29 September 2012

Baby Jesus: Zombie Hunter!


Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

Fr. Aaron Arce (pic)

Fr. Aaron Arce, OP with several student brothers: fras. Vincent, Luke, 
Juan (standing), and Cristobol.

Please pray for fra. Aaron!

Angelic ministers

Feast of the Archangels
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

If you browse the “Spirituality” section of any Barnes&Noble bookstore, you'll soon discover that angels are popular subjects for occult speculation. All sorts of items—books, Tarot cards, runes—tout the power of angels and their willingness to initiate the curious into the mysteries of the supernatural world. That these items seem to sell quite well tells us that there is a hunger out there for a way to get in touch with something or someone willing and able to draw us into all that dwells behind and beyond our routine existence. As Christians, we know that this Someone is the one God of revelation and reason, revealed finally and uniquely in the divine person of Jesus Christ. With him and in him we are given all that we need to establish and maintain a kinship with our Creator. Though the focus of our adoration rests exclusively on the Blessed Trinity, there are many other important players in the drama of our spiritual lives—the Blessed Mother, the communion of saints, and the angels and archangels of the Lord. Who and what are angels? And how do they serve the glory of God when they minister to us? 

For all we need to know about angels there is no better person to turn to than the Angelic Doctor himself, St. Thomas Aquinas. Our brother Thomas devotes fourteen articles to the nature and activities of angels in the first part of his Summa.* He tells us that angels were made by God, creatures of pure intellectual substance; therefore, they are incorporeal, immortal, and limited in both their power and their location; some choose at the moment of their creation to be perfected in God's beauty, some did not; despite their choice not to be made perfect in beauty, God loves those angels who followed Lucifer into rebellion against Him, yet they remain eternally obstinate against Him; those angels who chose to be made perfect in beauty cannot sin and therefore do not progress in holiness nor fall from grace; they possess an intellect and a free will superior to ours; they love by nature and by choice, that is, it is their nature to love and they freely choose to love. Angels serve God by attending Him in heaven; by bringing His messages to mankind; as personal guardians appointed to every human person; and as agents of the divine in protecting and governing the whole world. Much like those of us who have chosen to follow Christ, angels work for God to carry out His providential will. 

Now, knowing all of this and assuming that all of it is true, where do we stand in kinship with the beatified angels; that is, what is our proper relationship to them? First, we must exclude absolutely any whiff, any hint that angels are worthy of our adoration and worship. Like God's human children, angels are creatures, made beings. No creature—regardless of its superior intelligence or purity of will—is worthy of the adoration that belongs to God alone. We honor the angels as messengers from heaven, but we do not worship them. Second, though angels function as divine messengers, they serve God alone; in other words, angels are not at our beck and call. We do not summon them; interrogate them; or manipulate them in any way. Third, when angels act as our personal guardians, they do so with respect to our free choices; that is, they do not and cannot possess us against our will, or force us to comply with their good advice. And lastly, when we pray to angels for guidance or assistance, they will always respond in the purest love, without guile or temptation to sin, and according to God's sovereign will. Honor God's messengers for their ministry to us and them them thanks for their work, but always remember that they—like us—serve the throne of heaven first to bring the Good News of God's mercy through Christ to the world.

*Thomas has much more to say about angels than I've covered in this homily:  ST I.50-64

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe

28 September 2012

Prayer request

Please pray for Fr. Aaron Arce, OP.  

Fra. Aaron has been battling bone cancer for the last two years.  Just recently, we discovered that the cancer has spread well beyond the ability of his doctors to treat him.

And we received word this evening that he will be entering hospice care very soon.  

Fra. Aaron was the prior of my novice community in San Antonio.  He moved with our class to St Louis as serve as assistant student master.  When I arrived in Irving as a newly ordained priest, fra. Aaron was the prior of our new novitiate community for three years and returned to STL in 2008 to live with our student brothers.  He's been ministering to St Andrew's parish in STL.

Fra. Aaron has a bizarre sense of humor.  He regularly regaled us in the studium with stories of his first few years as a priest in the late 70's and early 80's.  He is renowned in the province for his hilarious (though never irreverent) parodies of traditional Latin hymns.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe

Coffee Bowl Browsing

Fr. Z. posts the first address of the newly ordained bishop of Portsmouth, England, Most Rev. Philip Egan.  Good stuff!

Open letter to priests from a Young Catholic.

A Ouija board horror story.  STAY AWAY from those things.

John C. Wright to an atheist: "You are a disgrace to the powers of evil."  We need better atheists.

Had the subway ad been anti-Christian, MTA would've spent millions defending it.

Vatican II says it's OK for Catholics to use artificial contraceptives, right?  Wrong.

Speaking as a Licensed Philosopher (ahem), I approve this list.  (NB. Some of these will be tough for beginners).

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

Blessing Rosaries Dominican Style

My swanky new Dominican rosary needs to be blessed. . .

So, I will bless it using the traditional Dominican Blessing for Rosaries after the homily at Mass tomorrow (8.30) , Sat., Sept 29th. . .the Feast of the Archangels.

If you would like, I'll bless your rosary too!  Bring it to Mass.

P.S.  The pic on the left is not my new rosary.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe

A time to measure. . .

25th Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Audio file

We've heard it said—many times—that we live and move and have our being in God. Without God, we are nothing, literally, not a thing at all. So, one of the most humble services that we perform for ourselves is to measure, to take account of, where we stand in the creating and re-creating kinship that gave us life and sustains us in love. When we perform this humble service, what are we measuring? What sort of scale do we use? Since our relationship with God is familial, that is, we think and act along with God as a family, and since a family is bound together by blood and nourished in love, we could describe our relationship to the Father as holy—a relationship set apart from the world, consecrated to a divine purpose. How then do we measure holiness—our nearness to the Father, our distance from Him? Sin measures our distance from God; obedience measures our nearness. The Preacher of Ecclesiastes tells us that all things under heaven have their appointed time, a time to arrive and unfold, a time to depart and decay. As we live and move and have our being in God, it is always time to measure our kinship with Him. Now and always is the right moment to ask yourself, “Who is Jesus for me and mine?” Your answer measures your holiness. 

When Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter answers, “The Christ of God,” Jesus rebukes them all and orders them to keep this answer a secret. Having taken the measure of his disciples and heard their confession of faith, our Lord not only silences them, he also reveals to them his immediate future: suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection. Does he silence them b/c he fears too many will suffer and die along with him? Or does he demand they keep this secret so that his ministry might not be impeded by his enemies? Our Lord knows that to follow him is invites persecution. But following him also guarantees rescue. Following him guarantees death, but it also promises resurrection. Maybe he demands silence about his true identity b/c he knows that too many will too quickly chase after him and fail to soberly measure the consequences, fail to honestly take account of the sacrifices required to live the radical love that the Father demands of His children. If there is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to sow and a time to harvest, then there is a time to soberly, honestly measure who Christ is and who you are as his student in the school of charity. 

Friday is the traditional day in the Church calendar when we remember the crucifixion and examine our relationship in holiness with God. If sin measures our distance from God and obedience our nearness, then there is no better day to take account our of disobedience and give thanks for the nearness of His mercy. And there is no better way to accomplish this work of humility than to spend some time seriously contemplating our answer to the question, “Who do you say Jesus is?” For there to be any chance at all that he is the rock of your holiness, he must be—minimally—the one, the only one who suffered on the cross for you; died for you; and rose on the third day for you. Whatever else and whoever else he might be for you—enlightened master, social justice icon, moral exemplar—he must be the Crucified Christ, the long-promised Messiah. Your faith in this truth is the unique measure of your holiness. Not the only measure to be sure but the one that gives all other measures their scale. I dare you: examine your day—your thoughts, words, deeds—and ask yourself before you fall asleep: seeing and hearing me today, is there anyone out there b/c of me who loves God more now than they did when they woke up this morning? 

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

27 September 2012


Why no homily today?

Well, there was a homily. . .just no homily text.

I celebrated the School Mass at 8.30am.  Because I didn't read the liturgy prep sheet closely enough, I thought it was a K-7th grade Mass.

Prepared a homily mostly for the younger kids.  Oops.  It was a 6th-7th grade Mass, so I had to shift gears pretty quickly.

Ah well, Jesus is keeping me on my toes!

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

26 September 2012

A small box with a BIG surprise!

Just opened a box from Summit, NJ. . .something about Soap on the return address label. . .

(sniffing suspiciously). . .nothing, no scent.  Hmmmmmm. . .

Unscented soap maybe.  Maybe a box set of that 70's soap opera parody, Soap?

Lots of packing peanuts all over the floor.  

Wait.  A booklet?  Something by some guy named Louie de Monfort.  And a whole bunch of pamphlets urging me to test my vocation as a nun!

There's a big wad of what looks like wooden pebbles at the bottom of the box. . .


It's a 20 decade, corded rosary with wooden beads!  YEA!

The awesome Dominican Nuns of Summit, NJ made a new habit rosary for me.

Thanks, Sisters.  I was having a bad day 'til about three minutes ago.  As the kids say these days, "You Rock!"


No, no.  I'm not crying.  One of those packing peanuts hit me in the eye.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe

Take nothing on the journey. . .

25th Week OT (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Dominican friars are itinerant mendicants, that is, wandering beggars. Nowadays, we are a little more sophisticated than our 13th century brothers about how we beg and wander but we still do both. Despite this tradition, I'm a terrible beggar and an even worse traveler. Between June and October of 2009—while studying in Rome, teaching in Dallas, and retreating in Oxford—I traveled approx. 12,647 miles by car, train, and plane. For an Ample Friar, such as myself, this is a feat requiring endurance, patience, and lots of clean sweat rags. Every time I started to pack my three suitcases to catch yet another flight, I would remind myself of Jesus' admonition to his newly minted apostles, “Take nothing for the journey neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, [nor] a second tunic.” Well, fine; he didn't say anything about a laptop, a Kindle, a CPAP machine, books, or a credit card. Am I missing his point? Yes, and probably missing it deliberately. When we go out there to take Christ to the world what do we take with us? What should we leave behind? Traveling light to preach the Good News means traveling with nothing but his Light. It means leaving behind anything that can dim the Light of Christ. 

 Jesus instructs his apostles, “Take nothing for the journey. . .” He could've said, “You will be given everything you need on the Way.” There's no need to take anything on the apostolic journey b/c God will provide everything you need when you need it. Anything more than you need is an unnecessary burden, a potential distraction, and likely to get in the way of shining out Christ's light. How much time and energy do we spend maintaining and replacing our stuff? Think about the time you spend taking care of a house, a yard, a car, a wardrobe, credit card statements, daily menus for yourself and your family, entertainment, shopping, running minor errands, time on the job—a job that you need in order to pay for all that stuff. If you had none of that to do, what would you do? In that question we hear one of the best reasons for entering the religious life, for becoming a friar, a sister, a nun, or a monk: fewer things to worry about means more time to be an apostle for Christ, more time and energy to preach, teach, serve, and pray. But what does “take nothing for the journey” mean to a Catholic who's not called to religious life, to a Catholic who's called to be an apostle out in the world? What does Jesus instruct you to leave behind? 

Every follower of Christ is sent into the world to give witness to the Good News. Paul tells us that “each is graced according to the measure of Christ's gift.” Each of us, in other words, is gifted and sent by the one-for-all Gift of Christ himself. Anything that diminishes that gift, that obstructs the mission is to be left behind. So the question is: what do you possess that prevents you or discourages you from following Christ as his apostle in the world? It might be a thing, a person, an attitude, or a habitual sin. Whatever it is, leave it behind. Do not take it with you. You don't need it. Literally, you do not need a distraction, an obstacle, or a burden in order to accomplish the mission you've been given, the mission you have accepted. Anything and everything you need to be a witness to the Good News will be given to you when you need it. Believing that and acting on that belief is more than a “leap of faith”; it's an act of true humility, a powerful sign that you are ready and willing to submit yourself to God's divine providence in His service. Take nothing on the journey and let His word be a lamp for your feet! 

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

25 September 2012

States and Markets. . .a via media?

Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield gave a post-Red Mass talk to an assembly of lawyers and judges.  In that talk he used a paragraph from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church to criticize the commonly held belief among "social justice" Catholics that a preferential option for the poor necessarily entails opting for expensive, wasteful, bureaucratic institutions that tend to thrive quite well on the very problem they were created to solve.

Here's the two paragraphs in full (italics in the original): 

354. The State can encourage citizens and businesses to promote the common good by enacting an economic policy that fosters the participation of all citizens in the activities of production. Respect of the principle of subsidiarity must prompt public authorities to seek conditions that encourage the development of individual capacities of initiative, autonomy and personal responsibility in citizens, avoiding any interference which would unduly condition business forces.

With a view to the common good, it is necessary to pursue always and with untiring determination the goal of a proper equilibrium between private freedom and public action, understood both as direct intervention in economic matters and as activity supportive of economic development. In any case, public intervention must be carried out with equity, rationality and effectiveness, and without replacing the action of individuals, which would be contrary to their right to the free exercise of economic initiative. In such cases, the State becomes detrimental to society: a direct intervention that is too extensive ends up depriving citizens of responsibility and creates excessive growth in public agencies guided more by bureaucratic logic than by the goal of satisfying the needs of the person.

As usual, the Church's magisterium guides us through the mire to an equitable, sensible via media that avoids the totalitarianism of the Nanny State and the social irresponsibility of the Lone Wolf markets.  To my mind, both extremes work overtime to render the individual blameless for the  excesses that inevitably result from collectivism and personal atomism. 

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

Click on St. Martin and donate to the Dominicans!  ----->

24 September 2012

3 Elements of the New Evangelization

I've been banging on these three points in my homilies lately. . .I'm sure you've noticed. . .(ahem). Anyway, here they are in a more concise form from Crdl. Wuerl:

Three Core Elements of the New Evangelization  

During the Christ Our Life Conference, we heard Cardinal Wuerl outline what he sees as the three core elements of the new evangelization. We’ve distilled them here in our own words.

1. Renewal of our own faith. This has to happen both intellectually and affectively — both in our heads and hearts. Catechesis is essential; we must know what the Church teaches and why. But just knowing the teachings won’t bring us into a relationship with Jesus. We must increase our desire to enter into a deep, intimate, lasting communion with God made flesh.

2. Stand in the Truth. At the end of the Bread of Life discourse in John 6 when so many of Jesus’ disciples walked away, Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Peter answered for all of us who believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. The surest way to encounter Jesus is through His Church, in the Eucharist. This is the teaching of our Church. We must stand in that teaching with a fresh confidence to boldly proclaim it, knowing we stand in the truth.

3. Share this Truth with others. Just as so many of Jesus’ disciples walked away in the Gospel, a similar scene continues to play out in present day. Roughly 20-million Americans who identify themselves as ex-Catholics have effectively abandoned Jesus, most often unknowingly. It is our mission to bring Jesus back to them. Very often, they are friends and family who we know and love deeply. Live the faith at all times because you never know who might be evangelized simply by your presence.

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

Click on St. Martin and donate to the Dominicans! ----->

Don't just stand there. . .Shine!

25th Week OT (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Think for a moment about your daily witness to Christ and his Good News of God's mercy to sinners. If asked—and we will be asked—what you have done in your life to bring others to Christ, what can you say? Did you speak out for justice when injustice sought to rule? Did you speak out for truth when lies threatened to poison us all? Did you defend freedom when the rulers of this world lusted for more power? Mostly importantly, did you stand with Christ and shine his light against the Enemy and his consuming darkness? Jesus says, “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel. . .rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.” Taking the principal elements of this parable, let's ask ourselves: Am I the light, the vessel, or the lampstand? In other words, daily, hourly, do I shine out Christ's light for the benefit of others? Or do I work hard to conceal Christ's light so that only I may use it? Or do I just stand there doing much of nothing, supporting whatever happens to be placed on me? When asked—and you will be asked—what you have done in your life to bring others to Christ? Remember: “there is. . .nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.” 

So, are you the light, the vessel, or the lampstand? Do you let Christ's light shine; do you hide it; or do you just stand there? If you are like most faithful Catholics, you probably do a little of each. None of us is a saint yet and none of us is truly lost. We shine a little. We hide a little. And we're pretty good at just standing in the corner doing much of nothing. What does Christ have to say about this? “To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” We've all heard the gospel and accepted the truth of God's mercy to sinners. Knowing this truth is both a burden and gift. We're burdened with an obligation to give witness to our freedom in Christ. That we are freed from sin and growing in love is not a secret we can keep hidden. But we are also gifted by this burden b/c God's love for us all is perfected in its sharing. We have what we need and more will be given. For those who have not yet received what they need—Christ's light—all that they think they have will be taken away. We are charged with making sure that Christ's light shines as brightly and as constantly as it can. Every living soul deserves to see his light, every living soul deserves to hear the good news of God's mercy. 

We read in Proverbs, “Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in your power to do it for him.” Christ died once for all. Sin and death are defeated. Defeated for the benefit of all. Every man, woman, and child on the planet has a claim on the universal good of Christ's sacrifice. And it is within our power to see that this good is not only made known but freely offered. Therefore, we cannot refuse the good gift of God's mercy to anyone. What you have done in your life to shine out Christ's light? It is not enough to receive God's gift of mercy and then hide it away, hoard it for yourself. Nor is it enough to just stand there like a sturdy table and wait to be put to use. To switch parables: you don't put on the yoke of Christ b/c you like the look, or b/c you have nothing better to do. When you put on his yoke, you mean to work and work hard. His yoke is easy b/c Christ always works with us, but work is work, and it must be done for the salvation of the world. Set your heart and mind to being the light of Christ. Don't hide. Don't just stand there. Shine! And more will be given to you. 

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

Click on St. Martin and donate to the Dominicans!

23 September 2012

Why no more politics?

My abrupt declaration--No More Politics--needs some explanation. . .

During several recent discussions about the upcoming election, I found myself becoming increasingly cynical and angry about the current state of American politics.  

Every conversation quickly falls into a scripted high school drama.  Same props.  Same clumsy staging.  Same bad actors.  Same lame director and playwright.  Over and over and over again.  The. Same. Old. Lines.  

I also found myself jumping almost immediately into questioning my discussion partner's motives for holding his/her particular views as well as doubting their good will.  Can we all say, "Lack of charity"?

Two minutes into the conversation and we're getting nasty; I mean, really nasty.  Not obscene, of course, but accusatory and dismissive.  This is not how a Dominican "theologian" and philosopher should engage in a disputatio.

It started to feel to me like the Bad Old Days of lit grad school when we made a sport of ripping each other to shreds over asinine things like one's preference for a certain kind of poetry or literary theory. Many friendships and professional relationships were ended, for example, over whether or not critical-literary theory had a legitimate place in literary studies.  

Basically, I'm an idealist with a strong attachment to reality as it is.  This is a deadly combo b/c it leads very easily to cynicism. Politics is no place for an idealist who flirts with despair.  

So. . .I'm out. 

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

Click on St. Martin and donate to the Dominicans! ----->