Friday, January 29, 2010

Catholic Real Life

A friend of ours has established a new website, Catholic Real Life, centered on education of life issues.

It has a host of videos, articles, and links to help the searcher of knowledge on life issues.

It's greatest attribute is The Real Life Rundown. This contains the essential teaching of the Catholic Church on abortion, capital punishment, contraception, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and in vitro fertilization.

Check it out.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Before I begin, I would like to first apologize for my silence the last several months. During this time, my Beloved decided to put me through a sort of spiritual boot camp. I would like to share some of the insights I have gained during this time. Some of you will probably read my simple writings and not have any new insights; however, I challenge everyone to spend time gnawing on the ideas that I write about, spending time in prayer with it and allowing the Most Holy Trinity entrance into your soul to develop that which He desires to teach you and bring you a deeper understanding.

I am beginning these reflections on a topic that will surprise most, the intimate and irremovable importance of preparing yourself ahead of time for Lent and Easter Sunday. I know that it may seem strange that I would choose such a topic when we perceive Ash Wednesday to be so very far away. Reality, however, shows that we are less than 30 days away from the beginning of Lent. This said, I pose a question: have you begun to prepare for Lent? Most of us will immediately say no. The main questions, I believe, that follow this answer ought to be: why prepare so early, and how do you prepare for Lent.

To find the answer to these questions, you must spend time in meditation. Lent is the season that is to remind us of the Israelites in the desert and Christ’s time in the desert. Yet, Lent is so much more. Lent is a time when God calls us to die to self in order to rise in and with Christ Easter Sunday. Lent is the time when we renew and hold firm to our Baptismal promises as we face those vices in our lives that keep us from uniting ourselves with Christ, Who during Holy Week suffered greatly and died for YOU out of absolute love in order for you to rise to new life in His most Eucharistic Heart. Thus, we are called to prepare ourselves for the Lenten days of struggle as we walk through the desert.

Yet, how do we prepare. The basics of preparing are Mass, adoration, the rosary, and Scripture. However, we need to also come to recognize those areas in our lives in which we do not belong to Christ. We have to prepare by coming to know more of ourselves by spending time looking at the virtues that we need in order to be fully united to Christ. Below, I have listed the virtues that I consider to be among the most important and most foundational of the virtues.
My challenge to you in the present moment is to spend time with each virtue between now and the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Contemplate not only upon what the virtue means, but also how you have fallen from and grown from that particular virtue. You must be honest with yourself in order to see your faults. From the Sunday before Ash Wednesday until Ash Wednesday, I suggest praying about which virtue(s) to work on during Lent; however, do not simply try to figure it out yourself, but beg God to help you choose what you need to work on.
Lent was, is, and never will be a period of time in which you are allowed to go back into the vices you had been working on. Lent is a spiritual jump-start that is supposed to give you the time and support needed to grow ever closer to Christ.

The virtues with a few extras
1. Humility
2. Obedience
3. Faith
4. Hope
5. Love/Charity
6. Perseverance
7. Self-Control
8. Patience
9. Wisdom
10. Understanding
11. Fortitude
12. Joy
13. Silence

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Love, Conversion, and the March for Life

I returned yesterday evening from the March for Life. I flew up on Wednesday with my seminarian brothers and met up with a group of high-schoolers from Baton Rouge, LA for whom I would be playing music. I had the privilege of spending the march with them last year, and I was surprised and in awe at their openness to God's will and their great desire to protest for the right to life. I was very much looking forward to spending time with them before, during, and after the march.

We marched, a sea of white knit caps, singing, praying, and chanting that life would be respected from conception to natural death. Each teen sang, each teen prayed, each teen chanted. Each teen showed their great love for the gift of life.

In the process they experienced a great love of each other. They found in each other Christ. They became witnesses not only to Washington D.C., the United States, and other Pro-lifers, but to themselves. Their joy and willingness to wake up a five in the morning 3 days in a row and ride 30 hours on a bus there and 30 hours on a bus back became a great witness to their brothers and sisters on the trip. At the very end of the bus ride we asked for some of the teens to give testimonies. One usually expects the most talkative and most faithful to speak. In fact, the opposite happened, some of the quietest in the group spoke and became great witnesses of how Christ can change lives on a bus.

Now in the process of all this I missed some classes. Today I planned on catching up on reading. One of those readings is the introduction and first chapter of the Compendium of Social Doctrine. Paragraph #4 explains this trip,

Discovering that they are loved by God, people come to understand their own transcendent dignity, they learn not to be satisfied with only themselves but to encounter their neighbor in a network of relationships that are ever more authentically human. Men and women who are made "new" by the love of God are able to change the rules and the quality of their relationships, transforming even social structures. They are people capable of bringing peace where there is conflict, of building and nurturing fraternal relationships where there is hatred, of seeking justice where the prevails the exploitation of man by man. Only love is capable of radically transforming the relationship that men maintain among themselves.

On this pilgrimage, in visiting Arlington Cemetery and the Holocaust Museum in being able to pray in front of an abortion clinic and having the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, attend mass daily, and spend time in front of the blessed sacrament in adoration, these teens experienced the love of God and their transcendent dignity allowing them to better proclaim Christ and His gospel of life.

From this trip, more than a few of the teens experienced conversions by means of the love of their peers, we can only pray that they persevere. For "your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

We can never underestimate the power of peer witness and the power of the Holy Spirit working in a community of faith.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Roman Rite...Genius!

On one of the blogs that I follow, I saw a couple of months ago a book that the blogger highly suggested. The title caught my attention: The Genius of the Roman Rite. I'm a huge fan of a good book and anything in the realm of traditional liturgy is right up my I bought it immediately.

Over the past week I've had the chance to read through it and absolutely loved it. It's a collection of essays that were given recently on various liturgical topics - the use of Latin as the 'language of the Church', the origin of Latin poetry and hymns, a couple of discussions on parts of the Vatican II document on the liturgy, 'Sacrosanctum Concilium,' and some other notable topics. These may not sound like the most interesting topics one might come across, but it was not the topics themselves that necessarily was so great - it was the absolute love of the Church and for the beautiful riches of the Church that the authors showed in their writings that was most incredible for me. *[tangential rant on this point included at the bottom of this post]

I would highly recommend this book, especially the essays on 'Pope Benedict & the Liturgy', 'The mystical meaning of the ceremonies of the Mass', and the one on the organic development of the liturgy. It certainly provided me with a lot to think about as I approach my own ordination to the priesthood and subsequently my being named pastor of a parish. It also makes me look forward to the future, where we might be able to see how scholarship such as this will come to bring about a renewal of our liturgical theology and (hopefully) the liturgy itself.

*Now for my tangential rant...I went home today for my niece's birthday party and my mom was so excited to show me this wonderful stuff that she had gotten at our parish's Gala last night (we're in the process of preparing to build a new church). She takes me to the living room and points out 8-10 little old prayer books. I didn't look at them all, but I did notice one that had an inscription to a boy from his mom at first communion, given to him in 1901. She showed me how beautiful they were - the print in special lettering, the binding still held together, the covers locked together, and they had beautiful images of crucifixions and other religious scenery. I looked at it and couldn't help but say "This is what we've lost." She knew exactly what I meant too. Try to find something like that today...I don't know that it's possible. We have stapled-together little sheets of paper with abstract art and 'feel-good' prayers that show that in the last 50 years a major part of our Catholic faith and culture has been cast out. So much of the beauty of our faith is all but lost to us today, confined to antique books, 'old churches', and nostalgic memories of the good old days.
This is one of the things that I hope to be able to recover in the parishes where I am blessed to be able to serve as a priest. The beauty of the Church - in her art, in her music, in her writings, in her theology, in her devotions, in her rituals, and above all in her liturgies. I firmly believe that if we can but show the people the beauty of the Church, the beauty of the Mass, the beauty of their own lives and vocation, then we will see an incredible revolution and a true experience of the much-longed-for 'new evangelization' spoken of so passionately by John Paul II. Okay, I just had to get that out of my system. If you read through all of that, God bless you for sticking with it. You probably just released a soul from purgatory by your suffering :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

L'Osservatore Romano and Avatar

Disclaimer: if you haven't seen Avatar, you continue reading at your own risk.

I have seen Avatar 3D IMAX twice. It draws the viewer in just like a fantastic novel. You can't take your eyes off the screen because it is so riveting. The colors and the fantastic world completed by new 3D technology really allowed this movie to fill theatres night after night. It has set new standards in filmmaking in 3D, by combining sci-fi themes from Star Wars with the earthiness of Lord of the Rings. Combining the two of the most successful and popular series in such a way would lead to such a popular film. Also being able to create CG scenes while using more conventional and realistic camera angles to give the viewer a sense of reality. The shots moved like a camera and felt like a camera shot.

However, (the quasi-intellectual "but") it has its weaknesses. The plot is predictable and as my father said, "cheesy." The more its downfall is the content. The visuals were fantastical. The story it was capturing has complications. Not just literary or plotline complications. Not big wholes in the story, the story is complete despite its cheesiness. It's rather the implication the can be drawn from the film. This is what the L'Osservatore Romano cites (Believe you me if I could find a copy of the article I would have cite, all I have is the AP reaction story).

I noticed from the beginning not only the strong reinforcement of earth worship but also a subtle touch of communism vs. capitalism, obviously in favor of the former. Now as Catholics, in my own opinion, we can enjoy a film that has fallacies such as these as long as we understand that they contain fallacy, but I'm getting off my intended point.

But maybe not, because when "Nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship" one without faith or with a weak faith can become confused. The film showed the connection between intelligent creature and the world it has been given power over. There is a connection between humanoid and the animal kingdom, the plant kingdom, the very earth from which all of life theoretical sprang. This is not much different from reality. We have been given governance over the earth, to care for it and to till it. "And God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth'" (Gen 1:28). One can extrapolate from the movie what the Holy Father has been saying. We must take care of the environment yes, but because it is a deity but rather because it has been set under our freedom of will as a child to a parent.

The capitalist vs. communist theme is also prevalent. Is it for the money or is for the people? Crazy military dude vs. Sigourney Weaver. Military vs. pacivism. It forces you to take a side with the bad guy capitalists or the eco-friendly, communal Navi. It's not that simple. Nor should this movie which can stir up emotion, leaving reason behind, affect someone's decision. I think on a some level it probably will. Capitalism does have its weaknesses, but done in a Christian Catholic manner it very much respects the dignity of each person. If done poorly, it leads to greed, selfishness, and much of what we have experienced these past few years. Communism, done always for the sake of community, denies the dignity of each person. They must be subsumed into the whole community like the souls into Eywa.

Film can have a great impact on people, but that is a post for a different time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Universal Prayer

Loosely connect to topic of 'books' would be what I think is an incredibly beautiful prayer that I came across. I bought a Sacramentary today - it's the book contains all the prayers for the celebration of the Mass - and was looking through it to check out some of the sections that aren't used too frequently and came across this prayer attributed to Pope Clement XI in the appendix on prayers of thanksgiving after Mass. I could ramble on and on about it, but I think simply spending time praying with it would allow you to understand the depth and beauty more than my words could convey it.


The Universal Prayer

Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith.
I trust in you: strengthen my trust.
I love you: let me love you more and more.
I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.

I worship you as my first beginning,
I long for you as my last end,
I praise you as my constant helper,
And call on you as my loving protector.

Guide me by your wisdom,
Correct me with your justice,
Comfort me with your mercy,
Protect me with your power.

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;
My words: to have you for their theme;
My actions: to reflect my love for you;
My sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.

I want to do what you ask of me:
In the way you ask,
For as long as you ask,
Because you ask it.

Lord, enlighten my understanding,
Strengthen my will,
Purify my hear,
And make me holy.

Help me to repent of my past sins
And to resist temptation in the future.
Help me to rise above my human weaknesses
And to grow stronger as a Christian.

Let me love you, my Lord and my God,
And see myself as I really am:
A pilgrim in this world,
A Christian called to respect and love
All whose lives I touch,
Those in authority over me
Or those under my authority,
My friends and my enemies.

Help me to conquer anger with gentleness,
Greed by generosity,
Apathy by fervor.
Help me to forget myself
And reach out toward others.

Make me prudent in planning,
Courageous in taking risks.
Make me patient in suffering,
Unassuming in prosperity.

Keep me, Lord, attentive in prayer,
Temperate in food and drink,
Diligent in my work,
Firm in my good intentions.

Let my conscience be clear,
My conduct without fault,
My speech blameless,
My life well-ordered.

Put me on guard against my human weaknesses.
Let me cherish your love for me,
Keep your law,
And come at last to your salvation.

Teach me to realize that this world is passing,
That my true future is in the happiness of heaven,
That life on earth is short,
And the life to come eternal.

Help me to prepare for death
With a proper fear of judgment,
But a greater trust in your goodness.
Lead me safely through death
To the endless joy of heaven.

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Poem to Begin Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time is now here;
Although it may appear
as if it has no import.
And time till Lent is short
Believe you me
It is no time to be carefree
It is during times so ordinary
That we should be wary.
Buckle up, and strap down
So as to earn the thorned crown.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ephraim of Syria, Hymn 5 for the Epiphany

Ephraim of Syria

Hymns for the Epiphany

Hymn V.

(Resp.—Blessed be He that ordained baptism, for the atonement of the sons of Adam!)

1. Descend, my brethren, put on from the waters of baptism the Holy Spirit;—be joined with the spirits that minister to the Godhead!

2. For lo! He is the fire that secretly, seals also His flock,—by the Three spiritual Names, wherein the Evil One is put to flight.

3. John when he cried and said “This is the Lamb of God,”—thereby showed concerning the Gentiles that they are Abraham’s children.

4. This is he that testified of our Saviour, that with fire and the Spirit He should baptize.—Lo! the fire and the Spirit, my brethren, in the baptism of truth.

5. For greater is Baptism than Jordan that little river;—for that in streams of water and oil, the misdeeds of all men are washed out.

6. Elisha by seven times washing, cleansed Naaman’s leprosy:—in Baptism are cleansed the secret misdeeds in the soul.

7. Moses baptized the People in the midst of the sea, yet availed not—to wash their heart within, that was full of the defilements of misdeeds.

8. Lo! the priest in the likeness of Moses purges the defilements of the soul;—and with oil of anointing, lo! he seals new lambs for the Kingdom.

9. Samuel anointed David to be king among the People:—but lo! the priest anoints you to be heirs in the Kingdom.

10. For with the armour that David put on, after the anointing he fought—and laid low the giant who sought to subdue Israel.

11. Lo! again in the chrism of Christ, and in the armour that is from the water—the haughtiness of the Evil One is humbled, who sought to subdue the Gentiles.

12. By the water that flowed from the rock, the thirst of the People was quenched. Lo! in the fountain of Christ, the thirst of the peoples is quenched.

13. The rod of Moses opened the rock, and the streams flowed forth; and they were refreshed by its draught, who had grown faint with thirst.

14. Lo! from the side of Christ flowed the stream that bestowed life.—The Gentiles drank that were weary, and in it forgot their pains.

15. With Thy dew besprinkle my vileness, and my crimes in Thy blood shall be atoned!—And I shall be, O my Lord, at Thy right hand, and with Thy Saints I shall be joined!

from CCEL

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Here Sumtin Sumtin

Here's a song I've been working on.

It's called Rose of God's Love: A Canticle to St. Therese of the Child Jesus

O Rose of God's own love
So innocent, so pure
You bore your cross with Christ
Help me bear mine

Verse 1
You say it is in the simple things
That we find our Lord Almighty
It is through prayer and suffering
That we will see His face


Verse 2
Light of Carmel, this mountain we walk
Is towards Christ, our loving Lord
You walked with Him on Calvary
Intercede for us who lack your faith


Shower us with your sweet roses
While on our pilgrimage
We await the wedding feast of the Lamb
Where with you we will dwell in Him