Friday, January 28, 2011

The Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas: How to Think Like a Grown Up

Today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, the great doctor of the Church,  writer of the Summa Theologica and composer of the texts of many Eucharistic hymns, including Tantum Ergo, Pange Lingua and Panis Angelicus.

Whenever I think of St. Thomas, I automatically also think of the professor who taught me to think like a grown up, Father Kenneth Slattery, C.M.  Father Slattery, who died two years ago, was the ultimate Thomist.  He walked around the classroom with his tattered copy of the Summa in its original Latin.  He lived and breathed Thomistic theology and was offended when anyone might have the temerity to suggest any competition to the "Angelic doctor."  I remember his being incredulous at reports that Pope Benedict was actually more of an Augustinian than a Thomist.  I don't think that deep down he really believed it.

The beginning of a semester with Father Slattery always included the feeling that your brain was being stretched beyond its capacity.  But, by the end of the term, you couldn't believe how much you had learned.  The old professor and the Angelic doctor had done it again.  Sloppy shallow thinking was banished and you knew you were thinking like a mature adult who could actually use reason. 

In my office, on the side of my desk is a reliquary containing a relic of St. Thomas Aquinas.  He is a constant presence in my day and without a doubt, an inspiration when thought processes come to a dead end and the right words don't seem to come.  He is a reminder that our ability to reason is a gift from God and that all earthly work should be completely directed to fulfilling His will. 

But, above all, whenever I think of St. Thomas, or glance at the reliquary, I can't help but think of the "Old Professor" and imagine the discussion that, God willing, is going on between these two great teachers.  Hopefully, they remember to throw in a prayer for this perpetual student now and then.

Father Slattery, requiescat in pace.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

One Strong Woman!

During his January 26th general audience, Pope Benedict XVI  gave a catechetical instruction on Saint Joan of Arc, one of my personal saintly heroines.  The Holy Father described Saint Joan as "one of the 'strong women' who, at the end of the Middle Ages, fearlessly brought the splendid light of the Gospel into the complex events of history".  Here's a copy of the instruction published by the Vatican Information Service:

  The life of Joan of Arc (1412-1431), who was born into a prosperous peasant family, took place in the context of the conflict between France and England known as the Hundred Years War. At the age of thirteen, "through the 'voice' of St. Michael the Archangel, Joan felt herself called by the Lord to intensify her Christian life and to act personally to free her people".

  She made a vow of virginity and redoubled her prayers, participating in sacramental life with renewed energy. "This young French peasant girl's compassion and commitment in the face of her people's suffering were made even more intense through her mystical relationship with God. One of the most original aspects of her sanctity was this bond between mystical experience and political mission". said Benedict XVI.

  Joan's activities began in early 1429 when, overcoming all obstacles, she managed to meet with the French Dauphin, the future King Charles VII. He had her examined by theologians of the University of Poitiers who "delivered a positive judgment, they discovered nothing bad in her, and found her to be a good Christian".

  On 22 March of that year Joan dictated a letter to the King of England and his men, who were laying siege to the city of Orleans. "Hers was a proposal of authentic and just peace between two Christian peoples, in the light of the names of Jesus and Mary", said the Holy Father. But the offer was rejected and Joan had to fight for the liberation of the city. Another culminating moment of her endeavours came on 17 July 1429 when King Charles was crowned in Reims.

  Joan's passion began on 23 May 1430 when she fell into the hands of her enemies at Compiegne and was taken to the city of Rouen. There a long and dramatic trial was held which concluded with her being condemned to death on 30 May 1431.

  The trial was presided by two ecclesiastical judges, Bishop Pierre Cauchon and the inquisitor Jean le Maistre, but in fact it was conducted by a group of theologians from the University of Paris. These "French ecclesiastics, having made political choices opposed to those of Joan, were predisposed to hold negative views of her person and mission. The trial was a dark page in the history of sanctity, but also a shining page in the mystery of the Church which is, ... 'at the same time holy and always in need of being purified'".

  "Unlike the saintly theologians who illuminated the University of Paris, such as St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Duns Scotus, ... the judges were theologians who lacked the charity and humility to see the work of God in this young girl. Jesus' words come to mind, according to which the mysteries of God are revealed to those who have the hearts of children, but hidden from the wise and intelligent. Thus Joan's judges were radically incapable of understanding her, of seeing the beauty of her soul", the Pope said.

  Joan died at the stake on 30 May 1431, holding a crucifix in her hands and invoking the name of Jesus. Twenty-five years later a trial of nullification, instituted by Pope Callixtus III, "concluded with a solemn sentence nullifying the condemnation and ... highlighting Joan of Arc's innocence and perfect faithfulness to the Church. Much later, in 1920, she was canonised by Pope Benedict XV".

  "The Name of Jesus invoked by this saint in the last instants of her earthly life was as the continual breath of her soul, ... the centre of her entire life", the Holy Father explained. "This saint understood that Love embraces all things of God and man, of heaven and earth, of the Church and the world. ... Liberating her people was an act of human justice, which Joan performed in charity, for love of Jesus, hers is a beautiful example of sanctity for lay people involved in political life, especially in the most difficult situations".

  "Joan saw in Jesus all the reality of the Church, the 'Church triumphant' in heaven and the 'Church militant' on earth. In her own words, 'Our Lord and the Church are one'. This affirmation ... takes on a truly heroic aspect in the context of the trial, in the face of her judges, men of the Church who persecuted and condemned her".

  "With her shining witness St. Joan of Arc invites us to the highest degree of Christian life, making prayer the motif of our days, having complete trust in achieving the will of God whatever it may be, living in charity without favouritisms or limitations, and finding in the Love of Jesus, as she did, a profound love for His Church".

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Come on In, The Water's Fine

The Anchoress is having a caption contest for this picture:

Go on over to her site and come up with your caption! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

March for Life: The Next Generation

As I mentioned below, I was unable to get down to D.C. for the March for Life this year.  My nephew, Christopher, however, was there along with his classmates from Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York.   I had asked Chris if he could send me a few pictures for the blog as well as a few of his thoughts on this year's march.  His reflections just blow me away and give me such hope for the future of the pro life movement and the world.  Here's what he says:
 I know you asked me to send you a sort of synopsis of my trip so I have a few comments.  I thought that this year's March for Life was a huge success. What I found to be the most profound thing was the new generation of pro-life marchers who are beginning to take control of the right to life agenda.  Despite the cold weather throughout the march there was a sense of community and warmth amongst everyone.  The height of my experience in Washington was when everyone began to sing the Salve Regina as we trod up Capitol Hill, it felt as if we were calling for Mary's intercession upon us and all those scared and regretful mothers.  My experience was truly amazing this year and I am very excited to go again until our message reaches the hearts and ears of all.  
May God bless Chris, his classmates and teachers, and all those who endured the sub-freezing temperatures to provide a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Here are a few of his great shots from the march:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Not The Enemy

Amy Welborn posts a pro life picture that says it all:

Now, if we can just get them to believe it.

March for Life

Tomorrow is the annual March for Life in Washinton, D.C.  Tonight is the vigil Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

God bless all of those who will be there in the bitter cold weather, including my nephew Chris.  I wish I could be there, too, but it just didn't work out this year.  May God turn the hearts of those who support abortion toward Him and away from the senseless slaughter of the innocents.  And may the Lord heal those who are suffering from the after effects of abortion.

Confession: More Powerful than "100 Exorcisms"

Recently, the Chicago Sun Times reported on a presentation by Fr. Jeffrey Grob, the exorcist for the Archdiocese of Chicago.  What jumped out at me from Fr. Grob's talk was this sentence:

“One good sacramental confession is more powerful than 100 exorcisms.”

What graces we receive in the sacraments.
Go to confession!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Little Lambs of St. Agnes

A little late in the day, but it is still the feast of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr. Toady a special ritual is held in Rome where two lambs are brought in to the Vatican to be blessed by the Pope. The wool from these lambs will be used to make the pallia for the new archbishops. The presentation of the pallium to each archbishop takes place on June 29th, the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul.

Here are some great photos via John Sonnen, whose blog Orbis Catholicus Secundus provides the best shots of Catholic Rome.

The white rose lamb represents St. Agnes, Virgin.  The lamb with the red roses, St. Agnes, Martyr.

Now, how cute is that?

For more on the story of the little lambs, St. Agnes and the pallium, take a look at this article from CNA entitled "Pope Blesses Special Lambs on Feast of St. Agnes."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Uh, Oh...I'd Better Finish Reading the First One

CNA reports today:  "Pope’s second book on Jesus due out March 15."  How does he do it?  I am put to shame by the Holy Father's diligence.  God bless that man.  And now, it's time to get back to finishing his first book "Jesus of Nazareth" where I am embarrassed to admit that my bookmark is on page 68.

Rutherford B. Hayes, Chief Red Cloud, St. Katharine Drexel and the Black Robes

The heading of this post is designed to make one think, "What do these people have in common?"  But, one could not be faulted for thinking, "These people have nothing in common."  What they do have in common is a mission to the Lakota people, the Lakota (Sioux) tribe of the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota.

More years ago than I care to remember, I worked as a staff member on the Select Committee for Indian Affairs in the United States Senate.  That position made me more aware than ever of some of the incredible poverty and hardship on the Native American reservations.  One of the most impoverished was the Rosebud reservation of the Lakota Sioux people.  One group that stuck by the tribe in its difficulties was the Catholic church, in particular the priests of the Society of Jesus and the Sisters of St. Francis.  Despite some common misconceptions about Church involvement on Indian land, it was the Lakota themselves who petitioned the U.S. government to send the Jesuits to them.  That request was granted and the "black robes" continue their ministry through the St. Francis Mission to the Lakota to this very day.

Hopefully, this short post will make the St. Francis Mission better known and, perhaps, induce others to support their work.   It is truly a worthwhile cause and one that helps a people who have struggled with poverty and isolation within the borders of our own country for well over a century.

 One aspect of that struggle is revealed by a startling statistic from the Mission's website. Between October 2006 and October 2007 there were 210 suicide attempts on the reservation, 27 of which were successful.  If the work of the Mission was only to address suicide prevention, it would be a huge and worthwhile undertaking.  But, in addition to that work, the Mission also staffs 6 parishes, runs substance abuse programs and offers counseling, hosts after school religious education, and operates its own radio station. 

To give you a little bit more of the very interesting history, here's an excerpt from their website:

On September 26-27, 1877 Chief Sinte Gleska (Spotted Tail), leader of the Sicangu Lakota and Chief Red Cloud, leader of the Ogalala, met with President Rutherford B. Hayes and formally requested that the Black Robes come to their lands to educate their people. Sinte Gleska told the President, “I would like to say something about a teacher. My children, all of them, would like to learn how to talk English. They would like to learn how to read and write. We have teachers there, but all they teach us is to talk Sioux, and to write Sioux, and that is not necessary. I would like to get Catholic priests. Those who wear black dresses. These men will teach us how to read and write English.”
With the death of Sinte Gleska in 1881, Chief Two Strike invited the Jesuits to enter the Rosebud Reservation and begin a school. The site was located near camps of Two Strike’s band called Hinhansunwapa (Owl Feather Bonnet). Father Jutz and Brother Nunlist finished a large frame building financed by American born St. Katharine Drexel (whose feast day is March 3rd) and dedicated it in 1886. Father Florentine Digmann arrived in 1888 bringing with him Franciscan Sisters Kostka, Rosalia, and Alcantara. Together they established the Mission School that was named after St. Francis Assisi, who founded the Franciscan order, but was commonly referred to as Sapa Un Ti (“where the Black Robes live”) by the Sicangu.  Father Digmann also established 37 Mission stations throughout the Rosebud Reservation and is considered the founder of St. Francis Mission.
The Sapa Un school offered the people in the area a place where they felt safe. The school taught them the Catholic faith and how to function in white society. The Mission School was turned over to the tribe in 1974 and is now independent of the Mission.
So,  when you have a chance, go over to the website of the St. Francis Mission at , and take a look at the good work that they are doing, and  see if you can help.  (And now you know what Rutherford B. Hayes, Chief Red Cloud, St. Katharine Drexel and the "Black Robes" have in common!)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sister, Sister

And, not to forget the ladies during this Vocation Awareness Week, here's a link to some beautiful vocation stories by the Sisters of Life (link: here).

(h/t Anchoress)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Men In Black

As Vocation Awareness Week draws to a close, here's another look at the great video tribute to priests by our own Father Jim Reynolds:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vocation Awareness Week - "How to Grow a Priest"

A little late in the game, here, but this week is Vocation Awareness Week.  Pat Gohn had a beautiful post this past November entitled "How to Grow a Priest."  The answer?  Faithfulness on your own part.  Faithful priests come from faithful families.  The same with religious sisters and brothers.  What a concept, huh!

Well, in honor of Vocation Awareness Week, it's always nice to take another look at one of our own here in New York, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and their offshoot Grassroots Films, who produced the following beautiful video:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti Earthquake One Year Later

Today is the one year anniversary of the terrible earthquake in Haiti.  The Holy Father has sent a gift of over $1 million to continue assisting in the relief effort.  It is such a vast undertaking.

One charity that is doing so much in Haiti is Food for the Poor.  Only 0.7% of their income goes to administrative costs.  If you're looking for a place to help, visit the Food for the Poor website and see how they are making a difference to the people in Haiti.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Baptism of the Lord

Today is the end of the liturgical Christmas season when the Church celebrates the baptism of the Lord.

Inside Catholic has an article by Fr. James Farfaglia that encourages each one of us to remember and celebrate the day of our own baptism:

The consideration of Jesus' baptism, gives us an opportunity to remember our own baptism.  If you do not know the date of your own baptism, it is a good idea to go through your personal files and find out when it occurred.  Many people are celebrating the anniversary of their baptism with a special celebration like a birthday.  After all, baptism is the day that we are reborn.  We become children of God, active members of the Church, and temples of the Holy Spirit.  Original sin is washed away; we receive sanctifying grace and the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity are infused within us.  The reality of baptism certainly gives us great cause to celebrate.
Years ago babies were baptized very close to the day that they were born.  This was perhaps due to greater infant mortality.  My own baptism was within three weeks of my birth.  The holy father, Pope Benedict, was born on Holy Saturday and baptized the same day.  Another reason for fairly quick baptisms may have been that people were more aware of their faith back then and there was a greater understanding of the sacramental meaning of baptism.  Today there are preparation classes and schedules for baptism.  Years ago, you just showed up at the Church with the baby.

Today let us thank God for the gift of baptism, for the gift of our faith and for the anointing we received through this awesome sacrament.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Muslims Protecting Christians in Egypt - A Sign of Hope?

According to the website Ahramonline ,

Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.
From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.
“We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural centre distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea.
Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.
 A sign of hope.

The Pope and the Sick Children

A moving video of the Holy Father visiting sick children in Gemelli Hospital in Rome this past week.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

When He Comes Again, Will the Lord Find Any Christians in the Middle East?

                (Photo:  AFP)
The news out of Iraq and Egypt has been horrendous over this New Year's weekend.  In Egypt, a Coptic Christian church was bombed and 21 worshipers were killed.  In Iraq, at least seven Christian homes were target with bombs.

The AP reports about one of the Iraqi bombings:
When Fawzi Rahim, 76, and his 78-year-old wife Janet Mekha answered the doorbell Thursday night, the bomb exploded, killing them, Mekha's brother told The Associated Press on Friday. Three other people, apparently passers-by, were wounded.
"When I went there, I found both of them cut to pieces near the gate of their house," said the brother, Falah al-Tabbakh, 47, who had been at a funeral nearby in the eastern Baghdad district of Ghadir. He rushed to his sister's house after neighbors called him, and they told him what happened, he said.
The bombing was among a string of seemingly coordinated attacks Thursday evening that targeted at least seven Christian homes in various parts of Baghdad that wounded at least 13 other people, a week after al-Qaida-linked militants renewed their threats to attack Iraq's Christians.
The attacks are the latest since an Oct. 31 siege of a Baghdad church by al-Qaida killed 68 worshipers, terrifying the minority community, whose numbers have already fallen dramatically in the past seven years of violence in Iraq.
 The reason we're only hearing about violence against Christians in Iraq and Egypt is that most of the other countries in that region will not even tolerate the existence of Christianity within their borders.  If Al Qaeda has its way, Christianity will be eradicated from the face of the earth.

God willing, the world will take notice and help these people before there are no Christians left at all in that part of the world.

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
Take a moment and visit the MOSJ website.