Friday, July 31, 2009

Celebrate Life; a beautiful, inspirational story!

Life of young, vibrant Catholic, inspires many to come back to the Church

The late Gloria Strauss
Seattle, Wash., Jul 31, 2009 / 05:23 am (CNA).- The short life of a devout, Catholic, young girl from Seattle has brought many Catholics across the United States back to the Church. Her holy and loving example, as well as her battle with cancer, has drawn others to convert to Catholicism and has inspired the creation of an organization to reach out to families with a loved one facing a chronic illness.
Gloria was born in 1996 to Doug and Kristen Strauss and was like any other seven-year old. She enjoyed playing with her six siblings and friends, dressing up, playing board games, picking flowers and watching the Fox television show, “American Idol.” The young girl also had a special place in her heart for the Rosary and for making people feel good about themselves. However, no one could have predicted the amount of people her brief time on earth would touch.
Cancer diagnosis
CNA spoke with her father, Doug, who explained that one day in 2003 when Gloria was seven years-old, she was hit in the face with a ball resulting in a black eye. When the color returned to normal after the seemingly minor injury, a suspicious bump remained. After two trips to the doctor, she was referred to a specialist who instantly had a hunch it was cancer.
Gloria was diagnosed with a cancer known as neuroblastoma and only given a window of three months to three years to survive. Following the diagnosis, Gloria immediately went into surgery and began chemotherapy treatments. Doug explained that though it was difficult, the family resolved to remain “open to God’s plan in hopes that the family would be strengthened.”
At the time, Doug was a high school basketball coach who knew Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer. Brewer had planned to run a single column on the family’s struggles while Doug coached during the season. However, the first column attracted so many readers that the idea expanded into a five-month series of interviews with the Strauss family sharing Gloria’s faith and trust in God with those in Seattle and around the United States.
When Gloria’s condition took a turn for the worse in 2007, the family opened their home for community members to come and pray over her. Doug explained that for three weeks, 50 – 60 people showed up Monday – Friday to pray the Rosary and sing praise and worship songs. Later, when it became too much for the family, five members of the community opened up their homes to continue the prayers for Gloria.
Drawing others to Christ
After Gloria endured seven rounds of chemotherapy, the doctors decided to try a stem-cell transplant using her own stem-cells. Doug said that at that point, he knew that Gloria was at her lowest point. He was desperate and started to pray, “God help me, I don’t understand.”
He heard a voice say, “quality of life.” He was confused, but went to Gloria the next day and asked if she’s had quality of life. He didn’t expect her to understand, but she immediately responded, “yes daddy!” She excitedly added that so many people have started praying because of her illness.
Doug explained that Gloria had a beautiful gift, she was able to draw people to Christ through her cancer. “She taught us all how to carry a cross. Her gift to us was her living example of her commitment to a relationship with God through constant prayer. She always said, “yes.”
Writing in the Seattle Times column, Doug recalled that they “would ask if it was all right to have a healing Mass,” and she would answer, “oh yea!” Other times they would ask: “How about if 50 people come over to pray the Rosary over you tonight?” She’d say, “oh yea!”
“From shots to sickness it always began and ended with the sign of the cross,” Doug continued. “Often doctors would have to stand and wait as she made the sign of the cross and prayed. Amazing to watch!”
It wasn’t just her actions that drew people to Christ, her father also explained that everyone spoke of Gloria’s presence. “She had this presence that allowed people to want to be with her and pray for her.” Even at the age of seven, “she knew her calling to bring people to God through her cancer.”
People from all religions were attracted to Gloria and her family through the front-page column in the Seattle Times. “Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, they all wrote in to the paper talking about how they’ve been impacted by her life,” Doug said. “Everyone knew we were Catholic – we didn’t have to profess it – we wanted prayers from everyone,” Doug continued.
Doug even mentioned a blind man that had written him a letter saying that he had been praying Rosaries for Gloria and wanted to meet her. Miraculously, when she entered the room he could see her dressed in white. The man told Doug however that when she left, he was blind once again.
Though prayers for Gloria kept coming, her cancer continued to spread and she died on September 21, 2007.
Gloria’s impact
Immediately following Gloria’s death, the family realized the large impact that Gloria had on the community.
Doug explained that people came all over to view her body before and after the Rosary. He added that he received a letter from a Lutheran man who attends Eucharistic adoration at a Catholic church who said that he had to go so that he could “see a saint in person.”
Then at the funeral, over 3,200 showed up and the family began to hear stories of how’ Gloria’s life and struggle had transformed lives.
One man from Virginia had read about Gloria and explained that he felt like he was “hit over the head by a 2 x 4.” The man had been on a four-day drinking binge and he completely gave up alcohol after reading the story on her illness and strength of faith.
Not only do the Strausses have a list of others who have quit different drug addictions because of Gloria, but they are aware of at least ten people who have become Catholic directly due to Gloria’s story – and more are continuing to convert. One in particular was a nurse at the Children’s hospital who didn’t grow up going to church. After seeing little Gloria’s faith, she knew she had to do something about it.
According to the Catholic Northwest Progress, one Presbyterian family became Catholic after Gloria attended a camp for ill children and their families. One of the volunteers, Brinn Funai continued to keep in touch with Kristen Strauss, Gloria’s mother, after the week’s activities.
Brinn explained that she had been checking into Catholicism, but meeting Kristen and the Strausses “was a big turning point for me.” They “really helped kin of soften that road so to speak, to coming into the church.”“I told her right before she died, ‘Gloria, we’re going to become Catholic,’” said Brinn. “And she said, ‘Wow!’” The Funais were received into Catholic Church at Easter 2008.Not only did the girl’s life, touch individuals, but she also inspired the organization, “Gloria’s Angels.”
Gloria’s Angels
At a point when Gloria’s health continued to fade, the family’s spiritual advisor spoke to Bob Turner, a Seattle business man, about assisting the family in the days following Gloria’s cancer. “Either she was going to experience a miraculous healing or she was going to pass away,” Turner explained. “In either case, [the spiritual advisor] recognized that the Strauss family would have some mission to serve.”
Turner explained that he decided “to bring his business skills into a partnership with the Strauss family to help them honor her and carry on her mission.” After weeks of discernment, Turner and the Strauss family decided that Gloria’s mission could best be carried out by serving families facing life-threatening illnesses.
And so Gloria’s Angels was born.
The organization works to smooth out the “roller coaster ride” that families with a sick member experience. While many agencies exist to assist families in need, oftentimes loved ones are unaware of the services offered or need help with the coordination. Gloria’s Angel’s steps in for guidance to piece everything together.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

When we think we have it rough

The attached article was sent to me by two parishioner friends who are the proud parents of Fr. Jeffery Jambon who I have had the priviledge to assist at Mass and a wedding. I'm struck by his description of the people and the medical needs they have. And I'm struck by Fr. Jeffery's description of a simpler life. Finally, I caught his description of Mass; 3 hours long. How would we, in a busy hustling America respond to 3 hours of praise and worship of God?
Read on; it's a great article.
A Chaplain’s View of a Mission in Africa

Fr Jeffery Jambon, LC, tells the story of a recent medical mission in Ghana, Africa.
July 28, 2009. Asafo, Ghana (Africa). The second annual HELPING HANDS medical mission to Ghana brought a team of 15 doctors, nurses, and volunteers from the United States to the town of Sefwi-Asafo this past April 23 to May 3.
Fr Jeffery Jambon, LC, accompanied the group for the second year in a row as the chaplain, with the mission of providing spiritual care to the people and to the missionaries.
In the following chronicle, Fr Jeffery Jambon recounts a chaplain’s experience of ministering to souls in a land marked by special challenges, contrasts, and surprises.
Helping Hands Medical Missions in Sefwi – Asafo, Ghana, AfricaBy Father Jeffery Jambon LC
I had the honor and the privilege of attending as a chaplain the 2nd annual medical missions in Ghana, Africa. I attended last year as chaplain, so this made things a little easier going into the duties this year.
We assembled together at JFK airport in New York, ready to board our flight. After a brief greeting with a handful that I knew from last year and a first time greeting to many newcomers we got on our way.
We left on Thursday evening getting into Accra, Ghana’s capital at 8:15am. We took a bus for a 12 hour ride to Sefwi – Asafo. This trip was deeply moving for me. I enjoyed each moment as I thought about the simplicity of the thousands as they walked along the streets going about their business. I prayed a lot, consulting our Lord about how many were in good terms with him as I glanced through the crowds. The poverty is most evident. Of the 12 hour bus trip, I think half of the delay was due to the massive potholes we had to dodge and occasionally fall into. It was a missionary experience for me as I prayed my office of readings and rosary thinking about the souls outside the window and those we were going to meet throughout the week, including the missionaries themselves I was becoming acquainted with.
Friday evening late we finally arrived and we had Mass in our private chapel in the St John of God hospital facilities (which years ago was part of the hospital that the Spanish sisters lived at).
Saturday morning we had meditation, Mass, and breakfast. We prepared things for the pharmacy. I was happy to help, too. We worked hard thinking about the many people that would benefit in body and soul from our efforts.
Saturday afternoon we went door to door, inviting the locals to participate in the Sunday Mass at the local parish, St John of God Parish next to the hospital. We broke out in three teams of evangelizers since we only had 3 interpreters. We were 15 missionaries in total. In my group, I experienced a deep sense of God’s peace and action. Many sought my prayers and blessings as a priest. In spite of the many distracting and pressing kids that were noisily searching for a handout around us, I was able to see the beauty in most eyes and the faith in which they received their blessings.
Sunday morning we had a mini-retreat. I was able to give a longer sermon about the Samaritan Woman progressing in generosity. I understood that God was preparing our missionaries for selfless service.
At 9:30am we had the 3 hour Mass with Msgr. Simon Assamoah who hosted us and helped us organize the trip. He was the one we stayed with last year at the Bibiani location down the street about a 2-hour drive away. The 3 hour Mass consisted in attention and searching for Christ. All participated with dance, but few received communion. At the end of the Mass, Msgr. Simon advised them to put things right with the Lord since he was the vicar of the diocese. Nevertheless, it was a ceremony to remember as our missionaries received our commission crosses after the homily.
After the Mass we went down to the hospital with the people and Msgr. Simon to be present at the inauguration of the hospital donations. We were able to donate 50 of the latest hospital beds with many other medicines and supplies. All of this was worth more than U.S. $400,000, I would easily guess.
Monday we started the medical missions per se. Mass, meditation and breakfast preceded each of our days. We had an extraordinarily good start. The doctors, nurses and volunteers gained confidence as the time ticked throughout the day with the duties they professionally carried out.
Monday evening I gave my vocation story. It was an honor for me to share with the missionaries how much good I received from Christ through the Church and the Legion. I appreciate their attention.
As the days went along during the week, the normal challenges increased. We had more people coming waiting for medical treatment. Our team never let up, all kept working hard trying to do what they could to see the more urgent medical cases. A kid had bulging blind eyes – we made sure he got there first where he also received my blessing.
When I was blessing the throats, invoking St Blase’s protection, I came across a mother who had a child with his inner ear hanging outside of his head, it looked like a tumor. When I saw her, I “hoisted” the boy over the fence and brought him up first in line. Throughout the week I was able to pray the rosary in groups as the people were waiting for the doctors. I was able to impart many blessings, nice to know some Muslims were among them!
I was able to then for a day open my own clinic to receive people for “counseling.” It was amazing to see the needs and fears of the people. Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans, Spiritualists, Catholics… they all poured into “my clinic” searching for a blessing, a prayer, and a sound piece of advice. There were many suffering from voodoo type curses. I think the Church has a lot to still do in those lands for the New Evangelization!
Another good thing I dedicated myself to was to try to communicate with the young people and children. I averaged about 3 to 4 hours of soccer every day. Since I didn’t speak Twi (Ghanian language) I thought that this would be the way to communicate. I was able to see who was who, their tendencies and I was able to encourage virtue and motivate them in the virtues they performed. I place in the hands of Mary the little I was able to achieve through this. I also was able to do something similar to smaller kids with a bottle of bubbles. I blew bubbles for hours as the kids loved it and were utterly amazed.
On Friday we closed the clinics at 12 noon and took a trip to Kumasi which was supposed to be a 6-hour tour in total. The missionaries were tired but were enthusiastic to buy their souvenirs. The chauffeur drove like a maniac and made things worse for the team. While we were flying through a village at a high speed, a little boy came darting out in the middle of the road. The driver slammed on the brakes and hit the horn – the boy stopped and was spared. Thank God I prayed the Hail Mary, Guardian Angel prayer and gave my blessing before we started the trip. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride out to Kumasi although others expressed weariness. I again was fascinated by the landscape and the people walking along the roads, hoping that each had a love of Christ in their hearts.
We arrived to Kumasi. We were immediately plagued by vendors. We were escorted shortly after by Augustina, Msgr. Simon’s niece. She was very nice to show us around. She brought us to see the University of KNUST. It was a first Friday, so the Catholic chapel there had adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It was great to say hello to Christ.
She also took us to visit the king’s palace, of the most successful tribe of Ghana, the Ashanti. The museum was very nice. Then we drove through one of the busiest markets in Western Africa to see millions walking around trying to make ends meet. Here was also a spiritual fascination for me. I truly thank God to allow me to have been there to see this even though we just drove right through there.
We were finally brought to the section where we could buy souvenirs but a thunderstorm hit. I stayed in the car. The car at this time was losing all its brakes so we had to get another van/bus. This took some time. Once we arrived to the black market of transportation to get the new bus my heart scanned the scene, I felt compassion for all the poverty-stricken I saw there. Arriving there we were finishing our team rosary. I most gratefully offered it up for these people. I gave a CD and a half (the money currency of Ghana) to a poor little family and their faces lit up with gratitude.
We finally took off with our new van / bus. We got to Msgr. Simon’s rectory in Bibiani (the mission site last year). We had a nice celebration for a successful mission. Msgr. Simon concluded with words of gratitude for the hard work that the missionaries were able to accomplish in God’s grace. We arrived back to the place we were staying at, St John of God in Asafo at 1 a.m. or so. The keys to our rooms were not to be found so Doctor Harrison and I went down to wake up Br. Bartholomew and solve the problem.
Saturday we had our Sunday Mass in the evening so Saturday morning the missionaries had a chance to sleep in. Nevertheless, 7 or 8 showed up for private Mass and a spontaneous directed meditation. Tired and happy, we still were able to take a group photo and go to the school opening ceremony with Bishop Joseph Francis Kweku Essien of the Waioso diocese. Msgr. Simon and the bishop sat up on the stage and celebrated by music and talks all day long… literally all day long. After 4 hours many of our missionaries went back to Asafo but 5 of us remained and then had lunch with Bishop Joseph Francis at 3pm.
For lunch, we sat next to the president of the only Catholic University in Ghana. It was an interesting encounter as he spoke about the hopeful prospects of educative success for years to come thanks to the initiatives blooming, congratulating Msgr. Simon for his help in establishing a Catholic high school in the remote region of the Northwest.
We celebrated our Sunday Mass at 6pm Saturday evening and then had a dinner with the Brothers as a going away celebration. After we concluded, we got on a bus at 10:30pm and traveled all night long down the bumpy road to the airport, which this time only took 8 hours instead of the 12 coming, since we avoided traffic in the middle of the night. Everything was on time and we are grateful to God for having given us the opportunity to serve Christ in the poorest of the poor.
I would like to thank all the missionaries, especially Doctor Phil Kelly. He worked so hard and was most patient adapting to all the bumps and bruises of the day. I would also like to thank Jennifer Dornbush that spent a lot of time organizing practical things for the trip. We remembered Lupita Assad and all the HELPING HANDS administrative staff working silently trying to make the smoothest missions possible for us and THAT IT WAS. Thanks to all and God Bless!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Statement on health care from Archdiocese of New Orleans

Catholic Church supports health care reform but warns of expansion of abortion
By: SComiskey
Tuesday July 28th 2009
Archbishop Hughes and U.S. Catholic Bishops urge Congress to support legislation that embodies respect for all human life; access for all

The U.S. Catholic Church bishops and health care leaders agree with President Obama, that the nation is in dire need of healthcare reform. We also urge people to evaluate the present proposals being debated in Congress according to responsible moral criteria.
In light of this, New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes is asking local Catholics and people in the wider community to communicate with their congressional representatives and senators to insist that their efforts to accomplish healthcare reform include:
>truly universal coverage (from conception to natural death) with respect for human life and dignity;
>access for all with a special concern for the poor and inclusion of legal immigrants;
>pursuing the common good and preserving pluralism, including freedom of conscience and variety of options; and
>restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers.
At issue is the need to ensure that the first, truly universal coverage respect human life and dignity. According to reports, the health care reform package in its current form threatens the largest expansion of “abortion rights” since Roe vs. Wade by mandating coverage for abortions in health plans and allowing for federal subsidies of abortion. Additionally, the package would seemingly nullify many state regulations on abortion.
“The people of Louisiana and across the nation should not be forced to have their hard earned tax dollars pay for abortion on demand,” said Peg Kenny, Director of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Respect Life Office. “Abortion is not healthcare, and it should not be included in any healthcare measure.”
This week, Bishop William J. Murphy, Chair of the U.S. Bishops’ committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development wrote to Congress saying, “On respecting life and dignity, no health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion. Any such action would be morally wrong.”
For decades the US Bishops have advocated for comprehensive health care reform that would provide equitable access for all.
“All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage of life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born,” wrote Bishop Murphy. “The Bishops’ Conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable.”
Locally, Archbishop Hughes and pro-life leaders are encouraging parishioners and constituents to write to Congressional leadership to pass comprehensive reform that explicitly excludes abortion, and to call on President Obama to maintain his promise of promoting “abortion neutral” policies that would not change the “status quo” in regards to abortion funding and regulations.
It is critical that Congress hears the message to support a health care reform bill that respects life,” said Kenny. “Any bill must exclude mandated coverage for abortion and uphold longstanding laws that restrict abortion funding and protect conscience rights.”

The start of things to come...

The story below is pre-national healtcare or as some call it, Obama-care. This points out cleary how far the slippery slope will truly be. In my earlier post last week, I shared the long list of pro-life Democrats that want no abortion mandates in a healthcare bill. And pro-lifers across the nation have responded. If you are so compelled, please contact your national representatives and senators and tell them we want conscience protection and no pro-abort mandate disguised in health care. If this can happen now, what will happen then? Read on in disbelief:

A Brooklyn nurse claims she was forced to choose between her religious convictions and her job when Mount Sinai Hospital ordered her to assist in a late-term abortion against her will.
The hospital even exaggerated the patient's condition and claimed the woman could die if the nurse, a devout Catholic, did not follow orders, the nurse alleges in a lawsuit.
"It felt like a horror film unfolding," said Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, 35, who claims she has had gruesome nightmares and hasn't been able to sleep since the May 24 incident.
The married mother of a year-old baby was 30 minutes into her early-morning shift when she realized she had been assigned to an abortion. She begged her supervisor to find a replacement nurse for the procedure. The hospital had a six-hour window to find a fill-in, the suit says.
Bosses told the weeping Cenzon-DeCarlo the patient was 22 weeks into her pregnancy and had preeclampsia, a condition marked by high blood pressure that can lead to seizures or death if left untreated.
The supervisor "claimed that the mother could die if [Cenzon-DeCarlo] did not assist in the abortion."
But the nurse, the niece of a Filipino bishop, contends that the patient's life was not in danger. She argued that the patient was not even on magnesium therapy, a common treatment for preeclampsia, and did not have problems indicating an emergency.
Her pleas were rejected, and instead she was threatened with career-ending charges of insubordination and patient abandonment, according to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court.
Feeling threatened, Cenzon-DeCarlo assisted in the procedure.
She said she later learned that the hospital's own records deemed the procedure "Category II," which is not considered immediately life threatening.
"I felt violated and betrayed," she recalled. "I couldn't believe that this could happen."
A native of the Philippines, Cenzon-DeCarlo moved to New York in 2001 and started at Mount Sinai on the East Side as an operating-room nurse in 2004. During her job interview, an administrator asked Cenzon-DeCarlo whether she'd be willing to participate in abortions. She flatly said no.
The nurse said she put her beliefs in writing.
The day after the procedure, Cenzon-DeCarlo filed a grievance with her union. Later that week, she was cornered by two supervisors who told her if she wanted any more overtime shifts, she would have to sign a statement agreeing to participate in abortions, the suit says.
The next month, Cenzon-DeCarlo was assigned to one overtime shift, rather than the eight or nine she usually received, the suit claims.
Although the Brooklyn resident is still working at Mount Sinai, she's asking a court to order the hospital to pay unspecified damages, restore her shifts and respect her objections to abortion.
"I emigrated to this country in the belief that here religious freedom is sacred," Cenzon-DeCarlo said. "Doctors and nurses shouldn't be forced to abandon their beliefs and participate in abortion in order to keep their jobs."
Providing legal advice for her action is the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian group seeking to put a national spotlight on the case. The suit also seeks to force Mount Sinai to give up federal funding it receives, because it failed to uphold a federal rule protecting employees who have moral objections to controversial procedures.
Mount Sinai said it would not comment.
Galen Sherwin, the director of the New York Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Rights Project, said the case centered on whether a medical emergency existed.
"The law provides protections for individuals who object to performing abortions, but at the same time, health-care professionals are not permitted to abandon patients," Sherwin said.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Good news about Catholic Schools

As a product of New Orleans Catholic education I'm happy to read this good news story. Thanks to Fr. Steve Leake for posting this on his site: Fr. Steve is an alum of Archbishop Shaw High School where I graduated in 1975.

Catholic Schools Are Saving New Orleans' Children
by Deal W. Hudson
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Catholics Teach the Children of New Orleans

Since the Katrina disaster, the schools of the Archdiocese of New Orleans have swelled to double the enrollment of the local public schools -- 40,000 to 20,000. Rev. Neal McDermott, O.P., superintendent of the Catholic schools, told me yesterday that the archdiocese is facing a financial crunch when the $10 million in Catholic Charities money, allocated in 2006 to help the schools following the hurricane, runs out.

"Beginning in June 2010, we will have to find $700,000 a year to replace those funds," he said. (Gov. Bobby Jindal eased some of the financial burden by getting a voucher bill passed for kindergarten through fourth grade.)

Since all the public schools in New Orleans have been officially pronounced "failing," parents have been moving their children to charter schools and private schools, but above all to Catholic schools, where 60 percent of the 40,000 students are non-Catholic.

This past spring the Catholic high schools graduated 2,785 seniors, with an amazing 96 percent being admitted into college and another 2 percent into the military. That compares with a 40 percent graduation rate in the public schools. "We teach students from the same neighborhood as the public schools, but we act in loco parentis, because many of these children get little supervision or food at home," Father McDermott explains. The Catholic schools provide their students breakfast, lunch, a snack, and afternoon supervision so that homework is completed before the students go home.

Father McDermott had to consolidate a number of "central schools" in the inner city to accommodate the demand for Catholic education. One of the archdiocesan schools is the Cathedral Academy in the French Quarter, where five Nashville Dominicans are teaching. These five sisters walked through the streets of the Quarter recruiting students, including some from a cruise ship docked in the harbor, where the families of firemen and other service personnel were living after the floods.

"The sisters are applauded wherever they go," Father McDermott told me

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Something greater...

July 26, 2009

You just never know. You just never know how everyday events come together and help you realize something greater is at work here.

Sometimes the challenge is to be open to this realization. Even if you are like me and you delve into religious studies, liturgy, theology, spirituality, exegesis and hermeneutics, you better be present for the everyday events too. For it is in the everyday, the seemingly small normal stuff that comprises most of our days and weeks that miracles happen, that Jesus is present, where God does some of His best work.

Just this week I watched God at work in my everyday life and it happened in so many different ways. To hear a little girl say momma with total love and trust with eyes fixed on her mom and hands outstretched means something greater is at work here. To experience a loving married couple share with me the love they have for the child they adopted I know something greater is at work here. To join together with a bunch of great friends who just don’t get together as often as we used to, and it’s just like old times, something greater is at work here. When a co-worker sincerely shares a kind word of encouragement with one who missed out on a possible job promotion, something greater is at work here.

How much more can I go on? When a group of guys living their days in prison thank-you over and over again for just visiting with them you realize something greater is at work here. When almost a hundred young people choose to spend their Thursday night in fellowship and explore the role faith plays in their lives, something greater is at work here. When a sweet lady with so much on her mind chases you down to let you know her husband, who you once helped on his road back to God, has died, because she thought you should know, something greater is at work here. When another young couple can so clearly share the love they have for their beautiful son and the son who will arrive any week now, something greater is at work here.

When dear friends come to your rescue because you are loosing your battle with the growing grass, and they are full of joy as they do it, something greater is at work here. When the travel plans of your son opens a window for a short one hour visit at the airport, even if you have to drive two hours roundtrip to see him, something greater is at work here.

And you end your day where God asks you to be; in church, worshipping with others and hearing His word and we read the story from John of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, something greater is at work here. He multiplied food, and all ate and had their fill. Not such an ordinary event. But this miracle is still present for all of us today; in the ordinary and not so ordinary! Jesus demonstrates His love and friendship for those gathered on the hill and hungry. In all these amazing events of my past week that I have shared with you, Jesus feeds me too. And Jesus comes to you, in the everyday, in the simple and not so simple to feed you too. He alone feeds our hungry hearts; He alone provides for our every need; He alone is the source of our joy. He is the something, the someone that is greater and at work here, in our everyday lives.

Live everyday in joy and happiness! Take a few minutes everyday to be aware of His presence in the normal simple stuff. And when the extraordinary happens; thank Him all the more!

Be present for all the works God is doing in your life; be aware that Jesus is present in your every day. And when you witness a small miracle of love, smile and say to yourself, something greater is at work here!

Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever!
Deacon Mike.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why did you wear red today?

I had the opportunity today to assist at Mass in a neighboring parish, St. Peter's in Covington. It was part of a big celebration for the Ladies Auxiliary Association and its' new state President, Kathleen Montgomery. The celebrant was Fr. Jeff Bayhi from Baton Rouge who has a wonderful TV proram called Closer Walk Ministries.

We celebrated the Mass for the Feast of St. James. And we wear red vestments everytime we celebrate the feast on an apostle, except St. John. With the exception of St. John, who by the way is St. James's brother, all the apostles died a martyr's death. Hence, red vestments.

St. James and St. John are the sons of Zebedee and seemed to enjoy a special relationship with Jesus. They were present for most of the miracles Jesus performed and were present at the Transfiguration. In today's Gospel, we read of their mom asking Jesus for her sons to sit one on his right and one on his left in his kingdom. And we know Jesus answers that it is not a request that he can fulfill; that decision rests with the Father.

It is believed that soon after the Resurrection and Ascension, James assumes te role of Bishop of the Church in Jerusalem. He is also believed to be one of the earliest of the Apostles to be put to death for faith in Jesus, as early as the year 42. He was killed by the sword, possibly beheaded.

So everytime you see the Priest and Deacon in red, chances are pretty good we are celebrating a feast of one of the apostles, who accepted death as martyrs for love of Christ. Oh yes, we do wear, red vestments when we celebrate Pentecost (for the Holy Spirit), Confirmation masses (again, the Holy Spirit) and on Palm Sunday and Good Friday (the Passion of the Lord).

What other color vestments will you see from at Mass: green, purple or violet, pink or rose, white, gold, silver and black. I may explain more about these colors in a later post. Oh by the way, while blue is not a vestment color, many Marian vestments contain a great deal of blue. These are used sometimes on Saturday masses and feasts in honor of Mary.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Apostle of the Apostles

Today is the Feastday of a great Saint, Mary Magdalene. She was indeed a disciple of Jesus and an eyewitness to His crucifixion. On the morning of the Resurrection, she was the first to see the Risen Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI writes of Mary Magdalene in his book Jesus, the Apostles and the Early Church:

"the women, unlike the Twelve, did not abandon Jesus in the hour of His Passion. Among them, Mary Magdalene stands out in particular. Not only was she present at the Passion, but she was the first witness and herald of the Risen One. It was precisely to Mary Magdalene that St. Thomas Aquinas reserved the special title, Apostle of the Apostles, dedicating to her this beautiful comment: Just as a woman had announced the words of death to the first man, so also a woman was the first to announce to the Apostles the words of life."

Then we have Pope St. Gregory the Great, writing between 590-605 A.D. who said: "we should reflect on Mary's attitude and the great love she felt for Christ." He continues, "at first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for." Then finally St. Gregory concludes, "Jesus is not recognized when he calls her woman; so He calls her by name, as though He were saying: recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls Him rabboni, that is to say teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching."

From today's office of readings: How blessed is she who was worthy to be the first to proclaim that the Lord had truly risen.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

Monday, July 20, 2009

A rich history; Archdiocese of New Orleans

From the pages of another blog, McNamara's Blog, I read with great interest that on July 19, 1850, the Diocese of New Orleans became an Archdiocese. That's 159 years ago. In fact, New Orleans was named an Archdiocese on the very day the Vatican named New York and Cincinnati as Archdiocese too. Just a fun fact: I have visited all three cathedrals in these cities; St. Louis King of France in New Orleans, St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and St. Peter in Chains in Cincinnati.

Records indicate that Mass was 1st celebrated in Louisiana in 1699 and a church parish, named for St. Louis was established in 1720.

When the Church of New Orleans became an Archdiocese the first Archbishop was Antoine Blanc. Our newest Archbishop, recently announced by Pope Benedict and soon to be officially installed, is Archbishop Gregory Aymond, the 14th Archbishop of New Orleans. Because the last three Archbishops (Philip Hannan, Francis Schulte and Alfred Hughes) are alive and well and have decided to remain in New Orleans, we will hold the distinction as the only U.S. Archdiocese with 4 living Archbishops.

Our cathedral is named in honor of St. Louis King of France and is substantially the same cathedral church as it was in 1852 after extensive renovations. Parts of the structure date back to the 1790's and the original church was on the same spot in 1718.

Currently the Archdiocese is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina and is slowly gaining more and more Catholics. There are now about 400,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese but this is still much lower than pre-Katrina days.

As a newly ordained Deacon, I am thankful to God to be incardated to my home Archdiocese!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Happy Anniversary KC Council 12529

Much has been written about this amazing oranization founded by Fr. Michael J. McGivney. Knights of Columbus have been called the strong right arm of the Church and exist throughout America and in several other countries. I have been a member for 10 years. And I do not pretend to know all about the organization, nor can I quote statistics about membership or the insurance company other than what I read in Columbia magazine. By the way, not just a great magazine for Knights but a first class Catholic magazine. But I digress!

The purpose of this post today is to honor my local council that tonight celebrates its 10th anniversary. St. Jane de Chantal Council 12529 began in July 1999 with 74 charter members. Today we boast of over 140 members and have been credited with invigorating service programs throughout our parish and community. We are a unique council as we strive not to run bingos or bank lots of money for a building fund. No, we stress the spiritual and the community aspect of being a Knight.

Our 1st project was to erect a pro-life monument dedicated to Our Lady of Gaudalupe and the culture of life. We began an aggressive Keep Christ in Christmas program and began a Fish Fry during Lent with the ultimate goal not financial but to increase attendance at Stations of the Cross.

Like many other KC councils, we adopted special children programs, the needy, the food bank, our local seminarians, the scouts (actually establishing both a Boy Scout and Cub Scout troop) and so much more. We have marched for life and other church causes. One of our members, Ed Jeanfreau started a Knights for Life program that has helped raise over $ 800,000 for ultra sound machines at Access Pregnancy Centers and Northlake Crisis Pregnancy Center.

From among our ranks, one member became a Priest and 2 became Deacons, yours truly in that number. Our support of our parish, our Priests and our church facility is strong. We also boast of a mayor, a couple of alderman, a state representative and a state commissioner of agriculture among our membership.

We are a strong council that tonight celebrates our 10 years of dedicated service. Tonight we are very grateful to God for all the blessings He has bestowed on us. We recognize Him as the source of all our good. We understand that alone we can do nothing but with Him all things are possible.

So congratulations Council 12529, the Knights of Columbus of St. Jane de Chantal, Abita Springs, La. VivatJesus!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Vocations; evidence of good news!

I met a Priest from Kenya yesterday who will be visiting our parish for a weekend mission appeal. Fr. Christopher is a jovial man; a happy priest. We had a nice discussion about the zeal for vocations in Africa and Kenya in specifically. There is no vocation shortage in many emerging Catholic African nations. Fr. Christopher explained that his ordination class alone produced 48 new priests. WOW!

Praise be to God that this is happening with regularity in places like Africa, southeast Asia but generally not in western nations like the good old U.S. of A. Well, not so fast. In this amazing year that Pope Benedict has declared "Year for the Priest" we are also hearing of some amazing vocations here in America.

First, Newark NJ ordained 13 men to the Priesthood. Then came word of a great number of vocations in Atlanta. In fact, the growth of Catholicism in places like Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and now Tennessee and South Carolina has caught the eye of the Catholic bishops.

Today I read with great interest of a strong ordination class in Memphis. And there is word of growing vocations in Little Rock. In our review of our new Archbishop of New Orleans, Gregory Aymond, most stories site the remarkable growth in the Diocese of Austin from less than 200,000 Catholics to now more than 500,000. Finally, we see the steady increase in vocations to the Priesthood in several various religious orders that tend to be classified as orthodox.

We must always remember that Jesus' promised a Church that would prevail and the even the gates of the netherworld could not overtake it. Tantamount to this promise is the ongoing renewal of the Priesthood so that across the world, in every age, the Mass can be offered and the bread and wine be consecrated becoming His body & Blood.

In this Year for Priests and in all years, pray for vocations, pray for the Priest, ask for intercession of St. John Vianney.

Pro Life Democrats flex muscle

I came upon this article today; 19 pro-life Democratic Representatives taking a stand for life against ardent pro-choice Catholic Speaker Nancy Pelosi. All in the pro-life movement should take time to write and thank these politicians who have put life over party. I'm very happy to see that one of our own, Charlie Melancon, D-LA, signed the letter.

Pro-life Democrats Warn Pelosi over Health Care Bill
Posted by: Olivia Offner at 12:08 PM
Nineteen Congressional Democrats wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, warning her that they would not support any health care reform legislation that did not specifically exclude government funding for abortion. Family Research Council was active in getting members of Congress to commit to this effort. The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization that supports pro-life members of Congress, has also been alerting their members to the letter and is conducting a nationwide "Stop the Abortion Bailout!" campaign.A key passage of the letter reads:
Without an explicit exclusion, abortion could be included in the a government subsidized heath care plan under general health care. The health care reform package produced by Congress will be landmark, and with legislation as important as this, abortion must be addressed clearly in the bill text.But Michael Cannon, the Cato Institute’s director of health policy studies who has been on the front lines in the battle over the Obama health care plan, warns, “The Democrats’ demand in this letter does not go nearly far enough. If either an 'individual mandate' or an 'employer mandate' passes, Americans will eventually be forced to pay for abortions.”The letter was signed by Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.), Bobby Bright (Ala.), Travis Childers (Miss.), Jerry Costello (Ill.), Kathy Dahlkemper (Penn.), Lincoln Davis (Tenn.), Steve Driehaus (Ohio), Tim Holden (Penn.), Paul Kanjorski (Penn.), Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Charlie Melancon (La.), John Murtha (Penn.), Jim Oberstar (Minn.), Solomon Ortiz (Texas), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Heath Shuler (N.C.), Bart Stupak (Mich.) and Gene Taylor (Miss). The letter from these pro-life Democrats reads:
As the debate on health care reform continues and legislation is produced, it is imperative that the issue of abortion not be overlooked. Plans to mandate coverage for abortion, either directly or indirectly is unacceptable. We believe in a culture that supports and respects the right to life and is dedicated to the protection and preservation of families. Therefore, we cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan. We believe that a government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan, should not be used to fund abortion. Furthermore, we want to ensure that the Health Benefits Advisory Committee cannot recommend abortion services be included under covered benefits or as part of a benefits package. Without an explicit exclusion, abortion could be included in a government subsidized health care plan under general health care. The health care reform package produced by Congress will be landmark, and with legislation as important as this, abortion must be addressed clearly in the bill text. Furthermore, funding restrictions save lives by reducing the number of abortions. The Guttmacher Policy Review, a leading pro-choice research organization noted “that about one third of women who would have had an abortion if support were available carried their pregnancies to term when the abortion fund was unavailable.”Thank you for taking the time to consider our request. By ensuring that abortions are not funded through any health care reform package, we will take this controversial issue off the table so that Congress can focus on crafting a broadly-supported health care reform bill.Townhall has not heard word from any Democratic pro-life senators, such as Bob Casey (PA) as to whether they will be sending a similar letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), who claims to be pro-life himself.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Catholic to be Surgeon General; is that a pro-life Catholic?

The article below was a link on a blog I follow called the Deacons Bench. It is a very favorable article by the Catholic News Agency concerning the latest Catholic President Obama has appointed to his administration. Dr. Benjamin is indeed very Catholic and has done heroic work with the poor. She is a Xavier of New Orleans grad too. Her Bishop was able to get Pope Benedict to recognize her as the article points out.

Then I went to Life News and have read some disturbing reports that Dr. Benjamin advocated for abortion education. Perhaps in an administration so left, so pro-choice (which means death for unborn babies) this should not be such a drastic appointment. What Catholics need to do is watch what really happens. Obama is not going to appoint staunch pro-lifers; that's a fact. At least with this Catholic appointee, we have someone that does not have a staunch pro-choice backround. In fact, her advocating for pro abortion education is not clearly spelled out. Let's watch what she does. And as we should be doing with Obama and all his Catholic appointments, let's pray for Dr. Benjamin and the rest that they will follow the will of the Father and His Church.

Dr. Regina Benjamin / President Obama
Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2009 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- President Barack Obama has announced that he is nominating a rural Alabama Catholic doctor to be the U.S. Surgeon General. Reacting to the news, the rector of Mobile’s Catholic cathedral, where she serves as lector, is encouraging her to defend the unborn in her new position.
In a Monday statement President Obama said he intended to nominate Dr. Regina Benjamin as Surgeon General, the United States government’s “chief health educator.” The president’s announcement focused on health care reform as an urgent challenge.
Dr. Benjamin, the first black woman to be admitted to the American Medical Association, founded the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Alabama in 1990. There, she served the poor Alabama community on the Gulf Coast after 1998’s Hurricane Georges and 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
She had to rebuild the clinic after it burned down, receiving a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 2008 for the effort.
Dr. Benjamin is known as being a national leader in improving health disparities, motivated by the need in her community. Immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos make up a third of the area’s population of 2,500.
She received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights in 1998. Pope Benedict XVI awarded her the Pro Ecclessia et Pontifice medal in 2006.
President Obama’s announcement also noted that Dr. Benjamin received the 2000 National Caring Award which was inspired by Mother Teresa.
The nominee graduated from Xavier University in New Orleans, a Catholic school descended from the educational work of St. Katharine Drexel. Dr. Benjamin received her medical degree from the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
Dr. Benjamin has also served on the Board of Trustees for the Catholic Health Association, a position that she will resign from to take on her new job.
In a Monday statement, CHA president and chief executive officer Sister Carol Keehan, DC, said that the organization “rejoices for our nation” in Dr. Benjamin’s nomination.
“In Dr. Benjamin, we have a brilliant physician who understands health care, nationally and internationally; but even more important, she knows the health care needs of the people of Bayou La Batre, Alabama, who she meets on a daily basis.”
Sr. Keehan said the nominee will “enrich the nation” with her competence and integrity and she praised Dr. Benjamin’s daily experience working in “a very vulnerable committee.”
CNA spoke with Msgr. Michael L. Farmer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Mobile and rector at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile.
Msgr. Farmer said Dr. Benjamin is a “delightful lady” who has served as lector at the cathedral and has been “readily available” to speak with various Catholic organizations. She has also worked with Catholic Charities in Mobile and has spoken on the good the organization does.
He reported that she grew up at the historically African-American parish Shrine of the Holy Cross in the Gulf Coast town of Daphne, Alabama.
The monsignor also confirmed that then-Archbishop of Mobile Oscar Lipscomb recommended Dr. Regina Benjamin for the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award. The medal is bestowed to lay people and clergy who have given zealous and outstanding service to the Church. The honor was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1888.
“He recommended her for her example in her Catholic faith as well as in her medical profession,” Msgr. Farmer said, noting the “amazing amount of work” she has done for the common good and for health care in south Mobile County.
Expressing certainty that Dr. Benjamin had opportunities to go elsewhere, he said the doctor had made a “concrete decision” to remain in Alabama and address her patients’ needs.
“She’s noted not only for clinic work, but for going on site to these people’s homes. And they’re not necessarily the nicest places to go to.”
He said it was “remarkable” and “bridge-building” that Dr. Benjamin, an African-American woman, has done her work in the bayou, which he described as a majority white community with “a lot of poor people in it.”
Given the appointments and policy decisions of the Obama Administration that favor the promotion of abortion, CNA asked Msgr. Farmer if he knew what Dr. Benjamin's position is on abortion. He explained that he did not “explicitly” know Dr. Benjamin’s position on abortion and other life issues and had never discussed it with her.
“I would hope that her position would be in line with the Church’s position,” he told CNA. “As far as I know she has been in conformity with the Catholic Church.”
“I would hope that that would continue,” he added, noting that it could be “difficult” to adhere to Catholic moral teaching in a position with the Obama Administration.
In a Monday morning telephone interview with CNA, Sr. Keehan pointed out that Dr. Benjamin isn't “in a specialty that would do abortion” and that her work to provide health care to the poor and elderly demonstrates her “tremendous attention to the issue of life.”
“And you've got her own archbishop who asked the Holy Father to give her the Pro Ecclesia medal.
“You don't get that for just being a token Catholic,” she told CNA.
In December 2008 a coalition of several dozen pro-abortion groups released a strategy document titled “Advancing Reproductive Rights and Health in a New Administration” calling on Obama to improve access to “abortion care.” The document named the surgeon general’s office as a “position of interest.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Who is Kateri Tekakwitha?

Actually, she is known as Blessed Kateri. Hers is a most amazing story. She was born in New York in 1656, the daughter of a Christian mother of the Algonquin tribe and a non-Christian father who was a Mohawk chief. When she was just 14 both of her parents died due to smallpox and the disease left Kateri with severe facial scars. She was sent to live with an uncle.

In 1675 she befriended Jesuit missionaries and was baptized as a Catholic on Easter Sunday in 1676. She chose the name Kateri for Katherine. She lived an exemplary life as a Christian and devoted herself to a life of virginity. She became the object of scorn and persecution as the young men sought to prevent her from living a chaste life. In her desire to remain pure and devoted to Christ she fled her home and lived in a Christian village on the St. Lawrence River. In 1677 she received her first Holy Communion and continued instruction in the faith. In 1680, at the young age of 24, she died of natural causes.

Special devotion to the "Lily of the Mohawks" spread throughout the United States and Canada. On June 22, 1980 she was beatified by Pope John Paul II. She needs one more verified miracle to be elevated to sainthood.

Her strong witness to the love of Jesus and to His Catholic Church was remarkable especially given her situation. Not all of her family, friends and members of her tribe took kindly to the missionaries. Yet she persevered in her faith and today is a great example to all of us.

May her intercession give all peoples of every tribe, tongue and nation the courage to gather under God's holy church and proclaim His greatnesws in one song of praise.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

La Governor Jindal Pro Life inDEED

This is one of those stories making you proud to be from La.

This is a very pro-life action by Bobby Jindal and one we should be happy about! For those still fawning over Obama rhetoric, this is pro-life in word AND action!!!

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal Signs Pro-Life Bill With Abortion Conscience Clause
by Steven EditorJuly 8, 2009
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Baton Rouge, LA ( -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a bill Tuesday that gives pro-life doctors and other medical professionals more conscience protections on abortion under state law. The covers both public and private health care workers and allows them to opt out of involvement in abortions.
The measure also allows withdrawal from participating in anti-life bioethics practices such as human cloning, euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research.
The bill allows the medical workers to receive job protection and legal immunity from employer discrimination if they refused to participate in the practices.
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the conscience protection for doctors and health care workers claiming that it would somehow reduce access the medical services, even though that has not been the case in other states.
Rep. Bernard LeBas, a Democrat from Ville Platte, sponsored the bill, HB 517, that allows "any person . . . not to" participate in the objectionable practices or dispense "abortifacient drugs," that would include the mifepristone abortion pill and the morning after pill, which can cause an abortion in limited circumstances.
The bill almost didn't make it to Jindal in its correct form as members of the state House, led by pro-abortion Rep. John Bel Edwards, amended it to make it so only healthcare providers in the public sector are entitled to conscience protection for a limited amount of procedures.
However, thanks to the calls, emails and public lobbying from pro-life advocates, the state Senate approved HB 517 and added an amendment making sure all health care professionals receive the benefit of the legislation.Benjamin Clapper, the head of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, said the Senate passed the amended bill on a bipartisan 31-2 vote.
"While Louisiana Right to Life was relentlessly working over the past week to earn our Senators' support of HB 517, it was not till around 40 pro-lifers descended on the Senate yesterday morning that the victory was in hand," Clapper told at the time.
"Also, many thanks to Senator Amedee who amended the bill to protect both the consciences of public and private health care professionals," he added.
ACTION: Contact Gov. Bobby Jindal at and thank him for signing the conscience clause bill into law.
Related web sites:Louisiana Right to Life - http://www.prolifelouisiana.orgLouisiana Senate -

Obama more Catholic than the Pope; Please?

The article below is a response to Newsweek who published a guest column by Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend, daughter of the late Robert Kennedy. In her article K-T makes the eye popping declaration "Obama more Catholic than Pope." Her 1st premise is Obama represents American Catholics more so than the Holy Father. OK, here is where this Catholic ordained Deacon gets confused. I've yet to meet an American Catholic. Oh yes, I have met many Catholics who happen to be American. I have even met many Catholics from Australia, Europe, Central and South American, even Canada. THEY ARE CATHOLICS.

Ms. K-T seems to think that to be Catholic, one must have a strong politician teach us doctrine and dogma, faith and morals. While it is true that we should hope for the best qualities in all elected officials, I still don't want to get my Catholicism from them. It truly appears to me that K-T has some strong goals in her lame attempt to write an article based on fact. One goal would appear to help drive a rift between Catholics in America that admire President Obama at the expense of the Holy Father. And vice versa, knowing that she will get a reaction, her backhanded hope is to take those who already disdain our President to a new level of distrust and perhaps even hate.

Her description of the Pope's latest encyclical is a wish list of how she wants it to be as the article I've attached so accurately points out. And of course, as is always the case in those who love to bash Catholic heriarchy, no real meaningful discussion on life issues, ethics or true church teaching.

Obama has a job to do as President and when he fails the common good, including on all issues regarding life, we Americans have a job to do to. But President Obama, and all other politicians, are not really in the business of saving souls and helping us to heaven (except that we all carry that responsibility by our Baptism). Pope Benedict is!!! His goal is to not cave in to the politically expedient or popular. His goal is not to promote one country's political agenda. His goal is to be faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Church He founded some 2000 yrs ago.

You know even the Apostles and the disciples would try to get Jesus to do this, not do that, don't go here, don't say that. Jesus never willy nilly caved in. He did the WILL OF THE FATHER. Maybe K-T and others who want a Catholic Church made in their personal image, or worse, their political image should follow Jesus; do the WILL OF THE FATHER. And guess what; there you will find peace!

And what should our reaction be in light of this article and the recent visit of the Pope and the Pres? Let's keep it simple: pray. Pray for the Holy Father and his intentions. Pray for the President, that he always promote the common good. And pray that he will be converted to a pro-life position that manifests itself in concrete action and not fancy words. Pray for those who attack the Church. For those who attack the Church, attack Christ. Pray for their conversion too. And pray for all those who take their level of disdain and hate against the President and others will remember their Christian duty to be Christian in word and deed. Remember we are called to preach the Gospel always, in all places, and when necessary, use words.

Kennedy-Townsend in Newsweek: Obama 'More Catholic' Than PopeNewsBusters ^ July 9, 2009 Matthew Balan
Posted on Friday, July 10, 2009 4:13:19 AM by Zakeet

Newsweek took their criticism of Pope Benedict XVI to the next level on Thursday- not only did guest columnist Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend affirm that the pontiff could learn from President Obama (something Newsweek and their partners at the Washington Post agreed upon back in April), but also blasted the Bishop of Rome and the Catholic hierarchy for their supposed “disdain” towards women and homosexuals.
The former lieutenant governor of Maryland began her column, titled "Without a Doubt: Why Barack Obama represents American Catholics better than the pope does," with the context of the pope’s upcoming meeting with the American president, and how it was “much anticipated and in some circles frowned upon by American Catholics in the wake of Obama’s controversial Notre Dame commencement speech in May.” She then laid out her central thesis about these two leaders: “In truth, though, Obama’s pragmatic approach to divisive policy...and his social-justice agenda reflect the views of American Catholic laity much more closely than those vocal bishops and pro-life activists...[T]hey’ll politely disagree about reproductive freedoms and homosexuality, but Catholics back home won’t care, because they know Obama’s on their side. In fact, Obama’s agenda is closer to their views than even the pope’s.”
Before outlining the standard heterodox American Catholic complaints about Church teaching, Kennedy-Townsend, as you might expect, laid claim to the pope’s recent social teaching encyclical: “It’s fitting that Obama’s visit comes just days after the publication of “Charity in Truth,” a Vatican encyclical that declares unions, regulation of capitalism’s excesses, and environmentalism to be ethical imperatives. The document gives moral credence to Obama’s message and to progressive politics writ large.”
While this is the standard left-wing spin of the papal document, as exemplified by AP and Reuters' coverage of it, the Democratic politician omitted that these three issues she names are secondary to the link that Benedict XVI made between “life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that ‘a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.” The pope would go on to condemn “the tragic and widespread scourge of abortion...the systematic eugenic programming of births....[and] practices... [which] foster a materialistic and mechanistic understanding of human life.”
Kennedy-Townsend seemed to ignore this emphasis in the document, and turned to her complaints, making it clear that she disagrees with the Pope and Catholic teaching, and not just concerning these “life issues:”
While the pope preaches love, listening to the other has been a particular stumbling block for the Catholic hierarchy (as it is for many in power). The hierarchy ignores women’s equality and gays’ cry for justice because to heed them would require that it admit error and acknowledge that the self-satisfied edifice constructed around sex and gender has been grievously wrong. Before he became John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla had a telling all-or-nothing formulation: “If it should be decided that contraception is not an evil in itself then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit is on the side of the Protestant Churches.”
That attitude has resulted in some heinous decisions. Most famously, in the lead up to the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” in 1968, an advisory body of theologians and laity empaneled by the pope advised that the church should reverse its position on birth control and concede that the issue should be a question for morality and for science. But authority—not truth, not love—prevailed: Pope Paul VI, listening to the advice of Wojtyla, disagreed with the majority of these advisers, who had voted 69 to 10 for change, fretting that to change this position would weaken his authority....
In 1979, Sister Theresa Kane, the head of the Sisters of Mercy and the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, greeted Pope John Paul II on his first visit to the United States by proposing that the Church provide “for the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries of our Church,” including the priesthood. This was greeted with revulsion at the Vatican, which insists that the only people who can represent God in the priestly role are those with male sex organs.
After outlining all this, the Democrat boldly proposed that Catholic truth should determined by a majority vote, something that the pontiff (when he was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) bluntly objected to:
Yet polls bear out that American Catholics do not want to be told by the Vatican how to think. Despite the rhetoric of love and truth, the Vatican shows disdain (if not disgust) toward gays. But 54 percent of American Catholics find gay relationships to be morally acceptable, according to a 2009 Gallup poll. Meanwhile, against all scientific evidence and protestations from clergy on the ground, the pope claims that condoms aggravate the spread of AIDS. Seventy-nine percent of American Catholics disagree, according to a 2007 poll by Catholics for Choice.
When Sen. John Kerry, a pro-choice Catholic, ran for president in 2004, several bishops decided to deny him communion. A poll done at the time by Time magazine showed that 73 percent of American Catholics disagreed with that decision, and 83 percent said the bishops’ move wouldn't change their vote. In fact, more than two thirds said the church shouldn’t try to influence the way Catholics vote at all or tell candidates—even Catholic ones—what stance to take.
For Obama, respectful disagreement and a willingness to recognize differences was the animating spirit of the presidential campaign, and it was central to his Notre Dame speech. That is the kind of politics many Catholics practice. They’re tired of watching the church grasp frantically for control at the expense of truth and love. In America last November, it showed: 54 percent of Catholics voted for Obama.
Despite her chest-thumping about how the American Catholic populace apparently disagrees with the pope and Catholic dogma, and her claiming of the recent encyclical for the “progressives,” it is clear that Kennedy-Townsend, a member of a family of notoriously heterodox Catholics, didn’t learn a valuable lesson from the papal writing. From paragraph 3 of “Caritas in Veritate:”
Only in truth does charity shine forth [emphasis in original], only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity. That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite. Truth frees charity from the constraints of an emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social content, and of a fideism that deprives it of human and universal breathing-space. In the truth, charity reflects the personal yet public dimension of faith in the God of the Bible, who is both Agápe and Lógos: Charity and Truth, Love and Word.
The predictions of Paul VI concerning contraception in “Humanae Vitae,” the encyclical which the columnist condemned in her column, have been thoroughly proven to be true- “widespread use of contraceptives would lead to ‘conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality,’ and that many a man would lose respect for the woman in his life and ‘no longer [care] for her physical and psychological equilibrium’ to the point that he would consider her ‘as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion,’” as Kathryn Jean Lopez summarized them, quoting from the 1968 encyclical. More importantly, the Catholic Church, through its fidelity to its traditional teachings on human sexuality, is not merely trying to preserve its “authority,” as Kennedy-Townsend accused in her column (viewing the Church through the rose-colored lenses of left-wing political philosophy), but is motivated its vision of truth and love, those two things which she denies are the driving forces of the Church in this key area of human affairs.
It is clear that Kennedy-Townsend, and the millions of Catholics who dissent from Church teaching, will not be satisfied, nor will they tolerate the Church, until she conforms to the secular order. Now who are the intolerant ones?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

St Benedict of Nursia

Today is the memorial of St Benedict, the patriarch of western monasticism. He lived in the late 5th and early 6th centuries and established the Benedictines based on his Rule of Benedict. This morning, while reading the office of readings I came across the following: No one should follow what he considers good for himself, but rather what seems good for another. Let them put Christ before all else; and may He lead us all to everlasting life.

I became exposed to Benedictines when I moved to the Abita Springs community some 50 miles north of New Orleans. The local Catholic Church, St Jane de Chantal, was a Benedictine parish. The first pastor I met was Fr. William McCandless. I soon learned that nestled in the woods some 10 miles away was a Benedictine Monastery and Seminary College. As a life long New Orleanian Catholic I was kind of embarrased that I did not remember this. I soon began to venture toward the Abbey and celebrate Mass with the monks, take in evening Vespers, attend retreats, even purchasing my own burial plot on this holy ground.

I would love to invite you to look over the website of St. Jospeh Abbey and Seminary College. Here, men receive a great education and many go on to religious life and the Priesthood. Mass is offered to the larger community every day. They have several ministries as well as the website will attest. Maybe one of the best kept secrets in our Archdiocese, St Joseph Abbey has been a great place of prayer and reflection for me and many others.

To the monks of St Joseph Abbey, all my prayers on this great day in honor of St Benedict.

Ora et Labora.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pope Benedict's Busy Week

What a week for the Holy Father, Benedict 16th! Earlier this week his long awaited social encyclical was finally released. The encyclical is entitled Caritas in Veritate, Charity in Truth. This is Benedict's third overall encyclical but the first in the tradition of the great social/economic writings such as Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII, Quadragesimo Anno by Pope Pius XI and Popolorum Progressio by Paul VI. In fact, a good part of Benedict's new encyclical is devoted to Popolorum Progressio released a little over 40 years ago. I have yet to complete the reading of Caritas in Veritate (about halfway thru) but believe it will have a huge impact on Catholic social teaching.

Pope Benedict's other two encylicals are Deus Caritas Est, God Is Love, based on the evangelists declaration in 1John, chapter 4 and Spe Salvi, Saved in Hope, based on St. Paul's letter to the Romans.

The best way to download a copy of this papal encyclical, and others as well, is to go to the vatican website:

And if this was not enough to qualify as a big week, Pope Benedict today welcomed President Barack Obama to the Vatican. While the meeting was cordial and some common ground was discussed, the Holy Father did give Obama a unique gift. Pope Benedict presented the President with his document on the right to life and bioethics entitled Dignitas Personae. While Obama claimed to wish to reduce the number of abortions, he remains politically aligned with the pro-choice (or as I put it pro abort) crowd. Pope Benedict was certainly not moved as he reaffirmed the pro-life teaching of the Church. The President did promise to read the book.

I believe all Catholics, all Christians of good will can join together and pray for the President and a change of heart when it comes to issues of life.

Understanding the Permanent Deacon

July update

When I began to draw close to ordination last November, you remember November: cool temps and football season, I was compelled to share some of my journey with others. I had learned the value of journaling in formation but now I wanted to share my joy with everyone I could think of.

You all have been very generous in your response and support as I became a Permanent Deacon and have now proceeded in diaconal ministries these last 8 months. From my original updates, God has blessed me to be able to develop a website and I even ventured over to Facebook and Twitter. I have chosen, for the most part, to use these tools to extend my ministry and to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

From the beginning of my updates, I stated several goals, including explaining the duties and role of a Permanent Deacon and to share my specific ministries and ongoing discernment and formation as an ordained minister. From time to time, this has presented me with many opportunities to clarify misconceptions or teach Church doctrine.

We all know that the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate is only 42 years old which is a blink of an eye in Catholic Church history and God’s timeline. Yet I continue to confront some misconceptions. Just recently someone asked me if I could hear their confession? The other day someone asked a moderator to introduce me as clergy. The question always comes up: are Permanent Deacons clergy? Last month someone asked how do I join that Deacon thing? Or the post I saw on EWTN’s website about those guys on the altar in the lay deaconate. Then there was the amazing article by a Catholic writer, describing a Deacons cure through the intercession of Cardinal Newman, explaining that the Diaconate is a lay ministry.

I fully understand that not many among you want to read all the documents from Rome or the USCCB about Permanent Deacons. So let’s just address some of the common misconceptions.

Yes, Permanent Deacons are indeed ordained clergy. By virtue of the office, they function in a clerical state not a lay state. Permanent Deacons are ordained to the ministry of service and many times are found attending to those in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, homeless shelters, food banks, and many other ministries. The Permanent Deacon can preside at infant Baptisms; distribute Holy Communion, witness weddings and conduct wake services and funerals not involving a Mass. At Mass, the Deacon is the ordinary minister of the Gospel, may be able to deliver the homily and is considered the minister of the Cup. He will intone the penitential rite, prayers of the faithful, the invitation to exchange the sign of peace and the dismissal. Permanent Deacons can preside at Benediction.

The Permanent Deacon wears vestments while functioning in liturgy but they are different from the Priest. Deacons wear a stole that is hung on the left shoulder and draped across the chest. The outer garment is called a dalmatic.

When functioning at hospitals, prisons, etc. each diocese determines if the Permanent Deacon wears clerical garb including the collar. In our Archdiocese of New Orleans, we do not wear the collar at all.

Permanent Deacons can not hear confessions, administer Confirmation or Anoint the Sick.

Permanent Deacons are truly called to bring Jesus to the workplace, the marketplace, the neighborhood, the corner store. I often heard in formation that for a Permanent Deacon its not what you do but who you are that truly sacramentalizes service.

Permanent Deacons serve a vital role in the continued growth and life the Holy Catholic Church. We hark back to the 6th chapter of Acts of the Apostles for our beginnings and we read of our responsibilities in St. Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy.

One of the most misunderstood facts I have noticed comes when I preach a homily and mention my wife and children. Yes, I am a husband and a dad. Permanent Deacons take a vow of conditional celibacy. Basically, if the wife of a Permanent Deacon dies before him, he is not free to remarry, except in special circumstances and with permission of the Holy See.

So I hope this is helpful. In no way is this an exhaustive list of all things Permanent Diaconate. There are many documents you can read, including the historic Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem by Pope Paul VI of happy memory. And of course you can find more in Holy Scripture, the Catechism and documents from the USCCB.

Let me conclude by again giving God all the glory for choosing me to serve as a Permanent Deacon. I love my ministries both at Rayburn Correctional Center and St. Jane de Chantal Church which includes St. Michael’s Mission. Praise be to God for these beautiful ministries he has bestowed on me.

If you would like additional information about my ministries, the Diaconate, the Church, God’s plan for all of us, please consider following me at:

Or find me at facebook and twitter as Deacon Mike Talbot.

And remember: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8.

Deacon Mike.

Monday, July 6, 2009

What a witness ~ St Maria Goretti

Today the Church celebrates the life and sainthood of Maria Goretti, one of the youngest people ever canonized. Maria was but a young girl of 11 in 1902 when she was confronted by a young man intent on raping her. Remarkably spiritual and devoutly Catholic, Maria tried to reason with the young man, concerned for his soul if he would commit such a horrible sin. As she continued to resist, her assailant, Alessandro Serenelli, in anger stabbed her a total of 14 times.

Maria was to eventually die of her wounds but not before totally forgiving Alessandro and promising those in the hospital of her prayers in heaven. Her remarkable Christian witness of committment to a life of purity, charity and forgiveness continues to inspire to this very day.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII canonized her before a large adoring crowd of Italians and pilgrims. In attendance was Alessandro Serenelli, the killer himself. Allesandro completely converted after receiving a vision and message from Maria while in prison.

I love the fact that when my daughter was confirmed almost three years ago, she choose the name Maria Goretti. May we all turn to her for inspiration and pray for her powerful intercession.

St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Homily for 14th Week in Ordinary Time

His name is Homer Hickman and his inspiration was the Soviet satellite Sputnik as it crossed a clear October Sky in 1957. In 1999 a movie about Homer’s life, aptly titled October Sky, was released detailing his dream to build and launch rockets. It is one of those rare movies that captures the true human spirit.

Homer is but a young high school boy growing up in a poor West Virginia town. He is only the son of a coal miner and a housewife, living in company provided housing. As Homer began his quest to build and launch rockets, he was ridiculed and scorned by classmates, neighbors and friends. And worse, his dad totally rejected his dream and wanted him to follow in his footsteps as a coal miner.

All of that changed when Homer persevered in his pursuit and began to successfully build and launch rockets. He won a science fair that propelled him on to college and eventually he became one of America’s premier NASA rocket scientists.

One of the most influential players in America’s space program, Homer Hickman started out amidst ridicule, insult and doubt. And all of this from his own home town!

How often do we stumble upon ridicule and rejection; many times from those closest to us and when we least expect it. Many times our own family and friends fail to recognize the gifts and talents others may see in us. And we too often fail to recognize gifts and talents of those we are closest to.

As people of faith, do we recognize the totality of all that Jesus is for us; all that Jesus does for us and do we recognize the gift that is His one holy Catholic Church?

We read Mark’s account of Jesus returning to his home town of Nazareth. This is the place Jesus lived for most of his private life, a life lived in the home of Mary and Joseph. He learned the trade of a carpenter from Joseph and became one Himself. It is apparent that he stayed with Mary for some amount of years after the death of Joseph. While in Nazareth he concealed his divinity sharing his humanity with his relatives and neighbors. And then he began His public ministry. After raising Jairus’ daughter from death and curing the woman with the hemorrhages Mark tells us Jesus leaves for His native place. And Jesus brings them his teaching, his wisdom and his healing.

But look at their response. His friends, neighbors and relatives say where is this coming from? Who do you think you are? This is just a carpenter, He works with his hands; you know a blue collar guy. He is trying to be better than us. Did they even take the time to listen? Could they see that Jesus came to share with them the message of His salvation? No, the externals were all that mattered. Or did they believe as Nathannael says in John’s Gospel, “can anything good come out of Nazareth”?

And Jesus knew this was coming. Surely, the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Himself, would know what the prophet Ezekiel said in our 1st reading today: “hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.” So Jesus does not force Himself on His hometown. He simply says, “a prophet is not without honor except in his native place, among his own kin and in his own house.”

How profound is this rejection. Mark tells us that Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deeds there”. He does not say He was not willing to, he says not able to. Why? No faith. But wait, Jesus is God; He can do whatever He wants to do! Remember, Jesus never forces anything on us. He seeks faith in revealing his miraculous power. Again, just recall the woman with the flow of blood from our Gospel last week.

For us today, do we wish to show Jesus our faith or will we be a modern day Nazarene? Will we go deep in our faith and look for Jesus in our everyday lives or will we concern ourselves with the externals.

Like Jesus, we can teach and share our faith not by forcing ourselves on others but by our joy, our hope and our Christian witness. Sure, we pray and conduct ourselves as Christians at Mass, in church. Do we also pray and conduct our lives as Christians in Wal-Mart, at work, at our kids baseball game when the call does not go our way, even in our own homes surrounded by family and friends?

Do we respond to Jesus’ call to be Christ to our fellow man or do we just leave that responsibility to others. Right now, in our own parish bulletin we are looking for men and women to step up and share the faith by teaching our children in PSR. Maybe God is calling you to that ministry today. Perhaps you think we should have a certain ministry here that we currently do not have. Maybe God is calling you to speak up. Perhaps you are concerned about those who cannot get to Mass because they are sick and homebound. Perhaps God is calling you to visit them. Perhaps God is wondering why we don’t respond generously to our own parish efforts to provide numerous opportunities for reconciliation, Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, numerous ministries and Bible study. Maybe God wants you to give of yourself in one of these opportunities. And finally, perhaps God is wondering why we, having been blessed with the gift of His Son, body, blood, soul and divinity, do not carry that joy with us all week long, in all that we do, even the mundane. Maybe God wants you to show your joy and happiness with all you encounter.

It’s not always easy; but few things truly worth it ever are easy.

This weekend, some of us will gaze at a July evening sky and see fireworks celebrating our nation’s 233rd birthday. 52 years ago Homer Hickman gazed at a clear October sky and launched his remarkable career. We can gaze to the Heavens, tonight and any night, and thank God that we are not like those long ago Nazarene’s. No, we rejoice in the Jesus who loves us and teaches us and heals us. May we always recognize Him!

Friday, July 3, 2009


Benediction July 3, 2009

Tonight we come to the eve of our nation’s birthday before the Eucharistic Jesus. July 4th always brings us memories of great family or community events and a chance to reflect on freedom. But as Fr. John Corapi said recently, freedom must come with truth. He quotes John’s Gospel: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32.

While we rejoice in our freedoms as a people and as a nation, what makes us truly free? Perhaps it is exactly what Fr. Tim Vakoc said to his family before he left for Iraq as an army chaplain: “the safest place for me to be is at the center of God’s will. And if that places me in the line of fire, so be it.” Those words would ring out for Fr. Tim’s family as he was gravely wounded in 2004. He would face over 5 years of living in a wheelchair and not being able to speak much before he died last week. Again, at his funeral those words were repeated: “the safest place for me to be is at the center of God’s will.” That is true freedom; the freedom and peace that helps us endure the journey in this world, so we may rejoice in the world to come. It is the freedom and peace to understand what we have here before us tonight: the real presence of our Lord and Savior, who as a man came to bring peace, and died for our sins. As it says in St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “for freedom, Christ has set us free.” Gal. 5:1.

If on this Independence Day, if we truly want to reflect on freedom, let’s turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraphs 1730 – 1748 are dedicated to the subject of freedom. Here are a few highlights:

- human freedom attains its perfection when directed toward God.
- The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes.
- Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being.

In the Book of Genesis, when God spoke to Abraham to initiate His covenant, he told Abraham: “I will make a great nation of you; I will bless you and make your name great, so that you may be a blessing.” Gen 12:2-3.

Tonight, before the Blessed Sacrament, as we ponder our freedom, the freedom Fr. Tim found, the freedom the Lord Jesus won for us, may this too be our prayer:

Father, make a great nation of us; bless us and make our name great; may we too be a blessing!

May God bless America and may America bless God.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Good news for Today

Modern technology continues to be a great venue for spreading the Word of God and the teachings of His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. In recent weeks I have begun listening to Catholic radio on XM channel 117. On Sirius it is channel 159. I am providing the link below so you can check it out. And if you have satellite radio, give them a listen. Praise God for Catholic radio.