Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Song At The Stroke Of Midnight

It is truly a time to celebrate, reminisce, and rejoice.  Hopefully you will have some kind of singing voice tonight. However well you sound, may you join in the verses and chorus of  Robert Burns' poem:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wandered mony a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

May our eternal God grace the new year with abundant love, peace, and joy. May the coming twelve months bring you closer to Him and those you love. May riches in whatever form come your way and be spread to others.

Happy New Year, Everybody!

Last Day's Last Word

If you are any kind of regular visitor to my infinitesimal corner of the universe, you may recall I have two sentences I use frequently to give a broad description of the happenings in my life.  One is, "The status quo is status quo," meaning nothing has really changed. The other is, "Go Forward," a motto I have adopted almost since the beginning of this 'blog as a source of focus and motivation. Obviously with the latter there is always the opportunity to compare and contrast where you were at a specific "then" and "now". How fitting on the final day of 2014 I chose to do that.

As for the state of my state, the status quo is status quo. While opportunities have come and gone the past twelve months (most of them going without any mention of their leaving), I can take comfort in the fact I am still willing to battle. A long time ago a distant cousin once mentioned to me I wasn't a quitter. While I may be more selective in my skirmishes, it still holds true. The vast majority of the frustration is found in the lack of progress in securing a full-time job and the reluctant acceptance of the "don't call us, we'll call you" attitude of whoever does the hiring. When it comes to the job search, silence is deadly. Sometimes, you can't "Go Forward" unless you are invited.

At times, this makes me wonder if God has abandoned me on this cross. The cry of my soul saying, "What do You want" grows louder with each passing moment, hopefully not creating a white noise which does not allow me to listen to the reply. Discouragement is one step removed from despair, which is one step away from sloth. That is definitely not "Going Forward".

Yet, I do realize I have been blessed. I am longing for Heaven while still here on Earth and not some "where" else. My prayer life, while still spotty, is still there. The injunction to "pray and work" is still a grace I embrace and need to more. Perhaps I need to find better soil for the seeds to be planted.

I am in a position of having an open hand and not a closed fist. There is comfort without being comfortable. Filled, but still hungry. Having, but still wanting. The Augustinian restlessness, both spiritually and materially, is here.

So, what do I do in 2015.

What else?

"Go Forward."

The status quo, with the help of God, will be a different status quo.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 4

This continues the series of reflections about the liturgy as requested by the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, for the education of the people of the diocese. This was read at the Masses celebrating the Fourth Sunday of Advent and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.

The Introductory Rites, Part II 
One of the most ancient Church documents – the Didache [di-dah-kay] - states that on the Lord’s Day, people are to come together to give thanks “after first confessing their sins.” We continue this ancient practice at the start of Mass by what is called the “Act of Penitence.” This act takes place at the beginning of Mass for good reason: Matthew records Christ’s command that we be reconciled with God and one another before offering our sacrifice at the altar. By proclaiming our sinfulness before a merciful and loving God, we show our continuing need for conversion, healing, and reconciliation. 
The Penitential Rite, as it is sometimes called, has a four-part structure. First, we are invited to reflect for a few moments in silence on our sinfulness. This is followed by a common proclamation, the Confiteor, that all are sinners before God. Recently restored to the rite are the words, “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” The priest concludes the rite by asking for forgiveness for all present. Although the rite concludes with the priest’s absolution, it does not take the place of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. 
On some occasions, especially during the Easter Season, the Penitential Rite may be replaced by what is called the “Rite of Sprinkling.” This sprinkling of the people with holy water is a reminder and renewal of our baptism and harks back to a popular eighth-century monastic practice. Three different prayers are given for the blessing of the water to be used in the sprinkling. The third, used during the Easter season, highlights the Paschal Mystery and calls to mind Christ’s resurrection, which lies at the heart of all reconciliation. 
After the act of penitence, we acclaim the Lord and implore his mercy in the words: “Lord, have mercy.” Addressed to Christ, this acclamation may take the form of “Kyrie, eleison” (Lord, have mercy), “Christe, eleison” (Christ, have mercy), “Kyrie, eleison” (Lord, have mercy). It is usually sung in dialogue by the entire assembly with the choir or cantor.  Short verses, also addressed to Christ, may be inserted into the acclamation. 
The Penitential Rite continues with the Gloria, which is sometimes called “the angelic hymn.” Echoing the words of the angels at Bethlehem, this hymn-anthem has a beautiful Trinitarian characteristic. The text mentions all three persons of the Trinity. The Gloria is preferably sung on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, as well as at other solemn celebrations. 
Once the Gloria ends, we hear, “Let us pray,” signaling that the Collect follows. The name given this prayer – the Collect – describes its purpose. It is intended to “gather together” the intentions of the faithful. The Collect has the same structure as other prayers during the Mass - an address, a petition, and a conclusion. The priest invites the people to pray, and a brief silence is shared, thereby allowing those present to be aware of God’s presence and to call to mind their intentions. The prayer is addressed to God the Father; the petition is general since it sums up the prayers of those present; and the conclusion is through Jesus Christ.

A whole homily could be devoted to destroying the notion the Penitential Rite is a substitution for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. I truly believe a lot of people think that, which may play a very small role in the difference between the lines at the Confessional and the Communion Rite. And where does it say you can add words to the Kyrie, in a style similar to what was done with the Lamb of God years ago and has since be abrogated?

Again, good basic information (which is what is needed), but my observation still stands.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

2014 Christmas Card

Adoration of the Shepherds (1622)by Gerrit Van Honthrost (1592-1656)

May the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ bring you peace, joy, hope, and love throughout the coming year. May you receive His grace and mercy in abundance. May your life be pleasing to Him Who is the Redeemer of the world.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

December 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:
Universal Intention - Christmas, hope for humanity. That the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will. 
Evangelization Intention - Parents. That parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith.
Reflections for these intentions are found here.

(NB--My apologies for not posted this sooner.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 Christmas Eve Reflection

The Second Reading of the Feast of the Nativity--Mass During the Night:
The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good. 
Titus 2:11-14 
Many of you will hear this proclaimed as you observe your obligation to assist at a Mass this day. Written well after the birth of the Christ Child and with an eye towards His Second Coming, St. Paul packs a lot in this short section of his letter to Titus. As an act of "lectio divina", allow me to share some thoughts about this passage.

"The grace of God has appeared." What had been foreshadowed by the Law and foretold by the Prophets has now become a reality we can see and hear. Emmanuel--God is with us. The Word made Flesh. How audacious is our God. And yet he is not condescending to us when He descends to us. He has promised fulfillment and He has delivered, through the delivery of His Son via the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"Saving all." Yes, humanity has been redeemed. It is still up to us as individuals to accept the invitation to the Wedding Feast to come and to be a worthy guest, however. It is a message especially important to those who are not fully incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ and to those who have fallen away. There will be many of these Prodigals in the pews tonight. Sometimes, it takes an infant to tug on the heartstrings.

"Training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires." Why does it seem like the Devil is even more of a roaring lion today? Evil's ugly head has reared higher, it seems. Yet the victory is won; He has overcome the world and defeated Satan. As the Teacher, so His disciples. His example in the wilderness is ours. We cannot serve two masters. We, like Him, are in the world but not of it.

"To live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age."  Does this not hearken to the prophet Micah, "You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you:  Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God"? (6:8) The admonition to stay sober and vigilant, for it was thought the Second Coming would be soon, still carries weight. We live in "this age" as much as those for whom the letter was addressed.

"We await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ." Be aware, for you will hear this right after the Lord's Prayer. As we waited for His birth and await his Second Coming, these words ring true during this part of the Mass. It is especially true since the consecration has just taken place, the real "appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ". From the "House of Bread" to your house of worship, the "blessed hope" is here.

"Who gave himself for us." His whole life, as a gift to and from the Father, was gift to and for us. He poured out Himself time and time again on Earth so it would be as in Heaven. The Crucifixion and Resurrection, seen also in the Eucharist, were His ultimate present here and for eternity. The Words of Institution are an invitation.

"To deliver us from all lawlessness." Substituting either the word "sin" or "evil"  for "lawlessness" would work as well here. It is why He came into the world. He fulfills the seventh petition of the Lord's Prayer.

"To cleanse for himself a people as his own." Later in this same epistle, these words, proclaimed as the Second Reading of the Feast of the Nativity--Mass At Dawn, show us how much He loves us:
When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. 
Titus 3:4-7
 This can also be claimed for the phrase above as well.

 "Eager to do what is good." As Catholics, our Faith inspires and informs our good works (c.f.--James 2:14-26). This is our joy in Christ. This is how we cooperate with Him in the redemption of the world. This is working with the "grace of God".

On this holy night, as we come to celebrate such a great mystery, as we marvel at how and why such an event occurred, as we keep watch with the shepherds, as we rejoice with the angels, let us be in awe and wonder. As we cannot fathom how or why God would do such a thing, we can only accept it in faith, hope, and love. As the Christ Child reaches out to us, let us reciprocate.

Hodie Christus natus est.

Preparing A Royal Welcome

It is the final day of our Advent journey. Once again we will arrive at the "House of Bread". We will seek "shelter" from our "travel". We are among the not yet counted throngs of people in the City of David.

Have we notice this traveler along the way? Did we look for the Holy Family? Is there a sense that Emmanuel might make an appearance? Let this Advent hymn finish your preparation:

The Coming Of Our God 
1. The coming of our God
Our thoughts must now employ:
Then let us meet him on the road
With songs of holy joy. 
2. The co-eternal Son
A maiden's offspring see:
A servant's form Christ putteth on,
To make his people free. 
3. Mother of Saints, arise
To greet thine infant-King,
And do not thanklessly despise
The pardon he doth bring. 
4. In glory from his throne
Again will Christ descend,
And summon all that are his own
To joys that never end. 
5. Let deeds of darkness fly
Before the approaching morn,
For onto sin 'tis ours to die,
And serve the Virgin-horn. 
6. Our joyful praises sing
To Christ, that set us free;
Like tribute to the Father bring,
And, Holy Ghost, to thee. Amen.

In these final hours our confinement will soon be complete:

Ero cras.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 3

This continues the series of reflections about the liturgy as requested by the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, for the education of the people of the diocese. This was read at the Masses celebrating the Third Sunday of Advent and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.

The Introductory Rites, Part I 
The preparation that we began before Mass continues as we gather as the Church. The Introductory Rites help us to discover a unity that is already ours, but still waiting to be realized by our participation. The Entrance Procession, Veneration of the Altar, the Greeting, the Penitential Rite, the Kyrie, the Gloria, and the Collect - all serve to prepare us for celebration. They help to establish a sense of unity, so that we might hear the Word of God and celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist joyfully. 
One of the signs of that unity is our common bodily posture – when Mass begins we all stand. Standing from the beginning of the Entrance Song through the Collect signifies our sense of preparation for the whole liturgy. But standing is not the only symbolic gesture we experience at the beginning of Mass. There is movement as well, starting with the Entrance Procession. The procession serves more than a functional purpose of getting the priest and other ministers to their proper place in the sanctuary. It serves a symbolic purpose as well, for it reminds us that we are the People of God, a pilgrim people, on a journey to the Kingdom, with this Mass being an important part of that journey. 
Because this journey is a joyful one, we add our voices to the Entrance Song, even though we may protest that we cannot sing. The Entrance Song is more than just “walking music;” it opens the celebration and introduces us to the themes of the liturgy. It reminds us that liturgy is a common action – a communal act of prayer, not a private act – that calls us to move beyond the limits of our own world and enter something larger.   
A further sign of our preparedness occurs when the priest and other ministers reach the altar. Now we witness a sign that unites us not only to each other, but to our ancient past – the Veneration of the Altar. Arriving at the table of the Lord, the priest and deacon venerate the altar with a reverent kiss, for it is on this table that ordinary bread and wine will become the Body and Blood of Christ. In fact, the altar represents Christ, who is the priest, the victim, and the sacrifice.  
The symbolism of being one people of God continues as we join with the priest in making the sign of the cross. This symbolic gesture, dating from at least the second century, signifies the presence of the Lord and is a traditional prelude to prayer. Romano Guardini, a priest and author wrote: “It is the holiest of all signs. When we cross ourselves, let it be with a real sign of the cross. Instead of a small cramped gesture that gives no notion of its meaning, let us make a large, unhurried sign, from forehead to breast, from shoulder to shoulder, consciously feeling how it includes the whole of us at once.” 
The greeting by the celebrant, “The Lord be with you,” which follows the sign of the cross, is not intended as a friendly “good morning.” Rather it is more like a wish that those assembled will experience the presence and power of the Lord in the community they have formed. Our response, “And With Your Spirit,” is more than a simple expression of good will; it is a reminder that our celebrant has received the Spirit of God in ordination and is, therefore, a special “servant of Christ” (1 Cor 4:1). The greeting announces that the Lord is here in this place. It indicates that what we do here is different from our day-to-day activity. It affirms that we have gathered in the name of Christ to offer praise and thanksgiving as his body. The Greeting and our response express “the mystery of the Church gathered together.”

My only quibble is with the adding of "our voices to the Entrance Song, even though we may protest that we cannot sing." The implication is that the congregation must be involved in order for there to be "full, conscious, active participation". Again, the "interior" vs. "exterior" argument that is at the heart of what this phrase truly means peaks from its hiding spot. Believe me, you can find on the internet both sides quite easily, and quite vociferously I may add.

On the whole, there is good information presented.

NB:  As the newspaper has titles for these reflections (even if the Liturgical Commission did or did not), I thought it best to include them.  I have updated the previous two post to reflect this change.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Veni, Veni" Once More

It has become an annual tradition in this infinitesimal corner of the universe. Like the longing the Israelites had as the time for the Savior to arrive drew closer, the yearning for Christmas grows with each passing day on the Advent calendar. And, like Mary, we can count along with her until the days of our confinement will be complete.

I present for the tenth time (and, yes, this is an accurate accounting, unlike the one title I used in a similar post) a series of meditations on the "O" Antiphons, specially designed verses sung/recited before the recitation of the Magnificat at Vespers/Evening Prayer for the next seven days. Each one recalls a title the redeemer of the Chosen People would have. And while people are familiar with the vernacular hymn (whose verses are typically sung in reverse order of how they appear in the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours), the antiphons themselves provide a much richer vein of material to mine.

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf and Fr. Mark Kirby, OSB again will provide their insights into the meanings of these phrases while I will add my tidbits of thought as well. Recordings of the antiphons are available as well. Arguably my most popular posts, I hope they still provide you with worthy words of contemplation.

"Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel nascetur pro te, Israel."

Come; see them later.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 2

This continues the series of reflections about the liturgy as requested by the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, for the education of the people of the diocese. This was read at the Masses celebrating the Second Sunday of Advent and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.


Preparation for Mass
There is an old saying that goes: “We receive what we give.” To receive something good, we have to give, whether it is acquiring an education, doing well in a job, or even learning to play golf. 
This applies with equal force when it comes to the Mass – we receive what we give. Sometimes we may hear people complain, “I don’t get anything out of Mass.” Such a statement begs the question: “How much did you give?” And I don’t mean the collection plate. Rather: How much did you give in preparing for Mass? Did we hurry in at the last minute, just as the processional was starting, with our hearts and minds still caught up in the worries and concerns we woke up with? Or did we take time to prepare for Mass?  How much did we give in order to receive? 
Most of us can recall a time in our lives when we might have spent hours preparing for a big date. Why? Because we knew that to receive the attention, the love, and affection of another person, we had to give of ourselves; and that by doing so, we would receive. At Mass we meet someone in sacramental form whose attractiveness goes beyond all other experience: This is Christ the Lord. But to receive such a blessing, we must give of ourselves in order to receive. Just like the big date, we must prepare. 
Our preparation should begin long before the start of Mass: ideally, during the days leading up to Sunday Mass. We might begin by reading the Scriptures for that Sunday, followed by a rosary. Fasting for at least one hour before attending Mass is also a helpful preparation. Above all, we should strive to be at peace with one another, for as Jesus said, “If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mt. 5:23)   
We can prepare for Mass by forgiving and being reconciled with others. The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation can work wonders in bringing peace to an otherwise troubled conscience. 
Sometimes our preparation for Mass can be jeopardized by arriving late, hurrying to find a place to park, and then searching for an inconspicuous place to sit … certainly never the front pew! Church tradition can help us to slow down and to enter with a worshiping attitude. Pause at the entrance of the church and dip your fingers in the holy water, reflecting for a brief moment on the significance of what you are doing. Perhaps before Mass begins stop to light a votive candle and offer a short prayer. Enter the church slowly and reverently, pausing to genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament or to make a profound bow before the altar. If possible, kneel for a few minutes to offer prayers or to reflect on a special intention for that Mass. 
The sacrifice of the Mass is the most important event that happens every Sunday. But to receive it well, we must be willing to give. And the more we give, the more we will receive.

How fitting that during the season of Advent, a season of preparation, this gentle exhortation to ready yourself for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass well in advance of when you enter the vestibule is given, that those final few minutes before the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word is a time to ready yourself to be in the presence of the Lord. Much more could be said about the need for Confession, the "atmosphere" in the church before hand (chatty, homey meeting space or sacred building, dependent on the architecture and the attitude of the laity and clergy), or even the "why" and "how" of what we do (e.g.--the dipping of fingers in a holy water font and the making of the Sign of the Cross). While you can't force people to be reverent, you can encourage that behavior.

And that is the point of this reflection.

UPDATE:  12/19/2014. Addition of the title and editorial format.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 1

This is the first in the series of reflections about the liturgy as requested by the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, for the education of the people of the diocese. This was read at the Masses celebrating the First Sunday of Advent and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.


Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Mass the way we do? Why do we have a procession at the start of Mass? Why do we make the sign of the cross? Why do we sometimes kneel, while at other times we stand? Why are we encouraged to join in the singing? Questions such as these are often on the minds of every Catholic who comes to Mass. We look for answers to questions such as these to help us not only to become better-informed Catholics but, more importantly, to help us enter more fully into our Eucharistic celebration. As the Second Vatican Council emphasized, “Full, conscious, active participation by all the people” is the “aim to be considered before all else.” 
At the request of Bishop Wester, each parish in the diocese has been asked to present a series of short talks on the structure of the Mass. These Four-Minute Reflections, following the Prayer after Communion, will hopefully help us, as the assembly, come to a better understanding of the Mass, and enable us to participate more fully, consciously and actively. They will not be sermons, but carefully prepared talks that over time will cover the key aspects of the Mass. Imagine a “class about the Mass” without ever leaving the comfort of your pew! 
The purpose of these reflections will not be to overwhelm us with a lot of detail, but rather to increase our awareness of how various parts of the Mass work together to heighten a sense of unity as we are drawn into the sacred mystery and then sent forth to carry on Christ’s mission in the world. We will see how the introductory rites – the procession, the singing and prayers – prepare us to listen attentively to the word of God so that we may enter more joyfully and gratefully into the Liturgy of the Eucharist and Communion. Then, renewed by word and sacrament, we will better appreciate the significance of the prayers, blessings and dismissal that come at the conclusion of Mass. 
You can do a lot of things in four minutes: drive four miles, write an email, heat up your dinner, or listen to a song. We believe that these Four-Minute Reflections will provide a better understanding of the symbols, gestures, and rites that are sometimes not understood or taken for granted at Mass thus enabling us to share more deeply in the mystery of this great sacrament. Over the course of the liturgical year, we will strive to shed some light on practices that are ever ancient and yet, ever new. We invite you to listen attentively to what is being presented. And remember: Each reflection will only take four minutes.

In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, following the Prayer after Communion and before the Final Blessing and Dismissal is an optional section where announcements are made; this is where these talks will be inserted. For the sake of consistency throughout the diocese, it is the best place for it. It is not meant to take time away from the homily; before Mass interferes with the congregation's preparation and after Mass people are looking to leave.

I am hoping the underlying current of this is to give examples regarding what is the most contentious phrase found in Sacrosanctum Concilium--"full, conscious, and active participation". Is is about doing or is it about being, doing flowing from it? It seems to be hinting at the second part of the last sentence.

The serial continues.

UPDATE:  12/19/2014. Addition of the title and editorial format.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Let's Talk Liturgy: Introduction

From the Chief Liturgist and Chief Teacher of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, as found in the November 28 edition of the Intermountain Catholic, the diocesan newspaper:
My Dearest Brothers and Sisters,  
Liturgy is our communal act of worship of the Father, in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is not a mere re-enactment of what took place during the final days of Jesus’ life, but a real encounter with the risen Christ. It is through the celebration of the Mass that we give praise and adoration to God for the marvelous gift of redemption, and together become Christ’s body in the world.  
Because liturgy is central to the life of the Church, it is fitting that we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II by renewing our understanding and experience of the Church’s liturgy. Therefore, I am asking each parish in the diocese to present a series of Four-Minute Talks on the different parts of the Mass. These scripted Four-Minute Talks, prepared by the Diocesan Liturgical Commission in conjunction with the Office of Liturgy, explain what occurs during the Mass. Intended to be read aloud following the Prayer after Communion, the Four-Minute Talks provide an opportunity for reflection as we deepen our appreciation for the liturgy and to become more attentive to its celebration. 
My hope is that as we study the liturgy, we will be inspired to live as Easter people; people filled with the good news of salvation, people who feed the poor and welcome the outcast, people who embrace the lonely, and fight for justice, people who strive to live more faithfully, celebrate more joyfully, and live the gospel more fully, not just on Sunday but every day. 
Asking God’s many blessings upon you, I remain, 
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend John C. Wester
Bishop of Salt Lake City
The members of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission are as follows:
Chair:  Msgr. Colin F. Birchumshaw, Vicar General
Deacon Mike Bulson
Fr. Sam Dinsdale
Deacon Sunday Espinoza
Maria-Cruz Gray
Susan Northway
Deacon Mark Solak
Deacon Armando Solorzano
Margaret Stepan
Sr. Joseph Cecile Voelker, CSC
These short reflections began on the First Sunday of Advent and will continue through March, according to the paper. As when I heard it, they are only to be read, not editorialized.

I will be posting these instructional messages on Saturday, the day after they are printed in the paper. Unlike what happens in the various parishes, I may have something to say.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Way To Prepare, Again

Once again, we cry, "Maranatha!"

Once again, a variation of this appears on our dining room table.

Then, almost without warning, these make their presence known.

Yes, Advent is here. While we make all the material preparations for Christmas, the spiritual ones also command our attention. And so the next "four" weeks are set aside, corresponding with Israel's wait for the Messiah as foretold by the Prophets.

The theme is one of repentance, echoed in the ministry of St. John the Baptist. While not as severe as Lent, it is still a reminder of how sin, Original and individual, still mars the creation of God and the reason Jesus Christ came into this world.

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are in the last days of our confinement. She, who has carried Him within her womb for the past eight months, will soon be delivered. May this Advent Season be filled with every grace and blessing as we await with joyful hope for the Prince of  Peace, which surpasses all telling, and the King of Love, which knows no bounds.

May we truly be ready to do this.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

2014 Thanksgiving Day Card

May our gracious God, Who bestows upon His creation all good things, continue to look kindly towards what He has made. May our loving Father, through his Son and in the Spirit, provide for our needs and fill our hearts with His love. May we, made in His image and likeness, give glad voice in praise and thanksgiving for all the blessing bestowed the past year, this day, and the coming weeks and months.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Catch Of A Lifetime

I never got into fishing when I was a child, but this is truly a whopper of a tale.

Alerted by a "friend of a friend" on Facebook, a sincere fedora doff goes to Deacon Greg Kandra, the 'blogmaster of The Deacon's Bench, which is found at the website Pathos. The above photo is from his 'blog; the story, from the original source.

Talk about "duc in altum".

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Church Musician's Musings

Today is the feast of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr. She is the patron saint of musicians; thus, as I claim to be a church musician, she has an important role in my spiritual life. (And if anyone needs her intercession in this matter, I sure do.)

At the end of 1992 I wrote a brief position paper as part of a contest involving music in one's life. At that time, I was just starting my seventh year "making a joyful noise unto the Lord", albeit primarily as a volunteer in my local parishes (although I did have a two paid positions on my resume). This was a great opportunity to put down on paper my own thoughts and beliefs about the subject.

While I had made very minor edits over the years, it really hasn't changed much until a few months ago when I added a new section. As my yearly tribute to the second most important female saint in my life, I present those thoughts and beliefs to you (edited for format):




Music has complimented religious actions since earliest times.  Examples abound:  the myths of Orpheus, the psalmody of David, the chants of cultures throughout the world, the plainsong of the medieval church.  Because of its ability and potential to express the inexpressible, the role of music in spiritual activities has helped to shape the worship relationship of human beings to divine beings.

As some religions became more formal and institutional, so did the role of those who provided the music.  As if in response to a divine directive, people took up the task of praising their god through the inspiration of song.  This tradition, this mission, this vocation has found its way into many Christian churches in past history.  Other than being called as ordained clergy, there is no more significant role in the church than of church musician.  This is reflected by the quote attributed to Augustine of Hippo, "He who sings prays twice."

The gifts are different but the results are the same.  Whether as vocalist/chorister, instrumentalist, organist/pianist/keyboardist, composer/arranger, or conductor, the contribution of good music in the church enhances and elevates an act of worship.  It is a calling as noble as the art, as worthy as the individual, and as dignified as any position in the service of God.


A church musician is more than a person who just provides appropriate music during a liturgy. The true role of a church musician is one of not only aiding prayer, but also one of being a pray-er (one who prays).  It is to assist the congregation in finding its collective voice, to help raise minds and hearts to adore and contemplate what is being worshipped, and to supplement and compliment the action and words of the rite.

Today, music has a vital role in a church's mission.  It is not something that can be use or discarded as one pleases. It has observable functions to those within the church.  There are three areas which music serves to enrich the life of a congregation.


Music's first and foremost duty is to be an integral part of the act of worship.  The use of music helps signify something out of the ordinary is happening, suggesting something other-worldly or supernatural is occurring.  While it helps to raise the awareness of the whole person, music, like candles, incense, and vestments, must blend with the whole of the liturgical experience.  For those who have sat through any kind of liturgy void of music and found it dry and uninspiring, the point is made.

A concern when using music is keeping the focus on the act of worship (and therefore God) and not putting on a show (and therefore not focusing on God).  While artistry is necessary, it must be play a supporting role.  An act of worship is itself a ritual and therefore could be thought of as a performance (meaning acting according to form).  While it is satisfactory that it is done to worship God, it is more pleasing when it is done to the best of the musicians’s/worshiper’s ability.


Congregational members are invited and encouraged to give of themselves in service to their church. By formally participating in a church’s music program, an individual is given the opportunity to develop those talents God has given them and be of service.  They can utilize this resource for the benefit of the congregation as well as their own personal and spiritual growth.

Like the parable of the talents, this gift must not be selfishly buried within the walls of the church building.  Rather, it should be shared with others outside the congregation and used as a means of evangelization.  The enrichment of lives through this means, however imperceptible, is immeasurable.


A church recognizes the social dimension of its congregation.  Human beings are social creatures; the need to simply be with other people is maybe the most overlooked. Performing groups and concerts are ways where this gathering with others can be accomplished.

To be united in a common effort can create a bond between people and a synergy from them. When there is a common denominator, activities take on a meaningful, focused purpose.  When the goal is the glorification of God through music, the activity becomes a prayer.  When done with God's blessing, it has a sanctifying purpose.


This paper is not a definitive statement, but rather a personal reflection.  As maturity comes spiritually, personally, and professionally these views will be enlarged and refined by that better vision.  This definition shall continue to evolve.

One of the great inspirations for music is the Gospel.  The message and the medium fit together well. Music can be use by God to enhance our relationship with Him and others.  Its mystical power speaks to the heart and soul as little else can.

It is said music is a universal language.  Music can be considered the language of the church. God's presence is sometimes aural.  Perhaps music is His voice.


The paper, like me, is still a work in progress. Both, with the grace of God, can mature spiritually, personally, and professionally. May my voice give Him glory.

St. Cecilia, pray for us.

All you choirs of angels, pray for us.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

November 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:
Universal Intention - Lonely people. That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others. 
Evangelization Intention - Mentors of seminarians and religious.  That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tribute To A True Reformer

Fr. Benedict Joseph Groeschel, C.F.R.
July 23, 1933 – October 3, 2014

As a tribute to this saintly priest, a shining example of what it truly means to be altus Christus, whose Mass of Christian Burial is occuring now, the poem which was his earthly inspiration:

"Hads't thou stayed, I must have fled!"
That is what the Vision said. 
In his chamber all alone,
Kneeling on the floor of stone,
Prayed the Monk in deep contrition
For his sins of indecision,
Prayed for greater self-denial
In temptation and in trial;
It was noonday by the dial,
And the Monk was all alone.
Suddenly, as if it lightened,
An unwonted splendor brightened
All within him and without him
In that narrow cell of stone;
And he saw the Blessed Vision
Of our Lord, with light Elysian
Like a vesture wrapped about him,
Like a garment round him thrown. 
Not as crucified and slain,
Not in agonies of pain,
Not with bleeding hands and feet,
Did the Monk his Master see;
But as in the village street,
In the house or harvest-field,
Halt and lame and blind he healed,
When he walked in Galilee. 
In an attitude imploring,
Hands upon his bosom crossed,
Wondering, worshipping, adoring,
Knelt the Monk in rapture lost.
Lord, he thought, in heaven that reignest,
Who am I, that thus thou deignest
To reveal thyself to me?
Who am I, that from the centre
Of thy glory thou shouldst enter
This poor cell, my guest to be? 
Then amid his exaltation,
Loud the convent bell appalling,
From its belfry calling, calling,
Rang through court and corridor
With persistent iteration
He had never heard before.
It was now the appointed hour
When alike in shine or shower,
Winter's cold or summer's heat,
To the convent portals came
All the blind and halt and lame,
All the beggars of the street,
For their daily dole of food
Dealt them by the brotherhood;
And their almoner was he
Who upon his bended knee,
Rapt in silent ecstasy
Of divinest self-surrender,
Saw the Vision and the Splendor.
Deep distress and hesitation
Mingled with his adoration;_
Should he go, or should he stay?
Should he leave the poor to wait
Hungry at the convent gate,
Till the Vision passed away?
Should he slight his radiant guest,
Slight this visitant celestial,
For a crowd of ragged, bestial
Beggars at the convent gate?
Would the Vision there remain?
Would the Vision come again?
Then a voice within his breast
Whispered, audible and clear
As if to the outward ear:
"Do thy duty; that is best;
Leave unto thy Lord the rest!" 
Straightway to his feet he started,
And with longing look intent
On the Blessed Vision bent,
Slowly from his cell departed,
Slowly on his errand went. 
At the gate the poor were waiting,
Looking through the iron grating,_
With that terror in the eye
That is only seen in those
Who amid their wants and woes
Hear the sound of doors that close,
And of feet that pass them by;
Grown familiar with disfavor,
Grown familiar with the savor
Of the bread by which men die!
But to-day, they knew not why,
Like the gate of Paradise
Seemed the convent gate to rise,
Like a sacrament divine
Seemed to them the bread and wine.
In his heart the Monk was praying,
Thinking of the homeless poor,
What they suffer and endure;
What we see not, what we see;
And the inward voice was saying:
"Whatsoever thing thou doest
To the least of mine and lowest,
That thou doest unto me!" 
Unto me! but had the Vision
Come to him in beggar's clothing,
Come a mendicant imploring,
Would he then have knelt adoring,
Or have listened with derision,
And have turned away with loathing. 
Thus his conscience put the question,
Full of troublesome suggestion,
As at length, with hurried pace,
Towards his cell he turned his face,
And beheld the convent bright
With a supernatural light,
Like a luminous cloud expanding
Over floor and wall and ceiling. 
But he paused with awe-struck feeling
At the threshold of his door,
For the Vision still was standing
As he left it there before,
When the convent bell appalling,
From its belfry calling, calling,
Summoned him to feed the poor.
Through the long hour intervening
It had waited his return,
And he felt his bosom burn,
Comprehending all the meaning,
When the Blessed Vision said,
"Hadst thou stayed, I must have fled!" 
"The Theologian's Tale; The Legend Beautiful"
From Tales of A Wayside Inn (1863)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

Requiem In Pace.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

October 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:

Universal Intention - Peace. That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.

Evangelization Intention - World Mission Day. That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Birthday Of "Our National Anthem"

I have had the honor of both singing (in a play in 1976) and playing (on the trumpet before a junior college basketball game in 1980) this as a solo. Both times were done with the dignity the song deserves.

The words belong to Francis Scott Key; the melody, John Stafford Smith (as documented here).

In honor of the bicentennial of its birth, beginning with the events at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, MD, (although not adopted as the nation's official song until 1931), the verse we know and the three we don't:
O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? 
On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave. 
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave. 
O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Long may she wave.

And may we continue to be the last line, God help us.

Friday, September 12, 2014

End Of The Ninth

Remember this?

Seems so long ago.

Yet, here I am; my infinitesimal corner of the universe has concluded its ninth year of existence.

It's still more hobby than anything, and in my mind that is OK. I am not a professional writer. To be prolific was never a goal. To have something meaningful to say and expressing it in a thoughtful manner has always been my goal.

Have I succeeded? At times. It seems I have taken a more "it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness" approach as this has evolved. I have to remind myself it takes the same amount of energy to build as it does to destroy. There are plenty of other 'blogs that kvetch well on whatever is the crisis du jour.

Mark Twain's admonition is always at the forefront. I hopefully understand the limits of my intelligence; but I also want to expand that. I still want to know things. Robert Browning's inquiry still drives me.

To those who do visit to see if I have something to say about anything, I thank you. I realize original posts are few and far between. While I have a life outside of the internet and more pressing matters at hand, the desire to continue this remains.

And I will.

I got to get through the next twelve months.

Any anniversary ending with a "0" is a milestone.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Unlucky 13th.

Thirteen years ago this morning the skyline of New York City looked liked this:

How fast did that change.

The world has never been the same since.

And neither have we.

The scars are still there, despite our best efforts to alleviate them. We continue to mourn, as we should. We gather to remember and memorialize. We mark this sad day with the solemnity it deserves. As I have said before, this is my very modest tribute to the day. Go find others which have meaning to you.

While evil is still with humanity, there are times when it becomes seemingly invisible to the point of being oblivious. It is a moment like this that brings it back upon the collective radar of the public psyche. And while this blip has been duly noted, one wonders if its echoes are not found in current events.

Evil cannot be ignored. Yes, it is larger than our selves, as individual and society. It is overwhelming, the whole and the sum of its parts. It only wants one thing:  surrender.

But evil will never have that. Victory has already been won through the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We, His brothers and sisters, only have to cooperate with the graces dispensed at Calvary. And, yes, it starts with the individual. The first rule of Christian ethics is "do good and avoid evil".

It will be a never-ending battle while on earth. We have our weapon of choice for this spiritual warfare, for that is the biggest picture of all is what it seen and unseen. Let us fight the good fight, so as to claim our share of the spoils.

That is the lifetime challenge. Today, let us remember the events which happened in New York, NY, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, PA. The new Patriots Day.

Monday, September 01, 2014

September 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:

Universal Intention - Mentally disabled. That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.

Evangelization Intention - Service to the poor. That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.

Friday, August 01, 2014

August 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:

Universal Intention - Refugees. That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.

Evangelization Intention - Oceania. That Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

A Deck Of (Birthday) Cards

My goodness, how time seems to fly when you age.

I remember seeing an article about how time appears to go so slowly when one is a child and quickly as an adult. The article mentioned the perception of all the discoveries one has growing up gives the allusion the second hand on a clock progresses at less than its actual pace. When all the newness is gone, when routine becomes routine, when it is the "same old same old", that is when the days, weeks, months, and even years start to blur. (Maybe that is why I enjoy the liturgical calendar so much. It is somewhat "ever changing, ever new".)

I think that is why it is good to celebrate milestones. Stopping to smell the roses, to acknowledge points on the calendar, to give time the time it deserves, this is a way to ground ourselves in the here and now, to recognize our existence and significance, to know "(y)ou are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here."

Of all those dates, the one is your entry into the world has to be, in a sense, "the source and summit" of all those commemorations. Without this moment in time, you have no moments in time. Yes, "no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should." It is up to us to demarcate those special spots along the stretch of eternity.

This, for me (and I hope yours is as well, for you who stumble across these words) is one of those stopping points. I will always choose the first part of Hamlet's question. I embrace Robert Browning's encouragement. There may be a time when I must take up Dylan Thomas's cause, but eventually I will submit to God's will to leave this mortal coil.  Right now, despite all the "sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."

I will be a part of it.

To paraphrase the lyrics, "I just want to celebrate another year of living. I just want to celebrate another year of life."

And so I will.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Indy This Summertime

Yesterday was a day of renewing friendships, making new acquaintances, a splendid opening banquet, and the first of many liturgical opportunities (Compline).

This morning they will begin in earnest what is billed as "seven days of musical heaven"--Colloquium XXIV, sponsored by the Church Music Association of America, being held this year in Indianapolis, IN.

I wish I was with you. You all are so kind to take this shy, somewhat talented tenor under your wing and call me a colleague. Maybe next year, when the Silver Colloquium will shine even brighter.

May God bless this gathering of labors who work in the sweetest of vineyards--the choir lofts of churches around the world. May this be a fruitful time for all.

"Cantare amantis est."

July 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:

Universal Intention - Sports. That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth..

Evangelization Intention - Lay Missionaries. That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

June 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:

Universal Intention - Unemployed. That the unemployed may receive support and find the work they need to live in dignity.

Evangelization Intention - Faith in Europe. That Europe may rediscover its Christian roots through the witness of believers.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

May 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:

Universal Intention - Media. That the media may be instruments in the service of truth and peace.

Evangelization Intention - Mary’s Guidance.That Mary, Star of Evangelization, may guide the Church in proclaiming Christ to all nations.


You will notice the format has changed slightly. This is due to the fact the website of the Apostleship of Prayer has been updated. The links in the intentions take you to a monthly reflection. The General Intention is now known as the Universal Intention.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

2014 Easter Card

The Resurrection of Christ by Paolo Veronese

May our Lord, Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, bless you abundantly.  May He Who overcame the grave bestow upon you true peace and love. May this Easter triumph bring you much Easter joy.

Happy Easter, everybody!

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"...Ablaze With Light..."

Consider the words of the prophet Isaiah (8:23-9:3):
There is no gloom where there had been distress. Where once he degraded the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, now he has glorified the way of the Sea, the land across the Jordan, Galilee of the Nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at harvest, as they exult when dividing the spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, the rod of their taskmaster, you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
You should recognize it as the start of the First Reading from the Christmas Mass:  During the Night. But what does this have to do with Easter? Plenty.

The beginning of the Easter Vigil Mass can start no earlier than sunset. While twilight provides its own kind of "gloom", it is also not symbolic of the state of our souls, both as an individual and humanity, after being plunged into sin by Adam? Then comes the lighting of the Vigil fire, the Easter Candle, and those smaller candles given to the congregation, continuing to dispel the darkness. The triple proclamation of "Christ, our Light" and our grateful response of "Thanks be to God" begins the rejoicing at the harvest, the gathering of souls redeemed.  "This is the night" when the yoke of sin, the pole of guilt, the rod of death is smashed through the act of the Resurrection. Indeed, we do exult as Christ divides the spoils of salvation and allots us our share.

I make no claim of any theological accuracy, much less brilliance; I just think these thoughts are a possible insight. What was started at the Annunciation finds it zenith tonight.  Christmas and Easter unite. God's promise is fulfilled.

Rejoice as you hear the Exsultet.  The Latin and English texts are provided.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Belated But Merciful Remeinder

For the past few months I have been praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, albeit on a rather infrequent basis. It is an easy devotion to learn and maintain.  God knows how much I need it in my life right now, much less the world.

Good Friday traditionally marks the beginning of a novena using these prayers, each of the nine days focusing on a specific intention as mentioned in the writings of Sr. Maria Faustina. This year's novena takes on more significance as its promoter, Blessed Pope John Paul II will be canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday, along with Blessed Pope John XXIII.

Full details about this devotion may be found here.

Blessed are they who show mercy.  May mercy be shown to those who ask for it as well.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nine Times "Seven"

And so Palm Sunday arrives. Such an unusual Mass on this day, as we go from joyful acknowledgement in our "Hosanna's" to angry disdain in our "Crucify Him's" in the Liturgy of the Word, coloring the Liturgy of the Eucharist which follows. First we raise our palm branches, saluting Him; then we raise a Cross, sacrificing Him.

Humans are such a fickle creature, no?

With Holy Week upon us, I humbly offer again my brief meditations on the "Seven Last Words" of Christ as He hung upon the Cross.  For the next seven days inclusive, the final thoughts of our Lord and Savior come to the fore. I hope each post will allow you to contemplate on what this act of redemption means in your life, to add to what little I have said.

Jesus leads us outside the walls of Jerusalem.

There He will deliver an even more elegant "sermon" on a mount.

For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear; let us follow the Master to Calvary.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:
General:  Ecology and Justice.  That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources. 
Mission:  Hope for the Sick.  That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A Little Lenten Lesson

His Excellency, the Most Reverend John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, in an article in the Intermountain Catholic, the official newspaper of the diocese, provides a short reflection of why we do what we do this Lent.

"Again We Keep..."

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. 
Joel 2:12-13
As an aid to become perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, a way to grow in discipleship, and as preparation to celebrate the great Paschal Mysteries come Holy Week, the Church carves from her liturgical calendar each year a time to meditate upon the salvific action of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection.

Whether we hear the reminder of our mortality or the call to repentance when the Sign of the Cross is traced upon our foreheads with ashes today, we should recall a rather stark reality. While being made in the image and likeness of God and called to be His adopted children, we should realize first and foremost we are creatures totally dependent on the Creator.  Because we have sinned and wandered far away from His love, we are in need of His redemption and sanctification.  Because we were given free will, we have the ability to receive and utilize His grace as much as reject and scorn it.

With this backdrop, we begin to shape our preparation for the next "forty days".  How will we our prayers rise like incense? What excess can be removed from our lives? How do we recognize the needs of our neighbor and respond to them? We know what planks are in our eyes, what stumbling blocks are ahead of us, what things we have covered with Pharisaical white.  True conversion is a life-long process; this provides us with a chance to focus.

May whatever seeds planted this Lent bear a fruitful harvest this Easter.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Off To Work?

"How's the job hunt going?"

Funny you should ask.

I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is I did land a part-time job last November.  I work for a company that demonstrates various foods and other products in a members-only wholesale warehouse.  It's only one, maybe two days a week, but at least it's something.  It's allowing me to re-establish some of my job skills and demonstrate I am still employable.


The bad news is another opportunity went awry.  Shortly before Thanksgiving I interviewed for a position in a call center for a major home improvement center, one which would involve assisting customers with their on-line purchases.  Shortly after the new year began, I accepted their offer of employment.  I started a training program at the end of January, with the goal of transitioning to take calls in five weeks.  The classroom work went OK.  But putting on a headset proved to be an entirely different matter.  Whether I really don't have the personality to do something like that or lack the courage to overcome the difficulties (and yes, dear Brutus, I know where lies the fault), I was struggling to keep my composure.  Thirty minutes into my shift yesterday, after almost breaking down in tears again, and despite the best intentions of those who were in charge of this portion of the training, encouraging me to keep at it, I decided to walk away.

The self-doubt still resides.  It won't go away until I put myself in the right situation.  "Go Forward" is the only option.

Back to the drawing board.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

March 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:
General:  Respect for Women. That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women. 
Mission:  Vocations. That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

February 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:
General:  Elders. That the Church and society may respect the wisdom and experience of older people. 
Mission:  Collaboration in Evangelization. That priests, religious, and lay people may work together with generosity.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Marching 4(1st. Time) Life

"Where shall we gather?"

First we will start here the night before, where we will offer prayers for our cause.  Our Lord asked us to spend at least an hour with Him in His agony; surely we can do that for those who have suffered from the horrors we seek to eradicate.

"Then what?"

The next morning, we will start here, travel by this route, and finish here.

"What shall we do on the way?"

Continue to pray.  Offer the Rosary.  Recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  If you have a sign or banner, hold it up.  Most of all, by our presence, we make the strongest statement for our cause.

"But why do we do this?"

We believe in the sanctity and sacredness of human life, from natural conception to natural death.  Science informs us a distinct new human being is formed at the fusion of human egg and human sperm; that is the material side of the equation.  But humans are not just "skin and bones"; the flip side of the coin is that we are also a spiritual being.  Our faith informs us God infuses a rational soul into the zygote at the time of conception.  Therefore, we are made in the image and likeness of Him.

The right to life, the right to live, the right to exist is the first and foremost human right.  All other proper rights flow from this.  The Founding Fathers of the United States recognized it as well and listed it as the first of the three inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence.  And drawing from English Common Law, the fetus had legal protection until this day in 1973, where Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton struck down those laws.

We are protesting this unjust decision by the Supreme Court of the United States.  Ever since that day, we have been working to restore the First Human Right.  The political battle over abortion for the last five decades has been fierce; some years the pro-life movement has made gains, some years the poor-(pro-)choice advocates cemented their hold.  In the past twelve months the scales have tipped a little more toward the pro-life side.  Just over 200 abortion clinics have been closed in that time, almost the same the amount of the previous eleven years. Various states have enacted laws giving the unborn child some protection, especially after the 20 week threshold; the state of Texas having the most contentious battle last year.  But it was the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia that brought to light more than any ultrasound picture what the fight is about.

Abortion-right believers use the mantra of "safe, legal, and rare" in promoting their agenda.  Rare? 56,000,000+ abortions in the past 41 years.  Safe? Most of the abortion clinics were closed because the practitioners did their business in environments as bad if not worse that what was seen at Dr. Gosnell's place.  (How does that protect the "health of the mother"? And why are there no cries from that side about regulations to insure that safety?) Legal? Only because the judicial system seems to be fractured along political lines; either side can find a sympathetic jurist.  There are legal experts on both sides of the argument who agree the rulings are a bad piece of jurisprudence.  This phrase holds no water any longer.

"How long will we do this?"

There are many hearts to convert and minds to change.  Courage, patience, and perseverance are a must.  It may not happen in my lifetime; I hope the next generation sees the ultimate success.  I look to the example of the abolitionist movement as to how to fight the good fight.  Let's hope it doesn't come down to a bloody civil war to seal the deal.

"So, we will be back next year?"

Most likely.

But, maybe, with more prayer (and let's include more fasting as well) and more hard work in proclaiming what is true, God might have a surprise in store.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Grandmotherly Assistance

I came across this on my Facebook page, thanks to the organization

It has been a number of years since I did this, but more spiritual help is always better.

So I clicked my way through this website.

The result?

The Grandmother of Christ.

To Jesus through Mary and Anne.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

January 2014 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:
General:  Economic Development. That all may promote authentic economic development that respects the dignity of all peoples. 
Mission:  Christian Unity. That Christians of diverse denominations may walk toward the unity desired by Christ.