Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Sunday of Advent

From today's Office of Readings: From a catechetical instruction by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop.

We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom.

In general, what relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects. There is a birth from God before the ages, and a birth from a virgin in the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future.

At the first coming He was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At His second coming, He will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming He endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming He will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels. We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord. At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.

The Savior will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom He was judged. At His own judgment He was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against Him when they crucified Him and will remind them: You did these things, and I was silent.

His first coming was to fulfill His plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of His kingdom by necessity. Malachi the prophet speaks of the two comings. And the Lord Whom you seek will come suddenly to His temple: that is one coming.

Again he says of another coming: Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of His entry, or who will stand in His sight? Because He comes like a refiner's fire, a fuller's herb, and He will sit refining and cleansing.

These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: The grace of God the Savior has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await.

That is why the faith we profess has been handed on to you in these words: He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.
Our Lord Jesus Christ will therefore come from Heaven. He will come at the end of the world, in glory, at the last day. For there will be an end to this world, and the created world will be made new.

November 30: St. Joseph Marchand

St. Joseph Marchand was a French priest, sent as a missionary to Vietnam in 1830, the year St. Catherine Labouré received the Miraculous Medal. Although he was offered the headship of the Foreign Missionary Seminary in Paris in 1832, he chose instead to remain in Vietnam.

Which turned out to be a fateful decision for the young priest. The following year, he was arrested pursuant to a royal decree against all European missionaries. He languished in prison in Saigon for 18 months, after which he died a horrible death, being torn apart by red-hot tongs. He was beatified in 1900, and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

Here is a link to the Litany of the Martyrs of Vietnam, including St. Joseph Marchand. This Litany was composed by my good friend Mike Turner, OPL, and was approved for publication by our bishop in 2007.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

George M. Docherty, R.I.P.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
In a shocking breach of the sacred Berlin Wall of Separation Between Church and State, school children have been reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with the words "under God" for more than half a century.

It was the Knights of Columbus of New York City who first adopted the practice of adding the words "under God" to their recitation of pledge in 1951, citing to the Gettysburg Address, in which Abraham Lincoln spoke of this nation, under God, having a new birth of freedom. The following year, the Supreme Council of the Knights took up the banner and launched a campaign to lobby Congress to universalize the change.

Rev. George M. Docherty, a Presbyterian minister and recent Scots immigrant to the United States, also liked the idea of adding the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. It was the custom at that time for Presidents to attend New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., the same church Abraham Lincoln himself attended, on "Lincoln Sunday," the Sunday nearest Lincoln's birthday. Knowing that he would have President Eisenhower's ear on Lincoln Sunday, and that President Eisenhower had recently become a Presbyterian, Rev. Docherty preached a sermon on the subject of adding the words "under God" to the Pledge on February 7, 1954. On February 8th, President Eisenhower got his friends in Congress to introduce a bill to make the desired change. The bill was signed into law on Flag Day, June 14, 1954.

Rev. Docherty passed away at his home in Alexandria, Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving Day. He was 97. Requiescat in pace.

Scared Straight (And Other Methods of Reaching Sinners)

Herewith some dramatic conversion stories. If you've ever wondered what a "signal grace" is, these probably qualify:

St. Lucian (martyred c. 250). Lucian started out as a devil worshipper. One day he tried to cast a spell on a Christian woman, who made short work of it just by making the Sign of the Cross. That straightened him up, and he spent the rest of his days preaching against his former errors.

St. Genesius of Rome (d. c. 303). Genesius was a pagan Roman actor. While onstage in a play that mocked Baptism, he was suddenly converted, and refused to finish the play. He was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian, and his memorial is August 25th.

St. Mary of Egypt (c. 344-c. 421). Spoiled, cynical and rich, Mary ran away from home at the age of 12 and launched on a 17-year career as a dancer and prostitute in Alexandria, Egypt. Then, one day, she tried to enter a church but found herself physically unable to open the door. This moved her to repent and call upon the intercession of the Blessed Mother, who told her to cross the Jordan River in order to find rest. From that point forward, she lived a solitary life of penance. Her memorial is April 3d.

St. Hubert of Liege (656-727). Hubert was a dissolute young courtier whose passion for hunting led him to disregard solemn holy days. While out hunting a stag on Good Friday, he saw a crucifix between the stag's antlers and heard a voice warning him that if he didn't straighten up, he would soon find himself in Hell. When his wife died, he gave up all his worldly goods, became a priest, and was eventually made bishop of Maastricht. Known for his preaching and his charity toward the poor, he is titled the Apostle of the Ardennes. He died reciting the Our Father in 727, having predicted the date of his death. His memorial is November 3rd.

St. Vladimir I of Kiev (956-1015). Vladimir started out as a bad guy. A really, really bad guy. He was not only a keeper of numerous wives and concubines but also a fratricide and a thoroughgoing pagan who may have actually participated in human sacrifices (he is the patron of murderers -- obviously for their conversion). He educated himself about Christianity for purposes of preparing to wage war against the Graeco-Roman Empire, and tried to extort the Byzantine Emperor into giving him his sister in marriage in exchange for not marching on Constantinople. When the Emperor replied that his sister could only marry a Christian prince, Vladimir agreed to accept Baptism. Baptism led to a host of astounding changes. Vladimir married the princess, got rid of the excess wives and the concubines, destroyed all the idols in his country, and underwent a dramatic character change. By the end of his career, this previously ferocious prince was well known as a mild and compassionate ruler. His memorial is July 15th.

Bl. Villana de Botti (1332-1361). As a young girl, Villana ran away from home to enter a convent, but was refused admittance, sent home, and then married off. After this, she became lazy and worldly, and gave herself up to the pursuit of pleasure. One day, while she was getting dressed for a party, she saw the vision of a hideous demon in her mirror. Running to all the mirrors in the house, she saw the same thing in each one, and realized that she was seeing the state of her soul. She promptly gave up frivolity and ostentation, became a Dominican tertiary, and led a life of holiness. Her memorial is February 28th (the order celebrates it on January 29th).

St. Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel (1557-1595). Philip, the son of Protestants, was a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I, where he distinguished himself in the field of libertinism. He was present at the trials of martyr priests, including St. Edmund Campion who, though physically weakened by torture and imprisonment, and denied materials with which to prepare for trial, nevertheless succeeded in captivating most of his listeners. His witness and and that of other priests haunted Philip until he finally made his peace with the Church. Philip would go on to be condemned to death himself for the Faith, though instead of being executed, he was kept languishing in prison, never knowing which day would be his last. What must have been the supreme trial of his faith came toward the very end, when the queen offered to grant him his only remaining request, namely, to see his wife and son one last time, if only he would return to Protestantism. He refused, and died shortly thereafter. His memorial is October 19th.

Fr. Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne (1814-1884). Alphonse Ratisbonne, the scion of a Jewish banking family, was a worldly-wise and wise-assed youth who drifted from atheism to agnosticism, and who, after his brother Theodore converted and became a Catholic priest, conceived a rabid hatred of the Church. During a tour of Europe, shortly before he was to have married his own niece, Ratisbonne found himself in the company of a Catholic nobleman who predicted that he would become a Christian, and challenged him to wear a Miraculous Medal and recite the Memorare. The use of this medal and the recitation of this prayer, coupled with the prayers of the nobleman and his friends, culminated in a vision of the Blessed Mother, during which Ratisbonne received the gift of infused knowledge and understanding of the Faith. Within a fortnight, he received Baptism and Holy Communion, and afterward became a Jesuit priest. Later, with permission from the superior general and the Holy See, he left the Jesuits in order to assist his brother Theodore, founder of the Congregation of Our Lady of Zion, whose mission was to promote the conversion of the Jews. In 1855, Ratisbonne moved to Palestine, where he lived out the rest of his life as a missionary. Unfortunately, the Congregation -- at least in the American/Canadian province -- has now abandoned its mission, becoming little more than a society of middle-aged female social workers.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Divine Office: A Kit for Beginners

I had a friend mention to me recently that he was interested in praying the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office), but he was frustrated because it is so complicated and he doesn't know where to begin. I know exactly what he means. I had to start reciting the Office when I joined the Third Order Dominicans, and I also found it very frustrating. The Office was simplified after Vatican II, but I still found plenty to complain about.

So for all those out there who are interested in making a habit out of reciting the Office, here's what you need to succeed:

1. A Breviary.
There are one-volume breviaries, but I use the four-volume set, as it is more complete and easier (in my opinion) to use. You can get the whole set, or you can buy it one volume at a time for about $35.00 per volume. If you want to take that approach, we start Volume I on Saturday evening, when the first Sunday of Advent officially begins. Also, you should get a cover for your breviary, with pockets and zippers. Everybody who prays the Office regularly accumulates holy cards, slips of paper, etc. in their breviaries, and the zipper cover keeps all this stuff from falling out.

2. A Cheat Sheet.
This is probably the most important tangible object after the breviary itself. New breviaries usually come with the current one; otherwise, you can pick one up for a couple of bucks. Sometimes the cheat sheet has mistakes in it, but don't concern yourself with that in the beginning. Do not succumb to pride and be ashamed to use a cheating aid: it's more important to do it right than to be an instant master.

3. A Teacher.
The Office is really not that difficult, once you get the hang of it; but you're never going to figure it out on your own. Why? Because, for one thing, you have to skip around a lot in the book, especially on big feast days and solemnities, and you'll get lost without help. Also, the breviary doesn't remind you to do certain things, like saying the "Glory Be" after every psalm and canticle, so you need somebody to point out these things the breviary just assumes you already know to do. Even under The Redoubtable One's tutelage, it still took me a good year to get the hang of the Office, in no small part because I didn't have enough of the next thing you need to become competent at it:

4. Diligence.
You need a lot of stick-to-it-iveness to pray the Office. I frequently got frustrated and gave up for periods of time before I got the hang of the Office, so it's a good thing the Rule of my Order doesn't bind on pain of sin. Do not, however, follow my poor example.

Also, remember that the duties of your state of life come first, even if you are a member of a Third Order. For those of us who live and work in the world, it is not possible to pray all the hours, and we shouldn't try if it conflicts with our responsibilities. Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are the two most important hours, so if you plan on saying the Office regularly, try sticking with those. The Rule for Dominican Laity, as applied in my province (the Western Province, Holy Name of Jesus) prescribes Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer to the extent possible. (The Office of Readings may be recited at any hour.)

Good luck in praying the Office, and always remember to seek help when you need it!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Forgotten Prayers: The Te Deum

The Te Deum hasn't exactly sunk into oblivion, since it concludes the Office of Readings on Sundays and solemnities, and there are still plenty of people who are obliged to recite the Divine Office. The Te Deum is (appropriately enough) a traditional hymn of thanksgiving, dating back to the 4th century. The verses and responses at the end were added later and are optional. The faithful who recite it in thanksgiving are granted a partial indulgence; a plenary indulgence is granted for public recitation on the last day of the year.

O God, we praise Thee, and acknowledge Thee to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships Thee.
All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
Holy Church throughout the world acknowledges Thee:
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest it upon Thyself to deliver man,
Thou didst not disdain the Virgin's womb.
Having overcome the sting of death, Thou opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sitest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou willst come to be our Judge.
We, therefore, beg Thee to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.
Let them be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.

V. Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thy inheritance!
R. Govern them, and raise them up forever.

V. Every day we thank Thee.
R. And we praise Thy Name forever, yes, forever and ever.

V. O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
R. Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.

V. Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.
R. O Lord, in Thee I have put my trust; let me never be put to shame.

Here it is in Latin:

Te Deum laudamus: te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli; tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum sancta confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae maiestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo, aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni: quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.

V. Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.
R. Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.

V. Per singulos dies benedicimus te.
R. Et laudamus nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.

V. Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
R. Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri.

V. Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.
R. In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

Herewith one of the finest, and perhaps most well-known specimens in English of the vilanelle, a French poetic form introduced into English during the 19th century.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reason No. 5,735,643 to Pray to St. Thérèse

God granted all of Thérèse's desires, from the least to the greatest, even when she didn't ask for them. And He still grants them. Consider:

-- She wanted to enter Carmel at the age of 15. Against all the odds, she was admitted to Carmel at the age of 15.

-- She loved flowers, and loved gathering them and wandering through fields full of them; she gave all this up when she entered Carmel. But her dreams were filled with flowers, and she delighted in taking her novices out to strew rose petals on the great stone crucifix in the courtyard of the convent, always choosing the best ones. When she missed some particular flower in the bouquets that decorated the altar, it would turn up in short order.

-- She loved snow. On her Clothing Day, she had a secret desire to see nature clad in white like herself. And so it was done, even though the temperature and climate were all against it.

-- She wanted to be a saint. She became a saint.

-- She wanted to be a Doctor of the Church. She became a Doctor of the Church.

Thérèse wanted to be an apostle and a missionary, and even made plans to join the missions in Asia, but was prevented because of her health. She wanted to travel to all five continents at once and win souls for God.

The Carmelite community of New Caney, Texas remembered this when Col. Ron Garan, an astronaut aboard the Discovery mission in May and June, asked for their prayers for his mission and offered to take something into space on their behalf. So for his flight, they gave him a relic of St. Thérèse.

And commended to her intercession the whole world, around which she circled for 14 days, logging a total of 5,735,643 miles.

Why does God still fall all over Himself to grant Thérèse's every tiniest wish? Because she never stopped falling all over herself to fulfill His will. Most of us can't exactly claim to do the same; and then we wonder why we make such a pig's breakfast out of our lives.

So maybe commending ourselves to her intercession would be a step toward fixing that problem.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Flatulence in the First Degree

In an age when we cheerfully throw away our freedoms one by one in order to give the government the power to provide for our old age, insure us against poverty and disease, and bail out our financial institutions and floundering industries, why should we not also use the government's coercive police powers to rein in unruly schoolchildren?

That, at any rate, seems to be the opinion of the alleged authorities at Stuart's Spectrum Jr./Sr. High School, where a 12-year-old student was arrested on a charge of "disruption of a school function." His "crime" consisted in (a) shutting off computers, thereby disrupting schoolwork, and (b) deliberately farting during class, with entirely foreseeable effects.

In the far-off days of my own youth, this sort of thing was called a "discipline problem." To deal with a discipline problem, we had what was known as "disciplinary action," the nature and severity of which depended upon the circumstances. "Disciplinary action" might include a lecture from the teacher, a sit-down in the principle's office, detention after school, a note or a phone call to the parents, or a combination of the above. After being sat down by the teacher and/or the principal, the child could then expect to be sat down again by his parents when he got home. All of this was handled privately and, for the most part, quite satisfactorily, with law enforcement only being brought in as a last resort.

Now, however, calling the cops and getting the courts involved seems to be well on its way to becoming a first resort. Concerning this particularly troubling case of first-degree flatulence, a few thoughts:

1. I'm kind of disappointed the school didn't call 911 over this. It could have been a job for HazMat.

2. If this corresponds to the school's idea of a "serious" offense, how would they handle a genuinely serious situation?

3. Ever notice that back when we didn't call the cops for things like this, this was about as serious as most disciplinary problems got? Now we do involve the police in this sort of thing, and even routinely maintain a police presence on campus, and yet children are committing unbelievable crimes on and off campus.

Does that not suggest that an increased police presence in the schools is really just a bandaid, and the real solution to this problem lies elsewhere?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November 23: Bl. Miguel Pro

Here is a comparatively rare event in the history of the Church: a camera is witness to a martyrdom. The whole affair was orchestrated in 1927 by a fierce enemy of the Church whose savage blows only served to strengthen and glorify both her and the individual victims of his wrath.

A sketch of Bl. Miguel Pro's life brings to mind the story of his spiritual forbears, the martyr-priests in post-Reformation England. Like them, he lived at a time when his nation's leaders turned against the Church. The young Jesuit novice went into exile during the Mexican revolution; like many seminarians during the English persecution, Miguel Pro had to study for the priesthood abroad; he was ordained in Belgium on August 31, 1925. Like his English forbears, Fr. Pro conducted his ministry on the sly, and frequently in disguise.

Fr. Pro was known not only for his devotion and prayerfulness, but also for his wit, his playfulness and his good cheer, especially in the face of a distressing stomach ailment. He was much loved; however, he was eventually betrayed to the authorities and ultimately condemned to death on a trumped-up charge of attempting to assassinate the vice-president.

On the day of Fr. Pro's execution by firing squad, the fiercely anti-Catholic president Plutarcho Calles brought the press out to photograph the event, secure in the belief that he would thereby prove that impending death reduced Catholics to sniveling cowards. In the first photograph above, we see Fr. Pro praying, the picture of serenity in the face of the violent death from which he is only moments away. The next photograph shows Fr. Pro confronting the firing squad, sans blindfold, his arms raised in the form of the cross, with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other. Fr. Pro forgave his executioners; and as they took aim, he shouted his last words, "¡Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!)." The firing squad was so shaken by his courage that it succeeded only in wounding him; in the final photograph, a soldier dispatches the fallen priest at point-blank range.

Naturally, these photographs had the opposite effect to that intended; Plutarcho Calles ended up confiscating and outlawing them. And Calles obviously did not succeed in entirely destroying the camera's witness to Fr. Pro's courage, since they survive down to the present day.

Chaplet of Bl. Miguel Pro

Blessed Miguel, before your death, you told your friend to ask you for favors when you were in Heaven. I beg you to intercede for me and in union with Our Lady and all the angels and saints, to ask Our Lord to grant my petition, provided that it be God's Will. [Mention the request.]

We honor and adore the triune God. Glory be...

We ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Come Holy Spirit...

We pray as Jesus taught us to pray. Our Father...
We venerate with love the Virgin Mary. Hail Mary...
All you angels, bless you the Lord forever.
Saint Joseph, Saint [name of your patron], and all the saints, pray for us.

Blessed Miguel, high spirited youth, pray for us. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
Blessed Miguel, loving son and brother, pray for us. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
Blessed Miguel, patient novice, pray for us. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
Blessed Miguel, exile from your homeland, pray for us. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
Blessed Miguel, prayerful religious, pray for us. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
Blessed Miguel, sick and suffering, pray for us. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
Blessed Miguel, defender of workers, pray for us. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
Blessed Miguel, courageous priest in hiding, pray for us. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
Blessed Miguel, prisoner in jail, pray for us. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
Blessed Miguel, forgiver of persecutors, pray for us. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
Blessed Miguel, holy martyr, pray for us. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Forgotten Prayers: Ejaculations

Get your mind out of the gutter. Ejaculations -- also called aspirations or invocations -- are very short prayers. Many come from Scripture. Here are some ejaculations:

God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Blessed be the Name of the Lord! (Reparation for blasphemy)

O Heart of Jesus, burning with love for us, inflame our hearts with love for Thee.

My Lord and my God. (John 20:28)

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, assist me in my last agony. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, may I sleep and rest in peace with you.

May the Most Blessed Sacrament be praised and adored forever.

Stay with us, O Lord. (Luke 24:29)

Mother of Sorrows, pray for us.

My Mother, my Hope.

Hail, O Cross, our only hope.

Merciful Lord Jesus, grant them everlasting rest.

Blessed be God!

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine! (Roman Ritual)

My Jesus, mercy!

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee! (The Miraculous Medal prayer)

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee!

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come!

Sweet Heart of Jesus, be my love!

Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us!

From all sin deliver me, O Lord!

Jesus and Mary, we love you, save souls!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Motor Terrae, Solisque Stator

Motor terrae, solisque stator: "he stayed the sun and freed the earth." This motto is applied to Nicholas Copernicus, whose observations of the sun, the moon and the planets gave rise to the revolutionary heliocentric planetary theory, and ultimately laid part of the groundwork for the formation of the Gregorian calendar.

And as a result of checking in with Dr. Ed Peters' canon law blog today, I found out a few more things about Nicholas Copernicus that I had not previously known:

-- Copernicus was a deacon and a canon lawyer. He may have been ordained to the priesthood later in life, but this is not certain.

-- In addition to the foregoing, although he never took a degree in medicine, Copernicus also practiced as a physician, serving the poor at no charge.

-- Biggest surprise of all: according to Catholic Encyclopedia, Copernicus' entire family -- including, presumably, the man himself -- were Third Order Preachers.

Maybe it shouldn't be such a huge surprise after all, inasmuch as the patron saint of astronomers is -- St. Dominic.

Forgotten Prayers: Act of Contrition

Confession of our sins to a priest is the means that Christ instituted to forgive us and restore us to God's grace. John 20:19-23 says:
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Although only God can forgive sins, He also has the authority to delegate this power; here, He is clearly doing exactly that. It would not be possible for the Apostles or their successors to forgive or retain sins without knowing what the sins are; therefore, it must be necessary for them to hear confessions. As the picture below illustrates, the Church teaches us that it is Christ Himself Whom we encounter in the confessional, through His priest.

Naturally, to be forgiven for our sins, we must be sorry for them and resolve to avoid them in the future, so at the end of every confession, we make an Act of Contrition. (Probably doesn't hurt to make Acts of Contrition outside of Confession, either.)

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven, and the pains of Hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

I don't find an exact translation of this Act of Contrition in Latin, but here is a slightly different one for Latin fans:

Deus meus, ex toto corde poenitet me omnium meorum peccatorum, eaque detestor, quia peccando, non solum poenas a Te iuste statutas promeritus sum, sed praesertim quia offendi Te, summum bonum, ac dignum qui super omnia diligaris. Ideo firmiter propono, adiuvante gratia Tua, de cetero me non peccaturum peccandique occasiones proximas fugiturum. Amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Forgotten Prayers: Prayer Before a Crucifix

I haven't heard much public recitation of this prayer over the years; but now that crucifixes are gradually returning to sanctuaries, maybe this will, too.

Behold, O good and most sweet Jesus, I fall upon my knees before Thee, and with most fervent desire beg and beseech Thee that Thou wouldst impress upon my heart a lively sense of faith, hope and charity, true repentance for my sins, and a firm resolve to make amends. And with deep affection and grief, I reflect upon Thy five wounds, having before my eyes that which Thy prophet David spoke about Thee, o good Jesus: "They have pierced my hands and feet, they have counted all my bones." Amen.

Here it is in Latin:
En ego, o bone et dulcissime Iesu, ante conspectum tuum genibus me provolvo, ac maximo animi ardore te oro atque obtestor, ut meum in cor vividos fidei, spei et caritatis sensus, atque veram peccatorum meorum poenitentiam, eaque emendandi firmissimam voluntatem velis imprimere; dum magno animi affectu et dolore tua quinque vulnera mecum ipse considero ac mente contemplor, illud prae oculis habens, quod iam in ore ponebat tuo David propheta de te, o bono Iesu: Foderunt manus meas et pedes meos: dinumeraverunt omnia ossa mea. Amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Forgotten Prayers: The Anima Christi

This Eucharistic prayer, mistakenly attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola but possibly composed by Pope John XXII, goes back to the early 14th century.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me;
Separated from Thee let me never be.
From the malicious enemy defend me;
In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with thy saints I may praise Thee
Forever and ever.

Here it is in Latin:

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
O bone Jesu, exaudi me.
Intra tua vulnera absconde me.
Ne permittas me separari a te.
Ab hoste maligno defende me.
In hora mortis meae voca me.
Et iube me venire ad te,
Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te.
In saecula saeculorum.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fearing God Rather than Man

Beppino Englaro may have won the legal "right" to make his daughter Eluana the next Terri Schiavo, but he'll have to go through the Misericordine nuns of Lecco in Italy to do it. The nuns run the hospice where Eluana, now 37, has lived for the last fourteen years in a "persistent vegetative state" -- although she opens her eyes and breathes on her own -- and they are refusing to remove her feeding and hydration tubes.

The Misericordines want to go on caring for Eluana, and are committed to doing so, thereby removing even the lousy excuse that her treatment is too costly. Said the nuns:

...once again, we maintain our availability, today and into the future, to continue to serve Eluana. If there are those who consider her dead, let Eluana remain with us who feel she is alive. We don’t ask anything but the silence and the liberty to love and to devote ourselves to those who are weak, poor and little in return.
Beppino Englaro might move his daughter to another hospital for purposes of having her done away with; but the Misericordines could petition for guardianship, says Msgr. Ignacio Barriero, a former lawyer and head of the Rome office of Human Life International. "It's more than reasonable that someone who wants to keep the person alive should be appointed the guardian, rather than the person who’s ready to kill her," says Msgr. Barriero. "You don't have to have a doctorate in theology to say that; it's just common sense."

Meanwhile, the Misericordines will go on lavishing on Eluana the care that her father has fought so vehemently to deprive her of.
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. (Isaiah 49:15)

Forgotten Prayers: The St. Michael Prayer

Pope Leo XIII composed this prayer to St. Michael in about 1888, and directed that it be recited at the end of every Low Mass -- a practice that ended in 1964. It is said that he composed it after hearing the devil boast to God that he could destroy the Church in 100 years. My Dominican chapter recites it at the end of every Rosary.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Here it is in Latin:

Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio. Contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute, in infernum detrude. Amen.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Campaign for Human Development: Promoting Social(ist) Values

It's that time of year again: the USCCB is hitting us up for donations to the Campaign for Human Development.

But are your contributions going to help spread the Gospel? Are you helping to support a seminarian, or a retired priest or religious? Are you sending rosaries or Bibles to the missions? Are you providing food or medical attention to starving children?

Look at the list of CHD donees, and check out some of their websites. There seem to be a few good things sprinkled here and there, like teaching people to read or vocational training. But the main purpose of many of them seems to be to promote "activism;" their websites are full of pictures of people marching and carrying signs and bullhorns. In fact, last year, all but 29 of CHD's 308 donees came under the heading of "Community Organizing."

And one of the CHD's biggest donees is one whose misdeeds have finally attracted the national and official attention they have so richly deserved for so long. In 2007, the CHD granted a total of $996,000 to 37 branches of the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN). Yes, the very same that is under investigation by the FBI for voter fraud. It is now just four days since the USCCB announced that it is cutting off all funding to ACORN, based on embezzlement within the organization and its "alleged" involvement in voter fraud.

But what about all the other activities the CHD helps to support? Consider just a few of the organizations that have received grants from the Campaign for Human Development, and ask yourself if they are spreading the Gospel or politics -- or something even worse:

-- Alliance to Develop Power (formerly the Anti-Displacement Project). A left-wing organization that supports, among other things, universal health care. ADP received a grant $30,000 grant from CHD in 2007.

-- Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. Boasts a "Center for Arts for Activism," in which youth are introduced to "the [undefined] concepts of oppression, justice, peace and violence, and worldwide struggles for freedom." It also promotes, among other things, New Age practices like reiki, yoga and meditation. The YMPJ received a $25,000.00 grant from CHD in 2007.

-- Green Worker Cooperatives. Dedicated to stamping out something called "environmental racism." It received a $35,000.00 grant from CDH in 2007.

-- Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. Promotes political activism among seminarians, rabbinical students, and other training for leadership positions in their various communions. It received a $25,000.00 grant from CDH in 2007.

-- Idaho Community Action Network. Committed to "progressive social change," including, among other things, universal health care. A leading light in something called "Night of 1000 Conversations," in which participants somberly meditated upon Iowa immigration raids and undertook to change the world by sending "pledge cards" to the Department of Homeland Security. ICAN, whose website features a banner picture of some very obese concerned citizens, lists one of its issues as "food security." Though ostensibly dedicated to human rights, ICAN appears totally unconcerned about our eroding right to private property that is key to individual liberty. ICAN received a $40,000.00 grant from CDH in 2007.

Is all this true empowerment? Is turning everything into politics a real solution to poverty and distress? or is it merely another incarnation of bread and circuses -- and, incidentally, a way to line the pockets of demagogues? In what sense is political activism not a distraction from the Church's true mission to go out and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit? We hear a lot of talk about the number of poor people who could have been fed with the money that was spent on a statue or a chalice; but what about all the people to whom the Good News could have been brought by the $996,000.00 that ACORN got in 2007?

The poor we will always have with us. But at least we can quit compounding their material poverty with spiritual poverty. And we can quit giving money to organizations that merely distract the poor from their problems by getting them involved in politics.

Forgotten Prayers: The Angelus

This prayer used to be generally recited three times a day: 06:00, 12:00, and 18:00 (6 in the morning, noon and 6 in the evening, for those of you in Rio Linda). These times were once marked by the Angelus Bell. Church bells are increasingly rare nowadays, and even suppressed in some parts of the country; as for the prayer, I can testify that I went through twelve years of Catholic school without ever once reciting the Angelus.

V. The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary . . .

V. And the Word was made Flesh:
R. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary . . .

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.


Here it is in Latin:

V. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ:
R. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostræ. Amen.

V. Ecce Ancilla Domini:
R. Fiat mihi secundum Verbum tuum.

Ave Maria...

V. Et Verbum caro factum est:
R. Et habitavit in nobis.

Ave Maria...

V. Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genetrix:
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.


Gratiam tuam quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui Incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

SoCal Burns

Pray for the firefighters battling wildfires from Santa Barbara to Riverside County, and for the people who are now homeless. The Santa Anas, which have died down somewhat at this writing, whipped and spread the fires through several communities, engulfing hundreds of homes and shutting down major freeways. Many have had to flee for their lives on just a few minutes' notice. Critical patients had to be evacuated from the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. The governor has declared a state of emergency.

Click the picture for the latest news on the fires.

November 16th: St. Gertrude the Great

Born in 1256 in Eisleben, Saxony -- Martin Luther's home town, as it so happens -- Gertrude was raised at the Cistercian abbey from the age of five and distinguished herself as an extremely bright student. Although St. Margaret Mary Alacocque is most commonly associated with devotion to the Sacred Heart, St. Gertrude was also responsible for spreading this devotion. She received many visions during her life; the first one took place when she was 26, when Jesus appeared to her and reproached her for her inordinate love of study. Her writings -- many of which have unfortunately been lost -- influenced many saints, including St. Teresa of Avila and St. Francis de Sales.

St. Gertrude is well known today for a prayer she received for the souls in Purgatory:
Eternal Father, I offer you the most precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in union with all the Masses offered throughout the world this day, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and for sinners everywhere, in my home and in my family.
Read more about St. Gertrude here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Testimonies to the Communion of Saints

The Communion of Saints is one of the hardest doctrines for non-Catholics to accept -- even though everyone who recites the Apostle's Creed professes to believe in it. Being united with Christ, we are also united with each other in Christ. This union is not broken by death: if it were, this would be a pretty poor testament to the omnipotence of the God Who is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38).

And so, just as we ask others on earth to pray for us, we also ask the saints in Heaven to intercede for us. That the saints are able to hear our prayers and answer us presents no difficulties, because it is God who makes it possible. And, as St. Thomas More points out in his Dialogue Concerning Heresies, God demonstrates His approval of the practice of praying to the saints by working miracles through their intercession. With some exceptions (e.g., martyrs for the Faith, such as St. Thomas More), the Church requires miracles attributable to the intercession of candidates for sainthood as proof that these candidates are actually in Heaven before she will canonize them. They must be miracles of the highest order (such as a complete and instantaneous cure from an extremely grave and life-threatening illness, unexplainable by medical science); and they must withstand minute and relentless scrutiny in order to be passed as miracles. Although it is possible for individuals or groups within the Church to be taken in by frauds, it must be acknowledged that the Universal Church has been the greatest debunker of hoaxes and deceits in human history; she does not prop up fakes for veneration.

In her Diary, St. Faustina comments that the saints have God as their first Love, but they also bear a tender and heartfelt love for us. So we know that we may ask the saints for their intercession, and they will obtain for us what is for our good. But sometimes -- and perhaps more often than we think -- the saints take the initiative. Early in the life of this blog, I told the story of my own encounter with Bl. Margaret of Castello. Yesterday, The Redoubtable One posted the dramatic account of a Serbian abortionist whom St. Thomas Aquinas, of whom he had never before heard, visited in his dreams.

This put me in mind of a story from St. Thérèse of Lisieux's autobiography (The Story of a Soul), where she recounts the intervention of a saint of whom she had thitherto taken very little notice:

The very next day -- it was May 10th -- just as the dawn was breaking, though before I was awake, I found myself walking in a gallery with our Mother. Without knowing how they got there, I suddenly saw three Carmelites in their mantles and long veils. I knew they had come from Heaven. Then I thought: "If only I could see the face of one of these Carmelites! I would be so happy!"

As if she had heard me, the tallest of these Saints advanced toward me. I fell on my knees, and then to my joy she raised her veil, or rather, cast it all about me. I recognized her at once; it was the Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus, the Foundress of Carmel in France. How lovely she was; there was an unearthly beauty about her face, and though the heavy veil enveloped us, it seemed transfused with a gentle light I cannot describe. It seemed to be shining from within, but it did not cast any rays.

She kissed me tenderly, and when I saw how much she loved me, I took courage and spoke to her. "Tell me, Mother, I beg of you, is God going to leave me here much longer? Will He come and fetch me soon?" She smiled most tenderly, and said, "Soon...yes, soon...I promise you."

"Answer me something more, Mother; does God want anything more from me than the little things I do for Him, and my desires? Is He pleased with me?" A new light seemed to suffuse her face at once, and her expression appeared to me incomparably more tender. "God asks no more of you," she said, "...and He is pleased with you; very, very pleased." She took my head between her hands, and I cannot possibly express how tender were the kisses that she showered on me. Gladness filled my heart, and remembering my Sisters, I was about to ask for favors for them too, but I awoke.

I cannot say how lighthearted I was! Several months have gone by since this wonderful dream, yet the heavenly charm of it has lost none of its freshness. I can still see her loving gaze, her loving smile; I still seem to feel the touch of all her kisses....On waking, I not only believed that Heaven existed, I knew it; and I knew too that it was full of souls who loved me as their own child. The impression of it all remains in my heart, made all the more dear by the fact that until then I had been, I will not say indifferent to the Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus, but forgetful of her unless she happened to be mentioned, which was not very often, and I had never invoked her aid.

Yet now I know and realize that at any rate she had never forgotten me; and this not only makes me love her all the more, but also increases my love for all the Blessed in Heaven.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Do More than Half of American Catholics Need to Go to Confession Right Now?

Well, we all need to go to confession regularly if we are serious about saving our souls. But where do the 54% of us who voted for Barack Obama stand now? Some of our shepherds are giving us serious food for thought on this subject.

Radio host Hugh Hewitt interviewed Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph before the election, and asked him how he would address the Catholics who were then undecided about whom to vote for. His reply:
Well, I just don’t think there’s any question that in all of Church teaching that the life issues, particularly the protection of unborn children against the crime of abortion, has to be our greatest priority. This is an ongoing slaughter of 4,000 children every single day for the last 35 years. And if we don’t do anything about it, we bear a lot of responsibility. If we support and promote persons who have pledged to extend it and intensify the slaughter, then we bear a great responsibility with them.
Is it a grave sin to vote for a pro-abortion politician? asked Hewitt. Bishop Finn's reply:
I think it is, of course. You know, how important is, you know, someone might say how important is my vote. Well, ask somebody if they think what they think if their vote was taken away from them, or if they felt that they had been defrauded of their vote. And I think all of us as Americans would say my vote’s very, very important. So…and then we’re talking about the willful destruction, direct destruction of a human life. And so when you couple the gravity of the sense of our vote, and the gravity of the action of abortion, and we see candidates pledge that they’re going to, for example, in addition to promoting everything that we have right now, they’re going to enact the Freedom Of Choice Act, removing all reasonable limitations. So many Americans say they want limitations on abortion. The Freedom Of Choice Act would remove every single limitation that’s been put in place by well-meaning folks for the last 35 years – parental notification, mandatory waiting periods, counseling, the use of ultrasounds, and not to speak of the fact that taxpayers will have to pay for abortions, and also the conscious clauses will be removed from individual healthcare workers, or even institutions. So you can’t support a person who wants to go to complete full-scale war against the unborn.
What about a Catholic who will vote for an absolutist on abortion because that candidate is better than the opposing candidate on questions of poverty, global warming, etc.? Suppose such a Catholic thinks that dealing with these issues will in turn reduce abortions Bishop Finn's answer:
[T]he real root of abortion in our country is this total disregard and numbness about the value of human life. It’s the idolatry of self and selfish convenience. It’s the total neglect of personal responsibility. These are the things that are at the root of abortion, not just poverty. I’m afraid some people think that if we throw enough money at people, well then they’re going to stop all their choices for abortion. I don’t think that will work. I don’t think that it would be the solution fully, even if it was. And the same people who are then promoting someone who wants to remove limitations on abortions, which are measurable at having reduced abortions by 125,000 a year through parental notifications and the like, they can’t be serious. They can’t be serious that voting for someone who’s going to throw some more money at the poor is going to reduce abortion. What they’re looking for is a way to salve their conscience, and give them a rationalization that will help them sleep tomorrow after they vote....People have to realize that they will be held accountable for these important decisions before God.
Does being accountable before God for one's vote means that one could lose one's immortal soul over it?
Well, of course. I mean, the decisions that we make are important, and they have…you know, these people who get elected, they don’t just arrive all on their own. We elect them. We, you and I support them or we don’t. And so we have some participation in that. Now you know, someone wrote to me and said well, you know, I voted for Obama, I’ll repent later. And well, you know, I hope that God does change a heart if they feel that they’ve made a terrible mistake and to have to repent. But it’s much more important and vital that we make the right decision when it’s before us.
May a Catholic who votes for Obama knowing he is voting for abortion rights absolutism present himself for Communion the next day?

Well, they shouldn’t. It’s not a matter of public action, so it’s not the same scandal as a public official who places, a legislator who places a public vote in support of abortion. But no, if formal cooperation, there’s absolutely no doubt about it that if you agree with the right of abortion, you shouldn’t be, you’re in grave sin. You shouldn’t be receiving the Sacraments.
Archbishop Raymond Burke, canon law expert and formerly Archbishop of St. Louis, is now Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura at the Holy See, what might be thought of as the Vatican's Supreme Court. In a pre-election interview with Inside the Vatican, the Archbishop was even more pointed on the question of subordinating abortion to other pressing issues:
It is not my intention to engage in partisan politics. I wish that both of the major political parties in the United States of America were more coherent regarding the right to life. The Democratic Party, however has, over the years, put forth and defended a political agenda which is grievously anti-life, favoring the right to procured abortion and "marriage" between persons of the same sex. One can legitimately question the wisdom of the decisions taken in the war in Iraq, but war in itself is not always and everywhere evil, as are, for example, procured abortion, human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, and the so-called "marriage" of persons of the same sex. Engagement of the nation in a war cannot be placed on the same moral level as the nation making laws which permit the wholesale killing of the unborn or the artificial generation of human life or experimentation on embryonic human life or "marriage" between persons of the same sex.

Procured abortion is the fundamental moral issue in the safeguarding and fostering of human life. To make economics or the environment the fundamental political issue, when life itself, in its most innocent and defenseless form, remains unprotected is morally irresponsible. Yes, the government of the United States must address a number of critical issues, including the current and most serious economic crisis. But it must address first its duty to promote the common good by defending the life of every human being, from the moment of its inception, and by safeguarding the integrity of marriage and the family.
Thus spake two of our shepherds, saying some of the same things I have been saying. So these are not just my opinions on Catholics supporting Obama that I spout here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Covered with Glory

Behold the Premio Dardos Award, bestowed upon this humble blog by Fr. John Speekman of Homilies and Reflections from Australia (aka Father Down Under).

The rules:

1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2) Pass the award to other 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment.

3) Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I don't have time to follow 15 blogs continuously, but here are the awardees:

Catholic Cartoon Blog, which is both hysterical and dead-on.

Catholic Church Conservation, blowing the whistle on liturgical abuse, church closings and other nonsense.

Salve Regina, featuring orthodoxy and good cheer, brought to us by Paramedic Girl, who would just as soon we didn't send any of our cast-off liberal nutjobs to her beloved Canada.

Lair of the Catholic Cavemen, home to those gun-toting, military-loving testosterone cases, the Paleolithic Papists.

Causa Nostra Laetitiae, home of solid pro-life bloggery.

And of course, I would also confer this award on The Redoubtable Marcus Magnus at Dominican Idaho, but Fr. Speekman beat me to it.

Keep up the good work!

Newspeak NOT the Official Language of the Courts After All

Fortunately, the story that circulated earlier this week about the Arizona Supreme Court prohibiting certain "politically incorrect" terminology in reference to illegal aliens in state courts is turning out to be untrue. Unfortunately, we do live in a world where this sort of thing sounds plausible, which of course gave this story legs. After all, even though it is not true the Arizona Supreme Court has implemented the prohibitions in question, it is apparently true that there are those who would like to see it happen. The power of words to shape thoughts and ideas is not lost on liberals any more than it was lost on George Orwell.

Which got me to imagining...







CASE NO. 2008-000001


THE COURT having before it the Motion to Prohibit Legalist Terminology in the Courts of this State, and good cause appearing;


1. In all this country’s egregious tradition of prejudice and bigotry, stretching back to the time of the Founding Fathers, no class of individuals has been more reviled through the centuries than the criminal class.

2. No institution in human history has been guilty of more oppression of the criminal class than the judicial system.

3. It is high time that the judicial system started showing some sensitivity to the criminal classes, and ended the age-old tradition of bashing criminals for no reason other than their choice of profession.

4. This Court finds that a necessary first step to evolving a new and improved attitude toward criminals is to make substitutions for the inflammatory terms too often and too carelessly tossed about in the courts, to the considerable detriment of the self-respect and dignity of criminals everywhere.

5. An emergency exists with regard to this grave problem in the courts, necessitating the immediate application of draconian remedies.


The following terms shall forthwith be banned and prohibited from use in any court in this state, and shall be replaced by the corresponding substitutions, to wit:




Protective hospitality

Drug dealer

Alternative pharmaceutical entrepreneur

Drunk driver

Chemically challenged motor vehicle operator

Peeping Tom

Alternative entertainment seeker


Cashless transaction specialist


Inventory redistributor


Gratification facilitator


Hyper-aggressive relationship initiator




Non-conventional locksmith


Community organizer

Con artist

Persuasion specialist


Senior level careerist


Late-term abortionist

IT IS HEREBY FURTHER ORDERED that any person found using prohibited terminology in the courts of this state shall be FORTHWITH remanded to the custody of the Sheriff of the county wherein the offense shall have occurred, for a term of not less than five (5) days in protective hospitality.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

November 9: St. Benignus of Armagh

Today (in addition to being the feast of the dedication of St. John Lateran -- about which see here) is the memorial of St. Benignus of Armagh (?-c. A.D. 467). He was the son of a pagan Irish chieftain, and was converted and baptized by none other than St. Patrick himself. He was St. Patrick's favorite disciple and his right-hand man, becoming his coadjutor in the See of Armagh in 450. In 458, Benignus succeeded Patrick as the Bishop of Armagh.

It is said that in 433, when St. Patrick was embroiled in a religious dispute with King Laoghaire of Tara, St. Benignus put his life on the line for the faith in a trial by fire. Pursuant to an agreement between Patrick and the king, Benignus and a druid magician were bound hand and foot and placed in a wooden building, which was then set on fire, to see whose faith would prevail. The magician was reduced to ashes, and Benignus emerged unscathed. Unfortunately, however, King Laoghaire hardened his heart against this miracle and against St. Patrick's exhortations and instructions, refusing to the end to accept Baptism.

St. Benignus is known as "St. Patrick's Psalm Singer," as he had not only a great talent for arranging choral services but also a beautiful voice, with which he touched and converted thousands of hearts. He was also known for his sweet and gentle nature, which earned him the name "Benignus."

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Why the Catholic Faith Is Not for Wimps

Somewhere along the line, Christianity got reduced to a school of self-esteem, self-improvement therapy, founded by a granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing, protest-marching Jesus Who came to teach us all to make love, not war, laugh heartily, breathe deeply and recycle. A Jesus Who makes no demands on us. A Jesus Who shelters us from all tribulations. A Jesus Who makes us feel good (and if you don't, it's because you haven't got any faith).

And it's all crappola. Authentic Catholicism is about joy that can never be taken from us, and peace such as the world cannot give, but it hurts. Authentic Catholicism is about suffering. Authentic Catholicism is about struggle. It is a muscular, fire-breathing, armed-to-the-teeth, pull-no-punches faith -- the strength of the faltering, the comfort of the sorrowing, gentle to the weak, compassionate to the poor, but uncompromising with squeamishness and double-mindedness.

Was there ever a faith that that was harder on its most faithful adherents? Consider what good Catholics have endured down the ages:

Battles against Demons. Great saints withstand horrific attacks from Hell -- sometimes (as in the cases of, say, Curé of Ars and Padre Pio) physical attacks; and it is precisely because they are faithful that they are able to do so. We are all required to withstand temptation, however fierce, and we are given the means to do so; and even though it's never easy, we are never without the means to prevail. Today's post illustration is an early 16th-century tempera painting of St. Catherine of Siena being assaulted by devils. Hideous, horrible, frightful creatures coming at her from every side, clawing and grabbing and tugging her in all different directions -- but do you notice the serenity of her countenance?

Battles in Defense of the Truth. We tend to be protective of our favorite sins, and resent nothing so much as having them exposed for what they are. It therefore requires considerable courage to tell the truths that nobody wants to hear. Consider St. John the Baptist, who lost his head for telling King Herod the truth about his incestuous "marriage" to Herodias. Or St. Thomas More, who, after a long imprisonment, lost his head for speaking the truth and standing up for the Faith.

Battles Against the Odds. God sometimes asks us to do what seems to us impossible, and to trust in Him for His help, conquering both our fear and our self-will. Consider:
-- God told St. Joan of Arc, an uneducated peasant girl, to find the rightful King of France and restore him to his throne. This unlikeliest of generals personally led armies and accomplished her mission. And it cost her everything.
-- God called St. Joseph of Cupertino to be a priest, despite the fact that he was so (apparently) absent-minded and stupid as to be practically non-functional and hopeless in the world. There was only one passage in Scripture that St. Joseph could expound upon; miraculously, it was this verse he was asked to expound upon in his oral examination. Because of his performance in this examination, he was passed for ordination. But he had to suffer all kinds of indignities and humiliations to the end of his days.
-- St. John Vianney was a hopelessly poor student who worked hard for his failing grades in seminary; but he went on to become not only a priest, but the patron saint of parish priests. He spent decades pouring himself out daily, spending hours and hours in the confessional, living on a bare subsistence diet and a very few hours of sleep at night.
-- St. Gabriel Possenti, a young, frail Passionist monk, single-handedly drove a gang of marauders out of town with a pair of their own pistols. He had traded in the pleasures to which his youth was devoted for a life of austerity and sacrifice.

Battles against Our Own Evil Tendencies. No doubt about it: we are our own worst enemies. Sometimes the devil doesn't need to tempt us, because there's nothing he could do to us worse than what we do to ourselves. Jesus forgave Mary Magdalene her sins of dissolution, but admonished her to sin no more -- no easy proposition in the case of deeply-rooted sinful habits. But the saints do it. For love of God, St. Mary of Egypt gave up a seventeen-year career as a prostitute; St. Augustine gave up the concubine who had borne him an illegitimate son; St. Phillip Howard gave up womanizing and general dissolution at the court of Queen Elizabeth I; St. Gabriel Possenti gave up the wine, women and song that were leading him on a downward path.

Martyrdom. We must be prepared suffer everything, and even to die the most horrific death rather than deny the Faith. Every one of the Apostles was martyred. Most, if not all, the Popes from the time of Peter to the time of Constantine were martyred. Christians have been imprisoned, tortured, starved, abused, had their families broken up, had all their property confiscated, because they would not deny the faith. We are expected to undergo all of this if necessary, or suffer eternal damnation.

No other faith promises rewards as great as those promised by Christ; but was there ever a faith that was stricter and more demanding? The Faith is uncompromising with the Truth, because evil is uncompromising. Evil is a ruthless plague that calls for a stern remedy. Such a remedy is the Catholic Faith.

And amazingly, herein lies the appeal of the Church. Where the Faith is strong, forceful, direct and undiluted, churches are packed; where it is sissified and emasculated, the pews are empty. Where the Church is confident and straightforward, and unafraid to call sin by its right name, the tide of malice in the world is stemmed. Surely, the rise of vice and immorality in the Western world is due in no small part to the moral confusion within the Catholic Church in recent decades.

Authentic Catholicism is not for wimps. But unlike the Alan Alda/Michael Kinsley variety, it does work every time it's tried.