20 February 2016

Dominicans in the South

If you have been a faithful reader of Domine, da mihi hanc aquam over the years, please consider giving to the 1216 Campaign.

The 1216 Campaign is the province's annual appeal for funds to help us continue our preaching ministry in the South.

By far our largest on-going expense is the education of our younger friars in St. Louis, MO.

Clerical student brothers spend an average of six years in studies before ordination to the priesthood. 

Co-operator student brothers spend the same amount of time in studies before entering full-time ministry.  

We need your help!

If you can help, please do. If you do help, please put my name in the box labeled "Request Made By."

God bless, Fr. Philip Neri, OP

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Love calling us into vast distances

Province of St. Martin de Porres 2016 Lenten Reflection
Saturday of the 1st Week of Lent
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Deut 26:16-19 / Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8 2 / Matt 5:43-48

"It is also good to love: because love is difficult . . . it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances." - R. M. Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, no. 7, 1904.

Love ain't easy. I mean, the sort of love that demands that we not only think and will the good of another but that we also do the good for them. It is difficult enough sometimes to love those we are hard-wired to love - mom, dad, brothers, sisters, our children. And those we have chosen to love - friends, wives, husbands. But for Christ to lay on us the near-impossible task of loving those who hate us, who seek to hurt us . . . well, that is just sacrificial.

And it is meant to be a sacrificial demand, a demand that requires sacrifice. What do we have to sacrifice to will and do the good for our enemies? At the very least, we must sacrifice the very notion that we can have enemies. Others can hate us. Seek to harm us. We may be enemies for them, but they can only be enemies for us if we return their hatred and seek to harm them.

Jesus denounces the habit of loving only those who love us in return. He asks, "Do not the pagans do the same?" Lent is a time of repentance and sacrifice. What better season to examine closely not only who we love but also how we love? Ask yourself: what is specifically Christ-like about the way I love? Is my love nurturing my growth in holiness? Is my love leading me to daily conversion, to the Way of the Cross?


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14 February 2016

Don't play the Devil's games. . .

1st Sunday of Lent
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

If you'll listen carefully, I'm going to reveal to you – tonight only! – the Guaranteed to Work Every Time Father Philip Neri Secret to Resisting Temptation. But you have to listen 'cause you might miss it. That's what our 1st Sunday of Lent Gospel reading is all about. . .resisting temptation, or rather not resisting temptation b/c there's nothing there to resist. There! Were you listening? Did you catch the secret? If not, don't worry, we'll come back to it. Our Mother, the Church, knows us well. She knows that just a few days into Lent and we are all already regretting our freely chosen penances. I think Lent must be the Devil's favorite liturgical season b/c he gets to prance around dangling forbidden goodies in our faces, trying to catch us out like carps on a hook. BUT if we listen carefully to Luke's telling our Lord's desert adventure with the Devil, we learn the secret of how to beat the King of Hell at his own game. Here's the secret again: nothing belongs to the Devil. . .he has no power to give us anything or to take anything away. Anything he can tempt us with already belongs to God, and as God's heirs, to us. The secret to resisting temptation is: don't. Don't resist. Don't play the Devil's Game of spiritual tug-of-war. Christ defeated Satan on the cross for us. Lent is our time to act like the spiritual winners we are!

Have any of you ever played tug-of-war with a dog? The dog fetches a stick. You take one end and pull as hard as you can while the dog growls and snorts and tugs in the opposite direction. Let's say, the dog wins, pulling the stick away from you. Then what happens? He trots over to you and offers you the stick again. If you are playing this game with a bulldog or a Labrador Retriever, the game can go on all afternoon. But what's the game. . .for the dog? The game is not Get the Stick and Win. For the dog, the game is Get the Human to Tug on the Stick. As long as you're picking up your end of the stick and pulling, the dog wins. The only way you win this game of Get the Human to Tug on the Stick is by not playing. Whether your efforts in the game are half-hearted and weak or manly and majestic, if you pick up the stick and pull. . .from the dog's perspective, you lose. Just to be clear: in this analogy, your dog is the Devil. The stick is the temptation the Devil uses to get you to play with him. And you. . .well, you're you. The moral of the analogy: if you never play with the Devil, you can never lose.

Jesus pretty much lays it all out for us during his forty days in the desert. At first it might appear that the Devil is tempting Christ with food, power and wealth, and pride. Not so. The Devil is using food, power and wealth, and pride as the stick, trying to get Jesus to play a devilish version of tug-of-war. Jesus doesn't pick up the stick. Why? Because he knows that everything the Devil is offering him already belongs to his Father. The Devil has nothing to give. The Devil tips his hand when he says to Jesus, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” And there's the trap. The Devil is a liar. Nothing has been handed over to him. . .except what we ourselves have freely handed over to him in exchange for . . .well, in exchange for nothing. When we choose to play the Devil's tug-of-war, we lose. What does he win? He keeps us occupied with playing his games, so we aren't praying, fasting, giving alms. We aren't preaching and teaching the Good News. We aren't bearing witness to the Father's infinite mercy. What are we doing instead? It would appear that we are mightily resisting temptation, growing in holiness. In fact, the Devil has us hooked like a carp.

I know all this sounds odd. Almost exactly the opposite of what we've always been told about how to confront the temptation to sin. But look at our example in the desert, Christ. He's not writhing around on the ground, trying to fend off the smell of freshly baked bread. He's not drooling at the prospect of ruling all the nations on earth. He's not puffed up with pride, knowing that he has an army of angels ready to defend his life. Christ doesn't resist these temptations b/c he knows that there is nothing there to resist. The Devil is a liar and thief. And he exposes his own lies when he offers Jesus the world in exchange for his worship. What the Devil wants is for us to play his games and turn our inheritance to his service. He cannot make bread. But he can tempt us to turn food, water, shelter, etc. to serve his diabolical ends. He has no wealth or power, but he can tempt us to turn our wealth and power to his ends, using them both to undermine the Father's kingdom. The Devil has his own army of angels, but they serve him out of fear and self-loathing. They chose at the moment of the creation to worship him instead of their Creator. What did they get in return? Nothing. That's what we get when we play the Devil's games.

So, what do you do when the Devil comes around making promises in exchange for your time and energy as his minion? Remember what Paul writes to the Romans: “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” You have the Word on your tongue. Speak it! Jesus is Lord! What does the Lord do when the Devil presents his non-existent temptations? He quotes Scripture. Why? Not b/c Scripture is some sort of magical spell that repels the Devil, but b/c Scripture speaks the Truth, the Word. And the believer is made bold and strong in the Word. As heirs to the Father's kingdom, his sons and daughter by adoption through Christ, we have everything we need to come to our perfection. We have the victory of the Cross over sin and death. We don't have to sin; we don't have to die. We have the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit sent to us at Pentecost. We have the guarantees of the sacraments. We have Christ's promise that his Church will never be defeated. We have all that need. There is literally nothing no-thing in the created universe that the Devil can offer us in exchange for our allegiance. Nothing. Because nothing is all he has.

So, how does the story of Christ's forty days in the desert end? Luke writes, “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from [Jesus] for a time.” For a time. He'll be back. He always comes back. If and when he visits you, remind him that he has nothing, that he is nothing. Lay claim to Christ's victory on the Cross. And do not play his game.

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