Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pope's intentions for October

The general intention chosen by the Pope: "That the synod of bishops may help all those engaged in the service of the word of God to transmit the truth of faith courageously in communion with the entire Church."

The 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will open with a Mass at St. Paul Outside the Walls on Oct. 5. It will run through Oct. 26 and focus on the theme "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

The Holy Father also chooses an apostolic intention for each month. In October, he will pray that "in this month dedicated to the missions, every Christian community may feel the need to participate in the universal mission with prayer, sacrifice and concrete help."

Become what you receive

The following post, written by Susan Stabile, was published on Creo en Dios!

Become What You Receive

Last night I attended a talk in my parish by Archbishop Harry Flynn, retired archbishop of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Diocese. He spoke on the Eucharist and on the centrality of social justice in the lives of Christians. There are many things I could share, many things that I want to reflect on from his talk. But I share here one that seems to me central.

The Archbishop observed that when he ate a piece of the lemon square that was served for dessert at the dinner preceding his talk, he changed the food into himself. In contrast, when we receive Eucharist, we don’t change the Body of Christ into ourselves. Rather we are changed into the Body of Christ. We become what we receive. The Body of Christ doesn’t become Harry Flynn; rather, Harry Flynn becomes the Body of Christ.

I think he right in observing that we don’t always receive the Eucharist with a consciousness of what it means, of what it does for us and to us. The Eucharist doesn’t just nourish us; it transforms us. We become Christ. So there is nothing figurative about saying we are the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

Similarly, as I become Christ in the receipt of the Eucharist, so too does everyone else in the assembly. And I don’t become one Christ and you a different Christ. Rather, we all become part of the same Christ. Thus, when we say that we are many parts but one body, we are not speaking figuratively, but quite literally.

To me this gives a much fuller picture of the meaning of Christ’s words at the Last Supper - do this in memory of me. If we take seriously this understanding of the Eucharist, the invitation to do this in memory of me is not just an invitation to eat bread and drink wine. Instead, it is an invitation to eat the Body of Christ so that we can be the Body of Christ in the world. The “this” in “do this” is not just the eating and drinking, but the being in the world what Christ was when he walked in the world. That’s a much more demanding invitation - an invitation to become what we receive.

And this, also by Susan Stabile, was published on Mirror of Justice:

Eucharist and Social Justice

Archbishop Harry Flynn, retired archbishop of the St. Paul and Minneapolis diocese, is giving a mission in my parish. Although I missed the taco dinner beforehand, I was able to make it for the evening program last night. The focus of the Archbishop's remarks was on the Eucharist and its relation to social justice.

He emphasized that Catholics do not have the option of viewing social ministry as something reserved for a few, as a parish sideline. Rather, it must be integrated into all of our lives and a central part of our lives as a parish community. He emphasized that this is not some new teaching of modern theologians, but is rooted in Scripture, particularly in the human life of Jesus. He reminded us that in Luke, the beginning of Jesus ministry is his action in the temple at Nazareth. Jesus stands up and quotes Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, becuse he has anointed me to being glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." He then tells the people that the scripture passage is today fulfilled in their hearing.

Flynn emphasized that social ministry means both charity and justice. Direct service to those in need is important, but we must also work to create a more just society. As Christians we can't just sit back, and we can't just write a check. We must be an active part of transforming the world into Kingdom by working to change the structures that allow the diminution of the human dignity of our brothers and sisters.

It was a powerful talk and a needed one, since I think too many people either don't understand the centrality of social justice to our lives as Christians or forget that social justice has two legs - justice as well as charity.

In a post on my own blog this morning, I focus on Flynn's remarks about the Eucharist transforming us into Christ. You can find that post here.

Thanks, Sharon, for sharing this!

Monday, September 29, 2008

I love this man

Election year flier (Final Draft)

You can click on the image to read it at the computer or download your own copy here: What We Hold Most Dear.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fourteen (!)

Some people are getting just way too old, and WAY too beautiful.

Fourteen years ago today this young lady came into the world chattering. She didn't cry when she was born. The nurse placed her in my arms, and she looked into my eyes and started to tell me all about the previous eight months. It's too bad I couldn't understand the series of small noises she made to me.

Perhaps she could have explained to me why it was that even after an hour of pushing with all his strength against my abdomen, my doctor was unable to get her to turn inside me. Because she remained in the breech position, my doctor (who is a GP) was not allowed to deliver her, and we had to accept the OB on call. "Lucky" for us, the OB happened to be an elderly Czech gentleman who was not afraid to deliver her naturally; however, he had some interesting ideas about how to proceed. These involved tying my ankles to the stirrups and stretching my feet straight up so that my legs were perpendicular to the floor, while lowering my head to below my hips. Don't even try to picture it! He also planned to give me general anesthesia so that I would fall asleep after the baby's body was born but before her head emerged. What could I do? If he was the doctor I'd been given, I had to allow him to do everything in the way he knew how to do it. At least he wasn't planning to cut me open!

In my heart, though, I had already decided that there was no way he or anyone else was going to put me to sleep just at the moment when I was about to meet my child for the first time after months of waiting. I didn't know exactly how I would get around him, but I knew I would be awake for the whole birth.

When I felt the urge to push, my Czech friend told me I mustn't. I obeyed him, but I felt like my body would split up the middle. I turned to my husband and muttered, "Not pushing at this moment is the hardest thing I've ever had to do."

"Oh, it's not so hard," said the doctor. I hadn't even been speaking to him!

"What do you know?!" I shouted at him.

When he finally let me push, even working against gravity, I was a force to be reckoned with. I heard my doctor say, "Oh my God, she's still coming!" in total surprise. Simone was born, bottom first, faster than anyone could have slapped a mask on my face.

With my small daughter in my arms, I thanked this man who had made it possible for me to give birth without surgery. His response? "Oh, what do I know? I'm just a stupid man."

Perhaps I deserved that.

The poor little girl was bruised from the lower back to midway down the backs of her thighs; and because of her position in the womb and birth canal, her heels were up by her ears. It took a full twenty-four hours before she could straighten out her legs. In that ridiculous position, with her whole backside black and blue, she carried on her monologue in a series of small guttural noises that came from the back of her throat. Her dark eyes were so alive with intelligence! In fact, she stayed awake most of that first night, just looking at me, and I barely got to sleep at all -- it was impossible to doze with these eyes staring at me.

Happy Birthday, Simone Michelle!

Faith: The ultimate expression of an affection for oneself

apostolic journey to France

The ultimate expression of an affection for oneself
International Assembly of Responsibles of Communion and Liberation
La Thuile, Italy, August 19-23, 2008
Tuesday evening
August 19, 2008

Julián Carrón

Nothing rings more true to men and women aware of themselves than the consciousness of their need; for this reason, nothing expresses what we are better than crying out, the cry of the needy person to the only One who can respond to this need. Therefore, let us begin this gesture of ours by helping each other, supporting each other to be totally ourselves in this cry, asking the Spirit to come to our aid.

Come Holy Spirit

I greet you one by one and welcome you to this gathering of responsibles, desiring that it be—as said in the title we've chosen for this responsibles meeting—"An Adventure for Oneself," an adventure for each one of us.
To prepare us and help us understand what this means, the Lord always makes events happen, rather than using a lot of words; He made another event occur just before our encounter, another exceptional fact: the death of our friend Andrea Aziani, a missionary in Peru, who worked for many years in the university, and who has left a mark wherever he's been.
In a letter Andrea wrote years ago to a friend (who had left for a meeting with the university students of Cuzco), a letter Fr. Giussani later quoted, Andrea expressed well his heartfelt desire, "I am certain that in this 'missionary bath' of these days there will emerge and grow, powerful and glad in you—and thus in all of us—the consciousness, the certainty of Christ in us and for us. O quam amabilis es bone Jesu." These are the words of a man who is almost confessing it to himself, without thinking in the least that today we might read it to everyone! He continued, “…that someone would fall in love with what we’ve fallen in love with!” This is the desire that what you love becomes a love for everyone, that others as well can be seized by He who has seized us. “But for this to happen, we have to burn, literally be aflame with passion for man, that Christ may reach him. ‘The flame must burn.’” Fr. Giussani, commenting on this letter, said, “I challenge you to find a similar testimony, anywhere, any time, in any part of the world, with any man.” Testimony doesn’t mean words, but an experience perceived, penetrated, lived, felt, inevitable, inexorable, superabundantly evident.
There’s no need to add anything to these words of Fr. Giussani’s about Andrea, words that brought to my mind the deaths of other friends of ours, like Fr. Danilo (who spent years in Paraguay and was beginning in Argentina), Giovanna (for years in Uganda), and Alberto (tried by long illness): witnesses to the death, all placed before us at the beginning of this encounter. I can’t think of them without there coming to mind that great expression—which describes our situation—pronounced in the Letter to the Hebrews, after listing an interminable series of witnesses to the faith, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.” These witnesses had their gaze fixed on Jesus and traveled their life in this race to reach Him who had reached them, and they lived this testimony before our eyes, so we might see how it is possible to live the faith in this cultural and historical context of ours.
At the same time, many of us have had the opportunity to begin reading the text of the Equipes of 1982 and 1983, in which Fr. Giussani—after the visit to John Paul II, when the Holy Father said, “You have no homeland, because you cannot be assimilated to this society”—described how we are without a homeland if we want to live with our eyes fixed on Jesus. This makes us perceive on the one hand the importance of these witnesses, and on the other, the decisive importance of doing the journey we proposed at the Fraternity Spiritual Exercises, because in order truly to be able to live without a homeland, the faith must truly satisfy, and not be something just made of words. This is why I emphasized at the Exercises that the test of faith is satisfaction, and this putting together of faith and satisfaction is decisive, because so often we speak of faith as if it had nothing to do with satisfaction: we would find satisfaction elsewhere, according to our frameworks or images, as if there were no real and true relationship between faith and satisfaction. Instead, beginning to put them together enables us to start the verification to assess up to what point for us faith is the acknowledgment of something so real, of a Presence that is so real, true because real, that it brings satisfaction.
Therefore, the work ahead of us in these days can’t possibly be just throwing words to the wind or someone developing whatever reflections might come to mind; instead, it will be the verification of whether faith brings with itself this satisfaction, which enables us to live in any situation with our eyes fixed on Jesus, author and perfecter of faith.
From the CL website. See the booklet insert in Traces for the rest...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"A fraternal vision of the world"

Funds for Bailout But Not Development?

Holy See Asks Why Money Can't Be Found for Aid

NEW YORK, SEPT. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See is asking why it is possible to find funds to bailout a broken financial system, but finding fewer resources to invest in the development of all regions of the world seems impossible.

This was a "pressing question" raised today at the United Nations by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at a high-level event on the millennium development goals.

The MDGs, established in 2000, were supposed to be fulfilled by 2015. They include commitments to address huger, lack of education, inequality, child and maternal health, environmental damage and HIV/AIDS. At current rates of progress, the goals will not be reached.

But, Archbishop Migliore affirmed, "the achievement of these goals is closely interrelated with respect for human rights. While the goals are ultimately political commitments, the human rights inherent in each goal make achieving them a social and moral responsibility."

"We are lagging behind in honoring our word, and more importantly, the people of the world who look to us for leadership, are running out of hope and trust," the prelate said.

Still possible

Archbishop Migliore noted that progress has been made and some of the least developed countries have seen marked improvements.

"Nonetheless, the recent high rate of economic growth in many LDCs [least developed countries] has not contributed sufficiently to tackling the situation of generalized poverty," he said. "The LDCs remain behind and are in serious delay for attaining the goals as set out in the Millennium Declaration, and in some cases reaching the goals may prove impossible."

Still, the Holy See representative affirmed: "The MDGs will be achieved if their attainment becomes a priority for all states."

To make this happen, he called for a "new culture of human relations marked by a fraternal vision of the world, a culture based upon the moral imperative of recognizing the unity of humankind and the practical imperative of giving a contribution to peace and the well-being of all."

Plenty of funds

Archbishop Migliore noted that "money and resources that the LDCs need in terms of direct aid, financial assistance and trade advantages are meager compared to the world-wide military expenses or the total expenses of non-primary necessities of populations in more developed countries."

In that context, the archbishop raised a question: "In these days we are witnessing a debate on an economic rescue aimed at resolving a crisis that risks disrupting the economy of the most developed countries and leaving thousands and thousands of families without work.

"This rescue of enormous proportions, which amounts to many times the whole of international aid, cannot but raise a pressing question. How are we able to find funds to save a broken financial system yet remain unable to find the resources necessary to invest in the development of all regions of the world, beginning with the most destitute?"


The archbishop also called on the United Nations to stay focused on the priorities.

"With only seven years remaining until the end of the MDGs campaign, it is important that we focus upon the goals in the Millennium Declaration which were agreed upon by our Heads of State," he said. "To debate and create new targets, such as those on sexual and reproductive health, risks introducing practices and policies detrimental to human dignity and sustainable development, distracting our focus from the original goals and diverting the necessary resources from the more basic and urgent needs.

Becca and Mary, Happy Birthday!!

I took this picture!!!

Mary Sophia was born at 11:28 on September 24 -- Becca's birthday!

Saint Vincent de Paul

By Paul Zalonski, posted on Communio:

St Vincent de Paul.jpg

O God,

Who did endow blessed Vincent

with apostolic power for preaching the Gospel to the poor

and for promoting the honor of the priesthood;

we beseech Thee, grant that we who venerate his holy life

may be inspired by the example of his virtues.

Three thoughts from Saint Vincent:

  • Give me persons of prayer and they will be capable of anything.
  • What! To be a Christian and see a Brother afflicted without weeping with him, without being sick with him, would be to be without charity, to be a mere picture of a Christian, to be without humanity, to be worse than brute beasts!

  • The Church teaches us that mercy belongs to God. Let us implore Him to bestow on us the spirit of mercy and compassion, so that we are filled with it and may never lose it. Only consider how much we ourselves are in need of mercy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Faith of a Child

An increasingly popular approach to teaching young people the faith
the cover of America, the Catholic magazine

F ew catechists in this country could have predicted the popularity of a religious education movement called the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. “In 1985, I sent a personal Christmas card to everyone in the United States who was involved in C.G.S.,” Tina Lillig, director of the National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, told me. “I think I needed 23 stamps. Last month we sent out our annual mailing to 1,400 association members, and we estimate that there are an additional 900 or so people who are actively working in C.G.S.” As national director for 13 years, Lillig has seen interest steadily grow and spread, but nothing prepared her for the present. “Now we are receiving inquiries from dioceses as far away as the Philippines, Tanzania and Pakistan,” she says. “Suddenly it is something of a wildfire" [...]

The rest of this article is only available to subscribers of America magazine.

Wearing Jesus all over

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I just put up a neat new widget in my sidebar. Check it out (info and text from Blogger):

What is Following?

Do you have a favorite blog and want to let the author and readers know that you are a fan? Well now you can do that and more with the Blogger Following feature! You can even keep track of the blogs you follow via your Reading List on the Blogger dashboard.

How do I become a Follower of a blog?

There are several ways to become a follower of a blog. One of the easiest ways is to visit a blog that has added the Following widget and click on the "Follow this Blog" link under the "Followers" widget:

How to add the Following widget to your blog

It's really easy to add the Following widget to your blog. First go to the Layout | Page Elements tab for your blog:

Click the "Add a Gadget" link that appears in the sidebar of your layout. You'll then see a popup window with all the different types of Gadgets you can add to your blog. (The Following widget will initially be experimental, so some users may not be able to add widget.) Look for the one called "Followers" and click on the blue "+" icon:

You can then enter your desired title for your Following widget. Once you have chosen a title, click the orange "Save" button. You have now added the following widget to your blog!

Let's pay attention to this:

The authority of the bishop, Pastores gregis affirms, is born from witness, without which it is difficult for the faithful to find at work in the bishop the presence of Christ in his church."
-- Pope Benedict XVI,Address to the annual seminar for new bishops

Monday, September 22, 2008

What does "impossible correspondence" mean?

Nolo mi Tangere, by Richard Serrin

When I finished typing my notes from the final synthesis from the equipe, I realized that Chris didn't actually use this phrase, impossible correspondence, in his lesson. I decided to leave the title, though, because for me these words sum up what happened to me while I was in Colorado this past weekend.

Here is something to read. This is what happened to me:
Using the heart
How do you become aware that it is real? How do you become aware that this encounter saves your humanity? Many of you said it is because it draws out the original structure of your humanity, it brings out the heart as need and evidence. I throw myself into reality by using my heart, which means that it makes me use all of my humanity–both as reason and the need to know, the need to give a name to things, and as affection, the discovery of a capacity to embrace and love everything. The continual rediscovery of how I am made, of how I am made as a need for reason and a need for love, is fundamental. You have the fortune of living in a country where there is a huge attention to religiosity. There is a great attention to man’s freedom, unlike Europe that is sick with nihilism, imprisoned in a doubtfulness that suffocates and strangles man’s freedom and creativity.
Nevertheless, we have to be careful, because this passion for man’s religiosity is not the exaltation of feelings or moods, of moral values or passions, because otherwise everything would revert to man’s measure. You can become violent in the name of religiosity, translating it all into an ethical claim that winds up suffocating man after having given him hope. When we speak of religiosity, we mean the experience of the encounter, of this impossible correspondence. What does it awaken, what does religiosity mean now in my life? The need for reason, hunger and thirst for meaning. The need to name things, from the relationship with your wife and children to the meaning of your work, the meaning of your studies, the meaning of the responsibility you feel for your country and for the world. Religiosity is the apex of reason. It is where my humanity as the need to know and love is opened to recognize Another. This is the content of the word experience. It is neither a simple feeling nor the enthusiasm for a moment, but the entire impact with reality judged by the heart, by the original tension toward happiness, by this tension to which the encounter with Christ begins to respond. The encounter with Christ saves one’s life not because it resolves the contradictions, but because it is companionship to life as meaning. My life remains full of contradictions, trials, and insecurities, but in the encounter, it becomes full of certainty.

The encounter is a fact

Certainty, what is certainty? It is the recognition of the real, physical bond with Christ, companionship within life’s circumstances, even to the point of extreme drama. So, what is Christian experience? Why do we insist so much on the term experience? Why are we not afraid to use this term? Why do we make it the fundamental point of knowledge and action? Because experience describes precisely the objective dynamic of the event. What happens in the encounter? The encounter is a fact.
You can leave tomorrow morning and say, “I’ve had it with all of you.” In the entire history of the Movement, nobody who has ever gone away has gotten better (this is an aside). You can go away tomorrow morning, but you can no longer deny the fact of the encounter. Experience means to live with this encounter, with this presence in your eyes. It means becoming aware of what makes my life grow. Experience is what makes me face reality. In other words, the relationship with reality is no longer what I can do, no longer a measure, but is a new awareness, a new love, the awareness and love of Him for whom we live. The challenge of experience as the criteria to face everything can be expressed as, “For whom do you live?” This is why experience also becomes the criterion for verifying, making true, realizing what is true in my life. What is true, what makes everything true, is He for whom one lives.
This knowledge frees us from the outcome, from the anxiety over results, and, at the same time, makes us full of passion, full of longing. As St Paul witnesses in the 5th chapter of 2 Corinthians, “I long for the love of Christ, He who died and rose for us.” This longing is a judgment and a love that leaves us full of passion and a desire to risk, without being afraid of making mistakes or being prisoners of our own sins, ready to start over, ready to receive pardon, ready to give reasons to everyone for what we have seen and heard.
The great sacrifices of our life are not the penances we choose; the greatest sacrifice in our life is to stay with this experience and to go to the very depths of the reason why I live. What do we have to sacrifice? Appearance, that which is immediate, which is instinctive, in order to arrive at the root of things. This gaze that looks at man and things, that looks at the person I love and at the stranger is called virginity, which is a new possession, with a detachment because it is a physical detachment that allows me to look at you full in the face and recognize that the root of your face, the ultimate meaning of your destiny, is Christ. This is a possession and tenderness, a possession that is new, that never ends–with a detachment within. This goes not only for those Christ calls to live this form of life, virginity, but for whomever is married, for whomever is seeking his vocation. It is a gratuitousness.
  • From "The Strength of the New Beginning," The talk at the National Diaconia of North America, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, Jan. 14-17, 2005, by Stefano Alberto, an article in Traces

Impossible correspondence

hiking in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado

Synthesis from the GS Equipe, held in Estes Park, Colorado, 2008:

First Point: Affection for your self.
  • Why do we have to consider this? It's not automatic that we're going to have an affection for ourselves. All of us have a heart. You did not choose to wake up this morning with this need to be loved, this need to know the meaning of yourself.
  • We desire things, like justice. We need justice, just like we need a liver. We don't choose these needs. The heart is a fact. It is in you and in me.
  • The amazing thing is -- and this shows how divine God is -- this is the very heart of who you are. None of you can avoid the need for love, justice, meaning -- the amazing thing is that while these things are in you, you don't have to pay attention.
  • This is why Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" and "I praise you Father because you've hidden these things from the wise, from the valedictorians, from the kids with the highest SAT scores, and you have revealed them to the simplest children."
  • Jesus talked about these things.
  • Which of you got up this morning wanting to be loved? Looking for beauty, conscious of the injustice in the world?
  • We meet someone who has an affection for my heart more than I do, who would say yes to my heart more than I myself do.
  • You heart is a fact about you that you didn't decide. Think about last night's testimony [from Gabi, a high school senior in Toronto]. Her heart started to cry out, "Stop ignoring me!" The heart told her, "What do I care about all our volunteer work." She had very little affection for herself, paid very little attention to the real needs of her heart. This is a fact that none of you decides -- you heart, like your liver, like your eye color, like whether you're male or female, like who your parents are. But you can ignore this fact, the fact of your heart.
  • This is the fundamentally immorality and evil -- that we ignore the fact of our heart, which wants more than basketball, wants more than getting into a good college.
  • I understand better than you just how critical this is.
  • Because you can say no to this heart eternally -- it's called hell -- the place for people who have no affection for themselves.
  • You say no to the call for beauty, justice, for love, for goodness. In the name of homework! How do I know? Because that's what you care most about.
  • When you meet someone who understands you better than you understand yourself, this is truly exceptional.
  • Think of today's Gospel reading [the parable of the Sower] -- the depth of your ground is equal to the affection you have for yourself. When a person meets the fact of God's Presence -- when one meets this Word, it can be taken out of his heart by birds -- worldly desires. But think of the soil of Gabi's heart: it's good soil. The soil is acknowledging the need to say yes to the fact of Jesus in our heart.
Nymph Lake
Second Point: The encounter
  • We're talking about a fact: I meet something that's not me.
  • Even if you have no affection for yourself, you can't stop it from happening. The Pharisees encountered him, too. They couldn't stop the fact of the encounter with that person. Your feelings can't stop the encounter because that other human being touches, solicits, speaks to, calls after the heart. But I can say no to this encounter, this fact as well. Will I let that encounter be taken away from me, as well?
  • It happens so easily. One second after you meet something exceptional, something you can't explain or put into your pocket, one second later, you can go back to your ideas about what should have been said, what should have happened.
  • Immorality is not remaining in front of what happens.
  • "Rose has given her life for us. She gives her life to us every day." This is what one of those women said about Rose in the film we watched last night: "Who gives her life for us every day." This woman [who recognized the fact that Rose gave her life] is the kind of person for whom the kingdom is given, who will herself give 50 or 100 fold.
Chris leading the singing

Mountains and Aspens
Third Point: "Who is this man?"
  • The fact of the encounter raises a question naturally. When I met Marco Bersanelli, I had this burning question -- Who are you? How does a person become like you?
  • I was visiting a CLU group in New York recently, and there was a guy there who was clearly Jewish. I asked him if he was Jewish, and he said "yes." So I had to ask him the question: Where did he come from? How did this happen? I had to find out. He told me that he had this teacher called Michael O'Neil -- that was enough for me to understand.
  • This is a fact, too, that the question comes out if we stay in front of this person.
  • And we can ignore this fact.
  • Listen, you can't shrug your shoulders in front of the question. You have to answer it.
  • That question demands an answer. You have to account for that -- or you are immoral with your own heart.
  • You can't pretend that the fact didn't happen.
  • If we stay in front of the encounter, then you say in front of the fact of the question -- What is this? Who is this?
  • And that answer is not something that we are able to answer.
  • The apostles couldn't figure out what was going on. "Philip, you've been with me all this time and you still don't know me?"
  • Jesus alone could answer that question, and he did answer it again and again. He gave them an answer.
  • The answer doesn't come from us; it comes from outside, from the person who moves us.
  • The answer is that this is Jesus of Nazareth.
  • What can explain those ladies with AIDS who were dancing and singing? Or Gabi? Or Madi? Ask them and they will tell say it's Christ.
  • They're testimony can be checked against the 2,000 years of history of people who say they know him, and you can compare. This experience occurs in the Gospels first.
  • I'll never forget one time I was in School of Community, reading At the Origin of the Christian Claim, which is all about the experience of the disciples when they encountered Christ, and this one young girl, her name is Katie, said, "But wait! What this is describing is exactly what is happening to me!" As if her experience verifies what happened to the apostles, rather than the other way around!
  • Who is it who has been entrusted with safeguarding custody of the 2,000 years of this history?The Successor of Peter. What does the Pope say? Here in in CL you experience Jesus of Nazareth.
  • The crux of the matter is in your loyalty in front of your experience of the witnesses.
  • The fact of the heart, the fact of this encounter, the fact of the question it raises, the fact of the answer that comes from a witness -- these are all FACTS.

Singing at Emerald Lake

Fourth Point: The witness teaches you the unmistakable signs of his presence
  • That you meet people with first and last names who care about the fulfillment of your heart...
  • What does it matter if you get into Princeton and lose yourself?
  • Unmistakable marks -- it is by learning these that we come to certainty that He is here.
  • This is why GS exists.
  • One boy here said to me this morning: "But here at this equipe, I have come to understand that you're insisting that we in GS really come to know that Jesus of Nazareth is with us in the reality where we are."
  • To come to know him, who he is, as the truth of who he is.
  • This is why GS exists.
  • GS exists to give me the gift of faith.
  • This knowledge and certainty is a gift that is given.
  • When Jesus asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am?" and Peter answered, "You are the Christ..." Jesus pointed out the gift: "Blessed are you because no mere man could have revealed this to you."
  • What was the gift? He knew who Christ was.
  • You are rock and on this rock I will build my Church.
  • To give you this certainty -- this is what GS is for -- so that you can learn these unmistakable signs of his Presence.
Emerald Lake: our view as we sang

Fifth Point: If the witness witnesses, this is a fact.
  • This is another fact: What this thing is tells me how to be in relationship with it. [holds up a watch] If I say this watch is a flag, then sooner or later, there will be too many things that I can't account for about it. Sooner or later, I will have to acknowledge that it is not a flag, but a watch. If I persist in calling it a flag, I'm being immoral, and it's wrong, but in the end it's just a thing, and it doesn't know that I'm wronging it. But if I call Father Jose, here, a flag, if I wrong him, then that's far worse, because he knows that I'm doing it.
  • If you have had the privilege to hear a witness, that knowledge is also a gift.
  • You have to come to terms with Him.
  • If you've stayed in front of your heart, if you've said yes to x, y, z, then you must say yes to the invitation to come to terms with Him. You can say yes to get down on your knees and ask, "Come, conquer my heart today. Come, move me like you moved the witness."
  • The true protagonist, the one who brings history further, is the beggar -- Christ, who begs for your heart. Through a witness, he begs for your heart. Through the life of GS, he begs for you heart.
Some of the kids got up early on the last day to watch the sunrise and borrowed my camera to take this picture

Sixth Point: The one who says yes to the evidence of the fact of the witness, the one who says yes to the fact of the encounter, who says yes to the fact of the affirmation of your heart, says yes to Jesus, who says, "I want your heart" : What is the sign that all this has happened? How do we know? It's satisfaction.
  • The test of faith is a growing satisfaction in life, in everything. Not because everything is lovely -- to watch my brother die of cancer, to have AIDS like those women in the film we saw, to do homework... but while these things happen, You are with me and if You are with me, who can be against me? What can crush me?
  • Those who have had this experience: their faces radiate more than ours. Its a satisfaction that I don't have.
  • "I tell you, anybody who has left father, mother, brothers... for my sake will have eternal life and one hundred times more in this life." The test of faith is the hundredfold. Did I live the hundredfold today, did I see his face today?
  • The real test is satisfaction and this is identical to His Presence and our recognition of his Presence in our life.
  • If you want to follow GS, this is what matters -- your satisfaction. This affection for you, that is reignited by the affection that Christ has for you. The gift of his Presence that reawakens the affection -- this is the sign of satisfaction.

  • School of Community is the primary place where I say yes to the affection for myself -- where I begin to live this affection for myself, love myself the way he does. Where he begins to dwell in me, live in me.
  • Charitable work is the place where you learn to make a gift of yourself, rather than just worrying about what you get and what you should receive.
  • The Common fund -- here is the sign that this is what matters to me.
  • To be a presence -- to offer, to be a missionary -- to let this overflow into the way you look and understand and see when you look at other people -- this lets you change what you see.
  • To be a missionary: What you do, what you've done doesn't matter. Because every moment of my life, I could be doing anything, probably something wicked, but he comes to me and asks me what he asked Peter, "Do you love me?" And I can only answer, "Yes, Lord, I love you." To be a missionary means to look at everything through the lens of what we've met. It culminates in invitations but starts with a way of perceiving a person. This is our life.
  • Follow the people who are most alive. Deepen the relationship with the witness, so that we can get to know him and then offer to the world so that the whole world will come to know him, everyone will dance like those African women.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Father Julian Carron

Here are some links to his writings and talks:

One Who Can Truly Fill Your Heart
Rome, Parco della Musica Auditorium, May 15, 2008

The Enthusiasm for Truth Is Called “Faith”
Notes from Fr. Julián Carrón’s talk at the CL Fraternity Central Diaconia. Milan, March 8, 2008

He staked everything on the other’s freedom
Traces n. 3, March 2008

The Adventure of Knowledge
Editorial Traces n. 2, February 2008

Letter from Fr. Carrón to CL Movement
Milan, January 28, 2008

The Pope's Challenge and Our Responsibility
Milan, March 28, 2007

Greeting to Holy Father Benedict XVI by Fr. Julián Carrón
Audience with Benedict XVI. March 24, 2007. St. Peter’s Square, Rome.

Fr. Carrón's letter to all the friends in the Movement
Twenty-five years of the Fraternity

Fr. Carron's letter to all friends in the Movement
Milan, June 12, 2006

Dear Friends...
Letter to the Fraternity

More Father than Ever. Let Us Serve the Gift of Unity
Intervention of Fr Julián Carrón at the end of the funeral celebration

See also a brief profile of Father Carron.

(Taken from the CL website)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"No, and that's it. Bam!"

icon of Christ

We face this no often. Even when it isn't articulated, we can sense that no is all around us. Even when we don't extend an invitation or make a request, the no is everywhere, in everyone, even in ourselves.

No nailed Jesus to the cross. No refused to accept the testimony of the witnesses to the Resurrection. No thought that St. Peter was drunk when the Holy Spirit gave him words to speak the truth.

No is the telephone that won't ring, the letter that goes unanswered. No tells us that we're not worthy of happiness. No says the promise of the hundredfold is too good to be true. And no is the source of all the pain and suffering in this world.

Do I say no? Yes, I do. There is the no that I can't help because it is impossible for me to be two places at once. There is the no that I think is a yes -- because I'm simply too stupid to see it's a no. There is the no that is given with an excuse: I'm not able, I don't know how, I'm too tired, let someone more talented have a go at it... There is the no that seems to just "happen" because of my limits: forgetting, losing the instructions, hurrying past a crucial step... But my own most frequent and shameful no comes out of me through the force of fear.

I am afraid of pain, afraid of failing, afraid of rejection and abandonment, afraid of being trapped, and afraid of being cut loose. I am afraid of speaking in public, of making phone calls, of offending or misleading others, of the post office, of fruit (it might be mealy and disappoint me), of both criticism and praise, of germs, afraid of being too early or too late, of parking lots, of fire, and of eating soybeans (I'm allergic to them).

For a time, I found that strong liquor helped me to conquer many of these fears -- until my fear of death kicked in. After that, I lived four years of almost constantly saying no. Sometimes, I said, yes, but... My journals from those years can be characterized by one adjective: boring. I was in a state of terrible depression. During these years I practiced my religion and I prayed. I did worthwhile work. I even got married! These were all, to one extent or another, yes, but...

Then something happened. Something that I did not plan for in advance. When I looked into the face of my daughter for the first time, I was incapable of saying, yes, but... Her face was, for me, the face of the Angel Gabriel; and looking into her eyes, my whole heart and mind were filled with just one word: yes.

Have I said no since her birth? Of course. I have even said it countless times to her face and to the faces of my other daughters. But that one clear, unadulterated yes still lives; and it set me on a journey, which day by day becomes a greater adventure, more positive and more certain. Yes is only possible for me within the life of a great love. The love that flooded my life on the day my first daughter was born did not come from me. It was something wholly other and completely astonishing. And it certainly didn't come from her -- so tiny and helpless! For this reason, I knew it could only have one source, and I pledged myself to the Source.

It happens different ways for different people -- that moment when love, or our desire for love, overtakes us and we know that Something Else, Someone Else, is at work.

This love does not erase my fears or mistakes, but it drains these things of their force.

A simple, human yes -- the simplest, most loving yes ever spoken by a mere human -- opened the world to the the coming of Christ. And Christ's Yes to the suffering and death of the Cross unlocked the doors of death, bitterness, and division. But even before Mary's fiat and Christ's Yes, humanity had uttered a series of yeses: Abraham, Moses, the prophets, David... to pave the way for Christ's one, most beautiful and powerful Yes. May we, with all our fragility, find this Yes and utter it ceaselessly.
icon of Christ Enthroned

Monday, September 15, 2008


Rose Busingye

Yesterday, for the second time, I watched Greater: Defeating Aids, a short documentary about Rose Busingye and the Meeting Point in Uganda. Rose is a nurse who seeks out and cares for women who are sick with AIDS, as well as children who are orphaned or unwanted. The movie won a viewer's choice award at the Cannes film festival.

What does it take to be able to say, Here is the evidence. Now I've found the way I want to live?

As Rose points out in the film, the secret to life doesn't lie in talking; nor does it lie in action; it lies in paying attention to a person, really paying attention to the person that life puts in front of you. Paying attention until your life vibrates in sympathy with the other person's life, so that what you want for that person is more joy than any one person can hold -- not just a cure for an illness, not just financial stability or satisfaction in work or relationships -- but the truth about that person's infinite value and above all, access to tenderness that we know that we don't make.

This desire, to pay attention in this way, can't happen automatically but only as a result of great ascesis. There is no convincing argument that will persuade you to give this sort of gift of self and no calculation that will make the sacrifice seem to pay off.

The only thing that may help is to take a very long look at Rose's face.

You will need to download Babelgum's program before the video will play. Just follow instructions after clicking this link:

Greater: Defeating Aids

Sunday, September 14, 2008

dark and terrible day for American letters

David Foster Wallace

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don't worry that I'm getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being "well-adjusted", which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education -- least in my own case -- is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

(David Foster Wallace, from Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address - May 21, 2005)

The reason why doing political writing is so hard right now is probably also the reason why more young (am I included in the range of this predicate anymore?) fiction writers ought to be doing it. As of 2003, the rhetoric of the enterprise is f**ked. 95 percent of political commentary, whether spoken or written, is now polluted by the very politics it’s supposed to be about. Meaning it’s become totally ideological and reductive: The writer/speaker has certain political convictions or affiliations, and proceeds to filter all reality and spin all assertion according to those convictions and loyalties. Everybody’s pissed off and exasperated and impervious to argument from any other side. Opposing viewpoints are not just incorrect but contemptible, corrupt, evil…

… How can any of this possibly help me, the average citizen, deliberate about whom to choose to decide my country’s macroeconomic policy, or how even to conceive for myself what that policy’s outlines should be, or how to minimize the chances of North Korea nuking the DMZ and pulling us into a ghastly foreign war, or how to balance domestic security concerns with civil liberties? Questions like these are all massively complicated, and much of the complication is not sexy, and well over 90 percent of political commentary now simply abets the uncomplicatedly sexy delusion that one side is Right and Just and the other Wrong and Dangerous. Which is of course a pleasant delusion, in a way—as is the belief that every last person you’re in conflict with is an a**hole—but it’s childish, and totally unconducive to hard thought, give and take, compromise, or the ability of grown-ups to function as any kind of community. (David Foster Wallace, on the subject of John McCain, an excerpt from an interview he did with Dave Eggers for the Believer in 2003)

David Foster Wallace, age 46, was found dead yesterday. He had evidently hanged himself in his home. His voice will be deeply missed. I am having a Richard Corey moment, here. As I read his novel, Infinite Jest, I thought, Why ever should I go on writing with this guy out there: all that talent, inventiveness, glorious genius? ...and now? My sense of why he was so brilliant is that he knew that truth existed. He defended it fiercely, even while, like Kafka, he never quite located it for long enough; it kept vibrating and darting away, wouldn't stay still. He never got to look it in the eye and really contemplate it in peace. I imagine he died of thirst.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

On tolerating differences...again

Saint John Chrysostom

I found this over on Communio. It's an excerpt:

For when we are knit together in parties of two or three, and the two indeed, or three or four, are closely bound to one another, but draw themselves off from the rest, because they can have recourse to these, and in all things confide in these; this is the division of love-- not love. For tell me, if the eye should bestow upon the hand the foresight which it has for the whole body, and withdrawing itself from the other members, should attend to that alone, would it not injure the whole? Assuredly. So also if we confine to one or two the love which ought to be extended to the whole Church of God, we injure both ourselves and them, and the whole. For these things are not of love, but of division; schisms, and distracting rents. Since even if I separate and take a member from the whole man, the part separated indeed is united in itself, is continuous, all compacted together, yet even so it is a separation, since it is not united to the rest of the body.

For what advantage is it, that you love a certain person exceedingly? It is a human love. But if it is not a human love, but you love for God's sake, then love all. For so God has commanded to love even our enemies. And if He has commanded to love our enemies, how much more those who have never aggrieved us? But, do you say, I love, but not in that way. Rather, you do not love at all. For when you accuse, when you envy, when you lay snares, how do you love? But, do you say, I do none of these things. But when a man is ill spoken of, and you do not shut the mouth of the speaker, dost not disbelieve his sayings, dost not check him, of what love is this the sign? And the love, he says, of each one of you all toward one another abounds.

(from Saint John Chrysostom, Homily on 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2)

Friday, September 12, 2008

First two Purple Cherokees

They beat the frost. We'll see how many more make it. There are so many green tomatoes out there... And there's one Cuore di bue that I think will be ready in two days.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Archbishop of San Francisco, George Niederauer

A self-proclaimed "Catholic" site (Catholic Culture, a new manifestation of Catholic World News) published an anonymous "news analysis" piece on September 5, 2008, entitled "Archbishop Niederauer's inadequate response to Nancy Pelosi." Right away, the world "inadequate" strikes a keen reader as, well, worse than inadequate. Something is amiss. How is it that a news service that proudly proclaims itself to be Catholic, could countenance using a title that refers to the actions of a bishop of the Church as "inadequate"?

In the article, the author (who was not credited on the site) criticized the archbishop of San Francisco, George Niederauer because his response to house speaker Nancy Pelosi's erroneous remarks concerning the Church's stance on abortion came "late" (two weeks after they were made) and contained neither a threat nor a promise of disciplinary action; but instead included an invitation to Pelosi to come and speak with him privately.

The comments at the end of the anonymous analysis piece were (mostly) even more critical of the archbishop's statement.

First of all, how does a self-proclaimed "Catholic" news organization come off making definitively critical statements about the actions and teachings of a bishop of the Church? Other bishops may respond differently (and have indeed responded differently) to politicians who make the same or similar errors that Nancy Pelosi has made. Does this fact make Archbishop Niederauer's response incorrect? No! Catholic Culture and Catholic News Service have no authority to analyze and critique the decisions of our bishops.

The only Catholic who has the authority to publicly correct or criticize the actions or teachings of a bishop of the Church is the Holy Father. And what would the Pope do if he felt that the archbishop were in error? Would he publish an article that openly rebukes him for his position? No! In fact, he would invite his brother to meet with him privately, in order to try to resolve the problem. What does this description of the process remind me of? Let's see...

Oh yes, wasn't it the Gospel for that very Sunday's liturgy?
September 7, 2008, Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 18:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that ‘every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.
If he refuses to listen even to the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector...

Concern for the lives of those in the womb should never lead my brothers and sisters in Christ into the error of forgetting that we are children of Holy Mother Church. The children don't point fingers at their Mother but rather seek to understand her reasons when what she teaches doesn't agree with their sense of justice.

As for "two weeks" being too long to wait for a response from the Church, well, the Church is slow for good reasons. The Church doesn't wish to forfeit her right and responsibility to ponder and pray over her words and teachings. I wish Catholic Culture had taken time to reconsider the scandalous way in which it dares to publicly criticize the Church.

If the author of this news analysis piece would like to speak with me privately, I would welcome the chance to discuss this matter more fully.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Some clarity

Found at Whispers in the Loggia, with help from Deacon Scott Dodge, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops statement in response to Sunday's MTP comments on abortion by the Democratic vice-presidential nominee Senator Joe Biden:

Recently we had a duty to clarify the Catholic Church’s constant teaching against abortion, to correct misrepresentations of that teaching by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “Meet the Press”. On September 7, again on “Meet the Press,” Senator Joseph Biden made some statements about that teaching that also deserve a response.

Senator Biden did not claim that Catholic teaching allows or has ever allowed abortion. He said rightly that human life begins “at the moment of conception,” and that Catholics and others who recognize this should not be required by others to pay for abortions with their taxes.

However, the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a “personal and private” matter of religious faith, one which cannot be “imposed” on others, does not reflect the truth of the matter. The Church recognizes that the obligation to protect unborn human life rests on the answer to two questions, neither of which is private or specifically religious.

The first is a biological question: When does a new human life begin? When is there a new living organism of the human species, distinct from mother and father and ready to develop and mature if given a nurturing environment? While ancient thinkers had little verifiable knowledge to help them answer this question, today embryology textbooks confirm that a new human life begins at conception. The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact.

The second is a moral question, with legal and political consequences: Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed? The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody. No human being should be treated as lacking human rights, and we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not. Even this is not solely a Catholic teaching, but a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will. The framers of the Declaration of Independence pointed to the same basic truth by speaking of inalienable rights, bestowed on all members of the human race not by any human power, but by their Creator. Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into the moral “haves” and “have-nots,” and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society. Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.

While in past centuries biological knowledge was often inaccurate, modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child. Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bom, bom, bom, bom, Big Red!

High School football is a huge event in our town, involving AstroTurf, an instant replay screen on the scoreboard, truly excellent ball playing, two squads of cheerleaders, the release of red, black, and white balloons at each game, and the very "Best Band in Buckeye land." These kids know how to rock! Enjoy:

And whenever our team scores, the enormous, rearing red stallion at the top of the score board spits real fire!

Correction: This fire-breathing stallion's name is not "Big Red," but Man o' War, taken from the legendary race horse of the 1920s. Thanks, Emily!

Friday, September 5, 2008

On gossip

from The Duty of Fraternal Correction, Gospel Commentary for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap:

When, for whatever reason, fraternal correction is not possible in private, there is something that must never be done in its place, and that is to divulge, without good reason, one’s brother’s fault, to speak ill of him or, indeed, to calumniate him, proposing as fact something that is not, or exaggerating the fault. “Do not speak ill of one another,” Scripture says (James 4:11). Gossip is not something innocent; it is ugly and reprehensible.

A woman once went to St. Philip Neri for confession, accusing herself badmouthing people. The saint absolved her but gave her a strange penance. He told her to go home, get a hen and come back, plucking the bird’s feathers as she walked along the street. When she had returned to him he said: “Now go back home and, as you go, pick up each feather that you plucked on the way.” The woman told him that it would be impossible since the wind had almost certainly blown them away in the meantime. But St. Philip was prepared: “You see,” he said, “just as it is impossible to pick up the feathers once the wind has scattered them, it is likewise impossible to gather gossip and calumnies back up once they have come out of our mouth.” (by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for this Sunday Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20)

Saint Philip Neri

I'm busy at the moment, chasing feathers...

More parenting advice

from The Duty of Fraternal Correction, Gospel Commentary for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap:

Father Raniero Cantalamessa
What Jesus has taught us about correction can be very useful in raising children too. Correction is one of the parent’s fundamental duties. “What son is not disciplined by his father?” Scripture says (Hebrews 12:7); and again: “Straighten the little plant while it is still young if you do not want it to be permanently crooked.” Completely renouncing every form of correction is one of the worst things that you can do to your children and unfortunately it very common today.

You must simply take care that the correction itself does not become an accusation or a criticism. In correcting you should just stick to reproving the error that was committed; don’t generalize it and reproach everything about the child and his conduct. Instead, use the correction to point out all the good things that you see in the child and how you expect much better from him, in such away that the correction becomes encouragement rather than disqualification. This was the method that St. John Bosco used with children. (by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for this Sunday Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20)

Saint John Bosco

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Greater: Rose and the Meeting Point in Uganda

Also posted at Is It Possible?

The documentary on Rose and the Meeting Point International - which won an award in Cannes last month - is available to view online.

You will need to download Babelgum's program before the video will play. Just follow instructions after clicking this link:


Monday, September 1, 2008

Real estate: before

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd presents one tremendous stumbling block: in order to follow this method, one needs a dedicated space, or actually three dedicated rooms, in which the environment is carefully prepared.

Why is the necessity for rooms such a hindrance? If you're asking this question, you haven't done much parish work! Space in any parish is hard to come by, and it seems to be a part of our cultural belief system that the more functions a room has, the greater the virtues of the community it belongs to. Even requesting that a parish assign a room that would otherwise stand empty and unused to just one group, for its exclusive use, can sometimes draw quite a bit of anger and suspicion. Adding to this complication is the problem that catechists almost always begin by requesting a room for the youngest group to be catechized -- 3-6 year-olds -- a group that many believe are not ready for catechesis, or for whom catechesis is unnecessary. What? You want us to dedicate a room to the exclusive use of 3-6 year-old children, none of whose parents will contribute a cent toward rent? To do what?

After a long crusade for a room in one particular parish where I was starting up Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a good friend there said to me, "You know, Suzanne, when I first met you, I thought you were on fire for the kingdom, but as I get to know you better, I begin to think that all you actually care about is real estate." We laughed together about that one because, the same might have been said of Abraham and Moses, too.

Because I've moved several times since I first began as a catechist with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, it happens that I am always leaving a place right after a parish has finally decided to give the catechists rooms for the atria. But now, after eleven years of wandering and making do, I belong to a group of catechists who have received not one, but three rooms in one of the Catholic schools that closed this year. When I first heard the news, I couldn't process it completely. Slowly, the reality of what we have been offered is starting to dawn on me. I took some "before" shots of the three rooms and will post the "after" pictures when we're up and running.

This is a miracle, one I'd forgotten how much I needed and wanted, after all the years of doing without it. I only pray to be worthy of such a gift.

The future Level One atrium

The future Level Two atrium

The future Level Three atrium

As you can see, there is indeed much work ahead of us!

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."