Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Onward, Christian Blogosoldiers!

In this news article, Camillo Cardinal Ruini has urged Italian men and women religious to charge onto the blogosphere, lest that new territory (and with it, the minds of many youth) be surrendered to anti-Christian forces.

The Martyrdom of Ordinary Life

"Their example gives witness to the fact that baptism commits Christians to participate boldly in the spread of the Kingdom of God, cooperating if necessary with the sacrifice of one's own life," he said. "Certainly not everyone is called to a bloody martyrdom. There is also an unbloody 'martyrdom,' which is no less significant, such as that of Celina Chludzinska Borzecka, wife, mother, widow and religious, beatified yesterday in Rome: It is the silent and heroic testimony of many Christians who live the Gospel without compromises, fulfilling their duty and dedicating themselves generously in service to the poor.

"This martyrdom of ordinary life is a particularly important witness in the secularized societies of our time. It is the peaceful battle of love that all Christians, like Paul, have to fight tirelessly; the race to spread the Gospel that commits us until death. May Mary, Queen of Martyrs and Star of Evangelization, help us and assist us in our daily witness,"

Pope Benedict XVI on the Beatification of 498 martyrs of Spain during the 1930s.

Source of Christian Joy

"Christ in history is like the sun in a day that is just beginning, like the dawn. And a man who had never seen the sun, who had always lived in the night, would be full of wonder at seeing the dawn emerging. Things would start to take on their form, albeit in a blurred and still unclear way. And such a man, even if he cannot imagine the sun in its midday splendor, nonetheless begins to intuit that something new is happening, that the dawn is a beginning: the beginning of day.

The earth, existence, and history, for Christians, are like the beginning, the dawn of that full day to which God has destined us.

In the Christian experience of night, in which men are submerged and where they know things only by groping, something begins that makes everything start to have a meaning. And the clearest proof of this is that it happens even with the most ordinary things, everyday things. Thus our routine, too, takes on a dimension of greatness and gladness," Msgr. Luigi Giussani, Seeking the Human Face. See

Looking Toward Heaven

All that is meant by "modern" these days is intended to keep us from thinking about God and Heaven. Science, as a quest to no longer need God rather than to learn about His creation, is intended to distract us from God. Obscenity, modern "art", the busyness of modern daily life, the loudness of televisions and radios, and the flashiness of billboards, the excitingness of video games, are all meant to fix our attention on themselves... never to point us to something more beautiful, more good, more true and real than themselves.

God has given us EVERYTHING to help draw us to Him. We should cultivate in our hearts an "eye" for seeing things as reminders of Him, as foretastes of Heaven. We must constantly battle to push out of our mind those things that infiltrate, distracting us from the realest reality: God and His good plan for us. A deep life of prayer is the only thing that can help us focus on the heavenly bliss that God has in store for us at the end of our journey through this life.

Learn to look at the things of this life and see what they might tell us of heaven. In heaven, we will not be mere spirits, or ghosts; nor will we be angels. God made us with bodies, and in Heaven we will be reunited with our transformed, resurrected body. In Heaven, there will be nothing to prevent us from playing frisbee with our pals, sitting under a shady tree with Jesus, eating yummy strawberries and cream, and bathing in the sunlight on a warm autumn afternoon.

Here, in this video, I've compiled some things that have given me glimpses of Heaven.

Gluttony and Impurity

"Gluttony is the vanguard of impurity," The Way, #126.

Fundamentally, gluttony is about satisfying all our desires, particularly for food, drink, comforts, and the finer things of life. Indulging our cravings for these things without restraint makes us weak, soft, and self-centered. Our hearts become mixed and cluttered with all sorts of desires that will sidetrack us from following God. Gradually, our minds and hearts confuse even people with property, with what is ours to please us. We begin to use others, even in the most perverse ways. What is lust but the extension of the gluttony principle to include persons, treating persons as mere things to satisfy our desires?

Purity and Apostolate

"Without holy purity it is not possible to persevere in the apostolate," The Way, #129.

Purity ensures a love that is unmixed with selfish desires, unchained by our own limitations. This kind of love comes from God alone, through the sacraments, nurtured in prayer.

A Word from St. Josemaria Escriva

I am going to start posting aphorisms periodically, from St. Josemaria Escriva's The Way. I am not involved with Opus Dei myself, but highly recommend it for almost any other working stiff layman out there. The translations are all my own, from the original Spanish text of Camino, so forgive me if it doesn't match your translation at home.

"The more they exalt me, my Jesus, all the more humble me in my heart, making me know what I have been, and what I will be, if you leave me," (The Way, #591).

Following the Heart of Love

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (16 Oct)

St. Ignatius of Antioch, Martyr and Bishop (17 Oct)

At first glance, these two saints have little in common. She was a Frenchwoman and a nun in who died peacefully in a cloister during the 17th century. He was a Syrian bishop fed to wild beasts in Rome at the beginning of the 2nd. An inspection is revealing.

Margaret Mary lived in a convent ravaged by Jansenism in a country sinking under the weight of the same spiritual illness. Jansenism is a complex heresy that boils down to keeping a very strict rule (the stricter, the better, they thought), with failure to do so adequately spelling out eternal damnation. This thinking led to a very harsh and judgmental attitude toward anyone who falls short. That cold and harsh attitude leads inevitably toward the withering of love. With this heresy, all that remains of authentic Christianity is a set of rules and prideful people giving hateful looks to everyone else. It was in this spiritual climate that Our Lord revealed Himself to St. Margaret Mary and showed to her His living, loving Sacred Heart. His heart is a heart full of love, and all who behold it must make the barest and starkest of choices: to accept or to reject that love. St. Margaret Mary chose love. That love transformed her. Since her devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus began to spread among her sisters, throughout France, and around the world, He has transformed hearts wherever He has been loved.

Ignatius, elected bishop of Antioch toward the end of the first Christian century, must have been aware of the danger he was in. He was the ringleader of a largish gathering of a suspicious cult. Yet, he had beheld the love of Christ and been transformed by that love as well. In fact, he was so transformed that nothing else mattered. He fell so in love with Jesus, whom his eyes never beheld in this life, that he also began to love the things that Jesus loved. He loved little children, he loved wayward sinners, he loved hard-headed Christians, he even loved his enemies. Most dramatically, he loved suffering for the sake of saving souls. So it was that as he was being dragged in chains to Rome to be murdered at the Emperor's command, he begged his well-connected brothers-in-Christ living in Rome not to use their connections or their money to get him released. He had one desire left: to see Jesus. When the Rom
an world began to get a clearer and clearer view of this sort of love, the "games" at which Christians were murdered stopped seeming so fun. The Roman world, full of violence, cold business relationships, and loveless lives, desperately craved the one thing they could not buy for themselves: love. When the Romans saw that Christians had it, very large numbers began to become Christians in a very short time.

If any of the symptoms of the lovelessness disease sound familiar, if any of it seems applicable to our life or world today, we must consider that perhaps the disease is the same. That's good news, because it means the treatment is the same. Let us turn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and ask Him to teach us to love.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our heart like unto Thine.

St. Margaret Mary, pray for us.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, pray for us.

A Haiku

Not normally one for haiku, when my friend Bonard I. Molina shared this one with me, that he wrote himself, I couldn't help but laugh because it is true, and short and sweet as most truths are when beautifully put.

ah, ego.

you sure like to fight

as you die.

An Attitude of Gratitude

The readings for today, the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (2 Kings 5:14-17; Ps 98; 2 Tim 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19), seem very clearly to focus on the virtue of gratitude. Naaman the Syrian was so moved by the healing worked for him by the prophet Elisha, that he refused to worship any but Elisha's, the LORD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. St. Paul urges St. Timothy and St. Timothy's flock to remember what the Lord Jesus has worked for them, and so to refuse to deny Him in any way. In the Gospel narrative, the Lord Jesus heals ten lepers in Samaria, and one of them returns alone to thank and worship Him.

The thoughtless ingratitude of the nine lepers might be a sign to us. How many times to we receive free gifts from God without remembering or thinking to spend even a moment thanking Him? To say that we overlook only nine out of ten blessings is probably a generous understandment for most of us. At Mass, Fr. Clarke preached that we need to develop an attitude of gratitude. How might we do this? While we cannot make ourselves feel a certain way, a feeling isn't a virtue and it's not what chiefly concerns God. A virtue is a habit of good action; the virtue of gratitude is a habit of giving thanks. A sure way to practice and grow in this virtue is to plot out different points in our day at which we will give thanks to God for His blessings upon us. Before and after meals are opportune, easily remembered, and traditional times for such moments of prayer. Before we go to bed, after examining our conscience and making an act of contrition, we might review our day, scanning it for blessings, and then make an act of gratitude. When returning home or finishing a journey we might give thanks for the roof over our head or the safe travel.

Gratitude, Fr. Clarke said, is the gentle, pleasant, enjoyable way to grow in humility. It reminds us that we are small and dependent on a great and loving Father. It softens our heart and opens it wider, making room for the Lord to enter more fully.

Ps 24 - A Psalm of David.

The earth is the LORD's and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein;

for he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully.

He will receive blessing from the LORD, and vindication from the God of his salvation.

Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.

Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty,the LORD, mighty in battle!

Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!

An observation

I once concluded a poem with an observation that still holds true:

Hope is a four-letter word.

Pope Encourages Youth to Evangelize Hometowns

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2007 ( Benedict XVI encouraged young people to be missionaries on the streets and in the neighborhoods of their own cities.At the end of the recital of the midday Angelus today, the Pope greeted 500 young missionaries who, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 7, participated in the 4th mission of Rome called Jesus at the Center. "I congratulate you, dear friends, because you have brought the proclamation of God’s love to the streets and to some hospitals and schools of the city," said the Pontiff. "The missionary experience is part of Christian formation and it is important for adolescents and young people to be able to live it personally," he added. The Holy Father concluded, "Continue to witness to the Gospel every day and commit yourselves generously in the next missionary initiatives in the Diocese of Rome."

The Meaning of Charitable Work

A charism is a gift that God gives to a person or group so that they can give it to the Church and the world. Part of Communion and Liberation's charism is apostolate. Apostolate is a work of evangelization or service in the world coordinated under the authority of the Church, however loosely, for the purpose of showing Christ's love to the world. Some twenty odd years ago the Holy Father asked Communion and Liberation (CL) to direct its members to focus their apostolic work toward educational endeavors. CL's founder, Fr. Luigi Giussani (1922-2005), wrote a brief tract called The Meaning of Charitable Work. Here is an excerpt:

"Hoping in Christ, everything has a meaning: Christ. I discover this, finally, in the place where I do charitable work, precisely by means of the final powerlessness of my love; it is the experience in which the intelligence discovers wisdom, true culture."

It has been in doing my very best to serve someone, to improve their condition, to help them grow or heal, when those best efforts fail, that I have realized these three things: (1) my work must not be to save the world, because I cannot do that, and thanks be to God the job is already taken by Someone much better qualified than me; (2) my work must be about serving Jesus, because that I can do in my own weak little way; (3) my work will be magnified in its effect if I look to Jesus for help in firm awareness of #1 and #2.

The Little Flower, Our Little Sister

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (1 Oct)

We all want to be big kids, grownups. We want to be big, strong, smart, quick, and otherwise self-sufficient. We don't want people telling us what to do. We want to make our own plans for our life. We want to be in charge and in control. It's in our blood, and our Western culture certainly encourages it.

Yet the readings from today's Mass (Mon after XXVI Sunday of Ord: Zec 8:1-8; Ps 102; Lk 9:46-50) tell us that this path is the wrong one. We want to build ourselves up, but as the psalm response says, The Lord will build up Zion again and appear in all His glory. In the Gospel for today we are told what to think about building ourselves up: An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus resolved the quarrel by drawing a little child to his side and stating, "For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest," (Lk 9:46, 48). St. Matthew, who records the event similarly, recalls Jesus saying, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven," (Mt 18:3-4). Upon brief inspection, it is actually amazing how many times Jesus refers to His disciples as His children, how frequently He urges them to depend upon our Father without worries, how often He reminds them that our Father will provide for all of our needs if we just ask Him. Our Father does not want us to conquer the world for Him, go as a missionary to the remotest corners for Him, become well versed in theology or scripture to impress Him.

All our Father wants is for us to let Him carry us in His big, strong arms, and to be happy as Daddy's little boy, as Daddy's little princess. Therese Martin, who took the name Therese of the Child Jesus when she entered the Carmel monastery at Lisieux, discovered these words on virtually every page of scripture. She was acutely aware of her own limitations. She was not extraordinarily intelligent, nor was she very well placed in society, nor was she wealthy. She lived her entire brief adult life in a cloister sequestered from the rest of the world. Within the confines of her little world, this little girl who died in 1897 at the age of 24 came to understand that all Jesus wanted of her was that she let Him love her, and that she let Him live in her to love Him back. Fueled by His intense love, she herself became a blazing furnace of love. She had no great mission to accomplish while in the cloister, and so made a deliberate effort to do all the little day to day things with great love. She discovered her vocation in these little acts powered by immense love. She knew that she could do nothing great and famous, and was happy just to please God, like a Little Flower in His garden of souls. She called this spiritual path her Little Way. After noting all the great vocations of the various members of the Body of Christ, she was finally able to articulate her own place in the Body:
"In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love!"
She was known to thank Him in every circumstance, and had an amazing ability to see and embrace sincerely His love in all circumstances. Even as she coughed up blood upon her deathbed, gasping for air, among her last words she gasped, "Oh my God, how I love you!"

In this way, she eventually became the great role model for another religious sister named Teresa, the one in Calcutta. Not only Mother Teresa, but literally tens of millions of people have read and been inspired by the autobiography her superior requested her to write. Her Story of a Soul is like a roadmap for loving Jesus. It has been on the nightstand of many holy people ever since. This little child, who felt and knew herself incapable of any great endeavors has literally begun a great revolution of love that is still unfolding today.

Even to love the Father is very difficult, especially when He asks great sacrifices of us for reasons we cannot understand: our career and self-confidence, our vocation, our home and security, even the life of a loved one or our own life. We must not be embarrassed to go to our Father and tell Him what we need: Daddy, I love you. I want to love you. It's so hard. Please help me love you! He might not always win us the lottery, but if we just ask Him, He will always win us our soul. When it is hard to go to the Father, go to Jesus. When it is hard to go to Jesus, go to Mama Mary. When it is hard to go to Mama Mary, go to our little sister, St. Therese. When it is hard to go to St. Therese, go to a brother or sister in Christ here on earth. Just do not be too proud to ask for help, to proud to be like a little child.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, pray for us.