Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Steve Gleason's block vs. Falcons greatest moment in New Orleans sports history

The following comes from Yahoo Sports:

Who knows what made Michael DeMocker pick up a camera at that one instant on the night they reopened the Superdome. He's a photographer, a man trained not to question inner voices after two decades of documenting football and crime. As a rule he never takes pictures of punts, but it was the first drive of the first game on a night flush with euphoria. Nothing made much sense.
And so just after 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2006, with the most visible symbol of Hurricane Katrina's wrath repaired, DeMocker stopped just short of the Atlanta Falcons' 10-yard line. He clutched his The Times-Picayune-issued camera, focused on Falcons punter Michael Koenen and pushed the shutter button. As Koenen began to punt, DeMocker caught a glimpse of a white New Orleans Saints jersey streaking through the frame. There was a noise. A scramble. A blocked punt! Then a tumble in the end zone. Touchdown! And a roar like nothing anyone heard in the Superdome before or since crashed down all around. 
Michael DeMocker's photo of Steve Gleason's blocked punt in 2006 has a life of its own. (Times-Picayune)DeMocker looked down at his camera, flipped through his shots and saw clearly the perfect image of Saints safety Steve Gleason flying through the air, hands on the ball right after it left Koenen's foot. DeMocker's heart raced. He had the shot! He had been in the dome in those first few days after Katrina, standing on this very field then with its turf ruined, seats waterlogged and that great gaping hole in the ceiling. He thought that day they should just rip it down. Instead they rebuilt it. And now this? A blocked punt and a touchdown? Just seconds into the game?
He reached into his camera and pulled out the disc. Only then did he realize he was sobbing.

Years later the Saints would hand DeMocker's picture to a sculptor who would cast a giant metal image of Gleason blocking Koenen's punt. They would put it in front of the Superdome. And beneath the statue would rest a stand with a single word: "Rebirth." That's the only thing it could possibly say. For many here, the instant Gleason blocked the punt was when they knew New Orleans would be fine.
Ask nearly anyone from the city who picked through the ruins of a flooded house to name their favorite sports moment and they will mention the Super Bowl the Saints finally won in 2010 over the Colts or the field goal two weeks before that sent them to the game. But invariably those will be beautiful but secondary – dreams they never imagined. The first, they almost always say, came when Gleason blocked the punt.
"Gleason's play transcends football," says Christopher Bravender, a lifelong Saints fan. "Our city was crippled. We needed the Saints and we needed them desperately. We needed the distraction. We needed the inspiration. We needed to feel like we were part of something. That blocked punt literally helped people rebuild their homes. It symbolized being back.
"I get chills just thinking about it. He lifted a fallen city and I can say with no hesitation that he made the biggest play in Saints history."
Then there too is the fact it was Gleason who blocked the punt. There couldn't have been anyone more perfect. His father-in-law, Paul Varisco, says this. Varisco is a local musician of note, the leader of a once popular band called Paul Varisco & The Milestones. It is a detail that is important to people in New Orleans, just as its important that Gleason – who came from Washington State – married a local woman and lived in the city's borders. He wanted to be one of them.
He was not an extremely gifted player. His greatest contribution to the Saints was that he was a relentless special teams player who made blocking punts something of a specialty. He had long hair, loved local music and rode a bicycle around town. In a sense, he was not like an athlete, but rather like everyone else.
Steve Gleason raises his hand to the crowd before on the five-year anniversary of his monumental block. (AP)"He's humble and he didn't like the spotlight, he didn't go seeking the media," Varisco says. "I don't think he was prepared for being a celebrity. He's not one to beat his chest."
Yet just like this city where triumph too regularly meets heartbreak, Gleason was diagnosed with ALS three years ago. The man who flew through DeMocker's camera lens cannot walk. He struggles to speak. This Super Bowl week is not about the blocked punt for him, but rather his foundation,, and the push to find a cure for the disease that slowly takes little pieces of the life he once had.
And somehow the disease has made Gleason's block even more significant. It's almost as if much of New Orleans aches for every bit of the improbable hero that slips away from them. For he is the one they will never forget.

Something was growing that day the dome re-opened. It built through a morning suffused with anticipation. It broiled in the afternoon sun. The dome had been rebuilt in nine months, which had seemed impossible. Everyone wanted to celebrate. People walked out of work, they filled the bars of the French Quarter and surged over Poydras Street, the main avenue that goes by the dome.
There was a power in the throng. Something bigger than anyone had seen. Never in the months after Katrina had everyone come back together like this. The mob closed Poydras then slowly surged toward the stadium. Inside they wept. The stadium dome smelled new. The building New Orleans had left behind with its hole in the roof and torn turf and ruined seats, shined. U2 and Green Day played an opening show, unveiling a song called "The Saints Are Coming." Across the field a line of local New Orleans musicians backed them in a blast of brass.
A roar climbed to the roof, rattling through the girders and bouncing to the field. It boomed through the kickoff and reached a deafening pitch when Falcons quarterback Michael Vick dropped the ball before falling on it. Then Atlanta lined up to punt. Koenen stood just inside his 20. The snap came. The roar so loud now. He caught the ball, swung his leg. Gleason flew in …
Then mayhem.
In the stands, a lifelong Saints fan named Ralph Avila threw his hands in the air while still holding a drink. It went flying on the people in front of him. He looked down and saw somebody's nachos sprawled on the concrete.
The father of a Saints fan, Nathaniel Rogers, felt something go in his ears. To this day, he still has hearing loss.
Steve Gleason demonstrates the newest technology for Team Gleason House. (AP)Bravender stood at his seat and "cried like I had just met a family member I was sure had died in the storm."
On the sidelines, Quint Davis, the producer of New Orleans Jazz Fest, grabbed the shirt of famed Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich – with whom he had put together the pregame show – and ripped off Ehrlich's buttons.
And in a room beneath the stands, the members of U2, who had just played the pregame show, heard a rumble above and stared at the TV screen, their faces filled with wonder.
"It was just a huge release of emotion," says Chris Webre, a longtime Saints fan who was at the game. "It was excitement and tears. It was just a huge emotional release. From Aug. 29, 2005 [the day of Katrina] up to that day all we heard was 'New Orleans shouldn't be rebuilt.' 'The dome shouldn't be rebuilt.' 'The Saints shouldn't return to New Orleans.' All we heard was negativity.
"This was positive."

Down on the field, DeMocker tucked the photo disc in an envelope that photographers hand to runners. The runner would take the envelope to a Times-Picayune photo editor who was in a room beneath the stands. He knew he had something big.
"I couldn't believe it," DeMocker says. "I didn't think I had it at first. I really didn't see the block as I was shooting."
He was amazed at his fortune. His first instinct had been to walk down the sideline and around the back to the end zone. Since the Saints would be getting the ball in good position following the punt, he thought he might be in position to get some shots of them driving toward him. He still doesn't know why he stopped near the 10.
But the thing that stunned him the most was the detail he had managed to capture – the blur of the ball hitting Gleason's hands at the moment of impact. He had Gleason's feet off the ground. The player's golden hair was flowing from under his helmet. Today cameras work so much faster. The shutter can open and shut so many more times on an automatic drive. The chances now of getting the ball on Gleason's hands are far larger than they were then. It struck DeMocker just how fortunate he was.
Before giving the envelope to the runner, DeMocker drew 10 stars around a note that mentioned Gleason's punt. He laughed as he thought it looked like the margins of a little girl's notebook. All that he was missing, he said to himself, were drawings of unicorns. It was that important, though. The editors had to see his picture. They too, he knew, would be amazed.
"I got the shot!" he yelled to the runner. "I got the shot!"
The runner disappeared. DeMocker turned back to the game.

The Saints not only won that night, they tore apart the Falcons. The final score was 23-3. Perhaps more significant was the fact they were 3-0. Given the team had won just three games the year before as they bounced between San Antonio and Baton Rouge, this was no small accomplishment. Added to the fact they had beaten their hated rivals and Vick was awful in the game, a sense began to settle in that maybe things were indeed different in New Orleans.
Perhaps after a year of hell, they were all going to survive after all.
"That night was so important," says New Orleans resident Patty Glaser, who was at the game with her family. "It was one of the most powerful symbols in the rebuilding after Katrina. Everyone was asking: 'Is the dome re-opening?' Having the dome open and winning that game was the thing that told us we cold do it too. We could rebuild our homes."

DeMocker laughs.
The statue, entitled 'Rebirth,' depicts Steve Gleason fully outstretched in a dive, his hands smothering the ball …After the game he raced back to The Times-Picayune offices to return his equipment and see where they ran his photo of the Gleason blocked punt. He picked up the first edition of the paper and scanned it. Nothing. No picture.
He asked, none too quietly, "what happened?"
Really, he had the Gleason block?, they asked. No one had seen it. Somehow, in the mayhem they missed it. Computers were opened, files scanned. Eventually, yes, someone found it. There it was. Gleason, his hands outstretched, the ball about to strike his palms. It made the paper's second edition.
It is the only photograph DeMocker keeps in his New Orleans home. It sits on the mantel above his fireplace. His wife will allow no other sports or crime pictures, he says. This one is an exception in part because it is next to a picture of he and his wife meeting Gleason. But also something more, something bigger. For the picture just seems to scream: New Orleans is back.
"If you were in the city after Katrina it was like that scene in the movie where the hero gets pummeled and pummeled by the bully," DeMocker says. "Then just when the hero is about to succumb, he throws a punch into the belly of the bully."
He pauses.
"It was like a big [expletive] you to Katrina," he says.
Which is more than a photograph could ever say.

Pope Benedict honors St. John Bosco

Faith, Hope and Love by Fr. Robert Barron

The following comes from Fr. Robert Barron at Real Clear Religion:

St. Paul famously tells the Corinthians that there are "three things that last: faith, hope, and love." At this Pauline prompt, the Christian tradition has identified these three as the "theological" virtues, meaning those features that come as a unique gift and (from?) God and that serve as the structuring elements of a properly spiritual life. They are also today massively misunderstood, and this misunderstanding has, I would contend, contributed mightily to the dismissing of religion in many circles of our increasingly secularist society.
The theological virtue that causes the most trouble is faith. This is because, in our culture besotted with the physical sciences, faith is construed as simple-mindedness, credulity, and superstition -- a poor pre-scientific substitute for real knowledge. As I have often argued before, authentic faith does not lie on the near side of reason; it doesn't fall short of reason's demands or lurk in a subrational or irrational darkness. Rather, real faith is a surrendering on the far side of reason, a leap into darkness to be sure, but a darkness beyond, not prior to, the illumination of the sciences and philosophy.

This implies, of course, that the person of real faith reverences reason in all of its forms and refuses to accept the myth of a "war" between religion and science. Moreover, scientists who are religious believers as well -- think of Georges Lem Maitre, or George Coyne, or Stanley Jaki, or John Polkinghorne -- readily accept the fact that reason is surrounded on all sides by something akin to faith. No scientist could get her work off the ground unless she accepted on faith the proposition that the world in its entirety is intelligible; and she couldn't move forward with her projects unless she accepted, without personal verification, the findings, research, and experiments of thousands of others; and she couldn't bring her studies to fulfillment unless she conceived of an intellectual goal that was not entirely available to her rational gaze. Therefore, the theological virtue of faith involves absolutely no sacrifice of the intellect.
In the wake of an event such as the Newtown tragedy or the Christmas tsunami of 2004, many will wonder how Christians can possibly exercise the virtue of hope. The deaths of innocents at the hand of a madman or of hundreds of thousands through natural disaster would seem to preclude the possibility of hoping in a loving God who actively cares for the world that he has made. But hope, as G.K. Chesterton pointed out, has little to do with conventional optimism. The person of authentic hope is not compelled to hold that suffering, tragedy, conflict, and the deaths of innocent people will simply disappear through the intervention of God.
Take a good hard look at the Bible. Every page of the Scriptures was written by someone who believed passionately in God, yet the Bible is filled with accounts of tragedies and disasters of all stripes: rape, murder, genocide, military collapse, political distress, etc. Jeremiah hoped in the Lord, and he watched the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians; David hoped in Yahweh, even as he was relentlessly pursued by Saul; Paul hoped in God, and he himself was mocked, tortured, and finally put to death. An optimist might think that God's existence is irreconcilable with evil, but a person of hope never assents to such a naïve proposition. To hope, in the theological sense, is to know that God finally is the sovereign master of the universe and hence that the drama of both nature and history is, at the end of the day and despite all darkness, a divine comedy. When the great English mystic Juliana of Norwich said, "All will be well, all manner of things will be well," she was not chirping optimistically about the disappearance of evil; she was exhibiting hope that God's triumph is assured.
The third theological virtue is love, and like its counterparts, it too is often flattened out and trivialized. For many, to love is equivalent to being a nice guy, or in Flannery O'Connor's formulation, "having a heart of gold." In his great autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton remembered a professor of his in England who said that love was, essentially, "being a gentleman." Now there is nothing in the world wrong with being a nice guy or having a heart of gold or being a gentlemen, but you can easily achieve all three of those states and not have love.
For love is not really about fitting in and being friendly and getting along; it is willing the good of the other as other. It is truly wanting what is best for another person and then concretely doing something about it. And this means that real love can be as tough as nails or as disagreeable as a slap in the face, indeed, in Dostoevsky's phrase, something "harsh and dreadful." Compelling an addict to get help, or questioning a dysfunctional style of life, or calling someone to real conversion all involve the willing of the good of the other-and none will cause people to characterize you as a nice guy. This is why, by the way, the God who is love is not a kindly Santa Claus who magically makes troubles disappear.
There are indeed three things that last: faith, hope, and love. A robust Christianity revolves around them. But we must be careful lest those terms lose their bite.

Shattering the Foundation Stones

The following comes from Fr. Ray Blake:

Self-loathing is a worrying thing. When people suddenly find themselves beating their breast, not so much because a past wrong or present regret comes to mind but simply because they are hate themselves then there is problem.
When bishops or priests publicly profess their detestation of the immediate past it is obvious the Church has a problem. One of good things the Holy Father has tried to deal with with Summorum Pontificum was to reconcile today with yesterday so there might be a tomorrow. The words, "what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful". These words by themelves cut us from the Pol Pot "year zero" mentallity, that seemed to suggest the Church had recreated itself around AD 1970. One of the most damaging things to spirituality and theology of the Church was to cut itself off from its history. By doing so the Church opened itself to all kinds of madness, falsity and novelty for novelty's sake.

The commandment "honour your mother and father" is followed by the statement "and you shall live long in the land" means, presumably, something about fideity to that which has given birth to you so that you may have a secure future. We have experienced the disaster in the Church when that which sustained our parents and their parents has been treated with contempt.

Today in our society we are expereincing the same thing the Church went through in the latter half of the twentieth century, the gay "marriage" issue is just one example. There is an amnesia at best, perhaps something more sinister that seems to want to strip our culture of its Christian rootedness. England has probably not been Christian since the 16th century but it has used Christian metaphors and concepts to express its sense of being and to say something about what it considers "good". It gave a language that we could some how agree giving expression to common aspirations and virtues. We imade God in our own image and likeness and identified him as an Englishman so that we could express metaphysical realities in a narrative form, understandable by all in our society..

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Super Bowl 2013 represents a journey for New Orleans:

The following comes from

The accolades for New Orleans started flowing as soon as Super Bowl visitors hit town this week. "Just arrived in N.O. NFL can hold the Super Bowl here every year ... No better big event city for sports," Rick Gosselin, a Dallas Morning News columnist, tweeted Sunday night.

Super bowl signs008.jpgMaria Elana Oliva and Rodolfo Oliva work together with others to fold a banner as workers at Crystal Clear Imaging work with oversized printers, making the huge banners and signage at their shop in Elmwood Jan. 29. The banners are going up around New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.
Bernie Miklasz, a sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who has covered the Super Bowl for three decades, said New Orleans is his top choice as host city. Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher tweeted: "Man I have a special love for New Orleans!! I love coming here."

New Orleanians love this city ferociously, and it is a point of pride that so many people elsewhere feel a similar affection. This week, though, the compliments carry greater significance. After what the city and the region have gone through over the past seven years, it is a remarkable achievement to be hosting another Super Bowl.

As Ti Martin, whose Commander's Palace restaurant underwent a $6.5 million renovation post-Katrina, told "Every now and then when you've got your nose to the grindstone, and you're just working, working, working, you've got to stop and say, 'Look at what we did.' And this is going to be another one of those moments."

It should be one of those moments for everyone who has worked to bring this community back - every homeowner who returned, every business that reopened, every civic activist who demanded better schools and government, all the volunteers who gave of their time and energy to clean up and rebuild.

And specifically for this event, thank you to Saints owner Tom Benson, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Super Bowl XLVII is putting New Orleans on an international stage. For anyone who is unaware, the city's renaissance will be impossible to miss.

This moment was hardly a given. A few weeks after the Saints' triumphant return to the Superdome for the 2006 season, the NFL held its fall owners meeting in New Orleans. Commissioner Goodell started the meeting with a highlight video from the Saints' victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the renovated Dome. The video featured Steve Gleason's blocked punt, Coach Sean Payton's postgame speech, in which he dedicated the game ball to the people of New Orleans, and shots of emotional fans decked out in black and gold.

"It's hard to imagine where we were a year ago," Mr. Goodell told the owners that October day. "And to see where we are now, the progress that has been made is extraordinary." It was extraordinary given that 80 percent of the city was under water after Katrina hit and the levees broke in August 2005.

Not all of the owners were persuaded, though, that New Orleans was going to be a viable city for the long-term. Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney said, "The thing that has to be determined is the business (in the city). Is that going to come back?" There also were concerns about whether the Saints could consistently sell tickets, something that had been a problem in the past.

The doubts weren't without cause. There were still blue tarps on rooftops, still thousands of houses that had been gutted but not rebuilt. And we are still rebuilding and still bear some scars.

The difference between October 2006 and today, though, is dramatic. The Saints not only have been able to sell tickets, the Superdome is sold out every year and the team has a long waiting list. And the Black and Gold's 2009 Super Bowl season was nothing short of magical.

As for New Orleans, there are more restaurants open than ever, and the city just finished upgrades to the airport and opened a new spur on the streetcar line. In 2012, tourism officials said that the city received more than a dozen national accolades. It also was recognized for its brain gain and its entrepreneurial energy.

The Super Bowl is arguably the biggest of big events. New Orleans has for years been one of the NFL's favorite sites, as evidenced by the previous nine times the city was chosen to host the game. It has been more than a decade since the game was played here, though. And, given the trauma to our region since then, it seems like longer ago than that.

This week has been more than three years in the making. The host committee, led by co-chairs James Carville and Mary Matalin, have worked countless hours and lined up a dizzying array of events. Thousands of volunteers signed up to help make our guests this week feel welcome.

Good luck to the Ravens and to the 49ers. Have a great week and a super game. We know you've worked hard to get to this moment. And so have we.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Pope Benedict: Liturgy teaches us to hear God's voice

The following comes from the CNA:

Pope Benedict XVI told thousands gathered in St. Peter's square Jan. 27 that marking Sunday as a day of rest and engaging in the liturgy can teach us to listen to the voice of God.

“Before we can speak of God and with God, we need to listen, and the liturgy of the Church is the 'school' of this listening to the Lord who speaks to us,” he said during his weekly Angelus address.

Exploring the day's reading from the Gospel of Luke, the Pope recounted how Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath.

“As a true believer, the Lord does not avoid the weekly liturgical rhythm and joins the assembly of his fellow citizens in prayer and in listening to the Scriptures.”

This passage from scripture, Pope Benedict said, “makes us think about our way of life on Sunday as a day of rest and for the family.”

Sunday, he noted, is the “first day to devote to the Lord by participating in the Eucharist in which we're nourished by the Body and Blood of Chirst and his Word of life.”

“In our scattered and distracted era, this Gospel invites us to ask ourselves about our ability to listen, ” he emphasized.

“Every moment can be a 'today' moment for our conversion and become a day of salvation because salvation is a story that continues for the Church and for every disciple of Christ,” he said, adding that the “the Christian meaning of 'carpe diem' is to seize the day in which God is calling you to give you salvation.”

During his remarks on Sunday, the pontiff also recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Day, created by the United Nations in memory of the Holocaust victims of Nazism.

“It must be a constant reminder to all so that the horrors of the past, which exceeds all forms of hatred and racism, are not repeated,” he said, as well as a reminder “to promote respect and dignity of the the human person.”

Pope Benedict also noted that this Sunday “marks a special day of intercession” for peace in Holy Land. “I thank those who promote it in many parts of the world and I greet in particular those present here,” he said.

During the angelus a young boy and girl freed two doves, as symbols of peace, from the window of his Apostolic Palace after reading a message of Acr di Roma, an Italian lay association with over half a million members.

The Boys of the Catholic diocese of Rome, who celebrate annually a “Caravan of Peace” at the end of January, were also at St. Peter's Square.

On Jan. 27 this year, the Church also celebrates the 60th World Day of Leprosy.

“I express my closeness to those who suffer from this disease and encourage researchers, health professionals and volunteers, particularly those who are part of Catholic organizations and the Association of Friends of Raoul Follereau,” the Pope said.

He also invoked the intercession of St. Damien de Veuster, “who gave his life” for those afflicted with the disease, as well as St. Marianne Cope, who was canonized in Rome in October of last year. Both worked with leprosy sufferers in a colony in Hawaii in the 19th century.

Fr. Robert Barron: On St. Thomas Aquinas as Spiritual Master

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Listen to the Sound by Building 429

Catholic MIlitary Chaplains and Religious Liberty

The following comes from Fr. George Rutler:

The Geneva Convention’s classification of military chaplains as noncombatants has traditionally been interpreted in the United States to mean that chaplains normally do not carry weapons. This often puts them in precarious positions when they are in war zones. Over four hundred chaplains have been killed in the line of duty. Catholic chaplains are especially exposed to dangerous situations by their obligation to administer Absolution and Anointing. They have received every kind of decoration for valor, and seven have been awarded the Medal of Honor.

All four chaplains awarded the Medal since the Civil War have been Catholic. Among them, Lieutenant Vincent Capodanno, a Maryknoll priest and Navy chaplain, who served with the Marine Corps and was killed while aiding the second Platoon of M Company at the battle of Dong Son in Vietnam, has been proposed for heaven’s highest honor, canonization as a saint.

The military chaplaincy is under threat by our own government as part of its social agenda. One year ago, the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains tried to forbid Catholic chaplains from reading a statement from the Military Ordinary, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who oversees all priests in the Catholic Ordinariate for the Armed Forces, in which he objected to federally mandated health insurance covering sterilization, abortifacients and contraception in violation of the right to religious freedom. Now the government would compel chaplains to acquiesce in “same-sex” simulations of marriage. The Army’s deputy chief of staff in charge of personnel has said that military members who dissent from this agenda are “bigoted” and “need to get out.”

As behavior contrary to Christian morality becomes a civil right, Catholics in particular could soon become, quite literally, outlaws. Our current President recently announced that he will disobey a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by his own hand, which states that chaplains cannot be forced “to perform any rite, ritual or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs of the chaplain.”

I am always edified by the sacrificing spirit of good soldiers, and as a chaplain to West Point alumni here in New York, I am pleased when cadets serve at Mass. Governments that have tried to manipulate soldiers and doctors and teachers in perverse ways have always had a short shelf life. The nineteenth-century French political philosopher Frédéric Bastiat warned: “When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe.”

Military chaplains do not bear arms, but they have recourse to another arsenal: “Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect” (Ephesians 6:11).

The Body of Christ

The following comes from Scott Hahn:

Today's Readings

The meaning of today’s Liturgy is subtle and many-layered.
We need background to understand what’s happening in today’s First Reading.
Babylon having been defeated, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the exiled Jews could return home to Jerusalem. They rebuilt their ruined temple (see Ezra 6:15-17) and under Nehemiah finished rebuilding the city walls (see Nehemiah 6:15).
The stage was set for the renewal of the covenant and the re-establishment of the Law of Moses as the people’s rule of life. That’s what’s going on in today’s First Reading, as Ezra reads and interprets (see Nehemiah 8:8) the Law and the people respond with a great “Amen!”
Israel, as we sing in today’s Psalm, is rededicating itself to God and His Law. The scene seems like the Isaiah prophecy that Jesus reads from in today’s Gospel.
Read all of Isaiah 61. The “glad tidings” Isaiah brings include these promises: the liberation of prisoners (61:1); the rebuilding of Jerusalem, or Zion (61:3-4; see also Isaiah 60:10); the restoration of Israel as a kingdom of priests (61:6; Exodus 19:6) and the forging of an everlasting covenant (61:8; Isaiah 55:3). It sounds a lot like the First Reading.
Jesus, in turn, declares that Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in Him. The Gospel scene, too, recalls the First Reading. Like Ezra, Jesus stands before the people, is handed a scroll, unrolls it, then reads and interprets it (compare Luke 4:16-17,21 and Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10).
We witness in today’s Liturgy the creation of a new people of God. Ezra started reading at dawn of the first day of the Jewish new year (see Leviticus 23:24). Jesus too proclaims a “sabbath,” a great year of Jubilee, a deliverance from slavery to sin, a release from the debts we owe to God (see Leviticus 25:10).
The people greeted Ezra “as one man.” And, as today’s Epistle teaches, in the Spirit the new people of God - the Church - is made “one body” with Him.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pope Benedict's Hope for America

Dear friends, the love of Christ impels us to devote ourselves without reserve to proclaiming his Name throughout America, bringing it freely and enthusiastically to the hearts of all its inhabitants. There is no more rewarding or beneficial work than this. There is no greater service that we can provide to our brothers and sisters. They are thirsting for God.
For this reason, we ought to take up this commitment with conviction and joyful dedication, encouraging priests, deacons, consecrated men and women and pastoral agents to purify and strengthen their interior lives ever more fully through a sincere relationship with the Lord and a worthy and frequent reception of the sacraments.
This will be encouraged by suitable catechesis and a correct and ongoing doctrinal formation marked by complete fidelity to the word of God and the Church’s magisterium and aimed at offering a response to the deepest questions and aspirations of the human heart. The witness of your faith will thus be more eloquent and incisive, and you will grow in unity in the fulfilment of your apostolate.
A renewed missionary spirit and zealous generosity in your commitment will be an irreplaceable contribution to what the universal Church expects and needs from the Church in America.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Strong college presence expected at March for Life

The following comes from the CNA:

Catholic colleges and universities will be well-represented at this year’s March for Life, according to announcements by pro-life campus groups across the country.

“When you see thousands of pro-life youth flooding stadiums, churches, and streets of Washington, D.C., it gives you hope,” said Grace Daigler, vice president of Franciscan University of  Steubenville’s Students for Life organization.

Located in Ohio, the university will be sending some 800 students to the 2013 March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 25.

“More than ever before it is important for Americans to see that those committed to life are not discouraged or demoralized in the fight for life,” said university president Father Terence Henry, TOR, in a statement.

Franciscan University will cancel its classes on the day of the march, along with Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., which will be sending its entire student body to participate in the event.

Charter buses will transport more than 400 people from Christendom’s campus to the nation’s capital. The college community has attended the march together every year since the school’s founding 35 years ago.

The March for Life – now in its 40th year – marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion throughout the country.

While the annual march is usually held on Jan. 22, marking the date of the 1973 ruling, it was moved this year to Jan. 25 due to the presidential inauguration on Jan. 21.

Several colleges have confirmed that they are sending record-breaking groups to attend what some have speculated may be the biggest March for Life in the nation’s history.

Nearly one in five students from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., will be attending the March for Life this year.

Seven buses carrying almost 400 students departed from the college on Jan. 23 for a 30-hour bus ride to Washington, D.C.

Abbot James Albers, OSB, from St. Benedict’s Abbey, said that the college’s attendance has grown exponentially from when he was a student in the early 1990s, when no more than a few dozen students would attend.

Benedictine student Michael Green, march coordinator for the school’s Respect Life group, explained that the national event is part of the pro-life organization’s “important mission.”  

“We don’t go just because it’s some fun trip with our friends,” he said. “We go to show the leaders of our country what we stand for; that is, the dignity of all people from conception to natural death.”

A group of about 60 students from the University of Notre Dame’s Right to Life club will lead the 2013 march, and the school is expecting one of its largest turnouts.

According to a statement released by the university, some 350 students, faculty and staff attended last year’s march. This year, more than 600 people from the school have registered to attend.

Jen Gallic, president of Notre Dame Right to Life, described the march as “a visible witness to the love and support for the most vulnerable.”

“It’s an amazing witness to the passion and sheer size of the pro-life movement, and it’s such an honor to be asked to lead all those dedicated to upholding the dignity of every life,” she said.

Representatives from Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, and Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., also told CNA that they are sending student groups to the march.

Located in Washington, D.C., The Catholic University of America is just miles away from the march route.

Students will be excused from class if they participate in the march, and more than 500 are expected to attend, an associate campus minister said.

In addition, the university will be hosting pilgrims overnight on Jan. 24. More than 1200 travelers from across the country will be able to stay at the school’s athletic facilities at no cost, making the trip affordable for many college students.

Mother Teresa at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994

"Whatsoever You Do..."
Speech of Mother Teresa of Calcutta to the National Prayer Breakfast, Washington, DC, February 3, 1994

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Creed

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tim Staples: Why Is Abortion Non-Negotiable?

The Child Who Was Never Born: A monument to the unborn

The image and info comes from the Big Blue Wave blog.

Jeanne Smits reports that a group of young mothers in Slovakia commissioned a statue dedicated to the unborn. According to her blogpost, it was inaugurated in the presence of the Slovak minister of health. It is called "The Child Who was Never Born."

It was created by a young sculptor named Martin Hudáčeka.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tragic Suffering: A Life Without Purpose

Hat tip to Aggie Catholics on this one!

Deacon Greg on Communion Rails and Restoring a Sense of the Sacred

Deacon Greg has had a change of heart on altar rails:
Okay. I've changed my mind. It's time to bring back the altar rail.Hey, I'm as surprised as anyone else that I feel this way.Two years ago, I rhapsodized on the Feast of Corpus Christi on the theology behind standing to receive communion, and defended it. And why not? I've received that way for most of my adult life; I even remember the Latin church's experiment with intinction back in the '70s. Standing and in-the-hand always seemed to me sensible, practical and—with proper catechesis—appropriate. 
But now, after several years of standing on the other side of the ciborium—first as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, now as a deacon—and watching what goes on, I've had about enough.  
I've watched a mother receive communion, her toddler in tow, then take it back to the pew and share it with him like a cookie. 
At least four or five times a year, I have to stop someone who just takes the host and wanders away with it and ask them to consume it on the spot.  
Once or twice a month I encounter the droppers. Many are well-intentioned folks who somewhere, somehow drop the host or it slides out of their hands and Jesus tumbles to the floor.  
A couple times a year I get the take-out crowd. They receive the host properly, and then pull out a hanky and ask if they can take another one home to a sick relative. 
Beyond that, I'm reminded week after week that people have no uniform way to receive in the hand. There's the reverent "hands-as-throne" approach; there's the "Gimme five," 
one-hand-extended style; there are the notorious "body snatchers" who reach up and seize the host to pop into their mouths like an after-dinner mint; and there are the vacillating undecideds who approach with hands slightly cupped and lips parted. Where do you want it and how??  
After experiencing this too often, in too many places, under a variety of circumstances, I've decided: it's got to stop. Catechesis is fruitless. We've tried. You can show people how it's done; you can instruct them; you can post reminders in the bulletin and give talks from the pulpit. It does no good. Again and again, there is a sizable minority of the faithful who are just clueless—or, worse, indifferent.  
The fact is, we fumbling humans need external reminders—whether smells and bells, or postures and gestures—to reinforce what we are doing, direct our attention, and make us get over ourselves. Receiving communion is about something above us, and beyond us. It should transcend what we normally do. But what does it say about the state of our worship and our reception of the Eucharist that it has begun to resemble a trip to the DMV 
Our modern liturgy has become too depleted of reverence and awe, of wonder and mystery. The signs and symbols that underscored the mystery—the windows of stained glass, the chants of Latin, the swirls of incense at the altar—vanished and were replaced by . . . what? Fifty shades of beige? Increasingly churches now resemble warehouses, and the Body of Christ is just one more commodity we stockpile and give out.  
Can kneeling to receive on the tongue help alleviate some of this? Well, it can't hurt. And for this reason: to step up to a communion rail, and kneel, and receive on the tongue, is an act of utter and unabashed humility. In that posture to receive the Body of Christ, you become less so that you can then become more. It requires a submission of will and clear knowledge of what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what is about to happen to you.  
Frankly, we should not only be humbled, but intimidated enough to ask ourselves if we are really spiritually ready to partake of the sacrament. Kneeling means you can't just go up and receive without knowing how it's properly done. It demands not only a sense of focus and purpose, but also something else, something that has eluded our worship for two generations. 
It demands a sense of the sacred. It challenges us to kneel before wonder, and bow before grace. It insists that we not only fully understand what is happening, but that we fully appreciate the breathtaking generosity behind it. It asks us to be mindful of what "Eucharist" really means: thanksgiving. 
I don't see that much today. It's gone. We need to reclaim it. Pope Benedict XVI seems to agree. He has decided he will only give communion at papal Masses to those who kneel and receive on the tongue. He was gently making a liturgical point. Are we paying attention?  
After what I've seen, I agree with him. We need to get off our feet, and on our knees.Bring back the communion rail. It's time. 
He makes a lot of good points.  What are your thoughts in this regard? 

Pope Benedict urges prayers for peace during Christian Unity Week

The following comes from the CNA:

Pope Benedict XVI asked for more prayers of world peace as part of the Christian Unity week celebrated this week.

"For the prayer of Christian unity I would like to add again that one for peace, because, in the ongoing diverse conflicts, and end to the massacres of unarmed civilians, an end to all violence, and that courage to dialogue and to negotiate is found," he told thousands of pilgrims from his Aposotolic Palace window at St. Peter's Square today.

The Church is now celebrating its annual week of prayer for Christian unity, which began Jan. 18 and will end Jan. 25.

The Pope detailed the importance of unity during his Sunday Angelus at the Vatican.

"One of the most serious sins that disfigures the face of the Church is against its visible unity, especially the historical divisions the have separated Christians that haven't yet been overcome," said Pope Benedict.

"It's a moment always welcome to believers and communities, which awakens in all the desire and spirit of commitment to full communion," he added.

The pontiff also recalled last month's vigil, which he celebrated with thousands of young Europeans and with the Taizé ecumenical community, and called it "very significant" and "a moment of grace in which we experienced the beauty in the form of one Christ."

"I encourage everyone to pray together so that we achieve this year's theme, which is, 'What does the Lord require of us?'" the Pope said.

The theme was proposed by Christian communities in India, which he asked "to walk with determination towards the visible unity of all Christians to overcome, as brothers in Christ, any kind of unjust discrimination."

The Holy Father also spoke of today's liturgy on the wedding at Cana.

"Jesus reveals himself as the Bridegroom Messiah, coming to establish the new and eternal covenant with his people," he added.

The Holy Father recalled a Bible passage that says "as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you."

"The wine is a symbol of this joy of love, and it also alludes to the blood that Jesus will pay in the end which will seal his marriage covenant with humanity," said the head of the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict explained that the Church is the Bride of Christ, who makes her holy and beautiful with his grace.

However, he said, this Bride managed by human beings is always in need of purification.

The Pope will close the week of prayer for Christian unity by presiding vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls alongside representatives of other churches and communities.