Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Word on Wednesday, Wednesday, February 29, 2012, St Mark the Ascetic

'Do not argue with people not under obedience to you when they oppose the truth; otherwise you may arouse their hatred.' 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cardinal George Speaks Out

Cardinal George of Chicago has some apt observations on the planned HHS mandate:

Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship-no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.

The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church.

He paints a bleak picture of what our government is trying to do, but he's can't be far off; something to think about.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Desert Fathers, Sunday, February 26, 2012, St Gregory The Great

St GregoryImage via WikipediaHe, therefore, who sets himself to act evilly and yet wishes others to be silent, is a witness against himself, for he wishes himself to be loved more than the truth, which he does not wish to be defended against himself. There is, of course, no man who so lives as not sometimes to sin, but he wishes truth to be loved more than himself, who wills to be spared by no one against the truth. Wherefore, Peter willingly accepted the rebuke of Paul; David willingly hearkened to the reproof of a subject. For good rulers who pay no regard to self-love, , take as a homage to their humility the free and sincere words of subjects. But in this regard the office of ruling must be tempered with such great art of moderation, that the minds of subjects, when demonstrating themselves capable of taking right views in some matters, are given freedom of expression, but freedom that does not issue into pride, otherwise, when liberty of speech is granted too generously, the humility of their own lives will be lost. St. Gregory The Great, Pastoral Care
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Friday, February 24, 2012

What the Heck is a Florilegia Anyway?

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.Image via WikipediaWhat are "florilegia?"  I'm sure you've been asking that question.  Here's a definition from The Catholic Encyclopaedia:

Florilegia (Lat., florilegium, an anthology) are systematic collections of excerpts (more or less copious) from the works of the Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers of the early period, compiled with a view to serve dogmatic or ethical purposes. These encyclopedic compilations — Patristic anthologies as they may be fitly styled — are a characteristic product of the later Byzantine theological school, and form a very considerable branch of the extensive literature of the Greek Catenæ
Two classes of Christian florilegia may here be distinguished: the dogmatic and the ascetical, or ethical. The dogmatic florilegia are collections of Patristic citations designed to exhibit the continuous and connected teaching of the Fathers on some specific doctrine. The first impulse to compilations of this nature was given by the Christological controversies that convulsed the Eastern Church during the fifth century, when, both at the gatherings of the great church councils and in private circles, the practical need had made itself definitely felt, of having at hand, for ready reference, a convenient summary of what the Fathers and most approved theologians had held and taught concerning certain controversial doctrines. Such a summary, setting forth the views of Nestorius and the mind of the orthodox Fathers, was first laid before the Council of Ephesus, in 431, by St. Cyril of Alexandria. Summaries of dogmatic utterances were used also at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, and at the Fifth General Council in 533. But it was not until the seventh century that the dogmatic florilegia assumed a fully developed and definite form. At the Sixth General Council, in 680, two of these collections played a very prominent rôle, one, constructed by Macarius, the Patriarch of Antioch, in favour of the Monothelites, and the other, a counter collection presented by the legates of Pope Agatho. During the Iconoclastic controversy similar collections were produced. Mention is made of one on the cult of relics and images which the Synod of Jerusalem sent to John, Bishop of Gothia, about 760.

I learned from Fr. Michael Casey's excellent book, Toward God, that the term has been applied to compiliations of memorable Scripture passages done by medieval monks and I choose to take that meaning as the title for the lectio texts I post each week.  It's a stretch, but what can be done?
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Friday Florilegia

This is the suggested text for your use for lectio during the coming week. It's from Wednesday's readings.
Reading 1 Jon 3:1-10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
"Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you."
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD's bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day's walk announcing,
"Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,"
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
"Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish."
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Word on Wednesday, Wednesday, February 22, 2012, St Therese of Lisieux

Thérèse de Lisieux in July 1896Image via Wikipedia

"Look at His adorable face.
Look at His glazed and sunken eyes.
Look at His wounds.
Look Jesus in the Face.
There, you will see how He loves us."

~ St. Therese of Lisieux
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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekly Lectio

I'd like to begin a new series of posts each week consisting of a text selected from the Mass readings for the following week. My hope is these will be useful to you in beginning, or continuing your own practice of daily prayer with the Scripture. I intend to use these texts myself. If this is helpful, or not, or if one text seems especially to touch your prayer, your comments will be welcome. The first text is Psalm 19, from Monday's readings.

The Works and the Word of God.
For the choir director. A Psalm of David.

                The heavens are telling of the glory of God;

And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

    2         Day to day pours forth speech,

And night to night reveals knowledge.

    3         There is no speech, nor are there words;

Their voice is not heard.

    4         Their line has gone out through all the earth,

And their utterances to the end of the world.

In them He has placed a tent for the sun,

    5         Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;

It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.

    6         Its rising is from one end of the heavens,

And its circuit to the other end of them;

And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

    7         The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;

The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

    8         The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

    9         The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;

The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.

  10         They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;

Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.

  11         Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;

In keeping them there is great reward.

  12         Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.

  13         Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;

Let them not rule over me;

Then I will be blameless,

And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.

  14         Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

Be acceptable in Your sight,

O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. [1]

[1] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ps 19:1–14). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Early Church Fathers, Sunday, February 19, 2012, Origen

Church Fathers, a miniature from Svyatoslav's ...Image via Wikipedia (Note:  Below is a replace for the original for today, which was incomplete.)
If a man departs this life with lighter faults, he is condemned to fire which burns away the lighter materials, and prepares the soul for the kingdom of God, where nothing defiled may enter. For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (I Cor., 3); but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God; or on account of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones? Neither is this just. It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood, and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works. (Patres Groeci. XIII, col. 445, 448 [A.D. 185-232]).

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Intrinsic Evil

Fr. Richard writes on his blog, Catholic Morality, about the intrinsic evil of the HHS abortion mandate.  He describes the problem perfectly:  

We are going to hear all sorts of attempts to accommodate the President's Mandate "accommodation" within Catholic ranks. The chiefs of Catholic Charities and the Catholic Health Association were obviously given the advance notice they needed to be ready to give the President the shout out on this. There will be many more. They will all make their comments based upon convoluted, moralistic platitudes about the good of providing universal access to health care which, they say, trumps participation in moral evil. These positions will be mortally flawed. Will they be corrected? I would hope so.

 Willing cooperation in grave evil in order to secure a benefit for oneself makes the person who cooperates equally guilty of the grave evil. What is the goal, exactly, of agreeing with the President on this? Is it because those who go along with the President's mandate want people to have access to these so-called preventive services? If so, the cooperation in the program of contraception, sterilization, and chemical abortions is immoral and gravely sinful. Is it because they want to maintain government funding and the ability to "serve" the general public? The cooperation is still gravely sinful.

 In fact, it is quite clear that these agencies and their affiliated institutions cannot cooperate in this plan to provide abortion, sterilization, or contraceptives. Indeed, this plan of the President's is morally evil, in itself. It is what moral theology and Catholic doctrine refer to as "intrinsic evil." Yes, that's right. The plan itself, not just the acts of abortion, contraception and sterilization, is intrinsically evil.

 People are reluctant today to call an evil, evil.  I think it’s important to understand the gravity of this issue and what we are “accommodating” in the “accommodation.”  Please read Father’s post.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Early Church Fathers, Sunday, February 12, 2012 St Gregory of Sinai

He, therefore, who sets himself to act evilly and yet wishes others to be silent, is a witness against himself, for he wishes himself to be loved more than the truth, which he does not wish to be defended against himself. There is, of course, no man who so lives as not sometimes to sin, but he wishes truth to be loved more than himself, who wills to be spared by no one against the truth. Wherefore, Peter willingly accepted the rebuke of Paul; David willingly hearkened to the reproof of a subject. For good rulers who pay no regard to self-love, take as a homage to their humility the free and sincere words of subjects. But in this regard the office of ruling must be tempered with such great art of moderation, that the minds of subjects, when demonstrating themselves capable of taking right views in some matters, are given freedom of expression, but freedom that does not issue into pride, otherwise, when liberty of speech is granted too generously, the humility of their own lives will be lost.

Friday, February 10, 2012

B.O. Backs Down, Sort of . . .

The Wall Street Journal announced that B.O. is backing down on the HHS mandate.  Here’s part of the story:

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama, hoping to quell an intensifying political backlash, on Friday will announce a new policy that no longer requires a broad swath of religious organizations to provide employees with contraception coverage in health-insurance plans.
Under the new policy, insurance companies will be required to offer free contraception for these workers, a subtle shift aimed at moving the onus from the employer to the insurer, a senior administration official said.
Catholic leaders had objected to the requirement, which exempted churches but not hospitals, charities and universities with religious affiliations.
Mr. Obama will announce the policy change Friday, a sign of how high-profile the issue has become. The new mandate will come from the Department of Health and Human Services via a regulation, people familiar with the decision said.
The policy will allow religious employers to opt out of the coverage mandate. If they do so, the employer's insurance company will be required to offer contraception for free in a separate arrangement with workers who want it. That is a variation of a system used in Hawaii, where a coverage mandate is already in place.

It seems to me, this isn’t a great compromise; contraceptives and abortifacients will still be provided through health insurance plans and, to make matters worse, it will raise the cost of insurance on all employers.  It means the Catholic organizations will still, in effect be providing these things under their health policies.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Miscellaneous Musings, Thursday, February 9, 2012

English: Man and woman in formal wearImage via Wikipedia
A quote from a column in the latest New Oxford Review by Frederick W. Marks, TheRush to Radical Informality.  Marks points out the connection between some of the worst of today’s cultural deviations, including, even, the break up of the family to this incessant wearing of jeans and t-shirts, no matter how inappropriate.   You might also include the case of the Missouri teenage girl who killed a 9 year old, “just to see what it felt like.”    Marks writes:

“In the final analysis, radical informality, intended or not, is an assault on form, and by “form” I refer not only to the kind of structure that governs a Shakes­pearean sonnet or a Haydn quartet, but to anything that sets limits. The censorship that shaped the classics and fostered the golden age of film (1937-1957), the glorious symmetry that we associate with Mother Nature — all of this is form and, clearly, it is something to be treasured.

Proper dress is not a matter of appearing “better” than another. There is such a thing as false humility. Was it not the insidious Uriah Heap, in Dickens’s David Cop­per­field, who claimed to be “an ’umble man”? But when one has to decide between casual and formal wear, whether it be sneakers vs. dress shoes at work or jeans and a T-shirt vs. a coat and tie at church, the choice is important. We are combatants in a culture war, and externals count in the battle for men’s minds.”
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Word on Wednesday, Wednesday, February 8. 2012, St Alphonsus de Liguori

English: Devotional print of Saint Alphonsus L...Image via Wikipedia'Many wish to follow Jesus Christ, but from afar, as St. Peter did, who, when his Master was arrested in the garden, says St. Matthew, followed him afar off. But by doing so that will easily happen to them which happened to St. Peter; namely, that, when the occasion came, he denied Jesus Christ.'
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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Tyrant, from Fr. Schall

A really good column from Fr Schall on the Catholic Thing website, The Tyrant, on the tyrant in history: they are safe as long as, in their souls, the people define freedom as the doing of whatever they want.  A very worthwhile read.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Miscellaneous Musings, Saturday, February 4, 2012


I went to Wal-Mart the other day, I had to return something and I wanted a refund for it.  I think we bought two of something we only needed one of.  I don’t remember what it was that I returned and I guess it’s not important to the story.  To complicate matters, I had lost the receipt.  She who is the ultimate authority told me I had lost the receipt, since she would never do such a thing.  I won’t quibble.
Anyway, I trundled on down to Wal-Mart, went to Customer Service and luckily, there wasn’t much of a line.  I explained to the clerk about the extra item purchased and about being judged the party responsible for the lost receipt and threw myself on her mercy.  No problem, she gladly agreed a refund was in order and soon, refund in pocket I was out the door.  End of story.
However, I thought back to the years when I grew up in Detroit and what it was like to get a refund back then.  Say you received a sweater at Christmas from Hudson’s and say that sweater didn’t fit.  You were, after all, a growing boy and that was sometimes hard for Aunt Phoebe to keep up with.  Anyway, you could get that refund, but you had to have the receipt, no question about that, and you had to have all original packaging, intact.  Also, you had to bring it back to the store in the Hudson’s bag as I recall.  If you were able to accomplish the above, you would probably get your refund.  If not, forget it, you had to wear the ill-fitting sweater until next Christmas, especially in the presence of Aunt Phoebe.  This whole process was, needless to say, a hassle and fraught with anxiety, for fear of failure, and for fear of having to wear some ill-fitting, God awful sweater all year, or at least whenever Aunt Phoebe was around.
Now, I’m a traditional kind of guy and I believe that there were many things experienced during the “good old days” that could stand to be returned.  Family life being one of those things.  And yet, here I’d just had a clear revelation that some things are better today than they ever were back then.  When I realized this, I also remembered that, especially when I was younger, I would note the behavior of older folks (like I am now) and promise myself, or hope to myself, that I didn’t fall into those kinds of behaviors.  One of them was an obsession with the past and inability to see anything good in the present.    I saw that I was in some little danger, however, of falling into that very trap.  It was a surprise, a bit of a shock.  That’s not a good thing.  So, next time I have to get a refund at Wal-Mart, or whenever I encounter something that is a great improvement over “the good old days,” I’ll remind myself of St. Paul’s instruction to the Phillipians nearly two millennia ago:
“Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.  Phillipians 3: 13-14 (NABRE)

Sometimes it’s good to forget the past.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Founders Friday, Friday, February 3, 2012, Dr. Jedidiah Morse

Jedidiah Morse standing with globeImage via Wikipedia
"To the kindly influence of Christianity, we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoy. In proportion, as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of the nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom and approximate the miseries of complete despotism." (1799)
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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Miscellaneous Musinngs, Thursday, February 2, 2012

What would you carry for a friend?
I thought I’d try to freshen the blog this year by writing in response to writing prompts I happened across.  I’ve done this sometimes in the past but usually can’t come up with any good ideas and give up quickly.  This year, in the interest of improving self-discipline and building character, I determined not to give up on any writing prompt once it had been chosen.  A day or two ago, I came across an interesting one:  “What would you carry for a friend?”
My first thought was that, after a back surgery and severe shoulder injury some years ago, I likely wouldn’t be carrying anything for any friends in the foreseeable future.  I was stumped, but determined.  So, I thought about what it meant to carry something for someone.

I thought back to my grade school days and how it was thought a romantic gesture to offer to carry a girl’s books home from school.  Back then we didn’t carry a great many books, so the effort wasn’t great, and it would convey what a chivalrous, strong and decent fellow you were.  The object of your affections might even discover that you were really a likable guy after all.  Of course, often the gesture was met with gales of laughter, which kind of took the romance out of the thing.  And these days, kids are burdened with 50 lb. bags filled with books, computers, wireless routers, who knows what.  Making such an offer is a much greater undertaking, something to be considered carefully.   I notice, also, that kids don’t seem to walk home from school much nowadays.    So even if a young fellow like me might offer to carry such a burden for a poor girl who happened to be left on foot, the probable outcome would be freeing her hands to pull out her cell phone and text her friends about the silly schmuck she found to carry her stuff for her.  That wouldn’t do. 

Then, I thought I could help my neighbor, an octogenarian, shovel his 50 ft. driveway after a cold, wet spring snow.  However, he has the world’s greatest snow blower and can clear that lane in about 5 minutes, blowing all his snow clear across the cul-de-sac into the bowl that is my short driveway, leaving me to spend an hour or two shoving myself out of the octogenarian generated avalanche.  He does it all the time.  He’s on his own. 

I was still stumped.  Finally, I thought perhaps I might find some little old lady at the grocery store that needed help carrying her bags to the car.  But I realized she would probably take me for a mugger or worse, some sort of sexual predator, and drill me with her concealed-carry 9 mm, complete with armor piercing bullets.   After my death, and learning of my pure intentions, she would feel neither Catholic guilt nor repentance, only smug self-satisfaction that there was one less pervert in the world.  Godless [deleted by censor]!! 

I was right to begin with.  Whatever it is my friends have to carry, they can manage it themselves.

Miscellaneous Musings,Thursday,February 2, 2012

Portrait of Brenda Ueland, circa 1930Image via Wikipedia
This is from If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland.  It's a perfect example of someone who practiced what she preached.  Her book was written in the 1930's, the depths of the Great Depression and I doubt she ever made much money from it's publication.  Yet, she produced something of a classic of it's kind.  The book deserves to be read by all aspiring writer's again and again.

“It is our nasty twentieth-century materialism that makes us feel: what is the use of writing, painting, etc., unless one has an audience or gets cash for it? Socrates and the men of the Renaissance did so much because the rewards were intrinsic, i.e., the enlargement of the soul. Yes we are all thoroughly materialistic about such things. 'What's the use?' we say, of doing anything unless you make money or get applause? for when a man is dead he is dead.' Socrates and the Greeks decided that a man's life should be devoted to 'the tendance of the Soul' (Soul included intelligence, imagination, spirit, understanding, personality) for the soul lived eternally, in all probability. I think it is all right to work for money, to work to have things enjoyed by people, even very limited ones; but the mistake is to feel that the work, the effort, the search is not the important and the exciting thing. One cannot strive to write a cheap, popular story without learning more about cheapness. But enough. I may very well be getting to raving.”— Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Word on Wednesday, Wednesday, February 1. 2012, St Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales, the gentleman saint and ...Image via Wikipedia
Make yourself familiar with the Angels, and behold them frequently in spirit. Without being seen, they are present with you. 

St. Francis de Sales
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