Monday, February 27, 2012

Just what can the Devil do?

I'm still reading Cardinal Schönborn's "The Joy of Being A Priest" whilst in the Confessional.  I'm towards the end of the book, when he does a Q&A with the Priests who are attending his retreat.  A question came up about exorcisms, and this was part of the Cardinal's answer.  I think it's important to always remember, but most especially as we go through Lent and do battle with sin:
"It is also necessary to know one very important thing that Saint John of the Cross and the great masters of the spiritual life have always said: the demon has no access to a person's heart, to a person's inmost being, to the soul; he can attack only through the senses.  This is what we see in our own temptations: they always involve pride, vanity, gluttony, lack of chastity, hardheartedness, everything that comes to us from our sensibility; this is the field in which the Tempter operates.  The soul is in God's hands, and only God has access to the holy of holies, to that deepest, most intimate part of the human person.
... The demon is a reality, but it is not a reality that should obsess us.  In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read:  'The power of Satan is ... not infinite.  He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature.  He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign.  Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries - of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature - to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history.  It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but 'we know what in everything God works for good with those who love him' (Rom 8:28)."   CCC par. 395

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Still need Lenten Resolutions?

I found this on the blogsite of a friend of mine, Father Greg Schaffer, who does great work at George Washington University as their Catholic Chaplain.  It may be geared for 20 somethings, but we can all pick something of use to us out of it.

The following is an excellent list of fasting ideas from “Catholic School Chronicle"

101 Practical Fasting Ideas for Lent February 24, 2009
By Nick Senger
[Note: I've updated this list with 10 more ideas at One Catholic Life - February 17, 2010]

Fasting, praying and almsgiving are the three penitential practices that we are asked to engage in during Lent. In addition to fasting and abstaining with the rest of the Church on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent, we are also challenged to make individual sacrifices appropriate to our own spiritual condition. However, before we choose something to give up for Lent, it’s important to assess our current spiritual state:

  • What habits do I engage in that are destructive to my spiritual health?
  • To what material things am I too attached?
  • What areas in my life are unbalanced?
  • To what do I devote too much or not enough time?

Only after asking questions like these are we are ready to decide what to give up or what to add to our lives during Lent. The following list is meant to be an aid in this process. Use it as you need based on your current circumstances.

“Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.” –Pope Benedict, Lenten message, 2009

1-10: The Usuals:
1. Give up candy/sweets.
2. Give up television time.
3. Give up eating snacks between meals.
4. Give up or limit soda or coffee.
5. Give up or limit video games.
6. Spend more time with family.
7. Give to the poor.
8. Do an extra chore each day.
9. Perform a random act of kindness.
10. Spend more time in prayer.

11-20: Prayer
1. Pray a book of scripture using lectio divina.
2. Attend Mass on a weekday (every day if possible).
3. Pray the rosary each day, alone or with your family.
4. Prayerfully read Abandonment to Divine Providence.
5. Make a special prayer notebook and list all the people in your life who need prayers; pray for them each day. Add someone new every day.
6. Learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
7. Make a commitment to attend Eucharistic Adoration regularly.
8. Commit to examining your conscience each evening.
9. Pray the Jesus Prayer throughout the day.
10. Pray the Angelus each day at noon.

21-30: For Those Addicted to Popular Culture
1. Switch from regular radio to Christian music radio or Catholic talk radio.
2. Avoid shows with gratuitous sex or violence.
3. Give up or limit watching sports on television.
4. Listen to only classical music for the next 40 days.
5. Drive to work in silence each day.
6. Read a work of classic literature.
7. Read a Catholic classic.
8. Read a story to a child.
9. Sit in fifteen minutes of silence each day.
10. Write a letter to God each day.

31-40: For Internet Users/Bloggers
1. Set time limits on overall online time.
2. Limit Facebook time.
3. Limit Myspace time.
4. Resist making or adding to lists that rank people.
5. Share one spiritual video with your online network once a week.
6. Blog about the poor once a week.
7. Add a spiritual blog to your blog reader.
8. Subscribe to a prayer podcast like Pray As You Go or Pray Station Portable.
9. Leave an encouraging or positive comment on a different blog each day.
10. Help a new blogger by sending traffic their way.

41-50: For Those Who Need to Be More Grateful 
1. Each week, write a letter of thanks to a different member of the clergy, beginning with your bishop and parish priest.
2. Each week write a thank-you note to your parents.
3. Write a poem of praise for each person in your family.
4. Get a stack of sticky-notes and write one sentence of thanks each day and stick it to the bedroom door of each person in your family so that by Easter they each have 40 sticky-notes.
5. Find the psalms of thanksgiving or praise in the Bible and pray them.
6. Write a list of the ways God has blessed you and add to it each day. This could be done in a notebook or on a big poster hanging on your wall.
7. At dinner each evening ask your family to share one thing for which they are grateful.
8. Make a CD or iPod playlist of praise and worship music and listen to it each day.
9. Make a point of saying “Thank You” a certain number of times per day.
10. Help your children write thank you letters to their teachers.

51-60: For Those With Lives Out of Balance
1. Go for a walk each day with a loved one and talk about life and faith.
2. Take the kids to the park each week for some carefree time.
3. Give up fast food and give the money to charity.
4. Exercise each day.
5. Spend at least half an hour each day in meaningful conversation with your spouse.
6. Go on a Lenten retreat.
7. Pray with Sacred Space each day.
8. Commit to a daily 3 Minute Retreat.
9. Begin the online 34-week Retreat for Everyday Life.
10. Give up your most unhealthy habit.

61-70: For Those Who Need Spiritual Nourishment 
1. Read the documents of Vatican II, especially Gaudium et Spes.
2. Read The Cathechism of the Catholic Church or The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.
3. Sign up for adult formation classes at a local parish.
4. Join a Bible study.
5. Attend Stations of the Cross at a local parish.
6. Find a spiritual director.
7. Read The Imitation of Christ.
8. Listen to a free Catholic audio book from Maria Lectrix.
9. Read Introduction to the Devout Life.
10. Read a spiritual autobiography (i.e., Augustine’s Confessions, Story of a Soul, Journal of a Soul, Witness to Hope)

71-80: For Those Who Need to Increase Their Service to the Needy
1. Volunteer at soup kitchen or other food program.
2. Coordinate a food drive at your parish, school or place of employment.
3. Find out who in your parish is sick and offer to visit them or bring them food.
4. Call your local Catholic Charities office and volunteer.
5. Begin making visits to a nursing home.
6. Help an elderly or disabled person in your neighborhood with yard work or other difficult chores.
7. Become a hospital volunteer.
8. Become part of a prison ministry team.
9. Coordinate a clothing drive.
10. Make rosaries and give them away.

81-90: For Those Who Need to Be More Active in Their Parish
1. Become a lector.
2. Volunteer to become an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist
3. Volunteer to help with the parish youth group.
4. After each Mass stay awhile and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know.
5. Join the Knights of Columbus.
6. Offer to be a Confirmation sponsor.
7. Volunteer to be an usher.
8. Offer to help with funeral dinners.
9. Help with the RCIA program.
10. Volunteer to do lawn work, cleaning or other needed maintenance for the parish. 

90-101: Potpourri
1. Begin to receive the Sacrament of Penance weekly.
2. Give up foul language.
3. Give up gossiping.
4. Read and study Healing the Culture.
5. Study the life of a different saint each day.
6. Cook dinner each night for your family if someone else normally does.
7. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
8. Carry extra food in your car, purse or backpack to give to street corner beggars.
9. Begin practicing socially conscious investing.
10. Spend a week meditating on each of the seven principles of Catholic social teaching.
11. Make breakfast each morning for your family.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Weigel on Clerical Narcissism

George Weigel has a piece in First Things magazine which I think is worth a read.  Here's a piece if it:
"But, objectively speaking, he's a prime example of clerical vanity: a man who imagines that his chirpy personality is the key to what Vatican II called the people's 'full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations.'"
Check it out HERE.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Which is easier?

A great Gospel passage for today's Mass.  One of me favorite passages to preach upon.  In the end, Christ's words to the Scribes can be asked of every group present at the Lord's house in Capernaum:

  • The people in the house might have complained it was too crowded, or too warm, or there were no snacks to be had.  They might have even walked out early, before any miracles happened.  It was harder to stay put.
  • The friends who brought the paralytic might have had second thoughts when they saw the lines of people waiting for their moment with Jesus.  Certainly carrying their friend wasn't easy.  Lifting him onto the roof couldn't have been, either.  Taking the roof apart and lowering him had to be hard to do.  But they did it.
  • The paralytic must've been terrified.  To be hauled onto a stretcher and bumped along as they walked around people had to be scary.  Having people stare and murmur had to be humiliating.  He had to be thinking it would have been easier to stay at home, stay in his misery, stay injured.  Now you've been dropped in front of Jesus, a man you don't know, feeling helpless and exposed.  Imagine the feelings going through his head when Jesus asks him to rise up?
Lent is coming; time for resolutions.  We can pick the easy ones (those are the ones that we're going right back to, once Easter comes), or we can dig deeper.  Like that roof, what do we have that has to be "broken through" to bring it to Jesus?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What makes one "Catholic"?

A quote I have used often comes from a confrere of mine here in the Diocese of Metuchen:

"Going to Mass every Sunday does not make you a "good Catholic"; It just makes you "Catholic".

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Ode to a Popover

The popover.  Did God make anything more perfect, more tasty, more scrumptious?  Outside, golden brown and a bit crusty.  Inside, soft, warm, hollow, ready to accept a slab of butter to soak into all that goodness.

The readings at Mass today reminded me of popovers.  The Queen of Sheba travels north because she has heard of this King named Solomon who is wise unlike anyone before him.  She brings with her loads of treasure, because even then there was "no such thing as a free lunch", and she expected to have to pay to have this wisdom all to herself.  When she gets there, she's impressed by the palace, the servants, the food, the tableware, even what the waiters wore.  But more than what she saw externally, was Solomon's wisdom.  "King Solomon explained everything she asked about, and there remained nothing hidden from him that he could not explain to her."  Like a popover, what came from inside Solomon was more impressive than all the bling outside.

Jesus in the Gospel today tells the people not to worry so much things of the outside world being "bad".  We shouldn't underestimate what he said today; it would have left Jews who heard it drop their jaws in disbelief.  "Whoa, no more bad foods?  The Maccabees died for these laws of clean and unclean animals; you're saying they don't matter?"  He changed it all: now uncleanliness is not about what goes into the body but what comes from a man's heart.  Again, the popover.

Fast forward to now.  Yesterday the Giants had their victory parade.  Along either side of the "Canyon of Heroes" and filling up MetLife Stadium were loads of people who, at least on the outside, looked like fans of the Giants.  But how many of them know the players' stats?  Or where they went to college?  Or who was the starting quarterback before Eli Manning?  I'm sure there were plenty of diehard fans at the events.  But I'd venture to say there were plenty of people there who looked good on the outside, but are pretty "hollow" on the inside.  Again, the popover.

Ash Wednesday is coming.  A day when every Catholic comes out of the woodwork to make sure they have a ash-drawn cross on their forehead.  But what's on the inside?  How will they spend Lent?  As the "People of God" or just as "Popovers of God"?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Is this all a bluff?

Is President Obama really going headstrong with this attack on the Catholic Church in an election year?

Or in the summer (remember, the mandatory stuff doesn't kick in until 2013) does he ask for a sitdown with some Bishops, graciously agree to exempt the Church from having to pay for the morally illicit items, and come out looking like a "friend" to Catholics?

Does this get him a photo-op surrounded by Catholic hierarchy where everyone is smiling and shaking hands?  Does this get some Catholics to think "He's not so bad" just weeks before re-election?  Do they get all sentimental about why they voted for him back in '08?

Just wondering.

Conspiracy Theorist?

The media is going nuts with this JFK/19 year old intern story. Her story is everywhere, newspaper, TV, and each time with ALL the gory details/  What makes it odd is that the mainstream media is giving her airtime.  Remember, this is the same gang who all but ignored the Kinear/Holmes miniseries when that was going to air, simply because it implied infidelity (amongst other things).

Why suddenly throw JFK under the bus? They haven't run these kind of stories since the Clinton/Lewinsky stuff in the 90s.  Remember how we heard stories about Jefferson and Sally Hemings, Ike and Kate Summersby, FDR and Lucy Rutherfurd, always with the spin that this was normal for "powerful men" to do.  It just seems odd that they'd turn on the grandaddy of icons.   Unless something bigger was on the line.....

You heard it here from me. They're paving the way for something. Some big affair is about to hit the news that the media feel the need to dilute and get the people ready for.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Tim Tebow showing Alec Baldwin how to Tebow

Because, to Alec Baldwin and his crowd, dropping to ones knees to pray is funny.

While you're down there, Alec, why not seize the moment and pray for a "Hunt for Red October 2"!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

How much money does Komen really make (and how much of that did Planned Parenthood expect to get)?

May I direct you by this LINK to a blog entry that talks about the Komen/PP money trail.  Let me whet the appetite with one quote:
"...the millions of dollars that Susan G. Komen has given to Planned Parenthood over the years has helped subsidize innumerable abortions, whether we want it to or not.  That's just the way money works: if someone picks up the tab for your dinner, you can use your dinner money to buy something else, like dessert.  Only in Planned Parenthood's case, that money is going toward abortion, not dessert."

Mother Teresa's humility list

1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.
2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
3. Avoid curiosity.
4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
5. Accept small irritations with good humor.
6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.
7. Accept censures even if unmerited.
8. Give in to the will of others.
9. Accept insults and injuries.
10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.
13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
15. Choose always the more difficult task.

The Feast of St. Agatha

February 5 is the Feast day for Saint Agatha (though this year we will lose it to the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time).  Agatha was married with 9 daughters.  Quintianus, a Roman Prefect, was in love with her and expected her to return his love.  When she refused, he condemned Agatha and her daughters to imprisonment in a brothel until she agreed to make sacrifices to Roman gods.  Continuing to refuse, she was tortured a number of ways, the most famous way by cutting off her breasts.  She died in prison in the year 253.

Because of the loss of her breasts, St. Agatha is the patron of some interesting things.  She is the patron of people who climb the Alps.  She is the patron of bell-makers.  Each year in Catania, Sicily, a 3-day festival honors the saint, with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance, who feast on pastries called “Le Minni di Sant’Agata”, or, “Minni di Virgini”.  You can imagine what they’re meant to depict.  Want to see them?  You know, my secretaries wouldn't let me put these pictures in the bulletin.

Most recently, St. Agatha is considered to be the patron saint of breast cancer patients, and her feast day can be a special day to remember in our prayers all those who are fighting breast cancer, those who’ve died from it, and even the caregivers of breast cancer patients.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

If only the Eagles were a better football team

From the Los Angeles Times Online, this morning:

From the Los Angeles Times Online, January 23: