighting, the officers in Woody's company had fallen. Woody assumed command of one platoon, then a second, and then a third, until one of the hills was taken, and the enemy fled in wild retreat. That first advance nearly killed him. By the end of the day, Woody had more than 83 grenade fragments in his body. He had bleeding wounds in his arms, chest, and thighs. And yet he still wanted to fight. So after a day with the medics, he defied the doctor's orders and returned to the battlefield. And that is where, on October 20, 1951, Master Sergeant Woodrow Wilson Keeble made history. The Communists still held a crucial hill and had pinned down U.S. forces with a furious assault. One soldier, President Bush recounted, "said the enemy lobbed so many grenades on American troops that they looked like a flock of blackbirds in the sky." Allied forces tried heavy artillery but it did not work. But, President Bush said, "Woody was back, and Woody was some kind of mad. He grabbed grenades and his weapon and climbed that crucial hill alone. Woody climbed hundreds of yards through dirt and rock, with his wounds aching, bullets flying, and grenades falling all around him. As Woody first started off, someone saw him and remarked: 'Either he's the bravest soldier I have ever met, or he's crazy.' Soldiers watched in awe as Woody single-handedly took out one machine gun nest, and then another. When Woody was through, all 16 enemy soldiers were dead, the hill was taken, and the Allies won the day." You can watch part of the ceremony from the CNN story here. Let's continue to pray for all of our troops who serve us so bravely. We pray also for all of our veterans and their families.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Salesians in the Church

Rocco Palmo of the Whispers in the Loggia blog posted a very nice article on the Salesians and on our General Chapter. He does a great job following all of the activities of the Church (both around the world and in the USA). Much of what is in this post was taken from his posting today. I encourage you to visit his site if you like to keep up with the latest on the Church!

Earlier today, the 26th general chapter of the Salesians opened in Rome with a Mass celebrated by the community's Rector-Major, Fr Pascual Chavez.

As the 226 delegates touched down in the city over the weekend, Robert Mickens examines the community's clout in the current edition of The Tablet:

Among the characteristics the Salesians say they try to embody are "a welcoming attitude", "optimism and joy", "creativity and flexibility" and a "deep trust in God". They pride themselves on what is called the "preventive system" of education that was devised by Don Bosco and is based "entirely on reason, religion and loving kindness". It is "preventive" in that it "seeks to prevent the need for punishment by placing the child in an environment in which he/she is encouraged to be the best one can be". Salesians will point to the fact that they tend to blend in with the ecclesial customs and style of the places where they work - all in harmony with the local expression of the hierarchical Church. It is all tempered by a "cheerfulness" and what even Don Bosco approvingly called a "recklessness" - anything whose aims were "to gain souls for God".

If you thumb through the Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican's block-like 2,400-page directory, you will see that nearly every major section of the Roman Curia has at least one or two officials, staffers or consultants with "SDB" or "FMA" after their names. And most of those in top positions owe their promotion to the current Pope.

For example, the Secretary of State is not the only Salesian cardinal to head a Vatican office. Pope Benedict made Don Raffaele Farina SDB, 74, a cardinal last November after promoting him to head the Vatican Library five months earlier. His induction to the college means there are currently five Salesian cardinals, two of them created by Pope Benedict (Cardinal Joseph Zen SDB of Hong Kong is the other). Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo, 92 [sic -- Obando is 82], retired Archbishop of Managua, capital of Nicaragua, and Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, 65, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras, are the other two Salesians who currently wear red hats.

It is likely that the man who currently ranks second among Salesians at the Vatican will also be made a cardinal in the next consistory, whenever that should be. Archbishop Angelo Amato SDB, now in his sixth year as secretary (second in command) at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), is expected to be moved in the coming months to head another Vatican office, such as the Congregation for Saints or Catholic Education. Archbishop Amato, 69, received his current job from the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who chose him in 2002 to be his top aide at the CDF. Amato replaced his Salesian confrère, then-Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, whom Cardinal Ratzinger had picked for that same job in 1995.

Since becoming Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict - most likely in consultation with his Secretary of State - has continued to place his trust in people from the vast Salesian network. Last October he named Carlo Di Cicco, a 63-year-old former student and employee of the Salesians, as assistant editor of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano (the Salesians have for years managed the Vatican's printing press and publishing house).

But the Salesian influence does not stop there. When bishops from around the world gather in Rome next October for the synod on the Word of God, they will be using a working document prepared for them by Fr Giorgio Zevini SDB, dean of the faculty of theology at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome.

One highly regarded Salesian who took up a key post in the Vatican even before the Ratzinger pontificate began is Fr Norbert Hofmann SDB, yet another of his order's Biblicum-trained scripture scholars. Since 2002 the German-born priest has been number three at the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews.

But more than the number of Salesians who work in the Roman Curia, an even greater sign of the Vatican's trust in members of this religious order is the number of them who have been named bishops around the world. Currently 116 men with SDB behind their names wear the mitre, which is more than any other order in the Church. Most of them are in mission territories in Latin America and Asia, places where Don Bosco and his first successors sent their men in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In some parishes in these territories the local clergy are almost all Salesians....

"No effort should be spared when the Church and the papacy are at stake," Don Bosco loved to repeat, obviously influenced by the turbulence of the period and his personal friendship with the much beleaguered Pope Pius IX. This early support of the papacy did not go unrewarded. Just four years before the founder died, he saw one of his prize pupils, Giovanni Cagliero, appointed bishop in Argentina in 1884. The first Salesian bishop later became Pope Pius X's delegate to Costa Rica and Nicaragua and, in 1915, the fledging religious order's very first cardinal.

The Popes have also bestowed "celestial" honours on the Salesians in equally impressive measure. Eight members of the "Salesian Family" - including Don Bosco and Maria Mazzarello, foundress of the women's branch (FMA) - have been canonised, while 116 others are included in the gallery of "blesseds". There are 28 more Salesian beatification causes currently in the works, including Don Bosco's mother, affectionately honoured by Salesians today as "Mamma Margaret".

...and to welcome the gathering, the Pope sent a message:

“The Sons of Don Bosco belong to the large host of those disciples Christ has consecrated to himself by his Spirit through a special act of love”, affirms the Pontiff, reminding us that the consecrated person is called to become, as did Christ, a sign of contradiction, a witness to an alternative style of life, alert to the possibility of secular influences.

He defines Don Bosco as “a saint with one great passion: the glory of God and the salvation of souls”. Every Salesian is called to maintain this passion, by understanding, studying, loving and imitating the saint of young people. The Pope invites Salesians to “overcome the dissipation of energy in hyperactivity and cultivate the unity of a spiritual life through the acquisition of a profound sense of the mystical dimension and a sound asceticism” to nourish apostolic commitment and guarantee pastoral effectiveness. Lectio Divina, the Eucharist, and a lifestyle which is simple and moderate will help the consecrated Salesian to strengthen the response to his vocation.

To the Salesians, who must burn with the same apostolic passion as their founder, the Pope entrusts the task of evangelisation. “The universal Church and the particular Churches of which they form part expect from them a presence characterised by apostolic drive, and by a daring evangelising zeal... May evangelisation be the main and priority frontier of their mission today. It presents many tasks, urgent challenges, vast fields of activity, but its fundamental purpose is that of proposing that everyone should live their human life as Jesus lived it. In multi-religious situations and in secularised ones, it is necessary to find new ways of making Jesus known, especially to the young, so that they may discover his perennial fascination... Their charism places them in the privileged position of being able to give due weight to the role of education in the field of the evangelisation of the young.”

He sent a call to the entire Congregation to “devote its attention to strengthening the proclamation of the Christian message, the presence of the Church and Don Bosco’s charism” in the western world where vocations are falling and challenges to evangelisation are rising. Benedict XVI invites Salesians to present the attractiveness of the consecrated life to young people, making explicit reference to the role of the Salesian brother.

A sudden outbreak of violence and "state of emergency" in Armenia kept the community's best-known member -- the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone -- from beginning his weeklong tour of central Asia yesterday.

Even so, the "Vice-Pope" kept away from the opening festivities, deferring to the Vatican's "Prefect for Religious" Cardinal Franc Rode CM, who also delivered a greeting at today's session, and fellow-Salesian Archbishop Angelo Amato, the #2 of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who celebrated Saturday's closing liturgy of the delegates' pre-chapter retreat.

Salesian General Chapter Chatter!

Our Salesian News agency posted a very nice story on the Pope's message to the Salesians as the General Chapter begins in Rome. Our Holy Father challenges us to listen and be open to God in order to make our charism both relevant and fruitful in our time. You can view the story by clicking here! You can also follow all of the activity of the chapter both by checking out our province website or by following Br. Tom Dion's site. Br. Tom was elected by our Province to go to the Chapter (which lasts about 2 months) and he is keeping a blog for the rest of us! Thanks Br. Tom!

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Catholic Ear for Johnny Cash

I have always loved Johnny Cash! Maybe the Mississippi part of my blood comes out when I listen to him (Thanks Grandpa Leake). Lately I think the priest in me wants to go beyond the words of his songs to something deeper. I just find that there is a Catholic soul in his music. It is just so honest and gritty. I read an article by John W. McMullen that expresses it much more clearly than I am able. I attached the Hurt video about as well. This is a great video to watch a few times as we get into these final weeks of Lent. You have to watch the video a couple of times to get the most out it. I hope you enjoy it if you haven't seen it before.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I was blind, now I can see!

In the movie Bella the blind man's sign reads, "God closed my eyes. Now I can see." This image came to mind when I was reflecting on this week's Gospel from John. Somehow God is calling us to see with new eyes his love for us. He wants us to be able to see at a level that we are somehow unable to when we are seeing as the world sees. The Video above is taken from a clip from Into Great Silence (about the life of Carthusian Monks in the French Alps). The monk speaks of his own blindness and mortality in a beautiful way. Let's pray that we may be given true sight as the man in the Gospel; and may we live wide awake in the light of the Lord!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

World Youth Day

World Youth Day 2005 was a Catholic youth festival that started on August 16, and continued until August 21, 2005 in Cologne, Germany. It was the first WYD and the first foreign trip of Pope Benedict XVI, who joined the festival on August 18. This meeting was decided by the previous pope, John Paul II, during the Toronto World Youth Day of 2002. The theme was "We have come to worship Him" (from Matthew 2:2). About 400,000 young people from 200 countries attended during the week, and more than 1,000,000 came for the weekend. We were joined by about 600 Bishops and Cardinals. For our Salesian group (53 young adults) we were able to both enjoy World Youth Day as well as spend meaningful time in Turin visiting the holy sites of our Founder St. John Bosco. Thousands of young people from around the world are preparing to go to Sydney, Australia this summer for the next World Youth Day! Lets continue to pray for them and for the success of this pilgrimage of faith! The above video contains the theme song from the WYD in Cologne. It is a beautiful song that goes well with this video on our Catholic faith. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Louisiana Governor brings hope!

Louisiana has a new Governor who is bringing some hope for real change for the state! Let's pray for his success!


The Catholic News Agency reports that "a new survey has revealed that Catholic religious communities in the United States have increased the number of individuals they have in initial formation by 30 percent. Furthermore, 62 percent of communities participating in the survey reported an increase in vocation inquiries last year. The figures come from the Second Annual Survey on Trends in Religious Vocation." We need to hope that this trend continues and that our own congregation in the US might benefit from the growing interest in vocations. One hopeful sign for us was this past Discernment Weekend. We had 19 young men visit us who are considering Salesian life! These men came to us from a variety of different backgrounds and geographic locations. 5 or 6 of them may join us in the coming school year. Let's continue to pray for each of these men that they might know God's will in their lives and have the courage to follow it!