Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
thank you for giving me
a mind that can know
and a heart that can love.
Help me to keep learning every day of my life,
for all knowledge leads to you.
Let me be aware of your presence
in all things and at all times.
Encourage me when work is difficult
and when I am tempted to give up;
encourage me when my brain seems slow
and the way forward is difficult.
Grant me the grace to put my mind to use
exploring the world you have created,
confident that in you there a wisdom
that is real.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Emily Davis, Yfaith Project Coordinator, stated: "Engaging young people with the Bible can be a real challenge.
"Youth ministry is often about finding fun ways to explore faith, and that's what we're trying to do with the Bible Detectives' Quiz.
"It's really rewarding to see this age group grow in confidence in using their Bibles as they find out fun facts as well as key truths about their faith. The quiz is an ideal tool for evangelization."
The quiz, along with other resources on the Web site, is also offered to support catechists, youth workers, parents, grandparents and chaplains who work with this age group.
Schools and youth groups, as well as families, are encouraged to access these resources for initiating activities centered on the Word of God.
The story is here. Initiatives like this are great ways to get our kids looking at what God has to speak to them in His Word. See? It starts with cheese, then, before they know it, they are being fed in a whole new way!
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
So, imagine my joy when I saw this:
Map - check. Statistics - check. Religious overtone - check. Jackpot!
I don't know how a study like this can be conducted or measured and evaluated, but it is interesting. According to this data, I live in an envious, greedy, prideful, slothful and wrath-filled county. Well, five out of seven is not that bad, is it?
Monday, August 24, 2009
Bishops can be classified lots of ways, from the canonical (coadjutor, auxiliary, etc.) to the political (liberal, moderate or conservative). For those inclined to creativity, however, here’s a novel bit of taxonomy: The “Only Nixon could go to China” bishop, meaning a prelate able to say or do paradigm-changing things because nobody can question his credentials as a loyal man of the church.Increasingly, America’s premier example is Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore, a no-nonsense champion of Catholic doctrine and discipline, and someone who, in the words of Baltimore native and Catholic writer George Weigel, “would happily take a bullet for the church.” Consider how O’Brien has spent that capital:
- Veteran leader in seminary formation and a rock-solid theological conservative, O’Brien has demanded greater transparency and accountability from the Legionaries of Christ despite the order’s image as a favorite of the late Pope John Paul II.
- A former West Point chaplain and military archbishop with a hawkish reputation, O’Brien recently strode into the heart of the military establishment at the United States Strategic Command in Omaha, insisting upon the elimination of nuclear weapons.
- A one-time proponent of the death penalty, O’Brien now champions abolition -- talking about his conversion in a way that has prompted “soul-searching” among even the most conservative legislators, according to Mary Ellen Russell of the Maryland Catholic Conference. He’s also spoken passionately in defense of immigrants.
Delivered by someone else, these messages might be dismissed as liberal rants. Coming from O’Brien, they pack more punch -- in part because, as Fr. Tom Hurst, rector of the Sulpician-run St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and a longtime friend, says, “the words ‘O’Brien’ and ‘liberal’ don’t go in the same sentence.”
Despite the buzz around him these days, O’Brien insists he has no interest in celebrity: “I have enough to do without looking for headlines.” Just by being himself, however, he is rapidly becoming one of the more intriguing figures on the ecclesiastical landscape.
Respect does not come from doing what everyone wants; it comes from doing what is right.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
The man has just told us
that He has come down from heaven,
that we are to eat His flesh
and drink His blood
in order to have real life,
and He wonders if this shocks us?
I am shocked.
This is indeed hard to bear.
Why must He say all this?
We've been doing so well.
He's been doing so well.
teaching with authority
as if God's Word
Isn't the bread he gave us -
all 5,000 of us -
isn't that bread enough?
How does this One -
Whose very Word seems to embrace us -
this One -
Who has fed us along the way -
this One -
Who seems to enflesh the Word of God -
how does He
call us to this -
this meal of -
Unless this One is more than I see.
Unless He is Who He says He is?
And if so,
where else can I go?
"Do you also want to leave?" He asks.
I am shocked.
Not so much by his question,
by my answer -
born of a realization,
that if this Word can become Flesh
and dwell among us,
then He can also feed us
with that selfsame Flesh,
and give us life.
"Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life."
You are that Word;
that Life is mine.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
I've been roaming around"No one likes to be used," Marc began. And yet, that is exactly what God is asking of each of us - young and old, leaders and followers. God could use somebody. It is when we allow God to use us - to be His instruments - that we find our true meaning - our vocation. What does God want to do with me? I will never know until I allow Him to use me.
Always looking down at all I see
Painted faces, build the places I cant reach
You know that I could use somebody
You know that I could use somebody
Someone like you, And all you know, And how you speak
Countless lovers under cover of the street
You know that I could use somebody
You know that I could use somebody
Someone like you
Off in the night, while you live it up, I'm off to sleep
Waging wars to shape the poet and the beat
I hope it's gonna make you notice
I hope it's gonna make you notice
Someone like me
Someone like me
Someone like me, somebody
Someone like you, somebody
Someone like you, somebody
Someone like you, somebody
I've been roaming around,
Always looking down at all I see
In the bridge to this song they repeat, "I'm ready now. I'm ready now." We used that on our name tags - "I'm ready now." Ready for what? That's God's job!
Friday, August 21, 2009
Confused and concerned, Kardashian says, "I called my best friend crying, and I was like, 'I don't know what to do.' She said, 'Call your doctor, and at least find out the risks and stuff.' " So Kardashian discussed abortion with her physician, and then headed to the Internet to do further research.
"I looked online, and I was sitting on the bed hysterically crying, reading these stories of people who felt so guilty from having an abortion," she recalls. "I was reading these things of how many people are traumatized by it afterwards."
After scouring the Internet, Kardashian says she started to realize that an abortion wasn't an option for her. "I was just sitting there crying, thinking, 'I can't do that,' " she says. "And I felt in my body, this is meant to be. God does things for a reason, and I just felt like it was the right thing that was happening in my life."
Kardashian says she did some intense soul-searching. "For me, all the reasons why I wouldn't keep the baby were so selfish: It wasn't like I was raped, it's not like I'm 16. I'm 30 years old, I make my own money, I support myself, I can afford to have a baby. And I am with someone who I love, and have been with for a long time."
Although Kardashian sought out the advice of others, she says it was her decision – and hers alone – that was the most important.
"I really wanted to think it through for myself, and not hear what my sisters were saying, or what Scott was saying. Even though I took it all in, I wanted it to be my decision," she says. "My doctor told me there is nothing you will ever regret about having the baby, but he was like, 'You may regret not having the baby.' And I was like: That is so true. And it just hit me. I got so excited, and when I told Scott he was so excited. But I think if I had said I'm not going to keep it, I really think he would have pushed me into keeping it."
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter, famously known as "Rev. Ike," was anathema in our staunchly Roman Catholic New Orleans home.
To my parents, Daniel and Lillian Brown, he was a child of blasphemy, an enemy of all things good and true in the Catholic Church.
Nothing would peeve them more than to discover one of us Brown children secretly listening to a Rev. Ike broadcast on a transistor radio beneath our bed covers. In what appeared to be a swift, single motion, the covers would be yanked, the radio confiscated and turned off, and a slap administered to the buttocks.
"You will not listen to that trash!" my Dad shouted.
But I listened anyway. How could I not? Rev. Ike, who died July 28 in Los Angeles, was a black man who preached the "gospel of success and prosperity" and bragged that he had so many cars, BMW and Rolls-Royce models among them, "my garage runneth over."
The dude, God rest his soul, was totally cool to a car nut like me.
I remembered Rev. Ike last week while tooling about in a platinum bronze metallic 2009 BMW 328i convertible.
The good reverend would've liked that one with its hard-top, one-touch, power retractable roof and an interior done in saddle-brown and black Dakota leather with burl walnut accents. The car had the right amount of show -- good enough to attract attention and inspire emulation without igniting the destructive fires of jealously.
It mattered not to me that Rev. Ike was a despicable con artist, as my parents claimed, or a saint, as many of his followers believed. I always thought the man preached common sense -- that there is, for example, a dramatic difference between showing up in Bethlehem on the back of a donkey or behind the wheel of a BMW, Cadillac or Rolls-Royce.
Rev. Ike said that arriving in something like a BMW would have made a better impression. And although I have no comparable experience with four-legged donkeys, I agree.
Consider, for example, my test-driving experiences of past weeks. Preceding the BMW 328i convertible were a series of economy cars -- Hyundai Elantra Touring, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa -- all wonderfully noble in their frugality and humility, but not a single one of which inspired public notice or comment, good or bad.
Driving those cars was the motorized equivalent of being a character in Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man." People noticed you only if you got in their way. Those cars were very un-Ike-like.
Rev. Ike said preachers can't preach unless they first get attention. In that regard, he was short on miracles but long on cars. Everybody looked whenever Rev. Ike rolled up in one of his fancy rides. A lot of those people stayed around to listen, too.
Likewise was my experience in the BMW 328i convertible. When I told people I got good mileage in a Toyota Yaris, they all yawned. But when I told them I got 27 miles per gallon on the highway in the rear-wheel-drive, inline six-cylinder 230-horsepower 328i convertible, they applauded! And, lo! It mattered not that the thing required premium unleaded gasoline.
Instead, numerous spectators marveled over the ballet-like performance of the 328i convertible's automatically retractable hard top, urging me, "Do it again!" As Rev. Ike would say, they yearned for more "like manna from heaven."
I will miss Rev. Ike, as I miss my parents. Here's hoping that he and they find a quiet place to sit and talk in the afterlife and that, maybe, my Dad will learn that Rev. Ike wasn't such an awful influence on a boy who loved cars.
Rev 'em up!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
There is a growing desire among the young these days for a sense of the mystery and ritual that with which our faith is filled. However, they do not have the language or experience of ritual to help them process the experience of Mass or the sacraments. We need to regain the sense of "ritual" in our everyday lives in order to help others understand that God wishes to speak to us. When we can do that, it is not only in the ritual moments that we hear Him, but everywhere we are.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Melissa at Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer has blessed me with a surprise: the "Anti-Muffin" Award. It's another award that is intended to be paid forward for those who write what they believe and believe what they write, so thanks, Melissa! I will ponder to whom I should pass this along, but in the meantime, I will simply enjoy the anti-muffin (no calories, right?).
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Anyone that has driven in Baltimore City knows that the residents have a favorite hobby: walking or running in the middle of the street indiscriminately.
There can be minimal traffic or cars streaking down the street at 45 miles per hour. It doesn’t matter. People, for some reason, love just darting out in the middle of the road with little fear of the behemoths that are approaching.They seemingly don’t care.
Breaks squeal, people pound their steering wheels and then there’s the inevitable “Come on!”
It’s like the video game Frogger was based on Baltimore.
I was ready to yell several words, as I usually do, on Aug. 11. A hulking man dressed in a security guard uniform, about 100 feet away, ran across Monument Street near St. Ignatius Church.
I was mustering up the anger to yell and pound when I got to where the man stopped.
See his twist here.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Harry finally confronts Slughorn on the matter and calls him to be brave. The higher, common good of defeating evil had to be placed above his own pride. As he gives Harry the silvery strand of the true memory, he says, "You're a good boy. ... Just don't think too badly of me once you've seen it. ..."
When we've not acted according to our noblest abilities; when we've betrayed our better judgement; when something continues to weigh on our conscience, our natural, human inclination can be to hide what we've done - to deny it so that others think better of us. Guilt and shame can lead us into a dark place where we become prisoners of our own memory. No one else knows this. Only we have the ability to release ourselves, but it takes the bold step of recognizing that we are wrong. God offers us this opportunity through His mercy, and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we have the chance to recognize our failing and, more important, to be forgiven and begin anew. This step takes courage, it takes maturity; however, once made, this step can carry us out of our prison of memory and bring us into the light of a new life.
Slughorn carried that guilt out of fear for a long time. He would have continued to carry it if Harry had not urged him to "be brave." Once he did, his burden could be lifted, and not only that - his reconciliation had an effect for all who battle against evil. There is a communal effect to our own reconciliation - we help to build a world, once forgiven, that knows also how to forgive.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
One of the major thrusts of my work in youth ministry has been programs that foster leadership skills in our youth. For me, youth ministry is more than just eating pizza and watching movies with kids, while somehow tricking them into hearing about Jesus. Rather, I want them to know their faith and be set on fire for sharing it. That takes leadership on their part.
Scott Miller posted this tidbit for those working in youth ministry to ponder. I gratefully share it here.
Mark Sanborn is a leadership coach who wrote the excellent The Fred Factor. Recently, he posted some lessons either learned early (thankfully) or that he wished he had learned earlier (regrettably).
1. The responsibility and service of leadership always outweigh the recognition and status.
2. Responsibility is rewarding, but it isn’t about rewards
3. Anyone can lead but not everyone should lead. If you don’t have your heart in it, you’ll be mediocre at best.
4. Leadership doesn’t make a difference; leadership makes the difference, personally and organizationally.
5. Anything the leader does that benefits only him- or herself was done out of ambition; leadership done right benefits others as well.
6. Consensus building is harder but far more powerful than control.
7. Your impact will rarely be bigger than your vision.
8. People draw big conclusions for little gestures and interactions.
9. As John Maxwell says, “It shouldn’t be lonely at the top.” If it is, you’ve done something wrong getting to the top.
10. I learned from the autobiography of John Ashcroft that as a leader more people will befriend you than be your friend. Understanding the difference is critical.
11. The best way to gain cooperation is by asking, “How can I help you?”
12. Leaders make time for what’s important.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Let me share with you what Pope Benedict said about this gospel some years back, when he was still a theology teacher.
"[W]e have heard, in the reading from the Gospel of John, how at the very first advanced notice concerning the Eucharist people murmured and revolted against it. Since that time the murmurs have run down through the centuries, and in particular the Church of our own generation has been deeply hurt by them. We do not want God as near as that; we do not want him so small, humbling himself; we want him to be great and far away. Thus, questions arise, which are intended to show that his coming so near is impossible. ...After some reflections, he continues:
"[T]here naturally follows on last consideration. The Lord gives himself to us in bodily form. That is likewise why we must respond to him bodily. That means above all that the Eucharist must reach out beyond the limits of the church itself in the manifold forms of service to men and to the world. But it also means that our religion, our prayer, demands bodily expression. Because the Lord, the Risen One, gives himself to us in the Body, we have to respond in soul and body" (J. Ratzinger, "The Presence of the Lord in the Sacrament," in God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of the Church, pp. 75, 91).
Elijah ate in the desert because God has a mission for him; Jesus gives us Himself - the Bread from heaven - for the same end. Our mission from Christ is simple. The work of God, He said last week, is to believe in the One whom He sent. The payoff: I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; [because] the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Looking over my news briefs, I was happy to see that my Archbishop has something also to say about nuclear weapons. Here's some of what O'Brien has to say:
My task tonight is to reflect on the moral questions that face our nation and world as we seek to build lasting peace in the shadow of nuclear weapons with all their massive destructive potential. I have been asked to offer more challenge than comfort. This is not an easy role for me. Within our Bishops’ Conference I am often a defender of the proper role of military action and a skeptic of easy and naïve hopes. I know our world remains a dangerous place. I have been on battlefields. I know the moral struggles that come with battlefield decisions. But I also have great respect for military institutions and for the men and women who serve in them. In this talk I will offer hard questions and directions, not easy answers. I bring the voice of a pastor and teacher, not an expert analyst or policy maker.My reflections come out of the Catholic moral tradition, but many of the values and concerns that grow out of our faith tradition are shared by people of many religions and no religion at all. As the late Pope John Paul II stated when he addressed the United Nations on nuclear weapons over twenty-five years ago, the Catholic Church strives to echo the "moral conscience of humanity, a conscience illumined and guided by Christian faith, …but which is … nonetheless profoundly human" and "shared by all men and women of sincerity and good will."
The real risks inherent in nuclear war make the probability of success elusive. In his 2006 World Day of Peace Message, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: "What can be said … about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries? Along with countless persons of good will, one can state that this point of view is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims." ...
In Catholic moral teaching, the end does not justify the means, but the end can and should inform the means. The moral end we seek ought to shape the means we use. When it comes to issues of war and peace, and nuclear weapons and deterrence, the end is the protection of the life and dignity of the human person through defending the tranquility of order. Tranquillitas ordinis is peace built on justice and charity. ...
So in this moral analysis of nuclear weapons and deterrence, let us start with the end and work backwards. The moral end is clear: a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons. This goal should guide our efforts. Every nuclear weapons system and every nuclear weapons policy should be judged by the ultimate goal of protecting human life and dignity and the related goal of ridding the world of these weapons in mutually verifiable ways.
It will not be easy. Nuclear weapons can be dismantled, but both the human knowledge and the technical capability to build weapons cannot be undone. A world with zero nuclear weapons will need robust measures to monitor, enforce and verify compliance. The path to zero will be long and treacherous. But humanity must walk this path with both care and courage in order to build a future free of the nuclear threat.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Now you won't be so lost in religion class!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Then let us ask ourselves: "What precisely does "to evangelize' mean for priests? What does the "primacy' of proclamation consist in?". Jesus speaks of the proclamation of the Kingdom of God as the true purpose of his coming into the world and his proclamation is not only a "discourse". At the same time it includes his action: the signs and miracles that he works show that the Kingdom comes into the world as a present reality which ultimately coincides with Jesus himself. In this sense it is only right to recall that even in the primacy of proclamation, the word and the sign are indivisible. Christian preaching does not proclaim "words", but the Word, and the proclamation coincides with the very Person of Christ, ontologically open to the relationship with the Father and obedient to his will. Thus, an authentic service to the Word requires of the priest that he strive for deeper self-denial, to the point that he can say, with the Apostle, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me". The priest cannot consider himself "master" of the Word, but its servant. He is not the Word but, as John the Baptist, whose birth we are celebrating precisely today, proclaimed, he is the "voice" of the Word: "the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Mk 1: 3).
For the priest, then, being the "voice" of the Word is not merely a functional aspect. On the contrary, it implies a substantial "losing of himself" in Christ, participating with his whole being in the mystery of Christ's death and Resurrection: his understanding, his freedom, his will and the offering of his body as a living sacrifice (cf. Rm 12: 1-2). Only participation in Christ's sacrifice, in his kenosis, makes preaching authentic! And this is the way he must take with Christ to reach the point of being able to say to the Father, together with Christ: let "not what I will, but what you will" be done (Mk 14: 36). Proclamation, therefore, always involves self-sacrifice, a prerequisite for its authenticity and efficacy.
The saintly Curé d'Ars would often say with tears in his eyes: "How dreadful it is to be a priest!". And he would add: "How a priest who celebrates Mass like an ordinary event is to be pitied! How unfortunate is a priest with no inner life!". May the Year for Priests lead all priests to identify totally with the Crucified and Risen Jesus so that, in imitation of St John the Baptist, they may be prepared to "shrink" that Christ may grow and that, in following the example of the Curé d'Ars, they feel constantly and profoundly the responsibility of their mission, which is the sign and presence of God's infinite mercy. Let us entrust to Our Lady, Mother of the Church, the Year for Priests which has just begun and all the priests of the world.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Pope Benedict writes in Caritas in Veritate,
Charity in truth feeds on hope and, at the same time, manifests it. As the absolutely gratuitous gift of God, hope bursts into our lives as something not due to us, something that transcends every law of justice. Gift by its nature goes beyond merit, its rule is that of superabundance. It takes first place in our souls as a sign of God's presence in us, a sign of what he expects from us. Truth — which is itself gift, in the same way as charity — is greater than we are, as Saint Augustine teaches. Likewise the truth of ourselves, of our personal conscience, is first of all given to us. In every cognitive process, truth is not something that we produce, it is always found, or better, received. Truth, like love, “is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings”. Because it is a gift received by everyone, charity in truth is a force that builds community, it brings all people together without imposing barriers or limits (n. 34).The idea of the gratitousness of hope, charity and truth is one that the pope says ought to drive our interactions with others - particularly in this age of globalization, when our world is more and more connected. It is this charity in truth, he says, that turns those connections into community. Jasmine's generosity arose from the gratuitousness of who she was - from her own "superabundance." We all have been handed these gifts - having done nothing to earn them. They are ours nevertheless. We, in turn, are called by that same charity in truth to share with others in the gratuity of community.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
The readings this weekend are full of offers - promises of God to His beloved people. Just last week, we heard about Jesus' wonderful miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. The people, whose bellies were now full of barley loaves and telapia meat, now followed after Jesus, looking for more because they had been fed. They were hungry still - hungry spiritually - and they knew that Jesus could feed them. And so, Jesus makes them an offer - a promise of food that will endure for eternal life; food that "gives life to the world."
The Israelites in our First Reading were also hungry, to the point of complaining. Even though they had seen God's mighty power and love for them in the desert at the Red Sea, they still grumbled like fickle children along with their growling stomachs. Perhaps they were wondering, "Well God, what have you done for us lately?" And God hears their complaint and promises that they will eat bread and flesh, and He feeds them.
We too gather here, today, and we are hungry - not only physically but spiritually. This is a very common feeling today among many people - young and old, rich and poor. In a world where we are bombarded with images and "needs" from media and advertisement, where materialism runs rampant and we feel that empty hole inside us getting bigger, it is no wonder that we reach out for something to fill it.
There are many ways in which we try to fill that spiritual void. Some turn to drugs and alcohol; some turn to gathering more and more possessions; others try to satisfy themselves with unhealthy relationships; and still others turn to New Age techniques. However, all of these things fail to satisfy us, and we are left, again, searching for more. Why? Because, ultimately, they are not grounded in that which we truly need: a real, sustained relationship with the God who loves us and nourishes us with Himself.
Today, God asks us to trust Him. He tells the Israelites to go and gather only what they need for a day - believing that God will also provide for them tomorrow. The people who have listened to Jesus speak say, "Give us this bread always." Jesus says, "Come to me and never hunger; believe in me and never thirst."
Jesus makes the same promise to us today. We come here to Him with our spiritual needs, and He will feed them, because He is the Bread of Life. With Him, we need not worry about tomorrow because He is enough, and in His love He feeds us in this Eucharist.
Today, as we come forth to receive Jesus - the Bread of Life - I want you all to be aware of two very important things:
God loves you - more than anything -
and you're gonna live forever.
If you get a better offer than that, take it. ... But I don't think you will.