Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Apostles…. The Big Dawgs of the Catholic Faith

The Twelve – they so often adorn facades and rest atop pillars, gilded, massive, epic figures, each Atlases on whose shoulders the Church rests…. or so we grow up imagining. But what do we know, really, about these figures when the dust of millennia settles and we glance back at Sacred Scripture? We know their names. We know they were mostly an “uneducated” lot (though schooled strong in the Book of Nature). We know they didn’t always have a clue what their Master was saying. We know all but one abandoned Him at the moment when He would have needed them most. A pretty shaky foundation for a Church, you might be thinking. But we also know that they came back to Him, and preached His Name from the rooftops, and in every conceivable way they poured themselves out for Him. That’s about it. But isn’t that what it’s all about? The good news is that this shaky foundation has Christ Jesus as the capstone, and through Him the whole structure is held together. The good news is that Simon and Jude and all of the Apostles were madly in love with the God Who had become flesh for us. They cared little about themselves anymore. It was always Jesus. The bad news is… this cornerstone has been rejected. So were all but one of the Apostles (John died in exile in his old age). Jude, whom we celebrate today, was eventually murdered with an ax, and Simon, also celebrated today, was beaten and cut to pieces. Destroyed, just like their Beloved Master. They died for Jesus. What else do we need to know? They were open to God. That’s the key. They were martyred by the world, that’s the lock. They were open to the possibility that God had come in Jesus… They were closed off and shut up by a world that did not want to hear it. A world afraid of the possibility that the Door they opened might lead to Sacrifice, to Suffering, to Real Love, and to Mercy Immeasurable. Too much work for many of us. Simon and Jude lost their lives but found themselves. And they now point us to that Cross-Shaped Door that leads to our true selves, for in Heaven we shall know as we are known. Let us pray that we too can stretch out our arms, clutching nothing, for a chance at winning everything.

Boy with Pumpkin - A Test

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jesus versus Vampires

Just the other day, I was rounding the corner of our church parking lot to head into daily Mass, when a Septa bus drove down the street. On the side of the bus was an ad for a TV series about vampires called "True Blood." There was a smiling, fanged young women lying beside a gruesome, lifeless young man. I thought of our culture’s increasing obsession with death, then turned and entered the church, looking towards the crucifix and the wounds of Christ. Hmmm, I thought, here's the True Blood, isn’t it? I’m “celebrating” another kind of death in the Body of Christ. I couldn't stop thinking that day of the parallels between the two images, both involving great violence. But which image holds real power? It was Jesus versus the Vampires. It seems the media is dripping with the lore of vampires, especially these days just before Halloween. Websites, books, video games… Years ago, we saw the success of TV shows like Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and now the more recent True Blood. There’s also the wildly popular Twilight series now turned movies. So what's the attraction? I think, at the end of the day, it's a twisted desire for the Eucharist.
The proper effect of the Eucharist is the transformation of man into God. 

 - St. Thomas Aquinas
Cloaked beneath the surface of vampire mythology is a desire for eternal life, which I would affirm. We all have an innate desire for Life to continue, to indeed flourish. And in fact, we want even more than that. “I wanna live forever! I wanna learn how to fly… high!” We want to lose ourselves in eternal realities, which are actually attributes of God: Life, Beauty, Truth, Immortality. We want a fountain of youth. We want a feast, the banquet so often imaged in the Bible. But when we’re unwilling to make the sacrifice of our lives in love for that gift (which is the key to all happiness and self-discovery) we degenerate into sacrificing others. Our love that's meant to go out in service is twisted to a lust that folds in and serves only me. Vampires are a greedy bunch. Rather than shed their blood in a total self-gift for others, like Jesus, they selfishly draw the very life-blood out of others. Vampires are not givers, they are takers. But he who grasps at his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake, will find it…. and with it, life everlasting. When it comes to restoring us to that life again, it is Jesus alone who gives us the True Blood, the Divine transfusion that alone can save us.
Originally published in the Catholic Standard and Times

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Gratitude for the Gift of Down's Syndrome

The number of children born with Down's Syndrome has decreased in recent years. Those families found with such a "defective" pregnancy are encouraged by some doctors to "ease their suffering" by aborting their babies. Rebecca and I were so advised when we learned of our daughter Grace's condition of acrania. But in so doing, in attempting to eradicate "suffering" from our lives or the lives of our children, we destroy the very gifts God has in store for us. Yes, gifts.
Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.
God always sees a greater good in the things we label bad. He sometimes allows nature to take it's course, and we are invited to move through this wounded world with eyes wide open, and hearts ready for anything.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tough Love - Isaac Jogues and Company

This morning in chapel, I got zapped by one of the prayers we heard. Jesus “put himself into our hands.” Incredible… Talk about becoming vulnerable, dependent, helpless. Didn’t he know the risks involved? Unrequited love, betrayal, indifference, even a scalding hatred that would end in tearing his very flesh from him and hanging him on a cross? Yes, he knew the risks, but he did it anyway. Jesus “put himself into our hands.” Isaac Jogues, John de Brébeuf and Companions Today, we celebrate a group of men – missionaries – who also knew the risks. They came from across the sea with the burning conviction that God had broken into our world, took on a body like us and offered it freely to ransom us from hatred and violence and indifference. But some of the Huron and Iroquois men, men who felt their power and position, their very paradigm of life, challenged by the missionaries, grew violent themselves. They cut off Isaac’s fingers so he couldn’t offer the Mass, they would cut out a man’s tongue so he couldn’t speak a word of the gospel, burned and scalped and brutally beaten... But Isaac and his companions kept preaching with their very bodies, as they moved about the villages…. They said with their very bodies: Peace… Mercy… Love… Forgiveness, in a violent and bloodthirsty region. After much torture and an escape from his captors, St. Isaac actually returned to France, and was hailed as a hero. And then, guess what he did? He “put himself into their hands” again. He returned to North America, to that place of torture, to speak of his love of the God Who was tortured for us.
Two summers ago, I took my nephew Sean on a whirlwind tour of New England, a real vision quest, as a gift for his confirmation. Our first stop… the North American Martyrs Shrine in New York state. There we learned of one of St. Isaac's little practices of evangelization.... carving the Holy Name of Jesus into trees around the little Mohawk village he ministered to. Today the shrine simply tacks on the wooden letters, and they're everywhere! St. Isaac, like a lover, carving his Beloved's name into an old oak. At the southern tip of the Adirondak Mountains, Isaac was brutally killed by the Iroquois League, witnessing to Christ. We stood on that holy ground where these men made their sacrifice. Later, their love bore fruit in the birth of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks... on that very spot. Was it worth the risk? Well, my nephew was moved, and he knows now that faith can make a man out of you. The root of virtue is vir…. Meaning manly, masculine. Sean knows a truth worth dying for, and that Christianity is not a religion for “wimps.” We are made for a tough love, one that is willing to lay down our life for our beloved. May we pray for and receive such courage and trust from the martyrs of North America. Their blood cries out from our own soil… Believe, Trust, Love… and Forgive.

Speaking in Center City, Philadelphia - Mondays, November 2, 9, 16, 23

Introduction to the Theology of the Body
Date(s): Mondays, November 2nd-23th Location: St. John the Evangelist
21 S. 13th St. Philadelphia PA, 19107 Presented By: Bill Donaghy Contact: St. John's Young Adult Community Email: Cost: $65 includes materials
Download Flyer (large file)
St. John's Young Adult Community will host Bill Donaghy, TOB Institute Speaker and Educator, for a unique seminar series this fall. Over four consecutive Mondays in November, Bill will break open the beauty and mystery of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Join other young adults in the Philadelphia area and dive deep into depths of the church's teachings on sexuality. Be prepared to discover, maybe for the first time, your heart's deepest desires for love and communion.

Mission Moment of the Week

"Without God the economy is only economy, nature is nothing more than a deposit of material, the family only a contract, life nothing more than a laboratory product, love only chemistry, and development nothing more than a form of growth."
- Archbishop Crepaldi
WHAT IS THE MISSION MOMENT? The Mission Moment began on World Mission Sunday, October 21, 2001. It's a weekly message that inspires, encourages, and challenges its readers to live life in the Presence of God. Sent across the United States and overseas to nearly every continent, it is inspiration for the New Evangelization. Simple truths in small doses! For more inspirational thoughts, visit the complete list of Mission Moments here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The 13th Day

"In a world torn apart by persecution, war and oppression, three children were chosen to offer a message of hope. Based on the memoirs of Sister Lucia Santos and independent eye-witness accounts, The 13th Day dramatizes the incredible true story of three shepherd children from the village of Fatima in Portugal who experienced six apparitions with a Lady from Heaven between May and October 1917, which culminated in the final prophesied miracle.
The lady, who later revealed herself to be the Blessed Virgin Mary, gave a secret to the children told in three parts, from a harrowing vision of hell, to prophetic warnings of future events including the advent and timing of the Second World War, the spread of communism, and the attempted assassination of the Pope. Stylistically beautiful and technically innovative, writer-directors Ian and Dominic Higgins use state-of-the-art digital effects to create stunning images of the visions and the final miracle that have never before been fully realized on screen. This film was shot on location in Portugal and in England."
- from the trailer For more information on The 13th Day visit

Friday, October 09, 2009

Things You Don't Say to Your Wife

As ministers of a sacrament which is constituted by consent and perfected by conjugal union, man and woman are called to express that mysterious "language" of their bodies in all the truth which is proper to it. By means of gestures and reactions, by means of the whole dynamism, reciprocally conditioned, of tension and enjoyment - whose direct source is the body in its masculinity and its femininity, the body in its action and interaction - by means of all this... the person, "speaks." - Pope John Paul II, Theology of the Body address, 1984 The person speaks... but oh, sometimes we wish we hadn't! Words are like arrows shot, once released they cannot return! So think before you fire away. What husbands and wives speak or communicate to each other, in word or in action, should always lead to communion. But sometimes... we slip. And it does just the opposite. Ladies, forgive us our trespasses, for often, we know not what we do! So men, here's a goofy little reminder of the things you don't say to your wives, courtesy of Tim Hawkins. Can the ladies come up with a list of things you shouldn't say to us?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Real Men Pray the Rosary (and Women too!)

On a dusty road in Ireland’s countryside, back in the early years of the 20th century, a man was walking, communing with nature and with God. His fingers whispered through the beads, offering a prayer to the One through the soft repetition of words found in scripture…. “Our Father, Who is in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name….” “Hail Mary, full of grace…” He was stopped by British soldiers. The beads he prayed upon were nearly forced down his throat in an act of bestial bigotry. That man was my great grandfather, William. I can still recall nights when my own father, William, would fall asleep in the chair holding his beads, stressing to us the importance of faith, of the rosary, of meditation on the Passion of Our Lord, and on the mysteries of the Gospels encapsulated in every set of “mysteries.” Every action teaches, every reaction reinforces something for good or ill. Every move of the hand, every slip of the tongue. All the more reason then to train the tongue, and to mold the mind on the pattern of a higher love. That’s the goal of the Rosary…. Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. For the Catholic, the rosary is the soundtrack of the Gospel, the music of the meditation on the Word of God that keeps us tethered as it were by a string of beads to the life of Jesus and the life Mary in Scripture. May we take a hold of that life-line today, singing again the Song of Mary on the dusty roads we walk… “My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my Savior!”

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Will the Real Francis Please Kneel Down.

(My friend Brian who runs the "Defending My Beanfield" blog posted this powerful reflection on St. Francis, though he's not sure of the author. Does anyone recognize it? It's a real wake up call for some of us who unknowingly, or knowingly, "sanitize" the saints. "Save us from the birdbath Francis!"
THE REAL FRANCIS There you stand, O prophet of God Placid in the sun-drenched garden And never in the cold dank cave Or bleeding amidst the thorns. There you stand, poised and sanitized Air-brushed with the birds Who once opened their beaks to praise their Maker And then stood silent to hear His Holy Word. Why do you too stay silent Exiled to sacred niche and abandoned Upon some plaster pillar? You who glowed naked ashen upon the barren earth Now need vigil light and fresh white linen? What is the weak reason everyone loves you? And who are you, you little wounded man That everyone crowns your weary wet head with gold? Are you not a lion now made mascot or lapdog? Your bitter life has been made palatable And burlap garb soft to the touch. Marketed for the masses You stand sweet and surreal upon the tattered page. How do you feel being everyone's plastic saint? Pulled this way and that Like puddy shaped and shoved into the mold of many little minds. Everyone: old-timers and new-agers, Left wing liberals and right wing Republicans, Industrious Amish and lazy agnostics, Catholic school kids and Protestant preachers; Yes, the whole lot of us who make up life; Communists, ecologists, vegetarian, veterinarians, silver-haired hippies and bow tied bankers, Everyone owns you as no one knows you. Yet God knows you, you broken tiny man. And you know Him, do you not? Resting in crib or burning on a cross, Hidden behind wafer and wine and Holy Word. So, as you now stand, pale and listless so too my poor soul, far from the sharp thorns and the bright snow Where you found your Christ. Yes, you who stumbled along Assisi's stone streets, And wept while staggering like a drunken man, Speak to me, a sinner, who feasts on rich fare. Speak to me of the poor God - of GOD! Will the real Saint Francis please kneel down?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Flower Power

"I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul."
Thérèse Martin was not a sissy saint. It wasn’t all roses and buttercups for this young women of 19th century France, though the language of early writers, and her own words at times, can seem like sweet saccharine. She was a rock of faith, broken and remade by the reality of suffering. All of her life… from the death of her mother at the tender age of 4, through the fits of delirium, fever, prolonged fainting spells, the ravages of tuberculosis, and in the end a total deprivation of the consolation of the Presence of God, she was faithful. She entered the convent at the age of 15, boldly asking permission from the Pope himself to do so, and spent 9 years in a cloister, working long and hard at domestic chores, to the humdrum daily tick of the clock. Nothing extraordinary, seemingly from the outside. But on the inside she was a powerhouse of prayer and an icon of burning union with God. She taught us how to make the ordinary extraordinary. So take your crazy 4th period class, or that business meeting, or the price of gas, or that cranky baby, or that back pain, or those pesky telemarket’ers today, and smile, and give them up to God. Suffering need not be wasted or in vain, pain can become priceless when offered up for another. Thérèse died in 1897 at the age of 24. She felt the vacuum of atheism in her soul in the closing days of her battle with tuberculosis, but still she held on to her faith and trust in God. Like Mother Teresa in her final days, they each took on the post-modern aftertaste of nihilism, and offered its seemingly meaningless despair up as a sacrifice for souls. That’s flower power, that’s the power of this Rose of Jesus. St. Thérèse, Little Flower of Carmel, pray for us!

The Human Experience - Screening Oct. 8th

Dear Friends in the local Philadelphia area, Please help me to get the word out about a remarkable movie produced by Grass Roots Films called “The Human Experience.” I have mentioned it before on the blog, and still anxiously await its debut on the big screen. It's getting closer! Grassroots produced the Fisher of Men Video that was shown through out the Archdiocese of Philadelphia a few years ago to promote vocations. The films produced by this wonderful ministry (two brothers from Brooklyn, NY began the work) are inspiring, filled with truth, and captivating. In The Human Experience, a group of men in their twenties go on a quest into the world and into the heart of humanity to find what's universal in our human experience. In their quest they find themselves on the streets of New York City, the Coast of Peru, and the African Continent, as well as face to face with the mystery of their own hearts. This film opens up for us the fruit of their quest for this basic and universal human experience - a discovery of our need for the transcendent, for a living relationship with God.
There will be a viewing of this film at Archbishop Carroll High School on October 8, 2009 at 7:00 PM in the auditorium. The planners are asking $10.00 per viewer at the door.

Talking to Your Little Ones About the Big Topic of Sex

A much repeated sentence we hear at our Theology of the Body retreats and courses is "I wish I heard this when I was younger!" ...