Sunday, April 29, 2007

Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Easter

This weekend is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The Gospel this Sunday is so short, it is published in its entirety here:
(It can be found at John 10:27-30)

Jesus said:
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”

We are the sheep, Christ is the shepherd who speaks to us the words of truth. In responding to the love of Christ, we can follow it as a priest, religious, generous single life, or married. Right here, right now, we are called to follow.

As a shepherd from the time of Christ and even nomadic shepherds could tell, the sheep need to be guided by shepherd's voice. They hear it, and while about the tasks at hand (for sheep, that means eating), and follow the voice. When they do, they are kept safe. Jesus, the good shepherd, promises that if we follow, he will hold us in his hands, and no one can take us out of them. But we can walk out (like so many of the hearers of the Bread of Life discourse who walked away from salvation). It is not enough to listen to the voice of Christ once, and then think that we are safe. No, we follow daily, hourly, and perhaps even every second!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Great Harvest

Whispers in the Loggia has a post on the large number of vocations from West Philadelphia High School. (The original article is found here.)
Since its founding as a boys' school in 1916, and the addition of the girls' school in 1926, West Catholic has turned out more than 1,000 religious sisters, 600 priests, at least 300 Christian Brothers, six bishops, and Cardinal John O'Connor, the late archbishop of New York - Class of '38.

The School hosted a reunion for them, and it sounds as if it was a great success. Perhaps this is something more should do.
One thing that I found telling: it seems that everyone encouraged vocations, from the parents to the principal. The culture of vocations is definitely alive here!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Theory of Limbo

There has been lots of blog articles lately about the recent conclusion of a Vatican Theological Commission regarding Limbo. There are a number of errors and misrepresentations of the theory, and I offer the following as a corrective.

First, Limbo is not purgatory, the state of souls destined for heaven (due to faith and no unforgiven sins) but lacking in perfect love. The theory of Limbo was just that... a theory. In the theological terms, it is a theological speculation or theological opinion, not a Dogma or doctrine which are to be held definitively (such as purgatory!). Because some in the Church taught it did not make it so, and just because the recent theological conclusion said that it is a theory that is not helpful did not 'bring the walls of Limbo' down. The Pope has to accept or reject the Commission's findings. All this is to to say that those that taught it, did so without creating it, and those that say that it is not a helpful theory to continue to teach did not destroy it. The official teaching of the Church is that those who die with only original sin are not automatically condemned to hell, nor are they automatically admitted to heaven. True, though, is that the some texts refer to a state of those who die with original sin but no personal sin, but there is not an explicit, definitive teaching on limbo's existence.

As such, Limbo was not the 'in-between' of heaven and hell but a different category that taught that those babies who died without baptism were given a state of 'natural happiness', but not the state of supernatural happiness that is in heaven. While not subscribing to the theory as particularly as helpful as relying on God's mercy (though I will fully submit to the Pope were he to declare Limbo a doctrine to be held), I understand the theory of Limbo as like that of a grade school rain-day recess - lots of laughter and joy but in the classroom, not on the playground enjoying the sun and open space. Such children are lacking nothing with such natural happiness because they know nothing of God and the supernatural happiness He gives.

There is power in the Sacrament of Baptism, but it comes from Christ. Baptism is a participation in the Death and Resurrection of Christ which results in removal of sin, both original and personal, and a rejuvenation of the human being. The conclusion of the commission is that indeed God the Father can (as in 'it is possible', but not 'necessarily will') save the unbaptized by other means as well, so that they can share in the supernatural happiness of heaven. The theory of Limbo relies heavily on medieval philosophical and theological principles (all of which are sound), in such things as evil is a privation of some good that ought be present, that those with sin (personal or original) cannot enter heaven, etc. The teaching against limbo is based a more deeply developed theology of grace and mercy - that one can be saved, but only through Christ, without knowing Him explicitly or being baptized (which is not to say we should not get to know Him, or be baptized). While the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation are the ordinary means of experiencing God's Grace and forgiveness, God could work outside of them as well for the forgiveness of sins (such as the case of otherwise faithful Protestants who sinned but followed a well-formed conscience could experience forgiveness). There is a warning with all of this, though: we are not to presume God's mercy, and if at all able, we need to receive the Sacraments. The Church has taught that those who desire Baptism but die without it may experience the "baptism of desire" and experience God's mercy and have one's sins forgiven, for example.

Personally, I think the reason the press and so many have jumped on this is that they see it as a sign that the Church can change any of its teaching, which they tend to lump all together. The teaching against women priests, abortion, birth control, and such, gets regarded as equally changeable as the theory of Limbo, the application of the teachings of just war and capital punishment, and perhaps even the use of mercury thermometers, as suggested by Senator Durbin's score card for Catholic politicians. He actually suggested a pro-abortion politician could be more "Catholic" than a pro-life politician because they did not support the USCCB's suggestion to limit the use of mercury or other relatively 'minuscule' promptings of the US Bishops! If the Church's stance on some things can change, it can change in all things, is the thought. This, however, is not true.

Also, I think the pro-abortion, pro-contraception mentality is affecting this hype. I have actually heard at least one pro-abortion person say that if we are serious about the unborn child as such, it is better for a child to be killed in the womb and enter heaven than to be given birth and mistreated. The theory of limbo seems more cold and distant than this 'warm fuzzy' feeling of a sort of universal salvation of even those who are murdered in the womb. Do not misread me, though. Yes, if there is no Limbo, those that are aborted could also be entered into the beatific vision, but I reject the thought that this can be used to justify abortion! Abortion has no justification. To be born is always better than to be killed in the womb, and we must do everything we can to make the life of all, born and unborn, better. As good as life is, though, Heaven is even better yet!

All summed, the teaching of the Church is that all are invited to share in the beatific vision and to be saints in heaven. We are allowed there by God's grace. We are invited, in Baptism, to place our faith in Jesus Christ our savior, but know that He can also save those, who through no fault of their own die without Baptism and live in accordance to a well-formed conscience. Even little babes, are entrusted to the mercy of Christ and may be allowed into the eternal embrace of heaven, perhaps based on the faith of the child's parents. The vocation of all is to eternal, supernatural happiness, but this is no guarantee that we will all be given the gift. Are we going to respond in such a way that God will give us His grace?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pope Benedict's Address for World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Pope Benedict released the English translation of his address for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations which is this weekend.

I find it impressive, but he speaks of the prayer for "number and quality". I honestly do not remember any other papal document being as blunt about the necessity of both, but this is of course a little thing. His Holiness Benedict XVI has made this a passion - of priests and bishops being of high-quality.

He writes, too, that one who responds to a vocation of the priesthood or religious life is responding to the call of Christ in the same way that the first followers, the fishermen, did. These vocations are to the service of the Church as communion. One particularly striking quote ties all the themes of Pope Benedict's writings of recent:

Whoever places himself at the service of the Gospel, if he lives the Eucharist, makes progress in love of God and neighbour and thus contributes to building the Church as communion. We can affirm that the "Eucharistic love" motivates and founds the vocational activity of the whole Church, because, as I wrote in the Encyclical Deus caritas est, vocations to the priesthood and to other ministries and services flourish within the people of God wherever there are those in whom Christ can be seen through his Word, in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Archbishop Nienstedt's Biography

A Catholic Community Blog called Stella Borealis, "The Star Of The North" posted the biography of the new Archbishop of St. Paul Minneapolis, of course that being Archbishop Nienstedt formerly of New Ulm. They found it at the Diocese of New Ulm website. Thanks Stella Borealis, and congratulations on your new Archbishop!

At the press release, Archbishop Nienstedt defined himself as a parish priest that holds and teaches what the Catholic Church does. He certainly does. While some might hold this against him, it is a true strength of his. After all, who said that Catholic leaders, especially bishops and priests, should withhold the truth from those that would rather not hear!

Bishop Nienstedt's New Assignment

I am saddened, for completely selfish reasons, to announce that His Holiness, Pope Benedict has appointed Bishop Nienstedt appointed Coadjutor of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He was assigned as the Bishop of New Ulm in June of 2001, and installed in August of that year. Now, after only six years, he moves on.

Such an announcement is received, no doubt, with great joy by Archbishop Flynn, the Archdiocesan priests, and the people. Bishop Nienstedt is a great administrator and a very solid Bishop. It has been my pleasure to serve as Director of Vocations for him these last five years.

While we wait for the Holy See to appoint another bishop here in the New Ulm Diocese, Bishop Nienstedt will serve as Apostolic Administrator. Let us pray already that God will give us another holy Bishop who will proclaim the truth without fear - a truly good Shepherd modeled after Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Reflection on the Third Sunday of Easter

What do you do when you do not know what else to do? For St. Peter, he goes fishing. He is lost - he has heard of the empty tomb, and seen the tomb with his own eyes. He has experienced the risen Christ not only once, but twice. But he does not know what to do other than return to his former way of life. The other apostles follow, equally lost.

But there is no going back, not after all they experienced. They are out all night and catch nothing. It is only when Christ calls out to them, to tell them to cast to the right side of the boat, that they catch anything. With the 153 large fish, they know now what to do - they are to fish for men. Peter jumps out and swims to shore, where he sees that Jesus has prepared them breakfast.

But there is still a little matter for Jesus and Peter to discuss. Peter denied Jesus three times, and then he ran away. Now, Jesus asks him to demonstrate his love. Jesus asks, "Peter, do you love me more than these?" Even in the Greek, it is uncertain what Jesus is really asking, and perhaps it is all the understandings. Perhaps the 'These' refers to the other apostles - does he love Jesus more than the other apostles love him, or does he love Jesus more than he loves the other apostles? Perhaps he was asked if he loves Jesus more than the boats and nets. Whatever it is, Peter is absolutely certain - yes, he does. Jesus tells him to feed his lambs. Jesus asks a second and third time, and Peter seems a little hurt, as all healing ultimately seems to bring, and answers yes. Jesus responds with asking Peter to tend, and then feed, his sheep.

Jesus asks each one of us the same question. In our sin, we have denied him, but he does not abandon us in our sin or simply ignore it. He forgives us, invites us to express our love more. So the question of our lives is not how have we denied, but rather do we love him. Are we willing to leave all else behind, to walk from our former way of life with all that was good, and all that entrapped us, in order to be led deeper in relationship with Him? The temptation for us after our experience of the Risen Christ, especially in the Eucharist, is to go back to the familiar. The feast that Jesus provides for us calls us to change our lives, to trust Him more, and to profess our love.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Death of Monsignor Schuler

Our prayers for the repose of the Soul of Msgr. Richard Schuler who died yesterday. MusicaSacra has a lengthy obituary, and The New Liturgical Movement has a nice piece on Msgr. Schuler as well. As a pastor and musician, he was much loved and admired. I had the privilege of meeting him briefly, and he was truly a man of holiness.

His life and death provides food for thought. He saw his role as a priest and musician in a very unique way - he knew liturgy. So many priests dismiss their role in protecting the beauty and reverence of the liturgy, but the pastor is to be considered the chief liturgist of the parish. Monsignor took that role extremely seriously, and any who attend St. Agnes to this day can tell. There is a profound reverence for the Mass, and also a beautiful integration of music, especially the works of classical composers, whether it be in Latin or English. May more pastors, even if this is not their greatest gift, inspire such love and reverence in the Mass and its music.

May Monsignor's soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

A New Associate Director of Vocations

We are pleased to announce that Bishop Nienstedt has named Fr. Craig Timmerman, ordained in 2005, to be an associate Director of Vocations, to formally begin in June. While the exact nature of his assignment is yet to be detirmined, I am certain he will do well, and would also appreciate your prayers. Watch for his posts on the site!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reflection on Divine Mercy Sunday

This weekend, the octave of Easter, we are privileged to mark the Feast of Divine Mercy. In 2000, Pope John Paul II asked that the the Church mark this day. We are reminded that mercy is the attribute of God.

With our gospel this weekend, we have a powerful reminder of that divine mercy. First, in His resurrection appearance to the 10 (Judas and Thomas were gone), He breathed on them the Holy Spirit, and told them that they now had the authority to forgive sins - the start of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this great sacrament, we encounter Christ's mercy in the person of the priest, and we are forgiving of our sins.

But Thomas was not there, and Judas rejected the mercy of Christ and hung himself in despair. The next week, there is another appearance with all 11 in attendance. Thomas had boasted the week before that he would not believe unless he probed the wounds himself. Jesus, instead of reprimanding him, tells him to probe. Thomas never followed on his boast - he believes at once, and declares Jesus as Lord and God.

Both parts of this Gospel are key to remembering in discerning a vocation. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are given the mercy of Christ. Those that are willing to admit their weakness can more fully rely on his grace. So often, a young man will state that he feels unworthy to be a priest. Worthiness is not as important as willingness, and Christ, in his mercy will make worthy those who are willing to respond. But just as often, many young men will make boasts or deals, or set a sign for God to demonstrate. While it may be a Biblical tradition that even Gideon did (Judges 6), this may be an act done out of fear. We are called to faith, to believe without seeing, trusting that God will be faithful and merciful.

Jesus, we trust in you!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Another Blog

At our recent vocations meeting, it was recommended that we would create a blog that could be a joint cooperative. Because this is a little bit different format than I originally envisioned this blog, I created another at I invited our seminarians to post articles and comments on the blog. Bishop Nienstedt also suggested that he would like to post somethings, if he is able.

Fr. Kyle Schnippel's Blog

Fr. Kyle Schnippel has a vocations Blog that is worth a look. As he writes in a post on his blog, we met at the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors convention (which our Region VIII hosted.) Fr. Kyle is also a holy, dedicated priest and deserves our prayers! He is new in the Vocations ministry, and he seems to have his finger well-placed on the pulse of the web and faith. After all, he found my little site!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Reflection on Easter - He is truly Risen

The Resurrection, Benvenuto di Giovanni, c. 1491

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! We celebrate this day, marking it for the next fifty. We remember the empty tomb and the Resurrection appearances to the first followers of Jesus Christ.

It is in the Resurrection that Christ that all vocations find their source – it is after the Resurrection that Christ gave His disciples the Great Commission “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt. 28:19-20).

Recently, there has been much hype and empty speculation of Jesus really not rising from the dead. In the attempt to minimize the ‘damage’ caused by false conclusions arise from wild assumptions and falsified data, some have suggested that it is not the empty tomb but only the experience of the risen Christ in which we place faith. This creates a false dichotomy – the Resurrection experiences are credible (and incredible) only because of the empty tomb. One can paraphrase St. Paul to say either the tomb of Jesus is empty, or our faith is. In the experience of the Risen Jesus, it was because of His Glorified Body that gave them the proof to go forth and to proclaim Him as Risen Lord. It was not a fantasy or phantom, but Jesus Himself. Jesus Christ was raised, truly raised, though he is transformed! It was truly Christ that gave them the Commission, not a mere illusion, ghost, or phantom.

It was the faith of the Apostles, their encounter with Christ, that lead them to call others in the name of Christ to follow Him and to spread the message of Jesus, of His Death and Resurrection. It was the knowledge that Christ was truly risen that gave them the faith to go to their own deaths, or at least to lay down their lives, in imitation of their Lord and Savior. That message was passed down from person to person, throughout the generations to our own time. And we have heard the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, and we too have encountered Him, especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. For us who believe, there is no option to proclaim Him, but rather our duty.

Alleluia He is risen, as he said!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Holy Saturday's Sacred Silence

In today's Office of Readings, we are given a profound reading from an ancient homily. How can I say more, on this day when it appears as all creation holds its breath:

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ Christ answered him: ‘And with your spirit.’ He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Priestly Vestments

His Holiness Pope Benedict, in his homily for the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday Morning, spoke of the various liturgical vestments of the priest. Each demonstrates a deeper understanding of the priesthood.

The Holy Father then turned to the individual vestments of the priest, beginning with the amice, the white cloth which priests put on first, over their shoulders and collar.

“In the past, and in monastic orders to this day,” Pope Benedict said, “[the amice] was placed first on the head, as a sort of hood, becoming in this way a symbol of the discipline of the senses and the thoughts as necessary for the proper celebration of the Holy Mass.”

This necessity remains to this day, the Holy Father said, emphasizing that, “my thoughts must not wander through the worries and expectations of my daily life; my senses must not be distracted by those things within the Church which would casually grab my eyes and ears.”

The priest’s heart, the Pope continued, must be turned to the Lord in his midst. “If I am with the Lord, then with my listening, speaking, and acting, I will also draw the people into communion with Him.”

Turning then to the alb and stole, the Holy Father recalled that the ancient prayers connected with these vestments refer to the new clothes which are put on the prodigal son when he returns to the house of his father; and for that reason, “When we approach the liturgy to act on behalf of Christ, we all realize how far we are from Him, how much dirt exists in our life.”

It is only the blood of the lamb, as cited in the book of Revelation, that “washes our robes and makes them white.” Therefore, Benedict said to the priests present, “by wearing the alb, we should remember: He suffered for me as well. And only because His love is greater than all my sins, can I act on His behalf and be the witness of His light.”

The Holy Father also explained how the alb should recall the “vesting with love,” to which we who are called to the wedding feast are called.

For this reason, the Pope added, we should ask ourselves, “Now that we are getting closer to the celebration of Holy Mass… whether we wear this dress of love. Let’s ask the Lord to take any hostility away from our soul, to remove from us any feeling of self-sufficiency and to really dress us in the dress of love, so that we will be bright people, not people who belong to darkness.”

Pope Benedict also touched briefly on the meaning of the Chasuble, which according to his explanation, symbolizes the yoke of Christ. “Wearing the yoke of the Lord means first and foremost: learning from Him; always being willing to be taught by Him.

From Him, we must learn meekness and humbleness – God’s humbleness that becomes apparent in His being a man”.

“Sometimes we would like to say to Jesus,” the Pope confessed, “Lord, your yoke is not light at all. Actually, it is awfully heavy in this world. But then, as we look at Him who carried everything – who personally experienced obedience, weakness, pain, all the darkness, suddenly these lamentations of ours die down.”

“His yoke is to love with Him. And the more we love Him and with Him we become people who love, the lighter His seemingly heavy yoke becomes for us.”

Good Friday's Call to Sacrifice

The Triduum continues. Today, we celebrate the Lord's passion, hearing again the sacred story of his death, this day hearing St. John's account. It is in this account that we hear that Jesus himself carried the cross, that he without question took it up. There is no agony here - he freely choses to give his life, to lay it down. And, as we recall, he has the power to take it up.

He is the innocent Lamb of God, our passover lamb that is without spot or blemish. Perfect as the Son of God made man, he alone has the ability to be our offering. He is put to death as across Jerusalem in the temple area, the priests were preparing the passover lamb, sacrifice the spotless lambs as a token reminder of the freedom symbolized by their ancestors first lambs' blood on their doors and lintels. But our Lamb is more - he makes the freedom happen. He becomes our sin offering, taking upon himself our sin, our shame, our death. He puts it to death, transforms it by his sacrifice. How many times have our sins crushed him? How many times have we pounded the nails with our iniquities? How many times have we crowned him with our disobedience?

But how many times have we come back to the font of his grace? How many times have we asked to be washed clean by the blood (of the Eucharist) and the water (of Baptism and reconciliation)? How many times have we peered into his most sacred heart which has so loved us?

We celebrate our salvation, wrought for us in Christ's sacrifice. It is no accident that he died. It was not an unfortunate episode in his life. No, it was for this reason that he lived! Now, he calls us to follow him, the way, the truth, and the life. He invites us to take up our own cross, now transformed from the instrument of death into a means of grace.

O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with
thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish,
Which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered,
Was all for sinners' gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
'Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee,
Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee
And flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish
That once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished
Their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished
The splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor,
Hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor,
Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion,
Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression
Which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee,
Wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee;
Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow
to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever,
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love to Thee.

My shepherd, now receive me;
My guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me,
O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me
With words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me
To heavenly joys above.

Here I will stand beside Thee,
From Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me!
When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish
In death's cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish,
Thee in mine arms I'll clasp.

The joy can never be spoken,
Above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken
I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring
Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring,
I'd breathe my soul to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me
When death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me,
Forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish,
Oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish
By virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation,
My shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion
When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee.
Who dieth thus dies well.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Holy Thursday's call to love

This evening, we begin the solemn celebration of the Triduum. We mark the first Eucharist tonight, that Christ, the night before He died, took bread and wine and gave it to his apostles. He transformed the elements His body and blood, and commanded that they do likewise in memory of Him. This 'memory' is not a simple calling to mind, though, but rather an act that makes present the thing or event being present - it is a very Jewish concept. Every Eucharist is an act that brings us into the present of the Last Supper, the passion and death of Christ, and His Resurrection (which is why we cannot celebrate Mass on Good Friday!)

Those who go to Mass tonight will note that we do not have a gospel passage on the institution of the Eucharist (we have St. Paul's account as recording in his letter to the Corinthians), but rather St. John's account of the Last Supper, when Jesus rose from the table and washed their feet. St. John does not include the institution of the Eucharist - no pun, but he passes over it to go to the fruits of the Eucharist (in the sixth chapter of John, he has the highest Eucharistic theology of all the Gospel writers) - charity and service. The Eucharist brings us into communion with Christ, to help us to imitate Him. As he washes the feet of his apostles, we too are invited to serve. Service is not optional for the Christian, but a fruit of the Eucharist.

This evening, we mark the birth of the Christian priesthood, born of the Eucharist. We pray that those whom God is calling to be priests would hear that call and respond to it.

Monday, April 2, 2007

His Holiness' Prayer Intention for April

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI released his prayer intentions for the Month. They are
...that every Christian may answer enthusiastically and faithfully the universal call to sanctity, allowing himself to be enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit.

That the number of priestly and religious vocations may grow in North America and the countries of the Pacific Ocean, in order to give an adequate answer to the pastoral and missionary needs of those populations.

The Vocation of Husband/Father

Domenico Bettinelli writes poignantly about his vocation as a father in a recent post. He writes of his being torn in having to go to work to provide for his family. Thanks, Dom, for sharing what a hardship it is to be away from your wife and children while trying to support them. It is a struggle that is shared by many men, and we would be well served as a church to have more fathers and husbands honestly share the struggle they have. The vocation of husband/father is one of profound happiness and sorrows, of love and sacrifice. It is proof again that all vocations have their burdens and joys!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Reflection on Palm Sunday

Jesus says, "If they [the disciples] keep silent, the stones will cry out." It is a magnificent thought, isn't it? Those that claim to follow Christ need to call out in praise, and if we don't, the stones will. What a sound that must be!

The Church teaches us that we are created in love for love. We are are created with a desire to be in relationship with our Creator and Lord. We are created to worship Him. To withhold that desire is like bottling up a shaken soda - its bound to explode out! That is the experience of the disciples as they accompany the Lord Jesus into Jerusalem, and that ought to be our experience, too. But we call to mind that their voices were silenced when those who were caught in mob mentality cried out, "Crucify Him!" How the praise must have bottled up in the hearts of those who watched as their Lord and leader was crucified!

Lest we forget, though, the stones will cry out! The stone that was rolled away screamed that the Lord has won, that He has conquered sin and death through his becoming a sin offering for us.

As we enter this Holy Week, let us worship without fear. We should cry out, asking the Lord to come again, to shatter the gates of our hearts that are closed to Him, and to wait in silence for His Resurrection and our own.