Saturday, February 27, 2010


Today I had the Noon Mass in Spanish. We prayed especially for the victims of the earthquake in Chile. What was truly amazing to me, and I never really noticed it before, was the two Korean ladies singing in Spanish along with some Filipinos, and at least one man from Ireland. I've dreamt about this but never really seen it for real. What a tribute to these people and to our identity as Church, the one Mystical Body of Christ!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow II

I love books. I always have. A day like this is ideal for reading but somehow the day just slipped away from me. I never know just where the time goes.

The Seven Penitential Psalms:

Psalms 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129 and 142

Since the days of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), these psalms  have been suggested to be prayed during the Holy Season of Lent. Some would suggest the be prayed on each day in Lent or they can at least be prayed on Lenten Fridays (or one could pray one prayer on each of the 7 Fridays of Lent.).

Psalm 6

For the leader; with stringed instruments, "upon the eighth." A psalm of David.

Do not reprove me in your anger, LORD, nor punish me in your wrath.
Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak; heal me, LORD, for my bones are trembling.
In utter terror is my soul-- and you, LORD, how long...?
Turn, LORD, save my life; in your mercy rescue me.
For who among the dead remembers you? Who praises you in Sheol?
I am wearied with sighing; all night long tears drench my bed; my couch is soaked with weeping.
My eyes are dimmed with sorrow, worn out because of all my foes.
Away from me, all who do evil! The LORD has heard my weeping.
The LORD has heard my prayer; the LORD takes up my plea.
My foes will be terrified and disgraced; all will fall back in sudden shame.
Psalm 31
For the leader. A psalm of David.

In you, LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice deliver me;
incline your ear to me; make haste to rescue me! Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to save me.
You are my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake lead and guide me.
Free me from the net they have set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, LORD, faithful God.
You hate those who serve worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD.
I will rejoice and be glad in your love, once you have seen my misery, observed my distress.
You will not abandon me into enemy hands, but will set my feet in a free and open space.
Be gracious to me, LORD, for I am in distress; with grief my eyes are wasted, my soul and body spent.
My life is worn out by sorrow, my years by sighing. My strength fails in affliction; my bones are consumed.
To all my foes I am a thing of scorn, to my neighbors, a dreaded sight, a horror to my friends. When they see me in the street, they quickly shy away.
I am forgotten, out of mind like the dead; I am like a shattered dish.
I hear the whispers of the crowd; terrors are all around me. They conspire against me; they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, LORD; I say, "You are my God."
My times are in your hands; rescue me from my enemies, from the hands of my pursuers.
Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your kindness.
Do not let me be put to shame, for I have called to you, LORD. Put the wicked to shame; reduce them to silence in Sheol.
Strike dumb their lying lips, proud lips that attack the just in contempt and scorn.
How great is your goodness, Lord, stored up for those who fear you. You display it for those who trust you, in the sight of all the people.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from scheming enemies. You keep them in your abode, safe from plotting tongues.
Blessed be the LORD, who has shown me wondrous love, and been for me a city most secure.
Once I said in my anguish, "I am shut out from your sight." Yet you heard my plea, when I cried out to you.
Love the LORD, all you faithful. The LORD protects the loyal, but repays the arrogant in full.
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

Look for the rest. They make for great comfort.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snow attitude

Lent is flying by and can easily pass without our realizing it. Even with Lenten practices and "giving ups" it's been known to happen that the person even forgets it is Lent. Consider the scene from earlier today here at St. Sebastian. The moisture had fooled the sensors in the school fire alarm into tripping and the children, most in shirtsleeves, evacuated the building by going out into the snow and cold to assemble as classes in the Parish Center. The custodial staff, alerted by the bell-code that the rooftop air-duct sensors were to blame thoroughly checked the school before sounding the all-clear. The students evacuated the building in no time and remained orderly throughout. When they were returning, one of the men who was parked in the Center lot was intent on leaving and tempers flared. It happens. It just happens.

Lent is really about changing our perspective on life and seeing what is really important. My cousin Matthew (28 years old) died almost a month ago and his death changed the perspectives of many in his family and of his friends. But time passes, and we forget.

Every day in Lent can be Ash Wednesday as we start again and remember what the season is all about and who the season is all about.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Citizen of Freising

Many people think our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI is not as warm as his predecessor the late beloved, Venerable Pope John Paul II. I have never shared that feeling and in fact, in some ways he is warmer and more personal in his writings and addresses. On January 16, 2010 His Holiness was made an honorary citizen of the City of Freising, the city of his seminary days. He spoke extemporaneously to those present in the Clementine Hall and used a phrase that I found especially touching: "In my life biography -- in the biography of my heart, if I may -- the City of Freising has played a very special role." The notion of a "biography of my heart" is just so moving for me.

He shares some memories of his time in the city but the following recollection struck and especially sweet chord with me as a fellow priest. About the day of his ordination to the priesthood he writes:

"Three moments are particularly deeply impressed within me.

First of all, lying stretched out on the ground during the litany of the saints. In lying prostrate on the ground, one becomes newly aware of all one's poverty and asks oneself: am I truly capable of it? And at the same time the names of all the saints of history and the entreaty of the faithful ring out: "Hear us; help them".

In this way the awareness grows that, yes, I am weak and inadequate but I am not alone, there are others with me, the entire community of the saints is with me. They accompany me and thus I can make this journey and become a companion and guide for others.

The second moment, the imposition of hands by the elderly, venerable Cardinal Faulhaber who laid his hands upon me, upon all of us, in a profound and intense manner and the knowledge that it was the Lord who was laying his hands upon me and saying: "you belong to me, you do not simply belong to yourself, I want you, you are at my service"; but also the awareness that this imposition of hands is a grace, that it does not only create obligations, but above all is a gift, that he is with me and that his love protects and accompanies me.

Then there was also the old rite in which the power to forgive sins was conferred at a separate moment. It began when the Bishop, pronouncing the Lord's words, said: "No longer do I call you servants... but... friends". And I knew we knew that this is not only a quotation from John 15 but a timely word that the Lord is addressing to me now. He accepts me as a friend; I am in this friendly relationship; he has given me his trust and I can work within this friendship and make others friends of Christ."

He also shared the memory: "...I was able to pass a further unforgettable three and a half years with my parents at Lerchenfeldhof. Thus once again I could feel completely at home. These last three and a half years with my parents were an immense gift to me and truly made Freising my home. I am thinking of the celebrations, of how we celebrated Christmas, Easter and Pentecost together; of our walks through the fields together, of how we would go to the woods to gather fir-tree branches and moss for the crib, and of our outings to the fields on the banks of the Isar. Thus Freising became a real homeland to us, and as a homeland it lives on in my heart."

Pope Benedict's memories, personal as they are to him, resonated in me as well in the "biography of my heart."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tony, Tony Come Around

Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience Catechesis on St. Anthony of Padua is worth reading in full but try this part on prayer on for size:

"...St Anthony speaks of prayer as of a loving relationship that impels man to speak gently with the Lord, creating an ineffable joy that sweetly enfolds the soul in prayer. Anthony reminds us that prayer requires an atmosphere of silence, which does not mean distance from external noise but rather is an interior experience that aims to remove the distractions caused by a soul's anxieties, thereby creating silence in the soul itself. According to this prominent Franciscan Doctor's teaching, prayer is structured in four indispensable attitudes which in Anthony's Latin are defined as obsecratio, oratio, postulatio, gratiarum actio. We might translate them in the following manner. The first step in prayer is confidently opening one's heart to God; this is not merely accepting a word but opening one's heart to God's presence. Next, is speaking with him affectionately, seeing him present with oneself; then a very natural thing presenting our needs to him; and lastly, praising and thanking him. (Italics mine)

In St Anthony's teaching on prayer we perceive one of the specific traits of the Franciscan theology that he founded: namely the role assigned to divine love which enters into the sphere of the affections, of the will and of the heart, and which is also the source from which flows a spiritual knowledge that surpasses all other knowledge. In fact, it is in loving that we come to know.

Anthony writes further: "Charity is the soul of faith, it gives it life; without love, faith dies" (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi II, Messagero, Padua 1979, p. 37). "

Venerable Pius XII

The Vatican has agreed to make available through the Internet over 8,000 pages, more than  five thousand documents of the Vatican Secret Archive for the years 1939 - 1945. This was done at the request of Gary Krupp, founder and president of the Pave the Way Foundation, which, among other things, is interested in setting the story straight on Pope Pius XII's wartime record especially his relationship to the Jews.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Chair

Today is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, one of the very few times during Lent that we recite the Gloria. The cathedra or chair is the symbol of the authority of the bishop of a diocese, in this case the Pope as the Bishop of Rome. Remember that the First Vatican Council solemnly defined the authority of the Pope to formally teach infallibly on issues of faith and morals. This has happened only twice, both teachings of the Church with regard to Our Blessed Mother, her Immaculate Conception and her Assumption.

So today we are invited to spend some time thinking and praying about the role Our Holy Father plays in the life of the Church as institution and as the People of God. The late beloved Venerable Pope John Paul II was a prolific author, and Pope Benedict XVI has also written quite substantially. Many of their writings are available at the Vatican website. Great reading for Lent!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Freedom from Hunger

Pope Benedict XVI's message for Lent “The justice of God has been manifested

through faith in Jesus Christ” (cf. Rm 3, 21-22) is worth reading if you haven't already seen it.

On the First Sunday of Lent every year we hear the story of the Temptation of Christ in the Desert. This year, Cycle C of the Sunday readings, we read St. Luke's account (4:1-13) which tells us that "Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit" spent 40 days in the desert and was tempted by Satan. Temptations to material success and comfort, to the illusion of power in this world, and to the abuse of God's gift of life, are ways to look at what the Tempter suggested to Jesus. What are the temptations we experience and how do we ask the Holy Spirit to help us resist them?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sinners who follow Jesus

That's who we are: sinners who follow Jesus. The Gospel today, Luke 5:27-32, presents Jesus as preferring the company of sinners; isn't that good news. Somehow or other we may not want to be identified as sinners yet that is who Jesus came to save.

What does it mean to be a sinner? What does it mean to be a saint? At least in Jesus' book it appears that, here on earth at least, they are two sides of the same coin. Each of us is both much of the time and we can easily flip from one to the other. Consider the two men shouting at each other in the St. Sebastian parking lot immediately following the Good Friday services last year. I'm sure each of us has the experience of seeing something like that all the time, either in others (much easier to recognize their sins and sinfulness) or in ourselves (harder to accept, I know, but it's there nonetheless). The need to forgive and to be forgiven is a part of our human nature that God uses to transform us. Lent is an opportunity to plead for that transformation!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Here I Am!

Today's First Reading is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 58:1-9a. It's another stunner! God Himself is speaking to His people about their religious practices. "This, rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own." Some definition of fasting, right. It's God's part of a dialogue with His people who are complaining that they fast and God doesn't see it and appreciate it. He says to them "On your fast day you carry out your own pursuits and drive all your laborers...your fast ends in quarreling and fighting...." On this third day of Lent, when we abstain from meat, it's time for a quick check of our Lenten practices. Ask yourself how you are doing?

When you saw the title of this post you probably thought of the story of Eli and Samuel and Samuel's response to God. The reference is from today's reading, and it's God who utters the words. "You shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!"

Lent is about crying to the Lord for help as we try to turn back to Him. By the way, as one who hears confessions, some people only think of the "Big Ones" when it comes to sin. Deadly or Mortal Sin isn't the only kind. Venial or light sin can abound and divert our attention from He who is the Source of Life. Those everyday distractions to which we can so easily fall prey, turn us away from Him and we need that constant reminder to turn back. It's so nice to know that no matter what, He says "Here I am!"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

So it begins ...

After all the intensity of yesterday, with more than 6,000 people here for ashes, the work of Lent begins today.

The First Reading, from Deuteronomy (30:15-20) sets a theme for Lent this year. It's all about choices!

In the verse before the selection, Moses tells us that the law that God has for us is not remote and far off; "No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out." Then he speaks of the choices we have: "life and prosperity, death and doom". Moses says it's simple: obey the commandments of the Lord, love Him, walk in His ways, and you will have life and be blessed. "If you turn away your hearts and will not listen ... you will perish. Now obedience is rooted in the Greek work for "hearing" and really is a kind of truly attuned and sensitive hearing that allows us to change and be changed as we listen to the Word of the Lord already present in out hearts. It's simple! And yet, year after year we are called to strive to do this thing so simple that eludes us (oops, me) all too easily. It's about choices!

"Today I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.... Choose life!"

In the Gospel today (Luke 9:22-25), Jesus invites us to deny ourselves, and follow Him. It's about choices!

Choose Life!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ashes to Ashes

Once again the Lenten season is an opportunity for all of us to spend some well deserved "retreat time" praying, fasting, and giving charitably to those less fortunate than we. Once again this year this daily blog will be my penance (and yours as well, perhaps).

Thousands of people are passing through the doors of St. Sebastian today. Some faces are very familiar and some are new. Some people are or will be with us every day for Lent and others are just passing through.

The phone has been ringing off the hook at the rectory and the staff will fall asleep tonight repeating the Ash Wednesday schedule over and over after so many calls inquiring about the ashes.

I love the A & P Catholics! They arrive every year because their faith leads them home. I just wish they'd stay with us and my prayer every year is that some will.

The fragility of our lives is on my mind these days as I continue to mourn the loss of my cousin Matthew Cahill, who died on his 28th birthday. My heart and prayers go out to his Mom and Dad and his two sibs. He has been lead by his faith and theirs to his true home and ours as well.