Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Michigan seems like a dream to me now."

The seminarians of the Diocese of Saginaw have jumped into the deep end of the New Evangelization on their blog. Their great contribution takes the form of 3 videos (available on YouTube as well as their website) which parody Apple's "PC versus Mac" ad campaign, which show the differences between Natural Family Planning and contraception.

Check them out, or more importantly, play them for high schoolers! It's YouTube, so they probably have the website bookmarked on their computers already! There's your "foot in the door"! Also, play them for the kids about to go off to college! They're about to get hit with the mantra of "condoms mean you care", and, "Going on the Pill means you're being responsible". Last week (July 25th to be exact), we passed the 39th anniversary of the release of Pope Paul VI's prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae, but I know clergy and laity who won't read it because "it's too long" and they "don't have the time" (although they seem to have the time and attention spans to read 600-paged Harry Potter books in 3 days!). You Tube videos and Podcasts are the ways we can get out the message in this techno-culture.

The Saginaw sems' YouTube page (with the 3 videos they've made so far) can be found here.

Great job, you Young Fogeys!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Re-marketing Promiscuity

Today's New York Times has an article about the "new marketing campaign" by those who sell the contraceptive sponge. The campaign has different reasons behind it, according to the article, among them, "... to create 'high impact' and to help the Today Sponge compete on store shelves, especially with condoms. 'We need to stand out on the contraceptive shelf space and compete for presence,'" To that end, the box for the contraceptives has "...a more modern look: instead of a pink flower and a conservative-looking typeface, the box has drawings of hip-looking women, playful typography".

Here's their webpage, as shown in today's article:

Making the product "stand out"? Using cartoon characters that are "hip-looking" as well as "playful typography"? I call it using marketing techniques that will make the product appealing to younger girls. Suppose you were the parent of a teen-aged girl, and you glanced over at the above webpage on your daughter's computer. Wouldn't you assume she's looking at a page from Nickelodeon or something?

Didn't our "PC" society banish Joe Camel here for his "cartoony" look and the fear that young people would see the advertising and be drawn to smoke almost against their will? So what are cartoonish "hip-looking" characters and "playful" colors and lettering saying to teenagers?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Gänswein Interview

The German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung recently ran an interview with papal secretary Msgr. Georg Gänswein. It's an interview with great insights. Not only were there the obligatory questions about the Holy Father's recent vacation, but also questions about the early moments of Papa Ratzinger's pontificate, the Pope's daily work schedule, a hint as to why he hasn't continued Pope John Paul's custom of admitting people to morning Mass in his private chapel, reflections on the Regensburg speech last year, and even what it's like watching television with B16!

If your Deutsch ist ausgezeichnet, read the interview in its original language by clicking here. However, for those whose Deutsch ist scheusslich, thanks to Gerald Augustinus at The Cafeteria Is Closed, we have a translation auf Englisch.
(Photo by Reuters)

Friday, July 27, 2007

PGN: Year of Prayer for Vocations

This week's episode of Proclaim the Good News has been posted. In the episode, I spoke with Fr. Randy Vashon, the Metuchen vocations director, about the plan for a year dedicated to prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Diocese of Metuchen. Fr. Randy just returned from a trip to Rome, during which he had two monstrances blessed by Pope Benedict at the Wednesday General Audience on July 4th.

Here's a picture I found on the L'Osservatore Romano photo database (please excuse the watermark) in which you can plainly see the two monstrances. These were on a table in the audience hall (along with what is obviously other stuff VIPs wanted B16 to bless). These monstrances, now back in the USA, will "tour" the diocese as different parishes, schools, and religious houses offer Holy Hours of prayer for vocations. Check out the show.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Something Old, Something New

I've added some of what I feel are the "Best of Proclaim The Good News" episodes to my Podbean page. Check them out by clicking on the PGN archives link along the right side of this webpage, or by clicking here.

That's not a word! Is too!

(Photo by Fr. Jay, his cellphone, and his Scrabble game)
Much has been written in the media and on the blogosphere about the recent document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (or "CDF" if you want to sound like you're "in the know"). Of course editors are running headlines like, "Pope Says Protestants Defective", or, "Other Churches Not Churches, According to Pope". It amazes me how many people's attention spans have gotten so small that they can read about 5 sentences and presume they know the whole story.
A related story: Two years after I was ordained, I attended the annual convocation for the Priests of my diocese. A month or so before the convocation, the CDF issued Dominus Iesus, a document on the nature of the Catholic Church. At one point, during a Q&A session, a brother Priest made some kind of disparaging remark about the document which showed he hadn't read the document; he prided himself on having read what appeared in a secular newspaper about the document. I couldn't let that go; if this was what he was saying to a room full of clergy, what was he saying to his parishioners? By 2000, the internet was pretty well established and certainly everyone in that room knew that the Vatican had a website which made Church documents readily available. I politely reminded my brother that the document was simply reiterating what Vatican II taught: that Jesus Christ established a Church and that Church subsists within the Catholic Church, and rather than criticize what he hadn't read, he could download the document and read it for himself.

So, to help you be a better informed Catholic, here's some links to help Young Fogeys answer those questions we're going to get from non-Catholics, anti-Catholics, and perhaps more than a few "just plain Catholics":

  • A Zenit News Agency interview with Fr. Augustine Di Noia, O.P., an American and the Undersecretary of the CDF in a very simple "Q&A" style format.
  • Chiesa's Sandro Magister's article which gives not just the document, but also an excellent, point-by-point commentary on the thinking behind the document.
  • A column by Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News, a former Catholic who has no problem with the statement.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Feast of St. James the Greater

Back on June 21, 2006, Pope Benedict dedicated the catechesis at his Wednesday General Audience to our Saint of the Day. Here it is (with my emphases added):

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are continuing the series of portraits of the Apostles chosen directly by Jesus during his earthly life. We have spoken of St Peter and of his brother, Andrew. Today we meet the figure of James. The biblical lists of the Twelve mention two people with this name: James, son of Zebedee, and James, son of Alphaeus (cf. Mk 3:17,18; Mt 10:2-3), who are commonly distinguished with the nicknames "James the Greater" and "James the Lesser".

These titles are certainly not intended to measure their holiness, but simply to state the different importance they receive in the writings of the New Testament and, in particular, in the setting of Jesus' earthly life. Today we will focus our attention on the first of these two figures with the same name.

The name "James" is the translation of Iakobos, the Graecised form of the name of the famous Patriarch, Jacob. The Apostle of this name was the brother of John and in the above-mentioned lists, comes second, immediately after Peter, as occurs in Mark (3:17); or in the third place, after Peter and Andrew as in the Gospels of Matthew (10:2) and Luke (6:14), while in the Acts he comes after Peter and John (1:13). This James belongs, together with Peter and John, to the group of the three privileged disciples whom Jesus admitted to important moments in his life.

Since it is very hot today, I want to be brief and to mention here only two of these occasions. James was able to take part, together with Peter and John, in Jesus' Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and in the event of Jesus' Transfiguration. Thus, it is a question of situations very different from each other: in one case, James, together with the other two Apostles, experiences the Lord's glory and sees him talking to Moses and Elijah, he sees the divine splendour shining out in Jesus.

On the other occasion, he finds himself face to face with suffering and humiliation, he sees with his own eyes how the Son of God humbles himself, making himself obedient unto death. The latter experience was certainly an opportunity for him to grow in faith, to adjust the unilateral, triumphalist interpretation of the former experience: he had to discern that the Messiah, whom the Jewish people were awaiting as a victor, was in fact not only surrounded by honour and glory, but also by suffering and weakness. Christ's glory was fulfilled precisely on the Cross, in his sharing in our sufferings.

This growth in faith was brought to completion by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, so that James, when the moment of supreme witness came, would not draw back. Early in the first century, in the 40s, King Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great, as Luke tells us, "laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword" (Acts 12:1-2).

The brevity of the news, devoid of any narrative detail, reveals on the one hand how normal it was for Christians to witness to the Lord with their own lives, and on the other, that James had a position of relevance in the Church of Jerusalem, partly because of the role he played during Jesus' earthly existence.

A later tradition, dating back at least to Isidore of Seville, speaks of a visit he made to Spain to evangelize that important region of the Roman Empire. According to another tradition, it was his body instead that had been taken to Spain, to the city of Santiago de Compostela.

As we all know, that place became the object of great veneration and is still the destination of numerous pilgrimages, not only from Europe but from the whole world. This explains the iconographical representation of St James with the pilgrim's staff and the scroll of the Gospel in hand, typical features of the travelling Apostle dedicated to the proclamation of the "Good News" and characteristics of the pilgrimage of Christian life.

Consequently, we can learn much from St James: promptness in accepting the Lord's call even when he asks us to leave the "boat" of our human securities, enthusiasm in following him on the paths that he indicates to us over and above any deceptive presumption of our own, readiness to witness to him with courage, if necessary to the point of making the supreme sacrifice of life.

Thus James the Greater stands before us as an eloquent example of generous adherence to Christ. He, who initially had requested, through his mother, to be seated with his brother next to the Master in his Kingdom, was precisely the first to drink the chalice of the passion and to share martyrdom with the Apostles.

And, in the end, summarizing everything, we can say that the journey, not only exterior but above all interior, from the mount of the Transfiguration to the mount of the Agony, symbolizes the entire pilgrimage of Christian life, among the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, as the Second Vatican Council says. In following Jesus, like St James, we know that even in difficulties we are on the right path.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Danger, Will Robinson...

Be warned, this video contains some anti-Catholic bias that may bump up your blood pressure a few points. "Why post it?", you ask? I think it's so obviously biased and demeaning that it has moved beyond damaging to funny. The clip is meant to be coverage of the "open house weekend" that developers offered this past weekend to prospective homeowners and merchants on the property surrounding Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida. Take a look at the clip, as ABC's Good Morning America showed it:

O.K.? Done watching? Now ask yourself these questions...

  1. Did you know something was up when the news anchor used words like "controversy" and "ruckus" in the first ten seconds of the news segment?
  2. Did you catch the graphic on the bottom of the screen at the opening? "Bibletown"? Would ABC news ever dare to call someplace "Korantown" or "Talmudtown"?
  3. The town of Ave Maria "opening its gates for the first time" (As if we're getting a tour of Graceland or something). Well, of course, it's the first time: They're still building it! There wasn't much to see before they finished model homes for each of the different types of homes available to buy except some mud, grass, and a few piles of wood.
  4. The narrator's, "This town isn't being built for golfers or retirees; it's being built for Christians". Yeah, because the mainstream media assumes that Catholics don't do things like, you know, play golf or retire.
  5. Could you hear the almost sadness in the reporter that there are no adult book stores or strip clubs being planned in the new community? Even in her attempt at humor, "Let's just say that the devil isn't in the details.", her undertone is, "Oh, silly, superstitious, unenlightened, never-had-high-tea-at-The-Plaza, Catholics."
  6. Did you catch the desperate editing job to cut off the O'Sheas' response, as they were about to give the reporter a catechesis on same sex attraction?
  7. Didn't you love the obligatory attempt to warn Catholics that the ACLU will be watching this development closely?

The bottom line of the development is this: If it's not for you, don't move in. If a developer were building a residential development for, let's say, nudists, would the ACLU be so determined to "watch them closely"? Well, maybe some of them, but that's not the point. Let me try again: Would ABC News have that demeaning tone of voice in reporting that a group of Amish individuals would like to live near each other? What if the community was being built for Chassidic Jews? In the meantime, let's see what would happen if liberals got together and decided they'd have developments of homes, shops, and schools that cater to their every politically correct opinion. What could we call it? Oh yeah, that's right: Martha's Vineyard! Or how about "The Hamptons"? Nah, those are taken already, and if you try to take the name from them they've got lawyers on speed-dial.

Now that your BP is up, let me bring it down. The property developers for the town of Ave Maria have a website that shows their plans and offers information to those who want it. I'm hoping they plan a housing development for retired priests in the next 40 years. I'm not getting any younger.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

PGN: Carl Sommer Interview

This week's episode of Proclaim the Good News is up and running. It's an interview with author Carl Sommer about a book he's written on the stuff faced by early Christians in the societal culture of the Roman Empire. Check it out.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"Saints Revisited", Revisited

In a past post, I put in some quotes I gave for an article about the Saints that appeared in my local secular newspaper. A seminary contemporary of mine e-mailed me brought to light some things I did not know about the Saints, and I think it's pretty interesting stuff. Here's what he sent me:

You posted on your blog this quote from yourself: "Once you get into heaven it's not like there are different levels of saints," Toborowsky says. "Sanctity is not a contest like the Olympics, where a fraction of a second can make a difference. All of us are called to finish the race,and whether it's the best known or the most obscure saint, they all enjoy the same rewards."

Actually, there are different levels of saints, based on their degree of charity. The good thief is not on the same level as the Blessed Virgin. Every saint has a different degree of happiness based on their merits, as well as their charity. The more charity one has, the deeper one sees the essence of God. St. Augustine compares it to a boy and a man, who have suits made of the same material. The boy does not want the man's because it does not fit him, and vice-versa. In other words, everyone will be perfectly happy without being envious of anyone who has greater glory than they themselves possess. If the saints could wish for anything, it would be that everyone would be higher than himself, because that would mean the others have a greater degree of charity, and hence God would be loved more.

St. Thomas Aquinas says:"On the contrary, The more one will be united to God the happier will one be. Now the measure of charity is the measure of one's union with God. Therefore the diversity of beatitude will be according to the difference of charity. Further, "if one thing simply follows from another thing simply, the increase of the former follows from the increase of the latter." Now to have beatitude follows from having charity. Therefore to have greater beatitude follows from having greater charity. I answer that, The distinctive principle of the mansions or degrees of beatitude is twofold, namely proximate and remote. The proximate principle is the difference of disposition which will be in the blessed, whence will result the difference of perfection in them in respect to the beatific operation: while the remote principle is the merit by which they have obtained that beatitude. In the first way the mansions are distinguished according to the charity of heaven, which the more perfect it will be in any one, the more will it render him capable of the Divine clarity, on the increase of which will depend the increase in perfection of the Divine vision. In the second way the mansions are distinguished according to the charity of the way. For our actions are meritorious, not by the very substance of the action, but only by the habit of virtue with which they are informed. Now every virtue obtains its meritorious efficacy from charity [Cf. I-II, 114, 4], which has the end itself for its object [Cf. II-II, 24, 3, ad 1. Hence the diversity of merit is all traced to the diversity of charity, and thus the charity of the way will distinguish the mansions by way of merit." http://www.newadvent.org/summa/5093.htm

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange says:"Clarity gives to the body of the saints that brightness,that splendor, which is the very essence of the beautiful. Our Lord says: "Then shall the just shine as the sun in the kingdom of their father." To give an idea of this quality, He was transfigured before His apostles on Tabor. St. Paul says: "Jesus Christ will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of His glory." The Israelites in the desert saw an image of this glory on the forehead of Moses, after He had seen God and received God's words. He was so luminous that their eyes could not endure the splendor. This clarity is but a reflection, an overflowing, of the glory of the soul on that of the body. Hence the bodies of the saints will not all have the same degree of clarity, but each will have the degree proportioned to its light of glory. Thus St. Paul says: "Star differeth from star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead." http://www.ewtn.com/library/SPIRIT/LIFE_EV.TXT

Some Random Thoughts After Morning Mass

For those who think the Holy Father's recent Mot -- (nope, I said I wasn't going to write those words any more) -- his recent M.P. on the '62 Roman Missal has been "the worst" in terms of reluctance towards its implimentation, I'm here to say it's not so. The resistance that Summorum Pontificum faces will pale in comparison to the whines, complaints, "pastoral concerns", wailing and grinding of teeth, and general tempter tantrums and meltdowns that we will experience when Rome eventually issues the new English translation of the Mass that the Vox Clara Commission has been working on for the past 3-4 years. Remember a few years ago when we had one or two external changes to the General Instruction on the Mass (eg- to stand before the "Pray, brethren...") and a bunch of internal changes (eg- Ordained persons should be the ones to purify Sacred Vessels, etc.)? Well multiply that squall exponentially and you get the picture of the storm to come.

I say this because, as bits and pieces of the draft documents on the new English translation have leaked out, we've heard complaints that people aren't used to words like "consubstantial" (which will be part of the new translation of the Nicene Creed). This particularly hit me as I heard the Responsorial Psalm at Mass this morning, which had the line, "Who split the Red Sea in twain, for his mercy endures forever;" Maybe I'm uncultured, but I rarely use the word, "twain", in my everyday conversations. But you know what? I heard it, I understood its meaning, and my life moved on. I didn't leave the Mass bewildered and excluded. I mean, the Pople of God spend thousands of dollars each year on books and tutors so that their teen-aged children will learn vocabulary words that are waaaaaay out of their everyday conversational range, all in an effort to get into the college of their choice, and no one seems to resist that idea.

Now, on another topic, I do have a complaint, and that's this: What's with all these people I've been seeing lately dressing in long black robes and speaking Latin? Long black robes? That's old and outdated! And Latin? It's a dead language! No one under the age of 60 even remembers it! It won't appeal to young people or be relevant to them. They won't be interested.

Oh yeah, waitaminute, that's right. It wasn't at a church, it was in the crowds buying the new Harry Potter book. Check this out to see where words like "expelliarmus" and "expecto patronum" originate. Thanks to the AP for the photo.

Friday, July 20, 2007

New Definition of "Purgatory"

"Can I get some service here?
25 minutes and not even a menu and some water.
Are breadsticks too much to ask?
Hello? Hellllllooooooo?
When Georg gets back from the rest room we are soooo outta here!"
(Thanks to L'Osservatore Romano & Reuters for the photo)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

PGN Archives Online

As many of you know, for the past four years I've been the host of a half-hour radio show produced by my diocese called, "Proclaim the Good News". It airs at different times on different days of the weekend on local AM stations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as EWTN affiliate New Jersey Catholic Radio and the Ave Maria Radio network in Michigan. Each of the stations have websites, but only one (Jim Manfredonia over at NJ Catholic Radio) actually made the show available at any time for streaming or for downloading. I know that we're an "on-demand" culture, and for years I've wanted to make episodes of PGN available online for anyone to listen to at any time. Well now it's done.

I've recently set up an account on Podbean to archive the shows and make them available for listening at any time. Or, if you'd like, you can download any episode from your computer to your mp3 player or iPod.

You can access the archives for PGN from anywhere in cyberspace by going to http://www.podbean.com/ and entering a keyword ("Proclaim", "Metuchen", or even "Toborowsky") in their search engine. Or, from this blogpage, click on the "Proclaim The Good news Radio Show Archives" link on the right. If you establish an account with Podbean, you can even subscribe to the show, and they'll inform you when new episodes have been uploaded for your listening pleasure. I've uploaded a few past shows just to get started.

Vatican City-State Website launched

From the Vatican Information Service:

VATICAN CITY, JUL 19, 2007 (VIS) - The Governorate of Vatican City State today opened a new Internet portal (http://www.vaticanstate.va) in order to meet the needs of the ever increasing numbers of pilgrims and tourists in the Vatican, and to respond to the continuous requests for information reaching the various offices of Vatican State though the traditional channels.

A communique made public yesterday afternoon explains that the new website, which will run alongside the official Holy See website (www.vatican.va), has been implemented in five languages (Italian, English, French, Spanish and German) with Portuguese soon to be added. Through its five sections (State and Government, Services, Other Institutions, Monuments and Shop) the portal "presents the State's bodies, the key monuments with descriptions and images, and useful time schedules for the public" reads the English-language communique.

The site also offers a photo tour of the Vatican Gardens, as well as giving real time access via five webcams to some of the most famous sights: the dome of St. Peter's, St. Peter's Square, a panoramic view of Rome, the tomb of John Paul II and the palace of the Governorate.

Via the new portal, the communique concludes, "visitors will soon be able to purchase Vatican coins, stamps and other articles available from the Vatican Museum's publications and reproductions sales office."

B16 Vacation Video

Click here to check out some video taken of Pope Benedict whilst on vacation. Nothing really earth-shattering (him greeting children, him walking into a church, him thanking the people who prepared the retreat house for him), but cool nonetheless. It comes to us thanks to Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog, who got it from SkyTV, who got it from Vatican Television, who got it-- well, because they're Vatican television.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More Great B16 Video!

My thanks to a blog commenter who gave me the link to more footage of what Pope benedict's private morning Mass looks like. My previous entry had the link to German television's "A Day in the Life of Pope Benedict". That video used footage taken from Italian television's coverage of his morning Mass. Here's the Italian TV footage (which starts with a title graphic in French, probably because it was uploaded by a French-speaker).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lady Bird Johnson

As the world says goodbye to Lady Bird Johnson, it reminded me of the trip I made in 1999 to see the LBJ ranch. I had read both President Johnson's memoirs ("The Vantage Point"), and Mrs. Johnson's memoirs ("A White House Diary"), and so much was written by them both about their love for the Texas hill country and their ranch, I had to see it for myself. Thanks to my handy-dandy scanner, here are some photos I took:

The entrance to the park.

At the time, the LBJ ranch was still considered a "private residence", still used by Mrs. Johnson, and so while you weren't allowed to drive to it, a shuttle bus takes you on the grounds. This is the front of the house.
The shuttle stops on the side of the house so the tourguide can tell you about the house itself. At times, when she was at the ranch, Mrs. Johnson was known to come out of the house to say hello to the tourists. When the ranch and surrounding property were made into a National Park, it was with the understanding that the house would remain private for Mrs. Johnson's use until her death. Now that she's gone, it will definitely be worth another trip to Texas to tour the house.
The Johnson family plot is east of the ranchhouse. The tall stone in the middle is where President Johnson is buried. The gap to the left of it is where Mrs. Johnson was buried today.

Friday, July 13, 2007

My Moto Musings

We're getting close to the one week anniversary of the release of Summorum Pontificum (I'm getting tired of both saying and typing "Motu Proprio", so I've imposed a personal moratorium on it). If you're reading my blog, chances are real good that you read other Catholic blogs, and so you know that lots of people smarter than I have translated, dissected, interpreted, and explained the document. In other words, I don't need to do that. Blogs are about personal opinions, so I'll just tell you what I think about it.

Let me start here: It is what it is. The Holy Father has definitively declared that "In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or religious, can use the Roman Missal published by Pope Blessed John XXIII in 1962 or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary." (Article 2)

But that's where it ends when it comes to what a priest may do on his own. He cannot, for example, choose on his own to use the "extraordinary usage" (a.k.a. the '62 Missal, but we might as well get used to the new proper terminology) if he is assigned to celebrate the 8am Mass at his parish. If he is assigned to celebrate one of the three Masses on a Sunday at his parish, a priest cannot, on his own, choose to celebrate the extraordinary usage (again, the '62 Missal) rather than the ordinary usage (the '70 Missal). All these fears that clergy are having underground meetings, planning to "ambush" poor, unsuspecting laity are ridiculous.

To me, the most interesting feature of this Mot... (you thought I was going to type it, didn't you?) ...of Summorum Pontificum is that the "trigger" for most anything to happen with regards to the extraordinary usage (one last time = Mass celebrated with the '62 Missal) rests more in the hands of the laity than the clergy. What do I mean?
  • The laity, if they ask to be admitted, may attend a priest's private celebration of the extraordinary usage (SP, art. 4).
Now, what's a "Mass celebrated without the people"? (Note: This is going to be up for heavy and diverse interpretation) I'd define it as a Mass outside of the parish's daily scheduled Mass(es). For example: my parish has one daily scheduled Mass. On days when my pastor is scheduled to celebrate that Mass, then I celebrate a "Mass without the people", usually in my room, but occasionally over in the church.

  • A stable group of the laity within a parish may, on their initiative, ask their pastor to celebrate Mass for them according to the extraordinary usage (art. 5, par. 1).

  • Laity, if they so choose, may ask that special ceremonies (eg - wedding Masses, funeral Masses, etc.) be celebrated using the extraordinary usage (art. 5, par. 3).

So what about the clergy? Paragraph 4 of article 5 lays it out: "Priests using the Missal of Blessed John XXIII must be qualified to do so..." In other words they must know what they're doing. That makes sense. Personally, I do not know how to celebrate the extraordinary usage. That means I would have to learn, just like I had to learn how to say Mass according to the ordinary usage when I was in the seminary. Even those ordained to the priesthood before the 1970 probably have not celebrated Mass using the '62 Missal in decades, and so they may be feeling "rusty" and not yet prepared to celebrate it. I'm sure in the next few weeks books and tapes and DVDs and workshops are going to appear in order to help those priests and deacons who want to know how to properly fulfill their respective roles at a Mass using the '62 Missal. But this idea of clergy learning another rite isn't so odd; many Latin-rite priests around the United States have, for years, learned to celebrate the Byzantine Divine Liturgy for stable groups of eastern-rite Catholics, and received the necessary permissions from Rome, their local bishop, and the local Byzantine Bishop. The bottom line: if we're going to care for the "welfare of these faithful [Catholics]", as paragraph 1 of article 5 recommends, then we've got some work cut out for us.

As I said, "It is what it is." Do I want to learn it? Yes, but not for the reason you might think. It is not, despite what some in and out of Holy Orders may believe, because I am a cassock-wearing, biretta tipping, amice tying, lace dripping, Vatican II denying, Missa de Angelis in my shower singing cleric who is convinced that God only speaks Latin (although He understands Greek and Hebrew) and this usage puts me even higher on the pedestal I'm already upon. So why will I learn it? First, because the Holy Father says that there are Catholics out there who draw their spiritual strength from it and someday if I am pastor of a parish I might get approached by these people. Thanks to my Boy Scout training, I've learned to "Be prepared". Second, the historian in me realizes that (with a few alterations) this was essentially the Mass of the universal Church for 400 years, or one-fifth of her existence on Earth. Think about it: every year thousands of tourists flock to Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, the Jamestown settlement, etc., to see how our ancestors lived and worked. Seeing what they did in the past helps us appreciate what we have today, and I think the same lesson can be learned from (to use what is now an un-PC term) the "Tridentine Mass". Third, I'm no fool, this Mass was the spiritual food of Saints! If we'll watch TV and buy clothes or jewelry or a diet plan because some secular celebrity endorses it, why would I not be at least a little curious about the Mass celebrated by Padre Pio, John Vianney, Alphosus Ligouri, John Neumann, Phillip Neri, Maximillian Kolbe, etc. If you're a lay person, aren't you at least mildly interested in the Mass which spiritually nourished saints like Therese, Elizabeth Seton, Aloysius Gonzaga, Edith Stein, Katherine Drexel, etc.? How many people bought "Ab-Rollers" and "Nordic Tracks" and "TrimSpa", thinking, "If it worked for them, it can work for me!"? Finally, I think (I hope, really) that exposure to the extraordinary usage will help the celebration of the ordinary usage. At times we forget Mass is about the worship of God and not about entertaining ourselves. My guess is that some will attend a Mass using the '62 Missal and decide it's not for them, and maybe they'll have a new appreciation of the Mass they've been going to and criticizing for years (of course, others may attend it and ask, "Where have you been all my life?"). If they learn to appreciate the ordinary usage of the Roman Rite by experiencing the extraordinary usage of the Roman Rite, is that such a bad thing? But in the meantime, those who have been attending Mass using the '62 Missal will feel less like outcasts within their own family, and that's probably a good thing.

To sum up: The "main office" said I should consider it. It piques my interest. It has a proven track record. It may help me in the future. It is what it is.

How, On God's Green Earth, Did This Slip Past My Radar???

O.k., campers, get yourselves ready for this. German television was given access to "A Day in the Life of Pope Benedict". Yes, it's in German, but fear not, oh Teutonically challenged, the video more than makes up it. I get the feeling this was done pretty early in his Pontificate (you'll see footage of him being escorted to the Papal Apartments for the first time - in fact watch Cardinal Martinez Somalo unlock the door, then pull a prelate off to the side so he and the Holy Father can enter the antechamber first, only to see a photographer is already inside), but still... WOW! Ever wanted to see the Pope vest for Mass? Ever wondered what's on his desk? Or what the kitchen is like in the Papal Apartments? Or what's in the Pope's living room? Or even watching the Holy Father doze off in his chair at the end of the day. Watch!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

At Today's Press Conference

"I hear Father Jay's now allowin' comments on his blog.
What is he THINKING???"
Oh, and thank you AP for the pic

Reason #3 To Leave Your Church Unlocked...

...Because you never know who'll show up to pray!

Thanks to L'Osservatore Romano for the photos

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Read The Catechism In One Year

Just about every secular media outlet is dropping journalistic Napalm on Pope Benedict (and on his papal "name day", too!) about the decree issued yesterday by the CDF. A local newspaper had the headline, "Pope says Catholic Church is True Church". What's he supposed to say, "It's not really, we're just teasing you. Actually, the Druids got it right."?

I'll write about the decree eventually, but the real reason I'm writing is that a fellow blogger led me to a link by a Canadian Priest, Fr. Dowd, who has posted on his blog a plan which will take you through the Catechism of the Catholic Church in one year. Download the booklet, print it out, stick it in your Catechism (which may require you either buying one or finding it on your bookshelf), and if you start today you'll have all 2865 paragraphs read by July 10, 2008.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Real Thing (Baby)

Boy, I tell you, give the Laity an issue, some computer technology, and a little free time, and it's amazing how empowered they can get.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Saints Revisited

A parishioner stopped me after Mass this morning as I was "meeting & greeting" to say "nice quote in the newspaper". I had forgotten that a reporter for our local newspaper had called me during the week to ask me questions about the Church's teachings about Saints. Here's the article (also, check out my previous blog entry back on All Saints Day last November):

Saint who?
Chances are there's a little-known saint with whom you can identify.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
The Express-Times

Even the non-religious know the most popular saints.

Like St. Joan of Arc, who saw visions and led an army. Or St. Francis of Assisi, who was a lover of nature and animals. And there's St. Jude, the patron saint of lost and desperate causes.

But who are saints Cyril and Methodius, whose feast day is today?

With the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches recognizing more than 10,000 saints, even devout Catholic and Orthodox Christians probably don't know many of these distinguished figures.

But if it means reading up to find about them, that's part of the point.

A little research into Cyril and Methodius -- who have a church named in their honor in Bethlehem -- shows they were brothers who worked as missionaries because they knew languages so well. They were so revered the Cyrillic alphabet was named in honor of St. Cyril.

The stories of the saints should be explored because they serve as models of faith, some local clergy say.

"The best equivalent we have for saints is that it's kind of like what the Hall of Fame is for sports," says the Rev. Jay Toborowsky of St. Mary's Church in Alpha. "It's a place where they've shown merit or in some way raised the game to a new level."

The point of reading up on the saints is to find a saint to identify with, clergy say. So that may mean reading up on the more obscure saints -- because they are just as good models of faith as their more famous counterparts.

"Once you get into heaven it's not like there are different levels of saints," Toborowsky says. "Sanctity is not a contest like the Olympics, where a fraction of a second can make a difference. All of us are called to finish the race, and whether it's the best known or the most obscure saint, they all enjoy the same rewards."

One reason to read up on lesser-known saints is that it increases the chances people will find a saint with whose story they can relate.

"There are so many different saints with different backgrounds and lifestyles, and one of the real values of the saints is that there's something there that people can identify with," says the Rev. Robert Fagan of St. Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic Church in Palmer Township. "For example, some may be drawn to the humility of St. Joseph when they read about him."

So no matter how obscure the saint, there's something in their stories that has remained appealing through the centuries.

"The saints are like us and the saints have something for everyone," Toborowsky says.

Trunk Monkeys

I found this video on the Roman Sacristan blog. I'm thinking of giving these chimps blazers and making them ushers in my parish. How do you think they'd handle the "Late Comers" and "Early Leavers" at Mass?

Breasts and a Penis

Well, now that I've got your attention, we can begin today's ramblings about this weekend's scripture readings at Mass. Besides, if I spoke about the breasts or the penis in the first paragraph, you'd ignore the rest of my thoughts and move on to some other blog. So be patient, and read on.

In the Gospel today, Jesus sends out 72 disciples on their first missionary journeys. Why such a specific number? Moses appointed 70 elders, and the Jewish Sanhedrin (the 'Supreme Court' of Judaism in Jesus' day) had how many members? You guessed it: 70. Jesus was hinting that they were the 'new' elders, the 'next' Sanhedrin. But he sends them with very specific instructions:

  • No "extra stuff". No overpacking like we do when we go on vacation. In other words, don't let what you're bringing overshadow what you're being sent to do.
  • No talking to people on the way. Sounds rude, no? He meant don't get sidetracked. You're not being told just to 'get lost' for a few days; you're being sent to do specific stuff, and there's gonna be a test when you get back.
  • No "house-hopping". Don't spend you're whole time there with one eye on your own personal comfort and interests. Your missionary trip isn't about making you feel all good about yourself, it's about you affecting others. Make a decision (on where to stay) and live with that decision.

The challenge by Christ is interesting, and reaches out to us today: How do we make Christ's Gospel known without "things"? Don't get me wrong: holy cards, religious medals, bibles, and rosaries are good things and helpful in introducing the devotional life to people, which should hopefully lead to full participation in the life and the Sacraments of the Church. But what the Lord did in the Gospel reading today is give the 36 pairs of disciples a task with a catch; with a "degree of difficulty" involved in it (just like, for example, certain moves in competitive gymnastics or diving are harder to do than others, so there's extra points given for a more difficult task). Don't rely on "stuff", Jesus says. Rely on God.

What about us? If we had our rosaries taken out of our pockets or off of the rear view mirrors of our cars, if we had our religious jewelry (cross rings, crucifix necklaces, etc.) taken away, if we couldn't show people our bibles or prayer books, what could we do to show them we're disciples of Jesus Christ and members of the Church He established? You've heard the adage: "If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to 'find you guilty'?" Anyone can buy a Yankees shirt and call yourself a Yankees fan. It's harder to spend time watching games and memorizing players' names, statistics, etc. But if I took both "fans", dressed them in green hospital gowns, and asked them to tell me about the Yankees, one person will do well and the other won't.

ATTENTION YF PRIESTS/SEMINARIANS: Here is the challenge and the danger for Priests. The 'challenge' is this: If I am at the movies, a restaurant, a supermarket, whatever, without wearing my clerical clothing, can others tell that I am a Priest by the way I conduct myself? When a bunch of Priests get together, as we often do, and we decide to go out without clerical clothing (which many times means black shoes, black socks, black slacks, black belt, and some multi-colored shirt), is our conduct reflecting our Priesthood? From this, you can guess what the 'danger' is: Priests can slip into the erroneous belief that we're only Priests when we're wearing our "Priest clothes". Many Priests I know have vacation homes, and there's nothing wrong with that. But the same dangerous belief can happen at a place as much as with clothing (i.e. - "I'm only a Priest when I'm at the parish or in the rectory. When I'm here, I'm not 'Father X'. I'm just plain 'X'"). Obviously, there's no "Mute" button that comes with ordination.

The best part: God's not holding us accountable for the number of converts we make, only that we did our best to present the message to them! The Gospel says, "Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet,even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand." In other words, your 'success' or 'failure' isn't measured in the number of completed "I wanna be a Catholic" applications, but by the number of people you approached and to whom you made the pitch! If you tried and they believed, good for you and them; if you tried and they refused, still good for you. As a Priest, that's my great relief and joy! God is not going to hold me accountable for the number of families in my parish who heard my homilies, adult ed teachings, RCIA classes, etc., and chose not to listen (unless I was rude and inaccurate, but that's another problem). At the end of my life, the Lord is going to judge me on "whether" (and how accurately) I made the message known. As a priest, my "job" isn't to convince people that ((pick something: Christ is substantially present in the Eucharist, abortion is evil, contraception is wrong, there is objective truth, Sacramental confession is necessary, etc.)). My task is to present the Church's teachings in a way that my people can understand. If I've done that, then what they do with that teaching will affect how God judges them when their time on earth is finished, not me. The same works for anyone who is a Christian. Jesus was more concerned that the 72 walked the walk and talked the talk on their apostolic mission than He was whether they actually brought any warm bodies back with them.

So how do we do it? For that, we turn to the other readings:

  • The Responsorial Psalm told us that, to be effective disciples, we need to "Shout joyfully to God", "say to God 'how tremendous are your deeds'", and "worship and sing praise" to the Lord. How often does that happen in our daily lives? How's your prayer life?
  • Isaiah, in the First Reading, tells the children of Israel who've been in exile that soon they'll return to Jerusalem, who will nurse them as a mother breastfeeds her children in order to nourish them. The Sacraments of the Church are the nourishment we get from Mother Church. Do the research on breast milk (full of nutrients, helps the child's growth, etc.). That's what the Sacraments do for us, as we "nurse with delight at [the Church's] abundant breasts".
  • Finally, St. Paul, in the Second Reading, gives the Galatians a little history lesson. Just as God gave Abraham the command to circumcise all males as the outward mark of the covenant between God and His people, so now St. Paul essentially says, "new covenant, new mark." Now, the mark of the covenant is not found on each person (shall we say below the waistline), but in the marks of the wounds of Christ crucified. Christ bears the wounds Himself. We don't have to have our hands, feet, and side punctured (thank God!), because Jesus did it for us! But there is a downside to that fact: A Jewish man was visibly reminded of the covenant every time he saw himself all nekkid in his birthday suit. Sadly for us, the indelible mark made at our Baptisms is invisible, and so we can occasionally forget the fact that we're in a covenant relationship with God and so allow ourselves to lapse into a broken or distanced relationship. St. Paul knows that his "name is written in heaven" thanks to the salvation Christ won for him. Hence he says he won't boast in his pedigree as a Jew and a student of Rabbi Gamaliel, or even in his social status as a Roman citizen, but only in what got him that salvation: "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ".

Zorro left behind a "Z", and the Lone Ranger left behind a silver bullet. What examples do we "leave behind" with the people we encounter in our lives that tell them they've just been in contact with a Christian?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

This One Made Me Laugh So Much, My Morning Coffee Came Out Through My Nose

Though I wish I could take credit, this is from Fr. Tim Finigan, author of the Blog The Hermeneutic of Continuity

You Didn't Think It'd Be Easy, Did You?

Most secular news agencies (as well as those who are just plain 'against the MP') are committing "journalistic arson", covering B16's release of Summorum Pontificum with some version of the byline: "Old Mass attacks Jews". But the Zenit News Agency has a story which seeks to put out the fire on that attack (my emphases added):

Several media reports erroneously contend that the letter could in effect
reinstate a prayer offensive to Jews from the Good Friday liturgy of the Tridentine Mass, which dates back to 1570. The prayer stated: "Oremus et pro perfidies Judaeis" (Let us pray for the perfidious Jews).

On the first Good Friday after his election to the papacy in 1959, Pope John XXIII eliminated the adjective "perfidious" from the prayer. Since then the expression "Let us pray for the Jews" has been used. That same year, he also eliminated from the rite of baptism the phrase used for Jewish catechumens:
"Horresce Jusaicam perfidiam, respue Hebraicam superstitionem" (Disavow Jewish unbelieving, deny Hebrew superstition). Also eliminated were similar formulas for those converting from idolatry, Islam or a heretical sect.

The 1962 missal was promulgated with an apostolic letter issued "motu proprio" by John XXIII "Rubricarum Instructum."

The missal does not make reference to "perfidious Jews." On Good Friday in 1963, John XXIII underlined the importance of this decision when the old formulation of the prayer for the Jews was read. The Pope interrupted the liturgy and asked that that the liturgical invocations begin again from the beginning, following the new text.

The Roman Missal adopted by Pope Paul VI in 1969, and put into effect in 1970, reformulated the prayer. It reads: "Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant."Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption."

7....7....7 Cha-Ching!

Pope Benedict's letter to bishops accompanying the Motu Proprio

The Motu Proprio itself (in Latin)

As of now, the MP has been released in Latin only. Perhaps after the sometimes huge discrepancies in the translation of the recent Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis there's a whole new level of proofreading going on. So be patient!

In the meantime, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has an excellent explanation of "what it all means" on his blog, What Does The Prayer Really Say.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Champions of Faith

Being a highly influential member of the media (meaning = "I luckily ended up on someone's mailing list"), I was given a copy of a DVD called Champions of Faith, an hour-long film about major league baseball players and how they live their faith in the world of professional sports.

You know what comes into our minds when we hear about professional athletes: money, the celebrity lifestyle, and even scandals involving drinking, drugs, or paternity tests. This film shows the other side, the side of faith and trust in God, through interviews with players like Mike Piazza, Mike Sweeney, David Eckstein, Jeff Suppan, and managers like Jack McKeon, Jim Leyland, and Mike Scioscia.

I watched it and found myself a kid again, listening to the crack of a ball hitting a bat and wanting to reach for my glove. Not just a "Yay, it's cool to be a Catholic ball player" kind of DVD for kids, the film is guaranteed to have you a little teary at times.

Baseball and summertime go together naturally. I'm planning on showing it in my parish real soon, and through their website they make it possible for you not only to have a copy for your own use, but also to show it in large groups.

Numerically Challenged

A blurb on this on one of this morning's newscasts spoke of people in a frenzy to get married this Saturday, July 7th (7/7/07). One such not-so-blushing bride was quoted as saying this was a "once in a lifetime thing".

Yeah, if you were born after 6/6/06...

or 5/5/05...

or 4/4/04...

or 3/3/03...

In fact, book your teenager's wedding now for December 12, 2012!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

B16 on B.S. (no, not that)

Starting at the age of 10, and continuing until I went away to the seminary, I was active in the Boy Scouts of America. Some of my best friends and best experiences come from that time in my life. If you were a boy scout, you know what I mean: summer camps, hikes, the Order of the Arrow, competing against other patrols, etc. But there's even the stuff people think you're nuts for saying that you enjoyed: that smell you took home with you after your clothes absorbed that campfire odor, pancakes that were slightly burnt and powdery because the mix wasn't dissolved all the way, and comparing knife wounds that you and your friends got while working on your Woodcarving Merit Badge. Oooh, I'm getting misty; aren't you?

Anyway, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouting movement, and Pope Benedict issued a message on the value of Scouting:

"For one century, through play, action, adventure, contact with nature, life as a team and in service to others, you offer an integral formation to anyone who joins the Scouts. Inspired by the Gospels, scouting is not only a place for authentic human growth, but also a place of strong Christian values and true moral and spiritual growth, as with any authentic way of holiness.

The sense of responsibility that permeates Scout education leads to a life of charity and the desire to serve one's neighbor, in the image of Christ the servant, based on the grace offered by Christ, in a special way through the sacraments of the Eucharist and forgiveness."

The Pontiff encouraged the brotherhood of the Scouts, "which is a part of its original ideal and makes up, above all for young generations -- a witness of that which is the body of Christ, within which, according to the image of St. Paul, all are called to fulfill a mission wherever they are, to rejoice in another's progress and to support their brothers in times of difficulty."

"I thank the Lord for all the fruits that, throughout these last 100 years, the Scouts have offered," he said. He encouraged Catholic Scouts to go forward on their path, offering "to boys and girls of today an education that forms them with a strong personality, based on Christ and willing to live for the high ideals of faith and human solidarity."

Benedict XVI's message ends with advice from Baden-Powell: "Be faithful to your Scout promise, even when you are no longer young, and may God help you to do so!"When man seeks to be faithful to his promises, the Lord himself strengthens his steps."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day

On Independence Day (to call today's holiday the "4th of July" rather than "Independence Day" is like saying "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas") I thought it might be good to see the connections between Roman Catholics and the Founding Fathers. So click on the links for some appropriate reading today:

George Washington's Letter to Roman Catholics

The Declaration of Independence rooted in Catholic thought?

The Carroll family of Maryland: a Dec. of Ind. signer and an Archbishop

Essay:"Abraham Lincoln: Friend or Foe of Catholics?"

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


No, not that kind of B.L.T.--

In this case, I mean Benedict Lecturing on Thomas. Almost from the start of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict has been dedicating his Wednesday General Audience addresses to catechesis on the Church and figures in Church history. On today's Feast of the Apostle St. Thomas, I think it's a great reflection to ponder (In fact, I used it for my homily at Mass this morning-- you can't go wrong with good material!). This address was given at the Wednesday Audience on September 27, 2006, and can be found on the Vatican website archive of B16's writings. I've highlighted some things I thought were great. Hey, it's my blog!

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing our encounters with the Twelve Apostles chosen directly by Jesus, today we will focus our attention on Thomas. Ever present in the four lists compiled by the New Testament, in the first three Gospels he is placed next to Matthew (cf. Mt 10: 3; Mk 3: 18; Lk 6: 15), whereas in Acts, he is found after Philip (cf. Acts 1: 13).

His name derives from a Hebrew root, ta'am, which means "paired, twin". In fact, John's Gospel several times calls him "Dydimus" (cf. Jn 11: 16; 20: 24; 21: 2), a Greek nickname for, precisely, "twin". The reason for this nickname is unclear.

It is above all the Fourth Gospel that gives us information that outlines some important traits of his personality.

The first concerns his exhortation to the other Apostles when Jesus, at a critical moment in his life, decided to go to Bethany to raise Lazarus, thus coming dangerously close to Jerusalem (Mk 10: 32).

On that occasion Thomas said to his fellow disciples: "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (Jn 11: 16). His determination to follow his Master is truly exemplary and offers us a valuable lesson: it reveals his total readiness to stand by Jesus, to the point of identifying his own destiny with that of Jesus and of desiring to share with him the supreme trial of death.

In fact, the most important thing is never to distance oneself from Jesus.

Moreover, when the Gospels use the verb "to follow", it means that where he goes, his disciple must also go.

Thus, Christian life is defined as a life with Jesus Christ, a life to spend together with him. St Paul writes something similar when he assures the Christians of Corinth: "You are in our hearts, to die together and to live together" (II Cor 7: 3). What takes place between the Apostle and his Christians must obviously apply first of all to the relationship between Christians and Jesus himself: dying together, living together, being in his Heart as he is in ours.

A second intervention by Thomas is recorded at the Last Supper. On that occasion, predicting his own imminent departure, Jesus announced that he was going to prepare a place for his disciples so that they could be where he is found; and he explains to them: "Where [I] am going you know the way" (Jn 14: 4). It is then that Thomas intervenes, saying: "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" (Jn 14: 5).

In fact, with this remark he places himself at a rather low level of understanding; but his words provide Jesus with the opportunity to pronounce his famous definition: "I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14: 6).

Thus, it is primarily to Thomas that he makes this revelation, but it is valid for all of us and for every age. Every time we hear or read these words, we can stand beside Thomas in spirit and imagine that the Lord is also speaking to us, just as he spoke to him.

At the same time, his question also confers upon us the right, so to speak, to ask Jesus for explanations. We often do not understand him. Let us be brave enough to say: "I do not understand you, Lord; listen to me, help me to understand". In such a way, with this frankness which is the true way of praying, of speaking to Jesus, we express our meagre capacity to understand and at the same time place ourselves in the trusting attitude of someone who expects light and strength from the One able to provide them.

Then, the proverbial scene of the doubting Thomas that occurred eight days after Easter is very well known. At first he did not believe that Jesus had appeared in his absence and said: "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe" (Jn 20: 25).

Basically, from these words emerges the conviction that Jesus can now be recognized by his wounds rather than by his face. Thomas holds that the signs that confirm Jesus' identity are now above all his wounds, in which he reveals to us how much he loved us. In this the Apostle is not mistaken.

As we know, Jesus reappeared among his disciples eight days later and this time Thomas was present. Jesus summons him: "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing" (Jn 20: 27).

Thomas reacts with the most splendid profession of faith in the whole of the New Testament: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20: 28). St Augustine comments on this: Thomas "saw and touched the man, and acknowledged the God whom he neither saw nor touched; but by the means of what he saw and touched, he now put far away from him every doubt, and believed the other" (In ev. Jo. 121, 5).

The Evangelist continues with Jesus' last words to Thomas: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20: 29). This sentence can also be put into the present: "Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe".
In any case, here Jesus spells out a fundamental principle for Christians who will come after Thomas, hence, for all of us.

It is interesting to note that another Thomas, the great Medieval theologian of Aquinas, juxtaposed this formula of blessedness with the apparently opposite one recorded by Luke: "Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!" (Lk 10: 23). However, Aquinas comments: "Those who believe without seeing are more meritorious than those who, seeing, believe" (In Johann. XX lectio VI 2566).

In fact, the Letter to the Hebrews, recalling the whole series of the ancient biblical Patriarchs who believed in God without seeing the fulfilment of his promises, defines faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11: 1).

The Apostle Thomas' case is important to us for at least three reasons: first, because it comforts us in our insecurity; second, because it shows us that every doubt can lead to an outcome brighter than any uncertainty; and, lastly, because the words that Jesus addressed to him remind us of the true meaning of mature faith and encourage us to persevere, despite the difficulty, along our journey of adhesion to him.

A final point concerning Thomas is preserved for us in the Fourth Gospel, which presents him as a witness of the Risen One in the subsequent event of the miraculous catch in the Sea of Tiberias (cf. Jn 21: 2ff.).

On that occasion, Thomas is even mentioned immediately after Simon Peter: an evident sign of the considerable importance that he enjoyed in the context of the early Christian communities.
Indeed, the Acts and the Gospel of Thomas, both apocryphal works but in any case important for the study of Christian origins, were written in his name.

Lastly, let us remember that an ancient tradition claims that Thomas first evangelized Syria and Persia (mentioned by Origen, according to Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 3, 1) then went on to Western India (cf. Acts of Thomas 1-2 and 17ff.), from where also he finally reached Southern India.

Let us end our reflection in this missionary perspective, expressing the hope that Thomas' example will never fail to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Our God.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Serratelli's Second Slice of the Sacred

This past June 19, I posted Paterson Bishop Arthur Serratelli's first installment of a 3-part reflection on the sacred. He has now published part two. As before, here's the link to the whole article, and here's some "teasers" from it:
  • "The Liturgy of the Church is a moment where all the dimensions of our lives come before the living God. It is the place where we have an active encounter with God."
  • "The more we realize we are coming into the Presence of God in Church, the more respectful and reverent our whole person becomes. Chewing gum in Church, loud talking, beach attire and immodest dress simply do not belong!"
  • "We are not just spirit when we pray. We pray in our total reality as body and spirit. And so, to recapture the sense of the sacred, therefore, we need to express our reverence through our body language."
  • "The priest is merely the servant of the Liturgy, not its creator or center."

Check it out.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Gospel Ramblings

Just some thoughts I had (and preached on) about this Sunday's readings...

Time is the issue this weekend. God tells Elijah to go tell Elisha he's his successor now. Elisha wants to say goodbye to everyone, and Elijah says, "Not good enough. Come now." Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem and invites a bunch of people to follow him, and they all have reasons why they can't come right now:

  • The Samaritans heard they were going to Jerusalem and "would not welcome him". They weren't even willing to give him the time to hear him out. Like those annoying marketing calls we get, the moment we hear that pause on the telephone that tells us a computer auto-dialer has patched the call to a telemarketer, we hang up before we hear the message. But James and John aren't so innocent here, either. They're not looking to spend the time preaching the Gospel to the Samaritans; they had their shot and they refused. Now the "Sons of Thunder" want to live up to their name.
  • "Let me bury my father first". No, Jesus wasn't being cruel. Dad wasn't dead, in fact if the kid in the conversation was about 17 then dad's about 36: probably decades from death. The man wants to live his life and enjoy it, and only when he's bored with it will he catch up with Jesus. For years now, Catholics have been hearing the stewardship mantra of "Time, Talent, and Treasure" hammered into them again and again. This can be deceptive, since it can lead us to believe that we dictate the terms in our relationship with God (eg - "I'll sing in the choir, but I won't visit the sick.").
  • "Let me say farewell to my family at home", again, the 'no' sounds like another unreasonable demand by the Lord. But Jesus never said the guy can never see his family again, and his "home" may have been miles away. The analogy of the plower looking back making crooked lines is great. We live in the world of "Monday morning quarterbacking" and playing the "wouldacouldashoulda" game with our lives. A trip home may have resulted in mom and dad laying pressure on the son to not leave his secure life in order to follow Christ. In the words of Yoda, essentially Jesus says, "Do not 'try'; either do or don't do."

Sometimes God gives us a "time out" in which to think (He gave one to Paris Hilton lasting 23-days!). For us, maybe it's a traffic jam, or a car in the shop that strands us at home, or maybe some sickness. We can all find the time to see the latest movie or stand on line for the latest tech gadget. What about finding time to pray or read or do an apostolic activity?