Sunday, July 31, 2011

Saint and founder of the Redemptorists

St. Alphonsus Marie Liguori

Feastday: August 1

Bishop, Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the Redemptorist Congregation. He was born Alphonsus Marie Antony John Cosmos Damien Michael Gaspard de Liguori on September 27,1696, at Marianella, near Naples, Italy. Raised in a pious home, Alphonsus went on retreats with his father, Don Joseph, who was a naval officer and a captain of the Royal Galleys. Alphonsus was the oldest of seven children, raised by a devout mother of Spanish descent. Educated at the University of Naples, Alphonsus received his doctorate at the age of sixteen. By age nineteen he was practicing law, but he saw the transitory nature of the secular world, and after a brief time, retreated from the law courts and his fame. Visiting the local Hospital for Incurables on August 28, 1723, he had a vision and was told to consecrate his life solely to God. In response, Alphonsus dedicated himself to the religious life, even while suffering persecution from his family. He finally agreed to become a priest but to live at home as a member of a group of secular missionaries. He was ordained on December 21, 1726, and he spent six years giving missions throughout Naples. In April 1729, Alphonsus went to live at the "Chiflese College," founded in Naples by Father Matthew Ripa, the Apostle of China. There he met Bishop Thomas Falcoia, founder of the Congregation of Pious Workers. This lifelong friendship aided Alphonsus, as did his association with a mystic, Sister Mary Celeste. With their aid, Aiphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer on November 9, 1732. The foundation faced immediate problems, and after just one year, Alphonsus found himself with only one lay brother, his other companions having left to form their own religious group. He started again, recruited new members, and in 1743 became the prior of two new congregations, one for men and one for women. Pope Benedict XIV gave his approval for the men's congregation in 1749 and for the women's in 1750. Alphonsus was preaching missions in the rural areas and writing. He refused to become the bishop of Palermo but in 1762 had to accept the papal command to accept the see of St. Agatha of the Goths near Naples. Here he discovered more than thirty thousand uninstructed men and women and four hundred indifferent priests. For thirteen years Alphonsus fed the poor, instructed families, reorganized the seminary and religious houses, taught theology, and wrote. His austerities were rigorous, and he suffered daily the pain from rheumatism that was beginning to deform his body. He spent several years having to drink from tubes because his head was so bent forward. An attack of rheumatic fever, from May 1768 to June 1769, left him paralyzed. He was not allowed to resign his see, however, until 1775. In 1780, Alphonsus was tricked into signing a submission for royal approval of his congregation. This submission altered the original rule, and as a result Alphonsus was denied any authority among the Redemptorists. Deposed and excluded from his own congregation, Alphonsus suffered great anguish. But he overcame his depression, and he experienced visions, performed miracles, and gave prophecies. He died peacefully on August 1,1787, at Nocera di Pagani, near Naples as the Angelus was ringing. He was beatified in 1816 and canonized in 1839. In 1871, Alphonsus was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX. His writings on moral, theological, and ascetic matters had great impact and have survived through the years, especially his Moral Theology and his Glories of Mary. He was buried at the monastery of the Pagani near Naples. Shrines were built there and at St. Agatha of the Goths. He is the patron of confessors, moral theologians, and the lay apostolate. In liturgical art he is depicted as bent over with rheumatism or as a young priest.

August Saints: St. Peter in Chains

St. Peter in Chains

Feastday: August 1

To please the enemies of the Christians, Herod Agrippa had put St. James to death, and now he planned to do the same to St. Peter, the Head of the Church. Once he had him in prison, he set a heavy guard about him to make sure he would not escape. But all the Christians of Jerusalem were begging the Lord to save St. Peter, and their prayers were answered. The night before he was to be condemned, St. Peter was peacefully sleeping in his prison cell between his two guards bound tightly by two chains. He was unafraid of death and ready to do God's will. Suddenly an angel appeared and tapped him on the side to awaken him. He told him to get up at once, put on his cloak and sandles and follow him. At the same moment, both the chains fell from his hands! Out the two went, past two sets of guards, to the gate. This iron gate opened to them by itself and the angel led St. Peter out to the street. Then he disappeared. Up to then, Peter had thought he might be dreaming, but now he new that God had really sent an angel to free him! What joy and gratitude filled his heart! At once, the Apostle went to the home of Mary, St. Mark's mother, where many Christians were praying for his safety. He knocked at the door and a young woman named Rhoda came to ask who it was, without opening the door. When she heard St. Peter's voice, she ran joyfully to tell the others. They, however, could not believe the news. "It must be his angel," they said when she kept insisting. Meanwhile St. Peter knocked again. At last they let him in, and their happiness was immense when they saw it was truly St. Peter himself! He told them how the angel had freed him, and altogether they blessed and thanked the Lord. The feast day is August 1st.

July done; August on deck. Not my favorite month:(

So we survived another of the hot weather, unpleasant months saying goodbye to a very busy July.  And a very rainy July.  As dry as May and June were, July was that wet.  I have standing water and 4 ft. tall grass to prove it.  Readers of this blog know I dislike the summer months and I believe August is my least favorite.  Down here you can't say August and not cringe remembering that Katrina struck us in this late summer month.  This year it will be anniversary #6 of that killer hurricane.  And this August, like every other August, we must keep our eyes trained to the east and the south as hurricanes are more likely to strike from mid August to mid September.  Besides the threat of hurricanes, August usually brings us the hottest weather of the year so we are braced and prepared for that.

One redeeming thing about August is the beginning of football season.  With the labor issues behind us all we are following down here are those New Orleans Saints.  I hate to admit this but we are probably still on a Super Bowl high even though that monumnetal victory was 17 months ago.  Hopes are high again.  The team is pretty much still together, the team got quality for the Reggie Bush deal and they have signed some big players.  Hope springs eternal; time will tell.

Another thing that remains a constant joy in my life is family.  We will transition again this August with our daughter moving off to graduate school.  The mrs. and I are used to being home alone; embracing the empty nest.  But this is a new move for our little girl; new school and new friends so we may be a tad bit anxious. 

And yet another joy, no matter what the month, is my ministry.  The diaconate is remarkably special to me and I feel compelled to give back.  So August ushers in another formation semester and that means I will be helping with various class activities including assisting in homiletics and mentoring.  We have two classes again getting ready to start next week; our 2012 group and the new 2015 group.  On August 10th the entire diaconate community will gather for the Feast of St. Lawrence and our 2012 group will be installed as acolytes.  I look forward to these opportunties and my continuing ministries at Most Holy Trinity Parish and Rayburn Correctional.

So let's get August started so we can get closer and closer to autumn, and cooler weather and football season and the best time of the year.  And may we always remember, summer or not, hot or cold, everyday and every season...Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!

Another milepost along the simple path

Our diaconate community has been blessed with robust formation activity which has led to 3 ordinations in just the past 5 years.  In 2006, 2008 and 2010 we have added new deacons to the ranks of our Permanent Diaconate community.  In 2012, another 20 men will be ordained.  They are a little more than three and a half years through a five year program. 

Before they begin the fall session, with more classes including homiletics and spiritual direction, the men and their wives participate in a 3-day retreat.  And that retreat concluded today on the beautiful grounds of St. Joseph Abbey.  I was so privileged to assist our diaconate director and assistant director in presenting this retreat which we called A Simple Path.  The Simple Path refers to a book about Mother Teresa and the Simple Path she and her order follow in ministering to the poor and unwanted.  It follows the formula of:  the fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.

Deacons Ray, Steve and yours truly presented each of these "fruits" in context of the spirituality of those in formation and the diaconate.  The retreatants, who were under the discipline of silence for the weekend, were given ample time after each presentation for silent reflection, spiritual journaling and relaxation.  Being on the beautiful Abbey grounds they could walk in the woods, stroll alongside the dignified Abbey cemetary, sit in the solitude of the Abbey church or the retreat center chapel.  The retreat also offered Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Lauds and Vespers chanted by the monks in the Abbey Church and Mass.

The retreat, like others during formation, are an important part of their spiritual dimension along the journey to possible ordination.  Although they have been together since the spring of 2008, there is much more to occur before December of 2012.  This retreat was one such milepost.  And soon, in 10 days to be exact, these men will be insituted as acolytes; the final minor order before Holy Orders.

As these men and women return home today and prepare for the next step in their journey, please pray with me that they will remain on the Simple Path.

Giving direction to New Orleans Catholic education

Archbishop Gregory Aymond draws no links between leadership shake-ups at Catholic schools

Published: Sunday, July 31, 2011, 6:30 AM
These are extraordinary days for Catholic education in metropolitan New Orleans, where schools are preparing to open the 2011-12 academic year after a series of remarkable leadership shake-ups more common to the corporate world than the usually placid universe of Catholic education.
And although Archbishop Gregory Aymond is a major factor in each episode, it would be wrong to draw too much from that, he said in a brief interview.
At De La Salle High School, at Archbishop Rummel High School, at St. Augustine High School, even at his own Office of Catholic Schools, the nerve center for the 69-school parochial system — in each, the requested resignations of presidents, principals and superintendents is a special case that has its own unique set of reasons, Aymond said.
Do not look for a common denominator that sheds light on him or his way of exercising authority as the ultimate manager of Catholic education, Aymond said.
That said, Aymond declined to elaborate on the extraordinary rash of forced leadership changes at usually stable Catholic schools, which serve thousands of families across the New Orleans metropolitan area.
Aymond said he played different roles in each. And he said there are no unifying themes other than the obvious diagnosis that in each case, performance needed to be improved.
Moreover, he said, each involved the performance of key individuals, and he would not discuss personnel matters.
With only three weeks or so before the beginning of the new school year a survey shows:
  • In the Office of Catholic Schools, Jan Daniel Lancaster prepares to take over as new superintendent of 69 parochial schools educating 28,000 elementary and high school students. She is Aymond’s choice after he asked for the resignation of her predecessor, Sister Kathleen Finnerty, and two other key educators as well;
  • At St. Augustine High School, local directors are locked in litigation with the Josephite priests who founded the school over issues of local control — a dispute precipitated when Aymond approached the Josephites to express his concerns over corporal punishment at the school.
  • At Rummel High School, an archdiocesan school under Aymond’s complete control, the academic year begins without permanent leadership because earlier this month the president and principal resigned simultaneously, to the public relief of the president of the school’s alumni association, who expressed his gratitude for Aymond’s support.
  • At De La Salle High School, administered by the Christian Brothers, leadership is similarly unsettled, with neither permanent president nor principal in place. There, Aymond, with other school executives, earlier this month participated in a closed-door meeting with President Kenneth Tedesco shortly before Tedesco offered his resignation at the board meeting that followed.
The changes come a few weeks shy of Aymond’s second anniversary in New Orleans.
Aymond is an educator by training. For years he ran Notre Dame Seminary, a graduate-level institution.
Yet his nine years as bishop and chief Catholic educator in Austin, Texas, did not mark him out as an activist especially inclined to shake up the status quo.
But Catholic education in New Orleans is also under unusual stress.
Population losses and the economic aftershocks of Hurricane Katrina, along with national economic changes, have bled the system of 19 percent of its pre-Katrina enrollment.
And particularly in New Orleans, the rise of the charter school movement, while uneven in its successes, has produced a more competitive educational environment, requiring Catholic classrooms to make more compelling cases for the tuition premiums parents are asked to pay.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Founder of the Jesuits our Saint of the Day

St. Ignatius Loyola
Founder of the Jesuits

Feastday: July 31

St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guipúzcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children, and was called Iñigo. When he was old enough, he became a page, and then a soldier of Spain to fight against the French. A cannon ball and a series of bad operations ended his military career in 1521. While St. Ignatius recovered, he read the lives of the saints, and decided to dedicate himself to becoming a soldier of the Catholic Faith. Soon after he experienced visions, but a year later suffered a trial of fears and scruples, driving him almost to despair. Out of this experience he wrote his famous "Spiritual Exercises". After traveling and studying in different schools, he finished in Paris, where he received his degree at the age of 43. Many first hated St. Ignatius because of his humble Lifestyle. Despite this, he attracted several followers at the university, including St. Francis Xavier, and soon started his order called The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. There are 38 members of the Society of Jesus who have been declared Blessed, and 38 who have been canonized as saints. He died at the age of 65.

Retreat in progress; no homily this week

The retreat I'm assisting this weekend for our 2012 diaconal candidates is a little over 2/3rds complete.  So far it has been a wonderful weekend and the candidates and their wives are experiencing a very prayerful retreat.

I'll have no homily this week since I'm not assiting at any Mass this weekend.  In fact, since my transfer to Most Holy Trinity this will be the first weekend not with my new parish family.

Hopefully, beginning late tomorrow afternoon, I will have a post or two on this wonderful weekend retreat and the progress of our 2012 candidates.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Saint with golden words

St. Peter Chrysologus

Feastday: July 30

St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Feast-July 30) Born at Imola, Italy in 406, St. Peter was baptized, educated, and ordained a deacon by Cornelius, Bishop of Imola. St. Peter merited being called "Chrysologus" (golden-worded) from his exceptional oratorical eloquence. In 433, Pope Sixtus III consecrated him bishop of Ravenna. He practiced many corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and ruled his flock with utmost diligence and care. He extirpated the last vestiges of paganism and other abuses that had sprouted among his people, cautioning them especially against indecent dancing. "Anyone who wishes to frolic with the devil," he remarked, "cannot rejoice with Christ." He also counseled the heretic Eutyches (who had asked for his support) to avoid causing division but to learn from the other heretics who were crushed when they hurled themselves against the Rock of Peter. He died at Imola, Italy in 450 and in 1729 was made a Doctor of the Church, largely as a result of his simple, practical, and clear sermons which have come down to us, nearly all dealing with Gospel subjects.

A Simple Path

You will read more from me later in the weekend about A Simple Path.  You may know that this is the title of a wonderful book about Mother Teresa as compiled by Lucinda Vardey.

The lessons from this book, including A Simple Path are the focus of the retreat I am at this weekend.  I am one of the facilitators/presenters for the diaconate class of 2012 who are in a prayerful, silent retreat mood even as I speak.  And I'm going to jump off of here too real soon but for now let me offer the following from A Simple Path:

The fruit of silence is prayer
The fruit of prayer is faith
The fruit of faith is love
The fruit of love is service
The fruit of service is peace.

See yall soon!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Martha, Martha; Saint of service

St. Martha

Feastday: July 29
Patron of cooks

"Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus." This unique statement in John's gospel tells us of the special relationship Jesus had with Martha, her sister, and her brother.

Apparently Jesus was a frequent guest at Martha's home in Bethany, a small village two miles from Jerusalem. We read of three visits in Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-53, and John 12:1-9.

Many of us find it easy to identify with Martha in the story Luke tells. Martha welcomes Jesus and his disciples into her home and immediately goes to work to serve them. Hospitality is paramount in the Middle East and Martha believed in its importance. Imagine her frustration when her sister Mary ignores the rule of hospitality and Martha's work in order to sit and listen to Jesus. Instead of speaking to her sister, she asks Jesus to intervene. Jesus' response is not unkind, which gives us an idea of his affection for her. He observes that Martha is worried about many things that distract her from really being present to him. He reminds her that there is only one thing that is truly important -- listening to him. And that is what Mary has done. In Martha we see ourselves -- worried and distracted by all we have to do in the world and forgetting to spend time with Jesus. It is, however, comforting to note that Jesus loved her just the same.

The next visit shows how well Martha learned this lesson. She is grieving the death of her brother with a house full of mourners when she hears that Jesus has just come to the area. She gets up immediately and leaves the guests, leaves her mourning, and goes to meet him.

Her conversation with Jesus shows her faith and courage. In this dialogue she states clearly without doubt that she believes in Jesus' power, in the resurrection, and most of all that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus tells her that he is the resurrection and the life and then goes on to raise her brother from the dead. Our final picture of Martha in Scripture is the one that sums up who she was. Jesus has returned to Bethany some time later to share a meal with his good friends. In this home were three extraordinary people. We hear how brother Lazarus caused a stir when was brought back to life. We hear how Mary causes a commotion at dinner by annointing Jesus with expensive perfume. But all we hear about Martha is the simple statement: "Martha served." She isn't in the spotlight, she doesn't do showy things, she doesn't receive spectacular miracles. She simply serves Jesus.

We know nothing more about Martha and what happened to her later. According to a totally untrustworthy legend Martha accompanied Mary to evangelize France after Pentecost.

But wouldn't it be wonderful if the most important thing that could be said about us is "They served"?

Martha is the patron saint of servants and cooks.

In Her Footsteps
Dorothy Day said: "If everyone were holy and handsome, it would be easy to see Christ in everyone. But it was not Christ's way for himself. Ask honestly what you would do when a beggar asked at your house for food. Would you give it on an old cracked plate, thinking that was good enough? Do you think that Martha and Mary thought that the old and chipped dish was good enough for their guest? It is not a duty to help Christ -- it is a privilege." In what ways do you serve Christ others grudgingly or sparingly? How can you serve them the way Martha served Christ, putting her whole self into it?

Saint Martha, pray for us that we might serve Jesus better. Help us to overcome our distractions and worries to listen to his words and be present to him this day. Amen

New Orleans charities will miss Reggie Bush

New Orleans Will Miss Reggie Bush, but Not Number 25
Whitney Laurence, Yahoo! Contributor Network

Reggie Bush, the New Orleans Saints' occasionally explosive running back, is now on his way to the Miami Dolphins thanks to a two-year sign-and-trade deal. The good news for Saints fans is that the team has more money in the bank with which to pay other players. The bad news is that they've lost a better player than many people realize. Worse news is that New Orleans is losing a great citizen.

Pundits like to point out that the Saints have a better winning record without Bush than with him, but that's true of quite a few players on the team, among them some valuable pieces of the championship-winning puzzle such as Lance Moore. Moore recently inked a five-year deal with the Saints, so why was Reggie no longer worth the money he was once worth when he was the Saints' second-round draft pick in 2006?

It's simple: Reggie Bush cost too much. Bush couldn't have lived up to his hype if he'd been the second coming of Gale Sayers as so many pundits believed he was. He's a very good player who unfortunately got saddled with great expectations; he was always going to cost more than naysayers felt he was worth. Five years later, rookies won't get the big paychecks they used to have; maybe future rookies won't feel so weighed down with possibility that they never realize their full potential.

To New Orleanians, Bush's greater worth may have been outside the Superdome. The field in Tad Gormley Stadium will remain Reggie Bush Field after Bush donated thousands of dollars of his rookie paycheck to repair the Katrina-torn facility. He was instrumental in the Saints' 2009 run to Super Bowl XLIV, but he also gave his time and talent to charities throughout the Gulf South. This city and this region won't forget how much he's done in his five years here.
With Drew Brees healthy at QB, a cadre of talented and underrated wide receivers including Marques Colston and Lance Moore, and a stable of dangerous running backs in Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, and rookie Mark Ingram, the New Orleans Saints probably won't miss Reggie Bush much on the field. Sean Payton has plenty of talent on which to rest his fearsome offense. But Saints fans will miss the occasionally electrifying, sometimes gravity-defying Bush on the field. They'll miss the guy who did indeed "Bring The Wood" to that Cardinals game.

They'll also miss a guy who has become a local fixture, icon, and favorite topic of debate. Reggie Bush has often had the word "decoy" attached to his name. His ability to be a lightning rod for attention took place off the field, too; no figure in recent Saints history has been more of a talking point for fans. Who will the citizens of the Who Dat Nation debate when Reggie's in Miami?

Good luck in Miami, Reggie. You're more than welcome to come back home to NOLA once you retire -- but if you come in aqua and orange, look out for Vilma and his friends.

>>>I'm glad somebody made this point; Reggie did do a lot for local charities including many associated with the local Catholic Church and schools.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

5th century Pope & Saint of the day

St. Innocent I

Feastday: July 28

Innocent was born at Albano, Italy. He became Pope, succeeding Pope St. Anastasius I, on December 22, 401. During Innocent's pontificate, he emphasized papal supremacy, commending the bishops of Africa for referring the decrees of their councils at Carthage and Millevis in 416, condemning Pelagianism, to the Pope for confirmation. It was his confirmation of these decrees that caused Augustine to make a remark that was to echo through the centuries: "Roma locuta, causa finitas" (Rome has spoken, the matter is ended). Earlier Innocent had stressed to Bishop St. Victrius and the Spanish bishops that matters of great importance were to be referred to Rome for settlement. Innocent strongly favored clerical celibacy and fought the unjust removal of St. John Chrysostom. He vainly sought help from Emperor Honorius at Revenna when the Goths under Alaric captured and sacked Rome. Innocent died in Rome on March 12. His feast day is July 28th.

Sad Update

I posted a story yesterday on the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, as he lay ill after a very complicated and delicate surgery.  Sadly confirmation tonight that Sambi has passed away.  He has served Pope Benedict XVI as the nuncio to the United States since 2006 and just turned 73.

From all indications he was a dedicated servant and quite the friend to the Catholic Church here in America.

I'll keep this post short and just ask that all join in prayers for the repose of Archbishop Sambi's soul.  May he rest in peace.

The Bishops speak on the debt ceiling debate

I will be providing the link to the USCCB website and the letter written to U.S. House of Representatives.  You will notice in the letter the emphasis caring for the poor and marginalized and a balanced approach that seeks collaboration and cooperation for the common good.  If you are reading this and you are Catholic how does the Bishop's letter align with your beliefs and opinions?  And this begs another question:  do your politics align with Catholic social teaching?  Are you more concerned with the teachings of the Church or rather do you cling to a narrow political ideaology?  Food for thought at mid-week as the debt ceiling crisis goes on.   Please read the entire letter:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Simply click and enjoy

Kitty Cleveland is an amazing Catholic singer and she truly uses her gifts as a ministry.  I last heard her in person at a memorial Mass at Our Lady of the Lake in Mandeville.  This is one of my favorite songs and she sings this with great beauty and prayerfulness!  Enjoy:

Prayers for Archbishop Sambi

Daily News

U.S. Papal Nuncio Placed on Ventilator After Lung Surgery

Treatment warranted due to complications. The nunciature, along with Archbishop Pietro Sambi’s family, asked 'bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful' to offer 'sacrifices and prayers' for his recovery.

07/26/2011 Comment
via CNA website
WASHINGTON (CNA) — Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Pope’s diplomatic representative to the U.S., has been placed on a ventilator following “delicate lung surgery” two weeks ago, the nunciature in Washington, D.C., announced July 22.
The nunciature cited “post-surgery complications” in the announcement, adding that the 73-year-old archbishop has been placed on assisted ventilation “to attempt recovery of his lung function.”
Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations at the U.S. bishops’ conference, told CNA on July 25 that the nunciature’s statement is the only one being released on the archbishop’s condition at this time.
The nunciature, along with Archbishop Sambi’s family, asked “bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful” to offer “sacrifices and prayers” for the nuncio’s recovery.
Archbishop Sambi — widely regarded as one of the Vatican’s top diplomats — was appointed by Pope Benedict in 2005 as the apostolic nuncio to the United States. He began his duties in Washington in February of 2006.
The archbishop was born in the northern Italian town of Sogliano sul Rubicone in 1938 and was ordained a priest on March 14, 1964, for the Diocese of Montefeltro. Archbishop Sambi is fluent in English, Spanish and French, and also holds doctorate degrees in theology and canon law.
He joined the Vatican diplomatic service in 1969 and served in the nunciatures or apostolic delegations to Cameroon, Jerusalem, Cuba, Algeria, Nicaragua, Belgium and India.
In 1991, he was appointed apostolic nuncio to Indonesia and in 1998 was appointed apostolic nuncio to Israel and apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine.
During his difficult tenure as nuncio in Israel, Archbishop Sambi pushed for safeguards on freedom of religion, equality for monotheistic religions, and increased access to and worship in the holy places.
Both Jews and Palestinians acknowledged him as an uncompromising voice for peace and as scrupulously fair with both sides.

Read more:
>>>I clearly remember the day I was in the same cathedral with the Pope's representative, Archbishop Sambi, at the installation of Archbishop Aymond in New Orleans' St. Louis Cathedral.  He is the Pope's representative for the Catholic Church here in America and has been such a faithful servant.  Please join me in praying for his recovery.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The saintly grandparents of Jesus; Joachim & Anne

July 26
Sts. Joachim and Anne

In the Scriptures, Matthew and Luke furnish a legal family history of Jesus, tracing ancestry to show that Jesus is the culmination of great promises. Not only is his mother’s family neglected, we also know nothing factual about them except that they existed. Even the names Joachim and Anne come from a legendary source written more than a century after Jesus died.
The heroism and holiness of these people, however, is inferred from the whole family atmosphere around Mary in the Scriptures. Whether we rely on the legends about Mary’s childhood or make guesses from the information in the Bible, we see in her a fulfillment of many generations of prayerful persons, herself steeped in the religious traditions of her people.

The strong character of Mary in making decisions, her continuous practice of prayer, her devotion to the laws of her faith, her steadiness at moments of crisis, and her devotion to her relatives—all indicate a close-knit, loving family that looked forward to the next generation even while retaining the best of the past.

Joachim and Anne—whether these are their real names or not—represent that entire quiet series of generations who faithfully perform their duties, practice their faith and establish an atmosphere for the coming of the Messiah, but remain obscure.


This is the “feast of grandparents.” It reminds grandparents of their responsibility to establish a tone for generations to come: They must make the traditions live and offer them as a promise to little children. But the feast has a message for the younger generation as well. It reminds the young that older people’s greater perspective, depth of experience and appreciation of life’s profound rhythms are all part of a wisdom not to be taken lightly or ignored.

Life keeps moving on.

It's a quiet dreary rainy Monday evening as July whittles away.  I made it through the first day of the work week despite feeling sore and tired from the big move I posted about on Friday.  When I last shared of our family adventure the moving van was packed and all that awaited was the drive north.  Saturday morning dawned way too early.  Noticing that the U-Haul I rented was leaky(why would U-Haul rent a truck that leaks; that's another story) the early morning storm pressed me into action at 5:30 a.m.  My daughter and I rushed into the rainy early morning to tarp, yes that's right, tarp our belongings packed INSIDE a U-haul van.  And much to our dismay the van was indeed leaking.

We quickly covered everything in that van with every tarp, blanket and towel available then called our volunteer crew, two of my friends and one of my daughters, and we hit the road at 7 a.m.  Our choice of friends to help was awesome because boy, do they work hard.  By 9:30 a.m. we arrived in Hattiesburg AND totally unpacked the van.  Did I mention the apartment is on the 3rd floor with no elevator?  And yes, there was some water damage, all repairable, and many water logged boxes that made for precarious unloading.

Once rid of that awful U-haul van, I was able to rejoin family and friends at my daughters new apartment and marvel at what was unfolding before my eyes.  Here was my baby girl, setting up her homestead for at least the next two years as she starts her graduate school experience at USM.  And her girlfriend that came along to help her also made for great memories as she and my daughter first started playing together back in 2nd grade.  That's like a million years ago.

At the end of the day, we left her and her friend behind, in a beautiful apartment, all decorated and unpacked.  I could hardly believe my eyes and my thoughts were of great satisfaction.  Even though she will be home with us for a few more weeks, completing her summer job, my wife and I are prepared for the day next month when off she goes, sans mom and dad and most of her dearest friends, to begin the next great chapter in her life.  Having the good experiences of how well she handled life at LSU, including one horrific night when she was robbed at gunpoint, and her 6 week journey across Europe last summer helps me in gettin ready for this next chapter.

These are great milestones in our childrens lives and our lives as well.  And I truly believe that these are special graced moments in time to talk with God about our hopes and joys as well as our concerns and apprehensions.  Whether by education, job/career, getting married, serving in armed forces, discerning a life of religous vocation, we all must let our children become the person God wants them to be.  I thank God for the gift, the treasure of my children and all that they have become and accomplished to date.  I remember to thank Him for all the beautiful memories and those times when all was not so well; an illness, a struggle, a difficult passage, because all their days, their very minute by minute experiences are blessed by God.  Sometimes it is hard for us to remember that.

I'm ready to embrace this next chapter in our families lives.  And I pray that I'll remember more frequently that everyday is a gift from God, an opportunity for us to praise and worship Him and part of our dress rehersal in this life to spend eternal life with Him, happy forever in Heaven!

Are you ready for some football? Game on: Geaux Saints

Players vote to OK deal to end NFL lockout

Players vote to OK deal to end NFL lockout
Kevin Mawae, president of the NFL Players Association Executive Committee, left, arrives at the NFL Players Association in Washington, Monday, July 25, 2011.

Credit: (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Posted on July 25, 2011 at 7:57 AM
Updated today at 1:59 PM

Howard Fendrich and Barry Wilner / The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Now it can be said with certainty: Get ready for some football!

NFL players voted to OK a final deal Monday, days after the owners approved a tentative agreement, and the sides finally managed to put an end to the 4 1/2-month lockout, the longest work stoppage in league history.

"This is a long time coming, and football's back," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "and that's the great news for everybody."

At a joint appearance outside the NFL Players Association headquarters, Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith were flanked by some of the owners and players who were involved in the talks. They spoke shortly after the NFLPA executive board and 32 team reps voted unanimously to approve the terms of a deal.

"We didn't get everything that either side wanted ... but we did arrive at a deal that we think is fair and balanced," Smith said.

Owners overwhelmingly approved a proposal Thursday, but some unresolved issues still needed to be reviewed to satisfy players; the owners do not need to vote again.

The sides worked through the weekend and wrapped up the details Monday morning on a final pact that runs for 10 years, without an opt-out clause, a person familiar with the deal told the AP on condition of anonymity.

Owners decided in 2008 to opt out of the league's old labor contract, which expired March 11. That's when the owners locked out the players, creating the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987.

"I know it has been a very long process since the day we stood here that night in March," Smith said. "But our guys stood together when nobody thought we would. And football is back because of it."

As he spoke, Smith was flanked by NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Colts center Jeff Saturday and Ravens defensive back Domonique Foxworth, key members of the players' negotiating team.

Brees was one of 10 plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit that players filed against the league. Those plaintiffs approved the deal, two people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

"I believe it's important that we talk about the future of football as a partnership," Smith said.

Moments later, Goodell walked into the building, joined by owners Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots, John Mara of the New York Giants and Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers.

Kraft apologized to fans for having to wait out the labor turmoil.

"The end result is we've been able to have an agreement that I think is going to allow this sport to flourish over the next decade," Kraft said.

A tentative timeline would allow NFL clubs to start signing 2011 draft picks and rookie free agents on Tuesday. Conversations with veteran free agents also could start Tuesday, and their signings could begin Friday.

Under the proposed schedule, training camps would open for 10 of the 32 teams on Wednesday, 10 more on Thursday, another 10 on Friday, and the last two teams on Sunday.

Both sides set up informational conference calls for Monday afternoon to go over the details of the agreement. The NFLPA told player agents they would be coached in particular on the guidelines and schedule for signing free agents and rookies; the NFL alerted general managers and coaches they would be briefed in separate calls.

The major economic framework for the deal was worked out more than a week ago.

That included how the more than $9 billion in annual league revenues will be divided (about 53 percent to owners and 47 percent to players over the next decade; the old CBA resulted in nearly a 50-50 split); a per-club cap of about $120 million for salary and bonuses in 2011 -- and at least that in 2012 and 2013 -- plus about $22 million for benefits; a salary system to rein in spending on first-round draft picks; and unrestricted free agency for most players after four seasons.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The feast day of an Apostle: St. James the Greater

St. James the Greater

Feastday: July 25
Patron of Laborers

For James there was no indication that this was the day that his life would change. The dawn for him was not the bright beginning of a new day, but the end of long fruitless night of fishing. As James sat mending his nets in the boat with his brother John and his father Zebedee, he must have watched in wonder as his partner Simon brought in nets loaded with fish he had caught at the command of Jesus. Was he shocked when he saw Simon and his brother Andrew walk away from this incredible catch at a word from this same Jesus?

As he watched Jesus walk toward him followed by Simon and Andrew, did he feel curiosity, fear, hope, envy? Jesus didn't pass him by but, stopping by their boat, called James and his brother John to do just what Simon and Andrew had done. Without argument or discussion, James and John left their boat and even their father behind, and followed Jesus.

The first thing James saw after he followed Jesus was his teaching with authority in the synagogue and the cure of Simon's mother-in-law.

We all know that Jesus was the focus of James' life from then on, but it is also evident that James held a special place in Jesus' life.

He was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve apostles, given the mission to proclaim the good news, and authority to heal and cast out demons. To be named one of the twelve James must have had faith and commitment.

But even among the apostles he held a special place. When Jesus raised Jairus' daughter when all thought her dead, he only allowed James, John, and Peter to come with him. Even more important when he went up to the mountain to pray, he wanted James, John, and Peter to go with him. And it was there on the mountain they were privileged to witness what no one else had seen -- Jesus transfigured in his glory, speaking to Moses and Elijah, as the voice of God spoke from a cloud.

And with Simon Peter, James and John were the only ones of the apostles that Jesus gave a special name: Sons of Thunder.

To be singled out in these ways, James must have been a close and respected friend of Jesus.

It's no wonder then that James, along with John, felt that he had the right to go to Jesus and ask him to give them whatever they asked. As a mark of his love, Jesus didn't rebuke them but asked them what they wanted. They showed their lack of understanding of his mission when the asked that he let one of them sit on his right and the other on his left when he came into his glory. He replied that they didn't know what they were asking. They didn't see the cross in his future, but an earthly throne. Could they drink of the cup he would drink of? They replied that they could. He assured them they would indeed drink of that cup.

(Matthew has their mother asking for this favor for her sons. Despite the bad reputation their mother got for this, it should be remembered that she too had followed Jesus in his travels, providing for him, and was one of the women who stayed with Jesus as he was crucified when the apostles, including her son James, had fled.)

The other apostles were furious at this request. But Jesus used this opportunity to teach all of them that in order to be great one must be a servant.

James and John did show further lack of understanding of their friend and Lord when he was turned away by Samaritans. They wanted to use their newfound authority as apostles not to heal but to bring fire down on the town. (Perhaps Jesus gave them their Sons of Thunder nickname because of their passion, their own fire, or their temper.) Jesus did reprimand them for their unforgiving, vengeful view of their power.

But despite all these misunderstandings, it was still James, Peter, and John that Jesus chose to join him in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane for his final prayer before his arrest. It must have hurt Jesus that the three of them fell asleep on this agonizing evening.

James did drink of the cup Jesus drank of, all too shortly after the Resurrection. Acts 12:1 tells us that James was one of the first martyrs of the Church. King Herod Agrippa I killed him with a sword in an early persecution of the Church. There is a story that the man who arrested James became a convert after hearing James speak at his trial and was executed with him.

James is called James the Greater because another younger apostle was named James. He should not be accused with this James, or the James who is a relative of Jesus, or the James who was an elder of the Church in Jerusalem and heard Peter's defense of baptizing Gentiles. James, son of Thunder, was dead by then.

Legends have sprung up that James evangelized Spain before he died but these stories have no basis in historical fact.

James is the patron saint of hatmakers, rheumatoid sufferers, and laborers.

God don't like mean

Lately I've been very perplexed about the tone of Catholic conversation on the internet, the blogs and social networking like Facebook or Twitter.  Most perplexing is one Catholic attacking another because the other Catholic is too Catholic or not Catholic enough or factually wrong, dogmatically ignorant and on and on.  I know sometimes we all should back off and realize that these folks are the vast minority.  But these small bands of attackers are quite vocal.

I've been critical of a few things on my own blog and have a term for those who always attack the Church from within with a domesday outlook; chicken little Catholics.  My hope and prayer, of course, is that they will relax, see the forest for the trees and, here's the tough one; let God be God!

This following post from monsignor Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington D.C. says it all.  Read and enjoy, and remember: God don't like mean.

A Middle Eastern Catholic Saint

SUNDAY, JULY 24, 2011

Yussef Antoun Makhloof --later and forever after known as Sharbel-- was of humble birth.

Yet Sharbel belongs to more than his village, monastery, church or country. He belongs to the Universal Church and all Christians. When he was beatified on December 5, 1965, His Holiness Pope Paul VI announced that Saint Sharbel is "a new, eminent member of monastic sanctity [who] through his example and his intercession is enriching the entire Christian people." (Saint Sharbel: The Hermit of Lebanon 1977: 27)

Yussef, who later took the name Sharbel, was the youngest of five children born to Antoun Zaarour Makhlouf and Brigitta Elias al-Shediyaq. His father died when he was three years old. Like many of the Christians from the Lebanese Mountain, his father had been taken away from his family [by the Turks] and forced into hard labor.

Yussef studied at the parish school and tended the family cow. He spent a great deal of time outdoors in the fields and pastures near his village and he meditated amid the inspiring views of boundless valleys and proud mountains.

From early childhood, Yussef showed that he loved prayer and solitude. In 1851, without informing anyone, he left home. Tanious, his uncle and guardian, wanted Yussef to continue working with him. His mother wanted him to marry the young woman who loved him. (Daher 1952: 18-19; Sfeir 1995: 72-75)

When Yussef became Brother Sharbel, he was filled with determination and walked all the way to his new home, "the monastery," his new family, "the Lebanese Maronite Order," and his new bride, "the Church." He followed in the footsteps of his maternal uncles, who were already hermits at the hermitage of Mar Boula (Saint Paul) in the Holy Valley of Qadisha, across from the Monastery of Our Lady of Qannobine. (Daher 1993:48-49)

The Lebanese Maronite Order of monks is the embodiment of the ancient eastern monasticism, which since early Christian times existed and thrived within widely dispersed, independent monasteries.

At Mass on November 1, 1853, Sharbel took the monastic vows. Neither the monk's family nor the public were allowed to attend this solemn occasion.

After his ordination, Father Sharbel returned to the Monastery of St. Maron. During his 19 years there, Sharbel performed his priestly ministry and monastic duties in an edifying way. He dedicated himself totally to Christ to live, work and pray in silence.

As he worked the land and performed manual labor at the monastery, he continued a life of purity, obedience and humility that has yet to be surpassed. In 1875, because he showed "supernatural power," he was granted permission to live as a hermit at the Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul, which is near the monastery.

It was in this secluded sanctuary that the monk Sharbel spent the remaining twenty-three years of his life practicing severe mortification.

Father Sharbel suffered a stroke on December 16, 1898 while he was reciting the prayer of the Holy Liturgy:

His tomb has been a site for pilgrimages ever since the day he died. Hundreds of miracles were performed through the intercession of Saint Sharbel in 'Annaya, Lebanon, and throughout the world.

At the closing of the Second Vatican Council, on December 5, 1965, Sharbel was beatified by Pope Paul VI who said: "Great is the gladness in heaven and earth today for the beatification of Sharbel Makhlouf, monk and hermit of the Lebanese Maronite Order. Great is the joy of the East and West for this son of Lebanon, admirable flower of sanctity blooming on the stem of the ancient monastic traditions of the East, and venerated today by the Church of Rome...

More than a symbol; a Cross of comfort and hope

World Trade Center cross moved to permanent home

NEW YORK (AP) — A cross-shaped steel beam found amid the wreckage in the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack was a symbol of hope for many working on rescue and recovery there, so much so that the construction worker who discovered it believes he stumbled on to a miracle.
"I saw Calvary in the midst of all the wreckage, the disaster," Frank Silecchia recalled Saturday. "It was a sign ... that God didn't desert us."
The 2-ton, 20-foot-high T-beam has now become a religious relic. It was taken from its temporary post near a church Saturday and lowered 70 feet down into the bowels of where the twin towers once stood to become part of the exhibit at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum.
But for all the religious fervor surrounding the cross, it will become part of the museum because of its history at ground zero, not because of its Christian symbolism, museum officials said.
"It's powerful because it provided comfort to so many people — it is a part of the history of the space," said Joe Daniels, president of the memorial foundation.
He said steel girders made into other makeshift crosses, Stars of David and possibly some Eastern religious symbols would also become part of the museum, which will open in 2012 and will be primarily underground at the site. The memorial will open this year, on the 10th anniversary of the attack.
"It's important to have these artifacts that reflect the history, to remember, to see how people coped," he said.
For Rev. Brian Jordan, the Roman Catholic priest who led the effort to preserve the cross, it is very much a symbol of Christianity — sacrifice, loss and renewal, he said. Jordan celebrated Mass under the cross for weeks — and members of many different religions took part.
"No one was turned away," he said. "Not only did I practice what I preached, I preached what I practiced."
The rusted, twisted metal beams were dear to Jordan partly because his mentor, Rev. Mychal F. Judge, chaplain of the city's fire department, died just feet from where it was found while helping people on Sept. 11. In 2006, the cross was lifted from the site and transplanted to a spot nearby at the oldest Roman Catholic parish in New York City, St. Peter's, where it remained until a flatbed truck took it to a nearby park for a blessing, and then on to the World Trade Center site.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, along with about 200 emergency workers and families of victims who died in the attack, joined Jordan for a blessing ceremony before the cross was moved.
"This was such an important part of how people dealt with Sept. 11," said Giuliani. "The night of the Sept. 11, we asked people to be stronger," he said. "And I believe New York is stronger today than it was then. Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg and Commissioner (Raymond) Kelly have made sure we're safer now. We're better prepared."
Mike Williams, whose son Kevin died in the twin towers, placed a baseball in honor of his son in a nook inside the cross in the days after the attack. The family, all avid ballplayers, started a foundation that sends kids to baseball camps
"Sometimes I can't believe it's been 10 years," he said. "It seems sometimes like it was two weeks ago."
The cross was loaded into a flatbed truck and hauled about a block to the construction site. A horn sounded to alert crews that something was overhead as the cross was slowly lifted by a giant white-and-red crane. It was turned counterclockwise and made slow, steady movement toward a rectangular hole in the concrete.
The only sound was the whir of construction machinery as the cross was slowly lowered 70 feet, through the metal work that will be the ceiling of the museum, past black vents and twisted wiring, to the bottom. It looked like a coffin being lowered into a grave.
But Jordan and the others think it's a turning point, and not a time for sadness.
"This is one of the most cathartic moments I have felt in my entire life," he said. "I feel a relief in the sense that I know it's found a permanent home, and for many of those who lost loved ones on that day, it is a relief for them, too."

The Catholic Church is booming; bad news for chicken little!


July 22, 2011

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on new survey data profiling Catholicism:

All we ever hear from the wild-eyed critics of the Catholic Church, including the dissidents within, is that the Church had better "get with it" and change its teachings on abortion, homosexuality and women's ordination. Yet it is precisely those religious institutions that are the most liberal on these issues—the mainline Protestant denominations—that are collapsing. Not so the Catholic Church. Indeed, its numbers are going north while the mainline denominations are going south.

The latest findings by the "Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership" project, a collaborative effort with Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, are illuminating. In the last 40 years, the Catholic population has increased by 75 percent; it has grown by 50 percent since 1990. More important, Catholic attendance at Mass is up 15 percent since 2000. And in the last five years, contributions have increased by 14 percent. It is also important to note that there has been a 40 percent increase in Latinos in the Church over the past five years.

Shedding more light on the statistics is a study released a few months ago by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion. Its "Landscape Survey" found that of those Catholics who have left the Church, roughly half became unaffiliated while the other half became Protestant. Regarding the latter half, only 23 percent did so because of the Church's teachings on abortion and homosexuality; only 16 percent left because of the way women are treated. Importantly, two-thirds of these Catholics elected to join a Protestant evangelical church.

In other words, disaffected Catholics who left for another religion opted to join a more conservative church. That they did not run down the block in search of a mainline denomination—one that entertains the liberal agenda on issues governing sexuality and women—is telling.

It's time some people took a hard look at the data and made some hard choices. This is great news for the Catholic Church.

>>>So many people have sent this to me that I did a little due deligence and decided to pop this thing up on my blog.  Some of this I've been saying for a few years.  The Church has seen many enemies come and go; some from the inside.  Despite this; she endures, thrives and remains the pillar and bulwark of truth.  1 Timothy 3:14.

The church has problems that are as old as her history and new to the times in which we all live.  We have endured more than a decade now the revelations of child abuse by clergy; an unthinkable and unspeakable possibility in most Catholics minds.  She sees abuses in doctrine and liturgy.  And she is negatively impacted by disobedience from some clergy and laity.  Yet she is sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit and guided by the words of Her founder, Jesus Christ: the gates of hell shall not prevail!

Despite the dire warnings; the church is growing; yes, it's demographics change and she flowers in places that, in the past, would hardly set eyes on a Catholic and she struggles deep inside many metropolitan urban areas.  She booms on continents that were hardly ever Catholic, Africa and Asia come to mind, yet she struggles in Europe.  But worldwide: growing and the numbers keep growing.

Vocations are turning around.  Sure we won't have huge convents overnight and the Priesthood still has challenges with retirement and deaths; but young vocations are very, very "catholic" and nice numbers are coming in from the 30 and 40 year old generation.  And social services, ministries and activities of holy Mother Church have never been more existent and needed.  You see, we are not in charge; He is and the Holy Spirit is the guide.

Many of you who read this blog watch, and a few of you subscribe to, guys like Michael Voris and his wild attacks on the Church.  In the name of the Church, he profits from calling out the Church, telling us where our eternal souls are not going to go unless we, well listen and subscribe to him.  Culling through headlines and reports, he finds something needing to be attacked, and often it does, and fashions it as if it was the norm and all Bishops made it happen.  He attacks singing Amazing Grace and the Knights of Columbus.  And his rants continue ad hominem.  Hey chicken little the sky might be falling but the Catholic Church is booming!

Homily for 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

One of my wife's favorite TV shows is something called Antique Roadshow.  I bet many of you have seen it.  These antique specialists come to town with TV crew in tow and invite folks to drag out those family treasures and assorted stuff accumulated over the years for a look see.  I'm sure they look through a lot of junk but thanks to some great editing and a lot of patience, viewers of the show always see the amazing value of these treasures.  In some instances, the unsuspecting owner finds out that they possess a treasure of great price.

Maybe some of us have had a similar experience.  We find a painting or an old coin or some antique and we find out later that they really have some value.  Of course just having things handed down from past generations within our family is enough for us to deem them a treasure.

As people of faith, what do we treasure?  What do we value?  How much are we willing to do or give to keep our treasure?

Today's Gospel brings us to the end of the 13th chapter of Matthew and his teachings in parables.  In reading the shorter Gospel our focus is on the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price.  Upon finding both of these treasures the person in the field and the merchant are willing to sell all that they have; to give up everything already in their possession to gain the greater value of that treasure in the field and the pearl of great price.

This first parable of finding the treasure in the field represents finding the treasure of the kingdom of God.  Once gaining the right understanding of finding the treasures of God's kingdom, which offers eternal life, over the treasures of this life, which surely fades and passes away, will we sacrifice everything to gain the greater value?  Jesus asks us to do so!

The parable of the pearl of great price is much the same as the treasure in the field.  The merchant too can be compared to any of us who, understanding the value of God's kingdom, will do all that is necessary to always possess it. Will we?  Jesus asks us to do so!

The challenge of these parables for us today is the opportunity to reflect on our own comittment to hanging on to the value of God's kingdom.  Have we made that decision of faith that yes, we prefer the Kingdom of God to the distractions and allurements of this world?  If so, have we sold all that we have; have we abandoned those things that prevent us from giving completely and fully to God?   Does my life reflect one whose treasures align with the treasures of the Kingdom?

In the week ahead can we pray and reflect daily on these final few verses from Matthew 13.  Use these Scriptures as a prayer; an examination of conscience if you will, on those things we possess that both lead us to God's kingdom and those things that may hold us back.  And in this prayer, ask God to show us more keenly those things that He has given us that are truly treasure: our faith and love of Him, the family treasures and friends treasures He has placed in our lives.  The many treasures we take for granted and the treasures that, at first blush, don't seem like treasures at all.

You know maybe the Antiques Roadshow will pass through town sometime soon and something you have found, something in your possession will be deemed of great value.  But we all have already found that treasure in a field, that pearl of great price:  it is our love of Jesus and the Kingdom of God; and that truly is priceless!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Prayer answered; nothing impossible with God

 Brenda was almost halfway to the top of the tremendous granite cliff.  She was standing on a ledge where she was taking a breather during this, her first rock climb.  As she rested there, the safety rope snapped against her eye and knocked out her contact lens.
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'Great', she thought.  'Here I am on a rock ledge, hundreds of feet from the bottom and hundreds of feet to the top of this cliff, and now my sight is blurry.'  She looked and looked, hoping that somehow it had landed on the ledge.  But it just wasn't there. 

She felt the panic rising in her, so she began praying.  She prayed for calm, and she prayed that she might find her contact lens.  When she got to the top, a friend examined her eye and her clothing for the lens, but it was not to be found.  Although she was calm now that she was at the top, she was saddened because she could not clearly see across the range of mountains.  She thought of the bible verse 'The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.'

She thought, 'Lord, You can see all these mountains.  You know every stone and leaf, and You know exactly where my contact lens is.  Please help me.'

Later, when they had hiked down the trail to the bottom of the cliff they met another party of climbers just starting up the face of the cliff.  One of them shouted out, 'Hey, you guys!  Anybody lose a contact lens?'

Well, that would be startling enough, but you know why the climber saw it?  An ant was moving slowly across a twig on the face of the rock, carrying it!
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The story doesn't end there.  Brenda's father is a cartoonist.  When she told him the incredible story of the ant, the prayer, and the contact lens, he drew a cartoon of an ant lugging that contact lens with the caption, 'Lord, I don't know why you want me to carry this thing.  I can't eat it, and it's awfully heavy.  But if this is what you want me to do; I'll carry it for you.' 
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I think it would do all of us some good to say, 'God, I don't know why you want me to carry this load.  I can see no good in it and it's awfully heavy.  But, if you want me to carry it, I will.' 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tonight we pray for the people of Norway

Today the people of Norway experienced terror on two fronts; a horrific bombing in Oslo that killed 7, injured many more and left the city and country in shock.  And then word spread later in the day that at a youth camp on a forested island in Norway 80 innocent young people were gunned down.  Here is the full report:,0,6147794,full.story

We sometimes only care when these things hit close to home but terror and fear and injustice anywhere is terror and fear and injustice everywhere.

As we pray for the folks of Norway I thought who is the patron saint of this Scandinavian country.  I knew that Sweden has St. Bridget, who we remember tomorrow.  But Norway; I could not remember.  So to the search engine I go; it's St. Olaf.  And as I read about him I notice his feast day is one week from today; barely a week removed from today's tragic act of terrorism.  So reflect on his life as part of your prayer for the Norwegian people today:

St. Olaf
Feastday: July 29

Olaf was the son of Harold Grenske, a lord in Norway. Olaf Haraldsson, often called "the Fat", spent his youth as a pirate. He was baptized in Rouen, and in 1013, went to England to aid King Ethelred against the Danes. He returned to Norway in 1015, captured most of Norway back from the Danes and Swedes, defeated Earl Sweyn at the battle of Nesjar in 1016, and became king. He set about unifying and Christianizing his realm, but the harshness of his rule precipitated a revolt of the nobles in 1029, and aided by Canute of Denmark, they defeated him and forced him to flee to Russia. He returned in 1030 and attempted to recover his kingdom, but was slain at the Battle of Stiklestad in Norway on July 29th. Though not too popular during his lifetime, miracles were reported at his shrine, and a chapel was built, which became the cathedral of Trondheim; it became a great pilgrimage center for all Scandinavia. He is one of the great heroes of Norway for his efforts to unify and Christianize Norway, of which he is patron. He was canonized in 1164 and his feast day is July 29th.

Sweden's patron saint

St. Bridget of Sweden
Feast Day: July 23
Patron of Sweden

Saint Birgitta was the daughter of Uppland’s Lagman, Birger Petersson and his wife, Ingeborg, who was a member of the same clan as the reigning family. Birgitta’s family was pious; her father went to confession every Friday and made long and arduous pilgrimages as far away as the Holy Land.

Birgitta’s mother died, leaving Birgitta, ten years old, Katharine, nine and a newborn baby boy, Israel. The children were sent to their maternal aunt for further education and care. It seems that as a young child, Birgitta had a dream-vision of The Man of Sorrows. This dream was very vivid. Birgitta asked Him who had done that to Him. His answer: ‘All those who despise my love.’ The memory of this dream never left Birgitta and may have even left an indelible mark on her sub-conscious. As was usual during the Middle Ages, Birgitta was married when she was 13 years old to a young man, Ulf Gudmarsson with whom she had eight children, four daughters and four sons, all of them survived infancy, and that was very rare at that time.

When the King of Sweden, Magnus Eriksson married Blanche of Namur, he asked his kinswoman, Birgitta to come and be Lady-in Waiting and to teach the young queen the language and customs of her new country. After her years of service at Court, Birgitta and Ulf made the long pilgrimage to Santiago di Compostela. On the return journey Ulf became dangerously ill in Arras. Birgitta feared for his death and sat all night by his bed praying, and then a bishop appeared to her, promised that Ulf would recover and ‘God had great things for her to do.’ He told her that he was Denis, Patron of France. Ulf recovered and was able to continue his work as Lagman in the province of Närke until early in the year 1344, when he was very ill so Birgitta took him to the monks at Alvastra where he died and was buried. Birgitta remained in a little house near the abbey and she spent along hours in prayer by Ulf’s grave. She said that she ‘loved him like my own body.’ She arranged her affairs among her children and various charities and prayed for guidance. She was 41 years old and in the abbey at Alvastra God called her ‘be My Bride and My canal’. He gave her the task of founding new religious order, mainly for women. He said that the other orders had fallen into decay and this new order would be a vineyard whose wine would revivify the Church. He showed her how her abbey church was to be built, gave directions concerning the clothing and prayers of the nuns, 60 in all, who needed priests as chaplains, 13 priests, 4 deacons and 8 lay brothers. These two communities were to be ruled by an abbess, who was to represent the Blessed Virgin Mary together with the Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

King Magnus Eriksson donated a little palace and much land to the new monastery, but almost as soon she had begun altering the palace and organising the work, Christ appeared to her and asked her to go to Rome and wait there until she got the pope to return from France to Rome. She was to be there during the Holy Year 1350. Birgitta left Sweden at the end of 1349 never to return. For the rest of her life she saw visions concerning the reform of the Church, messages to kings and popes and many other persons in high places, directing them to work for the Church. It may be noted that Birgitta never wrote in the first person. She always said the she carried a message from a very High Lord. Although she had longed to become a nun, she never even saw the monastery in Vadstena. In fact, nothing she set out to do was ever realised. She never had the pope return to Rome permanently, she never managed to make peace between France and England, she never saw any nun in the habit that Christ had shown her, and she never returned to Sweden but died, worn out old lady far from home in July 1373. She can be called the Patroness of Failures. In this she was like her Lord. He was also classed as failure as He hung on the Cross. Birgitta was a successful failure as she was canonized in 1391.Birgitta was the only women ever to found a religious Order, Ordo Sanctissimi Salvatoris. It was never a double order but an order primarily for women with permanent chaplains, ruled by an abbess. The brothers had as their head, not a prior but a Confessor General who was responsible for the spiritual business of both convents.

The order spread swiftly throughout Europe with monasteries from Scandinavia right through Europe down to Italy. In modern times is has expanded into five different, juridically independant branches; Spain 1629, Rome 1911, U.S.A. 1970, Mexico at the change of the century. None of these foundations have brothers (except U.S.A. which has one male convent). The last Birgittine father died in Altomünster 1863. She is the patroness of Sweden. Her feast day is July 23.

What a huge Deacon class!

‘Enter deeply into a friendship with Jesus.’ deacons told

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Written by MIKE NELSON Friday, 22 July 2011 00:00
“This is a day of grace and joy for you, my brothers, and for all of your families,” the archbishop said with a smile as he looked upon the assembly filled with friends and parishioners of the new deacons, as well as their families and some 50 priests, 40 fellow deacons and Auxiliary Bishops Thomas Curry, Gerald Wilkerson and Oscar Solis.

The deacons (one is single) and their wives have journeyed for nearly five years in their formation process. It is the second large diaconate group from the region; 60 were ordained in June 2007 at Santa Barbara City College.

In June, 14 men were ordained to the permanent diaconate from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. There are now some 350 permanent deacons serving in the archdiocese, the largest number since the restoration of the permanent diaconate by the Second Vatican Council; the first class of 25 deacons for Los Angeles was ordained in 1975.

“All of us in our Christian lives are entrusted with a mission to serve our brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Gomez noted in his homily. “Each of us is called to take Jesus as our model and to imitate him by serving the Church and all mankind. However, you who are to be ordained to the permanent diaconate are called by God and set apart to a divinely instituted ministry of service in his Church.”

Citing the day’s Gospel reading from St. John (“I no longer call you slaves, but friends”), the archbishop encouraged the new deacons to “enter deeply” into a friendship with Jesus Christ, who “welcomes you to sacramental ministry in his Church — not as servants, but as friends. I pray that you will accept this beautiful gift of his friendship and let it shape your identity as deacons and let it set the program for your ministries.”

He reminded them that, in their ministries, they are called “to a life of simple holiness and an attitude of humble service. By your ordination, you are configured to the image of Jesus Christ, who emptied himself to come among us in the form of a servant. You are called to serve — in persona Christi Servi, ‘in the person of Christ the Servant.’”

Thus, he said, it is imperative that their example and actions speak as profoundly as the Gospels that they proclaim at Mass.

“Through your service of love,” Archbishop Gomez asserted, “you will show our brothers and sisters how much God loves them. You will show them how God longs to touch each one of us personally with his love.”

Newly ordained are: Genaro Gacasan and Luc Papillon (Blessed Junípero Serra, Camarillo); Eduardo Castillo, Patrick Coulter, Derrel Craig, Dennis Fleming, Michael Kromm and Joseph Tumbarello (Holy Cross, Moorpark); Jeffrey Braxton, Fernando Calderon, Miguel Marquez, Paul Nicastro and Jesus Rico (La Purísima Concepción, Lompoc); Alfonso Flores (Mary Star of the Sea, Oxnard); Daniel Bojorquez, Michael Burns, José Gonzalez, Don Huntley and Philip Joerger (Our Lady of the Assumption, Ventura); Sergio Bernal (Our Lady of Guadalupe, Guadalupe); Falk Gosdschan (Our Lady of Guadalupe, Santa Barbara); Jason Miller (Our Lady of Guadalupe, Santa Paula); Roberto González, David Munoz and Paul Rayas (Our Lady of Sorrows, Santa Barbara); Michael Lujan (Queen of Angels, Lompoc); Philip Conforti and Humberto Guzman (Sacred Heart, Ventura-Saticoy); Andrew Cottam (St. Anthony, Oxnard); Raymond Rodriguez (St. Francis of Assisi, Fillmore); José Ojeda (St. John Neumann, Santa Maria); Joseph Bond and Claudio Selame (St. Julie Billiart, Newbury Park); Christopher Boerger, Alfredo Espinosa, Antonio Mejia and Robert Schaefer (St. Louis De Montfort, Santa Maria); Dennis Pearson, Steven Pent (St. Mary of the Assumption, Santa Maria); George Esseff Jr. (St. Mary Magdalen, Camarillo); Christopher Laliberte (St. Maximilian Kolbe, Westlake Village); David Lawrence (St. Paschal Baylon, Thousand Oaks); Melecio Zamora (St. Peter Claver, Simi Valley); Edward Posvar (St. Rose of Lima, Simi Valley); Joaquin Lara (St. Thomas Aquinas, Ojai); and Jerome Bettencourt, Vincent Crawford and Leonardo Lacbain (Santa Clara, Oxnard).
—Mike Nelson

>>>Tip of the deacon's stole to Deacon's Bench where I first saw this amazing post.  New Deacons are a response to God's call to have men serving the Church in the ministry of charity!