16 June 2012

Where's your courage?

11th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Think of courage: the strength of heart necessary to speak the truth, walk by faith, and live in hope; to speak, walk, and live righteously with your God; to do always and in every circumstance the right thing. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “We are always courageous, brothers and sisters, although. . .we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous. . .” We walk by faith, and yet we are courageous. We walk by faith, and yet we live in hope. We walk by faith, therefore, we aspire to please the Lord. Why? Why do we aspire to please the Lord? “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense,” correction, and repair. Christ will sit in judgment of our actions, whether good or evil, and so it is Christ we must work to please. But b/c “we are away from the Lord” and caught in the world of men, the temptation to work for man's approval is nearly overwhelming. And so, think of courage, pray for courage: the strength of heart necessary to speak the truth, to walk by faith, and to live in hope; the righteous spirit required to seed the world with the Good News so that the Lord's harvest may yield abundant and excellent fruit. 

Paul says that we are always courageous, that our hearts are always strong in the faith. But we might rightly suspect that he's flattering us, shining us on, so that we will hear and obey his call to faithfulness. You and I both know that fighting the temptation to please the world with the weapons of Christian courage is a day-to-day accounting. Some days we barely hold our own. Once and a while, we eek out a small win. One, maybe two days in a lifetime, we are truly pressed against a wall, and through sheer, muscular courage face down the temptation and declare victory. But most days, most weeks and years, the fight seems hardly worth the blood and sweat of a win. Hardly worth the time it would take to muster a defense. It's a tiny compromise to keep the peace. We will gain so much in exchange for something so small. How do I know that this is the right thing to do? We all have different ideas of what's right. I don't want to lose my job, my friends; anger my neighbors, my spouse, my kids. Everyone else thinks this is OK; who am I to say otherwise? I feel like this is right, so it must be right. We have the right to do this, so doing it must be right, right? These are the small challenges to your daily courage that probe your heart, poking and prodding for weaknesses so that the grand challenge to come might see you defeated.

 Jesus grasps for a parable, an image that will help him to explain the Kingdom of God. He settles on the image of a tiny mustard seed that grows into an enormous tree. In his parable, the Kingdom of God is “the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” This enormous tree, deeply rooted and supporting many large branches, springs up from a single, flyspeck of a seed. All those leaves, all those branches, the weight of its trunk, the depth of its roots, its resting shade, all of it comes out of the smallest of seeds. The smallest act of faith, the tiniest word of hope, no matter how small, how apparently insignificant the seed, properly sown and nurtured can spring up and grow into a heart courageous enough to withstand the most savage temptations wrought by the world of men. Jesus says that a farmer sows his seed-wheat and overnight his harvest is ripe, ready for reaping. When we sow the seeds of faith, hope, and love, the Kingdom of God sprouts in our hearts—growing and growing and growing—just waiting for the final reaping, waiting for the Christ to come so that we might go before his judgment seat and have him weigh our harvest, our words and deeds, whether good or evil. 

But before the harvest, before our judgment, we are tested; probed, prodded, and poked, in small ways and large, so that our courage might be measured. Writing to the people of Thibaris in northeast Africa, in the first century, St. Cyprian of Carthage warns the faithful there: “. . .the day of affliction has begun to hang over our heads. . .so we must all stand prepared for the battle.” Like most of his contemporaries, Cyprian believed that the Anti-Christ roamed the world in his day and that the Last Days were only weeks or months away; thus, he warns his brothers and sisters in Christ that their martyrdom for the faith was imminent. So, he exhorts them, “. . .a fiercer fight is now threatening, for which the soldiers of Christ ought to prepare themselves with uncorrupted faith and robust courage. . .” Threatened by our own looming battles, we too are rightly exhorted to prepare ourselves with an uncorrupted faith and a robust courage! It is unlikely that our battles will end in violence and bloodshed, but this actually make the fight more dangerous for us. Threatened with a gun or a knife, we would fight with all our physical strength and all our determination to survive and win. But what if the faith is threatened by a piece of legislation, an executive order, or the possibility of being ostracized for following Christ? What are our weapons then? 

Cyprian tells the Christians in Thibaris, “Let us be armed, beloved brethren, with our whole strength, and let us be prepared for the struggle with an uncorrupted mind, with a sound faith, with a devoted courage.” When we are tempted to please the world of men, to compromise in the smallest way against the faith, we are to arm ourselves with all the strength given to the children of God: a mind uncorrupted by inordinate desires, base passions, and irrational prejudices; a sound faith solidly rooted in the apostolic tradition, guided by the Church's authentic teachers, and lived with wholehearted charity; and a devoted courage, a heart strengthened by a true love for God and an eagerness to see God loved by all. When threatened, we are courageous, we reach up to Christ and down into our spirit for the strength of heart necessary to speak the truth, walk by faith, and live in hope; to speak, walk, and live righteously with our God; to do always and in every circumstance the right thing, even when the right thing to do will take us to court, to jail, to the unemployment line, or away from family and friends. 

Every act of faith, every word of hope sows a tiny seed, a miniscule germ of love from which the mighty tree of God's kingdom can take root and grow. But the sower of these seeds must be courageous, stout-hearted, and bravely immune to any temptation to worry about the approval and applause of the world of men. It is Christ himself who will sit in judgment of our words and deeds, whether good or evil; it is Christ himself who will weigh our hearts, measure our trust, and sift from us the wheat from the chafe. If you are courageous, go out and sow the seeds that will bring about the Kingdom. If you live with a spirit of cowardice, pray for strength and then go be strong. The battle against corruption is has always been with us, is with us now, and will be with us until judgment day dawns. Arm yourselves with the best weapons Christ and his Church have to offer, and prepare to repel the darker spirits of this corrupting age. 

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15 June 2012

CHA strips B.O. of his Catholic fig leaf

Sr. Keehan of the Catholic Hospital Association has sent B.O. a letter withdrawing her organization's support for his attempt to use "women's healthcare" as cover for defining religious liberty out of existence.

B.O. used CHA's support for this "condom mandate" to divide Catholics from their bishops.

Now, that cover is gone.  Should we hold our breath waiting for the LCWR, Network, and the NCR to see reason and support the faith?

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Sisters to LCWR: "Politics is not faith"

The Religious Sisters of Mercy, a congregation of physicians, has issued a statement on the current dust-up between the LCWR and the Vatican.  This statement demonstrates that not all women religious in the U.S. have fallen under the spell of the LCWR.  

Let's encourage other women's religious congregations to publish similar statements so that the false narrative of the MSM can be exposed for what it is. . .We need to produce a preference cascade in religious life so that sisters in LCWR-type congregations can find the courage to stand up for the Church and her apostolic faith!

Religious Sisters of Mercy Physicians' Statement Concerning Appropriate Response to the Magisterial Church and A Vision of the Religious Woman in Medicine

We, the physicians and future physicians of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, met on June 2, 2012, to articulate the vision of the call and contribution of religious women in the redemptive healing ministry of the Church. We also addressed statements issued by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), various news agencies, and other organizations which have created confusion, polarization, and false representations about the beliefs, activities, and priorities of a significant number of women religious in the United States.

As religious women, our whole life is based in faith. Apart from faith, religious life has no meaning. The doctrinal assessment from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) regarding the LCWR is in the language of faith. The responses of opposition are being expressed using the language of politics. There is no basis for authentic dialogue between these two languages. The language of faith is rooted in Jesus Christ, His life and His mission, as well as the magisterial teaching of the Church. In addition, the language of faith does not contradict reason, but elevates it and secures its integrity. The language of politics arises from the social marketplace. The Sisters who use political language in their responses to the magisterial Church reflect the poverty of their education and formation in the faith.

Read the whole thing. . .and send these sisters your prayers and material support!


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14 June 2012

Wed Fat Report (Octave)

Weighed yesterday and forgot (again) to post the Wednesday Fat Report. . .

After a week of being held down and force-fed by those Wiry but Surprisingly Strong Summit Dominican Nuns. . .I figured I'd be back up to 338lbs.

Apparently, struggling against one's Culinary Oppressors burns a lot of calories because. . .

[drum roll, please. . .]

The scale read:  326lbs!  Nothing lost, nothing gained.


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You had better get RIGHT with Jesus!

10th Week OT (Th)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Many, many years ago, a good decade before I entered the Church, I traveled to Mobile, AL with two college friends to celebrate Madri Gras. Our first night out took us into the street revelry of the Central Business District. Mingled in with the drunks, the streakers, the homeless, and lots of broke college kids were small groups of Protestants handing out pamphlets. Without much luck these folks tried to persuade the party people of Mobile's Madri Gras to abandon their iniquity and repent. One particularly scary looking fellow had drawn a crowd with his fire and brimstone preaching. He stood on a milk crate and waved a hand-written placard that read, “You Had Better Get RIGHT With Jesus!” My friends and I—all raised Baptist—chuckled at this knucklehead b/c we had long ago given up such fundamentalist nonsense. But the preacher's warning became a catchphrase for us for the next year or so. Anytime one of us did something wrong, we'd shout in our best Baptist preacher's voice, “You'd better get RIGHT with Jesus!” Jesus himself tells us, “getting right” with him surpasses “getting it right” in the Law. 

All of the gospel readings this week have provided us with the chance to examine the relationship btw the Old and New Covenants. From Day One, the Church has taught that the New Covenant in Christ fulfills all of the promises made by the Father in the Old Covenant. The Mosaic Law is fulfilled in the Law of Charity. The prophecies are fulfilled by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of the Christ. But what does this mean for us? What is the fundamental difference btw the Old and New Covenants, the difference that brings us to righteousness? In his 1993 encyclical, Veritas splendor, John Paul II, writes, “. . .it is through faith in Christ that we have been made righteous: the 'righteousness' which the Law demands, but is unable to give, is found by every believer to be revealed and granted by the Lord Jesus”(23). The Old Covenant revealed righteousness, made the need for a right relationship with God known, but it could not establish that right relationship. Where laws, animal sacrifices, and purity codes failed to make us right with God, Christ Jesus not only succeeded in making righteousness possible, he actually makes us righteous by our faith in him. Christ achieves in us all that he makes possible for us. 

To his disciples, Jesus issues this dire warning: “. . .unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” The righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees is based on the Old Covenant; it is revealed but not made. Our righteousness must go deeper than just doing the good works that might create a relationship btw the Divine Lawgiver and a Law Abiding Believer. Our rightness with God must surpass the mere possibilities of the Law and be established by faith in the One who fulfills the Law. In other words, trying to get right with God under the Law was a risky gamble—might work, might not. Getting right with God through Christ is a guaranteed win, every single time, a win. Why? Because in Christ, every promise of the Law and the prophets has been made good. Nothing has been left to chance. “Getting right with Jesus” surpasses “getting right with the Law” b/c Jesus has already fulfilled all of the requirements of the Law for us! Therefore, invest the wealth of your faith, your invaluable trust in Christ Jesus. In him is found and established for us the righteousness that frees us from death forever. 

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13 June 2012

Rise from death and be holy

St. Anthony of Padua
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

When first century Christians were first discovered by their pagan neighbors, they were described as Jewish sectarians. In fact, most of the earliest Jewish disciples of the Way understood themselves to be Jews who were following the Law and the Prophets by following Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah. Scattered throughout the Gospel accounts of Christ's public ministry, particularly his teaching, we read sentences like, “He said this/did this so that the scriptures might be fulfilled.” In the Creed, we declare that Jesus' birth, trial, death, and resurrection happened secĂșndum ScriptĂșras—“in accordance with the Scriptures,” meaning that he fulfilled the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The intimate and indissoluble relationship between the Old and New Covenants is most clearly seen in the Last Supper. Jesus transforms the thanksgiving bread and wine of Passover into his body and blood for our Eucharist. He teaches us the most perfect means of returning to our Father, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” 

The Catechism presents a concise description of the relationship between the Old and New Testament, “[The OT] prophesies and [foreshadows] the work of liberation from sin which will be fulfilled in Christ: it provides the New Testament with images, 'types,' and symbols for expressing the life according to the Spirit. . .The Law of the Gospel 'fulfills,' refines, surpasses, and leads the Old Law to its perfection. In the Beatitudes, the New Law fulfills the divine promises by elevating and orienting them toward the 'kingdom of heaven'”(nos.1964-6). Yesterday, we read the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus lays out a means for participating in God's beauty through acts of charity. When we embody His love and behave in a loving way toward others, we actively take part in Love Himself and achieve blessedness. The whole purpose of the Mosaic Law was to give God's chosen people a concrete means of acting in the world for their own good and the good of others. The Prophets were sent to preach and prophesy the spirit of the Law: as former slaves who were delivered from bondage by your God, do not think and treat others as slaves; think of and treat everyone as members of your family. Jesus fulfills this prophecy by successively transforming us from slaves of sin; to students of holiness; to friends of the Master; to brothers and sisters; and finally, into co-heirs of his Father's Kingdom! 

If we hope to take advantage of the most perfect means of returning to our Father, we must start by receiving His gift of mercy and throw off the chains of sin. Once freed from sin, we enroll in Christ's school of holiness to study the ways of charity and peace. When we have learned the basics of loving God, self, and neighbor, and how to live with one heart and mind, we begin to explore the love found in a friendship with God through Christ. Friends then become brothers and sisters through adoption into the family of God, and siblings become the inheritors of the treasuries of the heavenly household. This plan for returning to the Father has been the plan since the beginning. And none of it has changed. None of it has been abolished. Christ came not to abolish the plan but to fulfill it, to make it possible for us to start and finish our perfection through him, with him, and in him. Not only do we give God thanks and praise in this morning's Eucharist, we also take part in his sacrificial love for us. He surrenders himself to death so that we might be holy. Rise, then, from the death of sin and go be holy! 

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12 June 2012

A bishop confronts the LCWR/media "outrage"

Bishop Leonard Blair responds to the anti-Catholic hatred oozing out of the MSM and seeping into their coverage of the CDF's assessment of the LCWR's theological goofiness:

Reality check: The LCWR, CDF and the doctrinal assessment

When you are in a position of leadership or authority, it is a great cross sometimes to know firsthand the actual facts of a situation and then have to listen to all the distortions and misrepresentation of the facts that are made in the public domain.

Having conducted the doctrinal assessment of the entity known as the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), I can only marvel at what is now being said, both within and outside the Church, regarding the process and the recent steps taken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to remedy significant and longstanding doctrinal problems connected with the activities and programs of the LCWR.

The biggest distortion of all is the claim that the CDF and the bishops are attacking or criticizing the life and work of our Catholic sisters in the United States. One report on the CBS evening news showcased the work of a Mercy Sister who is a medical doctor in order to compare her to the attack that she and sisters like her are supposedly being subjected to by authoritarian bishops. The report concludes with a statement that the bishops impose the rules of the Church but the sisters carry on the work of the Church.

Unless the sister in question is espousing and/or promoting positions contrary to Catholic teaching—and there was no reason given to think that she is—then the Holy See’s doctrinal concerns are not directed at her or at the thousands of religious sisters in our country like her to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for all that they do in witness to the Gospel.

What the CDF is concerned about, as I indicated, is the particular organization known as the LCWR. Its function, responsibilities and statutes were all originally approved by the Holy See, to which it remains accountable. While it is true that the member communities of the LCWR represent most of the religious sisters in the United States, that does not mean that criticism of the LCWR is aimed at all the member religious communities, much less all sisters[And I would among the first to howl if I thought for a second that the CDF was characterizing ALL religious sisters with their assessment.]

The word “investigation” is often used to describe the work that I carried out on behalf of the CDF. “Investigation” suggests an attempt to uncover things that might not be known. In reality, what the CDF commissioned was a doctrinal “assessment,” an appraisal of materials which are readily available to anyone who cares to read them on the LCWR website and in other LCWR published resources. The assessment was carried out in dialogue with the LCWR leadership, both in writing and face-to-face, over several months[NB.  contrary to the claims of the LCWR that the "process" lacked transparency. . .]

The fundamental question posed to the LCWR leadership as part of the assessment was simply this: What are the Church’s pastors to make of the fact that the LCWR constantly provides a one-sided platform—without challenge or any opposing view—to speakers who take a negative and critical position vis-a-vis Church doctrine and discipline and the Church’s teaching office?
Let me cite just a few of the causes for concern.

In her LCWR keynote address in 1997, Sr. Sandra Schneiders, IHM proposed that the decisive issue for women religious is the issue of faith: “It can no longer be taken for granted that the members [of a given congregation] share the same faith.”

Ten years later, in an LCWR keynote speech, Sr. Laurie Brink, O.P. spoke of “four different general ‘directions’ in which religious congregations seem to be moving.” She said that “not one of the four is better or worse than the others.” One of the directions described is “sojourning,” which she says “involves moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus. A sojourning congregation is no longer ecclesiastical. It has grown beyond the bounds of institutional religion.” This kind of congregation “in most respects is Post-Christian.” She concludes by characterizing as “a choice of integrity, insight and courage” the decision to “step outside the Church” already made by one group of women religious. [An ecclesial condition most people understand to be Protestant, i.e. no long Roman Catholic]

Fr. Michael H. Crosby, OFMCap, a keynote speaker at the joint LCWR-CMSM assembly in 2004, lamented the fact that “we still have to worship a God that the Vatican says ‘wills that women not be ordained.’ That god is literally ‘unbelievable.’ It is a false god; it cannot be worshiped. And the prophet must speak truth to that power and be willing to accept the consequence of calling for justice, stopping the violence and bringing about the reign of God.”  [NB.  this self-anointed Franciscan prophet believes that he and his ideological allies are responsible for bringing about the reign of God.  Heh.  And here I thought God Himself was gonna get around to doing that.]

The LCWR’s Systems Thinking Handbook describes a hypothetical case in which sisters differ over whether the Eucharist should be at the center of a special community celebration.  The problem is that some of the sisters object to “priest-led liturgies.” The scenario, it seems, is not simply fictitious, for some LCWR speakers also mention the difficulty of finding ways to worship together as a faith community.  According to the Systems Thinking Handbook this difficulty is rooted in differences at the level of belief, but also different mental models—the “Western mind” and the “Organic mental model.”  These, rather than Church doctrine, are offered as tools for the resolution of the case.

LCWR speakers also explore themes like global spirituality, the new cosmology, earth-justice and eco-feminism in ways that are frequently ambiguous, dubious or even erroneous with respect to Christian faith. [IOW, the real goal of these speakers is to lead the sisters out of the Church and into mythology, cf. 1 Tim 1.3-5]. And while the LCWR upholds Catholic social teaching in some areas, it is notably silent when it comes to two of the major moral challenges of our time: the right to life of the unborn, and the God-given meaning of marriage between one man and one woman[The reason they are silent on these two issues is obvious:  they have adopted a basically secular-leftist worldview that promotes social liberation through the nearly unfettered coercive power of gov't, i.e. cultural Marxism]. 

Are these examples indicative of the thinking of all religious sisters in the United States whose communities are members of the LCWR?  Certainly not[I doubt that even a tenth of the U.S. sisters buy their junk].

Serious questions of faith undoubtedly arise among some women religious, as the LCWR maintains. However, is it the role of a pontifically recognized leadership group to criticize and undermine faith in church teaching by what is said and unsaid, or rather to work to create greater understanding and acceptance of what the Church believes and teaches?

Those who do not hold the teachings of the Catholic Church, or Catholics who dissent from those teachings, are quick to attack the CDF and bishops for taking the LCWR to task. However, a person who holds the reasonable view that a Catholic is someone who subscribes to the teachings of the Catholic Church will recognize that the Catholic Bishops have a legitimate cause for doctrinal concern about the activities of the LCWR, as evidenced by a number of its speakers and some of its resource documents.

A key question posed by the doctrinal assessment had to do with moving forward in a positive way. Would the LCWR at least acknowledge the CDF’s doctrinal concerns and be willing to take steps to remedy the situation?  The response thus far is exemplified by the LCWR leadership’s choice of a New Age Futurist to address its 2012 assembly, and their decision to give an award this year to Sr. Sandra Schneiders, who has expressed the view that the hierarchical structure of the church represents an institutionalized form of patriarchal domination that cannot be reconciled with the Gospel[No doubt she will tell us in her acceptance speech that Jesus would want the sisters to support abortion--b/c rabbis in his time weren't really all that worried about killing children; that he would support same-sex "marriage" b/c as a rabbi well-versed in the Mosaic Law he understood that gender identity is a social construct; and that he urge them to refer to his father as "Mother" b/c he did so many times while preaching around 1st century Palestine].

This situation is now a source of controversy and misunderstanding, as well as misrepresentation. I am confident, however, that if the serious concerns of the CDF are accurately represented and discussed among all the sisters of our country, there will indeed be an opening to a new and positive relationship between women religious and the Church’s pastors in doctrinal matters, as there already is in so many other areas where mutual respect and cooperation abound.  [This is my prayer!  Also note, that if the CDF were the power-hungry, testosterone-poisoned institution that the LCWR claims, there would be no meetings, no discussion, no nothing.  Just a fancy parchment signed by the Holy Father and hand-delivered, informing the Good Sisters that their organization is now defunct.]

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Salty and Shiny for the glory of God

10th Week OT (T)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Are you feeling salty and bright this morning?! Yes, no, maybe? More important than how we feel is what we are—so, are you salt and light this morning? Let's hope we are b/c our Lord declares that we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. Do we really want to start our day by making Jesus into a liar? Speaking to his disciples—that includes us, btw—Jesus says that tasteless salt can season nothing and that a burning lamp hidden from view shed no light. His point is that despite how we might feel about ourselves; despite how we might think of ourselves; and despite how everyone else might think and feel about us, we are the salt that preserves, blesses, and purifies the world; we are the light that shines through the darkness to show his Way. Lest we become arrogant and forget where we came from, we must remember: we are salt and light b/c our Lord goes before us, preserving, blessing, purifying, and shining his light so that we might follow. All that we do and say in his name and for his sake, we say and do as a reflection of his glory, as a relay for his healing Word. So, you are salt and light for the salvation of the world. How will you season this day? How will you shine? 

Never let it be said that following after Christ is a casual hobby or a weekend's adventure. Being Christ for others is not something we do when every other important thing is done. Being Christ for others is not something we are when all our other roles are exhausted. Being Christ for others and acting toward others with the mind of Christ is a full-time, day-in/day-out, no day off, no vacation, no sick days, no leaving early or taking long lunches job. As followers of Christ, we can no more stop being Christ for others than we can stop being human, no more than a mother can stop being a mother, or a father can stop being a father. Our zeal can lag, our strength can wane; we can grow lukewarm, our light can dim. But from the moment we die and rise again with Christ in baptism, we are his, and we are his salt and his light. How we will be his salt and light for the world is largely up to us. Our successes are his to claim b/c we can do nothing without him. However, our failures are our own to confess. The Good News is that we cannot even fail without him. He is with us most powerfully when we are threatened with losing our pungency in the world, with losing our light and our way.

How will you season this day? How will you shine? If the prospect of going out there to be Christ for others seems a daunting task, remember that being Christ for others is not just a task, a job—it is that, of course—but it is first and foremost a way of being in the world; that is, BEING Christ entails doing what Christ did but doing what Christ did is possible only b/c you have been given and have received the gift of his death and resurrection, the gift of his Body and Blood. Our Enemy longs to convince us that our faith is solely about doing good works for the sake of doing good works. But we are Christ for others, which means that our good works should never be done for any other reason than to draw attention to the greater glory of God. As the salt of the earth, we preserve, bless, and purify. As the light of the world, we shine out, reflect through our words and deeds the straight and narrow way back to God. Anything you do to salt your world today, anything you say to shine out Christ's light. . .do it and speak it so that everyone “may see your good deeds and glorify [our] heavenly Father.” 

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11 June 2012

Coffee Cup Browsing

Preference cascade:  the real American equivalent to Egypt's Arab Spring is just beginning.

No.  The bishops' Fortnight of Freedom is NOT an anti-B.O. campaign.  Nor should it be.

June 10, 2012 was the 48th anniversary of the GOP stopping the Dem filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

BXVI:  Vatican Two did not forbid Eucharistic Adoration.  Or processions or chaplets or statues or altar rails or any other devotional practice.

Folks, please read this article.  When you finish, you will better understand what our bishops, priests, and seminarians are up against in the world of theological education. (NB. the smarmy condescension, the self-righteous tone, and the utter disdain for legit authority.)

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On being beautiful

St. Barnabas
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Every year, dozens of American magazines publish something like a top ten or twenty list of the world's most beautiful people. Sometimes this list is titled, “World's 10 Sexiest Men,” or “World's 20 Most Beautiful Women.” Regardless of the title, the purpose of these lists is to lift out of the general ugliness of the human herd a group of especially attractive individuals and hold them up as exemplars of human beauty. What counts as “human beauty” is always defined in terms of physical features—body type, hair color, shape of the eyes, facial proportions. If asked to defend this rather narrow definition of beauty, editors will concede that a person's personality or achievements can be beautiful too but they aren't qualified to judge that sort of thing. Making that judgment is too subjective, too. . .messy. If these editors would think for a moment, they would realize that beauty is beauty—physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual. The source of beauty is Beauty Himself and the pursuit of our perfection in Beauty is the encoded desire of every human heart. Blessed are they who seek holiness, for they shall be made beautiful as God Himself is Beauty. 

The philosophical study of beauty is carried out in an academic discipline called “aesthetics.” Yes, you can go to university and get a doctoral degree in philosophy with a specialty in the study of beauty. Sometimes this discipline is called the “philosophy of art,” but art is short for “artifice,” a human-made object, the root of our word “artificial” and not all beautiful things are human-made. Take, for example, well, all of creation: galaxies, stars, space-time, quanta, mountains, trees, squirrels, bacteria. These beautiful objects of the universe are most certainly not human-made. Take, for example, mercy, consolation, forgiveness, righteousness, and charity. These beautiful qualities of the human soul aren't human-made either. What the objects of the universe and the qualities of the human soul share is an origin, a Creator, Beauty Himself. What makes them different, fundamentally different, is that the things of the universe cannot be make themselves ugly by refusing to participate in the divine life of Beauty. We can. However, when we choose to participate in Beauty, we are blessed by Beauty and made beautiful. 

How do we actively participate in divine beatitude? According to Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, we are blessed when we pour ourselves out in service to be filled with his Spirit; we are blessed when we mourn; blessed when we are meek; blessed when we hunger and thirst for His righteousness; blessed when we show mercy, clean out our hearts, and make His peace. When we find ourselves hated and persecuted for loving Christ and following along his Way, we are blessed. To be blessed is to be pulled into Beatitude, to be set apart from ugliness and despair and seated along side the perfect goodness of our Creator. Sure, like the natural objects of the universe, our very existence is beautiful. We exist and that in itself is beautiful. But we are given an additional option: to be beautiful as the Father is beautiful. This option requires us to pursue, to chase after the blessedness that comes with being merciful, peace-making, being poor in spirit. Do these and be blessed. And what do we do when we are blessed? Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad.” Show joy. Demonstrate gladness. Give thanks. And praise the source and summit of your truest beauty! 

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Help with a translation

I leapt out of bed this a.m. at 4.30.  And there was no coffee brewing downstairs.  So I had to fix some and wait a whole three minutes for my first cup. . .so, yeah, I'm a little cranky and probably not playing my A-game. . .

So, when I read this document from some-Anglican-Church-of-Canada-bishop-cmte-thingy, I was sure that it was written in a foreign language. 

Is Canadian a foreign language?  Is it like Mississippian?  Cajun?

Anyway,  tried Google Translate.  No luck.  Google couldn't make any sense out of it. 

Maybe it's a local Canadian dialect.  No.  Wikipedia notes that Canadians usually speak French or English or both. 


This document (?) could be some English/French fusion except that I can read both French and English (sorta) and I've never heard of Englench, or is it Frenglish? 

Then, after the first cup of coffee, it dawned on me!  These guys are Anglican bishops!  Of course!  They speak a national dialectic of Bishopese.  One of the most obscure and difficult languages to translate into Normal People Talk. 

Have a cup or three of really strong coffee and see if you have any luck with a translation. . .here's a sample passage:

We began to experience, as bishops together, the key challenge and opportunity that meet us: “How can we support and assist our fellow-bishops in the mission decisions that they make in their context and from their perspective?” We noted those times when we have judged our fellow-servants without taking time to understand the context and perspective that informed their decisions and actions. As we move forward we commit ourselves to consider deeply the impact of our decisions and actions – informed by our own context and perspectives – on the life and ministry of the church in other contexts.

And another:

We affirm that the Church, gathered around the mystery of redemption, fosters and nurtures a specific response to particular mission imperatives, by restoring our human capacity to discern God’s initiative and joining our lives to it. We recognized that mission partnerships are not about shifting resources from a context of abundance to one of scarcity, but rather about combining a range of resources – such as knowledge, trust, experience, discernment, and material wealth – to participate in God’s redemptive work in the world. 

Lots of affirming and missioning and perspectiving.  The only thing that I can tell about the composers of these passages is that they seem to have no clue what "mission" means for a priest, prophet, and king baptized into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Apparently, they think that the Great Commission, given by Christ to his disciples and received by his Church, is an invitation to adopt an individual perspective in a specific context in order to do something or another with a variety of resources.  Huh.

Any help out there?


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10 June 2012

Audio link for this a.m.'s homily

Added an audio file link for the Corpus Christi homily. . .

Corpus Christi 

P.S.  Talking about food makes my Mississippi accent really shine!

Now that you can listen to me preach, you can comment on my delivery as well as the homily's content!

God is dead. . .

"To one with faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible." 
St. Thomas Aquinas, OP

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Sacramentum caritatis (with pork gravy!)

[NB.  This homily has a history.  I preached the first version on Corpus Christi 2005--my first Mass--at Holy Rosary Church in Houston, TX.  As always, feedback is much appreciated!]

Solemnity of Corpus Christi
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Audio file of this homily

These are a few of my favorite things: Buttermilk dripped and deep-fried chicken. Butter beans with bacon and onions. Garlic mashed potatoes with chicken gravy. Greens with fatback and vinegar. Squash casserole, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole with a pecan and brown sugar crust. Deviled eggs. Warm biscuits. Homemade, cast-iron skillet cornbread with real butter. Fresh yeast rolls. Pecan pie. Chocolate pie. Mississippi Mud Cake. Bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Can you tell I’m a true blood Southerner?! Each of these and all of them together do more than just expand my waistline and threaten the structural integrity of my belt—each and all of them together make up for me a palette of memories, a buffet (if you will!) of powerful reminders of who I am, where I came from, who I love, who loves me, and where I am going. Second perhaps only to sex, eating is one of the most intimate things we do. Think about it for just a second: when you eat, you take into your body stuff from the world—meat, vegetables, water—you put this stuff in your mouth, you chew, you taste and feel, you smell and swallow, and all of it, every bite, becomes your body. This is extraordinarily intimate! We are made up of, literally, built out of what we eat. If we eat and drink Christ this morning, whom do we become?

What does it mean then for you, for all of us to eat the Body of Christ and to drink his Blood? Thomas Aquinas answers: “Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods.” God became man so that we all might become god. In Christ Jesus, we are made more than holy, more than just, more than righteous; we are made perfect as the Father is perfect. Wholly joined to Holy Other, divinized as God promised at the moment of creation, we are brought to the divine by the Divine and given to participate in the life of God by God. We are brought and given. Brought to Him by Christ and given to Him by Christ. We do not go to God uninvited, and we do not receive from Him what is not first given. Therefore, “take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you…” And when you take the gift of his body and eat, and when you take the gift of his blood and drink, you become what you eat and drink. You become Christ. And all together we are Christ for one another—his Body, the church. In his first encyclical, Deus caritas est, Pope Benedict, writes, “Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become 'one body', completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbour are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself. We can thus understand how agape [divine love] also became a term for the Eucharist: there God's own agape comes to us bodily, in order to continue his work in us and through us”(14). 

Thomas calls the Eucharist the sacramentum caritatis, the sacrament of love. The Eucharist is not a family picnic or Sunday dinner. We’re not talking about a community meal or a neighborhood buffet. All of these can and do express genuine love for God, self, and neighbor. But Thomas is teaching us something far more radical about the Eucharist here than the pedestrian notion that eating together makes us better people and a stronger community! The sacramentum caritatis is an efficacious sign of God’s gift of Himself to us for our perfection. In other words, the Eucharist we celebrate this morning is not just a memorial, just a symbol, just a community prayer service, just a familial gathering, just a ritual. In Christ, with him and through him, we effect—make real and produce—the redeeming graces of Calvary and the Empty Tomb: Christ on the cross and Christ risen from the grave. Again, we are not merely being reminded of an important bible story nor are we being taught a lesson about sharing and caring nor are we simply “feeling” Christ’s presence among us. We are doing exactly what Christ tells us to do: we are eating his body and drinking his blood for our perfection, for our eternal lives. And while we wait for his coming again, we walk this earth as Christs! Imperfect now, to be perfected eventually; but right now, radically loved by Love Himself and loved so that we may be changed, converted from our disobedience, brought to repentance and forgiveness, and absolved of all violence against God’s will for us. 

Thomas teaches us that God gave us the Eucharist in order “to impress the vastness of [His] love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful…” How vast is His love for us? He gifted us with His Son. He gave His only child up to death so that we might live. And He gave us the means of our most intimate communion with Him. We take his body into our bodies. His blood into ours. We are made co-heirs, brothers and sisters, prophets and priests; we are made holy, just, and clean; we are made Christ, and having been made Christs, we are given his ministries, his holy tasks: teaching, preaching, healing, feeding. This Eucharist tells you who you are, where you came from, where you are going. It tells you why you are here and what you must do. And most importantly, this celebration of thanksgiving, tells you and me who it is that loves us and what being loved by Love Himself means for our sin, our repentance, our conversion, our ministries, our progress in holiness. . .

Do not fail to hand on what you yourself have received: the gift of the Christ. Our Holy Father, Benedict, writes, “Faith, worship and [ethics] are interwoven as a single reality which takes shape in our encounter with God's [divine love]. Here the usual [distinction] between worship and ethics simply falls apart. 'Worship' itself, Eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is [essentially broken]”(14). Therefore, walk out those doors this morning and present yourself to the world as a sacramentum caritatis. Walk out of here a sacrament of love—a sign, a witness, a tabernacle, an icon—walk out of here branded by the Holy Spirit to preach, teach, bless, feed, eat, drink, pray, to love, and to spread the infectious joy that comes naturally to a child of God! 

A Southern blessing: as your waist expands to fill the limits of your belt, so may your spirit grow to hold the limitless love of Him Who loves you always.

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