05 January 2013


My thanks to M.R. for sending me two volumes of fra. Adian Nichols' four volume set, The Year of the Lord's Favour: A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy

These will be very useful in preparing homilies and in any future teaching positions I might occupy.

Fr. Philip Neri, OP

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In deed and truth, love

St. John Neumann
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

On Christmas day 2012, an on-line petition appeared on the White House website, calling on the president to declare the Catholic Church a “hate group.” The petition was posted as a response to Holy Father's Christmas address to the College of Cardinals. In part, the petition reads, “Pope Benedict said that gay people starting families are threatening to society, and that gay parents objectify and take away the dignity of children. . .The Pope also implied that gay families are sub-human, as they are not dignified in the eyes of God.” You will not be surprised to hear that the Holy Father said no such thing and that the hate-mongering charge against the Church is false to its core. So, why was this petition posted? It's mostly an intimidation tactic aimed at silencing Catholic opposition to same-sex marriage. But the spirit motivating the petition goes well beyond the politics of the culture wars. John writes that Cain murdered Abel b/c Abel's works were righteous while he own were evil. He says, “Do not be amazed, then, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.” Don't be surprised when your love for God and your pursuit of righteousness drives the powers of this world to loathe you. Evil always responds to rejection with hatred and violence. 

How do we—imperfect followers of Christ—respond to the hatred and violence of evil? John writes, “The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us. . .Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” Love Himself laid down his life for us so that we might not only love him perfectly in turn but do so by loving one another as he loves us. The only proper response to the violence and hatred of evil is to love in deed and truth; that is, to draw upon the love Christ revealed to us in his sacrificial death on the cross: to die for one another as brothers and sisters, to die in love even for those who call us their enemies. John is crystal clear about this: “Whoever does not love remains in death.” It might help for us to remember that God—Love Himself—spoke the Word across the void to create in love everything that is. Evil is the void, that nothingness from the beginning, that longs for the corruption and destruction of all that God creates. Just as Love Himself filled the void with His creating love, so we too must fill the vacant spirits of human evil with the love Christ reveals on his cross. 

How do we accomplish this? Argument, rhetoric, snarky bumper stickers, nor well-intentioned laws can help us love as Christ loves us nor can they show those possessed by a spirit of violence and hatred the way out of evil. When Jesus finds Philip in Galilee, he says to him, “Follow me.” Philip tells Nathanael that he has found the Messiah, but Nathanael wonders if this is true. Philip answers in the only way he can: “Come and see.” In essence, Philip answers Nathanael's skepticism by saying, “Follow me and see for yourself that the Messiah is among us.” This is how we show those possessed by the spirits of violence and hatred how to be free of the void that's trapped them, “Follow me to Christ and see what love has done for us all.” Those who hate us b/c we love God and seek righteousness need our sacrificial love more than anyone. And we need—more than anything else—to love them. Loving those who love us is good, but what credit is it us to love the loving? We are charged to love in deed and truth, meaning our love is not to be compromised by fudging the truth for comfort's sake. We cannot love while lying about the truth of the faith nor can we honestly say, “Come and see” if what we have to show is false. The only answer to this world's violent hatred of truth and goodness is a loving soul's death for sake of righteousness. 

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04 January 2013

Our Ruin & Repair

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Finding useful solutions to life's little problems is mostly about knowing the nature of your problems. How do you know that you've found a useful solution if you don't understand the problem? A corollary to this: finding what you seek is mostly about knowing what you are looking for. How do you know that you've found what you've been looking for if you don't know what it is you are looking for in the first place? These two rather obvious observations lead us to conclude that living life in this world is an adventure in asking the right questions so that we recognize the answers when we find them. Thus, when Jesus notices two of John's disciples stalking him, he asks, “What are you looking for?” Well, obviously, they are looking for him. Why else would they start stalking him? As Jesus walks by John and his disciples, John says of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Here, walking by, John proclaims, is the answer you've been seeking all your lives. Jesus is the answer, your answer. Now, what is the question, your question, that Jesus answers? 

Imagine you are standing just a few feet away from the scene described in this morning's gospel. You see John the Baptist and two of his many disciples hanging around talking. Then this famous preacher, Jesus of Nazareth, walks by and John—himself a famous preacher—shouts, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” John's disciples are startled at first but quickly collect themselves and start following after Jesus. Just as they walk out of earshot, you faintly hear one of the disciples ask Jesus, “Teacher, where are you staying?” And Jesus answers, “Come and you will see.” The whole exchange takes less than a minute but that's long enough for you to wonder: were John's disciples looking for this “Lamb of God” person? John's emphatic proclamation would seem to indicate that they were and then they fall in with Jesus to follow him. What message is this Jesus guy preaching, a message that draws John's disciples away from him? You soon realize that this little scene has done more than strike your curiosity. Now you're trapped asking your own questions about what it means to be the Lamb of God, and how a man can be called such a thing. Lambs of God are sacrificed in the temple for the remission of sin. The whole thing is at once confusing and intriguing. And your questions just keep piling up. Then the Big Question hits you, “What am I looking for?” 

If you are a follower of Christ, you follow The Answer. You've found what you seek; you've found your solution. That part was easy. The more difficult task is searching out and discovering the problem that the Christ solves. You might wonder: if I've found my solution in Christ, why bother with understanding the problem he solves? To fully grasp a solution, to fully understand an answer, it's necessary to understand the true nature of the problem; otherwise, you may never fully appreciate or wisely use the solution you've found. For all of creation, the Christ solves the problem of a broken relationship with the Creator. For us human creatures, as a whole, the Christ solves the problem of sin by making it possible for us to live again in original justice with the Father; that is, the death and resurrection of the long-awaited Messiah repairs the disease of original sin universally, for all. So the better question is: what habit or attitude prevents you from following Christ the Answer to the best of your ability? Perhaps the best way—and ironically so—to figure this out is to follow Christ the Answer to the best of your imperfect ability and let your walk with him reveal the very problems he is sent to solve. What are we looking for? Our ruin and its repair.*

* The contemporary American poet, Eric Pankey, in a poem titled, “Prayer,” asks this question: “What do you love better: the ruin or its repair/Desire’s affliction or fire’s harsh sacrament?”

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03 January 2013

Arrival: Big Easy

Made it back to Nawlins' a few minutes ago.

Had a quiet, restful time with the Parentals and extended family.

God bless your New Year!

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01 January 2013

Defining "Mary, Mother of God"

Doing my Dominican Duty: providing historical/intellectual ammo for any struggle you might have with fundamentalist relatives over the holidays!

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."

Cyril 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.

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30 December 2012

Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty

From the USCCB: Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty

Join the Movement

  • What: The U.S. bishops have approved a pastoral strategy to advance a Movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty. It is essentially a call to prayer, penance, and sacrifice for the sake of renewing a culture of life, marriage, and religious liberty in our country. Click here for a one-page handout about the Call to Prayer that is suitable for use as a bulletin insert or flyer.
Unprecedented challenges call for increased awareness and formation, as well as spiritual stamina and fortitude among the faithful.
  • Why: The well-being of society requires that life, marriage, and religious liberty are promoted and protected. Serious threats to each of these goods, however, have raised unprecedented challenges to the Church and to the nation. Two immediate flashpoints are the following:

    First is the HHS Mandate, which requires almost all employers, including Catholic employers, to pay for employees' contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs regardless of conscientious objections. This is a clear affront to America's first freedom, religious liberty, as well as to the inherent dignity of every human person.

    Second, current trends in both government and culture are moving toward redefining marriage as the union of any two persons, ignoring marriage's fundamental meaning and purpose as the universal institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with the children born from their union. These challenges call for increased awareness and formation, as well as spiritual stamina and fortitude among the faithful, so that we may all be effective and joyful witnesses of faith, hope and charity. 
  • When: In this Year of Faith, starting on the feast of the Holy Family (Dec. 30, 2012) until the feast of Christ the King (Nov. 24, 2013)
  • Who: All of the Catholic faithful are encouraged to participate
  • Where: Throughout the entire country; at your local parish, cathedral, school or home
 How To Participate: 5 Ways:

1. Host or attend a Eucharistic Holy Hour on the last Sunday of each month
2. Pray a daily Rosary
3. Prayers of the Faithful at daily and Sunday Masses
4. Abstain from meat on Fridays and fast on Fridays
  • For the intention of the protection of life, marriage and religious liberty
  • The practice of fasting: The general practice of fasting allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one full meal.
  • "The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church's penitential practice." - Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1438
  • For more information on fasting and abstinence, see the USCCB Fast & Abstinence page
5. Participate in the 2nd Fortnight for Freedom (June/July 2013)
  • Goal: A visible, vibrant reminder of the God-given nature of religious liberty, the right to bring our faith into the public square, and the rights of individuals and institutions to conduct their professional lives according to their religious convictions
  • Key issue: Potential Supreme Court rulings on marriage in June 2013
  • Key issue: The need for conscience protection in light of the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate
  • Key issue: Religious liberty concerns in other areas, such as immigration, adoption, and humanitarian services

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Holy Families Meditation

From 2009:

Something to think about on this Holy Family Sunday. . .

Trinitarian Family:  Father, Son, Holy Spirit

Holy Family:  Jesus, Mary, Joseph

Eschatological Family:  Christ & Church

Social Family: Individual, family, State*

Ecclesial Family:  Bishop, priest, deacon, laity

Domestic Family:  Mom, Dad, kids, etc.

Individual Family:  body, soul, spirit

Now, starting at the top with the Trinitarian Family, move down the list of families and mediate on how each familial relationship is a more perfect relationship than the one below it.**

Then, starting at the bottom with the Individual Family, move up the list of families and mediate on how each familial relationship is an imperfect reflection of the one above it.

How does the more perfect familial relationships help perfect/complete the imperfect/incomplete familial relationships?

Report your findings.

*I added this one after getting feedback from knowledgeable HA readers.
** "more perfect" here is a way of saying "more complete given X's telos"

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