Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Phoenix Case

I repost an article here about a decision of a Bishop in Phoenix, Arizona. It is an excellent dress-down of the situation and the media storm surrounding it. The bottom line: You are either Catholic or you are not!

Catholic Bishop Right to Push Back Against Culture of Death
by Gerard Nadal | Washington, DC | | 12/28/10 12:25 PM

The measure comes after last May’s confrontation between Sister Margaret McBride, the hospital’s administrator who gave permission for an 11-week pregnant woman with a severe case of pulmonary hypertension to have an abortion, and Bishop Olmsted who notified her in private that her actions were formal cooperation in the child’s death, and therefore incurred a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication.

Much confusion swirls around this case, and needs to be cleared in the interest of defending the good name of a good bishop.

First, a recap of the initial controversy last May. Pulmonary hypertension is a gravely serious condition that is exacerbated by pregnancy. Testing done at Saint Joseph’s indicated a fairly advanced stage of the disease, and it was deemed that the 27 year-old mother of four would in all likelihood not make it to term with her pregnancy. Termination of the pregnancy was advocated as the means of saving the life of the mother. Thus, the ethical crossroads.

The moral guide for hospitals and healthcare institutions is spelled out in Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (ERD’s). Directives #45 and #47 both spell out the rules for dealing with a case such as this, and Bishop Olmsted, a Doctor of Canon Law, has made it clear that this case did not fall within the parameters of these directives and what is known as the Principle of Double Effect.

In essence the principle states that a lifesaving procedure that cannot be delayed, such as the removal of a cancerous uterus before the baby can be taken in a Cesarean section at viability (~25 weeks gestation), is permissible so long as the death of the baby is the indirect and unintended effect. The life-saving treatment and resolution of a disease with immediate lethal consequence if no treatment is rendered is the good effect. The unintended death of the baby is the bad, or second (double) effect.

Such circumstances are extremely rare, given how early a baby can be delivered before full term at 40 weeks. The mother’s life must be in immediate danger and the treatment of her disease, which would also result in the death of the baby, cannot be forestalled. The case at Saint Joseph’s did not rise to the level of Double-Effect, as the baby was the sole target of intervention.

While the assessment on the part of physicians was dire, no treatment of the disease was even attempted. There are several medications that can be employed to attempt a reduction in the severity of the disease, none of which appear to have been dispensed in this case. From that point on, the actions of the hospital and Sister McBride pointed toward more than an isolated and extreme case where the decision to abort could have been simply dismissed as one bad judgment call.

There are several hospitals within a three-mile radius of Saint Joseph’s, some mere blocks away, where this woman’s husband could have taken her for the recommended abortion. They were no more than ten minutes from any number of facilities that would have performed the abortion, if that was what the couple wanted. All reports of the incident indicate that at no point was the couple told that Saint Joseph’s does not target babies for death as a means of treating a disease. Again, no evidence has surfaced that the physicians attempted to treat her medically.

This is a critical distinction that separates Catholic healthcare from its secular counterparts. Many physicians resort to abortion as a defensive strategy to avoid potential litigation. Others have signed on to the eugenics agenda and aggressively promote abortion for Down Syndrome and other babies with trisomic disorders, spinal tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly, and a host of other imperfections.

Patients who seek Catholic healthcare do so because of the assurance that the facility and its clinicians adhere to the ERD’s. They do so because they seek the assurance that they will be told the truth and treated in accord with Catholic moral norms, and not railroaded down the disastrous path American medicine has decided to follow. The Phoenix case is an excellent example of what happens when rebels take charge and deceive their patients and the bishop.

At the time, I remarked to peers in medicine and to groups I was invited to address that there had to be much more to this story than meets the eye. No Catholic hospital faithful to the ERD’s ad the Magisterium, within a stone’s throw of several other hospitals, makes such a decision, especially without consulting the local bishop. I opined, and was pilloried for it, that Sister McBride was presiding over a shadow healthcare system that was active in promoting an agenda that ran counter to the mission of the Church. Nobody commits first-degree murder as a first crime. No Catholic hospital administrator, especially a professed religious, signs off on such an abortion for the first time in the manner in which Sister McBride conducted herself.

There was an arrogance, an independent and defiant air about it that pointed to something deeper and darker, something that would eventually come to light.

This past week, Bishop Olmsted shared with the world the extent to which there has been a shadow system operating for over a quarter of a century, performing abortions, sterilizations, and dispensing all manner of contraception. Sister McBride, as it has now been revealed, is hardly the compassionate administrator who made a good-faith, though horrific decision.

In Part II, how Bishop Olmsted was lied to, lied about, what happens next in his courageous pushback against the rebellion within his healthcare system, and its implications nationally for Catholic healthcare.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Nice Christmas Fireplace

I actually used this on a continual loop for our staff Christmas Party!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Pope Speaks to Seminarians

From the Vatican Information Services:

Monday, October 18, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 18 OCT 2010 (VIS) - Given below are ample extracts from the English-language version of a Letter to Seminarians, written by the Pope to mark the end of the Year for Priests and dated 18 October.

"When in December 1944 I was drafted for military service, the company commander asked each of us what we planned to do in the future. I answered that I wanted to become a Catholic priest. The lieutenant replied: 'Then you ought to look for something else. In the new Germany priests are no longer needed'. I knew that this 'new Germany' was already coming to an end, and that, after the enormous devastation which that madness had brought upon the country, priests would be needed more than ever. Today the situation is completely changed. In different ways, though, many people nowadays also think that the Catholic priesthood is not a 'job' for the future, but one that belongs more to the past. You, dear friends, have decided to enter the seminary and to prepare for priestly ministry in the Catholic Church in spite of such opinions and objections. You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalisation: they will always need the God Who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, the God Who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with Him and through Him life's true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity. Where people no longer perceive God, life grows empty; nothing is ever enough".

"In this letter I would like to point out - thinking back to my own time in the seminary - several elements which I consider important for these years of your journeying.

"(1) Anyone who wishes to become a priest must be first and foremost a 'man of God', to use the expression of St. Paul. For us God is not some abstract hypothesis. ... God has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. ... It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. The priest is not the leader of a sort of association whose membership he tries to maintain and expand. He is God's messenger to His people. He wants to lead them to God and in this way to foster authentic communion between all men and women. That is why it is so important, dear friends, that you learn to live in constant intimacy with God. When the Lord tells us to 'pray constantly', He is obviously not asking us to recite endless prayers, but urging us never to lose our inner closeness to God".

"(2) For us God is not simply Word. In the Sacraments He gives Himself to us in person, through physical realities. At the heart of our relationship with God and our way of life is the Eucharist. Celebrating it devoutly, and thus encountering Christ personally, should be the centre of all our days. ... In the liturgy we pray with the faithful of every age - the past, the present and the future are joined in one great chorus of prayer. As I can state from personal experience, it is inspiring to learn how it all developed, what a great experience of faith is reflected in the structure of the Mass, and how it has been shaped by the prayer of many generations.

(3) "The Sacrament of Penance is also important. It teaches me to see myself as God sees me, and it forces me to be honest with myself. ... Even when we have to struggle continually with the same failings, it is important to resist the coarsening of our souls and the indifference which would simply accept that this is the way we are. ... Moreover, by letting myself be forgiven, I learn to forgive others. In recognising my own weakness, I grow more tolerant and understanding of the failings of my neighbour.

"(4) I urge you to retain an appreciation for popular piety, which is different in every culture yet always remains very similar, for the human heart is ultimately one and the same. Certainly, popular piety tends towards the irrational, and can at times be somewhat superficial. Yet it would be quite wrong to dismiss it. Through that piety, the faith has entered human hearts and become part of the common patrimony of sentiments and customs, shaping the life and emotions of the community".

"(5) Above all, your time in the seminary is also a time of study. The Christian faith has an essentially rational and intellectual dimension. Were it to lack that dimension, it would not be itself. ... I can only plead with you: Be committed to your studies! ... The point is not simply to learn evidently useful things, but to understand and appreciate the internal structure of the faith as a whole, so that it can become a response to people's questions, which on the surface change from one generation to another yet ultimately remain the same. For this reason it is important to move beyond the changing questions of the moment in order to grasp the real questions, and so to understand how the answers are real answers. It is important to have a thorough knowledge of Sacred Scripture as a whole, in its unity as the Old and the New Testaments. ... It is important to be familiar with the Fathers and the great Councils in which the Church appropriated, through faith-filled reflection, the essential statements of Scripture. ... I do not need to point out the importance of knowing the essential issues of moral theology and Catholic social teaching. The importance nowadays of ecumenical theology, and of a knowledge of the different Christian communities, is obvious. ... But you should also learn to understand and - dare I say it - to love canon law, appreciating how necessary it is and valuing its practical applications. ... I will not go on with this list, but I simply say once more: love the study of theology and carry it out in the clear realisation that theology is anchored in the living community of the Church, which, with her authority, is not the antithesis of theological science but its presupposition. Cut off from the believing Church, theology would cease to be itself and instead it would become a medley of different disciplines lacking inner unity.

"(6) Your years in the seminary should also be a time of growth towards human maturity. It is important for the priest, who is called to accompany others through the journey of life up to the threshold of death, to have the right balance of heart and mind, reason and feeling, body and soul, and to be humanly integrated. ... This also involves the integration of sexuality into the whole personality. Sexuality is a gift of the Creator yet it is also a task which relates to a person's growth towards human maturity. When it is not integrated within the person, sexuality becomes banal and destructive. Today we can see many examples of this in our society. Recently we have seen with great dismay that some priests disfigured their ministry by sexually abusing children and young people. Instead of guiding people to greater human maturity and setting them an example, their abusive behaviour caused great damage for which we feel profound shame and regret. As a result of all this, many people, perhaps even some of you, might ask whether it is good to become a priest; whether the choice of celibacy makes any sense as a truly human way of life. Yet even the most reprehensible abuse cannot discredit the priestly mission, which remains great and pure. Thank God, all of us know exemplary priests, men shaped by their faith, who bear witness that one can attain to an authentic, pure and mature humanity in this state and specifically in the life of celibacy. Admittedly, what has happened should make us all the more watchful and attentive, precisely in order to examine ourselves earnestly, before God, as we make our way towards priesthood, so as to understand whether this is his will for me. It is the responsibility of your confessor and your superiors to accompany you and help you along this path of discernment".

"(7) The origins of a priestly vocation are nowadays more varied and disparate than in the past. Today the decision to become a priest often takes shape after one has already entered upon a secular profession. Often it grows within the communities, particularly within the movements, which favour a communal encounter with Christ and His Church, spiritual experiences and joy in the service of the faith. It also matures in very personal encounters with the nobility and the wretchedness of human existence. ... The movements are a magnificent thing. You know how much I esteem them and love them as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. Yet they must be evaluated by their openness to what is truly Catholic, to the life of the whole Church of Christ, which for all her variety still remains one. The seminary is a time when you learn with one another and from one another. In community life, which can at times be difficult, you should learn generosity and tolerance, not only bearing with, but also enriching one another. .. This school of tolerance, indeed, of mutual acceptance and mutual understanding in the unity of Christ's Body, is an important part of your years in the seminary.

"Dear seminarians, with these few lines I have wanted to let you know how often I think of you, especially in these difficult times, and how close I am to you in prayer. Please pray for me, that I may exercise my ministry well, as long as the Lord may wish".

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

God's Call

Out of the kitchen, into the priesthood

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
September 20, 2010 9:25 a.m. EDT
Kenneth Smith, a longtime executive chef in New Orleans, Louisiana, is on his way to becoming a priest.
Kenneth Smith, a longtime executive chef in New Orleans, Louisiana, is on his way to becoming a priest.
  • In his own words, an executive chef shares his spiritual journey toward the priesthood
  • Drawn to cooking as a child, he spent years at a top-rated New Orleans restaurant
  • God and faith have always been with him, he says, as have thoughts of being a priest
  • At 50, he's hung up his apron and entered the seminary, a logical move, he explains

Editor's note: Kenneth Smith had been a fixture in the highly rated Upperline Restaurant of New Orleans, Louisiana, where for the past 11 years he served as the executive chef. But after about two decades working there, he has moved out of the kitchen and into New Orleans' Notre Dame Seminary, on his way to becoming a priest. CNN sat down this summer with Smith, 50, before he took off his apron. Below, in his own words, he explains how serving up faith is a logical leap.

New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) -- My dad died when I was 2, so my mother raised us [Smith and his sister] and exposed us to different things. We took music lessons, art appreciation lessons, and we even went to finishing school. Mrs. Howard's School of Charm.

My sister and I hated it at the time. We just wanted to be normal kids and eat our Frosted Flakes on Saturday mornings in front of the television, watching our Looney Tunes.

My mom was a very good cook. In fact, she was a private cook for an attorney for years. She exposed my sister and I to the same types of food that she was cooking at work. We were basically the only kids on our block that had eaten lobster with drawn butter.

On holidays, we would go to work with her. We'd always sit in the kitchen. I was just amazed with all the cooking ingredients and implements.

I was one of those guys that was never picked to be on someone's baseball team or basketball team, so I started cooking. My mother had always had a lot of cookbooks. I just started playing around. I started baking. We always had butter; we always had flour and sugar and vanilla and eggs. I might have looked at other recipes and didn't think we had the ingredients, and I certainly didn't have money to go buy them.

The first thing I baked was a cake. I was 9 or 10. It was a plain yellow cake. I can remember the icing being a little runny, but it was good.

We went to Catholic school. We went to Mass once a week, while in school, as well as on Sundays. God has always been with me.

Read more about faith and religion on CNN's Belief Blog

I've certainly called on God when I'm in the kitchen, when things are going wrong, when I'm irritated or very upset about something. I've called on God walking up here to unlock the doors and come into work -- to help me at not being quick-tempered or losing my cool. Help me be the person I need to be.

It [becoming a priest] is something that I thought about as a child. It was something I was going to do out of high school, and I put it off. I'm glad now that I didn't go through with it, because I was very immature. I wasn't ready. But now I feel very strongly, and I know in my heart that I'm ready to do it.

I didn't wake up one morning and just sit up in bed and stretch and say, "Well, I think I'll try the priesthood." There's a lot of prayer involved. This prayer process, that's neverending. I have a spiritual director I work with, and I started out with that at first. But this process of thinking about it, it's been all my life.

I developed a very close relationship with the archbishop [Archbishop Gregory Aymond of the Archdiocese of New Orleans]. He was here, at the restaurant, one night about two or three months ago, and I said, "There's something on my mind, and I'd love to talk to you about it."

I met with him, and I wasn't home 10 minutes and the vocation director called. I set up another appointment to meet with him, and the rest is history.

There are parts of it [the restaurant kitchen] that I'll miss and parts of it that I will not miss. I will miss the people. I will miss the guests. The cooking aspects, I definitely will miss. I will not miss the rushiness of it, the overwhelming feeling you get when you're working the line, and it looks like everyone is ordering at the same time.

I'm hoping I can still do things [in a kitchen], but I'm hoping I can do it on a small scale, for fun. I would love to do something for the needy or poor, during the holidays when people really feel their lowest. Not just your typical out-of-the-can, warmed-up meal; I'd like to do it [serve them] just like you'd get here. Top quality.

I'll move into the seminary. I am looking forward to embracing the simple life. That gives me great pleasure to think about. I want to give all of myself, and I don't think you can do that when you have a lot of baggage.

I have this massive cookbook collection -- close to 3,000 books -- that I'm not just going to leave or just throw away. I have thought about, if I passed away, where would it go. I want to donate it to a school.

With baking, you have to follow the rules. I try to be a very good rule player. Play by the rules and work by the rules. The prayer life, the rules that a priest is supposed to live by, that really excites me. And being able to help people and minister to people.

Yesterday at Mass, one of the readings was about the widow who gave all of what she had. I want to emulate her, and I think this is the best way that I can see for me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Radio Show

I have been asked to help out with the Holy Ghost Radio Show on WITA 1490 AM here in Knoxville which is broadcast at 4:00 on Sundays and Thursdays each week. I do every other week and Fr. John Orr of Holy Ghost Parish in Knoxville does the others. This is my first attempt at uploading an audio file on this blog so I hope it works. Enjoy!

Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Catholic Side of Salvation

An interesting argument to answer a perduring question - If non-Catholics can be saved, why does it matter if we become Catholic, or remain Catholic, or try to convert others to Catholicism?

I think the article is very insightful:

The Catholic Side of Salvation
by Jeff Mirus

If non-Catholics can be saved, why does it matter if we become Catholic or remain Catholic, or try to convert others to Catholicism? After following our discussion here on the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics, one of our readers suggested that it would be very useful to address that question. I agree. If a person can be saved regardless of the religion (or no religion) in which he finds himself, why should we cling to our Faith and attempt to share it with others?

An Initial Catch-22

There is, of course, a Catch-22 here, because once you understand the value of Catholicism, the question is closed. It may be all very well for someone else to remain non-Catholic, but once one knows what Catholicism is, it is clear that to reject it is to turn one’s back on God and His Providence. So those who understand their Faith—but who just once in a while wish it could be otherwise—have eliminated by their own conscious knowledge whatever “hope” for escape they might otherwise have had! If you’re a good Catholic who is tempted by a questionable way to make money, by a romantic dalliance to which you have no right, by a wish that various charitable causes would simply leave you alone (ahem), or by the prospect of lying abed on Sunday morning after having partied all through Saturday evening and Saturday night—well, sorry, but as the saying goes, you’re hoist with your own petard.

In plain English, you’re blown up by your own bomb, and you know it. Ultimately you don’t mind unless you’re really in a personal crisis, because you already understand that the Catholic Church offers the fullness of what God the Father has made available in Christ for our salvation and that, in consequence, the Church is far and away the easiest and most certain road to eternal happiness. Finally, in knowing that, you also know two other things. First, you know that if you turn your back on the Church, you’re rejecting God and the Good you know, which makes salvation impossible in any context. Second, you know that you have an incomparably valuable and wonderful gift which, if you really care about anybody but yourself, you’ll want to share with others.

Turning Things Right Side Up

Now while this is the whole answer in brief, there are much richer ways of expressing it. One of the problems that prevents us from expressing this richness is our preoccupation with the question of personal salvation. I’m reminded of the evangelical Christians who used to walk up to me at college and ask me whether I was saved. Indeed, ever since sectarian divisions arose in the 16th century, even Catholics have thought more about their Faith in terms of salvation than they did before. As recently as the first half of the twentieth century, this preoccupation with the question of salvation too often took center stage in ordinary Catholic life. Thus it has often been said, including by theologians such as Joseph Ratzinger, that there was a strong cultural tendency among Catholics at that time to live the Faithprescriptively: Just give me the rules; tell me the minimum set of things I have to do to get to Heaven; oh, and let me know what it takes to make Purgatory, too.

Yet this almost exclusive focus on the question of salvation actually looks at the Faith from the wrong end, defining it too much in terms of one ego-centric result. I don’t mean to say that personal salvation is unimportant. Certainly Our Lord talked about it. But thinking about religion primarily in terms of personal salvation is an essentially Protestant idea. A religious scholar named Paul Hacker actually turned this problem into an extraordinarily perceptive book about the Protestant Reformation entitled The Ego in Faith. The serious Protestant wants to know if a man has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. In broad terms, the purpose of religion for Protestants is to gain salvation. The essential and far richer purpose for Catholics, however, has always been to give glory to God.

Now as soon as we say this, we grasp instantly that it is true, but how often do we forget! And once we remember that it is true, we suddenly start looking at religion from the right end again; we turn the whole thing right side up. At its very core, Catholicism isn’t about me, or at least not primarily. It’s about God. And secondarily, it’s about my relationship with God, and yours, and every human person’s.

Glory, Love and Grace

God is pure being, without beginning or end, the one whose essence is existence, the only one who can truthfully call Himself “I am who am” (Ex 3:14). He is so awesomely beyond and above us that our only appropriate response is: “Glory!” He is also the Creator of everything else that exists, all of which depends completely and utterly upon Him. Again, “Glory be to God!” And He is a Trinity of burning love, by His very nature impelled to share Himself in love with others, whom He has created simply to be loved, to know what it means to be in love. Once again, “Glory!”

Finally, to draw us into this ecstasy of love, He makes Himself present to us through the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. And after Jesus Christ came into the world, taught us everything we needed to know about the Father, established His Church and prepared for His final act of obedience to the Father’s will, what does He say to the Father about His purpose and the purpose of His disciples? He says it is all for the glory of God. Read Saint John’s Gospel:

I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do; and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made. I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. Now they know that everything that thou hast given me is from thee; for I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from thee; and they have believed that thou didst send me. I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine; all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them. (Jn 17:4-10)

An Engine of Unity

To give glory to God, we must keep His every word, insofar as we know it; and if we are so blessed as to know all His words through His only begotten Son, then we must embrace and live in the very Word of God Himself. This is not a demand so much as a gift. Remember that the central task of the Word in history is to reconcile us to the Father or, as I said above, to bring us into an ecstatic union of love with Him. To conceive of this as a burden, or to weigh it up in terms of a series of requirements, is to miss the point entirely. But we cannot be caught up in an ecstasy of infinite love merely by offering our own natural and finite love. Thus a central feature of God’s plan is that He should actually share His Divine life with us, not only loving us but enabling us to love Him back with His own supernatural love, now made our own through grace.

At last we are getting somewhere in answering our question of why we should become Catholic, or remain Catholic, or bring others to Catholicism. To respond to God as He so ardently wishes, by drawing into a union of love with Him, we need all the assistance we can get: All the knowledge of Himself that He has provided; all the guidance He has given as to the attitudes and behaviors we need to modify in order to love properly; and as large a share in His very life—that is, as much grace—as we can pack in. These things come to man through Christ and His Holy Spirit operating in and through the Catholic Church—the Church Christ founded and committed to Peter and the Twelve, the leaders of the Church of whom He said so very clearly: “He who hears you hears me” (Lk 10:16).

The Catholic Church is a veritable engine of unity with God. Her structures and sacred hierarchy, her Faith and securely infallible teaching, her sacramental life of grace, and her very members—sinners in flux, with all their faults—are also Christ’s mystical body, the locus of his presence on earth, and the ultimate source and font of every grace to all, even those outside her visible borders. To enjoy the gift of God’s saving love fully, to draw into the fullest possible union with Him, and so to glorify Him to the best of our ability as He wishes to be glorified, we must participate as vigorously in the Church as we know how, and we must share this immense gift with others as much as we can. For indeed it would be churlish on our part, and more than worthy of condemnation, to be willfully satisfied with anything less than all that God has offered—as if to spurn our Lover’s gifts.

The Kingdom of God

This same criterion of willful satisfaction applies equally to all persons, and the Church’s teaching on salvation both within and outside of the Church’s sacramental system depends on this very thing: We must not turn away from whatever Good we know, and we must always seek earnestly to know more of the Good, and ultimately know the Author of all that is good. Because Catholics have the opportunity to participate more richly than anyone else in this knowledge and in the grace to grow into union with the only One who can truly be called “good” (Mk 10:18; Lk 18:19), Catholics possess incomparable blessings—blessings on which they are bound, so to speak, to capitalize. Remember the parable of the talents (Mt 25)!

So far we have been considering this matter from the personal point of view, which is valid enough, but it is also necessary to broaden it to its full scope, and ultimately to the new heavens and the new earth promised to us by Christ Himself (2 Pet 3). For Our Lord came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God, which even now through the Church grows like the proverbial mustard seed in the hearts of men. This Kingdom has, inescapably, a social dimension, an outflowing to others of the love we share with God. Indeed, since the Church worships and grows as a community, its individual members are part of a community of love, a community which extends itself to all in every need, both natural and supernatural.

The reign of God has already begun in Christ: “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt 12:28). It is made present each time we share the love of God that we have received, glorifying Him by keeping His words, by living in Christ—that is, by doing His will. Those of us in the West are beginning again to see, with the decline of Christian influence, what we once took for granted: The enormous decline in genuine care for one another and the immense misguidedness of human efforts to make things better. In other places which are becoming heavily Christian for the first time, people can see this from the opposite side: How much more mutual help there is, and how much better-directed human effort becomes, under the influence of Christ!

The Kingdom of God struggles against the darkness, of course, and appears often to be intermingled with it. But insofar as Catholics become better and more numerous, and insofar as they invest the social order with Catholic teaching and the love of Christ, so does the Kingdom of God penetrate the world more widely and deeply in both its natural and supernatural dimensions. For grace, while it does not replace nature, always perfects it.

Sharing in the Sufferings of Christ

This matter of extending the Kingdom of God brings me to a final point. God wishes to be glorified by entering into a union of love with you and me, and He also wishes to be glorified by this union with every soul. It is for this reason that He has made His Church a font of grace, and for this reason He has also given it a missionary charge: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:19-20). This is a clarion call to make converts, insofar as we are able, for the glory of God, a process of glorification which also includes that other little result, personal salvation.

But there is a deeper mode of participation in Christ’s work than missionary work. St. Paul put it this way: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24). By an almost incredible act of condescension, God makes us partners with Christ in doing exactly what Christ Himself claimed His supreme sacrifice would do: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). This is, if you will, a stunning amplification of the parable of the talents. Indeed, to whom much has been given, from him much will be expected. We Catholics are privileged—yes, privileged—to become so intimately united with Christ that we can enhance in our own lives His very sufferings for the good of the Church. Note that the other side of this rare coin is the supremely high calling to help extend Christ’s salvific power.

We possess, then, by virtue of being Catholic, a share in the spiritual responsibility for all of our brothers and sisters, both within and outside the visible borders of the Catholic Church. We are called to make reparation for sin, to win forgiveness, and to increase the flow of grace available to all those who, in whatsoever condition, are or should be struggling to know and follow the good that must ultimately lead to God through Christ. By our own holiness, which is a deep union with God through the effective appropriation of grace, we are invited—no, we are actually expected—to strengthen and increase the mysterious ways in which the Holy Spirit, flowing out from Christ and His Church, touches the hearts of each and every person in the continuous drama of bringing all of them closer to their Father in Heaven.

Above all we are called to do this by our intense glorification of Christ in the Church, by which we offer everything we have to Him and with Him to the Father for the sake of souls. How was it that Saint Paul described God’s method? To his saints, said the Apostle, “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). It is Christ we proclaim, Paul continued, “warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ” (Col 1:28).

Being Catholic is our glory, the glory due to God, and an incomparable potential gift to every man, woman and child whom God calls son, daughter and friend. Here we find glory upon glory. Ultimately, that is why we are to become Catholic, to remain Catholic, and to do all we can to draw others to embrace Catholicism. Ad majorem Dei gloriam. To the greater glory of God!

Jeff Mirus - President of

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Prayer for Priests

I came across this prayer preparing for a day of recollection. It comes from Pope John Paul II's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Patores Dabo Vobis" (I will give you shepherds)



O Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ and Mother of priests,

accept this title which we bestow on you to celebrate your motherhood

and to contemplate with you the Priesthood of your Son and of your sons,

O Holy Mother of God.

Mother of Christ, to the Messiah-Priest you gave a body of flesh

through the anointing of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the poor

and the contrite of heart, guard priests in your heart and in the Church,

O Mother of the Saviour.

O Mother of Faith,

you accompanied the Son of Man at the temple,

in fulfillment of the promises made to the Fathers,

give to the Father for his glory, the priests of his Son,

O Ark of the Covenant.

O Mother of the Church, among the disciples in the Cenacle

you prayed to the Spirit for the new People and their Shepherds,

obtain for the Order of Presbyters the full measure of gifts,

O Queen of the Apostles.

O Mother of Jesus Christ, you were with him from the beginning of his life

and in his mission, you sought the Master among the crowd,

you stood beside him when He was lifted up from the earth,

consumed as the one eternal sacrifice, and you had John, your son, close by,

accept from the beginning those who have been called

protect their growth, in their life ministry accompany your sons,

O Mother of Priests.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Atheists Don't Have No Songs

Fr. Michael Cummins who blogs over at The Alternate Path just posted an hilarious video by Steve Martin in which he sings the lone example of Atheist hymnody. It is entitled Atheists Don't Have No Songs. I thought I would reblog it here in Praedica Verbum for your enjoyment!

The Roman Collar

An interesting article in the Homelitc and Pastoral Review that I thought might be good to re-blog:

23 Reasons Why A Priest Should Wear His Collar

Msgr. Charles M. Mangan & Father Gerald E. Murray. “Why a priest should wear his Roman collar.”

  1. The Roman collar is a sign of priestly consecration to the Lord. As a wedding ring distinguishes husband and wife and symbolizes the union they enjoy, so the Roman collar identifies bishops and priests (and often deacons and seminarians) and manifests their proximity to the Divine Master by virtue of their free consent to the ordained ministry to which they have been (or may be) called.
  2. By wearing clerical clothing and not possessing excess clothes, the priest demonstrates adherence to the Lord’s example of material poverty. The priest does not choose his clothes – the Church has, thanks to her accumulated wisdom over the past two millennia. Humble acceptance of the Church’s desire that the priest wear the Roman collar illustrates a healthy submission to authority and conformity to the will of Christ as expressed through his Church.
  3. Church Law requires clerics to wear clerical clothing. We have cited above number 66 of the Directory for priests, which itself quotes canon 284.
  4. The wearing of the Roman collar is the repeated, ardent desire of Pope John Paul 11. The Holy Father’s wish in this regard cannot be summarily dismissed; he speaks with a special charism. He frequently reminds priests of the value of wearing the Roman collar.In a September 8, 1982 letter to Ugo Cardinal Poletti, his Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, instructing him to promulgate norms concerning the use of the Roman collar and religious habit, the Pontiff observed that clerical dress is valuable “not only because it contributes to the propriety of the priest in his external behavior or in the exercise of his ministry, but above all because it gives evidence within the ecclesiastical community of the public witness that each priest is held to give of his own identity and special belonging to God.”In a homily on November 8, 1982 the Pope addressed a group of transitional deacons whom he was about to ordain to the priesthood. He said that if they tried to be just like everyone else in their “style of life” and “manner of dress,” then their mission as priests of Jesus Christ would not be fully realized.
  5. The Roman collar prevents “mixed messages”; other people will recognize the priest’s intentions when he finds himself in what might appear to be compromising circumstances. Let’s suppose that a priest is required to make pastoral visits to different apartment houses in an area where drug dealing or prostitution is prevalent. The Roman collar sends a clear message to everyone that the priest has come to minister to the sick and needy in Christ’s name. Idle speculation might be triggered by a priest known to neighborhood residents visiting various apartment houses dressed as a layman.
  6. The Roman collar inspires others to avoid immodesty in dress, words and actions and reminds them of the need for public decorum. A cheerful but diligent and serious priest can compel others to take stock of the manner in which they conduct themselves. The Roman collar serves as a necessary challenge to an age drowning in impurity, exhibited by suggestive dress, blasphemous speech and scandalous actions.
  7. The Roman collar is a protection for one’s vocation when dealing with young, attractive women. A priest out of his collar (and, naturally, not wearing a wedding ring) can appear to be an attractive target for the affections of an unmarried woman looking for a husband, or for a married woman tempted to infidelity.
  8. The Roman collar offers a kind of “safeguard “for oneself. The Roman collar provides a reminder to the priest himself of his mission and identity: to witness to Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, as one of his brother-priests.
  9. A priest in a Roman collar is an inspiration to others who think: “Here is a modern disciple of Jesus.” The Roman collar speaks of the possibility of making a sincere, lasting commitment to God. Believers of diverse ages, nationalities and temperaments will note the virtuous, other-centered life of the man who gladly and proudly wears the garb of a Catholic priest, and perhaps will realize that they too can consecrate themselves anew, or for the first time, to the loving Good Shepherd.
  10. The Roman collar is a source of beneficial intrigue to non-Catholics. Most non- Catholics do not have experience with ministers who wear clerical garb. Therefore, Catholic priests by virtue of their dress can cause them to reflect – even if only a cursory fashion – on the Church and what she entails.
  11. A priest dressed as the Church wants is a reminder of God and of the sacred. The prevailing secular morass is not kind to images which connote the Almighty, the Church, etc. When one wears the Roman collar, the hearts and minds of others are refreshingly raised to the “Higher Being” who is usually relegated to a tiny footnote in the agenda of contemporary culture.
  12. The Roman collar is also a reminder to the priest that he is “never not a priest.” With so much confusion prevalent today, the Roman collar can help the priest avoid internal doubt as to who he is. Two wardrobes can easily lead – and often does – to two lifestyles, or even two personalities.
  13. A priest in a Roman collar is a walking vocation message. The sight of a cheerful, happy priest confidently walking down the street can be a magnet drawing young men to consider the possibility that God is calling them to the priesthood. God does the calling; the priest is simply a visible sign God will use to draw men unto himself.
  14. The Roman collar makes the priest available for the Sacraments, especially Confession and the Anointing of the Sick, and for crisis situations. Because the Roman collar gives instant recognition, priests who wear it make themselves more apt to be approached, particularly when seriously needed. The authors can testify to being asked for the Sacraments and summoned for assistance in airports, crowded cities and isolated villages because they were immediately recognized as Catholic priests.
  15. The Roman collar is a sign that the priest is striving to become holy by living out his vocation always. It is a sacrifice to make oneself constantly available to souls by being publicly identifiable as a priest, but a sacrifice pleasing to Our Divine Lord. We are reminded of how the people came to him, and how he never turned them away. There are so many people who will benefit by our sacrifice of striving to be holy priests without interruption.
  16. The Roman collar serves as a reminder to “alienated” Catholics not to forget their irregular situation and their responsibilities to the Lord. The priest is a witness – for good or ill – to Christ and his Holy Church. When a “fallen-away” sees a priest, he is encouraged to recall that the Church continues to exist. A cheerful priest provides a salutary reminder of the Church.
  17. The wearing of clerical clothing is a sacrifice at times, especially in hot weather. The best mortifications are the ones we do not look for. Putting up with the discomforts of heat and humidity can be a wonderful reparation for our own sins, and a means of obtaining graces for our parishioners.
  18. The Roman collar serves as a “sign of contradiction” to a world lost in sin and rebellion against the Creator. The Roman collar makes a powerful statement: the priest as an alter Christus has accepted the Redeemer’s mandate to take the Gospel into the public square, regardless of personal cost.
  19. The Roman collar helps priests to avoid the on duty/off duty mentality of priestly service. The numbers 24 and 7 should be our special numbers: we are priests 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are priests, not men who engage in the “priest profession.” On or off duty, we should be available to whomever God may send our way. The “lost sheep” do not make appointments.
  20. The “officers” in Christ’s army should be identifiable as such. Traditionally, we have remarked that those who receive the Sacrament of Confirmation become “soldiers” of Christ, adult Catholics ready and willing to defend his name and his Church. Those who are ordained as deacons, priests and bishops must also be prepared – whatever the stakes – to shepherd the flock of the Lord. Those priests who wear the Roman collar show forth their role unmistakably as leaders in the Church.
  21. The saints have never approved of a lackadaisical approach concerning priestly vesture. For example, Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), Patron Saint of Moral Theologians and Confessors, in his esteemed treatise The Dignity and Duties of the Priest, urges the wearing of the appropriate clerical dress, asserting that the Roman collar helps both priest and faithful to recall the sublime splendor of the sacerdotal state instituted by the God-Man.
  22. Most Catholics expect their priests to dress accordingly. Priests have long provided a great measure of comfort and security to their people. As youths, Catholics are taught that the priest is God’s representative – someone they can trust. Hence, the People of God want to know who these representatives are and what they stand for. The cherished custom of wearing distinguishable dress has been for centuries sanctioned by the Church; it is not an arbitrary imposition. Catholics expect their priests to dress as priests and to behave in harmony with Church teaching and practice. As we have painfully observed over the last few years, the faithful are especially bothered and harmed when priests defy the legitimate authority of the Church, and teach and act in inappropriate and even sinful ways.
  23. Your life is not your own; you belong to God in a special way, you are sent out to serve him with your life. When we wake each morning, we should turn our thoughts to our loving God, and ask for the grace to serve him well that day. We remind ourselves of our status as His chosen servants by putting on the attire that proclaims for all to see that God is still working in this world through the ministry of poor and sinful men.

Msgr. Charles M. Mangan & Father Gerald E. Murray. “Why a priest should wear his Roman collar.” Homiletic & Pastoral Review (June, 1995).

Founded over one hundred years ago, Homiletic & Pastoral Review is one of the most well-respected pastoral magazines in the world. HPR features solid articles on every aspect of pastoral life and eloquent weekly sermons that illuminate through exposition of Scripture. Subscribe to HPR here.


Msgr. Charles M. Mangan has been appointed by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, to a position serving the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Ordained in 1989, Msgr. Mangan formerly served the Diocese of Sioux Falls in several parishes.

Father Gerald E. Murray is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and was ordained in 1984 after completing studies at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, N. Y. Currently he is studying canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome.

Copyright © 2010 Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Our Lady of Fatima



"May the Church Be Thus Renewed by Priests Who Are Holy"

FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 12, 2010 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the Act of Entrustment and Consecration of Priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, prayed today by Benedict XVI at the conclusion of the celebration of vespers with the religious, seminarians and diocesan priests at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Fatima.

The encounter was dedicated to the priesthood in this Year for Priests.

* * *

Immaculate Mother,
in this place of grace,
called together by the love of your Son Jesus
the Eternal High Priest, we,
sons in the Son and his priests,
consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart,
in order to carry out faithfully the Father’s Will.

We are mindful that, without Jesus,
we can do nothing good (cf. Jn 15:5)
and that only through him, with him and in him,
will we be instruments of salvation
for the world.

Bride of the Holy Spirit,
obtain for us the inestimable gift
of transformation in Christ.
Through the same power of the Spirit that
overshadowed you,
making you the Mother of the Saviour,
help us to bring Christ your Son
to birth in ourselves too.
May the Church
be thus renewed by priests who are holy,
priests transfigured by the grace of him
who makes all things new.

Mother of Mercy,
it was your Son Jesus who called us
to become like him:
light of the world and salt of the earth
(cf. Mt 5:13-14).

Help us,
through your powerful intercession,
never to fall short of this sublime vocation,
nor to give way to our selfishness,
to the allurements of the world
and to the wiles of the Evil One.

Preserve us with your purity,
guard us with your humility
and enfold us with your maternal love
that is reflected in so many souls
consecrated to you,
who have become for us
true spiritual mothers.

Mother of the Church,
we priests want to be pastors
who do not feed themselves
but rather give themselves to God for their brethren,
finding their happiness in this.
Not only with words, but with our lives,
we want to repeat humbly,
day after day,
Our “here I am”.

Guided by you,
we want to be Apostles
of Divine Mercy,
glad to celebrate every day
the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar
and to offer to those who request it
the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Advocate and Mediatrix of grace,
you who are fully immersed
in the one universal mediation of Christ,
invoke upon us, from God,
a heart completely renewed
that loves God with all its strength
and serves mankind as you did.

Repeat to the Lord
your efficacious word:
“They have no wine” (Jn 2:3),
so that the Father and the Son will send upon us
a new outpouring of
the Holy Spirit.
Full of wonder and gratitude
at your continuing presence in our midst,
in the name of all priests
I too want to cry out:
“Why is this granted me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43).

Our Mother for all time,
do not tire of “visiting us”,
consoling us, sustaining us.
Come to our aid
and deliver us from every danger
that threatens us.
With this act of entrustment and consecration,
we wish to welcome you
more deeply, more radically,
for ever and totally
into our human and priestly lives.

Let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth
in the desert of our loneliness,
let it cause the sun to shine on our darkness,
let it restore calm after the tempest,
so that all mankind shall see the salvation
of the Lord,
who has the name and the face of Jesus,
who is reflected in our hearts,
for ever united to yours!


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