"Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This...is why Christ the Redeemer "fully reveals man to himself." --John Paul II
To put Christ at the center of my life is, I believe, the very heart of discipleship. Accepting the love of Christ and responding by loving him in return. Through Christ loving my neighbor, for he too is a beloved creation of my Lord. This is the very core of the Christocentric life.
As a new contributor to Intentional Disciples I look forward to participating in a transformational experience. For certainly to follow Christ is to be transformed and transforming. To see all that we do through the lens of Christ will, for many of us, turn upside down our view of politics, art, economics, charity and work. I pray that it may be so for the kingdom of God is among us, and I wish to see all things new in Him.
Mine has been an interesting journey from agnostic to atheist; from atheist to Christian; and eventually into the Catholic Church. I have spent most of my life seeking truth, only to find that there was a God-sized hole in the center of my being. This hole could only be filled by the love of Christ. He waited for me to say "yes." A loving embrace which is never taken away. This is my home. I pray that we may encourage one another in love so that we forever experience the beauty of his Truth.
"May the Holy Spirit make you creative in charity, persevering in your commitments, and brave in your initiatives, so that you will be able to offer your contribution to the building up of the “civilization of love”. The horizon of love is truly boundless: it is the whole world!"--Pope Benedict XVI
(Winston Elliott III is married to Barbara Elliott. They have been involved with the Catherine of Siena Institute as teachers and supporters since 2004. They reside in Houston, Texas and together have four adult children.)
Rumors are flying that an announcement approving the second miracle needed to canonize Blessed Mary MacKillop will be made before Christmas and that she will be canonized early in 2010.
The bishop who briefly deposed and excommunicated Mary MacKillop seems to have suffered from a brain tumor and repented of his action on his deathbed but excommunication was only the best known of the trials Mary experienced during her lifetime as she worked tirelessly to establish a Catholic educational system for the poor across the Australian continent.
We often speak of Mary MacKillop in our Called & Gifted workshops as a wonderful example of the charism of teaching - and of the fact that her bishop would have done well to have emulated the Archbishops of New York who, a century later, were irritated by Dorothy Day's politics. They didn't halt her Catholic Worker movement in case she turned out to be a saint.
As Cardinal Pell puts it in his homily in the Australian Broadcasting Company video above: Mary was always faithful to the bishops even when they treated her disgracefully.
I may have missed this story because of all our website and blogging troubles this past week but an incredible story is coming out of Britain via all kinds of sources. Here is the UK's Catholic Herald:
"Equality minister Harriet Harman will ban the Catholic Church in Britain from insisting that priests remain celibate single men, the bishops have said.
Church leaders will be powerless to stop ordained priests from marrying women or entering into same-sex civil partnerships under the terms of Miss Harman’s Equality Bill.
Bishops would be unable to stop their priests from having sex change operations, living openly promiscuous lifestyles or engaging in any other activities seen as a legitimate form of sexual expression.
Richard Kornicki, a former senior Home Office civil servant who serves as parliamentary coordinator for the bishops, said the Church could also be open to prosecution for sex discrimination if it turned away women or sexually active gay men who presented themselves as candidates for the priesthood. “The Government is saying that the Church cannot maintain its own beliefs in respect of its own priests,” he said.
But if the Bill became law and the bishops defied the Government and stepped in to discipline errant clergy they could not only be sued for sexual discrimination but, in the worst-case scenario, they could also face imprisonment, unlimited fines and have Church assets sequestrated.
Miss Harman’s proposals will inevitably put the Catholic Church on a collision course with the state – particularly in the form of the powerful Equality and Human Rights Commission – over the issue of religious freedom if they become law."
Or so warned the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales when they briefed Catholic peers in the House of Lords on Tuesday.
"The Bill says that only those people who lead worship or teach doctrine can be expected to lead lives consistent with the moral teachings of the Christian faith. But a senior QC has informed the bishops that even the wording of this clause makes it “unlawful to require a Catholic priest to be male, unmarried or not in a civil partnership etc, since no priest would be able to demonstrate that their time was wholly or mainly spent either leading liturgy or promoting and explaining doctrine... the Bill fails to reflect the time priests spend in pastoral work, private prayer and study, administration, building maintenance, and so on”.
Apparently, you have to be able to prove that you spend literally 50% or more of your time leading worship or teaching Catholic doctrine to not qualify as an "employee". And very few priests would qualify because personal prayer, study, administration, pastoral counseling or visiting, etc. wouldn't count.
This is Just as stunning in its implications for the laity as it is for the clergy. Excuse me? It is unjust to expect lay Catholics to live lives consistent with the moral teachings of the Christian faith?
Apparently this bill has been kicking around for 2 years and the bishops have protested to the government to no avail. The claim is that current British law violates European law. But that is not the case. "The exemptions for religion in existing discrimination law have all been tested by the courts and are all compliant with European law."
“Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the Ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps.
Waiting for God is an active, alert—yes, joyful—waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes.
How do we wait for God? We wait with patience. But patience does not mean passivity. Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise. It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for.
The word “patience” comes from the Latin verb patior, which means “to suffer.” Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants. Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of God’s glorious coming.”
Fr. Michael Sweeney, co-founder of the Institute, former partner in crime, and now President of the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology, spoke at the recent Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture Conference. Fr. Michael spoke on the topic of "Expressing the Good" in the context of a deeply post-modern western culture.
It is vintage Fr. Michael: Thomistic in his progression of thought, insightful, surprising, and witty. Here's an excerpt:
A very great gulf separates those of us who hold to the social teaching of the Church and most of our contemporaries. The premise of the social teaching is faith. By “faith” I do not mean supernatural faith, the theological virtue; I mean, rather a natural faith, a disposition that insists upon staying with phenomena as they present themselves to us. In its simplest expression to be faithful simply means to remain, to stay, to look and not look away. Such a faithfulness clearly implies relationship: one stays with someone or something apart from oneself. It also implies a seeing: one who remains with another, who attends watchfully, will come eventually to see the other ¬– might we say have knowledge of the other – in a manner that would otherwise be impossible.
This is a disposition that is not wholly unknown to our generation, only extremely rare. For ours is not an age of faith but rather of ideology. We do not so much stay with other people and things – or even with our own experiences that seem so much to fascinate us – as we manipulate them to an end, generally to a political end. The most egregious examples are always the easiest ones to spot, and I would like to offer just one very fine example of what I would term ideological thinking.
Perhaps we should not be surprised when we discover that Bruno Latour and others have pursued their skepticism even into the realm of experimental science. Latour holds that the objects themselves of scientific study are socially constructed within the laboratory and that no existence can be attributed to phenomena apart from the minds that interpret them. Latour follows this “social constructionist” approach to interesting conclusions. In responding to the research that suggests that Ramses II died of tuberculosis Latour responds, "How could he pass away due to a bacillus discovered by Koch in 1882? ... Before Koch, the bacillus has no real existence." He asserts that to hold that Ramses died of tuberculosis would be as anachronistic as claiming that he died of machine gun fire.
While an extreme example, Latour’s viewpoint is much closer to the majority view in our present age than is that of the bishops. Any faith – even a natural tendency to stay with things and with others – has been rendered suspect to our generation, for the reason that faithfulness of that sort tends to holding firm positions about things; my view inclines to be fixed because it has been fixed upon another. Such a view will be inflexible with respect to projects that would seek to restructure knowledge or experience.
In the place of science we have “worldviews” that are judged according to their political viability for society to the degree that even being human has become a project to be engaged rather than a good to be attended. We have even developed the pernicious habit of speaking of the Catholic faith as an “ism” –apparently unaware that Pope Pius XII condemned “Catholicism”; the Catholic faith is not a worldview, an ideology, a “belief system”, a marshaling of all human experience into a program, however benign. It is, rather a faith, a close and very careful attending to the One who, as Augustine says, is wholly other, yet closer to us than we are to ourselves. Unfortunately many of us Catholics have developed not only a habit of speaking of our faith as though it were an ideology, but of living it and understanding it ideologically; we can be concerned, not so much upon living an encounter with Christ and others –a relationship– as with getting everything right.
I came across this lovely, yet sobering image from Origen while preparing for preaching this weekend. I would only add that the virtues of patience and fortitude of which he speaks are not in us innately, but are the fruits of God's grace at work in us, and require our cooperation.
The baptism that Jesus gives is a baptism in the Holy Spirit and in fire. Baptism is one and the same no matter who receives it, but its effect depends on the recipient’s disposition. He who is portrayed as baptizing in the Holy Spirit and in fire holds a winnowing fan in his hand which he will use to clear his threshing floor. The wheat he will gather into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with fire that can never be quenched.??I should like to discover our Lord’s reason for holding a winnowing fan and to inquire into the nature of the wind that scatters the light chaff here and there, leaving the heavier grain lying in a heap—for you must have a wind if you want to separate wheat and chaff.?? I suggest that the faithful are like a heap of unsifted grain, and that the wind represents the temptations which assail them and show up the wheat and the chaff among them.?? When your soul is overcome by some temptation, it is not the temptation that turns you into chaff. No, you were chaff already, that is to say fickle and faithless; the temptation simply discloses the stuff you are made of.?? On the other hand, when you endure temptations bravely it is not the temptation that makes you faithful and patient; temptation merely brings to light the hidden virtues of patience and fortitude that have been present in you all along.
Origen, On Luke’s Gospel 26, 3-5: SC 87, 340-342
This is a good Advent reflection. Am I wheat or chaff? What do my failures - my sin - reveal about me, and how might they direct me in my prayer? Because surely they indicate where virtue is missing or weak, and so I can learn even from my sin, as well as be humbled by it as I recognize my dependence upon Jesus for every good that I do.
Hello, everyone! We at the Catherine of Siena Institute ask for your patience. We've had some difficulties as we switch from an old website design to a new one. We're also switching webhosts, and have experienced some problems there, too. If you go to our website, www.siena.org and don't find us, don't despair! We're not going out of business, and our domain name is not up for sale! We're doing our best to work out the kinks.
From my sister-in-law, Susie. Read the post before you look at the picture...
Well, good news and bad news about my Christmas decorations this year. Good news is I truly outdid myself. Bad news is I had to take him down after 2 days. Too many screaming people came running up to my house. Great stories. But two things made me undecorate. First, the cops advised it would cause traffic accidents (as they almost wrecked when they drove by). Second, a 55-year-old lady who grabbed the 75-pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). She was one of many people who attempted that. My yard couldn't take it either. Lot of tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard. Kind of feel like I gave in to the man by taking him down, but my neighbor did confirm two near misses on the busy street next to my house. I think I made him too real this time. So it was fun while it lasted!
Foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting cold. If the good Saint Dunstan* had but nipped the Evil Spirit's nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose."
- Charles Dickens, The Christmas Carol.
The good St. Dunstan was born at Glastonbury, of which monastery he became abbot, and died archbishop of Canterbury in 988.*
The legend of St. Dunstan relates many miracles of him, the most popular of which is to this effect; that St. Dunstan, as the fact really was, became expert in goldsmith's work; it then gives as a story, that while he was busied in making a chalice, the devil annoyed him by his personal appearance, and tempted him; whereupon St. Dunstan suddenly seized the fiend by the nose with a pair of iron tongs, burning hot, and so held him while he roared and cried till the night was far spent.
We need no iron tongs here. It's cold in them thair hills. I-25 is closed due to accidents and most of our universities have shut down for the day as well. One local parish has cancelled Masses for tonight that I know of. More will follow. Many are seeking homeless shelters - thank God! But two men were found frozen to death in our city this morning.
We're expecting wind chills of -25F tonight! One of our neighbors is out with parka and snow-blower. The sun is just breaking through but the wind is getting stronger.
To go out and sweep again - or not - at - 13 F? That is the question.
But who in their right mind would be walking down our cul de sac in this weather? This is a one day storm. The better part of valor is to stay indoors, methinks.
Update: They have dropped our expected low tonight to -12F and our wind chill to -27F. Please pray for those who are homeless that they might find shelter and be protected.
Pope Benedict, (then Joseph Ratzinger in Credo for Today), reflecting on the gospel reading for this feast of the Immaculate Conception, writes:
"Mary is identified with daughter Zion, with the bridal people of God. Everything said about the ecclesia in the Bible is true of her, and vice versa: the Church learns concretely what she is and is meant to be by looking at Mary. Mary is her mirror, the true measure of her being, because Mary is wholly within the measure of Christ and of God, is through and through his habitation. And what other reason could the ecclesia have for existing than to become a dwelling for God in the world?
God does not deal with abstractions. God is a person and the Church is a person. The more each one of us becomes a person, person in the sense of a fit habitation for God, daughter Zion, the more we become one, the more we are the Church, and the more the Church is herself."
What do you purchase for the person who has everything this Christmas?
How about nothing! Or, more accurately, how about buying something for someone who has next to nothing? There are plenty of people to choose from around the world, and there are lots of organizations that are trying to help the poor and needy in developing nations, as well as in our own.
Or, perhaps you might be interested in providing a poor entrepreneur with a microloan through World Vision
Heifer International has provided families and villages in developing nations with animals - and the knowledge of how to care for them - for a long time.
If you want a more personal way of helping someone, you might consider sponsoring a needy child or aging adult in a developing nation through the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. This is an excellent Catholic organization that is known for very low overhead. They provide education, healthcare, food, and occasional gifts for the folks who are sponsored. I have sponsored two children in the Philippines over the last fifteen years. The second child has just entered a two-year associate's program, and I couldn't be happier for her.
There are a host of agencies and causes out there that provide meaningful alternatives to useless gifts - especially those "guilt gifts" we sometimes purchase.
All you need do is send a donation to a cause, and in lieu of a gift, you can offer your friend or family member a card with information about the program you're sponsoring in their name. I've done this in the past and will do it again this year. And I hope people do this in my name, rather than giving me a gift. I have everything I could possibly use, and am trying to simplify my life.
If your friends think you're incredibly cheap, like George Costanza of Seinfeld fame who once gave his co-workers a certificate saying he'd donated to the "the Human Fund" in their name, you might include the web address of the organization you're supporting.
And, by the way, The Human Fund exists now. The Human Fund effectively supports arts education programs for the under-served youth of the city of Cleveland, providing a commitment to funding several arts programs annually. So you could even support that organization!
If you know of other worthy organizations that people might support, please let us know - and include their web address and maybe a brief description of what they do.