31 March 2012

A 1st Century Scapegoat No More

5th Week of Lent (S)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Once attained, power—political, religious, financial—is very difficult to give up. There's something about the ability to impose one's will on people and events that's highly addictive, even corrosive to one's capacity to hear the truth. Caiaphas is a good example. He served as High Priest of the temple in Jerusalem for eighteen years, an unusually long term for the office. Caiaphas must have been an excellent politician. His nation was ruled by a foreign military power, the Roman Empire. His people were sharply divided into competing regional and religious factions, some of whom were militant nationalists and terrorists. His life was made even more difficult by this itinerant preacher who went around healing unclean outcasts; cavorting with tax-collectors and prostitutes; crashing bible studies in synagogues; and worst of all, publicly proclaiming his own divinity. The scribes and the Pharisees had reported that this country-bumpkin preacher only had a small group of devout followers, but he was also drawing big crowds and talking about the destruction of the temple. When he raised a man from the dead, Caiaphas had had enough. The threat had to be eliminated. Powerful people do not easily tolerate competition or opposition. The Way, the Truth, and the Life does more than compete and oppose—he wins. Always has, always will. 

We might have some sympathy for Caiaphas and his allies. There's no doubt that they are in an untenable bind. They govern a subjected nation and rule only b/c their conquerors allow them to. If they can't suppress the religious and political zeal of their own people, the Romans will do it for them. The Sanhedrin had long hoped to bring all the people of Israel back to their Promised Land. To do this, they need a lure, a draw; they need an intact temple and functioning priesthood. The last thing they need is some street preacher stirring up more trouble. That he appears to be who he said he is only makes their situation more dangerous. Raising Lazarus from the dead proves to be the one competitive stunt, one oppositional act that they cannot let slide. Caiaphas prophesies that the death of one man will save his people. He's right, of course, but not in a way that he can ever imagine. We can be sympathetic to his situation, but his religious and political power render him unable to hear the truth; he is both deaf and blind to the righteous Way that Jesus forges for the people of God.

Caiaphas' position as an the supreme Jewish authority in his nation prevents him for seeing who it is that he is plotting against. Deaf and blind to the Word, he sees a future for his people in the death of one man. I wonder if we share his vision. I mean, do we see a future for our people, the People of God, in the death of just one man? Caiaphas sees a scapegoat to appease the Romans. What do we see? Tomorrow, the final leg of our journey to Jerusalem begins. We walk into the crowds behind Jesus. They cheer; they call his name. They wave palm branches and welcome him as a king, shouting, “Hosanna!” We know where our king ends the journey, and we know where he finally ends and how he gets there. Our eyes and ears are wide open. But what do we hear in the cheering? What do we see in the clamoring crowds? Do they understand what we does for them? Do we? The temple of his body is destroyed on a Roman cross. And God's people are saved. Not from the Romans, or the Venetians, or the Ottomans, or the Nazis. They (and we) are saved from the corrupting power of sin. We are a graced nation won on a cross.


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30 March 2012

R.I.P. to a Pro-Life Icon

Fr. Matt Robinson, OP died in Irving, TX  last night.  He fell last week and broke his hip.  Our provincial reports that he died in hospice care with the prior and sub-prior of his convent singing the "Salve."

Fr. Matt is a Pro-Life icon in Texas.  He encouraged Norma McCorvey ("Roe" in Roe v. Wade) into the Church.  Served as chaplain for several pro-life groups.  Operated a website.  

At nearly 98 y.o., Matt could rattle off Aquinas' Five Ways in Latin; tell you why science and faith can never be in conflict; fix your alarm clock while hearing your confession; and prepare, deliver, and defend a eight-week series of homilies on why the Mass is a true sacrifice!

He was a dynamo!  And he will be sorely, sorely missed. . .


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28 March 2012

Making & Maintaining Room for Christ

5th Week of Lent (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

In our readings for most of last week and all of this week (so far), Jesus shocks and outrages the religious believers of his day with increasingly ridiculous revelations about his true nature. He starts by claiming the authority to heal the sick by forgiving sins. He goes on to reveal that he is the Son of God. Then, yesterday, he makes his most blasphemous revelation, “. . .if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” In other words, if you do not accept me as the Lord your God, you will die unforgiven. For the Pharisees, this is more than mere heresy, more than blasphemy—it's suicidal insanity! Surely, this man Jesus is demonically possessed or dangerously brain-damaged or both. And just in case the Pharisees aren't outraged enough, just in case they aren't already prepared to tear him limb from limb, today, Jesus throws a truckload of gasoline on the roaring fire, “. . .you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you.” Why is this so inflammatory? Our Lord is accusing his accusers of being the ones in rebellion against their God! Jesus' string of gobsmacking revelations raises an essential question for us: is there room among us for his word? If not, how do we make room?

Before we can answer these questions, we need to understand what “making room for his word” means. We've all heard—ad. nau—pastoral admonitions about “clearing out the clutter of our lives” during Lent. We've heard the demands for more silence, more contemplation, less work, less worry. There's no doubt that Lent provides us with the spiritual reasons and necessary excuses to slow down and pay attention to our personal and ecclesial relationships with God. But Jesus accusation here—there's no room in you for my word—is substantially more serious than a teacherly finger-wagging about the need to calm our busy lives. If I say to you, “Here's a 45ft. statue of the Sacred Heart for your house. . .”; or “Here's a pet elephant for your kids;” you would probably say, “Um, thanks, Father, but we don't have room for that.” You mean, “We have no place to properly store, properly house such a thing.” When Jesus accuses the Pharisees of having no room for his word, he means that they are completely unprepared to store, to house, to live with, to thrive in his teachings; they are unable and unwilling to build room into their lives, or renovate their lives so that his word can take up residence in them. Therefore, they will die in their sins.

At the moment of our baptism a room is built for us. Our parents, our godparents, the Church all pitch in and construct an indestructible room for us to store Christ's word. The room is permanent, but who lives in our room is a decision each of us makes day to day, hour by hour. If Christ's word is not in residence, something or someone else is. How do we make sure that we are keeping Christ and his word thriving in our room? There's no magic here. . .just the hard work of virtue, the good habit of trusting in God's promises; loving Him by loving each other; by seeing in the people we meet everyday a daily revelation of God's truth, goodness, and beauty; by sacrificing for the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the lonely, and the helpless; defying sin by forgiving those who sin against us; by wantonly throwing ourselves on the mercy of God and receiving every blessing He has to give us. With this kind of busyness, we keep our indestructible room filled to the ceiling with the Word of Christ. "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

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Coffee Cup Browsing

Great news!  It looks like 7 of the 9 Justices of the Supreme Court aren't buying B.O.'s assertion that the individual mandate is a tax. . .meaning Congress has no authority to impose it.   Of course, guessing SC votes is like reading tea leaves.

Did B.O.'s lawyer take a dive yesterday?  ObamaCare is wildly unpopular.  Having it struck down by the SC would save him from having to defend it before the Nov elections. 

Mark your calendar. . .politician caught telling the truth.  His mic was on and he didn't know it.

I'm looking forward to performing this rite

When every other argument/plea/threat fails, throw the Safety Card.  I did this a few times when I worked in the psych hospital.  Sometimes it was the only move left after being slapped down.  The bosses don't like workers documenting a "safety issue."

A bunch of self-anointed Brights use their superior intellects to mock religious belief.  This reads like the puffed-up rantings of a adolescent brat.  There are good atheists out there.  The Church needs them b/c they keep us sharp, e.g. Kai Neilson.  Why is Islam never an atheist target?

Race-baiter endangers the lives of a elderly FL couple.  In the old days, they'd call this a "lynching."

Oh, those Inconvenient Narratives. . .they are always messing up a perfectly good fairy tale!

The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite finally reintroduced in England.  Sorry, but that miter is too much. . .

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27 March 2012

Sisters supporting our bishops. . .

To any young women out there considering a religious vocation:

Many congregations of women religious women in the U.S. have publicly expressed their support for our bishops and their fight against B.O.'s violation of our religious liberty.

Many congregations of women religious women in the U.S. have thrown their support behind B.O. and his plan to force us to fund the mortal sin of others, providing him with "Catholic cover" for his power grab.  The LCWR has issued a statement lauding the contraception mandate.

If you are looking around for a congregation to join, may I suggest you consider one of these:

Religious Sisters Speak Out (link)

At press time, 22 orders of women religious who have posted on their websites statements supporting the bishops’ position against the HHS mandate:

Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia
Little Sisters of the Poor
Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist
Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, IHM Province
Sisters of Life
Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles
Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich.
Daughters of the Immaculata
Dominican Sisters of the Immaculate Conception
Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, Central Province
Congregation of the Divine Spirit
The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, N.Y.
Franciscan Daughters of Mary, Covington, Ky.
School Sisters of St. Francis, Panhandle, Texas
Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick, Kansas City, Kan.
Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist, Independence, Mo.
Sisters of the Resurrection, Castleton, N.Y.
School Sisters of Christ the King, Lincoln, Neb.
Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen, Immaculate Heart of Mary Province, Hankinson, N.D.
Sisters of Charity of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, Baltic, Conn.
Sisters of Our Mother of Divine Grace, Port Sanilac, Mich. 

It goes w/o saying that there is more to selecting a congregation to join than assessing their position on one political issue.  However, if a congregation is openly undermining our bishops on this fundamental issue, well, that's a pretty good sign that the sisters have seriously lost their way.

Why join an order that pretends to be an alternative magisterium

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Monday Fat Report (Octave)

It's +1 this week. . .ah well.  Up to 328lbs.

It could be much worse, I guess!

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Blog-begging for our OP novices and students. . .

I haven't done any blog-begging in quite a while, so here goes:  The Province of St. Martin de Porres is in the midst of its annual 1216 Campaign. . .

This is our major fundraising (i.e., mendicant, begging) event of the year.  Since Katrina our fundraising base here in the Nawlins' area has diminished considerably, so we are reaching out well beyond the local church.

The money we raise during the 1216 Campaign provides a huge portion of what we need to form our novices in Irving, TX and educate our students in St. Louis.

Since 1980, our OP students have been attending Aquinas Institute in St. Louis.  This is a collaborative studium with the Province of St. Albert the Great (Chicago).  Our students have been living in Jesuit Hall (!) on the campus of St. Louis University.  

In December of 2011, this living arrangement changed rather dramatically.  Our students moved into their own place.  We renovated a convent nearby and gave our students a place of their own.

You can see the new St Dominic Priory here.  The student brothers no longer pray in the basement of Jesuit Hall!  The young friars are particularly excited about the new choir stalls installed just a few days ago.

Formation costs for the novitiate and studium eat up a large portion of our annual budget.  So, we need help!  We need your help.  

If we are to provide the Church in the 21st century will well-educated, faithful, dynamic preachers, we need the support of those who have benefited from the preaching ministry of the Order.

If you have benefited from our ministry or long to see Catholic preaching and teaching thrive, please donate to our campaign.

Or send a check to: 

Southern Dominican Province
1421 N. Causeway Blvd.
Ste 200
Metairie, LA   70001


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Retreat report

Beautiful day yesterday in NOLA area!  Sunny, cool.  

The retreat with the Mt Carmel Academy faculty was a lot of fun.  Good food, good company, great facilities--Solomon Retreat Center in Robert, LA.  No one threw a book at me, so my part of the gig was (at least) not offensive, or not offensive enough to throw a book.

We covered:  reasons for the new translation, the Mass parts, nature of the homily, theology of offering and sacrifice. . .lots of fun.

Yesterday was the first time I've been across the Pontchartrain Bridge since I was about 11 y.o.  My family moved from Belle Chase to Slidell, and I vaguely remember us driving over the bridge.  It's not as scary some 35 yrs. later.

Off today!  See y'all tomorrow.

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26 March 2012

Retreat Day

Headed across The Lake this morning to give a retreat to the faculty of Mt. Carmel Academy.

We'll be reading/discussing the Mass. . .line by line.  My fav retreat topic!

Fr. Philip, OP

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Coffee Cup Browsing

Welfare State + Contraception = Demographic/Financial Collapse. . ."Surely, this is the ultimate expression of the suicide cult that is the modern Left. . ."

EU Court:  same-sex "marriage" is not a right; however, if SSM is legalized, churches must comply

Like teenie-boppers squealing for the Beatles, EU Nannies welcomed the 2008 election results.  Now, not so much.  I believe the appropriate term is "Rubes."

Jesuit owned America Magazine once again beclowns itself by attacking the bishops' support for religious liberty.  Wonder what they will spend their 30 pieces of silver on?

A predictably dismissive NPR piece on last Friday's Religious Freedom Rally.  NB.  the use of polling to minimize Christian concerns and condescending labels for participants.

Atheists rally in D.C. to show support for non-religious liberty.  Good for them.  The Constitutional right to practice one's religion includes the right to practice no religion at all.  Now, will these folks stand up for our rights when the time comes?  The rational ones will.  Dawkins?  Not so much.

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