Saturday, August 13, 2011

La, La, La ...

So you think secular priests should be living in a community?


Really?
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That's what a post I read suggested, going so far as to call priests who resist the idea 'hermit cowboys'.  The author explains:
I have some good friends who are diocesan priests and I expect they'll all be annoyed with me for saying it, but here we go again: c'mon lads, this living like hermits thing really sucks.

I really think something is wrong with the Western model of diocesan priesthood where, pretty much to a man, you each live alone. Yes, I know you like it, and to be honest you've turned into a bit of an eccentric grump, so at this point I wouldn't propose that you be deprived of your status as a hermit. But I'm not talking about you - I'm talking about the model. - Source
I don't know about that.  Communal living is not the first thing a contemporary man thinks about as he discerns a vocation to the secular priesthood.  Though the blog which posted the article quotes a statement made by Pope Benedict XVI in an interview, I wonder if it is even practical, considering the shortage of priests today, as well as the need remote parishes and even urban parishes have of retaining a pastor in the rectory and not some far off condo in a better neighborhood.  This is what the Holy Father said to Peter Seewald:
"I believe that celibacy becomes a very meaningful sign, and above all becomes possible to live, when priests begin to form communities. It is important for priests not to live off on their own somewhere, in isolation, but to accompany one another in small communities, to support one another, and so to experience, and constantly realize afresh, their communion in service to Christ and in renunciation for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven." - Source
That's a wonderful ideal of course, and if it can happen, it's a good thing.  The saints have made similar arrangements for secular priests and it obviously works.  Within my archdiocese Bishop Carlson at one point established a group known as The Companions of Christ, a group of priests who live in community - more or less, but not every diocesan priest lives that way, not are they obliged to do so.  A similar group has been established in Denver I think.  I have a priest friend who has a more monastic style community, although that arrangement is clearly based on religious life and not a loosely arranged common life as one sees in the Companions or even the Oratorians.  I'll reprint a section from Fr. Sirico's description of the life his group lives in Michigan:
St. Philip Neri never intended nor wanted to establish a religious order, and anyone who came to him asking for religious life or that he establish his congregation of priests in a more formal way, he sent to the Jesuits or Dominicans. We are priests and brothers (as opposed to religious order priests/brothers… Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans…) living in the world, without vows. The Community of St. Philip Neri House resembles the internal structure of Sulpicians, Vincentians, Pallotines, and Paulists which are congregations of priests/brothers or Societies of Apostolic Life in that we do not take public vows, but live freely what the Church expects of priests and brothers.  - Community of St. Philip Neri House
I think the sex scandals and the stories of fallen away priests and those who commit suicide have frightened many people in the Church, and the well meaning look for solutions to safeguard priests from themselves, as it were.  In a way it reminds me of the nanny state trying to control private life, although everyone's concern is well intentioned and 'pastoral' here, I think it unlikely every priest is  called to community, although those who feel such a need or attraction certainly are free to do so.  That said, I think it is perhaps more critical that candidates for priesthood receive better training, if it isn't already there.  I also think the candidates admitted to ordination need to have the proper maturity as well as the emotional stability to be able to live a relatively solitary life - which is really not that different from the single state of unmarried adult men and women.  If critics so strongly believe it essential for 'man not to be alone' then why not allow married priests?  I'm not for that idea of course - although it is allowed for Anglicans coming into the Church, isn't it? 
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Diocesan priests are not monks, nor are they vowed members of a religious order.  St. Philip Neri recognized that and rejected a monastic style of life, of prayer, and horarium as unsuitable for 'modern clerics.'  How many centuries ago did Neri live?  Secular priests are not always suited to communal life and they are definitely not obliged to it. 
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What is forgotten in these discussions is good masculine friendships.  Many priests are friends with one another and socialize together, and not a few form support groups where they get together on a regular basis.  I suspect in most cases, that is enough community for them - after all, they have a ministry to attend to, and in most cases the parish family becomes their primary community.  Remember - John Vianney lived alone, and even when he wanted to run away and join a religious order he thought of the Carthusians - who are essentially hermits.
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Photo: Still from "Diary of a Country Priest"
 

Poverty of spirit.



St. Therese and the practice of poverty...
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"She was very attentive to the practice of poverty.  The ordinary poverty of Carmel was not enough for her; she was glad to do without the things we have in Carmel, even the things she needed.  If, for instance, someone forgot to serve her in the refectory, she was quite content and would not draw attention to the fact.  'I'm like the real poor,' she would say,; 'it's not worth making a vow of poverty if you don't have to suffer for it.'  Sometimes a sister might steal an idea or a saying of hers.  She found this quite natural, and said that because of her poverty she had no claim to these any more than she had to anything else." - Testimony of M. Agnes of Jesus, O.C.D. - St. Therese By Those Who Knew Her.
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Has religious poverty changed?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Oversexualizing Theology of the Body.




“When dealing with a subject as fraught with distortions and sensitivities as sexuality there are surely going to be differences between people of good will.” - Dr. Janet Smith

Remember some Catholics thought the Chris West version of TOB was a little too hot to handle?
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Janet didn't - and neither did Rigali - but Bishop Lafitte just might think so...
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The secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family is cautioning Catholics against making an oversexualized interpretation of Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body--a series of catechetical addresses delivered at Wednesday general audiences between 1979 and 1984.  
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The problem is that if you focus only on sexuality, you cannot develop beyond that level, that such beauty is a gift, something given to mankind by the Creator but within a much broader context. Attraction to the beauty of human sexuality and the human body is normal because it is true and real. What can become a problem, however, would be to regard human sexuality in a kind of mystical way. Pope John Paul II embraced no form of mystic sexuality. What the Blessed Pontiff did in fact say is that sexuality has a mystical perspective and dimension ...
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There is a danger of vulgarizing here a crucial truth of our Faith that needs rather to be contemplated. It requires a silence. Sometimes in reading Blessed John Paul II’s Catecheses, you read only half of a page and then have to stop … you cannot continue … because it provokes within you a kind of loving meditation of what God has made. You enter into the mystery … 
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The problem involves not the formulation, but rather the respect for the mystery with which we are dealing. It is essential to present these teachings with reverence, with meditation, with silence. We’re dealing here with an endeavor in genuine education, not merely a strict transmission of knowledge. - Source
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“We are convinced that John Paul II's Theology of the Body is a treasure for the Church, indeed a gift of the Holy Spirit for our time.  Yet, its scholarly language needs to be 'translated' into more accessible categories if the average person is to benefit from it,” they continued. "To do this is the specific mission of the Theology of the Body Institute, and we believe that Christopher West, the Institute's popular lecturer and spokesman, has been given a particular charism to carry out this mission." - Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Rhoades

Fr. Angelo Mary has a more dignified post on the same here

Terry's totally wondrous mystical adventure at the opthamologist's office on the feast of St. Clare.



So much to tell...
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First of all, I thought it was significant that my appointment fell on the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, my favorite of the saints who embraced poverty so generously.  Her name means 'clear and bright' - two important attributes for good vision and sight - indicating light - since sight is light, or facilitated by it.  St. Clare is clear and bright - get it?
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So anyway - there was good news and bad news for me.  Good news, glaucoma is in it's very early stages, bad news isn't really bad at all - I just have to have surgery for cataracts.  I protested, "But doctor, I'm so young, I just turned 35 on May 16th!"  I didn't mention what year of course.  C'est dommage.  Unfortunately I have more tests next week - but I'll offer it up.
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My encounter with Islam.
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My real adventure took place in the waiting room.  I spoke with two heavily veiled Muslim women from Somalia.  I was very surprised they would speak with me - whenever I've encountered Muslim women in stores or on the street they seem rather aloof and distant, and I have never had the chance to speak with them - and I wasn't sure I was allowed to do so.  These ladies were very friendly and nice once I initiated the conversation.  I started out by expressing concern and sympathy for their people suffering from famine.
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Naturally I had to bring up their fast for Ramadan and they told me all about it.  I marveled and told them how much I admire their austerity and devotion.  The one lady laughed and said, "But you Catholics spend 40 days doing the same, don't you."
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"No, no, no - not at all like that."  I then went on to explain how we fast from candy and abstain from meat on Friday and have only 2 required fast days on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday - otherwise we don't do much unless one lives in a monastery of cloistered nuns.  Then I told what happens if St. Patrick's day falls on a Friday and how we can be dispensed from fasting and even get drunk - it was then she reminded me that they do not drink alcohol in Islam.  But my new friend seemed not to believe me since she went on to tell me that while she lived in Italy everyone seemed to be fasting during Lent.  (I know!  I didn't think the Italians still did stuff like that either.)
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I laughed again and assured her that even in Italy no one fasts like they do in Islam.  I then wondered to myself if perhaps the increase of Islamic immigrants into the once Christian west wasn't on some deeper level meant to awaken Christians to a more fervent practice of our Christian faith?  The fidelity of Muslims to their faith is admirable and for the most part, puts many of us Christians to shame.      
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These ladies were so pleasant and kind, and so respectful, I was very much impressed.  I recalled how highly regarded Blessed Charles de Foucauld held the Muslims in whose midst he lived, and I felt I understood something of the great love and respect the Trappist martyrs of Atlas had for the Muslims they lived amongst.
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One on one - if everyone could know one another and would love one another and respect one another.  I want to try to live as devoutly as a Muslim does - I want to try to be a better Catholic, a better man.
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The doctor from Punjab
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My other mystical encounter was with my doctor, who is from India - and he is a Hindu.  I asked if I could ask him a personal question - he obliged me and answered, "I am a Hindu."  Then we talked about Hinduism, the gods, the shrines, the saints, and the iconography, prompting him to ask, "How do you know so much about Hinduism?"  After jokingly telling him I was a big Beatles fan, I explained I had once worked with a Hindu man and that I was fascinated by the various cults and art and how  much of it paralleled the Roman Catholic veneration of the saints, and so on.  He seemed quite pleased.
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I too was pleased.  It struck me on the way home that it is only the extremist factions within political- religious groups who stir up the passions and incite hatred for anyone outside their respective cult - otherwise, the ordinary people accept one another as they are.  There is a bad zeal which always threatens religious groups, it is a temptation to fundamentalism that always needs to be tempered and resisted, otherwise it becomes fanaticism and extremism, which is based in hate, and never love.
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Art: Virgin Mary and Child Jesus, Persian miniature

 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ordinary life.




Normal is good.
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Reading Catholic blogs and engaging in discussions at online Catholic forums, not a few people go away scratching their heads thinking - "Wow!  I must be a really bad Catholic!" Or, "I give up - I can't do all of that stuff!"  Some get discouraged - or pissed - and decide to stop trying, or fall for someone's over-zealous version of tradition.  In fact, I think a couple of people I know have even stopped going to Mass because of it. 
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I keep saying on this blog that there are many, many people online who talk a good game, but they are not playing with a full deck, and some don't even play by the rules.  There are others who like to preach but don't practice.  There are many more who seem to expect everyone else to carry the heavy burdens they think the Church demands, without lifting a finger of concession for other's weakness or the stage they happen to be at in their spiritual journey. 

Let me stress this point: it is in the simplicity of your ordinary work, in the monotonous details of each day, that you have to find the secret, which is hidden from so many, of something great and new: Love. Furrow, 489 JoseMaria Escriva

Ordinary, normal life is the basis for sanctity - Christ lived most of his ordinary life in normal circumstances - so unremarkable there wasn't even anything to write about.  The Roman Catholic Church does NOT place heavy demands upon the faithful.  We are simply expected to keep the commandments, including the precepts of the Church: Go to Mass on Sunday, fulfill what used to be called our Easter duty - communion (confession recommended) at least once a year, say our morning and evening prayers, observe the rules of fast and abstinence - there aren't many, support the Church and her mission, love one another, give alms, and so on.  You don't have to know or follow every utterance the Pope makes at a Wednesday audience, or put into practice every ideal he recommends in an interview.  You don't have to believe in or follow what mystics and apparitions tell you to do.  You don't have to wear chapel veils or walk around town staring at the street lest you see some bag of flesh wiggling itself in your face.  You don't have to know or even like Latin.
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If you're married - stay married.  If you're single - stay chaste.  If your right hand causes you to sin, then stop using it for that.  If you like to drink and get drunk - either don't drink so much or don't drink at all.  In other words, use common sense.
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If you aren't attracted to Eucharistic adoration, then pray at home with the scriptures or something.  If you don't go to daily Mass, it's not a sin.  If you have a hard time praying the Rosary, then pray the Angelus or pray the Little Office or some Marian prayer you do find you are able to pray.

Anything done out of love is important, however small it might appear. God has come to us, even though we are miserable creatures, and he has told us that he loves us: “My delight is to be among the sons of men.” Our Lord tells us that everything is valuable — those actions which from a human point of view we regard as extraordinary and those which seem unimportant. Nothing is wasted. No man is worthless to God. All of us are called to share the kingdom of heaven — each with his own vocation: in his home, his work, his civic duties and the exercise of his rights.
Christ Is Passing By, 44, - JoseMaria Escriva

Don't be a crazy fanatic - the Catholic Church is a big place - there are numerous approved devotions and paths to holiness.  Not everyone is called to be a priest or religious or church worker.  The average, normal, ordinary person does not spend endless hours of their time thinking, reading or debating religious stuff; the dos and the don'ts and how-tos the very, very pious always insist upon.  It is sufficient for salvation that the normal person live his life the best he can in fidelity to Church teaching, while trying to earn a living, raise a family, care for aged parents, what have you.  Fidelity to one's state in life is the ordinary path to sanctity.  Don't let anyone tell you you are a bad Catholic if you are just trying to be faithful to your daily duty while accepting and observing the fundamentals of the faith.  Grace builds upon nature, and grace flows, grace upon grace.
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"Let persons in the world sanctify themselves in their own houses, for neither the court, professions, or labour, are any hindrance to the service of God". - St. Philip Neri
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Not everyone follows the same path, not everyone is at the same stage, and many are just beginning to examine or live their faith more generously.  Extremists can spook vulnerable souls - and frequently they just turn them off and these good people end up abandoning the pursuit.
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Let the holy ones and the holier than thou types exalt in their perfection and their blogmas.
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Christ came to call and save sinners...  ordinary people.    

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Deacon St Lawrence



Lay-down comics.
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Today is the feast of St. Laurence of course, and he is often regarded as something of a comedian, although levity is more a vice than a virtue, a good sense of humor is admirable.  Larry proves that with his choice post of what St. Lawrence might have said - I used one of his quips for my post today.  Larry is very clever.
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Saints who were Deacons.
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I love the saints who were deacons - it doesn't appear they were transitional deacons on their way to priesthood either.  St. Francis was a deacon and he never aspired to priesthood.  The order of deacon is a holy order - as those saints who were simply deacons attest.  St. Victor, St. Ephraim, and the proto-martyr, St. Stephen are all good examples.
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Today our permanent deacons are generally married, and in my experience, the deacons and their wives are virtuous, devout, well formed faithful Catholic couples whose ministry to the Church is very much needed.  There have been those who insist that married deacons and their wives should observe continence after the husband is ordained - they argue this point from canon law - but the Church doesn't impose such a restriction upon them, and I do not see why it should.  As a married couple they seem to me to set the example of good family life balanced with faithful, generous ministry.
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Elsewhere, I've read headlines that some believe deacons should not preach as often as they do.  Nevertheless, they are permitted to preach.  Again, in my experience they do a better job of preaching than most transitional deacons do.
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I admit I don't know all the ins and outs about being a deacon, but I hope the permanent diaconate  continues to blossom and bear rich fruit, as it so obviously did in the early days of the Church. 
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Prayers today for deacons and their wives and families.  My parish has a particularly good deacon, we are blessed to have he and his wife in our midst.  

Just a Comment on the Global Conflagration...



I foresee...

So if Medjugorje is to be believed, and the so-called secrets supposedly spell out all the bad stuff that will go down - don't you think someone maybe should have warned us that all this was going to happen?  And yet, to this day, no secrets have ever been revealed.
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I know.  We can figure these things out on our own... no need for locutions and visions to know we are headed for trouble.
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BTW - Nothing else to blog about.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

What a dump!



This really is the home of crack pot bloggers. 
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(Not any of you reading this of course.)

What's going on in London?



Global revolution?
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Remember the riots in Greece?  Now the riots in the UK.
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The Famine in Somalia.
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Hints of racial unrest in Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
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Prayer and fasting is needed.

The Jewess


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"In aridity and emptiness the soul becomes humble. Former pride disappears when a man no longer finds in himself anything that might cause him to look down on others." - St. Edith Stein, Science of the Cross
Today is the memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD, a Catholic Jew.  She died with her people, executed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz in 1942.
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"For I could wish that I myself was accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh." - Romans 9:1-5

How very dare you...



So what's so bad about asking questions regarding the status of a conservative priest who happens to be something of a public personality on his own right?  On the other hand, why is it perfectly fine to ask questions, criticize, and even condemn liberal priests and bishops?  Both categories of men are ordained - the "anointed of the Lord" - so why the double standard?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Everything you always wanted to know about Fr. Z but didn't know who to ask?



Ask Father.
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Apparently, someone is digging for dirt on Fr. Z - a woman, Phyllis Zagano*, who writes for the National Catholic Reporter.  Father helps her out by posting an overview of his status, he titles it Priests 101 - it answers just about every question regarding him anyone ever wanted to know - or needs to know.
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Everything he reveals adds up - so his enemies are clearly wasting their time. 
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Prayers for Fr. Zuhlsdorf - he really is a good, faithful priest who works generously for the Church and the salvation of souls.
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*Who is Phyllis Zagano?

The Present Moment.



The presence of God.
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Yesterday I caught myself saying, "I can't believe how fast the summer has gone by!"  I explained that I had spent so much time and effort getting things ready for new windows to be installed in my house that it seemed as if I missed the entire month of July.  Later I reminded myself that my prep work had been my summer - only I missed it because I had been anticipating last week's installation - I was worried that it wouldn't go well, or that another big expense might have arisen if the workmen found rot in the walls, or something like that.  Nothing of the sort happened, and much of my prep work was over-kill. 
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Worry about what could have happened, I neglected to experience what was happening in the present moment.  Likewise, this week I'm anticipating a doctor's visit and tests.  Gratefully I am able to not worry about it, and to set aside any concerns as they arise, and focus upon the present - sufficient for the day is the evil thereof - as the scripture says.  Yet the temptation to step outside the present moment seems to be always there.
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I used to pray a lot of novenas, asking for special favors, or to prepare for a particular feast day.  Novenas are good and part of Catholic tradition, however I don't 'make' as many as I used to, and when I do, I don't really ask for much except spiritual graces for myself or others.  Over the years I understood that sometimes my intentions were perhaps restricting God to conform to my will, rather than me surrendering myself to his will. 
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Ironically, I think the monthly novena - nine days of prayer to honor the infancy and holy childhood of Jesus, taught me something in that regard.  That first and foremost we must live in the present moment and that we must pray according to the will of God - at least I understood that is what I needed to do.  I've grown to understand and accept that the will of God is to be found in the present moment.  Thus, for me at least, a novena is not so much anticipating the end of it, nor even the special day one is preparing for, nor is it the particular grace one anticipates, rather its efficacy is in the process as it were - that is, the present moment of the mystery we anticipate.  At times, novenas seemed to me to be a way of marking time, as one marks off days on a calendar, looking forward to the end, and often, some kind of reward.
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I suppose in a sense, that is the Christian life, since as we are told by, I think it is St. Peter, to "look forward to the Day of the Lord and try to hasten it."  While elsewhere scripture also tells us that we are pilgrims and strangers in this life and that we are to look forward to the world to come, our homeland.  So in light of these admonitions how does one do that and remain grounded in the present moment?
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I don't know.
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I just know that it is important to live in the present moment - that is where life happens - it is where we experience God's presence, it is where we find ourselves enfolded in his holy will, his divine providence.

The feast of St. Dominic


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Even Peter faltered.



"Sometimes it happens that despite their best efforts, some souls remain imperfect because it would be to their spiritual detriment to believe they are virtuous or to have others agree that they are." - My Sister, St. Therese

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"You must never believe when you do not practice virtue that it is due to some natural cause such as illness, time, or grief. You must draw a great lesson in humility from it and take your place among the little souls, since you are able to practice virtue only in such a feeble manner. What is necessary for you now is not to practice heroic virtues but to acquire humility. For that, your victories must of necessity always be mixed with failures, so that you cannot take any pleasure in thinking of them." - Celine, Sister and Witness to St. Therese of the Child Jesus.
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Art:  St. Peter Walking on Water, Lluis Borrassa, 1411-13