07 May 2010

Treasures Holy & Mystical now available. . .(UPDATED)

The second volume of my prayer book set is now available from Liguori Publications!

UPDATE:  If you have a blog, would you be so kind as to mention the book on your site?  Despite rumors to the contrary, all the royalties from sales go to support the preaching mission of the Order. . .and not to support my Nutella habit!  ;-)

06 May 2010

Behold, the Lamb of God. . .

An interesting occurrence at Mass this morning. . .

It stormed last night here in Rome.  The sun rose on a cool, gloomy day.  I was a just a little thankful for the lack of sun b/c our chapel is oriented east/west, meaning that the presider's chair faces east.  At the top of the eastern wall is a huge gold tinted window.  When the sun is shining, it shines right through the window and heats up whoever is sitting in that chair!

Just as I elevated the host and chalice at Mass this morning and began the prayer, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. . ." the clouds broke and the sun beamed in through the window, flooding the chapel with golden light.  

I couldn't help but smile!

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Work with what you've got

5th Week of Easter (Th)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma


A complete circle measures 360 degrees. A complete sentence contains a subject and a predicate. A complete meal is composed of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. To describe something as “complete” is to say that this something's unrealized potential has been fully realized—there is nothing left for it achieve, nothing remaining for it to do in order to be the best possible thing that it can be; it is perfect. So, a circle with only 180 degrees to measure is not a circle. A sentence without a predicate is not a sentence. But if we draw 180 degrees, we see the potential for a complete circle. If we write a word on paper, we can see the potential for a complete sentence. Our ability to recognize the potential for perfection in the imperfect is one way that we are able to fortify ourselves along the Way with Christ. Seeing that our imperfect hope, faith, and love can be made perfect in us, we receive these divine gifts—honing them, sharpening them—and we use them as tools in the hard work of growing up to be holy men and women in Christ. Knowing that we can be perfect as God Himself is perfect, we labor on with joy, with the joy of Christ—whole, complete, perfect.

Preparing his disciples for his death on the cross, Jesus gives his friends a number of gifts. He gives them his word; he gives them his peace; and he gives them his joy. The word he gives them is the word of spirit and truth, wisdom and consolation. The peace he gives them is the peace of hope, the certain knowledge that his Father's promises of eternal life have already been fulfilled in him. The joy he gives them is the joy he himself feels as his ministry among them comes to fruition in Jerusalem—the elation, the satisfaction of having done the Father's will perfectly. How did he accomplish his appointed task? He kept his Father's commandments and remained in His love. Christ's joy can be our joy as well if we follow him: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. . .” Why does Jesus tell us this? “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” 

It is no accident that we are reading the Acts of the Apostles along with this portion of John's gospel. In the gospel, Jesus is teaching his friends how to be apostles, warning them of their future trials and girding them with all the hope they will need to sustain them. Like us, the apostles are fully aware of their deficiencies, fully aware of all the ways in which they are incomplete. They have the words of Christ and his peace; they have his commission and his authority; they have the anointing of the Spirit and tongues unchained for preaching. And so do we. Like us, in the course of carrying out their ministries, they butt heads with governors, princes, and the spirits of this world. They fail; they succeed. They suffer and die by the hands of their enemies. The gospel is preached and heard. The Church spreads and prospers despite fierce opposition and bloody persecution. Just as it does now. They remained in Christ and he remained in them. Their joy is complete. And ours can be as well. Our imperfections as apostles are hazardous to the gospel mission only if we forget to love as Christ loves, only if we forget his words, and fail to live out his joy. If we can see the perfect circle in the 180 degree line, and if we can see the complete sentence in one word on a page, then surely we can imagine the smallest seed of joy growing into the perfect joy of Christ. We can, if abide in his love as he abides in the love of the Father. His love is our complete joy!

05 May 2010

Coffee Bowl Browsing (Missing link added)

32 black GOP Congressional candidates this year. . .thus, the GOP/Tea Party is Racist meme of the MSM is once again gut punched.

Presbyterian extremist arrested on charges of trying to car bomb Times Square.   When will the terrorists of suburban mainline Protestantism stop the violence?  MSM is refusing to identify the elderly female bomber as a Presbyterian.

Seton Hall may cancel class on SSM.  I wouldn't be opposed to such a class if it were clear that the class would about analysis and not advocacy.  However, the prof of the class has a history of publicly dissenting from Church teaching on the issue. 

BXVI moves Cardinal Pell to the Vatican where he can help the Holy Father choose the Church's bishops.  OORAH!

While working in three different psych hospitals I was spit on, peed on, pooped on, bled on, punched, kicked, bitten, head-butted, body-slammed, hit with a chair, doused with toilet water, pinged in the head with a science book, and called every obscene name available in at least three languages. . .so, calling me "a man in a dress" is kinda weak.  Yawn.  :-)

As my father used to tell my little brother when he got into fights at schools:  "Son, don't write checks your @$% can't cash."  George Will bounces the Bill "Lib Atheist Blowhard" Maher all over the studio.

I hear from reliable sources that The One eats this stuff on his toast every morning.

All the monsters mentioned in the Bible, including a reference to Zombies! 

The Straight Dope:  a website that answers all your questions. . .and then some.

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04 May 2010

Ask to be pruned

5th Week of Easter (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma


Doctors of western medicine have recently rediscovered the ancient practice of using maggots—fly larvae—in the treatment of gangrenous wounds. When introduced into the wound, the maggots will eat away the dead flesh, leaving behind healthy tissue. This nauseating procedure significantly reduces the chances of infection, which in turn reduces the chance that amputation will be necessary. What the surgeons are unable to accomplish with scalpels and anti-biotics, the maggots accomplish with their voracious appetites. Farmers perform a similar kind of surgery on their fruit trees and vines. Cutting back excessive growth, pruning unproductive branches, the tree's nutrients are used to full effect in producing healthier, more productive blossoms, giving the farmer a more abundant harvest. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to wound a tree in order to prod it into producing better fruit, or using carrion insects to heal an infected wound, the idea that living things can be improved with a little pruning is a proven, time-honored method of encouraging growth. Thinking for a moment on your relationship with God and His Church, what in your life can you afford to prune away?

Jesus tells his disciples that he is the true vine and his Father is the vine grower. We are the branches. Any branch from the vine that fails to produce good fruit will be prune away by the grower. Branches that produce good fruit will be pruned so that they might produce more and better fruit. Jesus says, “You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you.” As baptized members of the Body, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, and welcomed to the altar of sacrifice, we are among those who have already been pruned. We've heard the Word spoken, and we go out to speak that Word to others. We scatter the seeds of mercy and love and nurture the young shoots in the soil where they take root. At harvest, we reap the fruit of our labor and give thanks to God for His providence. And though we may bring in an abundant crop this year, we can always do better next year! So, what unproductive branches need pruning in your spiritual life? What is it that drains away vital nutrients, saps your strength, ruining the goodness of your good fruit?

We can always point to sin as a drain on our courage and perseverance. Wasting time and energy with disobedience not only wastes God's gifts, but it also encourage moral rot, spiritual decay. More specifically, we could point to inordinate attachments to soul-destroying passions—anger, revenge, bitter disappointment, hurt feels. Maybe your strength is drained away by self-made crisises, emergencies you yourself design to distract you from the hard work of ministry. Maybe you are plagued by a fear of risking your reputation; anxiety about how to use your gifts; or perhaps, you obsess about your past, re-living old sins and worrying about God's mercy. If so, it is time to ask the Vine Grower to prune these away, to cut them off so that you can use the vital food of His loving-care to produce more and better fruit. 

Jesus promises us that so long as we abide him, he will abide in us. That is a promise of boundless energy, unlimited food for our hard work: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” What is the best gift that we can ask for? Ask to be pruned, ask to have your unproductive attachments, your dead leaves and desiccated fruit, cut away. The surgery may hurt for a little while, but the harvest will be abundant!

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Zombie Awareness Month!

I am very happy to see that Those in Authority are finally taking the threat of the Coming Zombie Apocalypse seriously!

May is Zombie Awareness Month:  "It May Be Too Late."

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Not the peace we are longing for

5th Week of Easter (T)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma


Jesus says to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Reading the Acts of the Apostles and Paul's letters, we might be inclined to return the gift of Christ's peace with a polite “No Thank You” note. If Stephen's execution, Paul's imprisonment, the martyrdom of every apostle except John, and all the other trials, torments, and deaths that befell the merry band of Christians in the first few centuries of the Church are examples of what taking the gift of Christ's peace means, then, yea, we would wise to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Living “peacefully” with Christ looks a lot like living in constant turmoil with an ever present threat of injury and death floating nearby. Complaining to Jesus about this apparent misnomer wouldn't do much good. He promised us trial, tribulation, persecution, torture, and death if we took up the cross and followed him. Yet he says that he gives us his peace. It is reasonable to ask then, “Um, Lord, exactly what do you mean by 'peace.' Because frankly, I'm not seeing it.” 

Let's begin to answer this question with a quick philosophy lesson: when dealing with an apparent contradiction in terms, the first move to make is to define your terms and distinguish. “Peace” is usually used to mean something like “a state of non-conflict, the condition of relative calm.” But if we limit ourselves to understanding peace as the absence of conflict, then we will not be able to say much about Christ's peace. Our history of living in the world as preachers of the gospel is stained with the blood of Christian martyrs and with the blood of those we ourselves have killed. So, we need to refine our definition. Peace could also mean, “a state of tranquility; freedom from disquieting thoughts or emotions; external and internal calm.” While peace can indicate that harmony has been achieved between opposing external forces, it can also indicate that internal conflicts have been brought into agreement, a state of interior concord and silence. Given these differences, we must make this distinction: rather than bequeathing to us a perpetual state of non-conflict with our enemies, Jesus gives us the peace of internal silence; the quiet assurance of hope. 

Why does Jesus give his disciples his peace? At this point in John's gospel, Jesus is preparing his friends for Judas' betrayal in the Garden. He is on the brink of being arrested, tortured, and crucified. He knows that his death will shock his students, leaving them dispirited and quite possibly rendering them useless as preachers. Notice how Jesus imparts the peace which passes all understanding: “Peace I leave with you; MY peace I give to you.” The disciples are not given just any old peace, any old garden variety balm for their twitchy nerves. They are given the peace that Christ himself possesses. “MY peace I give to you.” The peace that Christ himself possesses is the sort of peace that comes with surrendering to the Father's providence, His loving-care: surrendering plans, expectations, dreams; surrendering a stubborn heart and a cold mind; surrendering need, want, self, and living wholly in sacrificial love as God has willed us to love one another. And even as we love imperfectly, failing over and over again, we do so out of his gift of peace. 

We are told that if we want peace, we must work for justice. If we want peace, we must confront conflict; or disarm national armies; or eliminate poverty and disease; or take the right medications and see the right therapists; or buy enough stuff and live to our full economic potential; or educate ourselves in the best philosophies. We can purchase the peace of this world if that's what we truly want. But we cannot buy the peace that has already been given to us for free. We peace we need is the peace purchased for us on the cross, the peace of sacrificial love and the certain hope of resurrection.

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03 May 2010

Coffee Bowl Browsing

Street preacher in the U.K. is arrested for saying that the Bible opposes homosexual sexual activity.  NB.  the arresting officer is a gay atheist.  Peter Hitchens column following the news report is excellent.

10 Sci-fi/detective novels.  I've only come to enjoy detective novels in the last two years.  I've always read historical fiction, so when I found a series of historical detective novels in our reading room, I dug in.  My favorite author so far is Lindsey Davies, the author of the Marcus Didius Falco novels set in the "Fall of the Republic" era of ancient Rome.

Leftists rioters run riot during an immigration rally.  Let's watch and see if the MSM will worry themselves into fits like they do when grandmas and grandpas in the Tea Party gather together for a peaceful protest.

Stephen Hawking:  We might be able to travel forward in time but not backward.   If time is the subjective measure of objective motion, and everything in the universe is always in motion, then there would be no place in the universe where time doesn't apply, even the "future". . .hmmmm. . .I like the possible worlds theory better.  

Narcissist-in-Chief resorts to predictable passive-aggressive form when tackling opponents. . .NB. in the past Presidents have mostly been self-deprecating at these events.  George W. certainly was.  One of the tell-tale signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the inability to have fun at one's own expense.

Five reasons why the E.U. bailout of Greece has made the situation worse.

The problem with Gaudium et spes. . .we were told over and over again in seminary that this document of Vatican Two was the most important development in Catholic theology since Aquinas was introduced to Aristotle.  Fortunately, few of us believed it. 

A little visual caffeine for your morning wake-up!

Lunch Box of Evil, or Your Mom is Trying to Entice You into a Demonic Pact Using PB&J.

This is what happens when you divide by zero while cleaning your house. 

Our government at "work."  I was once held up in traffic on I-40 for three hours in AR.  I imagined that there must have been some sort of massive accident, something huge!  When I arrived at the site of the delay, I wasn't surprised to find a Dept of Transportation pick-up parked in the left lane with two road workers sitting on the tailgate. . .how they managed to survive is beyond me.

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"Young Dads," or First Five Years of Ordination

For the first five years after ordination, Dominican friars in the U.S. gather together annually for a retreat. This pic was taken in 2007 at San Felipe de Neri in the "Old Town" of Albuquerque, NM.  The retreat master that year was Fr. Allen White, OP, former Provincial of the English Province (first row, fourth from the R). 

One bowl on the way to another

This is what I see every morning on my way down to get my first bowl of coffee:

The Monument, a.k.a. "the Birthday Cake"

The view from the cloister window overlooking the Piazza Venezia.

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02 May 2010

Nuns, Sisters, and the Really Real

The National Review Online has up an excellent interview with Sr. Prudence Allen, RSM.  Sister is a philosopher, teaching at St. John Vianney Seminary in the Archdiocese of Denver.  The whole interview is well your time!

In the course of discussing the recent dissenting letter from the LCWR-Network endorsing ObamaCare, the interviewer notes that the women who signed the letter are not nuns but sisters.  The interviewer asks Sister to distinguish between "sisters" and "nuns."  She does so.  The interviewer then asks her why this distinction should matter to anyone in the context of the controversy. 

Sister gives an excellent Catholic answer:

To answer your question about “why it should matter,” we need to consider the deeper question of the relation of truth to language and the relation of reality to the human mind. According to a realistic philosophy, truth is the union of the mind with reality. There are two complementary pathways to the truth: reason and faith, which correspond to philosophy and theology.

For a Christian, language matters a lot. In Genesis 1:1-3, we learn that before God spoke and there was life, the earth was “without form and void.” From John 1:1, 1:4, and 1:14, we learn that the Eternal Word was with God and was God from the beginning, and that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” Jesus Christ, this Eternal Word made flesh, leads us to the Truth; He told us that He is the Truth. So, by faith, we believe that Truth and reality are important and that we are created with intelligent minds able to grasp truths.

We do this by apprehending different forms capable of being grasped. However, if reality is simply a void and is without form, truth is not possible for us to know or to live by.

Language is at the heart of Catholic philosophy. In the United States, where pragmatic theories of truth and postmodern approaches to knowledge abound, the relation between truth and reality is undermined. All becomes superficial, and imagination replaces the union of human mind to reality. So the answer to “Why should it matter at all to the world” is embedded in the deeper question of whether a person cares about truth or not, and how much he or she cares.

A rough and ready way of framing the history of western philosophy is to divide the timeline into three movements/questions:

Ancient/Medieval: What is the world like and how do we come to know it?  (Turn to the Object)

Early Modern: What am I like and how do I come to know myself? (Turn to the Subject)

Late Modern/Postmodern: What is language like and how does it shape reality? (Turn to the Linguistic)

The general movement here is away from the notion that the human mind is capable of grasping The Real; knowing it as it is; and adequately describing what it is like.  IOW, the further away from Aristotle we get historically, the less confident we are that we live in a knowable, explicable world, and closer to holding the idea that language is all we can really know. 

From Plato up to Descartes, philosophers and theologians worried mostly about metaphysical questions:  what's really real?  From Descartes on, they worry mostly about epistemological questions:  what can we know?  For Catholic philosophers and theologians, the two questions are linked by a realist understanding of how creation works:  what we can know is the really real and our language is adequate for describing the real. 

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