Thursday, October 30, 2014

The All Saints Vigil at the Dominican House of Studies

Cover of the program for the 2013 Vigil.
For years now, the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC has hosted a prayer service of chant, hymn, lessons, reflections, and a procession, for the Vigil of All Saints. The event continues to grow and has become a major young adult attraction in the area. Today is no exception.

I first attended this when I was a novice with the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle, a couple of houses down from the OPs, back in 2006. It was mind-blowing, as this blog post from back then shows. In my discernment, it was one of the earliest hints that I had that I was not meant to stay with the CSPs (I wouldn't leave until late 2007) -- such beauty, beauty which had first drawn me to the Church, is something I would have had to fight for (or so it seemed) in that community.

I attended again in 2007: the Praise of His Glory.

In 2008, I was back in the greater DC area, as a pre-theologian at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg. At my behest, the members of my Jesu-Caritas (fraternity) group drove down for the Vigil. Two of those guys would later (the next year), enter the novitiate of the St. Joseph province. One of them just made his solemn profession, on August 15 of this year, and will soon be preparing for ordination to the diaconate (I need to send in a request for my finders fee to the Province! :)). [Of the other guys in the group, one is a happily married father, and another was just ordained a priest for the Diocese of Charlotte. And Ed, all I gots to say to you is pupusas!].

And then again in 2009.

Some of the links in the old blogs don't work. I can't find any of the homilies online anymore. The OP vocations page has a link with some videos. There is a transcript of a Religion & Ethics weekly story from 2006 still online. There's this piece from the Register. You can get a complete PDF of the program from the 2013 Vigil online. Photos from the 2011 Vigil online.

And finally, a collection of 12 great videos from the good folks at OP East from St. Peter's List. Lots of good stuff!

I am big fan of the St. Joseph Province. Apart from my friend mentioned above, another good friend just finished his Novitiate, and made his first profession in August, and there's at least 3 other guys I know who are students. OP East is an amazing powerhouse. The Lord has showered his blessings on this branch of St. Dominic's family, and, please God, these gifts will bear great fruit in the Church.

A sample -- Br. Dominic Verner's blog post at the Dominicana: The Irony of Lucifer's Fall.

All holy men and women of God, pray for us! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete 1941-2014

A photo of Msgr. Albacete I took at New York Encounter in 2012
At this talk given at New York Encounter in 2013, he relayed, in that deep, gravelly, raspy voice, and with that humor and authenticity that was so characteristic, his first encounter, as a young priest, with a visiting Polish Cardinal, the future John Paul II, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 
The two soon discovered they had a great deal in common, including an interest in theatre, poetry and science. Fr. Albacete asked the cardinal what was the proper theological language in which to speak about the love of God. “Poetry,” he answered. “When you tell your girlfriend you love her, you send her a poetic love note, not a math equation.” A deep friendship grew from this encounter and continued when the cardinal was elected Pope John Paul II. Fr. Albacete received his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome, in 1983.  [From his obituary, linked here.]
While at the Mount, my CL buddies and I talked briefly about trying to get him to come and speak. However, at that point, he was taking care of his sick brother, and was already in frail health himself.
If you have a moment, check out "God at the Ritz"
His very poignant and honest interview about 9/11, from PBS
To me, to distract one from this, to look for explanations, is obscene. It's an offense against the reality of what happened -- an offense against our humanity -- to look for political explanations, economic explanations, diplomatic explanations. "Oh, it's American foreign policy. It is the arrival into our shores of the Palestinian-Israeli fight. It is globalization. It is the cultural wars. It is American imperialism." All of that is proposed by the "Yes, but" brigade who got to work immediately after the explosion. It is obscene and irresponsible, because we were facing an attack, a hatred of humanity which is what we all have in common. It's our line of defense, our only one. And now that was gone. ... 
The people who did this, who planned it, who brought it about, I don't know what their theology or their ideology is. I take them at their word; they died with the name of God on their lips. People say they were sincere; well, yes, they were. They believed. This is an act for them that was a sincere act, the worship of their God. I take them at their word. Does that make them any less evil? Oh, but no, that precisely is the monstrosity. If they were not sincere, it would be a terrible thing, but ... it is the sincerity, it is the free will. I mean, they willed this to happen. They willed the destruction of humanity, of humanness, of everybody in that place on that day at the World Trade Center. This was a freely willed act, very sincere. And this sincerity is one of the horrible characteristics of the face of evil I saw that day. ...
People are like wingless chickens nowadays: interview with Robert Wright. [Verifying the religious sense, starting at 16m.] The impetus that drives humanity, this is religion. The passion for answering the existential question why? 

The story from the Vatican Insider, today. 
Therefore, Pope Francis’ words from Evangelii Gaudium are befitting our dearest Lorenzo: “Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone, not as one who imposes a new obligation, but rather as one who shares a joy, points out a beautiful horizon, offers a desirable banquet. The Church does not grow by proselytism but ‘by attraction.’” He was undoubtedly so captivating that he immediately became friends with anyone he met, because he was showing the beauty and usefulness of faith for facing life’s needs.With his tireless work, he witnessed to us how faith can become “intelligence of reality,” with his ability to recognize and embrace anyone without ambiguity, but for love of the truth that is present in every person. With his suffering, he has reminded us that there is no circumstance, not even the most difficult and toilsome, that can prevent the “I” from having a daily dialogue with the Mystery.
The funeral will be celebrated by Sean Cardinal O'Malley at St. Mary's Church in Manhattan on Tuesday, October 27. [Funeral arrangements at the CL website.]
What an amazing and great man. I am honored to have met him. 
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. I offered up my Mass today for the repose of his soul. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A week with Blessed Paul VI: Day Three

Today, a couple of selections from one of the watershed moments of his Papacy, the encyclical Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968), where the crisis of dissent in the Catholic Church erupted, and whose effects are still with us.

Paragraph 17 is generally regarded as prophetic:
17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
This principle is worth reflecting on today, as even newer challenges to the dignity of human life arise in our time:
Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. 

And this is truly prophetic, especially in light of what we have seen in the Church in the last two weeks
18. It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction." (22) She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.
Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man. 
In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage "to share God's life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men." (23)
Read it all! 

Beate Paule VI, ora pro nobis! 

Monday, October 20, 2014

A week with Blessed Paul VI: Day Two -- Ratzinger on Paul Vi

Pope Paul VI places the Cardinal's biretta on Joseph Ratzinger. Screenshot from L'Osservatore Romano
Well, this isn't by Bl. Paul VI. This is from the homily preached by the then Cardinal Archbishop of Münich and Freising, on the death of Pope Paul VI, August 10, 1978, Joseph Ratzinger. Sandro Magister on his (Italian only) blog, excerpted some bits. L'Osservatore published the entire text in Italian on the night of  Oct 19, the eve of the Beatification. Here is my summary and translation of the central message. (The full text can be found in an unofficial translation at EWTN)

Cardinal Ratzinger begins by noting that the Pope had died on the even of the Feast of the Transfiguration. His reflections are framed by the Feast. He notes that in the Churches of the East, "so loved by Paul VI," the Transfiguration is considered as a "synthesis of all: Cross and Resurrection, the present and the future of creation are reunited here. The Feast of the Transfiguration is the guarantee that the Lord does not abandon creation." Furthermore, the Transfiguration, which is known as "metamorphosis" in the Greek of the New Testament, shows to us the immediate relevance of this Feast. "In Christ Transfigured, what faith is, is revealed even more: transformation, which for man occurs throughout his life. From the point of view of biology, life is a metamorphosis, a continual transformation, which ends with death. To live means to die, means to be metamorphosed towards death. The account of the Lord's Transfiguration adds to it something new: to die, signifies to rise. Faith is a metamorphosis in which man matures definitively and becomes mature to be defined. For this reason, the evangelist John defines the Cross as a glorification."

Having established this framework of "metamorphosis," he notes how Pope Paul VI traveled this path of continual transformation:
Paul VI accepted his papal service more and more as a the metamorphosis of faith in suffering. The final words of the Risen Lord to Peter, after having constituted him pastor of his flock, were, "when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go" (John 21:18).  It was a hint of the Cross that would accompany Peter at the end of his life. In general, it was a hint of the nature of this service. Paul VI let himself be carried ever more where, humanly speaking, by himself, he did not wish to go. More and more the papacy meant for him to be girded with the vestments of another, and to be nailed to the Cross. We know that before his seventy-fifth birthday, and also before his eightieth birthday, he intensely battled with the idea of retiring. And we can imagine just how much the thought of not being able to belong anymore to himself weighed on him. Of not having any more a private moment. Of being chained until the end, along with his body which yielded, to a task which demanded, day after day, the full and living use of all the forces of a man. "None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord." (Romans 14:7-8) These words from today's reading had literally defined his life. He has given a new value to authority as service, carrying it as a sort of suffering. He did not enjoy any pleasure in power, in position, in the success of a career, and precisely because of this, authority being a task endured -- it (authority) has become great and credible. 
Paul VI performed his service by faith. From this both his firmness or his disposition to compromise derived. For both he had to accept criticism, and even in some comments after his death, there has been no lack of bad taste. But today, a Pope who does not suffer criticism would fail at his task at this time. Paul VI resisted both the influence of the media (telecrazia) and the pressure of popular opinion (demoscopia), the two dictatorial powers of the present. He was able to do this because he did not take as parameters success or approval, but rather, conscience, which is measured by the truth, by faith. This is why in many occasions he sought compromise; faith leaves many things open. and offers a wide range of decisions. It requires as a parameter love, which it senses, obliges it to the whole, and thus, requires a lot of respect. And this is why he was able to be inflexible and decisive, when the essential tradition of the Church was at stake. In him, this hardness did not derive from the insensibility of the one whose path is dictated by the pleasure of power and the contempt of persons, but by the depth of faith, which enabled him to endure opposition. 
The above translation is my own. The entire homily is worth reading, and it turns out that EWTN has the full text online in English. It had been published first in L'Osservatore on the 50th anniversary of the election of Paul VI, in June 21.

The homily is a great testament to the Pope as a disciple, of the trajectory of faith, of a journey of continual discovery, of self, and of the Lord who calls, and who transforms. It reminds me of the metaphor Pope Francis has often used, of walking with the Lord, not stopping, not being spiritual tourists.

Apart from this moving testimony towards the Pope who called him to the Episcopacy, and made him a Cardinal, one can only marvel at the prophetic words of Cardinal Ratzinger about Paul VI's struggle with the thought of resigning the Papacy.

Beate Paule Sexte, ora pro nobis! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A week with Blessed Paul VI: Day One

Today, at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis beatified his predecessor, Pope Paul VI (reigned 1963-1978).

Pope Paul did not have a direct impact on me, as a layman or a priest. I was too young (and not in a Christian family, to boot) to remember the "year of three Popes," and the Humanae Vitae bombshell was before my time.

However, he is a pivotal figure for the history of the Church in the twentieth century, the architect of the Twenty-First Ecumenical Council, guiding four of its five sessions, and the main implementer of its directives for the renewal of the Church.

As a priest, I offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the Missal of Bl. Paul VI pretty much all the time, and I pray the Divine Office from the Breviary revised by his directives. In that sense, he shapes my priestly ministry in a very direct, quotidian way.

For this upcoming week, I am going to share some quotes from his Papal magisterium, which is one of the most enduring legacies of any Roman Pontiff.

Today's selection comes from "Solemni Hac Liturgia," also known as the Credo of the People Of God, a document written by Bl. Paul Vi in 1968, as a response to the theological and doctrinal crisis of dissent that exploded as the Council came to an end. This selection is, fittingly, about the Sacred Liturgy, fons et culmen vitae ecclesia. The fact that the Holy Father felt the need to restate forcefully what had been the perennial teaching of the Church was a sad "sign of the times," evidence of the "smoke of Satan" that had infiltrated the Church, as he himself so famously remarked a year earlier.
24. We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars. We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood which were to be offered for us on the cross, likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven, and we believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord, under what continues to appear to our senses as before, is a true, real and substantial presence.(35)

25. Christ cannot be thus present in this sacrament except by the change into His body of the reality itself of the bread and the change into His blood of the reality itself of the wine, leaving unchanged only the properties of the bread and wine which our senses perceive. This mysterious change is very appropriately called by the Church transubstantiation. Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery must, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, maintain that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine,(36) as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body.(37) 
26. The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present by the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.
Beate Paule Vi, ora pro nobis!  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Disceptatio post relationem

So much has already been written about that Relatio post disceptationem that appeared yesterday.

Here's a very brief sample: start with Fr. Robert Barron's wisdom here.
If you want evidence of this, simply look at the accounts of the deliberations of the major councils of the Church, beginning with the so-called Council of Jerusalem in the first century right through to the Second Vatican Council of the twentieth century. In every such gathering, argument was front and center, and consensus evolved only after lengthy and often acrimonious debate among the interested parties. Read John Henry Newman’s colorful history of the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century, and you’ll find stories of riots in the streets and the mutually pulling of beards among the disputants. Or pick up Yves Congar’s very entertaining diary of his years at Vatican II, and you’ll learn of his own withering critiques of the interventions of prominent Cardinals and rival theologians. Or peruse John O’Malley’s history of the Council of Trent, and you’ll see that early draft statements on the key doctrines of original sin and justification were presented, debated, and dismissed—long before final versions were approved. 
Read Fr. Longenecker's hard-hitting, almost temerarious piece in Crisis today.
This is teamwork Holy Father. I can only do the job you want me to do if you do the job you have been called to do. With the greatest respect and love, please don’t feel that it is your job to tinker with the timeless truths. If my job is to be the compassionate pastor for those in the pew and beyond, then your job is to be the primary definer and defender of the faith. I can’t do my job if you don’t do yours.
Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble FSP shares her experience of return to the church. And absolutely take the effort to read through Msgr. Pope's very clear post on gradualism.

My thoughts are about the principle of gradualism that the Relatio talks about, introducing it first in #12, and then in #17 it writes:
In considering the principle of gradualness in the divine salvific plan, one asks what possibilities are given to married couples who experience the failure of their marriage, or rather how it is possible to offer them Christ’s help through the ministry of the Church. In this respect, a significant hermeneutic key comes from the teaching of Vatican Council II, which, while it affirms that “although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure ... these elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward Catholic unity” (Lumen Gentium, 8).
This is a bold analogy. I think it is flawed. I am thinking through this a little and hope to have some thoughts on that soon. It is helpful, however, to get a good primer on the principle of gradualism or gradualness. Jimmy Akin has done yeoman's work (as always), in this piece.
1) What is the law of gradualness?
It is a principle used in Catholic moral and pastoral theology, according to which people should be encouraged to grow closer to God and his plan for our lives in a step-by-step manner rather than expecting to jump from an initial conversion to perfection in a single step.
The best insight on the utility and effectiveness of the principle of gradualism came from Sherry Weddell (author of Forming Intentional Disciples), on her Facebook page (quoted with her permission):
The traditional Italian solution was to articulate the ideal as Church teaching and, in practice, to tolerate all kinds of sins in a de facto "gradualism" because people will be people although there was often not much local incentive for individuals to attempt to reach the ideal. You confessed on your deathbed. The American approach - keep the laws to a minimum, state them loud and clear and expect everyone to abide by them or there will be consequences - is a very different approach. 
Gradualism works where there is a pretty strong consensus that the "ideal" is true and important and we are just helping people get there at their own pace. Gradualism as a spiritual path works well *within* an over-arching culture of conviction. In a climate where the ideal is regarded as outdated nonsense and where the law, cultural institutions, and the working assumptions of most ordinary people presume that things contrary to the ideal are just fine or even good, "gradualism" collapses outside a powerful direct encounter with God. 
Gradualism, as the Church understands it, *always* presumes a powerful incentive for change of some kind. In practice, Catholics are used to that incentive being cultural, familial, or legal. Or, in case of deep conversion, spiritual. But I think that's the fear. When the law articulates the ideal clearly, it pulls us to reconsider our ways. If the law ceases to do so and the culture pressure against the ideal is nearly total and even family support is mostly missing in action, only the most exceptional, spiritually motivated people will be motivated to attempt change. And they will probably have to pay a very high price to do so. 
This is a very keen insight. It squares with my own experience, in my own conversion and moral growth, and in my pastoral experience. The first context ("a pretty strong consensus that the 'ideal' is true and important") is what I see every day in the parish with my Hispanic parishioners, with respect to cohabitation and sacramental marriage. [I recently blogged about one convalidation ceremony where no one received Holy Communion]. While so many cohabitate ("in unión libre"), and get civilly remarried years before approaching the Church for the Sacrament of Marriage, no one argues that the Church is wrong, that her teaching is outdated. Those who are cohabiting, do not present themselves for Holy Communion. The parish response generally is to provide some evangelical experience for a deeper (perhaps even initial) conversion to the Lord (the Charismatic Renewal, Christ Renews His Parish retreats), followed by doctrinal catechesis in RCIA, and pre-marital counseling, leading to a celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage.

In this context, to suggest that those who are cohabiting are just fine, or they should all be admitted to Holy Communion, because that would somehow be merciful, would be ludicrous. It would certainly be no incentive to anyone to actually seek moral reform. As part of the process, so many couples make promises of temporary continence, so as to prepare to celebrate Confession and then Marriage. Gradualism is not opposed to the Cross. Christian maturity is impossible without the Cross.

The second context is the wider American culture, which is hostile to the Church's teaching on family and the human sexuality, and thinks it to be evil, harmful, and oppressive, whether we're talking about contraception, easy divorce, homosexual activity and unions, reproductive technologies or abortion.

In this case the language of the Relatio leads quite directly to this:

What is the message here? That the Human Rights Campaign wants to gradually approach the ideal of Christ's law, and will now encourage their staff and activists to seek this path? No, it is the exact opposite -- that it is the Catholic Church which has now made a gradual step towards the idea they propose, that homosexual activity is harmless, even good.

Unfortunately, there is clear evidence that this kind of language simply emboldens those who are hostile to the truths proclaimed by the Catholic Church, whether they be without or within her fold. It does not make the Gospel appealing to the world. It conforms the Church to the world. This approach had been tried in the years and decades after the Second Vatican Council. I can't say it has borne any good fruit. The results of this kind of approach of diluting the Gospel have decimated the mainline Protestant communities in the West. Under the previous two pontificates, there had made a concerted effort to clarify doctrinal confusion and proclaim the fulness of the Gospel boldly.

All that said, it should be borne in mind that this document is simply not that important. It says nothing about the position or teaching of the Catholic Church. It is the basis for discussion for the Bishops going forward. There are concerns about the way it was formulated. And here, Cardinal Napier of Durban talks about the key issue -- the way the Vatican operates with complete obliviousness to the reality of the Internet and media driven narratives, and the damage this causes. That it was released, and the interventions of the individual Synod Fathers themselves weren't (unlike in previous Synods) seems bizarre, and invites conspiracy theories. The Holy Father wanted free debate -- very laudable. He got it. If the message of that debate is to be shared, it should be shared transparently as well.

The thing is, what the Holy Father so clearly wants, and embodies -- the proclamation of the saving mercy and truth of life in Jesus Christ -- is impossible, unless the teaching of Christ is not treated with the respect it deserves.  After fifty years of a de facto, widespread, antinomianism, we can, and need to, do better. Religion is not purely a matter of sentiment, of mere affirmation. It is about a radical surrender to the Other who comes to me with a love that I dared not imagine, a love that calls forth my whole person in response. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Think before you pink"

This photograph showed up in my Facebook newsfeed this morning.

[The stuff of which newsfeeds are made] 

I'd heard of this vaguely. I posted it on my timeline and lots of helpful comments followed. 

From parishioner (and amigo), Kevin, 
I found a breakdown for 2011. That year--according to their accounting figures at least--Komen spent 15% of their money on cancer research, which is only one category of "program expenses". Other categories include screening (12% in 2011...some of the money going to Planned Parenthood is here I believe) and treatment (5% in 2011). 
18% went to fund-raising and administration (including the legal department's efforts to sue anyone and everyone who has the audacity to use the color pink, the word "cure", et cetera). Again, that's officially, according to their own figures...there are many ways for charities to keep this percentage down via creative accounting. 
43% was spent on the ubiquitous "awareness" and education campaigns...and there's all sorts of room for fiscal mischief in this bloated part of the budget, which has long been Komen's biggest line item by far. Because the core purpose of Komen is to perpetuate itself and the pink crusade...of course. Whether there's any need in America to spend so much as one thin dime more towards breast cancer "awareness" is entirely beside the point. 
Finally, I always want to put in a word for a very small group of people: the estimated 2360 American men who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and the estimated 430 who will die from it. (A tiny number, yes...but the latter figure is still, by way of comparison, approximately ten times the number killed on average each year in school and university shootings.) They must be among the loneliest people in the world. 
[He provided a link for the numbers.]

Then an NBC story from 2013. 
Ken Berger, president and CEO of Charity Navigator, which evaluates and rates charities, called Brinker’s salary “extremely high.”
“This pay package is way outside the norm," he said. "It's about a quarter of a million dollars more than what we see for charities of this size. ... This is more than the head of the Red Cross is making for an organization that is one-tenth the size of the Red Cross.” 
Then this very illustrative infographic, which shows the disproportionate amount of money breast-cancer research gets. Ubiquitous publicity and a not-so-subtle pressure to donate in various social circles helps a lot, it seems (source unknown).

[Match the colors] 
All of this is apart from Komen's notorious support of Planned Parenthood, which was in the media spotlight in 2012 -- first for ending their support of PP, and then caving under pressure. My Archdiocese forbade parishes from supporting Komen then -- an order that has not, to my knowledge, been rescinded.

So, it's October. Please keep in prayer those who are suffering from breast-cancer. Do your bit to encourage regular check ups. Pray for those who have died, and their loved ones. 

If you wish to donate to a cause, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation gets high marks at Charity Navigator. They're not listed in the American Life League's questionable list, nor on this list from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

So, think before you pink.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

St. Monica's Ablaze

I was invited to give the keynote address as part of the series "ABLAZE" at St. Monica's Catholic Church in Duluth, GA.

Ablaze is an effort to that combines evangelization and catechesis to help parishioners rekindle their faith, their relationship with the Lord, learn and be empowered to go out. Each four-week cycle line-up has a section on theory, practical advice, testimony and a panel. The entire event is about an hour long, in between the two morning Masses. They've been getting 200+ folks come out. I was the keynote for the launch of their second cycle on the New Evangelization. From their website:
On the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, our Holy Father called us to evangelize and to share our faith with the world. However, in order to become the Spirit-filled evangelists God wants us to be, we must first take the time to look inside. We need to be re-evangelized by that same Spirit first. ABLAZE is offering you the opportunity to rekindle that fire of the Holy Spirit you received at Confirmation, given for the express purpose that you set the world ablaze for the Glory of God.
One of the things the awesome priests at St. Monica's are doing (including my seminary classmate, good friend, and partner in crime, Fr. Michael) is teaching their people how to pray. (Pope St. John Paul II: The parish is to be a school of prayer!) Before the talk, there is a short (7-8) minute segment on prayer. On Wednesday, Fr. Michael called me and told me that he'd forgotten he was going to be away on a retreat, and asked if I could put something together. Thanks bud. :-) I pulled some stuff together from the Catechism (the section on prayer is simply phenomenal), emphasizing that prayer is not a technique, but something entered into with an attitude of humility, with the Blessed Virgin as our model. Here's that talk:

School of Prayer: Prayer is not a Techinque

The talk included one of my top 10 quotes from the Catechism. 
2567 God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God's initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation.
The whole operation exudes the charism of administration. These folks are well organized, exhibiting great collaboration from a hard-working, high-energy team of parishioners. The new St. Augustine hall is a great facility. The set up is also geared to table conversation -- which follows the talks with structured questions, and time for coffee and food. Very well thought out and planned! It was a joy and an honor to take part in this. 

Here's my keynote: "The Church Exists to Evangelize," which basically was focused on the essence of the new evangelization from the magisterium of recent Popes. The entire talk was a lot longer than the allotted 23 minutes, and I had to chop out a lot, including a raft of statistics from Forming Intentional Disciples, and amazing stuff from this talk by Cardinal Ratzinger on the New Evangelization from back in 2000.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Collect for the XXVIIthe Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Collect for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Novus Ordo) is one of my favorites, especially in the new (Third Edition) ICEL translation.
Almighty ever-living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.
The original Latin is:
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui abundantia pietatis tuae et merita supplicum excedis et vota, effunde super nos misericordiam tuam, ut dimittas quae conscientia metuit, et adicias quod oratio non praesumit.
[I was going to have a whole bit about the difference between "praesumo" and "dares" but a friend kindly pointed out that "dares" is one of the acceptable nuances of "praesumo." De melioribus semper discendum!]

This Collect really impinged on my consciousness when a bunch of seminarian friends were returning to Rome from a day spent visiting Franciscan sites in and around Rieti. We prayed Vespers in the van, and this was the closing prayer. There was a brief pause, and a number of us remarked on the profundity of the prayer.

... who ... surpass the merits and desires of those who entreat you. 

God is always more generous than what we ask. Our desires are narrow, small, often petty and selfish. God is a fountain, a torrent of grace. His goodness overflows, and he seeks always to fulfill the desires of his children, whom He has created in love, and called to a supernatural fulfillment, in love.

... pardon what conscience dreads ... 

What does conscience dred? Offending the Lord. Hurting the beloved. Despising the Judge. Ultimately, it dreads the Judgment, knowing just how unworthy the soul is to withstand the Just Judge, on her own merits.

... what prayer does not dare to ask ... 

In front of the Judge, the soul shrinks. It falls back always on God's mercy. In the words of the Dies Irae - "Recordare Iesu pie, quod sum causa tuae viae ... " ("Remember o holy Jesus, that I am the reason for your journey!").

The attitude is also reflected in this little bit of the Roman Canon, which comes after the second list of saints, post-Consecration ...
non æstimator meriti, sed veniae, quæsumus ... not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon.
This is the prayer of the beggar ... we are all beggars in front of God! But this is also the prayer of faith, which relies on what God has revealed, His mercy.

However, faith also knows that God is also a beggar, Who thirsts for our soul (as Msgr. Giussani so beautifully put it.

Fr. Z has a great commentary on this collect, its translation and the spiritual attitude underlying it.

Pray this prayer today, this whole week. It is a beautiful meditation on some central mysteries of faith: God's infinite mercy, our unworthiness, and His divine condescension in Jesus Christ.