Friday, April 20, 2007


There's an interesting article in Slate about the proposed canonization of John Paul II. The most important thing to learn from it, I think, is that saints were not perfect--they were humans aspiring to perfection through faith in God. To call a saint perfect takes away from what they are supposed to be for us as Catholics--examples of ordinary people with extraordinary faith.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Thursday

Today is Holy Thursday, the beginning of the Triduum. Since I am having my feet washed in church today, I thought it would be appropriate to share some of the images throughout history that depict this solemn act.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Washing of the Feet, 1308-11

Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

Albrecht Durer, Small Passion: 9. Christ Washing Peter's Feet, 1511

British Museum, London

Giotto di Bondone, No. 30 Scenes from the Life of Christ: 14. Washing of Feet, 1304-06

Cappella Scrovegni, Padua

Tintoretto, Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples, 1547

Museo del Prado, Madrid

Chrism mass

Tuesday, I attended the Chrism Mass. This is where the oils for anointing are consecrated (blessed). There are three oils: 1. One for anointing the sick; 2. One for preparing adults for baptism; and 3. One used in baptism, confirmation, and the taking of Holy Orders (i.e., becoming a member of the Religious life--a priest or nun).

(Note: I don't know if the third oil is also used when one becomes a member of the Third Order (that is, consecrated laity--people who may be married, but still perform a religious function--deacons, lay bretheren and sisters, etc.). I'll have to ask about that.)

The most awe-some thing about the Chrism Mass is that it is the annual renewal of religious vows, so priests from across the diocese were there. They all renewed their covenents, and then all blessed the Chrism oil (the aforementioned third oil). Seeing that many priests in one place, all in full vestment, reassures me about the future of the Church. We may not be perfect, but we are The People of God. And, with God's help, we (will) act accordingly.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Holy Week

Only three days until I'm in full Communion with the Catholic Church!

I'm excited, and I'm especially excited about Holy Week. On Palm Sunday (or Passion Sunday), we celebrate the liturgy of the Lord's Passion. Then Tuesday follows with the Chrism Mass. Tonight, I will go to church for the Chrism Mass, in which the priest and archbishop will bless the oils that are used for the sacraments of baptism and the anointing of the sick.

The Triduum starts on Thursday night, and includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Saturday. On Saturday, I will become Catholic, with my whole family present. I'm very excited!

(Oh, and this is something interesting that I found.)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Blasphemy Challenge

Normally, I would post a response to this article on my other weblog, but it seems to be particularly applicable here.

An excerpt from the article:

"I've come to the conclusion that alongside the fact that there is no Santa Clause and there is no Easter bunny, there is also no God. So, without further ado, my name is Chandler and I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit."
Another: "My name is Joel. I deny the Holy Spirit, as well as God, Jesus, Buddha, Zeus, Mohammad, Joseph Smith, Sponge Bob, the pope, Santa Clause, Mother Mary, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, Optimus Prime, all the saints and Spiderman."

What's strange is that the man who developed the project was raised Catholic and "then became a Born-Again Christian as a young adult." (Sidebar: This seems a bit like anti-Catholic rhetoric to me. How can you become "born again" if you were a faithful Catholic in the first place? Is Catholicism not Christian? Did he somehow 'lose' his salvation?) He demands proof for believing, refusing to take any answer on faith.

A short course on apologetics:
  • Jesus of Nazareth is a documented historical figure. This is not merely from Christian sources, but from Roman census records and proto-court documents.
  • The documents about Jesus' life that make up the current Christian Bible were recorded within fifty years of his death. (Sidebar: For an explanation of the "two Bibles" of Catholicism and Protestantism, see here under 'The Two Torahs of Rabbinic Judaism.') It stands to reason that there would be a fair amount of people around to refute any errors, omissions, or untruths.
  • Faith: There are thousands of things that we all believe in, yet can't emperically see. The sun, atoms, and that someone really loves us are all things that we can't see, yet believe. C.S. Lewis wrote, "I believe that the sun is there, not because I can see it, but because everything I can see is illumined by it. I believe in God for the same reasons."
  • Miracles and signs: People frequently ask for signs, in order that they might believe, then ignore what might be presented to them. The same goes for miracles--the unexplained happens, and instead of interpreting it as the work of God, we choose to believe that the initial diagnosis was a mistake, that we did something to change the course, or that the event was just random happenstance.

My biggest concern is that if you don't have faith, you don't have hope...and that's no way to live.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007


"Where do I sense hope, encouragement, and growth areas in my life?By looking back over the last few months,I may be able to see which activities and occasions have produced rich fruit.If I do notice such areas,I will determine to give those areas both time and space in the future."

One of my favorite sites is Sacred Space, a website run by Irish Jesuits that offers daily prayers, verses, and thoughts. I find it particularly helpful when I'm having a ridiculous day at work.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Fr. Bill's homily of February 4th

(This is also available online here, under "News" --> "Sunday Homily." I'm posting it here because it was one of those "!" moments for me.)

"At times, daily work seems so laboriously the same that people feel stuck in a routine that seems to be going nowhere. I hear from more and more people these days, many of them younger, that “I find myself unsettled, looking for more meaning, but unable to locate it. I’ve gone after a career and seemed to have moved up the ladder of success, but discover that, as good as it’s been, it’s not enough.” People who have gone through a painful divorce, say to themselves, “now what?” In spite of an almost endless array of opportunities, people ache for more. It’s not that things are so awful–it’s just that they’re all as life-filled as we’d like. And usually, it’s hard to articulate, to put into actual words. And therefore, hard to deal with. People just know when some freshness is needed in their lives.

Such perhaps was the case with the disciples in today’s Gospel. They had fished all night in the Sea of Galilee–night–the best time to catch fish. But all they caught by the time morning came was this charismatic preacher who commandeered their boat, so he would have a pulpit safe from the pressing crowd. Then, this “preacher-man,” who they probably suspected knew nothing about fishing, told them to lower the nets one more time. Outwardly they complied, but inwardly they expected only more empty nets. Not so–from emptiness, to nets filled almost to breaking they went. Peter then confessed his emptiness of heart: “Depart from me for I am a sinner.” But Jesus did not go away; and the disciples followed him.

Notice one thing: The call of Jesus was indirect; gentle even. He ordered them to put out into the deep, but he didn’t order them to follow him. The call was so subtle they may even have thought it was their own idea. So also, the call of Isaiah the prophet in the First Reading. He had a vision while worshiping in the temple. But then he confessed his emptiness: “Woe is me [to have seen the Living God] for I am a man of unclean lips.” One of the busybody seraphim fixed all that with a flaming ember (without anesthesia, no doubt.) But how did Isaiah get the idea he was being called out of his emptiness? He overheard a conversation the Lord was having with somebody (maybe the busybody seraphim again??): “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah took the bait: “Here I am, send me!”

In both call narratives, a kind of emptiness is involved. But the actual call is subtle, maybe even seductive. As the Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel claims, God’s search for us is far more effective than our search for God. God found Isaiah; Jesus found the partners in a fishing business. God found them all a bit empty. They answered a subtle call that was already inside, but that Jesus brought to the surface. So often, God looks for us but we have to be ready to be found.

Not always, but sometimes, an emptiness can signal a call to look for a new place to find greater abundance–a call maybe to change directions. Some calls can be “permanent calls;” others, “not so permanent.” The call to marriage or religious life is meant to be permanent. Major vocational decisions require major discernment. I am part of a discernment group our Vocations Office coordinates for older men who think that they may be called to diocesan priesthood. A similar group is starting up for women who may feel a tug toward religious life. The call to marriage also involves major discernment, because of the permanence that is presumed by almost all couples. Of all the annulment cases I have worked on in 25+ years of priesthood, rare is the person who says, “We didn’t expect this to be permanent.” No matter what painful circumstances led to it not turning out that way, the desire for permanence is almost always there.

Calls to a professional career such as an educator or a physician may be thought of as less permanent, but they are still serious calls. Being an effective business leader who leads others to develop their full potential is also a vocation. Pope Paul VI, way back in the 70's said: “Every life is a vocation.” And Palmer Parker who writes on spirituality in the workplace has written a book called “Listening for the Voice of Vocation.” Again indicating that everybody has one.
Sometimes we feel called, not to a different career but to a different way of doing what we’re already doing. A business leader may try to make a connection between faith and what he or she does everyday. Working for justice in the world in some kind of volunteer way can give us fresh energy...

Responding to God’s call in an always fresh way is a good thing to get familiar with. Because, as Christian disciples, they’re gonna keep on coming, if we are to remain fully alive."


Monday, March 05, 2007

Cani's Mary Magdalene