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Recent news and musings by the Catholic Center


The Fire which Burns and Saves

Posted by on Feb 28, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Today marks the end of Pope Benedict’s papacy. I am sad. There are many things written and said by Pope Benedict for which I am grateful to God. Here is one.

This is a paragraph from Spe Salvi, his encyclical from November 30, 2007, on the topic of the meaning of Christian hope. When words become separated from their origin, they loose their meaning and their effect. We have to relearn Christian words and concepts. Hope is one of those words.
This encyclical is powerful and especially for me personally for several reasons. First, written just over a year after my dad’s death, hope and judgment were still heavy on my heart. Second, he published this encyclical on November 30th, the feast of St. Andrew. I try to pay attention to such things as patron saints. Third, portions of this encyclical have popped up into my prayer life on several occasions.
This is one of those passages. This passage, paragraph 47, makes me think about my own efforts in this world. Are they good enough for Jesus Christ? Was my homily prepared? My counsel in confession clear? Am I making full use of my gifts to be a priest? I entrust all of these efforts to Jesus Christ, the “fire which burns and saves.”

Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ’s Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy…The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).

Thank you Lord, for Pope Benedict XVI!



Women of Faith

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013 at 9:48 pm

A few weeks ago, Sr. Mary Alma, of the School Sisters of Christ the King, presented to the women of SDSU and Pius XII Newman Center. Her talk was “Women of Faith.” It was such a beautiful talk I had meant to share my notes as soon as I could. Sr. Mary Alma spoke of three levels of believing. 1st, that God exists, 2nd, who is this God, 3rd, who is this God for me?


That God exists: This is a good beginning and it is the place many people start in the life of faith. It is reasonable to believe, faith compliments and crowns reason. To understand and help others with basic belief it is good to know apologetic arguments, which also shore up our own belief. Especially the proofs of St. Thomas Aquinas. Go to Article 3 in this link to read the Saint in his own words, especially the section titled: “I answer that.”


Who is this God? We know who God is by reading the Scriptures and knowing Jesus. Jesus is the full revelation of who God is. Consider Matthew 16 and the exchange with the disciples at Caesarea Philippi, here our Lord asks them two different questions. Who do people say that I am? Who do you say that I am? Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” See also how God is revealed in Luke 15 in the merciful father of the prodigal son. See how God is revealed in John 8 and the woman caught in the very act of adultery. Our own knowledge and estimation fall short of the beautiful reality.

Finally, consider Matthew 11 when Jesus tells us to learn from him. Does God ask us to learn from his omniscience or his omnipotence or some other divine attribute? No. Those things can be known by reason. Jesus asks us to learn the thing that only He can reveal about God. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.”


Who is this God for me? Who us Jesus for you? He is the one who is in love with you. How do we know? When you are in love you give your life for the beloved. Jesus’ cross is the testimony of his saving love for you. How do you respond? How can you respond unless you have received and abide in this truth. Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us.” This is what he does. He gives himself in love so that you may sin no more.

How to Live Your Faith: We can bring great joy to the heart of God by living our faith in straightforward manner. Remember the story of the Canaanite Woman, she comes and asks Jesus to heal her daughter, Jesus replies that food of the children should not be given to the dog. Is Jesus insulting her? No, he is challenging her faith and giving her room to exercise it. As she persists, Jesus responds, “O woman, great is your faith!” Imagine the joy on Jesus’ face as he encounters substantial and enduring faith in the heart of this woman. Imagine how, in your own testing, he awaits to greet you with the same joy. “Great is your faith!”

 We also can live our faith by simple communions in the midst of our day. Whenever we change form one activity to another: sleep to waking, dorm to class, one class to another, and anything else, we open our hearts and minds to the presence of God in our soul. Perhaps a simple formula, “Jesus, I believe you are here in my baptized soul, I want to walk with you.” Or something less formal, either way to become aware of and responsive to his life giving presence.

Be a strong woman of faith in this year of faith.



9/11 and #YOLO

Posted by on Sep 11, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Today is 9/11/2012, eleven years since the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. The memory of that morning is still fresh in my mind: the surprise, confusion and true shock. What exactly did this mean? From the beginning my fellow seminarians, students and myself at the University of St. Thomas could tell that this event was DIFFERENT. 

How different it would be, we didn’t know but we knew it was different. We didn’t know that thousands of our peers would end up dying thousands of miles away in Afganistan and Iraq. We didn’t know that our entire experience of air travel would change. We didn’t know how but we knew things were different. 
The biggest difference that the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 brought was a challenge to our innocence and mortality. What do I mean? That day and the aftermath have become a great challenge to how my generation thinks about ourselves. We are no longer invincible. There are 20 year olds missing limbs. There are 20 year old widows. There are orphans who’s mommy or daddy should barely be 30. 
What does that mean about the way we live now?

It makes me think of #YOLO. You Only Live Once. #YOLO has burned up twitter and facebook as a hot trend of the summer. If you look into it, you’ll usually find #YOLO as the reason for people doing things they normally wouldn’t. From the mildly innocent, like gorging on a cheeseburger or sneaking into a concert to much worse behavior that can lead to life long consequences and scars of emotional, physical and spiritual kind.

#YOLO in these cases is a throw-away line. A shrug of indifference as to why someone tried. But doesn’t that miss the point? “#YOLO, so don’t hold anything back. #YOLO, so take big risks and don’t think about the consequences, just think about the moment.”

If #YOLO is true: you only live once. Then it seems like they are both on to part of a big picture while missing the rest. You only have one life, one now that could end at any moment. 9/11/01 crystalized that for my generation. We are all one heart beat away from death. So what to do about it? Rare things are usually precious things. Gold, diamonds, championships, friends, love- we treasure them because they are rare. If we only have one life, it is should be the most precious thing we have. So while we don’t want to waste it by inaction (#YOLO!) we don’t want to waste it foolishly either.

#YOLO should be a call to find two things: true courage and a community that will help you live that life well. Since we only live once, need courage to make the most of it. True courage is neither foolhardy nor timid. The foolhardy woman takes every chance without any calculation. They might seem attractive for a moment or two but soon we realize that they miss out on the precious character of life. The timid man never takes any chances but allows the threats and possible downfalls to cut off his decisions. We should seek true and wise courage.
We also need a community that will help you live. A place where friends will treasure your own life as it ticks by into the unknown. A place where you can learn to love your friends lives as they tick off into the unknown. This is what I love about being a Catholic and being surrounded by intentional Catholic friends. They understand that each of us only has one life, one now, and that each of us is one heart beat away from death. They want me and want themselves to get the most out of life in the best way. They want me to know that I am known, loved, and cared for.

On this anniversary of the terror of 9/11/01, remember the truth: #YOLO. Seek to understand and possess true and wise courage. Seek to find a community that knows, loves and cares for you because #YOLO.



Christmas Break and Purgatory

Posted by on Jan 15, 2012 at 11:55 pm

As a priest witha disposition for apologetics and teaching, I’m always looking for new ways to illustrate truths of the faith. In my three years of working with college students a new light has shone for me in regard to explaining purgatory. Christmas break. Christmas break is useful because it exposes tendencies and habits- which, depending on their nature, we call virtue or vice. If we do not understand our humanity in terms of habit, virtue, and vice, we will not understand the mercy that is purgatory.

Many students go on Christmas break with an appetite and expectation for a heavenly experience. It is a blessed time free from outside trial and tribulation- especially after the crucible of final exams. There is no thing out side fo them which would cause them distress or sadness. Yet they often return from break with one or even several regrets about wasted opportunity. Where does the problem occur? Too many obligations? No. Too many stressers? No.

The difficulty lies within. Our tendencies or habits are what keep us from having the Christmas break we desire. It are those habits and especially our vices that the mercy of purgatory removes from us. Then we are truly free to enjoy the Divine blessing of heaven. Frank Sheed, in his smartly titled Theology and Sanity speaks of it as “spiritual gravity.”

Next time you wonder about Purgatory, consider the spiritual gravity within you and how you are not simply in love with God. You are complex, a mixture of love of God and love of self. If that mixture is not purified on this earth, thanks be to God he will purify us before heaven. That is why I am grateful for Purgatory.



Get more out of Mass

Posted by on Nov 28, 2011 at 4:23 am

In this Sunday’s homily we spoke about attentive and watchful participation in the Mass, tying in the Season of Advent as well as the New Translation of the Mass. We mentioned the use of Missals (not missiles) as a way to get more out of Mass and to develop our personal encounter with Jesus, truly present in each Mass. Here are some sources for your Christmas gift list.

Here are a couple varieties from Aquinas and More book store. They are from a reputable and good Catholic bookstore. There are simpler and cheaper versions (from St. Joseph’s press). As well as more expensive, and dare I say, deluxe versions.

Another great option I mentioned was the Magnificat magazine. it contains the readings and prayers of, not only Sunday Masses but also daily Masses. It also has beautiful artwork and inspiring passages each day from saints and other Catholic authors. A subscription is $45 for the year. If that seems too much, you could order a promo copy. They even have an iPhone version, free with a print subscription or with an online subscription.

Quite cool and all good use of your Christmas list. What grandma wouldn’t want to her grandchild in college something with which to dive into their faith?

Cross posted at Pius XII Newman Center.



Prayer of St. Ephrem

Posted by on Feb 25, 2010 at 1:18 pm

For those that enjoyed the Prayer of St. Ephrem from my facebook status yesterday, here is a full article on the parts of the prayer. It is from the Byzantine tradition of the faith and this article mentions somethings about the Byzantine Liturgy, which is different from our Roman Liturgy. I learned it from a professor in seminary and find it a beautiful prayer of penance.

Of all lenten hymns and prayers, one short prayer can be termed the lenten prayer. Tradition ascribes it to one of the great teachers of spiritual life – St. Ephrem the Syrian. Here is its text:

O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother; For Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen

Why does this short and simple prayer occupy such an important position in the entire lenten worship? Because it enumerates in a unique way all the “negative” and “positive” elements of repentance and constitutes, so to speak, a “check list” for our individual lenten effort. This effort is aimed first at our liberation from some fundamental spiritual diseases which shape our life and make it virtually impossible for us even to start turning ourselves to God.

The basic disease is sloth. It is that strange laziness and passivity of our entire being which always pushes us “down” rather than “up” — which constantly convinces us that no change is possible and therefore desirable. It is in fact a deeply rooted cynicism which to every spiritual challenge responds “what for?” and makes our life one tremendous spiritual waste. It is the root of all sin because it poisons the spiritual energy at its very source.

The result of sloth is faint-heartedness. It is the state of despondency which all spiritual Fathers considered the greatest danger…

Do read it all!


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