Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To glimpse His face

I have been continuing to try to follow Fr. Roberto's three rules; then today, in my reading of Is It Possible to Live This Way? Volume 2 Hope, by Father Giussani, I came across a passage, which seems to give some help in following these rules:

But when God came, who recognized Him? He was recognized by the people who, in the face of what is arduous... who were living with feelings of humility, of trust in God, of abandon to God, of continuing certainty even with their trials; those who lived thus, recognized Him. So much so that some who lived thus even went so far at a certain point -- to wait for him -- as to live in the temple, like old Simeon, Anna the prophetess ... or the Christmas shepherds; or think about the spirit of Saint Joseph, but even before that, about the spirit with which Mary lived.

Those who had those sentiments recognized Him; those who didn't have them, did not even recognize Him when he raised Lazarus...

Therefore, the big question is to return to being little children -- "If you will not be like little children..." -- the big question is to return to the origin, the big question is to return to how God made us. Really, what is morality? Morality is to live with the attitude in which God made us. Only he who has this attitude recognizes His Presence... (Is It Possible to Live This Way? Volume 2 Hope, 46-47)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Radical love

When Christ rose, he didn't seek justice against his killers -- not even to confront them with a stern look or a word of rebuke. When he met up with Peter, it was only to ask, "Do you love me more than these?" He never sought justice nor an apology from Simon Peter. If this is so, then I am certain that it is not my job to ask for this sort of justice. If Christ did not go to Peter and demand that he acknowledge what he did in front of the twelve, then I neither "need" nor should even be interested in having everybody notice if someone else wrongs me.

Monday, December 29, 2008

History is a golden thread

Today, the twenty-fifth day of December,

unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth

and then formed man and woman in his own image.

Several thousand years after the flood,

when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.

Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah;

thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges;

one thousand years from the anointing of David as king;

in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.

In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;

the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.

The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;

the whole world being at peace,

Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,

desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,

being conceived by the Holy Spirit,

and nine months having passed since his conception,

was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.

The nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
Kalenda -- the "Christmas Proclamation"

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The answer

Christmas and Hope

Letter to the editor of the Italian Daily La Repubblica,
published December 23, 2008

Dear Sir,

I was struck by the readings that the Ambrosian Liturgy proposes for Monday if the third week of Advent. How must the members of the ancient people of Israel been disconcerted at the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “It will devour your harvests and your bread; it will devour your sons and daughters; it will devour your flocks and herds; it will devour the fortified cities in which you placed your trust” (Jer 5:17). He was telling them that another nation was going to conquer the kingdom in which they had put their trust. “Then, if they say: ‘Why has the Lord our God done these things?’, you will answer: ‘Just as you have abandoned the Lord and served foreign gods in your country, so will you serve foreigners in a country that is not yours’” (Jer 5:19).

It is as if this were said for us; today we see signs that make everyone afraid, it seems that what has supported our history is unable to withstand the test of our times: one day the economy, finance and work, the next day politics and the judiciary, then the family, the beginning of life and its natural end. So, like ancient Israel before a frightening situation, we, too, ask ourselves: “Why is all this happening?” It is because we, too, have been so presumptuous as to think that we can still get along after cutting the roots that supported the foundations of our civilization. In recent centuries, our culture has believed it could build a future for itself while abandoning God. Now we see where this presumption is leading us.

Now, what does the Lord do in the face of all we have brought upon ourselves? The prophet Zechariah tells us, speaking to his people Israel: “Look, I am going to send you my servant Branch” (Zc 3:8.). Notice the name. It is as if before the crisis of a world, our world – the prophets would describe it with an image dear to them, that of a dried-up trunk – a sign of hope were springing up. The enormity of a dried up trunk cannot prevent the sprouting of a humble, fragile branch in which lies the hope for the future.

But there is one drawback: we, too, when we see this branch appearing –like those before that child in Nazareth—can be scandalized and say: “How can something so ephemeral be the answer to our need for liberation?” Can salvation come from something so small as faith in Jesus? It seems impossible that all our hope can rest on belonging to this frail sign. The promise that only from this can everything be rebuilt seems scandalous. Yet men like St. Benedict and St. Francis started from that. They began to live while belonging to that branch that had grown through time and space—the Church, and in this way became protagonists of a people and of history.
Benedict did not face the end of the Roman Empire with anger, pointing the finger at the immorality of his contemporaries, but rather witnessed to the people of his time a fullness of life, a satisfaction and a fullness that became an attraction for many. This became the dawn of a new world, small as it was (almost a nonentity compared with the whole, a whole that was in total collapse), but a real world. That new beginning was so concrete that the work of Benedict and Francis has lasted through the centuries, has transformed Europe, and humanized it.
“He has revealed himself. He personally,” said Benedict XVI, speaking of the God-with-us. Fr. Giussani told us, “That man of two thousand years ago is hidden under the tent, under the appearance of a new humanity,” in a real sign that arouses the inkling of that life that we are all waiting for so as not to succumb to the evil in us and to the signs of the nothingness which is advancing. This is the hope that Christmas announces to us, and that makes us cry out: “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Julián Carrón

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

O Antiphons

From La Chiesa:

Advent in Music. Seven Antiphons, All Worth Discovering Again

They're sung one per day, at the Magnificat during vespers. They are very ancient, and extraordinarily rich in references to the prophecies of the Messiah. Their initials form an acrostic. Here they are in transcription, with a guide to interpretation

by Sandro Magister


Here, then, are the complete texts of the seven antiphons, in Latin and in translation, with highlighting of the initials that form the acrostic "Ero cras," and in parentheses the main references to the Old and New Testament:

I – December 17

O SAPIENTIA, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, who come from the mouth of the Most High (Sirach 24:5),
you extend to the ends of the earth, and order all things with power and sweetness (Wisdom 8:1):
come and teach us the way of wisdom (Proverbs 9:6).

II – December 18

O ADONAI, dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extenso.

O Lord (Exodus 6:2, Vulgate), leader of the house of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2) and on Mount Sinai gave him the law (Exodus 20):
come and free us with your powerful arm (Exodus 15:12-13).

III – December 19

O RADIX Iesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, who stand as a sign for the peoples (Isaiah 11:10),
the kings of the earth are silent before you (Isaiah 52:15) and the nations invoke you:
come to free us, do not delay (Habakkuk 2:3).

IV – December 20

O CLAVIS David et sceptrum domus Israel,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.

O Key of David (Isaiah 22:23), scepter of the house of Israel (Genesis 49:10),
who open and no one may shut; who shut and no one may open:
come, free from prison captive man, who lies in darkness and the shadow of death (Psalm 107: 10, 14).

V – December 21

O ORIENS, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae:
veni et illumina sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.

O Star who rises (Zechariah 3:8; Jeremiah 23:5), splendor of the eternal light (Wisdom 7:26) and sun of justice (Malachi 3:20):
come and enlighten those who lie in darkness and the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:1; Luke 1:79).

VI – December 22

O REX gentium et desideratus earum,
lapis angularis qui facis utraque unum:
veni et salva hominem quel de limo formasti.

O King of the nations (Jeremiah 10:7) and their desire (Haggai 2:7),
cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16), who reunite Jews and pagans into one (Ephesians 2:14):
come and save the man whom you formed from the earth (Genesis 2:7).

VII – December 23

O EMMANUEL, rex et legifer noster,
expectatio gentium et salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Dominus Deus noster.

O Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14), our king and lawgiver (Isaiah 33:22),
hope and salvation of the peoples (Genesis 49:10; John 4:42):
come to save us, O Lord our God (Isaiah 37:20).

Monday, December 15, 2008

A step on the trek

Sharon wrote about something ("A Long Trek") on her blog yesterday that helps me to take a step. I am going to quote the entire thing (because it's short), but follow the link anyway, so that you can see the great photo she posted with the text:

I keep thinking of what Kay said at the Advent Retreat last weekend. After a year of trials, she could perceive a greater awareness of herself as a complete person. Whereas at one time she would have said all this happened so that she could learn patience, she instead saw a deeper relation with God through these difficult events.

I understand her. In my case, my life can seem like a repeat of fifteen years ago. My grandkids take up most of my time lately, and I can barely get three pages read all day. Is it because I didn't learn what I needed to last round? I don't see it that way Instead, it must be that now I can really enjoy this extravagant effort of caring for kids as I couldn't so easily before. It's a different vision that others point to: "a gaze on life that restores your breath, with a way of entering into relationship with everything so that nothing's banal, everything has the weight of the eternal" (Julian Carron).
This same movement has happened in my life, as well. It was such a habit of thought to come up with explanations and reasons for why God was making this or that happen in my life. I hadn't noticed that I had not been playing this interpretive game quite so consistently or completely, until I read the above paragraphs this morning. Now that I can see the two ways of understanding the meaning of my life, I really wonder...
  1. First of all: what chutzpuh to imagine that I know the particular purpose of God's actions in my life! As if God's work is devoted to giving me what I think I need? As if the sight of his eternal face could render me a service, one that I approve... [this rhetoric is not in any way directed at Kay, whom I've never met, nor at Sharon -- I'm certain that both of them have far more humility than I -- which is why they are able to point this out in their lives while I needed their witness in order to see it]
  2. How much more God has in mind for me than I could ever hope for or imagine!
  3. That having a defined explanation for God's presence in my life means that I am the ultimate generator of meaning in my life. It is the kingdom of Suzanne all over again.
  4. That there is nothing greater in all the world than allowing oneself to be surprised by love, by infinite tenderness, by beauty.
Show us your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.

Many things have happened

Take last week: Serena plays the trumpet in the sixth grade band at her school. The other kids in her class have been playing for two years, but she just picked up the trumpet this year, so she has had to work very hard to keep up. The band was practicing for a concert that was to take place last Thursday evening. All that week, their director threatened that if the kids didn't practice, they would have to play "Jingle Bells" with the fifth graders, instead of the more difficult jazzy arrangements they'd been practicing for months. Serena practiced so hard and had perfected the trumpet parts for the difficult pieces, but a couple of the kids in the band defiantly refused to practice -- and they even had solos, so that their inability to play the pieces was obvious. When Wednesday arrived and the music still wasn't working, the director announced that the whole sixth grade would indeed need to play "Jingle Bells" with the fifth grade. Serena was bitterly disappointed. And this experience showed me something new about Christ's presence in our unity -- if one member of the band doesn't play, doesn't follow his or her music, then the whole suffers. My daughter's disappointment revealed something of the pain that we often cover over or ignore. We just play "Jingle Bells" and pretend to be satisfied with it -- or blame our dissatisfaction on the conductor or the music or even on the people who wouldn't do their work. Pointing fingers, trying to locate the source of guilt is a way of avoiding the truly painful truth: that we need one another, that we can't play our part without the others.

∞ ∞ ∞

Since our Advent retreat, I have been trying very hard to live the three rules that Fr. Roberto gave to the group of junior high kids, the Knights, with whom he meets:
  1. God is proposing something great to me right now
  2. If I see it, I will tell the others about it
  3. If I don't see it, I will pray the Memorare to be able to see it.
Again last week, I volunteered to help with the Santa's Workshop at Sylvie's new school. Sylvie's only been at this school for a few weeks after a rough start in the first grade at her old school. My thought was to be involved, so that I could begin to get to know some of the other parents at her school. Besides, I like the idea of Santa's Workshop -- where the kids can shop for inexpensive gifts at school, have help wrapping them, and can then bring them home to surprise their families.

I sat down at a table covered in wrapping paper, scissors, and tape. Only one other volunteer was sitting there, and we introduced ourselves. After a few moments, another woman joined us. I introduced myself to her, too, but oncewe had exchanged names, it became clear that the two others were great friends and didn't want to speak with me. After trying (and failing) to jump into the conversation a couple of times, I thought: I know that you are proposing something great to me right now. Please help me to see it. Then I prayed a silent Memorare. My next thought was that when the first kids brought us their gifts to wrap, the three of us would work together, and a sense of unity would begin to blossom through sharing a common work. Imagine my surprise when a bunch of kids showed up, with multiple presents, and as I began to wrap one of them, the woman beside me took it from my hands and said, "We can take care of that." They didn't even want me to work with them!

So, I looked around the room until I spotted another table with just one woman sitting at it. I approached her and asked whether I could help her, and she graciously accepted. Many children had just arrived, and we worked beside one another, and it was indeed clear that sharing a common work is a sign of unity; however, something even greater became apparent to me. The children who brought us the gifts which they had chosen in love for the people whom they loved best, came to us with their hearts open. Just one friendly question or observation about a gift, or the way they addressed a parent or grandparent (Pappy? Poppop? Grammy? Nona?) brought out a flood of affection from them. There is something so disarmed about children. They will give their whole heart in exchange for a kind smile. I could discern, from listening to the conversations at the other end of the table, that my fellow volunteer was having the same experience. I was reminded that (Duh!) my vocation has always been toward children -- even before I was married, this was evident to me. If I had gone on with my own plan, that my reason for being there was to make new adult friends, I would have missed the best thing.

What most moves me now is a profound affection for Fr. Roberto, who first told us about the three rules. By following his authority, I was able to verify that life is indeed richer, fuller, more life, by following his indications.

∞ ∞ ∞

I was able to attend five out of six of the Nutcracker performances this year. Also, many more of our neighbors came to see the girls dance this time. It is really amazing that anyone comes, because the school and the theater where they perform is almost an hour away, and the weather is always a little dicey. Their presence with us is a clear sign of our belonging. Two great things that God proposed to me during these performances (aside from presence of my neighbors, which was truly great):
  1. Serena turned in flawless performances as the ballerina doll during all six shows. She hates to be noticed; she hates to be the center of attention. She has never wanted a lead role in a ballet, and when she heard she'd be the ballerina doll, she was terrified! It was hard for her to receive her First Communion, because she worried that people would be looking at her. The same worries surfaced during Confirmation. On both of those occasions, I really doubted that she would be able to go through with the sacrament. One of the promises that I had made to her, as she was preparing for Confirmation, was that if she could bear to step forward so that the bishop could anoint her and lay hands on her, she would receive great power, which would help her in the future.
  2. Sophie fell twice and lost her Arabian wig once during these performances. Why was this so great? It was great because these flaws did not define her as a person or as a dancer. What was most impressive was the way that she got up immediately and continued the dance, with the same smile and the same superior technique. And when her wig fell off, there were no titters to indicate that anyone in the audience had even noticed.
I am amazed and awed at what God can do in my life and in the lives of my children. Each of my daughters has prayed for the grace to overcome difficulties that only God, in his tenderness, could have granted to them. In front of His goodness, I feel so small and full of thanks. Much as I wish I could, I cannot give what He gives them.

∞ ∞ ∞

There is more, but I have already gone on for too long. Ciao!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"...Without solidarity with others the Eucharist is abused."


[this is from the same general audience as this]

All one

The Pope's conclusion at the general audience (December 10, 2008) in Paul VI Hall, during which he left aside his prepared speech and gave the intervention extemporaneously (reported by Zenit):

"Christ unites himself personally to each one of us, but at the same time he unites himself to the man and woman who are next to me," explained the Pontiff, according to L'Osservatore Romano's commentary. "And the Bread is for me and for the others. Thus, he unites all of us with himself and all of us mutually. In communion we receive Christ, but Christ unites himself in the same way with my neighbor.

"Christ and neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist. All of us are one bread, one body. Eucharist without solidarity with the rest is an abuse of the Eucharist."

Benedict XVI said that this understanding is the root and the center of the doctrine of the Church as the body of Christ.

"Christ gives us his body in the Eucharist, he gives himself in his body and in this way makes us his body, he unites us to his risen body," he explained. "If man eats normal bread, this bread becomes part of his body, transformed into substance of human life. But in Communion, an inverse process takes place. Christ, the Lord, assimilates us, introduces us into his glorious body and in this way, all together, we become his body."

The Holy Father noted: "In Roman political science, this parable of the body with different members that form part of a unity was used by the state itself, to show how the state was an organism in which each one had his function: The multiplicity and diversity of functions form one body and each one has his place."

However, in St. Paul's letters, one can see that the Church is something very different from the "state-organism," he contended. "Because Christ really gives his body and makes us his body. We are really united with the risen body of Christ and in this way remain united with one another."

Because of this, he concluded, "the Church is not only a corporation as the state is; it is a body. It is not an organization, but an organism."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

This is nifty!

If you follow the link to the USCCB website and check it out there, when you mouse over one of the windows, the doors actually open!

From the USCCB website, h/t Whispers in the Loggia

Monday, December 8, 2008

Nutcracker 2008

Some footage from the dress rehearsal:

Serena as the ballerina doll

Sophie as the Arabian (coffee) Queen

Sunday, December 7, 2008

More tenderness

The first weekend of Nutcracker performances has just ended, and we're all a bit frayed at the edges around here. But today something beautiful happened (many beautiful things, but this is one I don't want to pass without comment). When I and my two ballerinas arrived home this evening, there were two young women sitting at my dining room table. They are students from the university, both in CLU. They had come over earlier in the day for a brunch that my husband organized, and they were still there, studying and hanging out at 5pm. Stephen was in his office working, and they were simply there, right at home in my house.

Why was this so beautiful and moving for me? It is a sign of belonging. They belong in my home, and so I can belong to them. A true convivenza.

Ambiguous times

It is a great thing when life, in all its confusion and muddle, offers something that exactly describes what I'm experiencing. Today, while reading Is It Possible to Live This Way? Volume 2 Hope, by Father Giussani, I came across the following passage:

...certainty of faith generates certainty of hope, but the manner in which this certainty of hope is drawn out in us leaves a kind of disorientation, leaves a kind of tribulation, a kind of doubt that isn't doubt, that is uncertainty, because you aren't able to imagine, to delinate in any way what this future will be like (page 28).
A dear friend posted about a recent period of "silence" (I feel I must use these quotation marks, given all the words that have been generated in her during this period!). She describes: "this time has been one of silence and deep satisfaction. I can date it precisely from the week that I spent in Rimini last summer. It's the reason I stay in the movement, because I can correlate the happiness in my life to events, like the Advent Retreat I will attend today. Fortunately, I have a camera, so I can still express what I often can't say." [She takes amazing photographs, by the way!]

My own silence has been of a different order -- more restless and perhaps related to what she calls "agitation." Perhaps the words that best sum up my last several months are: How long, Lord?

To know that this restlessness is not a sign of a lack of faith or hope is a great relief -- discovering the sentence in Hope was a sign of great mercy and tenderness toward me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent Retreat 2008

Ten Lepers Healed
Brian Kershisnik (1962- )
Oil on panel, 1997

My notes from the retreat given by Fr. Roberto (first part):

  • Faith: To believe is to believe but faith is something different, a way of knowing things. To believe is something we do with our minds. Christ wanted something else for us.
  • We can do all kinds of things, celebrate all the sacraments, go to Mass, pray, but still there is never a unity between what I do and Him.
  • Babies understand a link, a belonging. All of birth and the early stage of childhood is a belonging. If the mother leaves the room, after a while, what does the baby do? He cries.
  • Then we start to grow up and separate. At first I feel I cannot live without you. This happens when we fall in love. Any separation hurts. But at a certain point, a distance appears.
  • The Liturgy is a help, the greatest help, but at a certain point, something else is needed.
  • [All through history, people sensed that] reality was speaking of Something, but they couldn't grasp it. There is something we cannot see but that goes beyond what we see.
  • We try to unify everything, with all means, to be one. We desire unity -- a unity as deep as love is, an infinite unity. Man tries to make this unity -- this is the story of the covenant in the Old Testament, of the Tower of Babel. But man can't sustain this unity he tries to build.
  • The prophets message is that unity will come, we are made for it, so it will come.
  • Adam and Eve tried to achieve this unity with a fruit. They wanted to be one with God, the same. But it's not in our hands, in our power. It's the same with marriage. Eventually we are sent out of that garden.
  • Then God said, "Now it's time to intervene." God gives an answer, gave an answer 2000 years ago -- Incarnation -- the word means "flesh."
  • The Gospel didn't tell us God would be an idea in everyone's head.
  • A beginning -- Incarnation -- not a grasping but an embrace.
  • God's method is to present a man in front of me.
  • Man is freedom, but he is also reason and affection.
  • Incarnation is the beginning of God's answer to our question, Why are we here?
  • Christ was always referring to the Father, not to himself. This is the meaning of the "secret" from the Gospel of Mark -- not that Christ didn't want anyone to know about his miracles, but he didn't want others to say that he had done these things -- it was the Father, always the Father.
  • Incarnation is what happened to Mary and Joseph when they found their son in the temple -- Didn't you know I would be in my Father's house? Then for Andrew and John: "What do you want?" "Where do you live?" God became flesh for those two men in that moment.
  • God's law is no longer a set of rules, but this man, and when they met him, they found something that had been forgotten or lost -- something that became revived. Life. It's like I'm alive maybe more than before.
  • How do I know that this man is more than what I see?
  • This is what faith does -- it makes us see. In order for the ten lepers to be cleansed, they had to obey (not ask, why don't you just cure us now? Why send us somewhere else?)
  • But the one who came back used his reason. He didn't just obey Christ, he also thought, There is a connection between what I am experiencing and this man. He uses his reason -- now that I am well, cleansed, that man becomes important -- extremely important. Because what do I do with a healthy body and no happiness.
  • I ask my students, if you had to choose between having love and happiness but being very poor or having everything you want but without happiness or love, which would you choose? What will I do with a day that I will never remember? It's a useless day.
  • You need to find the link between this day and your destiny, between the person in front of you and your destiny. Otherwise, you can only say, I was healed... and that's it. But you desire more.
  • Not just life but a blessed life, not just this life, but a blessed life. Something more, the truth of this life -- not just that person. No one other person can be my happiness. Happiness comes through another person but it's not from that person.
  • The Samaritan (the leper who came back) said, This man makes me (not: made me).
  • Do I understand what/who is here?

Where is Christ? (Advent Retreat notes, continued)

Christ the True Vine, icon

* I meet with a group of kids at a local parish, we have a group called the Knights. I ask the kids, "Where is Christ?" and they usually answer, "Everywhere."

* So, I ask them, if you were married, would you like it if your wife were "everywhere"? Would that make you happy? Uh, no.

* 2000 years ago he was that baby, that young man. Now he is risen, what does that mean? He has a body. Why does he want his body back? Why does he want a body that has the signs of his Passion?

* He passes through other persons, persons with bodies.

* Imagine if a man were married and he only thought about his wife? What if he only read books about her? What if she were sitting across the table from him, and he closed his eyes to talk to her in his heart? That's how we are: we think of Christ, we talk to Christ, but we don't see him. We don't recognize that he is present.

* So, I tell the kids that a mother always proposes something great to her kids, yes or no? They say yes. So, is God proposing something great to us?

* Then I explain that we only have three rules in the Knights:

1. God is proposing something great to you right now.
2. If you see it, tell us. Share it with us.
3. If you don't see it, say the Memorare so you can see it.

* Then afterwards, the classroom became a kind of question.

* Faith is: "I want to see." I want to be myself. I know you are here and I want to see it.

* God's method is Incarnation -- we see him through someone or something. What is Christ teaching? We start to see Christ through what he does.

* Without recognizing somebody we become slaves. Slaves of pleasure, of comfort.

* We learn to recognize through a community, through belonging, we learn to use our reason and affection properly. The Lord is proposing something.

* I don't have faith because I don't see him. There is a separation between reason and life, anad this is ideology. Christ becomes an ideology.

* Christ said, "Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God." Someone who is pure of heart is a lover who wants to see what the beloved does. Either I recognize what Christ is doing through you or the sacraments don't have meaning.

* We need to be completely human. We have needs and desires.

* What do you call the beginning of God's answer to us? Baptism? No. It's called "desire." You think desire is yours -- it's not -- it was given to me. Be faithful to desire. Desire is one of the most powerful means to get to God.

* In the Screwtape Letters, the demons say that they are not able to create even the smallest desire. Every desire comes from God. If we are faithful to our humanity, we get to Christ.

* To be thirsty and to have no water is called hell. To be thirsty and to drink is called heaven. When thirst ends, that's called death.

* Either I see him through everything, or I become a slave.

* Complaining -- Am I happy in this classroom, or with you? Because if I'm not happy, I have no faith. 99.9% of complaining come from not recognizing that he is here. Mary and Martha -- was not about Contemplation versus action -- it was because Martha complained. Mary saw Christ, but she saw the Father through him. Martha didn't see. Christ said, "Don't go around saying it was me -- it's the Father. I came so they will fall in love with the Father." What's the purpose of everything? The Father. If we don't recognize the Father, we have no faith. Otherwise we are always restless. No peace.

* Father Massimo told me, when I entered the seminary, "Be yourself. If I see you are happy, I'll say yes."

* You might be killing me. You might be my cross, but it is through you that I will see him.

* Do you see me or do you only love your thoughts or books about me?

* With faith we know the person in front of us, our job, everything 100 times more.

* Boredom is a problem of faith because you don't recognize Christ -- you can't be bored if you recognize him.

* To build a tower without God, without relationship, without belonging -- it's Adam and Eve all over again. The Church asks constantly, "Is it enough?"

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

Fall of Man (c.1570) Titian

Sunday, November 30, 2008


This is what I wrote about last year's Advent retreat with Fr. Roberto. Before I write about the Advent retreat we just had this weekend, I wanted to reprint this:

Monday, December 17, 2007
Our Communion and Liberation Advent Retreat

Something happened. I've been afraid to try to write about it because I want to do justice to it, but I also know that I can't. The best that I can try to do is talk around it, spiral fashion, hoping that when I get to the end of all my talking, the tail end will point to that unnameable center, that something that happened.

There is a Life within the life that we live, something that pulses and breathes. At moments we almost seem to touch it -- the skin of our habitual forgetfulness is peeled back and this Life is exposed to view. When this happens, we recognize that what we are seeing is what is real, true -- all the rest is just two-dimensional, black and white.

I had a crushing number of tasks to perform, preparations to make, and I was still not fully recovered from my bouts with viruses and bad turkey. It really seemed possible that this time I would not have the bare minimum in place before Fr. Roberto arrived. I was on pins and needles wondering whether the room for our retreat would be in order, whether there would be something to feed Fr. Roberto when he arrived, whether I could gather all that the babysitters would need, whether there would be enough gas in the car, whether I could prepare the food for the convivenza in time. For me it was a suspenseful time -- but not stressful somehow -- wondering, almost watching myself from outside, 'Will she pull it off?'

Occasionally it would cross my mind that this was not the way I would have chosen to spend my third week of Advent.

But one miracle was that I was not anxious, wondering how my friends would receive the Advent retreat. Ordinarily, in the weeks leading up to a fraternity retreat, I speculate about how one person, or another, will be struck, or not, by what is said. It would be too easy to say that I simply didn't have enough time to worry about these things this time. My prayer, that is to say my inner life was simply caught up in details, details that didn't seem to me insignificant at all. I think that I wasn't stressed out by all my tasks, because I lived each one as a gift to my friends -- even the silly things that couldn't possibly benefit them in any way, like filling the tank with gas, or making sure to put a pen into my bag.

So, when did the world's skin peel back for me? It happened even before Fr Roberto arrived, in the rush and busyness of these days. And then, when the time came to pack my children into the car and bring them over to the parish to drop them at the room where the babysitting would take place, the phone began ringing -- reminders to bring this or that essential item that had been forgotten -- and we simply gathered the objects up and loaded them into the car. Once we'd arrived at the parish, friends who had never been there before had to be guided and helped to find the room. It was as if all these tasks had a halo around them.

I have wanted so much to communicate to my new friends here in Ohio even a taste of the beauty that I have seen and experienced elsewhere. I have wanted to hold out my hands to them, and show them a treasure. But up until now, I felt this desire like a responsibility that I didn't know how to shoulder. I seem, to myself, such a poor vehicle for such beauty. But lately, I have seen something amazing, something I don't really expect anyone to believe -- how can anyone believe it? Because what I've discovered is that I am not the vehicle for this beauty! Mine are not the hands holding the treasure. The treasure is already in my friends' hands -- they are the vehicle for me! I have nothing to show them, nothing to reveal. What is required of me is to look, really look at them, and to listen, really deeply listen. They hold the treasure, they have held it all along. I don't communicate or show them -- they communicate it to me.

I think that even before the Advent retreat, I had intuited this phenomenon in an unconscious way, and this is why I didn't feel stress or anxiety, despite the seeming impossibility of my work. I think that I must have known that regardless of whether I could complete all my tasks on time, my friends would continue to show me this gift.

And so it happened. A completely gratuitous outpouring of gifts -- from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. All that I need are the eyes of a child and faith that what I am looking for is already in the midst of my life.

Fr. Roberto spoke, and I will be absorbing his words for weeks, maybe months, to come. The Mass was also beautiful, and rich. The convivenza, despite all the practical details that needed attention, was permeated with an incongruous peacefulness. It was incongruous because all the usual human noise and bustle and misunderstanding were there, too, and yet...the faces of all these people had one message for me, a declaration of a love so great that it can generate a new Life in this world, something unforeseen and unplanned by any person: the divine in human form.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The danger of "because"

when god decided to invent
everything he took one
breath bigger than a circustent
and everything began

when man determined to destroy
himself he took the was
of shall and finding only why
smashed it into because

* E.E. Cummings

"The Moral Obligation to Study Election Returns"

I am a faithful reader of Paper Clippings, the blog at the Crossroads Cultural Center's website. If you look in my "What I'm reading" widget on the right hand side of my blog, many of the interesting and provocative articles there were suggested in posts from Paper Clippings. Today, a post titled "Offer Something," referred to a short response, by Ross Douthat, to an article by George Weigel. I'd like to copy Douthat's response here, because it says, quite clearly, many things that have been said elsewhere. It is an analysis that should not be lost on Catholics who have a stake in the political process:

The Moral Obligation To Study Election Returns

24 Nov 2008 04:47 pm

George Weigel, on the election and the Catholic vote:

This year, the pro-abortion candidate carried every state in what Maggie Gallagher calls the "Decadent Catholic Corridor" -- the Northeast and the older parts of the Midwest. Too many Catholics there are still voting the way their grandparents did, and because that's what their grandparents did. This tribal voting has been described by some bishops as immoral; it is certainly stupid, and it must be challenged by adult education. That includes effective use of the pulpit to unsettle settled patterns of mindlessness. This year, a gratifying number of bishops began to accept the responsibilities of their teaching office; so, now, must parish pastors.

In 1980, '84 and '88, Republican (and pro-life) Presidential candidates managed to capture nearly all of the Midwest and the Northeast, "settled patterns of mindlessness" notwithstanding. Now here we are twenty years later, with FDR and JFK even further in the rearview mirror - and yet Weigel wants to chalk up the Republican Party's horrible showing in these regions to mindless "tribal voting" among Catholic Democrats? This is self-deception, and it ill-behooves pro-lifers to engage in it. John McCain did not lose this election because the Catholic clergy failed to anathematize Barack Obama loudly enough, or because Pennsylvanians and Michiganders thought they were voting for Roosevelt or Truman. He lost it because his party flat-out misgoverned the country, in foreign and domestic policy alike, and because of late the culture war has mattered less to most Americans than the Iraq War and the economic meltdown. And pro-lifers who see the GOP as the only plausible vehicle for their goals have an obligation to look the party's failures squarely in the face and work to fix them, instead of just doubling down on the case for single-issue pro-life voting.

No, social conservatives aren't the problem for the GOP. But they haven't been the solution, either: Too often, on matters ranging from the Iraq War to domestic policy, they've served as enablers of Republican folly, rather than as constructive critics. And calling Catholics who voted for Obama "mindless" and "stupid" is a poor substitute for building the sort of Republican Party that can attract the votes of those millions of Americans, Catholic and otherwise, who voted for the Democrats because they thought, not without reason, that George W. Bush was a disastrous president whose party should not be rewarded with a third term in the White House.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Very succinct description of CL

Here is the description of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation which appears in the Directory of International Associations of the Faithful, published by the Pontifical Council for the Laity (Libreria Editrice Vaticana [adapted], 2006).

Official name: Fraternity of Communion and Liberation; also known as: Communion and Liberation (CL)

Established: 1954

History: At the beginning of the 1950s, realizing the need to rebuild the Christian presence in the student world, Father Luigi Giussani, a professor at the Theological Faculty at Venegono, dedicated himself to teaching religion in schools.

The experience of a small group of students from the Berchet classical high school in Milan, which gathered around him, led to the establishment of Gioventù Studentesca (Student Youth). With the strong encouragement of the archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, Gioventù Studentesca spread to other Italian cities, and after 1968 it also began to involve undergraduates and adults.

This led to the establishment of Communion and Liberation which, in 1980, was to be canonically recognized by the Benedictine Ordinary (Bishop) Abbot of Montecassino, Martino Matronola. The first fraternity groups were set up in the latter half of the 1970s by CL graduates who, using a method based on communion, wished to strengthen their membership in the Church as adults, along with the responsibilities that this entails.

It was through their spread to various countries that the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation came about. On Feb. 11, 1982, (Our Lady of Lourdes) the Pontifical Council for the Laity decreed recognition of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation as an international association of the faithful of pontifical right.

Identity: The essence of the CL charism is

the proclamation that God became Man; in the affirmation that this man -- Jesus of Nazareth, who died and rose again -- is a present event,

whose visible sign is communion, that is to say, the unity of a people led by a living person, the Bishop of Rome

in the awareness that it is only in God made Man, and hence within the life of the Church, that man is more true and humanity is truly more human.

In the educational proposal made by CL, the free acceptance by the individual of the Christian message is determined by the discovery that the needs of the human heart are met by the annunciation of a message that fulfills them.

It is the reasonableness of the faith which leads men and women who have been transformed by their encounter with Christ to commit themselves with Christian experience to affect the whole of society. This commitment strengthens their awareness of their own identity, enabling them to see their life as a vocation, and is supported by the experience of communion which makes the memory of Christ's coming a daily reality.

The educational process,

nurtured by proclamation and catechesis

by attendance at retreats and spiritual exercises

and by the celebration of the sacraments,

gives pride of place to the dimensions of

1. cultural work, as a means of deepening and expressing their faith and as a condition for having a responsible presence in society

2. charity work, as education in service to be freely given to others and social commitment

3. and the mission, as education in the sense of the catholicity of the Church and as a vocational choice.

Bearing witness to Christ

  • in schools and universities
  • in factories and offices
  • in the local neighborhood and in the city
  • takes place above all through work, which is the specific way in which adults relate to reality.

Organization: The life of the fraternity is lived through the free formation of groups of men and women of ail conditions and states of life, whose friendship and communion are based upon their common commitment to move forward together toward holiness, which they acknowledge to be the genuine purpose of human existence.

The association is guided by the president and by the Central Diakonia, of which all the international leaders are members.

[There are also] the officials in all the various areas in which it is present, and representatives of the other entities that have emerged from the CL charism:

· the Memores Domini Lay Association (The life of its members (lay men and women who normally live in houses made up of either men or women, following a rule of group living and personal ascesis) is governed by the call to contemplation, understood as the constant memory of Christ, and of mission, especially in the workplace. The life is committed to the conception of virginity is based on St. Paul's call to "possess as though not possessing." It is not in order to give up something that one makes a sacrifice, but rather to possess reality completely analogous to the possession of Christ);

· the priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo;

· the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Assumption;

· Fraternity of Saint Joseph (dedicated their lives definitively to Christ and the Christian life, while remaining in their current life situations; members of this fraternity are free of marriage bonds, because widowed or unmarried, according to the Gospel tradition: in obedience, poverty, virginity, which are dimensions of faith, hope, and charity).

ln the dioceses, the diocesan leader is assisted by a

Diakonia and by a spiritual assistant appointed by the local bishop acting on a proposal by the fraternity president.

Since 1997, the Communion and Liberation International Center has been operating in Rome, as the liaison center linking all the parts of the movement worldwide.

Membership: The fraternity has 47,994 members in 64 countries. More than 60,000 people share the CL experience.

Works: Individuals and groups belonging to the fraternity have taken the responsibility to establish cultural, charitable and entrepreneurial works linked together in the Company of Works which has offices in Italy and abroad.

These works of CL include

· shelter homes for the mentally ill, drug addicts, the disabled, AIDS patients and the terminally ill

· companies to provide employment for the disabled

· nongovernmental organizations (AVSI in Italy and CESAl in Spain) to provide assistance and foster the development of poor countries

· foundations such as the Food Bank, which provides daily food to more than 1 million poor people in Italy,

· and the Pharmaceutical Bank

· solidarity centers to assist the unemployed in seeking a job

· welfare facilities in children's prisons in Africa and America

· and aid for needy families and finding homes for people in difficulty.

The initiatives that have emerged in the field of culture have become a special place for ensuring that the pooling of different experiences is an opportunity for every individual to communicate their own "proprium" regarding the Christian event:

· cultural centers

· schools (often established by parents' cooperatives)

· publishing houses, publishing and newspaper initiatives

· foundations and academic institutions

· and international conferences, such as the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples.(Rimini)

The Sacred Heart Foundation in Milan is directly dependent upon the Fraternity, as a nonprofit entity which manages schools, and works for the promotion and protection of free education, consistent with the Christian tradition and the teaching of the Church.

Publications: Traces Litterae Communionis, a monthly magazine in Italian, French, English, Polish, Portuguese/Brazilian, Russian, German and Spanish; Piccole Tracee, a magazine for children published every two months

Web site:

Fun on a Monday morning...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It has a personality of its own...

Amazing! My blog is a thinker, while I'm a feeler. How can that be? All you have to do is submit the web address of a blog... check it out.

h/t The Ironic Catholic.

INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

End of an era

Father Raniero Cantalamessa

Father Cantalamessa Evaluates Weekly Meditations

Preacher Completes Entire Liturgical Cycle

By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 21, 2008 ( ... Father Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher, has written a weekly commentary for ZENIT on the Gospel of the Sunday liturgy for three years, covering the entire liturgical cycle. Today his last commentary appears in this dispatch.


Q: What is your advice to Christians who want to meditate on the Word and draw lessons for their own lives or make useful decisions in life under the gaze of God?

Father Cantalamessa: It depends to a degree on the state, on the duties of the person. If it is only a question of personal use of the Word of God for one's life, the best thing is to begin to use the Word of God that the Church offers us through the liturgy: the Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, etc, because often when the Lord speaks he uses the Church's choice, the readings of the day.

To be attentive to the readings of the day often reveals that it is an answer to a particular problem. A word seems to be made to measure for us to the point that one is constrained to say: "This was written precisely for me!" Hence, one must greatly value not the personal, but the community choice made by the Church in the liturgy.


Q: What do you say to ZENIT readers who will miss your weekly column?

Father Cantalamessa: I intend to publish all these commentaries in a volume, because I have been requested to do so. In part it will be comments published by ZENIT, but in part they will be new, or those I have done on television. Comments in the same style, brief, of a page each, and will be issued in a volume. In due time ZENIT's readers will come to know them. Thus, whoever wishes to will be able to go back to these comments. However, if you have the possibility of their being continued by someone else, I urge readers to read and listen to the new commentator.

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."