25 February 2012

Coffee Cup Browsing

Turning the Crystal Cathedral into a real cathedral?  I say:  raze it and start over.  

No, you do not have to confess missing Mass on Ash Wednesday

Anti-Catholic bigotry in the MSM:  a roundup.

Say the Black, Do the Red:  priest fired for his obstinate clericalism.

Pelosi says that the Church wants the feds to enforce a contraception ban.  Where's Thomas a Becket when you need him?

An Irish Lenten tradition. . .as only the Irish can do it.

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24 February 2012


Many thanks to Michael S. for the Kindle Book!

Be assured of my prayers for you and your family, Michael.

God bless, Fr. Philip Neri, OP

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Regs on Lenten Abstinence and Fasting

From the USCCB:

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of universal fast and abstinence. Fasting is obligatory for all who have completed their 18th year and have not yet reached their 60th year. Fasting allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one full meal. Abstinence (from meat) is obligatory for all who have reached their 14th year.

If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the "paschal fast" to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily his Resurrection. 

Fridays in Lent are obligatory days of complete abstinence (from meat) for all who have completed their 14th year.

More links on the USCCB website.


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23 February 2012

You Have a Choice to Make

Thursday after Ash Wednesday 2012
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Americans love options. We love the fact that we can walk into just about any store and have our choice of products. Different sizes, flavors, shapes, and prices. Take milk as an example: whole milk, skim milk, buttermilk, low fat, fat-free, 1%, 2%, organic, soy, half/half, heavy cream, milk with acidophilus, and even lactose-free milk. As the world's leading consumers, we thrive on the illusion that having these options available somehow gives us control of our lives! Choosing from a menu of options is a very American way of expressing our individuality, of showing others that we are independent and discriminating consumers. What we really don't like is being told that there are only two choices. Black or white but no gray. Yes or no but no maybe. Moses, for example, would've made a terrible American salesman. Here's his pitch, “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. . .obey the commandments of the Lord. . .loving him, and walking in his ways [and] you will live [and He] will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy. If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen. . .and adore and serve other gods. . .you will certainly perish. . .” What?! Only two choices? Where's the compromise? The dialogue? Moses answers, “Choose life. . .that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God.”

As a reformed secular humanist, I can tell you that this kind of Black/White thinking drives the enemies of the Church crazy! It drives them nuts when we say that abortion is always—under all circumstances—a moral evil. It drives them nuts when we say that women can never be ordained priests. They go bonkers when we claim that other faiths might teach religious truths but only the Church teaches the fullness of truth necessary for salvation. Those superlatives—always, never, only—send secularists into fits b/c they see themselves as the guardians of infinite options, the defenders of relative truth and value. Their Pick & Choose ideology demands that the we, the world, and even God Himself bow before their inalienable right to fashion for themselves a comfortable reality, a reality that somehow always manages to cater to every individual whim and “felt need.” For them, life is one long bargaining session, one long shopping spree.

For us Christians, reality is a little less confusing, a little less crowded with options. Moses says, “I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom.” Now, choose. Love and obey God and you will prosper. Turn your backs on Him and worship false gods and you will surely perish. Jesus lays these choices out for us in slightly different terms, “I must suffer, be rejected, killed and on the third day be raised. . .If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” What?! That's it? Where's the compromise? The dialogue? Can I follow you w/o a cross? Can I take up my cross but not follow? How about denying myself, leaving out the cross, and just staying at home? What are my options here? Jesus answers, “Come after me or don't. Those are your choices.” Lent is an excellent season for contemplating this decision. And as the Church is pressed more and more in our consumer culture, making that decision becomes more and more imperative. Those who see our faith as an obstacle to their lifestyle options want to know if you are going to follow Christ or wait to defend their never ending shopping spree. Those are your options. Choose.


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Abstinence & Fasting: Just Do It!

Question:  "Father, what's the difference between abstinence and fasting?"

Answer:  Good question!  Since the Protestantizers squeezed an imaginary "spirit" out of Vatican Two and threw out many of our cherished Catholic traditions in the name of reform*, Catholics have been dazed and confused about abstinence and fasting

The two are easily distinguished:

Abstinence:  abstaining from eating X (usually meat).

Fasting:  eating less of everything.

On Friday's during Lent, Catholic abstain from meat and fastFasting usually entails eating one small meal and two snacks.  Check your diocesan website for specific regulations.  

There are as many reasons for abstaining and fasting as there are Catholics.  Traditionally, the Lenten abstinence and fast is meant to rekindle in us a deep sense of humility, that is, a profound awareness that we are totally dependent on God for everything we have.  This evokes gratitude, which strengthens humility.

Most Catholics usually "give up" something for Lent as well; for example, coffee, smoking, chocolate, booze, etc.  I encourage Catholic to "take up" a devotional practice (rosary, Adoration, weekly confession) or focus on amending a habitual sin (gossip, missing Sunday Mass).  

Here's the thing:  being a faithful Catholic isn't supposed to be easy!  We've spent the last forty years trying to rub the hard edges off our faith in order to "fit in" with our Protestant Betters.  This has largely been a project of the Baby Boomers who find their grandparents' peasant Catholicism to be an embarrassment.  

The effort to Americanize the Church has led to numerous problems, including (but not limited to) a lazy attitude toward fulfilling the Sunday Mass obligation, frequent confession, the Lenten fast, and a general decline in the morality of Catholics across the board (use of contraception, abortion, co-habitation). Not to mention a dramatic decline in young men and women answering their call to serve the Church as priests and religious.

Nowhere in scripture, the Church Fathers, conciliar documents, or magisterial teaching will you read anything like the following, "Being Catholic is easy!  Just be nice to people and do what you can when you can!"  

Our faith demands perseverance, constant attention, and prayer.  Human beings are fundamentally good.  We are creatures of a loving God Who wants us to use His gifts to improve ourselves, to make ourselves holy for His greater glory!

Yes, God loves you just the way you are.  God is love, so loving is what He does by nature.  But He loves you SO THAT you will grow in righteousness.  One small way to jump start that process is to observe the Church's regulations on the Lenten fast. 

To borrow from the world of American commerce:  JUST DO IT!

*The actual documents of VC2 call for "renewal" and "repair."


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22 February 2012

Still sick. . .

Apparently, I'm not over the flu.  Got really dizzy after imposing ashes at the 12.15 Mass and had to sit out communion.  

Cold sweat, dizziness, fever. . .   :-(

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Ash Wednesday: We're on a Deadline!

Ash Wednesday 2012
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Remember that you are dust! Remember that we are impermanent, transient, just passing through and passing away. From the moment we are conceived, we are dying. And the time in between is our time to receive the gift of eternal life—a permanent, imperishable life lived in the presence of God. Catholics have never shied away from the truth of mortality: we are here temporarily. But also know that dying is not our purpose, our reason for living. We are given breath so that we might give to God the praise and glory due His name; so that we might sow and harvest the fruits of His Word among His people. Our mortal task is to give our hearts, minds, and hands to the cultivation of our Lord's love. Remembering that we are dust, remembering that we are passing through and passing away is at once a call to pay attention to the work we've been given and a reminder that each of us works on a deadline. While you pray, fast and give alms during the next 40 days, rise and rest giving God thanks for everything He has given you, for everything that you are, and for everything you can become with His mercy.

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5 Things To Do With Your Ashes

Go git dem ashes!!!

And here's five things you can do once you Get Yours:

1).  Carefully cover your ashen cross with a big piece of clear packing tape so that it doesn't smear during the day.

2).  Use Elmer's Glue to outline your ashes and then sprinkle it liberally with glitter.

3).  Add two more ashen crosses on each side of the original and tell everyone you're fasting for the two pagans in your in family.

4).   Keep a small container of ashes in your pocket.  When someone says, "Hey, you got a little dirt on your forehead," whip out the ashes and Give Them Theirs before they can flee.

5).  Wash them off. . .you know, like Jesus tells us to do in today's gospel.  

Happy Fasting, folks!


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21 February 2012

Fat Report Monday (Octave) +2

I completely forgot about Fat Report Monday!

+2 up to 327 lbs.  Not a great week.  Flu.  Not enough moving around.  Flopping around in bed coughing and sneezing doesn't count.


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20 February 2012

Confession & Forgiveness: An Analogy

You and best friend have a fight.  You go to home and so does BF.

That night your BF prays and decides to forgive you.  BF sends you an email informing you of his/her forgiveness.

You read the email and decide to put off responding until tomorrow.  Tomorrow comes and goes.  The next day, the next week.  You get another email from BF.  You're still angry at BF and brooding over the fight.  Six months later you get another email from BF.   Before you know it, a year has passed and you still haven't responded to your BF's declarations of forgiveness.

You do a little checking with mutual friends and discover that BF has moved on in life and is apparently thriving in a new job and a new child.  BF asked around about you for a month or two and expressed regret about the fight but said that he/she was over it and just wanted to be friends again. 

While you've been wallowing in self-pity and anger, BF has forgiven you.  But the friendship cannot be re-established until you respond to BF's declarations of forgiveness.  BF can send you an email of forgiveness every minute of everyday until he/she dies, but there can be no friendship until you respond by receiving his/her forgiveness.  

Confession is about receiving the forgiveness that God has already given to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ!  All we have to do is go get it. Then your friendship with God is re-established. 


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Show us Godly wisdom!

7th Week OT (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Let's see: who among you is wise and understanding? Show your hand! Anyone? No takers, a few takers? OK. Who among you is wise and understanding? Show your works! Show us a good life lived in the humility that comes from wisdom. Let's see you live day to day immersed in the love of God and in the full knowledge that you are totally dependent on Him for everything you have and everything you are. What should we see if we were to observe a wise and understanding soul live day to day? According to James, such a soul would be “peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits,” constant and sincere. A foolish and ignorant soul, James writes, is infested with “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition,” plagued by a manner of thinking and living, a wisdom that is “earthly, unspiritual, [and] demonic.” What distinguishes the wise soul from the foolish soul is not wisdom per se but the source of one's wisdom. The wisdom that brings peace comes down from above and is “first of all pure.” It's that divine purity that gives one's wisdom fertility, the unfettered ability to cultivate peace.

If you had to name the one thing you are pursuing in this life, what would it be? I hope, I pray, most of us here tonight would say, “I'm pursuing holiness by following Christ!” If we were wade into the Madri Gras crowds down on St. Charles tomorrow and ask, “What are you pursing in this life?” we might get a few coherent answers. More than likely, we'd get a Hurricane thrown in our face! Whether we know it or not, we are all chasing after something; we are all following behind someone or some idea. . .even if that someone is a potential mate or that idea is “just make it one more day.” We were created to desire the Good and we are given the tools to sift through all the flotsam we encounter to find the Good. But how often do we choose the Good? We desire it and we have what it takes to recognize it, but do we deliberately select what is Good and reject what it evil? The selection process can be daunting, even overwhelming if you are relying on human knowledge and experience alone. Thus, James tells us that true wisdom is Godly wisdom, “first of all [it is] pure,” from above. When you place yourself at the disposal of Godly wisdom, you place yourself in the way of righteousness, which is guaranteed to bear abundant fruit. And the first fruit of righteousness is peace.

Wisdom is one of those tricky words that needs a little explanation. Think of human wisdom this way: take knowledge add experience, throw in some prudence and over time you get human wisdom. A very valuable resource. More valuable still is Godly wisdom. Take knowledge gained from revelation (scripture, Christ, and creation) add the experience of the whole Church (2,000 yrs. of sacred tradition), throw in some faith, some prudence, and lots of perseverance and you get about as close to Godly wisdom as you can get this side of heaven. The difference that makes the difference here when it comes to fruitfulness is the source of the wisdom at work. Human wisdom can never evolve faster than humanity itself. Godly wisdom is always several stages beyond where we absolutely need it to be. This is why we are constantly astonished by the works of faith. This is why we are amazed by the lives of the saints. This is why we keep coming back to God over and over again no matter how many times we've run the other way. Who among you is wise and understanding? Show your works! Show us a good life lived in the humility that comes from Godly wisdom.

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Just Name the Sin: No excuses, no explantions. . .

In the post below ("10 Random Thoughts on Confession") I urge penitents to avoid explaining their sins in favor of simply confessing them.  

Often, penitents feel the need to describe the circumstances of the sin or offer some sort of causal account of their sins.  Not necessary.  

Just. Name. The. Sin.  Easy, cheesy.  If your confessor needs more info, he will ask.  

Now, what do I mean by "explanation."  This definition is as good as any. . .from wikiAn explanation is a set of statements constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies the causes, context, and consequences of those facts.

Your confessor needs to know the nature of your sin ("name") and how many times you've committed the sin ("number"). He does not need to know the cause, context, or consequences--unless he does, in which case, he will ask you for a description.  

Good Example:  "I lied four times this week to my wife."  

Bad Example:  "I found out that my wife lied to me last week about how much money she spent on shoes, so I told her that my fishing boat only cost half what it really costs and when she asked me about at dinner last night--no, wait--it was lunch. . .anyway, when she asked about it I told her another lie. . ."  

Your confessor does not need to know:  1) that you know that your wife lied to you; 2) that your wife lied; 3) that she lied to you last week; 4) that she lied about money; 5) that she bought shoes; 6) that you lied about a the cost of a fishing boat; 7) what meal you were eating when she asked you about the cost of the fishing boat; 8) that she asked you about the cost of the boat a second, third, fourth time. . .

Your confessor needs to know:  1) that you lied to your wife; 2) how many times you lied.  Yes, lying to your wife is different than lying to a stranger.  A lie is a lie.  Period.  But lying to your wife raises different sorts of flags.  If you were to confess, "I lied four times this week." your confessor rightly asks, "To whom did you lie?"  He will not--I hope--ask, "What were you eating when you lied?"

Basically, I'm urging penitents to get out of the habit of explaining their sins because: 

1). explanations almost inevitably end up sounding an awful lot like rationalizations/justifications;

2). confession-time is not story-time, "Just the facts, ma'am."

3). explaining your sins can lead to Vicarious Confession, i.e., in the process of explaining who, when, why, where of Your Sin X, you end up trying to confess someone else's sin.

4). explanations are often veiled attempts at provoking sympathy in the confessor. 

Strip that confession to the bare bones so that there is a white-hot laser focus on YOUR sins--no excuses, no explanations, no causal accounts, no nothing but the wrong you did!  That way, you can get on with enjoying God's love and loving others in kind.


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19 February 2012

10 Random Thoughts on Confession

A post over at Fr. Z's place got me to thinking about confession.  Since we're heading into Lent, I though I type out some random thoughts on the subject. . .

1).  Confession is all about receiving the forgiveness we have all already been given.   We cannot earn forgiveness by works, attitude, or even confession itself; if we could, it would be a wage not a grace (i.e. a gift).

2).  Penance is not a punishment for sin.  Completing the penance you've been given is a sign that you have received God's forgiveness and resolved not to sin again.  This is why I always assign sin-appropriate psalms as penance.

3).  Priests rarely remember the sins of individual penitents.  Some believe that this is a grace from God given so that the confessor is spared the difficulty of carrying around the memories of sin.  Sounds good to me.  Frankly, I think the explanation is more mundane: priests have heard it all and sin is boring.

4).  Explaining your sins in the confessional is unnecessary and time-consuming.  Just say what you did and leave it at that.  If more info is needed, your confessor will ask.  Explanations generally come across as attempts to excuse the sin.

5).  Ask for counsel if you need it.  Most experienced confessors will know when counsel is needed, but it never hurts to ask.  Just keep in mind that there are others waiting to confess!

6).  This is your confession, so stick to your sins.  You cannot confess for your kids, your spouse, your neighbors, etc.  And please avoid using your confession time to complain about your kids, your spouse, your neighbors, etc.

7).  Faithfully assisting at Mass (actually participating) absolves venial sins.  Why else would we recite the Confiteor and the celebrant pray for our absolution?

8).  If you are unsure about whether or not X is a sin, ask.  Remember:  mortal sins are acts of disobedience that "kill charity" in your heart.  You cannot sin mortally through accident or ignorance. Don't turn a venial sin into a mortal "just in case."  

9).  Keep your eye on the clock and the line.  Make a thorough confession but balance your thoroughness with economy.  Others are waiting.  One way to do this (if there's a long line) is to stick to your mortal sins and save the venial sins for Mass.

10).  Tell your confessor that you will pray for him. . .and then go out there and pray for him! 


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