31 December 2011

Mary, Mother of Our Freedom

NB.  Nevermind about the whole confusing Zechariah with Simeon. . .I was right the first time.
Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

Listen Here (8.00am Mass)

We call her "Advocate of Eve," "Seat of Wisdom," "Cause of Our Joy," "Help of Christians," and "Mother of Sorrows." We greet her in prayer, “Hail, Mary! Full of grace!” And we call upon her intercession using a variety of names: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Knock, Queen of the Americas, and Our Lady of Prompt Succor. But all these titles and names are meaningless unless we understand the one title that makes all the others possible: Theotokos, God-bearer, the one who gives birth to God. Mary is who and what she is for us b/c she is first and foremost the Holy Mother of God. This title was settled upon in 431 A.D. by the Church Fathers at the Council of Ephesus. Fighting back a heresy that wanted us to believe that the Christ was actually two different persons—one human and one divine—the Fathers declared that Christ is just one divine person with two natures (human and divine). Mary gave birth to the divine person of Jesus Christ, making her the mother of God Incarnate. And since we never celebrate a Marian feast w/o remembering the One to Whom Mary always points us, we also celebrate her son, Jesus, the Messiah. Given all this, I'd like to propose another title for Mary: Mother of Our Freedom! Why this title? Paul writes to the Galatians, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman. . .so that we might receive adoption as sons. . .So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.” 

We are no longer slaves but sons, heirs; and made so by God through the faithful cooperation of Mary. The Mother of Our Freedom cooperated (operated with) the Holy Spirit and received into her womb the seed of the Word, which grew into the divine person of Jesus. His birth into human history and his death into eternal life makes our salvation possible. He cuts a path through the thorny tangle of sin and death and draws us behind him to be taken up, made holy, and seated at our inherited place at the banquet table of God. Our release from the slavery of sin, our escape from the inevitability of death is accomplished by Christ through the cooperation of Mary. She is the Mother of Our Freedom b/c she gave birth to the only means of our freedom. From slaves to heirs, we move ever closer to the perfection of Christ.

Our perfection in Christ is both our work and the work of God. Just like our Blessed Mother cooperated with the work of the Holy Spirit to conceive and give birth to Jesus, we too are vowed to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit to conceive and give birth to the Word, making his flesh and blood our flesh and blood; surrendering our hearts and minds, and our hands and voices to the holy work of preaching and teaching the Good News to the world. The longer and harder we work at accomplishing this task, the higher we climb in holiness and the deeper we delve into divine wisdom. Like the shepherds who find the Holy Family in the manger and “made known the message that had been told them about [the Christ],” we too are vowed to finding Christ, following him, and making his message known. After seeing the Christ-child, the shepherds go home, “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” And we too will return home, our heavenly home, glorifying and praising God, if we do what we have promised as followers of Christ to do. Mary held on the message of the shepherds, reflecting on it in her heart, remembering Simeon's warning in the temple that her heart would be pierced by the sufferings of her son. While the shepherds adored and the people were amazed, Mary quietly grieved, knowing the destiny of the one sent to redeem us all from the slavery of sin.

Mary's grief must have been nearly unbearable. Having assented to the conception of the Word and given him birth, she is left with the sure knowledge that her son is the long-awaited Messiah, the One who would suffer and die for the sins of men. To gain our freedom, the Mother of Our Freedom had not only to bear the Christ into this world, she had to witness his suffering and death for our sakes. And not only was she a witness to his passion, she suffered along with him as any mother would. Her heart, pierced by the sword of grief, bled out even as Jesus bled out on the cross. As painful as his death and her grief no doubt were, as a result, we rose as a race to be the adopted children of the Father, heirs to His kingdom. Granted the inheritance of the ages, in possession of God's promise of eternal life, and the possibility of perfection through His Christ, what do we do in order to give thanks? How do mere creatures show appreciation to the One who created and re-created them? There is nothing we can do or say that would equal this gift, that would express the enormity of this sacrifice for us. We are left to do only that which we have already vowed to do: bring the message of God's love and mercy to the world in all we do, say, think, and feel. Despite opposition, persecution, ridicule, and violence, we deliver the message that Christ is Lord! When we do as Christ did, and speak as he spoke, we grow closer to our perfection in him.

Some 1,600 years ago, a council of Church Fathers hashed out a theological statement that confirmed what most Christians at the time already believed: that Mary is the Holy Mother of God Incarnate. As the mother of God, she bore into the world the Son who grew up to teach and preach the saving word of his Father's mercy to sinners. Not only did he teach and preach his Father's mercy, he embodied that mercy; he gave that mercy flesh and bone and walked among us as a sign of contradiction, a rock upon which men's hearts and minds would be broken to reveal the truth inside. When confronted with the raw truth that your sins are forgiven and that you are no longer a slave to sin, the truth that dwells secretly within breaks out and flourishes in the light of Christ. The shepherds wandered the desert on the word of an angel until they found Christ. The truth in their hearts dropped them to their knees in adoration. Those near the manger, the ones who heard the shepherds' message, had their hardened hearts softened and exposed. They were left amazed by the Good News. Mary, Mother of Sorrows, had her heart broken on the knowledge that her son would suffer and die. The truth in her heart led her to a life of humble service to the Lord. Within the Body of Christ, his Church, there is a truth that will renew us, a truth that will bring us to remember our vows, and urge us to rededicate ourselves to the hard work that Mary started when she said Yes to God. That truth is this: each of us and all of us together are the flesh and blood of God's Word, not just people who believe or people who do good works, but the People of God who walk out into the world to be—however imperfect—Christs for one another. Mary, Mother of Our Freedom, gave birth to the only means of our freedom, Christ Jesus the Lord. Will you, will we say Yes to God, conceive His Word, and keep in the world the mercy and love that Jesus lived and died to bring to us? Do this holy work and the Lord will bless you and keep you! The Lord will let his face shine upon you. . .The Lord will look upon you kindly and give you peace!

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List Recommend this post on Google!

30 December 2011

Divinity Diva

As long-time readers of H.A. know, my time in the studium (seminary) was hit and miss.  Some of my profs wanted to hit me and most of them missed!

Anyway, it was all tolerable given the graces of God and my friendship with a fellow M.Div.'er, Deirdre Darr. 

Deirdre is a wife, mom, pastry chef, and now a blogger. . .check her out:  Divinity Diva.  And tell her that "her first husband" sent you.  

It's a long story. . .and a funny one.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List Recommend this post on Google!

Misc. . .

Received Gary Taube's book, Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It.  Started reading this afternoon.
So far, I can tell you that he's taking on the Nutritional Establishment and its "calories in/calories out" approach to losing weight.  

He's tackling the problem of fat accumulation, focusing on the role that insulin plays in our metabolism.  

For me, I can tell you that carbs are the enemy.  If I eat no carbs for breakfast, I am good to go until dinner time.  If I eat one piece of toast, I'm mowing through the fridge like a plague of stoner locusts by 10am. . .and anything not locked away or hidden is fair game until I pass out around 11pm.

Basically, Taubes is taking the Dr. Atkins approach w/o providing a specific diet plan. 

I'll keep you posted!

Also, I'm working on a short book review for The Art of Prayer by Fr. Martial Lekeux, OFM.  This is one of the books I rec'd from St Pius X Press

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List Recommend this post on Google!

Measuring the blessings of faithfulness

NB.  If you listen to this Mass you'll notice that I'm sputtering at the preface.  I think a bug flew in my mouth!

Feast of the Holy Family
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

Listen Here (5.30)

One of the first abstract concepts we learn as children is the difference btw “less than” and “greater than.” Three is less than four but greater than two. Ten pounds of sugar is more than five pounds of sugar. $100 is less than $1,000. When we compare the size, weight, height, width, depth, etc. of two or more things we are engaged in what's called “measurement.” Any physical object can be measured, and we have a long list of words to us when measuring: pounds, feet, leagues, miles, volts, minutes, years, etc. Because we are both rational and creative creatures, we even have the capacity to measure abstract nouns like happiness, sadness, beauty, and trust. Bob is happier than Sue. Mozart's music is more beautiful than the music of the Rolling Stones. As Catholics, we often find ourselves using the human obsession with measurement in our spiritual lives. Sometimes this helpful, sometimes not so much. How many of us attend two Masses in one day in order to get “more grace”? Or confess the same sin multiple times in order to receive “more forgiveness”? We often talk about “days or years in purgatory,” as if we experience time after death. Even though we sometimes use this kind of language in our spiritual lives, it's vital that we understand that there is no such thing as “more faith,” or “enough faith,” or “better faith.” Faith is the good habit of trusting in God's loving-care. You either exercise this habit or you don't. 

Abraham shows us the way. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called. . .By faith he received power. . .By faith Abraham offered up Isaac, his son. . .” Why did he obey the call, receive power, and offer up his son? Because “he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.” Abraham exercises the good habit of trusting in God's loving-care and the results speak for themselves. He receives from God an inheritance: though he was “himself as good as dead,” from him and his sterile wife, Sarah, came “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky as countless as the sands on the seashore.” Because Abraham exercised the good habit of trusting in God's loving-care, he and his wife produced a holy family, a holy nation, a people dedicated to the love and service of the Lord. And some few thousand years later, we honor him still as “our father in faith.” 

Abraham believed and acted “by faith” and he received a bounty from the Lord. His faith was not measured in pounds or feet or volts. He didn't pray for “more faith,” or “extra trust.” He heard the Lord's call and he acted, knowing that his God would not fail him. Though your own faithful relationship with the Lord may not produce “descendants as numerous as the stars,” you are still poised to follow after the Christ-child and his family when you trust His love. Luke tells us that after Mary and Joseph fulfilled the requirements of the Law by presenting the Baby Jesus in the temple, “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” Mary and Joseph obeyed the Lord's commandments; they trusted in His Word, and they and their child found favor with God, growing in wisdom and strength. They did not measure their trust nor did they quibble over the niceties of the Law. They simply did what God asked them to do and b/c they trusted His promises and acted accordingly, they came to know God and grew in His divine love. This same inheritance awaits us, awaits anyone who will listen to God's Word, trust in His promises, and act according to His will. His blessings for faithfulness are immeasurable.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

Recommend this post on Google!

29 December 2011

What truth will Christ reveal for you?

NB.  OK. . .I confess:  this one is a little weird.  Too much afternoon coffee!

5th Day of the Octave of Christmas
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

Listen Here (5.30 Mass)

A devout and righteous man named Simeon went into the temple and laid eyes on the child Jesus. Having been promised by the Lord that he would not see death until the coming of the Messiah, Simeon blessed God for allowing him to be a witness to the Christ. Simeon sings out his praises to God, turns to Mary and Joseph, blesses them, and says to Mary, “Behold, this child is destined . . .to be a sign that will be contradicted. . .so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Just what every mother wants to hear about her son! A warning that he will grow up to be a sign of contradiction whose very presence will reveal the true nature of every man's heart! Of course, this warning is not original with Simeon. The prophet Isiah reports that the Lord encouraged him to “conspire with the Lord of hosts; [I] shall be your fear, [I] shall be your dread.” Similar to the warning Simeon offers to Mary about Jesus, Isiah reports that the Lord said to him: “[I] shall be a snare, a stone for injury, A rock for stumbling. . .A trap and a snare"(Is 8). The Christ is a sign of contradiction and the Lord of Hosts is a stone of injury. We are left to wonder how we got from the tender manger scene of the Nativity with the adoring Magi to this ominous scene in the temple with Simeon warning Mary about the destiny of her child. How does the Baby Jesus become a sign of contradiction that reveals men's hearts?

As we have already noted, Simeon's warning to Mary echoes the warning given to Isiah about the Lord of hosts. From this parallel we can see that Simeon is pointing to the Christ-child and saying, “This child is the Lord of hosts!” In the same way that the Lord of hosts is a stumbling block and a snare, so the Christ will be a rock upon which men will break their hearts. How is this possible? Because Christ is the Lord of hosts who gave this warning to both Isiah and Simeon! The child is the Lord but he has yet to become a sign of contradiction b/c his public ministry is still some thirty years down the road. What Simeon sees and declares is that the arrival of the Messiah into human history is like a gigantic boulder being dropped into a settled pool. Many have seen the splash but few have yet felt the waves. When those waves come to crash against hardened human hearts and closed human minds, the contradictory nature of the Messiah will split them wide open, revealing for all to see the truth buried within. Just yesterday, we read about Herod's heart and mind being cracked open by the arrival of the Christ. The truth revealed within lead to the slaughter of thousands of innocent children, all murdered to placate one man's fear.

When the waves of the incarnation crash against heart and mind, what truth will be revealed? More importantly, what will you do with that truth? Will you surrender it to Christ and bend your will to his? Will you declare your truth to be uniquely privileged, entitled to respect and deference even if it means denying God's will for you? If the truth revealed in your heart and mind aligns with God's will, will you act on it in love, uniting yourself with the Christ? John writes, “. . .whoever keeps [Christ's] word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. . . whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.” Walk just as Christ walked and become a sign of contradiction for his sake. Just remember the martyrs: Stephen, John, and the Holy Innocents. For that matter, remember Christ Jesus. And you will follow him all the way to Jerusalem and the Cross.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List Recommend this post on Google!

File Links to Masses at St Dominic's

The pastor of St Dominic, Fr. Michael O'Rourke, OP is a Techie Genius. 

He has started recording our daily and weekend Masses and linking them on-line.

Click here and pick a day. . .each Mass recording is linked through the preacher's name

For example, Pippenger and Huck are our deacons, so you might get a file that starts with my voice but the homily is given by one of our deacons. 

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List Recommend this post on Google!

A poll on religious freedom

Fr. Z. directs our attention to a poll on religious liberty:

Are religious rights being trampled on by the government?

I answered the poll.  Why don't you? 

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

28 December 2011

More thanks!

My thanks to the HancAquam reader who sent me, Our Lady of Weight Loss by Janice Taylor.

Very funny book!

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

". . .for this reason we also call Mary Mother of God. . ."

NB.  The coming Sunday, Jan. 01, is The Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.  Below you can read a bit about how the Church arrived at the title, Theotokos, "bearer of God." 

(Reposted from Jan. 01, 2009)

The Solemnity of the Mary, Mother of God, celebrates the decision taken at the Council of Ephesus (431) against the teaching of the Patriarch, Nestorius, who held that a human person could not be said to have given birth to God. The Patriarch of Alexander, Cyril, argued that Mary, as the chosen instrument of the Incarnation, conceived and gave birth to the Word, Jesus, fully human and fully divine, one person with two natures. Mary, then, is properly understood to be “Theotokos,” God-bearer.

Cyril wrote (in part) to Nestorius:

"And since the holy Virgin brought forth corporally God made one with flesh according to nature, for this reason we also call her Mother of God, not as if the nature of the Word had the beginning of its existence from the flesh.

For In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God, and he is the Maker of the ages, coeternal with the Father, and Creator of all; but, as we have already said, since he united to himself hypostatically human nature from her womb, also he subjected himself to birth as man, not as needing necessarily in his own nature birth in time and in these last times of the world, but in order that he might bless the beginning of our existence, and that that which sent the earthly bodies of our whole race to death, might lose its power for the future by his being born of a woman in the flesh. And this: In sorrow you shall bring forth children, being removed through him, he showed the truth of that spoken by the prophet, Strong death swallowed them up, and again God has wiped away every tear from off all faces. For this cause also we say that he attended, having been called, and also blessed, the marriage in Cana of Galilee, with his holy Apostles in accordance with the economy. We have been taught to hold these things by the holy Apostles and Evangelists, and all the God-inspired Scriptures, and in the true confessions of the blessed Fathers."

Cryril published twelve anathemas against Nestorius. Cyril's letters and his anathemas became the primary texts from which the council fathers drew up their canons for the council.

The first anathema reads: “If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Θεοτόκος), inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh [as it is written, The Word was made flesh] let him be anathema.”

The fifth anathema reads: “If anyone shall dare to say that the Christ is a Theophorus [that is, God-bearing] man and not rather that he is very God, as an only Son through nature, because the Word was made flesh, and has a share in flesh and blood as we do: let him be anathema.”

As is the case with all Marian dogma and doctrine, we are immediately directed back to Christ as our Lord and Savior. No Marian dogma or doctrine is declared or defined in isolation from Christ. She is always understood to be an exemplar for the Church and a sign through which we come to a more perfect union with Christ. Though our Blessed Mother is rightly revered and venerated, she is never worshiped as if she were divine. She is rightly understood as the Mediatrix of All Graces in so far as she mediated, through her own body, the conception and birth of Christ, who is Grace Himself. In no sense are we to understand our Blessed Mother as the source of grace. Rather, she was and is a conduit through which we benefit from the only mediation between God and man, Christ. In her immaculate conception and assumption into heaven, our Blessed Mother is herself a beneficiary of Christ's grace. As such, she cannot be the source of our blessedness, our giftedness in Christ.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

A favor?

After six years publishing this blog, I'm still learning stuff about blogging!

Do me a small favor?

If you like a post, please go to the post's footer and click the "Recommend this on Google" button.

In fact, do this on all your fav Catholic blogs. . .that way, Catholic blogging will get a boost on the Google search engine.

Thanks, Fr. Philip Neri, OP

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

NB.  The "Recommend" button is directly below. . .


My thanks to T.M.P.S. for the Kindle Book!

Good choice. . .I needed something freaky to read.

Fr. Philip Neri, OP

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

Coffee Cup Browsing

An atheist asks whether or not the War Against Nativity Scenes present atheists as "killjoy blights on the polity who are only out to destroy joy and good cheer, and who would leave a vacuum in the human spirit. . ."   Um, why yes, it does.

Members of the Religion of Peace blow up Catholics in Nigeria on Christmas.

HA!  A cookie recipe written in the style of the new Missal translation. 

Muslim father dressed as Santa murders entire family in TX to prevent his daughter from dating non-Muslims.

This sort of thing is why indoor malls are closing. . .the trend now is toward outdoor malls. 

Austrian court upholds blasphemy conviction. . .against Islam, of course.

Speaking of the corruption of innocents. . .the Girl Scouts of America continues its leftist suicide.

Lying bunny. . .he's gonna lie.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

Holiness is a risk well worth taking. . .

Feast of the Holy Innocents
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

The incarnation of the Son in the birth of Jesus brings with it the promise of eternal life for all those who believe, pick up their cross, and follow Christ. Born along with Jesus is a dark promise of persecution and violence for those who walk his narrow way. Just two days ago, we honored Stephen who was brutally murdered for publicly praising God in the name of Christ Jesus. Stephen's death fulfilled our Lord's promise: “You will be hated by all because of my name. . .” But Stephen reaped the glory of another divine promise, “. . .whoever endures to the end will be saved." Suffering at the hands of those who hate us and dying while persevering in the faith is the Church's most profound witness to the truth of the gospel. It is one thing to endure ridicule, argument, and imprisonment in the name of Christ. It is quite another to die by torture, execution, or a terrorist bomb all the while loving and forgiving your murderer for Christ's sake. Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. We honor those thousands of children slaughtered by Herod in a vain attempt to murder the Christ-child. Though they did not themselves profess the faith, they died horribly for Christ's sake. The Holy Family escaped into Egypt, while the children Herod massacred escaped into martyrdom: innocent of any crime, their lives were ended to assuage the political fury of a tyrant. We look to their innocence and their sacrifice to show us the way to holiness.

Herod's massacre of the Innocents reveals an ugly truth about human nature and the fallen order of creation: a man with nearly unlimited power will almost inevitably commit horrible crimes. The marriage of disordered passion and worldly power often gives birth to genocide, war, and the destruction of nations. But none of us here wields nearly unlimited power. That plague infects only a few. Most of us are burdened with a far less comprehensive but nonetheless potentially destructive plague—a wholehearted belief in our innocence. We believe that we are entirely free of sin. John writes, “If we say, 'We are without sin,' we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. . .If we say, 'We have not sinned,' we make [Christ] a liar, and his word is not in us.” Make no mistake here! We are free from sin, but being free from sin does not mean that we are free of sin. The prison doors are unlocked and jammed open, but we sometimes stand in our cells refusing to walk free. John continues, “If we acknowledge our sins, [Christ] is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.” The first step on the way to holiness, true innocence, is the acknowledgment of our sins and the reception of God's forgiveness. The pretense of innocence—that we are without sin—prevents us from receiving the forgiveness we have been given. 

The Holy Innocents died at the hands of a sinful man seeking to prolong his corrupt rule. That innocents die everyday is a consequence of creation's fallen order and our own rebellion against God's Word. So long as we refuse to walk freely the narrow way of Christ—loving, forgiving, showing mercy—we prolong and give comfort to the corrupting rule of the Enemy. However, as Stephen and the Holy Innocents have shown us, choosing to step away from our culture's disordered passions and embracing the way of peace risks the dark promise of Christ's birth: we may die for his sake. Keep this truth close: “[Christ] is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.” Holiness is a risk well worth taking.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

26 December 2011

-3 Monday

Almost forgot to post Ye Ole Weight on this Weigh-in Monday!

Down to 335lbs.  Not bad considering we just finished the first day of Christmas. . .

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

Whoever endures to the end will be saved. . .

St. Stephen, Martyr
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

I hope you're not surprised that we are celebrating the martyrdom of Stephen the day after we celebrated the incarnation of the Word in the birth of Jesus Christ. Yes, it's a bit weird that we draw ourselves away from the frolicking fun of the Nativity in order to take solemn note of the Church's first death by stoning. Yes, it is a bit morose for us to turn our attention toward a bloody execution and remind ourselves—after a day's worth of feasting, gift-giving, and family time—that there was a dark promise delivered along with the Baby Jesus. Stephen is the embodiment of that dark promise, and we remember him and his death not to harsh the buzz of Christmas but rather to prepare ourselves for the consequences of Christ's birth. What consequences are those? When the life-giving light of the Christ entered the world through our Blessed Mother, the world's darkness drew back and its soldiers furiously blinked in surprise and disgust. Now, a day later, they've regain their senses and readied themselves for a new battle. For them, Stephen was the first casualty in this war, the first victory for their side. Praying with Mary, Joseph, and the Christ-child in his crib, we know better. Stephen's death was our victory; his death at the hands of our enemies was a divine promise fulfilled.

If Christ's birth into the world of men frightened the forces of darkness, putting them on alert to the fact that their days are numbered, then those who follow Christ are just as frightening. Unable to do battle with God Himself, the armies of deceit and destruction will settle for laying waste to the lives of those of us who pick up the cross and follow Christ. Am I being a little too dramatic here? Maybe. Luke reports in Acts that certain members of a local synagogue debated Stephen, and he won against them b/c he was filled with the Holy Spirit. When they heard him praise God “they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. . .they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.” Did they insist on a respectful dialogue? Or suggest a inter-religious prayer meeting? No. “They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.” So vile to their hearing was Stephen's praise that they murdered him. Stephen must've said something horribly insensitive or intolerant or divisive. What did he say to these men that provoked their murderous rage? He said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” And for this Stephen was beaten to death with rocks. Christ's dark promise to his Church is fulfilled: "Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake. . .”

Following the light of Christ comes with a promise of eternal life. Not as a reward for doing the right thing but as a consequence of setting aside failure, anger, and revenge, and embracing the liberating power of mercy granted in love. We are free b/c the Son of God was born a Man and died a Man. And when the appointed time came, he was raised from death to sit at the right hand of his Father. He opened for us the way to peace. For the Enemy and his allies, even the chance that God's children might be free is almost too much to bear. That we are in fact free provokes a murderous rage. In the face of this rage we have only one credible response: preach the truth of God's freely offered mercy; love those who hate us; and endure to the end. This was Stephen's victory, and it is ours as well if we persevere in holiness.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

25 December 2011

Becoming Theotókos

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

In 431 A.D., our Church Fathers gathered in Ephesus for a council and decreed that the Blessed Virgin Mary would be honored with the title, Theotókos, God-bearer or the one who gives birth to God. For a majority of Christians at the time, this decree was yawn-inducing b/c Mary had been known as Theotókos for a couple of centuries. However, one bishop, Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, objected to the title because he thought it was irrational to believe that a creature of God—a human woman—could be the mother of the God who had created her. He preferred the title, Christotokos or bearer of the Christ. This title makes it clear that Mary is the mother of Christ, the man, but not the mother of Christ, who is God. Nestorius was credibly accused of dividing Christ into two persons—a human person and a divine person—and thus destroying our means of salvation. After all, we are saved by Christ precisely because he is one person possessing both a human nature and a divine nature. The council fathers declared Nestorius' teachings heretical and supported the teachings of his opponent, the bishop of Alexandria, St. Cyril. In support of his position at the council, Cyril wrote, “I am amazed that there are some who doubt whether or not the Virgin should be called Theotokos. For if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how is the Virgin who gave him birth, not the one who gives birth to God?” 

Now, you are probably thinking to yourself: Father, we're all stuffed with ham, sweet potatoes, yeast rolls, and pie. . .and we have a big mess to clean up at home. . .what have we ever done to you to deserve a lecture on fourth-century Christological controversies? Well, you've probably done something in the last year to deserve it. . .but that's not really the point. The point is this: the event we celebrate today is not Jesus' birthday. . .this is not a Birthday Party. The event we celebrate is (quoting John's gospel): “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. . .” The Word became flesh. Who is the Word? Again, quoting John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Don't miss that last bit: “and the Word was God.” God took on skin and bone and blood, and He dwelt among us as one us. Today, we celebrate the event of our Creator stepping into His creation to become a creature. This is most emphatically NOT a birthday party. . .this is an Incarnation Party! The Word of God, the Christ, who is God, becomes Man so that we might become Christs. 

And that's the answer to my next question: why did the Word of God, the Christ, who is God become Man? So that we might become Christs. John writes, “. . .to those who accept [Christ] he gave power to become children of God.” To be a child of God is to be a co-heir to God's Kingdom, to be a brother or sister to the Son of God. To be one of the Father's children is to be one who sees “[Christ's] glory. . .full of grace and truth.” And to see Christ's glory, full of grace and truth is to see clearly the righteous path back to the Father. When we follow that path—with humility, in obedience; loving, forgiving, showing mercy all along the way—we grow closer to Christ and become more and more like Christ. But the only reason we can even begin to walk this path is because the Word of God, the Christ, became human like one of us; suffered and died like one of us; and rose from the tomb in order to show us how it's done. He had to go first, so that we might follow.

Today, Christ is born to the Virgin Mary. She is Theotókos, God-bearer, Mother of God Incarnate. And if you step onto the narrow way, the path of holiness, you too can bear Christ into the world; and not only bear him into the world, but become him for others in the world. Your words, deeds, thoughts can all reveal God's glory to the world just as Christ himself revealed God to us. When you leave this evening. . .when you go back out there. . .back to your Christmas mess. . .or someone else's mess. . .wherever you go. . .remember that this holy day celebrates the ultimate triumph of Light over darkness. . .and so, as you go, be “the true light, which enlightens everyone.” Be Christ!

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

A very important message. . .

To all HancAquam Readers. . .

Merry Christmas!

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

24 December 2011

Coffee Cup Browsing

Grieve or die:  nine minutes of N. Korean propaganda.

No.  Mary was not an unwed mother nor was Baby Jesus an illegal immigrant.

This kid is grounded for life. . .and then some.

President Present is lazy.  Who knew?  Maybe we should have guessed, uh?

If you don't think that this vid is cute. . .you might be Scrooge's meaner second-cousin.

Where do I find an oil painting of circus clowns storming the beach at Normandy?

Change "Honey" to "Father" and "house" to "priory" and you have one of the friars talking to me.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

Be guided onto the way of peace. . .

4th Week of Advent (S)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

Zechariah and Elizabeth's neighbors watch a cosmic drama play out before their eyes. For months, Zechariah has been rendered speechless as a consequence of his disbelief. Elizabeth, miraculously pregnant all this time, gives birth to a son. Refusing to follow the traditional practice of naming a son after his grandfather or father, she names her child John. Over the objections of family and friends, Zechariah confirms the name in writing, and his tongue is set free. His first words are blessings upon God for the birth of his son. Watching all this, the neighbors become increasingly fearful, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” Though they do not yet know the specifics of John's ministry, they feel his arrival signal the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy: their freedom is at hand. The long-promised Messiah is coming! Zechariah's song of praise recalls God's promise of freedom to His people and confirms what they have all believed for generations. The Lord has never and will never abandon His people to the slavery of sin. The sign of our freedom is the Christ-child born to Mary and Joseph. And John—the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth—is his herald.

Zechariah's hymn of praise lays out for us—over and over again—a historical pattern: “[The Lord] has come to his people and set them free. . .He promised to show mercy to our fathers. . .He swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies. . .free to worship Him without fear. . .and to guide our feet into the way of peace. What prompts Zechariah to sing this hymn of thanksgiving? Notice that he addresses his new born son, "You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High. . .” Why is this child to be called a prophet? “. . .for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way. . .” How will John the prophet prepare the way of the Lord? “[by giving] his people knowledge of salvation [through] the forgiveness of their sins.” And it is through the forgiveness of our sins that we are set free. Since the establishment of the covenant with Abraham, God has promised His people freedom from the slavery of sin. Through the Law and the Prophets and with the advent of the Messiah, God's faithful people have been shown a path toward salvation, salutem in Latin, health. Our salvation is rightness with God, spiritual health, the fullness of peace.

Lest we forget, let Zechariah's song bring to mind again the whole point of our celebrations today and tomorrow: we are free; we are made free, given our freedom. We exchange gifts to mark the day. We do not buy stuff from one another. We do not work for one another in order to earn the stuff under the tree. We give gifts; we exchange graces, freely given and freely received blessings in celebration of our release from the bonds of sin. We cannot freely give or receive if we are bound by sin. Therefore, Zechariah reminds us to be prophets of the Lord, to prepare God's people for the arrival of the Christ-child, to give one another knowledge of our salvation by forgiving those who have sinned against us.

When you receive a brightly wrapped present from under the tree, you say, “Thank you!” Under a brightly lit star, lying in a stable, a tightly wrapped child presents himself to you as a gift. Receive his gift and say, “Thank you!” And do more than receive his gift of freedom and give him thanks, give freedom again and again. Release all those who have offended you. Free all those who have hurt you. Do not “dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Be guided onto the way of peace.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

23 December 2011

Why are they afraid of John?

NB.  I got a third of the way through this homily before I remembered that Deacon John is preaching at this morning's Mass.  So, let's hear what you think about the question:  Why would all those who hear of John's birth be afraid?

4th Week of Advent (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

Doubting the word of the angel Gabriel, Zechariah's tongue is stilled. Because he failed to listen and believe, he is prevented from praising God's gift of a son while his wife, Elizabeth, is pregnant. In order to understand Zechariah's punishment we must remember that God has no need of our praise. Praising God benefits the one who praises Him and those who hear Him praised. Thus, Zechariah is denied the benefits he might have otherwise received by giving God thanks for his child. Once Zechariah agrees in writing to name his child “John,” his tongue is freed, and he heaps blessings on God for His gift. Zechariah's reaction to John's birth is perfectly understandable. Both he and Elizabeth are elderly, and Elizabeth was known to be barren. To be given a child is a spectacular blessing! Less understandable is the reaction of their neighbors. Luke reports that “. . .fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, 'What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.'” 

Question:  Why would all those who hear of John's birth be afraid?

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

22 December 2011


 My thanks and Christmas blessings to Gregg F. for the Kindle Book!

I feel smarter just knowing that I have a Mamet book in my library. . .

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

The Way of Spiritual Magnification

4th Week of Advent (Th)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

Our Blessed Mother praises her Savior: Magnificat anima mea Dominum! My soul magnifies the Lord! She is “most blessed among women” b/c she believed that the Word of her Lord would be fulfilled. And even as she sings God's praises, His Word is being fulfilled in her body: the Christ-child readies himself to be born. The prayer we know as the Magnificat, or the Canticle of Mary is more than an outburst of joyful praise; it is also a recollection of God's promises to His faithful people. Not only do we hear a recitation of God's saving deeds, we also hear the Spirit rededicate Himself to the tasks of preserving, protecting, and providing for those who place themselves in His fatherly care. In other words, our Blessed Mother reminds us of all that He done for us; all that He is doing for us now; and all that He will do until Christ is among us once again. 

What has our Lord done for His people? “He has mercy on those who fear him. . .He has shown the strength of his arm. . .[He] has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones. . . [He] has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things. . .[He] has sent [the rich] away empty. . . .[and] He has come to the help of his servant Israel. . .” Why has He done all these things? “[Because] He remembered His promise of mercy. . .” To whom did He make this promise of mercy? “[To] our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever." We are the children of Abraham, the adopted sons and daughters of our father in faith, co-heirs to the kingdom of heaven through the grace of Christ Jesus. Our Lord has done these great deeds for us out of His mercy. . .not b/c we deserve them, not b/c we have earned them, not b/c we have purchased them but b/c He loves us and wills for us only what is good. Mary remembers the Lord's historical works; she proclaims His on-going works, and she prophesies His works for us in our future.

How do we as creatures—beings of ash and air—acknowledge the providence of God, His loving-care for us? Mary shows us the way when she sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord! My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Following the Blessed Mother, the way for us is the way of spiritual magnification: to set our souls to the task of bringing the Lord's love and mercy into sharper, keener focus; to amplify, to enlarge the works of the Lord by acting, speaking, feeling, thinking—doing all that we do for His greater glory. We labor to ensure that our words and deeds expand His love and mercy. We work at making sure that our thoughts and feelings prosper in His promises of forgiveness. We do not wallow in self-pity, recrimination, or vengeance. We do not nurture grudges or pick at our wounds. We make gratitude our minute-by-minute prayer, sacrificing entitlement and greed, exchanging ingratitude for humility and feeding the roots of holiness with the same song of joy that our Blessed Mother sings. She exults in her Lord and shows us the way to Christ.

Is there a better time in the Church year to practice being Christ among your family and friends? We all wait for the birth of the Christ-child among us. Will there ever be a better chance for each of us to be born into the world as bearers of the Good News? To arrive among those we love as a herald of Love Himself? If you nurture bitterness, anger, a desire for revenge, why not risk forgiveness? Gamble them all on the mercy of God. He will magnify your soul as you magnify Him!

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

What is the Incarnation? (Repost)

Just in time for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord:

The Nativity of Christ, or Christmas ("Christ Mass"), celebrates one of the most important events of the Church: the incarnation of the Son of God. Like the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, etc., the Incarnation is one of those rock-bottom Christian beliefs that most Christians assent to but probably don't really understand. Though Catholics all over the world affirm their belief in the Incarnation every Sunday by reciting the Creed, how many could explain this tenet of the faith in the simplest terms?

Let's start with a story. . .

The archangel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces to her that God has chosen her to be the mother of the Christ Child, His Son. Mary says, "Your will be done" and the Holy Spirit descends on Mary, giving her the child. Nine months later the Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Simple enough story, right? If we left the incarnation there, we would still have the basic truth of Christ's arrival into the world. Things get a little more complicated when we start to think about what it means for the Son of God (who is God) to take on human flesh and live among us. How does the God of the Old and New Testament become incarnated yet remain sovereign God? We are immediately confronted by what theologians call "the Christological question": how is the man Jesus also God?

Before this question was settled by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., a number of answers were offered and rejected:

Jesus is really a man who possesses God-like qualities.
Jesus is really God in the appearance of a man.
Jesus is half-God and half-man.
Jesus' soul is divine but his body is human.
Jesus' body is human but his mind is divine.

Complicating matters even more was the lack of an adequate theological vocabulary with which to think about and write about the incarnation. Early Christian theologians turned to the available philosophical vocabularies for help. The most prominent philosophical system in the first few centuries of the Church was a developed form of Platonism. Borrowing heavily from the Platonists, the Church Fathers crafted a creedal statement that said: The Father and the Son are the same in substance ("consubstantial"), meaning that they are the same God: "God from God, light from light, true God from true God." The Son was not created in time like man but rather begotten from all eternity. He "became incarnate" through the Virgin Mary--fully human in all but sin.

This creedal statement defined the orthodox position of the Catholic Church. However, interpretations of the creed abounded and additional councils had to sort through them all in order to discover the orthodox expression of the true faith. In the end, the Nicene Creed was taken to mean that Jesus was fully human and fully divine: one person (one body/soul) with two natures (human and divine). "Person," "essence," "being," "nature" are all terms borrowed from Greek philosophy. So, as the West discovered new ways of thinking philosophically, these terms took on different meanings and our interpretations of theological expressions of the truth developed as well. The basic truth of the incarnation does not change; however, how we understand that truth does change.

For example, the Greek word we translate as "person" is prosopon, or mask. This term was used in the Greek theater to denote the different characters played by one actor. A single actor would hold a mask in each hand and shift the masks in front of his face to say his lines, indicating that the lines were being said by different characters. Applying this term to God, the Blessed Trinity, we arrive at a single actor (God) using three masks (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Same actor, different characters. Ultimately, this metaphor is woefully inadequate for expressing the deepest truth of the Trinity. Yet, we still say that the Trinity is three divine persons, one God. "Person" as a philosophical term used to describe a theological truth had to be developed.

Eventually, we came to understand several vital distinctions: The Church uses the term "substance" (rendered also at times by "essence" or "nature") to designate the divine being in its unity, the term "person" or "hypostasis" to designate the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the real distinction among them, and the term "relation" to designate the fact that their distinction lies in the relationship of each to the others (CCC 252).

So, God is one substance; three divine persons; distinguished from one another not by their natures or persons but by their relations one to another. The incarnation then is the second divine Person of the one God becoming a human person with two substances or natures.

You are one person with one nature: "I am human."
God is three divine persons with one nature: "I am divine."
Christ is one person with two natures: "I am human and divine."

Aquinas, quoting Irenaeus, writes, "God became man so that man might become God." The incarnation of the Son makes it possible for us to become God (theosis). This is how Catholics understand salvation.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

21 December 2011

A Catholic governor meets his bishops

Cardinal George and several bishops in Illinois held a meeting with IL Gov. Pat Quinn in order to re-teach him the meaning of Catholic conscience.  When the governor tried to downplay the teaching element of the meeting and play up the social justice angle, the Cardinal and bishops responded.

Their response is a good summary of Catholic teaching on the nature of moral conscience:

“As Catholic pastors, we wanted to remind the Governor that conscience, while always free, is properly formed in harmony with the tradition of the Church, as defined by Scripture and authentic teaching authority. A personal conscience that is not consistent with authentic Catholic teaching is not a Catholic conscience. The Catholic faith cannot be used to justify positions contrary to the faith itself.  It is a matter of personal integrity for people who call themselves Catholic to act in a manner that is consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

What is it to believe?

NB.  This is not a very Advent-y homily, I know.  But for whatever reason it needed to be preached.  The preacher preaches to himself first.

4th Week of Advent (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

“I believe.” We pray this sentence every Sunday when we recite the Creed, the Credo: I believe. The Creed is a set of beliefs that all Christians share. We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things, visible and invisible, etc. We go on to repeat this nearly 2,000 year old statement of beliefs and, in doing so, we claim to believe in all sorts of outrageous things: a divine Son; his virgin birth as a man; his resurrection from the dead; even our own eventual resurrection from the dead! We claim to believe in someone named the “Holy Spirit” who proceeds from both the Father and the Son, and we believe in the oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity of a universal Church. As I said, we believe in sorts of outrageous things. And we believe these outrageous things without any obvious anxiety or fear of contradiction. If we were given some time and had the inclination to reflect critically on what we are claiming to believe, we just might feel the absurdity that so many of the early Church Fathers felt in repeating and defending these claims. Ultimately, we would likely say something like, “Well, this is what we believe to be true about the faith. It's just what we believe.” Leaving aside for the moment the content of the Creed, let's reflect on what it means to believe in something or someone. What is it to believe?

Mary, pregnant with the Christ, visits Elizabeth in Judah. Upon greeting one another, the child in Elizabeth's womb jumps for joy. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaims, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. . .Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Mary is blessed b/c she heard the Lord's Word spoken by Gabriel, listened to that Word, trusted in it, and acted accordingly. Think back to the scene with Mary and Gabriel. The angel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear a son, a son who is the promised Messiah. Despite her doubt and fear, Mary says, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” She doesn't merely say, “I hear you and trust what you say.” She says—in effect—I hear; I listen; and I assent to all that I have heard. Let it be done. Elizabeth calls this attitude “belief.” When Mary permitted the Lord to give her the Christ-child, she believed.

As we get closer and closer to our celebration of the world's most important event—the coming into human history of God's Son, the birth of our Savior—let's reconsider what we are saying when we pray the Creed. We are not merely giving intellectual assent to a series of theological statements. Yes, yes, I believe X, Y, and Z. Nor are we staking out a few controversial philosophical positions. Nor are we simply muttering $15 academic words and phrases: “consubstantial,” “incarnate,” “proceeds from,” “resurrection of the dead.” What we are doing—as we wait on the coming of the Lord—is committing ourselves to a way of thinking about the world and ourselves and a way of behaving in the world and among ourselves. We must believe and behave; we must accept and act, trust and perform according to what we know to be the truth. Otherwise, when we pray the Creed, we lie. We present ourselves falsely before God and His Church. The Blessed Mother—doubtful, fearful, probably deeply surprised—heard the Word, trusted in it, and acted accordingly. She believed. And b/c she believed, Elizabeth named her, “Blessed among women.” If you and I will be blessed among men and women, we too must believe; we too must pray, “Let me do your will, Lord!”

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

On Christmas gifts and much gratitude. . .

Another happy surprise this morning!  Several Kindle Books from faithful HancAquam reader, Jenny K. 

Thanks so much, J.K.!  

A note on Christmas gifts:  several readers have written to ask what I might need/want as a Christmas gift (an annual question).  Honestly, truly, I need nothing.  My brothers in community and I have what we need.  Now, having said that, I want all sorts of stuff!  And that stuff is available on the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List.

I have NO expectations of receiving anything from either list.  I am always deeply grateful and often surprised to discover a package in the mail. . .BUT I never expect anything.  This really can't be emphasized enough.  Dominicans are mendicants (beggars), so when I need something, I ask for it.  And H.A. readers have always come through.  

For example, we asked for a newly translated English Missal for the chapel in Rome.  And one appeared in the mail.  I asked for books for our novices once.  And they appeared.  I asked for a DVD set one time to give to the novices.  And it appeared.  Also, the many books I've needed and used for my studies. . .all sent to me and received with gratitude. 

So, I try to think/behave with my readers the same way I am with God: I expect nothing from Him that He has not already given and receive everything He sends with thanksgiving and praise!  

Merry Christmas to you all! 

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

19 December 2011


Received another poetry book quite unexpectedly today!  Always a good surprise. . .especially this close to Christmas.

My thanks to C.N., B.J.N. and their kids:  S., N., and J.  You know who you are.  :-)

God bless, Fr. Philip

P.S.  I also rec'd my cell phone today. . .so, Big Brother knows where I am now.  Sigh.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

Individual Conscience & the Magisterium (Repost)

Reposted by special request. . .
The relationship between an individual's conscience and the authority of the magisterium is often easily confused and intentionally distorted.   

Let's start with a definition:  "Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law. . ."(CCC, no. 1778).

Conscience "perceives and recognizes" moral truth.  Contemporary Catholics often seem to believe that conscience is the ability to choose freely among available moral options.  So long as I preface my choices with something like, "In good conscience, I believe. . .," I am safeguarded from error.  This is false.  Conscience is not the ability to magically turn an evil choice into a good choice.  Conscience is what helps us to perceive the Good and recognize that Good in making moral choices.

When I walk into a bookstore, I perceive and recognize items that we call books.  I do not walk into a bookstore and choose to perceive the books as squirrels and recognize them as squirrels.  If I do this, I am in error.  Announcing my erroneous judgment about the books with, "In good conscience, I perceive and recognize this collection of paper and cloth bound pages of printed material as squirrels," does not magically transform the books into squirrels.  

Catholic teaching holds that the morality of human acts is as real as the books in a bookshop.  Calling the intrinsically morally evil act of abortion "good" is the same error you make when you call a book a squirrel.*  Conscience empowers you to perceive and recognize abortion as evil.  If you do not perceive and recognize abortion as evil, then you are either ignorant and need to be instructed, or your conscience has been twisted into folly by sin and you need both instruction and confession.

The Church's role in conscience formation is to present the truth of the faith.  Ideally, a Catholic will immediately perceive and recognize the truth and act accordingly.  But because we have been mislead for a generation or two about the nature of conscience, many Catholics fail to perceive and recognize moral truth when they see it.  Basically, we have been told for decades now that conscience makes truth, or that conscience assigns truth value to moral acts according to subjective, private standards of judgment.  This is how we end up with pro-abortion Catholics, pro-same sex "marriage" Catholics, pro-torture Catholics, pro-women's "ordination" Catholics, ad. nau.  These Catholics have falsely perceived and falsely recognized moral truth and misused "conscience" as a defense of their errors.

To repeat:  conscience perceives and recognizes truth; it does NOT create truth. 

Tom Krietzberg at Disputations has a very good post on how Aquinas' thoughts on conscience have been misunderstood and misused to push the Free Choice notion of conscience.

*Of course, the eternal consequences of these two errors are not the same.

 Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

Aquinas & Augustine on the Incarnation

Excellent read for your Christmas contemplation! 

10 Reasons for the Incarnation

1. Faith: Certitude in the Living God

2. Hope: A Strengthening

3. Charity: The Great Kindling

4. The Exemplar: The Life of Right-Doing

5. Theosis: Full Participation in Divinity

6. United to Christ: The Bodiless Evil Spirits

7. Dignity of Humanity: To Shun Sin

8. Human Presumption: Unmerited Grace

9. Human Pride: The Humility of God

10. The Thralldom of Sin: Divine Rescue

Go to the link above for an explanation of each point.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

Monday +2

Despite sharply cutting back on my caloric intake this last week, I still managed to gain 2lbs. 

How?  No idea.  But I'll keep on trying to lose!

Thank you for your prayers. . .

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

Coffee Cup Browsing

When my Nunya Libertarian Streak meets my Grouchy Driver streak. . .how many times have I almost been run over by drivers chit-chatting on a cell phone?

A vast Jesuit conspiracy!  Oh No.

"Christopher Hitchens—the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant—died today at the age of 62."  Like a lot of Catholics, I found Hitch to be engaging and masterfully infuriating.

N.Korea's Dear Leader is dead.  Dear Leader, Jr. is now. . .um. . .Dear Leader.  Why do socialist worker paradises always end up being quasi-medieval serfdoms with hereditary princes?

The "serfs" mourn Dear Leader.  The sad part is that this is probably genuine grief.  

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

Doubt His method but never His will. . .

4th Week of Advent (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

The elderly priest, Zechariah, is inside the temple burning incense on the altar. While going about his priestly duties, he is visited by Gabriel, the archangel. If this heavenly visitation were not surprising enough, he is also told that he and his barren wife, Elizabeth, will soon have a child and this child will grow up to be the herald of the Messiah, a second Elijiah who will “prepare a people fit for the Lord." Hearing this news, Zechariah asks, in an impious outburst, “How shall I know this?” His doubt earns him an unusual punishment: he is struck speechless by the angel, unable to speak until his son is born. We might wonder how a muted Zechariah serves as a warning to those who would question the power of the Lord to accomplish apparently impossible deeds? How does a still tongued punish a doubter?

Let's compare and contrast Gabriel's visit with Zechariah and his visit with Mary. First, both Mary and Zechariah are shocked by the appearance of an angel of the Lord. Sensing their fear, Gabriel assures both Mary and Zechariah in the power of the Lord and tells them not to be afraid. When Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear a son, her reaction sounds very familiar. Like Zechariah, she too questions the news, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” Despite her doubt, Mary is not silenced; she is not punished for questioning the angel's announcement. What's the difference btw Mary and Zechariah that merits this divergent treatment? There are the obvious differences. Zechariah is an elderly priest, a man. Mary is a young woman, a virgin. But it's not clear why these differences would matter in their treatment by the angel. We could point to Gabriel's greeting to Mary, “Hail! Full of grace!” and note Mary's unique nature as a sinless person—her immaculate conception in her mother's womb, a singular grace. Despite this gift, she still doubts Gabriel's news. Maybe the difference that matters is to be found in what it is that each doubts. Notice: Mary accepts the truth of Gabriel's news and only questions the method of conception. Zechariah doubts both the truth of Gabriel's news and questions how his wife will conceive. Mary receives in faith the news of an apparently impossible feat. Zechariah fails to trust fully the news from the one who stands before the Lord.

For his failure, Zechariah loses the ability to speak. Why is this a just punishment? Rather than use his gift of speech to praise the Lord for accomplishing the apparently impossible, the elderly priest uses a God-given gift to express a deeply seated doubt. Even as he worships at the temple's altar of incense, he willfully denies the possibility that God can do what He says He can do. Zechariah's tongue is stilled to prevent him from sullying the good news of his son's impending conception. When Elizabeth becomes pregnant with John the Baptist, Zechariah is unable to rejoice out loud. He is denied the privilege of praising God for this gift until John is born. However, his rejoicing at John's birth is all the sweeter b/c he has spent so long unable to speak. So sweet is his rejoicing that we sing the words of his song every morning at Lauds—the Canticle of Zechariah, “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Israel; He has come to His people and set them free.”

Doubt if you must how the Lord will accomplish His wonders in your life. But never doubt that He will. Rely wholly on His loving care and be vigilant in waiting for the miraclous appearances of His mercy. Let your mouth be filled with His praise and your tongue everyready to give thanks!

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

17 December 2011

Being a mother of Christ

NB.  Feedback on this homily would be greatly appreciated.  It didn't seem to go over very well with the congregation.  Too convoluted?  Too harsh?

4th Sunday of Advent 2011
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Church, New Orleans

As we approach the birth of the Lord and celebrate—this afternoon/morning—his conception in the womb of the BVM by the Holy Spirit, it may seem strange to ask, “What do we fear?” As a Church, as the Body of Christ, living in the world, what is there for us to fear? With some bravado, we might say, “Nothing! The world had better fear us!” A little more realistically, we might say, “There's always the temptations of the world to fear, to avoid.” Perhaps stoically, we could say, “There is much to fear, but we will endure.” None of these answers is wrong but none of them is exactly right either. There is much to fear but that doesn't mean we have to be afraid. We will endure but all those fearful things still exist despite our enduring strength. And the Church does cause the world some anxiety, some small amount of fear, but our task is not intimidation. When Gabriel appears to Mary and greets her with, “Hail! Full of grace! The Lord is with you,” the virgin is “greatly troubled at what was said and ponders what sort of greeting this might be.” Sensing her troubled spirit, Gabriel assures her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” If Mary is troubled by being named “Full of Grace” (and she is); and if the angel Gabriel calms her spirit by telling her that she has found favor with God (and he does); and if Mary is the model of the Church (and she is), then the Church is at once full of grace, favored by God, and troubled. The Lord's message to us then is: “Do not be afraid!”

We do not fear b/c there is nothing to be afraid of. There is more than enough in this world for us to fear. Temptations, failures, persecutions, betrayals, and trials. More than enough to keep us busy, to keep us occupied running, hiding, being silent. We could fear ridicule and rejection, embarrassment and being made into fools. We could fear defeat, disease, disability, all sorts of physical and mental disasters. We could find ourselves lacking faith, failing to trust in the Lord; scrambling with the faithless to acquire more and more, to “get mine” before its all gone. Whatever “it” is: money, stuff, prestige, power, attention. We could wake up tomorrow morning, forgetting everything we have ever believed, and find ourselves swept along with the world toward a darkness so black we fear that no light will ever shine for us again. There is much to fear. But there is no reason to be afraid. All who believe on the Word of God, the Son made flesh, they have found favor with the Most High!

Like the virgin, greeted by Gabriel, when we are ready to receive the Word made flesh, we too are “full of grace”; we too stand in the good graces of God; we too will hear and believe, “The Lord is with you.” And we will say yes to being bearers of the Good News to the world and, like Mary, we will carry the Messiah in our bodies and deliver him to all those most in need of his healing mercies. If this sounds too poetical, too vague, let me be a little more prosaic: when you approach the altar to receive communion, you are receiving the Body and Blood of Christ into your body and blood. Much like Mary received the Holy Spirit and conceived the Christ, we too say, “Let it be done to be according to your word” and receive Christ Jesus—body, blood, soul, divinity. While the Holy Spirit placed the Christ-child in Mary's womb, the Church places the Christ Resurrected and Ascended into our mouths as food and drink for our perfection. Mary departed her encounter with Gabriel pregnant yet still a virgin, a walking tabernacle carrying her Lord. We too depart this Church as walking, breathing tabernacles, carrying the Lord out into the world. We walk out into the world as the Body of Christ carrying the Body and Blood of Christ. This is why the Lord's message to us is: do not be afraid! He is with us. Yes, there is much to fear. But there is no reason to be afraid.

In a homily a few weeks ago, our Holy Father noted that the Church should fear the sins of her members more than she fears persecution at the hands of her enemies. Being followers of Christ, we we have been promised persecution and there is very little we can do to prevent the Enemy from tempting us, from putting us on trial. However, we are more than capable of refraining from disobedience. We are given—daily given—every grace we need to listen to and comply with the Word God has sent among us. The only question is whether or not we will choose to cooperate with those graces and grow in holiness. Sin is the mark of our failure to receive God's gifts and use them to announce His glory, to give Him thanks and praise, and to work tirelessly for the spreading of His Good News. We should fear our sins b/c they distort who it is that God has made us to be; they twist our love for Him and for one another; they misuse His beauty and goodness and lead us off the narrow way of Christ. It's not God's punishment that we should fear, but rather the natural and supernatural consequences of openly declaring ourselves enemies of the One Who gave us life. By choosing to sin, we set ourselves against the Love Who created us and assign ourselves to living lives in a wilderness empty of the very graces that we most need. God never stops loving us; it is His nature to love. However, we are free to cease loving Him, free to disobey Him, and the consequences of that choice are fearful indeed.

As you leave here this afternoon/morning, filled with the Body and Blood of Christ, set your heart and mind to wondering what it is you can do to bring our Lord to your world—your school, your office, your home, all your family and friends. How can you be the “mother” of Christ among those you know best? What can you do or say or not do or not say that will give him glory and draw in souls hungry for his eternal feast? We are in the last week of Advent, ready to welcome the Christ-child among us as our Savior on Christmas Day. Even though we celebrate his incarnation on this special day, he is given flesh and bone everyday of the year, every time we approach this altar and receive the sacrament, we walk away as a Christ. We walk out into a fearful world, filled with grace, overflowing with grace. . .do what Christ himself did and give your life away for the love of another.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

Odor of sanctity?

A quick Thank You to D.G. for the cologne from the Wish List and to Anon. for the book of poems.

Now, I can smell refined AND read some refined poetry!

Thanks and God bless, Fr. Philip

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List

A prayer for marriage

Fr. Z. reports that a SSM pressure group has lost its frivolous case against the bishops of MN.  What horrible thing did the bishops do?  Support the universally recognized notion that marriage consists of an unbreakable bond between one man and one woman! 

Archbishop John Nienstedt has issued a prayer for marriage that every faithful Catholic should offer:

Heavenly Father,

Through the powerful intercession of the Holy Family, grant to this local Church the many graces we need to foster, strengthen, and support faith-filled, holy marriages and holy families.

May the vocation of married life, a true calling to share in your own divine and creative life, be recognized by all believers as a source of blessing and joy, and a revelation of your own divine goodness.

Grant to us all the gift of courage to proclaim and defend your plan for marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman in a lifelong, exclusive relationship of loving trust, compassion, and generosity, open to the conception of children.

We make our prayer through Jesus Christ, who is Lord forever and ever. Amen.

The prayer is downloadable in PDF format for easy printing and copying here.

Follow HancAquam and visit the Kindle Wish List and the Books & Things Wish List