Monday, January 31, 2011

What a difference a year makes

The first week of February and we have arrived at Super Bowl week. It just don't feel the same down here in the Big Easy.

Last year we were preparing to cheer the boys in black & gold (not the Steelers) in their first ever trip to the big game. The entire week was electric. New Orleans recovered in leaps and bounds during the Super Bowl euphoria. And of course we know, as we look back, that the Saints came through and won the Super Bowl in just their first trip. And the aftermath of that victory was euphoric squared.

Down here in New Orleans we always used to say: wait til next year. Then next year arrived and we learned to deal with being world champions. I guess we now can say: wait til last year!

The Super Bowl will go on without the Saints participating and sometime between now and the weekend I must decide Packers or Steelers. I'll watch but it will so not be the same.

And we can start preparing now for the Saints to return to the Super Bowl in 2012.

1st saint of February

St. Brigid of Ireland

Feastday: February 1

Brigid was probably born at Faughart near Dundalk, Louth, Ireland. Her parents were baptized by St. Patrick, with whom she developed a close friendship. According to legend, her father was Dubhthach, an Irish chieftain of Lienster, and her mother, Brocca, was a slave at his court. Even as a young girl she evinced an interest for a religious life and took the veil in her youth from St. Macaille at Croghan and probably was professed by St. Mel of Armagh, who is believed to have conferred abbatial authority on her. She settled with seven of her virgins at the foot of Croghan Hill for a time and about the year 468, followed Mel to Meath. About the year 470 she founded a double monastery at Cill-Dara (Kildare) and was Abbess of the convent, the first in Ireland. The foundation developed into a center of learning and spirituality, and around it grew up the Cathedral city of Kildare. She founded a school of art at Kildare and its illuminated manuscripts became famous, notably the Book of Kildare, which was praised as one of the finest of all illuminated Irish manuscripts before its disappearance three centuries ago. Brigid was one of the most remarkable women of her times, and despite the numerous legendary, extravagant, and even fantastic miracles attributed to her, there is no doubt that her extraordinary spirituality, boundless charity, and compassion for those in distress were real. She died at Kildare on February 1. The Mary of the Gael, she is buried at Downpatrick with St. Columba and St. Patrick, with whom she is the patron of Ireland. Her name is sometimes Bridget and Bride. Her feast day is February 1.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

St. John Bosco; founder of the Salesians

St. John Bosco
Feastday: January 31
b. 1815 d: 1888

What do dreams have to with prayer? Aren't they just random images of our mind?

In 1867 Pope Pius IX was upset with John Bosco because he wouldn't take his dreams seriously enough. Nine years earlier when Pope Pius IX met with the future saint who worked with neglected boys, he learned of the dreams that John had been having since the age of nine, dreams that had revealed God's will for John's life. So Pius IX had made a request, "Write down these dreams and everything else you have told me, minutely and in their natural sense." Pius IX saw John's dreams as a legacy for those John worked with and as an inspiration for those he ministered to.

Despite Scripture evidence and Church tradition respecting dreams, John had encountered skepticism when he had his first dream at the age of nine. The young Bosco dreamed that he was in a field with a crowd of children. The children started cursing and misbehaving. John jumped into the crowd to try to stop them -- by fighting and shouting. Suddenly a man with a face filled with light appeared dressed in a white flowing mantle. The man called John over and made him leader of the boys. John was stunned at being put in charge of these unruly gang. The man said, "You will have to win these friends of yours not with blows but with gentleness and kindness." As adults, most of us would be reluctant to take on such a mission -- and nine year old John was even less pleased. "I'm just a boy," he argued, "how can you order me to do something that looks impossible." The man answered, "What seems so impossible you must achieve by being obedient and acquiring knowledge." Thenthe boys turned into the wild animals they had been acting like. The man told John that this is the field of John's life work. Once John changed and grew in humility, faithfulness, and strength, he would see a change in the children -- a change that the man now demonstrated. The wild animals suddenly turned into gentle lambs.

When John told his family about his dream, his brothers just laughed at him. Everyone had a different interpretation of what it meant: he would become a shepherd, a priest, a gang leader. His own grandmother echoed the sage advice we have heard through the years, "You mustn't pay any attention to dreams." John said, "I felt the same way about it, yet I could never get that dream out of my head."

Eventually that first dream led him to minister to poor and neglected boys, to use the love and guidance that seemed so impossible at age nine to lead them to faithful and fulfilled lives. He started out by learning how to juggle and do tricks to catch the attention of the children. Once he had their attention he would teach them and take them to Mass. It wasn't always easy -- few people wanted a crowd of loud, bedraggled boys hanging around. And he had so little money and help that people thought he was crazy. Priests who promised to help would get frustrated and leave.

Two "friends" even tried to commit him to an institution for the mentally ill. They brought a carriage and were planning to trick him into coming with him. But instead of getting in, John said, "After you" and politely let them go ahead. When his friends were in the carriage he slammed the door and told the drive to take off as fast as he could go!

Through it all he found encouragement and support through his dreams. In one dream, Mary led him into a beautiful garden. There were roses everywhere, crowding the ground with their blooms and the air with their scent. He was told to take off his shoes and walk along a path through a rose arbor. Before he had walked more than a few steps, his naked feet were cut and bleeding from the thorns. When he said he would have to wear shoes or turn back, Mary told him to put on sturdy shoes. As he stepped forward a second time, he was followed by helpers. But the walls of the arbor closed on him, the roof sank lower and the roses crept onto the path. Thorns caught at him from all around. When he pushed them aside he only got more cuts, until he was tangled in thorns. Yet those who watched said, "How lucky Don John is! His path is forever strewn with roses! He hasn't a worry in the world. No troubles at all!" Many of the helpers, who had been expecting an easy journey, turned back, but some stayed with him. Finally he climbed through the roses and thorns to find another incredible garden. A cool breeze soothed his torn skin and healed his wounds.

In his interpretation, the path was his mission, the roses were his charity to the boys, and the thorns were the distractions, the obstacles, and frustrations that would stand in his way. The message of the dream was clear to John: he must keep going, not lose faith in God or his mission, and he would come through to the place he belonged.

Often John acted on his dreams simply by sharing them, sometimes repeating them to several different individuals or groups he thought would be affected by the dream. "Let me tell you about a dream that has absorbed my mind," he would say.

The groups he most often shared with were the boys he helped -- because so many of the dreams involved them. For example, he used several dreams to remind the boys to keep to a good and moral life. In one dream he saw the boys eating bread of four kinds -- tasty rolls, ordinary bread, coarse bread, and moldy bread, which represented the state of the boys' souls. He said he would be glad to talk to any boys who wanted to know which bread they were eating and then proceeded to use the occasion to give them moral guidance.

He died in 1888, at the age of seventy-two. His work lives on in the Salesian order he founded.

In His Footsteps:

John Bosco found God's message in his dreams. If you have some question or problem in your life, ask God to send you an answer or help in a dream. Then write down your dreams. Ask God to help you remember and interpret the dreams that come from God.


Saint John Bosco, you reached out to children whom no one cared for despite ridicule and insults. Help us to care less about the laughter of the world and care more about the joy of the Lord. Amen

The Deacon and Baptism

One of the many opportunities that flows from who the Deacon is would be to preside at Baptisms. In the case of the Deacon, he must only baptize children up to the age of 7. At the age of 7 and above, Baptism is reserved to a Priest.

As a Deacon of some two years I have not had that many opportunities to baptize. Since I spent the first two years of ministry at St. Jane's in Abita Springs I was one of four deacons assigned to the parish; not to mention two priests. Naturally we took turns at Baptisms. Each and every opportunity to baptize a beautiful new Christian has been a wonderfully rewarding experience with profound spiritual significance.

It looks like I may have additional opportunities to preside at Baptisms at my new parish assignment at Most Holy Trinity. I have my first scheduled Baptismal seminar tomorrow.

Yesterday I returned to St. Jane's to preside at the Baptism of a beautiful girl, named Isabella, who is the 1st grandchild of very close friends. What a joy to watch the new parents bringing their child to church for her new birth in the Lord. It is especially joyful when, in this case, my wife and I watched the momma growing up as a pre-teen, teenager, and now a wife and new mom. Isabella was so good throughout the Baptism, even when I got water in her eyes. All Baptisms are glorious. This one was more personal.

The rite of Baptism is beautiful in itself; the welcoming, the readings from Scripture, the litany of the Saints, the annointing with oil of catechumen, the blessing of the water, the pouring of water on the new Christian saying the words: I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then the annointing with sacred chrism; all of this in the tradition of the Church for centuries.

Isabella endured it all and is now a new creature in Christ, reborn on this particular Saturday with dozens of witnesses from her family and their friends.

I give thanks to God for Isabella, and all the beautiful children I have been privileged to Baptize. May God continue to raise up more new Christians from families who long to serve Him through His holy Church!

The Beatitudes: Be Attitude

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

From the 5th chapter of St. Matthew today we heard the Beatitudes; these 8 sayings of Jesus which tell us how to "be". I have spoken often lately about being because I so believe in what was drilled into me throughout my formation: "It's not what we do but who we are."

The Beatitudes tell us who we are if we wish to follow the roadmap as drawn for us by Jesus. We are called to be poor in spirit, to be meek, to hunger & thirst for righteousness, to be merciful, to be clean of heart, to be peacemakers, even to be persecuted and insulted and falsely accused beacuse of righteousness and because of Jesus. And thrown in this mix is the beatitude to mourn.

If we truly focus on these blessings of Jesus it's about being. Jesus calls us today to BE ATTITUDE.

Have an attitude at all times that places Him at the center of our lives and an attitude that affirms from our "being"we will serve Him by serving one another.

Live the beatitudes everyday. Start this week by praying and reflecting on each beatitude every day of the week ahead.

And ask Jesus in your prayer to show more clearly who you are for we are all called to be His.

And then remember His promise: your reward will be great in heaven. And for that we most definetly can rejoice and be glad!

Celebrating Mass in Mandeville with inmates; God is good

I went to Mass today(between my liturgical assignments at Most Holy Trinity)at Mary Queen of Peace in Mandeville, La. This is a very active parish. MQP is located in a very affluent area of our New Orleans Northshore. Today their congregation was visited by inmates; convicted felons. These men are the praise and worship choir from the Rayburn State Prison, where I am privileged to serve as the Catholic Pastoral Chaplain. The visit was a wish; a desire of the pastor, Fr. Ronnie, who has heard the group twice while visiting and ministering at the prison.

The men of praise lifted their voices in song before Mass and provided a robust rendition of Amazing Grace. The mood was set as the Mass continued, including a brilliant homily on the Gospel of the Beatitudes from Matthew's 5th chapter. As gifts were prepared the men sang a beautiful song with the refrain God is good all the time; all the time God is good. It was so stirring as we moved into the liturgy of the eucharist. As they sang for communion they closed out with a beautiful rendition of Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this Place! For me, that is where the tears flowed.

As they stayed to sing one last song I was impressed as more than half the congregation stayed to listen to the singing which truly is inspired by the Holy Spirit. A reception after Mass allowed congregants to meet the men personally. What a scene seeing these Christians interact, even though some of them live in a state run prison.

One of the amazing men who volunteers at the prison in our Catholic ministry, Mike Holland, spoke to the congregation of the ministry that happens there. From humble beginnings and an invitation from a non-Catholic lay minister, Mike and his team have now been ministering at Rayburn for almost 6 years. I am so thankful for all of these volunteers and to be part of the team assigned at Rayburn.

I believe today that many Catholics from Mary Queen of Peace got to experience today what we, privileged to minister at Rayburn, experience every week. The presence of Jesus is alive in these men. They minister to Christ and the Church by sharing with us their gifts and their love of God.

I pray that we can get this awesome choir to visit many more Catholic Churches in the area!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Challenger 25 years later: to touch the face of God

Today marked the 25th anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger resulting in the death of all 7 astronauts onboard, including school teacher Christa McAuliffe. It was a beautiful but cold Florida morning when the instructions to Challenger could be heard: Challenger, go at throttle up. Immediately, Challenger was gone and you just knew instantly so were the crew.

In the evening President Reagan addressed the nation and became the mourner in chief, helping an entire nation deal with the grief. Speaking of the 7 men and women who gave their lives that day he said: "they slipped the surley bonds of earth and touched the face of God.

This too must be a day and an event in the history of America that we never forget.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

St. Thomas Aquinas; Doctor of the Church

St. Thomas Aquinas

Feastday: January 28

St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church, patron of all universities and of students. His feast day is January 28th. He was born toward the end of the year 1226. He was the son of Landulph, Count of Aquino, who, when St. Thomas was five years old, placed him under the care of the Benedictines of Monte Casino. His teachers were surprised at the progress he made, for he surpassed all his fellow pupils in learning as well as in the practice of virtue.

When he became of age to choose his state of life, St. Thomas renounced the things of this world and resolved to enter the Order of St. Dominic in spite of the opposition of his family. In 1243, at the age of seventeen, he joined the Dominicans of Naples. Some members of his family resorted to all manner of means over a two year period to break his constancy. They even went so far as to send an impure woman to tempt him. But all their efforts were in vain and St. Thomas persevered in his vocation. As a reward for his fidelity, God conferred upon him the gift of perfect chastity, which has merited for him the title of the "Angelic Doctor".

After making his profession at Naples, he studied at Cologne under the celebrated St. Albert the Great. Here he was nicknamed the "dumb ox" because of his silent ways and huge size, but he was really a brilliant student. At the age of twenty-two, he was appointed to teach in the same city. At the same time, he also began to publish his first works. After four years he was sent to Paris. The saint was then a priest. At the age of thirty-one, he received his doctorate.

At Paris he was honored with the friendship of the King, St. Louis, with whom he frequently dined. In 1261, Urban IV called him to Rome where he was appointed to teach, but he positively declined to accept any ecclesiastical dignity. St. Thomas not only wrote (his writings filled twenty hefty tomes characterized by brilliance of thought and lucidity of language), but he preached often and with greatest fruit. Clement IV offered him the archbishopric of Naples which he also refused. He left the great monument of his learning, the "Summa Theologica", unfinished, for on his way to the second Council of Lyons, ordered there by Gregory X, he fell sick and died at the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova in 1274.

St. Thomas was one of the greatest and most influential theologians of all time. He was canonized in 1323 and declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V.

Inspired by American Idol and unconditional love!

In the most unexpected ways and in the ordinary every day routine of our cycle of life we can be wowed or inspired. I must admit that a big fan of American Idol I am not. Used to be but over the years it just became ordinary. Then I was encouraged to watch these first few shows (usually on tape) because there was going to be a show from New Orleans. That was last week and it was really, really good. The contestants they featured were amazing and I saw the dynamic of the new judges; Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. Like them a lot!

I just watched the show from last night and the inspiring beautiful story of Chris Medina. Engaged to the love of his life, Chris and Juliana were just two months shy of the big day after waiting two years to say I do. This past October, Juliana was injured in a terrible accident that left her with brain damage and many side effects from the injury. Chris Medina is still madly in love with her. His story was revealed on this episode of Idol. What really resonates with me is Chris describing how he was ready to exchange vows with Juliana; for better or worse, in sickness or health. Even though these vows are still unspoken, they shout loudly from the example of who Chris is. He will not leave her side, he cares for her, he loves her and he sings for her. This is unconditional love; what we call from Scripture agape love; loving unconditionally expecting nothing in return. It is a beautiful love story.

This tape is from this weeks episode of Idol. It tells the story of Juliana's accident through Chris' perspective and his love for her. First of all, his performance is awesome. But watch the way the story of Chris and Juliana, and the opportunity to met her, affects the judges.

This is an amazingly inspiring story. And it helps restore faith in humanity. And it certainly explains that the what we do in life, in good times and challenging times, flows from who we are. I don't know Chris beyond this video. I feel pretty good about who he is and from his inspiration who I want to be. Watch, be amazed, thank God for the people you love and thank Him again for who you are:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

St. Angela Merici

St. Angela Merici

Feastday: January 27

When she was 56, Angela Merici said "No" to the Pope. She was aware that Clement VII was offering her a great honor and a great opportunity to serve when he asked her to take charge of a religious order of nursing sisters. But Angela knew that nursing was not what God had called her to do with her life.

She had just returned from a trip to the Holy Land. On the way there she had fallen ill and become blind. Nevertheless, she insisted on continuing her pilgrimage and toured the holy sites with the devotion of her heart rather than her eyes. On the way back she had recovered her sight. But this must have been a reminder to her not to shut her eyes to the needs she saw around her, not to shut her heart to God's call.

All around her hometown she saw poor girls with no education and no hope. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century that Angela lived in, education for women was for the rich or for nuns. Angela herself had learned everything on her own. Her parents had died when she was ten and she had gone to live with an uncle. She was deeply disturbed when her sister died without receiving the sacraments. A vision reassured her that her sister was safe in God's care -- and also prompted her to dedicate her life to God.

When her uncle died, she returned to her hometown and began to notice how little education the girls had. But who would teach them? Times were much different then. Women weren't allowed to be teachers and unmarried women were not supposed to go out by themselves -- even to serve others. Nuns were the best educated women but they weren't allowed to leave their cloisters. There were no teaching orders of sisters like we have today.

But in the meantime, these girls grew up without education in religion or anything at all.

These girls weren't being helped by the old ways, so Angela invented a new way. She brought together a group of unmarried women, fellow Franciscan tertiaries and other friends, who went out into the streets to gather up the girls they saw and teach them. These women had little money and no power, but were bound together by their dedication to education and commitment to Christ. Living in their own homes, they met for prayer and classes where Angela reminded them, " Reflect that in reality you have a greater need to serve [the poor] than they have of your service." They were so successful in their service that Angela was asked to bring her innovative approach to education to other cities, and impressed many people, including the pope.

Though she turned him down, perhaps the pope's request gave her the inspiration or the push to make her little group more formal. Although it was never a religious order in her lifetime, Angela's Company of Saint Ursula, or the Ursulines, was the first group of women religious to work outside the cloister and the first teaching order of women.

It took many years of frustration before Angela's radical ideas of education for all and unmarried women in service were accepted. They are commonplace to us now because people like Angela wanted to help others no matter what the cost. Angela reminds us of her approach to change: "Beware of trying to accomplish anything by force, for God has given every single person free will and desires to constrain none; he merely shows them the way, invites them and counsels them."

Saint Angela Merici reassured her Sisters who were afraid to lose her in death: "I shall continue to be more alive than I was in this life, and I shall see you better and shall love more the good deeds which I shall see you doing continually, and I shall be able to help you more." She died in 1540, at about seventy years old.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Saints Timothy & Titus; friends of St. Paul

St. Timothy

Feastday: January 26

Born at Lystra, Lycaenia, Timothy was the son of a Greek father and Eunice, a converted Jewess. He joined St. Paul when Paul preached at Lystra replacing Barnabas, and became Paul's close friend and confidant. Paul allowed him to be circumcised to placate the Jews, since he was the son of a Jewess, and he then accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey. When Paul was forced to flee Berea because of the enmity of the Jews there, Timothy remained, but after a time was sent to Thessalonica to report on the condition of the Christians there and to encourage them under persecution, a report that led to Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians when he joined Timothy at Corinth. Timothy and Erastus were sent to Macedonia in 58, went to Corinth to remind the Corinthians of Paul's teaching, and then accompanied Paul into Macedonia and Achaia. Timothy was probably with Paul when the Apostle was imprisoned at Caesarea and then Rome, and was himself imprisoned but then freed. According to tradition, he went to Ephesus, became its first bishop, and was stoned to death there when he opposed the pagan festival of Katagogian in honor of Diana. Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, one written about 65 from Macedonia and the second from Rome while he was in prison awaiting execution. His feast day is January 26.

St. Titus
Feastday: January 26

A disciple and companion of St. Paul to whom the great saint addressed one of his letters. Paul referred to Titus as "my true child in our common faith". Not mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, he was noted in Galatians where Paul writes of journeying to Jerusalem with Barnabas, accompanied by Titus. He was then dispatched to Corinth, Greece, where he successfully reconciled the Christian community there with Paul, its founder. Titus was later left on the island of Crete to help organize the Church, although he soon went to Dalmatia, Croatia. According to Eusebius of Caesarea in the Ecclesiastical Histor y, he served as the first bishop of Crete. He was buried in Cortyna (Gortyna), Crete; his head was later translated to Venice during the invasion of Crete by the Saracens in 832 and was enshrined in St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

St. Paul Feast Day: Conversion of St. Paul — January 25
Does it surprise you that a man who once wanted to put Christians to death became one of the Church’s greatest saints? That man is St. Paul.

Paul, who was named Saul, was born in Tarsus, in the country we now call Turkey. As a boy, he learned the family business—making and repairing tents—from his father. Saul’s family were faithful Jews. They prayed that God would soon keep his promise to send the Messiah. When Saul was a young man, he was sent to Jerusalem to study Jewish law.

When he returned home, Saul began to hear about a prophet named Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah. People said this man had risen from the dead and that he had worked miracles as a sign that he had been sent by God.

Saul began to persecute Jesus’ followers. He demanded that they give up their new faith. But no matter what he did, more and more people became followers of Christ. They even began to call themselves Christians!

Saul’s Conversion
Saul was traveling to Damascus where belief in Jesus had begun to grow. As he neared the city with his companions, he was struck by a light so bright that it blinded him. He heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

Saul asked, “Who are you, sir?”

The voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Go into the city and you will be told what to do.”

Saul’s friends took him to a house in the city. After three days, one of Jesus’ disciples came to visit him. The man said that Jesus wanted Saul to believe in him and to be baptized. He laid his hands on Saul and baptized him. Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit and regained his sight. He began to teach about Jesus, telling everyone that Jesus was the Son of God and that they, too, should believe in him. People began to call him “Paul” as a sign of the new life he had received from Christ.

St. Paul’s change of heart is called his conversion. We celebrate this great event each year on January 25.

Paul the Missionary
Paul traveled to many different countries to teach others about Jesus. He shared the Good News about Jesus with Jews and Gentiles, people who were not Jewish. He became known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. He never forgot about the Church communities he founded all over the world. He prayed for them constantly and wrote them letters. He even wrote letters from jail after he was arrested for preaching about Jesus In his letters he urged the new Christians to stay strong in their faith and reminded them how Jesus wanted them to live.

We still read Paul’s letters, which we call Epistles, today. They are found in the New Testament. They are often read at Mass. They continue to guide us in living as followers of Jesus.

Two Great Leaders
Together, St. Paul and St. Peter, the Apostle Jesus chose to lead his Church after he returned to his Father in heaven, were so important to the growth of our Church that we honor them with a joint feast day on June 29th. They both died as martyrs for their belief in Christ.

The Church has one more celebration each year to honor these spiritual brothers. It is called the Dedication of the Basilicas of the Apostles Peter and Paul in Rome. A basilica is a great church dedicated to the memory of an important person or event. Tradition tells us that the basilicas honoring St. Peter and St. Paul were originally built over the places where they were martyred. This double feast is celebrated on November 18.

Remembering St. Paul
In one of the last letters, St. Paul compared his ministry to the sacrifices a successful athlete makes. He wrote: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

St. Paul was an ambassador for Christ, the Lord’s representative for people who had not yet heard the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection and God’s loving plan to save all people. You, too, are called to carry on Christ’s work in the world today as St. Paul did. You can best share your faith with others by living as a follower of Jesus. Your example can lead others to Christ.

Pro Life advocacy from the USCCB

USCCB News Release

January 24, 2011

Bishops Support Three Bills to Strengthen Protections for Life and Conscience

WASHINGTON (January 24, 2011)—Three bills currently in the U.S. House of Representatives would help ensure that adequate protections are in place for the consciences of taxpayers and health care providers and against federal funding of abortion. In three letters, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), urged House members to support the bills.

The Protect Life Act, H.R. 358, Cardinal DiNardo wrote in a January 20 letter, would address flaws in the new health care reform law and bring it “into line with policies on abortion and conscience rights that have long prevailed in other federal health programs.” It would do so by preventing funds under the new law from subsidizing abortion or health care plans that cover abortion, protecting the consciences of health care providers who decline to participate in an abortion, and ensuring that the law doesn’t override state laws on abortion and conscience.

The full text of Cardinal DiNardo’s letter on the Protect Life Act is at:

In a second letter January 20, Cardinal DiNardo urged support for the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA), H.R. 361, which will codify into law the longstanding policy of the Hyde/Weldon amendment and give health care entities that do not provide abortions legal recourse when faced with government-sponsored discrimination. The Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services would be designated to investigate complaints.

“Passage of ANDA is urgently needed to protect the civil rights of health professionals and other health care entities,” the cardinal wrote. “This bill reaffirms a basic principle: No health care entity should be forced by government to perform or participate in abortions.”

Full text of the ANDA letter is at:

In a January 21 letter, Cardinal DiNardo also voiced his support for the bipartisan No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, H.R. 3, which would “write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years: The federal government should not use taxpayers’ money to support and promote elective abortion.” The cardinal wrote, “Even public officials who take a ‘pro-choice’ stand on abortion, and courts that have insisted on the validity of a constitutional ‘right’ to abortion, have agreed that the government can validly use its funding power to encourage childbirth over abortion.”

Cardinal DiNardo noted that this agreement is so longstanding that, during the recent health care debate, many assumed it was already in place at all levels of the federal government, when in fact the Hyde amendment is only a rider to the annual Labor/HHS appropriations bill and only governs funds under that act.

The cardinal noted, “The benefit of H.R. 3 is that it would prevent problems and confusions on abortion funding in future legislation. Federal health bills could be debated in terms of their ability to promote the goal of universal health care, instead of being mired in debates about one lethal procedure that most Americans know is not truly ‘health care’ at all.”

The letter on H.R. 3 is available online at:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

St. Francis de Sales; spiritual father to St. Jane de Chantal

St. Francis de Sales
Feastday: January 24
Patron Saint of Journalists, Writers
b: 1567 d: 1622

Born in France in 1567, Francis was a patient man. He knew for thirteen years that he had a vocation to the priesthood before he mentioned it to his family. When his father said that he wanted Francis to be a soldier and sent him to Paris to study, Francis said nothing. Then when he went to Padua to get a doctorate in law, he still kept quiet, but he studied theology and practiced mental prayer while getting into swordfights and going to parties. Even when his bishop told him if he wanted to be a priest that he thought that he would have a miter waiting for him someday, Francis uttered not a word. Why did Francis wait so long? Throughout his life he waited for God's will to be clear. He never wanted to push his wishes on God, to the point where most of us would have been afraid that God would give up!

God finally made God's will clear to Francis while he was riding. Francis fell from his horse three times. Every time he fell the sword came out of the scabbard. Every time it came out the sword and scabbard came to rest on the ground in the shape of the cross. And then, Francis, without knowing about it, was appointed provost of his diocese, second in rank to the bishop.

Perhaps he was wise to wait, for he wasn't a natural pastor. His biggest concern on being ordained that he had to have his lovely curly gold hair cut off. And his preaching left the listeners thinking he was making fun of him. Others reported to the bishop that this noble-turned- priest was conceited and controlling.

Then Francis had a bad idea -- at least that's what everyone else thought. This was during the time of the Protestant reformation and just over the mountains from where Francis lived was Switzerland -- Calvinist territory. Francis decided that he should lead an expedition to convert the 60,000 Calvinists back to Catholicism. But by the time he left his expedition consisted of himself and his cousin. His father refused to give him any aid for this crazy plan and the diocese was too poor to support him.

For three years, he trudged through the countryside, had doors slammed in his face and rocks thrown at him. In the bitter winters, his feet froze so badly they bled as he tramped through the snow. He slept in haylofts if he could, but once he slept in a tree to avoid wolves. He tied himself to a branch to keep from falling out and was so frozen the next morning he had to be cut down. And after three years, his cousin had left him alone and he had not made one convert.

Francis' unusual patience kept him working. No one would listen to him, no one would even open their door. So Francis found a way to get under the door. He wrote out his sermons, copied them by hand, and slipped them under the doors. This is the first record we have of religious tracts being used to communicate with people.

The parents wouldn't come to him out of fear. So Francis went to the children. When the parents saw how kind he was as he played with the children, they began to talk to him.

By the time, Francis left to go home he is said to have converted 40,000 people back to Catholicism.

In 1602 he was made bishop of the diocese of Geneva, in Calvinist territory. He only set foot in the city of Geneva twice -- once when the Pope sent him to try to convert Calvin's successor, Beza, and another when he traveled through it.

It was in 1604 that Francis took one of the most important steps in his life, the step toward holiness and mystical union with God.

In Dijon that year Francis saw a widow listening closely to his sermon -- a woman he had seen already in a dream. Jane de Chantal was a person on her own, as Francis was, but it was only when they became friends that they began to become saints. Jane wanted him to take over her spiritual direction, but, not surprisingly, Francis wanted to wait. "I had to know fully what God himself wanted. I had to be sure that everything in this should be done as though his hand had done it." Jane was on a path to mystical union with God and, in directing her, Francis was compelled to follow her and become a mystic himself.

Three years after working with Jane, he finally made up his mind to form a new religious order. But where would they get a convent for their contemplative Visitation nuns? A man came to Francis without knowing of his plans and told him he was thinking of donating a place for use by pious women. In his typical way of not pushing God, Francis said nothing. When the man brought it up again, Francis still kept quiet, telling Jane, "God will be with us if he approves." Finally the man offered Francis the convent.

Francis was overworked and often ill because of his constant load of preaching, visiting, and instruction -- even catechizing a deaf man so he could take first Communion. He believed the first duty of a bishop was spiritual direction and wrote to Jane, "So many have come to me that I might serve them, leaving me no time to think of myself. However, I assure you that I do feel deep-down- within-me, God be praised. For the truth is that this kind of work is infinitely profitable to me." For him active work did not weaken his spiritual inner peace but strengthened it. He directed most people through letters, which tested his remarkable patience. "I have more than fifty letters to answer. If I tried to hurry over it all, i would be lost. So I intend neither to hurry or to worry. This evening, I shall answer as many as I can. Tomorrow I shall do the same and so I shall go on until I have finished."

At that time, the way of holiness was only for monks and nuns -- not for ordinary people. Francis changed all that by giving spiritual direction to lay people living ordinary lives in the world. But he had proven with his own life that people could grow in holiness while involved in a very active occupation. Why couldn't others do the same? His most famous book, INTRODUCTION TO THE DEVOUT LIFE, was written for these ordinary people in 1608. Written originally as letters, it became an instant success all over Europe -- though some preachers tore it up because he tolerated dancing and jokes!

For Francis, the love of God was like romantic love. He said, "The thoughts of those moved by natural human love are almost completely fastened on the beloved, their hearts are filled with passion for it, and their mouths full of its praises. When it is gone they express their feelings in letters, and can't pass by a tree without carving the name of their beloved in its bark. Thus too those who love God can never stop thinking about him, longing for him, aspiring to him, and speaking about him. If they could, they would engrave the name of Jesus on the hearts of all humankind."

The key to love of God was prayer. "By turning your eyes on God in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with God. Begin all your prayers in the presence of God."

For busy people of the world, he advised "Retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart, even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others and talk to God."

The test of prayer was a person's actions: "To be an angel in prayer and a beast in one's relations with people is to go lame on both legs."

He believed the worst sin was to judge someone or to gossip about them. Even if we say we do it out of love we're still doing it to look better ourselves. But we should be as gentle and forgiving with ourselves as we should be with others.

As he became older and more ill he said, "I have to drive myself but the more I try the slower I go." He wanted to be a hermit but he was more in demand than ever. The Pope needed him, then a princess, then Louis XIII. "Now I really feel that I am only attached to the earth by one foot..." He died on December 28, 1622, after giving a nun his last word of advice: "Humility."

He is patron saint of journalists because of the tracts and books he wrote.

Pro-Life Louisiana

Yesterday was the 1st Louisiana March for Life held in Baton Rouge. From all accounts, it was an overwhelming success. Most estimates put the initial March crowd at some 5,000. The March covered a predominately downtown route from the old state capitol to the current capitol building.

Many good people of various faith traditions, including a large contingent of Catholics, marched and prayed and then gathered to hear great speakers. Among them was the Bishop of Baton Rouge, Robert Muench.

There was a very large group of Catholics who traveled to Baton Rouge from New Orleans. Young people from the local Catholic high schools, many New Orleanian Knights of Columbus and still more from Archdiocese of New Orleans parishes were in the crowd. And here is an amazing fact: no local coverage about the march in the media. I've scanned several possibilities and can only find one story from the Baton Rouge newspaper. And even that story tried to take a sympathetic position on the 20 or so pro-choice counter protestors. What disturbs me is that not one New Orleans news outlet report on this historic event.

The march serves as a public witness to our unending committment to make Louisiana a pro-life state, which it is in many, many ways. And being the first year for the march a solid foundation has been laid. Hopefully, many good people of faith will build solidly upon this foundation.

Tonight many more thousands have gathered in Washington, D.C. and are now finishing up the Pro-Life Mass from the Basilica. Again, the crowd that has descended on Washington is overwhelming and the Mass is standing room only. These strong positive signs and trends should give us all hope that we continue to make stides to offset this 38 year holocaust and outright assault on human life.

Pope speaks of marriage preparation

Pope: Marriage is not an absolute right

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI told priests Saturday to do a better job counseling would-be spouses to ensure their marriages last and said no one has an absolute right to a wedding.

Benedict made the comments in his annual speech to the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal that decides marriage annulments. An annulment is the process by which the church effectively declares that a marriage never took place.

Benedict acknowledged that the problems that would allow for a marriage to be annulled cannot always be identified beforehand. But he said better pre-marriage counseling, which the Catholic Church requires of the faithful, could help avoid a "vicious circle" of invalid marriages.

He said the right to a church wedding requires that the bride and groom intend to celebrate and live the marriage truthfully and authentically.

"No one can make a claim to the right to a nuptial ceremony," he said.

Benedict has used his annual speech to the Rota to impress on its members the indissolubility of marriage and that they should avoid the temptation of granting annulments on a whim. Last year, he urged the tribunal to work harder to encourage couples to stay together and not confuse "pastoral charity" with the need to uphold church law.

On Saturday, Benedict said priests had an important pastoral job to discern whether would-be spouses are prepared and able to enter into a valid marriage.

"The church and society at large place too much importance on the good of marriage and the family founded on it to not make a profound commitment to it pastorally," Benedict said.

The Vatican's concern about marriage annulments is largely directed at the United States, which in 2006 had more annulment cases launched than the rest of the world combined.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Saint you don't hear about everyday

St. Ildephonsus
Feastday: January 23

St. Ildephonsus is highly regarded in Spain and closely associated with devotion to the Blessed Virgin which he fostered by his famous work concerning her perpetual virginity. Born around 607, Ildephonsus came from a noble family and was probably a pupil of St. Isidore of Seville. While still quite young, he entered the Benedictine monastery of Agalia near Toledo and went on to become its Abbot. In that capacity he attended the Councils of Toledo in 653 and 655.

In 657 the clergy and people elected this holy man to succeed his uncle, St. Eugenius, as Archbishop of Toledo. He performed his episcopal duties with diligence and sanctity until his death in 667. This saint was a favorite subject for medieval artists, especially in connection with the legend of Our Lady's appearance to present him with a chalice. St. Ildephonsus was a prolific writer, but unfortunately only four of his works have survived. Among these are the one already mentioned and an important document of the history of the Spanish Church during the first two-thirds of the seventh century, entitled Concerning Famous Men.

38th anniversary of Roe v Wade

Today is the 38th anniversary of Roe v Wade; the horrific decision of the U.S. Supreme Court making legal the killing of innocent life in the womb. In just our country alone during these 38 years it is estimated that between 40 and 50 million babies have been slaughtered. Abortions certainly did not begin in 1973 but they have been government sanctioned since that time. It is a statement of fact that America is a nation that authorizes the murder of innocent life.

Pro life efforts have made differences in both awareness and literally saving life. One by one victories are claimed by prayer warriors, side walk counselors, Crisis Pregnancy Centers, many faith based programs including dozens promoted and supported by the Catholic Church. Efforts by Knights of Columbus councils to purchase high tech ultrasound machines have saved lives.

Today in my home state of Louisiana a pro-life march took place in Baton Rouge. Many took place in dozens of states. Monday will bring about another national pro-life march in Washington D.C. These are great witnesses to the pro-life cause.

To demonstrate the battle that the pro-life movement faces read this little blurb from AP on how President Barack Obama marked this anniversary:

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama is marking the 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on abortion by calling the procedure a constitutional right he’s committed to protecting.

Obama also said in a statement Saturday that he remains committed to policies designed to prevent unintended pregnancies. And he called on Americans to recommit themselves to ensuring that, in the president’s words, “our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.”

Obama said the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion affirmed what he called a “fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.”

We indeed have a long tough battle. The law, which clearly kills life, has the full throated support of the President, hundreds of other prominent politicians and even some Christian faith traditions who have grown weary and now agree to go along to get along.

We need to continue to pray, to work and to support pro-life efforts.

It is a fight worth waging.

May God have mercy on those who continue to promote a culture of death and help us to change hearts and minds one life at a time.

A week of amazing blessings

Every day, every week is a great gift from God. This past week was an amazing example of being acutely aware of His presence and His hand in everything. At the risk of sounding overwhelmed by being too busy, this week affirms for me the mantra of my homily last week: it's not what you do but who you are! Since from the who we are flows what we do, consider the many graced moments, some unique, some rather simple, that I was able to experience in just one week.

Sunday began weekend 2 at my new parish Most Holy Trinity. I assisted at three Masses that day, preaching at all three. The opportunity to preach on the Gospel of John and John the Baptist's declaration of Jesus as Lamb of God was one that helped me affirm the diaconate refrain of "being" to explain "doing". I also was able to sit with our confirmation students as they listened to three riveting testimonies about living pro-life. Very inspirational. And the very special event last Sunday was my final "see you later" at St. Jane's as friends and parishioners joined clergy and staff in wishing me well as I complete my ministry at St. Jane's. Now that is just Sunday.

Monday dawned and it was a day off thanks to our celebration of Martin Luther King Day. I spent some time that morning reflecting on this important day and listening to some programming on the holiday and our nations journey in improving race relations. At lunch time I was able to join one of the deacon candidates that I mentor, Andy, for lunch. As I recall my own formation, where my mentor helped me tremendously, I am hopeful that I can be a positive influence on those I mentor. Andy and I enjoyed a great lunch and more importantly, great conversation centered on Andy's journey in diakonia. That afternoon, just one day after leaving St. Jane's in formal ministry, I simply stopped by the Abita church and prayed. Peaceful!

Tuesday was an entire different set of circumstances. One of our older and dearer parishioners, Mr. Warren, passed away and Tuesday was his funeral at St. Jane's. Mr. Warren was a fixture at church, a true faithful and prudent servant. He was a Marine and a former seminarian. He lived most of his life as a bachelor until later in life he married his soulmate, Ms. Yolanda, who passed away some five years ago. Mr. Warren was a wonderful living example of preaching the Gospel always, by his word and his deeds. After we said farewell, I joined a few parishioners for coffee before heading off to work. The evening brought a pleasant invitation to dine with one of my deacon classmates, Paul, and his family before we headed off to class. Several of us are taking a class in Tribunal training this spring. Dinner at Paul's was delicious but more importantly it was a great opportunity to catch up with a great classmate who has valiantly fought a winning battle with a recent health setback. He remains always in my prayers.

On Wednesday it was lunch with the Archbishop at a deanery meeting. He was gracious with his time and sharing as he informed the priests and deacons from our area with the latest information from the Archdiocese. As a deacon, it is important to spend time with the Archbishop, as we are configured to service through him. It was a great afternoon. Then in the evening, our three month experiment in diaconate community building continued as all the deacons, wives and candidates from our deanery gathered for evening prayer and food and fellowhip. Three for three; it was a rousing success.

Tonight brought a first time experience for my wife and I. We agreed to be part of the interview team so Wendy and I drove to New Orleans to interview an applicant couple, and get to know them. It is always a humbling and affirming experience when men, guided by their faith, consider the possibility of a call to the vocation of deacon.

Along the way this week are the everyday moments that seem so ordinary but are always extraordinary. Every day I help clients at work and some experiences are awesome experiences. I had several of those in the week that was. I took time to enjoy the friendship of one of my best friends this week. I got to know a new co-worker. I visited with a homeless man on the corner. I talked to my daughter on the phone; full of excitement at her new adventure of being a student-teacher in a big time high school. And I both missed my wife dearly when she spent a night out of town, and thrived in her company when she returned.

And in praying my morning and evening prayers, in reflecting on the lives of all those who have asked me to pray for them, in the simple encounters with all the children of God that He placed in front of me this week, in my own who I am which results in what I do, I was made aware of His amazing presence in my life and His amazing blessings and graces He showers on me.

My prayer for all of us in the week ahead: may we be more fully aware of His presence in our lives and make us present to be available to all those He calls us to love and serve. Amen.

Another Deacon Saint

St. Vincent the Deacon

Feastday: January 22


Deacon and martyr. Born at Huesca, Spain, he became a deacon and served St, Valerius at Saragossa until their martyrdom at Valencia during the persecutions under Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305). St. Valerius was exiled, but Vincent was cruelly tortured because he would not surrender the holy books. He converted the warden of the prison and then died. He was honored by Sts. Augustine, Pope Leo I, and Prudentius, and is considered the patron saint of vinedressers in some regions of Spain.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

St. Agnes; virgin & martyr

St. Agnes

Feastday: January 21
Patron of the Children of Mary

St. Agnes was a Roman girl who was only thirteen years old when she suffered martyrdom for her Faith. Agnes had made a promise, a promise to God never to stain her purity. Her love for the Lord was very great and she hated sin even more than death! Since she was very beautiful, many young men wished to marry Agnes, but she would always say, "Jesus Christ is my only Spouse."

Procop, the Governor's son, became very angry when she refused him. He had tried to win her for his wife with rich gifts and promises, but the beautiful young girl kept saying, "I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me!" In great anger, Procop accused her of being a Christian and brought her to his father, the Governor. The Governor promised Agnes wonderful gifts if she would only deny God, but Agnes refused. He tried to change her mind by putting her in chains, but her lovely face shone with joy. Next he sent her to a place of sin, but an Angel protected her. At last, she was condemned to death. Even the pagans cried to see such a young and beautiful girl going to death. Yet, Agnes was as happy as a bride on her wedding day. She did not pay attention to those who begged her to save herself. "I would offend my Spouse," she said, "if I were to try to please you. He chose me first and He shall have me!" Then she prayed and bowed her head for the death-stroke of the sword.

JFK: 50 years ago today

>>>Amazing; 50 years ago today, the inauguration of JFK, the nations only Catholic President. And as a Democrat he was largely pro-life and somewhat conservative on taxes. His life was both idyllic and tragic. How ironic that the death of his very Catholic brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, was during this anniversary week. And we also recall that Kennedy was counseled by our own Archbishop Hannan.

Thanks to the blog Whispers in the Loggia for this poignant reminder:

“We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom -- symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning -- signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe -- the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans -- born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world....

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge -- and more....

United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do -- for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder....

So let us begin anew -- remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us....

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah -- to "undo the heavy burdens, and [to] let the oppressed go free."

And, if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor -- not a new balance of power, but a new world of law -- where the strong are just, and the weak secure, and the peace preserved....

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again -- not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need -- not as a call to battle, though embattled we are -- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation," a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself....

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”
--John F. Kennedy
35th President of the United States
Inaugural Address
20 January 1961

St. Fabian; an early Pope

St. Fabian
Feastday: January 20

Eusebius, born just a few years after Fabian's death, tells us how Fabian came to Rome after Pope Anteros died in 236. A layperson, and not a very important one, he may have come for the same reason many still come to Rome today during a papal election: concern for the future of the faith, curiosity about the new pope, a desire to grieve for the pope who had passed. Seeing all the important people gathered to make this momentous decision must have been overwhelming. Which one would be the new pope? Someone known for power? Someone known for eloquence? Someone known for courage?

Suddenly during the discussion, a dove descended from the ceiling. But it didn't settle on "someone known" for anything at all. The dove, according to Eusebius, "settled on [Fabian's] head as clear imitation of the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove upon the Savior." There must have been something of the Holy Spirit working because everyone suddenly proclaimed Fabian as "worthy" to be pope and this stranger was elected.

To us the dove signifies peace, and this dove was prophetic. Starting close to Fabian's election, the suffering and persecuted Church began a time of peace. The emperor, Philip, was friendly to Christians and not only was the persecution stopped but Christians experienced acceptance.

In this era of peace, Fabian was able to build up the structure of the Church of Rome, appointing seven deacons and helping to collect the acts of the martyrs.

But, in a timeless story, the people who had always been in power were not happy to see the newcomers growing and thriving. There were many incidents of pagans attacking Christians and when Philip died so died the time of peace. The new emperor, Decius, ordered all Christians to deny Christ by offering incense to idols or through some other pagan ritual.

In the few years of peace, the Church had grown soft. Many didn't have the courage to stand up to martyrdom. But Fabian, singled out by symbol of peace, stood as a courageous example for everyone in his flock. He died a martyr in 250 and is buried in the Cemetery of Calixtus that he helped rebuild and beautify. A stone slab with his name can still be found there.

In His Footsteps:
Pray for all places where the Church suffers persecution and for all who face death, danger, or isolation for their faith. But pray especially for all who live where the Church is accepted and thrives in peace that this peace will not make their faith flabby and weak.

Pope Saint Fabian, it's so easy to believe that peace means a life without conflict or suffering. Help us to see that the only true peace is the peace Christ brings. Never let us as a Church or as individual Christians choose to deny our beliefs simply to avoid an unpleasant situation. Amen

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Interesting development re: EWTN

EWTN to acquire National Catholic Register
Birmingham, Ala., Jan 19, 2011 /

The Eternal Word Television Network has announced plans to acquire one of the most prominent Catholic publications in the United States, the National Catholic Register.

“The Register is a perfect addition to our teaching apostolate,” said EWTN's President and CEO Michael Warsaw as he made the move public. “I am very pleased and excited that the Register will now be a part of the EWTN family.”

The change in ownership was announced in Birmingham, Ala. on the morning of Jan. 19, and will be finalized at the end of January.

EWTN has signed a letter of intent to acquire the publication from its current owners, the Legion of Christ. Under the terms of the agreement, no cash will be exchanged. EWTN will take over the ongoing operational expenses of the Register and will assume its future subscription liabilities effective on February 1st.

Warsaw said that EWTN intends to continue the Register's tradition of providing “faithful Catholic reporting on the issues of the day,” while also expanding the publication's reach. “It's a tremendous legacy that deserves not only to be preserved, but also to grow and to flourish,” he stated.

The Register began publication in Denver, Colorado in 1905 and published its first national edition in November of 1927. During the 1950s, it reached a million readers across the country. A California businessman, Patrick Frawley, purchased the paper in 1970 and moved it to Los Angeles, where it was published until 1995.

During that year, the Legionaries of Christ religious order took over the Register, moving its headquarters to Connecticut and expanding its online presence. However, recent trends in the publishing world, coupled with fallout within the Legion after disclosures that their founder Fr. Marcel Maciel led a double life, made it impossible for the order to continue publishing the paper.

“As an apostolate that is focused on using the media to evangelize, we immediately saw how the Register could fit into what we do,” Michael Warsaw explained to EWTN News. “I believe the Register has a bright future and fits quite well under the EWTN umbrella.”

He described the Register as a “publication of record” for news and analysis, and assured readers that they would continue to see “the same commitment to accurate and faithful Catholic reporting” that has distinguished the publication for decades.

“Over time, we intend to continue the Register's digital transition plans, and to integrate it more fully with EWTN's global presence on the Internet.” That presence has expanded in recent years to include the Network’s partnership with Catholic News Agency, as well as its new Spanish-language service “EWTN Noticias.”

As the world's largest religious media network, EWTN has long sought to integrate world news and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Warsaw noted that it was the network's founder, Mother Angelica, who insisted that news services were a vital part of EWTN's apostolate.

He promised that in its acquisition of the Register, as in all its undertakings, EWTN would “look to the Holy Spirit to guide us,” to make the best use of a “tremendous tool for evangelization.”

Jesus with us

This morning as I sat down and prayed morning prayer I came across this prayer in the intentions: Jesus remain with us throughout the day. This immediately struck me this morning in a new way as I have prayed this intention before in the normal cycle of following the prescribed prayers of the church for both morning and evening prayers.

But recently, on a retreat led by Archbishop Hughes, he suggested when praying daily prayer, stop and meditate on something that resonates. And today this intention did just that.

While I certainly understand the intent of that individual prayer I thought about how we could pray that intention differently. In reality, Jesus does stay with us throughout the day. Like Sunday's Gospel when Jesus is coming toward John the Baptist, He is always coming to us. And I believe he dwells with us, always.

Perhaps we should pray for the grace and awareness of His presence with us throughout our day. In fact it is most likely that when we trudge along with the normalness of our everyday existence it is us that forgets or losses focus on Jesus' presence with us today, and everyday and every minute of everyday.

May our prayer then be; Lord Jesus, help us to be more keenly aware that you are with me throughout this day and everyday. Thank you for the gift of your presence!

Devout Catholic and Kennedy in-law passes away

>>>The famous Kennedy clan in-law remained a devout Catholic all his life; a daily communicant and what must have been a huge distraction at a Kennedy family gathering, he remained pro-life. In fact, since he became the 1972 VP running mate with George McGovern he has the distinction of being the last pro-life Democrat on a national ticket. That alone speaks volumes. But his life was rich as you will read here:

Sargent Shriver is dead at age 95(CNN)

R. Sargent Shriver, who was responsible for launching the U.S. Peace Corps after marrying into the Kennedy family and joining John F. Kennedy's White House, has died, according to his family.

Shriver, whose full name was Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., was 95. He had suffered for years from Alzheimer's disease.

The family released a statement, saying Shriver died Tuesday "surrounded by his five children, five children in-law, and his 19 grandchildren."

"He lived to make the world a more joyful, faithful, and compassionate place," the family's statement said. "He worked on stages both large and small but in the end, he will be best known for his love of others. No one ever came into his presence without feeling his passion and his enthusiasm for them."

President Barack Obama said he was "deeply saddened" over the death of Shriver, whom he called "one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation."

"Of his many enduring contributions, he will perhaps best be remembered as the founding director of the Peace Corps, helping make it possible for generations of Americans to serve as ambassadors of goodwill abroad," Obama said. "His loss will be felt in all of the communities around the world that have been touched by Peace Corps volunteers over the past half century and all of the lives that have been made better by his efforts to address inequality and injustice here at home."

After overseeing the Peace Corps launch in the early 1960s, Shriver went on to serve subsequent presidential administrations and kept up his activism throughout his life, becoming a chief architect of President Lyndon B. Johnson's war on poverty and later heading the Special Olympics, which was founded by his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Shriver's entree into the Kennedy family was Joseph P. Kennedy, the family patriarch, who hired him to run a business venture in Chicago. According to the Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, the work led to an introduction to Eunice Kennedy, whose siblings included JFK, Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy.

2009: 'The Alzheimer's Project' RELATED TOPICS
Sargent Shriver
Eunice Kennedy Shriver
John F. Kennedy
Peace Corps
Special Olympics
Shriver and Eunice Kennedy married in 1953.

Shriver served as JFK's Midwest campaign manager for his 1960 presidential bid before heading the Peace Corps' launch, which was seen as part of a new approach to the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

"He told me that everyone in Washington seemed to think that the Peace Corps was going to be the biggest fiasco in history," Shriver told Time magazine in 1963 of Kennedy's request that he head the program, "and it would be much easier to fire a relative than a friend."

In 2011, the Peace Corps is celebrating its 50th anniversary. More than 200,000 volunteers have served in 139 counties on issues ranging from education to public health to environmental preservation through the program, according to the Peace Corps' website.

The Peace Corps Tuesday mourned the loss "of our founder, friend and guiding light."

The Special Olympics, in a statement, said Shriver was an "advocate for the poor and powerless, and he compiled an unparalleled record of public service at every tier, from the local level to the world community."

After John F. Kennedy, his brother-in-law, was assassinated in 1963, Shriver was tapped by Johnson to launch the White House Office of Economic Opportunity, which comprised a handful of anti-poverty programs.

In a series of maneuvers that spoke to Shriver's penchant for working across the political aisle, he served as Republican President Richard Nixon's ambassador to France before becoming Democrat George McGovern's running mate in 1972, as the two unsuccessfully tried to unseat Nixon.

McGovern named Shriver as his running mate after his first choice, Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri, stepped down after revealing he'd had psychiatric treatment that included electroshock therapy.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Shriver served as chairman of the board of Special Olympics International, which Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded in 1968. The organization sponsors sports training and events around the world for people with intellectual disabilities.

Shriver, who was born in Westminster, Maryland, in 1915 and who graduated from Yale, also was long active in the Roman Catholic Church.

President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver died in 2009.

The Shrivers had five children including Maria Shriver, the media personality and former first lady of California; and Timothy P. Shriver, who now heads Special Olympics International.

Maria Shriver's husband, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said his father-in-law's life "is a blueprint for those of us who aspire to place the needs of others above our own."

Monday, January 17, 2011

An explanation of "abitadeacon"

With the recent move to a new parish in Covington, La someone asked me if I was going to keep my internet monicker. At my farewell party yesterday, rather tongue-in-cheek style, my pastor suggested some new nicknames. Since my new parish is meeting and worshipping in an old retail space that once sold tropical fish maybe I could try Holy Mackerel Deacon. And because I minister in prison he also suggested inmate deacon.

Then one of my Deacon brothers on the internet mentioned recently that he often wondered about the origin of the name.

When I was ordained in 2008 one of my goals was to keep my family and friends apprised of the ministry entrusted to me. I found this fulfilling but a little tedious. Someone suggested I try blogging. Not being a computer genius I thought this would never happen. Then one cold and uneventful weekend in February, just two months after ordination, I sat down with the computer and gave it a shot.

Much to my surprise, it looked manageable. I was prompted to name the blog so I kept coming up with bunches of ideas, none of which my wife liked. She suggested abitadeacon. We live in Abita Springs, La. and everyone shortens it to Abita. And my home parish, which also was my first assignment, St. Jane's, is in the heart of Abita Springs. But not wanting to be too pretentious I was concerned about the name because as the new Deacon at St. Jane's I was number 4. Yep, when I came along we had 4 permanent deacons.

Over here on the Northshore of New Orleans, towns run together. So even though I live 10 miles from the church my mailing address is Abita Springs,zip code 70420. So I pulled out the phone book and my 3 predecessors all lived elsewhere; even though two are much closer to the church than yours truly. One has a Mandeville address, zip code 70471; another Covington, zip code 70433 and one in Bogalusa, zip code 70427. It seemed good to me to claim the name abitadeacon!

And now that I've moved it still seems fitting to be known as "abitadeacon".

Beating up on Deacons; no big deal

So much on the blogs this past weekend concerning Permanent Deacons. One topic that has been ignited on many blogs regards the issue of celibacy and continence of the Permanent Deacon. So some canon law professor reads the Code and posits that even Permanent Deacons must be celibate, at least continent. In other words, stop having sex. Well, that's news to me and I guess my wife too. But as a good husband I plan to spare her the details of this debate. Breaking news: I was married for 31 years on the day the Church ordained me; I was already very much not celibate. Moot point. As the information I provide below indicates, as a Permanent Deacon I indeed must follow conditional celibacy. If my wife would die before I do, Deacon Mike won't be getting remarried. Now I realize, glancing way into the future I trust, that this will disappoint many an eligible lady. I indeed understand this discipline and will be faithful to it provided this circumstance ever occurs. How can we, as a Church, look at the married Permanent Diaconate, and all of a sudden say no sex. As a Church do we not teach the sacredness and gift of sex, within marriage, open to procreation? Are not all 7 sacraments valid? Before I received the Sacraments of Holy Orders(and yes, Permanent Deacons do receive Holy Orders) I received the Sacrament of Marriage.

And amazingly, there is enough background on the reason the Code reads as it does relative to Canon 277 and then we can't forget to look at Canon 1042.

So until my letter arrives in the mail, me and the Mrs. will be acting like me and the Mrs.

Now tonight there is a little blub circulating out there about Deacons are not really called to charity or service. Now that we have the restoration of the Permanent Deacon approaching 43 years I guess some good natured folk just can't leave well enough alone. One of the arguments is that the Deacon is ordained to be of service to the Bishop. Duh. No kidding. And so my Bishop has assigned me to work with men in prison. Is this not service. Others that I know are sent by the Bishop to the foodbank, homeless shelter, hospital, nursing home, rehab programs, juvenile facilities. This is service. The Permanent Deacon indeed serves a parish too, and he may do many things. We preach, we assist at the altar at Mass, we Baptize (those under the age of 7), we witness marriages and we can do wake services. But we may also work with the youth group, the St. Vincent de Paul group or other function of service. I truly believe that my ability to preach effectively on Sunday flows from my service Monday thru Saturday. And most importantly, and as repeated below, it's not what we do it is who we are.

And we must remember that by the grace of ordination we are sealed with an indelible character; as a Permanent Deacon, the Church says that I serve as Christ the Servant; not in the same way as the Priest serves in the "person" of Christ; as in confession, at Mass, annointing the sick, baptizing adults, etc.

When it comes to the Permanent Deacon; to my many "more Catholic than the Pope" crowd, or those who wish to deny traditions that in fact date to apostolic, not medieval times, follow the words in the Gospel of St. John: be not afraid.

Please read the following straight from the USCCB and that which is in bold is my emphasis:

Frequently Asked Questions About Deacons

Who is a Deacon?

A deacon is an ordained minister of the Catholic Church. There are three groups, or "orders," of ordained ministers in the Church: bishops, presbyters and deacons. Deacons are ordained as a sacramental sign to the Church and to the world of Christ, who came "to serve and not to be served." The entire Church is called by Christ to serve, and the deacon, in virtue of his sacramental ordination and through his various ministries, is to be a servant in a servant-Church.

What are these "various ministries" of the Deacon?

All ordained ministers in the Church are called to functions of Word, Sacrament, and Charity, but bishops, presbyters and deacons exercise these functions in various ways. As ministers of Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of Sacrament, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services As ministers of Charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshalling the Church's resources to meet those needs. Deacons are also dedicated to eliminating the injustices or inequities that cause such needs. But no matter what specific functions a deacon performs, they flow from his sacramental identity. In other words, it is not only WHAT a deacon does, but WHO a deacon is, that is important.

Why do some deacons become priests?

For many years ordained ministers "ascended" from one office to another, culminating in ordination to the presbyterate, or priesthood. The Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965), however, authorized the restoration of the diaconate as a PERMANENT order of ministry. So, while students for the priesthood are still ordained deacons prior to their ordination as priests, there are more than 13, 000 deacons in the United States alone who minister in this Order permanently. There is no difference in the sacramental sign or the functions between these so-called "transitional" and "permanent deacons."

May married men be ordained deacons?

Yes. The Second Vatican Council decreed that the diaconate, when it was restored as a permanent order in the hierarchy, could be opened to "mature married men," later clarified to mean men over the age of 35. This is in keeping with the ancient tradition of the Church, in which married men were ordained into ministry. Also in keeping with ancient practice is the expectation that while a married man may be ordained, an ordained man, if his wife should die, may not marry again without special permission.

"Celibacy Affects Every Deacon: In one way or another, celibacy affects every deacon, married or unmarried. Understanding the nature of celibacy—its value and its practice—are essential to the married deacon. Not only does this understanding strengthen and nurture his own commitment to marital chastity, but it also helps to prepare him for the possibility of living celibate chastity should his wife predecease him. This concern is particularly unique within the diaconate. Tragically, some deacons who were married at the time of ordination only begin to face the issues involved with celibacy upon the death of their wives. As difficult as this process is, all deacons need to appreciate the impact celibacy can have on their lives and ministry." -- National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, par. 72.

Is a Deacon ordained for the Parish or the Diocese?

Whenever a person is ordained, he is to serve the diocesan Church. Deacons are no different in this regard: they are assigned by the bishop to ministries for which the bishop perceives a great need, and for which the deacon may have special gifts or talents. Most often, this will be within a parish setting, just as most priests serve in a parish. Once assigned to the parish, the deacon and any other clergy assigned to the parish minister under the immediate supervision of the pastor. However, this assignment may be changed at the request of the deacon or the initiative of the bishop.

How do I find out more about becoming a Deacon?

The best place to start is with your pastor, who can put you in touch with the Director of Deacons for your diocese. The Director will be able to outline the various requirements and processes to be followed.

Made in the Image & Likeness of God; a pastoral on racial harmony

In 2006 the now retired Archbishop of New Orleans issued a pastoral letter on racism. I used this letter in a prayer service during my formation while studying and discerning my call to the diaconate. I published this thoughtful, sensitive pastoral last year on MLK day and do so again. Please read with open mind and open heart:

Dr. Martin Luther King and why he still matters

>>>This is a great article by Fr. Rober Barron. Today is a great holiday and a day all should pause and consider that the life, legacy and lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King still matter today. Those who follow Christ and long for real social justice would do well to follow his model; non-violent, passionate and changing hearts. Enjoy this great post:

Culture: Why Dr. King Still Matters

It goes without saying that Dr. Martin Luther King was one of the most pivotal figures in American history, easily ranking in importance with Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. He almost single-handedly affected a social change as significant as the abolition of slavery, and he did so without prompting a civil war. What is perhaps less obvious is that he continues to be an indispensable model for our current political and religious discourse. I would like to focus on three dimensions of Dr. King’s work which remain, I’m convinced, of crucial importance today: his advocacy of non-violence, his manner of bringing Christianity into the public square, and his use of language as a means of social transformation.

There are, both within the animal kingdom and among human beings, two classical responses to aggression: fight or flight. When one is attacked, one typically either answers the attack or acquiesces to it. But neither strategy, in the long run, really solves the problem; indeed both tend to exacerbate the situation, the first by awakening further violence and the second by encouraging, even justifying, it. An ardent student of both the Sermon on the Mount and the campaigns of Gandhi, Dr. King saw that there was a third way, beyond both fighting back and giving in, namely, the path of provocative non-violence, “turning the other cheek.” The one who turns the other cheek, he saw, is not passively surrendering to violence; rather, he is courageously standing his ground and refusing to cooperate with the assumptions and behavior patterns of his aggressor. He is actively interrupting the cycle of aggression and is, at the same time, providing a mirror in which the attacker sees his own violence and is, ideally, moved to repentance. Armed with this New Testament strategy, King encouraged his followers to march on Selma, to sit down at segregated lunch counters, to endure taunts, attack dogs, water cannons, imprisonment, and even death. The courageous non-violence of the civil rights generation gummed up the works of a morally flawed, dysfunctional system and exposed its wickedness to the world. I would hope that, under the inspiration of Dr. King, an entire army of Christians, trained in the theory and practice of non-violence, would arise, especially in our cities where the cycle of violence is so pernicious.

Not only was King a prophetic advocate of non-violent social change; he was also a deft spokesperson for Christianity within the political arena. Dr. King was, first and foremost, a pastor and preacher of Christ’s Gospel. The pulpit in the Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta was his home base, his anchor; and no one could possibly doubt that his commitment to social justice was born from his more fundamental Christian commitment. Yet he knew that he had to bring his message to a wider world and to make his case, not simply in churches, but in the religiously neutral space of the civil society. And so he found within his own Christian tradition, language and concepts that were deeply congruent with American ideals and which had, therefore, a persuasive power to any American, regardless of religious background. For instance, in his “Letter From the Birmingham City Jail,” he appealed to Thomas Aquinas’s conviction that unjust civil laws are violations of the moral law and hence offensive to the God who is the ultimate source of all law. And in his greatest piece of oratory, the magnificent “I Have a Dream” speech, he channelled the prophet Isaiah, saying “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain make low, the rough places shall be made plain and crooked places shall be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed.” But then he specified that this Biblical vision was congruent with “the American dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed—we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” He found a way, in short, of bringing religious language and ideas into the public realm persuasively and non-offensively. He was not an advocate of that extreme liberalism, sadly all too evident today, which would simply eliminate religion from the public square entirely. May his tribe increase.

Finally, I would draw attention to King’s masterful use of language. With the possible exception of Winston Churchill, Dr. King was the most gifted poet among public figures in the twentieth century. Very much like Churchill, he knew that, at certain times and under certain circumstances, the most effective agent of social transformation is language itself. The truths conveyed by these phrases are powerful enough, but just listen to the music: “The arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice; Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; say that I was a drum major for righteousness; Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California…Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” The ancient rhetoricians taught us that people are moved by the ideas ingredient in a speech, but perhaps just as much by the rhythm, harmony, verve, energy, and swing of the language itself. When you watch old films of Dr. King speaking, you notice that he really sang his speeches more than spoke them. Christianity is a religion preoccupied with the power of the word, for Christians know that God’s word became flesh in Jesus. May a new generation of Christian leaders arise who learn from King how to use language to move people’s hearts.

Martin Luther King was not a saint, and I’m not advocating his canonization. But on this anniversary of his birth, I am proposing him as a powerful model for all those who want to light a fire on the earth.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

St. Jane de Chantal Parish; not good-bye, see you around

Today was my farewell Mass and luncheon to the parish where I have served, in one way or another, for 16 years. St. Jane de Chantal Parish has been home since my family and I moved to Abita Springs from a westbank neighborhood of New Orleans. The beautiful old church, right in the middle of town, was calling to me from the first day I laid eyes on her in November 1995. This is important because in November 1995 I had drifted away from church and God's love. This beautiful church kept calling and me and my family walked through the doors. After a brief meeting with the pastor, where I explained my journey, or lack of a journey, he said to me: you are home, welcome home. And the rest, as they say, is history. We joined the parish, got active, enrolled our youngest in CCD, I joined the Knights of Columbus and began to teach and lector and even was elected to the parish council. While at St. Jane's I heard the vocational call to the diaconate. I did my entire 5 years of formation while still at St, Jane's and was thrilled at my assignment as ordination drew near: I was to be assigned at St. Jane's. And I have served as a Deacon here since December 13, 2008.

Having moved on to my new assignment, Most Holy Trinity, I was asked to come back today and assist Mass and preach one last time and to enjoy a luncheon with so many good friends. I decided today to preach on my journey back to God through the doors of St. Jane's Church and challenged those present to be thankful for the gift God has given us in St. Jane de Chantal Catholic Church right there in Abita Springs.

As Mass ended and we retired to the parish hall many came to celebrate and the outpouring of love, support, food and gifts was overwhelming. What a special day this was. I know I will remember today for a long,long time. I was touched over and over again by the outpouring of affection and support.

In leaving St. Jane's today I recall the words from today's responsorial psalm: Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will. Knowing that I am indeed following God's will makes leaving St. Jane's possible. And knowing now of the ministry that awaits me at Most Holy Trinity I'm ready to get busy.

As I said today to those gathered; this is not really a good-bye but more of a see you around. I wish to express my thanks to all of our St. Jane family that made today possible, to the staff of St. Janes and to Father's Robert and Raymond and my three brother Deacons, Frans, Don and Mark.

And I certainly thank my wife Wendy and my youngest, Elizabeth, who were present with me today as they have always been, especially through my diaconate journey these past 8 years.

Not good-bye; see you around.

St. Jane de Chantal, pray for us!

St. Anthony of the Desert

Patriarch of Monastic Life

Saint Anthony was born in the year 251, in Upper Egypt. Hearing at Mass the words, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor,” he gave away all his vast possessions — staying only to see that his sister’s education was completed — and retired into the desert. He then begged an aged hermit to teach him the spiritual life, and he also visited various solitaries, undertaking to copy the principal virtue of each.

To serve God more perfectly, Anthony immured himself in a ruin, building up the door so that none could enter. Here the devils assaulted him furiously, appearing as various monsters, and even wounding him severely; but his courage never failed, and he overcame them all by confidence in God and by the sign of the cross. One night, while Anthony was in his solitude, many devils scourged him so terribly that he lay as if dead. A friend found him in this condition, and believing him dead carried him home. But when Anthony came to himself he persuaded his friend to take him back, in spite of his wounds, to his solitude. Here, prostrate from weakness, he defied the devils, saying, “I fear you not; you cannot separate me from the love of Christ.” After more vain assaults the devils fled, and Christ appeared to Anthony in His glory.

Saint Anthony’s only food was bread and water, which he never tasted before sunset, and sometimes only once in two, three, or four days. He wore sackcloth and sheepskin, and he often knelt in prayer from sunset to sunrise.

His admirers became so many and so insistent that he was eventually persuaded to found two monasteries for them and to give them a rule of life. These were the first monasteries ever to be founded, and Saint Anthony is, therefore, the father of cenobites of monks. In 311 he went to Alexandria to take part in the Arian controversy and to comfort those who were being persecuted by Maximinus. This visit lasted for a few days only, after which he retired into a solitude even more remote so that he might cut himself off completely from his admirers. When he was over ninety, he was commanded by God in a vision to search the desert for Saint Paul the Hermit. He is said to have survived until the age of a hundred and five, when he died peacefully in a cave on Mount Kolzim near the Red Sea. Saint Athanasius, his biographer, says that the mere knowledge of how Saint Anthony lived is a good guide to virtue.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Turning a corner in formation

January brings many new things and for the Deacon community of New Orleans it is another semester of formation activities. As we gather together on this cold Saturday in January, it's just one class of candidates; our 2012 group. The 2010 men are now brother Deacons. For the 2012 class today marks a turning of a corner if you will. First, it's more than 50% in and secondly, the men begin Clinical Pastoral Training(CPT).

CPT is a 6 month period of training and actual hands-on experience in ministry. The candidates are assigned ministries in local hospitals, prisons, hospice care, mental health units and homeless facilities. The candidates are called to visit these ministries weekly, be present to those who they meet at each facility and listen and learn. For many, it will be the first time they have set foot in such environments. Going to a prison or visiting a hospice patient or meeting a homeless person face to face is both a challenging and life changing moment in time.

The candidates are strictly charged with being present, trusting that being available to these children of God is gift itself. They are not to fix anything or interfere with anything; just be present and listen. After the weekly visit, they meet in class and share their experiences, being always mindful of the confidentiality of those they minister to.

Many times this experience leads to a ministry post ordination. For me that has been the case. I did my CPT at the Rayburn Prison and was thrilled to go back to Rayburn as their Deacon. I'm equally glad that the diaconate has entrusted one of the candidates to us at Rayburn and I'm happy to say he has made his first visit.

Through CPT, our candidates realize that there truly is a community of hurting and broken people; our brothers and sisters. May God send more laborers into the vineyard to minister to all of them!