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.

Patrick Madrid on the Quakes

On his blog, Patrick Madrid writes:

First, the devastating quake in Haiti 45 days ago, and now this one in Chile. My guess is that more of these disasters will strike more frequently. I hope not, but that's a hunch. Sooner or later, one of these BIG quakes will strike within the U.S. — Los Angeles? St. Louis? Chicago? San Francisco? New York? It's just a matter of time, the scientists have been telling us.

Two things we should do:

1) Always be ready to meet the Lord by staying close to him in prayer and the sacraments, especially frequent confession. This is a no-brainer, but it's amazing how many people, including Catholics, never give the four last things any thought: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell;


2) If you haven't already, start making practical preparations in your own home so that, if find yourself in a quake-stricken area, you and your family can fare better and be in a position to help those around you. Lay in a supply (even if just a small one) of extra water, foods that will keep without refrigeration, medicines like Ibuprofen, a hand-crank radio (no batteries needed), etc. Make a plan with your family, especially your kids, so that they will know where to meet up. You know, those kinds of basic preparations.

We should pray to God that these disasters spur us to greater charity, and to deepen our Lenten devotion, in a sense: to remember that we will die, and that we know neither the day nor the hour.

Der Spiegel Reports on Christian Martyrdom

Spiegel Online reports that the Religion of Peace has actually been busy martyring Christians for some time now, wherever it can get its hands on them.  Check it out here.

War Movies and Lent

I was thinking about some of my favorite war movies, and about what distinguishes the best of their genre from the worst. Characteristics started coming to mind, and it occured to me:


All the war movies that I can think of are trying to do something rather than just be senseless violence. The good ones succeed, and the bad ones fail. The bad ones are just senseless violence.

Lent is very much the same way. In Lent, we are challenged by the Church to do violence to the worst in our nature, and so to free the best in our nature to pursue God more wholeheartedly. We deny the part of ourself that craves creature comforts and luxuries so that we can go wherever God leads. In a "bad" Lent, we either fail to do so entirely, or more commonly perhaps, we do so but with crooked motivations. Bad Lenten motivations are things like self-help, and even to make God happy with us, to prove ourselves to ourselves or to God. In such personalities, the self has unwittingly become god. This self-deification is palpable if we are honest with ourselves. When we think, "This fast will make God happy with me," we often mean, "...make me happy with myself." We do not need to earn God's love. If we feel like we have to prove ourselves to Him, it is likely because we have not yet proven ourselves to ourselves.

But that's not what Lent is about.

Lent is about learning to detach from unnecessary distractions, spend more time in prayer, and serve the poor - that is, Lent is a time to focus more on the things of God than we might normally. We are to focus on God. That's all.

Now, here's where the war movie analogy breaks down a bit. But bear with me. Wars aren't supposed to be for their own sake, and the violence in war movies isn't supposed to be gratuitous. And in the good war movies, the violence isn't gratuitous at all, and nor are the heroes pointless. Instead, in good war movies, the violence shows the peril of the heroes, and the movie shows their heroism: the selflessness, commitment, discipline, love of companions, honor, bravery, defense of innocence. All these virtues are needed in heaps to live the Christian life, and Lent is the perfect time to dig in deeper, to train harder.

Don't worry, you can have chocolate again on Easter.

In the meantime, if you find yourself inspired by movies as I often do, you might consider these movies for a Lenten diet. They start as war movies, and progress to the more explicitly religious. For best results, combine with spiritual exercises and service to the poor. These are not my take on "the best movies of all time." They are just suggestions of some movies to inject in your viewing diet, to give yourself a little Lenten food for thought, if you have not already given up movies or television for Lent.

Black Hawk Down

This excellent movie really is one of my all time favorites. It makes palpable all the virtues I listed above. The backdrop conflict makes the virtues all the more poignant. In a WWII movie, the virtues of individual characters can get lost in the the overarching justice of the Allied cause or the wickedness of the Axis cause. In the context of the shattered idealism of the US's brief Somali engagement, the virtues of these characters shines very brightly.

If you can forgive the very brief, fully clothed, yet graphic sexual scene at the very start, the movie is an amazing story of conversion in the face of suffering. Through a barely perceptible process, opportunistic treasure-hunters become willing to lay down their careers and even their lives to help those in need.

Schindler's List

Not exactly a typical war movie, but being set in wartime counts for something. It is an amazing story of conversion, and closely based on real events.  In his contact with suffering people, the eponymous protagonist comes to a powerful change of heart as their humanity and his progressively triumph over every merely material concern.

This story is one of discipline, fraternity, and courage - three chief virtues that make possible living like Jesus in times during which Christians are frowned upon.  It is based on historical fact, which makes it all the more appealing.

Sophie Scholl - The Final Days

Also set during war rather than properly speaking about war, this simple, true story has as its major theme the commitment to truth about human nature regardless of personal consequences.  It tells the true story, based on actual interrogation and trial transcripts, of Sophie Scholl and other members of the White Rose resistance movement in Munich during the Second World War.  Sophie's simple, heartfelt prayers are particularly beautiful.

This movie is not at all a war movie. There is no war in it. Except the most important warfare, which is constant, total, and absolute - spiritual warfare. The equivalent of Chief Justice in Henry VIII's England, Sir Thomas More refuses to capitulate and betray the Church and the law of God. The wily soul navigates any number of dangers and temptations, and ultimately the temptation to lose his soul in order to save his life.

The Passion of the Christ

Watch the Commander-in-Chief of our ragtag brotherhood as he sets the objective and rules of engagement for our Great Battle.

The Terrible Reality of Beauty

Barber's "Adagio for Strings, #11" is a beautiful piece. It is deeply gripping, stirring, and evocative. The theme first played at the very start magnifies with intensity at each repetition throughout the piece.

This YouTube video shows a performance of the adagio interspliced with images from the BBC and ABC News. The performance was four days after September 11, and the images are taken from that and subsequent days.

I include this video because it makes an important point in a very tactile way. Ever since the Fall, human history has been the history of exile from the true life God intended for us, our quest to regain it, and ultimately, God's restoration of that life to us when we could not attain it for ourselves. Human history - and each of our lives - is a canvas painted in shades of tragedy and hope, so it is no coincidence that the two themes speak to us so powerfully as individuals and in groups.

Lent is a time during which we are asked by the Church to re-engage these themes in a more profound way: we examine our conscience, we clarify our own limitedness, we touch the wound, prod it, remind ourselves that sin and death are real and at work in our lives.

Suffering, pain, and tragedy aren't all bad though, as the modern world supposes. They are the natural consequence of sin, and aren't to be avoided. They are also the context in which is set all heroism worthy of the name. Sports "heroes" aren't typically heroic at all, but athletic, and we do a great disserve to ourselves and our children who admire them so if we confuse heroism and athleticism. Athleticism is admirable, and even noble, but it has nothing on heroism, and really, fundamentally, is worthless except as a training ground for heroism.

Heroism might be best described, in my thinking, as entering into the lion's den. A heroic man or woman feels fear and pain, sins and dies - but does not let these little tragedies interfere with hope. The hope in question varies from context to context. It may be hope that "it will all work out for the best," or hope that a life might be saved, or that a person might be brought to know the love of Christ. Fundamentally, all these hopes are tied into the object of our highest hope - the hope of eternal life in blessed, joyful union with God. It is this hope that instills true meaning in the lesser hopes, and it is all these hopes that make our hearts soar in the midst of tragedy. Hope fuels heroism. Who is left unmoved remembering Lenny Skutnik,* who swam into the frozen waters of the Potomac to save a stewardess trapped freezing to death in the wreckage of a Florida Airlines Flight 90?

Or more recently, the firefighters who went into the burning towers on September 11?

The terrible reality is that sorrow and beauty are often intermingled - maybe even, to some extent, necessarily intermingled in this age we live in, the Age of the Cross.  A project, like that of the Enlightenment, to uproot the one will inevitably uproot the other with it.  It is much better, perhaps, to simply train for the one and create the other.  So while we continue to wait in joyful hope for the Resurrection, it is important to touch bases from time to time with suffering, sin, and death.  In the Church, we call the forty days allotted for this purpose, "Lent."

*(For those of you who don't know about Lenny Skutnik, you can see the story on YouTube, of course, by clicking here. In brief, when rescue efforts failed to save Priscilla Tirado from the Potomac, he dove into the freezing waters and pulled her out, at immense risk to himself and without guarantees for her.)

Is Lenten Sacrifice just a Catholic New Year's Resolution?

It’s likely that in the past couple weeks, you’ve heard this question one too many times: “So, what are you doing for Lent?” Or how about this one: “What are you giving up for Lent?” We associate Lent with giving something up—maybe candy, foul language, the TV or computer—or doing something extra—I’ll be nicer to my brother, give money to the poor, or pray more. These things are what we call sacrifices. Lent is a time of sacrifice more than any other season of our Church year. We see in today’s gospel that Jesus goes out into the desert, where it’s hot, there aren’t many comforts, there’s little water, and he doesn’t eat for 40 days. In other words, Jesus himself made great sacrifices during his 40 days in the desert. For us, who desire to be like Christ, to follow in his footsteps, sacrifice will be part of our Lenten journey.

Sacrifice comes from Latin, and means “made holy/sacred.” In essence, a sacrifice is a gift given by us to God. You may have never thought that your sacrifice of giving up chocolate is a gift for God, but it is either a gift for God or it isn’t much use at all. St. Augustine says that whatever good act we do—he uses the example of showing mercy to another—if it is not done for God’s sake, is not a sacrifice. This should make us think. Is the reason why I’m making the sacrifice I am making this Lent a gift for God or is it principally for my own sake? For instance, am I giving up some sort of food so I can get in better shape or because I know that denying myself that food is difficult and I do it for the love of God? Our Lenten sacrifices are no mere New Year’s Resolutions, which have the final goal of self-improvement; rather, they are gifts given to God manifesting and increasing our love for him.

Why do we have to sacrifice at all, though? Where did this idea of giving something up or doing something extra as gift to God come from? First of all, God created us and we are his creatures. The fundamental relationship of us belonging to God and receiving everything from him demands that we sacrifice. As an analogy, we don’t give Mom a gift on Mother’s Day because she’s been particularly good to us this year or because she prepared some pretty good meals. We give her a gift because of that relationship of mother and child, of having received life from her.

There is an additional reason we sacrifice to God evidenced in today’s first reading. After the Jews entered the Promised Land, Moses instructed them to offer the first fruits of their harvest every year in sacrifice to God. The reason they were to do so is given in the reading: God chose Abraham and made his descendents into the great nation of Israel. When they were in slavery in Egypt, God saw their oppression, freed them from their slavery, and brought them through the desert to the Promised Land. In other words, they were to sacrifice to God because of his freely given love for Israel and his powerful actions in saving them. To continue with our analogy, we have an additional reason to give our mothers a gift on Mother’s Day. Not only because of that fundamental relationship of mother and child, but because she loves us. She showed us that love through waking up in the middle of the night when we were crying, feeding us, teaching us to read, and in so many other ways. In a similar way, the Israelites had more incentive to offer gifts to God, because he showed his great love for them through saving them.

As Catholics, we have an even greater reason to sacrifice, to give gifts, to God. And this reason far surpasses any analogy we could make to the love of the mother for her child. As Christians we know that God became one of us. The One who created us became one of us. We see in today’s gospel that he even allowed himself to go through temptation and suffering, all for our sake. Finally, he suffered and died at our hands, he being more innocent and good than all of us put together. My brothers and sisters, Christ’s life was a sacrifice to God. As God he couldn’t give gifts to himself, but as a man, he could give gifts to his Father on our behalf. And the gift he gave, more valuable than anything else, was his own life out of love for us. This is the supreme reason we have for sacrificing as Christians. God didn’t just create us and love us—as if those weren’t reason enough—but in the ridiculousness of his love, he became one of us. This is why we sacrifice to God, especially during Lent: not to perfect ourselves so we can have the glory, but out of love for him.

We now understand why we make sacrifices, but what is it exactly that God wants us to sacrifice? Does God want an extra Our Father prayed or does he like us giving up some food better? The answer is that God finds any sacrifice of ours pleasing, provided what lies behind it is a spirit of interior sacrifice. We can go through a whole Lent and never fail to break our Lenten resolution, but if we aren’t changed, if our hearts aren’t converted, if we don’t have a spirit of inner sacrifice, than it wasn’t a successful Lent. More than anything we give up or do extra, God wants ourselves. That’s the only gift that will satisfy him. The Old Testament describes God as a jealous god. That doesn’t mean he’s envious of our new bike or fancy car; jealousy in Biblical language means that God desires us, and he will do everything possible—except violate our freedom—to win us to himself. Just as Jesus’ whole life was a sacrifice to the Father, a gift to the Father, so our whole lives should be a gift. My brothers and sisters, it’s good for us to make these exterior sacrifices during Lent, but they should always coincide with an interior spirit of sacrifice; that is, a desire to give ourselves to God. In one of the Eucharistic Prayers at Mass, the priest prays “make us an everlasting gift to you.” It’s one of the most beautiful prayers of the whole Mass and should be a motivating factor for us this Lent and throughout our lives really.

Usually, I open with a story, but today I close with one. The example of this person illustrates in a way much better than I can explain what true sacrifice is. (Plus, this story has to do with the Olympics, so I thought it’d be appropriate.)
In 1998, Kirstin Holum competed as a speed skater for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics. She was only 17 years old, but she finished sixth in the grueling 3,000 meter competition. Long distance speed skating is a sport, like marathon running, that requires aerobic endurance that only comes with age and training. In other words, this 17-year-old was predicted to one day be a star in the sport. These Olympic Games were supposed to be the time for her to shine—at 29 years old, she would just have been entering the prime of her career. Instead, after the ’98 Olympics she hung up her skates and followed a stronger calling, one from God. Now known as Sister Catherine, she joined a Franciscan order, and has never looked back. Kirstin walked away from would-be fame, maybe a gold medal, accolades, and honors to give her life to God as sister. Her exterior sacrifice of turning down fame was only a sign of her interior sacrifice of desiring to give her life to God. “Make us an everlasting gift to you.”

Office of Readings: Friday after Ash Wednesday

The highest good is prayer and conversation with God, because it means that we are in God’s company and in union with him. When light enters our bodily eyes our eyesight is sharpened; when a soul is intent on God, God’s inextinguishable light shines into it and makes it bright and clear. I am talking, of course, of prayer that comes from the heart and not from routine: not the prayer that is assigned to particular days or particular moments in time, but the prayer that happens continuously by day and by night.

Indeed the soul should not only turn to God at times of explicit prayer. Whatever we are engaged in, whether it is care for the poor, or some other duty, or some act of generosity, we should remember God and long for God. The love of God will be as salt is to food, making our actions into a perfect dish to set before the Lord of all things. Then it is right that we should receive the fruits of our labours, overflowing onto us through all eternity, if we have been offering them to him throughout our lives.
Prayer is the light of the soul, true knowledge of God, a mediator between God and men. Prayer lifts the soul into the heavens where it hugs God in an indescribable embrace. The soul seeks the milk of God like a baby crying for the breast. It fulfils its own vows and receives in exchange gifts better than anything that can be seen or imagined.

Prayer is a go-between linking us to God. It gives joy to the soul and calms its emotions. I warn you, though: do not imagine that prayer is simply words. Prayer is the desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not given by man but brought about by God’s grace. As St Paul says: For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself intercedes on our behalf in a way that could never be put into words.
If God gives to someone the gift of such prayer, it is a gift of imperishable riches, a heavenly food that satisfies the spirit. Whoever tastes that food catches fire and his soul burns for ever with desire for the Lord. 

To begin on this path, start by adorning your house with modesty and humility. Make it shine brightly with the light of justice. Decorate it with the gold leaf of good works, with the jewels of faithfulness and greatness of heart. Finally, to make the house perfect, raise a gable above it all, a gable of prayer. Thus you will have prepared a pure and sparkling house for the Lord. Receive the Lord into this royal and splendid dwelling — in other words: receive, by his grace, his image into the temple of your soul.

A Homily by Psuedo-Chrysostom

The Pope on Ash Wednesday

DC vs. the Church

The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., announced on Tuesday that it had to close its adoption program
within the District of Columbia.  The decision to do so was made as the only feasible alternative to compliance with an unjust law promulgated by the DC City Council several months back.  The law prohibits discrimination against "married" gay couples in numerous matters, including adoption.  The fact that so many people cannot see the difference between holy matrimony and homosexual unions shows the depravity into which our culture has descended.

The Church in DC has very manfully despised the opinion of the world on this matter, and very maternally cared more for the authentic welfare of her children than for the esteem of reprobates.

It's time to get praying, very, very hard.

Meditation for Lent

In translation (courtesy of

Hearken, O Lord,
and have mercy,
for we have sinned against Thee.
Crying, we raise our eyes to Thee, Sovereign King,
Redeemer of all.
Listen, Christ, to the pleas of the supplicant sinners.

Hearken, O Lord,
and have mercy,
for we have sinned against Thee.
Thou art at the Right Hand of God the Father,
the Keystone,
the Way of salvation and Gate of Heaven,
cleanse the stains of our sins.

Hearken, O Lord,
and have mercy,
for we have sinned against Thee.
O God, we beseech Thy majesty to hear our groans;
to forgive our sins.

Hearken, O Lord,
and have mercy,
for we have sinned against Thee.
We confess to Thee our consented sins;
we declare our hidden sins with contrite heart;
in Thy mercy, O Redeemer, forgive them.

Hearken, O Lord,
and have mercy,
for we have sinned against Thee.
Thou wert captured, being innocent;
brought about without resistance,
condemned by impious men with false witnesses.
O Christ keep safe those whom Thou hast redeemed.

Hearken, O Lord,
and have mercy,
for we have sinned against Thee.

Ashes for a Sinner

At Mass today, Msgr. Rossi made a really striking point. He said that we do not wear ashes on our to proclaim to the world that we are pious, or even to be proud of being Catholic, and certainly not for cultural reasons.  We wear ashes on our foreheads to proclaim that we are sinners in need of mercy.

If those who meet us are challenged to repentence by our ashes, so be it.  But it is crucial that we be challenged to repentence.

Wall Street in Ashes (Lent for Everyone)

Today is Ash Wednesday. Don't forget to go get your ashes!

Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal about Lent and how the lenten principle of disciplined self-sacrifice can be very useful even for unreligious people and for non-Christians.  You would think that such insight wouldn't be rocket science or even newsworthy, but there it is.  I am grateful all the same that a major media outlet sees the sensibility in sensible living.  And I am grateful to Erin Johnson for pointing the article out to me.

The article makes the point that little sacrifices, like a cup of latte, can add up to a lot of savings.  These little things that add up can be the key to getting out of debt and building up substantial savings.  The article doesn't go a step further: that we might give some of the fruit of that savings to the poor, thereby fulfilling another precept of Lent: almsgiving.

Don't forget, during Lent we are called by the Church to deepen our Christian living in three chief areas: prayer, fasting, and giving to the poor.  Each of our Lenten disciplines should be something that is difficult, a challenge for us, but also something that is doable.  It does no good to "blow it" three times a week.  Our disciplines should also be things that are good in themselves and also things that we are allowed to give do.  So that means no prayer routines that interfere with our real duties, and no giving up fornication for Lent, either - don't wait for Lent to give that up!  And no giving up homework, either!  It's an added bonus if our Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving can all interrelate to each other somehow, and a double bonus if we retain them to some extent after Lent.

For example, one might
Prayer: Spend 10 minutes with a daily devotional;
Fast: Abstain from morning latte on the way to work, thereby saving $3 and 10 minutes for prayer;
Give to the Poor: $3/day saved from the morning latte, paid upfront early in Lent if possible, to make sure.

Doesn't sound too dramatic, does it?  Nope.  But what a change a little prayer can make in your day, and how many prayers can be answered by your leftover change!

To help you out, Busted Halo has come up with a Lent Calendar, kindova twist on an Advent Calendar, to help you "get your ash in gear."  American Catholic also has some good resources up, and has a nice article and some good resources, too.  Now seems a good time to re-embed Fr. Tim Naples' video on confession.

Lent is the time for penitence, which we Catholics know entails confession. Let's make this one a good one. But let's remember why we do it. Yesterday at the National Shrine, Msgr. Kevin Irwin preached about the need to do Lent for Jesus, and not as a score-card of holiness or as a self-help program to lose weight or save money. Those all miss the point. We are to learn humility - and that can happen in failure, too, so we shouldn't be discouraged if we accidentally eat that chocolate we gave up. We should just let it remind us how desperately we need God - if giving up chocolate is hard, how hard is resisting the devil's wiles and living in grace til the end of our days!?

Latin in DC

The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, DC, has announced that it will host the celebration of a Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin) of the Roman liturgy.  The Mass will be celebrated by Dario Cardinal Castrill√≥n Hoyos, President Emeritus of the papal commission for the Tridentine liturgy and those who celebrate it. The event will be the first time that the Tridentine Mass has been celebrated at the high altar of the National Shrine in some 40 years. The Mass will be offered on Saturday, April 24, at 1 p.m. in honor of the fifth anniversary of the Holy Father's enthronement upon the Chair of Peter.

So what does it all mean?  The story hasn't gotten the mainstream media's attention like the Holy Father's general indult for the Tridentine Mass, or like that received by the Holy Father's establishment of a new way for Anglicans to return to the Catholic Church en masse.

This sort of thing is what I predicted in 2006 when the indult was given for any Roman Rite priest to celebrate the Tridentine (Old Latin) Mass. There will be no bum-rush of Tridentine Masses.  The desire for revolution or reform in the Church is much smaller than it was in the 1960s, or at least directed by much  wiser heads.  Instead of throwing everything out that's come since the 1969-71 Mass of Paul VI, what we are going to see is a gradual reintroduction of the Tridentine Mass.  It will appear in the big, beautiful churches, and the more conservative-minded or traditional dioceses and parishes, and it will appear sporadically, for special occasions.  It will become more common until at last it stands alongside the vernacular use of the Paul VI Mass, which is all anybody under 40 or 45 years old has ever known, really.  The Tridentine will be the Mass of the more traditionally minded.  The Paul VI will be more of a "people's Mass," and used for catechetical purposes, as an introduction to liturgy, and for common worship among Catholics of varying liturgical backgrounds.  The Mass of Paul VI will, by its analogy to the Tridentine Mass, help those who attend the Tridentine Mass to understand and appreciate it better.  The Tridentine Mass, by its analogy to the Mass of Paul VI, will help those who attend Paul VI's Mass to understand it better.  At least, those are the desires of the Holy Father as he articulated them in The Spirit of the Liturgy, published in 2000.

An Interesting Article about Vampires and Moral Relativism

Defanged: about how a culture unable to say, "Evil," when it sees evil is a culture that cannot defend itself, from a blog I just encountered for the first time called Hey Miller.  The article basically argues that the media, what Peter Kreeft calls informal educators in his book How to Win the Culture Wars, have for some time been teaching us moral relativism.  In his blog, Miller shows how a number of very successful novels, plays, and movies have been conducting a sly campaign to teach us that right isn't right and that wrong isn't wrong.  They have been doing so by sleight of hand, substituting the psychological complexity of persons for the morality of their acts.

Thanks for the link, Eric.  (For those of you who have never read it, the Daily Eudemon is a genuinely intelligent blog with a variety of topics routinely covered.)

Living in Love

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints.  Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving.  Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not associate with them, for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.  Therefore it is said, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light."  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.  Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."  This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians, ch 5

What a terrible and potent thing is love!  How unsustainable is love between mortals.  It perishes with our lives unless it is sustained by the same thing, the only thing, that can preserve our lives unto eternity: divine love.  Therefore, "let love be genuine," (Rm 12:9) modeled upon, shored up by, and infused with the love of God.

Casseroles and Community

Read this really excellent blog post written over on Luce's corner.  It's about a good, old-fashioned way to cooperate with grace.

The beatitudes and the works of mercy spelled out by our Lord in Mt 25, as well as those detailed in the subsequent tradition of the Church, are very much personal responsibilities... every bit as much as the Ten Commandments are.  The Law is not superseded by the Beatitudes, but transcended by them.  The Law provides a foundation, a bare minimum for civility and peace, within which the Beatitudes and the works of mercy can operate and transform hearts to resemble more closely the Sacred Heart that wrought them.

Mary, As Ever...

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the great patroness of this little blog, and my great protectress. I have been to Lourdes four times, and each time hoping to retrieve the bit of my heart that I had left there before. But oh, how hard it is to drag my heart back! Instead, each time, I have found more of my heart missing - no, not missing - but back in Lourdes, at rest by its healing fountains.

The image in the background of this blog is from a picture I taken at the grotto of Lourdes, either by myself or Deacon Dave - I can't remember which of us took it. If anyone wants to make a pilgrimage there, contact me, and I will happily help you make arrangements for room and board in the guesthouses of a very convenient, pleasant, and economical convent there.

The clip above is from "The Song of Bernadette," based on Franz Werfel's book by the same title. He wrote it after visiting Lourdes during his flight flight from the Nazis, moved as he was by the hospitality shown him by the religious communities that have numerous houses there. The movie is one of my very favorites, and still touches me deeply each time I watch it.  For those who don't know what happened at Lourdes, read this.

Vivaldi's "Winter" from "The Four Seasons"

Anyone who knows how my tentative affection for winter and snow has received a setback by recent events will appreciate my tongue in cheek presentation of the title piece below. Still, the music is beautiful and the accompanying performance is very interesting... impressive, really.

Vivaldi composed this set of four string concertos in 1723. You can also check out "Spring," "Summer," and "Autumn," with accompanying sand art in like manner. Sand art, coincidentally, seems to be big in Eastern Europe. There are a bunch of YouTube posts. A very good one that I have seen, that is really very moving, is embedded below. It tells a beautiful story by means of images that each surpass even a thousand words. The rhythm and grace with which Kseniya Simonova, a Ukrainian, performs her sand art adds an entire dimension to her work.

The same piece can be found in smaller segments with a somewhat better sound quality, but I wanted to provide the whole performance as a single piece to give a better feel. The same performer also has a sand art performance that tells the story of the Ukraine before, during, and after the calamities of World War II and Stalin. I do not know enough about the culture and sufferings of that people during the middle of the twentieth century to understand exactly what many of the images mean to them as they watch it, but watching it myself, I was moved, and further moved by how moved the audience was by Simonova's work.

Proverbs That Might Be True, pt. 6

Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.
St. Jerome

Over THIS?

Pro-Abortion America (NOW, NARAL, etc.) have fought like a bunch of linebackers to keep Tim Tebow's extremist advertisements off the air. Check 'em out; but brace yourself, they'll make even the most resolute pro-lifer grimace.

Lol. Now that you've watched the entirely innocuous ads with Tim Tebow and his mom, are you as perplexed as I am about why the abortionists would try to keep these off the air? Their whoopin' and hollerin' has caused more of a fuss than these ads could ever have done by themselves. It's awesome, really. Normally, we traditionally-minded Christians are the ones who drive up the ratings of our enemy's propaganda. We get all worked up about a nasty movie or play and make all sorts of otherwise unaware bystanders suddenly become very interested. This time, the shoe is on the other foot.

Now, of course the ads aren't exactly innocuous. In fact, even though they say so little, they are deadly poison to the abortion industry. The have two attractive people, who clearly love each other immensely, and one of whom is famous - now even outside of his professional reputation. (In fact, opposition to the ad has probably turned Tim Tebow, at least for now, into a household name.) So why are these ads poison to those people? Because the ads undermine the mentality that makes abortion possible. For decades and decades, America has slowly been buying the lie that most of us know from our own experience isn't true: babies are a burden and it's better not to have them if there's a real chance that its not gonna work out just right. These advertisements remind us of what we all know: not only that nothing in life is guaranteed, but that somehow, with a bit of grit, optimism, friendship, and faith - heck, with just a little of any of hose things - life has a way of turning out OK, unless by OK we mean two kids and a dog and a white picket fence and two nice cars with annual vacations overseas. In that case, our odds narrow somewhat. But if we can roll with the punches just a little, we don't typically have to resort to murder to get things to work out passably. Sometimes, oftentimes, if we have eyes to see, things will turn out far better than we could have planned (not dreamed, but planned) ourselves anyway.

Actually, scratch my metaphor about poison. These ads are ingenious little bits of warm sunlight casting in among fungus that had been hidden in shadows. Just like fungus avoids sunlight, the abortionists avoid truth:

Life is worth living.

Through the Looking Glass

Talk about truth.  Turns out we've had prophets warn us for centuries about word-twisters.

While We Are Snowbound

We in the Washington, D.C. area might use this opportunity of being stuck in the house to remember those who are stuck in the big house: prisoners. Whether prisoners of war, criminal prisoners, or the falsely imprisoned. We might pray that they, as well as ourselves, use their time of restricted movement to spiritual profit.

An Unlikely Alliance to Overthrow the West: More Signs of the Times has two pieces that struck me.

The first piece reports on comments made by Harry Knox, who serves on President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In the National Prayer Hour during which the accompanying video is recorded, Knox calls evil (in this case, the distribution of contraception) good, and good (Pope Benedict XVI) evil (for opposing the distribution of those sinful little population control devices) (Isaiah 5:20).  Notably, this event is the American Prayer Hour, not intended to call upon God Almight for his help with some issue or another, but to affirm on their own "inclusive values" and to call on Uganda to stop being mean by doing things like outlawing sodomy.  The Pope's reason - aside from the religious - for disapproving of the use of contraception to fight the spread of HIV is that is just doesn't work.  Even though Pope Benedict XVI has, on this issue, the backing of findings of
researchers at notoriously flim-flam, conservative institutions like Harvard, Knox reasserts his claim that the Pope and the Church are hurting poor people in the name of Jesus.  Knox, unlike the Church, cares very much for (heterosexual and juvenile) HIV patients in Africa and Asia.  He does all sorts of things to help them, like run orphanages for HIV-infected children, has cooperated with all sorts of federal programs to prevent the spread of AIDS at home and abroad, has been conducting vigorous propaganda campaigns in Africa against risky behavior, and provide about 25% of the world's AIDS patients with their primary care.

Oh, wait.  My mistake.  It's the Catholic Church that does those things for AIDS patients.

The second piece reports on a Dutch legislator being prosecuted for "discrimination and incitement to hatred" for claiming that the Koran has been linked to extremist violence.  I know what you're thinking: what an outlandish claim.  I know.  Aside from the backwardness of prohibiting free speech, the Dutch prosecutor doesn't seem to think that the actual truth of the statements made should be relevant to their prosecution.  The whole bit makes me think of the final book in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, in which some treacherous Narnians sell their people out to a foreign, despotic people from southern deserts, in the hope of personal gain.  The Dutch legislator being prosecuted has asked to call for his defense Mohammed Bouyeri, a "Dutchman" of Moroccan extraction convicted of shooting and stabbing to death Theo Van Gogh for making a documentary that claimed unpleasant things about Islam.  Bouyeri stuck a note to van Gogh's chest using the knife with which he murdered the filmmaker.  In the note, he also threatened to murder Dutch legislator Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a nationalized Somali woman who uses her new Dutch nationality and legislative voice to campaign against the abuse of women in peaceful Islamic countries like Iran and her native Somalia.  Surprisingly, the Dutch prosecutor and judges in the case is nervous about calling Bouyeri to the stand.

I am concluding that the powers that be hate Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, and the West they built up so much that any enemy of His will suffice as an ally.  It does not matter to them what lies they tell or whom they invite to come be their new caliph.  This whole democracy thing is passe, anyway, right?  Time to progress to something better.

A Few Words Packed With Meaning

Mark Shea just posted this stirring exposition of the Hail Mary.  It is reasonably brief, and loaded with beautiful reflection based on sound exegesis.  Enjoy!

That's a LOT

That's how much money the President wants to spend in his budget proposal more than the federal government will be "earning" in tax revenues.  That's right.  That's his proposed additional debt.  And it doesn't appear to count the various emergency appropriations that will be sought midyear for this or that.  After all, one never knows when more rich bankers or unions will need bailing out of their own suicidal greed.

I did some quick math, and that deficit is $5333 per resident in the U.S., give or take.  Since most residents aren't taxpayers (too young, too old, not gainfully employed), it is considerably more per taxpayer.  There were 99,880,223 taxpayers in the US in 2005, which is close enough to now, meaning that the president is asking us each to borrow approximately $16000 more.  Again.

So much for reducing the deficit.  Does this strike anybody else as insane and immoral?  Who will have the courage to tell these lunatics that enough is enough?!

Willing to Ask

More from Jean Lafrance's Give Me a Living Word:

You are willing to ask, but you want to have alternative solutions in case your supplication does not "work".  That is precisely why your supplication does not have this desperate power which overturns mountains and casts them into the sea.  You withhold an alternative solution and you do not yield yourself totally to this prayer of petition.
I would add to Fr. Lafrance's words that we often also lack, in addition to abandonment to God's solution to our problem, abandonment to God's plan, which might include our problem.  Of course, both deficits are merely instances of the same attitude that says, "Do my will," rather than, "Father, not my will, but yours," (Lk 22:42).