Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ss. Cosmas & Damian - Station Church for Today

Today's Lenten station church in Rome is Ss. Cosmas & Damian, near the Roman forum.

The facade of the basilica is a little worn.  Perhaps because it includes portions of the ancient Roman forum which it abuts. 
As you can see, while the structure is not in great shape, but the interior is beautiful.  The relics of the two saints lie beneath the main altar:

The brothers Cosmas & Damian were physicians.  They were early martyrs of the Church who were killed in Syria in the 4th century.  Eventually, their remains were brought to Rome during the time of St. Gregory the Great.  You can read more about the basilica and the station churches at the North American College's website.  Father Zuhlsdorf also has a daily podcast on the station churches that includes a prayerful reflection for each day in Lent.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

St. Rupert - The Saint Behind the Sound of Music

If today were not a Sunday, it would be celebrated as the feast day of St. Rupert of Salzburg.  Rupert, a holy man of the 8th century, was the bishop of Worms in what is present day Germany.  Because of his reputation,   the duke of Bavaria asked Rupert to come and help revive Christianity in that region.  Rupert asked to be given an area called Juvavum, which  was the early name of the city of Salzburg, Austria in order to establish a See and a monastery.  One of the first things St. Rupert did in Salzburg was to build a church in honor of St. Peter and its adjoining Benedictine monastery.   That church stands to this very day.  Another thing Rupert did was to establish the Nonnberg Abbey in the hills above Salzburg.  It is the oldest continuously used abbey north of the Alps.  Nonnberg is also the abbey where Maria Kutschera went as a postulant and  from which she was sent out to work as a nanny for a certain Captain Von Trapp and his brood.

In addition to setting the stage for the Sound of Music, Rupert developed the salt industry which was the lifeblood of Salzburg for centuries (Salz in German means salt, ergo Salzburg is "salt city".)  I lived in Salzburg for a short while and did a tour of those salt mines.  It was a time when I was much more daring since touring the salt mines involved sitting on what appeared to be a giant skate board and descending into dark mines that had been abandoned for many, many years.  Because salt was such a precious commodity in the days of St. Rupert and onward, Salzburg became a major commercial town and episcopal see.  Many churches and monasteries are still standing and are surrounded by some of the most magnificent scenery in Europe.

St. Rupert died in the monastery in the year 718.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

“Bad Dog! Stupid Dog!”

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.  It was about noon.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water.  Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.— Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands,  and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him,  “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;  but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her,  “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here,  when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one speaking with you.”
At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?”  They went out of the town and came to him. Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for;  others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”
Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.  Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
The Holy Gospel According To Saint John (4:5-42)
One day, a butcher is working away in his butcher shop, when a large dog walks into the shop, carrying a purse in its mouth. The dog puts the purse down at the butcher’s feet and then sits in front of the meat case. "What is it, fella?" the butcher jokingly asks. "Need to buy some meat?" "Woof!" responds the dog. The butcher, still joking, says, “Want some chicken?” The dog sits and stares at him. “How about some pork?” The dog sits and stares at him. “Want some steak?” "Woof! Woof!" signals the dog. “How much steak? A quarter-pound?” The dog just stares at him. “A half a pound?” The dog just stares at him. “One pound?" "Woof! Woof!" signals the dog. The amazed butcher wraps up the meat, picks up the purse the dog left at the butcher’s feet, and finds money in it. He puts the change into the purse, puts it in a bag with the steak, and gives it to the dog. And the dog gets up and goes. As the dog leaves the shop, the butcher decides to follow. The dog enters an apartment build­ing, climbs the stairs to the third floor and begins scratching at a door. With that, the door swings open and an angry man starts shouting at the dog: “Bad dog! Stupid dog!” "Hey! Stop!" yells the butcher. "That is the most intelligent animal I've ever seen!" The man says, "Intelligent? HA! If he’s so smart, then why is this the third time this week that he forgot his key."   We expect a great deal from one another. Sometimes too much. And it seems there is no end to our disappointment in our spouses, our children, our parents, our co-workers, our neighbors, our friends.   Our disappointment in others and our criticism of certain people always end up shoving those people out to the very edges of our life -- like shooing a dog out of the house: “Bad dog! Stupid dog!” The Samaritan Woman in today’s Gospel Reading had been shoved out to the edges of life.  She was a victim of her own sins, and of people’s disappointment in her and criticism of her. 
In the eyes of the Jews, her Samaritan nationality and her Samaritan religion made her a nonperson -- like a dog!  Among her own Samaritan People, her promiscuity made her an outcast, and she was treated by her own people as if she were a nonperson -- like a dog!  But Our Lord Jesus did not reject her or ignore her. He lowered a bucket into the deep well of her soul, far below her sins and mistakes and fears. And from within her, He drew up her faith and joy. It was her faith and her joy at being pulled up from the pit of her sins that enabled the Samaritan Woman to re-create her life, to re-form herself into the woman that Our Lord knew was deep inside of her.  And in telling others of her encounter with Our Lord Jesus, she became like a well, a fountainhead of faith and forgiveness and re­-creation for others.  You know, every year, Our Lord Jesus gives us the 40 days of Lent so that we can re-form, cast off our sins, and be re-born spiritually. To be re-born in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ begins with confronting two realities: 
  1. The reality of our own lives as they are, and 
  2. The reality of our need for re-creation, re-birth.
Sin is real:
  • Sin does exist in our lives. 
  • Sin is something for which we have to take responsibility.
    Sin is dangerous. 
  • Sin poisons and destroys us. 
  • And every one of our sins affects every person on the planet, like a virus that spreads throughout the world.
But – through Our Lord Jesus Christ – forgiveness, reconciliation and re-birth are just as real as sin – and much more powerful than sin!  In her encounter with Our Lord Jesus at Jacob's Well, the Samari­tan Woman confronted her own sinfulness. By doing so, she realized how much she needed God.
  • Pray that you and I will be willing to do that for the next two weeks of Lent.
  • Pray that you and I will be willing to move beyond the failings of others, our disappointment in others. 
  • Pray that you and I realize the good they possess, and that we must draw up that goodness from within them, and help them to use their goodness for the benefit of all.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Going "Down" to San Vitale - Today's Lenten Station Church

Today's Lenten station church is San Vitale.  St. Vitalis, for whom this church was named, was actually martyred in Ravenna by being tortured on the rack.  In addition to his martyrdom, the wife and children of St. Vitalis were also martyred.

The church itself is located on the Via Nazionale, but like so many of the early Roman ruins and edifices, it is below the current street level:

The church was originally built as an oratory in the 5th century, but eventually wound up in ruins before its renovation in the 15th century. 

One interesting bit of history concerning this church is that it was the titular church of St. John Fisher, the English martyr.  In 1535, St. John  was imprisoned by King Henry VIII in the tower of London for his refusal to sign the Oath of Succession.  This oath purported to give validity to Henry's divorce and subsequent remarriage.  Pope Clement VII named St. John Fisher a cardinal in the hope of saving him from death.  However, Henry famously remarked, that he would not permit the cardinal's hat to be sent to England, but would rather send St. John Fisher's head to Rome. 

St. John Fisher, St. Vitale ora pro nobis.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Lenten Lesson: A Father's Love for His Disabled Son

This story has been around for a few years, but I came across it again today and thought it was apt for this sacrificial season in the Church calendar.  Rick Hoyt was born with oxygen deprivation to the brain.  The doctors told his parents that he was spastic quadriplegic and that they should put him in an institution.  However, Rick's parents, Dick and Judy Hoyt would not give up on their son.  They saw that he followed them around the room with his eyes and they were sure that he was intelligent and aware of the outside world.  They persevered in finding a method for Rick to communicate through computer assistance and,in 1972, a group of engineers from Tufts University were able to put together a keyboard that could be manipulated by movement of Rick's head.  His first words were, "Go Bruins" since it was hockey season and Boston was in the Stanley Cup.  (you can read the full story of the Hoyts at their website:

In 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to be in a race.  Dick, a Lt. Colonel in the Air National Guard agreed that he would push Rick in his wheelchair in a 5 mile race.  This was to be the first of 1,000 races that the two would enter together, including the Iron Man triathlon and the Boston Marathon.  Rick said that when he raced he felt like he wasn't handicapped.  They are still going strong and hoping to run in this year's marathon, as well.

Here's an amazing video of a father's sacrificial love for his son.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beach Boys to Headline Terri Schiavo Foundation Concert

This via; the Beach Boys are to be the headline act at the Terri Schiavo Foundation fundraiser this coming June in Dayton, Ohio.   I'm always happy to hear that there are musicians who are willing to put their popular image on the line by taking a public stance as pro life.

The Terri Schiavo Foundation is soliciting sponsors and selling tickets to the event over at their website:

The foundation was recently involved in funding assistance to the family of baby Joseph (who we blogged about recently), the baby from Canada whose life support was to be terminated.  Fr. Frank Pavone coordinated the work which enabled the baby's family to bring him to St. Louis for treatment that may extend his life and allow him to die at home with his family.  Please keep praying for baby Joseph and for all those involved with the pro life movement.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Little Detour From Our Regularly Scheduled Lenten Programming - The World's Largest Model Railroad Layout

This has absolutely nothing to do with Lent, Catholicism, Spirituality, or any of our other normal posts here at the Catholic Jedi Academy.  However, my father just reminded me today about this incredible model railroad layout in Hamburg, Germany.  It was started by two brothers, who seem to have gotten carried away with the whole idea.  Their initial simple layout has morphed into a 10,000 square meter space with hundreds of thousands of figures, trains running through the Rocky Mountains, Las Vegas, Switzerland, Denmark, and other places.  A working harbor is included and an airport should be in place by this May.  Take a look:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why Is It So Hard to Find St. Joseph in Rome?

While in Rome last November, I stumbled upon the church of S. Giuseppe dei Falegnami (St. Joseph of the carpenters).  And, I literally mean stumbled upon.  I had decided not to go to the Mamertine prison with my friends, but opted for a visit to the church of Ss. Cosmas and Damian instead.  When I traveled along the forum to meet up with everyone at the prison, I took a sort of circuitous route, up a hill, around a bend and then down toward the forum again.  There at the bottom of the hill was the prison.  Then, looking up I saw a beautiful church built directly above the prison.  Since my friends weren't done with their tour, and the doors of the church were open, I went upstairs.

It turns out that the church is dedicated to St. Joseph as patron of carpenters.  The interior is quite fancy and it seems that the work was done by the "congregation of carpenters."  I'm not sure about that group, but if anyone has some information, please feel free to chime in with a comment.  The church was originally known as St. Peter at the prison, but I guess the carpenters got first dibs on a name change when they moved in back in 1540.

Because the square outside of the church was lowered to permit direct access to the prison, one now has to climb stairs to gain access.  But, it is well worth a visit, if you happen to find the doors open.  After my friends came out of the prison tour, they told me that I had made the better choice and that the tour was poorly done without much of an emphasis on the religious aspect of St. Peter and St. Paul's imprisonment.  The prison is owned by the city of Rome and the tour is run as a secular enterprise (and it's pretty expensive, as well!).

But, now back to the title of my post.  Why is it so difficult to find a church dedicated to St. Joseph in Rome?  I did a search and found only one other church in Rome exclusively dedicated to the saint who is the guardian of the Church.   Well, there may not be many churches bearing his name in Rome, but I am sure that he is one of Pope Benedict's right hand men.  Ite ad Joseph!

The main altar of St. Joseph of the Carpenters:

A painting of the death of St. Joseph:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

St. Peter's Basilica - Today's Lenten Station Church in Rome

Today's station church in Rome is right in Vatican City - St. Peter's Basilica!.  If you have been following along with  the seminarians at the North American College, you'll see that they were heading over there  at 6:40 a.m. this morning for Mass.

Of course, St. Peter's is the mother church of all Catholics.  One could spend hours in St. Peter's and still not have seen everything.  As I mentioned in a previous post, apostles, saints and popes are buried in almost anonymous fashion beneath altars, in niches and in the crypt.  Unless you know what to look for, you can walk right by Pope Pius X or St. Simon or St. Jude and have no idea.  Although, obviously, the most important spot is the side altar where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for prayer and adoration. 

        A view of St. Peter's from Castel St. Angelo:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles (Santi Dodici Apostoli) - Today's Lenten Station

While I didn't get to visit today's Lenten station church while in Rome last November, we did pass by it en route to dinner one night. We passed by a lot of places, unfortunately, that weren't on the itinerary, but that would have been worthwhile to visit. That's one of the things about Rome, it's impossible to get to every beautiful and holy place. In fact, even when you visit one of the churches, there's not enough time to truly see every shrine, altar or beautiful painting.

That's why I wish I could be in Rome right now, visiting a different station church on each of the 40 days of Lent. What a wonderful way to walk with the Lord on His way to Calvary. Each of the Lenten stational churches tells a part of the story of the early days of the Church and her martyrs.

Today's church is the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles (or Santi Dodici Apostoli in Italian). This church is the final resting place of the apostles James the Lesser and St. Philip. That's another thing about Rome, you can go into a beautiful church and have no idea that you're walking by the tomb of an apostle. In St. Peter's basilica, Ss. Simon and Jude are beneath a side altar that has very little in the way of markings. In this country, we would probably put a blinking neon sign above the entrance! But, no, in Rome you have to know what you're looking for.

The Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles was also the temporary final resting place of Michelangelo until his body was moved to Florence. Too bad, in a way, since so much of his work was done in Rome.

Ss. Philip and James, pray for us!

There Can Be No Indifference, There Is No Neutral Ground

The Gospel According To Luke (11:15-26)
     When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said: ‘By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.’  Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.  But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
     “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.  And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
     "If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out?  Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.

    “When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,his possessions are safe.  But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.  Whoever is not with me is against me,and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
     “When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says,‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’  But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”
Academicians, the subject matter of this Gospel passage is one of the reasons why this venerable cyberAcademy was founded and will continue.

Several times during the year, Holy Mother Church reminds us of the bottom line purpose of Christ’s mission. It is the Kingdom of God against the kingdom of sin and lies and evil!

The Lord Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel Reading are a reminder to us:
There is NO NEUTRAL ZONE in the Christian life. We are either with Jesus or not with Jesus; we are either on-the-way with Jesus or we are in His way.
There can be NO INDIFFERENCE about Our Lord Jesus and His Gospel. If we are indifferent, then – automatically – we are helping the kingdom of darkness, sin and evil.

Neutrality in our Christian life renders us empty, and leaves us vulnerable to spiritual attack:
  • Spiritual attack from our personal lusts;
  • Spiritual attack from the lies and influence of evil people in this world;
  • Spiritual attack from the tempting lies of Satan who is hell-bent on destroying us from WITHIN!

There is one form of human sinfulness that has the power to separate us from God.
Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to Papal Household, says that each one of us, if we examine our conscience well, will realize that apart from all the sins we commit, there is one habitual sin that is different from all the others –- because we are more ready to commit it.
  • That sin is the one we are secretly attached to, which we confess but without a real will to give it up.
  • That sin is the sin we think we can never free ourselves of: Because, in fact, we do not want to free ourselves of it, at least, not right now!
  • That sin enslaves us until we truly say "enough!" Then it loses almost all its power over us. Then we are firmly on Christ’s side!
To conquer sin and evil, we need faith! We believe that we can be filled with Christ’s life and Christ’s love. That is why we are Catholics and Catholic Jedi:  Because we want to be more than "nice" people. We want to be Christ-Like people, conquering evil with the power of our Faith-In-Christ.

So, what really counts in our lifetime on earth is to be faithfully, consistently on Christ’s side: to live as trusting and loving children of His Father -- with no compromises.

Dear Catholic Jedi, let's listen up!  You and I must  renew our commitment to work with and for the Lord Jesus, not against Him!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day With Archbishop Dolan

How blessed are we to have an Archbishop like Timothy Michael Dolan?  The man exudes joy in his faith and in his priesthood.  This is a great shot of the Archbishop at today's St. Patrick's Day parade here in the Big Apple (via the NY Daily News).

Also, don't miss reading the Archbishop's St. Patrick's Day pastoral letter issued today.  It's about the   sacrament of confession and you can find the entire text on his blog, "The Gospel in the Digital Age."  It's very inspirational and a reminder of what St. Patrick's life was truly all about; living and spreading the Faith.

St. Lawrence - Today's Station Church for Lent

With a shout out to the deacon friends of the Academy, we present today's station church for Lent, S. Lorenzo in Panisperna. St. Lawrence, as you may know, was a deacon of the church. When Pope Sixtus II was arrested he gave St. Lawrence and a few other deacons, the job of administering the church. St. Lawrence gave away all the material goods to the poor in Rome. At his subsequent arrest, St. Lawrence was asked to turn over the treasures of the church to the Roman magistrates. He went out and brought back the poor, saying that they were the true treasure of the church. For his supposed "insolence" St. Lawrence was tortured and executed by being roasted over a gridiron. Before his execution, however, he converted his jailer and the jailer's family to the faith. This seems to be a pattern...when the early Church martyrs were jailed, the preached the faith to their fellow captives and their captors alike, converting many prior to their death.

So Deacon Matthew and Uncle Larry, here's to you!

“It’s not Planned Parenthood. No, it’s planned genocide. You can quote me on that.”

Here's a telling post from the folks over at Weasel Zippers, posted on Tuesday, March 15, 2011.

Washington (CNS) — Likely Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain supports ending all federal funding to Planned Parenthood, an abortion business that he said was founded to target African Americans and is continuing that mission.

“Here’s why I support de-funding Planned Parenthood, because you don’t hear a lot of people talking about this, when Margaret Sanger — check my history — started Planned Parenthood, the objective was to put these centers in primarily black communities so they could help kill black babies before they came into the world,” Cain told on Tuesday when speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Cain’s comment was in response to a question from about whether the Republican-controlled Congress should vote against any federal tax dollars for Planned Parenthood.

“You don’t see that talked that much about,” said Cain. “It’s not Planned Parenthood. No, it’s planned genocide. You can quote me on that.”

Cain, an African American and the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, is a columnist, author, talk-radio host, and a tea party activist. He has established an exploratory committee for the 2012 presidential race.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

S. Maria Maggiore - Today's Lenten Station Church

Today's Lenten station church in Rome is one of the major basilicas - S. Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major or Our Lady of the Snows).  Legend has it that back in the 4th century, the pope was prompted by a dream to build a basilica on the Esquiline Hill.  The dream included a vision of the Blessed Mother who asked that a basilica be built where she indicated.  The next day snow fell on the hill (in August) and thus, the basilica was erected on that spot.  It is known as St. Mary Major because it is the principal church in Rome dedicated to our Lady.

One of the features of the basilica is the relic of the crib of Christ's Nativity.  Another lesser known fact is that the remains of St. Jerome and St. Matthias lie beneath the main altar.  When I came across this information in Rome last November, Fr. Tim, our tour guide was skeptical.  He had been to Rome many times previously, but had never heard that these two saints were resting in St. Mary Major.  We tracked down one of the basilica's priests who was finishing up after a baptism, and he confirmed that yes, indeed, St. Jerome and St. Matthias' earthly remains were there.  Subsequent research indicated that some of St. Matthais' relics were kept at a church in Trier, Germany and some were in Rome.

                                    Reliquary of the crib of the Nativity:

                         Image of Pope Liberius drawing outline for basilica in the miraculous snow (It is the
                        gold diorama below the painted wall):

"I Think the Death Toll is Going to be Closer to 100,000 than 10,000"

Those are the words of Ken Joseph, a professor at Chiba University, about the destruction wrought by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Go to the website of the Daily Mail, a UK paper, to view some of the most heart wrenching pictures of the disaster that I've seen anywhere.

 Say a prayer for the people of Japan.  The worst does not appear to be over yet.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saint Anastasia - Today's Lenten Station Church in Rome

Today's station church for Lent is Sant'Anastasia Basilica on the Palatine hill.  You can check out the full description of the basilica and its origins at the website of the Pontifical North American College, where they are hosting a list of all of the station churches, Mass times and maps.

Saint Anastasia was an early martyr of the Church from the area that is now modern day Serbia.  The basilica is also renowned because St. Jerome frequently celebrated Mass there while in Rome.  One reason for this may have been that he was originally from the same region in Serbia as St. Anastasia.   St. Jerome was posthumously named titular of the basilica, even though he was never a cardinal.  While typically associated with Jerusalem and the Holy Land where he lived and wrote, St. Jerome's  burial site is actually in the basilica of St. Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major), most likely due to the unrest and persecutions in the Holy Land after his death.

St. Anastasia and St. Jerome, ora pro nobis.

The "Pro-Choice" Movement: Sociological And Ethical Lies, Anti-Catholic Hatred, And The Exaltation Of Unbridled Narcissism

God bless and protect Joshua Mercer and the fine people over at CatholicVote.Org
Joshua took a camera crew out and hit the streets of Chicago to ask people at the Walk for Choice why they supported Planned Parenthood and the federal funding of abortion on demand.
As Joshua wrote in his introduction to the repulsive speech and actions caught in this video, "You might be shocked at what they say. Share this video with your friends and family."
I sincerely hope you will.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bread, Glory, and Possessions - or - We Really Don't Know How To Use Lent

For some Christians, Lent does not seem to be taken as seriously as it once was. 
     Lent still does provide a great opportunity and a great grace. Yet one gets the impression that Lent doesn't achieve much. 
Perhaps the problem is that we really don't know how to use Lent. We don't know what to aim at.
     Lent recalls the forty days Christ spent in the desert. He was about to embark on His true work in life -- to bring the Good News to His sisters and brothers. Before undertaking His mission to save others, Our Lord Jesus Christ got Himself precise, exact, and resolved about His role and His way of being the Messiah. He went into the desert to fast, to pray, and to reflect. 
     In the desert, He was confronted by the same basic decision which confronts us all: Whether to serve the true self or the false self, whether to seek honor and glory for Himself or seek honor and glory for God.
     Our Lord Jesus made an irrevocable decision: To serve His true self and to do God's will. He arrived at the decision after mastering three temptations. They are the same temptations we must constantly face and conquer. The temptations dwell in the areas of bread, glory, and possessions.

  • Bread: This is the temptation of catering to bodily comforts, giving free rein to all our appetites for food, drink, sex, sleep, leisure, entertainment -- the easy life. It's only natural for sinful human beings to want the best if we can get it, and to forget about self-denial and discipline.  Our Lord Jesus knew, however, that this was not the way to prepare for His Cross -- where He would be thirsty, naked, and tortured. So, Our Lord Jesus resisted the temptation to partake of the bread we can bake by self-indulgence.
  • Glory: Was the second temptation. Now Our Lord Jesus was tempted to show off and be spectacular. He could, if He had wanted to, put on a dazzling display and the people would have jumped with excitement and applause. Our Lord Jesus could even have convinced Himself that it would be good for His mission, because it would have attracted an enthusiastic following.  How often we love to be the center of attention and be popular in the eyes of others. Sometimes this clouds our minds, causing us to say and do foolish things. Our Lord Jesus had to be in control, because later He would be challenged to come down from the Cross and save His life. But we know He didn't do that, either! In resisting this desert temptation to glory, Our Lord Jesus manifested the divine strength which destroyed our sins! 
  • Possessions: Were the third temptation Satan offered Our Lord Jesus.  Just imagine all the things that people do for the sake of money. They kill for profits and payments. They endure cold, darkness, and fear to obtain gold and riches. Some people sacrifice every decent principle to obtain an exalted position or promotion.  The Devil offered these to Our Lord Jesus. Satan doesn't really own the world and couldn't give it to Our Lord Jesus -- God created and possesses all Creation. Nonetheless, Satan could remind Our Lord Jesus of His freedom to forsake His Father's will and take possession of the world. Abandoning the Father's will would be tantamount to worshipping the Devil. Our tough Redeemer told His adversary to get lost!

     Our Lord Jesus undid what Adam and Eve had done: He did not succumb to Satan's tempting apple. Our Lord Jesus remained true to God His Father.
    There, in the desert, Our Jesus knew and re-affirmed that His true self and true mission was to seek honor and glory for God -- by sacrificing Himself to save US. Our Lord Jesus made His irrevocable decision to do God's will, by serving US!
     Later on, when people and events threatened to engulf Our Lord Jesus, He would sneak away to lonely, desert places to recover Himself and re-dedicate Himself to the Father. Every time Our Lord Jesus did this, He was deepening his forty-day desert experience.     This should give US some idea of what Lent could do for us -- if we use it correctly! 
We, also, must seek our true selves. But, often, we live exclusively for our false self. 
We live foolishly, superficially, and un-spiritually -- driven on by a multitude of senseless, irrational desires and habits. And, so, 

  • We subtly give in to the temptations of bread, glory, and possessions. 
  • We blanket ourselves with noise and things and constant activity
  • We set no priorities. 
  • We become unable or unwilling to be alone, to be silent, to be still. 
  • And, then, we wonder why we aren't happy, why we don't find it easy to get along with others, and why we can't pray.

     "It is impossible to see one's face in troubled water," said Thomas Merton. Only solitude can help us to identify our true selves. 
Only by prayer and fasting can we recognize our false selves, cast it off, and accept full responsibility for our own lives -- free and faithful and happy!
     That's why Our Jesus went out to the desert for forty days of solitude. That's why we have the season of Lent for forty days.
     The forty days of Lent put before us the experience of Jesus Christ in the desert in which He fasted, prayed, and determined NOT to yield to the temptations presented to Him.     Lent is now in progress, dear Academicians, placing this experience of Christ before us, in order to inspire us to have our own desert purification every springtime.
The program of spiritual revival has begun. Are you with it?

Saint Peter In Chains - Today's Lenten Station Church

                                     The Chains of St. Peter

Today's Lenten stational church in Rome is St. Peter in Chains (S. Pietro in Vincoli).  It is in this church that the chains used to imprison St. Peter are kept.  It is also the church that houses the magnificent "Moses" by Michelangelo.

St. Peter, pray for us.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Am So Rotten, So Sinful, That God Could Not Want To Forgive Me!

Shocked At The Man In The Mirror (

During this time of the year, winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance. During the Church's season of Lent, we are given an opportunity to re-focus our eyes upon  God's mercy and upon the struggle between sin and grace within ourselves. We are to do whatever is needed to allow God's grace and mercy to dominate our sinfulness.

Lent is God's gift to us: The acceptable time for us to allow His mercy to renew us, as springtime renews all of dormant, frozen, seemingly dead nature.

Lent has arrived again, to announce to us, "It is never too late!" "Now is the acceptable time, the day of salvation!"
There is no time to waste!

Unfortunately, we can waste time and can miss the time of salvation if we're not looking in the right direction. During Lent, we should look ahead more than we look back.

Although it is true, that whoever does not learn from past history is doomed to repeat it, we must never think that what we have lost through sin or laziness is irretrievable. Because, once God invites us to a renewal and a re-commitment, we are given the opportunity to make up for the losses.

God is the God of "the second chance."

Saint Peter denied knowing Our Lord Jesus three times.  But Peter was extended a second chance in which to become solid as a rock. There really is such a thing as "a second birth."

Being 'born again" means that everything that has happened before is not held against us. God's forgiveness is there, if we are willing to accept it.

Our temptation during Lent is to be so impressed by our failures and sins and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity that we get stuck in a paralyzing guilt -- a guilt that leads us to focus on ourselves alone instead of focusing on God and others. 
It's a guilt that quickly becomes a form of sinful pride: "I am so rotten, so sinful, that God could not want to forgive me!"

But, Lent is the opportunity to break down this guilt and to re-direct our attention to our loving and merciful Lord!
The question is: Are we like Judas, who was so overcome by his sin that he could not believe in God's mercy any longer and, so, committed suicide? Or, are we like Peter, who returned to his Lord with repentance, wept bitterly for his betrayals and sins, and found himself even closer to Christ than he was before he betrayed Him?

Today is the acceptable day:
  • The day to focus on God's loving kindness. 
  • The day to renounce sinful habits and attitudes.  
  • The day to let the ashes of lost moments and wasted opportunities to be Christ-like remind us of our resolutions to focus ourselves into Christ's life, and His Death, and His Resurrection.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lent is Not "Do It Yourself" But "Give All Of Yourself"

No matter what kind of penance we are doing throughout Lent, it involves the gift of self.
The value -- the effectiveness -- of our penance to help us to reform our lives, is in direct proportion to the amount of self we are giving.
You see, you and I possess a limited amount of self. It is a treasure. Your self is hard to give away — at any price.

To do penance during Lent involves giving away bits and pieces of our self, as gifts to God and to others. That gift of self means quite a lot to the ones we offer it to!

By willingly and generously giving those bits and pieces of our self now, we makes ourselves ready for the day when God Our Father will ask us to give Him the total gift of our self — to surrender all of our self to Him — at the moment of our death.

Our Lord Jesus gave all of His Self to God His Father — and did it for us! Look at the powerful results: life forever!

He gives us Himself on a daily basis -- gives us His Body and Blood, in the Holy Eucharist.

The effectiveness of the Holy Eucharist in our lives will be parallel the amount of self we are offering to Christ.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Station Churches of Rome - American Seminarians Keep Up the Tradition

There is an interesting tradition in Rome of visiting a different "station" church each day in Lent.  The station church for today, Ash Wednesday, is Santa Sabina.  This tradition began in the very early days of Christianity when the bishop of Rome would go around to the different communities of the faithful to celebrate Mass.  Over the centuries, the tradition has died down a bit, but according to one cardinal, it seems that the American community in Rome, especially the seminarians, have brought new life to the practice of visiting stational churches.

The Pontifical North American College (alma mater of our own Assistant Headmaster, Fr. Reynolds), maintains a web page with a schedule of the station churches, background on each church, departure time, and walking directions.  As you can see from the video below, the seminarians pray the rosary as they walk to the church, creating an impressive public witness to the faith.

Hey, I’m Not A Sinner! You’re Not A Sinner, Either!

Now, What Are You Going To Do About It?
How difficult is it for us to be honest about our own sinfulness?
Hey, I’m not a sinner!  You’re not a sinner, either!   No one sins anymore, right?  
There are no sins anymore, right?
  • No one sins anymore by choosing to steal -- they simply find something.
  • No one sins anymore by choosing to lie -- they simply misrepresent the facts.
  • No one sins anymore by choosing to commit adultery -- they simply hook up or fool around.
  • No one sins anymore by choosing to not attend Mass every Sunday, and to not pray at least three times during a day  -- they simply are too busy and too tired.
  • No one sins anymore by choosing to make -- text messaging, web surfing, phone calls, emails, blogging, Tweeting, iPods, TV, video games, money, clothing, shoes, jewelry, automobiles, sleeping, ball games, food, sex, booze, drugs, shopping, sex, pornography, or working-out -- into false idols which we strategically place so that these idols block out God from our view, our minds, our hearts and memories. 
All of the denials of sinfulness above (and more not mentioned here) represent how we achieve our selfish, narcissistic aims by craftily and deceitfully trying to conceal the ugly, evil reality of our egos, selfishness, and sins.
  • If we close our eyes to the sins in our lives, we will not see ourselves as sinners.    
  • And if we will not see ourselves as sinners, then we will not feel a personal need for Jesus Christ.  Because, He came not for the self-righteous, but for sinners!   
  • So, if I am not sinful, I do not need Christ.
  • The First Letter of Saint John [1:8-10] tells us: "If we say, 'We are without sin,' we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ...If we say, 'We have not sinned,' we make God a liar, and His word is not in us."
May Our Lord Jesus Christ help us to resist the temptation to deny that we ARE sinners.

Every year on Ash Wednesday, we Catholics have our foreheads marked with Holy Ashes.  We do this for two reasons.
  • First, ashes are a symbol of repentance.  Ashes symbolize that we are sorry for our sins and will do penance to make up for them during Lent -- and no longer commit them in the future. 
  • Second, Ashes are a symbol of our mortality.  They remind us that we will die and have to give an account of our lives to God.
To accept Holy Ashes on the forehead presupposes that we are firmly determined to begin and to carry through to completion, some form of personal penance for our sins – that we are determined to renew our lives in Christ and in His Church, and stay renewed.

The saddest of all sad things would be to come to the end of forty days of Lent without having done one concrete thing  to end our sinning, or express our sorrow for our sins.
 So, welcome to Lent 2011. 
Now, what are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

People Do Not Like to be Told What to Do

There has been a recent "to do" about whether a bishop should be able to tell a politician that he cannot present himself for Holy Communion while living in a state of open defiance of Church teaching.  I, for one, don't understand why there is any problem with a religion enforcing its own rules.  The sticking point is apparently that enforcement of the rules may make the offender look or feel bad.  This makes the enforcing body, a/k/a/ the Catholic Church, come across as a meanie.

Ed Peters, the renowned canon lawyer whose writings have been the catalyst for this latest tempest in a teapot, states the following on his blog, "In the Light of the Law":
"...I recall yet another thing my Jesuit spiritual director told me lo these many years ago. 'Nobody, Ed, least of you, likes being told what to do.' Who among us does not chafe at being told how to conduct ourselves? Throw in looming consequences for our (mis)conduct, and we are easy prey for siren voices chanting 'Rules are written by hypocrites to control the weak!' or, perhaps more subtly, 'Maybe this rule is okay for most people, but you’re the exception!' Original sin and personal sin are a deadly duo. It took Jesus dying on the Cross to give us a fighting chance against them."
People truly do not like being told what to do.  Which is why every institution, every government, every religion, needs a hierarchy.  If I tell someone that it's not right to chew gum during Mass, they will tell me to take a hike.  However, if Father Kelly tells them that it's not right to chew gum during Mass, they will at least acknowledge that he has the authority to do so.  The problem these days is that in our adolescent culture, we don't take very well to authority figures.  So, while they might agree that Father Kelly has the right to tell them the rules of the Church, they certainly don't want him to enforce those rules because that would be mean and unpastoral.

I've always found it interesting that soldiers are so often held up as good examples in the Gospels.  It seems that their acceptance of authority and obedience to their superiors provide them with a good foundation for Christian life.  Obedience isn't something foreign to them and it isn't seen as a bad thing.  Authority and obedience allow for order and the proper functioning of society.  The corollary, of course, is that those in authority must act with justice, and for the good of their subordinates.

So, whether it's a politician disobeying the rules, or the ordinary person in the pew defying the teachings of the faith, those who hold positions of authority in the Church must tell people "what to do" to stay on the narrow path and ultimately wind up in the Kingdom.  It's part of their job description.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Men of St. Joseph - "St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, Pray for Us."

In these days leading up to March 19th, it seems appropriate to think about St. Joseph.  My brother recently told me about a men's organization that started up down south and is spreading to other parts of the country, called "Men of St. Joseph."  He and some other guys from his parish are thinking of starting up a chapter of this group.  I went to their website and it sure seems like a good idea.  Who can argue with men getting together to pray, modeling their life on St. Joseph, and putting their families first? The group has been promoted on EWTN on its Life on the Rock show.

Here's their prayer:

Men of St. Joseph Prayer

"St. Joseph, help me to be like you. Help me to be obedient to the teachings of the Church and faithful to God's commands. Help me to patiently endure my cross each day. Let me be a model of holiness and a pillar of virtue. I solemnly promise to embrace God's will and I accept the challenge to work tirelessly for my family's salvation. Be my guide and companion on this journey. St. Joseph, Terror of demons, pray for us."

Nihil Obstat: Reverend Msgr. Michael L. Farmer, V.G., Censor
Imprimatur: Most Reverend Thomas J. Rodi, Archbishop of Mobile
March 13, 2010

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rest In Peace, Actress Jane Russell: Longtime Pro-Life Activist

Here's an intriguing post about actress Jane Russell, heisted from one of our Catholic Blogger neighbors, Chelsea Zimmerman, who produces the wonderful blog,
jane-russell.pngWhen I read the news of the passing of actress Jane Russell (The Outlaw, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) yesterday, I had no idea that she was a pro-life activist. This morning I came across her obit by John Rogers of the AP which says:
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in her name to either the Care Net Pregnancy and Resource Center of Santa Maria or the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Barbara County.
Intrigued, I headed over to IMDB to see what they had on her and, sure enough, under “trivia” it says:
A longtime pro-life activist, she opposed the use of abortion in any circumstance including rape or incest.
And it quotes her as saying:
People should never, ever have an abortion. Don’t talk to me about it being a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body. The choice is between life and death.
According to her autobiography, Russell was unable to conceive children as a result of an illegal abortion at age nineteen. She and her first husband, American footballer Bob Waterfield, adopted three children. In the early 50s she campaigned on behalf of the Federal Orphan Adoption Amendment of 1953 (which allows the children of American servicemen born overseas to be placed for adoption in the U.S.) and in 1955 she founded the World Adoption International Fund, an organization that has helped find homes for more than 51,000 babies.
She was, apparently, a deeply religious woman with very conservative political leanings, describing herself as, “a mean-spirited narrow-minded right-wing, conservative Christian.”
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her forever. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Our thanks to Chelsea Zimmerman at Reflections Of A Paralytic.

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.