Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In response to the "unimaginable" scandal of clerical sex abuse against minors, the church must reflect, repent, and do everything possible to rectify the injustices suffered by victims as it works to prevent such abuse from ever happening again, said Pope Benedict XVI.
The pope said he and others were "dismayed" when, during a year dedicated to the world's priests, further cases of clerical sex abuse came to light "to a degree we could not have imagined."
"We must accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. Only the truth saves," the pope said Dec. 20 in his annual pre-Christmas address to the Roman Curia and cardinals who reside in Rome.
In his seven-page reflection on the past year, the pope dedicated a large part of his speech to the impact of sex abuse by priests.
He said priests who committed such scandals "twist" the sacrament of ordination into its "antithesis" when they, "under the mantle of the sacred, profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime."
The face of the church is soiled and her clothes torn "because of the sins of priests," the pope said, referring to the writings of the 12th-century German mystic, St. Hildegard of Bingen, who had visions of a church wounded and sullied because of abuses by clergy evident in her day.
"We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility," the pope said.
He listed a number of "musts" that the church needs to attend to.
"We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen," the pope said.
The church must find "a new resoluteness in faith and doing good," it must be capable of penance, and it must strive to do everything possible in preparing future priests "to prevent anything of the kind from happening again," he said.
Amid the "great tribulations" the church has faced during the last year, he said, the Advent prayer, "Stir up your power, O Lord, and come that you may save us," often has been "on my mind and on my lips."
Rather than beg Christ to wake up and deliver his disciples from a storm, it is the disciples themselves who must reawaken their own faith that has "grown tired," the pope said.
He said what needs to be restored is a faith that has "the power to move mountains, that is, to order justly the affairs of the world."
As the church works to address the sex abuse crisis within its own walls, it must also tackle the larger problems of child pornography and child sex tourism in society, the pope said.
"The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times," he said, as he lamented how child pornography is considered "more and more normal by society."
Insatiable desire and "the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart, and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines human freedom and ultimately destroys it," he said.
The pope called on pastoral leaders to renew "the great rational tradition of Christian ethos" and to replace the modern day notion of relative or pragmatic morality with "the essential and permanent foundations of moral actions."
In his address, the pope also spoke about the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in October and lamented that "Christians are the most oppressed and tormented minority" in the region.
"The tradition of peaceful coexistence has been shattered and tensions and divisions have grown" in many parts of the region, he said.
He expressed his gratitude for "voices of reason" such as Muslim leaders who speak up against violence against Christians. However, those voices "are too weak," he said, and Christians are "up against an unholy alliance between greed for profit and ideological blindness."
The pope urged all political and religious leaders to put an end to "Christianophobia" and to defend refugees and those who suffer as well as revitalize the spirit of dialogue and reconciliation.
Finally, the pope offered a reflection on his trip in September to the United Kingdom and the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.
Blessed Newman's spiritual conversion is an important model of "a path of obedience to the truth" that gradually opens up to a person, the pope said. It is a path of conscience, which is the human capacity to recognize the truth, and therefore seek it out and freely submit to it, he said.
Underlining the human capacity for objective truth is imperative in a world that is "troubled by the sense that moral consensus is collapsing, consensus without which juridical and political structures cannot function," he said.
The pope took note of French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville's observations of 19th-century America and how democracy there "had become possible and had worked because there existed a fundamental moral consensus, which transcending individual denominations, united everyone."
Before the pope's address, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, told the pope that the cardinals had begun a collection during the November consistory to aid the poor and sick in Haiti and Iraq.
Two sums of $100,000 each were being sent to Haiti and Iraq via the church's apostolic nuncios and would be distributed to Catholic organizations on the ground.
While we have been greatly blessed with the pontificates of two saintly popes (JP2 & B16) who have given the Church magnificent leadership, the Evil One has had numerous successes in his battle for souls. The clergy sex abuse of children continues to have a malignant effect on the Mystical Body of Christ. Unfortunately, many in the USA have fooled themselves into thinking that the Dallas Charter was the panacea that cured all these ills. Running background checks with the state police and getting fingerprints from the FBI only provide one level of defense. It does protect you from sexual deviants PREVIOUSLY caught who have a prior record. It does NOT protect you from pedophiles who were never caught and have no prior rap sheet. Likewise, it will not protect you from perverts who have not YET given in to their unnatural urges. All the Dallas Charter does it protect you from the few who committed crimes in the PAST. That is only partial security, at best.
The pathological behavior and condition of pedophilia and ephebophilia are symptomatic of a much larger, prolific and diabolical strategy to attack the Church.
One, we NEED good shepherds to pastor the fold. The business model has failed us tremendously. Those bishops who followed the corporate schema are the ones who denied these heinous things happen and merely swept them under the rug. Like executives at Enron, they responded by silencing the messenger, punishing the whistle-blower and transferring the malefactors. When bishops are seen or worse yet, see themselves, as middle management rather than as spiritual shepherds, they are governed by legal assistants and bean counters who crunch numbers instead of defending doctrine. The business model is not right for the Church. Expediency and seeking the lowest common denominator do more harm to an ecclesiastical organism. Political solutions are even more detrimental. We NEED PASTORAL bishops, not business ones.
Two,we need to address the ENTIRE PROBLEM: BAD THEOLOGY (dissident) + BAD LITURGY = BAD MORALITY
in other words, besides responding swiftly and vigorously on all actual incidents of sexual misconduct, we need to simultaneously ensure that REVERENT, licit and valid sacraments are celebrated AND that sound doctrine in accord with the Magisterium is taught in all Catholic schools, seminaries and colleges. LEX ORANDI, LEX CREDENDI, LEX VIVENDI.
Therefore, it is imperative that our bishops NOT be managers, bureaucrats or politicians, rather that they be true SHEPHERDS who are loyal to the Magisterium and defend orthodox doctrine; who love the Sacred Liturgy and Divine Worship and insist they be done correctly and reverently; who are not afraid to discipline when necessary for the common good of Holy Mother Church. Problem is that in many cases, good shepherds often inherit bad or mediocre advisers. Often these middle management act like old Soviet style bureaucrats who exist merely to retain their position and the status quo. Pray for your bishop and his staff this Christmas as well as your local pastor, vicar and deacon.
Remember, too, to thank the Lord if your diocese sends its vocations to good seminaries (Mount St. Mary's, Emmitsburg; St. Joseph's, Dunwoodie, NY; St. Charles Borromeo, Overbrook, PA; et al.)
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Pope B16 blesses the bambinelli (infant Jesus) that the children of Rome brought from home
God our Father,
you loved us so much
you sent us your only Son, Jesus,
born of the Virgin Mary,
to save us and lead us back to you.
We pray that, with your blessing,
these images of Jesus might be
a sign of your presence and love
in our homes.
give your blessing
to all who gather with us this Christmas,
family and friends.
Open our hearts,
that we might receive Jesus in joy,
do always what he asks of us
and see him in those who need our love.
We ask this in the name of Jesus,
your beloved Son, who came to give peace to the world.
You who live and reign forever and ever.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Santa began as a fourth century Catholic bishop named Saint Nicholas. The cult of St. Nicholas was one of histories most widespread religious movements. There are 2,137 churches dedicated to Nicholas in France, Germany, and the Low Countries alone before the year 1500." (Jones, Charles. W. "Knickerbocker Santa Claus." The New-York Historical Society Quarterly, October 1954, Volume XXXVIII Number Four, p.357)
The popular book, The Christmas Almanack, states, "By the height of the Middle Ages, St. Nicholas was probably invoked in prayer more than any other figure except the Virgin Mary and Christ Himself" (Del Re, Gerard and Patricia. The Christmas Almanack. New York: Random House, 2004, p. 131)
Miraculous folklore and legend surround the mysterious St. Nicholas. Among the more popular legends of St. Nicholas is the rescue of three poverty-stricken girls destined for prostitution. These girls were poor and did not have the dowry for marriage. St. Nicholas saved them from a life of shame, by providing marriage dowries of gold. They then were able to get properly married.
Another amazing miracle in the life of St. Nicholas is the three young boys who were sadistically murdered by a wicked innkeeper. Their bodies were chopped up and preserved in pickle barrels, with the cannibalistic intent of feeding their flesh to unsuspecting house guests. Of course, the amazing St. Nicholas resurrected the boys and their mutilated bodies. And like Santa, Saint Nicholas gave gifts to poor children, hence, his veneration as Patron Saint of Children. During the Middle Ages, hundreds of plays and paintings told and re-told the amazing feats of St. Nicholas.
Next, according to legend, Santa magically appears in the Netherlands around the seventeenth century. During this time, Sinter Klaas (a.k.a. Santa Claus) was officially born. Dutch children began the tradition of placing their shoes by the fireplace on December 5, for the mystic fourth century Bishop, Saint Nicholas. (Note: In the Dutch language Saint Nicholas is "Sint Nikolass," which was shortened to "Sinter Klaas," of which the anglicized form is "Santa Claus.") The next morning, the gleeful Dutch children quickly awoke to gifts and goodies in their shoes, left by Sinter Klaas. Like today’s Santa, Sinter Klaas, miraculously, traveled from housetop to housetop, and entered through the chimney.
Our next stop on the Santa highway is the year 1626 in the New World called America. Searching for the "American dream," Dutch settlers sailed from the Netherlands and established the Dutch colony called New Amsterdam (today called New York). The Dutch colonists quickly settled into America, bringing their customs, and of course, their beloved Sinter Klaas.
In December 1809, American essayist Washington Irving published a popular satire of the Dutch founding of New York titled A Knickerbocker History of New York. More than any other event, it was Irving’s Knickerbocker History that is credited for creating our modern day Santa Claus. The following history-making words from The Knickerbocker History became the public inauguration of Santa Claus. Who could have possibly imagined the significance these simple words would soon have?
And the sage Oloffe dreamed a dream,–and lo, the good St. Nicholas came riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to the children. . . And when St. Nicholas had smoked his pipe, he twisted it in his hatband, and laying his finger beside his nose, gave the astonished Van Kortlandt a very significant look; then, mounting his wagon, he returned over the treetops and disappeared. (Irving, Washington. Knickerbocker’s History of New York, New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1928, p. 50)
At this early period was instituted that pious ceremony, still religiously observed in all our ancient families of the right breed, of hanging up a stocking in the chimney on St. Nicholas Eve; which stocking is always found in the morning miraculously filled; for the good St. Nicholas has ever been a great giver of gifts, particularly to children. (Irving, Washington. Knickerbocker’s History of New York, New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1928, p. 68)
Next stop on our investigative journey for Santa, surprisingly, comes from the pen of a New York theology professor named Dr. Clement Clarke Moore. In 1822, inspired by Irving’s popular, Knickerbocker History’s portrayal of jolly St. Nicholas, Dr. Moore quietly wrote a trivial poem titled, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" for his own children as a simple Christmas present. Dr. Moore had no intention of publishing his poem, but in 1823 it was published anonymously, by a friend, in the Troy Sentinel. Moore’s extremely popular poem was the spark that lit the Santa Claus wildfire. Santa quickly began flying through America. Dr. Moore’s poem was later renamed the famous, "Twas’ The Night Before Christmas."
The finishing touches for Santa occurred around 1863 from the artistic hands of cartoonist Thomas Nast. Inspired by Moore’s popular poem, Nast illustrated scores of Santa pictures in Harper’s Weekly and the world was officially baptized with the face of Santa Claus. Nast’s early Santa was burly, stern, gnome-like, and covered with drab fur, much unlike today’s colorful and jolly fellow. But make no mistake – it was Santa.
My Confirmation name was Nicholas. I chose it because of his love for children. Although I will never have my own, as a Priest, I want to appreciate every child I baptize and every boy and girl I minister to in my parishes. I have no nieces or nephews, but I do have several God-children that are as dear to me as if they were blood relatives.
I left my shoe out last night to see if St. Nick would leave anything. I found a stuffed cat toy, which I suspect Tiberius placed there instead ;-)
Friday, December 03, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Pope Benedict XVI did NOT approve the use of prophylactics by homosexuals, heterosexuals or transsexuals to prevent the spread of HIV. The secular media took his words OUT OF CONTEXT and whenever you
TAKE A TEXT OUT OF CONTEXT YOU GET A PRETEXT.
Pope OK's Condoms appeared on one cable network while another said Vatican Allows Everyone to Use Condoms to Pontiff Says Certain Circumstances Warrant Condom Use
All of these are FALSE.
all acts of rape are gravely evil, immoral and sinful
that is true and no one would debate it, would they?
How about this statement?
intentionally infecting someone with a disease is also evil, immoral sinful
Now, if someone were to say
better a rapist to wear a condom and not infect his victim with a venereal disease
that DE FACTO translate into the person saying
condom use makes rape acceptable ?
Of course not.
That a rapist who previously never used condoms but knew he had AIDS
now all of a sudden begins to use condoms to prevent infecting his
victims is still committing heinous evil (rape) but he is showing a sign
of moral improvement insofar as he does not want to infect an innocent
victim with a deadly disease. But it is not construed as a green light
for rapists to attack women just so long as they use condoms.
the Pope was NOT approving condom use. He was saying it can be a sign
of moral improvement that someone engaged in immoral sexual intercourse
is at least trying to prevent infecting a person with a deadly disease.
The lesser of two evils is still evil. Rape is always wrong. All sex
outside of marriage be it between an unmarried man and unmarried woman
or between two men or two women. Yet, if someone has a VD, not only
should they do everything to prevent spreading the disease, they should
also ABSTAIN FROM ALL SEXUAL ACTIVITY. Rapists have no right to rape.
Sex is not a right but a privilege of marriage which is a covenant
between one man and one woman. Married sex must be oriented to love
(unity) and life (procreation) otherwise it is sinful behavior.
Contraceptive sex is immoral just as in vitro fertilization.
a bank robber handed out bullet proof vests to the customers and
employees at the bank would that make his act of robbery acceptable? Of
course not. Handing out condoms to prostitutes may prevent venereal
disease but it also promotes immoral activity since the removal of the
threat of physical harm can tempt many to give in to temptation. No
immediate consequences to actions leads some people to fool themselves
that evil actions can sometimes be tolerated.
not give condoms to teenagers in high school? Most are having sex
anyway? Could condom use lure some who would normally abstain now try
"protective sex"? How about just saying NO? As draconian as it sounds,
human beings are able and have been able to abstain from sex until
marriage for millennia.
THE ENDS NEVER JUSTIFIES THE MEANS and the MEANS NEVER JUSTIFIES THE END
Sex outside marriage is sinful and immoral. Contraceptive sex is
immoral. Premarital and extramarital sex is immoral, whether
heterosexual or homosexual. Spreading venereal disease is immoral.
Having children outside of marriage is immoral. Abortion is a grave
evil. Obviously, giving birth as an unwed mother is far better than
killing the innocent life of the unborn via abortion. Nevertheless, the
BETTER scenario is for unmarried people NOT to have any sex and for
married people to practice Natural Family Planning rather than use
The Church condemns suicide. She also
condemns terrorism. If a terrorist chooses to kill himself rather than
kill innocent victims, it is a lesser evil and he is showing some moral
movement in the right direction, but no one can construe that as a
blanket endorsement of suicide. Better if the terrorist kill NO ONE,
neither innocent victims nor himself. Better he repent and reform from
his evil ways ALL THE WAY.
Benedict was merely making a moral statement that someone already
involved in evil and sinful activity shows signs of moral improvement
when they choose the lesser of two evils. HOWEVER, any and all evil should be avoided.
not give clean needles to college students so they will not get
infections from tripping on heroin? How about not doing drugs at all?
Why not have wives give their husbands a condom whenever he goes out of
town for a business trip? Is it not better he not impregnate someone he
is not married to OR that he not bring home a VD? How about he remain
chaste in marriage at all times?
a parent discovered their child is the local bully. He beats younger
children up. What is the proper behavior to be sought? Is it not that
Junior STOP his belligerent and violent actions? Or would it be
acceptable if the parents got their son to move from physical violence
to mere verbal and emotional violence? When compared, there is the
lesser of evils, but there is also the reality that all abuse is evil
and UNACCEPTABLE. Some is worse than others but we cannot tolerate ANY
abuse. A sliding scale is not good enough.
However, if you are the counselor advising the parents, you can say to them that a movement away from physical violence to only verbal abuse is an improvement BUT IT CANNOT STOP THERE.
use of condoms compared to indiscriminate and prolific sex is less evil
than unrestricted promiscuity but it is not good enough to stop at that
level. The final goal must be what is GOOD and not what is just less
The Pope did NOT promote condom use. He made
a comment on an evil situation which could be less evil in one way but
ultimately the BEST way is to avoid all immoral and evil acts
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Friday, October 01, 2010
Father Zuhlsdorf splendidly explains the use of the maniple and crossing the priest stole (X) over the chest underneath the chasuble. Like the biretta, these things were no longer obligatory but neither were they proscribed or suppressed. Options are precisely that, things which may or may not be done or used at the discretion of the celebrant. Ad orientem is a major example. Rome has decreed that any priest may celebrate Mass either ad orientem or versus populum. The faithful have the option to receive Holy Communion on the tongue and to kneel while receiving just as they have the option of going to Confession annonymously. Yet, some imperious liturgy experts repudiate such legitimate exercise of freedom and unilaterally and illicitly decide to deny people their rights. As pastor, I did take a month (four weekends) to explain and prepare my parishioners for the monthly experience of ad orientem worship. We also incorporated kneelers (prie dieux) at Communion time for those who OPT to kneel. No one is forced to stand or kneel. My two churches only hold 125 comfortably and we could not locate the old altar rails, so I place two kneelers in front of the sanctuary at Communion time (just as one sees at Papal Masses celebrated by Pope B16) During the month of preparation, I explained the use of six candles ON the altar with a Crucifix facing the priest (distinct from the wall Crucifix facing the people), the kneelers and the option of the celebrant to offer Mass ad orientem. When the faithful are treated respectfully like intelligent adults, they respond as such. When you treat them like unsophisticated and unlearned children, you get another response.
I found that when priests and deacons take time to explain (catechize), people appreciate it immensely. This was NOT done after Vatican II in many parishes and dioceses. While the bishops were still in Rome attending Council sessions, liturgical nazis began weaving their web of deceit and invoking the infamous 'spirit of V2' to usher in any and all kinds of innovations, abberations and suppressions which the Bishops and Pope never intended. The people were treated like kindergarden students and told to 'be open.'
With the revised and improved English translation of the Roman Missal coming out next Advent (2011), it gives parish priests the opportunity to educate the faithful but in a mature, respectful and edified fashion. Many of our parishioners have college degrees and are well read in many disciplines. Thanks to EWTN, Catholic Answers Radio, Ignatius Press, and Catholic blogs and websites, we have a sophisticated laity which deserves better treatment than they have been given in the past. I do not find revolutionaries seeking to impose democracy on a hierarchical church, rather, I see educated faithful asking to be treated with due respect and consideration so their obedience will be intelligent as well as deliberate. People want to obey the Pope and Magisterium but can only do so when they are told precisely and ACCURATELY what it is they are to do. Dissidents will always try to sew seeds of discontent, but they are an extreme minority. The bulk of believers WANT to know the full deposit of faith and they deserve nothing less. Likewise, they want licit, valid and reverent Sacraments. They deserve nothing less. We clergy have an obligation to properly PREPARE our people for lex orandi just as we must for lex credendi.
No need to shock or surprise people in the pews. Using the bulletin and pulpit, pastors can and ought to take time and effort to inform God's People what and why we do what we do. I spend five minutes before every Baptism explaining all the symbols and rituals used before we begin so the family and friends can appreciate what is happening and not be clueless spectators. Likewise, at funerals, explaining the incense, funeral pall, holy water, Paschal candle, vestments, etc., help both Catholic and non-Catholic alike appreciate the beauty and elegance of a Catholic funeral. This can be easily and prudently incorporated into the homily before or after one expounds on Sacred Scripture and the Catholic belief on life after death, praying for the dead, et al.
Whenever we restore or return something which was abandoned in the past, it is important to tell the faithful WHY we are doing it. Even if it is mere personal choice, people like to know. If they know Father has a choice (not of what color to wear but what design, Roman or Gothic), what is wrong in letting them know I am exercising my prerogative just as they did in choosing what clothes to put on before coming to church?
Whether it is Ordinary or Extraordinary, Traditonal or Contemporary, Latin or English, the important thing for clergy is to educate our faithful as to what is necessary and what is optional; what constitutes validity and liceity. DE GUSTIBUS NON DISPUTANDUM EST. Hence, my choice of options may differ with my colleagues and/or some of my parishioners. Rather than confusing everyone, if I take the time and make the effort to EXPLAIN using charitable, intelligent and prudent language, you would be surprised the POSITIVE reaction and response you get.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
from The Golden Legend
Matthew was also called Levi. Matthew is interpreted a gift hastily given, or a giver of counsel. Or it comes from magnus, great, and Theos, God, meaning great unto God, or from manus, hand, and Theos, meaning the hand of God. For Matthew was a gift hastily given by reason of his speedy conversion, a giver of counsel by his salutary preaching, great unto God by the perfection of his life and the hand of God by his writing of the Gospel. Levi is interpreted assumed, or united, or added, or attached; for he was assumed from the exaction of the taxes, united to the apostles, added to the number of the evangelists, and attached to the catalogue of the martyrs.
While Matthew the apostle was preaching in Ethiopia, in a city called Nadaber, he found two magicians named Zaroes and Arphaxat, who so deluded men by their sorceries that they lost the use of their limbs and their reason, whereat the magicians were so filled with pride that they made men worship them as gods. Matthew, having found hostel in the house of that eunuch of Queen Candace who was baptized by Philip, unmasked the magicians' tricks in such wise that whatsoever they wrought to the harm of men, he converted to their welfare.
The eunuch asked Saint Matthew how he was able to speak and understand so many tongues. In answer, Matthew explained to him that when the Holy Ghost came upon the apostles, He gave knowledge of all tongues, so that, as those who had sought from pride to build a tower reaching to Heaven had been stayed therefrom by the confusion of tongues, so by the knowledge of tongues the apostles might build a tower, not of stones but of virtues, whereby all who believed might mount to Heaven.
Then came one who announced that the magicians were approaching with two dragons, which belched forth a sulphurous fire from their mouths and nostrils, and slew all within reach. The apostle, arming himself with the sign of the cross, went out to them confidently; and as soon as the dragons saw him, they fell asleep at his feet. Then said he to the sorcerers: 'Where then is your skill! Awaken them if you can: for had I not prayed the Lord, I should have turned upon you the bale which you thought to inflict upon me!' And when the populace gathered together, he commanded the dragons in the name of Jesus to go away, and they went off, harming no one.
Then the apostle preached a wondrous sermon to the people concerning the earthly paradise. He said that it was higher than all mountains and near to Heaven; no thorns or brambles grew therein, nor did the lilies and the roses wittier; there was no old age, all men remaining ever young; there the angels made sweet music, and the birds came at one's call. He said that man had been driven out of the earthly paradise, but that by the birth of Christ all were called again to the heavenly Paradise.
As he spoke these things to the people, a loud cry of mourning broke out for the king's son, who had died. When the sorcerers were unable to raise him to life, they persuaded the king that his son had been taken up into the company of the gods, and that he should build a temple and make an image in his honour. But the aforementioned eunuch caused the magicians to be taken prisoners, and summoned the apostle, who prayed over the youth and restored him to life. At this the king, whose name was Egippus, sent heralds throughout his realm, proclaiming: 'Come and see God hiding in the form of a man!' They came therefore with golden crowns and divers kinds of victims, wishing to sacrifice to him. But Matthew forbade them, saying: 'Men, what do ye? I am not a god, but the servant of Jesus Christ!' At his command they then used their offerings of gold and silver to build a great church, which they erected within thirty days; and in this church the apostle presided for three and thirty years, and converted all of Egypt to the faith; and King Egippus was baptized with his wife and all the people. The apostle also dedicated the king's daughter Ephigenia to God, and set her over more than two hundred virgins.
Some time later Hirtacus succeeded the king, and, lusting after the virgin Ephigenia, promised the apostle the half of his kingdom if he would prevail upon her to become his wife. The apostle answered that, following the usage of his predecessor, he should come to the church on the following Sunday, and there, in the presence of Ephigenia and the other virgins, hear how good was godly matrimony. Thither the king hastened with joy, thinking that the apostle meant to urge Ephigenia to marry. Matthew therefore preached for a long time to the virgins and the assembled populace concerning the good of matrimony; wherefore he was much praised by the king, Then, commanding silence, the apostle continued: Since marriage is a good thing, ve who are present well know that if a servant dared to molest the king's spouse, he would deserve not only the king's displeasure, but death besides; and this not because he wished to take a wife, but because he violated the king's marriage by carrying off his wife. And thou, 0 king, who knowest that Ephigenia is espoused to the eternal King, how canst thou purloin the spouse of One mightier than thou, and take her to wife?'
When he heard these words, the king was consumed with rage, and went out of the church, while the apostle, intrepid and unmoved, exhorted all to patience and constancy, and blessed Ephigenia and the other virgins, who had prostrated themselves in his feet. After the Mass the king sent a swordsman, who came behind Matthew as he stood at the altar with his hands raised to Heaven in prayer, drove his sword into his back, and so consummated the apostle's martyrdom.
When the populace heard these tidings, they ran to the king's palace to set it afire, but were restrained by the priests and deacons and made gladsome celebration for the saint's martyrdom. Meanwhile the king could not bend Ephigenia to his will, either by matrons whom he despatched to her, or by the artifices of the magicians. He therefore heaped up a great fire about her house in order to destroy her and the other virgins; but the apostle appeared to them, and warded the flames from the house, and it swept the royal palace and burned it to the ground, the king and his only son barely escaping. Thereupon the king's son was seized by the Devil, and sped to the apostle's tomb, loudly proclaiming his father's sins; while the infamous father was stricken with an incurable leprosy, and killed himself with his own sword.
The people then chose Ephigenia's brother, who had been baptized by the apostle, to be their king. He reigned for seventy years, and then gave his throne to his son. He enhanced the Christian worship lavishly, and filled the whole province of Egypt with the churches of Christ. As for Zaroes and Arphaxat, they fled to Persia the very day that Matthew raised the king's son to life, but there Simon and Jude vanquished them.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
A sapling grew from the grave and a great tree formed. From the branch of that tree, Moses got his staff which he used to part the waters of the Red Sea.
After his death, the staff was taken by Aaron and buried with him. It grew into another tree which King David used in his royal garden.
Cut down for Solomon’s Temple, it would not fit and was cast aside and thrown into a lake. The wood floated to the top and became a natural bridge.
The Queen of Sheba was unable to cross the bridge and had to take off her shoes and wade through the stream. She convinced King Solomon to take the wood and use it as a lintel over the doorway to the Temple. He did this and covered the wood with gold and silver.
His wicked grandson, Abijah, stripped the gold and silver and jewels from the wood and cast it into the water again. This time the wood transformed the waters into the healing pool of Bethesda.
At the time of the Crucifixion, it floated to the top and was washed ashore where a Roman soldier fashioned it into the Cross upon which Christ would be crucified.
It is said that the cross was made out of four kinds of wood, namely, palmwood, cedar, cypress, and olivewood. Hence the verse:
There were four wooden parts to the cross-the upright shaft, the crossbeam, the tablet above, and the block into which the cross was fixed, or, as Gregory of Tours says, the crosspiece that supported Christ's feet. Hence each of these parts might be made of any of the kinds of wood enumerated above.
FINDING THE CROSS LEGEND:
RESTORATION OF THE CROSS
Emperor Heraclius now marshalled a large army and marched against the son of Chosroes to confront him at the Danube River. Finally the two princes agreed to meet in single combat on the bridge that crossed the river, the victor to take over the empire, both armies being spared any damage. It was also decreed that anyone who came to the assistance of his prince would have his legs and arms cut off and be thrown into the river.
Heraclius offered himself totally to God and commended himself to the holy cross with all the devotion of which he was capable. The two princes fought for a long time, and the Lord granted victory to Heraclius, who thus made the opposing army subject to his command, with the result that all Chosroes's people acknowledged the Christian faith and received holy baptism. Chosroes himself knew nothing of the outcome of the war, because he was hated by all and no one told him about it.
Heraclius journeyed to Chosroes and found him seated on his golden throne. He said to him: "Because you have honoured the wood of the holy cross in your own way, you will be spared your life and your reign on condition that you accept the Christian faith and receive baptism, a few hostages being taken as guarantee. If on the other hand, you consider this beneath you, I will kill you with my sword and cut off your head." Chosroes refused the offer and Heraclius promptly decapitated him; but, since he had been a king, he was given suitable burial. Heraclius found the king's son, a child ten years of age, with him. He had the boy baptised and with his own hands lifted him from the font, then left his father's kingdom to him. But he demolished the tower and allotted the silver to his army as spoils of war, reserving the gold and the jewels for the rebuilding of the churches the tyrant had destroyed.
Now Heraclius carried the sacred cross back to Jerusalem. He rode down the Mount of Olives, mounted on his royal palfrey and arrayed in imperial regalia, intending to enter the city by the gate through which Christ had passed on his way to crucifixion. But suddenly the stones of the gateway fell down and locked together, forming an unbroken wall. To the amazement of everyone, an angel of the Lord, carrying a cross in his hands, appeared above the wall and said: "When the King of heaven passed through this gate to suffer death, there was no royal pomp. He rode a lowly ass, to leave an example of humility to his worshipers." With those words the angel vanished.
The emperor shed tears, took off his boots and stripped down to his shirt, received the cross of the Lord into his hands, and humbly carried it toward the gate. The hardness of the stones felt the force of a command from heaven, and the gateway raised itself from the ground and opened wide to allow passage to those entering. And a most sweet odour, which, from the day and moment when the sacred cross was taken out of Chosroes's tower, had glided across the far reaches of land from Persia to Jerusalem, now made itself felt, and refreshed with the wonder of its perfume all who sensed it. Then the truly devout emperor burst forth in praise of the cross: "O cross, more splendid than all the heavenly bodies, renowned throughout the world, deserving of all men's love, holier than all things else! O cross, you were worthy to carry the ransom of the world! O sweet wood, sweet nails, sweet sword, sweet lance, you were the bearer of sweet burdens! Save the host gathered today in praise of you and signed with your banner!"
Thus it was that the precious cross was brought back to its place, and the miracles of old began again: dead men were raised to life, four paralytics were cured, ten lepers were made clean, fifteen blind people received their sight, demons were driven out, and great numbers were delivered of various infirmities. Heraclius also repaired the churches and endowed them richly. Then he went back to his own land.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! It is with these words that I
greet you as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg and ask that you
pray for me that all that I do may be pleasing to the Lord and always be
directed as a work of praise to the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am deeply grateful to our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI for his
confidence in appointing me as the tenth Bishop of Harrisburg. I have
assured him of my gratitude and promised him my loyalty, my prayers and
my support as he continues his work of leading the Church as the Vicar of
I say a special word of thanks today to Archbishop Sambi, the Papal
Nuncio to the United States, who is the representative of the Holy Father
and who honors us with his presence here this afternoon. Archbishop, I
thank you for the support you have given to me and continue to give to all
the Bishops of the United States and I am especially grateful that you have
taken the time to be with me and the Church in Harrisburg this afternoon. I
assure you that the people of Harrisburg will keep you in our prayers as you
continue the important work of representing the Holy Father in the United
I thank in a special way today Cardinal Rigali, the Metropolitan
Archbishop of Philadelphia who ordained me a Bishop, is presiding at this
installation ceremony and who I have been privileged to work with for the
past 6 years as his Auxiliary Bishop. Your Eminence you have been a
wonderful mentor and friend and have modeled what it means to be a good
shepherd for one’s flock. I am eternally grateful for all of your support
through the years and I look forward to working closely with you as my
I am truly humbled by the presence of Cardinals Foley and Keeler, the
other Archbishops and Bishops who have come to join in this celebration and
all of the priests, deacons, consecrated men and women religious, family
and friends and wonderful people of the Diocese of Harrisburg who are with
us for this important moment in the life of the Church in Harrisburg.
I am privileged to celebrate this first Eucharist in this beautiful Cathedral
of St. Patrick and to share with you some thoughts on the word of God that
has been proclaimed in this liturgy. As you know the Eucharist is the center
point of our Catholic faith. Our late Holy Father Pope John Paul II in the last
letter that he wrote to the Church before he died entitled “Ecclesia de
Eucharistia” reminded us that we are the Church of the Eucharist. It is in the
Eucharist that we find our identity and our destiny. Our identity is the
privilege of being sons and daughters of God. It is in the Eucharist that Jesus
feeds us with His body and Blood so that He may live in us and we may live
in Him and truly be God’s people.
Our Holy Father pointed out that in the Eucharist all of space and time
are brought together. In the Eucharist we are transported back to that
moment in time when Jesus offered Himself on the cross for our sins and the
sins of the whole world. When we assist at the Eucharist we have the great
privilege of attaching ourselves to this unique sacrifice in such a way that we
now become part of the only acceptable sacrifice to God our Father and thus
are opened to communion and participation in the very life of God. In the
Eucharist Jesus continues to give us a share in His divine life so that we have
an eternal destiny and an eternal future. In feeding us with His body and
blood we are given the grace necessary to live the Christian life as God
I point this out this afternoon because I believe one of the challenges
that I must confront as a Bishop in the Church today is the diminished
appreciation of Catholics for the importance of the Sunday Eucharist in their
lives. St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, often remarked to
his people in Ars that if we truly understood the Eucharist and the great gift
that God was offering us we would not only seek it once a week but would
long for it constantly.
It is in the Eucharist that we see the fulfillment of the promise Jesus
made to His disciples when He ascended to the Father and assured them
that He would be with them and with His Church until the end of time. It is
important for all of us to understand that we do not have a God who is far
distant from us but one who is very close to us and who desires to live in us.
In doing so He calls us to help Him to build His kingdom. This is really the
task and work of the Church in Harrisburg. God calls us to be His people
here in this place at this time and this moment in history.
He asks us to not be afraid to live our lives based on the gospel values
that Jesus teaches us. So often in the Scripture Jesus says to the disciples
and to you and me today “Do not be afraid”. This is the message that I bring
as your new shepherd. Let us not be afraid to share our faith in the Lord
Jesus with all of the people of the 15 counties of the Diocese of Harrisburg.
Like St. Paul in his admonition to St. Timothy in our second reading for
today’s liturgy I ask that all of us stir into flame the gift God bestowed upon
us in our baptism. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that dwells in the hearts of
all believers allowing us to truly be God’s people. Paul points out that this
spirit is not a cowardly spirit but rather one that makes us strong, loving and
He also encourages us to be willing to bear our fair share of the
hardships that come with living out the gospel. This is often a difficult
message for us to hear and to understand because being a disciple of Jesus
does entail a willingness to take up our cross and follow Him. This does not
mean that we run around looking for hardships or crosses to bear. If we
truly live the gospel we will find more than enough to keep us occupied.
We are living in a culture that often rejects the fact that there is a God
who created us and who has established in His creation certain truths that
do not depend upon the will or the whim of the created. If we live by these
truths we will find opposition but we cannot deny these truths. One of these
is the right to life. We are a people who proclaim that God is the author of all
life human and divine. We must be a people that respect human life from the
moment of conception until natural death. We must not be timid about this
truth and we must do all in our power to help our brothers and sisters in the
world to grow in their appreciation of this truth.
We also live in a time when society would like to redefine the concept of
family and of the institution of marriage that finds its origin in God and was
established by God. It is God who willed that we be created male and female
and that the two should become one flesh. In doing so He established a set
purpose for our sexual faculties which are ordered to the intimate sharing of
our very being with the other opening to a participation in the creative
power of God in bringing about new life. To proclaim this truth today
requires courage and strength. In doing so we face the potential for rejection
just as the Lord Jesus encountered rejection in proclaiming the truth.
We must also be willing to follow the Lord in making reparation to God
for our own sins and the sins of others. We can do this through our prayers
and our good works. It is also important for us to recapture our appreciation
for the wonderful sacrament of reconciliation. This sacrament that has fallen
into disuse by so many of our people is a tragedy that needs to be corrected.
In the sacrament of reconciliation our God desires to draw us away from the
evil that is so detrimental to us and to restore us to the goodness that He
has placed within each of us. In this sacrament we must realize that the Lord
says to us what he said to the woman caught in adultery and was about to
be put to death. After writing in the sand it was only she and the Lord. The
Lord asked “is there no one here to condemn you”. She answered, “Only you
Lord”. Jesus said “I do not condemn you but go and sin no more”. What
wonderful words to hear. I do not condemn you but go and sin no more.
Why would we not want to hear these words for ourselves in the sacrament
of reconciliation? It is also important to understand that during our earthly
life Jesus is always our merciful savior generously offering his forgiveness
unconditionally for those who will acknowledge their sins. At the end of our
life when we pass through the doorway of death Jesus must become the just
judge when He must be true to Himself and meet out justice. It behooves us
to claim His mercy now especially by frequent use of the sacrament of
While we are speaking about sins and the mercy of God I do want to
address for a moment the terrible sin of clergy sexual abuse that has
occurred in the Church in recent years. To those who are victims especially
here in Harrisburg I express my deepest sympathy for what you have
endured. In the name of the Church I apologize for this terrible injustice that
was committed against you. The way that it was dealt with in the Church
was wrong and we are sorry. I assure you, the victims, that you have my
deepest love and concern and I will do all in my power to see that no such
tragedy occurs again in the Church. I do have an image that I want to
convey to you and it is the image of the Sorrowful Mother Mary holding her
battered and beaten Son after the terrible crucifixion that he underwent at
the hands of ruthless people. Though He was innocent He was defiled. Please
know I desire to hold you as Mary held her innocent son. I pray that in time
you will experience the Resurrection in your own life and that your wounds
will be healed.
In this liturgy we are using the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Image
and Mother of the Church. It is especially appropriate that during this Marian
Year in the Diocese that we should contemplate and look to Mary as the
model for our life and as the loving Mother that will journey with us as she
journeyed with her Son, Jesus throughout His life. As we heard in the Gospel
for this Mass it was Jesus who gave Mary to us as our mother. She is the
one who brought Jesus to the world and she is the one who continues to
direct us to her Son. She is a great intercessor for us and throughout the
course of my life I have been the beneficiary of her intercession and her help
more times than I can possibly count.
We also know that Mary is honored under the title of Our Lady of Hope.
She teaches us that we must always be a people of hope and always trust
that our loving God will sustain and accomplish His work in us if we will only
remain faithful to Him and to His promises. It is my prayer that we the
people of the Church in Harrisburg will always be a people full of hope. We
live in a world today where there are many individuals who have lost hope.
We know this because we see in the media stories of suicides, violence, drug
and alcohol abuse and so many other stories that can drain us of our zest for
life. There are many in our own area that suffer as a result of the economic
downturn and can despair that things will ever turn around or get better. I
want you to know that we are not abandoned or alone. The Lord is with us.
He will accomplish great things in us if we allow Him to work in and through
us. Let us be a sign of hope for all the people who live within the confines of
the Diocese of Harrisburg. May they see in us a bright light shining in the
darkness that will lead them as Mary did to the God who never fails us.
Finally my good people in the Diocese of Harrisburg, I ask you to pray for
me that I may be a good shepherd after the heart of Jesus. Pray that
together we may be good builders of the Kingdom of God here in Harrisburg.
Pray that we will have the courage to invite others to embrace our faith in
Jesus. Pray that I may be able to encourage those who have grown lax in
their faith to rediscover the great gift that God has given to us in His Son
Jesus and the great treasure that He has left us in the Eucharist. It is my
prayer that all of us will look to Mary as the model for our life and that Jesus
will always be at the center of all that we say and do.
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