Jeremiah 6:16

Thus saith the Lord: Stand ye on the ways, and see and ask for the old paths which is the good way, and walk ye in it: and you shall find refreshment for your souls.




Music in the Catholic Church can be divided into two categories. Liturgical music is appropriate for a Mass or any other ritual action that is under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop. Devotional (worship) music is music that has been produced to be used in worshiping God, but not in a liturgical setting. The third edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal suggests that Gregorian chant is proper to the Roman Liturgy and should be regarded as the music that is proper to a liturgical setting. It also says that other types of music, such as polyphony, are appropriate if they “correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action” and “foster the participation of all the faithful.” Going hand in hand with the types of music used for liturgy is the types of instrumentation used. In a later paragraph, the Instruction states that the preferred instrument for liturgy is the organ. Other wind, stringed or percussion instruments may be used as long as they can be rendered “truly apt for sacred use.”

In other words, liturgical music should adhere to, and be used within, the context for which it was created. Liturgical music, traditionally, has been written for the organ or for the small ensemble of instruments it is designed to mimic. Many pieces have been written to include both the organ and the ensemble. Instruments that do not require amplification are preferred within the liturgy. This is so that we may complement the sacrifice of Jesus Christ with our own sacrifices. It takes more work to create music that can properly fill the church without amplification. Any instrument that requires amplification is a failure to live up to our prayer that this sacrifice of not only the bread and wine but our labor to give glory and praise is truly the work of our human hands.

Devotional music and authentic devotion is supposed to lead us back to the mystery of the Mass and to draw us deeper into the mystery of Christ. As we said last week, authentic devotion can be done anywhere. Therefore, devotional music can exist anywhere. Whether we are caught in a traffic jam, shopping or participating in the parish charismatic praise and worship group, this music keeps Christ fresh in our minds. It also helps to lead us into a greater understanding of our participation in the gift of life. Like devotion in general, devotional music takes a free form and can be played with a variety of instruments. Amplification is not an issue with devotional music because the assembly is usually smaller, and the sense of sacrifice reserved for the Mass is replaced with the idea of giving praise and thanksgiving to God for his many gifts.

Since devotional music is intended for a smaller group, this community should have greater control over what types of music and instruments are played. The devotional setting is the proper place for instruments such as guitars and for groups that prefer to play “rock” style music. Christian “praise bands”, and the songs that they play should be reserved for the devotions of the Church. This is so that the people attending may participate as they wish. A question that should be answered before devotional music is used, and before authentic devotion may take place is; “How does this activity lead us back to the life, death and resurrection of Christ that is present in the Mass?” Next week, we will complete this series of articles by discussing the prayers of the Church when it comes to liturgy and devotion, and also the places where liturgy and devotion take place.

(Material from the Diocese of Columbus, OH)


An Open Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama

Originally Posted at Vox Nova:

An Open Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama

November 14, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama,

As American Catholics, we, the undersigned, would like to reiterate the congratulations given to you by Pope Benedict XVI. We will be praying for you as you undertake the office of President of the United States.

Wishing you much good will, we hope we will be able to work with you, your administration, and our fellow citizens to move beyond the gridlock which has often harmed our great nation in recent years. Too often, partisan politics has hampered our response to disaster and misfortune. As a result of this, many Americans have become resentful, blaming others for what happens instead of realizing our own responsibilities. We face serious problems as a people, and if we hope to overcome the crises we face in today’s world, we should make a serious effort to set aside the bitterness in our hearts, to listen to one another, and to work with one another

One of the praiseworthy elements of your campaign has been the call to end such partisanship. You have stated a desire to engage others in dialogue. With you, we believe that real achievement comes not through the defamation of one’s opponents, nor by amassing power and using it merely as a tool for one’s own individual will. We also believe dialogue is essential. We too wish to appeal to the better nature of the nation. We want to encourage people to work together for the common good. Such action can and will engender trust. It may change the hearts of many, and it might alter the path of our nation, shifting to a road leading to a better America. We hope this theme of your campaign is realized in the years ahead.

One of the critical issues which currently divides our nation is abortion. As you have said, no one is for abortion, and you would agree to limit late-term abortions as long as any bill which comes your way allows for exceptions to those limits, such as when the health of the mother is in jeopardy. You have also said you would like to work on those social issues which cause women to feel as if they have a need for an abortion, so as to reduce the actual number of abortions being performed in the United States.

Indeed, you said in your third presidential debate, “But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, ‘We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.’”

As men and women who oppose abortion and embrace a pro-life ethic, we want to commend your willingness to engage us in dialogue, and we ask that you live up to your promise, and engage us on this issue.

There is much we can do together. There is much that we can do to help women who find themselves in difficult situations so they will not see abortion as their only option. There is much which we can do to help eliminate those unwanted pregnancies which lead to abortion.

One of your campaign promises is of grave concern to many pro-life citizens. On January 22, 2008, the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when speaking of the current right of women in America to have abortions, you said, “And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president.”

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) might well undermine your engagement of pro-life Americans on the question of abortion. It might hamper any effort on your part to work with us to limit late-term abortions. We believe FOCA does more than allow for choice. It may force the choice of a woman upon others, and make them morally complicit in such choice. One concern is that it would force doctors and hospitals which would otherwise choose not to perform abortions to do so, even if it went against their sacred beliefs. Such a law would undermine choice, and might begin the process by which abortion is enforced as a preferred option, instead of being one possible choice for a doctor to practice.

It is because of such concern we write. We urge you to engage us, and to dialogue with us, and to do so before you consider signing this legislation. Let us reason together and search out the implications of FOCA. Let us carefully review it and search for contradictions of those positions which we hold in common.
If FOCA can be postponed for the present, and serious dialogue begun with us, as well as with those who disagree with us, you will demonstrate that your administration will indeed be one that rises above partisanship, and will be one of change. This might well be the first step toward resolving an issue which tears at the fabric of our churches, our political process, our families, our very society, and that causes so much hardship and heartache in pregnant women.

Likewise, you have also recently stated you might over-ride some of President G.W. Bush’s executive orders. This is also a concern to us. We believe doing so without having a dialogue with the American people would undermine the political environment you would like to establish. Among those issues which concern us are those which would use taxpayer money to support actions we find to be morally questionable, such as embryonic stem cell research, or to fund international organizations that would counsel women to have an abortion (this would make abortion to be more than a mere choice, but an encouraged activity).

Consider, sir, your general promise to the American people and set aside particular promises to a part of your constituency. This would indicate that you plan to reject politics as usual. This would indeed be a change we need.

To which I add my name with the others:

Brandon Charles Markey


And now for something completely different:

This is an atricle in the WSJ by a Mr. Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives from 2002-2006. He is now president of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe:

President Bush will soon be heading home and for many that day cannot come soon enough. Count me among those who will miss him and his bedrock decency.

He had a rough road from day one. His first inauguration struck me as a portent. I was there, shivering in the grandstands on Pennsylvania Avenue. At the exact moment the president heard"Hail to the Chief" for the first time and was announced to the audience, a sleet storm descended from the skies.

It has never let up.

Through it all Mr. Bush kept his head up and soldiered on. He took the criticism in stride. I remember riding with him in his presidential limousine to the Washington Hilton for a speech. A woman standing at an intersection directed an obscene gesture at him that I had hoped he missed. The president waved to her and with a bemused look said to me, "Did you see what she did?"

Many other Americans, particularly the "values voters" who helped elect him twice, will miss him because of what he achieved: Samuel Alito and John Roberts on the Supreme Court, children in schools that now are better because they are accountable, African women who now have medicines for their HIV-infected babies, and religious charities that are finally being treated by government as partners instead of rivals.

I remember coming to the West Wing one morning before the daily 7:30 senior staff meeting and seeing Mr. Bush at his desk in the Oval Office, reading a daily devotional. I remember the look of sorrow on his face as he signed letters to the families of the fallen. When he met with recovering addicts whose lives were transformed by a faith-based program, he spoke plainly of his own humiliating journey years ago with alcohol. When a Liberian refugee broke into tears after recounting her escape to freedom in America, the president went over and held and comforted her.

Little acts behind the curtain like these inspired intense loyalty by staff members. They spoke of someone never too busy or burdened to care -- like when he took time on Air Force One to call my wife when she was sick. The president's true character rendered his media image pure caricature.

Mother Teresa was asked at the end of her life whether she was discouraged because after decades of caring for the dying and destitute in Calcutta little seemed to have changed. She replied, "No. God doesn't call me to be successful. God calls me to be faithful."

History will decide whether George W. Bush was a successful President. But he was faithful. He had a charge to keep and he kept it.


Sackcloth and Ashes.

... O Canada...............................................


The Gadfly - Biting the Sleeping Horse

As a student at Franciscan University, I often write for our underground student paper, The Gadfly which seeks to "bite the sleeping horse." Recently a friend of mine asked me if I would be writing another article soon. I said sure, give me a topic. She gave me a few, which I'll ask you for your opinion on.

On which should I write something:

1. The discrepancies between what the Church demands us to say and what we often say/sing instead.

2. Commentary/criticism on Churches/Communities/Universities which use armies of Extraordinary Ministers(Ministrettes) of Holy Communion.

3. Commentary/criticism of the general laisse-faire attitude and widespread irreverence for the celebration of Holy Mass.

or a fourth idea:

Answer some questions comparing/contrasting the differences between the Novvs Ordo and the Gregorian Rite of the Holy Sacrifice, and discussing the future perhaps a tertium quid.

I await your responses!


Feminae! Quid Nunc Cupiant?

Okay, well you had to know that I would come out of summer-hibernation for this one.

This afternoon/evening the AP and Boston Globe (what a rag of a paper) reported that the excommunicant organization "Womenpriests" announced the "ordination" of three women as priests and a fourth as a deacon. I'll try the Fr. Z style and just give you an article with my emphases and [my comments].

Group says it ordains 3 women Catholic priests

Jul 20, 8:06 PM (ET)


BOSTON (AP) - An activist group hoping to pressure the Roman Catholic church into dropping its long-standing prohibition [It's not a prohibition, it's a recognition that the Church doesn't have the authority.] barring women from the priesthood says it ordained three women on Sunday. [Can 1024 Sacram ordinationem valide recipit solus vir baptizatus.]

Church officials did not recognize the ordination, and the Vatican has previously warned that women taking part in ordination ceremonies will be excommunicated. [Actually what the Holy See has said is that these participants are already excommunicated, and have become so by their own actions. The Church, in this instance, only announces the excommunicated state, and enforces the penalty, she does not place them in it. They have done that themselves.]

The group known as Roman Catholic Womenpriests held the ceremony at the Church of the Covenant, a Protestant Church in Boston. [Please note that they hely it at a protestant Church, yet another sign of their departure from Rome.]

The group said the three women - Gloria Carpeneto of Baltimore, Judy Lee of Fort Myers, Fla., and Gabriella Velardi Ward of New York City - are responding to a heartfelt call to serve the church as priests. [Who are they to insert themselves into God's plan? He does not call the "qualified" but qualifies the called.]

A fourth woman, Mary Ann McCarthy Schoettly of Newton, N.J., was ordained as a deacon, the group said.

The Archdiocese of Boston issued a statement decrying the ceremony.

"Catholics who attempt to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the women who attempt to receive a sacred order, are by their own actions separating themselves from the church," the archdiocese said. [At least something orthodox is coming out of Boston now-a-days.]

The group says the women who are ordained remain loyal members of the church and [/yet] will act as priests whether they are excommunicated or not. [Let's get this straight. They're loyal to Mother Church, yet when she, in her wisdom, orders them not to do something, their loyalty will compel them to go ahead and disobey. Gotta love loyalty.]

Sunday's ordination ceremony was performed by two women the group describes as bishops - Ida Raming of Struttgart, Germany, and Dana Reynolds from California.

The ceremony "is not in compliance with their man-made rules,[...which stipulate men...] but it's certainly in compliance with the Roman Catholic ordination rituals[...which stipulate men...] because our bishops were ordained by all-male Roman Catholic bishops [stop the presses here... Not only are they using the argumentum ad verecundiam, the logical fallacy which invokes false authority, but we're referencing something which begs the question, how did this go unchecked?] who are in good standing with the church," [WRONG. Just because we don't KNOW who they are, doesn't mean that the Church, as the Bride of Christ is not wounded and betrayed by these deceitful and venemous Sucessors to the Apostles.] as provided by the church's ordination rituals, said Bridget Mary Meehan, the group's spokeswoman.

The group, which was formed in 2002, has conducted similar ceremonies in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

In March, the archbishop of St. Louis [Yay, Burke! Can we just petition the Vatican to make him the Ordinary of America?] excommunicated three women - two Americans and a South African who were part of the Womenpriests movement - for participating in a woman's ordination.

Pope Benedict XVI, like his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, has rebuffed calls to change traditional church teachings [Again, because he simplt does not have the authority to do such a thing!] on the requirement that priests be male.

Catholics who are excommunicated cannot receive sacraments. The penalty can be lifted if those who have been punished are sincerely repentant.

So I don't understand how these women, and not a few men seem to get confused with the limitations of their authority, and the limitations of the Church's authority. We (the Church) were given very strict parameters under which to operate, and to deviate from them, the orders of Christ, direct or implied and discerned, is an offense against God and His people. When you wound the Church, you wound all of us.

This is the further extent of the Free-Church movement. It expresses itself in liberal (read: non-traditional, innovative, new) liturgies, music and words within it; in wishy-washy spirituality, which leaves itself in the profane, merely human realm and avoids the inner depths of the spiritual life in favour of emotions and good feelings.

The personal seizure of religion and communion with the Divine manifests itself in congregationalism and Unitarian Universalism, neither of which are true religion in my estimation, is seeping into the Church of Rome. Our Anglican cousins are bleeding out from being wounded by this very issue. Let's take a page from their book and continue to avoid this divisive scandal, and pray, pray, pray that God will deliver us. His Grace is sufficient!


Salve festa Dies

If you haven't picked up... Barring some major event, I'm on hiatus for the summer! I'll return some time around mid-August.

God Bless!


Meno chiacchiere – piĆ¹ processioni!

So Thanks be to God, we got our Franciscan University household started and inducted! We are the Equites Lux Sacra, Knights of the Holy Light.

"Why," you may ask, "is the title not Equites Lucis Sacrae?"
Well. Let me explain. It's called apposition. It's a title, and not part of a grammatical structure. Simple as that. think of SPQR - Senatus Publiusque Romanus. Nominative. Apposition. Titular.

Anyways. The ceremony went generally as follows: (no... here's the program instead)

Institution of the
23 August 2008 – Feast of St. George

Introductory Rite
(All Stand)
P. In nomine Sanctissimi Trinitatis, Pater, Filius et Spiritus Sanctus, Amen. Dominus Vobiscum.
R/. Et cum spiritu tuo.
P. Oremus
Lord Jesus Christ … God-Father, God-Son, and God-Holy Ghost.
R/. Amen

(Guests and Household sit) (Romans 13:11b-14)

The Covenant
(Equites stand)

(Triarii stand)

Charge and Promises
(Guests sit, Household stand.)

Oath Against Modernism
(Guests and Household Stand)

The Dubbing
(Clerics, Seminarians, and Religious Knights stand, all other guests and household kneel.)

(Guests and Household stand)

Please join us for a light celebration in the Bonaventure Common areas.

:) Here are some photos from our 45 minute ceremony last night:


Gone? Household?

Yes! I'm still around. I've just been busy with lots of interesting things...

It's about that time in the school year that things start revving up... tests and papers and such.

Also, gotta prepare for summer work -- youth ministry! Going to try and get the teens interested in the more orthodox and traditional love of the Church, rather than the new-fangled guitar stuff. Pray for that!

Also, and perhaps most time-consuming, I've begun a Household here on campus at SteubyU. It's a further extension of what Eques has set up with his ELS. It's adapted to a college campus which is particularly suited to such radical approaches at evangelization and living Christ's commands. Actually, Fr. Z o{]:¬) posted something about us about a week ago... Here.

Here is the Covenant by which we intend to live our brotherhood. Support is wonderful, financial is more than welcome, but what we need most are prayers and moral support... So here it is. What do you think?


Household Covenant

Equites were the first rank of nobility in early Rome and the word itself comes from the word Equus, “horse.” Men who could afford their own horses to ride into battle were therefore called Equites; Knights.

Lux Sacra, “The Sacred Light,” is Christ himself, who is the Light of the world not to be overcome by the darkness of evil. We, the Equites Lux Sacra, are the Cavalry of Christ who strive to serve Him. Christo Serviam.

Therefore, we are Equites of the Holy Light, acting as the vanguard of Christ-God, defending and revering Him in His Eucharistic Body. We also love and defend His Mystical Body, the Church Militant and call upon the glorious members, the Saints, for their intercession and sacred aid.

Our anthem is St. Thomas Aquinas’ Adoro Te Devote. Our essential prayer is for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the Memorare, the protection of Holy Michael the Archangel, and for the guidance of Eques St. George in combat against the dragon of the Seven Capital Sins, temptation, and evil.


We attempt to conduct ourselves as Christian Gentlemen at all times according to the ancient rules of chivalry. We are on our honor to keep these promises, as knights and Equites of old.


As a Household, we are dedicated to the traditions of the Church, dogmatic and ritual.

1. We reject, outright, unnecessary innovation and change for the sake of change. We also reject relativity, which goes so far as to lose the essence of the Church and her Teachings. As well, we embrace the ancient hymns and prayers, the spiritual staples of the Church Militant for generations.

2. We harbor a great love for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and a particular appreciation for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The solemnity of this Celebration of Christ’s Sacrifice deeply resonates with the charisms and spirituality of the Equites Lux Sacra.


We are committed to the virtues of Chivalry in utmost respect for our God, our brothers and our sisters.

1. We uphold and defend the dignity of human life born and unborn. Whether the value of life is denied or lessened, the Equites stand ready to defend it even to the point of death.

2. We recognize this selfless service in the quotation from the Servant of God Catherine Doherty; “I am Third.” We place God first, and neighbor second, before ourselves. As a visible witness of this commitment, the Equites strive to perform acts of selfless service. Whereas, in ages past, men and women would bow to each other, recognizing the internal goodness of the person, our selfless work goes further, recognizing the person as a divine Ikon of the Creator-God, intrinsically worthy of love and service.


Good Knight St George, the Bringer of Victory is the model for Christian Knighthood, and true God-centered chivalry. We revere him and imitate his bravery and heroism, recalling the battle to slay the dragon of sin and division. We celebrate the glorious death that St. George suffered rather than renounce his faith. We strive to echo his witness and express our undying fealty to God.


Our motto, “Induamur Arma Lucis” translates “Let us put on the armor of light.” Each Eques is symbolically presented with a breastplate, which symbolizes our Knighthood and our Motto. St. Paul instructs the new Christians in Rome to cast off the works of darkness and put on this armor of light. He commanded the Christians in Ephesus to take up the helm of salvation and the sword of the spirit, to put on the breastplate of righteousness and take up the shield of faith. Because of his faithful witness, he was held for two years under house arrest, awaiting his trial and eventual martyrdom. It is by his example that we must always be willing to suffer much, even to the point of death, to sacrifice all for the sake of Christ and for love of neighbor.


Our quest is to serve Christ our God. We echo this in our cry Christo Serviam; I will serve Christ! This is accomplished by living the admonishment of St. Paul in Romans 13.

Romans 13:12-14

The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves honorably as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

This pericope from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans concisely describes how each of the Equites strives to live his life, and pursue our noble quest for the Holy Grail, which for each of us is the quest for holiness itself. We are made holy first by our Baptism, strengthened in it by our Confirmation, continually renewed and fortified by the Holy Eucharist. Equites Lux Sacra is a way of living out this fundamental call to holiness in a profound way, humbly serving God, His Church and one another.

Christo Serviam et Induamur Arma Lucis

Brandon M. Belinsky, Eques Imperator

Christopher Millette, Eques

Jon Haines, Eques

Tyler Schmit, Eques

Matthew Nawrocki, Eques

Sean McBrearty, Eques

We have six members, so far. Perhaps we'll have seven by the end of the week.
Our institution, for ourselves, is Wednesday the 23rd at 7pm. (Details to follow, all are invited.) And our introduction to the campus community is at the Household Life Mass on Friday, the 25th of this month.


Say the Black. Do the Red.

This is an article which I wrote and was recently featured in The Gadfly, a student-run newspaper here at Franciscan University. The title is stolen, unabashedly from Fr. Z, over at WDTPRS.

Say the Black. Do the Red.

There’s an old joke. What is the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist? The answer of course is: “You can negotiate with a terrorist.”

Having grown up with quite a solid style of liturgy, a mite old-fashioned and following all the prescribed rubrics and legislations, and adhering to the dictates of the General Instruction for the Roman Missal coming to Franciscan University of Steubenville was a bit of a shock to my system. Sure, at home we had a guitar, and some drums (both of which, IMHO, ought not to be played in the liturgy, but that’s another article altogether), but the priest, the celebrant of the liturgy, was always careful to follow the Mass and not go off on his own tangential prayer. The Liturgy, whether it be the Divine Office or the Liturgies of the Word and Eucharist, are the official prayer of the Church, in which we participate. We do not stand alone in our prayer, which is one of the eternal glories and mysteries of our Church.

Understanding this, it seems bizarre and objectionable that a priest would presume to interject the Mass with his own words, and mini reflection. Let me give you some context; I have been to approximately eight Sunday Masses on campus, just less than half of them being Fieldhouse Masses (to which I shall never again go). The others were regular Chapel Masses. At every one, I’ve been given a small twitch at the blatant, if typically “minor” abuses of the liturgy. However, last week I was at a Sunday Mass and the priest (I do not know his name, and if I did, I wouldn’t write it) decided to wing the beginning of the Communion Rite.

In various places within the celebration, the Rite allows for “these or similar words. Wherever it does not say this, we assume that the prescribed words are unchangeable parts of the Liturgy, essential to its complete participation in the Universal Sacrifice. The beginning of the Communion Rite does not allow for “these or similar words.” It says: “The priest genuflects. Taking the host, he raises it slightly over the paten and facing the people, says aloud: This is the Lamb of God/ who takes away the sins of the world. / Happy are those who are called to his supper. To which we respond with the humbling “Lord, I am not worthy to receive thee[…] Fr. Improv, on the contrary, decided that he had a better idea and inserted a small portion of his homily and a bit of the gospel regarding Jesus’ calling of Lazarus from the tomb. This reflection went on for long enough that I, while revering the Most Blessed Sacrament, had time to sigh (probably loudly), offer up a short, silent prayer to God that I was sorry for the disruption of His Holy Mass, and for a friend to look at me with what may have been amusement at my consternation as I quietly expressed to her my disappointment with the random mini-homily.

Why do priests feel the need to disrupt the Mass with their personalisms? They are acting in persona Christi; not in their own persons. Imagine if the priest were to improvise at another celebration of the Church… I thee baptize in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier… Agreed, this is a “slippery slope” but truly, if you improvise one thing, how far down the slope will you slip? This is not as bad as liturgical dancing, or flowing ribbons and wandering bowls of incense parading around the church (or Fieldhouse), but liturgical abuse is liturgical abuse. Any amount of abuse at all is intolerable. Priests are in a nuptial relationship with the Church as Christ is. Moreover, just as Christ would not abuse His beloved spouse, neither should a priest.

Fathers, thank you so very much for your sacrifice and service, but please, do as Mother Church tells you. Surrender yourself completely. Submit your personal flair and internal reflection to the public prayer of the Church, which you so graciously offer. In short; Say the black. Do the red.


Jesus of Nazareth - Chapter 04

The Sermon on the Mount

Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, he begins His public ministry. The Holy Father examines this beginning in regards to three particular elements. He recognizes Matthew’s intended summary of Jesus’ preaching-entire as “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Benedict also sees the calling of the twelve as pivotal and fundamental in Jesus’ ministries as well as the clarification that Jesus, himself, is not simply a preacher and teacher, but the one whom has been prophesied, the anointed one, the Messiah and redeemer of all peoples.

Just as Moses led his people out of the hands of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, contemporary Jews believed that the Messiah would come to liberate them from the Romans as an occupying force, and return to them the land that was promised them. Instead, Jesus came to liberate His people from their ignorance and hardness of heart. Jesus has infact come as the new Moses as prophet and guide from darkness. The Pope pointedly remarks on particular actions related by the evangelists, which indicate the authority of Jesus. Matthew, writing to the Jews, details how Jesus goes up on a mountain (see Moses), and then sits down. This is the posture of an authority and teacher in the rabbinical style. However, instead of being seated in a school or synagogue to teach solely to Jews, Jesus sits above everyone on the mountain, to indicate His authority over the world. As Moses went up the mountain to pray and commune with God, and then taught his people, Jesus echoes this saving prefigurement.

This accent is in contrast to the particular choice of emphasis of Luke the evangelizer. Luke writes for the gentiles, who would not be familiar with the synagogical or rabbinical style. Luke, therefore, writes of particular pericope that imply authority for his audience. Benedict hits upon Jesus’ standing amidst His apostles. Standing indicates authority and kingship over the breadth of peoples, and all who had come to Him symbolized the peoples of the entire world, from whom Jesus demanded discipleship.

Again, the Pope harkens back to Exodus and the words and actions of the people. The Hebrews beg Moses to speak to them for they are afraid of dying were they to hear God’s own voice. As Jesus speaks, it is not only the new Moses, but it is no-less-than God, Himself, speaking. Benedict points out in amusement that the Israelites were right when they feared death at God’s voice. If we do listen to His voice, we hear Him calling us to die to this world so that we might live with Him. This is baptism in its fullest form; as the Pope says, baptism cannot be reduced to a mere ritual.

The Pope continues this exegesis with the teachings themselves of Jesus, remarking how they are reflective of, and indeed complimentary to the Law of Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament. The Beatitudes, far form being the commonly accepted “new commandments” are instead a commentary on the condition of Jesus’ disciples. It is particularly the poor, the downcast, and the weak who are explicitly invited to become part of God’s family. In addition to these Beatitudes, Jesus clarifies and renews the teachings of the Torah. He begins with “You have heard it was said…” and then continues with a calling to deeper fidelity and a deeper awareness of the call to goodness and holiness.


Victimae Paschali Laudes

Victimae paschali laudes
immolent Christiani.
Agnus redemit oves:
Christus innocens Patri
reconciliavit peccatores.
Mors et vita duello
conflixere mirando:
dux vitae mortuus,
regnat vivus.
Dic nobis Maria,
quid vidisti in via?
Sepulcrum Christi viventis,
et gloriam vidi resurgentis:
Angelicos testes,
sudarium, et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea:
praecedet suos in Galilaeam.
Scimus Christum surrexisse
a mortuis vere:
tu nobis, victor Rex,
Amen. Alleluia.

A beautiful recording of this ancient Paschal Sequence.
(you might need to download VLC to hear it.)

Happy Easter all! He has Risen as He said! Alleluia!


Holy Saturday -- The World in Silence Waits

Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper,and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper,to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who we recreated in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me And I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

“See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image.On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree,for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

“I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

“Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.


The Power of Christ's blood

From the Catecheses by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop

If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish”, commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors”. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.

“There flowed from his side water and blood”. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolised baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit”, and from the holy eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.

Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.



I was here. Last night. Steubenville High School.

The heckler was NOT a Franciscan University student, nor was he affilliated with us in any way, shape or form.

But Billy still bit it when he answered.


Jesus of Nazareth - Chapter 2

The third installment of my reflections of Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth.

The Temptations of Jesus

The Temptations of Christ immediately follow His commissioning and anointing as the Messiah whom had been prophesied for Israel. Christ received the Holy Ghost immediately after His Baptism; this gift strengthened Jesus for the trials that He would endure proximately.

The Holy Ghost first commands Jesus to the desert that he might be tempted by the devil. This is very important; Christ becomes man so that he might share our human sufferings, he is baptized as a sign of His empathy with our sinfulness, and decent into the deep only to rise out again, and now the devil tempts Him with the pleasures and glories of this world, an experience that we all face daily. Jesus here, more fully enters into the “drama of human existence” through his desert trials “so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest” who, though without sin, has experienced the pain of temptation. The Holy Father points out the reflective nature and Edenic imagery of Christ’s journey into the desert. He takes care to point out that the angels ministered to Christ and He was with the wild beasts [in harmony]; all of this being of the original state of things in the Garden. It is here that Benedict brilliantly says, “Creation, torn asunder by strife, once more becomes the dwelling place of peace.”

Christ was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread, presumably not simply for him but for the whole world. He however rejects this challenge, asserting that [earthly] bread is not sufficient for man, but that more is required, namely the Word of God; Himself. Next He is told that were He to cast himself down from a precipice that the angels would bear Him up, but again he rejects this and offers that one should not test the LORD but instead rely on Him. The devil’s final offer for Jesus is that of world domination if He would only bow to Satan. Christ again, successfully counters that God alone is worthy of worship and adoration.

These three temptations are an explicit enumeration of the temptations that man faces implicitly in every day of his life. To “turn stones to bread,” as the Pope points out, would be to provide earthly food for the world, but to reject that anything else is necessary, being God. His Holiness analyzes the modern world’s attempts to provide earthly bread for the world but providing nothing further, or anything of deeper significance. However, it is Jesus’ rightful role to provide for His people, both physically and spiritually. He does this for the 5,000 and most especially at the Last Supper, providing food eternal for His people.

Equally, Benedict points out that, as Christ was tempted by the devil to demand a sign from God whereby God’s angels protect Him from a fall; Jesus rejects this as blasphemous. He quotes Scripture right back saying that one must not tempt God. His Holiness explains that our scientific approach to the world imposes “arrogance” and “laboratory conditions” on God and by this, God cannot be found. Jesus recognizes this and refuses the devil, only to leap later in life into the abyss of hell in order to save souls.

Finally, the devil asks Jesus to prostrate before him, and in return, the kingdoms of the world would be Jesus’; the authority and power would rest on His shoulders alone. Jesus rejects this as well, saying that only God can be worshiped, and power flows from Him alone. Again, we see Jesus’ reception of these gifts anyways later when on the mountain He declares that all authority has been given Him.

Jesus’ threefold temptation and threefold rejection of the devil is a rejection of personal glory, and instead a directive to look to God. In His coming, he brings us God and allows us to live in Him. Christ receives all the things, which were offered him by the devil, and more; however he receives these through humility and obedience to God’s Will.


Ash Wednesday

Hear O' Man! Turn from thy sins and cling to the Gospel, for remember that thou art dust and unto dust shalt thou return.

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Today is Ash Wednesday. The day on which we begin the Liturgical Season of Lent. Today is (edit:) NOT an Holy Day of Obligation though it is a day of Fasting and Abstinence for all in the Church between 14 and 65, barring any infirmity.

Our society can be described as post-Christian. While we maintain the external shell of Christianity, the inner meaning has shriveled. A common example is Christmas. It is a commercial holiday, even a celebration of "life" and "goodwill," but the startling notion that the Creator of the universe took human flesh is no longer the focus. We see another example of post Christianity this week. Celebrations of marti-gras or Carnival (from the Latin carne-meat, vale-farewell) have expanded, (fat-Tuesday pun provided at no extra charge) but their connections to today, Ash Wednesday, have become vague.

The exuberance of carnival originated as a counterweight to the austerity of Lent. It pointed to something beyond haec lacrimarum valle, "this valley of tears," namely Easter, the Resurrection itself. It is important not to lose sight of that as we receive the cross of ashes on our foreheads to inaugurate these forty days of preparation.

As a help to understanding the true character of Lent, read these two sentences from Bishop St. Augustine. In his Tract on the First Letter of John he states:

The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise
of holy desire. You do not see what you long for, but the
very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes you
may see and be utterly satisfied.

Lent ought be understood as an exercise of holy desire. Augustine points out what has become a willful blindness. We tend to fill our days with three things: work, solving problems and diversions. For most of us we work and try to solve problems (like staying healthy or cars breaking down) in order to have more time to spend on our diversions: reading, vacations, friends, meals, sports, games, TV, etc. None of those things are intrinsically bad, but become disordered when they keep us from seeking for what our souls truly long.

Lent is a time to put aside some of those diversions and get in touch with our true desire. Jesus sets out the program in the Gospel today. Before going into detail, let's clear up an unfortunate misunderstanding. More-recently, some people have concluded, especially since the sixties and seventies, that because Jesus criticized the way the Pharisee's fasted, he was down-playing fasting itself. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus assumed that his disciples would fast and up until very recent times, all Christians have understood - and acted upon - that assumption.

Fasting says "no" to the most obvious diversions in our lives. It is a paradigm (what a great word) for all other Christian discipline, denying ourselves some immediate gratification for the sake of a greater future good. This practice, in itself is abhorrent in modern culture, as today's society sees no need for any kind-of delay of anything. It is interesting that while in general we have given up the practice of fasting, almost everyone today is on some kind-of diet. Even people who are the object of resentment because they can "eat anything" and don't gain weight, unlike myself, "watch certain foods." This is not called fasting but a diet. What else is fasting, save a diet with deeper spiritual reasoning?

In this regard the discipline of Lent can be a tremendous help. Today and Good Friday are official days of fast and the other six Fridays are days of abstinence from meat. Even though this is a quite minimal requirement, I have had people ask me whether they can get a dispensation because they are attending some party of other social thing. Obviously a dispensation is out of the question because this is exactly the point of the abstinence law--to give a witness to others and to your own self. It is not such a hard requirement, is it really?

Fasting helps to expose some of our false desires. Hopefully it can help us turn to the other two penitential practices of Lent: prayer and almsgiving. This Lent, spend an hour with me a week in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. I'm going to try and make it every Monday from 11am-12pm. If you can't make it this time, spend another, but let's join our prayers together and ask for God's Will in our lives, and ask for Him to cleanse us from all our unhealthy practices and desires. And, in addition to that, join me in asking for God's forgiveness every week in the sacrament of Penance. If you think you don't need to go, remember that our Pope goes to confession once a week. If he sins enough to confess, so do you.

Let me conclude with his description of the cleansing necessary for the exercise of holy desire:

This exercise will be effective only to the extent we free
ourselves from desires leading to infatuation with this
world. Let me return to the example I have already used, of
filling an empty container. God means to fill each of you
with what is good; so cast out what is bad! If he wishes to
fill you with honey and you are full of sour wine, where is
the honey to go? The vessel must be emptied of its contents
and then be cleansed.

Welcome to Lent, brother and sisters. May it be a time of emptying and cleansing--to discover our heart's true desire.

A Little History

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.

Why we receive the ashes
Following the example of the Nine vites, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told

"Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return."

Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice.

The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents were turned out of the church because of their sins -- just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Paradise because of his disobedience. The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days' penance and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion. In earlier times, the distribution of ashes was followed by a penitential procession.

The Ashes
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are sprinkled with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.



On Church and State

Your faithful blogger was asked to comment on Eques Quod Scripsit's blog on his post The Church can not be an instrument of the State: The Conversation Continues. Here's my response, but definitely go read the original postings. We've got Eques from Eques Quod Scripsit, Tim from Thalsesian Fools and Jose from... Jose.

The framers of our Constitution had no concept of the Separation of Church and State as it is understood today; infact as a side note, it's such a permeating ideology that the majority of Americans think it's some statute or Amendment. However, on the contrary, the Government has no right whatsoever to infringe on the just practice of religion. The First Amendment to the Constitution clearly states that Congress shall make no law which establishes a religion, either from scratch, or as being higher than another, and that the Government shall not make any law abridging the free exercise of any religion.

If this is not enough, any corporation could not and would not hire an employee which shared the values, ideals and goals of the company itself. If an employee were to be hired and then, whether by action or omission of action, to undermine the mission of a corporation and to bring about the failure, humiliation, and destruction thereof, that would be grounds for termination. If this were known before the hire occurred, why would the applicant even be hired? As long as a Corporation does not infringe on the rights of others (please see Tim's argument on murder, evasion, bribery and aiding and abetting known fugitives, which are all against various other laws and statutes of long-established jurisprudence) while protecting it's own viability and interests, this corporation is free to continue to operate as such. As a person does not have the intrinsic right to work in a particular institution (as opposed to a person's rights to life, liberty, speedy trial-by-jury and basic human Justice), and that core-beliefs can be valid reasons for incompatibility in a workplace, the hiring and firing based upon ideologies can not be prohibited.

Now, on the question of the Church becoming an arm of the State... Simply because a laboratory receives Government funding, does not make it a Government laboratory, simply that the Government acknowledges that it's intended research is worthy. The same could be true of the Church's charities. It is when the Government begins to regulate these Churches and charities, restricting how they can operate that the relationship becomes perverse; this is painfully evident in the forced-closure of the Archdiocese of Boston's Adoption Services when it was mandated to allow non-traditional (read: homosexual) couples to adopt. This went firmly against the history, Teachings and Traditions of the Catholic Church as a faith-system and as a charitable organization. The State does not have the mandate, nor the authority to contravene the just-exercise of Religion wherein the rights and privileges of individuals are not violated.

Neither a married couple nor a homosexual couple has the right to adopt, no more than do they have the right to stand in my living-room uninvited (baring some dire need superseding my right to personal property). The adoption process is to benefit the child more than the adopting couple; this couple having gone through rigorous screening processes to determine whether or not is it a suitable match, based upon the understandings and prejudices of the adoption agency. To enforce particular standard of suitability is socialist at best, tyrannical at worst. Getting married within a Catholic Church, you publicly vow that you will be open to children, and you will bring them up Catholic. Why would you get married in a Catholic Church if you didn't feel that you could uphold this standard of behaviour? By the same token, insofar as the Catholic Church believes that homosexual action is a moral evil, and that homosexual unions are a perversion of traditional family values, why would the Church be forced to perform ceremonies, "marriages" if it were against the grained teaching of the Church? Therefore, why would the Church be forced to condone such "behaviour/lifestyle choice/orientation et al." by granting adoption privileges to such a couple?

Moving on. The Boy Scouts of America is a non-governmental organization which receives Government funding. The mission is wholesome and "American." However, the BSA forbids homosexuals from being in leadership positions, and infact from being even in the ranks of its members. The mission of the BSA is a worthy mission, one which the Government finds appropriate and deserving of financial assistance. Ought the Government pull funding, or demand "equal rights" for membership applications? But I digress... Eagle Scouts of the BSA are mandated-reporters in the same respect as priests/bishops/doctors/teachers. While this is a noble title, endeavouring to protect the youth, for a religious institution which founds itself on forgiveness and recovery such as the Church, this is a dangerous concept. The requisite reporting of any allegation or even slight issue would render these two essential, core beliefs null, as modern society does not act within "innocent until proven guilty," no it acts more on "guilty even if proven innocent."

There are flaws in our Government. There are flaws in our Church members and leaders. Let's not multiply these flaws by combining them.


Jesus of Nazareth - Chapter 1

The Baptism of Jesus

The Holy Father begins his Jesus of Nazareth with a logical initial step—the baptism of Christ. This is when the life of Christ becomes public, and history begins recording His actions. There are a few different accounts of the baptism and different settings in history. Benedict examines each and explains each of their importance. Matthew, for example, by his lineage of Jesus, shows that Jesus is the inheritor of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, fulfilling the promises to each and prophesy regarding them. Luke the Evangelist makes a point to emphasize the connection with man and God in his genealogy. When Luke refers to Adam, he emphasizes the special relationship which our first father shared with God, being the “son of God.” This emphasizes the relationship which Jesus shares as son of [...] Adam, Son of God. This emphasizes Jesus' relationship with God as divine, but also as Man, suggesting that as such, we share in the same humanity and thus possibly the same destiny.

Here the Pope switches gears slightly toward John the Baptizer and his own references in history, again, helping to establish a solid time-frame for his existence and for Jesus'. This case for the “historical Jesus” is made even more firm when He and John the Baptizer are recorded in the times of particular emperors and high-priests. In regards to these earthly leaders, the Pope makes an interesting distinction, pointing out that the emperor and Jesus belong to two different realities, distinct, but not mutually exclusive. Here we see the potential for struggle between the earthly and the divine, though preempted by Christ in his dictum “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and undo God that which is His” (Mk 12:17). John's role is, therefore, to prepare the path for Jesus who will come and bridge these two divergent realities.

John's mission echoes precisely that foretold in the prophets. And John's actions prefigure the saving actions of Christ. He baptizes, a sort-of death, and hears the confessions of all who come to him in the river Jordan. The Pope here begins to examine why it is that Jesus would do as all of Judea and come to John, a lesser man, for baptism and confession, when we understand that Christ was without sin to begin with. Benedict wonders here if Jesus could actually do as the rest of John's followers and put off his old life, and put on a new one. Now things really pick up in lesson, and we see that Jesus is trying to emphasize righteousness, which is necessary for salvation. Instead of descending into the waters of the Jordan and confessing His own sins, and putting on a new life for himself, which was utterly unnecessary and impossible for Him-who-is-Blameless, Jesus begins his public life with the symbolic action of how he would end it. His going down into the water is an assimilation of His humanity with the plight of humanity as a whole. The waters of Jesus' baptism are representative, as they are for us, of the tomb and the deep, Sheol. Were we to descend without Him we would be lost forever but in His descent and return the gates of Hell are flung open and He contends with Satan, and all that manipulate us, in order to free us. In this light, it only makes sense to baptize a person as soon as possible that they might share in the victory which Christ won for us in His baptism and eventual death.

Just as we witness Jesus’ communion with God and his commission at His baptism, we begin our life with God in the same way at ours. Jesus is Wholly Other, as Benedict says, and yet wholly contemporary of us, and through that, we can become Christian, and give our lives unto God.