Wednesday, September 24, 2008

40 Days for Life

How do we defeat abortion? Pray. Pray. Pray. Today, the Fall Campaign begins around the country and Canada. Hundreds and hundreds of people will pray at abortion facilities, some around the clock. Our nearest facility will have prayer warriors there from 7 AM to 9 PM. This is a peaceful way of protesting this terrible atrocity while imploring God for an end to this holocaust.

I hear that a lot of people are tired of hearing about abortion, and having abortion as the only issue to vote for. Face it, we're all tired. But that doesn't mean we give up. Nearly fifty million babies since Roe v Wade. Think about that astronomical number. I went to our diocesan pre-campaign workshop and met people who are going for the first time and are naturally apprehensive. I understand those feelings as I felt them the first time I prayed at an abortuary. There are feelings of vulnerability, ineffectiveness, powerlessness in face of such a huge task. But God takes what we can give and transforms it in ways that we cannot see, or possibly may never know. We may never know the change of heart that may come over a woman's heart when she sees a line of people in prayer. The change of heart is the work of the Holy Spirit. And if you are willing to be a vehicle of grace for one hour of one day, you have staked a claim for God right there at the line of battle.

A story from two months ago. Our Respect Life group had invited Fr. Peter West of the Priests for Life. After his presentation, one of the ladies that works at our local Birthchoice relayed a message that just a few hours before our workshop, a young woman got off the abortion table just before the procedure. She thought that if those strangers standing outside the facility took the time to pray there, then what she was about to do must be very bad. She went to Birthchoice, had an ultrasound and saw her baby. People simply by standing there in an attitude of prayer, no confrontation or bitter discourse, was the arrow that pierced her conscience.

Please consider praying at the nearest facility to you. Visit the national campaign website: I know people who drive for hours to pray during the 40 days at least once a week. If you can't travel, consider being a prayer partner of someone who is standing at the clinic at a particular hour. E-mail the area coordinator if you can, to let him or her know that is what you intend to do. Lift that person present in prayer.

Don't know what to pray? Bring your rosaries. Pray the complete cycle of Mysteries. Pray the Litanies. And even if the facility workers come out with posters mocking you, it's not you they are mocking. It's God whom they mock. Know that when they do that, you are in enemy territory and what a great thing it is that you stand in witness. I keep in mind this: Blessed are you when men revile and persecute you for my name's sake. Rejoice and be glad. (Matt 5:10-12). Read the passage and realize that God is your vindicator.

Go with friends. Go with your family. We take our children with us and make it a day's excursion with our friends. After we pray at the facility, we head down to the nearest Perpetual Adoration Chapel to decompress before our Lord.

Our diocese has a youth brigade that prays once a week. One of the children in this group has Downs Syndrome. It's an inspiring sight to see these young people with their rosaries praying through the Mysteries with composure, intent, and best of all, love.

I think of all the babies destroyed, their souls passing from this world without anyone to acknowledge their precious existence. Perhaps this is what motivates me to go there, to be there to mourn for them.

Here is a podcast of one of my reflections from the Lenten campaign.

Click to listen

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Like a Vine

~by St. Augustine

They are straying across the mountains and the high hills, they have been scattered over all the face of the earth. What does this mean, scattered over all the face of the earth? That they attach themselves to earthly things, the things that glitter on the face of the earth: they love and desire them. They do not want to die and be hidden away in Christ. Over all the face of the earth not only because they love earthly things but because across all the earth there are sheep astray. They are everywhere, but one thing, pride, is the mother of them all, just as Christians who are spread over all the world have one mother, the Church.

So it is not to be wondered at that pride gives birth to dissension while love generates unity. The Church is the mother of all, and everywhere the shepherd in her seeks those who are astray, strengthens those who are weak, cares for the sick and puts the broken together again. Many of them are not even known to one another, but she knows them all because she is merged with them all.

She is like a vine that has grown and sprouted everywhere. Those in love with earthly things are like sterile shoots pruned away by the grower’s knife because of their sterility, cut away so that the vine should not have to be cut down. And those sterile shoots, once they are pruned away, lie on the ground and stay there. But the vine grows over all, and it knows those shoots that remain part of it, and it knows the cut-off shoots that lie next to it.

But from where they lie she calls them back, for as St Paul says of the broken branches, God has the power to graft them back again. Whether you speak of sheep straying away from the flock or branches cut off from the vine, God is equally able to call back the lost sheep and to graft back the lost branches: the Lord, the true vine-dresser. They have been scattered over all the face of the earth and no-one misses them, no-one calls them back – no-one among the bad shepherds. No-one misses them – that is, no man does.

Well then, shepherds, hear the words of the Lord. As I live, says the Lord God... See how he starts. It is like an oath sworn by God, calling his very life to witness. As I live, says the Lord God. The shepherds are dead but the sheep are safe. As I live, says the Lord God. What shepherds are dead? Those who have sought their own interests rather than Christ’s. So what of the shepherds who seek Christ’s interests and not their own? Of course there will be such shepherds, of course they will be found: there is no lack of them and there never will be.

Photo from the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome taken in 2007. The Basilica is under the care of the Irish Dominicans. Thanks to our friend Zadok Romanus, we explored with it with very interesting commentary to accompany while at the scavi.

40 Days for Life

Tomorrow, the Fall Prayer Campaign begins. Please visit the National Campaign website to find the location nearest to you. Consider praying there, even if for just an hour. It is a peaceful way of bringing about an end to the scourge of abortion. The primary purpose is to pray that through the power of God, this horrible practice will be confronted for what it is, killing babies, and that the scales may fall from people's eyes and end sacrificing lives at the altar of convenience. We have prayed many times outside the nearest facility, which we have come to call "abortuary", despite its name "Women's Health".

Tomorrow morning, at 7 AM our Bishop will be at our nearest location to begin the next 40 days to pray for the cause for life. This campaign is ecumenical, but the coordinators are Catholics who faithfully pray at this location every weekend. If you can't go to a location, or are far away from one, please consider giving an hour or two to unite yourself spiritually to this great effort. It's a matter of life!

Upcoming Retreat

I apologize for the lack of posts. Our huge youth retreat is coming up this weekend with youth from the Raleigh and Charlotte dioceses. I've been podcasting to promote the event, so all my energies, when not teaching the school children and playing for Masses have been directed toward that endeavor.

Our guest lineup is awesome...the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Nashville Dominican Sisters, and Fr. Leo Patalinghug. The music will be wonderful! And the family Schola will be chanting for the daily Masses along with some homeschooling friends and blogging friends.

Saturday night, Bishop Burbidge will lead us in a Eucharistic procession to inaugurate the new Perpetual Adoration Chapel at St. Catherine of Siena, our host parish. It will be a sight to see a thousand youth with candles following our Eucharistic Lord chanting, "Laudate Dominum" and "Ubi Caritas". The monstrance that has been given for the chapel is extraordinarily beautiful (and heavy).

Also, on Saturday night, the youth who are interested in exploring vocations will have dinner with the Friars and the Sisters and several of our diocesan priests.

I'm trying to get as much sleep as I can this week because we will have all-night adoration which I am looking forward to.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Return of the Introit my parish. For today's Solemnity of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, we reintroduced the Introit to the Ordinary Form of the Mass.

We should glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is our salvation, our life and our resurrection; through him we are saved and made free.

We used Tone V for the above text. Our priest censed the altar as the cantor was chanting the Introit. I put a note in the worship aid about the Introit and its noble use in the liturgy. Happily, the Introit was well-received and to top it off, the Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei were in chant. Lots of incense, bells, and beautiful red vestments.

For the rest of the Ordinary season, we'll have the Introit here and there. Hopefully, with the start of Advent, we can have it back permanently.

The other Propers will be slowly added in. When I first suggested this, most people were wary of one more thing to be added to the liturgy. I think people saw today that chanting the Introit didn't make the Mass any longer, and in fact, allowed people to grasp the theme of today's readings.

Brick by brick. Yes, it was in English. The funny thing was when I gave the music to the cantors, one of them remarked, "This really should be in Latin, you know." The cantors did well with it and it was nice to not hear complaints. As I said before, the cantors are very easy to work with and it's to my predecessor's credit that they are as amenable to new (or rather, old) things.

Small pleasures, my friends, small pleasures.

As a bit of history, in a previous parish, when I suggested returning the Propers to the Liturgy, there was a bit of an uproar. People whom I thought were my friends were quite vociferous. "NO! That's not what Pope Benedict is asking us to do. The Latin Mass is only for those who grew up with it. He doesn't want that stuff for the vernacular Mass. You're wrong!"

A painful time. What was it that Elizabeth Bennet said in Pride and Prejudice? "Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure." Our Bishop has released the new norms for the Celebration of Sacred Liturgy.
It is laudable that a processional hymn or introit, the acclamations, the dialogues, and the litanies of the Mass be sung at daily celebrations of the Sacred Liturgy. Even when musical accompaniment is not possible, every attempt should be made to sing the acclamations and dialogues....The use of simple chant is laudable given that Gregorian chant holds pride of place in the Sacred Liturgy.
Please know that vindication is not something that I had hoped or wished for. And yes, I'll have to fight with my very human tendencies, my own smallness, in feeling just a twinge of satisfaction.

Happy Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, dear friends.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Dead-End of Disinterestedness

~by James Matthew Wilson in First Principles. James teaches at Villanova's Department of Humanities and Augustinian Tradition. The Treasonous Clerk is his regular column and he writes about academia and the challenges of being faithful to philosophy.
The intellectual life is anything but disinterested. It should not be disinterested, but passionately engaged. As Aquinas argued, our intellects may well be blank slates at our birth; everything that comes to fill the mind comes from the outside. We become knowledgeable (possessing the intellectual virtue of “science”) when our mind is well filled with information. If that information is merely tendentious, confused, or deceptive, then we cannot say we know anything—we cannot say that what our intellect contains “adequates” to the realities in and around it. Because we do not wish to “know” falsehoods, but to know the truth, we hope that those who presume to tell us the truth will go about their work with a certain “disinterest.” But all this really means is that we hope they do not lie.

If the mind is blank at birth, the will is already calling for the light. It is a verifiable part of human nature to desire to know the truth. Friedrich Nietzsche famously critiqued this “will to truth” in Beyond Good and Evil. But there are only two plausible reactions to that critique. The first—far from “distinterestedness”—is “uninterest.” Those persons who are complacent with what they know, or for convenience’s sake do not wish to be very wise, may greet Nietzsche with a sigh of relief. If one cannot rely on the will to drive one toward truth, one need not believe any longer that there are truths (which, of course, would itself be a truth); under such circumstances one can go about a life of libertinism more shamelessly than otherwise.

The second possible reaction is scandal and initial despair. “If we cannot rely on the natural desire of ourselves and of all persons to know what is true, then how can we trust any of our perceptions to be more than the mere expression of our will?” asks such a person. Behind that question lurks another: “Is it really true that most people do not want to know the truth as much as I do?” Barring distraction, complacency, or turpitude, one will then be driven to find out the true answer to this question. And that drive can only be understood as itself the will to truth.

Here we reach the foundation after which I have been digging. Each of our minds call out for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in themselves. Before the intellect knows these things even slightly, even partially, it is already desiring them. The will drives the intellect toward its proper food, however falteringly, even as an infant’s hunger drives him to his mother’s breast. The act of the intellect in speculation, which may in isolation be “disinterested,” is fueled by a practical movement of the will, to which only images of the deepest hungers and most erotic passions can approximate. Moreover, it has a practical end. Our wills do not simply compel us to seek the truth, we desire to possess it, and we finally desire to conform our lives to it.

Learning and living are bound to each other, just as truth and goodness are one with each other. Unless we appreciate the principal role of the will in our seeking after truths on the road to the True, after diverse goods as we hunt out the Good, we cannot understand why the contemplative life, in which formal education plays a central role for most persons, is so valuable. We wish to know truths not as part of a disinterested exercise in search of facts, but because the deepest appetite within us drives us toward them. And, of course, it is the symptom of a limited (but perhaps highly specialized) mind to have its appetite slaked by mere facts.

In the age of “disinterestedness” it has become an old canard to say, “You only think such-and-such is true because you want it to be true.” Fair enough. The undisciplined will can get the better of the intellect, causing it to gnaw the (sometimes rather tasty) bones of partial truths rather than quest on for the absolute banquet. But, actually, shouldn’t our desiring something to be true be one of several tests of its veracity? If my intellect whispers to me that it is not true that one can kill children and still be a good person, my will inclines to accept the verdict. When my intellect tells me I need to eat more vegetables, my will usually assents, because it inclines toward both the Good and the living of a good life. If someone tells me theft is good, my intellect soon concludes otherwise, driven in part by my will’s revulsion from the idea.

Many of us, appetites whetted, have wills so deeply enthralled by the True that we can be said to love it. Conservative talk of “disinterestedness” leaves such hunger unsatisfied and leaves such love cold. We should be calling on leftist intellectuals not to give us less, not to settle for mere facts, but to respect the beautiful, even erotic, nature of the intellectual life. We should demand that education conform not to the imperatives of the politics of the moment, but to a deep and ineluctable human need. If they reply that such talk is just “so much ideology,” we can safely presume they are overly, rather than inadequately, disinterested regarding truth. They have taken a bone for the banquet. They are like the poor old miser, clutching his gold coins, biting them to reconfirm their pure material worth, simply because he never had a chance to fall in love. And that would be cause for sorrow, for the halls of academe, however decayed, are places where knowledge should tryst freely with affection. Our swords should rise in their defense.
Read the complete article.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Importance of Being Trig Palin

~by Michael Gershon. One of the univeresity professors in my state recently said in effect that having a Downs Syndrome baby is immoral.
Trig Paxson Van Palin -- pronounced by his mother "beautiful" and "perfect" and applauded at center stage of the Republican convention -- smashed the chromosomal barrier. And it was all the more moving for the innocence and indifference of this 4-month-old civil rights leader.

It was not always this way. When John F. Kennedy's younger sister Rosemary was born mentally disabled in 1918, it was treated as a family secret. For decades Rosemary was hidden as a "childhood victim of spinal meningitis." Joseph Kennedy subjected his daughter to a destructive lobotomy at age 23. It was the remarkable Eunice Kennedy Shriver who talked openly of her sister's condition in 1962 and went on to found the Special Olympics as a summer camp in her backyard -- part of a great social movement of compassion and inclusion.

Trig's moment in the spotlight is a milestone of that movement. But it comes at a paradoxical time. Unlike African-Americans and women, civil rights protections for people with Down syndrome have rapidly eroded over the last few decades. Of the cases of Down syndrome diagnosed by pre-natal testing each year, about 90 percent are eliminated by abortion. Last year the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended universal, early testing for Down syndrome -- not just for older pregnant women. Some expect this increased screening to reduce the number of Down syndrome births far lower than the 5,500 we see today, perhaps to less than 1,000.

The wrenching diagnosis of 47 chromosomes must seem to parents like the end of a dream instead of the beginning of a life. But children born with Down syndrome -- who learn slowly but love deeply -- are generally not experienced by their parents as a curse but as a complex blessing. And when allowed to survive, men and women with an extra chromosome experience themselves as people with abilities, limits and rights. Yet when Down syndrome is detected through testing, many parents report that genetic counselors and physicians emphasize the difficulties of raising a disabled child and urge abortion.

This is properly called eugenic abortion -- the ending of "imperfect" lives to remove the social, economic and emotional costs of their existence. And this practice cannot be separated from the broader social treatment of the disabled. By eliminating less perfect humans, deformity and disability become more pronounced and less acceptable. Those who escape the net of screening are often viewed as mistakes or burdens. A tragic choice becomes a presumption -- "Didn't you get an amnio?" -- and then a prejudice. And this feeds a social Darwinism in which the stronger are regarded as better, the dependant are viewed as less valuable, and the weak must occasionally be culled.
Read the rest.

Once a month, our parish's Respect Life group prays at the local abortuary and with us are young people. We stand across the street from this place of horror and it's quite a sight to see the line of people praying the rosary.... especially if you look closely and one of the children there is a Downs child. All life is precious.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Nativity of Our Lady

Happy Feast Day, all!

Here's the message from Pope Benedict that I received in my XT3 mailbox.
Dear Friends,

Fifty days ago we were together for the celebration of Mass.
Today I greet you on the birthday of Mary, Mother of the Church.
Empowered by the Spirit and courageous like Mary, your pilgrimage of faith
fills the Church with life!
Soon I am to visit France.
I ask you all to join me in praying for the young people of France.
May we all be rejuvenated in hope!

What is xt3? Have a look.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Without Ceasing

They punctuate the fields of corn and tobaccoo, those little country churches, enduring reminders that though man might till the earth, God sends the rains and the fruit and harvest. Out near the road, marquees are ever-present and witticisms behind the glass case are quick, little moments of catechesis. Sometimes funny, other times banal, most often forgettable.

"DON'T LIKE UR LIFE? DO A U TURN" (ah, metanoia....gotcha....and what's with the text-speak?)

"FAITH IS THE ROOT, HOPE IS THE FRUIT" (che bella, tutti-frutti)

But once in a while, one manages to penetrate my skeptic's heart. And it burrows away into my consciousness and makes me think.


At first, I laughed at the grammatical error and drove past smirking. But all throughout the day, it came back to me....pray...without ceasing. The words stayed on that marquee for a good long time this summer, so I saw the exhortation over and over.

Yes, a small voice inside whispered, "Pray for your friend discerning a vocation." And don't forget the friend's mother who is dying and her daughter in Mosul. Then there is the parishioner who a month ago received his stem cell transplant hoping to arrest the aggressive bone cancer. On and on, the list grew and the necessity of praying without ceasing has become a way of life. On the commutes to work, I drive through the countryside, where I am closer to nature than if I had to drive on superhighways. Several months ago, I'd stopped listening to music on the car stereo. I've come to a greater appreciation for silence in the car and that is where a lot of prayers get raised to heaven. Arrivals at my destinations find me much more at peace and I am able to carry the day's challenges more readily.

Pray without ceasing, I am learning to cost of St. Paul's exhortation to the Thessalonians. It isn't necessarily true that my prayers are powerful or effective. It is a way of holiness, this being in his constant presence through words....faltering at times, half-hearted oftentimes...but always life-changing for me because in the end, it is I who becomes transformed. A greater patience for people? Perhaps. But always a sense of humility to be participating in people's lives through prayer.

Pray without ceasing, pray for the saints, pray with perseverance. In prayer, all things are possible.

Marquee theology sometimes gets it right.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Requiem Mass

Tomorrow, our parish will have a Requiem Mass. It will be Low Mass because our schola members are in school and cannot miss classes. They could have learned the Propers in time, but the Dies Iræ takes a little more work. That said, the Requiem Mass has some of the most beautiful prayers.

The Introit says this:
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis. Psalm 64:2-3. Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion, et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem: exaudi orationem meam, ad te omnis caro veniet. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon them. Psalm 64:2-3. A hymn, O God, becometh Thee in Sion, and a vow shall be paid to Thee in Jerusalem: O Lord, hear my prayer; all flesh shall come unto Thee. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon them.
The Collect for the Day of Burial says this:
Deus, cui proprium est misereri semper et parcere, te supplices exoramus pro anima famulæ tuæ N. quam hodie de hoc sæculo migrare jusisti: ut non tradas eam in manus inimici, neque obliviscaris in finem, sed jubeas eam a sanctis Angelis suscipi, et ad Patriam paradise perduci: ut, quia in te speravit et crededit, non pœnas inferni sustineat, sed gaudia æterna possideat. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum christum Filium tuuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.

O God, whose property is ever to have mercy and to spare, we humbly entreat Thee on behalf of the soul of thy servant N., whom Thou hast bidden this day to pass out of this world: that Thou wouldst not deliver her into the hands of the enemy nor forget her for ever, but command her to be taken up by the holy Angels, and to be borne to our home in paradise, that as she had put her faith and hope in Thee she may not undergo the pains of hell but may possess everlasting joys. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reighneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost God, world without end.
Then at the end, in place of the Last Gospel, the Absolution is said, there is this:
Non intres in judicium cum servo tuo, Domine, quia nullus apud te justificabitur homo, nisi per te omnium peccatoru ei tribuatur remissio. Non ergo eum, quæsumus, tua judicialis sententia premat, quem tibi vera supplicatio fidei christianæ commendat: sed, gratia tua illi succurrente, mereatur, evadere judicium ultionis, qui dum viveret, insgnitus est signaculo sanctæ Trinitatis: Qui vivis et regnas in sæcula sæculorum.

Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, O Lord; for, save Thou grant him forgiveness of all his sins, no man shall be justified in Thy sight. Wherefore suffer not, we beseech Thee, the sentence Thou pronouncest in judgment upon one whom the faithful prayer of Christina people commends to Thee, to be a doom which shall crush him utterly. Rather succour him by Thy gracious favor, that he may escape Thine avenging justice who, in his lifetime, was signed with the seal of the holy trinity: Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.
It's hard not to miss the seriousness of the moment, a soul passing from this earthly life to meet his Maker. There is an acknowledgment of our utter helplessness before the judgment seat of Christ, and yet a reliance on the mercy of Christ through his Passion and Death. In the Dies Iræ, there is a reminder of the terror and awe that we will experience in the presence of God, but also a reminder of the pity and mercy that is always freely given by the Cross and Suffering of Christ. The Sequence pleads that Christ remember his saving acts of old, his acts of mercy, and that they be also applied to the person who has just passed.

A week ago, we said the Mass for the Day of Burial for a parishioner whose funeral Mass was in another town far away. So we've already experienced a Requiem Mass. Tomorrow will be the first time in forty years with a body and a grieving family. Thankfully, the black vestments were not thrown away. The chasuble is so beautiful that for years it was in a display case....kind of like faith behind glass, a relic from another time. Relic no more.