Saturday, April 04, 2009

The recession and charities.

Give to everyone who begs from you.
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Yesterday I received a letter from a diocesan religious community begging for donations, it was the second such request from the group since the beginning of Lent. Charities seem to be stepping up mailings due to the recession, yet what is so serious about this religious community's request is that they now say their funds are completely depleted - they have no money at all.
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A few years ago a priest was speaking about this particular group of religious and claimed that they had mishandled some of the donations they had received. Later on, working in a Catholic bookstore, I heard other rumors and rumblings about the group, but dismissed the stories as hearsay from the sanctimonious. Then a couple of years ago, out of the blue, a zealous woman I had never met, called me and informed me of a whole host of improprieties associated with the group, assuring me she even informed the diocesan authorities about "what was going on over there". This all occurred shortly after a member of the group left and spread slanderous stories about life in that community. The rumors were picked up by otherwise devout persons and dutifully spread abroad like wild fire, warning the sheep, as it were. To the best of my knowledge, nothing ever came of the accusations, and the community continues to exist with the blessing of the local ordinary.
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I consider all of the stories that were told to be gossip, slander, detraction and calumny. In the first place, it is none of my business, despite the fact I know people associated with the group. Nevertheless, the stories, going as far back to the priest's tale, have stayed with me. Every single time I get a letter asking for money from this group, I am reminded of everything I've ever heard about them. Witness the damage a story told long ago can do.
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Remember your local charities and the poor - people lie about them sometimes, perhaps out of envy - however that doesn't make them any less needy. And remember, amongst Christ followers there was a thief, but that did not mean all of them were stealing.

Nearing the end of Lent: Re-adjusting our focus.



God abandoned by his friends.
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"In the Gospel the very root of sin is the pretense we can save ourselves by our own effort, that we can find security in ourselves and one another." - Olivier Clement: Magnificat daily meditation for 3 April, 2009

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Retablo: The Solitude of Christ. T. Nelson. Acrylic on copper; gilded, carved-wood frame.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Things hidden from the wise and understanding...



It is not the Scripture experts, those who are professionally concerned with God, who recognize him; they are too caught up in the intricacies of their detailed knowledge. Their great learning distracts them from simply gazing upon the whole, upon the reality of God as he reveals himself - for people who know so much about the complexity of the issues, it seems that it just cannot be so simple. - Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth



Thursday, April 02, 2009

Desecration and the loss of faith in Europe.

Catholic Church Conservation has a disturbing photo essay on the occupation of the famous Beguinage in Brussels by undocumented migrant workers. The event is the second such occupation, the first being a forced entry, the second by permission of the parish priest, as well as the endorsement of the Catholic trade union. Yet from the looks of it, the church has been used for other profane events as well, such as a contemporary art exhibit last year. The photos are reminiscent of Russian churches desecrated by the Communists in the early 20th century.
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The images ought to outrage all religious people, but especially Catholics, along with members of the art world, since the church contains many historic treasures in addition to being a temple reserved for sacred worship. I expect there are other more appropriate places these people could be lodged, and if the emergency were so dire, the church might at least enforce rules of decorum for the occupants. Unless the church is little more than a museum, in which case I should think the privilege of sanctuary would be invalid.

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At any rate the situation is a disgrace.
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Photo source.

Experiences of a mad blogger.



Our Word invited me to occasionally write a post for their site. My latest, Life Online or Out-of-Line is up today, if you care to check it out.

Another sex scandal at Oprah's South African school for girls.

The Belles of St. Oprah's
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An all girls school in South Africa, founded by Oprah Winfrey - herself a staunch promoter of female self-cultivation - is once again embroiled in a sex-scandal; accusations of lesbian sexual abuse of students. It happens to be the second incident in 18 months. - Story
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Perhaps the curriculum needs to be changed.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Dire Straits

Quote of the week.
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"Again, let us not forget the dire results for those who attack a priest to harm him, to raise their hand (or keyboard or tongue) against the Lord’s anointed."

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I wonder if the same warning applies to priest on bishop, or priest on priest?
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(Only if the victim is traditional, I suppose.)

A couple of notes from Pope John Paul II.

On the Internet:
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The Internet is certainly a new “forum” understood in the ancient Roman sense of that public space where politics and business were transacted, where religious duties were fulfilled where much of the social life of the city took place, and where the best and the worst of human nature was on display. It was a crowded and bustling urban space, which both reflected the surrounding culture and created a culture of its own. This is no less true of cyberspace, which is as it were a new frontier opening up at the beginning of this new millennium. Like the new frontiers of other times, this one too is full of the interplay of danger and promise, and not without the sense of adventure which marked other great periods of change. For the Church the new world of cyberspace is a summons to the great adventure of using its potential to proclaim the Gospel message. This challenge is at the heart of what it means at the beginning of the millennium to follow the Lord's command to "put out into the deep”: Duc in altum! (Lk 5:4). (n.2)
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And:
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Furthermore, the Internet radically redefines a person's psychological relationship to time and space. Attention is rivetted on what is tangible, useful, instantly available; the stimulus for deeper thought and reflection may be lacking. Yet human beings have a vital need for time and inner quiet to ponder and examine life and its mysteries, and to grow gradually into a mature dominion of themselves and of the world around them. - JPII
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I'm a little gun-shy lifting quotes from other blogs, but these come from Fr. Finigan at The Hermeneutic of Continuity.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Politics and religion, and the Notre Dame invites President Obama fight.

Separation of Church and State - and yet...
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Elena of Tea at Trianon, has an interesting post regarding the 2007 installation of French President Nicolas Sarkozy as an honorary Canon of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, she writes, "This honor was not bestowed upon President Sarkozy due to his personal merits or personal wealth and power, but solely because he is the French head of state."
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Elena summarizes the history associated with the honor, originating with the conversion of Henry IV, and adds, "The Kings of France who followed Henry IV were accorded the same honorary office of canon, as have some of the French presidents, including Sarkozy. It is not because of the personal prestige of any of those men, rather it is clear that the Holy See has seen the importance of emphasizing the tie between the Lateran basilica, the Pope's own Church, and the people of France." Elena continues, " The tradition of making the French head of state an honorary canon of St. John Lateran may seem to some to be an empty gesture in these times of declining faith. It is more than just a gesture, however, for it symbolizes an ancient pact and a tie which, in spite of revolution and apostasy, has never been entirely severed." - Tea At Trianon
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So I don't get the huge uproar over the University of Notre Dame following tradition and inviting a seated President to make a commencement address? Especially considering how the French President, and those who received the honor of Canon before him, like President Obama, hold political and moral views in opposition to Roman Catholic teaching, yet the honor of Chanoine was awarded them.
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The elephant in the room.
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If anything, I believe the real issue most people are ignoring regarding the invitation to President Obama is that this situation exposes the fact that many Catholic institutions have dissented from Catholic teaching for decades. They have not only tolerated, but sought out progressive and dissenting voices at variance with the Magisterium as lecturers and teachers, diminishing, if not deconstructing Catholic identity and doctrine. Our Catholic colleges and universities, and in many cases, high schools have operated thus with impunity, even while many Bishops sat on their boards. There you have the real disgrace people. The hens are coming home to roost. If anything, perhaps this fiasco can be the catalyst necessary to reform Catholic education.

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PLEASE NOTE:
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I have linked to Elena's post at Tea At Trianon so that readers may locate her statements in the context she intended them. I simply cited these particular statements because they evoked my personal considerations regarding the Obama/Notre Dame controversy. I ought to stress that Elena does not in any way endorse the invitation or the award to be bestowed upon President Obama. I would also like to clarify that Elena sees no parallel whatsoever with the honor bestowed upon the French Head of State and the invitation to President Obama. My sincere apologies if I gave that impression.
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(Surfing for a photo to use in this post, I came upon one of a graduate student from a previous Notre Dame commencement, kneeling, praying the rosary, with his back to President Bush in protest of the war.)
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Update: Archbishop Nienstedt of Minneapolis/St. Paul has written the president of Notre Dame protesting the invitation of President Obama, whom the Archbishop Nienstedt identified as "an 'anti-Catholic politician' and whose 'deliberate disregard of the unborn' does not deserve Notre Dame’s 'public support.'” - Source
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That settles that.

The Bishops knew about it in the 1950's.

I think I did too. (I just hate dating myself!)
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National Catholic Reporter, published an account of Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, founder of the Servants of the Paracletes and his appeal to Bishops in the 1950's concerning predatory priests. "...The founder of a religious order that dealt regularly with priest sex abusers was so convinced of their inability to change that he searched for an island to purchase with the intent of using it as a place to isolate such offenders, according to documents recently obtained by NCR."
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What is so startling about the article is Fr. Fitzgerald's passion and sense of urgency in apprising the hierarchy of the dangers deviant priests posed for the Church, and most especially to the children who would be harmed. Sincere though he was, and perhaps a bit naive, Fr. Fitzgerald sought a sort of Devil's Island quarantine for priest sex offenders, whom he referred to as "devils", he wrote: "It is for this class of rattlesnake I have always wished the island retreat -- but even an island is too good for these vipers of whom the Gentle Master said it were better they had not been born -- this is an indirect way of saying damned, is it not?"
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The work of Fr. Fitzgerald, his reports to bishops and the pope, speak well of his good intentions and his keen understanding of the problems associated with sexual deviancy in the priesthood. Especially noteworthy is his response to a bishop regarding reassignment of predatory priests who have gone through treatment, Fr. Fitzgerald wrote, "repentance and amendment" in such cases "is superficial and, if not formally at least subconsciously, is motivated by a desire to be again in a position where they can continue their wonted activity. A new diocese means only green pastures."
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There is so very much contained in this article that only an exhaustive study and book would do Fr. Fitzgerald's efforts justice. I recommend every Catholic concerned about the abuse scandal read the NCR article, click here: Bishops were warned of abusive priests. Fr. Fitzgerald even met with Pope Paul VI in 1962. "In August of the following year, he met with newly elected Pope Paul VI to inform him about his work and problems he perceived in the priesthood. His follow-up letter contained this assessment: 'Personally I am not sanguine of the return of priests to active duty who have been addicted to abnormal practices, especially sins with the young. However, the needs of the church must be taken into consideration and an activation of priests who have seemingly recovered in this field may be considered but is only recommended where careful guidance and supervision is possible. Where there is indication of incorrigibility, because of the tremendous scandal given, I would most earnestly recommend total laicization.'"
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Silence of the lambs.
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In my opinion, the Bishops were not always at fault or negligent. I'm quite sure in many cases they believed the sacraments and reformation of life was all that was needed, and since the sins, as well as the remedies were matters of conscience, they were held to be confidential. If an offender declared himself reformed and cured - he was believed - and most likely the offender believed it himself. I think the greater problems developed as the bishops and superiors in charge of these predators began to completely rely upon secular psychological therapies. Fr. Fitzgerald mistrusted lay programs as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, and when such means were adopted and relied upon, these also proved to be ineffective in curing anyone. (By this I'm not suggesting that well ordered psychological treatments should be dispensed with.)
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Back to the '50's and '60s; If the bishops didn't believe Fr. Fitzgerald, the kids who were abused would have. Some of us knew this stuff was going on - and the Bishops did too - but in those days, everyone kept their mouth shut.
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And of course, some of these guys were consecrated Bishops or became superiors of their religious orders and rectors of seminaries. Others may have slipped up sexually themselves, either with women or men, thus they too had something to hide, hence they may have been more willing to protect the others.
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In the early 1980's, while working on a project for a local Bishop, I mentioned to him the need for the establishment of Courage in this archdiocese, explaining that there was very little support for men seeking to live chastely in accord with the teachings of the Church. I mentioned that there were several priests in the area, themselves gay, who taught that homosexuality was not sinful. The Bishop stopped me right there and stated firmly, "I am not aware of any homosexual priests in this archdiocese."
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And then I understood.

Secret sins.

The downfall of the perfect.
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"Pride, when left unchecked, can easily destroy the soul of one who is otherwise very holy. It leads them to believe more about themselves than they should, to believe that they have overcome when they have not; having climbed to such a great height, the fall is even worse than any other. 'Our eighth struggle is against the demon of pride, a most sinister demon, fiercer than all that have been discussed up till now. He attacks the perfect above all and seeks to destroy those who have mounted almost to the heights of holiness. Just as a deadly plague destroys not just one member of the body, but the whole of it, so pride corrupts the soul, not just part of it.”' St John Cassian, “On the Eight Vices,” pgs. 72 - 93 in The Philokalia: The Complete Text. Volume One.
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Footnotes from Henry Karlson: The Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt


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Icon: The Ladder of Divine Ascent of St. John Climacus, whose feast is observed on March 30.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Obama going to the G-20 with an entourage of 500+

More than 500 officials and staff will accompany the president on his tour this week - along with a mass of high-tech security equipment, including the $300,000 presidential limousine, known as The Beast.
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In addition, a team from the White House kitchen will travel with the president to prepare his food. As one official put it: "When the president travels, the White House travels with him, right down to the car he drives, the water he drinks, the gasoline he uses, the food he eats. America is still the sole superpower and the president must have the ability to handle any crisis, anywhere, any time." - Source

You wouldn't listen Thom!

Eastern Seaboard inundated with streaking lights and loud booms. Read more on the terror along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States here.

I told you something was going to happen Thom...

San Francisco rattled by an earthquake today. Story here.

I told you so Thom.

Wall Street Stocks Plummet. Story here.

Archbishop Chaput on vitriolic emails.

Insult to injury.
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The mocking, sneering rabble-rousing blog posts and comments I read yesterday against Hillary Clinton, just because she questioned, "Who painted this?" as she admired the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe - a perfectly reasonable question for a non-Catholic to ask BTW - suggested to me that good Catholics not only hate the sin, but they also hate the sinner, especially as it concerns political figures. Granted, some personalities may be unpleasant, but to condemn and mock someone because they are not acquainted with Catholic piety and devotion is clearly uncharitable and mean spirited.
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Anyway, I thought Archbishop Chaput's commentary on the vitriolic tendencies of good Catholics online might be something for us to consider.
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"I used to get some hate mail before I was online, but not nearly as much as I did afterwards. I think the way that we have immediate access, which means we immediately speak out of our emotions rather than write a letter, send it the next day, you might change your mind. Instead you write it and you push the button to “show them,” you know, that kind of thing.
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So I think our immediate ability to communicate has led to a coarsening discourse for one thing. I gave a talk recently – I think it may have been when I was in Toronto, where I said that the Lord reminds us that we are sheep among wolves, but it’s important for us not to become wolves ourselves because of our experience, and I think that often happens.
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Some of the worst emails I get are from Catholic conservatives who think I should excommunicate and refuse communion to Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado and to former-Sen. [and now Secretary of the Interior] Ken Salazar of Colorado, and why aren’t you doing this? I mean, just awful kind of stuff that they write. Sometimes, I must admit, thatItalic when I write back, I’m not as friendly as I should be. But I try not to be mean." - Source
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Nice language.
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The Archbishop also said this, "The left mail I get will use terrible words but be less vitriolic. They use the F-word and things like that, call me names like that. But the right is meaner, but they’re not as foul."
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I have wanted to comment on the fact that I've noticed Catholic bloggers using the F-word in various context within their posts, actually printing the word - I find that just a horrible word for a Catholic to deliberately use online or in private. Unfortunately, I've used, "effing" or "f-ing" on occasion when I've been passionate about an issue, but I quickly realize what I've done and go back and remove it.
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Very often our self-righteous anger is just that, self-righteous, while we remain smug, defending our rights, often unaware of the scandal we give.


Covering sacred images...


At home?
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Having grown up with the practice of shrouding statues and crucifixes in churches during Passiontide (the two weeks before Easter), I understand the practice and appreciate it. However, I did not realize some people did this at home as well. I don't do it, but I suppose it can be a nice recreation for some who like to decorate their personal oratory.
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It reminds me of the Jewish custom of covering mirrors during shivas, so as to avoid taking the focus off of the deceased and the prayers for the dead, as well as to avoid distraction by one or an others reflection and appearance.
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The Catholic custom in churches, in part, symbolizes how Jesus went into hiding and made the final journey to Jerusalem in secret, while serving the practical purpose of insuring the faithful are free to participate with attentive devotion in the Church's liturgical commemoration of the Passion of Christ. I suppose it's kind of like a shiva during the new Passover. Kinda.
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Photo: Covered Paso statues, Granada, Spain.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

St. Mary of Egypt



"Some pagans (Greeks) wanted to see Jesus..." (John 12:20) - Latin Rite Gospel for the Fifth Sunday in Lent
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The Orthodox celebrate the Fifth Sunday of Lent in honor of St. Mary of Egypt, the penitent. (Her actual feast day is kept elsewhere on April 2.) For those who have been addicted to sexual promiscuity - of any kind - St. Mary is a powerful intercessor and edifying example of penitence. Henry Karlson of Vox Nova has a magnificent exposition of the former harlot's life, conversion and penitence.
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For our modern, licentious society, there could be no better saint for the Church to point to than St Mary of Egypt. As Christians who live in an over-sexed culture, it is not surprising so many succumb to the temptations which completely surround them and sin. This feast day is especially important for them because it shows that there is hope. No matter what one might have done in the past, God’s love is still there for them. Even if one has become so addicted to sex that they find it nearly impossible to persevere against lust, St Mary of Egypt shows them that not only is it possible, one can turn one’s life around and become a great saint. - Read the rest here.
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I was especially impressed by the following footnote taken from Henry's essay, which resonated with my own meditations for today:
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"It is so easy to put on a pretense of holiness for the sake of praise; it is much more difficult to be holy. Those who act for praise can find ways to get it; those who act for the sake of holiness tend to find hostility. “There are some who pretend to be virtuous and appear in sheep’s clothing as something else; but in the inner man they are totally different, perhaps brimming over with every kind of unrighteousness or filled up with jealousy, intrigue and stinking pleasures. The masses honor such people as saints who have transcended the passions, but since the eye of their soul is not clear they cannot recognize such men by their fruits. And yet, when men keep their heart in piety, virtue, and simplicity, and really are saintly, then they misjudge them as being like the rest of men, and they are scorned and passed over,” St. Symeon the New Theologian

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Oh, for a portion of her spirit! Humility, humility, humility... "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies."
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Icon: The Holy Mary of Egypt, taken from Henry Karlson's post.

Through the envy of the devil...



The mean reds. (Another interpretation.)
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Miss Manners ;), rather Elena of Tea at Trianon has an excellent sub-post with a passage from Fr. Lovasik on envy and jealousy. Elena correctly points out that it was envy and jealousy which killed our Lord. Envy and jealousy arise from pride, and although often undetected by ourselves, and generally mistaken for some other vice in our neighbor, these sins are at the root of many other sins, which we seem to feel justified condemning in others - while missing the log in our own eye. At least I know I sin in this way, and just when I think I am over that stuff, I get all mean again.
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Envy disrupts social life generally. It sets the child against the father, brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, and nation against nation. It kills friendship, undermines business relationships, and hinders reconciliation. It is one of the chief sources of misunderstanding, criticism, hatred, vengeance, calumny, detraction, and perverse attacks upon private life.
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Jealousy goes a step further than envy; it not only tries to lessen the good opinion others enjoy and criticizes those who are praised and rewarded, but is characterized by an excessive love of our own personal good and brings on a fear that we will be deprived of it. Jealousy prefers to see good left undone rather than lose a single degree of praise. Read the rest here.
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Ultimately, these sins reveal our lack of charity.

Spring Bank Abbey wants you.

This is the vocation ad Br. Stephen created for their diocesan newspaper. Pretty nice, huh?
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Br. Stephen should probably have some more brothers in the novitiate, so if you are young enough - under 60 - you should probably enter monastic life, instead of wasting your life at some job surfing the web.
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I have no idea what the age limit is for candidates, but if you are interested, you can get in touch with them here.

Purple rain

Today was once called Passion Sunday, now it is called the Fifth Sunday in Lent. Some churches continue to drape the statues and crucifixes in purple. I like that very much. This photo shows the giant statues at St. Agnes draped. (The photographer was on the floor, which might be the reason the people look so tall.)