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Saturday, December 31, 2016


In doing a bit of cleaning, I found some writing I had done a few years ago, hoping at the time that our pastor would allow me to write a pro-life series for our church bulletin.  He didn't, so I stopped writing.  But here is a sample of what I had written at that time.  It is only a beginning, and uses a lot of arguing from authority, but it is something which I wonder about - whether or not I should continue writing in this vein. 

I remember the first time it really hit me.  I was at work looking over something I was required to read as part of my job, and reading that a woman who found out she was pregnant would be heading down the to the city for an abortion. Such a simple statement, but sitting in front of the computer screen, I cried for several minutes.  It was too late.  This innocent life was already lost.  I knew then that I must do something, so I began a Rosary for Life group.  One person came the first day.  Then for many months I sat alone and prayed, persistently.  It was then that I began to realize that many, if not most, people were just like I had been:  asleep.  If asked, they would probably have said they were pro-life, but if pressed, no, they hadn't done anything about it.  It was not until recently that I realized my own complicity in the Culture of Death which has enveloped this country.  It is a complicity born out of laziness and fear; a complicity which has emboldened the enemy because of the yawning silence of so many.

"In 2009, 784, 507 legal induced abortions were reported . . . from 48 reporting areas." (  This reporting is voluntary.  Two stated did not report their numbers, but using the numbers as given it works out to  2,149 abortions per 24-hour day; nearly 90 per hour - in this country alone!  The same website states that there were 227 abortions per 1000 live births.  I am at a loss, and all I am left with are questions.  Why have so many chosen to embrace death?  What evil has infected us?  Where are we as a society heading when we kill our unborn children in the name of practicality and compassion . . . when we encourage the old and sick to kill themselves in the name of dignity?

The fifth commandment is clear:  "You shall not kill" (Ex. 20:13).  As Christians, we believe that "human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God . . . God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning to its end:  no one can, under any circumstances, claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being" (CCC, 2258).  We are created and sustained by and through "God's creative power.  Nothing would exist except that God has willed it to be" (Catholic Health Care Ethics, 4).  This is central to the Christian understanding that our creation is distinct, different, from that of other created life.  In Genesis, we remember that we are "created . . . in His image" (Gen. 1:27).  "Therein lies the foundation of human dignity and worth" (CHCE, 4).

But what is dignity?  Often the discussion surrounding the life issues entails the use of this word, though there seems to be disparate definitions.  It seems the definition of "dignity" is changed to suit the argument, so that no matter on which side of the issue you find yourself you can argue that a person's "dignity" is maintained.  I would like to proffer a politically incorrect premise:  there is only one true definition of this word, and it is intimately bound up in our relationship with God, our Creator.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say, "The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God . . . for if man exists, it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence.  He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator" (CCC, 27).  We are called to be one with God, to be united to and with Him, and in that call lies the very essence of who we are, the very essence of our dignity.  In many ways, it seems our perception of dignity is tied into our perception of our relationship or non-relationship with God.  But the reality is we have a relationship with God whether or not we admit it, whether or not we choose to perceive it.

One very basic element of our relationship with God is that of created to Creator.  To be "created . . . in His image" is to be created in Love, for He is Love.  Our dignity as created beings derives from love: the love of a perfect Father for His children.  His "divine image is present in every man" (CCC, 1702) and we find our perfection "in seeking and loving what is true and good" ("Guadium et spes," 15.2).

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Waiting for Jesus

Over this past year, an awareness of how we handle the Eucharist has been growing within me. It has become clear to me that widespread belief (or non-belief) in trans-substantiation is intimately tied to the actions others see surrounding the consecrated bread and wine. If as I watch the priest, I see him carefully keeping his thumb and forefinger together after the consecration, I believe that he believes there is something special about this "bread." Is the Precious Blood covered after consecration to keep the wayward insects out? Is there a ciborium veil in use? How is the ciborium carried to the altar (in churches which have a distant tabernacle)? During the distribution of Holy Communion, is a paten utilized to catch any particles which may fall? Do the communicants make visible signs of reverence prior to reception of Holy Communion? After the people's communion, do the priest and any EMHCs who distributed the Body of Christ take care that there are no particles remaining on their fingers? Is there an ablution bowl available? Is care taken in the purification of the sacred vessels? What of the purificators which are used to wipe the chalices - if they are soaked in Precious Blood (which can happen at a busy Mass), how are they handled? Are they used to wipe the chalice or are they carefully set in a safe, non-porous place? How are the linens cared for after Mass? Are the linens, which have come in contact with our Lord's Precious Blood, immediately rinsed into the sacrarium or placed in a special basin to soak prior to pouring the water down the sacrarium? Or are they set aside, perhaps in a plastic bin? Is the sacristy a place of quiet reflection, or a place of conversation and joking? If we believe what we say we believe, how should we act? 

I happened upon a homily one Sunday, in which the pastor was discussing the Eucharist: How to receive and why they do what they do there. He gave all the options, reminded those not kneeling to receive that a profound bow or genuflection should be performed prior to reception, and explained the use of the paten in that parish. He said there are always particles after the people's communion . . . always. I doubt there is any way we can be 100% certain that no particle of consecrated host is lost, but we should do the best we can to protect our Lord in this tiny little piece of bread . . . that is, if we believe what we say we believe. 

 A few weeks ago, as I processed up to receive Our Lord, an interesting thing happened. I usually kneel to receive Holy Communion. This particular Sunday, Father had to step to the side to discipline some children in the front row who were chatting and swinging their legs. He did this just as I came up to receive. I wasn't sure whether to kneel then, or to wait for him to return, but this quiet voice inside me said: "Kneel, now, quietly and slowly." So I did. And I waited. I waited for Jesus to be brought to me. In those few seconds, I was able to collect myself, to remember why I was there, to remember Whom I was about to receive. I was able to be settled before Our Lord was brought to me. Honestly, I was nearly in tears because my interior disposition matched my exterior. I received Him in a recollected state, and had no other thought in my mind except Him. After this year of becoming aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly in our treatment of the Blessed Sacrament, I was gifted with this experience. I pray that everyone can experience this - to be able to be recollected at the moment of reception, not worried about others or feeling rushed or being concerned about getting the timing just right. Just to be able to settle for a moment, to gather all one's thoughts, to kneel (or stand, or sit) for enough time to be gifted with that experience of waiting for Jesus.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Quote

St. John Eudes:

"The most evident mark of God's anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clergy who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than charity and affection of devoted shepherds . . . When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful anger upon them.  That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, 'Return, o ye revolting children ... and I will give you pastors according to My own heart' (Jer. 3:14-15).  Thus, irregularities in the lives of priests constitute a scourge upon the people in consequence of sin."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Faith Formation Feb. 16, 2015 Outline

Feb.  16, 2015 St. Francis Faith Formation Group

I.                    “We’re in the same story”
A.      Aquinas:  The foundation for the fours senses of Scripture is God’s unique way of communicating.
1.       Us:  words and symbols
2.       God: words and symbols and through the very things He created (uses people, places, things to tell about other people, places, things)
B.       Not us here and now going back and artificially making connections
1.        The four senses are written into the very fabric of history
2.       We discern what God was “thinking” in history – His actions in history and they are meant to tell us today (Aquinas)
3.       Read passages in light of the entire Bible; realize we are in the same story still.

II.                  Genesis
A.       CCC 390 How to read the account of the fall
1.       Symbols for something deeper
2.       Describing a real event

B.       Read  in light of author’s intention (original meaning of text)
1.       Historical context
a)      Polytheism vs. monotheism (monotheism with an edge/subversive)
b)      One God, God over ALL of you, your “gods” created by our God
c)       Strategic strike against polytheistic world view
2.       Modes of narration
a)      Circular, around themes, parallels (Creation parallels)
b)      To show order of creation
c)       God inserted Himself
C.       CCC 337 - 345
1.       Origin/end in God
2.       Order and goodness
3.       Man’s vocation
4.       Drama of sin and hope of salvation

III.                Adam’s Mission

A.      Gen 1:26 Close Reading
1.       Image and likeness  (next seen in Gen. 5:3)
a)      What does this mean?
b)      Son of God – intimacy
c)       Historical context, roles of son
2.       Dominion
a)      Guard/rule
b)      Gen 2:15 alludes to priestly role (shamar – Levites guarding Tabernacle)
3.       God is a Father – what kind of Father?
                  B.      Gen. 2:4  and following(Bold print headings/chapter divisions are put in by publisher)
1.       Zooming in on Adam
2.       Closely read Gen. 2: 16-17 1st Law (why given?)
a)      Freely
b)      Every

C.      Temptation Scene
1.       Gen. 3:1
a)      Devil’s emphasis
b)      God’s emphasis
2.       “Elohim” vs. “Yahweh Elohim” (difference)
3.       Gen. 3:2 Eve’s response
a)      Already being weakened
b)      Buying into God as rule-maker/restrictive
4.       Gen. 3:3 What is wrong here?
5.       Gen. 3:4 Devil’s response
a)      What is he saying about God?
6.       Gen. 3:5 What is the picture the Devil is trying to paint?
a)      Relate to today (impressions of Church in media?)
b)      How do we counter this? What should be our first proclamation?
7.       The Temptation Narrative
a)      Intense, subtle, relatable
b)      Not just about breaking a rule, breaking a relationship
c)       Change how they look at God
d)      CCC 397 **
8.       God as Loving Father
a)      We are his children
b)      What is purpose of God’s law?
c)       Our motive for following it?
9.       Devil: God a tyrant/all-powerful master
a)      Are we his children?
b)      What is purpose of God’s law?
c)       Our motive for following it?
10.   THIS is the drama of today

D.      The Garden
1.       Tree of knowledge of good and evil (figurative language)
a)      Kingly authority
b)      Makes laws and determines what is good/evil
c)       Who determines what is right/wrong?
d)      Who is true king?
2.       Pride/Moral autonomy
3.       CCC 398 “like God but without God”

Monday, October 27, 2014

From Ignatian Spritual Exercises

First Principle and Foundation

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.

The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created.

Hence, man is to make use of them in as far as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to him.

Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things.

Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.

Some Thoughts Today

Very recently, I have become aware (physically aware) of the cross I trace over my body each time I make the Sign of the Cross.  Several months ago I began to make a conscious, mental effort to make the Sign of the Cross slowly and purposefully, considering each time that I am signing myself with The Cross.  And now I am physically aware of that sign being present each time I make it.

This morning, the words which I pray daily: "Lord, open my lips," hit me.  This is what I have been asking, that people do not see me but rather see through me to Christ; that when I speak, I speak words that come from the Lord.  And here it has been, in prayer each day ... why have I only noticed it today?

Today's Gospel spoke of the woman cured by Jesus, who had been 18 years "crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect."  Isn't that what sin does to us?  It cripples us, and we are unable to stand erect until we accept the healing offered to us (absolution in sacramental confession)?  I was certainly "crippled by a spirit" during the 20 years I turned away from God.  I can only stand erect now by and through His Grace. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

If the Church is a Field Hospital

From my good friend, Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP:

21 October 2014

If the Church is a Field Hospital. . .

1. A severely wounded solider is brought to the Field Hospital. The doctor pokes his injuries with a stick and declares, "These wounds are self-inflicted. You can't be admitted to this hospital until you are completely healed."

2. Another severely wounded solider is brought to the Field Hospital. The doctor begins life-saving treatment. The solider blurts out, "STOP! I don't want to be healed! I want to be affirmed in my woundedness. Just accept my injuries and welcome me as I am!"

3. Yet another solider is rushed to the Field Hospital. The doctor and the soldier agree that he is OK in his woundedness and let him stay in the hospital just as he is. . .wounds and all.

4. One last wounded soldier is carried into the Field Hospital.  The doctor immediately begins treating his wounds. The solider says, "Thanks, doc. I can't heal up w/o your help."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Faith Formation, Commandments 2 & 3

October 20, 2014  St Francis Parish Faith Formation Group 

V:  O God, come to my assistance
R:  Lord, make haste to help me.
V:  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
R:  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Alleluia. 

AH 461  Holy God We Praise Thy Name
Psalm 123 (124)
Our help is in the name of the Lord

V:  Our help is in the name of the Lord. 

If the Lord had not been with us
(so let Israel sing),
If the Lord had not been with us
when men rose up against us,
they might have skinned us alive,
such was their anger.
The waters could have drowned us,
the torrent poured over us,
the foaming waters poured over us.
Blessed be the Lord, who saved us
from being torn to pieces by their teeth.
We have escaped, like a bird
from the snare of the fowler.
The snare was broken,
and we escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. 

(Together) Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.  Amen. 

V:  Our help is in the name of the Lord. 

The Second Commandment 

Exodus 20:7  - forbids irreverent use of the Divine Name, especially in legal contexts (oaths); also, to inject the divine name into foul, hateful, or blasphemous speech is to abuse it and to offend the lord who bears it.
1.       Why is a name so important that God devoted one of the 10 Commandments to it?
2.       What is the meaning of vain?
3.       How is God’s name taken in vain?
a.       Blasphemy
b.      Oaths (false and foolish)
c.       Perjury
d.      Cursing
4.        How do we take God’s name justly?
a.        Oaths
b.      To sanctify
c.       To expel our adversary
d.      To confess God’s name
e.      To defend ourselves
To make our works complete 

The Third Commandment 

Exodus 20:8-11 – requires a Sabbath (also applies to Holy Days of Obligation) rest for households and herds; as a memorial of  the world’s creation and of Israel’s redemption.  So important, that it is repeated 6 times throughout Exodus. 
1.        Why the shift from Sabbath to Sunday?
2.       What are the reasons for this commandment? 
3.       What is meant by the “Sunday Obligation?”
4.       How do we keep the Sabbath holy?  (what does “holy” mean?)
a.        What should we avoid?
1)      Servile work
2)      Sin
3)      Idleness
b.      What should we do?
1)      Offer sacrifice
2)      Hear God’s word
3)      Contemplate divine things
4)      Eternal rest
5)      Sunday is traditionally dedicated by Christian piety to good works (CCC 2186)



Friday, October 10, 2014

Excellent Homily

A homily by Lawrence Lew, OP:

HOMILY for 27th Fri per annum (II)
Gal 3:7-14 ; Ps 110 ; Luke 11:15-26

Does all this talk of demons and Satan and unclean spirits trouble you? Whenever I have given talks about angels, people seem more fascinated by demons, and the last time I gave a talk about the Devil, I think the group of young working professionals in Oxford became quite worried – it was all they could talk about at the pub afterwards! And yet, we have nothing to fear or worry about if we just recall Christ’s words to us in yesterday’s Gospel. It ended with this promise: “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:13) It is this promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, he who is called in today’s Gospel “the finger of God” (Lk 11:20) and “One Stronger than he” (Lk 11:22), that leads us into today’s Gospel passage. And so, we can read it without worry or fear if we recall Jesus’ promise.
But do we ask our loving Father to give us the Spirit? Or maybe, more than our fear for the unclean spirits, we fear the disruption to our lives that the Holy Spirit might bring? It’s stiking, isn’t it, that the palace guarded by the strong man, that is, the devil, has its “goods [ ] in peace”. And again, the unclean spirit returns to a house “swept and put in order” (Lk 11:25). But the peace and order that Jesus refers to here is not a good kind – it is complacency. Here, Jesus depicts a soul that is comfortable but also, it would seem, uninhabited. It is possible that through life we acquire certain habits and ways of thinking; we become comfortable with our behaviour and our attitudes so that we barely question them; we are at peace with our venial sins and content with a sinful world. We may not be bad people, but we’ve just become quite comfortable with being mediocre, lukewarm. “We’re only human”, we say and we’re quite satisfied with that excuse. And yet, in the book of the Apocalypse, the Spirit says to those who are “lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth”! (3:16) The Holy Spirit will not dwell in lukewarm souls; unclean spirits do. So, let us ask our heavenly Father to give us the Holy Spirit!
However, a warning: If we ask God to send the Holy Spirit into our lives and we mean this, then we are asking for our lives to become a lot less comfortable. There will be some disturbance, a struggle against our sinful habits, a fight against our former ways of behaving, a rebellion against the popular assumptions of our contemporary secular society. For the Holy Spirit brings the flaming ardour of God’s love to heat us up and change our lives, and the Holy Spirit comes as a rushing wind to stir things up and to disturb our sleeping consciences. But the Holy Spirit also comes to dwell in us as our Counsellor so that we begin to see things as God does and love what he loves. But his voice is ever so quiet and can only be heart in stillness and silent prayer. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us as our Advocate so that he defends us against the attacks of the Devil and keeps the unclean spirits evicted. But we have to co-operate with him and be vigilant, examining our consciences daily and going to Confession regularly. And the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us as our Helper. So we need not fear, but let us ask for his help, ask for God’s grace by praying to our heavenly Father and saying: “Lord, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts”. Amen.

- See more at:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Homily, Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP

I had just asked my faith formation group last week, regarding the Gospel Story of the Rich Young Man:  "What do you need to sell?  What do you need to get rid of that is in the way of your relationship with God?  Anger? Impatience? etc...." 

24 September 2014

Graft your life onto the Cross

25th Week OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Notre Dame Seminary, NOLA

Kings fear prophets b/c prophets have nothing to lose when the kings decides that the prophet's truth-telling threatens kingly power. With nothing and no one to hold hostage, nothing short of death can silence a noisy prophet. And thus are we tested in faith: are you prepared to die for telling the Truth and doing the Good? More specifically, are you prepared to die for preaching Christ and for living out his unbreakable Word? If not, Christ says, “Take nothing for the journey. . .” Take nothing along with you but Christ. Take nothing but his Word – his promises, his mighty deeds. Anything not of Christ and everyone but Christ can be taken from you. Mother, father, brothers and sisters, friends, car, house, job, reputation – all of these can be/will be destroyed when the powers of this world tire of your truth-telling and do-gooding. If nothing and no one comes before Christ, if nothing and no one counts more than Christ in your work, then the king cannot silence you. He cannot kill Christ. Not again. Christ has defeated the kings of this world. So, whatever treasure they may have to tempt you into silence – it all belongs to Christ. . .and to us as his adopted brothers and sisters. Our prayer as prophets on the Way: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only [what] I need.”

In the summer of 2013, Pope Francis preached to a group of seminarians and religious novices in Rome. He exhorted them, “Herein lies the secret of the fruitfulness of a disciple of the Lord! Jesus sends his followers out with no 'purse, no bag, no sandals'. The spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed either by the number of persons, or by the prestige of the institution, or by the quantity of available resources. What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s Cross.” Graft your life onto the Cross. Is it possible to graft your life onto the Cross if you come to the Cross weighted down with Necessary Things, with Important Relationships, and Serious Responsibilities? If we love these more than Christ? No. No, we cannot be grafted onto the Cross weighed down by these burdens. However, if we love Christ first, that is, if we love all other things, people, and relationships through our love for Christ – placing Christ first in the order of understanding – then we are already grafted onto to the trunk of the Cross. And our lives are lives of praise and thanksgiving for the chance to die with him on the altar of his cross.

In 21st century America, it is more than just a little difficult to imagine the depth of surrender that Jesus is urging on us. Yes, he means material poverty when he says “take nothing on the journey.” Yes, by “[take] neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, [nor] a second tunic” he means to say that the things we own too often come to own us. And yes, he means that virtuous detachment from stuff is essential to the preaching of the Good News. But the depth of our surrender can only begin with material poverty and virtuous detachment. If we become poor and wholly detached and yet remain uncommitted to Christ's ministry of freely given mercy and sacrificial love, then we are nothing more than just detached and poor. Can poverty and detachment alone tell the Truth and do the Good? No. Kings do not fear the poor and the detached. The powers of this world fear the prophet's trust in God alone. They fear humility, mercy, and the sort of love that dies for another. The depth of our surrender then is measured not by our material poverty or detachment, but how freely and eagerly our poverty and detachment bring Christ to those caught in the traps of sin and death. 

So. . .who or what owns you, holding you back from diving to the deepest depths of surrender in Christ?