Two Women Facing Life Together

By , May 31, 2013 4:19 am

On May 31st the Church across the world celebrates a feast that has been titled rather vaguely the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the 6th chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, Mary has already received the awesome message of her pregnancy from the Angel Gabriel. She had also been informed that her cousin Elizabeth was expecting a child even though she was quite elderly. The text states that Mary set out immediately to visit Elizabeth in the hill country of Judea.
That says a lot about our Blessed Lady. She is very young, she is pregnant herself, and without transport or support she goes quickly into the hills to see if she can be of assistance. It is a beautiful scene – two women pregnant, each in extraordinarily different circumstances but an awesome level of faith is present in the whole scene. And Elizabeth, guided by the Holy Spirit, calls out her praise to Mary and she says, “Of all women, you are the most blessed and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Those words are the first words of adoration address to the soon to arrive Savior of the human family. For her part Mary responds with the Magnificat.
“From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.”
Our Blessed Mother is always a wonderful example to us. In this scene she is an extraordinary model of faith, courage, generosity and concern for others.

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Which St. Augustine Was It?

By , May 30, 2013 5:23 am

Everybody makes mistakes! I failed to mention the other day that May 27th was the Feast of
St. Augustine. But there are several St. Augustine’s and the question naturally comes up which
St. Augustine was it?
Frequently newcomers to Austin Texas are surprised to learn that the state capital carries the name that was originally that of a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. But who was that saint? The City of Austin, of course, is named after Stephen F. Austin, the political father of Texas, but the name itself is an Anglicized form of Augustine. On learning that, most people think that the saint involved is the magnificent St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the Church’s greatest theologians, but the fact is that Austin, Texas, knowingly or not, carries the name of St. Augustine of Canterbury who began the conversion of the English people early at the end of the 6th century.
The Church had been established in Britannia during the last part of the Roman Empire. But Roman troops were withdrawn in 410 and the Church would soon be overrun by the Saxons coming in from Germany. Pope Gregory I, himself a Benedictine abbot, directed his fellow Benedictine abbot in Rome to take a sizable group of missionaries, land on the English coast and attempt to get the Church started there. The mission was extremely difficult but Augustine never blinked. Soon he was establishing new dioceses in the southeastern part of what today we call England. His work would lead to a Church that was strong and well-established until the 1600s when Henry VIII and the Protestant Reformation, while not destroying the Church completely, certainly crippled it and set the stage for the Anglican Communion and other Protestant communities of faith.
The whole story of the English Church is really fascinating and I will come back to it in a few days.

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The New Pope – A First Move

By , May 29, 2013 4:44 am

Two weeks ago, I said that in my opinion the first thing that our new Holy Father Pope Francis had to undertake was to reorganize, tighten up and even clean up the Roman Curia. Regretfully, it has been rocked by scandals for the last couple of years. Well, he has made an important move and while it is not directly aimed at the Curia, he seems to be setting up a structure that will certainly go in the direction of much needed reform. The Pope named an international panel of Cardinals to advise him on the needed restructuring of the Vatican bureaucracy. They are to “advise him on the government of the Universal Church and to study a plan devising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia (Pastor Bonus).” That effort, by John Paul II 20 years ago, was largely a streamlining of the various offices and responsibilities but did not involve in any way an intrinsic reform.

Writing for the Catholic News Service, Francis Rocca said that, “Complaints against the shortcomings of the Vatican governance increased markedly during 2012 following the Vatileaks of confidential correspondence providing evidence of corruption and mismanagement in various offices of the Holy See and Vatican City State. The affair prompted a detailed internal report which Pope Benedict XVI designated exclusively for the eyes of his successor.” Well, Pope Francis now has that report!

What I love about this first move by Pope Francis is that by looking at panel itself we can tell something about the study. They are eight Cardinals from Honduras, Chile, the Congo, Germany, India, Australia, the United States and only one from the Vatican. My prayers go with them as they gather to assist our Holy Father with the awesome task of leading the community of faith with its one billion two hundred million members scattered across 200 countries and thousands of cultures. Yours should as well.

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Spanish Missionaries Returning to Spain

By , May 28, 2013 4:21 am

Anyone who is familiar with the realities of Roman Catholicism knows that enormous percentage of its members reside in the southern half of the Western Hemisphere. All of South and Central America in the Southwestern part of the United States are grateful to Spanish missionaries who brought the message of Jesus Christ to that part of the planet in the years following the “discovery” of the New World.
I just saw a story in the excellent magazine of the Diocese of Corpus Christi relating that two Spanish priests are returning home to Spain on July 1st bringing to an end more than 80 years of service in that diocese. It is a beautiful story. They had great priests and have done awesome work in the communities that they served. However, they are going home. They are not being replaced by new Spanish missionaries. The shepherd of Corpus Christi, Bishop Michael Mulvey, is seeing that they are replaced and the Church goes forward. This incident tells a sad story.
The Catholic population continues to soar even though millions drop out because of a lack of priestly services. Vocations have simply not come forward. Just look at the statistics and I am speaking from memory here but these figures are very close. In 1962, there were about 42 million Roman Catholics in the United States served by 55,000 priests. In 2002, there were at least 80 million Roman Catholics in the nation but the number of priests dropped below 37,000. Does that tell a story or what?
I stated above that vocations are simply not there. Let me correct myself. I think that there are adequate vocations but it may be that priestly vocations, when combined with a call to celibacy, may not be adequate at this moment in the Church’s story. Our leaders should study and pray about this. The downward trend has been going on for 50 years and we must all pray for a change in direction.

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A Very Important Gift

By , May 27, 2013 4:05 am

As we become conscious of the extraordinary gifts that each of us have received, some will stand out more than others. One that I would like to mention in a special way is that the tradition in our country of remembering (or more importantly, not forgetting) that about 2 million human beings- men and women-have given their lives in order to defend and protect the United States of America. Everyone has experienced the loss of a loved one. You know the pain and sense of loss that marks a family at that time. Memorial Day provides us with a beautiful and much needed opportunity to feel the loss that we have experienced, not just as an individual family, but as a great national family. The pain is not just for this week, but the pain symbolically carries us back for well over 200 years.
You don’t have to dwell on the shattered bodies, the oceans of blood, the awesome heroism of aiding medics- we just have to be conscious of the fact that it has happened and each of us today is a beneficiary of the generosity and heroism of these 2 million Americans. We are here. We are FREE. And so is our COUNTRY!
God Bless America!!

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The Trinity! Yes, the Trinity

By , May 25, 2013 5:11 am

May 26th
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I firmly believe in the reality of the Trinity. Does that mean that I understand it? Not at all. It is a mystery. The Jewish faith, out of which the Church grew, took a wonderful step forward for the human family when it came to realize that there was only one God, that God was the creator of all things, the infinite being that sustained everything in existence and who brought us, his children, into existence. The Jews were strong and faithful to that conviction.
Jesus of Nazareth came among us in what today we call the Holy Land. He began to teach us many, many things and some of them were beyond the limitations of our brain. One of the things that he did was to refer many times to the identification that he is one with his Father and yet distinct from the Father. Then he would refer both to the Father and to himself and bring in the Holy Spirit. What we are talking about is attempting to get some insight into the inner-life of God – the inner-life of God. Should we be surprised that we don’t grasp it clearly?
With that background, let’s take a look at this excerpt from today’s Gospel. Jesus said, “I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, however, being the spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own but will speak only what he hears. He will announce to you the things to come. Doing this, he will give glory to me because he will have received from me what he will announce to you. All that the Father has belongs to me. That is why I said what he will announce to you, he will have from me.”
Let’s don’t be frustrated or embarrassed about the fact that our limited cognitive powers cannot grasp the inner nature of God. Let’s just celebrate his infinite goodness to us and he is our ultimate destiny.

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Old Age has its Advantages!

By , May 24, 2013 3:02 am

On the wall in my kitchen there is a small Irish plaque which reads, “Do not resent growing old. Many are denied that privilege.” Actually, I was quite young till about 2 or 3 years ago, and somehow when I turned 80, I realized I really was getting up there! Anyone in that position realizes that there are a number of advantages to this stage in life.

One that I am especially conscious of is the gift of appreciation. I realize that anyone could experience appreciation at any age, but I feel it comes as a special gift for the elderly because they are able to see life in a more accurate context. The high school boy simply assumes that he should have successfully caught that winning pass. He takes for granted that he was able to pass Algebra II. Later in life we are more objective. A 40 year old man recognizes that all of his earlier dreams and aspirations may not be achieved, and because he is maturing, he learns to live with that knowledge. The elderly, however, are capable of seeing life with much greater objectivity, and evaluate it in a more calm manner. They’ve got seven or eight decades of lived experiences. They’ve known disappointment, bitterness, humiliation and, a time or two in life, rejection. On the other hand, they have also known the enriching joy of human love; succeeded in certain areas of their life quite well, and continue to walk into the future with surprising enthusiasm, and put all of these positive and negative realities into a more balance and unified context. They are alive! God is here. And they are on their way to an eternity of joy, at which point every financial crisis, hurt feeling, and broken bone will be in the past, never to be bothered with again.
This generates a calmness and peace of mind not as easily achieved in the 20′s or 40′s.

“Do not resent growing old. Many are denied that privilege.” -Irish Proverb

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Empathy, Empathy, Ever-more Empathy

By , May 23, 2013 4:02 am


Empathy is an extraordinarily important natural virtue. Empathy is the quality or condition by which a person, when seeing pain and suffering in the lives of others, can enter into that suffering so powerfully that he or she actually experiences (to a limited extent) what the suffering person is going through. While this is a great virtue, and countless numbers of people exercise it very well, when crises develop and tragic situations arise, there ought to be a more universal and generous response than is actually the case. To a great extent, that response can be measured directly in terms of the media presentation. The last time I saw a count, more than $30 Million had been sent to aid the victims of the Boston marathon, while the much more extensive, agonizing and destructive explosion in West, Texas, had not yet generated a million dollars in donations.

What will be the response to Oklahoma tornado tragedy?

The destruction is beyond imagination. While fatalities and even injuries were relatively low given the massiveness of the storm, the destruction of homes is simply unbelievable. Fortunately, virtually every tv network has been posting telephone numbers and internet links to accept even ten dollar contributions. Can you imagine the effect on the suffering people of Moore if half of the employees in this country sent in their $10? The media people are right to ask us for such a low, managable amount, to encourage everyone to participate, but unless the viewers act on their empathy, we will be left with them shaking their heads and saying “what a shame” but not acting on it.

Empathy exists in the human heart. Shouldn’t we extend it, in this case, to an entire nation? Please consider reaching out to these now homeless and desperate citizens of Oklahoma. I believe empathy generates great returns in God’s divine bookkeeping. Remember our Lord’s words, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

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What’s the Best Way to Pray?

By , May 22, 2013 5:19 am

Prayer is an important part of a person’s religious and faith life. Prayer takes many forms, and we each utilize it in different ways. I have to admit that my favorite and most-used form is that of petition. I am frequently bringing various problems and difficulties to God’s attention, and indicating with great clarity what it is exactly that He should bring about—and on my time schedule, of course.

Seriously, though, prayer is an important word in the lives of most people who profess to have faith, but it is a word with a wide variety of meanings. In general, it is the way we manifest in our own personal lives how we do or want to relate to the God that we worship. Catholics have the reputation, not completely deserved, as praying constantly from formulas of prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer, the Rosary, the Apostle’s Creed, and various types of novenas. This does not mean that Catholics do not also pray in a completely ad-libbed manner; it’s just that when they come together, there is a rich tradition of common prayer. Whether it’s 200 or 200,000 Catholics simultaneously uniting their voices in prayer, in my opinion that’s a beautiful manifestation of shared faith.

There are four basic forms of prayer: adoration, petition, thanksgiving and contrition. What must never be forgotten and always stressed is that prayer is conversation with God. Conversation! That conversation must be natural from the point of view of the person that is doing the praying. This opens up the need for personal, non-memorized prayer. I believe the only advantage of memorized prayer is making it easy to pray aloud together. We tend to get into a format that we’re comfortable with, and use it repeatedly. Instead, I think we should struggle to avoid that, and get back to the concept of an ongoing, personal conversation with our Lord.

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Thanking the Nurses!

By , May 21, 2013 5:32 am

Last week was Nurse’s Week. People all over the country should reflect about how blessed we are that so many women (and today, men as well) have chosen to be nurses; to commit themselves to the rigorous training that goes with that calling. It is my opinion that overall, nurses are more popular than doctors, and if that’s true, the reason is easy to understand. In a hospital setting, the doctor comes in, does her work making a diagnosis or changing a treatment and has to move on to the next patient and then get back to her office or head to the operating room. The nurses, however, are there for a full eight hours, and they are therefore present for us at that moment when the pain needs to be eased. They bring those two tylenol. And, praise God, they usually bring that pain medication with patience and a smile. They are wonderful!

In the context of Nurses Week, I was invited to Seton McCarthy Clinic last Friday. There is a small room in the clinic that has been designated as a prayer room, and it has recently been refurbished and made more comfortable. I was asked to come over and bless this beautiful room, and also to bless the nurses’ hands. Bless their hands? At first I was surprised, and then I realized what a wonderful idea and what a beautiful symbol this would be. Nearly everyone crowded into the prayer room, regardless of what specific tasks they had in the clinic. The clinicians, the janitor- all were there with extended hands. I spoke briefly about the beauty of the human hand and its awesome capabilities; how every hand is a blessing from God, and the hands of nurses (and all those in health care) are special blessings and gifts that we should never cease to appreciate. I passed among them, blessing each pair of hands with a cross, reminding them of Jesus, and how their work was so much like His. We must always remember that Jesus’s main work among us was the lessoning of pain.

The hands of a nurse or doctor are special.They certainly were for me last week! I think that we all should take a minute every day or so, to look at our extended hands, and see what a gift we have received.
May God bless your hands, and may they be used for nothing other than doing good for others.

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