Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

From Today's Office of Readings:

Reading From a letter to the Church of Smyrna by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr

Christ has called us to his kingdom and glory

From Ignatius, known as Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father and of Jesus Christ, his beloved, at Smyrna in Asia, wishing you all joy in an immaculate spirit and the Word of God. By his mercy you have won every gift and lack none, filled as you are with faith and love, beloved of God and fruitful in sanctity.

I celebrate the glory of Jesus Christ as God, because he is responsible for your wisdom, well aware as I am of the perfection of your unshakeable faith. You are like men who have been nailed body and soul to the cross of Jesus Christ, confirmed in love by his blood.
In regard to the Lord, you firmly believe that he was of the race of David according to the flesh, but God’s son by the will and power of God; truly born of the Virgin and baptised by John, that all justice might be fulfilled; truly nailed to a cross in the flesh for our sake under Pontius Pilate and the Tetrarch Herod, and of his most blessed passion we are the fruit. And thus, by his resurrection he raised up a standard over his saints and faithful ones for all time (both Jews and Gentiles alike) in the one body of his Church. For he endured all this for us, for our salvation; and he really suffered, and just as truly rose from the dead.

As for myself, I am convinced that he was united with his body even after the resurrection. When he visited Peter and his companions, he said to them: Take hold of me, touch me and see that I am not a spirit without a body. Immediately they touched him and believed, clutching at his body and his very spirit. And for this reason they despised death and conquered it. In addition, after his resurrection, the Lord ate and drank with them like a real human being, even though in spirit he was united with his Father.

And so I am giving you serious instruction on these things, dearly beloved, even though I am aware that you believe them to be so.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Inis Meáin

I wanted to share these pictures with you. A friend of mine, at this very moment, is at Inis Meáin, Aran island, off the coast of Ireland. She just sent me these beautiful images.

I am blessed to have visited Ireland a few times. Ireland is so beautiful. I can't wait to go back!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

March for Life

President Obama's recent comments out of USA Today: "Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women's health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I am committed to protecting this constitutional right." Is it not the duty of the president to protect all of his countries citizens? People of all faiths must work to elect a president that is committed to respecting the dignity of the human person, from conception to natural death. There can be no compromise. Let us pray that our current president has a change of heart - and that a new president will be elected in two years that is willing to protect all citizens, and that includes the unborn.

Let us pray for all of the good people who will participate in tomorrow's "March for Life."

May this be a sign of God's love - the Kingdom come down to earth."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Love's Trappist by G K Chesterton

There is a place where lute and lyre are broken.
Where scrolls are torn and on a wild wind go,
Where tablets stand wiped naked for a token,
Where laurels wither and the daisies grow.

Lo: I too join the brotherhood of silence,
I am Love's Trappist and you ask in vain,
For man through Love's gate, even as through Death's gate,
Goeth alone and comes not back again.

Yet here I pause, look back across the threshold.
Cry to my brethren, though the world be old,
Prophets and sages, questioners and doubters,
O world, old world, the best hath ne'er been told!

image "Spencer Abbey in Winter" flikr

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Catholic Deacon

A few years ago, Deacon Keith Fournier wrote an article explaining exactly who the Catholic permanent deacon is, and his role in the Church. Many of us do not understand this ministry, which is clergy, not laity. I am re-printing the article here to help those who would like to know more about the diaconate, and for those who may be called to this vocation.

The role of what is called the "permanent” diaconate is all too often misunderstood.

The Catholic Church restored this sacred order as a permanent way of serving the Church (and not just a transitional order for men on the way to priesthood) in the Latin Rite well over 40 years ago.

This was accomplished by an act of Pope Paul VI who decided in 1967 to restore the diaconate as a permanent rank of clergy for the Church in the West.The Diaconate as an order of Clergy has been a part of the Eastern Church from apostolic times without interruprion.

In October 1968, the Holy See approved the organization of the Diaconate in America for the Roman catholic Church. In 1998, the Vatican released two important documents to dispel some of the persistent misunderstandings and confusion and to open up an understanding of deacons as both “sacred ministers” and “members of the hierarchy.”

These documents were issued on 22 February, 1998; the Feast of the Chair of Peter. This feast has long been an occasion to honor all the Church's clergy since the first century. It was an appropriate occasion to issue statements regarding the formation and work of permanent deacons, since they are such an important part of the clergy; participating in its missionary and pastoral service.

The extensive documents, "The Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons" and "The Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons," were ordered and approved by Pope John Paul II. They are a part of the Church's magisterial teaching.

They were generally well received by deacons, priests, bishops and the lay faithful and have helped to promote a better understanding of the role of permanent deacons in the Church in this Third Millennium of Christianity. They also led to a growing standardization of diaconal training and increasing clarifification of the role of deacons in the liturgical, pastoral, and ministerial life of the Church.

The diaconate has a rich history.

During the Church's first five centuries, this ministry flourished everywhere. But for various reasons, the order declined in the West as a distinct rank of clerical service, and eventually disappeared. It was relegated to a "transitional" order given to candidates on their way to priestly ordination.

Today, we still distinguish between transitional and those called “permanent” deacons. However, this distinction does not create two ranks of deacons, but clarifies the direction in which the deacon is headed. The "transitional" deacon is simply on his way to priestly ordination.

In the Eastern Catholic Church, however, the diaconate remained a part of the permanent rank of sacred orders without interruption from the time of the Apostles until now.It has a clearly defined place in the life of the Eastern catholic Churches.

Many Eastern Rite Catholics refer to their deacons as "Father Deacon," and they have important liturgical, charitable and pastoral roles. We can learn much from our Eastern Catholic brethren as we develop the life and ministry of deacons in the Western Church as an order of Clergy ordained not “unto the priesthood” but unto service.

The Council of Trent (1545-63) called for the restoration of the permanent diaconate for the entire Church. But it was not until the Second Vatican Council, four centuries later, that this direction was implemented.

The Council Fathers explicitly stated their purpose as threefold: to enhance the Church, to strengthen with sacred orders those men already engaged in diaconal functions, and to provide assistance to areas suffering clerical shortages.

Among those calling for the restoration were the survivors of "The Deacons Circle," priests who suffered at the Dachau death camp during World War II. While suffering, they prayed for the renewal of the Church.

They believed the Holy Spirit was inspiring them to call for a re-institution of a permanent diaconate that could serve sacramentally and vocationally as an order of clergy in the midst of the world.

The priests who survived Dachau continued to meet and pray, and eventually they presented their discernment to the Holy Father and the leaders of the Vatican Council.

On 18 June 1967, Pope Paul VI implemented the Council's decision to re-institute a permanent diaconate for the universal Church with the apostolic letter “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem”. He also established revised norms for the ordination of all clergy, including deacons, priests and bishops. These norms passed into the Code of Canon Law.

According to "The Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons," issued jointly by the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Congregation for the Clergy, the deacon is "a sacred minister and member of the hierarchy." He is ordained to the first rank of sacred orders, not to the priesthood or the episcopacy. He is no longer a layman, but a member of the clergy. Like other clerics, the deacon participates in the threefold ministry of Jesus Christ; the "diaconia of the liturgy, the word, and of charity.” He represents “Christ the Servant” in his vocation.

The deacon teaches the Word of God, sanctifies through the sacraments, and helps lead the community in its religious life. He assists at the altar, distributes the Eucharist as an ordinary minister, blesses marriages, presides over funerals, proclaims the Gospel and preaches, administers viaticum to the sick, and leads Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest.

"The deacon does not celebrate the mystery; rather, he effectively represents on the one hand, the people of God, and specifically, helps them to unite their lives to the offering of Christ; while on the other, in the name of Christ himself, he helps the church to participate in the fruits of that sacrifice," according to the declaration.

Because they receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, deacons are sent by Christ to serve God's people. They are called to do so out of the depths of an interior life centered in the Eucharist, and fueled by a life of prayer, which proceeds into action. Like other clerics, they recite the Divine Office and cultivate the habit of penance.

They also are called in these documents to link their love for the Lord and His Church to a special love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, who in her “Fiat” represents the full surrender of love to the invitation of God.

Since most deacons are married and have children, they are called to demonstrate the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage and the holiness of a consecrated family life. They are called to “give clear witness to the sanctity of marriage and family."

The wives of permanent deacons are called to support the ordained ministry of their husbands. As "The Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons" states, "The more they [deacon and wife] grow in mutual love, the greater their dedication to their children and the more significant their example for the Christian community"

The married deacon makes a unique contribution to the renewal of Christian marriage and family life. At a time when the Church has so strongly emphasized the role of the "Christian Family in the Modern World," of one of John Paul’s wonderful encyclicals.

The married deacon also serves as an example of married clergy in the Western Church.In the Eastern Churches, the ancient practice of calling married men, even to the order of priest, remains in tact, in most places.

The married deacon is challenged to a life of faith, fidelity and example in the married state. His example of clerical service in the married state does not detract from the prophetic and wonderful witness of consecrated celibacy; it is complementary.It is also a way of sanctification for him and witness for those whom he serves.

It is important to note that although the “permanent” diaconate has been opened to married men of mature age; it is also open to and encouraged as a permanent rank of orders for celibate men.

The decision for marriage or celibacy is to be made before ordination to the order of deacon.This is the ancient practice.If a married deacon loses his wife, he pledges to remain celibate. In fact, he could then consider a further call to priesthood if the Lord so moved him and the Church invited him. This has already been demonstrated in the lived experience of the renewed diaconate in the western Church.

The married deacon and his wife are to "show how the obligations of family life, work and ministry can be harmonized in the Church's mission”. Deacons and their wives and children can be "a great encouragement to others who are working to promote family life," according to these Vatican documents.

In addition to this important witness, the deacon is distinct in his secular vocation. Often engaged in works of social justice or charity, he is a clergyman in the midst of the secular world. He goes from the altar to the world in a prophetic way, bringing Christ to those for whom He gave His life- and continues to reach out to -through Hid Body on earth, the Church.

The deacon also engages in the "New Evangelization" which the late Servant of God Pope John Paul II emphasized as an essential task for all members of the Church at this critical point in human history. Deacons do so in a unique way. They are an order of clergy in the midst of the world. They go from the altar and the ambo into the streets.

I found that my work as a lawyer and public policy advocate took on a new depth and meaning after my ordination.However, my service as a Deacon also had a profound effect on me. It has led, here in my second decade of diaconal work, to major life changes including the pursuit of a PhD in Moral Theology in my fifties. When a man says "Yes", the Lord takes it seriously.

Customs have developed which reflect the deacon's role as distinct from both priest and lay minister. For instance, proper liturgical dress for a deacon is an alb, a cincture, a diaconal stole and a dalmatic. He is authorized to wear a cope at baptisms, weddings or while presiding over the exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

However, since he usually pursues secular work, he is not "obliged” to wear clerical garb as are transitional deacons or priests. The custom pertaining to the wearing of a clerical collar differs according to local practice when the deacon is engaged in sacramental, pastoral, or liturgical service.

Similarly, formal and popular titles help distinguish the deacon. Such titles of course, are not badges of honor, but rather "crosses" given to the one who holds any clerical office. They preserve the order of service in the Body of Christ.

Just as we call a priest "Father," and should not presume to call him by his first name, a permanent deacon, like a transitional deacon, should be called "Deacon." In formal writing a deacon, according to custom, often uses the title “Reverend Mr.” reflecting in a unique way both his clerical and “secular” role.

Because of the long lack of a real witness of a diaconate in the western Church, the reaction to this ministry by other clergy and lay faithful is sometimes hesitant or confused. Yet, as time unfolds more and more members of the Church have come to understand the role of this expression of Holy Orders as a gift to both the Church and the world.

The role of the deacon does not detract from the vital role of an empowered lay faithful. In fact, it should enrich it. And the deacon also should not be seen as a "threat" to the irreplaceable ministry of the priest.

A vibrant diaconate will enhance and expand the ministry of the priesthood.

Bishops, too, should encourage the diaconate, because it is for them that deacons are particularly ordained. Other than the deacon, only the Bishop is authorized to wear the dalmatic. This custom symbolizes the deep relationship between a Bishop and his deacons.

I have served with love, honor, and humility both as a lay leader and as a deacon. To serve the Lord and His Church is the greatest privilege of my life. My wife and children have been a source of great strength to me on this journey, and I hope our family has been a strong witness to our deep love for the Catholic Church.

When I was called forth to holy orders, my Bishop thought that in my ministry as a layman I was already engaged in "diaconal functions" and that the grace of orders was a part of my ongoing call. He referred to my pro-life work and pro-family apostolate as an example of an "anonymous diaconate."

He thought that this was precisely what the Council Fathers had in mind when they restored this ancient order. I am grateful for his insight and his invitation. I also think it is a helpful insight into how the process of discernment for this vocation should be structured.

I knew the grace of a call to ordained ministry. My ordination was a profound experience. It did indeed create a "mark" on my soul as the teaching of the catholic Church on the sacrament of Orders so clearly states. My ministry as a deacon is not "better” than my ministry as a lay leader, but it is profoundly different. I now serve as a member of the Catholic clergy in everything I do: evangelization, apologetics, and ecumenism, as well as in my professional life.

I do not believe that it is accidental that the same Church Council that called for a renewed emphasis on the role of the lay faithful also re-instituted this rank of clerical service in the Western Church.

All of us, whether bishops, priests, deacons, lay faithful, or consecrated religious are a part of the one mission of the one Church. Each of us, though all equal in the sight of God, play vitally important, but different, roles in the Body of Christ.

Let us pray for each other that we may all remain faithful to our individual vocations. Let us pray that all deacons - this order of clergy-set aside for Word, service and Sacrament-will flourish in this New Millennium of the Church.

For our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to give such a clear affirmation of the role of deacons during this first week of lent is a great gift for all of us who are called to this vocation.

May deacons take up their role as "Sacred Minister and Member of the Hierarchy." May they go forth from the altar to the world and manifest the presence of Christ the Deacon, who continues to serve all those whom He loves!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King Day

"One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all." MLK

Dr. King's words are striking, and so applicable to today's most vile attack on the dignity of the human person. What would Dr. King think of living in a country that has legalized the killing of the most innocent human beings, the unborn.

I pray that by reading and studying the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., more good people will enter the pro-life movement, and help end the sin of abortion in our time.

Today I read the "Letter From Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963", by Dr. Martin Luther King. I believe that this letter offers the very essence of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., his beliefs, his character, his courage, his love of humanity, his love for America, and his love of Jesus. Where are his disciples today? Certainly not Jesse Jackson, certainly not Al Sharpton. No, today his devoted disciple is his niece, Dr. Alveda King. Dr. Alveda King is carrying on the legacy of her famous uncle - Dr. King is a PRO-LIFE activist. Protecting the rights of the most vulnerable human beings in society, the unborn. I believe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be doing the same work if he were with us today.

Here is an excerpt from "
Letter From Birmingham Jail."

"You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may won ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the Brat to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all".

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distort the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful. Paul Tillich said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression 'of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong."

Friday, January 14, 2011

John Paul II - Beatification set for May 1

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The pope has approved a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II's intercession and set May 1 as the date for the beloved pontiff to be beatified.

Pope Benedict XVI declared in a decree Friday that the cure of a French nun who suffered from Parkinson's disease was miraculous, the last step needed for the beatification.

The May 1 ceremony is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Rome to celebrate one of the most popular popes of all time. A second miracle is needed for John Paul to be made a saint.

Benedict put John Paul on the fast track to possible sainthood just weeks after he died in 2005, responding to the chants of "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood immediately!" that erupted during his funeral.

O Holy Trinity,
we thank you for having given to the Church
Pope John Paul II,
and for having made him shine with your fatherly tenderness,
the glory of the Cross of Christ and the splendor of the Spirit of love

He, trusting completely in your infinite mercy
and in the maternal intercession of Mary, has shown himself
in the likeness of Jesus the Good Shepherd
and has pointed out to us holiness
as the path to reach eternal communion with You.

Grant us, through his intercession,
according to your will, the grace that we implore,
in the hope that he will soon be numbered among your saints.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

From the Detailed Rules for Monks

From today's Office of Reading

From the Detailed Rules for Monks by St. Basil the Great, bishop

The ability to love is within each of us

Love of God is not something that can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same – perhaps even more so – with our love for God: it does not come by another’s teaching. As soon as the living creature (that is, man) comes to be, a power of reason is implanted in us like a seed, containing within it the ability and the need to love. When the school of God’s law admits this power of reason, it cultivates it diligently, skilfully nurtures it, and with God’s help brings it to perfection.
For this reason, as by God’s gift, I find you with the zeal necessary to attain this end, and you on your part help me with your prayers. I will try to fan into flame the spark of divine love that is hidden within you, as far as I am able through the power of the Holy Spirit.
First, let me say that we have already received from God the ability to fulfil all his commands. We have then no reason to resent them, as if something beyond our capacity were being asked of us. We have no reason either to be angry, as if we had to pay back more than we had received. When we use this ability in a right and fitting way, we lead a life of virtue and holiness. But if we misuse it, we fall into sin.
This is the definition of sin: the misuse of powers given us by God for doing good, a use contrary to God’s commands. On the other hand, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience in accordance with God’s command.
Since this is so, we can say the same about love. Since we received a command to love God, we possess from the first moment of our existence an innate power and ability to love. The proof of this is not to be sought outside ourselves, but each one can learn this from himself and in himself. It is natural for us to want things that are good and pleasing to the eye, even though at first different things seem beautiful and good to different people. In the same way, we love what is related to us or near to us, though we have not been taught to do so, and we spontaneously feel well disposed to our benefactors.
What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more pleasing and wonderful than God’s majesty? What desire is as urgent and overpowering as the desire implanted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and cries out in its love: I am wounded by love? The radiance of divine beauty is altogether beyond the power of words to describe.

image "Abbey Bells" ©bjm

Monday, January 10, 2011

Let us first live our lives.

“If we want to be spiritual, then, let us first of all live our lives. Let us not fear the responsibilities and the inevitable distractions of the work appointed for us by the will of God. Let us embrace reality and thus find ourselves immersed in the life-giving will and wisdom of God which surrounds us everywhere. - Thomas Merton - Thoughts in Solitude

"Birches" by Fr. Michael Bozell

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Light Beyond

Bless the Lord, dew and frost;
Ice and cold, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, ice and snow;
Day and night, bless the Lord.

Daniel 3

A Light Beyond ©bjm

Monday, January 3, 2011

Message from Fr. Luke, CFR.

I hope all of you are enjoying this Christmas Season - and all had a happy and safe New Years celebration!
For me, it was a very busy weekend - which ended joyfully working with the Missionaries of Charity - as the sisters and volunteers handed out a multitude of Christmas presents to the children at the MC mission in Newark, New Jersey.

Here is a reflection from Fr. Luke, CFR.

Old and New - Good and Bad - Past and Future

January 1st is a great day to pray. It is a day when we naturally look back on the past year. Isn't it always the case that the year was filled with good and bad? The two often mix together like the parable of the weeds and wheat (see Matthew 13:24-30). With Holy Job we accept both in faith (see Job 2:10). It is tempting to interpret bad things in a shallow over-simplistic way, thinking that somehow God is punishing us. Jesus clarified this way of thinking in Luke 13:1-5. He made reference to two events in which people suffered tragic deaths. He went on to say that it is wrong to think that they were bigger sinners than the rest of us!

In this past year I said hello to a new niece who was born in June. I said goodbye to my beloved grandfather who went to his eternal reward on June 19, the baby's due date. Thankfully baby Greta was born a few weeks earlier so they were able to meet each other! We pray that we will all be together forever in heaven, please God. While we are still here, let us make good use of the time that is given us.

January 1st is a great day to pray. It is a day when we naturally look forward to the coming year. Let us pray that this year will find us filled with greater faith, hope and love. May the newborn baby Jesus be born anew in our hearts this year!